It has been evident to numerous Biblical scholars that often believers interpret the Bible through the lens of their culture. This has resulted in many beliefs, doctrines and practices prevalent in the church that are not in accord with the clear teaching of Scripture. Sometimes in the U.S. pulpit, preaching can come across more like the “American Dream” than sound, biblical teaching. The following are some of the contrasts between American Christianity and biblical Christianity:
- American Christianity focuses on individual destiny. The Bible focuses on corporate vision and destiny.
Most of the preaching in today’s pulpits in America focuses on individual destiny, purpose and vision. However, a quick look at the Bible shows us that in the Old Testament the emphasis was always on the nation of Israel, and in the New Testament the emphasis was always on the church. Every promise of God in Scripture was given to the community of faith as a whole. In the Old and New Testaments, there was no such thing as “individual prophecy” since every prophetic word given to an individual had to be walked out in the context of their faith community and/or had to do with the life of their community.
- American Christianity focuses on individual prosperity. The Bible focuses on stewardship.
Much American preaching today focuses on “our rights in Christ” to be blessed. However, in Scripture the emphasis regarding finances has to do with being blessed by God in order to be a blessing by bringing God’s covenant to the Earth. Jesus promised material blessing only in the context of seeking first His Kingdom.
- American Christianity focuses on self-fulfillment and happiness. The Bible focuses on glorifying God and serving humanity.
The Great Commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. Much of the focus from the American pulpit has to do with individual fulfillment and satisfaction.
- American Christianity appeals to using faith to attain stability and comfort. The Bible encourages believers to risk life and limb to advance the Kingdom.
Much of the preaching in American churches regarding faith has to do with using faith so we can have a nice car, home, job, financial security and comfort. The biblical focus on faith is on risking our physical health and material goods to promote God’s Kingdom. Most of the original apostles of the church died as martyrs as did the Apostle Paul, and the hall of faith shown in Hebrews 11 equates faith with a life of risk and material loss for the sake of Christ.
- American Christianity usually focuses on individual salvation. The Bible deals with individual and systemic redemption.
Jesus’ first sermon text in Nazareth was a quote from Isaiah 61. American preachers usually interpret these passages in an individual manner only. However, when you read Isaiah 61:1-4 you will clearly see that the gospel not only saved and healed individuals but also transformed whole cities! The biblical gospel deals with systemic sin not just individual sinners.
- The American apologetic focuses on human reason. The Bible’s apologetic focuses on the power of God and experience.
Americans have been trained to defend the faith utilizing scientific, archaeological and linguistic historical proofs to validate the resurrection of Christ and the historic accuracy of the Scriptures. However, when we read both testaments, we see the prophets, the apostles and Jesus never based the propagation of their faith on the latest scientific research or human reason but on the anointing, authority and reliability of God.
- American believers have a consumerist mentality regarding a home church. The biblical emphasis is being equipped for the ministry.
Americans shop for a church today based on what meets their personal and family needs the best. It is almost like a supermarket mentality of one-stop shopping. While it is good if churches attempt to meet the practical needs of families and communities, the focus should be upon equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. God may lead a family to a new church plant instead of a megachurch even if the megachurch has more programs to offer. Biblically, it is all about assignment and equipping.
- American Christianity promotes a culture of entertainment. The Bible promotes the pursuit of God.
In the typical growing American church, there will be an incredible worship team, visual effects and great oratory. Consequently, we are often catering to the American obsession with entertainment and visceral experiences, which can promote a culture of entertainment instead of cultural engagement. Biblically speaking, some of the greatest examples we have of intimacy with God come from the Psalms in which the writers were in dire straits, with no worship team, and alone somewhere in the desert.
- American Christianity depends upon services within a building. The biblical model promotes a lifestyle of worship, community and Christ following.
Most of the miracles in the book of Acts and the gospels took place outside a building in the context of people’s homes and in the marketplace. In Acts 2 and 4, the churches met house-to-house, not just in the temple. The man at the gate was healed before he went into the temple, which caused an even greater revival to take place.
- American Christianity is about efficiency. The biblical model is about effectiveness.
Often, the American church is modeled more after the secular corporate model rather than the biblical model. The church is not an organization but an organism that should be organized! In many churches, every aspect of the service is timed to the minute, and there is no allowance for the Holy Spirit to move. What good is an efficient service if people leave congregational assemblies with the same brokenness they had before they came in?
The governing board of the Law Society of British Columbia decided recently not to admit graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school, reversing an earlier decision to accept the alumni. The about-face came after the society’s member attorneys voted overwhelmingly to shut out the Christian school’s graduates.
