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Cultural Christianity: Satan’s big scenario to counterfeit the truth.

Cultural Christianity: Satan’s big scenario to counterfeit the truth
Cultural Christianity lives by the fashions of the world; Evangelical Christians look to Jesus and the Bible as standards for their faith.

What is the difference between being Born Again Believer in Jesus Christ and a Cultural Christian?

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Cultural Christianity: Satan’s big scenario to counterfeit the truth.

The devil doesn’t care what’s #1 in your life as long as it’s not Jesus.

As we enter Holy Week in anticipation of Easter, we see lots of Easter rabbits, eggs, and candy. It is also a time for new clothes, especially bonnets, good food, and church. Although He is the reason for the holiday, Jesus is seldom visible.

This is cultural Christianity.

Cultural Christianity Defined

One pastor defines it like this: A cultural Christian is a person who identifies as a Christian, but they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.*

* indicates this person has a short biography in Spiritual Lives.

Cultural Christians believe that they became a Christian through attending church, by being baptized, and by being a good person. For the cultural Christian, religion is something that they add to their life to make things a bit better.

In genuine Christianity, Jesus is not merely admired, he is followed. If we truly know Jesus we will love him, worship him and spend the rest of our days seeking to please him.

– Pastor Michael Wallenmeyer, New Life Church

Wikipedia on Cultural Christianity

The world’s dictionary defines Cultural Christians as “nonreligious persons who adhere to Christian values and appreciate Christian culture. As such, these individuals usually identify themselves as culturally Christians and are often seen by practicing believers as nominal Christians.

This kind of identification may be due to various factors, such as family background, personal experiences, and the social and cultural environment in which they grew up.”

Although cultural Christians have been around since the Church began, the term has not come into common use until the 20th century when the phenomenon became prevalent. In response to it, Wikipedia offers what were formerly unneeded adjectives to identify those we simply used to know as Christians.

Words like “biblical Christian”, “committed Christian”, or “believing Christian”. In this blog, we use “evangelical Christian.”

Wikipedia and all dictionaries define a Christian as someone who believes in Jesus Christ* or His teaching. This definition includes all those mentioned above with or without adjectives. But we need more than that for our article.

How does Jesus define Christian?

While cultural Christians look to the world for their thinking and worldview and put history, scholarship, and empirical evidence in the driver’s seat. Evangelical Christians look to the Bible as the word of God and the final authority for their faith. Here is what the Bible says:

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. – Jesus in John 3:7

Cultural Judaism

The Old Testament tells how the LORD chose the children of Israel to be His people, and Moses* testifies that the LORD Himself spoke to them from Mt. Sinai and gave them His commandments. The LORD God Himself was the center of their religion and culture.

But over a thousand years, Moses’ books containing them took His place. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees had constructed a religion that was law-centered and missed entirely the Spirit of God and His presence.

He told these religious leaders they were off the mark:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:8-9

How should we deal with such people?

Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matthew 15:14

Sadly, these cultural Jews oversaw worship. Here’s what Jesus taught the people who loved the LORD:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. Matthew 23:2-3

As we go on, we are going to see a theme of separation, first the sheep from the goats, the saved from the unsaved, the carnal Christian from the overcomer, and finally the cultural Christian from the true Believer, the one who has passed from death unto life.

History of Cultural Christianity

Cultural Christians have been with us since our apostolic days. The first two we meet are Ananias and Sapphira. The 120 believers who were baptized in the Holy Ghost on Pentecost were 100% for Jesus. They were “all with one accord and in one place.” These 120 made up the first congregation and were the foundation of the Church.

This group grew quickly, adding 3,000 on the first day, among them those who were led by the Holy Spirit to sell what they had to benefit the church and the kingdom. Ananias and Sapphira saw this and sold some of their property, and Ananias gave a part of the proceeds to Peter. But Peter asked him

Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men but unto God. Acts 5:3-4

At once Ananias dropped dead.

Three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her if their gift was the amount they sold their land for, and she said “yes.”

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. – Acts 5:9

Great fear struck everyone, and people were afraid to join the church because of this. Drastic and sudden as this punishment was, it showed that God is active in the church, sees what is going on there, and considers lying to Him a deadly sin.

