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Church_near_Junction_City,_KansasRoss Douthat on the mainline churches’ propensity for mixing the call of the gospel with the cause of politics:

Any institution that calls human beings to devotion and self-sacrifice needs to justify that call. The accommodationist churches had no such institutional justification—or at least, they had no justification that explained why Americans should be involved with their church in particular.

Political activism wasn’t enough: Why would you need to wash down your left-wing convictions with a draft of Communion wine, when you could take the activism straight and do something else with your weekends?

Nor was their belated rediscovery of the numinous element in religion enough to stem the tide of defections: Why would you get your mysticism from somebody who was just play-acting, when you could get it instead from someone who really believed it—whether that someone was a swami or a Pentecostalist?

– from Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Those of us who are theologically and politically conservative should heed this warning as well. I labeled this the “activist gospel” in Counterfeit Gospels:

This counterfeit unites the gospel community around a common cause instead of our common Christ…

We are united, not by our acts of service, but our Savior’s service even unto the cross. When we seek something other than the kingdom, we become just like any other social agency, except ours is baptized in religious rhetoric. Remember, non-Christians engage in good deeds too. Gospel proclamation makes the difference!

The activist gospel is a counterfeit that unites the church around a cause. But gospel-driven activism is the outworking of a church united around the cross.

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9 thoughts on “When the Cause Replaces the Cross”

  1. Daniel says:

    I don’t think this is necessarily a sin specific to mainline churches. Perhaps it might seem so only because “mainline” churches are actual institutions that stick out.

    1. Jenny says:

      Agreed. It plagues every kind of church and cult.

  2. Daniel says:

    Overall though, I agree. Anyone can start a charity, it’s the Word that makes a church.

  3. Flyaway says:

    If the Church in Germany had held the line after the Nuremberg Laws were passed instead of just 1/3 of the church objecting, could Hitler have been turned around? The Lord wants the church to be salt and light and currently with the abortion industry and gay marriage very few in the Church have drawn a line.

  4. mark zellner says:

    Trevin, just wanted to say I really appreciate your writing. Been visiting tgc for a while now and your blog has become one of my regular stops. thanks for the great insight and fascinating links.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Thanks for that word of encouragement, Mark.

  5. Dorothy Duda says:

    it is a Christian’s duty to be a good citizen to obey the secular laws as long as they do not go against God’s teachings. In order to be a good citizen one must be knowledgeable as within their religion in order to make decisions especially when it is time to vote. It is extremely difficult for any one individual to remain on top of all the information that is spewing out all around them so some have specialized in a specific area gathering info and sharing it, which helps greatly if one can trust the summaries to be truthful as by verification from other sources as in the Bible.
    The Christian’s approach should always be God first and all His teachings and with God’s viewpoint in mind analyze the secular info. It is important to know what is going on in our country especially in current times where there is a deliberate extreme presenting the people with repeated lies and deceitful information.
    Be wise. Do not be deceived. Stay informed.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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