The Gospel Coalition

In recent years, evangelical Christianity has made its imperfection a point of emphasis. Books were published with titles like Messy Spirituality: God's Annoying Love for Imperfect People, Death by Church and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and churches popped up with names like Scum of the Earth and Salvage Yard. Evangelicals made films like Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, wrote blog posts with titles like "Dirty, Rotten, Messy Christians," and maintained websites like anchoredmess.com, modernreject.com, churchmarketingsucks.com, recoveringevangelical.com, and wrecked.org—a site that includes categories like "A Hot Mess," "Muddling Through," "My Broken Heart," and "My Wreckage."

Meanwhile, self-deprecating humor sites like Stuff Christians Like and Stuff Christian Culture Likes became hugely popular repositories of Christianity's many warts, and writers like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller became best-selling, "non-religious" expositors of messy spirituality.

Evangelicalism—both on the individual and institutional level—is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that smacked of hypocrisy. But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our "realness" and "authenticity," have evangelicals turned "being screwed up" into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness?

How Did We Get Here?


Erik Thoennes, professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University, sees the authenticity trend in the undergrads he teaches. At the beginning of each class he asks his students to write down two things they love and two things they hate. Consistently, one of the things they say they hate is "fake people." But the Christian life involves a whole lot of "fakin' it" on the path to being integrated, Thoennes says.

"There's this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that's a wrong definition of hypocrisy," Thoennes said. "To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn't hypocrisy; it's integrity."

Thoennes hopes his students understand that sanctification involves living in a way that often conflicts with what feels authentic. Still, he gets why younger evangelicals have such a radar for phoniness. They grew up in an evangelical culture that produced more than a few noteworthy cases of fallen leaders and high-profile hypocrisy. Their cynicism reflects a church culture that often hid its imperfections beneath a facade of legalism and self-righteousness.

All of this contributed, in the early and mid-2000s, to an authenticity boom in evangelicalism. Recognition of the biblical calls to confession (James 5:17) and "walking in the light" (1 John 1:5-10) had not gone away in Protestantism; they just became more and more couched in language of being real, raw, transparent, and authentic in community.

Typical of the many articles written about the topic is Josh Riebeck's 2007 piece for Relevant, "Fighting for Authenticity," which announced that "authentic community, authentic faith, and authentic Jesus are the cry of the new generation."

"We don't want to be fooled anymore. We don't want to be gullible anymore," Riebeck wrote. "We want flawed. We want imperfect. We want real."

But why must "real" be synonymous with flawed and imperfect? When someone opens up about their junk, we think, "you're being real," and we can relate to them. But what about the pastor who has served faithfully for decades without any scandal, loved his wife and family, and embodied the fruit of the spirit? Is this less real?

When 'Authentic' Is Actually Inauthentic


Often, what passes for authenticity in evangelical Christianity is actually a safe, faux-openness that establishes an environment where vulnerability is embraced, only up to a point.

Becky Trejo, a 20-something photographer from Los Angeles who attends Mars Hill Church's Orange County location alongside her husband, Neph, has observed this trend in some small groups she's attended.

"There's this 'sweet spot' of authenticity," Trejo said. "Like if you reveal that you struggle with gossip, people are like 'whoopdee!' But then there are some sins you might share where it's like 'whoa, that's too much.' There has to be this middle ground, like 'I'm struggling with wanting to sleep with my boyfriend.' That's the sweet spot where people see you as really vulnerable and authentic, and it's required admission."

In this dynamic we often reward those who are most vocal about their authentic struggles in the "sweet spot," without giving equal weight to the "too small" sins or creating a space that is safe enough for the most embarrassing sins or darkest struggles.

This dynamic reflects another problem: our skewed understanding of sin. It's almost as if our sins have become a currency of solidarity—something we pat each other on the back about as fellow authentic, broken people. But sin should always be grieved rather than celebrated, Thoennes argues.

"Brokenness is an interesting word because if it's sin, we should call it that," Thoennes said. "I only feel sorry for broken people. God's mad at sinful people. Woundedness and brokenness are aspects of our sinful condition, but they tend not to emphasize the 'I'm giving God the finger' part of it."

We've become too comfortable with our sin, to the point that it's how we identify ourselves and relate to others. But shouldn't we find connection over Christ, rather than over our depravity?

Authenticity Means Growth 


Our notion of authenticity should not primarily be about affirming each other in our struggles—patting each other on the back as we share about porn struggles while enjoying a second round of beers at the local pub Bible study. Rather, authenticity comes when we collectively push each other, by grace, in the direction of Christ-likeness.

Reflecting on Christianity's "current obsession with brokenness" for her.meneutics, Megan Hill wrote, "If we are constantly looking for someone else who is broken in all the same places, we overlook the comfort we can have in the perfect God-man."

Hill wisely notes, "Grace covers. And it covers again and again. Thanks be to God." But if we stop there, "We are only telling half of the story. . . . Receiving grace for my failures also includes Christ's help to turn from sin and embrace new obedience."

Could it be that the most authentic thing any of us can do is faithfully pursue holiness and obediently follow after Christ?

In Scripture, Paul teaches again and again that Christians are "dead to sin" and risen to new life, no longer slave to sins but to righteousness (Rom. 6). That doesn't mean the battle with sin is gone. But as Paul describes the struggle in Romans 7, he says "it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me" (Rom. 7:17), noticeably separating his identity from this unwanted alien thing still residing within. The struggle is neither the point nor the marker of one's identity. In Christ we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), called to flourish through life in the Spirit (Rom. 8).

"I think goodness is more real in that we are actually living more as humans were intended to," Thoennes said. "Jesus is the realest human we'll ever see. He's authentic. He understands our brokenness. But he's as real as can be."

No Authenticity Points


Sin is necessarily part of our story as redeemed people. We shouldn't ignore or make light of it. But we also shouldn't wallow in it or take it lightly, for the sake of earning authenticity points.

As someone who became a Christian in his 20s, after having experienced the rocky ups and downs of a life without Christ, Luis Salazar of Whittier, California, finds it sad that so many young evangelicals seem to think dramatic struggles with sin are more real.

"I would never want to walk through it again," Salazar said. "I wish I hadn't gone through all that. A lifestyle of flashy sin isn't necessary to experience grace. It's not necessary to have a grand testimony of brokenness in order to be an authentic Christian."

To overcome our "authenticity" confusion, evangelicals must see themselves differently. Rather than focusing on our brokenness, we should look to Christ and those who model Christ-likeness. We should move in that direction, by grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We should also, perhaps, stop speaking of ourselves in such "we are scum" terms. In Christ, we can be more than scum. And that's a message the world sorely needs.

"While we think self-deprecation causes us to be more relatable and empathetic to non-Christians, it's ultimately communicating a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, and discontentment," Stephen Mattson wrote for Red Letter Christians. "It thrives on negativity and kills our sense of hope."

"The reality is that there are many things wrong with Christianity," Mattson said, "but instead of focusing on the bad, let's attempt to reclaim the hope that Jesus represents—redeeming our world by personifying the sacrifice, service, grace, hope, joy, and love of Christ."


Comments:

[…] how God likes me.”  The problem is, it doesn’t promote growth.  Brett McCracken puts it right:  ”Our notion of authenticity should not primarily be about affirming each other in our […]

[…] Traduzido por Filipe Schulz | Reforma21.org | Original aqui […]

[…] Thoennes, quoted here by Brett […]

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January 31, 2014 at 08:46 AM

[…] Lastly, this is an interesting article on the question of whether or not authenticity has trumped holiness in churches: Has authenticity trumped holiness? […]

[…] “…this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.” – Erik Thoennes quoted in this great article on “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness“ […]

[…] go read the whole thing, in which McCracken also gets some help from, among others, Dr. Erik Thoennes, with whom I talked a […]

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?. “Evangelicals love talking about how messy and imperfect they are. But is it wise to turn brokenness into a badge of honour?” […]

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January 31, 2014 at 05:42 PM

[…] card played in discussions about spiritual growth and having a purpose. Brett McCracken has given us some things to chew on here to prevent sliding into meaningless yet authentic […]

Mike Sares

January 31, 2014 at 03:47 AM

As the founding pastor of Scum of the Earth Church (the naming of which, by the way, was the best decision I never made) I will defer to another member of its staff:

...What Fran Blomberg said on January 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM in the above comments.

And I gotta say, I love what Rachel Held Evans has written.

tony

January 30, 2014 at 12:22 PM

What God allows is free will, even to the point of rejecting Him. It isn't His plan that we should perish because of our bad choices or intentions; "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) So we cannot put the stamp of God's approval on the difficult circumstances we have endured just because we think they made us 'better' or on our poor choices as a justification for harm we have brought on ourselves. Rather we should be grateful that God was patient and faithfully present with us in the living out of our difficulties whether they were self-inflicted or inflicted on us by others or a result of life in a fallen world.

http://walkingwithtony.blogspot.ca/2014/01/you-intended-to-harm.html

[…] “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?,” The Gospel Coalition […]

MJ

January 30, 2014 at 09:51 AM

Brilliant piece, Brett. This makes so much sense to me.

However, when I read, "But what about the pastor who has served faithfully for decades without any scandal, loved his wife and family, and embodied the fruit of the spirit? Is this less real?"

