The Plague of Pietism

By | 19 Jun 2019

The Barna Group recently found that 80% of professing Christians do not know how to apply their Christian beliefs to their everyday lives.

This condition is called “pietism.” The NT calls it by another term: carnality.
Pietism divides human existence between the “spiritual” and the “unspiritual” aka the “sacred” and the “secular,” therefore pietist Christians do not believe God’s Word has anything to say about laws, government, economics, education, or popular culture. This results in pietists conforming to most aspects of secular political ideology and pop culture.


Because they view Christianity as what you do on Sunday and having nothing to do with influencing or controlling every nuance of our daily lives. It also opens them to strong delusion because our psychopathic enemy knows otherwise and is perfectly willing and able to exploit such a crucial weakness to achieve his own ends in both the lives of those pietists as well as the societies in which they live and — most importantly — vote.

As a result, we are observing in our day the results of pietistic Christianity. Because pietists have retreated from functioning as “salt” in popular culture, our cultural and governmental institutions have been annexed and overtaken by pagan men and women openly hostile to Jesus and His followers. Truthfully and tragically, there is little observable difference between pietists and the lost regarding political ideology/party affiliation, voting habits, work ethic, and other controversial hot-button issues such as abortion, secular feminism, Marxism, and LGBTQ.

The History of Pietism

It would be easy — and erroneous — to consider pietism a recent phenomenon; it is actually as old as The Rebellion in Eden. When Adam and Eve rebelled against the One True God, they immediately started performing dead religious works in a vain attempt to hide both themselves and their sin. With very few exceptions, the idolatrous religions of antiquity have their own forms of pietism intrinsic to their practices. It would be safe to say pietism is a religious fallback position ingrained into our spiritual DNA — left to our own devices, it is where we tend to inevitably gravitate, like iron filings irresistibly drawn to a magnet.

Christ-followers are in a constant daily battle with the world, our flesh, and the devil to make headway against it. The only things mitigating that attraction are a combination of:

  • The New Birth
  • The resulting indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our physical bodies
  • The ongoing renewing of our minds to God’s Word
  • Our deliberate choice to daily surrender to the Lordship of Christ
  • Our moment-by-moment fellowship with Him
  • The crucifixion of our fleshly desires

Fast forward a couple of millennia where we see Jesus during His earthly ministry confronting the pietists of His day head-on as portrayed in the Gospels — it wasn’t pretty for them, either. We know those folks as Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers.

Fast forward another 300 years after His death-burial, and resurrection to Emperor Constantine who both ended the persecution of the Church and launched another millennia and a half of corruption in the Body of Christ by imposing Greek worship forms and authority structures within the Church. The sin of simony (the sale of religious offices, such as pastorates, bishoprics, etc. for money) took hold as what became known as Roman Catholicism held absolute sway until the Protestant Reformation. Tragically, until the Counter-Reformation, it was run by lawyers, rather than men of God. Most priests and bishops were not even believers, much less water baptized, and the vast majority of them were so illiterate they could not even read the Bible or say Mass.

It was Catholicism which introduced pietism back into the Church and promulgated a host of heretical doctrines which remain in place to this day, though I must grudgingly admit Western Civilization as we know it came into existence and flourished during the times when they dominated the known world religiously and politically.

Fast forward yet again to today when we have websites such as The Gospel Coalition (TGC). Founded by an über-Calvinist minister named Tim Keller, TGC positions itself as “…a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

Since I’ve already delved into an in-depth theological analysis of Calvinism elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, I will simply reiterate how I have serious problems with the majority of John Calvin’s theology. Much of its doctrinal concepts have been used by the devil to enslave thousands in spiritual bondage over the ensuing centuries since Calvin wrote them, crippling their walks with God as well as their witness to the lost. One of Satan’s greatest victories over the mankind — second only to convincing many that he does even not exist — is the Calvinist tenet that God creates all our life problems to “teach” us something, essentially portraying God as a cosmic child-abuser.

Sady, the quality of TGC’s articles is all over the map, depending upon the authors’ viewpoint concerning the topic at hand. Some of it is truly excellent, especially the articles on marriage and family — other areas, not so much!

Needless to say, their views on anything not conforming to Calvinist dogma are seriously flawed, even when presented by famous heavy-hitter theologians and authors such as John Piper. It seems that whenever they attempt to address any modern-day controversial topic like charismata, divine healing, or God’s promises to financially prosper believers, their authors throw out every rule concerning proper hermeneutics and substitute either their church traditions or personal opinions as if they came down from Mount Sinai engraved on tablets of stone by the finger of God Himself.

