In my last post (found here), I began discussing how the church has followed the culture in losing its mind: Christians do not know what they believe and why they believe it because they have accepted the idea that faith has nothing to do with knowledge. In this post I will be focusing upon a second reason why Christians have lost and are losing their minds: they are suffering from the “empty self” syndrome just like the culture around them.
The “Empty Self”
American culture has come to accept that life is about the “self.” This obsession with the “self” (i.e., self-centeredness, also known as narcissism) has become so widespread in American culture that psychologists have designated a term for it: the “empty self.”
The “empty self” syndrome has several traits. It is first of all inordinately individualistic. Americans are consumed with self-interest with little interest of others; they are concerned with their own goals, values, and passions. Empty selves are also infantile, always preoccupied with food, entertainment, sex, physical appearance (e.g., hair style, clothes, shoes, tattoos), and feelings. Things such as hard work and delayed gratification are blasphemous to empty selves.
Empty selves are narcissistic and passive, spending an inordinate amount of time with self-fulfillment by manipulating or allowing others to do things for them. They expect teachers to educate their children for them; restaurants, maids, or schools to cook for them or their children; coaches to teach their kids how to play sports; youth ministers to teach children the faith for them; preachers to know the Bible for them.
Empty selves are also sensate, controlled by images, especially electronic images. They lack interior lives (like the development of discipline, focus, and virtues in general), and they are hurried and busy (looking for noise and things to drown out the deafening inner voice that is screaming for true fulfillment). Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland explains, “Because the empty self has a deep emotional emptiness and hunger, and because it has devised inadequate strategies to fill that emptiness, a frenzied pace of life emerges to keep the pain and emptiness suppressed.”
The “Empty Church”
In many ways the church, unfortunately, has taken on the empty self of the culture—it has become the “empty church.” When it comes to individualistic, narcissistic tendencies, Christians are often not to be out-done. Despite the emphasis at times on divine guidance for the Christian life, Christians are constantly being told in popular publications to find their purpose and to have their “best life now,” right in line with Burger King’s anthem that you can “have it your way, right away.” Preachers often provide a buffet of “how to” sermons for their respective flock to feast on: how to have a better relationship with your children, how to have peace in a life of chaos, and how to have a better marriage. Although such sermons may have some truth in them, such moralizing self-help pep talks are often entirely devoid of coming to the knowledge of God and giving him glory. At the end of the day, Jesus becomes one’s own personal therapist who is there to get us out of trouble when “tough times” come. In other words, God is just a means to self-fulfillment and happiness (however that is defined).
Could it be that one’s “personal relationship with Jesus” has become more about us than Jesus? Theologian Michael Horton has some words that may be worth pondering: “As much as we might talk about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there doesn’t actually seem to be much of a relationship at all, except with the self. Confession is good for the soul—that is to say, a form of therapy. Perhaps the result of all this emphasis on my personal relationship with Jesus means, finally, that Jesus really becomes my alter ego.”
It is no wonder, then, why American Christians are losing their minds—that they have little to no idea what they believe and why. They are too focused upon building their own self-esteem than learning about God. Besides, who has time to sit and focus upon the ultimate questions in life, like who God is and what he really wants from his creatures, when life is about seeking self-fulfillment? Just like the culture, Christians run hither and thither from one event to another with their ipads and iphones fused to their hands, ignoring God and the world around them. Life is about us, isn’t it?
No, life is not about us. It is about the Creator of us. If Christians want to obtain true fulfillment, then it is required to know who God is. And to know who God is, we must have theology and even apologetics. The church must love God with all their hearts, strength, and minds (Matt. 22:37). What this means is that the church will need to return to studying, reading Scripture, and meditating on such things. Yes (gasp), engage faith cognitively. When Christians take this step, they will find that it will enable them to to live and experience God more richly. It is past time for the church to put down its widgets and gadgets and contemplate once again the things of God—indeed, to put God first—to worship him and not itself. Of course, this means the church will have to relearn focus, discipline, and study. And, no, there is no “app” for that.
Peter Jay Rasor II
 Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind, 92.
 For example, see the popular publications by Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.
 Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 43.