22 January 2008

Preaching the Good News? Part Three

by Dan Phillips

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 sinner-palliative seeker-sensitive church, a charismatic church, an Osteen/Willow Creek/purpose-driven offshoot church.

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.

Dan Phillips's signature


93 comments:

dac said...

Challies recent post on loving your neighbor I think is a good "side bar" to your excellent post.

"Over the years I’ve had to reflect on what made the churches I attended as a child and teenager so ineffective at evangelism. I have to be careful here because I know several people from the churches of my youth who read this site and I want to be careful that I accurately characterize these churches. While there are several reasons I could provide, and they are of varying importance, there is one that I believe stands at the foundation of the rest: These churches often regarded the unbeliever as the enemy. Of course the church would never have articulated that belief, but it seemed to be deeply rooted."

I think (from personal experience) that it is easy to see Mormons and JW's as the enemy, and to be shunned. But Christ came for them also

If we truly loved our neighbor, if that command means anything to us, we would love them enough to share the gospel with them

DJP said...

Mm.

Lori said...

I disagree that note-taking is a sign that the gospel is being preached in a church.
From Tim Keller:
The "informational" view of preaching conceives of preaching as changing people's lives after the sermon. They listen to the sermon, take notes, and then apply the Biblical principles during the week. But this assumes that our main problem is a lack of compliance to Biblical principles, when (as we saw above) all our problems are actually due to a lack of joy and belief in the gospel. Our real problem is that Jesus' salvation is not as real to our hearts as the significance and security our idols promise us. If that’s our real problem, then the purpose of preaching is to make Christ so real to the heart that in the sermon people have an experience of his grace, and the false saviors that drive us lose their power and grip on us on the spot. That’s the "experiential" view of preaching (Jonathan Edwards.)

And from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently….It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit.”

Lori said...

What I should have said above: I disagree that lack of note taking is a sign of a biblically unhealthy church.

DJP said...

I knew that would prick some consciences, Lori, so I expressed it very carefully. Here again is what I actually wrote:

"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?"

Daryl said...

DJP,


You may consider this conscience pricked.

Excellent post.

As far as why "seeker" type churches thrive, I'd suggest it is because people are looking for that kind of thing as compared to actual doctrinal Bible teaching.
Otherwise how do we account for the rapid growth of these mega-churches while at the same time net church growth across the continent is dropping yearly?

DJP said...

I've found it to be inevitable: affirm Jesus' vision of His people as students in any practical and measurable way (Matthew 28:18-20; John 8:31-32), and folks squawk. No doubt, it's worth a post in itself. The preference to sit, and be entertained and moved to feel things (but not challenged to learn, understand, memorize, believe, act on, and be able to articulate them) is woefully ingrained.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"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."

Well said, Dan. Your message today was consonant with my Bible study and sermon prep this morning. Thanks for a great series.

Mike Riccardi said...

I don't know about you guys, but if something in a sermon produces a lasting impression on me, as Edwards says, or something is "done" to me, as MLJ commonly says, I'm just going to want to write it down.

Maybe it's just me.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Dan,

I think one big reason why evangelicals are as bad (or worse) in knowing what they believe is because a great majority of the so-called visible church has no clue what the Great Commission really commissions...which is, primarily, discipleship.

Even in churches that would be deemed as healthy, true discipleship requires disciples...students. And how many of those filling the healthy churches, as well as these entertainment halls passing for the body of Christ really have any desire to be students?

A student is a listener, a learner, one who interacts with what is being taught (note taking, discussion in SS class), one who is always moving forward, not only in his learning, but also in his application of what has been learned.

EcoTheos said...

Christians like Huckabee often call Mormon Romneys members of a cult.

But are Mormons a cult, or instead a way of following Christ that is closer to original first Christianity? Is the real cult the religion of Mainstream Christianity, that prays to a Trinity ManGod first created hundreds of years after Christ by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine?

related video:

HANK HANEGRAAFF: THE BIBLE ANSWER MAN

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1eKH7HbE68

DJP said...

Brian: Word.

DJP said...

Yes, ecotheos: the solar system centers around the sun, the Earth is not flat, bathing is actually a healthy thing, microscopic germs cause disease, the God of the Bible is a Trinity, and Mormonism is a cult.

Don Fields said...

"But I ask: how many of "our" people would fare any better?"

They wouldn't. But for me the surprise was how poorly the Mormons did. For years I have heard that the average cult member (Mormons, JW's, etc.) would destroy the average Baptist, but now I'm not so sure. Not because we are doing any better, but because they seem to slipping in their preparation.

"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?

The fact that people don't leave really shouldn't surprise us. They/we are called "sheep" for a reason. Sheep will always follow a shepherd (for good or for bad) and that is why the teacher carries a bigger responsibility. Of course, the sheep aren't exempt either, so in that I completely agree.

"He just didn't listen and learn. Blind? Dead? Or just really lazy?"

I vote for lazy. Isn't it amazing how many new and young believers are hungry for the Word, yet give them 2, 3, or 4 years and they are typically as apathetic as the "mature" saints? That drives me crazy! It should be the other way around!

"Why won't they talk to them?"

