By Christopher Myers
Written on 09 June – 2 August 2020
Link to 2000 Years Later Foreword: https://aquilitz.com/2000-years-later-series-a-foreword/
Link to Part 1, The Church: https://aquilitz.com/what-was-the-church-supposed-to-be/
Link to Part 2, Selfish Altruism: https://aquilitz.com/selfish-altruism/
Link to Part 3, Christian Submission: https://aquilitz.com/christian-submission/
Link to Part 4, Pride and Anger: https://aquilitz.com/pride-and-anger/
There are a multitude of minor changes that have appeared to take place over the last 2,000 years within Christianity, which I believe have built up to create the ‘Contemporary’ Christian Attitude. While I have touched on many of these individual mindsets in previous writings, I have chosen to elaborate on them in the following paragraphs, grouping them together to better review the entirety of the Christian attitude in today’s environment.
I believe that the current atmosphere has been negatively affected primarily by uneducated fellowship – that the Church is not necessarily as responsible for the shift in tone as much as individuals, families, and friends are. Christian lingo in conversation has been minimized, some believers will accept only solemn religious discussions, and there have been misunderstandings of what faith, worship, and wealth mean to Christians. I hope to spark additional discussion on these subjects, and to review the original intent of each in light of today’s culture.
The first topic that I believe has shifted over time has been the literal attitude preferred for Christian discussion and the wedge it’s helped develop between Sunday morning and the rest of the week. While 65% of the United States’ population claims to be Christian, far fewer desire for religion to be a part of politics and conversation.1 In 2012, a full 38% of Americans believed that there was too much expression of religious faith, including prayers, from political leaders (compared to 30% stating that there has been too little), and 54% believed that churches should stay out of political matters.2 From my own experience, today’s Christians of all ages limit their religious commentary to very specific times of the day and week. Although the terms ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ have made their way into explicative language, the words are rarely heard outside of Church or devotions. Discussion on Christianity as a whole has been relegated to conversations that are soaked in serious and somber attitudes. Laughter is often dismissed during Bible study as immature, and jokes are often left to guest pastors for use when breaking the ice during a sermon.
I would like to note that there is NO issue with having serious discussions about Christianity – I fully support and engage in them regularly. My concern is that this attitude for a preference of subdued conversation has led many Christians to separate Christ from everyday banter. If you disagree, I suggest you listen to a group of Christians (old or young) on a day of the week other than Sunday and in a conversation that is not part of a prepared event (Bible study or a small group). Count the amount of times that Christian theology is legitimately referenced and make sure to subtract any explicatives and cultural sayings that reference religion but carry only secular weight. I’ve done this myself a multitude of times and have found that sincere recalls to Christianity are almost completely nonexistent – even amongst groups where every individual is a Christian and all participants in the discussion are familiar with that fact.
Even when Christian conversations are pre-planned (e.g. part of a Bible study), the groups tend to separate religious dialogue from the rest of the conversation, ‘relieving’ or ‘expulsing’ any jokes and recent event references prior to actual biblical discussion. Especially when discussing religion with adolescents, adults often work hard to ensure a serious orientation. Once again, I not only suggest somber discussions regarding Christ’s sacrifices, but I believe that they are required as a part of the Christian experience. My concern is that this attitude (of forced somberness) has relegated Jesus to a single feeling and emotional period of believers’ lives. My issue is with the attempt to separate religion from humor and joyful attitudes – as it leads to a division that’s pervasive throughout the rest of our lives, with work and play also being separated from Christ. After all, 74% of Americans believe that religion is losing influence in society.3
God doesn’t desire for our lives to contain only somber discussions on religion (Ecclesiastes 3:4) and although humor is difficult to translate over time and across languages, it’s obvious that even Jesus used humor in his sermons (e.g. the absurdity of a plank in a man’s eye in Matthew 7:3-5 or when Jesus tells the Pharisees that they strain out a gnat but swallow a camel in Matthew 23:23-24)- in fact, it appears that he preferred sarcasm at times to other methods of instruction. I ask any believers struggling with this to consider: why do you so rarely verbally celebrate and discuss Christianity during periods of joy? Why do you so often consider yourself ‘lucky’ rather than ‘blessed’? Why does it feel inappropriate to pray at work or amongst family members, event silently? Why do almost half (49%) of Americans seldom or never discuss religion outside of family?4
I believe that a significant amount of this change is associated with much of the Church choosing to limit religious experiences to a single day of the week, often Sunday. The fact that ‘wearing your Sunday best’ has entered the lexicon certainly offers credence to the separation between religious tradition and the rest of life. While the ceremonial laws regarding the Sabbath were struck down by Christ, the intent of the day was to rest and reflect on God at a personal level. From a modern-day conservative Jewish perspective, a Jewish individual cannot cook food, drive a vehicle, or even turn on a light as each of those actions would be a sin (as they are not required expenditures of energy). Christ pushed back against this view of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-14, as it was being used not by its intent, but as a works-based method of salvation. Those that were most strict about the Sabbath acted clean, but had unclean hearts. They used the rules and regulations related to the Sabbath to rank themselves against others, ultimately acting selfishly.
