Does “Effortless Christianity” Exist?
The modern idea of effortless, easy, triumphant Christianity is a popular one. It seems impossible to browse popular bookstores, Christian radio, TV or church marquee signs without encountering this seemingly wonderful approach to the Christian life. In a world where effort, difficulty and failure await a person at every turn it is tempting to want a Christianity that is wholly contrary to these realities. And if one desires such a path, there is no shortage of ministers ready to fill the need.
But is Christianity essentially effortless? Is it as easy as making an initial “confession of faith,” baptism, or whatever form of initiation one’s particular church has adopted, and agreeing with a basic set of beliefs (i.e. the inspiration of Scripture, salvation by faith alone, etc) without further ado? What exactly do the proponents of effortless Christianity really envision, and how does this vision agree or disagree with the ancient faith?
If we begin with the premise that the ancient Church was THE Church which Christ promised the gates of hell would never prevail against (Matt 16:18), the one which St. Paul claimed to be the “ground and pillar of truth” (1Tim 3:15), the one which carried the living tradition which Christians were to never stray from (1Cor 11:2, Phil 4:9, 2Thes 3:6, 2 Tim 3:14), then we must conclude that if authentic Christianity still exists then it exists as it did in the ancient Church – without significant change in form and doctrine for the last 20 centuries. After all, either the Church is Christ’s Body in the world or it’s just another religious cult destined for doctrinal innovations by the latest and greatest charismatic leader.
This is a big “if” because if this premise is true then we must measure all forms of Christianity against it. It does us little good to create our own version of Christianity, based on our private interpretation of Scripture, for if our own private rationale is our measure of the truth then any version will do; and the slippery slope into relativism is assured. What happens when the effortless-Christianity movement is juxtaposed with the ancient Church? Does its vision of salvation, faith, grace, Scripture, etc, have any semblance to historic Christianity? And if it is found that effortless-Christianity is incongruent with the historic faith then does it actually exist?
This is part one in a series of blogs in which I will attempt to answer these questions and more. Hope you’ll join in the conversation.