A Shocking Conclusion about American Christianity

I haven’t seen too much of this in action because I haven’t been around long enough. My most recent experience in this vein:

  • A family that has been coming to our church for a few months approached me and said they wanted to join the church. He is saved, she is not. They came from a Nazarene church. They weren’t members, but have been sort of drifting around, unsure what to do. They did know they didn’t like the Nazarene church.
  • I asked, “why not?” He replied, “They didn’t preach from the Bible. The Pastor read one or two verses, talked for just a minute, then we sang for 45 minutes.”
  • This man is newly saved and his wife is not. Yet, they are more than intelligent enough to realize that this Nazarene church wasn’t teaching the Bible. They knew they had to go elsewhere.

It frightens me to think of how many other churches there are out there like this. The churches in my circles preach and teach the Bible, so it is sometimes jarring when reality intrudes like this!

Is the idea of sound, expository preaching really so much in the minority, or is the danger being blown out of proportion? Do any of you have similar experiences?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

We have attended most or all the churches in our area that we would consider joining. I can honestly say that only two or three have anything approximating expositional preaching. There is an IFCA church that has ok preaching and a reformed baptist that is half good (two elders: one is good the other abysmal).

I personally attribute a lot of the problem to lack of educational preparation by the pastors. I realize there are the Spurgeons of the world but that is the exception to the rule. Pastors are confronted with enormous challenges and they need as much preparation as possible. I once heard a conference speaker say that we are seeing the fruits of unprepared ministries and I would have to agree with him. Also with respect to the article it would seem that where doctrine and objective Biblical truth is not emphasized things quickly degenerate into moralism.

Edit: I remembered there is actually one other IFCA church that also has ok preaching. What is interesting there is that the pastor used to preach for about twenty minutes and now he is up to thirty plus.

I do apologize for posting…but the word “moralism” has popped up around many times in the last few weeks. Josh, you just used it. Can you, or others, define it? I suspect it is a HEAVILY LOADED word that means something like “teaching hypocrisy”, “people that teach surface righteousness”, etc. If you feel it is off topic for the thread you can PM me. Really, I want to know what this word means (yes…I looked it up in the dictionary. I don’t mean that. I mean what does it mean when someone criticizes IFB, or fundamentalism in general)…ie just as josh p used it.


I think he meant the term as the author of the linked piece used it, where “Christianity” no longer has any specific, objective claims but has degenerated into a squishy, warm-hearted, therapeutic thing. I think this definition of “moral, therapeutic deism” from the linked article, and specifically #2, gets to what the word “moralism” means in this context:

  • 1) A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth
  • 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions
  • 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself
  • 4) God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem
  • 5) Good people go to heaven when they die

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

but that definition of moralism is just a “lite” one that comes from new evangelicalism. When moralism is generally used, it goes something like this, “at BJU the school is more interested in moralism than teaching us to live a life like Christ”. I think Josh meant this one rather than the one you suggested from the article. I could be wrong.

I guess there are 2 types of moralism:

​1- Is like a Joel Osteen, saccharine, “why can’t we all get along”.

2- Jack Hyles like that teaches rules without grace.

Mark you are wrong. I meant the word as used in the article. That’s what I was interacting with although not very clearly perhaps. My usage of the word does not come from “new-evangelicalism”. It predates that time significantly.

Maybe I am completely wrong. Can someone help me.

Moralism on this thread means “let’s just be nice to one another” which I HAVE NEVER THOUGHT THAT IS WHAT THE TERM MEANT. I always thought it was more negative and pejorative than that. When someone says IFB (or BJU, etc) churches are practicing “moralism”, is this thread’s definition what they mean? I get the feeling they mean that they are preaching petty rules above and beyond the command of Scripture and perhaps in defiance of Scripture. For example, BJU is said by some to be moralist. Someone might say “When I was there they put me on report ‘cuz my hair was 1/4 inch too long. They’re teaching moralism over there.”

A secular example, “The Tea Party is full of a bunch of moralists”.

I guess the definition is probably pretty varied depending upon the context. I don’t believe this thread’s usage of moralism is exactly the same as the way you are using it but I have not used it that way so I am not sure. The way I think of it is the way Tyler used it. Morals that stem not from an expression of love for God but because they are the actual focus of one’s religious practice. That is how I use the term but it might not be totally accurate.

[josh p]

Also with respect to the article it would seem that where doctrine and objective Biblical truth is not emphasized things quickly degenerate into moralism.


it would seem that your reading of Josh’s comments was not very thorough. His statement clearly specifies that his use of the term moralism relates directly to its use in the article itself, and his explanatory remarks indicate that this moralism is a danger where “doctrine” and “objective Biblical truth” are not emphasized. Frankly, I know nothing of BJU from first-hand experience, but what I do know suggests that a lack of doctrine or emphasis on objective Biblical truth is not an issue there.

I was looking for an understanding of the broader use of the word “moralism” than this article was using it as. I was looking for help from the community here at SI to come to grips with how the word “moralism” is used since I did not go to BJU myself either, yet the word is regularly applied to that institution, and IFB in general. I was not attacking josh p at all, in any possible way. I thought he was using it in the pejorative way I generally hear the word “moralism” or “moralist” used. I misread what he wrote.

The point remains, does anyone have any comments on the BROADER USE of the word “moralism” as a criticism of conservatives in general, or IFB, or BJU? Please PM me if you think that is off topic.

O Never mind. Have a good day. I’ll seek Godly counsel somewhere else.

Mark, just so you I am not at all offended. Sorry that I can’t speak to your concern of the way “moralism” is applied to IFB because I have not used it that way.

Mark Smith, I haven’t seen IFB or BJU accused of “moralism” until your post. I don’t know what moralism is either. People often accuse us of “legalism”. Is that what you mean?

I apologize for bothering you all with this. I hear the word “moralist” a lot, but I am a faculty member at a secular university. (You “haven’t lived” until you have seen a male over-the-top liberal biology professor who is the faculty senate president get accused of being sexist by a feminist professor in a faculty meeting! The ensuing chaos is both exciting and scary at the same time.) The faculty use it a lot when referring to laws, the Tea Party/Republicans, etc. I hear it locally used against anti-abortion laws. I hear it a lot on political shows (the Sunday shows: Meet the Press, etc…I watch on replay Sunday afternoon). I then was refreshing my memory of the Chuck Phelps/Tina incident to come to grips with dealing with sexual abuse in the church so I was visiting some decidedly anti-BJU websites where the term is applied to BJU. Of course that extends to the guy kicked out for watching Glee, etc…

Anyway, it seems that “the world” uses “moralist/moralism” to mean “anyone who tries to impose their moral convictions on everyone else”. I should have left it there.

Have a blessed day.