Today, I was reminded why the state of Evangelical Christianity is so dire. I had some time to waste before work and I thought I would stop in a nearby Christian bookstore to see what’s new on the shelf.
Much of my current free time is filled with study and course prep for the apologetics class that my wife and I have been teaching at our church and I am always on the lookout for new material related to the topics that we talk about. I have recently begun stopping in book resale stores in the area to see what’s sitting around and I thought that a Christian bookstore would be ideal to see what newer material is available.
Like many of these stores, it was divided into areas for books, music, inspirational gifts, and so forth. I started browsing the book section and immediately noticed something peculiar: There was no section for study material.
After a long look through the front section, I found that somewhere around seventy-five percent of the books were about someone’s personal experience; that is inspirational stories meant to encourage others. Another small percentage was biographies, and the remaining were various types of themed devotionals.
When I went to the rear of the store, I found the wall section full of bibles and a few shelves with various bible studies, concordances, and other study materials. Finally, I thought, I was in the right section. It took me a few minutes, but I finally found their theology section; it was a portion of a bottom shelf, and it only had five titles (which weren’t very deep at that).
What kind of Christian is this store serving? A self-centered, hype-driven, biblically-illiterate, pluralistic product of the society that we are called to be a light in.
According to their website, their mission is to “carry products to help you grow your faith and share it with others”. The problem is that most of this material is all self-help: “I had this great experience and you can have it too if…” “If you just follow these steps…” “I have discovered the secret to…” “If only you… You can have a deeper relationship now!”
Jesus did not teach self-help; he did not teach 5 spiritual steps to a better you; he did not teach prosperity; he did not teach word-faith; he did not teach the fast-track method to being a spiritual giant.
What Jesus did teach is that we are in rebellion to God and we are utterly incapable of fixing it ourselves. We have been judged, found guilty, and have earned God’s wrath.
But this is why Jesus came; he lived the perfect life that God expects of all of us. Then, to satisfy God’s justice and be able to offer us reconciliation, he voluntarily gave up that perfect life and took our punishment. That is what we see on Good Friday; Jesus is bearing the wrath of God in our place.
Where is that inspirational book in the Christian store? It’s stuck on the back wall, kinda hidden and not well advertised. Why would someone read the Bible when they have all of these other books up front that make them feel good?