As we have said so far, the Christian Church in America is first irrelevant, it has lost the mainstream culture, which has been taken over (due to Christianity's default) by secular humanism and hedonism (which is consumerist and materialistic).
It is a complex mix, evenso. We must ask God's Holy Spirit to sort it out for us, so we can see the predicament clearly that besets us.
The second main feature, as I have come to see it, is that the Christian Church is asleep. How long have we been asleep? How are we asleep? Why don't we wake up? Are we waking up? Will we wake up? What happens if we don't? What is so bad about "sleeping on the job" anyway? Will we lose our salvation--and if not--why be concerned about it?
To start off, the Church in America is well-intentioned for the most part, but it is plainly asleep. It has been asleep a very long time, indeed, with only two "Great Awakenings", as national or widespread revivals are aptly called. We desperately need a Third Great Awakening.
Look at this nation! The largest churches are not even Christian--though they attract millions of Christians to them to support their agendas. Ophrah and Dr. Phil are just two of the huge personality cults that are nationally so popular they easily surpass the popularity of the U.S. president. No megachurch can equal them for the sizes of their followings. Ophrah has at least twenty million almost fanatically sychophantic followers. Dr. Phil has his lesser following, but it must be in the millions too. The largest churches are not in South Korea, which can claim one that exceeds 100k. Not at all! America does everything in a big way, and so these personality cults (with their solipsistic agendas of self-development, self-attainment, self-deliverance, self-glorification, everything-you-can-get-to enjoy techniques and therapies) gravitate round great charismatic leaders, who operate far more effectively than Aimee Semple MacPherson ever did with mass choirs and Hollywood light shows and real elephants at the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles in her heyday.
Ophrah Winfrey is on a first name basis with the whole nation which has now reached 300 million--an incredible achievement all based on a gigantic billion dollar television industry and highly skilled Madison Avenue-type marketing, for her talents alone could not explain her tremendous success and magnetism. This article is not about her success, for this is only to point out that churches may not be Christian to draw in millions of Christians--and these two mentioned are notable examples. Ecology, charity, post-rape/abuse victims' trauma, self-beautification and "makeovers," interior decorating, consumerism and hedonistic lifestyles, the gay rights movement--we see these are main features of Ophrah's agenda, and it is overwhelmingly a hit with the American people--a "boxoffice smash". She is now one of the world's wealthiest women, living "alone," whatever that means, for she does not identify just what she does and with whom, and seemingly makes no effort to marry and live in a traditional way with a husband, and seemingly prefers the careerist lifestyle of this era (though she is well aware millions are watching her and emulating her example the best they can, as if she is a goddess of emancipated femininity who seemingly has all the answers for life).
Dr. Phil, like Ophrah, is on a first name basis with the mass American TV audiences and appears to have all the answers to give the hordes of hurting and the maladjusted people who come to seek him as their last resort. If he doesn't have the answers, his teams backstage of expert therapists and other "resources" have them. Nothing seems to be too difficult for him to solve after a brief interview in front of millions of American followers. He says virtually nothing about God (neither does Ophrah). He is so effective because he has a top degree, is a "Doctor," and thus commands respect in a way that Ophrah cannot (she has to work a little harder, that's all). A prestigious degree alone would not make him effective, to be sure. His degree is followed by a highly verbal, problem-solving ability that easily cuts to the core of every tangled human problem. He has certain traditionalist "values," such as commitment, honesty, loyalty to spouse, truthfulness, which are basic to re-establishing dysfunctional individuals back to a foundation of restoration and rehabilitation. His traditionalist values actually aid him in dealing effectively with the ruined lives that are trotted out to him as the doctor to diagnose and cure--though here Ophrah is less credentialed, being a "lay" promoter of secular-humanism and tolerance (tolerance or "anything goes" is its cardinal sacrament or doctrine).
Both, however, may claim to be Christians (I do not recall), and even believe they are Christians (as most Americans mistakenly believe about themselves).
It does not matter what they (or their fellow Americans) call themselves, however. It is their actions that tell us clearly who they are and what they are about. They do tremendous good, it appears, but at what cost? The cost is just as tremendous--but this is not about them. This is about the Church of Jesus Christ, for Ophrah and Dr. Phil will be gone someday like yesterday's newspaper, but the Church is eternal. Eternal. That is: Everlasting. How more important is the condition and destiny of the Church than these two celebrities in the world of television and television-dominated culture.
