Thursday, September 8, 2011
Loss of Sanctification
At what point in our history did Evangelical churches gain the reputation as being judgmental, legalistic, unloving and unconcerned for the world's affairs? In his 1979 classic, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace says that this began to happen when Evangelical churches began focusing less and less on sanctification, i.e. spiritual renewal in the Christian life and began focusing more on "cultic legal codes of separation" instead (Dynamics, p. 235). As a result, "socially concerned churchmen" began to find themselves pitted against "Fundamentalists concerned mainly for conversion and code moralism" (Dynamics, p. 235). "...there would have been less excuse for it (this division between emphasizing salvation versus social concern) if the Evangelical church had been pursuing sanctification, rooting out pride, race prejudice, covetous immersion in affluence and all the deeper forms of sin which easily hide beneath a cover of pharisaic respectability. After all, the major argument many Protestant liberals have against 'supernatural conversion experienced' is the distinctly natural lives led by many 'born again' congregations" (Dynamics, p. 235). Lovelace's observation is extremely convicting- an argument against believing in the message of born again Christians by observing the lives of those professing to believe in that message. Lovelace implies that the rejection of our message is often due to the lack of transformed lives committed to rooting out pride and self-righteousness, perhaps too much an emphasis on "conversion" and not enough on the role of spiritual renewal, growth and sanctification, sanctification not merely as a theological concept but as a living reality.