We must not forget that the idea of Progress puts the best face on paganism by which the spirit of the age can seep into the church creating a poisonous ethos if vigilance is not maintained. We must not think that just because we still read our Bible and use Christian speak that we are immune to the corrosive ethos of consumerism which is presented as the path to happiness without God.
This is the second post on Christianity and Progress. In the last post, the thesis advanced was that evangelicals unintentionally have created an ethos within the community of faith that runs counter to the content of a biblical worldview. This ethos of consumerism is the child of the idea of Progress that new is preferred to old. This corrosive mantra subtly finds its way into evangelicalism through the emphasis in many sermons and programs by the use of language straight from consumerism. Consumerism promoted on the allure of the new. It entails living for the next moment, because that is where the new is and what is new is preferred to what we have. It is an ethos that makes us restless and feeds the desire for the new—new dress, new gadget or for the evangelical, something new and exciting for the church. Philosophically naïve, evangelicals go on their merry way thinking that because they preach from the Bible, they are not victims of the corrosive nature of consumerism. However, this ethos that continues to infest the church in turn influences how the message preached is understood by those living in that ethos. The ethos itself is subversive to the spiritual life of the Christian which means that the net gain of right preaching is serious diminished along with how Christians order their lives. By uncritically accepting the cultural ideals of Progress which create the ethos of consumerism, the Christian uniqueness as the called-out people of God falls victim on two counts. One, it legitimizes the very idea that undermines the authority of Christ in the church. Two, in accepting certain technology and business models for the church alters the biblical realities of the Christian community. As this happens, technique supplants prayer and the way of the Holy Spirit.
Consider what happens when the church accepts the controlling ideas of efficiency and convenience in the name of ministerial progress, or maybe the better word is success? The ethos created to varying degrees mimics the ethos found in the shopping mall. Here the Gospel becomes the product and people become consumers to be wooed. Underneath it all is the crass commitment to pragmatism where the end justifies the means.