Tuesday, 30 November 2010

American Christians Not Accountable To Their Churches

Long ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer lamented that the preaching of cheap grace had fatally weakened the fibre of German Protestantism. Most of us will be familiar with Bonhoeffer's definition of cheap grace: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession....cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate" (from The Cost of Discipleship).

Now - as if we needed it - comes confirmation that the same can be said of American Protestantism today...

Only 5 percent of Christian adults indicated that their church does anything to hold them accountable for integrating biblical beliefs and principles into their life, according to the Barna Group. Evangelicals were most likely to have some form of church-centered accountability.

George Barna, director of the survey, stressed that mutual accountability is one of the cornerstones of the biblical concept of community. "But Americans these days cherish privacy and freedom to the extent that the very idea of being held accountable by others – even those with their best interests in mind, or who have a legal or spiritual authority to do so – is considered inappropriate, antiquated and rigid," he lamented.

Click on the post title to read the full report at The Christian Post.

Barna's comment that "American Christians cherish privacy and freedom" rings true also in the Australian context.

To be sure, Lutherans, unlike the Reformed, do not make church discipline a third mark of the church. But it might serve us well in our present context of increasingly brazen antinomianism to recall Luther's words on the exercise of the keys:
For the dear Man, the faithful Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ, is well aware that His beloved Christians are frail, that the devil, the flesh, and the world would tempt them unceasingly and in many ways, and that at times they would fall into sin. Therefore, He has given us this remedy, the key which binds, so that we might not remain too confident in our sins, arrogant, barbarous, and without God, and the key which looses, that we should not despair in our sins.
The Keys in Luther’s Works (American Edition), ed. Conrad Bergendoff, gen. ed. Helmut T. Lehmann, Vol. 40 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1958), p. 373.


NRIGirl said...

Thank you for the eye opening post on cheap grace. Sad indeed. Very well said.

When you have a moment please stop by for some Coffee with Jesus

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Hi Hephzibah,
Thanks for your comment.
Drop by the 'old manse' again some time soon.

Melanchthon said...

Too true and sad for all of us. The times I have grown the most in my faith are when mentors have held me accountable. I sometimes wonder whether the demise of private confession is a significant cause of our (North American) spiritual immaturity.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Hey Jon, long time no hear...yes, there's no doubt we in the West do not take the sinfulness of sin seriously enough anymore. The LCA - my synod - voted to encourage private confession at its last synod (2009), but I think it was a kind of "motherhood" notion to most people - "Oh sure, we support that, just don't expect us to do it." We need a renewal of preaching both Law and Gospel.