What I call “decadent faith” is, in my perception, an ubiquituous
symptom of us
Christians in advanced civilizations, it aggregates most of our
spiritual illness symptoms. So let’s look at these symptoms, and at
causes and solutions.
But first, let me define my use of terms:

Decadent
faith
is an aggregate term for specific attitudes, thoughts and
behavior of reborn Christians. Something is covered by “decadent
faith”,
if it is an inadequate reaction to the Gospel, and if that reaction is
triggered by excess of resources and softness of conditions, not by
scarceness and hardness.

Gospel,
for the scope of this article, shall mean only the basic proposition
that Jesus Christ is the atonement for sin and the way to eternal life.
This article assumes this as true. So we
leave it to others to discuss if decadent faith is at all an
inadequate
reaction.

Note that “decadent faith” is no “thing” but a concept: an aggregate
for a set of symptoms that I believe cohesive enough for a common term.
You may believe these symptoms to be unrelated. But in any
case, we started
analyzing symptoms of a problem or problems, and that’s just fine for
now.

Symptoms of decadent faith

Symptoms are the perceivable part of a problem, and might become
clearest by example. So to make
you aware of them, here’s a totally (science-)fictional, exaggerating
text that concentrates the symptoms of decadent faith. Symptoms are
annotated with
proposed names.

Sunday
Service in the “Cocoon Church of Greatest Richness”

So here I go. What I really like about
the church I’m going to is that it did never made me change in
character in all these 5 years [people
change in homeopathic ways
]. I really cannot see any necessity
to change; changes only would threaten my private pension insurance, my
long-searched-for safe job or the emotional and financial security of
me and my family. I’ve heard about this “sanctification” approach to
Christianty. But it never had much appeal to me, as I’ve never lived
a really unholy life. There might be born-again Christians, but I’d
rather depict me as a born-as Christian because I cannot remember any
event that “made” me a Christian. Rather, I was raised in Christianity
by my parents, who introduced me to that Jesus ‘n’ grace stuff and all
that [conversion experienced
as a smooth transition
].

Perhaps two years ago, I did regret that
there was so few “history” in my life. A radical conversion
experience is a good amount of history, for example. Because, I was
hardly able to tell my children any meaningful and
justified thing about God. But then, they founded a high-level Bible
study group in our church, and I joined, and suddenly I had words to
teach my children with: the problem of Arminianism vs. Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism,
of supralapsarianism
vs. infralapsarianism
, stuff regarding theism vs. misotheism,
pandeism and panentheism etc. [eloquent
theological verbalization as a surrogate for experience
]. Also,
this group introduced some incense burning and compulsory cassock
wearing in the Sunday service, to increase the “experience value” [liturgy as a surrogate for
experience
].

Anyway, here we are. Please note the
large, backlighted stained-glass window above the entrance; it’s surely
worth its 25.000 bucks, as we intensely desire to be an inviting,
sinner-friendly church [smooth
church performance
]. Wait … please come here, we’ve gotta
avoid that group to the right. They’re standing there every Sunday and
present their missional living experiences to each other, and share
some
new techniques [club-style
behavior
]. It really sucks to hear them chatting and boasting [club-level “seriousness”]
… they
all present themselves to be super-blameless [hiding weaknesses] [lack of authenticity] [self-conceit (difference between
claim and truth)
]. Until the service starts, let’s rather join
that
group on the left. This is the high-level Bibly study group that I jus’
mentioned. I
wanna present my newest advancements in higher-order theology to them.
It’s always fun to philosophy with them about God … it makes God
appear more vague and distant and, that way, even more interesting [God,
reduced to a chat topic
]. This
seems to be o.k. for God, as I cannot remember that he has commanded us
to do different at any time [assenting
a theory replaces
impacting faith
].

Ok, lets proceed, service starts soon
now. But … umh, wait, I’ve gotta get rid of some bucks over there.
What?
No, these are no posters from Misereor, these are the depressed, needy
and sick members of our church. They don’t feel like going to church,
or cannot walk. So we
pay some psychiatrists, physicians, social education workers and life
coaching people to get them on track again [social distance]. Umh …
yes, we experimented with doing that on our own ten years ago, but that
was when our church had less fund. It was also very stressy … these
people are hard to love if you meet them, but paying money is o.k. for
me. You see, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, not the people who
are that far away as Africa!