Scared. Ignorant. Lazy. Probably in that order.

pastorbrianculver said...

What you are talking about is the exact thing that cause quite a stir in our church. I questioned the youth to find out if they could give an answer for their faith.

Why are you a Christian?
What would you tell someone on how to be a Christian?
Do you believe in Hell?
Do you believe a liar will go to hell?
Do you believe a homosexual will go to hell?

I asked some very basic questions. I wanted to find out if they included in their answers the fact they needed to repent of their sins and put their trust and faith in Jesus. Not a single kid was even close. I mentioned it in Sunday School and their parents all got mad at me for asking them these questions. They were more worried about how it made them look rather than the fact that they did not know the answers. I asked several adults and found the same results. The pastor just shakes his head and says, "I have told them over and over. They just don't get it." of course, he has his hawaiian shirt on and tells his jokes and stories behind the pulpit. He is also the one who said nothing when a lady in church said she was glad that God was so forgiving because she will flip people off as she is driving.

Needless to say, we fled that church!

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Lazy...for a season, maybe.

But can that be the normal state of a true Christian?

A tough question, I know. As Dan said, only God knows.

DJP said...

Brian, I guest-taught an older-adults Sunday School class decades ago, when I was in my 20's. It was on Colossians. First week, I asked them to take ten minutes and read the (4-chapter) letter in the next week.

Next class, I asked how many had done so.

You guessed it: none.

The only response I got was... apologetic? Humbled?

No way.

Offended that I'd "treat them like children." (And that, SIMPLY for asking how many had read it.)

DJP said...

Brian Culver, the last one was for. To dangle a preposition.

donsands said...

"they have wished for impostors"

And they got their wish. Sad. Tragic even. I watched Joel Osteen the other night speak into the thousands of ears listening to him. They were all smiling, basically. And I'm angry and sad.

"I vote for lazy." Me too. For I know me.
I do have a hunger to learn God's truth, but when it becomes hard work, then I need to just do it, by His grace of course.
Sort of like the warm up at football practice, before running the team, it's hard work, but it's well worth when you play in a game, and near the end of the 4th quarter you still have some stamina.

Very good post again. Thanks for the hard work of putting this together. It helps.

Laura said...

Regarding sin: check this out. My hubby has been witnessing to a Mormon at work for the past 2 years. It came out yesterday that Mormons believe that when God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (before the Fall) they were not physically capable of it. Somehow they knew that eating of the forbidden fruit would render them fertile, so they decided to God was giving them a riddle to solve and that He intended for them to make the choice to eat the fruit. They felt this was the right choice, so that they could carry out God's command. Only after eating the fruit and beinging sin into the world were they able to have children.

My hubby and I are blown away by how little sense this makes. Cult, anyone?

Laura said...

*bringing* sin into the world

Don Fields said...

"First week, I asked them to take ten minutes and read the (4-chapter) letter in the next week.

Next class, I asked how many had done so."


I do the same thing whenever we start studying a new book of the Bible, with one exception. I don't ask how many followed through. I don't want to be discouraged.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Remarkably excellent blog post. Here's my favorite part which might not be anyone else's:

"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)."

Our culture AND many in the Church are enablers of God-mocking sin, and as such, deserve a good measure of rebuke. Eg., there are some Christians and their blogs who sternly denounce those Christians who actually have the anti-PC courage to point out demonstrable error in the Church and in the culture. These enabling Christians undermine the faithful resolve of disciples who proclaim the Lordship of Jesus.

Again, great post!

DJP said...

I don't want to be discouraged.

Believe me, I know what you mean. I probably wouldn't today, either, for the same reason.

DJP said...

...or I'd warn them that I was going to ask.

odmorale said...

I'm one of those that unfortunately is lazy. Even when I take notes I rarely go back to them.

What a shame.

Thanks for the post DJP. Much needed conviction.

Mike Riccardi said...

So the "enabling" idea throws a little conviction my way.

I'm wondering what the standard is, though, especially in light of Frank's semi-recent posts on when it's right/wrong to leave a church.

Like, in my case I ask myself, "Is my church proclaiming the Word of God to its full potential week in and week out?" I think I'd have to say no. "To the pastors full potential?" Still, probably no. "Are we a little too enamored with the seeker paradigm and too concerned with pleasing man rather than God, consequently producing man-centered preaching more often than God-centered preaching?" Yes. "Is the Word of God absent from the church?" No, couldn't say that. "Has there been some improvement?" Some indeed. We haven't arrived, but we're not at full-fledged social club status either. "Has it been longer than it should be?" In my estimation, yes.

I could continue. All of it to say that I know that, despite meetings with elders and pastors, my continued attendance and membership might be enabling. But I also wonder if mine is a situation in which to throw in the towel, or be a Titus-on-Crete / Timothy-in-Ephesus type of guy.

It's tough. Any insight on how these balance, if at all?

odmorale said...

Mike,

I'm experiencing similar questions.

My church has been strong but recently is taking steps that I don't see positively.

-40 days of purpose
-A Willow Creek sponsored leadership conference.
-A survey to non-members an non-believers about how the church could improve.
-They are going to change the name
-willow creek curriculum.

