Many observers claim that American Evangelicalism preaches a “therapeutic gospel”. This observation is not intended as a compliment by those who make it – it is an accusation and an indictment of the way faith is practiced by many believers. And it is an accusation made by those within the movement of Evangelicalism — not by its critics.
The therapeutic gospel is a defective gospel according to those who coined the phrase. I don’t know when I first ran across this formulation but, once I heard it, I began to encounter it frequently.
Well … what else is new? Nothing seems to propagate so fast in the Evangelical community as another cause for self-loathing. Homo evangelicalus is an inveterate critic who is always sounding the alarm about the next big thing that is going to destroy the faith and render Christianity impudent.
I want to delve into the therapeutic gospel accusation. I hope to persuade you that it is a misguided allegation that is destructive of true faith. And I want to argue that whatever weakness there is in the Evangelical community comes more from the teaching of those who make the therapeutic gospel accusation than from those who adhere to it.
This is a big topic so I won’t put it all in one post. Seriously – if I put it all down here in one blog post, you’d have to take a sabbatical to read it. I know you like me but nobody has that kind of time. Plus, putting this out in small chucks will probably lead to more discussion.
When I started the Two Kingdoms blog back in December of 2007, the “therapeutic gospel” was the topic on which I most wanted to pontificate. I’ve made many attempts prior to this but kept getting bogged down. So I’m telling my perfectionist streak to take a hike and putting this out even thought it is not all perfectly clear in my own head. There is probably some benefit in accepting a messier process.
So stay tuned.