The Deceptive Lure of “Comfortable Christianity”
Switching to the first person for a moment, before retreating back into third person anonymity again, I used to be a salesman, selling expensive complicated equipment to businesses. I was a good salesman, consistently selling several times my quota each year. If anyone could “Sell ice to an Eskimo”, it would have been me.
But there was one type of person who I always struggled to successfully sell to. It wasn’t the person who said “Your product is too expensive”. I could persuade them to buy not just the standard model, but an upgraded more costly version. It wasn’t the person who said “I don’t need it”. I could persuade them to buy two. It wasn’t the person who said “Let me think it over”. I would walk out of their office shortly thereafter, with a signed order form and deposit check in my pocket.
There was one type of prospect who was very hard to respond to, and to convert to a new customer. That was the person who would agree with everything I said.
It seemed they were already sold and an enthusiastic supporter of the products I was selling, but when it came to ask for the order, they went silent, and I in turn had nothing to say to them, because I didn’t know why they weren’t buying. They liked the product, they saw the benefit of it, it wasn’t too expensive, etc etc. But something was missing, and the tricky thing was that by agreeing with everything I said, I didn’t know what the missing ingredient was to help them choose to buy my product.
Perhaps surprisingly, the easiest person to sell to was the person who noisily argued with everything I said. He was showing me his thought processes – sure, in a negative way, but by doing so, we could talk through the issues and resolve them, and eventually, that person would become a happy customer.
It is the same when attempting to introduce people to the Christian faith, and to encourage them to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and to become practicing Christians. The atheists, the pagans, and so on – they are relatively easy to have a dialog with.
But what about the people who complacently view themselves as already being good Christians, while in fact being nothing of the kind? The person who, when you start talking about Christianity, thanks you sincerely, and proudly tells you they are Christian, they go to church, and are “converted”? They think they know it all, with no need for further education or discussion. They view people such as ourselves as being mildly eccentric and out of the main-stream of normal Christianity. We’ve become lumped in with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons (and Encyclopedia salesmen if they still exist, etc).
(Please note – we mean no disrespect to either Jehovah’s Witnesses or members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (as Mormons now wish to be formally described) when explaining how some people view any Christian who seeks to share his salvation with others. We don’t agree with all elements of those two denominations, but we for sure respect the dedication of their people and their terribly thankless task of going door-to-door to witness the Word.)
Yes. As appalling as it is, you surely know this truth, yourself – either because you feel the same, too (in which case, thank you very much for reading, please stick with us!), or because you’ve sensed that reaction in others (in which case, we understand exactly your frustration and sense of awkwardness). “Main stream” Christianity has become a hollow empty shell of a faith, while “real” Christianity is now looked at as being eccentric, excessive, extremist, and out of tune with today’s values and times. We – the true Christians – are expected to conform to the (non)Christian norms of the established (non)Christian churches, and are derided and laughed at if we try to, in a small polite voice, point out that many of the actions of the mainstream churches and their teachings are totally at odds with the Bible authority.
If you haven’t sensed this, have a look at the just released 2018 survey, “The State of Theology” and see how over 50% of self-labelled “Christians” get some of the core elements of the Christian faith totally wrong.
We were reminded of this (not that we ever forget it) earlier this week. A (literally) distant acquaintance has become active in his local Christian church over the last year, since the sad passing of his wife. His grief, the lack of nearby appropriate friends or family to seek solace with, combined with arranging a church funeral, and, as he tells it himself, a most attractive lady minister at the Episcopal Church he was interacting with, all combined to bring him ‘into the fold’ as it were, and he was proudly telling us this week about how he now regularly attends church services, and has joined a group of fellow Christian businessmen. They meet every week, and go on retreats as well.
We were impressed but anxious, and it wasn’t long before the reason for our anxiety became clear. His “Christianity” was what we term “comfortable Christianity”. He doesn’t really see God as the one true God at all, because he proudly says that he (and the others in his church, too) are very respectful of all religions, and welcome all to their services.
He also said that the fellowship of his group of businessmen wasn’t so much like going to Bible Study classes. The group was more a case of people like him – middle-aged and older, white, upper-middle class, successful businessmen, meeting for general fellowship and friendship – “more a spiritual type of bonding” in his terms. Sort of like another form of Rotary Club, in other words. And that retreat they went on? It was at an upmarket Dude-Ranch featuring “glamping” rather than camping, gourmet food and high-end wines, and probably little or no mention of God or Christianity at all.