Trinity Western spokesman Guy Saffold said the university is “disappointed” in the decision but it does not end plans for the law school. Trinity Western University (TWU), located in Langley, B.C., a small municipality in metro Vancouver, is Canada’s largest Christian university. The 50-year-old school enrolls more than 4,000 students annually and requires all students and staff to sign a covenant outlining expected conduct, including a promise not to drink alcohol, avoid gossip and profanity, and abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
In 2012, TWU announced it planned to open a law school. The Canadian Bar Association and The Council of Canadian Law Deans opposed the program’s accreditation, claiming the school’s belief in traditional marriage made it incapable of training students to uphold Canadian law, particularly since same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005.
But in December 2013, TWU gained preliminary federal accreditation when the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada approved the creation of Canada’s first Christian law school, citing “no public interest reason” not to do so. But each province still has to grant graduates membership into its respective bar association. Opponents started a campaign to convince provinces not to accept TWU law school graduates. The strategy has had mixed results.
Approval in British Columbia is particularly important, because of the school’s location in the province. Trinity Western has already security mobility agreements with other provinces, meaning law graduates could be licensed in British Columbia and then relocate elsewhere.
Football Coach Fired For Refusing to Stop Team Members From Praying
A public school football coach claims he was terminated from his position for allowing players at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, Arizona to pray before and after games. Gary Weiss, formerly a volunteer coach with the district, said he was given an ultimatum by school officials: tell players to stop praying or lose his position. He refused and opted for the latter option. “My concern is the rights of the kids to do what is their right to do,” Weiss told KVOA-TV.
District administrators said that voluntary prayer is permitted, but that staff members cannot facilitate or promote student invocations. The central question is whether Weiss was guilty of organizing or supporting prayers among team members — something the coach denies, claiming that no adults led the invocations. Weiss also said that the prayers were inclusive.
“The prayers of the freshmen team have been recited by Muslim kids, Jewish kids, and Christian kids,” Weiss said. He is reportedly no longer permitted on school property.
News in Brief
- Two public elementary schools in Texas have covered dedication plaques that referenced God with duct tape after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Midlothian Independent School District confirmed the plaques had been covered temporarily and will eventually be replaced with dedication plaques that do not reference religion.
- Arkansas State University conceded recently it made a grievous constitutional error when ordering its football players to remove a memorial sticker of a cross from their helmets honoring two team members tragically killed in the past year. After receiving more than 25,000 emails opposing religious discrimination, the school issued a statement acknowledging the right of ASU’s football players to engage in private speech.
As students returned to one school in Florida, there was a glaring omission. Books, desks and classrooms remained unchanged, but chaplains for the Olympia High School football team in Orange County, Florida, were replaced with “life coaches” after the school caved in to pressure from an anti-religion group. One former chaplain, Troy Schmidt, who also serves as a local pastor in Florida, reported to Fox News that he could “no longer open the Bible, talk about the Bible, talk about God or pray with the team in any capacity. It was heartbreaking.”
Schmidt was offered the role of “life coach” but was warned he would not be able to use any inspiration from the Bible when motivating players. Schmidt turned down the position, stating, “That’s not me. My heroes come from the Bible, and I think there is a lot of inspiration in there that can motivate a football player to get out on the field and play their best and be their best.”
A spokesperson for the Orange County Public Schools confirmed the district has ended the long-standing tradition of having local ministers serve as volunteer chaplains for football teams, adding that students can lead their own prayers, but faculty, staff or voluntary chaplains cannot be involved. According to a school memo, the district also stated that teachers and coaches “cannot participate in a visible way with the players during student-led prayers.”
Bible verses and references to the Bible have also been banned on school property, and songs with religious lyrics may not be used in school-related videos. The actions are in response to a threat from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which stated in a letter through its attorney that, “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes.”
Federal Court Allows Ten Commandments Monument
A Ten Commandments monument in Fargo, North Dakota does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause as it serves more as a historical display than a religious one, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled recently. The court noted there were both sacred and secular reasons behind the monument’s establishment, and that it contained more than just Christian text, such as an American flag and an “all seeing eye” pyramid.
The monument had been donated over 50 years ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles and sits in Fargo’s Civic Plaza, a public location in the city. Since 2002, the Red River Freethinkers have been fighting against the presence of the monument, asserting that it serves as a government endorsement of Christianity.
According to reports, the organization had proposed an adjacent monument describing religious freedom, but Fargo’s Board of City Commissioners rejected the idea. It instead decided to appease the Red River Freethinkers by moving the display to private property. However, a number of Fargo residents disagreed with the notion, and petitioned for an ordinance that would grandfather in the Ten Commandments monument.
The City Commissioners soon adopted the ordinance, and also forbid any new monuments from being erected in the plaza. Because of this, in 2008, the Red River Freethinkers sued the City of Fargo in federal court. The group is now considering whether to appeal the matter to the United States Supreme Court.