THE CANCEL CULTURE HAS COME TO CHURCH
Probably, it would be safe and more than fair to say that the biblical doctrine concerning personal, practical, progressive sanctification, is one of the most fundamental and important doctrines associated with the Christian faith. Certainly, it is a truth, the knowledge and application of which is vital to how successfully any believer is able to live the Christian life.
It is also true, and obvious to any discerning eye or ear that, generally speaking, Christians have never been more ignorant of, indifferent to, or misinformed about the doctrine of practical progressive sanctification than they are today; especially perhaps, in the United States of America. The reason for this constitutes no great mystery. It is embarrassing, but not a mystery.
The Christian ministry; that is, that which generally purports to be and is considered to be, the Christian ministry, is mostly to blame. It has never been more shallow, superficial and consequently ineffectual (in fulfilling its divinely intended purpose) than it demonstrably is today in America. This isn’t universally true. Of course, there are exceptions.
Much of America’s pastoral ministry today is obsessed with religious fad following, and adapting to and accommodating the general public for the sake of securing and sustaining as large a crowd of congregants as possible. Pastors and churches are (to borrow from the title of probably the earliest and most influential books to advocate all this) “Purpose Driven” to this end.
The modern approach to Christian ministry is focused on crowd building, not on doing the work that Christ has assigned to His Church to do: to evangelize the lost and disciple converts to the end that they will progressively and practically become “holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). Neither does the modern approach to ministry concern itself much with the biblical principles according to which the Lord’s work is supposed to be done. The motto of a successful burger chain is, “Have it your way.” This epitomizes the offer made to the world today by pragmatically based and driven churches and their leadership focused more on the wants of people than they are on the Word of God.
It needs to be understood that attention to practical, progressive sanctification is unwelcomed by those who’ve spiritually gone rogue where the work of the ministry is concerned; those for whom the Bible has become little more than a prop. Why is this so? Because sanctification, as it is taught in the Bible is the “kiss of death” to carnal counterfeit, Christianity. It is the truth that sets those free who have been spiritually snookered, sidetracked, sabotaged and otherwise victimized by what is being pushed as the “new normal” Christianity.
The doctrine of practical, progressive sanctification militates against the modern, pragmatic approach to Christian ministry now going on in both “contemporary” and “conservative” circles, and therefore can be expected to be either missing or marginalized in these circles. Marginalization of the doctrine of practical, progressive sanctification is accomplished by any combination of the following: (1) the doctrine is redefined in whole or in part, (2) it is subtly or not so subtly, ridiculed as being ignorant, obsolete or old-fashioned or (3) it is condemned or disparaged as being “pharisaical,” “legalistic,” and “obstructive” to the work of reaching people. These are age-old tactics employed by those who consciously or unconsciously have become pawns of the great enemy of truth, and used of him to the end that “truth is fallen in the street” (Isa. 59:14) where the practical holiness of believers is concerned.
What we are addressing here is nothing less than an attempt at “cancel culture” where Christianity is concerned. Presently, America is being torn apart by hooligans in high and low places who represent and promote “cancel culture” aimed at all that is historically, traditionally, and in terms of values and morals, distinctly American. A “cancel culture” element has been at work within Christianity for a long time with the aim of redefining, at the most basic level, what it means to be a Christian.
What do we mean by the term “culture” relative to Christianity? The word “culture” is partially defined in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as, “the habits, beliefs, and traditions of a particular people, place, or time.” Perhaps the closest thing to a biblical description of Christian culture is found in Christ’s words to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount: He said, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13).
Worldly minded, worldly motivated, worldly mimicking and world-accommodating ministry is salt-lite and/or salt free itself, and leaches the salt out of believers wherever it exists, making them
salt-lite and/or salt free as well. Problem is: there’s nothing in this kind of “Christianity” that is spiritually attractive to unbelievers, but plenty that is alienating to them. There’s nothing in this kind of “Christianity” that draws lost people, seeking spiritual reality, but plenty to disappoint and disgust them. This kind of salt-lite, salt-free, savorless-and-proud-of-it “Christianity” is fit for nothing but the street. Street smart, street savvy, street strutting, street wise Christianity that prides itself on its willingness and ability to get as down and dirty as anything in the street, belongs in the street, and it winds up in the street where it is “trodden under foot” by those who see it for what it is and are sickened by it.
A national magazine interviewed the pastor of a historic Baptist church, once known for its biblical orthodoxy and worldwide evangelistic impact recently. He was asked about the drastic changes that had taken place relative to the church’s worship and the direction of its ministry. The pastor’s printed comments included these words: “We don’t do a lot of the God stuff around here in our services anymore.” In truth this could be said now about ministries all across our nation. The “God stuff” has been minimized and the “man stuff” has been magnified. This is typical of a religious pragmatism that leads to rank paganism operating at one level or another behind some form of loose fitting “Christian” window dressing.
But, it needs to be pointed out that religious pragmatism isn’t limited to liberals and modernists in the ministry. Neither do liberal or contemporary churches hold a monopoly on the willingness to operate, to one degree or another, according to the spirit and dictates of pragmatism. They aren’t the only ones who appear to have an affinity for, and adeptness at, justifying and rationalizing positions for which there is no biblical justification or rationale.
Suppression and skewing of truth concerning practical sanctification is becoming more and more common among churches and pastors that would identify as themselves as “conservative,” “fundamental,” “traditional,” “old-fashioned, etc. This was illustrated recently by one such pastor who posted an article online that began with the words, “I know that the Bible specifically speaks against this but … “ He then proceeded to explain why the thing “the Bible specifically speaks against,” should, for the sake of expediency and because of extenuating circumstances, be supported. Sadly, a number of “fundamental,” Bible believing and preaching” pastors indicated online their support of this man’s position.
And so, what God said concerning His ancient people in the spiritually dark days of the prophet Hosea is applicable today where the truth concerning practical, progressive sanctification is concerned. God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hos. 4:6).
Preaching, teaching and practice relative to personal holiness and non-conformity to the world isn’t something that should be cancelled out by pastors and churches. It is something that should be coveted by pastors and churches. The doctrine of person, practical and progressive holiness isn’t something that needs to be downplayed and rejected; its something that needs to be desired and revived.