This isn't a new idea. More and more people believe that love is what God requires of us. If we just loved each other, God would be satisfied and mankind can be saved. Again, this isn't anything new. But what is new is that more and more American Christians are buying it. The message of salvation has become more works-oriented than ever. Why?
Shouldering the blame.
I can lay the blame on postmodern reaction to modernist ideals. The idea that human thought and ingenuity can save mankind has led to skepticism. This is because it is a false worldview. As a result, modernist thought has led to utilitarian ideals of man's existence. Human experience, love, culture, art, and feelings had been relegated to roadblocks to the Great Utopian Ideals of convenience, uniformity, and control.
Postmodernist thought rightly judges such hubris. But it also holds to a Great Utopian Ideal. The difference being that it relegates thought and reason as roadblocks to a society of harmony, beauty, pleasure, and celebration. This thinking leads to absurd notions, contradictory language, and inherit skepticism of everything asserted as true.
In the postmodernist worldview the way to "Eden" is not much different than the modernist. We must work at it. Whether it is to build the Great Society, or it is to deify the poor and the unfortunate. In postmodern thought, we demonstrate "love" by doing good acts—no matter how society or culture would define it. This is in opposition to the modernist construction of right societies, by eliminating the nonconformist, the poor, and the less civilized.
So, what's the problem?
I honestly cannot say that these worldview philosophies are the whole problem. The problem is more ancient than we care to admit. We just don't trust God. Yes, we may believe in God. But we just don't trust Him. We say—like the demons—that we believe God exists, and shudder. (James 2:19) But, we just don't trust that he is the answer to the world's problem, our problem, or that we really have a problem. So, our deeds don't reflect trust in God. They reflect distrust in God.
How many times have you heard that Jesus came to show us how to love? This is a cop-out response. It is designed to substitute utter devotion to Christ with being a good person.
How many times have you heard someone talk about redeeming this present earth—which is marked for destruction (2 Peter 3:3-7)—for God? People who say such things often don't believe in seeking the city God will build. (Hebrews 11:13-16) They are determined to help him build a new city, right here on this old earth, by calling men to build it for ourselves—even with the help of the unsaved.
How many times have you heard that we must eliminate poverty? People who say such things don't believe the words of Christ, who said that we can help the poor, but we will not eradicate them—unless, as the unbelievers say, by force a few can control the earth's resources and determine its distribution, or we can just practice eugenics. (Mark 14:7) And Christ also said that the human soul is of more worth and concern than food to God. (Matthew 4:3-4; Matthew 6:25; John 6:25-29) After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his very soul? (Matthew 16:26) If we believe, we must trust that Christ is the ultimate solution, not our ingenuity—modernist or postmodernist.
I'm okay, you're okay, sometimes.
No one does good. No not one. (Romans 3:9-20) Yeah people do good things, but the motives are often not right. When the motive is right, and the deeds are good, then they do them in the wrong order or priority. Everyone thinks that he is good in his own eyes. But everyone must also come under God's judgment. For everyone must give an account to God, whether they do good or bad.
Unfortunately, whole churches believe the false gospel that our works earn us salvation. They believe that their actions prove their love for God and their love for fellow man. Therefore, God is please with their deeds. To some degree God is pleased with good deeds. But what doesn't please Him is when deeds are done to appease Him, or to simply avoid His rebuke for our dirty hearts. Adherence to deeds is not an acknowledgment of our need for God or of our own depravity. It would be better to not do good and acknowledge our sin to God, than to use good deeds to pretend that we are really good, like a whitewashed tomb (Matthew 23:27; Luke 18:9-14).
Who can stand?
Christ alone. We need God's solution very badly. We have a sin problem that good deeds cannot solve. What we think about ourselves is irrelevant.