Religio Licita (Approved Religion)

Religio Licita (Approved Religion)
Robert Wurtz II


I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)


Religio licita is a Latin term used in ancient Christian writing to describe how Rome approved of Judaism within the Roman Empire- in contrast to Christianity that was effectively outlawed. Roman authorities, influenced by the spirit of Antichrist, violently persecuted the early Church. Christians were genuine. They repented, believed, were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. They burned for God in ways hard to imagine. Despite lethal persecution, in just one century the Gospel spread clear to Britain. Then the fire began dying down in many places. One of those was Laodicea. 

Spreading Death

G.W. North once stated that “preaching the Word without Fire is spreading death.” I think he was right. In fact, I think the enemy loves a tepid message. He loves lukewarm Christians, teachers, and preachers. Lukewarm Christianity is the Devil and the world’s “Religio licita.” They seem to approve of it all together. Nevertheless, the Lord has made clear that He will spew a lukewarm people out of His mouth. Simply stated, lukewarmness is Christianity on the fence; halting between two opinions. Our Greek word for “hot” means to boil. Jesus said, I would thou wert cold or hot. This is not “boiling” with the fire of emotionalism or some other strange fire; it is the consequence of God’s Holy Spirit being at rest in a believer. They burn and burn for Christ. 

Lukewarmness: Government Approved!

The Romans were not the only people to approve dead religion; society does it today. Liberal writers and educators love to refer to times of revival as “religious fanaticism” or some other cynical phrase. Why? The Devil and his children hate for Christians to “boil” for Christ in the Biblical sense and will provide a battery of substitutes. He works feverishly to bring the temperture down. The frenetic pace of compromising measures threatens to overwhelm the Saints. Even some highly educated Christians feel the need to tone down for the sake of appearances. Perhaps this is due in part to the wild antics of people that claimed to be having revival, but were not. In modern times, the word “revival” has been so abused and blasphemed that one is reluctant to describe anything as a “revival” lest it immediately be held in derision. The same is true for the “fire” of God.  

Romancing or Repenting?

Another enemy of a true boil is the current rage found in much of what we commonly call “evangelicalism.” This rage is based on teachings that suggest a romantic, sensual love between Christ and the Church (some call it “Bridal Paradigm”). It affects the lyrics of our songs, our concepts of God, from the radio to the satellite. It is almost certainly the consequence of unregenerate (not truly born again) people interpreting the scriptures through the only lens of love they understand; human relationships. This is why so many lyrics and sermons are anthropomorphic. If a person has never experienced Romans 5:5, they cannot write or preach about it. What do they understand? Familial and romantic love. They understand the feeling they get when they listen to their favorite love song and think about their boyfriend/girlfriend. This is what colors their understanding. Listen closely as the Christ of the book of Revelation or Isaiah 6, is profaned into one that drowns the church in grace, wraps her in His arms and gives her a sloppy wet kiss. This type profanity is so common it would be superfluous to cite more examples. Is this how they define God? Compare their definition to scripture. 

Romantic and almost sexualized concepts of worshiping Jesus are easy to accept, especially among young people, because they are longing for a sense of the romantic and sensual in their lives. People want a God like their media manufactured, idealized version of the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend; not controlling or demanding. Good looking and always making me feel good. One that will love me no matter what I do, and in my love language. One that will wait on me to find myself- for years if necessary. One that will allow me to have a night out with my friends and never judge me. 

However, burning with romance is not burning for Christ in the Biblical sense (take a look at the picture in this link). In fact, Christians and theologians of bygone eras would have labeled the thought blasphemy. Many, today, would have considered their Jesus as “an abusive husband.” Nevertheless, what we are describing at length is the “Religio Licita” of modern times and is forging the concepts of Christianity for generations to come. 

Jesus – Not a Rock Star

American Idol has single handedly made idolatry acceptable in the western world and in a large portion of evangelicalism.  In the 50s and 60s young girls would gush as “lovesick” when they attended the concerts of men like Elvis or bands like the Beatles. Some wept and screamed; some even fainted. What emotional madness was this? Young ladies by the scores used to stand outside Elvis’s mansion in Memphis shaking and holding their hands just hoping to get a glimpse of the star. This is where the guys went to “meet the girls.” 

Christian “Labels”

In modern Christianity, almost anything is OK if it has the label “Christian” attached. I sometimes wonder if there came about a “Christian marijuana” many would smoke it. Christian so-called Rock Bands enjoy nearly all of the worship that Elvis received. Parents approve and are happy that their children engage in these things because at least it is a “Christian” event. It is OK to idolize these people because they are Christians? 

“Rock and worship” is the new mass and the singers are the new priesthood. Singing about a made-up Jesus in an ocean of earthly phrases. I believe it is one of the most effective strategies to infiltrate and influence the churches that the Enemy has employed to date. Why? He learned how to tap into the closet, sensual, desires of people who were itching to give themselves over to the culture of American Idol(atry). Nevertheless, Jesus is not Justin Beiber. We do not come together to be “passionately ravished” by Him as if He were a lover. God is holy and is expected to be reverenced. At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I wonder if this is why the concert model of worship has come into vogue? The same types of emotionalism and passion that were heaped on Elvis many are trying to heap on Jesus- and in the same type of ways. 

Consider these lyrics:

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known 
You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Compare this to:

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Both songs speak of Christ’s love. The one is clearly earthly and sensual- the other is biblical. As one writer commented on the former song, you could take the “t” off of Christ and almost have a secular song. Try it and see. 

Religio Licita in the Kingdom of God 
   
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.(Ephesians 5:25-27)

The Bride and Bridegroom motif in scripture is certainly valid; however, in its extreme and sensual construction it is subverted. Approved religion in the Kingdom of God is a very different thing than what can be achieved by a “romantic relationship” with Jesus. In fact, a cursory look at history, as contrasted with modern history, will demonstrate a preoccupation with romance today that was virtually unknown in the main stream in centuries past. Hollywood has dramatically effected how people think of relationships. It is false enough in a marriage, much less in our relationship to Christ. If we carry this ideology into our religious expression we are doomed. 

So how did we arrive at a merger between the secular and sensual love (radio and TV idealized) – romance crazed culture of the 50s,60s,70s,80s, etc., with the Visible Church (or more narrowly evangelicalism)? How did these things we have discussed corrupt our faith? Simply stated, it is Religio licita (approved religion). The people have been given what they wanted. Like Israel when she wanted a king- a generation wanted a way to have both Jesus and their popular culture. A generation was never told in their evangelistic message that they must choose one or the other; they were allowed to keep both. What happened? They mingled them together and this is what we have. With each passing day there are fewer people on earth that even see what has happened and even less that care enough to challenge.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)

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