No activity sponsored or allowed by a church moving through the first stage of drift toward neo-evangelicalism can be called actual sin. But no church can stop at the first stage. The shift in attitude, turning from heavenly to earthly priorities, leads to other changes, which carry the church even further away from its fundamental heritage.
A Christian whose church urges him to look for self-fulfillment in this world begins to feed unspiritual desires. His imagination begins to generate new dreams. Disturbed by new longings, his heart becomes restless. On every hand he sees wonderful pleasure beckoning him to new experience. The pleasure may seem harmless, but he does not look too closely. He relies on the judgment of worldly Christians, or on the judgment of the world. He assumes that if God gives him liberty to enjoy himself, God must expect him to use it.
But the new experience he craves does not really fit into a Biblically ordered life. He cannot have it without leaving the realm of holiness and entering the territory of sin. What are the boundaries of holiness?
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
In other words, true holiness has two glittering facets, joined in a complementary fashion so that the light from one reinforces the light from the other. One is unselfish charity. The other is personal separation from worldly pleasure. In a church entering the second stage of neo-evangelicalism, holiness in its dual light-giving character begins to fade.
Good works, both positive and negative, cease to be fervent. As members cling ever more tightly to money as their magic wand for creating the good life, they give less to the poor and to gospel outreach. Yet the cost of home and foreign evangelism is considerable. Effective support requires that church members practice tithing. Likewise, meaningful help for the poor may be costly. No wonder, then, that giving goes into decline when Christians assimilate from the world a selfish, earth-centered mentality. As they become stingy with their money, they become stingy also with their time and other resources. The egocentric desire to "live happily ever after" in this world grows until it extinguishes charity, the first facet of holiness.
On the road to neo-evangelicalism, Christians also lose their convictions against worldly pleasure. Light no longer radiates from the second facet of holiness, which is personal separation. The old rules against touching defiled amusements—rules against drinking, movies, dancing, and so forth—vanish from preaching and teaching, on the pretext that they are anachronistic and burdensome. Anyone who continues to keep his distance from doubtful practices finds himself branded a legalist. If he publicly defends his standards, others shout him down with a host of specious objections. Yet the old rules were merely an extension of clear Biblical teaching. Abandoning them is impossible without also, in some degree, rejecting the Bible as supreme authority.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.