“The Christian faith has not been tried and found lacking; it has been found difficult and been left untried.”
I must confess up front that I am not a coffee drinker. I neither like the taste of it nor the smell of it, nor do I have any compulsion to infuse it with a variety of sweeteners to try and mask its otherwise awful taste. This is not a criticism of those who like coffee (my wife is one of them), it is simply a statement of fact, and to set the record strait, it is not that I do not also have a morning crutch, but for me it is tea—“Earl Grey, hot,” as Captain Picard used to say.
All of that being said, what I find interesting is the popularity of the specialized coffee drinks in our society. People flock to one of dozens of corner coffee stores to buy the latest “Chunky-Monkey-Sola-Frappe” concoction or if they are more frugal, they will get a designer coffee machine for their home to whip up their favorite concoctions. Now, I see nothing inherently wrong with this practice (I like stacking onions, pickles, lettuce, and ketchup on my hamburgers), what I find interesting is that by the time everything is said and done, one can barely taste the original coffee flavor—and for some, I know that is the objective.
Imagine a world, for a minute, where coffee is only ever served in this fashion (this should not be too hard as we are close to that now). Imagine that you have never tasted “black” coffee, but that it has always been filled with the additives that we might see at a specialized coffee place. And imagine that this is the way coffee has been served for several generations. You may have heard stories of coffee being served black, but only in the old days when the people were so poor or backwards that they did not know any better.
Then imagine, one day, something changed in the world around you. Imagine that you, and everyone around you, were served black coffee—no milk, no sweetener, just straight brewed coffee. What do you imagine might be the response. My guess is that most people would quickly spit it out in disgust. They might curse what they were served and leave in search of “real coffee”—or at least coffee that was diluted with the sweeteners that people were used to.
I imagine, though, that there might be a few people (likely a very few), who will have something confirmed in their hearts. Deep down, while they have been drinking all of the concoctions, they have sensed that there must be something more out there—that that there must be something stronger and more robust in this thing called coffee than what was being served. The taste might not totally agree with them, but they know deep down that this coffee, black and strong, is what they have been looking for all along and for them to go back to anything else is something they have no desire to do.
It is imaginable, that the majority of the “coffee” drinkers would take offense to those who began serving and drinking black coffee. They might see them as unsophisticated and seeking to undo great social advances. It is imaginable that the majority might even legislate to try and restrict the “black coffee drinkers” from being able to proselytize and win others to drinking black coffee. There might even be some that would go back to drinking the stylized coffees just to more comfortably fit into their communities. There may even be some that would become secret black coffee drinkers, drinking the concoctions in social settings for the business contacts, but only drinking black coffee at home. There would be some who would even go to the other extreme, gathering with other black coffee drinkers and living separate from non-black coffee drinkers to eliminate any outside influence upon their families. Yet there would be some who, despite regulations and litigation against the black coffee establishments, would continue drinking their black coffee while remaining in society, being willing to have the honest discussion about coffee and to answer questions from the skeptical but curious who still are drinking the fancy mixes.
Okay, so what does this have to do with Christianity? If you haven’t anticipated it, my suggestion is that we have a lot of “doctored up” Christianity in our culture today. It may have at its most basic root, genuine Christian belief, but because true Christianity is vibrant, strong, and offensive to the broader culture, churches have been quick to dilute it with all kinds of sweeteners and additives to hide the taste. C.S. Lewis called this kind of liberal Christianity as “Christianity in water”—something almost unrecognizable as Christianity because it has been so diluted. It is no wonder, given our culture has strayed so much from “straight-black” Christianity (to keep the coffee analogy), that so many people react so violently against the preaching of the wrath to come and the need for Christians to take up their cross and die daily to this world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been reduced to love and fuzzy feelings rather than about a mighty God who chose to take on flesh and live in the midst of wicked, fallen, and hateful men to redeem some of them to glory, bearing the judgment for their sins on his shoulder. All we are, we owe to him.
Drinking this kind of “coffee” will earn you the title of being intolerant, unsophisticated, and backwards. It requires a whole new view of the world. But this is true Christianity. Lewis argued that while most people would be reviled if they were confronted with real Christianity, there would be some who would find that it was what they were looking for all along and find the real stuff to be “red meat and strong beer.” How many of our churches look more like Starbucks in their theology and social stance than like the strong, black coffee of the Scriptures.