I wondered if many of us (me included) even believe a pastor like that exists. Isn't that sad? We hope in the gospel, but doubt anyone's been able to walk in consistent freedom by it. And therefore give ourselves a pass not to either.

As I try to tell my kids, my goal isn't to make you good, but to set you free. It is for FREEDOM that Christ set us free!

Will be sharing with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity.

Mike Gantt

January 30, 2014 at 02:19 AM

Seeking "authenticity" over holiness is largely a function of trusting in Christians instead of trusting in Christ.

Evangelicals have left their first love.

David P

January 29, 2014 at 12:26 PM

I would say the tension here isn't actually between holiness and authenticity—it's between faux-holiness and faux-authenticity. Putting on a façade of either holiness or authenticity is actually inauthentic (and, it could be argued, a detriment or cheap substitute for actual holiness). The problem isn't too much authenticity at the expense of holiness; it's that we fake authenticity just as we fake holiness.

d camp

January 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM

No doubt that personal testimony, confession, and contrition are necessary and beneficial when done "decently and in order" as has been noted. This article dovetails with much of the current debate that wants to truncate salvation to justification, which lends itself to the extended introspection dynamic.

I have worked with many younger believers, who even after appropriate time for confession and contrition, and in spite of the horrid past, would rather continue to relive those things that God has delivered them from -- focusing on their justification they say -- rather than moving into the biblical discussion of discipline, self-denial, and other aspects of biblical sanctification. I know some that welcome the opportunity (and thank God for His grace) to give the sordid details of what they have done, but get down right angry when you start talking with them about Christ now asks them to do. This crisis of "authenticity" as the author puts it, seems to me to be as much about the error of conflating justification with sanctification and confusing "holiness" with legalism as anything else.

Round Up | Rated R For Reformed

January 29, 2014 at 11:33 AM

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness – Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? […]

Megan Webb

January 29, 2014 at 11:22 AM

This has been one of the first comment threads that I've read in a really long time where strangers were able to have an meaningful discussion while disagreeing, without attacking each other. So to all of the above- including the author of this post... thank you.

[…] the Gospel Coalition, Brett McCracken takes on authenticity as an evangelical substitute for holiness. He asks, “by focusing on brokenness as […]

Bookmarks 1/29/14

January 29, 2014 at 09:28 AM

[…] Has Authenticity Trumped Holiness?: Brett Mcckracken challenges modern christians to move beyond our focus on “authenticity” and “messiness” and instead focus our hearts and minds on Christ. See also: Yes, We Come Messy, But We Always Leave Clean. […]

Ron

January 29, 2014 at 07:16 AM

Excellent article. I posted it to our church's youth page.
I will say that the closing is typically confused on the idea that "there are many things wrong with Christianity"; there is nothing wrong with Christianity, which is the 66 books of the Bible and their logical and practical implications.
There is, however, much wrong with Christians, including this one. Peace.

Sherri Adelman

January 29, 2014 at 07:00 PM

I wouldn't say I disagree with the author, but after perusing the comments felt the need to address the importance of healthy authenticity. Authenticity does not trump holiness, but authenticity helps to lead others to holiness. http://www.nottoobrokenforgod.com/2014/01/29/authenticity-and-holiness-a-response/

Lori

January 29, 2014 at 06:51 AM

Confessing gossip *shouldn't* preclude somebody from confessing other sins. However, I do think there's a kind of, for lack of a better description, 30-something white bourgie authenticity that involves certain acceptable confessions--generally, pornography and lust if you are a man; gossip, anger, impatience, and imperfect housekeeping (why this is a sin, I don't know) if you are a woman; and maybe overspending for both--and still excludes everything else. There's certain activities--smoking, drinking, swearing, maybe wearing a low-cut shirt--that "authentic" Christians are allowed, but other transgressions are not acceptable. And there's certain past stories--premarital sex, abortion, light drug use--that people talk about, but a lot of stuff is still taboo.

That's what I think is dangerous. And, from some of the comments, I'm not the only person who has seen this. When we present our own bourgie list of sin to dominate the conversation, especially when we respond with shock and horror when less acceptable sins are revealed, we are not creating an environment of openness and confession.

I guess my point is mostly, when we talk about our sins, no matter how dark and hard they seem to us (and I hope they really do, and we aren't just putting on a show of pretending we think we're terrible sinners when we really think we're not that bad), there are harder, darker sins. If we're honest, we are guilty of harder, darker sins, but those are the ones we don't want to share. And, there are people listening, maybe right beside us, who have committed or are struggling with harder, darker sins. And we just need to be "authentic" in a way that leaves room for that, rather than making our experience of sin normative in a way that shames and silences those who sin differently.

Joey E

January 29, 2014 at 06:09 AM

Here is a great video of a couple being authentic, as they share their sin, & Christ's redemption:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7Q90O4i0-o&feature=em-uploademail

View-Worthy: 1.29.14

January 29, 2014 at 04:03 AM

[…] Brett McCracken. Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?. (TGC) “Evangelicalism—both on the individual and institutional level—is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that smacked of hypocrisy. But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our “realness” and “authenticity,” have evangelicals turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness?” […]

[…] link: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/01/27/has-authenticity-trumped-holiness-2/ […]

Lori

January 29, 2014 at 03:25 PM

I love this. Perfectly said!

Authenticity v. Holiness | Niggle's Parish

January 29, 2014 at 01:19 PM

[…] Has “Authenticity” Trumped Holiness? […]

Someone

January 29, 2014 at 01:04 AM

It makes me rather sad to think of all the people around us struggling with depression, addictions of various kinds, pursuits of fleeting and worthless pleasures, treasures, or just seeking some anesthetic escape from their life or pain or whatever. And what do we do here in our culture? Instead of sharing Jesus with them (be it by word or by deed), we sit around and debate what is more important: authenticity or holiness? We post our thoughtful blog posts or we leave our opinionated comments on just what the problem and the answer is. And we lament with some sarcasm how others just don't get it while we argue over just how many angels can fit on the tip of our pens. Oh, and then we criticize those who might actually be reaching out to the really dejected or rejected even though we aren't, or we disagree/disapprove of how others might be. And, sure, we might even confess that we feel pretty convicted about that, you know, that we aren't evangelizing more. At least most of us anyway. We're more likely to confess to that to a group of fellow Christians than to some besetting sin or addiction, am I right? Well go on and write your blogs and leave your comments. Split your hairs over whether it is more important to be authentic or holy. And try not to think about the hundreds or even thousands of people around you who are struggling, deserting, or dying. All desperately needing Jesus. Great post.

EricP

January 28, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Lori,

I just wanted to thank you for your comments on tgc. It's too bad they don't use disqus or other system, where I could +1 your posts.

You provide a great counterbalancing voice in the comment section.

Feelings and Hypocrisy | Pushing a Feather

January 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

[…] Brett McCracken gives us a great quote from Erik Thoennes: […]

Pushing a Feather

January 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM

[…] Brett McCracken gives us a great quote from Erik Thoennes: […]

Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?

January 28, 2014 at 11:08 PM

[…] Read More […]

Lori

January 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Rachel, I totally get your intention. My concern is that, if after you tell your story, a person who has, rather than slandering, raped or killed or destroyed tells their story, what is your response? And does the story make room for that person to seek grace, too, or does it exclude them?

As I mentioned below, I can talk about, say, my "imperfect" parenting in a way that, while providing a veneer of authenticity, actually shuts others out. If we're sitting in a women's group talking about our failures and sins as mothers, would the woman who is hoping to regain custody of her children after she lost them years ago due to her abuse and neglect feel like she can share that without condemnation and rejection? Can she share her story and be met with grace? In many cases, including many "authentic" communities, the unfortunate answer is that she can't. Authenticity only extends so far, and we don't let it touch the real, deep down, serious darkness and sin in ourselves and others. We want a PG or maybe PG-13 version of sin, and anything more serious than that still need to be hidden away.

I have seen this happen. I have seen a room full of women who have no problem "being real" about yelling at their kids or keeping a messy house go silent and condemning when a woman stands up and, crying, tells her story of having lost her children to foster care because she was a neglectful drug addict. I have seen women who have no problem talking about their premarital sexual escapades turn into self-righteous Pharisees when a woman who is trying to leave prostitution after two decades enter their church. I have heard of men's groups where men speak openly about their lust and struggles with pornography reject a man who admits that he is on the sex offender registry because, when he was 22, he had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl under the age of consent or because his porn addiction spiraled so out of control that he was arrested for possession of child porn. When our authenticity only extends so far, we are creating more shame and more silence, rather than cultivating a culture of grace.

When we talk openly about all the pot we smoked when we were young, or how we still sometimes get drunk on the weekends, but we go cold and silent and self-righteous at the woman who might dare to admit that she is crushed by the guilt she has because her alcohol problems led her to drink during her pregnancy and have a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, we are not "being real." We are being new Pharisees, we publicly declare our "brokenness" while having disdain for those we think *really* screwed up.

Certainly there are some communities that are not doing this. But, too many are.

