Beware a therapeutic Christ. This Christ’s mission centers solely on acceptance and affirmation, not repentance and transformation. The therapeutic Christ affirms sinful actions as good and supports the belief that some human behavior is immutable and irreformable. In short, the therapeutic Christ is a toothless and harmless Christ, a false Christ.
In this article, I examine the attributes of the therapeutic Christ considering the Christ found in Scripture and Catholic Tradition. The Christ in Scripture and Tradition transforms and saves. He demands things from His followers, things that change them from the inside out. No person exists beyond His reach. Do not fall for the allure of the therapeutic Christ. Seek the true Christ and allow Him to set you free. Allow Him to transform you from the inside out.
My warnings concerning the therapeutic Christ are NOT attacks against any group or identity. Just as early debates about Jesus influence theological practice, so too does the current debate over Jesus influence theological and cultural practice. Everyone is free to choose which Jesus they follow. My goal is to warn that those who choose the therapeutic Christ follow a new Christ and not the one reflected in historic Christianity.
The Therapeutic Christ Defined
Larry Chapp’s recent article at National Catholic Register clearly defines the therapeutic Christ:
This therapeutic view of Christ represents a kind of demonic reversal of the death to self that the cross represents. Instead, it misrepresents it as nothing more than God’s solidarity with all sinners, and who then “accompanies” the sinner without any further invitation to enter into the way of the cross and the singular path to regenerative holiness it makes real.
Field Hospital or Hospice?
Mr. Chapp goes on to use the analogies of the Church as a field hospital in contrast to the Church as hospice. With the Church as a hospital, all sin is curable. Conversely, the Church as a hospice admits some sins exist outside of God’s power to heal. A hospice Church can only hold the sinner’s hand and watch them die…
In this view, all we can do is to hold the sinner’s hand and to tell them that Jesus does not demand repentance of them since this is the “best they can do” under their “complex and difficult circumstances.”
The therapeutic Christ cannot heal. This Christ offers poison in the appearance of compassion. Instead of saying “go, sin no more,” this Christ says, “go, there is no more sin.”
Christ: The Healer
The Christ revealed in Scripture and Tradition holds the power to heal all wounds caused by sin. The true Christ holds power over sin and death. This healing He offers to all the afflicted, but we must accept it in repentance.
A line from John Michael Talbot’s song Healer of My Soul encapsulates the sense of a soul seeking healing from sin:
I am tired, astray, and stumbling
Shield my soul from the snare of sin.
The Christ of Scripture came to call all sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). If we do not repent, we perish (Luke 13:3). Christ intensifies as a physician ready to heal the sick (Matthew 9:12). He bore the source of our sickness, our sins, on the cross, that we may die to sin and live in righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Finally, the Christ of Scripture wipes away our tears and destroys death (Revelation 21:4).
Christ: The Redeemer
The Christ in Scripture and Tradition not only heals the wounds caused by sin, but He also redeems us—He saves us. The first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this understanding of Christ perfectly. It states:
1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
We all, “scattered and divided by sin,” need a Savior to save us from ourselves. One need only look at the world around them to see a desperate need for salvation. We are scattered and divided by sin, to a level of mass cultural mental and spiritual illness.
Christ: Our Hope
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
The Christ of Scripture and Tradition invites us to hope, as He IS our hope. Paragraph 1820 of the Catechism explains that Christian hope resides in the merits and passion of Jesus Christ…
God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” (Rom 5:5) Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19-20) Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:80) It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” (Romans 12:12) Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.
In short, through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, a Christian possesses a hope that transcends their earthy experience. This hope sustains Christians through suffering, as they believe that Christ, as our forerunner, has gone before us to prepare us a place as heir to the blessed life. It is this hope the therapeutic Christ denies.
Therapeutic Christ: Robber of Hope
Circling back to the hospital verses hospice analogy. In hospice, there exists no hope for recovery. When a person enters hospice, they know death is near. Conversely, when a person enters a hospital, they do so with the hope of recovery. They hope for a competent physician, one that accurately identifies their ailment and provides the needed medicine. They do not expect, nor do they deserve, a misdiagnosis or worse—told their potentially terminal cancer is benign. Similarly, the therapeutic Christ robs people of hope because he runs a hospice but calls it a hospital. Tragically, in this hospice, no one enters thinking they will die. They enter with hope of life.
Beware a Therapeutic Christ
In conclusion, the therapeutic Christ cannot heal. He offers poison that tastes and smells like compassion. Instead of saying “go, sin no more,” this Christ says, “go, there is no more sin.” As Larry Chapp stated in his article, the therapeutic Christ represents “God’s solidarity with all sinners, and who then “accompanies” the sinner without any further invitation to enter into the way of the cross and the singular path to regenerative holiness it makes real.” Pope Francis echoed this in an address to pilgrims in August of 2017. He stated:
Jesus didn’t go to the Cross because he heals the sick, because he preaches charity or because he proclaims the beatitudes. The Son of God goes to the Cross above all because he forgives sins, because he wants the total, definitive freedom of man’s heart. He does not accept that the human being consumes their entire existence with this irremovable ‘tattoo,’ with the thought of not being able to be welcomed by the merciful heart of God. He offers the people who have erred the hope of a new life, a life marked by love.
The Christ of Scripture and Tradition offers new life and hope. Beware the therapeutic Christ who seeks to take life and rob hope.
Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. St. Teresa of Avila Excl. 15:3
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