You can always tell when the Christian faith starts going downhill big time: it starts going to the dogs – literally. A recent headline to this effect caught my attention, and it is as staggering as it is indicative of a church which has really lost its way.
The news item was short, but offered enough information to confirm that some of our denominations have so totally and comprehensively lost the plot, that it probably is time to put some of these groups out of their misery. Here is how the story of one Melbourne Uniting Church was covered:
“Melbourne’s mutts, get ready to put on your Sunday-best behaviour. A church service will be held next month – complete with reworked hymns – in praise of the humble hound. ‘It is all part of our appreciation for what our dogs do for us,’ organiser Margaret Howse said. Scores of dogs are expected to attend as more people take the attitude that owning a pooch is not just caring for a pet, but opening the door to a new member of their family.”
We are also informed that a “music group will lead the singalong service to honour all dogs”. Also, “Money raised through the collection will benefit the Lort Smith Animal Hospital.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against dogs. I even have one, and quite enjoy her company – for the most part. And I have two cats, which also can be fun to have around. And there certainly are plenty of dog lovers in this nation. And other pets too would be a source of joy, comfort and companionship.
But let me point out just a few obvious facts. Every day around the world thousands of people are dying and heading to a lost eternity. All around us people are living broken, needy and sin-addicted lives. Society is going down the tubes with massive assaults on faith, family and life.
Yet it seems the best this particular church can do is spend an entire day getting worked up about dogs. What is wrong with this picture? Why has a Christian denomination come to such a place, where its priorities have gotten so horrendously askew?
The truth is, whenever a church or a denomination abandons the basic and essential aspects of the gospel, then it inevitably will head in such a direction as this. And the Uniting Church in Australia has sadly been on this suicidal path for some decades now.
It has long ago renounced the core teachings of Scripture. Indeed, it has long ago ceased to regard the Bible as inerrant, authoritative, and reliable. Thus it has jettisoned key Christian teachings such as the vital importance of the saving work of Christ.
The need to tell lost sinners that they are heading to hell, unless they repent and receive the atoning work of Christ on their behalf has been replaced by a trendy social gospel which any secular leftist would be quite proud of. Indeed, whenever we read of some radical social engineering being advocated in Australia, you can almost be certain to find some Uniting Church minister or leader happily endorsing it.
When you abandon historical biblical Christianity and replace it with a hodgepodge of trendy social issues, leftist politics, and humanistic platitudes, then you are clearly outside of the faith once delivered by the fathers. You have now become just another trendy social club, tickling the ears of those who want everything but a risen Christ who died for our sins.
Nearly 60 years ago H. Richard Niebuhr warned about such downward directions. He said this in his 1953 volume, The Kingdom of God in America: “The liberal gospel consists of a God without wrath bringing people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”
That is a pretty good description of where the Uniting Church is today. Abandoning clear biblical teachings in an effort to be “relevant” and up with the times, it has become forever out of date. It is just another predictable social group which is indistinguishable from any other secular social club.
Of course given all that, it is not at all surprising that an entire Sunday service will be spent on celebrating canines. And why not? That is just as good and vital as anything else. Indeed, we can expect that in future weeks all sorts of other key themes will be celebrated.
Perhaps they will have a celebrate stamp collecting day sometime soon. After all, a lot of people are comforted and relaxed by such activities. Or maybe they can devote an entire Sunday to the joys of gardening. Or maybe have a celebratory service on wine tasting. All worthy candidates for a whole Sunday morning I would think.
In fact, even I could get into a celebrating donuts day. They could not only sing about these delightful objects, and preach a great sermon about them, but they could provide the congregation with plenty of free Krispy Kreme donuts, and maybe even use them in place of the communion wafers.
After all, I just heard a tragic news item today that Krispy Kreme is in financial difficulty and may not have a viable economic future. Now that would be a worthy social justice project to embark upon. It would be right up the alley for the UCA. One could soothe one’s social justice conscience, and have a great feed along the way.
Really, the possibilities are endless. Once we have chucked out the core biblical gospel, we can replace it with just about anything. The UCA has proven that this is more than possible. So for those of you tired of hearing about Jesus dying for your sins, don’t despair. You can establish your own church, and celebrate whatever enters your mind – anything that tickles your fancy. If the UCA can get away with it, why not any of us?
I close on a more serious note. There are of course plenty of UCA folks who are quite fed up with the direction this denomination has been travelling in lately. Thus a number of breakaway groups have already been established. They take seriously their Bibles and the Christian gospel. More power to them. And some other concerned members are staying within the UCA, hoping to bring it back to where it should be.
Whether they will be successful in such an endeavour remains to be seen. Sometimes a church or denomination goes so far off the rails, that rehabilitation and restoration may well be impossible. But I leave it for those in this denomination to ascertain what the best option is: fight or flight.