From “How to Become a Christian”: Chapter 4 – How the church got into its current condition
The Protestant denominations arose in the “Reformation” of the sixteenth century. They are called that because they protested against many of the false teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism. The nonconformists went even further in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were in some ways even more biblical in their approach.
Yet, it is sadly true to say that in the Western world today, even the Protestant and nonconformist denominations have declined alarmingly. They have degenerated in the quality of their teaching and preaching and in the nature of the message that they give. I am speaking of denominations such as the Church of England, the Lutheran churches, the Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and also the Charismatic churches. The problem is basically across the board.
Many churches in these denominations have watered down their teaching. They have also mixed it with ideas and teaching that come from the New Age, humanism, liberalism, scepticism and higher criticism. “Higher criticism” involves sitting in judgment on the Bible and criticising it as if it was an ordinary work of literature, rather than honouring it as God’s Word.
Many churches, focus on what is called “the social gospel”. By that they mean that Christians should bring the good news to our societies, especially to the poor, by doing good works. That means seeking to relieve poverty or deal with disease, hunger, homelessness etc, rather than just speaking about personal salvation from our sins and from God’s judgment. There is more than a grain of truth in that approach. God does want us to have a heart for the poor and needy and to seek to make a practical difference in our world. That is beyond doubt. (See Book Four for more detail.)
Where the problem arises is when people begin to focus solely or excessively upon such social issues and forget about, or cease even to believe in, the very heart of the gospel. That is that Jesus came to commence His Kingdom and to save us from our sins and from being sent to Hell and the Lake of Fire after we die. Those facts must always remain in the central place as the most crucial points that we emphasise. If not, we will end up, eventually, with an unbalanced and even a false gospel.