How to Turn Christianity into a Secular Religion

Christianity is easily perverted and transformed into something man-made that does not save, all while retaining a similar language, style, and feeling. Satan is fine with the outward aspects of Christianity, as long as there is no power to take away sins and sustain faith. What did Jesus say to the religious experts of His time? “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). The Gospel of Jesus is not about looking or talking a certain way, it is the power of God to take away sins. But the doctrine of Scripture is easily robbed of its truth, so people lose hope, comfort, and the surety of Christ’s death which delivers eternal life—and focus solely on man’s actions, ideas, and notions.

One way Christianity is humanized and emptied of content is to redefine morality. If the Law, as the eternal will of God, is avoided, truth undetectably becomes centered on the self—on the sinful will and heart. Right and wrong then become personalized, moldable to fit the times and popular desires. It then never convicts of guilt and makes no absolute demands. The divine Law of the living God is neutered, never fully condemning anyone as a sinner, deserving of eternal punishment. God never seems to stand against man in this void, so man’s will imperceptibly becomes equated to and indistinguishable from the divine will. No submission is required; the Law is not God’s never-ceasing demands for man, but man’s expectations for himself. Man gets to be a god automatically in this secularizing trick.

Faith in God’s favor, won by the sacrifice of Christ, is central to Christianity. We rely on God’s promises, but faith is unmoored when the Maker and content of those promises are ignored. Faith is made vague, a mere expectation of earthly blessings: “things will get better.” Without an actual biblical basis for God’s promises, faith is a general optimism, a feeling of positivity. If faith has nothing divine and specific to believe in (like the forgiveness of sins and eternal life), it becomes a human hope, like wishing our favorite team would go undefeated. Presto, Christ and His death are not needed for this “faith,” only feelings and thoughts of a slightly better (earthly) future. A secular religion of only man’s faith, hope, and love is born. The desires of the sinful will replace Christ and His Word.

The future resurrection of the dead at the Last Day is a specific hope. It is a certain fact and promise that roots believers in this cursed creation and gives them something to look forward to—the end of the world. It also gives value to our physical bodies—the divine roles that we were made for—and bestows honor in the midst of bodily weakness. Judgment Day makes sin real and eternally condemned, because we know people can get away with evil in this world. But if the death and resurrection of our Lord are minimized, then the earthly takes precedent over the eternal. Perception shifts to getting what we want in the here and now. Our bodies become fully ours to do with as we please, under our dominion, not the Lord’s. Pleasure and evil desires become elevated over God’s biologically revealed will in our bodies. The significance of what we do in them is then put aside for purely spiritual concerns which have nothing to do with daily life or our created roles. Contrary to 2 Cor. 5:10, life without a bodily purpose becomes aimless and meaningless: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Marriage is then transformed into a human institution all about our love, not God’s uniting of male and female into one flesh. If preachers only indulge in soul-talk, Christianity morphs into an imaginary sort of delusion, having nothing to do with real, bodily people, damning sin, or tangible absolution.

The specific places where Christ distributes His forgiveness and promises to absolve us are the creation- points of faith. They are the supports of faith and the locations sinners find Christ’s righteousness for them. These connection points to Christ can be attacked, while retaining lots of Jesus-talk. But when Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Word of Christ are minimized or denied, Christ Himself is too. Emotions and everything inside man becomes the new emphasis, instead of God’s action in justifying sinners. General Gospel-like language, without a real way given to access forgiveness in time, will only frustrate sinners and cause them to rely on works of the Law. Christ’s action was not just on the cross. He also works today in bringing His salvation to us, through the Spirit’s work in the Word. But if the sacraments are removed from Christianity, what we do and feel becomes greater than what God does and promises. Satan wants to direct us to ourselves. So, without the concrete and physical divinely appointed means of receiving justification, spiritual language is really about us, not anything God does. Holiness becomes centered on man’s actions, not the forgiveness of sins given by the Word of Christ. Christianity then becomes a message full of sound and fury, but incapable of actually doing anything. Love, as the emotional, flittering murmurs of our hearts, is easily worshiped. Sinners will more gladly obey this unpredictable, always changing force, rather than the unchanging Word of God and the physical means to which He attaches it.

Facts and history can easily be made into non-spiritual things, having nothing to do with the real power of Christianity. But Christ became man and came into human history. So, facts ground and establish the Gospel. If the Bible is treated like myth, as less real than modern facts of history, Christ, and His work, recedes into the background. Dates, authorship, and specific words are made obsolete and impractical to this spiritual faith devoid of content. Then great words and verbal images can be spewed with verve, but nothing really connects to the world we live in. All this spiritual, non-historical talk does not touch man who cannot escape his history—being a fleshly sinner in this physical world.

True love is the working of the Spirit, but the word “love” can be twisted and made to strip Christianity of all content. If love is simply acceptance, not a true helping and leading to the Lord in repentance, nothing can be rejected with finality. This worldly love sounds good and can be extolled in lofty Christian language, but has nothing to do with biblical love, which does not rejoice at wrong. And without a denial and rejection of sin, no one is in need of salvation, a real saving from hell and damnation. This “love” then blesses every sin and accepts all evil, by putting a Christian stamp on lawlessness. Real church discipline is outlawed in practice and unthinkable in this flabby, weak-kneed love, so that sin reigns supreme. This secular god blesses sin and everything man does with the all-powerful word of “love.”

Order is an undeniable part of the fabric of our world. We all have people over us to whom Christ calls us to honor and follow. Scripture clearly calls us to submit—everyone must submit within God’s order in this world. Children, wives, husbands, and civil servants are to submit within the order God places them. This is God’s will, which Scripture clearly states. It is not salvific, but it ensures good order for our protection and allows for the peaceful operation of this world. But the Gospel, a divine freedom that releases from sin and guilt against God, can be redefined as freedom from authority, instead of sin. Freedom from submission, in man’s sight, replaces freedom and adoption to sonship in God’s sight. So man hears the Gospel, unbound from any absolute purposes on earth, as permission to do what he wants, not freedom to do what pleases the Father in heaven. In a roundabout way, we are told to follow ourselves, not the God who saved us. Without earthly authority structures and divine external roles, Christ, who is true God, is disconnected from our lives. God the Father authorizes all authority, as the highest authority. Without physical, biological roles and vocations, authorized by the Lord, actual submission to Christ and His Word make no sense. Salvation is then really about destroying divine earthly structures, like marriage, family, and good order, not a promise that gives eternal hope beyond this world. Unfair earthly practices and situations replace sin against God—making the goal of Christianity a man-made utopia on earth, rather than hope in the life to come through Christ’s resurrection. Sadly, this gospel of earthly liberation is only about human revolution and undoing good social order—rearranging chairs on the cursed and damned Titanic of this fading world—which only hurts society because unbelievers need order to restrain their sinful nature. This new “gospel” demands that we all individually act right now as saviors of the world, instead of blessing us eternally in Christ’s righteous death.

There are many ways God’s truth is subtlety undermined. It is all the more damaging when these errors are done in the name of Christ and by the supposed experts of Christianity. But Christ, our God, became man and entered into this world, not to overthrow the social order or fix our problems right now, but to restore us to the heavenly Father. Jesus, in willing submission to the Father, died for our sins in our world, within normal, human history, and comes to us in clear verbal promises to give us real and everlasting hope. Amen.