My oldest boy who turns 14 this weekend looked quizically at the radio dial. "Who is this? The Beatles or somebody?" He may have been misled by the English accent and guessed the name of the only band from Britain he could think of.
"Nope. The Monkees," I replied in my used-to-be-a-DJ-so-I-know-it-all voice. "They were actually a TV show that sort of made fun of the Beatles, but then the music started getting popular..." I could tell that he'd checked out of the conversation at this point, so I stopped.
He didn't want to hear the story behind The Monkees. The television show was simply a group of actors assembled make a show based on the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night. Four musicians act crazy and play some pop songs. Quick, easy, exploitative television. That was the recipe. The fact that the actors weren't really playing the instruments or singing for the first couple of years betrayed the intent of the production. What they sought to achieve was a cheaper, easier-produced show for Beatle fans which would promote music with music rights not paid to another company. What they eventually got was a catalog of music which suddenly became very popular, thanks to the exposure of the television series. Instead of using the original, a similar version was made to suit the likes and profits of the show creators. Take out what you don't like and add in what you do. Pretty simple. Of course, my son didn't care about all that. But there's always a story behind the scenes. And in this case the story reminds me of a problem in Christianity today.
I ran across this great post entitled, Authentic Spirituality at Every Thought Captive. In it, Phil muses about the current trend in spirituality of picking and choosing the attributes of God we can accept and ditching the rest. He cites an interview with an expert on Wicca where it is mentioned that:
...its tenants tend to be very person-specific and fairly malleable. Wicca, along with so much American spirituality, gives its believers the chance to make religion in their own image.That seems to be the trend for so many people -- not a conversion to Wicca, but a personalization of God. This cafeteria approach to faith allows the worshipper to form God in his own image. Toss aside all that stuff about salvation by faith alone. Get rid of the whole concept of hell. Don't let God make you feel, well, uncomfortable! That's akin to getting a good workout at the gym without breaking a sweat.
How many times have you heard people say something like, "The God I believe in isn't like that," or "I think of God as being all about love, not judgment." Personally, I hear it a lot. The determining factor in that person's view of God is not Scripture, but human feeling. No intellect is wasted on paltry things like theology. Take what you like, leave the rest, and don't worry about the consequences. Or as Paul put it, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie..."
I see this type of thinking in individuals and I am not surprised. After all, we crave individual freedom. We don't like rules which infringe upon our preferences. We dislike being told that our feelings are wrong. This is all a natural reaction from our human sinfulness. (Or call it selfishness if you'd like.) But where I continue to be appalled is when I see this same reaction from churches.
Sure, local churches are simply groups of these selfish individuals, but being in a group should foster a bit of accountability. Someone should be watching doctrine, but too often it becomes a matter of groupthink. You get a bunch of people think that the Monkees are just as good as the Beatles and settle for an imitation because it benefits them to do so. They don't like the idea that a God of love could ever pass judgment, so they simply cross that off the menu. Oftentimes it takes a bit of creative isogesis to do it, but they'll come up with a proof text or two and proclaim that their imitation created by human feeling is just as good as what we find in Scripture.
Of course I shouldn't be so surprised. This is the same warning given to Timothy more than a couple of years ago.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.Well, maybe not many myths, but the one myth that our feeling equals truth. It doesn't, my friends. If it were, there would be more money in my bank accounts because I'm so blessed that I feel rich! A woman who feels that God doesn't judge doesn't change the Bible-confirmed reality that He does. Our feelings do not change reality. And we'd best get that message through the thick skulls of those in the church who bank on feelings over truth. Because the more I see churches who neglect the preaching and teaching of Scripture, the more I see churches who keep an "open mind" even where the Bible says otherwise, the more I see churches who promote an unscriptural idea of prosperity, the more I wish the congregation was at home watching The Monkees reruns on television. It wouldn't do near the spiritual damage.