Indoctrinating for Heaven or Hell


I once read about a pastor who was criticized for telling people he was baptizing that when they came up from the water not to be surprised if they were speaking in tongues—which was the case for many. Critics would argue that this set a false expectation.

But in thinking about this, I have to come down in favor of the pastor.

You see, each of us is receiving indoctrination. Just being alive means that a perpetual stream of thought patterns assaults us 24/7/365. Some of that stream is obvious; some is not.

Three responses to indoctrination exist: We can embrace an idea, ignore it, or counter it.

When we look at the American Church today, we have to ask just what kind of indoctrination we are receiving. By and large, the message coming out of our churches sounds like this:

Jesus loves you, even though you sometimes sin. You can rest in His grace and not be worried about doing things for Him except to read your Bible and pray. Show up on Sundays and to the occasional church event. If you are young, go to a good college and get a degree that ensures a solid job working for a reputable company. Find a good-looking Christian mate from among the right kind of people, buy a house, and have 2.2 kids. Make sure those kids are loaded with activities and skills so they can get into an even better, more expensive college. Live in the right neighborhood with the right kind of people who can help you advance in life and build your career. Go on vacations and enjoy yourself. Give some money every once in a while to worthy causes. And most of all, be happy with your Christian experience, even if you sometimes wonder whether it’s really all it’s cut out to be.

Seriously, isn’t that the indoctrination most of us Christians receive from childhood until the day we die?

In stark contrast, here is the Bible’s true indoctrination:

You have been crucified with Christ. Any pretense you had to living like worldly people is dead. Jesus Christ, the Lord of All, dwells inside you. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. You are being changed from one degree of glory to another, moving from sinner to saint. You are seated in the heavenlies with Christ and are empowered by His Spirit. Therefore, nothing is impossible for you. The Christian life is filled with miracles; they should be expected. You overcome the world because Christ did. Take dominion. Make disciples of all nations and tear down strongholds. Worship Christ with your entire being, even if that puts you at odds with the establishment. Pray at all times and in all places, and expect those prayers to come to great fruition.

You will be hated for Jesus’ sake. Because you have counted all things lost for the sake of knowing Christ, you will live a countercultural life that will be misunderstood by most people. For this reason, many of you will be martyred for the Gospel because Christ is in you, is transforming you, and compels you to speak about Him.

Your love will be for all men, no matter race, creed, or color. You will care for the downtrodden and weak. You will repay good for evil and will love and pray for those who persecute you. Your life is now hidden with Christ, therefore, you are not your own. You only do what the Father is doing, not what you want. Your life is expendable for the cause of Christ. Therefore, you should not think too highly of yourself, but in humility you should value others as much as yourself and your family, if God in his graciousness gives you a family. Your primary family is the family of God, and building up the community of faith through the supernatural gifts God has implanted in you is one of your primary reasons for existence. Meet with the community of faith as much as possible and ensure that no one among you lacks for anything needful, even if that means you personally do without the trappings of worldly class and culture. And no matter what kind of life you end up living, you should give thanks to God at all times.

Most of all, never stop laying ahold of Christ and abiding in Him.

We don’t set that kind of expectation in our churches, though, do we?

The Church in America bears little to no resemblance to the Church of the 1st century because our indoctrination is lukewarm or nonexistent. Period. 'The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer' by Jean-Léon GérômeSome may argue that they do try to indoctrinate people into that more Biblical model. But the fact is that we hear it rarely, and surely not enough to compete with the nonstop message the world gives. And a worldly message abhors a vacuum, too.

As a Church, we have got to get serious about speaking truth to each other. We have got to stop watering down our indoctrination. If we don’t, the world is all set to step in and give us its own deviant set of expectations.

In closing, imagine what the next generation of Christians would be like if we set just the one expectation that they would be martyred for Christ because they love Jesus so much. Too strong? I don’t think so. For too long we’ve been preaching a watered down message that asks nothing. Why then should we be surprised at the powerless outcome?

He’s So Earthly Minded…


Yeah, I bungled the beginning of the old aphorism.

It’s supposed to read like this:

He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.

I think it would be interesting to meet someone who embodies that aphorism—at least the first half of it.

If you’re a reader of Christian blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings, then you are well aware of the great theological debate that is occupying most of our attention: Kindle or iPad.

It’s an important debate, not because of which tech gizmo ultimately triumphs but because we seem to be more enamored of tech devices than we are of fulfilling the Great Commission.

