I’ve noticed in our increasingly pluralistic and diverse American culture, and even in that part of Christianity we call “Bible-believing”, that the casual and imprecise use of language is becoming a serious problem.
Consider some examples. The phrase “people of faith”—what does that mean? The phrase is so vague that it could apply to Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, and anyone else who “has faith”. Using this phrase avoids confronting the truth about someone’s soul.
Have you ever received a letter or phone call which ends with someone saying “Blessings”? Not “The Lord bless you”, but the generic and almost meaningless “blessings”. Again, what does that mean? If we mean “May the Lord bless you”, then why not say “May the Lord bless you” or “The Lord bless you”? Again, “blessings” is another example of reducing a solid Biblical truth to something more abstract and inoffensive, something which anyone can view any way they want, no matter what their religious belief.
The word “unchurched” is being used more often. We used to call people like this “unsaved”, a word I don’t hear very much anymore. I realize that the word “unchurched” is broad enough is include the unsaved who don’t go to church and those who know Christ who don’t go to church. Some Christians can’t go to church because of health limitations. But aside from that, we used to call Christians who don’t go to church “disobedient”, not “unchurched”. The word “unchurched” seems designed to mask the reality of what is happening and therefore making it more difficult to deal with the problem.
How about the words “God” or “faith in God”? Don’t misunderstand. The words “God” and “faith in God” are good, Biblical words. But I have lost count of how many times I have heard people talk about “God” and have seen supposedly Christian movies talk about “God” without any mention of Jesus Christ. At least in any meaningful way. It’s very popular today (and profitable) to write books about God and having “faith in God”. Many popular Christian writers make a lot of money by using these general references. People of different faiths (Mormon, Muslim, etc.) can read these books and watch these movies and “read into them” their own particular beliefs because no one gives any specific details about what they mean by “God” or “faith in God”.
Another nebulous theme, especially during the Christmas season, is “love”. Have you noticed that almost every Christmas movie or book is about romantic love? Many Christians love watching Christmas movies, but those movies are almost always about human romantic love, not the love of God in sending the Son to die for our sins. According to the world, Christmas is about “love and giving”, more generic philosophy from the world. Christians can easily fall into the trap of emphasizing “love and giving” without specifying whose love and what gift.
These tendencies, even among those who say they are Bible-believing Christians, are extremely dangerous. The result is an emasculated Christianity which appeals to as many people as possible without confronting the need of the soul to trust Jesus Christ as Savior. We create a Christianity that is popular but powerless. We create a generation of Christians who are shallow and uneducated about the Lord God. And we wonder why many younger Christians don’t seem to have passion to serve Christ or the depth of commitment which previous generations of believers had. And, to borrow from the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, I wonder if we will have genuinely Christian grandchildren or simply good children who don’t know the Lord.
Wally Morris is the pastor of Charity Baptist Church, Huntington, IN, and blogs at A Moment of Charity.