The quote below was written by a Jewish rabbi and theologian in 1955—thats two years after I was born. And yet, this process has continued, not just for Judaism, but also for Western Christianity.
I hear complaints all the time about the decline of Christian influence in the societies of western culture. by Christians who blame it on increased secularism, the agenda of cultural elites, and the distortion of media for its losses, but we really need look no further than a mirror that reflects how we’ve taken the wonder of the Gospel and reduced it to another human-engineered religion.
It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.
Abraham Joshua Heschel in God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be consigned to a creed, a discipline, or a habit; it is a real relationship with the Living God and when it loses that, it has nothing left to offer those around it. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1910, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (
When I read voices from the past challenging the irrelevance of our faith so clearly, I am amazed they had no impact. These are not obscure quotes. They are very well known, but nonetheless ignored, and the wonder of the Gospel is even more obscured in our culture today, far more by the emptiness of our religious structures than anything the world has done.
What the world needs to see is not more religion, but a people won into the love of a gracious Father, learning to walk alongside him in the unfolding circumstances of life, and being so transformed over time that in word and character they are gracious and compassionate to all, with no need to manipulate those around them, forgiving when wronged, aware of the needs of others and willing to lay down their lives for the good of another.
That’s the kingdom Jesus foresaw and its one most of the people in our day have yet to see.