What greater squandering of the Internet can there be than failing to use it to stoke conversation about fixing the Church, then using that conversation to develop a meaningful, countercultural vision for this Christian life?

Seriously, aren’t we being assaulted on all sides? Isn’t the age we’re in increasingly squeezing the life and focus out of the Church? Haven’t we become a nation of Christians more interested in raising up politicians than raising up Jesus? Aren’t we more concerned about becoming poor than meeting the needs of the poor? Yet at the same time, don’t we go spending whatever limited money we think we may have on junk that doesn’t matter?

I recently read The Survivor’s Club, which details how people should and should not act when faced with dire, dangerous situations. House afireThe author examined many disasters, large and small, and noted a major failing among those who perished. Many people who should have survived the disaster did not because they treated the situation as if it were business as usual. In other words, their sense of danger failed to kick in. They didn’t process what was happening to them as if it were extraordinary. So they fell back into patterns of normal living, blind to the depth of the threat that faced them.

Here’s the kicker: That blindness is the majority reaction. Here’s the kicker to the kicker: ANYONE is capable of experiencing that blindness, even the trained.

Even the trained.

Folks, we’re supposed to be the trained. Have we been blinded?

I want to know where the serious people are, don’t you? Because when the house is on fire, it’s not enough to be trained; we have to be serious. And debating the Kindle vs. iPad isn’t serious. It’s just another in a long line of distractions that is increasingly making us Western Christians so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good.

Slope Lube


From Wikipedia’s list of logical fallacies:

Slippery slope: argument states that a relatively small first step inevitably leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant impact

If my own life and the experiences of the last nearly 47 years are any indication, as much as people want to call slippery slope a fallacy, Slippery slopeI’ve seen very few cases where whatever was heading down the slope reversed course. One could argue that civil rights are in much better shape than they were when I was a child of the 1960s, but most everything, especially in pop culture, whirls to the bottom of the downward spiral.

I wrote earlier this week (“The Money God“) about yet another voter proposition in Ohio arguing for casinos. It seems every other year for the past 20 we’ve encountered one of these darned things, and every time it gets closer to passing. That relentless chipping away…

One of the most pressing arguments this time around in favor of the casinos is “Indiana has them, and so do other states.” I find this tactic amusing, as it falls into the category of moms everywhere yelling, “Well, just ‘cuz Jimmy got a shotgun doesn’t mean you should have one too!” Any ad that trumpets that Indiana is stealing Ohioans’ money—cold, hard cash that Ohio itself could be stealing from Ohioans—is about as slippery slope as it gets.

So we get our casinos. And legalized drugs, prostitution, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, bestiality, and so on are at the hilltop gate waiting for their own race to the bottom.

Someone should have told the Holy Spirit He was committing a logical fallacy when He encouraged the Apostle Paul to write this:

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
—Galatians 5:9

Or this:

…evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
—2 Timothy 3:13

I’ve read a few things by Christians lately arguing that Halloween ain’t so bad. Well, that may have been true back in the 1960s, but a trip to the local Halloween chain store today will have you wondering whether it’s owned by H.R. Giger and Larry Flynt. One 6-year old running around as a zombie drenched in fake blood and the “bedsheet ghost” of not-so-long ago seems like a relic from the pages of Little House on the Prairie. Halloween 2025—well, it’s hard for me to imagine what kind of ghoulish, occultic bacchanal that might be given the astounding amount of grease on the hillside already.

The Church is not exempt.

No matter where we stand on the issue of the ordination of women in the Church, the result is the ordination of homosexuals.

No matter what we might think about psychology, the synthesis of it and the Bible only further taints our contemporary theology.

No matter how we feel about modern Bible translations, the latest ones always seem “dumber” and less reliable than the ones before.

No matter what we think of megachurches with satellite branches driven by widescreen TVs, the result is a loss of genuine Christian community.

No matter what our opinions on capitalism and its ability to raise standards of living might be, we now treat God and the Church as commodities.

I’ve written Cerulean Sanctum for more than six years now. I could probably write another hundred “no matters…” for today’s list. But what I want to write about more than anything else is that someone, somewhere who is resisting the downhill slide. I want to hear more stories of Christians who washed the slope clean of grease rather than added more lubrication.

So if you would like to add a slippery slope example that just rots your insides, then please do. But also give us a story that ends not in the valley but standing atop the pinnacle of hope.

God knows we need to be hearing more of those positive stories in the days ahead.