Everybody’s a Separatist
Everybody draws the line somewhere. Centered set or bounded set, there’s a line out there they won’t cross. The question is whether or not that line will be established by Scripture. Roger Olson, in the post I just linked to, does a good job showing why the prosperity gospel is beyond the Christian pale. (John Piper’s done it, too.) If Machen were living today, he might write a book called Christianity and the Prosperity Gospel.
Like most heresies, [the prosperity gospel] resolves one of orthodoxy’s tensions by emphasizing one part of Christian doctrine—in this case, the idea that the things of this life are gifts from the Creator, rather than simply snares to be avoided, and that Christians are expected to participate in the world rather than withdraw from it. Then it effaces the harder teachings that traditionally balance it out. The result is a message that’s tailored less to the very rich than to the middle and working classes—to people who are hardworking but financially insecure, who feel that they have to think about money all the time because they’re trying to make more of it, and who want to be reassured that their striving is in accordance with God’s plan rather than a threat to their salvation.
That hits home, because more orthodox Christians can do the same thing in not-so-obvious, not-so-crass ways. Douthat think that
the stringency of Christianity’s sexual teachings gets most of the press, but the commandment against avarice, if taken seriously, can be the faith’s most difficult by far. You can wall yourself off from pornography and avoid people who tempt you into adultery, but everybody has to work—and every day in the workplace is a potential occasion of sin.
Okay, just one more quote from Douthat, along the same lines as the first one in this post but aimed at 20th-century American mainline Protestantism instead:
Here their emulation of Jesus proved fatally incomplete. In their quest to be inclusive and tolerant and up-to-date, the accommodationists imitated [Jesus’] scandalously comprehensive love, while ignoring his scandalously comprehensive judgments. They used his friendship with prostitutes as an excuse to ignore his explicit condemnations of fornication and divorce. They turned his disdain for the religious authorities of his day and his fondness for tax collectors and Roman soldiers into a thin excuse for privileging the secular realm over the sacred. While recognizing his willingness to dine with outcasts and converse with nonbelievers, they deemphasized the crucial fact that he had done so in order to heal them and convert them—ridding the leper of his sickness, telling the Samaritans that soon they would worship in spirit and truth, urging the woman taken in adultery to go, and from now on sin no more.