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.

The Two Christianities: Comparison Table


JesusThis week we’ve looked at insights I received last weekend concerning American Christianity’s bifurcation into two streams of thinking and operation, Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity and Internally Motivated (IM) Christianity. To go back to the sources, please read “The Two Christianities” and “The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback….”

To put a final note on what we’ve discussed—and thanks to all you readers for an outstanding discussion!—I offer a table comparing EM and IM Christianity:

Externally Motivated (EM) ChristianityInternally Motivated (IM) Christianity
Our theology/doctrine is…ConservativeConservative
Our praxis is…ConservativeLiberal
The covenant that forms the basis for our belief system is…The Old—The LawThe New—Grace
Our mission:Preservation of power structures that serve as evidences of godlinessDisciple-making
Our source(s) of motivation and power is/are…Existing political and social authorities manipulated to preserve systems and institutions deemed godlyThe Holy Spirit
Power rests on…Dynamic, media-savvy, big-name leaders who determine which power structures are worth supportingNameless, faceless individuals who love not their lives unto death
Power is maintained through…Fear of lossDying to self
Failure is perceived as…Losing the culture warNot fulfilling the Great Commission
When threatened, our response is…An eye for an eyeTurning the other cheek
When threatened, we become…Aggressors (or martyrs for the cause should we fail)Joined to Christ in His sufferings
We counter threats with…The systems and institutions we empowerHumility and patient endurance
We suffer for…Our causeThe Lord
Persecution is to be…PreventedExpected
Christianity exists to be…PreservedGiven away
Our faith is…A means to an endIts own reward
Evidence for our faithfulness exists primarily in…Following a strict list of do’s and don’ts derived from the BibleManifesting the gifts and fruits of the Spirit
The community of faith exists primarily to …Preserve the American civil religion and protect the rights of the faith communityReach out to the lost and build up the household of faith
The community of faith seeks justice for…ItselfFor all
Our attitude toward benevolence is…God helps those who help themselves (though we may intervene for the very worst cases)Acts 2:44-45
We meet the needs of those who…Most directly benefit our causesAre needy, regardless of their ability to benefit us
We have what we have…Because we have done what is rightBecause God is gracious
We are righteous because of…Our compliance with the moral code we’ve constructed from Biblical principlesWho Christ is
We seek relationships with …Our own kindAll people
We make our way in society by…“Christianizing” secular systems and cultureDiscerning by the word and the Spirit what is worthy of our time and attention
We root out sin in…OutsidersInsiders
We judge…The secular society and its cultureThe household of faith
We believe people are motivated to obedience by…External forces (usually political when dealing with secular society) applied through a Biblical moral codeBeing born again, filled with the Spirit, and fellowshipping within a grace-filled community
We validate our apologetic through…WordsActions
We spread truth through…DebateThe way we live in obedience to Christ
Our ministry is the ministry of…Reproof and correctionReconciliation and compassion
Our spiritual focus is…InwardOutward
Our leadership is…Concentrated in a few powerful peopleDispersed throughout the group
We prioritize…Earthly goals first, spiritual goals secondSpiritual goals first, earthly goals second
We are…GuardiansAmbassadors

I’m sure more comparisons exist. I thank readers for prompting some of comparisons seen here. Some day in the future we may revisit this issue and I’ll add more to the table.

Until then, I pray that this week’s discussion has blessed you and made you consider moving on past the EM life into that of the IM Christian.

The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback…


The Two Christianities” post from yesterday seems to have touched a nerve out there in the Godblogosphere as it generated more traffic to this site than anything ever posted here.

I believe that others out there have insights into this issue. For that reason, I’d like to open up the comments for readers to contribute on a few select questions regarding the post. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.)

The questions:

  1. What evidences of EM Christianity do you see in the West? In your own church?
  2. Beyond the traits listed in “The Two Christianities,” what other characteristics define EM Christians, and how do those characteristics manifest themselves in practice? (Also answer for IM Christians.)
  3. How does one transition from being an EM Christian to an IM Christian? What resources might help the transition?

As a fourth input, any other insights you might be willing to share on this topic would be appreciated. I’m hoping to put together a summary post later this week.

Thanks in advance for your comments!