Jesus versus Pragmatism

Lost somewhere in the language of postmodernism, existentialism, and other philosophies hides a sleeping, philosophical giant known as pragmatism.  Though not as public as perhaps other philosophies, pragmatism has crept into the public square and informed nearly every aspect of daily life.



Pragmatism, in its simplest form is the idea that “whatever works” is true.

It is not belief then that informs action, rather it is action informing belief. 

The pragmatist forms a particular idea or outcome he desires and then asks what is the most practical way to obtain that result.

Though pragmatism is not inherently evil, it has crept into the American church and created a unique culture that often detracts from Christ.  Pragmatism, which inherently chooses “whatever works,” has merged with Christianity to create a “whatever works” ecclesiastical structure that preaches a “whatever works” lifestyle for the believer.

There are two basic areas in which pragmatism has inflicted Christianity:

The first is conversion. 

Pragmatism says Christianity is true simply because it “works.”  Most Christians know of testimonies that say something like this, “Jesus helped me get off drugs,”  “Jesus helped me lay down the bottle,” or “Jesus helped me get off the streets.”  Of course, Jesus is to be praised for all of these stories, yet Christ is often reduced to a practical solution to bettering a person’s life.

Truthfully, there are radical conversion stories in every religion.  So these radical stories of transformation cannot mean all religions that have them are true.  Christ is not just another tool in today’s “self-help obsessed” world, he is Lord – and he would still be Lord if none of these stories existed.

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The second area pragmatism has crept into the church is in the design and makeup of modern church services. 

Often, services are designed around what works best in bringing people to a building on Sunday morning.   Often in an attempt to contextualize, this method often structures its worship service around attraction rather than truth.

Some of these services also omit or lessen the true demands of following Christ in fear that existing members may leave.

The church’s teaching must be relevant, but when everything is laid at the altar of pragmatism the basic truths and tenets of a church are not lasting or consistent.

The truth is, nothing about Christianity is pragmatic.  Jesus called his followers to a life of self-sacrifice.  There is no tenet of life that is not to be surrendered to God.  Pragmatism chooses the easy path.

Is your faith characterized by pragmatism or by a pursuit of God’s glory?  Have you only memorized scripture about security and refuge, or have you also memorized that which demands you count the cost?  Is Christ a tool to improve your life, or is he your only hope?

Asking questions like this will identify pragmatic Christianity quickly.  May the Lord reveal truth to all of us as God continues to grow us closer to his heart and his glory.

Question: Where has pragmatism impacted your faith? How are you changing that? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Ricky is a speaker and writer who has an urgent passion to see Christ exalted among every nation. When not working, Ricky spends his time reading, long boarding, and watching "The Office" with Stephanie, the girl he somehow convinced to marry him.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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