Why Pietism Leads to Worldliness

From the chapter “Why Pietism leads to Worldliness?” in Disciple the Nations by Stephen Perks

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This problem of worldly values dominating the life of the Church is not confined to the liberal denominations and Churches, which of course make little pretence of conforming to biblical ethics any more. It is no surprise that the value system of the world dominates in these Churches—do they even claim to be Christian in any meaningful sense? But the problem exists no less in the evangelical, Reformed and Charismatic Churches, though there is more pretence in these Churches that this is not the case (well, lets call it what the Bible calls it—hypocrisy). Why?

When the Kingdom is discussed in these Churches it is al- most invariably spiritualised into something that has no practical relevance and therefore no meaning or value for real life. If you ask most Christians, including pastors and ministers, what the Kingdom of God is they have no idea how to answer the question other than by falling back onto a dualistic conception of reality that puts the Kingdom and the Christian faith into the upper sto- rey where it has no real bearing on the world that we live in on a daily basis. In other words the answer you get is usually based on some form of Gnostic spirituality, which is the complete antithesis of the Christian religion—and if you find the use of the word religion as a means of describing the Christian faith problematic or unacceptable that also is probably because you are working from a dualistic perspective that is contrary to the Christianity of the Bible. Similarly, the word righteousness is wrongly understood to mean piety, which fits with well with this dualistic perspective, when what it really means is justice, which does not fit with the pietistic perspective so well at all. Of course historically the Church has always condemned Gnosticism as a heresy, which of course it is— one of the worst—but even as the Church herself has embraced it with gusto, though often unwittingly.

But you may ask, how is it that the values of our godless society dominate Church life if the prevailing spirituality is dualistic, since Gnostic dualism is hardly the religion of modern secularism? Because this dualism removes most of what it means to be Christian from the realm of daily life and relocates it to the spiritual realm. But everyone has to live in the real world, even pietistic dualists. And so, without a Christian perspective to guide their thoughts and lives in the real day to day world, since the faith is not seen as being relevant to it, Christians unwittingly imbibe the values of the world around them as a means of dealing with everyday life. These values may be given a Christian veneer to dress them up to look Christian, but they are still the values of the world. Dressing up a sow in a pretty frock with pearls and lipstick will not mean that she will behave with decorum and civility at the vicar’s tea party. And so the Church becomes corrupted by the values of the world and the Kingdom of God, which Jesus told us to make the central goal of our lives, gets relocated to a spiritual realm that is useless for real life. Once the values of the Kingdom have been exiled to the spiritual realm the values of the world are then all that are left to guide Christians in their daily lives.

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You cannot be a dualist, or a gnostic, or a materialist, and expand the Kingdom of God.

Pietists are into escape from the world, and not discipling the nations — peoples, governments families, academies, everything and everyone — under the authority and Law-Word of Jesus Christ.

Pietists are not obedient servants of God, as they do not do what He told them to do.

But God demands that all the world worship and obey Him, and the world cannot do so until believers teach them the ways of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We must be worthwhile servants of God. We must teach the world to obey Jesus Christ.

(And of course, we must obey Him ourselves!)

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So how do we deal with this problem? We have to stop making an idol out of the Church and its forms of service, government, rituals, liturgies, music, and all the other man-made rules that have come to dominate the life of the Church and refocus on the Kingdom of God and his righteousness as our priority. What is the Kingdom? It is a counter-revolutionary prophetic social order founded upon and governed by the covenant of grace that is meant to be manifested and realised on earth among men in this present age and that by its very existence calls men and nations to repentance and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not confined to the age to come, nor is it confined to the spiritual realm. All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us. The Kingdom of God is for this age, now. It is meant to grow until it displaces and replaces the godless secular social orders of the world, and this is meant to continue until all nations have embraced it. This is, after all, what the Great Commission teaches. We also have to divest ourselves of the dualistic conception of reality and of the faith that dominates the understanding of most Christians since it is the source of so much error in the Church, both in terms of theology and practice. This world is God’s world, and the Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem the whole world, not merely to snatch brands from the fire. Our calling is to bring all things into obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. As Abraham Kuyper famously said: “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ”

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“Our calling is to bring all things into obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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