Frankly, I have yet to hear any of them accurately articulate what we preach and teach, much less offer even a feeble attempt at a biblical exegesis on any of these topics — most of their commentary is definitively propaganda, rather than a reasoned treatment of whatever topic is under discussion. Oftentimes, the points they claim to be refuting are actually their own faulty assumptions, misinterpretations, flagrant stereotypes, and conceptual caricatures of what they think healing and prosperity preachers proclaim. But I digress…

Politics — Do as I Say, Not as I Do

One category of articles where I’ve repeatedly found major problems is whenever one of their contributors tackles the topic of politics. In every such case I have encountered, the author expresses how our allegiance to Christ and the Kingdom of God precludes — rather than informs — our patriotic allegiance to the United States as well as our participation in partisan politics, especially affiliation with a political party. The concept presented is our bond as brothers and sisters in Christ transcends patriotism, that patriotism is actually unscriptural, and we should all accept one another in the Lord regardless of our political persuasion.
On the surface, all this sounds like it could be good and true and right.

But then, as you read further down the article, somehow or another, the author always gives him- or herself away as a so-called “progressive,” displaying the same blatant hypocrisy exhibited by the secular media on related topics. Such authors attack any Christian’s alignment with President Trump, the Republican Party, and/or conservatism as being unscriptural while inevitably giving themselves away as ideologically aligned with liberals and the DNC — in direct contradiction to what they are writing.

Whenever some tragic or heinous event occurs, such as deaths at a political protest or a mass shooting, they immediately swallow the drive-by media’s fake news account whole (rather than allowing time for the authorities to investigate and discover the real truth of the matter), regurgitate the media’s lies wrapped in Christianese for their readers, and then espouse leftist responses to those events while trying to justify their positions with Scripture.

Other articles attack President Trump, excoriating him for failing to meet so-called biblical standards, all of which sound reasonable, right, and scriptural, but actually hold our president to a standard of perfection impossible for even the authors to maintain, as if there exists a politician out there who could achieve/maintain such lofty behavioral standards for their entire lives, both before and after election.

Such a politician does not exist, never has existed, nor will one appear this side of Christ’s return and millennial reign over this planet.

The only person who will appear to have achieved such perfection prior to that moment will be the Antichrist and we already know many of the positive and evil things he will do prior to his eternal comeuppance. In the mean time, we are always choosing the lesser of two evils and I am not at all ashamed to admit I voted for Trump to help prevent a far greater evil from assuming that office.

TGC is not the only site offering such drivel. The late Chuck Colson’s Break Point website is sometimes just as guilty. Sadly, there are others — a simple Internet search could find you more than a few in mere minutes.

Such articles amount to propaganda pieces designed to suppress opposition within the Church to “progressive” positions on the issues of our day, attempting to impose leftist group-think upon the Body of Christ. Some of the articles and/or their comment threads are outright hit-pieces on our Christian president, little different from what you would find in the New York Times, The Washington Post or on CNN.

The bottom line message of such articles is this: God just wants us all to play nice with one another, to wit, if you oppose a fellow Christian who embraces progressive ideology, you are bringing schism to the Body of Christ, which is a sin. Of course, making something sinful is the equivalent of “the nuclear option,” because no one in their right mind wants to be found sinning against God. If you want to suppress free speech and critical thinking on any topic, simply try to make that issue a “sin” and, voilá! — your opposition runs for the hills!

Or it’s supposed to.

Though such pernicious articles have a patina of being doctrinally sound and scripturally authoritative, not all of us are as gullible as the authors assume, because we are:

…those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14b

The sad truth of the matter is a great majority of the Body of Christ in America appears to be composed of a host of under-informed, badly taught, scripturally illiterate, spiritually immature Christians who give lip-service to being followers of Jesus, yet live lives little different from unbelievers, especially when it comes to where we should stand politically.

The Musical Questions

  • So what should a Christian believe regarding secular politics and pop culture? In other words, how should our allegiance and submission to the Lord Jesus affect how we see the world and what is going on within it?
  • Is patriotism and/or alignment with a political party inherently right, wrong, in a gray area somewhere in-between, or entirely dependent upon our personal attitudes and spiritual priorities?
  • How should our faith in Christ inform and affect our voting for political candidates as well as voting with our wallets when purchasing goods, services, and entertainment?
  • What should we be standing for as well as against in the marketplace of ideas?
  • How are we to express such support/opposition, if at all?
  • If we are, how do we do so in a loving, gracious, and winsome manner which will truly glorify our Lord while powerfully and effectively witnessing to the lost? In other words, are we driving folks away from the cause of Christ by our obnoxiously proclaiming our rightness?