Please come here, we need to sit a good
distance away from that old guy there. He’s always going to ask me why
my wife no longer comes with me to church. I told him again and again
that she has a higher-order cultural taste than us and finds our church
performance quite boring [church-going
to make for a nice change, not out of necessity
]. I even took
two brothers with me and told him. But this guy won’t change his mind.
So,
may he be to you like the publican and sinner.

Well then, let me prepare you for the
sermon somewhat. Our pastor will speak about 500 sentences, and most of
them contain “grace”, “blood”, “lamb”, “atonement”, “expiation”,
“righteousness”, “depravity” and a few more words, in varying order [overrepeated religious
vocabulary
] [lack of
experience-backed faith, even among preachers
]. If that seems boring to you,
remember that truth is not always the most exciting thing on earth, but
the most valuable. And surely, the words of our pastor are true, as he
learned them on the noble “Bible College of Greatest Richness” where he
went just after school [true
words without power
] [true
words without effects in peoples’ lifes
]. Perhaps
you’ll one day reach the state of us regular
visitors: we hear these sermons but don’t analyze the sentences
mentally to
understand them while hearing. We don’t need to, as we know the message
of God’s grace from child age, and also the fact that we’re believing
it [the Gospel is a mere
habit, not fresh content
] [the gift of grace does not touch us
any more
].

But … ok, I forgot something. Before
the sermon we will now hear some reports from our TDTF (theological
discovery task force), which will point out the most interesting new
doctrines [new doctrins],
theological debates [theological
quarrelling
], theological systems [creating a distant Jesus]
and promises [hoping mostly
for things, not Jesus
] that came up in
the last week. The meaning is fairly clear, isn’t it? No? We’re going
to keep the people interested in new things. That’s valuable — for
example, it
opened the door to the heart of the Athenians for Paul.
(Did you never read Acts
17:18-34
? … tsss tsss). And, after all, it’s awfully necessary as
the people won’t come to church if they get bored here [dependence on amusement and
entertainment
]. What do you think why we finally allowed in
church
(since 2021-12-02) to fall over, wave banners, laugh out crazily [extremely “charismatic” faith style],
train telepathy with God, do holy-spiritual telekinetics, make healing
oil with soused relics, and more like that. We’re simply bored most of
the time [being bored more
than 5% of ones time
] and need something to do (and we think God
will understand). Some like fundamentalistic, theological discussions
better [being a conceited
fundamentalist
], some like pietism of various forms better [searching higher-order Christianity]
and some like the spiritual gifts better. Our church offers all these,
so no one needs to get bored.

What do you mean, you suspect these
activities to be not central in the Christian faith? It all starts with
Jesus, that’s right. But I rather suspect that Jesus ist not central in
Christian faith, as sin is one of the least significant problems for
the people here. Man, the people here learned about Jesus, grace and
forgiveness from their earliest childhood on. Most of them asserted to
be sinners before the age of nine, and lived a sheltered, relatively
sinless life from then on [to
never have experienced ones dreadful quality really
] [infinite pride/sin cycles,
resulting from not seeing ones badness
]. We don’t need much
grace, as we don’t have much sin [moderate meaning and effect of law
and grace
]. So we needed to fill our practical faith life with
other occupations … do you want to blame us for that?

It simply cannot be that these
occupations are not according to God’s will … as we wouldn’t have any
spiritual experiences without them. You see, there may be other people
who need God to provide bread for their next day … here, we go
and buy it, and if we don’t have money we raise a credit, and if we
cannot raise a credit we lend from friends, and if we cannot lend from
friends we go on social welfare, and if that fails we go to the local
food bank [seeing no need for
God
]. And we really enjoy living in this blessed paradise of
fivefold redundancy [missing
the experience that the world is desolate
]. It’s the same in all
other
areas of our smooth, blessed life [lack of intensive experiences]
[death as a taboo] …
so we’re forced to create some experiences and occupations like
spiritual experiences, Christian culture, Christian contemporary music,
Christian systematic
theology and Christian lifestyle, to not get bored to death [caring about vanities, as abundance
pushed “being a
sinner in a desolate world” below the threshold of perception
] [fiction and art as a main topic of
discourse
].

