But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:14-18 ESV)
For much of the 20th Century, the Church (at least here in the U.S.) has been focused on applying the truth of God's Word to everyday living. Taking our cue from Sheldon's classic In His Steps, we started asking ourselves the question "What would Jesus do?" This was to be the reminder that we are children of God and we need to act as the children of God should in all of life's circumstances no matter how difficult the choice or how much it costs us personally. This is a good thing. There needs to be a connection between what we believe (our theology) and how we live; our lives are to be marked with consistent holiness.
One of the downsides of this focus, however, has been that we have taken the question to an extreme and have become moralists, elevating good behavior above Christ's atoning work on the cross. The Church has neglected the great truths of our Savior and salvation. We don't see the need to get bogged down with heavy theology that, in our opinion, really doesn't help us to be better spouses, parents, students and citizens. (I am being sarcastic.) We have lost sight of the universe-shaking impact of Christ dying in the place of the sinner. We are unaware of the importance of justification. There are actually some who act as if the believer has a greater role than that of the Holy Spirt in maturing in the faith. Things have gotten so bad that we now have a "Christless Christianity" (to borrow from Michael Horton).
Fortunately, God has not abandoned His Church and there is now a resurgence of clear doctrinal teaching. We are getting the wakeup call and the pendulum is swinging back the other way. The only hope we have in this life is being found in Christ, not having a righteousness of our own, but finding ourselves clothed in HIS righteousness, being saved from the power (and eventually the presence) of sin and death. All of this is ONLY possible because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. And Scripture commands us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith.
I admit to being in this camp of returning to the core doctrines of Christianity. I am waking up to the reality of who I am because of Christ’s atonement and the Holy Spirit’s ongoing transformational work in my life. Without these, I’m toast!
My concern at this point in time is that we don’t attempt to push the pendulum so far in the opposite direction of the 20th Century that we divorce our theology from practice and become so cerebral that we neglect holy living. Dead orthodoxy is just as fatal to the Church as moralism and mysticism are.
Scripture perfectly lays out the balanced life of faith and practice. We have been sovereignly and graciously saved by God to now be changed into people who are eager to serve Him in holiness. Faith and practice are not "either/or" categories; they are to be united and complementary.
I agree this is a tight-rope walk, but we are commanded to walk it. May we all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for to Him belongs all the glory both now and forever. Amen.