We love our subscriptions.
Currently, 80% of companies offer some sort of subscription model to sell their goods and services. Beyond the obvious Amazon Prime, Netflix, and a host of streaming service subscriptions for entertainment, nearly every area of your life gives you the option to have a temporary relationship to whatever you want.
Need a shave? Dollar Shave Club. Hungry for healthy food? Hungryroot. Want to drive a different car? Car leases have given way to vehicle subscriptions that pick up and deliver from a phone app.
Subscriptions are popular because they’re convenient, personalized in one way, yet impersonal in another and we like it that way. We’re in charge; everything is handled on our terms. We stay for as long as we want and can opt out in an instant with the click of our trackpad or swipe on the screen.
With all this, it’s no surprise that the subscription mindset has made inroads into our spiritual life. Spiritual box subscriptions are plentiful as are YouTube churches that are easy to find and subscribe to.
Sad to say, but in some ways – especially with multi-campus churches – onsite assemblies these days have all the depth, personal touch, and warmth of a group YouTube session, so it’s no surprise that people choose to subscribe to a virtual church over the web and unsubscribe at will.
The problem is, all the empowering reasons we love subscriptions are the antithesis of how a relationship with God works. Worse, treating Him in that fashion can be eternally disastrous.
Ours is a crisis faith
Karl Barth was a theologian who, in my opinion, got a lot of things wrong. But one thing he got right was something he called “the theology of crisis,” which describes the Christian faith in terms that are the exact opposite of the me-centered subscription mindset into which our culture has molded us.
At its very foundation, crisis theology is the realization of the awed transcendence of God and the awful separateness between us and our Creator. This revelation from God also exposes our helplessness, sinfulness, and guilt; we never truly know the culpability of sin until the message of repentance and salvation is knocking at the door of our soul.
The “crisis” or “decision” is then forced upon us when we are placed before the truth of the dreadful antinomy between now and eternity, us and God.
On this point, A.W. Tozer wrote, “The fall of man has created a perpetual crisis. It will last until sin has been put down and Christ reigns over a redeemed and restored world. Until that time, the earth remains a disaster area, and its inhabitants live in a state of extraordinary emergency.”
The good news is that God has bridged that impassable chasm through Jesus; we could never go to Him, but He has come to us in the form of His Son. We find we have only two fixed and eternally-permanent choices: receive or reject His offer of deliverance. Because our life is, “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14) there is no more urgent matter or predicament we will ever face.
Our crisis theology is the polar opposite of today’s subscription mentality. You can’t personalize or tailor God’s offer of salvation to you. There’s no temporary opting in or out of the faith (despite what some may think) – you either receive Christ or remain estranged from God. Everything is handled on His terms, and not ours when His call comes to us.
The distinguished seminary professor J. Gresham Machen describes it this way: “Let us not be deaf to the dreadful immediacy of His [Jesus] claim upon us; let us not hide ourselves from Him … let us rather say here and now, as in a dread crisis from which we cannot escape, as though this moment were our last, as being indeed between time and eternity, between God and the abyss — let us say to Jesus here and now: “My Lord, I have heard thy voice to me.”
In other words, don’t be deceived: without Christ, there is no swiping away, opting out, or unsubscribing from hell.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.