Christianity or ‘i-anity’?
The apostle Paul was not in doubt about what he should preach. He put it very clearly: ‘I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).
It’s obvious that Paul was a preacher of Christianity. The word ‘Christianity’ has Christ in it, and Paul preached Christ. Many preachers these days cannot echo the words of Paul. They are not preachers of Christ, and if we take Christ out of Christianity, we have ‘i-anity’.
Isn’t it interesting that ‘i-anity’ begins with ‘i’? Much of what we call Christianity these days has very little to do with Christ and a lot to do with us. Our worship is too often not about Christ and his great deeds; it is about us and how we feel about things. And our great concern is not serving God; it is rather getting God to serve us.
We don’t want to fall before him as our Sovereign; we want him to be our helper with all the little aggravations and challenges that life brings our way. These are the days of the ‘trouble-shooter’ God. We don’t want much to do with him, but we want him to be ready to spring into action if we need him.
Maybe he can keep our children from spilling their milk or keep the dog from coming into the house with muddy feet!
We don’t want a God who talks about sin; that would make us feel bad. And we aren’t all that interested in heaven. We want our best life now!
The thing we so often fail to see is that the smaller we make God, the more unnecessary we make him. Many these days are starved for the greatness of God. If they were to speak to our churches, they might very well say, ‘We will take care of the milk and the dog, but give us a God that can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves’.
What is it we cannot do for ourselves? We can’t rid ourselves of sin, lift from ourselves the sentence of God’s condemnation, or prepare ourselves to stand acceptably in the presence of a holy God.
But through the Lord Jesus Christ, God forgives sinners, cancels the sentence of condemnation, and declares those sinners guiltless.
While so many pursue a ‘God’ who specialises in trivia, the Bible calls us to pursue the God who specialises in salvation. This is true Christianity!
A few years ago, Michael Horton, a professor in California, wrote a book entitled Christless Christianity. Some undoubtedly responded to that title by saying, ‘That’s nonsense. You can’t have Christianity without Christ!’
And that’s the sharp point of the book! When you take Christ out of Christianity, you have something, but it is no longer Christianity. Let’s just call it ‘i-anity’, which, by the way, is only one ‘n’ away from ‘inanity’, that is ‘a lack of substance’ or ‘shallowness’.
There you have it! Christianity without Christ is shallow and empty. While it professes to be profound, it is far from it.
There are two things that every true believer in Christ should dread above everything else. One is a Christless Bible and the other is a cross-less Christ. ‘I-anity’ offers us both! It takes Christ out of the Bible and makes the sermon a sort of miscellaneous collection of tips and guidelines for living better.
When ‘i-anity’ does give us one of its infrequent mentions of Christ, it is not the Christ who endured the wrath of God on the cross for sinners. It is rather the ‘Christ’ who helps us implement the guidelines.
Christianity, on the other hand, rightly sees Christ as the subject of the whole Bible (Luke 24:27,44) and rightly emphasises that Christ came to this earth to die on that cross and there is no hope for salvation except in that redeeming death.