The church in America is in dire need of biblical counseling. Two specters haunt her halls. Two philosophies have taken root—and very few, it appears, are aware. Like a good friend once told me, “If you want to know what it’s like to swim in water, do not ask a fish.” Christian Americans are unaware of the dangerous water in which they swim. The twin perils seeking whom they may devour are pietism and revivalism.
Pietism is variously defined as “intensity of religious devotion or feeling” (dictionary.com) or “stress on the emotional and personal aspects of religion” (thefreedictionary.com). Though Pietism formally started in the late 17th century as a movement away from cold, stale religious formality, it has in our day become altogether emotional, subjective, and experiential. It is a bit like crashing upon the rock of Scylla trying to avoid Charybdis. The wreck has had devastating consequences for the church. Americans are pietists—we are led by our emotions (usually termed “feelings”). We judge whether something is true by our subjective experience. We are unanchored and tossed to and fro throughout life.
Americans are not only pietists; we are also full-blown revivalists. About one hundred years after Pietism began in Europe, America experienced the Second Great Awakening. Revivalism essentially collapses the Christian life to the moment of justification. Sanctification (i.e., growth in Christ-likeness, holiness) has become optional. All one has to do to be saved is pray a prayer, walk an aisle, raise a hand, or sign a card. Despite the protestations of Scripture, Christians have no compelling reason to become new creatures in thought, word, or action. The old, it appears, is “just fine thank you very much.”
The combination of pietism and revivalism has nearly dealt biblical Christianity the death knell. When one has no need to change, no need of holiness AND can subjectively look inward to determine how to respond to the trials of life, peril awaits. Perhaps an example would give this skeleton some warmth.
Suppose you are found to have gossiped about me. Let’s next suppose that your gossip squeezes anger out of me (remember no one can make me mad; all one can do is squeeze out what was always there—out of the heart the mouth speaks…). Now, if I am a pietist and revivalist I can look at my emotions, see anger, and not ever question if that anger is pleasing God—my subjective experience is the judge of truth. Justified in my own mind that (1) you made me mad, (2) I am correct to be mad, and (3) I have no reason to not be mad, I can easily proceed to choke a confession out of you.
The trouble is I forget that God promises a trip to the torturers if I choke you for sinning against me (Matthew 18:21-35). As long as I am a pietist and revivalist, I have no impetus to see that my sinful, angry response is a greater problem (a 10,000 talent debt toward God) than your sin against me (a mere 100 denari debt). The modern-day, American pietist and revivalist will never know that God is actively using the sin of others to uncover sin in us! American pietists and revivalists thus have no need of biblical counsel.
Ergo…we @ Rod and Staff Ministries are sledding uphill.
10,000 Blessings in Christ,