When Tonto is Given the Spur: The Unintended Arrogance of “Lone Ranger” Christianity

The actor John Corbett was interviewed by Christianity Today over at their movie website. Aside from the usual movie plugs and questions about the celebrity life, one answer by Corbett caught my attention. When asked about his faith (he plays the role of a Lutheran pastor in his new movie), Corbett replies that he is formerly a Catholic, but is now born-again Christian. He said that he used to attend a non-denominational church, then the following:

So, you’re attending a non-denominational church now?

Corbett: No. Not anymore. I’m a guy who reads the Bible now. I don’t go to church.

Apparently, Corbett has graduated. It’s hard to read too much into such a short interview, but if Corbett is “just a guy who reads the Bible,” then he hasn’t read it that well.

Mr. Corbett, along with a host of others these days, might be surprised to find that this sort of “Lone Ranger Christian” mentality looks nothing at all like biblical Christianity. The bulk of the New Testament writing is addressed to churches. Those letters which were written to individuals (I & II Timothy and Titus, for example) were for the purpose of building up the church. Even these letters were promptly circulated throughout the churches of the area for the benefit of the body of Christ at large.

I don’t know if this is Mr. Corbett’s rationale or not, but many people I’ve met who share his view of a churchless Christianity eschew church because of the hypocrisy they find there. I’ve heard many say that they don’t want to be a part of something which is so often emobroiled in scandal.

In one sense I understand the feelings of the churchless Christianity crowd. Many churches serve simply as therapy groups for people who feel bad about the sins they commit. They preach one thing, and do another. Why would anyone want to be a part of something like that?

The problem is that this type of thinking leads one away from the biblical norm for a Christian. It catapults the churchless Christian into a number errors, some of which may be unintended. First, such thinking presumes that the church is necessarily antagonistic toward God. While this may seem true at times, especially with abuses running rampant, the church remains the body of Jesus Christ. To call the church inherently evil is in a sense to call Christ evil as well.

Second, churchless Christians forget that the church is a body of the redeemed. Every member of the true church of Christ has been saved from their own sinful nature by the grace of God through Christ. Although each person has experienced a new birth, vestiges of the old self emerge all too often. The fellowship of believers serves to guide us away from that old self, and keep us from straying too far.

Third, while attempting to distance themselves from the sinfulness of the church, churchless Christians display an certain arrogance over those in the church. Intentionally or not, they are saying that their lives are somehow more pure than those in the church and the fellowship of other believers is not needed. All they need is their Bible and thier own private conversations with God.

It is my prayer that Mr. Corbett and those of like mind will see the danger of this position and seek fellowship in a Bible-believing church. I pray that they would see that they have been saved unto into the church. Indeed, salvation is personal, but at the same time it is corporate as well. And who knows? The church might benefit from their presence as well…

4 thoughts on “When Tonto is Given the Spur: The Unintended Arrogance of “Lone Ranger” Christianity”

  1. Hey, love your blog. I am a student at Southern Baptist Seminary and Pastor a church in the St Louis Area. Jessica Simpson made the same comment in People Magazine’s issue on faith in Hollywood.
    In Christ, my Rock
    Steve Morse

  2. Stephen,

    Thanks for the compliment and the comment. STL is a long commute, but I’m sure it’s worth it. I wasn’t aware that Ms. Simpson shared Mr. Corbett’s view. Isn’t it funny how both brag about the things they will not do, all the while veering closer and closer to the edge?

    Corbett made a big deal about how he wouldn’t show his butt in a Sex & the City episode. I saw an interview with Jessica Simpson talking about how she was posing (quite provocatively) with clothes ON for Maxim.

    If they only had a church to help keep them straight…

  3. MacGyver: Thanks for stopping by — I loved your show back in the 80’s.

    I would define a church as any organized body of believers where discipleship takes place, the Lord’s Supper is observed, and baptisms are held.

    No steeple is needed, nor is any specified number of people — although the Bible is clear that the number is greater than one.

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