We make mention of God, faith, in passing. We offer purpose and moral direction, with a nod to the higher power who created purpose and morality. Just a nod – nothing more.
The Christian “God” of Christian self-help is a convenient approver. He serves to notarize whatever plan you make for yourself, one you came up with using your own materials and resources. He is neither the foundation nor the director of this life; He is simply the stamp of approval.
It’s never written in so many words. No one would admit what I shared above. But that’s what is happening. We live in the age of vague Christianity, a Christianity simultaneously enamored with ANY and ALL mention of God in the media, and put off by material that’s just too… biblical.
In a world desperate for purpose and meaning, we can’t afford to be vague about our answers. We can’t afford to tell partial truths.
Our Uncomfortable Jesus
The examples are everywhere: A popular artist thanks God on Twitter and believers go wild, clapping like happy seals to see a reference to “Christianity”. Never mind that today, God can mean anything: A force, a power, Allah, the earth. Yet we accept these vague references as reflective of our very own faith, a faith not based on an unknown God but on a very specific Savior: Jesus Christ. We accept and celebrate vague Christianity when it’s not Christianity at all.
Are we so desperate to see our culture talk about God we don’t care that it’s the wrong one? Or are we so departed from the necessity of Christian doctrine that we don’t think definitions are important? I get it: It’s awkward to talk about Jesus. His name makes people uncomfortable. He is divisive, specific, a Person you either like or hate. But it’s Jesus who makes Christianity what it is. It’s Jesus that the Bible is all about, beginning to end.
I Love Jesus [But He’s Not My Lord]
Vague Christianity uses loose terms for who God is to make a “safe space” for people who might not believe in Christian doctrine. Sometimes that means not mentioning Jesus at all. Other times it looks like “loving Jesus”, but not so much that He changes how we live.
“I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.”
“I love Jesus, but I also love wine.”
“I love Jesus, but I’m not like those other Christians.”
Will cussing “send you to Hell”? No! There’s grace for growth in our speech and behavior. Is wine sinful? No! Will identifying as a Bible-believing Christian automatically make you legalistic? Maybe in the minds of some, but your character should disprove this over time.
The problem with “I love Jesus, but…” culture is, as usual, motive of the heart.
Why is there a caveat to your devotion to God? Why do you need to add a disclaimer to your discipleship?
Here’s why: Because we’re more afraid of being legalistic than we are dedicated to God’s truth. We’d rather appear relatable than holy. We’re afraid of the thin line between sanctification and works-based religion, so we hedge our bets. We forget that God works grace in those who pursue holiness, and godly character isn’t something we define for ourselves. Our job isn’t just to “love Jesus”. We’re also to surrender to His loving Lordship.
Identifying Vague Christianity
How do you know when you’re reading vague Christian material? How do you discern these incomplete messages?
There are three things from which vague Christianity seeks to separate:
- A Bible-based faith community
- Literal interpretation and application of Scripture
- The conviction of the Holy Spirit
The ex-vangelical movement is an example of this. People are departing the church in waves because they’ve been burned by legalism, and rather than go back to the truth of what Scripture says, they leave the community completely. They will still talk about God. But they will redefine God’s way of relating to humanity – downplaying the church, downplaying holiness, downplaying true discipleship. Their hurts are real, but their actions do not reflect God’s priorities.
When it comes to interpreting Scripture, vague Christian writing will change orthodox interpretations in light of new, personalized revelation. With little backing but emotion, these authors create a new God, a new Jesus, who fits the brand of Christianity they wish to sell. It’s far less uncomfortable because it’s far less accurate.
Lastly, vague Christianity rejects the change brought about by a Spirit led life. The Holy Spirit’s role is not to affirm personal dreams and decisions, but to direct one’s life into holiness. Little is said about Him because He is far too specific to Christianity, and when He IS mentioned, there is little difference between how He is defined and how New Age spiritualism defines their deity. This blended language and terminology is extremely difficult to discern for new believers, especially if they aren’t grounded in the Word.
Ultimately, vague Christianity seeks to avoid accountability. The church, the Word, and the Spirit together create an unchangeable standard by which Christianity is measured and held. Without these three, Christianity becomes whatever you want it to be.
And when Christianity is whatever you want it to be, it’s not Christianity at all.
Changing the Tide of Vague Christianity
I wish changing this trend were as simple as standing up for the truth, but it’s more complicated than that. I fear that Christians who share this post will become the same pitchfork-and-torch mob that initiated the rise of vague Christianity; more people using the Bible as a bludgeon instead of as a guide for grace.
I believe vague Christianity is the spirit of our age and a dangerous one at that. But we can’t stop it by screaming on Facebook. We can’t demand that people talk more about Jesus or surrender to His lordship.
What we can do:
- Intentionally disciple the weaker believers among us, teaching them what the Bible says and what it means.
- Ask those who share vague “Christian” messages to explain what is meant by these posts and thoughts. Let them explain their viewpoint before correcting it gracelessly.
- Show people a biblical lifestyle centered in grace. Too few people see grace and truth in tandem. Vague Christianity sacrifices truth for “grace”; legalism sacrifices grace for “truth”. Neither is God’s way.
- PRAY that the Spirit of God would convict people to go deeper in their faith, to discern truth, and to know who Christ is on a personal level. This changes everything. This is the key to overcoming the incomplete gospel.
Biblical grace opens the door for conversations. We can trust that the Spirit will plant seeds without us tearing up the ground of others’ hearts to make it happen. And as seeds are planted, our lives reveal what those seeds look like when fully mature and fruitful.
Grace and truth, my friends. You can’t have one without the other.
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