Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christianity-and-water

I write a lot about grace because, it seems to me, most Christians do not truly believe in God's grace. It is too extreme, too radical for them. Could it really be as simple as having faith and loyalty in God? And He then treats us as though we were righteous? Surely there is a catch. Surely there is some amount of work or justification I must do after being saved in order to be on His "good side", right? People struggle the most with this concept, and that is why it is my normal focus.

But today I am focused on the opposite extreme--what C.S. Lewis calls, "Christianity-and-water." Christianity-and-water is the cheap knock-off of our faith which embraces God's love, but leaves out those pesky and uncomfortable doctrines about us being unworthy sinners. Kind of a Debbie Downer message, isn't it? To truly grasp that your righteousness is "as filthy rags" before God?

So many churches skip it altogether. Some turn church into a club focused on social justice and community service--good things, but not the Gospel. Some turn church into a place to get financial advice, marital counseling, and an encouraging word--good things, but not the Gospel. Some turn church into a big concert with Christian lyrics--good things, but not the Gospel.

You see, the Gospel cannot be preached without a thorough understanding of sin. The Fall of Man, the disobedience of Israel, the terrifying weight of the Law, the massive gap between God's standard and our lives...these are the foundation upon which Christianity is built. To remove this understanding is to eliminate Christianity altogether--for what need is there for grace without sin? What need is there for Jesus without Adam?

A Christianity not based upon the doctrine of sin is not a Christianity at all. C.S. Lewis once wrote on the topic:

Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right--leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these [i.e., atheism and Christianity-and-water] are boys' philosophies. ...Let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.

What is the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless. ....

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage [against the rebel running this world]. When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret [messages] from our friends: that is why the Enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery."


Never take my blog's insistence on embracing our freedom from sin-bondage to forget about the pervasive and perverting role that sin plays in your life. Never think that I am preaching a Christianity-and-water. In fact, just the opposite: unless you truly understand your sinful state (past, present, and future), I do not see how you can possibly grasp the radical gospel that Christ preached, or the radical love He demonstrated on the cross.

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