Joel

January 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM

I absolutely agree with you, Rachel. I've always thought that church should be more like AA. In AA, if you still think you're OK, that means you are in denial. The only people not accepted at AA (or, rather, the only attitude not acceptable) are those who think they are not that bad after all. They haven't yet come to terms with the reality of who they really are. Even the pastor in the article's example, who was faithful and committed for all those years, needs to fess up. Jesus came for the sick - and the twist is that ALL are sick, including those who think they're not. The only difference between the pharisee and the prostitute was that the prostitute knew who she was; the pharisee was in denial. I think that this "authenticity wave" sweeping over the church is great progress. Yes, I believe that as we come to terms with our sinfulness and God's boundless grace, we will naturally desire to live in obedience. But no, I don't believe that we ever grow out of the need to realize that we're ever missing the mark. As Luther put it, simul justus et peccator - simultaneously saint and sinner.

Fran Blomberg

January 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM

I am one of the pastors at Scum of the Earth Church, referred to at the beginning of the article. We chose the name to reach a demographic that has often been overlooked, or at least feels ostracized by many traditional congregations. The apostle Paul uses the phrase in 1 Corinthians 4:13, speaking of the way the apostles have been treated. I would like to assure readers we are not glorifying brokenness, or making excuses for any attitude or behavior that does not honor God. The name does its job in attracting those who are skeptical about or even hostile to Christianity, and the holiness we strive for within the community witnesses to a viable alternative to the lives of those who might never before have given Christianity a try. I'd invite anyone to look us up if you're in Denver, and see for yourself!

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? – “But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our ‘realness’ and ‘authenticity,’ have evangelicals turned ‘being screwed up’ into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness?” […]

Timothy Stone

January 28, 2014 at 10:05 PM

I think that to be "authentic" for me means trying my best to be holy, but not acting like I don't have issues. The idea that we should not try to do what we feel is hypocritical and "inauthentic" is stupid for two reasons. First of all, that is the definition of temptation, not hypocrisy, and secondly, that is the road that some Christians take saying they can support causes, candidates, and laws contrary to Christian civic morality due to it being more "real".

I think authentic is to be holy, while ADMITTING my issues and trying to get past them. I will give an example here. I discussed one time a long time ago about issues of pornography, including a specific kind I won't mention in case young ones see this. I admitted that many (though certainly not all) guys, including me, do have a natural enjoyment for this, but that it is a sin, and we ought to avoid it. With God's grace, we shall not fall into such sin. I felt that acting like I didn't struggle with this would be lying (this ain't Rahab or Corrie Ten Boom hiding folks here, so it can't be justified) and making myself sound better than I am. I was honest, but that honesty has to be with the willingness to seek God's help to avoid future sins, and repent of old ones, in whatever area is at issue.

Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog

January 28, 2014 at 09:03 AM

[…] Has Authenticity Trumped Holiness? “While we think self-deprecation causes us to be more relatable and empathetic to non-Christians, it’s ultimately communicating a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, and discontentment. It thrives on negativity and kills our sense of hope.” […]

Liberty for Captives

January 28, 2014 at 08:34 AM

Balance is so often achieved in the comments section of an article or blog post.

I think Brett addresses an important issue which many of us--myself among them--have experienced. I grew up in a Bible cult in Maine which practiced what cult expert Stephen Martin calls the "Cult of Confession." Confession was not just expected, it was coerced. Members who wallowed in sin faced a paradox: they were applauded as authentic, but also by their very confession they put themselves more and more under the power of the pastor rather than under the grace of Jesus. "See how wicked you are?" the pastor would say. "See how much further you have to go to become mature in Christ? Isn't it good that God sent me--a mature believer--to help all of you wretched, sinful people?" Rather than confession serving as a healthy and freeing path to receive forgiveness and the love of Christian brothers and sisters, it instead confirmed members more and more in their perception of worthless "worminess."

So who's right, you or Brett? You both are, of course. Confession is so important and so healthy for Christians. It is absolutely a part of authentic community. But it, like any Christian virtue, can be taken to an unhealthy extreme which can damage people and lead us away from Christ toward a legalistic practice. To leave either side out of the discussion can throw us off balance.

I'm glad to have read both this article and the comments.

littlepeace

January 28, 2014 at 08:05 PM

The problem with this article is that the author has obviously never been to either of those churches. And I have been to both. Yes Christians shouldn't focus on their sin or the sins of others. But both scum of earth and salvage yard are ministries to the lost. So they do have a very real past that needs to be dealt with. Authenticity as he calls it is all that will appeal to the broken and hurting. They're not 2nd or 3rd generation churches that reach people who are already believers.. I think it's irresponsible to comment on churches that you know nothing about. Mainstream Evangelical churches are dying off for a reason because the lack of authenticity is obvious to a new generation. The great thing is that this generation is redefining its practice of Christianity, while maintaining the fundamentals. Our stories as believers are a testament to what God has done. Why should we pretend they never happened? Talking about our failings are not bragging.. But rather encouragement to people who wonder why they can't seem to be perfect.

Liberty for Captives

January 28, 2014 at 08:04 AM

Well said! True Christian authenticity shouldn't involve a stratified sense of who's the most wretched among us. I like your point about legalism. I grew up in a Bible cult where confession was expected and even coerced. We lacked any sense of boundaries, privacy, or hope. We stopped focusing on the transformative work of Jesus and instead wallowed in our sin and shame. This robbed us of joy, stalled our sanctification, and kept us rolling in the mud of "worm theology."

For us--for me--it was a form of legalism. We couldn't meet over coffee with a fellow believer just to chit-chat or talk about last night's game. Instead, we had to outdo each other in our "deepness" and honesty about our sin. It was absolutely a pecking order, and those who who failed to play the game were labeled hypocrites and inauthentic.

Thanks for a great article.

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? […]

Rachel Held Evans

January 28, 2014 at 07:25 PM

Lori,

I believe there should be space for every kind of confession - no matter how dark. And I've been in communities where that is practiced.

I guess I"m not seeing how confessing to gossip necessarily prevents someone from confessing to abuse or adultery or something like that. Not sure why one would exclude the other.

Lori

January 28, 2014 at 07:19 AM

I definitely have concerns about "authenticity," but not because I think it's discouraging holiness. I just think it's encouraging selfishness and judgmentalism, as it purports to do the opposite.

For a time, I was part of a small religious community where the kind of "authenticity" talked about here was the thing: you couldn't get away from people talking about their porn addictions, their short tempers with their kids, their overspending, their histories of light drug or alcohol abuse, their having had sex before marriage, etc. And the thing I noticed is that the community, even though it was located in a very non-white, very non-middle-class neighborhood, never expanded beyond being white and middle-class. I have to think it's partly because the "acceptable sins" of this community--the things it held up as the worst of the worst, evidence of one's absolute depravity--were actually alienating to many people.

If I go on and on about how sinful and broken I am because I sometimes yell at my kids, how is the woman who lost her children because of her abuse and neglect going to feel? That is not to say that my impatience isn't a sin, but I can very easily frame my story in a way that, rather than freeing others to share, makes them feel that their sins are so horrific that they are unwelcome. If a man keeps talking about how looking at pornography was the worst sin he could have committed against his wife, how does the man who was serially unfaithful fit in? If having slept around a bit in college is presented as the worst possible sexual sin, is the person who spent two decades involved in sex work going to feel welcome or like they are simply too sinful to belong at all?

The thing is that "authenticity" carries it's own set of standards, and often I think those end up silencing people, rather than freeing them. We hear lots of people confessing to looking at porn, but nobody confessing to once having raped somebody. We hear lots of people confessing to having a messy house or snapping at their kids occasionally, but nobody confessing to having abused their children. We hear lots of people confessing to having been promiscuous in college, but nobody confessing to having spread STDs or having gotten women pregnant and then pressuring them to abort. We hear people confessing to wrong priorities about money, but nobody confessing to having spent a decade in prison for armed robbery. There's probably a few reasons for that, including that most people who truly regret and repent of their pasts just want to move forward instead of dwelling on it, but I think it's also because when we make continually confessing "acceptable sins" the hallmark of authenticity, we alienate the many, many people who's sins do not fit into that category.

That is not to say that we have to have committed the very worst sins--as we see them--to share. But, I do think that truly creating an environment of authenticity is mostly about listening, not speaking. And sometimes we become so enamored of our own narratives that we forget how to listen. I will say that it was a very painful wake-up call when, after an extremely difficult and shameful sin from a decade early in my husband's life, that we had both spent the last 10 years recovering from, was exposed, our most "authentic" friends were the most judgmental and least forgiving. Apparently this particular sin didn't fit into their narrative. And it really made me question the value of "authenticity," if when stuff gets really real--when the really hard and dark stuff comes out--we aren't willing to extend grace.

It also made me wonder how "authentic" these apostles of authenticity really are. I've come to conclude: not that much. They are simply creating, instead of a picture-perfect image, a just-rough-around-the-edges-enough image. But I have no doubt that the man who claims to be so real because he admits to struggling with porn or the woman who claims she's laying it all out there because she admits her house is a mess and her kids aren't perfect are hiding other sins they find truly shameful, instead presenting themselves as "broken" or "imperfect" rather than "a vile sinner". Their authenticity doesn't free them, either, and they aren't any more honest about facing the real darkness in themselves or others and meeting it with truth AND grace than their "holier-than-thou" counterparts are.

