As Western Civilization passes into history to be replaced with what some would insist is still Western Civilization, one of the deepest changes is being brought to bear against Western Christianity. Its understanding of man once influenced generations, but that understanding has given way to modern thought and as a religion it is bifurcating into those attempting to preserve the old ways and those embracing the new.
The cornerstone of the Christian claim to truth is the Gospel. It is the “good news” that the person of Jesus Christ came to die for humanity. For two millennia Christianity in its various forms has held as supreme the priority of proclaiming this message of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the “Great Commission.” The factual reality of that sacrifice has given the church justification for its existence and activity through generations.
In the traditional understanding of the Gospel, when a man receives the Gospel, he has already made three primary assumptions about the world. He assumes there is a God, this God is holy, and that he is guilty of violating that holiness and is worthy of punishment. In that context, Christ suffering God’s punishment on his behalf is indeed good news.
The issue then for the modern age is whether or not a man believes he has violated God’s holiness. One of the main purposes of preaching is to convince man through rhetoric that he is guilty before God, in much the same way the prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed the guilt of Israel to convince the nation to renounce its wayward ways.
Modern thought, however, does not accept the idea of man being guilty before God. The moral philosophical understanding of man’s place in the world has moved from one of guilt to innocence. It is no longer an issue of whether man is guilty of doing things that God has deemed bad. Rather, those things that man does are no longer bad. In the old Gospel, adultery was considered a sin by God and a man who had sex outside of marriage was considered guilty before God of committing adultery. However, in the new Gospel, man is innocent not because he does not commit adultery. Rather he is innocent because there is now nothing wrong with adultery.
This change is mostly due to the silent philosophical conclusions inherent in evolutionary thought. In traditional Christian thought, man was created in the image of God, thereby making man dependent on and accountable to God. In evolutionary thought, man has emerged through natural processes and given that nature is inherently innocent, man, being merely an animal frolicking in nature, is also inherently innocent. No one would think that a male lion mating with numerous female lions was doing something wrong.
Man, like animals in nature, does suffer, though. He experiences pain and death. Suffering has proven to be a thorn to the Christianity of innocent man. If man is innocent and God is both all-good and all-powerful, then why is there suffering in the world? The traditional view held that man was not a victim of suffering but the perpetrator of suffering because of sin. In evolutionary thought, man, like all of nature, is an innocent sufferer of sin, where suffering itself becomes sin. God is either all-powerful and evil, not all good, or He is all good and impotent, not all-powerful.
Atheists have chosen the answer that man is innocent and God is evil. The new Gospel has chosen the answer that man is innocent and God is impotent to stop suffering. Since God is incapable of making judgment and stopping evil, it is now man’s responsibility to both judge what is evil and act to stop evil. For the new Gospel, God is not holy. God is love.
This is why viewing man as guilty of sin is itself viewed as evil. To accuse an innocent man of a crime he did not commit or to call what he does a crime is considered a gross injustice, a blatant evil. To accuse man of both being in a state of sin and committing acts of sin is to accuse the innocent of a fabricated crime.
So what does the death of Jesus have to do with man if man is inherently innocent before God? Nothing. It now becomes an overly sentimental gesture of unconditional love that is given unnecessarily and only for a show of pure emotional affection. It is a gratuitous act of comfort showing that God feels sentimental love for man to the point that He is willing to join him in his suffering, offering the comfort that comes from shared misery. This is why the new Gospel is less concerned with objective truth and more concerned with sentimental feelings of relationship and love. Misery loves company and this is why suffering people who believe themselves innocent love an innocent suffering messiah.
In the end, modern man has no need for the Gospel or for Christianity. It is a nice concept that God is willing to suffer as an innocent man in nature like innocent man suffers, being as incapable as man of ending suffering. It works to add a plush layer of comfort to the harsh emptiness of evolution, where innocent man suffers without purpose or meaning. This is why atheists who accept evolution head-on are considered stronger and braver than Christians who try to hide behind the comfort of a suffering messiah. The Christian who finds comfort in having a suffering messiah at least agrees with the atheist that man is innocent and God is utterly useless.