“There is a sad irony in the seeming success of many Christian churches and schools. The irony is that the more you adjust obscure Biblical doctrines to make Christian reality more attractive to unbelievers, the less Christian reality there is when they arrive. Which means that what looks like success in the short run, may, in the long run, prove to be failure. If you alter or obscure the Biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you don’t get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. This is not evangelism, but deception.
One of the results of this kind of ‘success’ is that sooner or later the world wakes up to the fact that these so-called Christian churches look so much like them and the way they think that there is no reason to go there. If you adjust your doctrine to fit the world in order to attract the world, sooner or later the world realizes that they already have what the church offers. That was the story of much of mainline Protestantism in Europe and America in the 20th century. Adjust your doctrine – or just minimize doctrine – to attract the world, and in the very process of attracting them, lose the radical truth that alone can set them free.
There are thousands of pastors and churches today that do not think that clear, Biblical, doctrinal views are vital in the life of the church or the believer. They believe it is possible to grow a healthy church while leaving the people with few and fuzzy thoughts about what God is like. But ignorance about God is never a mere vacuum. The cavity created by ignorance fills up with something else.
Edward Norman, in his book, Secularization: New Century Theology, goes right to the heart of the problem when he describes what that something else is:
‘Christianity is not being rejected in modern society – what is causing the decline of public support for The Church is the insistence of church leaders themselves in representing secular enthusiasm for humanity as core Christianity.’ (Ibid, p. 10)
At first the world is drawn to a religious form of ‘enthusiasm for humanity,’ but then it wears thin and they realize that they can find it more excitingly on TV.
Romans 9 is a great antidote against such diseases in the church. This chapter is not rooted in ‘enthusiasm for humanity,’ but in the staggering, shocking, deeply satisfying sovereignty of God. My prayer is that we will see God for who he really is with his jagged peaks and fathomless deeps, and that, by his grace, many will come – not to celebrate themselves, but to worship God.”
– John Piper, My Anguish: My Kinsmen Are Accursed