Dr. Phil and Ophrah, in their doing good amidst their TV studio-sanctuaries to troubled, damaged, hurt, broken-hearted individuals, may seem to be adding to the "common good" of this nation, and even be contributing to the Church--yet I do not personally believe they are doing any appreciable good; rather, as personality cults, they are promoting values that are diametrically the opposite of the Christian faith's. They are defying the Bible in their methods. As the record, the Bible, shows, St. Paul was not a Dr. Phil--yet Dr. Phil has cast St. Paul's teachings into the shade. The Bible, and the Book of Genesis, has been cast there too.
Now, hit Fast Forward to today's world...what we have in front of us now are these two "Do-Gooders," Ophrah and Dr. Phil, whom everybody can love and identify with, taking the fruit of the forbidden Tree, this latter day Adam and Eve, giving it to us to eat so that we can all know good and evil together, and then come quickly (before the next commercial) with admirable solutions, head to toe makeovers, and beautiful designer home interiors to boot. In this lovely setting of the latter day, studio-concocted Garden of Eden, they can spread out the dirty laundry of countless wretched people, parading every detail of their nakedness and depravity in the camera's eye before the whole world, and do it with the approval and applause of vast American audiences!
This is inexplicable to me--I would think we would be ashamed to be exposed this way to the often shocked and disgusted watching world, all for profit too! But the fruit--oh, the fruit--it is so desirable to our lusts and desires of the carnal heart--and we must have it--even if we are made to look like fools and animals to the whole world--even if it defiles our consciences and sears them with repeated exposures, segment after segment of the delectable, visually-appealing fruit!
As long as such people determine the way people see themselves and thus the way people act and live and treat one another, they are promoting an anti-Christianity--a heresy, if you will--that is every bit as pervasive and dangerous and anti-Christ as Arianism was in the first centuries of the historic Church.
So we have this immensely "Popular Christianity" (Ophrah's brand being more secular-humanist, in my impression of it) seducing and misleading the spiritually weak, poorly informed, easily persuaded soul of America today. Meanwhile, what are true Christian churches and their ministers and congregations doing? They are part of these Popular Christianity cults, to be sure. They watch the programs, and support them. They absorb the mindsets and agendas of these two spiritual leaders of America. Billy Graham? He is mostly an icon and a legend, good for past generations, but no longer revelant to the generation that adores Dr. Phil and Ophrah. He has been relegated to being just an anomaly based somewhere now in the South, with a TBN TV showing of his old crusades. His children are in ministry, often seen on TV as well. But they are mere occasional blips on the spiritual plasma screen, while the faces of Ophrah and Dr. Phil loom there, viewed by America's mass television audience, day after day. Those who disagree with Ophrah Winfrey's leftist, secular humanist agenda politically cannot stop her juggernaut. There is nothing like the momentum of success--it will just keep rolling, right over its opposition. This movement will, as it continues the way it has, sap and suck the very life out of the Christian Church, and conform her to the world and the Satanic system of this world in every way. There will be absolutely no difference beween the Christians and their pagan, lost neighbors and contemporaries. The values both hold will be absolutely the same, their lifestyles the same, their problems and sins the same, their pastimes and addictions the same--everything the same.
In this sense, Popular Christianity, which can also include Positive Thinking mega-churches (and they are numerous, and can be viewed on TV as well), has got to be part of the mix of the Laodicean Church of the Revelation of John, an apostate church that is neither hot nor cold, and which the Lord, when He comes, will spew out of his mouth (or, in the modern vernacular) "terminate."
Having gained this over-view of the Church's cultural environment and the leading causes that bring decline and apostasy for the Church, we can look at the Church itself.
The oppressing State Church (like the dissenter-persecuting Church of England that went after the believers who became the Pilgrims and Puritans) that the Danbury Baptists feared would replicate itself here and gain official sanction in the new U.S. Federal Government was a valid fear--only two thousand years too late to mean anything.
By the way, the so-called Christians United for the Separation of Church and State--it uses this fear and the letter to the Baptists of Danbury written by Thomas Jefferson to misinform the American public and enlist activist judges to roll back religious freedoms in America, extracting one sentence of Jefferson's letter in particular containing the highly problematic phrase, "a wall of separation," to form the foundation and justify their doctrine of the separation of church and state in court cases, despite the truth that such a "doctine" has no consitutional basis and is constitutionally irrelevant and is only good for making bad case law and should be thrown into the dustbin, according to the very clear statement about this "doctrine" by the late Chief Justice Rhenquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. Read his statement, when you have the opportunity--the ACLU and its allies hate every word, for what he said was the constitutional truth!
