Holiness and Authenticity
Authentic is defined by Merriam-Webster OnLine as something "not false or [an] imitation." Further, it is "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." The word GENUINE is given as a synonym and "implies actual character not counterfeited, imitated, or adulterated." I would imagine that this should be what is meant when people say they are looking for "authentic worship" or "authentic people" or an "authentic church." However, what I have found is that what is meant by authenticity tends to be what corresponds to their OWN reality. It is what resonates with them ALONE (or them as a group).
One example of this is in the fad of Christians using profanity. When I was in seminary I often heard people being praised for using profane words (and I have to admit that I have done so as well). This praise came from the idea that the person who expressed themselves in this way was being "authentic." Now, let's dissect this understanding of authenticity. First, the person calling this behavior "authentic" must understand this as being a part of that person's character that naturally comes out when provoked. This is a problem in and of itself, for the one who keeps this language within them is in need not of expressing it, but of weeding it from their mind. They need to purge these worldly thoughts from their mind. Secondly, if this is authentic behavior, does that conversely mean that those who do not use such language are being inauthentic or not worldly enough? Third, if this behavior is encouraged, then it becomes more regular within the community of God, indeed becoming a distraction for some and, even worse, an unfaithful example to those who are weaker brothers and sisters. Here, authenticity becomes not a pursuit of holiness, but a lack thereof. Hopefully, you can see the potential problem with a subjective view of authenticity.
So, what would authentic Christianity look like if we were to take the above definition and the Bible alone as our guides?
1) It would recognize the dichotomy of our human nature -- as Christians called to be set apart, but yet living in a perpetual state of sin, unable to completely break free, but always commanded to do so.
2) It would accept that all Christians are in a state of flux between the two natures. Sometimes we commit grievous sins and other times we are Christ to those in need. Authentic Christianity would see that those sins need loving rebuke and those times of ministry need positive reinforcement.
3) It would seek to lessen the frequency of those sins and increase the frequency of true worship and communion with God through Biblically defined spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, fellowship, communal worship, and (at times) retreat from the culture.
4) It would repent of and rebuke the "ME" mentality and seek to live as those of Acts 2:42-47, sharing their possessions with those in need. Additionally, all in a local body would understand their need to submit to discipline in order to insure a continual movement toward holiness in the community and in prevention of Satanic footholds.
5) There would be a vigorous pursuit of Biblical knowledge such as that of the Bereans, recognizing that all the knowledge of God that a Christian can have is objectively given to us through the Holy Scriptures and subjectively experienced through our emotional interaction with that knowledge.
6) Additionally, there would a vigorous pursuit of a practical application to that Biblical knowledge that would include love for all men, but a firm desire to direct all men to the love of Christ.
7) It would recognize Christ's call for us to live in the culture, but to reject all cultural experiences which do not directly honor Christ as the glorious and Holy God of the Universe.
8) It would seek to hold to the mandate of James when he says, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world," recognizing that a Christian cannot keep the first half of the command and yet neglect the second half (as well as vice versa).
9) Finally, it would reflect authenticity by being able to point to the Bible as its ultimate source of all truth, rejecting all competing truth claims as did Paul when he claimed that all false gods are demons and that true Christians cannot simultaneously drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.
To me, the above is authentic Christianity. I recognize that authenticity is subjective to all. That is why I tried to point all things back to the Word of God, our only objective frame of reference when it comes to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour. And so through the Word of God we are made authentic worshippers of God.
Until Christ is Formed in All of Us,