I'm in hard position as well.

Carrie said...

Excellent post, Dan!

I'm wondering what the standard is, though, especially in light of Frank's semi-recent posts on when it's right/wrong to leave a church.

This also came to my mind as I was reading. This is an issue I have been struggling with and I lean towards the "don't be a buyer" idea, but it's tough.

DJP said...

Ugh, Mike and OD.

Well, in my perception, if you diagramed Frank's and my positions on this, they'd be two big circles that overlap to a large degree, but not totally. Frank would be a bit more on the stick-it-out-regardless side, I'd be a bit more on the seek-other-options-if-they
-refuse-to-embrace-God's-priorities side.

IMHO: it rests on a difficult determination. Is the church trying imperfectly to do what God (in the Bible) calls all churches to do? Or is it trying to find ways around those priorities? Or is it resolutely unconcerned about those priorities?

I'd definitely encourage church members to err on the side of sticking-out and working-with, before very reluctantly concluding that it's time to transfer membership and ministry.

Mike Riccardi said...

odmorale,

Wow man. That would be extremely discouraging for me. Indeed, the things at my church aren't so explicit. And the fact that Willow Creek's conference is going to be featuring (or maybe has already featured, I'm not sure) Brian McLaren as their keynote speaker is only more horrifying.

Just keep praying and acknowledging that God is sovereign, and somehow is causing all this for His glory and our good.

donsands said...

"It's tough. Any insight on how these balance, if at all?"

Very tough. It comes down to you and the Lord. I went through it, and I simply pray, and say Lord, show me what to do, and help me do it.

I am in a wonderful fellowship now. The best is that my pastor is reformed, and he preachings expositionally with gerat passion for Christ's glory.

I need to have a good pastor preaching from the pulpit. I was willing to try a lesser way a couple years ago, and did I ever learn my lesson.
Yep, it's tough, but you'll get through I'm sure.

When you are blessed by our Lord with a good church, where there is a genuine preacher of God's Word in the pulpit, then it will seem like heaven, really; at least a foretaste.

Mike Riccardi said...

Thanks, Dan. I appreciate that insight. It helps.

odmorale said...

The leadership in my case is trying to follow what they believe is God's will (we are not charismatic).

There has been no change in preaching or doctrine at this point.

I raised theses concerns and was told that I should be a learner and ask more questions before I judge that certain steps are wrong.

I was cautioned and pointed to James about being quick to hear slow to speak, but I raised the points in confidence after seeing all of the steps not just one.

Stefan said...

Dan: Would a liberal (i.e., mainline protestant, social gospel) church even go so far as to say, "Faith in Christ can help you resolve personal and family challenges"?

I say nay! They might say, "Following the example of Jesus can help you resolve personal and family challenges," though.

DJP said...

I say "Ni."

Both "faith" and "Christ" can be, to them, muzzy enough concepts to accommodate whatever they want to say by them.

Stefan said...

True. That's what the Mormons have done, after all.

I guess the working definition of "faith in Christ" in a liberal church would be, "belief that some guy named Jesus probably lived and did some good stuff about 2000 years ago."

DJP said...

Right, or "foggy embrace of his reworked ideals."

stratagem said...

Rock-solid concluding paragraph, Dan. Thank you. We should take the log outta our own eyes.

Now as to your question of whether a liberal denomination would leave a card such as the Mormons did, I suggest they're probably the only ones who could leave such a card and do it truthfully: The made-up "Jesus" they follow does resolve (or rather, avoid) all conficts and issues by emphasizing tolerance at the expense of truth.

Beth said...

One of the reasons we left the marginal church we were attending was that my husband and I understand that it is our reasonable service to spread the gospel. We also feel strongly in the need for the local church to disciple and edify the saints.

What we soon realized with the curch we were attending is that in spreading the good news we did not want to recommend that church to a new believer. While it may have been o.k. for us, who could recognize the areas where their doctrine was off,etc., it would be disastrous for a new Christian to be exposed to doctrinal error…as well as our children.

For those of you who are staying in these churches...what church do you recommend to the person you are witnessing to?

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Those considering the stick-it-out solution regarding your current church (we did that for seven years until we could do it no more...and I got Frank's approval that that was enough time to give it) might benefit from a quick evaluation of where their church stands as a church.

Mike Riccardi did this to some degree. IMHO, here is what needs to be considered:

Is the Word truly being preached? You know whether this is true or not. If you have to rationalize more often than not to get to a 'yes' answer, then the answer is really 'no'.

Does membership mean something at your church? Is the front door bigger than the back door.

Is accountability and church discipline an active and vital part of your church?

Are baptism and the Lord's Supper done biblically and held to be vital to the church as the visual means of the gospel?

I'm sure there are other areas which can determine whether to stay or not, but these get to the heart, I think, of whether the church you are at is really a church at all.

Tough issues to struggle with, I know. Been there and done that, so I know what many are and have gone through.

Strong Tower said...

But I did teach the Gospel. All the time, and from many angles.

Ah, but see if you would have taught from many angels, it would have been different.

