In part one, I posted an excerpt from a card left on my door, and invited guesses as to what kind of church left it. In part two, I unveiled the fact that it had been left by Mormons, and related the discussion I had with the (surprise!) two of them.
Let's chat about some leftovers and observations.
First: could have been any evanjellybean church? In the comments section, while many correctly guessed "Mormons," many also said it could be any evangelical church. They're right. It could have been a
But why only an evangelical church?
Couldn't a liberal church as well have said "Faith in Christ can help you resolve personal and family challenges?" There is no mention of sin or guilt, there is no absolute guarantee, there is no appeal to authority, there is no hint of repentance. It is as if the card says, "You know, here's something that might help you get what you want." Jesus, proffered as one supplement to help achieve a meaningful life.
This is slick marketing, certainly. The statement in itself is certainly true, though not all the truth (Matthew 10:34). No Christian would disagree with it. And so, with their ongoing "Mormons: the other (mostly) white Christian meat" campaign, they strike another slimy blow. It does bring to mind Jude's warning that "certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (v. 4; cf. Galatians 2:4; 2 Peter 2).
Second: do "our" people know what they believe any better than they? A number of commenters expressed some of the surprise I felt that these nice young men didn't seem to know their own doctrine very well. But I ask: how many of "our" people would fare any better? And how much of this is our fault?
We all know and often lament how pathetic America's pulpit ministry is these days. You can get loads of uplifting stories and words of practical advice from the vast majority of professedly evangelical churches, all over. But how many put out a steady stream of passionate, God-centered, understandable Biblical instruction? "Not enough," you say, and I agree.
But whose fault is that? Are these churches living on air and preaching to empty seats? Or do they exist because people seek out, demand, and support such ministries? If people were to start flooding out of such churches, leaving behind clear statements of the reason for their departure, would such bodies' influence linger long?
Did you ever notice this, in Matthew 21:12 — that our Lord "drove out all those buying and selling in the temple"? He charges them with turning His Father's house into a den of thieves (v. 13). All of them. Not just the sellers, but the buyers as well.
Why? Because, I take it, the buyers were enablers. Because, without buyers, there would be no sellers in the temple.
So I would not dole out the opprobrium exclusively to the bad teachers in the pulpits, but spare some reproof for those who enable them as well. "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this" (Jeremiah 5:31a CSB).
Hear Calvin on that verse:
The common people, no doubt, exculpated themselves, as they do at this day, who hold forth this excuse as their shield, “O, we are not learned, we have never been in school, and what can we do but to follow our bishops?” Thus, then, at this day, the lower orders, the multitude, seek to cast off every blame from themselves. But the Prophet says here, that the people loved to have things so. And, doubtless, we shall find that to be ever true which is said in Deuteronomy 13:3 , that when false prophets come, it is for the purpose of trying God’s people, whether they from the heart love God. It is then his object to try our religion, whenever he gives loose reins to impostors and false prophets: for every one who truly loves God will be preserved by his Spirit from being led away by such deceivers. When, therefore, ignorant men are deluded, it is certain that they are justly punished for their neglect and contempt of God, because they have not been sufficiently attentive to his service; yea, because they have wished for impostors....Am I being harsh? Just wait, there's more.
Even in Biblically-healthy churches, is the Word being employed to its fullest degree? Look about you, in your faithfully Bible-preaching assembly. How many are taking notes? If they aren't, is it really because they know everything already, or are unable to write, or have found a better way to ingest and retain what they're being taught?
Or is it simply because they don't care all that much?
I recall an older man man I knew, a churchgoer for years and years and years. I was trying to get a feel for whether or not he'd been converted, so I was probing him on the Gospel. I put the question in a number of different ways, and his responses were all ambiguous. Finally, I had what I thought was a really bright idea.
"Suppose someone asked you what he would need to do to be saved," I began. "What would you tell him?"
"Oh," he replied. "I'd tell him to talk to the pastor."
Well, I was the pastor, and I wasn't encouraged by his answer. But was it really because I hadn't taught the Gospel? Look, if you knew more about that ministry, you'd criticize me for much; and I'd largely agree, and add a few things you'd overlooked.
But I did teach the Gospel. All the time, and from many angles. He just didn't listen and learn. Blind? Dead? Or just really lazy? Honestly, only God knows. But in this case, it wasn't due to a "lite" pulpit ministry.
Third: "Most people don't talk to us." The Mor-men thanked me for talking with them, because most people don't. Maybe that's just Sacramento, which is beyond dispute a brain-dead, Godforsaken wilderness. Maybe in your neighborhood, they'd have met the Gospel at every doorstep.
But statistically I'd say the odds are that many of the "most people" who wouldn't talk to these nice, Hellbound young cultists were folks who attend "evangelical" churches, who consider themselves genuine, legitimate, card-carrying Christians. Why won't they talk to them? Too busy? Convinced by the likes of Mouw and Hewitt that Mormons are just kinda funny Christians, no big deal? Totally clueless about Mormonism?
Totally clueless about the Gospel?
That so many evangelical church members might be ignorant of the Gospel is a shame. That many might actually know the Gospel, but be unconcerned to take a moment to tell it to a couple of lost souls the Lord brings to their doors, is shameful.
Fourth: cultists don't like the Biblical doctrine of total depravity, either. As you saw, though the young men nodded when Bible verses were read, they still trusted their works to save them. They still thought they could bring enough to the table to "put them over," to get them past the Gospel. Many in the Comments section alluded to the famous "burning in the bosom" proof (!) of the absurd claim of the truth of the BoM. So they start out thinking that they can trust their feelings to guide them into truth.
Phil's last two posts, on the Biblical doctrine of total depravity, have been excellent, and very thought-provoking. I think a lot of error hinges on an un-Biblical anthropology, a failure to admit just how devastating the Fall was to all natural-conceived sons of Adam. I don't know any cult that embraces this truth; the meta indicates that many Christians bristle at it as well.
Now, the mere fact that cults and false teachers accept or reject a doctrine is, itself, of no value in determining its truth. JW's say the Bible is the Word of God, and they're right. RC's formally affirm the Trinity, and they're right.
But a sub-Biblical doctrine of man at the outset tilts one against looking to God for a sovereign, monergistic work of saving grace. It also predisposes one to retain self-confidence that can go against seeing the need for the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. It is the matrix for a host of errors. Get man wrong, and you'll get a lot else wrong too.
Fifth: "They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear" (Romans 11:20). "Whoa, that's way out of context," you say. Again, I agree. But.
But Paul's point is that, while God has judged ethnic Israel to open the door to Gentiles in this new creation, the church, Gentiles shouldn't mis-take the lesson. They shouldn't think that one ethnic privilege has simply been replaced by another. They should see that it was unbelief that brought judgment on ethnic Israel; and that this same unbelief will bring judgment just as surely on Gentiles.
They should not reason, "Nah nah, God rejected the Jews and accepted me-ee!" Rather, they (we) should reason, "Oh, crud — if God judged Israel for unbelief, He'll judge me just as surely!"
The connection is that mocking these lost Mormons for their utter in-the-darkness about the Gospel is singularly unbecoming for a modern evangelical. Just think of that word: evangel-ical. It is supposed to mean (at bare minimum) someone who's all about the evangel, the Gospel, the Good News. Yet I daresay that the majority of those who frequent "evangelical" church today would be just as hopeless at defining the Evangel as Elder M and Elder L were.
That should not make us feel cocky and superior to the Mormons.
Rather, it should humble and shame us about our own people, look to ourselves, and redouble our efforts to make sure that we and anyone under our care are crystal-clear on the Gospel and its issues.