What do I mean by The Americanization Of the Gospel? There are two issues.
The Commercialization of the Gospel
The first issue regarding The Americanization of the Gospel is there is a preponderance of relying on the commercialization of the gospel, saying and doing what sells and ignoring what will not. This has resulted in the keep-it-simple-stupid syndrome. Years ago, a young man came up to me after a message I preached and told me, “If you can’t hit oil in twenty minutes, stop drilling.” More recently I was challenged because I was “getting off into the weeds.”
It is easy to say, I believe in verbal, plenary, inspiration. It is another to look past the commercialized, keep-it-simple-stupid, and do an in-depth study of God’s Word. There is a heavy reliance on what others are teaching rather than thinking for ourselves. And what others are thinking is what sells. Consequently, there has been a dumbing down of the Body of Christ.
Not everyone has the privilege of a seminary education and learning the basics of Bible exegesis, interpretation, and exposition from the original language. But those who do should have a place at the table. Otherwise, we end up with intellectual dishonesty and theological error.
When I refer to The Americanization of the Gospel, what I mean is there is the tendency to play down the importance of doctrine because it does not sell. “Ministry,” whatever that means, is too important and time-consuming to “study to show yourself approved unto God.”[i] (Emphasis mine)
If one is called to a ministry and does not have the same tools God has given others, at least he/she should be humble before God and seek out those who have been given the tools and the gifts and who use them effectively.
In summary regarding this first element in the Americanization of the Gospel, saying “I believe in verbal, plenary, God-breathed, Scripture in the Autograph” is not enough, if it is not utilized for exegesis and sound doctrine (“Sound” – hugiaino, Eng. healthy, and didaskalia, “teaching”, referring to both content and method).
Context, Context, Context
The second issue regarding The Americanization of the Gospel is context. Every context is important. Neither Church History nor Higher Criticism, which extends the bounds of the meaning of the text, can be relied on for exegesis. They can only tell us what man’s doctrine is but may lead us away from God’s doctrine.
On the other hand, every context of Scripture is important: Historical, Geographical, words and word order, the immediate context, the context of the Old and New Testaments, the context of the whole Bible. Remember, A term is a word without a context. A word is a term with a context. To properly exegete a text, every context must be considered.
The Body of Christ needs to wake up to anti-intellectualism and downright intellectual dishonesty, both products of the Americanization of the gospel, wherever they exist.
For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.[ii]
[i] 2 Tim 2:15 (KJV).
[ii] 2 Cor 2:17.