World Wide Wolfmueller

Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity

Category: Has American Christianity Failed?

“Has American Christianity Failed?” Study Guide and Questions

Many thanks to Pr Mark Moreno for putting together this study guide of “Has American Christianity Failed?”

Has Christianity Failed_ Study Questions

Study Guide:

Has Christianity Failed?                                                               Discussion Questions

 

Chapter One – Examining the Characteristics of American Christianity

  1. Revivalism teaches that the Christian life begins with a personal decision to accept Christ (p.14). Why is this appealing? What is the danger?
  2. Pietism teaches that the Christian life is chiefly marked by growth in good works (p.15). Why is that appealing? What is the danger?
  3. Mysticism teaches that we can have direct, unmediated access to God (p.18). Why is that appealing? What is the danger?
  4. Enthusiasm teaches that the spiritual life happens inside of us (p.21). Why is that appealing? What is the danger?
  5. Legalism puts the Law above the Gospel by establishing requirements for salvation beyond repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (p.22). Why is that appealing? What is the danger?
  6. Moralism teaches that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior (p.28). Why is that appealing? What is the danger?
  7. The parable of the Prodigal Son has “three slaveries”: Slavery to passion and sin, slavery to despair of God’s mercy, and slavery obedience to God’s commandments (p.33). Why do we tend towards slavery instead of sonship?

 

Chapter Two – God Speaks

  1. The three attributes that American Christianity gives the Bible are inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility (p.42). Why isn’t this enough?
  2. The clarity of the Bible is something we believe in as Lutherans that many other Christians simply don’t believe. Is Scripture clear?
  3. The Bible is sufficient, it is enough for our life and our faith. Why do some argue that it isn’t? Does the Bible answer the question “what is God’s will for my life?”?
  4. We believe the Bible is efficacious, it has power and authority. If one loses sight of this truth, what happens?
  5. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. The Bible as instruction manual is horrible. What are the shortcomings with this approach?
  6. Our doctrine IS our salvation (p.51). Reaction?
  7. Why are these two questions important when reading Scripture? 1) What is God teaching about Himself? 2) Where is the Comfort?
  8. The Bible is awesome? Why and how??

Chapter Three – How Bad a Boy Are You?

  1. American Christianity softens the Bible’s teaching on sin (p.58). How does revivalism, pietism and/or mysticism feed into that?
  2. Original sin is the sin we have through Adam. Why is that an important doctrine?
  3. Sin, death and the devil are always together. What does that mean?
  4. Our sinful nature comes first, then our sinful actions. What difference does that make?
  5. Which of the three functions of the law (curb, mirror, guide) is most compelling to you?
  6. The discussion of free will (p.66ff) if critical to our understanding of our relationship to God. Do we have free will or not?
  7. When we see Jesus on the cross, we see what we deserve (p.70). What does Jesus suffering and death say about our sin?

 

Chapter Four – The One who is Always and Only for You

  1. Much of American Christianity is focused in the Christian and not on Christ (p.73). Have you seen this? Fallen for it?
  2. The Old Testament is all about Jesus. Which of the three texts made the most profound impact on you?
  3. In Genesis 3:15, we hear a pronouncement against the devil, and his offspring sin and death. Had you heard it unpacked that way before?
  4. The OT sacrificial system points us to Jesus. What does American Christianity do with the OT in general and sacrifices in particular?
  5. The cross is our theology; our preaching and teaching centers on it. Is the cross absent in American Christianity? More than just the sanctuary?
  6. Jesus suffering and death on the cross centers on physical pain, shame and spiritual agony. Why does modern theology tend to not preach or teach on this or the wrath of God?

 

Chapter Five – Your Name: Righteous

  1. What is the Great Exchange?
  2. The Gospel is not the fact of the cross or the event of the cross. It is the word of the cross, the promise of the cross. What does this mean?
  3. Repentance is the requirement and the result of God’s Word coming to mankind. How do the parables of Luke 15 demonstrate this?
  4. The two parts of repentance include 1) contrition that affirms we are sinners deserving of God’s wrath and 2) faith. American Christianity thinks this happens once or a handful of times. Why is that so wrong?
  5. Conversion is God’s work. Why isn’t it our work, our decision?
  6. The righteousness of the Gospel belongs to Jesus but is graciously given to us. What is “passive” righteousness?
  7. What does the Office of the Keys have to do with absolution? Forgiveness?
  8. A good conscience is not a conscience without sin…A good conscience is a forgiven conscience (p.116). Did the court room analogy help this concept for you?

