Coffee Table Christianity (James 2:11)

When I was taking organic chemistry in college, my professor was explaining a long and complex synthesis of an organic compound. After spending nearly half an hour expounding on the various mechanisms, he stepped back from the board, turned, and addressed us.

“Of course you know, this is just coffee table chemistry.”

The puzzled looks on our faces must have resonated with him.

“What I mean is this,” he explained. “These formulas and equations look good on paper  and appear to work when we are casually discussing it around a coffee table, but in the real world there are numerous other variables that come into play. So we always need to keep this in mind when we are devising our strategies.”

I have taken these words to heart. In every organization I have been involved, we spend hours mapping out strategies, even testing them on focus groups. Yet, when it comes to the real launch, unforeseen problems always emerge.

We can live a Christian life that appears like coffee table Christianity. We may have a working knowledge of the Bible and quote to ourselves and others the plan of salvation. We may state that we need to confess our sins because God is just and will forgive us. We may declare forgiveness to those who have hurt us. All of these actions we may do because this is what we have read and have been told we must do to be “good” Christians. But when reality hits, unless we truly believe in God’s Word and promises, we will crumble.

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:11

Coffee table Christianity. It is book knowledge but not backed up with practical experience and application. We need to back up our faith with action. The words of John Calvin, the great Protestant reformer, still ring true today. “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.