A Spiritual Autopsy
The Root Cause
In the late 1700s into the middle 1800s a phenomenon took place which spread across the known world. It was called the “Industrial Revolution” and it brought dramatic advances in technology and education which had a profound impact upon the lives of millions upon millions of people. Quantum leaps in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, as well as a spread of literacy and education were the results of this revolution.
And in the wake of such a seismic shift in the culture came incredible material benefits to many common people who did not have access to such accoutrements before. And with some of the material benefits came an inward hope of achieving such personal benefits as well as the hope of gaining more and protecting that which you had already accumulated. The agricultural culture swiftly became a culture of innovation, machinery, and new and exciting inventions.
These inventions were designed to help make labor more effective and more personally prosperous, and they did. There were also inventions designed to provide more entertainment and leisure. Suddenly you could parlay what you inherited from Grandpa into an entire new world of personal wealth and societal power. And in the west you could reach out and achieve the “American Dream”. You see, the dream was no longer precious worship free from persecution, but now it was completely cemented in the material things of this world.
I Jn.2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
People now were overtly in love with the world and the pursuit of the culture was to gain as much of the world as humanly possible. And embedded within such a culture was the invisible church, the body of Christ. And while great and startling advancements continued to swirl around God’s people, little by little it began to affect the hearts of those who were following Jesus. It wasn’t that the advancements in technology and even the rising personal prosperity were wrong in and of themselves, however they almost always have a strong affect upon men’s hearts.
At first the church began to compromise at a smaller rate than the world, and its changes remained far back of the speed in which the world was changing. But as the decades passed, the church would find itself compromising and each compromise brought a thirst for more. And the time that used to be spent in prayer and devotion now was overshadowed by the time it took to travel to work, and the work itself, and the time it took to maintain and maintenance the things that people were gaining. In effect, God was no longer a sacrificial priority.
But the church did not desire to reject Christ and His teachings, so little by little the church began to manipulate the teachings of Christ and mold them so they would be compatible with the ever changing lifestyle. Devotion was now assigned a “time” instead of one’s entire life. Now you can read the Bible through in one year and feel a sense of accomplishment. Elongated and sacrificial seasons of prayer were relegated to Grandma since she did not have the cares and time consuming lifestyle that we now lived.
Somewhere in the 1920s mortgage loans began to reach the common man, and from there people began to see debt as a good thing. Even believers got themselves into debt. Later on the local church thought it prudent to borrow money from secular institutions, until today a church thinks nothing of borrow many millions from a bank with little more than pledge cards. And I have heard many a minister justify such things saying that the new building will be “an evangelistic tool” for God. The wrongs in that philosophy are legion. Credit cards were soon to come as well.
And the entertainment onslaught in the 20th century was a tidal wave. And at the heart of this onslaught was the invention and proliferation of the television. It was through this vehicle that all kinds of mischief would come, to say nothing of the endless hours seated in front of it. Of course the morals of a culture became much looser and much more accepted through television. But the core element of television was the money it generated. It is most mind boggling.
And some evangelistic associations bought secular time and presented the gospel on television. It was while watching Billy Graham that I came to Christ. But the church soon learned that there was more money by appealing to the church members at home and by creating “Christian” television stations. And since believers were now pursuing wealth and riches, the church had to make doctrinal room for such a pursuit. Yes there were the tepid warnings which by the preacher’s own monetary behavior were hollow. Yes there were the quaint little catch phrases like “You can have money juts don’t let it have you”. But all in all the church began to practice hedonism in many, many ways.
But after a few decades following 1950 the Christian practices began to change substantially and the theology began to shrink in scope and in power. Yes, you could still bellow about inerrancy. Yes you could still bellow about the rising immorality. Yes you could still bellow about smoking and drinking. Yes you could still bellow about communism. But you could not honestly suggest that the church was humbly seeking a life of moderation and one that was completely devoted to the Lordship of Christ.
Some of the same words were used in the church, but they no longer had to pass the test of practice. Little by little the church became assimilated by the culture and ingenuously constructed a form of Christianity which could partake of the most hedonistic elements of the culture while standing against certain other elements and thereby deftly convince themselves they were still following Jesus. You could live in a bank owned house which was hundreds of thousands of dollars above your needs, but if you were against homosexual behavior you were orthodox and right with God.
And in thousands of evangelical churches they began to focus on morality in the sexual realm and never coming to grips with the morality of money. There were crusades for traditional marriage but no crusades against divorce within the church. Preacher could commit adultery, divorce their spouses and marry their mistresses, and eventually find another pulpit to fill. The personal and ecclesiastical debt of the average evangelical church is astounding. There are no campaigns for a constitutional amendment about personal debt.
And what do we see today? Even immoral behavior can be accommodated. Divorce and remarriage is rampant in the pew and the pulpit. And some churches are beginning to see gay behavior as Biblically acceptable, while others bare their fangs against the gay community without a shred of redemption or personal introspection. An entire movement was birthed out of a desire to justify a lust for wealth, while others castigate the prosperity movement even though they practice some of its tenants. Just peruse the First Baptist Church parking lot of a large city and see the expensive and debt ridden cars. And what would the cars tell you about where they had been that month and who had ridden in them?
The results and trappings of the Industrial Revolution are now in full bloom and are thriving within the community which calls itself “Christian”. And as a whole, the western church is in the progressive state of apostasy. Our Bible studies are little more than bite sized nuggets of earthly encouragement. Prayer is a wing in the Ecclesiastical Museum of Days Gone By. Moderation is based upon a bell curve. And the time an average preacher spends in Scripture meditation, time consuming prayer, and fasting is spirtually criminal.
The axe head fell in the cesspool of materialism. Oh the doctrinal debates continue with great organization and with well defined sides. One side is doctrinally orthodox while the other drifts into liberalism and universalism, but neither see the way the hedonistic culture is poisoning all of us. Until we return to Christ and His teachings through repentance and a church shaking return to prayer, we will continue down the path which is called apostasy. Remember, a denying of the faith is not limited to words. The question for us all is this:
Is Jesus Lord or is His creation lord?