Last week, in this column, I wrote of George Barna’s recent research that indicates just slightly more than a third of American pastors (and even fewer parishioners) have a biblical worldview. “What’s a biblical worldview?” shouted my detractors. “And what specific evidence do you have that it has been compromised?
Well, if you want more evidence that America’s church has essentially abandoned the core teaching of Christianity, here it is.
It cannot be disputed that one of the historical tenets of a biblical worldview is the doctrine of original sin. This creedal truth is quite straightforward and has been Christian dogma for two millennia. It is summarized in the words of the Apostle Paul, who told the first-century church that “everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “there is none righteous, no not one.”
From its inception, the church has consistently taught that “the human heart is desperately wicked” and “beyond cure” (Jeremiah) and, aside from the prevenient Grace of the “Hound of Heaven” (Francis Thompson) who pursues each of us unto the very gates of hell, we are all irredeemable and doomed.
Human depravity is an assumed Christian doctrine. It is part and parcel of Biblical teaching and Biblical faith. Personal sin and the need for Christ’s atonement is the context for the response of G.K. Chesterton, who, when asked by the London Times to submit an essay on the topic of “What’s wrong with the world?,” responded simply by saying, “Dear Sirs, I am.”
The bottom line is this: The Bible clearly teaches that none of us are good, that all of us are broken, and that individual sin is the most empirically proven aspect of all of Christian theology. There is nothing in the Bible that “affirms” who we are or that tells us to celebrate that we are “born that way.” On the contrary, Christ himself tells us that unless we repent, there will be great weeping and gnashing of teeth and that every one of us must be “born again.”
Now contrast all of this with another bit of information we learn from Mr. Barna’s research: Today, 77% of self-described Christians agree with the statement “People are basically good.”
Frankly, this is a stunning condemnation of the American pastorate. Rather than warning of the consequences of sin, it appears that many of our contemporary evangelical preachers and teachers are celebrating it.
Karl Menninger once asked, “Whatever became of sin?” Well, it appears that in today’s churches, it has gone the way of the horse and buggy. Preaching about sin is now viewed as outdated and too judgmental and has been replaced with more “affirming” ways of addressing the human experience. Contemporary church attendees are now told they are born good and that anyone suggesting they are sinners is a sinner for doing so.
As a sidebar, isn’t it ironic that, while modern American “Christians” are quick to deny the reality of original sin, they, at the same time, cry to be protected from the ideas and actions of others they deem to be “sinful?” The “woke” and righteous who claim to be all about inclusion stumble over themselves to exclude anyone they’ve decided is too exclusive. They posture and preach acceptance but then shamelessly refuse to accept anyone they see as unacceptable. They are quick to condemn all who hold to the old definitions of right and wrong as being wrong. This is the new world of the American Christian. It is the new sanctuary of the “affirming” church. It is a religion whose congregants see themselves as sinless, and everyone who dares disagree with them is sinful.
If you boil all this talk of personal “goodness” down to its basic self-refuting premise, it is really nothing more than the denial of sin while celebrating the original sin.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to supplant God and become gods themselves. And as such, they declared that they would decide what was right and what was wrong, what was true and what was false, and what was just and what was unjust. In essence, they chose to define what sin was and wasn’t, and thus, they denied its existence while, at the same time, giving it birth.
The story of the garden teaches us that when anyone but God declares themselves to be good, it never ends well. Want proof that the American church no longer shares a biblical worldview? Three-quarters of American Christians apparently have never learned this lesson.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host. He is the author of “Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery).
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