Looking For Sin
I’ve had several conversations over the last two weeks about the seeming decline in the importance of Easter among Christians. I’ve been wondering if I’m just missing it, or if it’s really happening. I grew up in the South, which has been known for years as the “Bible Belt”. And it’s true to a large extent. Church is part of the culture of the South. Even those who claim no religious affiliation whatsoever recognize the place of church in southern culture. And for those who are regular church attenders, church and church life often are the hub of life. It is the center point that everything else revolves around. So when Easter arrives, it is THE DAY! When you get down to it, Christmas is an important celebration, but there is no call for it in the Bible. But Easter….. Jesus told us to REMEMBER! Easter is the watershed event in Christianity because it sets Christianity apart from every other faith…because our leader – Jesus Christ – is NOT in a tomb. He rose again. And that is what led to Easter being such a large celebration in the life of the church in the South.
But maybe I’m NOT missing it. Maybe I’m NOT misreading the cultural tea leaves. In Friday’s edition of USA Today, There was an article titled “Has the Notion of Sin Been Lost?” (You can read it here). Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, made this observation:
“All the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny are even more extraneous to the purpose of Easter than Santa is to Christmas,” Mohler says. “At least Santa Claus was based on a saint. I wonder whether even some Christian churches are making the connection between Christ’s death and resurrection and victory over sin ? the linchpin doctrine of Christianity.” (emphasis added by me)
At least it seems that he too is concerned at the lack of priority churches and Christians are placing on Easter, which is the ultimate definition of our faith. The article further stated that while there is still an acknowledgment of sin by most surveyed, the perspectives about sin are changing dramatically.
“A lot of this is relative. We tend to view sin not as God views it, but how we view it,” says Ellison president Ron Sellers.
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research, a company in Ventura, Calif., that tracks Christian trends, draws a similar conclusion: “People are quick to toe the line on traditional thinking” that there is sin “but interpret that reality in a very personal and self-congratulatory manner” ? I have to do what’s best for me; I am not as sinful as most.
Indeed, 65% of U.S. adults say they will go to heaven, and only 0.05% believe they’ll go to hell, according to a 2003 Barna telephone survey of 1,024 adults.
“They give intellectual assent to the story about Jesus rising on Easter Sunday: 75% say they believe the biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection is literally true, not a story meant to illustrate a principle. But they don’t have any personal application of this Monday through Saturday,” Kinnaman says.
Maybe we’re just not facing reality enough anymore. Maybe we’ve recoiled so far from “Fire and Brimstone” preaching that we don’t even address sin properly anymore. Maybe without a deep understanding of sin and the total necessity of the cross and the resurrection that followed, we just can’t put Easter in its proper place anymore. Here’s how Rev Michael Horton sees it:
He finds sad truth in an old newspaper headline he once saw: ” ‘To hell with sin when being good is enough.’ That’s the drift of American preaching today in a lot of churches. People know what sin is; they just don’t believe in it anymore. We mix up happiness and holiness, and God is no longer the reference point.”
In other words, he asks, if you can solve your problems or sins yourself, what difference does it make that Christ was crucified?
People have to see themselves as sinners ? ultimately alienated from God and unable to save themselves ? for Christ’s sacrifice to be essential, Horton says. “(The apostle) Paul didn’t see Easter as therapy.”
Do we have to go back to “old school” preaching in order to raise Easter to its prominent position in the life of Christians again? Mark Driscoll seems to think so:
Mark Driscoll says a little talk of hellfire, so out of fashion these days, would do the world good.
Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a non-denominational megachurch with 7,000 in Sunday attendance, chiefly singles in their 20s.
He defines sin as “anything contrary to God’s will. People assume the way they are is normal, not that something has gone terribly wrong, and this world is abnormal.”
Although his primary audience is newbie Christians, Driscoll is sharply clear: “Without an idea of sin, Easter is meaningless.”
What are your thoughts? Is Easter slipping? Is Christianity slipping? What are the possible solutions to restore Easter to its proper place in the life of the church?