Well, for sure, everyone should always be welcome at every service, but how can one, as a God-fearing Christian, respect any other religion as being anything other than wrong? Religion is like pregnancy. You either are or aren’t pregnant, there’s no intermediate state of being partially pregnant. Similarly, you either are worshipping the one true God and following his prescribed pathway to salvation, or you are not. See Isaiah 44:6, Exodus 20:3, 1 Corinthians 8:4.
People love to create a “straw man” argument and say “I can’t believe that God’s tolerance would mean he would (or wouldn’t) do/allow (some unGodly thing)”. But, like all straw man arguments, the underlying assumption on which the conclusion is based is wrong. God is not tolerant. He is totally intolerant to sin, and by his own and natural laws, there is no way that sin can be accepted in a perfect place such as Heaven. See James 4:4, 1 Peter 3:12. The only way we can wash ourselves clean of our sins is through the intercession and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and of accepting his gift of salvation. See John 14:6, Acts 4:12.
You can give away more money to “good causes” than Bill Gates, but if you’ve not accepted Jesus and his sacrifice on your behalf, you’re not going to Heaven. See Titus 3:5. You can be the most devout Hindu or Buddhist or anything else and you’ll still be turned away from Heaven, just as surely as the basest of sinners. See Romans 3:10, Ephesians 2:8-9.
You can even go to church every Sunday, attend Mass and Confession, tithe way more than asked, immerse yourself in a full baptism, and memorize the entire Bible in English, Greek and Hebrew, but you’re not going to Heaven if you haven’t accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and welcomed him and the Holy Spirit into your heart; if you haven’t made the deepest and most personal of commitments to your faith. See Romans 10:9, 1 John 5:11-12.
Pope Francis Warns Us to Beware of the Well-Mannered Demons
We found ourselves emphatically agreeing with Pope Francis earlier this week when he referred to the growing danger of “Well Mannered” Demons.
These well-mannered demons tempt us not with evil, nor with sin, but with politeness, kindness, and goodness. They validate un-Christian behavior as being “truly Christian” because (they say) it is kind, loving, open and accepting. They encourage us to accept un-Christian views and behaviors because to criticize them would be rude and impolite, and what Christian would ever choose to be rude and impolite?
Most of all, they cause people to believe they are becoming good Christians when in fact they are doing exactly the opposite. They encourage church leaders to believe they are effectively spreading God’s word in a modern, relevant, appealing and impactful manner, when what they are doing instead is sidestepping God’s word and attempting to obscure the core elements of Christianity in a bid to be more liked.
These well-mannered demons validate people like our acquaintance. He truly does believe he has become a good Christian. Why wouldn’t he? He is now a regular church-goer. He even belongs to an associated group of Christian businessmen and church-goers. He tries to lead a slightly more Christian life than he used to, gives a bit more to charities, behaves more moderately. He feels a warm glow of satisfaction and spiritual comfort from having allowed the Church into his life as a guiding force.
But when we asked him, “So what was the core element of your becoming now an active Christian and a participative churchgoer?” did he talk at all about realizing his sins, and seeking forgiveness for them and accepting Christ’s dying on his behalf? Nope, that’s all completely unknown to him, and apparently not something the attractive lady minister has sought to mention, either. He talks about a realization, after his wife’s death, that there is “some higher purpose” and a search for some meaning in life and spiritual comfort and understanding.
We asked him, delicately, if he has now started to read the Bible. Well, errr, no. He doesn’t yet have one, but thinks he will buy one soon – a statement we suspect was offered as an awkward excuse to mollify us, rather than as a definite commitment to visit Amazon as soon as our call was ended.
God couldn’t be clearer about what Christianity is and what is required to become a Christian. It is all in the Bible.
But the well-mannered demons, and a church which for whatever reason chooses to obscure the most fundamental of all Christian teachings and tenets, have captured this man and wrapped him up in the treacherous soft wool of Bible-free complacency. He is enjoying his “feel good” self-indulgence, his new friends, his conforming to local social norms, etc, while, tragically, being blissfully unaware of any of the ‘more extreme’ (ie core, essential, necessary) elements of Christianity, and being kept away from the Bible and its truths.
How to Guard Against Comfortable Christianity
It is really simple. Read the Bible, especially the New Testament. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (AMP)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage];
17 so that the [a]man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Then carefully search out a Bible-focused church to attend and worship in. Seek out good Christian guidance online. And, always, measure everything up against Biblical teachings. Being a Christian requires following the Bible, not what society holds out in always varying form as normal and proper.
As a cautionary note, may we close with these words from the first part of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7 (you should read Mark 7:1-24 for the full contextual statement) – here’s the NIV version of the key part
6 He [Jesus] replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!