One of my least favorite things in the world is my semi-annual dental appointment. It has little to do with the dentist and everything to do with the scraping of my teeth and the drilling required to remove, who knows what. Even before my scheduled dental appointment approaches, my nerves are on edge. The only thing that makes the process bearable, apart from the friendliness of my dentist, is the anesthetic used to dull the pain. Have you ever wondered what this process was like before anesthesia?
On October 16, 1846, William T. G. Morton would be the first dentist to use an anesthetic during surgery successfully. Before this time, dentists would use earplugs to dull the sound of the piercing screams of their patients. However, many don’t realize that anesthesia doesn’t remove the pain; it simply blocks the nerves that transmit the pain to the pain centers in your central nervous system. So, the pain is still there; you just don’t feel it until the anesthetic is entirely removed from your bloodstream.
Before the invasion of Critical Race Theory (CRT) into the bloodstream of culture, heavy doses of anesthetics were applied so that the pain of CRT could become innocuous. Likewise, in the church, the increasing titration of sentimentalism was required to pave the way for accepting CRT and other damaging ideas. Therefore, long before CRT, evangelicalism has been experiencing the dulling impact of sentimentality. Sentimentalism opened the door to the seeker-sensitive and emerging church movements and encouraged the embrace of cultural relevance, pop-culture pragmatism, and social justice into churches.
The Problem of Sentimentalism
So, what’s wrong with sentimentalism? Don’t we all need to feel? Of course, we do. But there’s a difference between being sentimental (having a warm thought about someone or something) and allowing sentimentalism to drive your every decision. The problem with sentimentalism is that it begins when rational thinking is abandoned in favor of one’s feelings. Unfortunately, our current class warfare of oppressed vs. oppressor groups exacerbates this problem.
In 2020 as city blocks burned, cultural sentimentalism was on full display. Sentimentalists ignored the business owner whose business had burned to the ground. Instead, the violent perpetrator’s actions were seen as “giving voice to the voiceless.” Likewise, the opportunity for female athletes was marginalized as biological male athletes entering any sport as a transwoman were applauded for their bravery. A culture awash in feelings has promoted irrational thought above observable reality.
Even within evangelical circles, expressions of sentimentalism abound. In worship, bad theology is embraced in the music we sing. Songs like “Reckless Love” express a sentimentality that distorts the nature and character of God. God is merciful. God is not reckless. Why do we accept this? Well, it makes us feel good to believe that God would be reckless in His pursuit of us. This man-centered idea of God abounds in what we sing. Furthermore, we accept erroneous views of God’s character within our preaching. In a direct appeal to sentimentalism, men like Steven Furtick preach the false idea that God “broke the law.” Why? Because he loved you, of course.
Furthermore, churches have developed studies to determine what non-believers desire from a church to accommodate their felt needs. Many churches have gone so far as to embrace opening music presentations of the latest pop-culture or hip hop song to make people feel more comfortable in church. We’ve shortened preaching time, used zip line cables to enter the pulpit, and a variety of gimmicks, all in an effort to appeal to the cultural sentiment entering the church. The church has become more about entertaining the masses rather than extolling a thrice Holy God.
The Pain of Sentimentalism
One of the problems created by the anesthetic of sentimentalism is that it abandons sola scriptura (Scripture alone) for solus sentimetalismi (sentimentalism alone). In this new environment, those seeking so-called analytical tools like Critical Race Theory (CRT) thrive. Why? Because it feels good to believe that what’s required to address the sin of racism today is special knowledge (ethnic Gnosticism).
In addition, sentimentalism clouds our ability to see women who murder their babies on the altar of convenience as sinners in need of repentance. Instead, we are told that these women are victims of an abortion industry that took advantage of them.
Sentimentalism gives us a view of self that is far too high while providing a view of Scripture that is far too low. It replaces the holiness of God with the hollowness of self. It removes men from their roles and replaces them with women who advocate rights. It minimizes sin. It maximizes partiality, and it deconstructs all of the boundaries initiated by God in Scripture.
The Prognosis of Sentimentalism
It was cultural commentator Ben Shapiro, delivering speeches on college campuses, who popularized the phrase, “facts don’t care about your feelings,” in light of the ever-growing mountain of sentimentalism invading culture. The path of sentimentalism is a dead-end road where the trash heap of formerly solid denominations lies; this after having hollowed their numbers requiring their lamppost to be put out.
The emotional sand traps of sentimentalism will leave many disillusioned. Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt 7:24-25).
It will be important for believers to hold to the foundation of truth, built on the bedrock of Sola Scriptura, not solus sentimentalismi