The Two Christianities on Display


Choose ye this day...About 18 months ago, I wrote a post called “The Two Christianities.” That post sparked a minor furor in the Godblogosphere and spawned two followups. As the days count down to the upcoming election and our country hurtles toward the Final Day, I thought revisiting that series of posts would be helpful:

The Two Christianities

The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback…

The Two Christianities: Comparison Table

The first link offers the theory, while the third provides a side-by-side comparison of the worldview differences between Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity and Internally Motivated (IM) Christianity.

The thing about politics is that it inevitably brings out the EM crowd, and it’s a shrill, pleading crowd at that. Funny thing is that the IM group typically has little to say around election time. They keep doing what they were doing all along, with the election just a blip on the radar screen.

What strikes me this morning is that one of these groups of Christians is going to be sorely disappointed some day. And it won’t know what to do with its disappointment. I think as the world gets darker that folks in the EM camp, who are used to God, Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet are going to lose it when their apple pie is made in China with tainted milk, GM goes under, and mom croaks. Their interpretation: God has abandoned us. And many of them will reciprocate.

I guess it all depends on which kingdom holds your trust, the earthly one or the heavenly one. Where our hearts and treasures align, we’ll receive the rewards of that kingdom. But there’s kingdom and then there’s Kingdom. IM Christians side with the “big K” Kingdom nearly all the time. It’s a place of more lasting rewards.

So get ready for disappointment, EM Christians. There’s a sound of inevitability, that while coming from a trumpet with an indistinct sound, is ushering in an age where the courts will not be helping Christians evangelize, keep up nativity scenes, or maintain other Christian activity (whether genuinely Christian or not).

Here’s the thing: We can’t put our faith in governments. We can’t put our faith in legal codes. We can’t put our faith in our own tenacity. We put our faith in God alone or else we face assured, brutal disappointment.

Because the IM believer can’t be disappointed in events because his or her faith is in God—and in Him, the one who owns all the riches worth valuing, there can never be disappointment.

25 thoughts on “The Two Christianities on Display

  1. David

    Wow, was that 18 months ago? Time flies. On a more serious note… I get a “Doh!” when clicking on the links to the three articles…

    • David,

      I was updating the tags on the older posts. It’s possible that you were clicking on them right as I was saving the updated versions. I tried the links myself and everything loads fine.

  2. David

    I recently watched a very well written, acted and filmed movie that never the less I didn’t like much…But the key question by the actions of the characters, and voiced by a holocaust survivor was “You ask if I believe in God. I reply; ‘Does God believe in me?'”

    Seeking God in order that my life will be somehow “better” is an exercise in futility. Yet that is how Christianity is often sold. Believe in God and He will make everything right. Define “right” and you are on your way. As Ken Medema wrote, “one way leads to a potters field, the other way leads to the cross.”

    • David,

      The question “Does God believe in me?” is a legitimate question, especially when disappointments come. The problem is that it’s a Romper Room kind of question that gets asked by newbie believers when they encounter their first crushing disappointment after becoming a Christian. It’s not a question asked by seasoned saints. At least it shouldn’t be.

      Unfortunately, that question ends up getting the “profound” label attached to it. But it’s only profound to people who don’t know any better.

      As for Ken Medema, what the heck happened to him? He used to be even more intense than Keith Green, but the last time I checked, he seemed to have waffled on everything.

    • David,

      This is very odd. The links were working fine for me. Then this. Somehow they got truncated and that appended the wrong suffix to the links. I don’t know how that happened since I didn’t touch them after I last tested them and found everything working.

      Everything has been corrected again and tests fine. The links work now.

      Sorry, folks!

  3. Brian


    I read your links to the table and the comments. I didn’t read the blog post. And I have a problem with your analysis.

    It is very biased. In the table you junxtapose two forms of christianity. The EM is obviously not what we would want, the IM is obviously what we would want. The EM is not what we want, because it shows the worst of that culture of faith. The IM is what we would want because its what we hold to be true to scripture in its simplicity.

    If you make the right column what we believe to be the true biblical ideal, then anything in the left column wouldn’t look good. This “new” non-IC culture has many MANY problems with it.

    A more accurate comparison should be made to institutional church culture versus non-institutional church culture. I think by looking at it through that lens one would find there are several pros and cons on both sides.

    But working a little more with that paradigm a more appropriate analogy would be old wine skins versus new wine skins.

    Throughout Christian history there have been new generations of believers that have tact left or right from its previous generation. This newer generation always believes it has a better more biblical or spiritual handle on life than its predecessor.

    But lo and behold, that new wine skin gets old, its beliefs become outdated or codified and suddenly, some new group starts to challenge it.

    (It should be noted that there are have been MANY groups that have thought they were right in their thinking, split and eventually died out without affect.)

    Talk about selfish. To think that “we” somehow now carry a true and proper view of Christianity that is better than a previous group…sheeesh. Don’t we realize that no matter our view we are still corrupt and carry the seeds of man into whatever new endeavour God leads us into?

