Mainstream churches, back in the early 70s, generally preached a watered-down imitation of Christianity. Okay, I’ll rephrase that statement. The mainstream churches my friends and I attended made serious theological compromises, elevating the more palatable ideas of Scripture and ignoring (if not blatantly denying) the uncomfortable ones. Jesus, having a unique connection to God which could perhaps verify His deity (though only as far as dutifully assenting to Chapter 2 of the Westminister Confession), came off as a little more than a social martyr, slightly higher in rank than Ghandi. His resurrection, I was taught, was more figurative than literal, unless I wanted it to be literal, and served mainly as a reminder to love others.
Going to church made me feel holy…whatever that word meant. It allowed for my flirtations with astrology, yoga and even Buddhist philosophy. Jesus, after all, was loving and tolerant.
For all that (perhaps because I’d made a vague connection between religion and morality), I believed hell existed. I didn’t think many people would actually go there, other than Judas Iscariot, Hitler and Lee Harvey Oswald. Well, sometimes, I feared going there when I said a swear word. But my church never seemed to take hell seriously. Perhaps that’s why they never seemed able to give a satisfactory explanation of why Jesus died on the cross, or what qualified Him to be called Savior. I was actually told that what I believed about God didn’t matter, as long as I subscribed to some sort of religion. If not religion, spirituality of some sort. So questions of hell and salvation had little meaning. In essence, then, I grew up as a “Christian Universalist.”
When I heard the gospel, and committed my life to the Lord, I did so out of deep conviction that 1) hell existed, 2) I deserved to be there and 3) Jesus died on the cross in my place so that I could go to heaven, I was deeply disturbed that few church-going people really believed Jesus claim that no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). As time progressed, however, liberal churches seemed less prevalent, and most people had an understanding that Christians (at least evangelical Christians) took the Bible seriously.
When the “Emerging Church” started, I paid little attention, though sometime around 1997 I came into contact with evangelicals who had liberal views on sexual morality. Then I noticed other compromises, particularly a disdain for doctrine. Doctrine, they said, destroyed Christian unity, and was therefore to be avoided. Love (the “tolerant” love of progressives that is decidedly intolerant of anything conservative) became the authoritative grid through which we interpret Scripture, and truth is subjective.
Which leaves me wondering if the evangelical church has become the church of my childhood. I pray not.