I read many, many blogs..that is something I have shared with you before. I find blogs honest, challenging and personally encouraging EVEN if I do not agree with the premise or conclusions of a particular post. THIS week, I read a blog I simply HAVE to share. It appeared on the “Thinking Out Loud” blog and states some VERY important truths about faithful, Christian character over against “right-ness” or cultural fame. You may want to scan this important idea! In fact, it has some things that are included in the post that may get YOU thinking about YOUR life.
When Doctrine overrides Character by Sheila Wray Gregoire
Why is it that Christians have such a difficult time denouncing pastors who have done horrendous things? I have an off-the-wall theory, and I’d like to share it in this thread.
Two incidences this week: Tim Keller offered George Whitefield, the man largely responsible for the legalization of slavery in 18th Century Georgia, as someone to emulate; and Harvest Bible Chapel elders and members continue to support James MacDonald, despite credible accusations of spiritual abuse.
We are told “we can’t judge” and “we all have our failings.” But most of all “He’s such a great preacher!” We live in an age where preaching and doctrine reign, and anyone who has the correct doctrine must, therefore, be a staunch Christian. Yet is this biblical? Let’s take a look.
In Jane Austen’s time, the phrase “Christian charity” was common. It was our love that distinguished us from others. In those days, pretty much everybody “believed” the same thing. What showed that you were a true believer was if you actually lived it out.
Things have changed. First, few believe today. But church trends also elevated belief over practice. [Billy] Graham’s crusades, though amazing, gave the impression that if one said the sinner’s prayer, one would always be right with God. Graham himself lamented the lack of discipleship.
Neo-Calvinism elevated doctrine over anything else, and a church’s preaching became key to its reputation. Then politics fused with Christianity. Christianity became synonymous with a certain viewpoint in the world, cementing the idea that it was about beliefs, not practice.
Today, if you were to ask someone what a Christian was, they would echo, “someone who believes X and Y.” The idea of “Christian charity” being our distinguishing characteristic has largely gone by the wayside.
Yet what does the Bible say? Jesus said they would know us by our love. James said faith without works is dead. Works do not save us; but works show that we truly are saved. Many people believe the Christian tenets and preach Christian doctrine for entirely the wrong reasons.
Paul admitted this—some preach Christ out of selfish ambition or vain conceit (Phil. 1:15). James said that even the demons believe—and shudder. A person can preach excellent sermons and write amazing books, but that says little about whether they have the Spirit of Christ in them.
Yes, God saves us through our belief in the saving work of Christ. But what makes our faith REAL is that it changes us. Until the church stops idolizing the person who simply preaches an amazing sermon and teaches the right doctrine, we will never get back to the heart of Christ.
If the gospel does not change how you act—if it does not affect your view of marginalized people; if it does not make it unthinkable to yell at a restaurant server; if it does not compel you to give—then ask yourself if you are believing for the wrong reasons.
And then tremble.
*Sheila Wray Gregoire is a published author with Zondervan, Kregel and Waterbrook Press and is a featured speaker at women’s events. Her blog deals with marriage, family and parenting issues and is called To Love Honor and Vaccum.