With the Danbury letter of no consequence to this discussion, a State Church was the issue in the Roman Empire, in the 4th century under Emperor Constantine. The Church, misled by Church Fathers like St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and others whose works are still quoted today, has already turned anti-Jewish--and the Milan Decree of Constantine ending government persecution and granting official recognition of Christianity as one of the legitimate religions of the polytheistic (pluralistic?) Empire pretty much finished valid Christian faith. Millions of half-pagan Romans and other peoples flooded in to fill the churches, now that it was officially recognized and no longer costly in lives and goods to support and attend. Sacrifice was out, convenience and self-centeredness were in! No cross, no crown--but a growing church nonetheless (church growth has become a major concern today, has it not?)! You did not have to give up much of anything to follow Christ, under Constantine and the tolerant emperors that followed. Christianity was even made the State Religion of the Empire later on. That was the death blow to the Christian faith. It destroyed the Christian faith by watering it down to a level where leaders could take over and run Christ's church, replacing Him as the head with their own authority, a process begun by the anti-Jewish Church Fathers in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and given great impetus by Emperor Constantine by his granting the Church official imperial recognition. You see this process evidenced by the increasing wealth, power, ceremony, prestige, and court-like trappings of the patriarchs and bishops--all culminating, in the West, with the rise of the Roman papacy, as the Rome-based patriarchate became known.
Christianity, in other words, became popular--and accepted, and then behaved like a cultural lion, with real teeth. Christianity dominated the society of the time, and then began persecuting and even eradicating pagan temples and their religions. It took up the sword, the sword of the state, against its rivals and enemies. It betrayed Christ, who condemned such methods. The spirit of the world, the spirit of the empire, entered the soul and spirit of the Christian faith, and the church became very Romanesque, adopting elaborate ceremonies, rich vestments and crowns, and elaborate courts. The Roman Church's patriarchate became Papal, with an imperal ruler very much like the former Roman emperors, literally wearing imperial robes, bearing the master of bridges title as well of the emperor of Maximus Pontifex (the Roman Church head is often call the Supreme Pontiff, is he not? That is an ancient imperial Roman title taken from the pagan emperors). In our own time, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, not to mention Britain, show what state churches do to Christian faith--they kill it, with formalism, dead ceremony, lifeless rituals, and sacraments like baptism that save infants and remove any need of the adult Christian to undergo the regeneration of a born-again experience and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now is the whole approach to the individual unChristian? What is wrong with personal purpose and destiny? Solipsism, the theory that the self alone exists and that the self alone can know its thoughts and feelings--is that the whole story about the Christian church and its monastistic history? For most of the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages--it would appear so. But, with the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, the emphasis on Reason, and the growth of science and knowledge and information, the emphasis shifted off the solitary search for a mystic union with Christ (at the exclusion of the outer world as much as possible as it was to achieve that) to personal development, a more modern-looking religionism. But with the passing of inward-turning ages, man became the center of all things--a new god had appeared on the world scene, so to speak. This is Humanism--all ideals were seen to center in Him. God, increasingly, was pushed to the edges of his existence, for only one being, God or man, could occupy the Center of the Universe at one time.
Personal purpose and destiny, fulfilment--those became the buzzwords of the postmodern, man-oriented, positive-thinking Church. These humanistic values are featured in the extremely popular series of the Purpose Driven Life and Church by Rick Warren, are they not? I have taken this book, chapter by chapter, in a study group, and it has been a good experience--I could not disagree with any of it--but it does not challenge me somehow. Everyone, including myself, wants to achieve purpose, destiny, and fulfilment, in Christ, of course. We also want to share the Gospel with the world. So--that being the purpose-driven life of a Christian (if I understood Warren rightly)--what is the problem? Simply: just those values--they are man-centered, you see. They dovetail perfectly into our solipsistic Christianity, into our positive-thinking heresy we call the Church of Christ. You can have the Cross and self-fulfillment too, this series tells us, does it not? If I am wrong, disregard everything I have said. But if so, we really need to do some serious business with God, and ask God back to be the true center of our lives--not ourselves masquerading as Christ-centered individuals when actually we are using Christ to gain personal fulfilment and destiny, or whatever it is we want for ourselves out of life.
