Calling Yourself a Christian Means Nothing Anymore

News: Commentary
by Paul Brock III  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 24, 2023   

Little known fact: Faith without works is dead

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One of the greatest scandals of the third millennium is that so many grievous sins are being committed by those claiming the banner of God. To openly embrace vice while identifying as a follower of Christ is hypocrisy of the worst sort. What's more, it's rank scandal that can only lead impressionable souls away from the Kingdom of God. The world needs a reminder: The mark of a Christian is not effortless self-identification; rather, it's the choice to lovingly embrace Christ and all the demands that flow from following Him. 

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Russell Wilson and Ciara singing gospel music with inmates

Today, it's trendy to be "spiritual" but not religious, and this milieu has paved the way for the ascendence of a toothless, compromised Christianity in the West. Examples of this Christianity-lite abound. Last week, for instance, NFL star and self-identified Christian Russell Wilson trotted his celebrity wife, Ciara, out to the Oscars practically naked. (The supreme irony is that mere days before, the two sang gospel music, prayed with and "ministered" to over 300 inmates at a maximum security prison.) In a similar vein, a viral video of stripper and pornography creator Nicolette Nicole stating, on the Whatever podcast, "I still consider myself a Christian; I believe that Jesus died on the Cross for my sins," is presently making the rounds on the internet. And to top everything off, the president of the United States, a supposedly practicing Catholic, suggested last week that it's "close to sinful" and "cruel" to ban puberty blockers and so-called sex-change surgeries for kids. So men can offer their wives to the world, women can sell their bodies for money and national leaders can promote child genital mutilation, all while being true followers of Christ? Of course, this is not the case, for "the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9). 

No Man Can Serve Two Masters

Note well how far short of the Christian standard each of the aforementioned purported disciples has very publicly fallen. Wilson would be well-served to understand that any husband who does not protect his wife — indeed, who actually enables her promiscuity — is violating the dignity of a fellow child of God who has been given to him as a helpmate. Anglican theologian Peter O'Brien once artfully treated this theme, writing, "In light of Christ's complete giving of himself to make the church holy and cleanse her, husbands should be utterly committed to the total well-being, especially the spiritual welfare, of their wives." And it's true. As St. Paul tells us, he who hates his wife hates himself (see Ephesians 5:28–29). Certainly, a man is not treating his wife generously or honorably when he sanctions her extreme immodesty. That Wilson would hold himself out as a member of the elect while so prominently failing to lead and protect his wife is a glaring contradiction.

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Christ and the repentant sinners

Nicolette Nicole's claim to the mantle of Christ appears more drastically at odds with her lifestyle than Wilson's though. The malice of pornography and prostitution runs deep, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church minces no words in condemning these societal banes. Pornography "offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act" and "does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others," warns the Catechism (¶2354). Pope Benedict XVI even labeled both pornography and its sister vice, prostitution, "crimes against humanity." Needless to say, strippers and the like — who make their living by enticing men to break the sixth and ninth commandments — need to repent, believe the gospel and amend their lives before presuming to broadcast a devotion to Christ. 

The worst scandals, though, are invariably the ones that affect children. As such, Biden's minor-oriented transgender advocacy is especially egregious. The entire "trans" platform is such a deviation from nature that little ink is warranted for its refutation. Suffice it to say that there are but two sexes (see Genesis 1:27), and the creation of each human soul is an act of God Himself, so to attempt to correct this work of the Divine is inherently disordered. The reality of immutable sexual differentiation, however, is "cruel" according to Biden, and he has devoted a significant portion of his presidential currency to challenging it. But per the Man to whom Biden claims to pledge his allegiance, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (Luke 17:2). 

Pope Benedict XVI labeled pornography and prostitution 'crimes against humanity.'

The idea that one can profess a saving faith in Christ, while at the same time living paradigms contrary to His teachings, ultimately harkens back to theological error. It's not idle speculation to say that the likes of Wilson, Nicole and Biden are abetted by bad theology or philosophy that, in some way, fails to perceive man as a seeker of truth and doer of good. Indeed, by professing a faith that is at odds with deliberate lifestyle choices, each is manifesting a de facto belief in the justification and soteriology heresies of Martin Luther and his Protestant ilk. 