In greater Psychothermerica, we hear about the dysfunctional family. In evangelical circles we have the dysfundamental family. It is a mystery in the secular world as to what goes awry. Which comes first, the deliquent child, or the delinquent parent? Biblically, at least since the fall, there's no telling, which comes first, disobedient children, or unfaithful children frustrating parents. For the church, all things remain the same as they were in the beginning, who can point to anything new?

In a congregationalist perspective, just as we have with the balance of powers mentality in government, born of the knowledge of the depravity of man, there is at least an attempt to hold each other accountable. Of course, then we could ask why hasn't this knowledge cured our ills?

Sic Vita est- In this world you will have tribulation but take heart, I have over come the world.

Who is at fault, well, sin in our members; elders, deacons, pewsters. Spread it thick, there is enough to go around.

That being said, Tom Ascol speaks to this issue repeatedly and has a recent review of a Wall Street Journal article on church discipline- Now here is the kick, unregenerate membership is ubiquitous among Christians. When we speak of it, it is not necessarily saying that the members are not born again, but in Pauline tradition, that many are acting fleshly, and not spiritually, and so we have churches that resemble Corinth, or more closely, the variety pack out of Revelation.

I too have been in that situation of being the "bad guy" for suggesting the need to get back to the study of doctrine, which was met by a near unanimous chorus, laity and minister alike, "We don't need doctrine, we only need the Word! We need no commentaries, relationship is what need! Knowledge, it just puffs up. Wuv, twue wuv, is what bwings us togetha- today...

To begin with, we cannot run away to a cave and hide from Jez, simply because the cause looks hopeless. It is not. So finally, though it may seem like a fruitless job, we need to continue to dig around and tend to the olive tree, in hope, preparing for the next season of harvest. Want revival? Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength...and having done all to stand, stand. In due season you shall reap a harvest if you do not faint.

JackW said...

I have that same problem with the local church I attend, or for that matter any churches in the area I live in. One of the problems is this fuzzy idea of what faith is, where it comes from and the focusing on man's choices.

So what do you do? Move? Maybe, but also I think we must remember that Jesus builds the church (including the local church?) and places the bricks where He wants. Do we have permission to move from where He has placed us?

The Interface said...

Good post; thoughtful and thought provoking. We've gone through many a church searching for one that was firmly centered on God's Word in both word and practice. (Have fortunately found one such jewel, but they are rare indeed.)

From another prophet that flows with your points: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." (Hosea 4:6)

Strong Tower said...

JackW-

I thought that I was just another brick in the wall!

I did eventually leave underblistering hot tongues of traditionalists. Once yuv walked in the same door for twenty or so years, said hi to the same people, threaded yourself down the same hallway, aisle and shimmied into that conformed to my image spot, not to close, not to far away, it is really not cool when someone says that you aren't in the right seat, you know what I mean?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Today's the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

How has a segment of the Christian Church enabled abortion to continue?

Hypothetical: What would happen if ALL Christians, both professing and confessing disciples, in America registered a clear, unmistakable, clarion call that abortion is a wrongful sin? What would be the impact on this nation and its laws on unborn life?

Can the Good News of Christ be preached effectively and with credible witness when there is a significant segment of the Church who treat the issue of abortion as a distraction and something to set aside because it's too divisive? [As if the true Gospel is not divisive...]

The Doulos said...

I don't want to get into the "stay or go" discussion, so here are some random comments on the post:

Couldn't a liberal church as well have said "Faith in Christ can help you resolve personal and family challenges?"

Possible but not likely. The phrase "faith in Christ" seems too restrictive and responsive to be proposed by most of the mainline liberal churches I know of. More likely it would read something like "Being a Methodist can help you resolve..."

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?

This was really a challenging statement to me. How many of the people in our pews demand a solid diet of Gospel and Biblical proclamation and teaching? Do our congregants hunger and thirst after the word? Are the sheep in our churches expecting too little from their under-shepherds? Good questions for each of us as saints and as church leaders to consider. I have to say that in my own church, this isn't a problem. By and large our people demand (loudly sometimes) real and authentic Scriptural exposition from the pulpit and in the other teaching ministries. But I also know that our church is an anomaly in the evangelical wasteland of America.

I do the same thing whenever we start studying a new book of the Bible, with one exception. I don't ask how many followed through. I don't want to be discouraged.

As a teacher, I have found the most potentially discouraging question to ask is, "Well class, who remembers what we learned last week?" The response is usually an uncomfortable silence. But I'm called as a teacher to keep on proclaiming the word and leave the results to Him. So I do.

Matt said...

Excellent post, Dan. I love your application of the buyers and sellers in the temple - beautiful!

Just one question regarding church growth. We all know that the Best-Life-Now/Crystal-Cathedral/ Purpose Driven stuff sells extremely well - no contention here. But how do we account for the fact that it is in fact *conservative* churches that are growing? This is certainly the case here in Canada where the old liberal mainline churches are dying a slow and steady death, and I imagine that it is the case in the US as well. I suspect it's only a matter of time before the lack of expectation and discipline devastates the seeker-sensitive and emer#@%* fads as well. In the midst of this, though, we have the ascendancy of conservative evangelical churches and a renewed interest in Reformed theology?