 

Chapter Six – Go Play Outside

  1. Why does American Christianity seem to keep the spiritual life on the “inside”? What is lost by this?
  2. The kingdom of God comes by promise and by faith, and Jesus connects this promise to water. How do you find the Spirit? Feel the Spirit?
  3. American Christianity distrusts anything that is “outside” of us. Why? What is being missed out on?
  4. Baptism is Gospel: the gift of God for the salvation of sinners. Why does American Christianity deny this truth?
  5. Infant baptism is so anathema to American Christianity. Why should infants be baptized?
  6. The Lord’s Supper IS the body and blood, it IS the bread and wine. It brings life and salvation! Why would American Christianity minimize it by saying it is just symbolic?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven – The How of Good Works

  1. American Christianity is confused about the how, what and the why of good works. What is the proper view of these?
  2. How is baptism the battleground of the Christian life?
  3. The four states of man’s will (and charts on p.149) is a compelling topic. Did it clear anything up?
  4. The four parts of the Christian good work includes what (p.154)? Why does that matter?
  5. All good works are completely impossible without faith. True or false? Why?
  6. Of the three danger consciences (p.158ff) which is the one you battle most?
  7. How does suffering fit into the Christian life?

 

Chapter Eight – The Gift of a Neighbor and the Beginning of Love

  1. Christian love is sacrifice, it is selfless, it is death (p.169). What is wrong with loving yourself?
  2. Scriptures locate good works first in our homes and then with the folks we live and work with (p. 172). Why is vocation essential to understanding good works?
  3. Worship is being served by Jesus (p.176). It’s about God’s work and Word, His speaking and giving. How does that challenge us? American Christianity?
  4. What’s wrong with “Relationship theology”?
  5. Piety is the way our doctrine looks when lived (p.184). Piety flows from baptism, not a decision to follow Christ. How does baptism connect to daily life?
  6. Of the three theological truths on page 187, which one stands out to you? Why?

 

Chapter Nine – Wrestling with God: Why Prayer is Suffering

  1. The Command of Prayer is an invitation. How is this comforting?
  2. The Promise of Prayer includes that He hears and answers! Have you thought that all along?
  3. Jesus teaches us what we really need in this life. What is that?
  4. The words we pray from scripture have an advantage over our “heart felt” prayers. What?
  5. Prayer is taught! What have you learned about prayer from this chapter?
  6. Prayer is warfare. Have you heard the term prayer warrior? How is that accurate?
  7. Evangelism and mission are not to be motivated by worry or anxiety. Is Hope guilty of this?

 

Chapter Ten – The End of the World as We Know It

  1. Why is American Christianity obsessed with the End Times?
  2. American Christianity tends to premillennialism which teaches Jesus will come again to establish His Kingdom on Earth. How does that reflect in other parts of their theology?
  3. Why do dispensationalists make a distinction between Israel and the Church? What danger does that pose?
  4. What is the danger of the so-called “consistent, literal interpretation”?
  5. Is history about the glory of God or the salvation of mankind?
  6. The author gave five rules to reading the Book of Revelation (p.227ff). Which of those jumps out at you?

 

Chapter Eleven –  Surprised by the Gospel

  1. The Gospel is always a surprise. Is that true? Why?
  2. Sin forgiven for you, sin destroyed for you, death swallowed up for you; how is this Gospel surprising?
  3. Jesus undoes so much with a word; how does He have that power?
  4. How is the Lutheran Church an alternative to American Christianity? What can we do to proclaim the treasure that is the Gospel?

 

+ SDG +

Rev. Dr. Mark Moreno

Has American Christianity Failed? presentation in Boulder, CO (Video)

Thanks to University Lutheran Chapel in Boulder for hosting me for a presentation about the book, Has American Christianity Failed?

 

“One of the most important books I have read”

I received this very kind note today about the book, “Has American Christianity Failed?”

Thank you!

Dear Reverend Wolfmueller,

I have just completed my third reading of your book “Has American Christianity Failed?” WOW! Where were you 30 years ago? This is one of the most important books I have read. That may be saying something as I am 64 years old and a bibliophile. In fact your book is among my top three. They have made a huge impact on my life and thinking. (Just in case you are curious one of the other authors is C. S. Lewis, so you are in good company.)

I appreciate you writing in layman’s language. Your explanation of the weaknesses, shall we say, in Evangelical theology were so helpful.  Only recently have I begun to understand what Lutheran and Reformed authors in the past were talking about when they used the four terms, revivalism, pietism, mysticism, enthusiasm. They were never described or explained. They assumed the reader knew what they were talking about and why it made a difference. Your book has made it simple enough that even I can understand it. Thanks.

I have ordered several copies for family and friends.

Your Brother In Christ,

D.

Click here for more information on the book. 

Some More Reviews of “Has American Christianity Failed?”

Dear Friends,

Thanks for reading the book and leaving recommendation on Amazon and CPH.

Here are a few of the recent comments:

5.0 out of 5 stars  Say goodbye to despair and self-righteousness…

on August 2, 2016
This is an important and accessible primer to Christianity that every American Christian should read without delay. Pr. Wolfmueller explains the historical trends that have derailed American Christianity from trusting in the promises of God, and restores the good news of life and hope in Christ to those who find their souls murdered by popular errors. Pr. Wolfmueller teaches us about God, about the scriptures, and about what God has accomplished for us through Christ Jesus.

Pr. Wolfmeuller teaches us how the errors of revivalism, pietism, mysticism, and enthusiasm steal away our hope and trust in a God who is mighty to save.

Buy this for your self, buy this for your family and friends, buy this for your pastor!

