For it is by grace you have been saved...

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Evangelical Mush God

Years ago, Leonard Ravenhill quoted a piece by columnist Nicholas Van Hoffman about what he calls "The Mush God."  Hoffman wrote, "The Mush God has been known to appear to millionaires on golf courses. He appears to politicians at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and to clergymen speaking the invocation on national TV. 

 The Mush God has no theology to speak of, being a Cream of Wheat divinity. The Mush God has no particular credo, no tenets of faith, nothing that would make it difficult for believer and nonbeliever alike to lower one’s head when the temporary chairman tells us that...So-and-So will lead us in an innocuous, harmless prayer, for this god of public occasions is not a jealous god. 

You can even invoke him to start a hooker’s convention and he/she or it won’t be offended. God of the Rotary, God of the Optimists, Protector of the Buddy System, The Mush a serviceable god whose laws are chiseled not on tablets but written on sand, open to amendment, qualification and erasure. This is a god that will compromise with you, make allowances and declare all wars holy, all peaces hallowed."

We’ve all seen this mushy-gushy version of god floating around in various places.  But last night, I heard a version of this same god that’s just as popular.  I’ll call him the Evangelical Mush God.  We take the same wishy-washy-ness, baptize it with some evangelical language, prop it up with some biblical references, and call it God.  Let me ‘splain what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.

I took the kids to one of our favorite concert events last year, a yearly event that brings together 8-10 bands for one show, all for one low, low price.  Love it.  Love hearing the different bands.  Love hearing some of our favorite bands.  Love that low, low price!

And each year they also bring along a speaker.  They shut things down for 20-30 minutes and this guy gets up and delivers a message from God’s Word.  Great concept.  Not so great result, in my humble opinion.

Last night the message was about the amazing love God lavishes on us.  Wonderful truth.  He moved to a retelling of the Prodigal Son.  Wonderful parable; great truths.  But here was the problem:

In the course of the message, the speaker made “ha-ha” funny jokes about “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” which then led to a joke about a friend of his who went to Vegas and brought something back.  Ha-ha.  Like STDs are funny.

Then there was the “wink-wink” reference to Miley Cyrus and her song “Wrecking Ball.”  Never heard the song, but I’ve seen enough to know that the image that song is known for is a naked performer clinging to said wrecking ball.  And we use this reference as a funny moment in a sermon?

Worst of all, as far as I’m concerned is the depiction of God in this rendition of the Prodigal Son.  Now, in his defense, the speaker is just repeating the same thing I’m sure he’s heard over and over in sermon after sermon.  But here’s the portrait.  In the father of that prodigal, he says, we have a picture of God who just loves us so much, and misses us, and longs for us to come home, and sits there in the house day after day, looking out the window, hoping that maybe, just maybe, “this will be the day my son comes home.”   

This is the Evangelical Mush God.  Weak and lonely.  Longing for attention.  As we were told last night, he loves you so much; he loves the good stuff about you; he even loves all your bad stuff.  What?  God loves our bad stuff? 

Here’s the deal. Yes, God loves us.  Yes, God saves us as we are.  It’s true we don’t have to “clean ourselves up” before we come to Christ.  Christ does the cleaning.  But to imply that God loves even our sin is a horrible misrepresentation of the God of Scripture.   And it’s an insult to the cross.

If sin is no big deal, as implied by all the worldly jokes; if God loves even our “bad stuff”, implying that He even loves our sin; then how do we explain a wrath against sin that is so great that it requires the death of the perfect Son of God to overcome.   What about texts like this one:  Psalm 11:5  “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  Not just hates the sin, but hates the wicked. 

God detests sin, and in His perfect justice pours His wrath out on sin.  It’s not to be played with, toyed with, laughed at, winked at.  The Evangelical Mush God looks the other way and loves us anyway.  The God of Scripture pours out His wrath on His Son, so that we can enter into His presence.  That’s the greater portrait of love.

And speaking of portraits.  Does the prodigal son story really show God as such a weak and needy God?  Absolutely not.  Luke 15:20  says, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  While he was still a long way off, the father saw.  The father isn’t sitting around wringing his hands waiting.  The father is looking and pursuing. 

Far from weak and lonely, our God is a fierce, passionate hunter.  Think Francis Thomson’s Hound ofHeaven.  He pursues His own, claims them, regenerates their hearts and draws them to Himself in faith.  Our God is a Sovereign King who declares and appoints and chooses, not a doddering old man hoping against hope someone will respond to His call.  (read Ezekiel 36:22ff; John 1:12-13; John 10:27ff; Ephesians 2; etc, etc.)

It’s time to tear down and burn the idol of this Evangelical Mush God.  It’s time to restore the firm foundations of Scripture; to stop pandering to the world and declaring God’s truth.  Time to declare our mighty God in all of His glory, in all of His grace, in all the power of the true Gospel.  Stop making light of sin, and start making much of God. 

1 comment:

Gregg Metcalf said...

It's time, you are right. Great piece.