Nearly thirty years ago, Robert Schuller wrote a book called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. The book did indeed usher in a new "reformation" -- a reformation of anti-biblical, anti-Christian thought that has permeated the culture and effectively turned out a great many Christians in our generation who are anything but a reflection of the very first Christians of the New Testament.
So, can the same terminology used in the First Century to describe Christ-Followers be used today? Has the meaning changed? Have Christians changed?
Rob Bell's ministry is the direct result of Mr. Schuller's "reformation" so you do have to wonder what he's really thinking; and how he defines the term Christian. But when Mr. Bell tells us that the word "Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective," it's easy to agree with the last half of the statement. The word "Christian is indeed a poor adjective as used to describe the majority of mainline churches today. Especially when you consider the message of the New Testament Church and compare it with the message of a great number of today's churches.
But the word "Christian" is also an incredibly loosely used noun ascribed to most churchgoers of our culture. . . Thanks to Mr. Schuller's New Reformation and the resulting Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Biblically and properly defined, however, Christian is a great noun.
Mr. Bell is a prominent leader in The Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Are you familiar with this term? Seeker-Sensitive Churches give their audience what they want -- what they "seek." They "seek" relevant sermons and exciting programs that may or may not have anything to do with Biblical Christianity.
Seeker churches rarely use expository preaching and seldom do they ever bring up redemption, or sin. These are the recurring themes of the Bible, but they are not themes that people "seek." The Seeker Movement is a church "style" that dominates American churches; and it is anything but reflective of the New Testament Church.
Because I'm not sure what he means by "Christian."
Christianity, in the hands of these Seeker-Sensitive churches has diluted (and in many cases completely misrepresented) the divine message of Salvation as revealed in the Bible beginning in the Book of Genesis!
Seeker Sensitive churches have replaced the Glory of God with the satisfaction of human beings. They have neglected to teach -- or even understand -- the entire Story of Redemption which unfolds in every single page of the Bible. They have effectively done away with the Word of GOD. Except -- of course -- for it's soundbites: those selected "feel-good," "Jesus-loves-you" verses taken out of context to give the audience what it wants to hear.
To be sure, the Book of Romans has been
completely ripped out of the Seeker-Sensitive Bible.
John MacArthur calls the trend "quasi-Christian, narcissism" and it is vividly characteristic of the false teaching we are warned about in II Timothy 3 where we are reminded, "Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves." (II Timothy 3:1-2)
And because so much of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement has infiltrated our churches, the Church of 2010 bears little -- if any -- similarity to the New Testament Christian Church.
In today's culture, the use, meaning and expression of the word "Christian" is indeed a poor descriptive of a person who has been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)
Anything but Biblical, Mr. Schuller.
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Schuller's not done. Perhaps his most preposterous assertion comes when he writes, "Once a person believes he is an 'unworthy sinner,' it is doubtful if he can rally honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ."(4)
Have you read it?
Sadly, this "man-centered theology" is precisely the theology that the Seeker-Sensitive Movement is teaching. And it exists at some level in the majority of mainline "Christian" churches today. Christianity is no longer about Christ. It's all about the seeker.
What does the seeker think they need?
What is truth according to the seeker?
And how does the seeker feel about that?
If you want to be saved, according to this new "gospel," you do not believe yourself to be a sinner. You just "accept Christ" because "God is Love." And -- more importantly -- you can't ever (ever!) tell anyone else that they are a sinner or even mention the word hell!
Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church
as we see her spread out through all time and space
and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.
That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes
our boldest tempters uneasy.
But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans."
A senior devil, instruction a junior devil
on how to tempt and trap humans.
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
(1) Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, Tex.: Word Publishing, 1982), 64.
(2) Ibid., 71.
(3) Ibid., 76.
(4) Ibid., 98.