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Application – the evangelical cure-all



Like coathangers, we own a hundred bibles but have no idea how they came to be ours.  One of them is called a "Life Application Bible." 

As far as I can tell, it exists in order to footnote every biblical indicative so that a moral imperative may be added.  This is, we are assured, the cure to our spiritual malaise.  Just listen to this endorsement on the back cover:

Evangelical Christianity is suffering from an acute case of spiritual malnutrition.  The symptom is well known - defection in personal standards of living.  The cure - Vitamin A - application of God's Word.

This remedy is both refreshing and realistic, calculated to change the will.  Not merely satisfying curiosity or making us smarter sinners, the Scriptures were given to make us more like Jesus Christ.


What's the understanding of the bible here?  The Spirit's testimony to the Son?  Christ's love-letter to His bride?  The deposit of faith given to the church for the sake of proclaiming Christ to the world?  No.  At base the bible is, apparently, given for individual piety.

What kind of anthropology is this?  Change the will and you'll correct the 'defection in standards of living.'  ! 

What kind of salvation is offered?  Apparently we are not to become merely 'smarter sinners' - well what then?  Do we become subtler sinners?  more self-righteous sinners?  self-satisfied sinners?  There's one option that is assuredly closed to us - that of ceasing to be sinners!  So why not a smarter sinner?

This approach to Scripture and to Christian faith is not good.  And yet, doesn't this kind of thinking throb away beneath much of what passes for evangelicalism?  Isn't the majority of 'evangelical' preaching informed by just such beliefs?  I'd say our spiritual malnutrition is not because of a lack of this kind of application.  We're spiritually anaemic precisely because we have turned the Scriptures into moralistic or therapeutic self-help.  No wonder other Christians deride us as simplistic legalists.

For a thought on what good application is, go here.


0 thoughts on “Application – the evangelical cure-all

  1. Rich Owen

    Glen is angry - this must be an April fool gag...

    What is perhaps more worrying is that those would have been considered thoughts, the careful condensation of their philosophy into pithy blurb. "This is what best describes what we are doing"


  2. glenscriv

    No gags here.

    I'm off to a conference for a little while. Not sure when I'll be able to blog again. In the meantime, anyone asking for nuance and balance to this post will have to imagine my thoughtful and humble retractions and rapprochement. Every comment beginning, 'Yes but...' and 'What about...' I grant in full. And to that 'Yes, but...' I reiterate my 'Please no!'

  3. bobby grow

    This is no surprise. This is the result of following Thomistic Christianity --- fake it tell you make it --- outside/in --- you know, man . . . the habitus ;-). Didn't you know that grace completes nature?

    Enjoy the conference.

  4. Otepoti

    Coathangers have Bibles? ! Well, that puts a whole new spin on "But thou, when thou prayest, go into thy closet"...

    Christian greetings,

    Otepoti, still reading.

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