Obviously, Christians have no need to abide by the old ceremonial laws related to the Sabbath, but time alone with the Lord is absolutely required during a Sabbath – and Sunday should not be the only time period throughout the week spent with the Lord. While there is great benefit to have somber time alone with the Lord on Sunday, it should by no means be our only time with God. Jesus Himself explained that the Sabbath was created to meet the needs of the people – a need for rest and spiritual rejuvenation (Mark 2:27). That rejuvenation can take place in a multitude of ways. Some believers may have success alone in nature, while others prefer a packed musical event – and the same believer’s preferences will likely change over time (and there is no issue with this!). Biblically, God’s followers spoke of Him and worshiped Him in a variety of life’s circumstances. A simple review of Psalms displays David’s many prayers to God, some in celebration, some with frustration, and some in depression. The Lord cannot and should not be contained to a single emotion or day of the week, and neither should worship of Him.
Worship itself has also altered over time amongst believers, today appearing almost exclusively as a musically-based public performance. The act of worship though, was one that could (and can) take place in a variety of circumstance, including walking, eating, and of course prayer. After all, the agreed-upon definition of worship is ‘to honor or show reverence for a divine being or supernatural power.’5 The idea of worship is to showcase (primarily to yourself and God) where you place your priorities, and is not necessarily tethered to specific actions. Psalm 29:1-2 says that we must worship by assigning credit to where it is due: The Lord. The Psalms actually provide a multitude of different ways to worship, annotating them in Psalm 29:1-2, Psalm 40:9, Psalm 88:2, Psalm 95:6, Psalm 100:2, Psalm 104:34, and Psalm 109:30. Jesus Himself says that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and Revelation 4:9-11 offers a presentation of true sacrifice during worship in heaven – as those that worship the Lord do so by offering up their crowns (their titles and authorities). It was only relatively recently that worship became relegated culturally to song. Just as the premise behind worship has been altered over time, so has the understanding of the word ‘faith.’
Believers from every Christian denomination have incorrectly classified ‘faith’ as belief that a future act will take place even though evidence for that act does not and has not existed. Pastors implicate that having faith is illogical but appropriate. Biblically and even secularly though, the original meaning of faith has a basis in logic. C.S. Lewis states it best in his book Mere Christianity, “Faith… is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.”6
Faith is not a belief in something unknown, but rather the continued belief in something that was known previously, even if the current circumstances might make that something seem very unlikely. True faith includes promises that the Lord has offered, even though those promises seem distant and unlikely in those moments where faith is required. Looking even further into the foundations of the word faith, we find that the original Greek word used in the New Testament was ‘pistis.’ Pistis means persuasion (used to build a logical argument), and in a Christian context, it means persuasion from God.7 Even more fascinating, when we review the original word ‘logos,’ which originally meant ‘reason,’ ‘word,’ or ‘plan’ in Greek, we find that the same word is used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus.8 These two concepts together showcase that Christians trust in God – who is in Himself reason. We trust in His Word – Christ – who is Logic. His promises of love and reward, which Christians must use as a basis for their faith, are offered directly in Mark 10:29-31 and John 15:9-11. Once again, faith is not unsupported, but rather directly supported by Christ Himself.