Could it be that through history, God consistently removes His blessing from drifting churches, and that He blesses those that are faithful to Him?

Matt said...

Should be a . at the end of my second paragraph, not a ?

Just thought I'd get that out there before I get accused of being a theological liberal.

Mike Riccardi said...

How many of the people in our pews demand a solid diet of Gospel and Biblical proclamation and teaching? Do our congregants hunger and thirst after the word? Are the sheep in our churches expecting too little from their under-shepherds? Good questions for each of us as saints and as church leaders to consider. I have to say that in my own church, this isn't a problem. By and large our people demand (loudly sometimes) real and authentic Scriptural exposition from the pulpit and in the other teaching ministries.

How do your people do that? Big idea = how can we as congregants demand a solid diet of Gospel if our pastors are wishy-washy, yet in authority? And how can I encourage others in my congregation to demand this good Gospel diet without sowing discord and being divisive?

SolaMeanie said...

A. Great post, Dan.

B. Watching the back and forth on "should I stay or go," I am reminded of Jimmy Durante singing a song about that subject in the 1941 movie, "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

Personally, I find myself thinking about the Singapore model in dealing with false teachers. Caning with a brine-soaked bamboo rod looks more and more appealing every day. Then I have to remind myself that "the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." It's a tough battle. Sometimes you just get so mad...

It would really be amazing if churches would just stick with the Bible. Preach the Bible. Live the Bible. I have a strong hunch it helps to actually read the Bible, but some think that the jury is still out on that one. These people have a hard time getting through a back issue of Guideposts.

Leave the fads and philosophy to the marketers and the philosophers. If God has already given us what we need in all that pertains to life and godliness -- and that bundled up conveniently in His Word -- why in the world do I need the next K-Tel special on doing church? It would be more profitable for me to go to Costco and buy a big meat chub.

Gilbert said...

Dan, great post. I am convicted to memorize Scripture more, even though I have a horrible memory.

When I switched churches last year, I had a meeting with their pastor and one of the deacons. When I told them I wanted to come to a church that did Biblically-based expository preaching, I know one of the words he said was "wow", followed by something like he rarely if ever gets someone to say that.

And here's another thing, which should prompt something like at least a "Whoooaaaaaaa...!" comment from Dan: I've heard from another Christian blogger that I respect that person(s) consider him his "pastor" because no churches around him are Biblically based.

Then again, we have people from Africa coming in and evangelizing us these days, returning the favor...

DJP said...

Yeah, that would be a big negatory.

I should do a post on that, sometime: the ways people find to make themselves feel better about sinning by avoiding local church involvement.

You think?

Mike Riccardi said...

I think that would be a good idea. It's important not to let ministries that are to aid the local church supplant the local church.

However, there are some people who are church members, active in various arenas of service, have strong relationships with people who are serious about the Word, but just have crappy preaching and teaching. I've heard people in this situation say, "Hey, there are enough solid materials online. Why should I worry about the sermons here? Good teaching is available elsewhere."

Whatcha think about that? "I go. I'm active, I serve. But Dan Phillips is my pastor."

DJP said...

Been meaning to talk to you about your tithing, Riccardi....

(c;

Gilbert said...

Dan,

>Yeah, that would be a big
>negatory.

>I should do a post on that,
>sometime: the ways people find to
>make themselves feel better about
>sinning by avoiding local church
>involvement.
>
>You think?

What I think is this: What do you say to someone whose local churches are all apostate, doesn't have the gift of teaching/preaching and doesn't feel led to start his own church?

That and your above questions sound like I just gave you some good stuff to chew and post on! I don't know what I'd do if all our churches in town became apostate. I think it would be completely wrong to give the time of day to those who deny the Trinity, etc.

Stefan said...

Matt: Good question.

DJP said...

Note to visiting cultists: Glad you're here. Please read the blog rules before posting.

Steve Lamm said...

Mike Riccardi,

I'm a pastor, just so you know where I'm coming from.

Here's my take on when a believer should find another fellowship.

First, make sure you're obeying your leaders and supporting them in prayer (Hebrews 13:17). Don't stir up strife. By the way, such obedience it's not a license for pastors to shut people up who have legitimate complaints.

Then, meet with the Pastor to express your desire for more comprehensive exposition of Scripture. Buy him a good book on the subject like "FAMINE IN THE LAND" by Steve Lawson. See if he'll discuss it with you. Your love for him may just have an impact. Give this some time.

If the direction of your church continues down the slippery slope of pragmatism, ask for a hearing by a few lay elders and the Pastor and express your concerns backed up by solid biblical support. Stick to the main issue.

Usually, one of three things will happen. 1)The pastor and leaders will re-examine the direction and get back to what the Bible says they should be doing! Halleluiah!

2) They'll ignore you with a smile ( a very common response).

3) They'll accuse you of disrupting unity, or not following their leadership and they'll ask you to cease or leave. Thus, they will have made the decision for you. Leave peacefully.

Other members will ask you why you left. Have a brief and honest statement that gives them the exact reason you made the move without attacking people personally.

