Years back I saw a picture in a child’s play room that quoted I Corinthians 14:40 “But all things should be done decently and in order.” It was meant to encourage the children to clean up after themselves. The problem with this is that the verse is actually talking about church polity and worship, not tidiness.
What’s the problem with that? You might ask. Well for starters, it is saying something where the Bible does’t and it is teaching people that the Bible can be used to say what we want. That is the heresy of Neo-Orthodoxy and a product of base moralism. I’ve addressed this problem before but as we discuss what the church should be evaluating it is important to bring it up again.
I was at a church service recently where the pastor resorted to what I call moralistic coaching. His points were, ‘Make the Commitment,’ ‘You Can Do It,’ and ‘Don’t give up.’ You may be asking, “What’s the problem with that?” Except for the fact that the points were not in the text or context he was citing, he wasn’t saying anything that the culture can’t say to themselves.
Now many people were probably moved and encouraged by this sermon. So why do I have anything negative to say about it when the message was effective? Do the ends justify the means? Paul seems to be saying that as long as the gospel is preached, in pretense or truth, we should rejoice. However, he doesn’t say that we should give honor to the means. So while we can give credence to the response, we cannot justify the means.
The fact that so many people are captivated by these deplorable tactics reveals something quite disheartening about our Christian culture. If we can’t affect change apart from
manipulating mutilating passages of Scripture, we can be sure that God is not impressed. This is more in line with Paul’s description of leaders in the last days, “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions.” (II Timothy 3:6)
It is a shame that the Word of God is not enough anymore to generate true repentance, worship, and change. There needs to be a serious awakening and reformation amongst churches today to get back to the preaching of the Word.
Not every pastor who uses moralism and distorts the Bible realizes what they are doing. In fact, many have been trained to do so in seminaries and homiletics courses. Instead of attacking the men, I want to generate a level of discernment among the listeners to hold these men responsible. Because if it were not for the large crowds these messages generated, there wouldn’t be preachers using these methods.
So what is your church actually teaching? Moralism? Is it saying anything different than what the culture can say to itself? Is it teaching that the Bible can be used for one’s own purposes by manipulating passages to a certain end? We should be teaching that the Bible is the authority to life and practice and the answers are there to anyone who seeks the LORD.