I’ve been noticing more and more that people speak of Christianity, specifically coming to Christ, as a “journey” rather than a lifestyle that is adopted. The problem is that the term “journey” today might mean something different than it did in the past.
In ancient Christianity the idea of “theosis” was prevalent. The idea that we must begin to move towards being like God in all things except being and identity. Since that can sometimes be confused with pantheism (which the teaching of theosis is not pantheistic at all, but can be confused as such), we have used different terms over the years to describe the act of theosis. We use sanctification, Christ-like, Godly, and other terms to indicate that we are becoming more like Christ. In this way, Christianity is a journey and one where different people will be on different levels of their journey. Some of them might grow closer to Christ through engaging in music or paintings. Others might grow through books. But even though the style of our growth might be subjective, historically the journey required fidelity to Christ and His teachings.
Lately, however, the word “journey” is merely code for, “What I like in a religion.” I heard someone the other day say that he was looking for a religion that fit him. He really liked what some Christians had to offer, especially from a local church that met at a bar on Sunday nights. He said he felt that he wouldn’t have to change too much, just change his plans on Sunday nights to attend.
This is the Christianity that we’ve been breeding for some time now. We have built a custom-fit religion that doesn’t require us to change either how we act or how we think (or both). We like a religion that conforms to our culture rather than having to conform to the religion. This is one reason that the “institutional” church is facing such a backlash right now; we’re constantly told that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. We’re told that the relationship exists, but the rules are man-made. Even those who are part of the institution of the Church tend to distance themselves away from the institution and attempt to look more “journey-friendly” than anything else. We all know of “big box” churches that tower above the landscape that when you walk it they just feel more contemporary. The stage is set up in a professional manner, the preacher will wear a polo shirt with jeans or, if he’s younger, shorts. They use terms like “small group” and “discussion group,” even if there is little discussion occurring. Regardless, no matter how much such churches may try to appear to be laid back and rule free, they still have rules, regulations, and doctrines that members must adhere to in order to be active in the church.
An unforeseen consequence of such anti-establishment thinking, however, has been the erosion of all standards and all doctrines. For so long we’ve railed against rules and conformity to a system that the younger generation has begin to move away from the rules that we did keep and the doctrines we viewed as essential. We have created a very individualistic faith, but Christianity is the furthest thing from individualistic. How have we made a communal faith individualistic? We’ve eradicated the necessity for people to conform and instead now we expect the church to conform to the people. Continue reading