Remember this, pastors and laymen both have to obey the Scriptures. The pastor has his clear instructions in the Pastoral Epistles. He doesn't get a pass just because he's "in charge!"

Personally, I wish more people were as concerned as you about the comprehensive proclamation of the Word in all aspects of the ministry.

Bottom line is this: some churches can be turned around as Frank has said. We ought to leave a church only after making every biblical effort to set it on the right path. If we must leave, it ought to be with great sorrow.

That's my perspective as a pastor.

Blessings,
Steve

DJP said...

Gilbert -- sorry, but I don't want to start an exchange on that deleted trollpost, or invite a link from a troll.

If you'd like the content of your post, email me, and I'll email it back to you.

Hope you understand!

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

What do you say to someone whose local churches are all apostate, doesn't have the gift of teaching/preaching and doesn't feel led to start his own church?

You tell them to move.

People move for jobs all the time. Isn't being a part of a healthy church more important than a job? Then why shouldn't someone consider relocating to an area which does have a healthy church?

That would be my last resort, BTW. Before that, I would suggest they seriously consider starting a church first. Either way, their pastor shouldn't be Dan (no offense) or Piper or Dever or MacArthur, etc., unless they moved to where those churches are located.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Excellent comments, Steve.

My approach to the leadership of our former church (three years ago) was met with total apathy, mixed with some accusations of sowing discord.

SolaMeanie said...

Dan: "Note to visiting cultists.."

LOL!

Remind me to steal that for my radio program.

The Doulos said...

mike riccardi: How do your people do that? Big idea = how can we as congregants demand a solid diet of Gospel if our pastors are wishy-washy, yet in authority? And how can I encourage others in my congregation to demand this good Gospel diet without sowing discord and being divisive?

Mike, that is a great and thought-provoking question. In our particular church, the pastors and elders (I am one of the latter, of the teaching variety) are all Biblically sound and Gospel-centered, so there isn't any issues there. We have prayed for and worked to cultivate a desire for knowing Christ thru His word over many years. And we intentionally develop ministries that will feed this desire from a variety of contexts. At the same time, when we have fallen short, we have been told so by the flock - in a loving and accountable way. And we have made corrections.

So this is how it's played out in my particular portion of the body of Christ. How to expect and demand solid Biblical teaching in a church with Biblically-challenged leadership? I guess the starting point would be prayer and open discussion with the leadership expressing the needs (as opposed to criticizing the fact their not being met.)

Mormons Are Christian said...

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This article http://mormonsarechristian.blogspot.com/ helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's comprehension of baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) adheres more closely to First Century Christianity and the New Testament than any other denomination. For example, Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”


One Baptist blogger stated “99 percent of the members of his Baptist church believe in the Mormon (and Early Christian) view of the Trinity. It is the preachers who insist on the Nicene Creed definition.” It seems to me the reason the pastors denigrate the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

Mormons Are Christian said...

Yes, the Book of Mormon is true. It was translated in 60 days, and had 14 witnesses who, to their dying day, verified that it came from golden plates. It contains chiasm, a literary style unknown to a teenage farmboy.

The Bible is the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly (see Bart Ehrman's comments in http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com.) He is perhaps the our most noted New Testament scholar - who no longer believes in the Nicene Creed.

Mormons also believe we all have sinned - which distances us from our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ's atonement, it is possible, through repentence and Jesus' grace to become pure enoough to enter into the presence of Diety.

Don't you believe in repentence? Is faith sufficient to compensate for all your sins? Don't we need to demonstrate a broken heart and contrite spirit?

donsands said...

Mormon,

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

The Lord saves a soul by grace alone. Surely repentance and godly sorrow are fruit from God's grace in the heart of a new creation in Christ, one who has been born again unto eternal life.

There's no works whatsoever that can be added to the salvation Christ brought.

Gilbert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilbert said...

Mormonsarechristian,

My previous post got deleted (no problem, Dan!), and the email was lost. Having said that...

There are very serious problems with Mormonism. First, from the LDS website, we read:

"Jess L. Christensen, Institute of Religion director at Utah State University, Logan, Utah. On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers."

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=4a10ef960417b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

First off, from the real source of truth that you claim, the Bible, this is what we read:

God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:1

Neither is there salvation in any other (than Jesus): for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
--Acts 4:12

I and my Father are one. John 10:30

God cannot be Lucifer in spirit or in any other way. God is holy. And there is no other book but the Bible as holy and true, the divine inspired Word of God.

Mormons also believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are 3 gods. This is not so:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

1 John 5:7

This, and only this, is the "formal doctrine of the Trinity" we recognize. In fact, of the "essential doctrines" that the Church affirms: one God; Jesus is God in flesh; forgiveness of sins is by grace alone; and Jesus rose from the dead physically (the gospel being the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus), Mormonism actually denies these three: how many "gods" there are, the person of Jesus, and His work of salvation.

Finally, you say:

"through repentence and Jesus' grace to become pure enough to enter into the presence of Diety."

