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A Christianity Without the Cross

Frank Beckwith says that a popular Evangelical slogan, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is misleading — and that people who believe it too literally put themselves at spiritual risk. Excerpt:

[F]or some reason, this trite and superficial way of evangelizing has been the staple of American Christianity since the 1950s. It was, I believe, largely successful, because in the era in which it arose, the moral and cultural sensibilities of the Christian faith, though certainly not explicitly embraced by everyone or even lived with total integrity by those who claimed to embrace them, were considered uncontroversially true and the appropriate standards by which one’s conduct could be fairly judged. Thus, there was no need to bring up the cross, since there didn’t seem to be a hill to die on.

But the decades long near-absence of the truth of the cross and the Gospel of suffering and transformation – that following Jesus is as much about getting heaven into you as you getting into heaven – resulted in generations of American Christians who spend half their Sunday services singing “hymns” to a Jesus that sounds more like their boyfriend than their Lord.

For this reason, as the hostility to Christian faith continues to mount in the United States – especially on issues that will require government coercion in matters of religious conscience –many of our fellow believers, unwilling to entertain the possibility that they must suffer as Christ suffered, will continue to acquiesce to the spirit of the age and construct a Jesus that conforms to that spirit. This Lord will wind up agreeing – or at least, not disputing – any of the pieties of the secular intelligentsia.

The economic, social, and familial pressures will seem so unbearable – so inconsistent with that “wonderful plan for your life” – they will quickly and enthusiastically distance themselves from those brethren who choose to pick up the cross and not check the “like” button. Whatever it is that hangs in the balance – professional honor, academic respectability, securing a lucrative business contract, or thirty pieces of silver – it will surely be described as the place to which “the Lord is leading us.”

Read the whole thing. Beckwith says it has not occurred to many of us prosperous, easygoing American Christians that God’s plan for our lives might include suffering, even ruin. A Christianity that only holds on when life is easy for Christians, or accommodates itself to the world to maintain that ease of life, is not Christianity at all.

The question is not whether or not God loves you, or whether or not God has a plan for your life. The question is what constitutes “wonderful.”

In the days, weeks, and years to come, we are going to see a lot of people we thought were strong falling into heresy, and even apostasy. Watch.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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