Beware of ‘Christianisms’

Posted on October 19, 2020


By David Ettinger

Instant Recognition
I was recently perusing Facebook when I came across this post: “The gospel is not about telling people how lost they are, but showing them how loved they are!” I sighed when I read this because I instantly recognized it as what I refer to as a “christianism.” A “christianism” is a pithy statement which sounds biblical or holy, but is inaccurate, misguided, or outright false. In this case, option number 2 fits best.

I immediately expressed my disagreement with this “christianism,” making clear that though it sounded good, it is flawed. The flaw is not in the second part of the comment, but in the first. The Gospel should embody both parts.

To me, this falls under the category of “do not judge, or you too will be judged.” The statement of course is true – after all, it was Jesus Himself who spoke it – but it is just about always used out of context. When used wrongly, as most people do, it is a “christianism,” something you need to be aware of.

Where the Problem Lies
What is the problem with the above “christianism”? The problem is that the Gospel is about telling people how lost they are. It is about other things as well, but it starts with telling people they are lost. What if you had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone rich and famous – such as LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, or George Clooney – how do you think they would react? They already have everything this life has to offer; why would they need Jesus?

book of psalms

The answer is simple: They need Jesus because they are lost. Biblically speaking, to be “lost” means to be separated from God because of sin. Psalm 51:5 says: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” To remain “sinful” – i.e., to reject Christ – for a lifetime means eternal separation from God in Hell once the “sinful” one’s life on this earth is over. This is what it is to be “lost.”

And this is what men and women must know. They must know they are “lost.” For some, this may be the only part of the Gospel which will stir them. The threat of eternal punishment may be the only thing which will get them thinking about God, their souls, and life after death. The notion that the Gospel “is not about telling people how lost they are” is nonsense at best, and heresy at worst.

A Reality Check
Such wrong thinking comes from the desire to present God as only a God of love and not one of wrath, holiness, and justice – three attributes which demand punishment of those who go to their graves having rejected Christ. By rejecting Christ, their sin was never removed from them.

This God of wrath, holiness, and justice is not simply relegated to the pages of the Old Testament, but is very much present in the New. Read this excerpt from the Apostle Paul:

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you … This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

Do I really need to expound upon this passage? Of course not; you will have no problem understanding its meaning because it says precisely what it means. With this truth so succinctly stated, don’t you think the “lost” need to know it? In fact, wouldn’t you say that explaining the “lostness” of the “lost” to the “lost” in your life is the most loving thing you can do?

Know Your Bible
As a believer, you need to know your Bible well. Lack of biblical knowledge leads to “christianisms” which water down the true Gospel and leads to a compromised Gospel message. The only way to avoid being sucked in by such pithy passages is to familiarize yourself with what the Bible says.

I implore you to commit to reading your Bible every day. If you can, try to read four chapters daily, which will get you through all 66 books in a year. Knowing your Bible front and back is something you owe to yourself, lost loved ones, the Church as a whole, and – most of all – the Lord Jesus who died on the cross for your sins and mine!