There is NO ONE "pure enough" to enter into the presence of Almighty God except for Jesus. We can only do so through repentence, but through *complete* faith in Christ for our substitutionary atonement for our sins, which is perfect, and not by works *at all*. Works come only AFTER you have been saved by Christ. Before that time, however:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags... --Isaiah 64:6


The question therefore must be asked:

Who do you say Jesus is? If he is not Lord Of All, your sole source of faith after you have repented of evil deeds (sins) and trusted Him for your salvation by grace with NO WORKS, then the Word says he is not Lord at all in your life. Since the latter is true with Mormonism, we absolutely cannot call it a Christian faith.

Mormons Are Christian said...

Did you read my post? Why does the United States' foremost New Testament scholar say that scribes mis-tranlated 1 John. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity.

DJP said...

You grossly overestimate Ehrman's significance. He's changed, the Bible hasn't. His personal issues are irrelevant, and I will not allow you to turn this thread into a referendum on him.

Here's a basic honesty-test. YOU answer, MaC. You may not quote other writers, cut-and-paste, or link to other articles.

Both Testaments affirm that there is but one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; James 2:19).

Does your religion affirm only one true God?

Now, a rationality-test.

Can a religion that affirms but one true God be compatible with a religion that claims many true gods?

Strong Tower said...

James White, who is a legitimate Christian Scholar, thinks Ehrman isn't-

James White on Ehrman


And while you're there check out more information on Mormonism.

There is so much more on Christian Doctrine.

DJP said...

So there's "the other hand."

Enough on Ehrman, from either side, please. Not worth the bandwidth.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Dan,

Good luck getting any Mormon to actually engage. I tried several times over my blog, to no avail.

The ones who responded on my site still haven't answered some of my serious observations about Smith's failed prophecies and glaring inconsistencies among the Mormon scriptures such as the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Here's a simple one:

Smith prophecied that the temple would be built - in Missouri - during his generation, and that this temple would usher in the coming of Christ.

Of course, as things began to change, so did further prophecies from Smith.

Anyone remotely interested in Mormon thinking needs to take a little time to scan through the Doctrine & Covenants...very interesting, and very heretical.

NoLongerBlind said...

Mike R.

I also live in NJ, off the GSP exit 98. Not trying to be a "sheep stealer", but, if you're interested in hearing about my church, email me at NewlyCreatedInHim@msn.com

Tom W.

Mormons Are Christian said...

Mormons worship the one and true God, our Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ was his only begotten son, who has a level of holiness equal to the Father. We worship only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not Jesus Christ nor the Holy Ghost.

I know anti-Mormon literature likes to call Mormons polytheistic, but it just isn't so. Mormons are definately monothestic, despite what the anti-Mormons say.

Gilbert said...

Dan et al,

I made my Biblical case, but I do have a tendency to make things overcomplicated. DJP's questions are it in a nutshell.

Brian@vots:

>You tell them to move.

>People move for jobs all the
>time. Isn't being a part of a
>healthy church more important
>than a job? Then why shouldn't
>someone consider relocating to an
>area which does have a healthy
>church?
>
>That would be my last resort,
>BTW.

Sometimes, moving isn't an option. Like China. Or pick any country with Muslim-dominated governments in the world. Or where they are starving with no way out.

And I am not sure where Jesus would tell us to move. He told us to be firm in the faith. Having said that...

Praise God that, in this country, we can go to other churches, and (at least for now) usually can find one that is reasonable in procliaming the Gospel from the pulpit, but it's getting harder. In my town, our local ELCA churches have come off at the wheels, denying the Bible as authoritative and inerrant, and have turned them into "self help groups", as one described it to me over the weekend. Willow Creek did a survey a few years and found less than 11% ever darkened the door of a church on a regular basis. National averages have said "40%", even a few years ago.
I believe it's closer to 10%.

Anyway, it means 90% or more need to hear the Good News...

DJP said...

MaC — you did not answer my questions. They're basic, they're simple, they're straightforward. Your evasiveness on such a fundamental matter is very eloquent.

DJP said...

I just deleted a "friendly link." Since I've asked MaC not to hide behind links and cut-and-pastes, but actually to dialogue in propria persona, I don't think I can allow counter-links at this point.

Your understanding is appreciated.

SolaMeanie said...

MaC..

Excuse me? "Despite what anti-Mormons say?" How about what Mormons themselves say? Mormon theology is too well documented in their own writings and statements for you to get away with a whopper like that. Mormons are polytheists, and their own writings/statements confirm the fact.

Try again.

DJP said...

Well-put.

Besides MaC needs to speak for him/herself.

Bill said...

I know this is well down the thread, but I read this and thought of a very dear friend of mine who is strongly considering converting to Roman Catholicism. She has been a professing Christian all of her life, but when we started discussing the differences between Rome and biblical truth, it became very evident that she has never had any concept of what the true gospel is.

Like Mormons and JW's, her blindness is spiritual; I have taken her to scripture over and over (and will continue to do so) to try to gently and graciously show her the truth, yet she looks at scripture and sees no evidence for sola fide, yet all kinds of convincing evidence for absurdities like Purgatory and the Immaculate Conception--God has simply not opened her eyes. Yet I can't help but think that a lack of gospel-centered biblical teaching in her churches has left her without any sort of foundation, and therefore vulnerable to a false gospel.