Ok then, let’s listen to the sermon as is
our duty now … . I think you’ll have an interesting time as our
pastor is always well-prepared for the service [business-style Christianity].

Quick now, lets get to the aftersermon
buffet before all the other people get in queue. After the service,
it’s the best time to train yourself in chatting and smooth social
behavior [small talk,
indicating social distance
]. Especially, please avoid to
disagree with people when talking. My
brothers and sisters here are very damageable, even by moderate
criticism, moderate quarelling in church or very moderate mistreatment
by others [being totally
non-resilient
]. You need to understand, it’s a byeffect of
living this happy sheltered life … they simply never got used to the
intensity of real-life problems.

Also, you must be careful with them for
your own sake. If you point them to their weakness, they might get
angry with you, or might cancel long-lasting
friendship, or might become unforgiving, or forsake church, or
something else. I for my
part think it’s not advisable to put myself into danger [fear of humans] [taking humans more important than
God
].

Huh? What’re you saying, guy? You suspect
a church like ours is not viable in a world like this? Are you mad? Did
I bear you the whole day and shew you around just to hear ungrateful
words of a bugger? Did
I explain all these things in holy patience to you just to be treated
like this? You’ve offended not only the Holy Church of Greatest
Richness, but also me as its member.

So get your ass outta here!!

Triggers of decadent faith

According to the definition at the start, decadent faith means
inadequate reactions to the Gospel that are triggered by “excess of
resources and softness of conditions”. So only if we can point out how
abundance and comfort can lead to all of the mentioned symptoms, we’re
justified in aggregating them as “decadent faith”. We mean “abundance
and comfort” both in the material and spiritual realm.

Remark:
Others might assign
“non-saving, mere mental-assent faith” as an alternative cause for
decadent faith. Here I
don’t, as this article is for Christians only. If you’re unsure if this
applies to you, check
it
. Basically, Christians are those who take Jesus Christ seriously
… if combined with decadent faith, to a basic degree only.

We will only look at the static aspects of decadent faith: how it
“can be there”, i.e. how it can be a static result of static
conditions. The static concitions include “excess of resources and
softness of conditions” per the hypothesis above, and
unchangeable conditions of man and mankind.

We won’t look at the dynamic aspects. The dynamic aspects include
its genesis as a social phenomenon, and its genesis as an individual
phenomenon. The latter applies to people who experienced a change of
conditions, i.e. those who did not have material and spiritual
“abundance and comfort” from their very birth on. To explain the
genesis of decadent faith, we would need complex models (those using
feed-back). Because, abundance and comfort
normally don’t just “appear” but develop in interdependency with the
conditions
of faith.

Ok then, here’s my understanding how abundance and comfort trigger
all of the symptoms of decadent
faith. It’s written in tree-style: a parent entry is a trigger to all
its child (i.e. sub-list) entries.
The order of subsequent entries on one
level of a list however has no meaning, it’s just an unordered list.
Symptoms that are written in grey are those from the fictional text
above.

Of course it’s simplified to let each thing have only one trigger
(we mention just the most important one); that way, the tree structure
stays possible. To
maximize your light bulb moments when reading it, go from leafs to
root,
i.e. from symptoms to triggers.

  • excess of resources and softness
    of conditions —
    This applies both to the material realm (living
    in advanced civilizations) and the spiritual realm (being born into a
    Christian family and culture, or being a Christian for a really long
    time). Therefore, all the effects that follow might be interpreted both
    for the material and spiritual realms. But keep in mind that conditions
    in the material realm also have effects of one’s faith; you may take
    the following citation from Jesus as a direct support for that: “Truly
    I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to get into the kingdom
    of heaven.” [The
    Bible, ISV, Mt 19:23
    ].
    • over-education —
      Because excess makes us seek means to use it, for example by converting
      it into higher education than needed to live.
      • God, reduced to a chat topic

        Because over-educated middle-class citizens always need something to
        chat.
    • to never have experienced ones
      dreadful quality really
      Because with excess of
      resources, we build up highly comfortable life conditions that never
      present situations to us that we cennot handle, also we build up a
      Christian counterpart for everything and may therefore live in our own
      parallel universe, separated form the non-Christian world which could
      also show us that we’re not spiritually mature.
      • seeing no need for God

