What’s the Rubber? Where’s the Road?
The Coming Challenge to Christianity
You’ve heard the old saying, “Where the rubber meets the road.” The saying means something to the effect of, “the point at which a belief or idea is put to a practical test.” The saying gets at those times when what we profess to believe gets called into action...put to the test.
The “rubber” is typically whatever belief/idea we hold, and the “road” is where it gets put into practice.
Let me give you an example, say you meet someone walking along the street, and he says, “I am an expert at the game of basketball!” At first, you have no reason to doubt the person, and so you accept it. But, as you walk along, he continues his boasting, “I really am good; I play all the time; people often ask me to play with them, and coach them…” So on he goes. Finally, as you’re walking along, you come to a basketball court with a basketball sitting on the half-court line.
You pause. Look at the court, and think to yourself, “If this guy is really as good as he says, let’s see it.” And so, you look at him and say, “Here’s a basketball court, and a ball. Let’s see the rubber meet the road.”
If the man can truly play (the rubber), then he will walk out onto that court and his bragging will be shown true (the road)...or perhaps, not true (also the road).
So the saying, “Where the rubber meets the road,” is a way of highlighting the fact that there are certain circumstances that challenge what we say we believe, or what we think to be true. Sometimes, it's a good thing. If the man in the example truly is a tremendous basketball player, the availability of a court will prove him correct.
But sometimes, the road ends up proving to be too great a challenge for the rubber. If the man’s bragging about basketball has all been a lie, the court will prove him a liar.
-The Coming Challenge-
Such a challenge is coming—and in many ways, is here already—for the American Christian Church. For much of our Country’s history, the Christian faith has provided the generally accepted foundation for ethics and morality. But that has changed. That change began its infancy as early as the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, but it's now fully-grown.
It's not that people are becoming less religious. That's the difficult part for many people. People are not becoming less religious, and that can be seen in polling data. The Gallup organization keeps track of all kinds of various religious and cultural trends, and they have reported that there is no significant change in religious practice nor the personal feelings of religious importance between the 1950’s and the late 2000’s.
Let that sink in. Think of all the cultural and political change that has occurred in that timespan. And yet, Gallup finds no significant change in religious practice or personal feelings about its importance. That is astounding!
When adults were asked if they had attended a religious service in the last week, responses varied from roughly 50% in the 1950’s and early 60’s, to around 39% in 2013. When asked how personally important religion was, 75% of people responded very important in 1950. That number has since dropped to 56%...and is still declining.
Still 56% seems fairly high when it comes to religion being very important.
-But something else is happening. Something beyond the obvious, perhaps. Being religious does not necessarily mean holding true religious conviction. Being religious doesn't mean you build your life around an objectively settled system. As Dr. Albert Mohler recently pointed out, it might be better to replace the word “religious” with “spiritual.” Being religious can simply mean, "someone who does religious activities from time to time."
Much of this change, according to Mohler, is occurring as the general culture moves more and more away from a settled theological foundation, and moves to an unfounded, self-centered basis for feeling religious. He writes, “...one of the things we note is that in the recession of theology, there has been a resurgence of what is described as spirituality.”
Mohler goes on to cite a recent article which states that Generation Z (generally considered to be those born 1997-2012) is combining traditional religion with tarot card reading. The article states, “While interest in tarot and other forms of divination often corresponds to a complete rejection of traditional religion, that is not a given. Many young readers continue to identify with a traditional faith, while looking beyond established structures for spiritual growth.”
-So, it's not that people are no longer religious. The current situation is that the American Church is facing a reality where the religious arena is no longer dominated by Christian belief. There was a period of time when the Church had a strong say-so over what was right and wrong. Those days, in the culture, have come and gone.
We are now living in a culture that functions more like Old Testament Israel when she did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and whored after other gods. It is not that Israel ever stopped being religious. Far from it. She stopped being obedient to God and began worshipping false gods and idols...but, she marched right on being religious.
"Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)
-And This is Where We are Living-
-America is still religious.
Religious: Relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.
-America simply no longer worships inside church buildings at church altars. She has changed her religious convictions and her ideas about God, but she marching right on being religious. Instead of worshipping the One True God in the gathered congregations of local churches, she now mainly worships at the altars of the self, social media, sexual revolution, and the altars of social-justice and race-relations.
The new hope for salvation being preached is not eternal salvation through Christ alone, but immediate salvation through being true to yourself; immediate salvation in being approved by the culture; immediate salvation in being woke.
-This is the new road. The new “sanctuary” where religious activity and passion are directed and exercised. It's the new altar where men and women make their religious sacrifices and offer their worship.
-But Jesus is nowhere to be found. Instead of looking to Jesus—who states of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”— people are looking to other saviors...the faux-saviors of personal freedom, sexual exploration, racial identity, etc.
-Will the True Church Stand?-
-This is where the rubber meets the road for the Church. This is where the true gospel of Jesus Christ meets the modern challenge of a self-centered culture. The true gospel is the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is the unchanging gospel that holds steady in the midst of an ever changing world. The true gospel of Jesus Christ has met the challenge of all kinds of roads throughout its history...
It stood firm against the mighty Roman Empire.
It withstood the Dark Ages.
It instructed those truly seeking for truth in the Enlightenment.
It offered hope during the rise of Nihilism.
It bolstered the suffering people in communist Europe.
It supported/supports the persecuted church in Muslim countries.
It has guided countless lost souls to true salvation in Christ alone.
It can and will withstand this latest threat.
-While the world wastes away searching for hope in sexual identity, social justice, and politics the true church will remain faithfully committed to the bedrock truth of Christ Jesus crucified and raised (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He is the anchor for our souls. The Church is the house built upon the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, the wind blew and beat upon it...but it did not and will not fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
- The Pressing Question -
The question before the modern church is this: Are we recognizing the challenge of the current road? As the gospel comes into contact with the challenge of the sexual revolution, political overreach, and social justice, the Church will either stand for truth and pay the consequences, or she will compromise the truth for her own temporary safety and comfort.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)