Tony

January 28, 2014 at 07:08 AM

I do agree looking toward Christ who is to be formed within us is important. I think that admonishment to look toward Christ is the best part of this article.

BUT I’m not sure I totally understand what Brett's problem is with the word authentic and the terminology of brokenness. … his question, “Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness?” sets up a viewpoint and the rhetoric for the bulk of the article which made me uncomfortable. This paragraph summarizes my concern.

But why must "real" be synonymous with flawed and imperfect? When someone opens up about their junk, we think, "you're being real," and we can relate to them. But what about the pastor who has served faithfully for decades without any scandal, loved his wife and family, and embodied the fruit of the spirit? Is this less real?

“Real” in this life is flawed and imperfect. And the pastor he mentions does not exist. Or any other person of similar history. He is looking at the externals and not the internals, which God only knows. Brett proves the point he is arguing against in the above paragraph. It assumes that a human being, on earth, in a non-translated state, can at some point be “sinless”, even if for a micro-second. That would mean we would not need the gospel every micro-second of our lives just once at some point. Actually authenticity (the recognition of indwelling sin), as I John 1:8 states does not conflict with Peter’s call in 1 Peter. 1:16 to be holy. Instead it’s an understanding of the constant tension of a perfect Holy Spirit within a "broken" human host working out a salvation with blood, sweat and tears.

I wish it was an easier road but that's what grace is for, thank God!

Melissa

January 28, 2014 at 06:47 AM

Mr. Conservative, yes, I have heard something similar to your last paragraph as well. And, by experience, I understand what you are saying too. Being a Christian for well over 25 years now, I definitely sin "less" as far as being able to look back and see areas in which sin habits have become less overpowering and frequent - and yet, I see MORE of my sin (at least it seems that way to me, though I am sure others could point out much that I overlook!) because my heart despises it more than I did when I was young in the faith.

And yes, it's all about where the recognition and confession of sin leads us - to the Redeemer!

Laurie

January 28, 2014 at 06:19 AM

I find that as my relationship with Him deepens, I see sin that I had not seen before. There is a heightened sense of awareness to it. So, yes, I believe that I know what you mean. But, I also find that -- as I grow in relationship with Him -- He gives me more power to turn away from sin that I would not have the power to turn away from before.

Karl Thoennes

January 28, 2014 at 06:12 PM

What a fantastic thought, what a insightful way to put it: sin is cosmic treason. Would any traitor proudly stand up and say, "Sure, I sold out my countymen but I'm just bein' real here, don't want to be a hypocrite!" In that perspective it highlights the absurdity of distorting sin into a badge of honesty.

Brian

January 28, 2014 at 05:14 PM

Thanks Fran for sharing! That was very helpful insight for me personally. Who knows if I'll be in the Denver area (I'm cheering for Denver from Mississippi this Sunday if that counts :-D), but if I do, you can be sure I will look you guys up!

A Fellow Pastor

Brian

January 28, 2014 at 05:09 PM

Wow! Thanks Lori for sharing this.

D. Bower

January 28, 2014 at 04:19 PM

This article has really rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with half of what was said about the comfortable and approved level of transparency in the church... "Authentic" legalism. I have not experienced a lot of fist bumps and back patting over sin and I have never experienced people who KNOW the love of Jesus and are wallowing in their brokenness.
I thought loving people was telling the truth about ourselves and what Jesus has done. I thought we were supposed to tell the truth and let God worry about who runs from the truth or how he uses it to set people free. I have seen the truth set people free and them wallow in grace and Know the love of Christ. Truth AND Love.. There is no love without truth and no truth without love. As Tim Keller beautifully says...God's saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God's mercy and grace."
Being in the church all my life, I have not experienced many Christians who are willing to be transparent/authentic or honest about their real struggles, sins or weakness. I have definitely heard more Christian's brag about their obedience and keep score on how they and everyone else is obeying the rules. The truth of the gospel that we must remember everyday is..if we get our identity from our obedience, disobedience or brokenness instead of Christ, then we have forgotten who we are in Christ... "we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” (Tim Keller) This applies to everyone,even the pastor who had no real external, socially unacceptable sins. He is just as broken and sinful as the pastor kicked out of the church. Sin and brokenness is first, not what you do but who we are. From the heart flows..and the reason all sin in the heart does not become full blown evil fruit is because of God's restraining grace and that is what should be celebrated not the person and their self-discipline. I think what bothers me the most is an article that shows a lack of understanding that if we could really see ourselves and our sin, self deprecation would be our truth, then we would be completely blown away by the Love of God and we would boast in our weakness bc it would show God's amazing grace to save a wretch like me. I think the only way we have any hope of becoming more aware of our deep brokenness, more honest ( authentic) about our deep brokenness and knowing we are even more deeply loved and valued even in our deep brokenness, is by using all our efforts to keep our eyes and thoughts on Jesus. I am just kind of tired of articles that turn my eyes from Jesus and what He has done to work on what I am or am not doing, (being authentic, inauthentic, too authentic, or not authentic enough). For me, the only thing that has covered my self-deprecation is knowing how freaking awesome Jesus Christ is, who I am in Him and how much He loves and delights in me. The love of Christ changes people to embrace their brokenness and boast in Christ... Aren't we glad Paul believed this?

Chancellor Roberts

January 28, 2014 at 04:01 PM

I hear you, Ryan. Along with this cult of vulnerability (at least with regard to sexual sin) was this whole "accountability partner" thing where you were supposed to "be vulnerable" to your accountability partner (though not necessarily he to you) and he was supposed to somehow help you in your struggle with (name of sexual sins here). It's true that, often, the emphasis was on sexual sins while other sins (and other concerns that weren't necessarily sinful) were ignored or were to be suppressed.

I have a friend back in the States who struggles with loneliness. He can't seem to talk to anyone in his church about it because he is sometimes accused of whining or is otherwise looked down upon (he experienced the same thing in a church we both used to attend). When I was still in the States, I was one of the few people he could talk to about it. Sadly, though, all I could really do was listen (which I don't have a problem with; in fact, I've always been the guy people come to when they just need to talk or vent because I've always been willing to provide a listening ear). I've never experienced loneliness; so, I really don't know what that's like for him. (In fact, I like my alone time way too much and have to actually force myself to interact with others). Did it do any good for him? Well, I guess if it didn't then he would have stopped talking to me about his struggle long ago. I admit, though, there have been times when I just had to ask him "So, what are you doing about it?" Was that insensitive? Perhaps. However, there's a difference between having a struggle with a desire to gain victory and just wallowing in our struggle. Besides, I tend to be a bit process-oriented, often interested in seeing exactly how to get from here to there.

Anyway, Ryan, I have to question whether being "vulnerable" is something we should even be striving for. I don't remember reading anything in scripture commanding us to be vulnerable. Granted, there's the whole "confess your faults one to another" thing, but that's immediately followed by the command to "pray for one another."

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January 28, 2014 at 04:01 AM

[…] Has ’Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? […]

Chancellor Roberts

January 28, 2014 at 03:41 PM

Taylor,

Just to add to what you wrote, the other part of the "confess your faults one to another" passage is "pray for one another." There doesn't seem to be much emphasis on that part for some reason.

Chancellor Roberts

January 28, 2014 at 03:35 PM

It's a good article overall, but I do have a problem with one part of it:

"We should also, perhaps, stop speaking of ourselves in such 'we are scum' terms. In Christ, we can be more than scum. And that's a message the world sorely needs.

'While we think self-deprecation causes us to be more relatable and empathetic to non-Christians, it's ultimately communicating a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, and discontentment,' Stephen Mattson wrote for Red Letter Christians. 'It thrives on negativity and kills our sense of hope.'"


I don't think self-deprecation is necessarily a bad thing. I explain why here: http://intelligenceisnotasin.net/2014/01/06/the-disease-of-self-deprication/

Chancellor Roberts

January 28, 2014 at 03:18 PM

The title of the article seems to imply that holiness is somehow not "authentic."

Chancellor Roberts

January 28, 2014 at 03:17 PM

That kind of testimony, the seeming glorification of evil with a little "and then I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior" tacked on at the end, has been around at least as long as I've been a Christian - and that's going back to the mid-1970s. The more sordid the details, the greater the depths of depravity into which someone had been before God mercifully saved them, the more "powerful" the testimony is considered to be.

Ryan

January 28, 2014 at 03:12 PM

These are some great questions.


Vulnerability and confession are easy to encourage when they don't hurt anyone. What if someone were to confess that they view women who wear skimpy outfits to be less human or less deserving of basic respect and decency, and perhaps even more deserving of lewd words and acts? I mean, that's a sin, isn't it? Viewing a woman as less than what she is because she wears clothing that is considered inappropriate? You're fundamentally undermining her status as an image-bearer of God. And yet, if someone were to stand up in a church and proclaim that they struggle with this sin, the impact that would have on many women could be disastrous.


At the end of the day, I think there is a certain threshold when it comes to loving sinners and meeting them where they are. If a brother or sister in Christ were to come to me and confess to assaulting (sexually or otherwise), raping, or murdering someone, I would remind them of the Gospel, I would reassure them that their act of evil is not greater than what God can redeem for good, and then I would turn them in to the police. We are called to be a reflection, imperfect as it might be, of God's justness just as much as His grace.

