Written by Nicole Clark, King University, Religions of the World
Nicole Clark is an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at King University. Her greatest hope is to glorify the Lord with her life and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Modern American Christianity
Almost 1,700 years after the Council at Nicaea affirmed one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity about Jesus’s deity and humanness, I sometimes wonder if the modern American Christian message looks anything like that of the early Christian church. I see a few noticeable differences today that might shock the early church leaders. The boldest of which is the step away from the most basic premise of Christianity, that there is just one God. There has also been a shift in the attitude towards wealth and the hope of what heaven will be.
- Monotheism is a little blurry.
The most fundamental belief in Christianity is the belief that there is just one God who created and continues to maintain all things. Kenneth Copeland and the Word of Life movement have blurred the lines of what monotheism means today in order to give people the power to speak change into their own lives. Men like Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Creflo Dollar point to Psalm 86:2, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” as proof that believers are God and can act in the power of God as well. Verses such as Jer. 10:6, “there is none like You, O Lord” and 1 Sam. 2:2, “there is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You” contradict the claim that man can be anything like God.
To claim oneself as Holy or having the power to speak something into existence goes against the basic premise of Christianity. Colossians 1:16 states, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” There is but one God, and the Bible affirms that He alone created everything. In Isaiah 64:8, God’s people are described as “the clay” and He as “the potter.” The created thing cannot be equal in power to the creator and to suggest otherwise changes the God of the Bible into a mere idol of man’s own desires.
- The pursuit of wealth is now a core message.
In the quest to have eternal life, a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him what he must do. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus told the man, “sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus’s message of self-sacrifice was too much for the young man, and sadly, he walked away without the assurance of true faith. Jesus’s message of sacrifice and devotion to God has drastically changed over time.
The largest and most popular churches in the U.S. now preach that “it’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty” and not live in debt (Joel Osteen). God indeed desires for his people to prosper, but not in temporal and earthly ways. Jesus told his followers not to focus on earthly treasures, but instead focus on heavenly and eternal rewards (Matt. 6:19-21). Even more condemning of worldly riches, Jesus warned that a person “cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:24). There can be only one master of the heart.
- Heaven is the new vacation hotspot.
Another aspect of Christianity that has changed is this newly revised vision of what Heaven is going to be like for individuals. The Bible says, in heaven, there will be no more sin and believers will be in the presence of God (Rev. 21:4-8). However, the modern American version of heaven has little to do with finally being free of sin and worshipping God and more to do with living in luxury. It’s not much of a surprise that America’s third-richest pastor, Benny Hinn, paints a picture of heaven as an extravagant city surrounded with jewels and gold with little mention of heaven’s true purpose. Jesus promises eternal life in heaven for believers who confess that Christ is the Son of God who was the propitiation for the sins of his people. Heaven, however, is not a shiny bejeweled vacation spot where people can indulge themselves in their greatest desires. Heaven is the dwelling place of a Holy God. Fellowship and worship of God in heaven should be the heart’s desire of every Christian.
Humankind seems destined to twist the Holy Scriptures to fit their own ideas and desires. When I look at Christianity today, I wonder how the most fundamental beliefs got manipulated and lost. If Christianity is to be based on the monotheistic principle that there truly is only one God, then there must be reverence for that and man must stop trying to make himself into his own idol. In the quest for a perfect and prosperity filled life, Jesus warns that there is room for just one master in a person’s life. We should never lose site of the call to repentance and faithful obedience to the one true God, the God of the Bible. Only then will we have a right view of wealth and ultimately, heaven.
For a more detailed review of what the modern American Christian message looks like today, I highly recommend the 2018 documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone (a condensed version is available on YouTube).
American Gospel: Christ Alone. Directed by Brandon Kimber, Transition Studios, 2018.
Bennet, Karen. “The Shocking Net Worth of These 10 Richest Pastors Will Blow Your Mind.” Cheat Sheet. 31 Jan. 2019 https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/net-worth-richest-pastors-will-blow-your-mind.html/
“Heaven.” Find Shepard, 5 Aug. 2019, https://www.findshepherd.com/bible-verses-about-entering-the-kingdom-of-heaven.html.
Hinn, Benny. “A Most Beautiful Teaching on Heaven. You’re Going to Love it!” YouTube, uploaded by Benny Hinn Ministries, 11 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3nJHy7fOjw.
Hudson, Don Michael. Foundations of Christian Thought and Practice: Selected Readings and Workbook. E-book, Pulp Press, 2013.
“Promised Land.” My Olive Tree, 2020, https://www.myolivetree.com/prophetic-reasons-to-plant/,
Kenneth Copeland Ministries. 2020. https://www.kcm.org.
“Money.” The Order of Preachers, 11 Oct. 2015, https://orderofpreachersindependent.org/2015/10/11/riches-the-rev-deacon-scott-brown-opi/.
“One God.” Bible Timeline, 2020, https://bibletimeline.org.uk/additional-reading/an-age-of-pluralism.