    An analogy that I like to use for this type of discussion is proprietary tech versus open-source. We are currently in the process of moving from proprietary christianity into open-source christianity. And any honest, self-aware programmer worth their salt will know there are pros and cons to both sides. Just because open-source is free and communal in nature, doesn’t mean its better. Just call tech support when you have a problem…oh wait, open-source doesn’t have one.

    • Brian,

      Yet the EM is all too real and it passes as the height of Christian thinking in America. Many people in love with EM Christianity never make it (or make it way late in life) over into that IM Christian camp.

      That’s a tragedy, yet few people see it as such.

      • Brian


        First its great that you get so involved in the comments in your posts. Makes for great discussion.

        Second, again the categorizations are wrong. If this were a true comparison between IC and non-IC believers, there would be many very valid and good reasons why some people wouldn’t want to switch sides.

        But thats not the comparison you have made. You have made the comparison of the worst IC traits to what we believe to be true biblical ideals (calling them IMs). Thats not fair.

        If we were to objectively capture the characteristics of the real IM or non-IC believers and put them into the left column, expanded the list to include all the appropriate models to fit the comparison, even IMs (really non-ICs) wouldn’t look too good either.

        Please understand that I’m not arguing everything EMs (ICs) do/believe is okay. But neither is everything IMs (nonICs) do/believe is either. Conversely, not everything, or everyone, in the EM (IC) mode is bad, wrong or unscriptual.

        • Brian,

          You’re reading too much of your own IC vs. non-IC argument into what I am saying. Someone can be in an institutional church and be an IM, just as someone can be in the most cutting-edge emerging church and still be EM. My point is all about where one’s motivations and allegiances lie.

          • Brian

            I’m sorry Dan, but I don’t believe I am. I’m not sure how you would come to that conclusion. I haven’t given any definition or meaning of my own to EM or IC descriptors. All I have done is re-label yours. And suggested the comparison needs to be recast.

            Here is your definition of an EM.

            “Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity sees the Kingdom of God existing in systems and institutions “erected by God or by Christians faithful to God. The essence of what it means to be a Christian dwells in hallowed monolithic icons, largely existing outside the believer. We see the expression of EM Christianity whenever we encounter Christian groups and individuals seeking to preserve or defend some aspect of the truth they see encapsulated in a system, institution, or organization.”

            This is a perfect description of an IC person. But again as I have stated, you focus on the worst aspects of this form of christianity. It is purely about the political (not GOPs or DEMs type of politics) dimensions of that faith set.

            But you compare them to a very mature form calling it IM.

            “For this reason, IM Christianity signals the mature Faith because nothing can diminish it. Its liberality comes from its freedom to give without fear of loss. IM Christians have considered ALL things lost, receiving in return what cannot be taken away. Though all the systems and institutions collapse and the heathens run amok, IM Christianity remains at peace because its adherents carry within them the fruit of the Kingdom. The Enemy cannot prevail against IM Christianity and cannot sway its adherents because they realize the Kingdom of God lives inside them. The power of God doesn’t come to them from the systems they create, but through the Holy Spirit working miracles in the absence of those systems. They live their faith from the inside out.”

            This is extremely idealistic. Too idealistic to be applied pragmatically to a group of christians of any stripe in today’s world. No, this isn’t a group of believers today, this is the biblical calling of Christ’s maturity.

            But those who rejected a systematized view of christianity often turn to the opposite of what they left. But the opposite doesn’t really mean right or righteous. Its just opposite, i,e, I once went to church on Sunday, so now I stop because I am the church.

            Furthermore those of us who have left that old way, have really struggled to know what the “new” is on a practical level. Thats why there have been so many different descriptions and discussions of what should, could or would be, i.e. “emergent”. I’m speaking in terms of practice here, i.e. now that I have stopped going to church on Sunday, because I am the church, now what?

            Some haven’t turned from the old to a new, but turned from the old to something even older. They haven’t continued to pursue Christ. They have just given up.

  4. Dan, you’re right on with the thought that it’s an issue of ‘kingdoms.’ The idea that Christians have some kind of future inheritance that is sure regardless of what we do, is contrary to the teaching of scripture. It’s all about the reign of God in the heart of man. It’s ‘kingdom’, if you will, now! One of these days, sooner than later I’m afraid, believers will see the truth that we are not a citizen of this world, the US included. We are citizens of a different realm.
    Good post.

  5. Diane R

    Dan, I am not recalling you ever talking about the New Christian Left and it’s “Christian engine,” the emergents. Basically, IMO, we are going into exactly the same thing with them as we did with the Christian Right and it’s “engine,” the conservative-moralist evangelicals. I believe the New Christian Left, however, is much more dangerous than the Christian Right ever was because of it’s Marxist tendencies and beliefs. Yet, these people are masquerading as “evangelicals.”

