December 11, 2017

Fundamentalism or Fashionable Christianity

John Monroe

Have you noticed that Christianity has become nearly as trendy, faddish, and “in vogue” as haircuts, clothing, and music? Whether it is a cross on a necklace, a WWJD wristband, a fish or dove symbol on a car trunk, a bumper sticker, genuflecting in the end-zone after a touchdown, or signing the cross after sinking a putt—these are among the increasingly fashionable trinkets of present-day Christianity. You can spot this “fashion statement” among the “common people,” in Hollywood, in sports, and in the political arena.

Is this trend a sign that we Christians are becoming more visible in our witness for the Lord, or that we are becoming shallower in our concept of true Christianity? This question begs consideration.

First of all, a “fashionable Christianity” is foreign to historical Christianity. Even a cursory review of the history of the faith will reveal emphatically that true Christianity has been anything but fashionable! Martyrdom, isolation, persecution, negative stigmas, and small numbers mark its history. True Christianity has never been viewed as a fashionable pursuit, but rather painted as an abnormal phenomenon that stands in opposition to the mainstream of society. An “in vogue” Christianity cannot be a true Christianity! The Word of God clearly states in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Literally, all those who will to live godly will suffer persecution.

Secondly, a “fashionable Christianity” is an inferior substitute for God’s reality. In other words, Satan, the “prince of this world,” is an expert at manufacturing substitute faiths that pose as the real thing. The Devil has much to gain in promoting a fashionable brand of Christianity that demands no change, no distinction, and no true devotion or conviction. He would prefer a Christianity that embraces the values and perspectives of the world.

The fickleness and shallowness of this age are demonstrated by the fact that people will embrace just about anything— as long as it is fashionable to do so. However, true Christianity goes far deeper than a cross dangling on a necklace, a wristband, or a bumper sticker. It has a more profound effect than just bowing the knee after scoring a touchdown, or making the sign of a cross after sinking a putt!

In fact, a “fashionable Christianity” is a form of idol worship. How so? Because anything that is a substitute for God’s reality is an idol. Our modern society has come to worship the symbols of Christianity rather than the Christ of Christianity. Many today bear symbols of the faith, but few bear the sacrifices and sufferings of true Christianity. In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul spoke of an age that is characterized by “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Today we certainly see a “form” of Christianity that has become fashionable, but wherein lies the power behind that Christianity—the power to say “no” to the world and its philosophy? Where is the power to look, think, and act differently? Idol worship always lacks the power to truly transform lives. The same is true of this type of idol worship today!

It is my conclusion that this trend is not a sign that “Christian” society is becoming more vocal in its witness so much as it is becoming more errant and shallow in its concept of Christianity. Someone once quipped that Christianity is “a vast ocean that is two inches deep.”

As professors and possessors of true Christianity, let us bear the distinguishing depth of a disciple of Christ—the depth of our salvation, sanctification, and separation. After all, the last thing this world needs is another flimsy, shallow substitute for the real thing.

At the time of original publication, Dr. John L. Monroe was Senior Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Riverview, Florida. He has a master’s degree from Bob Jones University and a doctorate from Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he served as Assistant Pastor. Dr. Monroe is now pastor of Faith Baptist Church of Taylors, SC.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January / February 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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