One of the most commonly cited grievances against Christianity is the hypocrisy of its believers. I doubt there is anyone, Christian or non-Christian who has not encountered such hypocrisy. I certainly have. In fact, I’ve been that Christian. The incidences of public moral failures don’t help the case either. Yes, there is hypocrisy amid the body of Christ.
But I think there’s another kind of hypocrisy afoot that gets little notice. In fact, I’d say, it’s gaining widespread acceptance. If we consider what hypocrisy means. Merriam Webster provides these definitions.
1) The behavior the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do: behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.
2) Feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially; the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.
The second definition is what I want to focus on. I’m coming to the conclusion that hypocrisy is not just Christians who behave in contradiction to what they profess they believe they Bible says. Another kind of hypocrisy is non-Christians who embrace the Bible but reject it’s author – Jesus Christ. It’s quoting Scripture for life application but rejecting the One who gives life. It’s being spiritual but not Christian and using the Bible as some kind of inspirational talisman. It’s saying “God” but not “Christ” and portraying a form of Christianity. In a way, it’s like stealing-going into a store and taking stuff without paying for it. That’s thievery and it’s hypocrisy.
The Bible is about Christ. All Scripture points to him. If we consider the holistic message of all 66 books it’s God creating and redeeming his creation after its fall. Redemption happens only through Christ. The Old Testament pointed to him with types and symbols, foreshadowing his person and work. The New Testament proclaims his advent in the incarnation and what that means for those who accept him. Belief in the Son is crucial to receiving the promises proclaimed in Scripture.
The book of John alone emphasizes this crucial aspect, with the opening “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (1:1-2). The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). All the miracles he performed was for the purpose of belief in who he was. Why did the Jews get so miffed with him? Because he claimed to be God.
This was why the Jews were seeking to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:18-19)
Scripture testifies to Christ, as John notes, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30). Luke emphasizes the equation of belief in Christ with Scripture. On the road to Emmaus, when Jesus reveals himself to the two disciples, “and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) In other words, Jesus was showing them that everything proclaimed from the Prophets and written in the Law was about him, hence his fulfillment of the Law and Prophets (Matt. 5:17; 22:40; Luke 16:16). The apostles proclaim this testimony, explaining what this Christ event meant in relation to the promises given in the Old Testament. That’s what the epistles are about. We can’t just break them up into disconnected pieces and grab whatever suits our needs.
I believe the reasons for this hypocrisy are multi-faceted and interdependent. Expounding on them would take a book. But in a nutshell, contemporary evangelicalism has produced the fragmentation of Bible reading infused with non-Christ-centered inspiration. Snippets of Scripture are used to help one’s life and used devotionally for inspiration. That’s fine but it has to be placed on the proper foundation built on the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). This is why I will always be a strong advocate for robust Bible study that aims at understanding the 66 books holistically.
The absence of Christ-Centered preaching is another issue. Sermons are reduced to life principles based on stories and sayings in the Bible disconnected from its root – God’s redemptive work through the Son. So many preachers would rather devise a message and cherry pick verses OR use Bible stories as examples (see this article on The Bible is More Than Examples). When seekers are not provided with the full picture, grabbing snippets of passages for life principles is a natural consequence.
It is no wonder then when those who reject Christ take portions of the Bible and use it for their life inspiration. This is especially telling when very public “Christian” teachers are praised for their messages from those who actually find the gospel offensive. To be sure, the gospel is offensive to those who don’t believe. Because believing the gospel means acknowledgment of Jesus Christ – his person and work. It means rejection of philosophies that put the rudder of one’s righteousness in their own hands and “deciding” what they want to believe about the Bible.
But you can’t claim the promises of Scripture without proclaiming its author. If you don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, don’t say you believe the Bible or claim promises that don’t belong to you. Those are strong words, I know. But to claim a form of Christianity without the substance of Christianity is hypocrisy indeed.
I actually have more respect for the atheist or agnostic who reject Christianity and subsequently, its teaching through Scripture. That shows integrity.