Errant Theology

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Martin Luther as an Augustinian monk (1520)

At the heart of Luther's revolt was the inorganic separation of nature and grace, which ultimately led to his denial of free will. Preserved Smith, a renowned Protestant scholar, describes Luther's doctrine thusly: "The natural opposite of 'work' is 'do nothing,' and this was the whole essence of Luther's message. Pure passivity on the part of man is the only way to court the grace of God" ("Luther's Development of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Only," The Harvard Theological Review 6, no. 4 [1913], 421). Smith goes on to explain what Luther really meant by pure passivity: "Where God does everything, man can do nothing; therefore his will is in bondage" (ibid., 423). Simply put, Luther believed that there is no true human liberty. 

The repercussions of this line of thought have a downstream effect on the realm of morals, as Smith explains: "Another deduction from the main premise, and one which he was obliged to modify in practice, was the total worthlessness of good deeds, even those of ordinary morality" (ibid., 422). This is why Protestants, generally speaking, believe that good deeds and immaculate morals allegedly "mean nothing" to God. Of course, this daft theology is nothing but an opiate, a quasi-religious feeling that allows people to escape the reality and horror of sin. 

Luther taught that faith does not bring man to a deeper understanding of his fallen nature, rather, it simply blurs his vision; it's a "cope." For Luther, it's all about feeling the comfort of "being saved," which is why he strived so hard to, in his own words, "be at peace and happy with an untroubled conscience." If, according to popular belief, faith in Christ operates to take away the consciousness of sin, it's hardly surprising (though still superlatively despicable) that there are porn girls suggesting that they're Christians.

Christ demands a willingness and hunger to be like Him.

But faith does not anesthetize man; it's not some abstraction or legal fiction that merely helps people get through the day. Faith enlightens man and gives him the grace to transcend the darkness, the doubts and the fears — it ultimately strengthens man to enter more fully into reality. So a man with faith believes in Jesus Christ and everything He's revealed. This kind of man is not sinless, for he's still fallen, but he nevertheless detests sin and refuses to embrace it. Unlike the worldly Christians who boast about their "faith" as they scandalize their neighbors, the truly faithful man professes his belief in God with humility and gratitude as he carries his cross and strives for perfection.

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The Call to Holiness

Being a Christian in the third millennium does not require realized perfection, but it does require a devout readiness to do God's will. Flesh peddlers, prostitutes and homosexualist oligarchs may "profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds" (Titus 1:16). For this reason, they ought to stop waving their Christian banner. They, like all men, are called to "humble themselves ... and turn from their wicked ways" (2 Chronicles 7:14). Only then should they presume to tout their Christian credentials, when it won't be a source of scandal and disrepute for the Faith.

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Sermon on the mount

The Kingdom of God has a transcendent effect on its members, the baptized. And the kingdom isn't some future utopia — it's in fact a present reality. "What makes Christ's teaching unique is His claim that the Kingdom, while still remaining in some sense in the future, is in reality here, has in its essentials begun," H.J. Richards once observed ("The Kingdom of God," The Furrow 10, no. 6 [1959]: 381). Ever since the Incarnation, therefore, the Kingdom of God has been made present to the human race.

Christ's mission was redemption, freeing man from slavery to sin. This mission, which climaxed at Calvary afforded man the opportunity to live in union with God. Richards went on to explain that the Kingdom, in Christ, came down to earth, in order "to transport earth, here and now, to heaven, to lift the men of this world, through union with himself, to the very center of God's world" (ibid., 383). Simply put, a follower of Christ is one who, despite being in the world, lives in God's Kingdom. A Christian willingly responds to God's grace and, as a result, is united to Christ in a real way. Such a man does not embrace sin, nor does he remain indifferent to it; rather, he recognizes the weight of the Christian banner that he flies and lives according to his Master's decrees. 

Christianity is not some club in which anybody and everybody should claim membership based on abstract intellectual assent. While, Christ's Church is surely open to all men, to actually consider oneself a follower of Christ demands a willingness and hunger to be like Him. Calling oneself a Christian is about actively living in the Kingdom of God, exclusively and uncompromisingly, here and now.

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