May 20, 2022

Gutting the Gospel

Only 37% of Christian pastors in the United States have a biblical worldview. That means a large majority of pastors are not preaching the Bible as absolute truth. In other words, they’re gutting the gospel. The Christian Post reported this new data from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. The study not only confirms that progressive ideology is growing rapidly among professing Christians, it helps explain why.


The Rise of Syncretism

Two specific things in the study catch my attention. First, “not having a biblical worldview doesn’t mean adherence to a competing worldview, such as secular humanism or Marxism.” The article went on to say, “their prevailing worldview is best described as Syncretism, the blending of ideas and applications from a variety of holistic worldviews into a unique but inconsistent combination that represents their personal preferences. More than six out of 10 pastors (62%) have a predominantly syncretistic worldview.”


Not being all that familiar with syncretism, I did a little research. It’s a relatively new term for an old idea. A 2020 article from InterVarsity offers the best explanation. “With syncretism, the heart of the gospel is gutted by certain cultural expressions. The good news becomes obscured, bent into the shape of beliefs that aren’t consistent with Jesus and his kingdom.” So, syncretism twists and manipulates the Bible to make it culturally acceptable.


Gutting the gospel strips away its exclusivity in order to be more inclusive. As a result, pastors are treading lightly around cultural issues that might offend certain members. One reason is the pressure to draw crowds and raise cash. Another reason is fear. They’re afraid of being labeled a nationalist, racist, or homophobe on social media.


Implications for the Future

The second item that caught my eye is that “only 13% of teaching pastors and 12% of children’s and youth pastors have a biblical worldview.” The implications of this are staggering for coming generations. Salvation is found exclusively in Jesus Christ. Removing the exclusivity of the gospel disregards the eternal consequences of what someone believes.


Jesus’ teaching on this is clear, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14).


The apostle Paul warned of this assault on gospel truth in his second letter to the Corinthian Church. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).


Paul also warned that as the Lord’s coming draws closer, false teachers will grow in both number and creativity. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2–4). We’re seeing this sad reality with our own eyes. The goal of too many preachers is to make the gospel more appealing—to give listeners what they want instead of what they need.


Deception by Any Other Name

Of course, this syncretistic worldview fits perfectly with how Satan works. He doesn’t deny biblical theism either. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Satan’s greatest attack on the gospel is altering it just enough to be acceptable to the masses, yet unacceptable to a holy God. But deception by any other name is still deception. And anyone who preaches a cultural ideology that conflicts with biblical theology is taking part in deception. In reality, the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be broadened, even by a pastor.