When you hear the term “moralism” and it is used as a negative thing, what is your reaction? After all, what can be wrong with morals? Isn’t a lot of the problem with our culture due to a catastrophic slide in morality?
There is, of course, nothing wrong with good morals and, yes, we have witnessed a tragic decline in morality in America. A culture which fights for the “right” of a boy who thinks he is a girl to use the girls’ restroom and tells the offended girls that they need to learn to deal with it is a culture which has lost almost all sense of morality, not to mention common sense.
People are rightly concerned about the abysmally low level of morality in America. The problem, though, occurs when a concern for morality is confused with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Moralism is a belief system when emphasizes the overarching importance of morality. Being a good person, emphasizing morality, being with like-minded people, and seeking to convert others to your view of morality are all characteristic of moralism. In truth, moralism is another gospel, and that should be a cause for great concern.
Moralism is what characterizes most churches in America today, and we Baptists are no exception. All moralists do not hold to the same set of moral values, but they all see morality, at least their conception of morality, as fundamental. When someone tells you, “We don’t need to get hung up on doctrine. We just need to be good people and have great relationships,” you are listening to a moralist, and that’s not a good thing.
The great danger of moralism is that it replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, moralism is the antithesis of the gospel because the moralist essentially believes that he is right with God because he is a moral person, though he may deny that and invoke his need for Jesus. The gospel, however, reveals that our efforts at self-reformation and our seeking to be righteous are fraught with sin (Isaiah 64:6). Our being accepted by God is due solely to God’s counting us righteous through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (see Romans 4 and 5; also 2 Corinthians 5:21).
In a September 11, 2012, blog post entitled “Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone,” Al Mohler writes: “Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Mohler goes on to explain: “Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of ‘values’ is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism . . . . This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.”
“Christian moralists” will attend worship services, get involved in Bible studies, go on Christian social trips, and do short term missions. There is enough “Jesus-talk” to make it all seem Christian, but it’s not biblical Christianity. It is moralism. And it is eternally deadly: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).