        • moderate meaning and effect of law
          and grace
          People
          who hear about Jesus the Messiah and never exprienced that they
          desparately need him are quickly bored and get on other ideas. The
          cross is not the central element in the faith of many 
          evangelicals as they
          cannot see a need for that and never really understood it. Because
          grace can only be understoof at the point of
          repentance, and intensive repentance experiences are rare in the life
          of many people. Jesus put it this way: “her sins, as many as they are,
          have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such great love. But
          the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” [The
          Bible, ISV, Lk 7:47
          ].
        • the gift of grace does not touch us any more
        • the
          Gospel is a mere habit, not fresh content
        • searching higher-order Christianity
          Those who never understood what a big thing it is to be saved
          and that they really needed it, are endangered to search for a “big
          thing” themselves: some form of a “higher” Christian life.
        • hoping mostly for things, not Jesus
        • wanting to live without
          God —

          Because as long as people don’t see their need for God, they can give
          themselves into what man always is endangered to do: trying to be God
          himself.
        • people change in homeopathic ways
        • self-conceit (difference between
          claim and truth)
          — 
          Conceit
          is every kind of
          believing better about oneself than adequate, every kind of not
          recognizing ones true condition. Because
          conceit is always triggered where the outer circumstances are different
          from
          the inner condition. Examples include the times when Israel got blessed
          by God, as this is something it did not earn or deserve. Likewise,
          being a wretched man who never experiences his wretchedness triggers
          the conceit of being
          spiritually mature, comparable to the Laodicaeans [The
          Bible, ISV, Rev 3:17
          ].
          • lukewarmness
            • club-level “seriousness”
            • club-style behavior
          • being a conceited fundamentalist
      • ignoring or not perceiving
        God’s education —
        People who never felt an intensive need to be
        educated by God and his Spirit don’t know how to recognize God’s
        education. So they miss it in their everyday life, also because it is
        drowned by all the Christian things around, including the “full blown
        Christian doctrine” that is oh-so-well-known.
      • lack
        of experience-backed faith, even among preachers
        Most
        preachers who live in advanced civilizations use the right words but
        lack relevant of
        experiences with what they preach; Paul was a preacher who
        had experienced himself what he believed: he knew by himself what is
        being a sinner and being converted.
        • true words without effects in
          peoples’ lifes
        • true words without power
        • overrepeated religious vocabulary
      • assenting a theory replaces
        impacting faith
      • caring about vanities, as abundance
        pushed “being a sinner in a desolate world” below the threshold of
        perception
      • infinite pride/sin cycles,
        resulting from not seeing ones badness
    • stability — Because
      excess of resources allows to level out any changes that are caused by
      external conditions.
      • lack of intensive experiences
        Because
        with excess of resources, we have no needs, and therefore no
        intensive motivation or practical demand to experience the concrete
        help of God. Another cause for lack of experience might be “little
        faith”,as this repeatedly kept Jesus from performing miracles in some
        areas while on earth.
        • fear of humans; taking humans more important than
          God
          Because with lack of experience, we perceive God
          as distant, while humans are near, visible and impressive.
        • not really believing —
          Because human beings are unable to believe what is permanently
          invisible in any way whatsoever, and that’s the case where experiences
          with God are absent. The result is that trusting God remains a thing of
          theory, too weak for undertaking venturous steps of faith. This is
          detailed in the article “Oh
          ye of little faith!
          “.
        • extremely “charismatic” faith style;
          fake experiences —
          These are “idolatry” in the sense of using
          means to perceive a God as near who is believed to be distant. One
          common means is bullshitting
          oneself. This includes picking out
          some events as “blessings and works of God” that are in fact totally
          unrelated, with the purpose of feeling happy.
        • conversion experienced as a smooth
          transition
          Because without big changes in ones
          spiritual condition, conversion cannot be a big change either. People
          who where converted as adults have something to remember: conversion as
          a point, the difference between before and after, the experience of
          having been totally in error (e.g. like Paul: fighting against truth).
          But people who grew up in a stable Christian envirionment just have
          small conversion experiences (perhaps multiple of them), and these are
          endangered by forgetfulness (cf. also [The
          Bible, ISV, II Pet 1:9
          ]).
        • liturgy as a surrogate for
          experience