Most cultural Christians do not conspire to lie to the Holy Ghost. They are not even aware of their sin, because they never knew Jesus and were never born again.

Cultural Christianity in the early church

The early church grew in a pagan culture, and its biggest challenge at first was to keep separated from the world. Jesus’ brother, the head of the church in Jerusalem, identifies true Christianity like this:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

The challenge for Christians in James’ day (and is still ours today) was to keep “unspotted from the world.” The first official decree regarding this was

That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Acts 15:29

St. Paul* preached on this frequently, noting that the idols were nothing and the meat offered to them was not polluted by the cultural practices or offerings. There was nothing wrong in eating such meat in itself unless someone made a point of saying this was offered to idols. Then, Paul says, don’t eat it lest you offend someone who considers this sinful and you damage your testimony.

This continued to be a challenge in the early churches and Jesus warns two of them that He holds it against them when they allow this and it is a “stumbling block” that seduces His children.

This is an early and important principle regarding cultural Christianity. The practices themselves are not significant but they can seduce us to other things that are, and draw us away from Jesus and into the world.

In Revelation, Jesus tells the churches that these stumbling blocks come from false prophets within the church and identifies two, Balaam in Moses’ day and a woman named Jezebel in John’s.*

How did they get into such a place of influence?

Satan put them there to deceive us. St. Paul warned the Corinthian church about this:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. …

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. – 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4 and 13-14

As Paul points out, Satan* has been at it from the beginning, doing everything he can to turn us away from Jesus. Jesus told this parable that explains this:

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. – Matthew 13:24-30

Cultural Christianity can be heresy.

The first great example of this came in Gnosticism, a weed planted with the wheat of the Gospel late in the first century. This doctrine did indeed “preach another Jesus,” one who was a created being and not divine. This grew into Arianism, a heresy that threatened the church in the early 4th century.

But God raised up Constantine* to be emperor in 312 and he called together all the bishops who denounced it and created the Nicene Creed, that codified Christian fundamentals and remains to this day the standard of orthodoxy for all Christians.

The first Christian culture

When Christianity became the state religion, paganism declined and the church and its teaching gained social and cultural dominance. This was a great advance for Christians, all women, slaves, and the poor. This was a glorious victory for the Gospel, and that Christian culture has endured to this day.

It has driven the advance of Western civilization, at first through the Catholic church. When Rome fell the church assumed the role of government and provided stability and safety for the people. It cared for the poor and sick and educated people in literacy, the arts, and vocational positions.

Cultural Christianity after the Reformation

In the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation, Christians created hospitals, orphanages, and universities. Christian culture was the birthplace of modern science, the encourager of art, as well as its most popular subjects. As Protestantism grew so did democracy and the spread of the Gospel.

Missionary efforts merged all of these and exported both the message of salvation and the social benefits to the Americas and Africa. Christian culture championed social reforms like the education of children, the abolition of slavery, prohibition, a greater role for women, and the right of individuals to govern themselves.

Church power as a spur to cultural Christianity

The downside of a dominant Christian culture is cultural Christianity. Churches used their influence and power to stifle and oppress. As they became rich, positions of leadership became vocational goals and paths to power rather than servant ministries.

Instead of simply following Jesus and living the Gospel, leaders came in as “deceitful workers,” setting aside Jesus as the one and the only way to God, and replacing Him with the “social gospel” and working not through the Holy Spirit and the power of God but through legislative and political means.

Satan has always been undermining the Gospel and God’s people by attacking Jesus as the One Way to God. He wants Him out of the place of worship and himself or anything else in. In the 18th century, ironically called the Enlightenment, he employed a new tactic, attacking God’s Word. Up until that time, everyone in the West believed in the Bible as God’s Word and The Truth.

In fact, America’s culture was created by the Christian culture of Europe. In the 17th century, Pilgrims founded colonies in New England and Anglicans in Virginia. Later Quakers, Roman Catholics, and Dutch Reformed Christians established colonies in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Mid-Atlantic regions. Eight of the colonies had established churches.