An in-depth, comprehensive answer to all these questions requires a book, not a blog post. Rather than trying to answer all of them in the detail they truly deserve, this article is my attempt to give you enough of a 10,000-foot view that you can explore these matters in greater detail yourself with God, using the Scriptures while seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to make your own informed decisions about what your personal stance on some of these issues should be.

Here we go!

A Christian’s Worldview

As we have already covered in my opening comments, pietists have added aspects of Christianity to their self-directed and otherwise secular lives in a vain attempt to make themselves “better people,” but stop way short of true discipleship. Typically quite Pharisaical, these are the primary source of fuel for the world system’s distorted perceptions of who we are and what we believe as Christians.

The classic stereotype of Christians within pop culture is we are totally focused on:

  1. Our going to heaven
  2. Ensuring we do enough good works to get there, and;
  3. Opposing/judging/hating those “not of us,” to wit, those hostile to Jesus and with whom we disagree concerning moral issues, especially anything having to do with human sexuality.

Please note the character trait of selflessly loving others as directly commanded by our Lord is totally missing from this list!

Contrasted with this, truly committed believers have recognized and accepted the crucial fact the human condition is totally, irredeemably FUBARed (Fouled up Beyond All Recognition) and cannot be fixed apart from abandoning the helm to Someone far more qualified to run things than we are, specifically the Lord Jesus Christ. As Albert Einstein once so accurately opined:

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is always in play because we cannot even accurately predict the future consequences/effects of our own choices much less the choices of others. No matter how intelligent we are, how educated we may become, how hard and diligently we may apply ourselves, how pure and altruistic our motives may appear to ourselves and others, how thoroughly “thought-out” our solutions to man’s problems may be, they are all ultimately doomed to failure because of our inherent selfishness, faulty perceptions, and limited intellects pervading every so-called solution with their corruption. In short, all our human-derived schemes and plans are subject to the relentless and pervasive effects of Murphy’s eponymous law.

Such a recognition forms one of the essential doctrines of Christianity, “essential” meaning a refusal to believe such a doctrine disqualifies a person from being a Christian, period. The theological term for this doctrine is “The Depravity of Man,” which you may find defined in our Statement of Faith for your reading pleasure.

As a result, we believers have totally surrendered our lives to the Person of the Living Christ. We do this because we accept as Truth everything the Bible says about Who He is, what He said, who we are, what He accomplished while here on earth, why/how He did it, and our responsibilities/benefits as Christ-followers.

One of the most important of those miraculous works is He came to rescue us from our hopelessly selfish ineptitude at life and relationships. We believers have only come to that realization and experienced such rescue through His unfathomable grace and limitless mercy, so we can neither claim any credit nor presume any superiority over those who have not “seen the light” — there is no moral high-ground from which we are allowed to judge the lost as “less-than” because, as the late evangelist Billy Graham used to frequently proclaim, “the ground is always level at the foot of the Cross.” Truthfully, we cannot even claim an ounce of moral superiority over pietists because in many cases we used to be them — I know I once was!

Are We Fanatics?

According to most opinions held by non-believers, we are fanatics. This “fanatic” label is a fairly accurate definition, I might add, with the exception that fanatics are defined by most dictionaries as uncritical thinkers, self-affirming, and intolerant — all earmarks of the typical religious pietist. This is how we are stereotyped in the groupthink of pop culture.

True Christ-followers are actually quite the opposite — or are supposed to be, at least! — unafraid to examine and question our faith, asking God to give us insight, wisdom, and affirmation by the Holy Spirit through His Word, as well as being truly tolerant of those who disagree with us while withholding our endorsement for any ungodly actions committed by those same persons.

So why the “fanatics” label? It is because we Christ-followers have so committed ourselves to following the Lord Jesus that we allow Him to control every aspect of our daily lives.

Although we are all works-in-progress as we stumble towards the Light, our ongoing and ever-increasing surrender to His active rule over our lives is supposed to be our ultimate and supreme life-goal, our raison d’etre from now throughout eternity. The atheists and agnostics simply cannot fathom that kind of devotion, believing us to be delusional, even insane. As the Apostle Paul stated:

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24 (emphasis mine)

Changing Our Minds

Over time, one way such a total commitment expresses itself is our implementation of God’s standards whenever we view and evaluate ourselves, our relationships, our culture, and our nation, replacing the criteria advocated by our own flesh and the world system, aka “pop culture” with His.