          One reason to introduce liturgy, religious buildings etc. in
          Christianity might have been the distance in space and time from the
          life of Jesus on earth. People wanted to provide at least
          some kind of experience when “going to meet God”. But liturgy allowed
          then to reduce
          Christianity to outward forms; and we did this as such cultural matter
          are more fun and easier
          to handle than a relationship to God.
        • eloquent theological verbalization
          as a surrogate for experience
      • missing the experience that the
        world is desolate

        • being totally non-resilient
          Because if you never experienced the world as it is (harsh,
          brute, and full of selfish people), you never learned to deal with it.
      • selfish behavior —
        Because out of the security of a stable situation people allow
        themselves to be selfish, as there is no dependence or need left that
        would force people restrict themselves to better behavior. This can
        also be recognized by the fact that selfish behavior arises in
        stabilized denominations.
    • concentration on the visible
      elements of reality — Because excess
      of resources easily catches the  whole attention by sheer ubiquity.
      • losing the awareness of God’s
        reality — Because where visible
        things fill all our capability of perception, we lose the awareness
        that there is an invisible reality.
    • hiding weaknesses
      It’s always the intention of man to hide everything where his poor
      condition becomes visible. And with excess of resources it becomes
      possible. Highly civilized cultures, when becoming decadent, are
      perfect in hiding
      weakness: we won’t let others see our flat if not tidied up; we get the
      old, the sick and the criminals treated where we won’t see them; we
      kill the impaired before they’re born; we have our private areas and
      taboo topics. And Christians got perfect in hiding weakness, too. Some
      examples for that:
      • death
        as taboo
      • lack
        of authenticity
      • business-style Christianity
      • creating a distant Jesus
        Because such a Jesus cannot
        any longer encourage and demand to be authentic.
      • avoiding all situations, people
        and contents that could
        elicit
        moral failure
        • social
          distance
        • small talk, indicating social
          distance
    • being bored more than 5% of ones
      time
      Excess of resources includes excess of time,
      which is boredness.
      • theological quarrelling
        Because discussing the details is a good way to cope with boredness.
        These meaningless detail discussions brought us a wealth of Christian
        books on details … .
      • fiction
        and art as a main topic of discourse
        Because inventing entertainment
        as something to talk about is the easiest way to cope with boredness.
        It indicates that reality (of living in this world, and of being a
        Christian) is too smooth to provide enough to talk about.
      • church-going to make for a nice
        change, not out of necessity
      • smooth church performance
        Because only by a perfect, entertaining performance a church can
        motivate its bored believers to come.
      • new doctrins
        Because being bored makes people long for something new, both
        for the doctrinal and practical part of faith.
      • dependence on amusement and
        entertainment

Decadent faith in a nutshell

This will just summarize the findings … that’s just a description
of the problem of “decadent faith” and its triggers, but not yet any
hint to a solution. Keep in mind that a trigger is not a cause:
therefore, eliminating a trigger is not a solution, it just makes the
problem
invisible for some time.

Decadent faith is hard to detect and to communicate, as it is an
uncommon trigger for a problem. As, normally, problems arise where
something is too few, too little, of too bad quality or in other wise
inferior. But the problem of decadent faith arises where our
circumstances are better, wealthier, of higher quality etc. than we can
handle. “We” means, human beings. Which include a good portion of an
old, selfish nature, even when the Holy Spirit was bestowed on them.
And this old nature takes these comfortable circumstances for an
opportunity to become “more independent” from God.

The practical effects are quite complex and diverse, as detailed
above. And there might be many more. The only thing they have in common
is that they’re failures (“sin”) that is triggered (“simplified”,
“favoured”) by wealthy and smooth conditions. There are other types of
sin which are not triggered that way, e.g. brutality, outrageous
revelries, excessive sexual perversity, outright fights etc.. These
seem to be the only (at least, the worst) sins to us Christians in
advanced civilizations, and that way we succeed in deeming us quite
spiritual. But in deed we are in a very sad, lukewarm, inconsequent,
decadent condition, full of sins of another sort.

So what then now? There’s little more in my head than “Let’s repent,
find our individual way out with the help of God, and then share our
experiences.”


Start date: 2008-03-20
Post date: 2008-04-02
Version date: 2008-04-15 (for last meaningful change)

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