These values are not anti-Christ in themselves, it can be argued, but when they are made the main focus, replacing the Gospel of the Crucified Christ that tells of his taking all our sin upon Himself and paying for our sin-penalty, so that we can be transformed, regenerated by the Spirit, and made disciples of the Lord--then they effectively shove God and historic Cross-centered, Christian faith aside, and what you get is the Popular Crossless Christianity that has supplanted everything that Paul and the other Apostles taught.
As proof of this, consider Paul for a moment. He was, of all people, purpose-driven, but what fulfillment, personally, did he get out of serving Christ? He frequently called himself a bond-slave to Christ. We pass over that as Americans, lightly, without understanding, because we don't rub elbows with slavery and know what it is. But Paul, in an empire based on slavery, knew. He was Christ's slave. That meant something. He literally wore chains, but spiritually he wore chains too. The spiritual chains were even more binding, because the physical chains Rome put round his neck and legs weren't able to enslave his triumphant spirit of Christ, were they? But he suffered all, as the slave of Christ, gladly, rejoicing in his chains--wouldn't that behoove us to find out what he meant by calling himself a bond-slave?
This is my understanding, which may nor may not help you. Slavery was not a condition to be desired--not in that time and age. In the Roman world it was a base servitude to masters, who held the absolute power of life or death over you. You were not your own master. Your master told you what to do, and you had to do it, no questions asked. You owned nothing, not even your own life. Everything you were belonged to your master--talents, abilities, muscle-power, skills, all the years of your life. Yet Paul willingly entered into this absolute bondage, to this servitude, for Christ's sake. He considered every sacrifice, every sickness, every betrayal of fellow Christians, every persecution by the heathen, every time of hunger or nakedness or peril at sea or on land, even the brutal, multiple stonings and imprisoments in brutal, appallingly dark, dirty dungeons, worth knowing Christ and serving Him the best he could.
Paul constantly called Timothy his disciple to consider his own example. So might we, regarding the Purpose-Driven Life and Positive, Upbeat, Self-Oriented Christianity. Certainly, the books of Rick Warren will seem to be completely Christ-centered, but you have to examine this carefully. How is Christ really being treated or seen? How is man or man's self positioned? Who is taking the back seat--God or man? "I Surrender All" can be just lip service. Is it really the case? How much really do we measure up to the profile Paul wrote about himself as a follower of Christ? How far do we measure up to Christ? Compare what we esteem to be a Christ-follower to Paul and Christ. That should give us a true indication of what is lacking, if there is a lack or disparity between what we are professing and what we really are acting out.
Church pastors, bishops, and so on, can preach Christ and not be saved and born-again. This has happened so many time, it is common. You can do everything right, believe every doctrine, share the Gospel from street to street, but still be a head-hunting cannibal dressed up as a Christian and living for self, self, self!
In all of this development and makeover of the Christian faith into a false religion that looks like the real thing on the outside but lacks all substance of the Cross and Christ Crucified (please refer to Josh McDowell's excellent "Beyond Conviction" book for the critically needed analysis describing the how truth is "processed" or treated from absolute to relative that has so radically changed from the time of the older to younger generation in America), few prophetic voices of warning have risen up to confront us in our apostasy. They exist, as in the CharisLife, and other such small movements of evangelical, charismatic, Pentecostal church leaders--but the mass of the Christians have moved toward the popular religionism of the mainstream, which pays off in mega-numbers, in mega-bucks, in mega-celebrity, in a whole array of humanitarian programs to help the world.
However you weigh these issues, there is no way out of any false church except by following Christ the Shepherd as He alone leads us by His Word and the Holy Spirit. He will deliver us, I have found, if we consistently seek Him to lead us out. It may be a long, painful process, but we will be delivered.
Following men, however godly and persuasive and charismatic, will not save us. So many, far too many, are exponents of the Popular Christianity that has swept historic Christian faith aside as irrelevant (or reducing it to a charitable, humanitarian club, or a worthy social activity for youth for want of anythng better at the time). For the most part, the Christian churches are sleeping like bears hibernating in their winter dens, they do not see the problem as it is explained here, and those who do see it are too few to turn the ship of Christianity away from the rocks and icebergs looming right ahead.
