Most of you would agree without any argument that one of the greatest crisis that Christianity faces today is nominal Christianity. Nominal Christianity is defined by those who proclaim the name Christian, yet remain uncommitted. One of the distinctions that the term “evangelical” has sought to claim over the last fifty years is just the opposite of nominalism. Evangelicals are those that not only believe the truths of the Christian worldview, but live according to those beliefs. Although the relevance of the term “evangelical” as a bearer of this distinction is the subject of great debate, the understanding of its opposite, nominalism, is still a problem. (Although I would credit the problems within Evangelicalism not to commitment, but to a deteriorating distinction in worldview).

The nominalist is very difficult to understand. Some who are nominal Christians know themselves to be such and just don’t know how to make the “turn” to a passionate commitment to Christ. Frustration, confusion, doubt, skepticism, and just a general lack of passion can all be seen as causes for nominalism. I know of someone who is very close to me who simply cannot understand why they don’t have as much commitment to Christ as they do to other things that fill their thoughts. Nominalism is best expressed by a lack of commitment, or better, commitments that are more important to them than their commitment to God.

In your experience among the people you know who are nominal in their commitment to God (and this could be you), what do you believe the reasons are?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    2 replies to "The Problem of Nominal Christianity"

    • richards

      I don’t think my opinion is original, but I think that american individualism and consumerism has produced a me-centric mentality. Church is for me: babysit my kids, make me feel religious, tell me I’m going to heaven when I die.

      To echo J.P. Moreland, Mark Noll, RMM, and countless others, we are also infected by anti-intellectualism. I recently had a conversation with a pastor on the issue of God’s sovereignty and personal choice. He emphasized personal choice, saying we are all “free moral agents” and that “we can choose Christ just like [his] daughter chooses Kool-Aid over apple juice.” I asked him about several verses that speak to God’s sovereignty, and he responded with a series of “I believe” statements, claiming that he’s “not an intellectual.” Regardless of where you stand on the issue, please, please, please use Scripture to support your belief. Else, your belief — as this pastor’s belief — is merely a subjective and naive opinion.

      Oh yeah, and if your idea of being an intellectual is someone who reads the Bible and tries to systematize their theology in a coherent manner, and you aren’t one of “those” people, then stop or don’t start preaching and teaching.

    • nathanimal

      I can speak from personal experience that I was raised very nominal. I had a relationship with the Lord growing up, but it was not based on scripture. Scripture was hardly ever something that impacted my thought life or actions. Most of that probably had to do with how I was raised. Everything was experiential. The bible was a wonder land and could be used to get what I wanted.

      I could go on and on, but the point is where did I start becoming informed about what the bible really teaches and how do I fit into this format. It was only when I fell on hard times that I began to search the scriptures and reach out to other believers for guidance. The road has been a long one. Most of the people that were closest to me when things started to go down hill gave little advice on how to deal with things when it came to Gods word. All I ever received was pat answers and most of those were based on feelings more than biblical support.

      I could have wished so badly that I had better knowledge about Gods word growing up. I think there may have been less pain. But when its all said and done God was the one who brought me through it. And I am happy to where he has brought me. I only wish that more kids have better knowledge about the bible than I had. I’m saying all this because I wish it were different. But it seems to me that most people just have no clue about what Gods word really says. It seems that for me I had to search for sound doctrine and people with sound theology.

      I seemed to have rambled a little to long. Going on 2 hours of sleep does that to you.

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