The just-released movie Amazing Grace tells the story of William Wilberforce, one of the giants of the Christian faith whose tireless efforts brought an end to slavery in Great Britain in 1807. Wilberforce was a member of the British parliament and more importantly, a Christian. One of his closest friends was John Newton, the sailor-turned-priest who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Wilberforce’s campaign to end slavery in Great Britain spanned almost 20 years and he suffered repeated failures over this issue in the House of Parliament. In 1797, he wrote a book entitled A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity, recently re-released as Real Christianity by Dr. Bob Beltz. This book uncovers the differences between cultural Christianity and authentic Christian faith. Wilberforce believed that if his countrymen would see the emptiness of their cultural Christianity, they would not only lay hold of the authentic Christian faith, but would also be inclined to end slavery. Wilberforce’s words have much to say to us today, in an era where cultural and post-modern Christianity is so prevalent. The problem today is the same as it was in Wilberforce’s day–many have professed the religion of Christianity but too few have actually placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In a time when many are looking to the church as a vehicle for social change, the only effective way to achieve genuine change–as so effectively demonstrated by Wilberforce–is through a recovery of authentic Christianity. Read on below for some excerpts from Real Christianity.
“Someone will undoubtedly make the objection that because I am not a theologian, I am not really qualified to address this subject. If I need to defend myself against such an objection, I could point out that other writers have done the same. But instead of doing so, I think it should be enough to point out that all of us have the obligation to do whatever we are able to do to promote the welfare of our fellowman. If you love someone who is ruining his or her life because of faulty thinking and you don’t do anything about it because you are afraid of what others might think, it would seem that rather than being loving, you are in fact being heartless.” (p. 17)
“No one expects to reach the heights of success in education, the arts, finance or athletics without a great deal of hard work and perseverance. We often use the expression ‘You have to really want it!’ Growing in our faith requires the same. Christianity is based on a revelation from God that is filled with information that the natural mind could never have imagined. The wealth of this knowledge will never be mastered without diligent effort. Carefully studying the Bible will reveal to us our own ignorance of these things. It will challenge us to reject a superficial understanding of Christianity and impress on us that it is imperative not to simply be religious or moral, but also to master the Bible intellectually, integrate its principles into our lives morally, and put into action what we have learned practically.” (p. 22-23)
“The greatest gift of God is often either rejected outright or treated as if it is of little worth. But if we really began to study the Bible, we would be impressed with the proper value of the gift. It seems ludicrous that we have to exhort people to study the Bible. The Bible itself speaks words of challenge to us such as, ‘Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Pet. 3:15). Those who have done so tell us of the immense value of such effort. And yet, though many have the Bible on the shelf in their homes, for most the content of the Book remains a mystery. The result is that in the Christian world in the West, we settle for a cultural version of Christianity that is far from the real thing.
I’m not talking about unbelievers here. I am speaking of those who say they believe the Bible is the Word of God and who claim to have committed their lives to Jesus Christ. They have given in to a nominal faith. They agree with statements such as, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe; it is how you live that counts’ and ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere in your belief.’ How absurd!
What we believe determines how we live. Men who sincerely believed that what they were doing was right have perpetrated many of the most hideous crimes against humanity...almost all people believe they are living good and moral lives. Yet they measure their lives against some subjective criteria without realizing that vice is often the product of ignorance or error. Such people often lack the ability to distinguish right from wrong or truth from error.
This is one reason why the diligent study of the Bible is so important. It is here that God has given us the instruction we need to be able to tell right from wrong and truth from error. Without understanding its principles and precepts, we become victims of our own subjectivity. How profitable is subjectivity if our conscience has been seared, our heart hardened, and our mind blinded to all moral distinctions?” (pp. 23-24)
“It is my opinion that the