‘Christian’ agnosticism and trendy nihilism

By Hanne Nabintu Herland

Western culture is now characterized by a remarkably strong nihilism, the moral philosophy that claims that there is no higher meaning to life than selfish pleasures. The true Christian ideal of loving one another and seeking justice for all – the poor, the weak, the fatherless – is dramatically out of fashion, as a drug and free-sex culture engulf the core of our society. The breakdown of traditional morality since the 1960s has dramatically changed the way we see the world, decline and chaos now observed on almost every level, including inside the church.

The recent conversion to agnosticism by Hillsong’s leader Marty Sampson and author Joshua Harris, demonstrate how “Christian communities” are following the same nihilistic trends as society in general. The hedonist attitude is prevalent: When it “feels pleasurable” to pretend to worship God, when it brings glory and fame to that particular Christian leader, he is happy “performing church.” But when it “does not feel good anymore” and his desires change, he quits the faith. This is the very definition of nihilism, the pursuit of pleasure and the denial of self-sacrifice. It represents the very opposite of the core Christian ideals of taking up one’s cross, striving to live a life in compassion, humility and self-restraint.

When the church becomes a secular institution where whatever pleasurable is good to go, the “church” fundamentally changes character. It is no longer a spiritual fellowship, but a social club that practices whatever is contemporary culture. Its leaders that might as well turn atheist, as the fellowship becomes just another “culture club.”

The general public seems to hate this development. European surveys show that the vast majority – around 80 percent – of the population say that they believe in Jesus Christ, but hardly anyone – 2-3 percent – goes to church. It is too often a drop-dead boring secular experience, devoid of spiritual content with preachers who mainly preach psychology. Church leaders like Marty Sampson probably never even experienced true spiritualism and was left in his “Christian hell” made up of beautiful music for so long that he just had to come clean, now saying he is not a follower of Christ after all. In that sense, it is refreshing to see how nihilist Christians at least leave the faith publicly instead of continuing their venomously theatrical hypocrisy.

It is a trend that growing number of believers in Christ leave the “churches” in the West. They feel that these congregational halls have become devoid of spiritual power. Authors George Barna and David Kinnaman have pointed out that churchless people are growing in numbers in the U.S. In “Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” they reveal the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of previous churchgoers, many saying that they find the church to be a place where one is not able to connect to God.

Many believers now choose to gather in small home-based churches – in houses, just as St Paul recommended in his letters to the early church. Many turn to Orthodox Christianity. The Orthodox monk and saint Elder Porphyrios said:

We are true Christians when we have a profound sense that we are members of the mystical body of Christ, of the Church, in an unbroken relationship of love – when we live united in Christ, that is when we experience unity in His Church with a sense of oneness. This is why Christ prays to His Father saying, that they may be one.

St Augustine of Hippo also explained the idea of the church as the spiritual body of Christ, as a spiritual unification between men and God, as illustrated by the Holy Communion. This is one of the deep spiritual mysteries that connects the church to Christ in a union that gives the carnal man his hope to escape the evils of this world.

Today church attendance is far too often about lovely music, mellow speeches by unapproachable, chronically smiling priests and pastors in expensive gowns, where no one is challenged by anything either said or done. So what is a church, if it is not the social music club of people like Marty Sampson? Is it a secular, cultural entity with an ever-changing content decided by contemporary “filthy rich star preachers”? Or a metaphysical body of Christ on earth, a spiritual entity, symbolizing God’s unity with humans?

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