    • Diane,

      I have talked about the emerging church a lot in the past, but not recently. In many ways, I think its day as a counter/reform movement are ended. Much of what it hoped would spring up in the Church has. So in a way, there is no need for a separate emerging church movement anymore. For that reason, I’m not sure I find the group as threatening in its errors as I once did, not because I have changed, but because solid, Christian churches heard many of the valid complaints of emergent and incorporated the good stuff they had to say and threw away most of the bad.

      The emerging church was a mess, but it had valid points of correction against evangelicalism. I think that evangelicals are finally starting to incorporate the good ideas emerging church pundits had, while rejecting the stuff that wasn’t good.

      I know you still feel the group is a threat, but I think you’re seeing that from a West Coast perspective. Here in the Midwest, the emerging stuff came, did its job in stirring up the Church here, and then quietly faded. I see that as a good thing that I suspect will happen out your way sooner or later.

  6. Ian Vincent

    On “EM & IM” : as well as internal motivation there is internal reward/satisfaction/contentment – which is centerpiece in our LORD’S and Apostles teaching of His Kingdom.

    Like when our Lord taught that when people get their reward externally now (are fulfilled by the praise of men bcos they blow their own trumpet before them when they give and serve) they miss out on an eternal reward later.

    We’ve often referred to a similar dichotomy, simply, comparing the externals and the heart, and noting which one has the more importance or emphasis placed on it.

    When the Kingdom is sought out, their will be barely any time left to regard the externals.

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  8. michael

    you wrote:

    [[Here’s the thing: We can’t put our faith in governments. We can’t put our faith in legal codes. We can’t put our faith in our own tenacity. We put our faith in God alone or else we face assured, brutal disappointment.]]

    I respond:

    Here’s the thing: I am IM and I know that I know that I know that I was EM.

    Now, I pray daily. I do not put my faith in anything. I scorn it! I do, however, put His Faith to work no matter what my eternal emotions are shrilling!::::>

    Rom 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

    Take this obedience to His Faith as a way of testing what I just wrote above:::>

    Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
    Rom 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

    and because of that, this obedience to His Faith then:::>
    Rom 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
    Rom 16:26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–
    Rom 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

    So, it is obedience to His Faith then that I wrestle with daily. I am glad to rest in His unceasing prayers seeing my prayer life is spotty at best and not very consistent! 🙂

    1Ti 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
    1Ti 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
    1Ti 2:3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
    1Ti 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    I am praying for George W. Bush as I did when Bill Clinton was inagurated to replace George H.W. Bush and began holding the high executive office of President of the United States. I was more particular about praying for the Presidents of the United States seeing I am from California, born and raised.

    I have been to many nations and as is my habit being particular about praying according to the Teachings of Paul the Apostle, cited above, when in another ruler’s country, I pray for them too when there.

    Having written that I write it to write this, that I will be praying for the next President of the United States. One thing the next President of the United States will be, without regard to political party affliation, is the Commander in Chief of the Arm Forces of the USA. Red, Yellow, Black and White, all are precious in His sight! Oh, I digressed!

    Having disclosed that, now I simply, daily, with the Prayer Jesus taught in the Gospels, align myself with a murder and adultery, thief and liar, the former King of Israel, David and I pray daily this too, that song he gave Asaph to be sung to the Lord:::>

    “…..1Ch 16:7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers…..

    1Ch 16:27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
    1Ch 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O clans of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
    1Ch 16:29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
    1Ch 16:30 tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
    1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
    1Ch 16:32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!
    1Ch 16:33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
    1Ch 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! ….”

  9. Normandie

    I fear for Christians who depend on the external to know whether or not the Lord reigns in their life. I consider myself to be motivated by the Lord who lives and reigns: “Yet though He slay me, still will I trust Him.”

    But as much as we are to be in the world and not of it, I think we must do as has been said and pray for those in authority as well as to render to those in authority that which is due them. I will vote to the best of my ability as I pray for that which is to come because I don’t want, by abstaining or writing in some random name, to cast a vote for someone I cannot possibly support. If we do our part — as imperfect as that is, seen through a glass darkly — then we can rest in the result. Mostly, I will pray. I may be wrong, but I think that this election is pivotal in the spiritual realm. As Islamic law gains credence in Britain and elsewhere, as the jihadists’ agenda gains momentum, I think we’re about to enter a place where we’d all better be IM Christians or we’re going to see ourselves falling away in fear and trembling. There are some fascinating blog entries. One has a You Tube series that is very enlightening:

    At least, that’s my take on it. I’d love to imagine myself wrong. To think we’ve generations yet to go…

  10. Mark

    Dan, well stated.

    The only thing I would like to add is the fact that the Em’ers are more likely to love the world than Im’ers would be. Their heart is set on Christ, em’er’s hearts are set on doing things for him.

    We are told to love not thew world, nor the things of this world. It’s a major decoy and distraction.

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