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  "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." - Mark 16:15 

 

Pitfalls of Middle Class Christianity

I'd like to take a look at something which appears widespread in Christianity, at the least, but not just, in the UK, but other countries also, especially within countries in the what is called, the developed world.

Middle Class Housing in UK
middle class
noun
  1. 1.
    the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business people and their families.
    "the urbanization and expansion of the middle class"
adjective
  1. 1.
    relating to the middle class.
    "a middle-class suburb"
And, that would be, what would be termed, middle class Christianity.

Middle Class Christianity

When I speak of middle class, I don't refer to an income bracket.  There are many people of many different income brackets, with different views and approaches to life, humble, kind, proud, many and all sorts, but, more so, I refer to the ethos of middle class, that is, the 'middle class' outlook.  Typified, by a focus on education, social circles, passive, non-challenging behaviour, contemporary social mores, and so forth.

To quote from wikipedia, middle class values; the lifestyle, would fall along the lines of,
'Lifestyle. In the United Kingdom, social status has historically been linked less directly to wealth than in the United States, and has also been judged by signifiers such as accent (Received Pronunciation and U and non-U English), manners, type of school attended (public school), occupation, and the class of a person's family, circle of friends and acquaintances.' Wiki: Link.
In other words, a high society type person, espousing a culturally appropriate set of values, education, lifestyle, behaviour, social mores (manners), which is also reflected amongst those they associate with (their acquaintances).

I would like to take a look at how, as a Christian, the modern impact of society, that is, the middle class temptation of the world, affects Christianity, its pitfalls, or at least, potential ones.

Pitfall One - Education

Burning Globe
Education:  As with most things, on the face of it at least, there is nothing wrong education.  Education can be and is a good thing.  When someone is fixing a car for instance, we would want a person educated in the fixing of cars: mechanics, to be working on the vehicle.

In terms of education and being Christian, we are, for instance, to be good students of the Bible, being edified in the Word, Tim. 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”, and, as students of the Bible, we are to always have an answer for the faith,
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" —1 Peter 3:15

But therein lies the problem.  The first part of 1 Peter 3:15, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:"  Many preachers today, and Christians, hoping to be a part, or remain a part, of the middle class, the educated, 'bourgeois', find themselves putting the education of men before the education of the Lord, that is, they run the risk of sanctifying the education of men in their hearts, rather than the Lord God within the heart.

An example:  Today I heard a preacher giving a sermon about the Gospel of John.  Instead of giving the Holy Spirit the Glory for inspiring the words of John, the preacher instead, spoke about what John was thinking and what his intention was when he penned the Gospel of John.

Although subtle, the preacher was, sadly, assuming a level of presuming, and not without some arrogance.  He was assuming a few things;

  1.  That John decided himself what he was going to write (and it was not the Holy Spirit Who guided and inspired what to write)
  2.  That, as an educated man, the preacher himself can decipher accurately, and correctly, what John was thinking whilst he penned the Gospel. 
You see, although subtle, it is not THAT subtle.  It is betraying where his heart lies,
Luke 6:45b, 'for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.'
It is a level of education reached, which, instead of giving God the glory; the Holy Spirit for authoring the Gospel of John through John as the human vessel, instead, it implies that John thought about it through human reasoning (therefore, through the man made field of psychology, rather than Spirit led), and the same human reasoning that the Pastor uses.  It also implies that, if the preacher knows what went through the mind of John whilst he penned the Gospel, that, due to it being authored by a man, it could therefore contain errors, which leads to a further concern: That the Pastor can then re-define it.  That the Pastor then becomes the authority, not God, not the written Word: which is the Bible.

Education - Re-writing the Bible

Modern Bibles are translated in what is called, 'thought for thought' translations, rather than a literal 'word for word' translation.  The King James Bible is a literal translation, that is, it reflects exactly what is written in the original Greek, Aramic and Hebrew.  Therefore, the person reading the Bible in English, if for instance, reading the King James Bible, would get to read exactly what God wrote in the original tongues:  The person has an original Bible, saying exactly what it says in the originals.  Therefore, the Holy Spirit can then work on the person reading the Bible, as the Holy Spirit intended, using how it was written, that is, the literal translation, as it's authored by God.

Modern Bibles use what is called, a thought-for-thought translation approach, whereas, the King James Bible uses a word-for-word translation approach.  The 'thought-for-thought' translation, instead of being literal, reflects what the translator understands the idea, or the meaning of what the passage is trying to convey, as described by wikipedia;
"The two have been understood basically, with the one as sense-for-sense [thought for thought] translation (translating the meanings of phrases or whole sentences) with readability in mind, and with the other as word-for-word translation [literal] (translating the meanings of words and phrases in a more literal way) keeping literal fidelity." Link: Wiki
In other words, when education becomes paramount in a Christians life, then, one continues to imagine that one can peer into the minds of the inspired men of God who penned the Bible with the Holy Spirit, to then reach the stage where the scholarly orientated person then decides that he can re-write the Bible by conveying what he understands it to mean, better than the Holy Spirit Himself, therefore translating it into what the educated man understands it to be, that is, his own thought-for-thought, rather than simply, a literal translation.