In reminding people of the need to be vulnerable and to accept sinners as they are, as Christ did, we must be careful to ensure that in accepting people who have done awful things, we do not thereby alienate their victims.


I found this blog post to offer an insightful perspective on the topic: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/2013/06/when-my-abuser-is-welcome-at-the-table-i-am-not/

Melody Harrison Hanson

January 28, 2014 at 01:50 PM

Thank you for writing this. It was convicting.

Ryan

January 28, 2014 at 01:42 PM

I think pseudo-vulnerability is one of the biggest problems plaguing evangelicalism. I actually stopped going to Men's Groups and that sort of thing because of two reasons: First, you are expected to be vulnerable and if you don't, it's a sign that you're not taking your relationship with God seriously, and second, the only thing it is acceptable to be vulnerable about is sexual sin: Porn, lust, and masturbation. As a young man dealing with severe depression, this was intolerable. I had a mountain of issues building up inside of me but I couldn't share them, I couldn't let them out. If it wasn't porn, then it wasn't on the table. I would leave every night frustrated and discouraged, feeling that if I were to ever reach a point where I could look at my life and say the biggest issue I faced was sexual sin, I would be ecstatic. And to me, the worst part is that there were probably all sorts of other guys there feeling the exact same way, but no one can talk about it. This notion of "being real" became an idol, and ironically it ended up forcing nearly everyone to be fake. Now I know that this isn't perfectly in line with the article, because many of the struggles people have - depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, trauma from past experiences, etc - are not sinful. That's really the entire point, though. We put so much focus on flaunting certain sins that real hurt becomes marginalized. We try so hard to make ourselves appear "real" that the people who most desperately need to be vulnerable can't get a word in edgewise.


In other words, we haven't really become more vulnerable at all, we've just changed the definition of what counts as an "acceptable" sin or struggle and what doesn't.

Pat Conneen

January 27, 2014 at 12:37 PM

Thanks for this, Brett. I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the subject. I agree that at least in our So. Calif. church culture "healing" and "wholeness" have become ultimate goals. But, if our healing isn't a healing unto holiness I'm afraid we'll live under the illusion that we've crossed the finish line before we've even entered the race.

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January 27, 2014 at 12:35 AM

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? – Evangelicalism—both on the individual and institutional level—is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that smacked of hypocrisy. But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our “realness” and “authenticity,” have evangelicals turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? […]

KLov

January 27, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Yes! I would agree with you here. We should never forget about being honest about sin in our life but it shouldn't be the be all and end all. It should be a starting point for moving towards sanctification.

blake

January 27, 2014 at 12:13 PM

There are going to be a lot of authentic people in hell. Being real apart from the active work of the Holy Spirit in transforming an individual into Christlikeness doesn't count for much.

Paul

January 27, 2014 at 11:32 PM

Oops. That should have said "this is NOT an argument for or against..."

Paul

January 27, 2014 at 11:30 PM

Okay, first -- this as an argument for or against anything anyone here has said. This is "inspired by", not "in opposition to" both the article and several of the comments I've read. So just know that right up front. I am still thinking this through, putting thoughts to words, and putting those words out here for you all to chew on, swallow, or spit right out as you like. ;)

First, I would recommend the book "Extravagant Grace" by Barbara Duguid to everyone here. Barbara's book, which is basically a study of John Newton's grace theology, really seems to strike the right balance between the "authenticity" and "holiness". I don't have it within reach right now, but she talks somewhere in there about how God used her own ongoing struggle with besetting (or persistent) sin to grow compassion and patience toward other people who were struggling with their own sin; even though the sins they struggled with were not the same as hers, it gave her a pathway to meet them where they were, with compassion and grace. And she made an interesting point in all of that... that God can can (and in fact He often does) use even our ongoing struggles with some area of sin in our lives for His purpose, for our good and for His glory.

I am pretty sure I understood the point the author was trying to make (or that he finally arrived at). However, I do feel that the way he wrote the article, created a false dichotomy between being "authentic" and being "holy". I also think, just by the sources he referenced that this was intentional and pretty one-sided. The writer quoted some guy name Thoennes (whom I know nothing about) several times in the article quite respectfully, but when speaking of "being authentic" he threw out a list of (so it seemed to me) pretty extreme examples, even going so far at one point as to say "authenticity should not primarily be about affirming each other in our struggles—patting each other on the back as we share about porn struggles while enjoying a second round of beers at the local pub Bible study." Really? Have you been to many of those? I sure haven't. And to be quite honest... if that is where someone is at in their life in Christ and they are actually getting their sin (and struggle with it) out in the open, hey -- praise God!

I did agree with what he wrote about 'inauthentic' authenticity in the church community, and the 'sweet spot' of so-called 'transparency'. I have seen a lot of that. It doesn't take too long in Christian community to figure out what is acceptable (even admirable) to "confess"... and what you'd better just keep hidden away from the rest of the community because "Christians" just aren't supposed to struggle with *those* things. There is a paragraph in that section, though, that just struck me as weird:


This dynamic reflects another problem: our skewed understanding of sin. It's almost as if our sins have become a currency of solidarity—something we pat each other on the back about as fellow authentic, broken people. But sin should always be grieved rather than celebrated, Thoennes argues.


I have to say that if this is a real problem I have had ZERO exposure to it. I have never been around a community of self-professed Christians where sins had become a "currency of solidarity" or something that brought unity. I have been in some faith communities where sin that had been pushed as far into the shadows as possible actually wreaked havoc on the body once it came out... and have more than once been a collateral casualty because of it. I've also never been a part of a Christian community that "celebrated sin" rather than grieving over it. Put as nicely as I can, that little paragraph just seems absolutely ridiculous to me.

Elsewhere in the article, the author referred to (what I believe was a fictitious) pastor who for decades has served God, his church, and his family faithfully. He asks, "Can't that be authentic, too?" Well, of course, and praise God for those people. They are unquestionably a blessing to all those around them. But that doesn't mean that today's equivalents of the tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves have no value. The beauty of the gospel is that God loves *those* people just as much as *that* pastor. I guess at the heart of it, what bothers me the most about that article is that it seems (in a rather subtle way) to suggest that we ought to look more favorably on these "holy" people (like his fictious pastor) and less favorably on all these people who talk about having a sin problem even though they are Christians.

Now, I get it that he finally arrives at the suggestion that we ought to be finding our unity -- and just as importantly -- our identity in Christ. I don't take issue with that. In fact, I am a firm believer in that. But I think it is a bit unrealistic and disingenuous to expect everyone who begins to walk with Jesus (or perhaps I should even say begins to walk with Jesus down one particular theological avenue or another) to instantly be transformed or understand who they are now in Christ. The truth is we gain ground, we fall, we struggle, have some success, fall again... this goes beyond what it means to be a Christian. This is what it looks like to just be a human being. As we try to figure things out, we seek comfort and counsel, advice and assistance. We look for others who have had similar experiences; or maybe others seek us out for the ones we ourselves have had. To be helpful at all in this great exchange, we *have* to be authentic. If not, at best we're misleading. At worst, we're deceitful. I can honestly say that those people who have truly ministered grace into my life have done so not because of their "holiness", but because of their "authenticity".

I still think it is a mistake to try to separate "authenticity" and "holiness" because the two are necessary in equal amounts to form "integrity". But if pressed on the matter I would dare say that if one was a more necessary ingredient than the other in forming a healthy community, I would probably land on the side of "authenticity". Part of the reason for that is because "holiness" seems to commonly be defined by the practices one has a particular affiliation for, and to be honest I am not at all convinced at this point that very many of us have a right understanding of what true 'holiness' (from God's perspective) actually means. I suspect there is quite a lot more to it than just "not sinning." This is actually something I've been wrestling with for a few months now. Part of what is really throwing me for a loop is just trying to really see and hear Jesus in the gospels.

First of all, Jesus is the exact imprint of the invisible God. In all of Galilee and surrounding area, HE is the one who is holy. He is the ONLY one that is truly holy. He is God in the flesh. Now, there is a group of people there in that some place and time -- Pharisees, Levites, priests, scribes, Sanhedrin -- that are supposed to be holy. They think they are holy. Everyone that is spiritually "beneath" them (or spiritually intimidated by them) thinks they are holy. But Jesus doesn't. His definition of holiness isn't even close to the one they've come up with. Sometimes I worry we may be in the same boat today.

What I do see, though, is Jesus touching lepers. Jesus healing the blind, the diseased, touching the dead for goodness sake and bringing them back to life... eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, standing up to protect women accused of adultery, esteeming widows and orphans... and just flat out lambasting the religious leaders with all their pretentious attitudes toward other people who aren't as privileged or as polished as they are. And none of this is coming from some book or blog that I've read. It's from reading and wrestling with who Jesus is in the gospels. As I sit here thinking about all the different sorts of people and conversations Jesus had with the people in and around Galilee, it seems to me that Jesus actually preferred the company of those who were, perhaps, more "authentic" than they were "holy". Again, I don't think there should really be an either/or relationship between the two, but that was kind of how the article set things up in my opinion and the opinions of many other commenters, so I'll continue to hold the tension between the two.