As we have already established, it is impossible for us to “fix” our lives, families, cultures, and/or governments using the same corrupt thinking which got us into this mess in the first place. This is why:

  • A struggling couple cannot solve their marital problems without outside assistance from a trained counselor.
  • An addict cannot recover from his or her addiction without outside support.
  • Most contentious negotiations are resolved through an impartial third-party facilitator who can dispassionately see both sides’ needs and faulty assumptions on the way to compromise beneficial to both parties.

This is also why we desperately need the Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counselor, to speak into our lives through both God’s Word and direct revelation to correct our stinkin’ thinkin’, moving us away from our inherent selfishness towards the selflessness of God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Paul describes it thusly:

…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Let’s unpack this verse a bit:

conformed (suschematizo)
to conform one’s self (i.e. one’s mind and character) to another’s pattern, (fashion one’s self according to)

NOTE: This term carries the connotation of being squeezed into a mold by pressure.

world (aion)
This is where we get the word “eon” to denote a period of time. In this verse, it carries the connotation of “the culture and mores of this age.”
transformed” (metamorphoo)
to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure

NOTE: This is the same term used in the Gospel accounts of the Mount of Transfiguration when it says that Jesus was “transfigured.” It’s also the Greek word where we derive the English terms “metamorphosis” and “metamorphic.” The dictionary defines “metamorphosis” as “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.”

Thus, a hideous caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself and, through metamorphosis, turns into a gorgeous butterfly.

renewing (anakainosis)
a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better”
prove (dokimazo)
to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals; to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

So a fuller translation would read like this:

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. Romans 12:2 AMP

And the true test of lordship is this: whenever there is a difference of opinion between us and God, as Lord, He wins!

Here is how that is brought to pass:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

While many have accurately used this verse to teach the concept of spiritual warfare over neighborhoods, cities, regions, and nations, the truth of the matter is the highest-priority strongholds needing to be pulled down are the ones in our own minds. This is where the rubber meets the road, as stated in the following:

Sow a thought, reap a choice.
Sow a choice, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.Ralph Waldo Emerson

As our minds are renewed through our surrender to the lordship of Christ thereby allowing the Holy Spirit to conform us to God’s Word, we are progressively thinking more and more like Him over time, therefore our behavior will correspondingly become more like Him over time, therefore our character will be more like Jesus, as well. This also means our view of the world, mankind, politics, pop culture — as well as our interactions with them — will align more and more with how Jesus views those things over time. The $10 theological term for this process of thought-/behavior-/life-change is “sanctification.”

Sanctification always takes place over time.

We cannot hurry that process along one iota. All we can do is only slow it down by refusing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He engages us in correcting the areas of our lives where we are hurting ourselves, others, and ultimately Him.

The word “transformed” also implies something we humans fear and loathe: change. We love our comfort zones and will go to extraordinary lengths to protect them when left to our own devices. Any living thing is either growing or dying. By definition, anything growing is changing for the better. Therefore, if we are not changing for the better, we are dying — and there is no third alternative.
So, as you can clearly see from the Scriptures, this kind of radical change in our thinking and actions is the polar opposite of religiously grafting on a half-baked understanding of the Scriptures to an otherwise unsurrendered — and therefore, utterly self-centered — life.

Christianity & the Value of Human Life

Another crucial element of a Christian worldview is the inherent value of a single human life, something exceedingly precious in the sight of God. This value is established by two unilateral divine acts:

  1. With our foundation in Judaism and the OT, we accept and believe God created human beings in His own image and likeness, the sole species on this planet so gifted, making each human being unique and inherently valuable, and;
  2. He then re-emphasized that value by sending His Son Jesus to suffer and die in our place to deliver us from our selfish choices, past, present, and future, because we are helpless to deliver ourselves. If only one person in the history of the world had needed a Savior, Jesus would have made that same sacrifice.

This is why you find this value of human life codified into the laws of Western Civilization where Christianity has held sway for millennia and is totally missing from Eastern religious thought as well as atheistic philosophies like socialism. Indeed, absent the Judeo-Christian God, all other religions or philosophies ultimately reduce the value of human life to zero.

Thanks for reading!