Looking at the Church of England’s (CoE) website the other day, I came across their statement of faith, or as they call it, “What it means to be a Christian”. This is what someone who wants to know about Christianity is directed to. Here is how it reads:
For Christians God is understood and known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
…Father… God is love, caring for creation and for every human being as God’s beloved child.
…Son… God is as he has revealed himself to be in the historical person of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection holds the key to knowing and loving God, and to making sense of life, before and after death.
…and Holy Spirit… God is alive, loving and active today, inspiring faith, justice and truth, sustaining the life of the world, giving spiritual gifts to the church and bearing his spiritual fruit in the world – changed lives and a transformed society.”
What’s the problem with that, I hear you ask. There is nothing unbiblical about it; there is nothing heretical about it. Everything in that statement corresponds to teaching found in the Scriptures. It’s inoffensive, caring, loving, polite, appropriately English, and it certainly introduces a good aspect of Christianity.
Now, before I go on, I think I have to point out that it is tragic that the Church of England today seems mostly preoccupied with catering to whatever “spiritual needs” people feel they have. It is, as one might say, a “spiritual” service. In fact, I can say from valid, carefully-gathered and personal examination and experience, that you wouldn’t find more spiritual benefit in most CoE fellowships today than you would by visiting the Inland Revenue.
I know. I’ve never really taken on a particular denomination before. But I live in England. I’ve spent considerable time and energy with CoE fellowships and have dear friends from that part of Christianity. And that is why I have to write this, no matter how polemic or “divisive” it might sound. Whatever I say, comes in love – and may ALL of us take heed (1 Cor. 10:12). We all need God’s grace – and especially TRUTH. Also, I must point out that what follows seems to be the pattern for the majority of CoE congregations, as there are still some in the land that are spiritually healthy.
So here’s my question: Where in that statement, is any mention of sin, the Gospel, repentance, faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and quite simply OUR DESPERATE NEED FOR SALVATION FROM THE WRATH OF GOD? Oh, they’ll say, that’s for later – maybe even never. It’s advanced stuff; they don’t need to know that from the beginning. All they need to know is that God loves them – after all, isn’t it necessary to change that old-fashioned notion of the vengeful God and let people know the good news that God simply wants their best?
Well, let’s act like Christians and take a look at the Bible and see what that says about God’s love:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom. 5:8
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – Eph. 2:3-5
In the Bible, God’s love is never separated from the gospel, because His love for us is demonstrated in His grace and mercy – and both those are fulfilled and demonstrated in the highest manner in the gospel. In the Bible, God’s love is not a generic vague thing that just has to do with good stuff happening to you. It is part of God’s very nature – one of His attributes (1 John 4:8, 16). To even imply that the blessings that God gives to those who truly belong to Him (e.g. peace, joy, provision in life) apply to everyone indiscriminately, borders on blasphemy because it diminishes the importance and necessity of the gospel. You can’t separate God’s love from the Cross – and yet that’s what the CoE seems to be trying to do.
This is not so much an issue of theology (well, it is), but rather an issue of emphasis. In the desperate need for political correctness within the CoE, the original way the gospel was preached has slowly been pushed away to make room for more “sophisticated” and “trendy” approaches. In the CoE’s talk of Christianity, there is no clear distinction made between Christians and non Christians, believers and unbelievers, regenerate and unregenerate, saved and unsaved, children of God (John 1:12) and children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Everybody’s called to “partake of God’s blessing”, and that blessing is never really described clearly. Everyone is included without distinction, without mention of sin, or even the need for repentance to enter God’s family. The gospel message, the most important message anyone will ever hear, has been diluted enough to allow every “pretty good person” to feel as if “they belong”.
And yet, in the Bible, there is a world of difference between those who are saved and those who are not:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Cor. 1:18
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Cor. 2:14
This is why the CoE has given itself to whatever trend and fad the modern “Christian” culture spits out: From Seeker-Sensitive (tell us how YOU want to do Church!) to charismatic trends (come and learn how to speak in tongues!) and even Emergent movement teachings (don’t listen to me; here’s Rob Bell!). Basically, anything that thrills and entertains – which explains the obsession with bigger and better and trendier worship bands. There is no preaching, no exposition of biblical text, no diligent uncovering of biblical truth, and thus there is no edification of the body of Christ. Doctrine is being assassinated. People come and go, for years even, without ever being clearly challenged with the real gospel. I daresay that the CoE’s Jesus is very different to that of the Bible; He seems more concerned that we can cope with our daily life than teaching us how to sacrifice it on His altar.
The CoE’s priorities seem to be shifting from God-centred to man-centred. “Sermons” are vague, wishy-washy superficialities and generalities about “the Christian Faith” without ever cutting deep as the Word of God should (Heb. 4:12). And that leaves plenty of room for errors and confusion to enter in by simple osmosis – to the point where having a homosexual as a minister is actually an issue of debate rather than of repentance. It’s more of a social Christianity – focused on the things of the world rather than the things above (Col. 3:2). For the CoE, being a Christian is more like hobby that makes life just that little bit better. Or gives you licence for political activism.
I’ll leave it there, and hope that some of you will leave some good comments below – meta they call it. I could delve into the legacy of the CoE, especially post-Reformation when Queen Mary I (1553 – 1558) felt it necessary to rejoin Anglicanism with the Pope, but that would be a fruitless endeavour. A church is what it is today – it can only learn from the past and reach forward to those things which are ahead (Phil. 3:13).