One last thing I'll say about it and then I'll give it a rest. Again quoting from this Thoennes fellow, the author says:


"I think goodness is more real in that we are actually living more as humans were intended to," Thoennes said. "Jesus is the realest human we'll ever see. He's authentic. He understands our brokenness. But he's as real as can be."


Here Thoennes is saying that when it comes to authenticity, Jesus is the man. Paraphrasing I know, but I'm quite sure he would agree with me on that interpretation. However, here's the thing. I'm quite sure that the people around Jesus during his earthly ministry that considered themselves to be the ones who were the most holy or striving the most to pursue holiness ...

theose guys were the same ones accusing Jesus of being a glutton, a drunkard, a blasphemer... even possessed by demons.

That should give one pause to reflect. I know it does me.

Okay, one last thought and then I promise I'm done. When it comes down to it, if you just have to separate "authenticity" and "holiness" into two separate entities, then one really critical consideration is that it is within my ability to be "authentic". But it is only under the power of the Holy Spirit working in, on, and through me to really be "holy". Try as I might, I cannot make myself more holy. Only God can do that. But I can make an effort to be more authentic. And in doing so, perhaps that allows the Holy Spirit to make me a little more holy.

I don't know. But I sure have enjoyed thinking more about it and sharing my thoughts. Thanks for the opportunity to think, grow, share, and commune!

Blessings.

Splod

January 27, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Brett, spot on and quite excellent. But quickly, and I hope humbly, part of the quote from Thoennes is incorrect when speaking about true believers, "Thoennes said. . . . God's mad at sinful people." God is mad at the unregenerate, He calls it wrath. Because of propitiation, which is Christ turning God's wrath away from us so that it is poured out on Himself on the cross, because of that God is not, and never will be, mad or angry at His children. To say that He is or that He would be angry at His true children is to say that Christ did not turn and take all of God's wrath (past, present &future) for us. God does chastise His children, even for sins like "authenticity", but He does not do it in anger, though it may seem so to us. Human parents can, and sadly do, chastise their children in anger, though they still love them. God, though, chastises in love, forming us more and more into the image of Jesus.

Melodee

January 27, 2014 at 10:53 AM

This is a thought provoking article,that is ripe for the time that we live in! In him and through him we have the power to live in love, grace, compassion and truth. Part of our story maybe the truth to be shared, in that it is what Christ has done for us. But let us never replace the truth of Christ today with our past failures. As Christ said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39. These are present tense statements. May they guide our actions and our words each and every day.

Our “Authenticity” Confusion | The Search

January 27, 2014 at 10:23 PM

[…] I expanded upon some of these thoughts in a longer piece that published today on The Gospel Coalition’s website. In the article, titled “Has […]

David

January 27, 2014 at 10:16 AM

I like how C.S. Lewis corrects this misnomer (if from a different angle): "True humility is void of modesty." And this one: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” The genuine pursuit of holiness is rooted in Christlike humility.

d camp

January 27, 2014 at 09:20 AM

Ironically, and often unintentional, this 'authenticity' is becoming the new legalism. Granted, all believers were totally depraved and their "their righteousness as filthy rags," but it seems that a pecking order is developing as to who can tell the most sordid story. There is mention in the NT of the saint's past, but their greatest glory is that they are called 'saints' and are pressing on toward a higher calling, striving to live a sanctified life of love and good works.

And perhaps that is part of the problem: maybe the exclusive focus on justification and our horrid past has become the new 'cool,' because the 'work out your salvation with fear and trembling' part of sanctification is too old fashioned? Jesus didn't dwell on the past, He said "pick up your cross and follow me," and Paul said, "leaving those things I have left behind, I press on to the high calling of Jesus Christ."

Joe

January 27, 2014 at 08:39 AM

We aren't just "Broken". Without Christ we are evil, wicked, and ultimate adulterers against God. Sin is cosmic treason!

Ray

January 27, 2014 at 08:27 PM

"To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn't hypocrisy; it's integrity.” Love it!

Laurie

January 27, 2014 at 08:09 AM

Are authenticity and holiness mutually exclusive? It's been my experience that people want to know that others have shared their struggle(s) and come out on the other side. Yes, the goal is sanctification (one would hope), but I believe that there is more likely to be a starting point if someone says, "I've been where you are, I understand, and will you let me share what Jesus has done in my life?"

d camp

January 27, 2014 at 07:40 PM

I agree, I don't think the author is denying a both/and, but an either-or. All believers sin and go through legitimate phases of remorse, confession, and praise. I think he is referring to a specific phenomena today -- perhaps well intentioned in many young Christians -- that promotes a "constant brokenness" mentality. In fact, if you gently challenge them on their responsibilities, they respond with something like, "Hey man, can't you see I'm totally broken? Any talk about 'doing' is dissing my brokenness and justification!"

Sometimes this is promoted -- without fully realizing it -- by the teacher/minister because it is easier to attract and maintain the "perpetual brokenness" environment. The hard work of growth can be more challenging than staying broken. Even Jesus had many followers as long as the subject was about brokenness and healing. But once He started talking about "taking up your cross and following me," they lost interest pretty quickly.

Sarah Beals

January 27, 2014 at 07:33 AM

This trend is also true in the blogging community. Somehow if you share all the sordid details of your life, that this somehow equals transparency and authenticity. Not to mention "Brave." I think of a woman I know who kept a secret until she went to the grave--a very hurtful secret, and she kept it for the integrity of her family and for their well being, causing her personal anguish emotionally. NOW that is what I call brave. Any old person can spill their guts. :) Great article. Thank you.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/27) | Everyday Theology

January 27, 2014 at 07:06 AM

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? Evangelicalism—both on the individual and institutional level—is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that smacked of hypocrisy. But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our “realness” and “authenticity,” have evangelicals turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? (Brett McCracken) […]

Mr. Conservative

January 27, 2014 at 06:32 PM

I think I agree with what Brett is saying, that is, don't brag about sin as if it is something to be proud of--just to make you seem cool and "authentic." But, I see much of the other side in churches, acting as if every day is "victorious Christian living" which I think--for the most part--is fake.

For me, the Christian life is a daily struggle, and I fail a lot. I am not proud of the failure, but being honest about it sends me back to the cross, and reminds me I have (and need) a Redeemer.

I have heard it taught that as a Christian grows in his faith, he may sin less (if you can measure that), but he may not notice any diminishment because he sees MORE of his sin--sin that was always there--but God had graciously not allowed him to see it once--it would be too horrible.

Does that make any sense to anyone out there?

miscellany | georgianne

January 27, 2014 at 06:32 AM

[…] Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? This is good […]

JR

January 27, 2014 at 06:27 PM

Well said. Far too often, "authentic" is code for "I sleep around; and don't judge me because God is OK with me since I admit it rather than hide it." And "inauthentic" frequently is directed to those who say "I don't sleep around because God says don't do it, and while I struggle with it, I continue to fight against it rather than just give in to it time after time."

It is not "authentic" to settle in to a lifestyle that stops fighting temptation, and it is not "inauthentic" to struggle and fight temptation day after day. Sadly, the latter has come to be equated with legalism, and the former with grace.

We must remember that while justification is all grace and is instantaneous, sanctification is also all grace, but is a process. Those who do not sense a deep desire to grow in sanctification should be concerned about the true state of their souls, as should those who think they have achieved a measure of sanctification that is anywhere near the true holiness that exists only in the presence of God.

Jeffrey Kranz

January 27, 2014 at 05:57 PM

Nice to meet you, Rachel. I see what you did there. #Acts =)

Given their context, I can't really file these passages under "exhibitionism" or "showing off," or even as plays for authenticity points.

Paul doesn't deny his mistakes. We shouldn't deny ours. Paul's also not proud of his mistakes. We shouldn't be proud of ours.

Right?

Rachel Held Evans

January 27, 2014 at 05:43 PM

One more thought: To me, there are few things more nefarious than speaking about sin in abstraction, as a mere theological concept.

Here's how I explained sin to a skeptic not long ago:

The other day, someone said something condescending to me about how I haven't been to seminary. This hit on a deep insecurity of mine, and it made me really angry. So in response, I went stomping around my house, spouting off to my husband about how more people visit my blog in a day than visit that guys' church in a year. That right there? That need to make myself feel big by making someone else seem small? That pride? That measuring my value and the value of others by numbers? Christianity gives it a name: sin. And it's a big deal. It's the same compulsion that leads people to rape and kill and destroy one another. It's a rebellion against God's will and it puts me out of harmony with God and my neighbor.

One of the reasons I'm a Christian, I explained, is because Christianity names and addresses sin. It tells the truth about reality - that we're not "okay," not on our own.

Now was that overs-sharing? Maybe. Did I take pride in divulging that embarrassing example of pride in my life? No. (And here I am sharing it again with a bunch of Calvinists! Ah!)

But I had a feeling the person could relate to that sort of sin.

When we talk about sin in abstraction, it loses its potency. When we focus exclusively on the sins of other people, we turn into prideful and judgemental hypocrites, known only for what we are against. But when we speak honestly and specifically about our own sins, we get right to the ugly heart of the matter - that we're not okay, that the darkness we see "out there" in the world is also present within ourselves. And that's why we need a savior.