The whole experience has saddened me greatly, yet at the same time it has increased my love for the Gospel, because by trying to direct her to the truth, it has driven me further into the scriptures to meditate on Christ's work.

DJP said...

I hear you. Sad, and alarming, no?

rwt said...

Just stopped by to catch up on recent posts and saw this one. Overall, very good; however, I'd like to dispute your characterization of Sacramento. You said it was "beyond dispute a brain-dead, Godforsaken wilderness."

Scripture says, "Where shall I go from thy spirit? Or where shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea the darkness hideth not from thee..." Psalm 139: 7-12

God has not forsaken anywhere on the planet, which, I would suggest, is why you are there-- because He cares about the place.

I know you used the terminology because it's a common expression, but it does not accurately reflect God's character. --rwt

Daryl said...

rwt...

lighten up sounds about right...

DJP said...

I've read Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 8-11, so I'll stand by what I said. Sacramento's a wonderful, thriving place if you're a cultist, a charismatic, or a faddist. Not so great if you want passionate, living, deep and Christ-exalting Biblical preaching. Not that there's none, there's always a remnant.

But it's deucedly hard to find.

Jugulum said...

MAC's equivocation on polytheism is pretty peculiar.

Yes, Mormons worship only God the Father, because (in their view) God the Father is the only rightful god of this world. But...They think the Father was once a man on another world, and worshiped his own god.

So they worship only one god, but they believe in the existence of many gods, of whom the Father is just one.

MAC: If you didn't know this, then you need to check into it. Read what your prophets have spoken, and learn more about your own religion. If you were fully aware of this...Then you're a deceiver.

Jugulum said...

Something just occurred to me. MAC said:
"Mormons worship the one and true God, our Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ was his only begotten son, who has a level of holiness equal to the Father. We worship only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not Jesus Christ nor the Holy Ghost."

When he sought to defend himself against the charge of polytheism...he assumed that we were calling Mormonism polytheistic because they have the Trinity as three separate beings.

At that level, his correction may be accurate. Mormons don't view the Holy Spirit as being a god on the same level as God the Father, nor do they view Jesus as being a god on the same level. (That is, Jesus is not a "fully glorified" got yet, I think.) In that light, it would be inaccurate to call Mormons polytheists based on their view of the Trinity.

But as I pointed out in my last comment, that's not why we call Mormons polytheists. We do so because Mormon theology has many other gods--gods of other worlds out there somewhere--of which God the Father is only one.

If MAC really didn't understand the charge, then I would withdraw my statement that he was being a deceiver. But, if he is so unfamiliar with Mormon beliefs that he didn't know about this polytheism...then he's got other problems.

Bot said...

So what are the names of these other gods we worship on other planets?

Are you are perhaps thinking of Ron Hubbard's followers?

We don't know any gods on other planets. Nice try, though.

Jugulum said...

Bot,

No...I specifically said that Mormons do not worship any other gods than God the Father:

"So they worship only one god, but they believe in the existence of many gods, of whom the Father is just one."

Now, if you deny that Mormonism teaches a plurality of Gods, I invite you to read your scripture and the words of your prophet Joseph Smith.

1.) Read the Book of Abraham, chapter four, with its many references to "the Gods".

2.) Read Joseph Smith's words.
"I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have selected this text for that express purpose. I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years." (Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Press, 1938), p. 370)

3.) Or from the King Follett discourse, recorded in the same book:
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.
[...]
It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did"
(p. 345)
So, he said that it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty that, among other thing, the Father was once a man like us and dwelt on "an earth".

4.) From the same:
"Here, then, is eternal life--to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. " (bold added, p. 346, I think)

He said "as all Gods have done before", Bot. Many Gods who have done what God the Father did. A plurality of Gods. This is what the man who claimed to be a prophet taught. I invite you to study his teachings more, to study God's Word, and to realize that you have been led astray by a 19th century man who was no prophet.

You can find further documentation of what authoritative Mormon sources have taught at Dr. James White's blog. If you've heard of him and hate him, don't let that stop you from reading the Mormon sources that he quotes.
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?archivelist=1&catid=5
(Go to May, June, July, and August for a series documenting Mormon teaching.)

Arthur Sido said...

Careful jugulum, quoting mormon sources exposes you for the sinister anti-mormon you are! How dare you try to use the teachings of mormon scriptures and mormon "prophets" to explain what mormonism teaches! That would be like using the Bible to explain what Christians believe...

Messyanic Jew said...

I suspect that the problem of professing Christians who could not concisely explain and/or share the Gospel is not confined to any denomination, but is a problem endemic to the Body in the U.S.

I spent most of a decade in the employ of a parachurch ministry, speaking very frequently in churches of many denominations, and found the ability of most church members to answer a question as simple as, "What is the Gospel?" to be absymal.

This seems to me to be a problem of instruction. We need pastors who are going to clearly, concisely, and repeatedly teach the Word from the pulpit.

Dr Bill said...

This is old meta, but I thought of this post (especially point #3) this morning as I had my annual opportunity to show the love of Christ to an exceptionally gracious JW lady.

Thank you for challenging my thinking, Dan, so that I reject error and not a person for whom Christ died.