The nation itself is clearly heading toward destruction, just as the T.S.S. Titanic once proudly and arrogantly sailed full steam ahead into the icebergs of the North Atlantic, all while we lose the hot, raging battle with secular-humanism and with world-wide Islam presently masquerading as a sheep with peaceful intentions. But the religious battle with Popular Christianity is right now the greater foe, as far as the Christian faith is concerned. This is the ravaging, merciless Hun, the Goth, the pagan barbarian hordes that will finish off the Christian faith in America just as they once finished off Imperial Rome, but gradually, piecemeal, not all at once, because it is all the more effective and devastating when it is welcomed, comfortable, easily accommodated degree by degree, within the walls of the church and the home, and is also invited to teach the children and preach from the pulpits! Nobody invites a wolf home to dinner, but the wolf is now in the church--calling the shots. How did he get there? He was let in, wearing a sheepskin, in the form of some nice humanistic idea and program and doctrine--which then led to even more secular humanist incursions and influence, until finally the Bible was thrown out as the authoritative Word of God and practiciing homosexuals (sodomites) were wearing the robes of bishops or pastors and preaching secular humanist tolerance and other values in the pulpits of many churches.
How is this the case? Here is one case in point where secular humanism triumphs. If the society is hedonistic--its reason for being has become pleasure and seeking it in a million ways that consume great amounts of material goods--then the copy-cat Church too is hedonistic. Once "survival" programs became a big ratings success on television, give it a few years, but the lagging, culturally-challenged Church will catch up, and then you will see excited church groups going off on expensive and lengthly "survival" retreats while the children and adults of the Sudan (black Christians) live the real thing (not by choice, by the way), as they starve, suffer attack after attack of armed raiders, and are raped and murdered or enslaved and tortured, all by Islamic genocidalists sponsored by the radical, anti-Christian Islamic regime of the Sudan. In a nutshell, Christians in America play while Dafur burns. The last thing such "upbeat" churches and groups think about is: should we be doing this extremely selfish, entertaining stuff while these resources and funds would save dozens, even hundreds, of lives in the Sudan? Yes, we are losing our youth--they drop church when they come of age--but Josh McDowell explained the reasons and gave the way to turn it around, but who was listening, and who really wants to change?
Sudan is just one desperate area for Christians on the globe. China is another. Nepal is yet another. India is another. On and on, Christians outside America are under the most vicious attack by Islam all over the world, a fact denied in Western Countries to deceive them over the issue of Islam (and this has been a successful propaganda campaign, to the point where the terrorists say the same things as the Republican and Democratic critics of the U.S. president). How can we be so blind? The answer must be: we are such a part of the fallen world and its Satanic system that we see things the same way non-Christians and even anti-Christians see them. We are slipping increasingly into the quicksand of appeasement as our response. When push comes to shove and worse, we will not fight for historic Christian faith, when we have been supporting the very opposite for year after year in our churches and in our lives. Like the Netherlands is moving to do, we will even pass laws eventually against our American freedoms just to placade Islam which hates us and wants to enslave us with Islamic law and totalitarian theocratic government. We will come to bow to terrorists and appease them, as old Europe (Spain and the Netherlands and other countries) is doing. We will try to gain peace with them at ay price, so that hopefully they will leave us alone to enjoy our hedonistic lifestyles, our personal peace and affluence and materialism--all at the cost, of course, of our Christian faith (the evangelism and the Bible and the Great Commission given us by Christ) and even our nation's liberty and sovereignty.
Just as Hitler appeared a good thing, a savior of his socially and economically-troubled nation, when he rose to power in Germany after World War I, so the Anti-Christ will appear a good thing to us Christians, and we won't see him for the unmitigated evil he really is.
It is high time to remove ourselves from the ranks of his following (which is assembled before he physically appears on the world scene). The anti-christs and the spirit of anti-christ which John the Apostle wrote about in his epistles as already operating in the world in his lifetime, they are all the more active today in ours. You see the anti-christ rear its ugly head in most every movement, social and religious. This is a clear sign how soon the Anti-Christ himself will apppear to take charge of this world and seat himself upon the throne of people's hearts.
Therefore, we must repent and flee to Christ, and He will cleanse our hearts of this spirit, and destroy its control over us. Othewise, we will welcome the wrong Savior, thinking it is Christ, when it is actually the Anti-Christ! Evangelical Christians in Germany welcomed Hitler, and voted for him, and only later, when it was too late, did they wonder if they had been deceived and voted in the Anti-Christ. What a tragedy and what a terrible realization! God have mercy on us, lest we repeat the same folly as German evangelical believers.
Will this Anti-Christ be secular-humanism's champion? Or Islam's? What would it matter anyway, which ever he is. He will be Anti-Christ, and we will lose everything God intended for us as His people if we continue to "go with the flow" and end up in an apostate church following God's enemy.