D camp

January 27, 2014 at 05:25 PM

What we don't see in Paul is a paralysis of grief, and definitely not an excuse for moving forward. What were some of the first words he uttered after his conversion? Lord, what would you have me to do?

ron haines

January 27, 2014 at 05:04 AM

Yea, Yea, Yea, .. thank you for this. I am so tired of all the 30 somethings talking about drugs and abortions they did and had just to be real.. it's almost an idol thing. Look how bad i was , I was so terrible but now I am broken and have come to Christ. Absolutely nothing new except now with Blogs you can scream ' HEY LOOK ST ME""" see , I am important also. !

[…] By Brett McCracken […]

Rachel Held Evans

January 27, 2014 at 04:51 PM

Well I think confessing to a messy house is a bit different than confessing to sin. :-)

With the former, I think it's good to be able to say, "My house isn't perfect and that's okay." There is so much pressure, particularly among women, to live a glossy magazine type life...and that's why I think there's such an affinity for articles or blog posts that break down the myth of the "perfect" life. So many of us go through life feeling like we're falling short of some sort of standard that every other woman is somehow managing to meet. Knowing that your life doesn't have to look like a Pinterest board to be rewarding, fun, Christ-filled, and fulfilling is a good thing, I think. Of course, the degree to which one shares his or her imperfections online depends on personality, community, background, etc. And I agree there's such a thing as over-sharing. But I think honesty about both the good and the bad is an important trait in a writer and as a person. The ability to laugh at oneself is pretty critical to connecting with other people. And I know for a fact it's critical to connecting with readers.

Confessing sin, on the other hand, should lead to repentance. I agree. But I don't think honestly confessing sin should be conflated with "wallowing."

In fact, I'm surprised to see Brett writing against "authenticity" when, as a film-lover, he's never shied away from praising films that show the dark underbelly of sin. Good literature - good art- tells the truth. It doesn't whitewash. It doesn't gloss. It tells the truth. And the truth is, darkness is a part of this world - and it's not just "out there," it's "in here," within each one of us. Telling the truth about that reality is absolutely essential, I think, to sharing the Gospel. And people will hear it with more receptivity, I think, when we start by pointing the finger at ourselves instead of shaking it at others.

I've been in rooms that were absolutely transformed by the grace of God because one person had the courage to say. "I'm struggling." If we can't start with our shared brokenness, I'm not sure where we can start.

Brenda

January 27, 2014 at 04:22 PM

You seem to be saying that holiness or the pursuit of holiness and authenticity/vulnerability are mutually exclusive. I don't believe that's the case at all. I certainly think there is a time and place for vulnerability, say with an accountability group. People who know your past sins and your current temptations can encourage you in ways that people who don't know your struggles can't. They can remind you of God's truth, and they are a resource when you are being tempted and need prayer.

If what you are trying to say is that it has become common to share your sins without discretion or to commiserate over sin in a way that takes away the feeling of the weight of sin, I think I would agree there. I personally think some of that comes from a fear of rejection by other Christians. I've experienced some brutal rejection and shaming from people because of my sins. That did not spur me on towards holiness. In fact, it drove me further away from God. It is the people who have heard my confessions and loved me who have encouraged me to make better choices, to press on towards holiness. I suppose to sum up I'd say that deliberate authenticity and vulnerability are integral to the pursuit of holiness.

Melissa

January 27, 2014 at 04:20 PM

I love this quote from Bonhoeffer, he is one of my favorites! And I think I understand and agree with your thoughts about confession in the context of a community. I guess I am just wondering if I missed something in the post because I didn't catch that the author was coming out against confession. In fact, as Bonhoeffer says in the quote you shared, "the pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner...so everyone must conceal sin" seems to connect well because Brett McCracken mentions just that issue, to help each other call sin what it is - sin, and to be restored to God and turn from it. It's more about the language and intent of how we do it, and how in recent years, there seems to be almost a competitive and overly emotional nature (not sure if that's really the best description, but for lack of anything better on the spot...) to how we discuss and compare our sin struggles.

I have rarely commented on all the blogs I read, but our women's ministry has recently been discussing this very issue, so I want to be sure I understand. I don't mean my question at all sarcastically or to challenge your point of view unkindly, honestly just seeking to understand where/how this writer may have indicated that confession is somehow not needed or helpful to Christian community.

If anything, I took that he is calling for us to "spur one another on to love and good deeds" and "encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching," which oftentimes can come out of the process of confession - that Christlikeness he is speaking of throughout the post - we don't "camp out" in our sinful weaknesses, but quickly flee to the cross. I once read somewhere that years ago people talked about such a thing as sinful introspection, meaning we can become so caught up in our broken and helpless ways when considering our sins and weaknesses that we don't leave enough room for the hope that is in Christ Jesus, and our identity (as Brett indicated) is more about being broken than about being redeemed. This is what I was thinking of as I read the article.

Whether or not we all read the article with the same understanding, I am so grateful for places like this to challenge me to think these things through more carefully with both the posts and the comments. Thanks everyone!

Nina Roesner

January 27, 2014 at 04:16 PM

"The church" seems to be coming to grips with the fact that "the sinners are also US," instead of only grasping the title of "saint."

To the extent that we can fully grasp our depravity of spirit without Jesus Christ, that is the extent to which we extend grace or judgment to others.

Paul advised us to whip our flesh into obedience. We should want to get away from our sin - and God will choose to heal us completely so there's no more struggle, OR He, in His own divine prerogative, will heal us and leave the thorn, leave the struggle.

He knows our nature better than we do ourselves.

Taylor

January 27, 2014 at 04:00 PM

I think you are missing the point of this article, Rachel. The point is not that we should stop confessing our sins to one another, but that we should stop wallowing in them, being content to stay in them, as long as we are being "authentic." I think, in reality, you actually agree with this article more than you claim to, by saying that we should live "with one another as brothers and sisters , pursuing holiness together." The point is not to stop confessing, it's to regain the concept of being truly grieved at our sin, rather than flaunting, even exploiting it for the sake of "authentically relating" to unbelievers.

hannah anderson

January 27, 2014 at 03:59 PM

For me, a huge part of authentic living is realizing that we are not yet our authentic selves. Sin is not who we are meant to be and we are striving to be our "real" selves remade in Christ. Any "authenticity" that doesn't include this fundamental understanding is just as short-sighted as the legalism that tells us we've already arrived.

Paul

January 27, 2014 at 03:57 PM

Some thoughts from a 14 year old (new creation).

I was 27 when I entered into a real relationship with Jesus. I was a total sinner before that time. Speaking honestly, one of the things that kept me from wanting anything to do with Jesus was the hypocrisy of people who claimed to know Him, but who acted like they had it altogether and treated me quite condescendingly because I didn't really understand that all important question whenever they asked it of me: "Are you saved?"

As I see it now, the single most important thing that I can do in this life, with my life, is move another person one step closer to Jesus. If that means being open and transparent about my own sin, my struggle with it -- be it past or present -- then I think it is totally appropriate. I have actually found that -- at least in just about every "church culture" that I've been a part of -- there is far less tendency to be "authentic" (i.e., transparent and honest about our blemishes, weaknesses, and sins both past and present), and a far greater tendency to put on a mask and *pretend* we actually holier than we really are.

In my own opinion, this has two very harmful effects.

The first is, it prevents *Christians* (those within a local body) from actually speaking up about things they may be struggling with. I think that one of the more sinister aspects of sin is that it likes to hide in the shadows while it entangles believers and torments them secretly. Rather than find a fellow brother or sister in the Lord to help share their burden, to seek assistance and accountability and to struggle against a common foe together, they remain weak because they remain alone in their struggle.

The second, perhaps even more damaging aspect is that it DOES actually prevent people from coming to Jesus. It really does. When people who are truly messed up and are the most in need of Him (just like the socially awkard or unacceptable during His ministry in Galilee), it is far too often that those people are denied access to the true and Living (and Forgiving God) by overly religious and dare I say self-righteous people who think themselves a bit too much more holy than they are. Now please don't misunderstand me. I am NOT at all opposed to holiness. But I think it is a grave mistake to separate "holiness" and "authenticity" and suggest that one is better than the other.

And as far as the Apostle Paul is concerned, he did have much to say about living a holy life in the Lord. But let us not forget at the end of his own life, he didn't call himself holy or humble. He called himself the "chief of sinners". Is it so bad for us to echo those words today when we speak plainly and honestly (and discreetly) with others who may need to hear such words so that they, too, can know that Jesus doesn't primarily want them to be holy... but rather that he wants them WHOLLY.

Just my two cents.

Catherine Parks

January 27, 2014 at 03:54 PM

I think the distinction is whether we are confessing sins in order to be pointed to Christ, or confessing in order to be deemed "authentic." I have read so many blog posts about failure and "mom fails" that it seems like having a dirty house and crazy children or a "messy life" is a requirement for entrance into a club. As if I have to share all the details of my life with the online world in order to be accepted. My close friends know my life and my struggles. But I can admit I'm a sinner without proclaiming all the mess for the whole world to see, because in the end this seems like a "boasting in weakness" that puts a lot more emphasis on the "boasting" than it should. The problem is that we make sin so acceptable that we cheapen grace. I think we've turned confession into acceptance. Instead of, "Yes, I struggle with that too and we fall so short of God's standard--we need grace that only Christ can provide," we say "Yes, I struggle with that too, and it's okay."

