Chalcedon Report No. 344, March 1994
In the early 1930s, Dr. Otto Piper of Princeton Seminary wrote about an ominous trend in contemporary Christianity. He called it “spare-tire religion.” Everyone feels safe if there is a spare tire in the trunk of his automobile, but, knowing it is there, gives no more thought about it. It is important to have, not to think about.
Most churchgoers are like that, he said, where Jesus Christ is concerned. It is important for them to be acceptable to Christ and to feel assured of heaven, but, once they have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, they give little thought to Him outside of the church. As a result, we have a great deal of formal profession but little practice of Christianity.
Certainly Dr. Piper’s words are truer now than when first written. Many people are more ready to fight about the faith than to practice it. I am regularly surprised by the persons who are in a rage over what one or another of our writers have written. Some of these critics I have come to know, and it never occurred to me that they were Christians. After all, more than a few of our readers make no profession of faith. But these critics are enraged over opinions and beliefs when in reality they in some cases have few or none! They generate much heat with little light. It seems that some cannot say what they really believe, but they know what they do not believe.
The major problem, however, is that sizable group who cannot get angry about anything. They are unhappy about those who question things out of faith, or from lack of faith. They want nothing to jar their spare-tire sense of security.
To me the wonderful part is that at the same time, more and more people are abandoning spare-tire religion. I find that we have today more and better Christians who are theologically and Biblically informed.
Remarkable developments are under way. Quietly, lay-led study groups, Protestant and Catholic, are meeting from coast to coast in increasing numbers to study the Bible and doctrine. A strong Christian laity is in the making. The devotees of spare-tire religion have reason to be unhappy: their position is being challenged.
Look, for example, at the growing number of thoughtful Christian periodicals. Most, it is true, have a small circulation, but their total impact is very great. A new and independent force is at work in Christendom, and it is a challenge to spare-tire religion.
This new force is Biblically and theologically well informed. Its loyalty is less to a church and more to the faith and the Lord. It is allied to and has helped create the very important Christian school and homeschool movements. It is producing books, videos, and other materials to fuel the new groups, and also computer networks have been formed.
Spare-tire religion is doomed. It will be replaced by Christianity. Wake up to the future!
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.