Reviewing the biblical basis of faith, we find that Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Reading through the rest of Hebrews 11 though (which details the many biblical stories where faith was crucial), faith may appear blind, but it is not deaf. In every situation given, the protagonist (whether Abel, Noah, Abraham, or Moses) has faith that is based in a belief in God or a literal covenant with God. They act on faith because of what they’ve been told, often directly from God. Having faith includes believing in God because you have experienced Him previously and know logically that he exists, even in the midst of disaster and confusion. Faith exists regularly outside of religion as well, in those that believe in a particular political system even when it appears to be leading to temporary injustice. Most people also have faith in gravity, considering that we’ve experienced it previously throughout our lives and some of us even have a grasp of the mathematics behind it (even if we can’t currently recall those equations). Although we act on faith in this manner, our speech regarding the subject does not align with the Biblical view of faith.
This modern-day twist in the meaning behind faith has led to a culture driven by feeling, rather than logic. Although the Bible states that we must test and discern our thoughts and dreams (1 John 4:1, Hebrews 5:14, Romans 12:2, John 7:24, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21), Christians will regularly act in ways they believe are correct (most often in relationships and careers) simply because they feel as though the Lord was calling them to or away from a specific person, place, or act. I have personally experienced Christians believing they have received direction from the Lord on a personal issue and then refusing to accept any friendly advice or opinion against the already-decided direction. In these situations, I’ve seen close friends have visions, attempt to decipher those visions, and then fail at carrying out those visions all while refusing to believe that their revelation could mean anything else – even when pastors are advising them otherwise. Prophesies must be tested, which is why fellowship and discipleship are so key. I cannot even find a single instance in the Bible where an individual that received a vision from the Lord was able to both decipher and act on that vision on their own in a positive way.
Even more frustrating, the association of faith with feeling negatively affects individuals that fail to feel God’s presence at Church or during worship. Some of the most influential Christians of today have been marginalized in Christian communities because they didn’t ‘feel’ God in the moment – and some Christians never feel Him, although they do believe and have a great amount of faith.9 Faith, worship, and seriousness about Christ all can be incredible assets, but each can also be used as sources for jealousy and to build (often without intention) traditions leading to a heretical belief in works-based salvation. Another aspect though, has been used inappropriately recently by Christians to rank believers within the church: wealth.
Wealth, and by extension celebrity, is a regular conflict within the Church. Mark 4:19, 1 Timothy 6: 17-19, and of course Luke 18:18-30 all speak on the dangers of prioritizing wealth. While it is not wrong to have wealth (as is shown in these versus and Jesus’s actions with tax collectors, including Zacchaeus), it is wrong to worship it – to place it in a priority above God and fellow man. Some Christian Organizations though, allow jealousy and desire for wealth to corrupt their equality among humanity.
In the past decade, some of the largest Churches in the world have placed a priority on allowing and encouraging those with great wealth and celebrity to share the stage with pastors and preachers. These individuals, who have had success in art or business, are ushered in front of congregations and given a microphone to speak on religion, even though they have significantly less experience and education than the hundreds of listeners that have never been allowed on stage.
This attitude of prioritizing wealth has been driven forward furthest by organizations that preach the prosperity gospel (see my writings in the Selfish Altruism article for more about the concerning beliefs these organizations offer). Arguments for accumulating wealth have been made from prosperity gospel pastors, with some stating that, “It’s better for Church staff to drive more expensive vehicles and look more fashionable than drug dealers so that today’s youth favors Church over drugs” (my wife, friends, and I actually heard this exact phrase uttered during a guest speaker’s appearance at our local church). I believe that I’ve built up enough argument to showcase how incorrect and hypocritical this kind of statement is for a pastor to utter, but you have to look no further than Matthew 19:26 to see that God doesn’t need wealth or celebrity to accomplish His goals. For those still curious on how the statement on fashion and drug dealers could be wrong, consider that the early Church was regularly seen as an organization that gave up wealth and distributed goods amongst each other regularly and so obviously that even secular writers recorded it in the history books.10 Christ did not once utter that they would be more successful if He and His apostles only had more money and better clothing – in fact, He repeatedly said and did the opposite (e.g. the loaves and fishes miracles and Jesus’s riding into town humbly on donkey, all of which are presented in all four gospels). The prosperity gospel and certain Christian organization’s preferences toward wealth has only degraded the Church’s understanding and attitude toward Christ’s desires.
