Personal vs. Social Gospel
American Christianity is in a period of soul searching. While there are many factors involved in this struggle I want to highlight one today. Biblical Christianity is focused on developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that leads to personal transformation in how an individual thinks and acts. This change results in a shared way of Christian belief and life demonstrated throughout history. As such, Christians find themselves believing and living differently from the social norms of whatever culture they live in. Of course this invites tension and conflict.
Much of modern American Christianity is focused on maintaining social relationships amid the diversity of beliefs and lifestyles within our culture and transforming its views of God to reduce the tension and conflict. In other words, “socialized” Christianity seeks to change perceptions of God in order to demonstrate similarity/compatibility with the diversity of belief and lifestyles found in society. For instance, the current debate among Christians about human sexuality and what constitutes a marriage is a clear example of this division. Socialized Christianity and Biblical/Historical Christianity are clearly at odds on these issues. Socialized Christianity focuses on our relationships with others. Some want a faith that does not cause friction in our social relationships. We seek to avoid tension and possible conflict through incorporating diversity of belief and lifestyles under the “umbrella” of Christianity. Biblical/Historical Christianity focuses on our relationship with God. We don’t what to cause friction between Jesus and ourselves. We want to please Jesus more than we want to please others or ourselves. Believing that God created humanity as “male and female”, that God instituted the marriage covenant to be between a “male and female”, that God expects celibacy in singleness, all cause tension and conflict in our diverse cultural environment. How we respond too often depends on which relationships take priority. Listen to the words of Jesus, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”