In other words, the Bibles in use today, are the products of scholars thoughts and ideas, believing that they are better at translating what God means, by writing what they think He means, rather than just representing His pure words, and letting the author, the Holy Spirit, help to interpret the words for the Christian layman or preacher, as the Holy Spirit intended.  King David loved those pure words, that is, God's literal words,
Psalm 119:140, "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it."

Pitfall Two - Hymns

Hymnal Book

A further thing I have noticed, when education becomes the goal, or the end product, rather than giving the Glory to Christ in music, that is, faith in the Holy Spirit becomes replaced by a faith in scholarship, reflected in how the hymns within church change.

Sometimes the words are amended.  Take for instance, Amazing Grace.  Originally penned with the line, "that saved a wretch like me", is now frequently being replaced with, "saved someone like me".  Of course, with middle class ethos, one can't quite describe themself, or a similar esteemed colleagues or friend, as a wretch, why, the 'middle class' ethos implies one to be just too sophisticated and educated for such direct and un-ingratiating language!

Folks, we are all sinners and wretches!  There are no two ways about it!  We must accept we are a sinner, in order for Christ to SAVE us as sinners.  We ARE wretches!

As well as changing hymn lyrics, there is a further increase in hymns with strange vocal lines, melodies and unusual chords.  When a person becomes educated, then therefore, educated in musical variations, it's not enough anymore just to have simple heartfelt songs like, "There's Power in the Blood!" or "Just as I am".  Instead, vocal lines have to become more bizarre, choral refrains and chords have to become more obscure.  The end product is the implication that ones musical understanding is to be admired, rather than simply Christ, and Christ receiving the Glory for Himself!

I have been in churches where the only sound during the hymns was that of the church organ!  The music was just too seemingly abstract, to me, for humble Christians to be able to pick up the tune and lift their voice to the praise of God!

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” —Psalms 98:4

Pitfall Three - The Great Commission Suffers

Man Preaching

 “ . . . Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” ... “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” —Luke 14:31,23.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." — Matt. 28:19-20
The Bible commands us as Christians, to preach the Gospel, that is, to go soulwinning.  We are to go 'into the streets', the 'lanes of the city', we are to bring in 'the poor', 'the maimed', 'the halt', 'the blind'.  We are to teach all nations.  We are therefore to preach the Gospel to everyone, so that they may be saved, and then to edify those saved; the saints.

A cultured man, with airs and graces, with sophisticated study and learning, sophisticated friends and acquaintances, is often sore pressed to lower himself to the undignified position of handing out, for instance, Gospel tracts, or of being spoken down to by lowly people in the streets and the lanes.  The Great Commission does not tend to sit well with such a type of person.

So it is, that the 'middle class' type of church, with the 'middle class' type of Christianity, and 'middle class' type of preacher, will look to invent and achieve many weird and wonderful things.  Buffet hour in the church to 'chat' about God.  Coffee shops, in the hope that someone will somehow ask about God whilst ordering a sophisticated cappuccino.  Courses, again in the church, in the hope that someone might somehow attend to find out about God.

Most people will NOT step foot into a church, or be near a church, without being prompted to.  The sad thing is, that with all these inventions, innovations, with the money and time spent on them, that they are, mostly, and sadly, because well to do, cultured people, simply don't want to endure hardship and rebuke, which may be and often is involved, in bringing the Gospel to the lost.
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." ―2nd Timothy 2:3,4
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." — Luke 9:23

Solution

If I may offer one, that is, to offer a solution.  The solution I would like to offer, although simple, is not something which appears to be what many Christians desire.

The simple solution, would, instead of chiefly relying on education, scholarship, contemporary social mores and values, culturally appropriated acquaintances, that is, chiefly in human and worldly power, is instead, to just get down on ones knees, admit to God that one is a broken, hopeless sinner, and PLEAD with Him, PLEAD with the Holy Spirit, to give you power.  Power to serve.  Power to Preach.  Power to inspire.  Power to reach the lost.  PLEAD for the power, as a humble person, a humble servant, not to rely on ones own frail power, but on HIS Power.  To plead for ones words to be turned into not just sentences and paragraphs, but LIVING words.  Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

We all need to ask for power from the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, regardless of how educated we are, we're just reciting the thoughts and words of other imperfect men that we've studied, or saying words with no Holy conviction.  We need the Holy Spirit to work on WHAT we are saying, so that, instead of just words, what we say reaches the lost, inspires the saved, with the conviction of the Holy Ghost.
"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." — James 4:6-8

In The Words of The Great Preacher, Dwight L. Moody,

"My heart was not in the work of begging," he said. "I could not appeal. I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York -- oh, what a day! -- I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world -- it would be as the small dust of the balance."
Luke 11:8, 13, "I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"

White Dove





12th August 2018

 

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