I love this book. It is written in a very accessible way and explains what’s going on in today’s American church. If you love the gospel and wish to share it, you need to know your audience. You need to read this.
Many churches in America are leaving their people starved and weak. The Gospel is preached for the sake of non-Christians, while Christians are fed a steady diet of law. After salvation the focus becomes the Christian life, “Now that you’re a Christian, what are you going to do for Jesus?” is the common phrase you here from many pastors and teachers. The Gospel is placed on a shelf and the main focus of the Christian life becomes the individuals own experiences, work, and dedication to Christ.

“Has American Christianity Failed?” gives the alternative to the Law soaked, desperate, dry, tired, and anxious Christian, the absolutely free and “for you” Gospel, delivered to us through God’s Word and Sacraments!

I can honestly say, that this is one of the most refreshing, and encouraging books I have ever read. There was not one chapter that left me bored or wanting to rush through. I think every Christian will benefit greatly from reading this book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

“American Christianity teaches the centrality of the individual, my will, my experiences, my decision, my heart, my work and dedication—to the detriment of Christ and His saving and comforting work. American Christianity most often preaches the Christian instead of the Christ, and our senses are so dulled that we don’t even notice He’s missing.”

“The Gospel is the alternative to the pendulum of pride and despair. The Law says “do,” the Gospel says “done.” The Law commands; the Gospel promises. The Law measures and judges, the Gospel forgives. The Law tells us how we ought to live, the Gospel tells us that Jesus died; and He died with a marvelous and gracious purpose: to save sinners. Both the Law and the Gospel are from God, but they have different purposes. The Law condemns. The Gospel saves.”

“The cross stands as the unwavering, unmoving, unquestionable answer to the question “What does God think of me?” The answer is this: He loves you, and He forgives you all your sins. You can be sure of this. You cannot undo the cross. You cannot undo God’s love for you. The love of God for you is certain and sure, as certain and sure as the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the basis of our confidence and the source of our Christian comfort, and it is from this certainty that all our theology flows.”

5.0 out of 5 stars Stop struggling! It is finished!

on August 8, 2016
Are you among the Christians who have tried and failed, tried again and failed again? In the book “Has American Christianity Failed?” pastor Bryan Wolfmueller reflects on some of the common teachings of American Christianity, and gives counsel and comfort from the Bible, which never changes with the ups and downs that we might feel and experience. Subjects like repentance, the freedom of the will, the clarity, sufficiency and efficiency of the scripture, baptism, communion and other central elements of Lutheran theology are discussed. This book takes away the focus on our efforts, decisions and resolutions, and points to what Jesus has done for us.

5.0 out of 5 stars Get Off the Treadmill

on August 3, 2016
Excellent book! Give a copy to your exhausted evangelical friends who are tired of the treadmill of American Christianity.

A Few Notes from Eric about “Has American Christianity Failed?”

I received this kind note from Eric about Has American Christianity Failed?

Just wanted to say I love Has American Christianity Failed? You really helped me better understand all the reasons I left evangelicalism and became a Lutheran.

Your book is so good that I think we should encourage all Confessionals to give at least one copy to an evangelical friend. We could start another Reformation 🙂 Thanks for writing it.

When Eric recommended it to his pastor, the pastor asked for a summary. This is what he got:

Like in Luther’s day, today’s Christians are not hearing the Gospel. American Christians are receiving a steady diet of revivalism, pietism, mysticism and enthusiasm. American Christianity is focused on the Christian and not on Christ. If the Gospel is preached, it is for non-believers. Christians only get the Law. This leads American Christians to experience “treadmill Christianity” and swing back and forth between pride and despair. Pride is experienced when the Christian can temporarily succeed in following the four-step plan on how to improve something in their life (i.e. prayer, spiritual disciplines, relationships, finances, etc.). Despair kicks in when the Christian eventually fails and is reminded of their sinful nature. The despair leads to “doing more”, “trying harder”, “rededicating or recommitting to Christ” or just giving up – and leaving Christianity for something else. In Luther’s day, Tetzel promised a coin could get you to Heaven faster. Today’s Tetzel’s are telling Christians to just “make a decision” (revivalism), “do more good works” (pietism), “get in touch with God and feel His presence”(mysticism) and focus on your “heart” (enthusiasm). Has American Christianity Failed? shows American Christians how to escape all of this and discover the true Gospel.

Thanks, Eric, for the kind words!

PrBW

Book Review from Tony Jones

​Thanks, Tony, for the kind words.

The next big thing! And it’s 2000 years old.

on August 1, 2016

Are you looking for the next big thing to revolutionize and bring revival to the American Christian Church? The book that will drive attendance through the roof? Have you been waiting for a book that will have your innards a flutter, your liver a shiver, and other involuntary, uncontrollable urges?!?!

Yeah, this ain’t that book.

What you will get is sound doctrine. You’ll get Law and Gospel. You’ll come to an understanding of how comforting God’s promises are.

And it’s layman friendly.

If you’re tired of packing your bags for a guilt trip, tired of riding the emotional roller coaster of self assurance, or just curious if your church is teaching sound biblical doctrine, give this book a read. When your eyes are open to the correct handling of scripture, you’ll never rest easier in the Gospel.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons