Category Archives: Of First Importance: The Gospel

Charlie Mallie on Scriptural churches that miss the point

Pastor Charlie Mallie, a Lutheran pastor from Texas, as heard recently on Issues, Etc.

…in modern day churches, you can have places that are ‘in the Word’, that are doing things ‘from the Scripture’, but apart from Christ’s dying and saving office being at the center and also the circumference of the whole thing they’re sort of missing the point.”

Well said! Indeed many churches today do teach from the Scripture here and there, but yet completely miss the One, namely Christ, around whom Scripture finds both it’s origin and center.  As Pastor Mallie noted earlier in the interview, Christ clearly admonished the Pharisee (the top pastors of their day, if you will) that, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 ESV)   Likewise, most churches today “search the Scriptures”, not for Christ, but for mere tips for moral living, mere snippets of quotes in easy-listening sermons awash in therapeutic deism.  “But,” the defenders reply, “we do hear Scripture from our pastor, so you’re wrong that we’re not Biblical!”  Yet as Jesus warned, simply knowing the words does not mean someone — parishioner or preacher — understands anything of what they’re reading if they miss the whole point of Scripture:  Jesus, the Lord, come as savior to sinners, for whom He died to bring to Himself.

Niebhur Updated for Today’s Crossless Christianity

In 1937 Yale Divinity School professor and deep-thinking theologian H. Richard Niebuhr published “Kingdom of God in America” in which he summed up the liberal Christianity with this now famous quote:

A God without wrath
brought men without sin
into a Kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.

This theology gave birth to the so-called “social gospel” and the idea that saving people meant making them more good, in their own eyes of course. Now, some 70 years later, Christians and the mainstream churches they attend start with the premise that humans are good at our core and merely in need of the right machinations to morally right ourselves and make God as happy with us as we our with ourselves.

Today, I’m saddened to see the growing trend in Churches to remodel the sanctuary as a theatre with the front as a multipurpose stage; sans cross. This goes along with the rise in self-help, self-esteem (and ultimately, self-salvation) we see in today’s moralist therapeutic deism. So, with Niebhur in mind, I have pondered a response based on what I see in today’s evangelical self-help clubs:

A preacher without a law
advised a congregation without guilt
about a life without sacrifice
from behind a pulpit without a Cross.