How does the Church correct the course of believers’ attitudes? For leaders of Christian Organizations that come to the conclusion their messages are inappropriate, I suggest that they publicly repent of any heretical actions and words. For congregants that believe they are observing a heretical message being preached, I urge those listeners to first test and discern the message. If the message still appears unbiblical, then I suggest they follow Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 18:15-17 and speak one-on-one with the individual in sin, then to bring in two or three other congregants if that individual refuses to listen, then bring the heresy before the Church (and if this fails to persuade the individual preaching a false gospel, Jesus says to treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector).
Pastors that have been preaching unbiblical gospels and then see them as false teachings must not remain silent for fear of reprisal, but they must inform their congregants of the failures of selfish altruism, the prosperity gospel, inappropriate submission, as well as the pitfalls of pride and anger. Even when a guest pastor speaks on such subjects, the local Church leaders must voice their reaction and correction, lest they allow congregants to fall into works-based and other unfounded beliefs. Church leaders are not the only individuals responsible for vocalizing corrections within the Church, as knowledgeable Christians throughout the Church must speak out against heresy. The Bible itself speaks many times of the need to be aware of distorted teachings, in Matthew 7:15, 1 John 4:1, 2 Peter 2:1-3, and Galatians 1:7 (and these are only a few examples).
As I stated at the beginning of this article and in previous articles, I believe that the most appropriate way to evangelize is through fellowship and discipleship. I believe that one-on-one and small group discussion about religious beliefs is incomparable to any other method of education, and that if Christ’s Church is educated, then they will be able to better preach the word. Not every Christian Organization has fallen into these religious attitude snares, but very few actively counter them. The only incorrect answer is to ignore these concerns and push them to the side. I don’t proclaim to have a monopoly on wisdom or the answers to these problems – and I welcome any discussion that results from these articles (no matter whether those discussions are with or without me, the goal has been to spark a desire for wisdom in each and every reader), but I do believe that at the very least each individual Church can begin to discuss these issues with their own staffs and congregations.
After all, many churches preach Matthew 28:19, but leave out verse 20 (which speaks on teaching). When read as a whole, Jesus told His followers: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We would do well to remember this.
1. Pew Research Center. (2019). In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/.
2. Pew Research Center. (2012). More See “Too Much” Religious Talk by Politicians. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2012/03/21/more-see-too-much-religious-talk-by-politicians/.
3. Pew Research Center. (2019). Americans Have Positive Views About Religion’s Role in Society, but Want It Out of Politics. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2019/11/15/americans-have-positive-views-about-religions-role-in-society-but-want-it-out-of-politics/.
4. Pew Research Center. (2016). Many Americans don’t argue about religion – or even talk about it. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/15/many-americans-dont-argue-about-religion-or-even-talk-about-it/.
5. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Worship. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved June 14, 2020 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship.
6. Lewis, C S. (1960). Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan.
7. Bible Hub. (n.d.) Pistis. In BibleHub.com dictionary. Retrieved June 14, 2020 from https://biblehub.com/greek/4102.htm.
8. Britannica. (2020). Logos. In Britannica Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 14, 2020 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos.
9. Hansen ,Brant. (2019). Blessed are the Misfits. Harper Collins.
10. Lucian. The Passing of Peregrinus.
Full Biblical References (given below in the New Living Translation):
Psalm 29:1-2; Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 40:9; I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.
Psalm 88:2; May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
Psalm 95:6; Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Psalm 100:2; Serve the Lord with joy; come before him with singing.
Psalm 104:34; May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
Psalm 109:30; I will thank the Lord very much; I will praise him in front of many people.
Ecclesiastes 3:4; a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance
Matthew 7:3-5; “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:15; Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 12:1-14; At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Matthew 18:15-17; If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 19:26; Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 23:24; “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Matthew 28:18-20; Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Mark 2:27; Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
Mark 4:19; “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
Mark 10:29-31; “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Luke 18:18-30; A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
John 4:24; God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 7:24; Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
John 15:9-11; “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Romans 12:2; Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Galatians 1:7; Not that there is another one, butt there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:21; But test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 Timothy 6: 17; Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Hebrews 5:14; But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 11:1; Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
2 Peter 2:1-3; But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
1 John 4:1; Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Revelation 4:9-11; Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”