They were replaced by independent churches during the Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries and remained strong until the twentieth century, largely due to their reliance on the Holy Spirit and their faithfulness to the Bible. The impact of the Enlightenment which decimated the churches of Europe had not stricken America.

That enlightenment impact began with the work of David Hume* and Edward Gibbon.

Both men were cultural Christians, i.e., they were brought up in the church and remained members but lost their faith, Hume through philosophy and atheism, Gibbon to history and deism.

Hume made agnosticism fashionable and accepted among the educated classes, and Gibbon made the Bible and Christianity suspect among the same elites.

Cultural Christians found modern liberalism.

German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, pastor of a small Reformed church and professor at the University of Halle lost his faith in the study of philosophy, namely, Plato*, Aristotle, and Kant. He wrote his father,

I cannot believe that he who called himself the Son of Man was the true, eternal God; I cannot believe that his death was a vicarious atonement.

Despite his denial of Jesus’ deity and shedding His blood for our sins, Schleiermacher continued to call himself a Christian. As the Jews replaced the LORD God with the books of Moses, he replaced Jesus with the text of the New Testament.

He was the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology,” and a supporter of the documentary hypothesis later popularized by Julius Wellhausen*. He too was a cultural Christian but realized his theology disqualified him from training pastors in the Protestant church and resigned:

I became a theologian because the scientific treatment of the Bible interested me; only gradually did I come to understand that a professor of theology also has the practical task of preparing the students for service in the Protestant Church and that I am not adequate to this practical task, but that instead despite all caution on my own part I make my hearers unfit for their office.

Since then, my theological professorship has been weighing heavily on my conscience.

Sadly, serious damage was done to the Protestant Church and Germany by these cultural Christians. And the culture they created led to Militarism, war, inflation, Nazism, and genocide, left the country in shambles and the church destroyed. Millions died physically and millions more were led into perdition.

Christianity builds the American culture.

America escaped these calamities by holding to the Church of Jesus, “Jesus Christ being the head Cornerstone.” In fact, the influence of Protestant Christianity led to the preaching of the Gospel nationwide and the growth of most denominations. Popular evangelists like Charles Finney* and Dwight Moody led millions to Jesus, accompanied by the songs of Fanny Crosby*.

Women took a prominent place in the church and in society, leading the fight against slavery, drunkenness, and worldliness.

Sin was called out, people repented, and the culture became thoroughly Christian.

But cultural Christianity was on the way, fueled by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Champions of the Bible like Finney, Moody, Alexander Dowie*, and William Jennings Bryan* stood up for the truth in the 19th century, and evangelists Billy Sunday* Aimee Semple McPherson*, and Billy Graham* in the 20th.

Christian theologians like J. Gresham Machen* and Francis Schaffer* fought the poison of modernism preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick *and funded by John D. Rockefeller.

Weakened by these cultural Christians and their worldly allies, American culture was cheapened and corrupted.

The secular humanism of John Dewy and Margaret Sanger* corrupted education and the sanctity of human life, while the Supreme Court of the United State became actively anti-Christian. The mainline Protestant churches accommodated these modernist ideas and abandoned the Gospel and the faithful people in their congregations, satisfied with cultural Christianity.

The artistic, communication, and entertainment industries stepped away from Christianity and spread the ideas of cultural Christianity, resulting in a vapid national culture and nation that can no longer be honestly called Christian.

Yet even as it was in corrupt Israel, God has faithful people who have not “bowed the knee to Baal,” not allowed their churches to be corrupted with modernism, liberalism and most recently “woke” ideology. As I write there are revivals going on around the United States sparked by the outpouring of the Holy Ghose and the presence of Jesus, still the supreme and central Savior of our church and of the world.

Revival from Cultural Christianity

Wonderfully, miraculously these revivals are among the young people who grew up in cultural Christianity. I am reminded of the children of Israel that murmuring generation of cultural Jews that the LORD God barred from the Promised Land.

Listen to what the LORD said to these children of Israel who chose the world over Him:

But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. Numbers 14:31

What is happening to our young people in these revivals today? They have seen Jesus, tasted the Living Bread, and allowed the Holy Spirit to fill them with Jesus’ Living Water. Just when we thought we were done, Jesus came and brought victory. Praise His Name.

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