What typifies a Carnal Christian

Extracted from A W Tozer’s Claiming Christianity

1. Self-centered
The baby has a little world all its own and has no idea there is any other world but its world. It is a self-centered little thing, and everything else—mother, father, brothers and sisters—revolve around that little central sun. All others are but bodies and are insignificant to the baby. He defines his world by “me,” “mine” and other such phases.

2. Feelings Oriented
Another characteristic of a baby is it is affected unduly by its feelings. A baby’s quality of life revolves around its feelings. The slightest change in its feelings will have great repercussions on life in general. Every baby demands a perfect environment, which simply means one that complements his or her feelings. One moment he is a happy little fellow and the next moment is crying as though his world had ended. Evidence always gives way to feelings and emotions.

Normally, we draw a conclusion based on evidence rather than go along with feelings. Carnal Christians tend to live by their feelings. First, they must have what they call a good atmosphere in the church and then they have had a good time. If there is not a good atmosphere, they do not have a good time. If this continues, they will look for a place more conducive to having a good time. They are more or less victims and fools of their environment.

A baby is a victim of its environment, a willing victim, because it hollers like a banshee when anything goes wrong. Although a baby’s finger may stop hurting, he cries long after it is forgotten or no longer hurts, because it is unduly affected by its fears; or it is too hilarious and too humorous, for no reason in the world.

Babies are either cast down for no reason or hilarious for no reason. They are victims of their feelings and senses, because they are carnal in faith. This also is the characteristic of a carnal Christian. He is too easily lifted up and too easily cast down. He cries when there is nothing to cry about and laughs when nothing is funny. After a while, a Christian should learn better.

3. Dependent on the External
A third characteristic about a baby is its propensity to rest in everything external. A baby has no inward life at all. Psychologists say that a baby is born without a mind; and as he grows, his mind develops. I do not know about that, but I do know that they are born with a capacity but without anything in their little minds. Give a baby a brightly colored rattle and it will entertain itself for hours. As they get older, the capacity develops, but they have no inward life. They rest completely in the external.

This also is characteristic of a carnal Christian. He lives too much in visible religion and goes by things on the outside. Colored lights, and strange or pretty sounds, and garments or certain uniforms or decorations; anything that feeds their childish mind by calling it out from the outside, from the internal to the external.

We may be as sure of this as we live that in proportion to the way we are affected by external circumstances, we are carnal. For Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). There is no other way the external can worship the Father perfectly. The carnal Christian cannot worship without religious rattles and toys; otherwise, he gets bored and loses interest.

For the mature Christian, any unlovely place is suitable for worship if the heart is right and the Spirit dwells within. Worship and communion with God can be real and can be unaffected, and the tranquility can remain the same, because the spiritual Christian does not rest in the external.

4. Without Purpose
Another characteristic of a baby is his complete absence of purpose. A baby sees a ball and wants it. He does not know what the ball is or what he will do with it once he gets it; but he wants that red ball that lies just beyond his reach. He has not yet learned to crawl and so he must howl for it, and when he gets it, he is let down. He did not want the ball for any purpose, and once he has it, no purpose would be fulfilled. That, of course, is characteristic of babies.

Sweet as they are, and I would not want them different—they are the loveliest things on earth—they lack purpose in life. But when a child gets a little older and starts crawling, he begins to say things, begins to put things away or starts to work toward something. By the time he reaches his teen years, he will have a life purpose worked out for himself.

Just as a baby has no purpose at all, I find that the carnal Christian has no purpose either. He lives for the next lesson. He wants to know where the good preacher is going to be and he goes to hear him. He wants to know where the fine choir is going to sing and he goes and sits down and tickles his carnality by listening to the finest choir he can find. Or he wants to know where the biggest crowd is assembled and he gets a charge out of the crowd. There is no purpose there; he never went aside and got on his knees and said, “God, why was I ever born, and why have I been redeemed, and what is this about?” His life is totally without purpose.

5. Unproductive
Then, a baby lives a life of playing with trifles. A baby is the most unproductive creature on the planet. We love them, but all they do is create work for their parents. They live a life of play and trifles altogether. Everything they do has to be turned into play. A baby will nurse on his bottle for a while, toss it out on the floor and then laugh hilariously when he sees the milk spill and the top come down on the rug. Everything has to be turned into play with the babies.

A carnal Christian must be tricked into studying the Bible and it must be made out to be something that is fun.

6. Shifts Blame Away from Self
Another characteristic of a baby is that they are given to petulance, fretfulness and quarrelsomeness. A mother tells how her baby is a nice little angel. The mother means well, but that little girl is not a perfect little angel. She is a normal baby; she kicks and makes ugly sounds when she is only two months old. This petulance and fretfulness is strictly an immature reaction, because it is the temptation to blame secondary causes. All babies do it and eventually grow out of that stage.

I can always tell a carnal Christian because he blames secondary causes. When he loses his job, he blames his boss instead of blaming his sheer ineptitude and inability to come through. And some Christian women say that if only they had a good spiritual husband they would be better Christians. You know you would not be; you just think you would, because you would have fewer reasons.

As long as there is nothing there to think about, you think that you are better than you are. However, have a grouchy husband that will not shave on Sunday morning and sits around in a T-shirt and you say he is your trouble. No, he is not your trouble. He could be your sanctification if you knew how to use him. And if you knew how to use opposition, you could turn it into a help.

A carnal Christian always blames secondary causes. You never knew a baby that took the blame for anything; it is always somebody else that is at fault.

7. Eats a Limited Diet
A baby lives on a diet of milk and strained vegetables. Now, that is a picture of a baby. They are not yet able to digest solid food. Everything has to be processed to accommodate the delicate digestive system.

A carnal Christian marks his Bible from tender little passages and skips over those rough passages that tear you apart, bring you down, discipline you and chasten you. The carnal Christian is not able to handle the “meat of the Word.” Everything must be predigested and given in measured doses so as not to offend their delicate digestive system. The apostle Paul addressed this in Hebrews 5:13-14, “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

A carnal Christian and a baby share common characteristics: a self-centered little person affected by his senses; resting in the external; without any purpose; loving to play, and having no serious purpose in life; living on a simple diet. Well, there you have a baby. Nature takes care of a baby pretty soon. Nature begins to shift the baby out from the center, but not completely, of course; that is part of sin. The baby gets some interest away from itself and learns to stand up and defy the senses. It learns to reason instead of living by his senses; learns to live for the character within rather than for external things; learns to have a purpose in life even if it only is to be an actor or a ball player or something else. Having a purpose—nature takes care of that for most of us as we mature; but regarding spiritual things, that is another matter, dealing with fallen nature.


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