Christianity or morality?

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“Christianity is confused with morality.  It has been very common in this country in all ranks of society.  It is what is sometimes called ‘public school religion,’ which was started by Dr Thomas Arnold of Rugby.  His idea of Christianity was that ‘it is morality touched with emotion,’ nothing more!  The Christian is the perfect little gentleman, the man who does not do certain things!

But that is not Christianity; that is not the kingdom of God.  You can do that yourself.  Yet that is what Dr Arnold taught; it is nothing but ethics and morality, a negative, cold, miserable religion, something that was always prohibiting everything and never giving anything at all.

Now it is a part of the preaching of the gospel to say things like that.  I do not defend the Victorians; I think they did great harm to the kingdom of God.  They really did bring it down, most of them, to the level of morality and respectability and they made their Sunday a cheerless joyless day. . . .

So, according to them, Christianity is that which makes men and women miserable, which makes them feel that they are always failures.  They try to be better, and they cannot succeed, but they must go on trying because it is the only way to get into the kingdom of God, to get into heaven.  It is by your life and your own activities that you do it; so you go on trying and trying and, in the words of Milton, you ‘scorn delights and live laborious days,’ ever trying but never succeeding.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God (Wheaton, 1992), pages 73-74.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

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I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.

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