Published June 25, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Doctrinal Confusion"

Ever wonder why things are so messed up in society today?

One big reason is the church. Yes, I said "the church." Or, more to the point, the lack of solid Bible teaching for – and doctrinal understanding by – far too many church members.

Evidence of that can clearly be seen in a recent study* by LifeWay Research about church members' doctrinal beliefs.

81 percent of churchgoers say, "When you die, you will go to heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior." For a believer, that should be pretty obvious. Scripture makes that clear. Nevertheless, there are other opinions among churchgoers.

26 percent agreed with the statement, "If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity." The good news — 57 percent disagree. The bad news — that means only 57 percent effectively agreed with Jesus' proclamation, "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). (Inexplicably, some of those 26 percent must also have been part of the previous 81 percent.)

7 percent of churchgoers – "churchgoers!" – agreed that, "When you die, you will go to heaven because you have tried your best to be a good person and live a good life." This is, of course, the prevailing worldview among unbelievers, at least those who actually believe in the afterlife. the church?

4 percent felt, "When you die, you will go to heaven because God loves everyone and we will all be in heaven with Him." That's more or less the definition of universal reconciliation (sometimes called universalism), a heresy that dates back to the third century. So – why bother living for God when everyone will get saved anyway? It's the religious equivalent of a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. That sort of takes the "whosoever believes" out of the plan of salvation, doesn't it? No need to confess anything (see Romans 10:9).

82 percent agreed that "The Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches." Wow. They might agree with that statement, but their other answers (above) would clearly indicate they aren't familiar with what the Bible actually teaches. And what about the other 18 percent?

13 percent of Christian churchgoers believe that the God of the Bible is no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by other world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Another 12 percent had no opinion on the matter. "No different?!"

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, concluded, "If churches stopped to assess their congregation on these biblical truths, many would be surprised to find out how many are struggling with basic doctrinal issues. Every church has a different mix of mature disciples and spiritual infants who still need a diet of the basic Gospel message... Too many churchgoers are stuck on square one."

People with faulty understanding – such as those above – obviously haven't been paying attention in church. Or...maybe they have. And that's even more distressing.

Christ left the work of spreading the Gospel to the church. Satan knows this, and that's why he has focused his energies to such a great degree – especially in this "last days - roaring lion" stage (1 Peter 5:8) – on perverting the church. And, apparently, he's had considerable success.

So many clergy today seem to be preaching some "other Gospel," based not on what the Bible says but on what psychologists and wealth managers say, sugar-coated with a sprinkling of "religious" talk. Others, rather than relying on clear Biblical teachings, defer to the Zeitgeist — the spirit of times — calling the Bible outdated and no longer relevant in its clear teachings, deferring, rather, to prevailing secular public opinion. You've probably heard TV preachers do this, or have heard of preachers in your own hometown who feel this way. The Apostle Paul didn't give such people much slack. He said, "...if we, or [even] an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). Well, that's pretty clear.

Occasionally, we'll talk with Gospel artists who have been told by pastors or leadership in churches where they had been invited to sing to avoid singing about certain topics, such as the blood of Christ, the Trinity, or even (can you believe?) heaven. Because Southern Gospel music is all about such things, that pretty well limits what can be sung! Perhaps that's why hymnals aren't as common anymore. The Bible-based themes are just "too offensive" for some.

So many liberal theologians today are discarding what they consider "outdated" in the Bible so they can "update" the Scripture. Some go so far as to discard whole passages of Scripture because, well, they simply disagree with what's said. Anyway, they say, the words of Scripture don't really mean what they clearly say. That's reminiscent of Satan's question to Eve in the garden, "Has God indeed said...." (Gen. 3:1). Satan is still busy casting doubt on God's clear words. It's his most-used strategy.

Next Sunday, look around you in church. Are there attenders there who you have never heard speak of spiritual matters. Are they merely attenders? Are they just shy — or do they actually have no depth of spiritual understanding?  How could they be helped to grow spiritually?

Also – be sure your pastor is preaching for you the entire Gospel. If he's not, and you're a mature Christian, don't feel reluctant to discuss specifics with him. Ignore his scholarly degrees – rely on the Bible. Don't be intimidated.

Perhaps your Bible-believing pastor needs to do an uncompromising, Bible-based sermon series on the fundamentals of the faith – a refresher course for long-time Christians and a primer for newcomers.

Church is a place where Christians come to worship and to be encouraged in the Gospel — to be built up in the faith, edified (Ephesians 4:12) through solid doctrinal preaching.

Ronny Hinson once wrote a song calling the church a "Soul-Filling Station." It appears that far too many churchgoers today are content with running on empty.

- Paul

PS:  If your home church isn't preaching sound Biblically-based doctrine, try demanding it. If that doesn't work, in your own best interests find another church to attend that does. I know, it's not easy to move, especially if you have "roots" where you are. But you need "solid food" to grow (Hebrews 5:12-14). We know someone who did this and suddenly began understanding the Word in a whole new way. You might find that as you grow in the true "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) you might even consider going back to your previous church later as a "missionary."

PPS:  Comments and suggestions, especially from pastors, are most welcome on this topic.

*The study, released by LifeWay Research on April 5th, is based on interviews with 2,930 American adults who said they attend a Protestant church at least once a month.

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