Why Christianity Often Undermines Self-Control

“Poor self-control correlates with just about every kind of individual trauma: losing friends, being fired, getting divorced, [and] winding up in prison.”

Self-control is the ability to regulate your appetites. Self-control is often seen in the ability to wait, to put off immediate gratification, and being able to push through difficulty.

These were all highly valued traits of early protestant Christianity. In fact, much of the monastic movements and varieties of pre-Protestant religiosity was nothing more than self-control on display.

The Protestant Reformation did away with a lot of religious self-control stuff, but instead shifted it into what became known as the “Protestant Work Ethic.” That’s right, rather than using self-control to try to attain godliness, self-control was better exercised to become filthy rich.

Christianity chucked the pursuit of godliness for the pursuit of money, but at least used self-control as the basis for making money. But the problem with self-control is that it’s not very much fun. It’s almost like work.

As all good Christians know, we’re not saved by works, which clearly and obviously means work is a bad thing (that was sarcasm by me but actual belief by many), so Christianity began to turn on the concept of work and self-control.

Enter Keswick Theology. Even if you’ve never heard of Keswick Theology, you’ve heard one of their prime sayings, “Let go and let God.” Even if you’ve never heard of Keswick Theology or the phrase, “let go and let God,” you’ve heard of one of their spawn movements–Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA was started by people known as The Oxford Group in 1935. AA is based on a Keswickian understanding of Christianity.

Much of Keswick Theology is good, but there is a very bad application that totally undermines self-control and effort in the life of the Believer, and, of course, that is the part of Keswick Theology still rumbling through churches today.

Keswick Theology teaches that there are two kinds of Christians–spiritual and carnal. Carnal Christians are Christians who aren’t growing in sanctification, they are living in sin. Not until you are brought to a moment of crises where you “truly believe” that you are delivered from sin.

Keswick Theology teaches that sanctification, growth in righteousness and defeating sin, is optional and brought about by a second conversion. You finally “see” stuff and magically you attain the “victorious life.”

This is all wonderfully magical thinking and sounds terrific, and certainly would be great if it were true. Problem is that it’s not true. Sanctification has more to do with self-control, purifying yourself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, than it does “letting go and letting God.”

The lure of Keswick Theology is that it cuts out effort. It convinces you there is a shortcut to holiness, a shortcut asking you to do nothing. In fact, the best way to be sanctified is to do nothing, and God will do it all. Sit back and enjoy the ride. It is the get rich quick scheme of Christian living.

AA may have helped many people, but AA is not a good source of correct doctrine, and their way of thinking has brought about much poor theology in the church today. More tomorrow.


3 thoughts on “Why Christianity Often Undermines Self-Control”

Comments are closed.