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Chapter 26 - Marketplace Christianity
Adam Smith wrote extensively about economics and market forces. He did not have a high opinion of Christianity but was encouraged by the existence of different denominations. He felt that the denominations would be forced to jettison anything that made them distinctive by market forces and thus eventually become reduced to irrelevancy.
People came to see Christianity as a system that offered baptism as an infant and sitting through a sermon once a week as the basis for getting a ticket to heaven when you died. This was not too burdensome for many before WWII. However, the prosperity available after the war began to create a social environment where people were increasingly less inclined to pay such a price for what seemed to be an increasingly less certain future.
Prosperity breeds a consumer culture. The selflessness of love that was supposed to be the objective of Christianity becomes diverted into areas that satisfy consumer interests. The fragmentation of Christianity into divergent paths reflects some of the consumer interest.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; - 2 Timothy 4:3
There are some Christians who find comfort in continuing the heritage of their Christian traditions. They might be considered about 20% of each generation. This explains the rapid shrinkage of these denominations.
A little over 100 years ago the desire of people to experience a more dynamic church environment grew to a sufficient level as to sustain the formation of what might be called a ‘new’ type of denomination. Based on the description of supernatural events in the New Testament, people drawn to this type of experience often feel that more traditional organizational church systems fail to capture what the New Testament churches had.
This formation of Christianity uses traditional Christianity as a springboard to take up social ills and attempt to remedy them. Often contemporary music and a comfortable ‘coffee shop’ atmosphere provide just the right environment to feel smug about saving the planet or the plight of the poor.
Self-righteousness can be found in all Christian groups. However, some denominations emphasize doctrines that are particularly attractive to those who have a conservative perspective. Some of those who subscribe to Calvinistic ideas (particularly being ‘chosen’ through election) seem to relish a superior status.
There are some groups of Christians that have a desire for the experience of the Charismatics, to show the love that the social Christians claim, to be as faithful as the uptight Christians think they are, and actually have the love and truth described in the bible. Crippled with an organizational system, they often valiantly attempt to chase that which always seems just out of reach.
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