In 1797 William Wilberforce published "A Practical View of the Prevailing Religion System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity." Bob Belz has revised and updated Wilberforce's book in modern language for those who are not used to or willing to read the more lengthy writings of our forbears. He calls it "Real Christianity".
Wilberforce's heart cry was to what he called cultural Christians. People who consider themselves "a "good" person and are against "bad" things" and believe their faith to be adequate. People who "might understand the Christianity our culture has adopted without understanding what constitutes authentic faith." People who "know some of the basic facts about Christianity but have no idea how those facts should apply to your life."
Wilberforce continues: "Do cultural Christians view Christian faith as important enough to make it a priority when teaching their children what they believe and why they believe it? Or do they place greater emphasis on their children getting a good education than on learning about the things of God? Would they be embarrassed if their children did not posses the former while basically being indifferent about the latter? If their children have any understanding of Christian faith at all, they probably have acquired it on their own. If the children view themselves as Christians, it is probably not because they have studied the facts and come to a point of intellectual conviction but because their family is Christian, so they believe they must be Christians also.
The problem with this way of thinking is that authentic faith cannot be inherited. When Christianity is viewed in this way, intelligent and energetic young men and women will undoubtedly reach a point where they question the truth of Christianity and, when challenged, will abandon this "inherited" faith that they cannot defend. They might begin to associate with peers who are unbelievers. In this company, they will find themselves unable to intelligently respond to objections to Christianity with which they are confronted. Had they really known what they believe and why they believe it, these kinds of encounters would not shake their faith one bit."
Wilberforce comments, "I fear for the future of authentic faith in our country. We live in a time when the common man in our country is thoroughly influenced by the current climate in which the cultural and educational elite propagates an anti-Christian message."
Throughout his book Wilberforce remarks how the "majority of so-called Christians have such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess." He remarks that the conduct of these professing Christians "is not measured against the standard set by the gospel. They have developed their own philosophies, which they attempt to pawn off as Christian faith."
I urge you to read his writings either in the original or in the updated version. It makes you feel that Wilberforce is alive and writing today. It makes you wish that all the people calling themselves Christians in our nation would read it and at least learn intellectually that they are not practicing authentic faith, probably because they do not have it. It makes you understand more pointedly that real Christianity is not about going out and grabbing all the lost and getting them through the church doors. It is about receiving the grace of God for salvation and for living true faith. It is about living faithful lives day in and day out in the calling God gave you and most especially in your own families. It is about building faithful families, raising faithful children, building faithful churches, and thus following God's program for church growth, missions, and nation building.
--posted by Queen Lucy