In the end, I think you're both right--it's the pursuing holiness that is the key, which comes through honest confession and pointing one another to our need and His supply. It just seems we end at honesty too frequently.

Rachel Held Evans

January 27, 2014 at 03:51 PM

We don't see this in Paul?

"I do not understand what I do. What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."

Jeffrey Kranz

January 27, 2014 at 03:40 PM

Then: "God, I thank You that I am not like this tax collector." (Lk 18:11)

Now: "God, I thank You that I am not like this Pharisee."

These trends in showing off our dirtiness in the efforts to be "real" seem pretty short-sighted. We don't see this sort of exhibitionism in Peter's or Paul's sermons in Acts, and both apostles are really gung-ho about living counter-cultural lives—lives that are not like the Gentiles' (Ti 3:8; 1 Pe 4:3–5).

Rachel Held Evans

January 27, 2014 at 03:17 PM

I gotta say I disagree.

I think confession is a hugely important part of the Christian life, and that telling the truth about our struggles, our sins, our failures, our successes, our triumphs, and our joys is essential to living with one another as brothers and sisters, pursuing holiness together.

It's an imperfect analogy, but I think of church as something of an AA meeting. As many recovering alcoholics will tell you, even when they have achieved sobriety for more than a decade, they STILL identify themselves as alcoholics and they STILL go to group meetings. Recovery, they will say, is all about acknowledging a shared dependency, a shared helplessness. And I think that's what confession in the context of a community is - an acknowledgment of our shared helplessness and dependency on God in the face of sin.

I like how D. Bonhoeffer put it in "Life Together":

"He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone in our sin, living lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! "

d camp

January 27, 2014 at 02:45 PM

The best antidote for guilt and regret is not only to trust in the atoning work of Christ, but to be about the work of His kingdom. Think of a John Newton for example: he didn't dwell on his life as a slave trader, but worked tirelessly for the growth of the gospel. The Apostle Paul rejected any type of works as a basis of our justification (Eph 2:8,9), but look how hard he worked in living out his sanctification: "For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me."

Owen

January 27, 2014 at 01:42 PM

Terrific article. Great words from Thoennes.

Alan Bonjour

January 27, 2014 at 01:12 PM

It may be that some of us have committed great or criminal sinful crimes (see "some of you" below), but we all have suffered with selfishness of some form or other. It is always about putting God first over and above however that selfishness may tug at us.

"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9b-11

Derek

January 27, 2014 at 01:05 PM

Wow, this is so great. What a timely message. It has really woken me up.

Thank-you.

Ryan McSherry

February 7, 2014 at 12:07 AM

I think it was pretty unfair of you to quote Josh Reibock out of context like that. There was zero mention to the later parts of his article which actually were against authenticity in some regards. He believes that authenticity on its way towards a greater holiness is what we need.

Chancellor Roberts

February 6, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Dave Kellett,

What you wrote is one of the problems I have with people going around saying "I feel" instead of "I think." Everything seems to be centered around emotion and personal experiences while the mind has been cast aside as if we've been told "check your brain at the door." We forget the scripture that says the heart (the seat of human emotions) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We talk about love, but we think of it as some sappy emotion instead of an action verb. Love is something we're commanded in scripture to DO, not something we're commanded to FEEL (if we could ever force ourselves to feel any particular emotion).

While this phenomenon of "I love God, but hate religion" seems prominent today (with its various forms like "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" or "I don't like organized religion," as opposed to, say, disorganized religion perhaps, or "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship"), I think it got it start back in the 1960s with the hippies and the Jesus movement. Specifically, that's when we started hearing phrases like "I'm not religious, I just love the Lord." While such sentiments sound innocuous enough, we're seeing just how evil they really are. It might even go back further than that to when we started talking about the salvation process as "accepting" (something a superior does to an inferior) Jesus into our heart (the seat of emotions).

The phenomenon is also displayed in the kinds of emotion-laden songs we sing in churches today. Gone, for the most part, are the old hymns that were doctrine-laden and taught people Christian truths. Now, so many songs seem to be about how we feel. Imagine the horror of hearing a woman singing in church about being "ravished by Jesus." Imagine so-called "worship leaders" (who are actually leading praise, not worship) telling us about singing love songs to Jesus. In some circles, the presence of the Holy Spirit is measured by how well the worship leader was able to whip the congregation up into an emotional frenzy.

James tells us that pure "religion" is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction (good works) and to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (personal holiness). Of course, we seem to have split off American Christianity into the good works (aka social justice) camp and the personal holiness camp and never the twain should meet. On one side we have people so focused on doing good works that sin isn't even mentioned. On the other side we have people so afraid of "salvation by works" that they refuse to do any good works at all. This leads to the current situation where we seem to so hate what "religion" seems to have become in the minds of many (liturgies, theology, doctrine - the latter just being another word for teaching) that we do everything we can to distance ourselves, and our faith, from even the word "religion."

Humans are emotional, social creatures. However, scripture is clear that the heart, the seat of emotions, is deceitful above all. This is a warning to us not to put our trust in our emotions, not to "follow your heart" as we're so often told to do. Emotion does have a place in the Great Commandment (love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength), but it isn't the end-all and be-all and it should never be given the place of prominence. We are to love God with every aspect of our being and, again, love is something we're commanded to do, not something we're commanded to feel.

Chancellor Roberts

February 6, 2014 at 09:51 PM

Abigail Flavell,

You FEEL "this particular article pitches authenticity against holiness"? Really? What exactly is that emotion or physical sensation?

Abigail Flavell

February 6, 2014 at 04:58 PM

I feel this particular article pitches authenticity against holiness. Implying that by being authentic you can't also strive to be holy. At this point I would ask why can it not be BOTH authenticity AND holiness? In fact, i would argue authenticity is an essential part of our ongoing journey TOWARDS holiness? Authenticity is not just admitting "I'm broken" but the process by which we arrive at that conclusion, walk through repentance, receive fresh grace and then continue running the race with perseverance towards greater personal holiness. I wrote a fuller response at surrendermyagenda.co.uk

Dave Kellett

February 6, 2014 at 04:06 PM

I could not count the number of kids/teens/young adults who have told me something like, "I think that to follow God I should love him with all my heart, and I don't, so to 'do church' and 'act' like I do would betray what I really feel and make me do what I hate the most: superficial Christianity." Oh how Satan has twisted the "I love God but hate religion" thing. Into: "If I don't FEEL love towards God, I am then what I hate, when obedience makes me religious." Notice the subtle twist of mixing "Feelings" with true love of God. It is us youth leaders' fault. We Christians, in an attempt to emotionalize Christianity thinking they would attract "emotional" kids into the fold; but instead hid the open secret of following Christ, which Paul puts at the beginning of most of his letters, "Paul, a bond-servant (slave) of Christ Jesus..."

[…] pastor sent me this great article recently by Brett McCraken for The Gospel Coalition. Authenticity is an issue we are […]

[…] CONTINUE AT: Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? – The Gospel Coalition Blog. […]

Agam

February 4, 2014 at 05:47 PM

Thank you for this Brett!
The whole authenticity thing is often couched in a way that seems to even negate the process of our sanctification. An example: I am driving and someone cuts me off, it pisses me off, but I choose not to shout at the guy or give him the finger. To a certain crowd, that makes me inauthentic! As though being authentic means I stop seeking to be all that God wants for me or that being authentic requires giving in or showing every questionable desire I have.
Yes we need to be honest, but our struggles are not our goal. The fact that we need to cross a bridge to our destination doesn't mean we should build our homes and take up a mortgage on the bridge!
That's what I think the new authenticity fad does, and that in itself is an inauthentic path to spiritual growth!

[…] This article from The Gospel Coalition was so good.  Don’t miss it. […]

Mart Griesel

February 2, 2014 at 09:59 AM

There is nothing about us that will ever catch God by surprise. We will become authentic when we realize this. He knows us before we we formed in our mothers wombs so what is there that we could hide from him? God knows every "fakin it" throughout the full swing of the pendulum and with him there is no "pat on the back" middle way. When we submit ourselves to him just as we are, like the tax collector in the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee, he will faithfully help us, step by step, fall after fall, to become like Jesus because it is only God who can do what God can do. This is authentic Christianity according to me.

[…] Bret McCracken asks an important qiestion. Read, Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? – The Gospel Coalition Blog. […]

sharon b

February 13, 2014 at 04:49 PM

just had an incredibly helpful discussion with my friend about this post. we loved it so much we made a concept map, thanks seminary, about it in order to better understand everything.

Brett McCracken on Authenticity | Reflections

February 12, 2014 at 11:08 PM

[…] Has Authenticity Trumped Holiness? is a fascinating piece on our reality culitre. People want to hear from real people as opposed to the produced “real” people of reality TV. Where is the line drawn? Have we gone too far in the name of authentic? McCraken does an excellent job of phrasing the discussion. This point is important: […]

[…] “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?” by Brett […]

[…] Brett McCracken asked an important question at The Gospel Coalition: “…by focusing on brokenness as proof of our […]