PORTLAND, OR -- Local lone-ranger Christian Bill Pershing, proud of his individualistic approach to faith unrestrained by creeds or orthodoxy, proudly announced today that he came up with at least a half-dozen new ways of thinking about Jesus, all of which constitute grievous heresies. His theology, though vague, seems to be a strange mix of Arianism, semi-Nestorianism, and what commentators have identified as teachings from the Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this before . . . it’s actually pretty innovative -- though to be clear, it’s damnable heresy of the basest sort,” noted pastor and Bible teacher John MacArthur in a phone interview Friday morning. “His theory of the atonement seems to have integrated ideas from Rasputin, Oprah Winfrey, and the popular video game Starcraft. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says there’s nothing new under the sun, but this one’s pretty new to me.” Pershing is also reportedly beginning work on a new book chronicling his journey out of the institutional church and into a stronger relationship with Jesus, which is rumored to contain a systematic rejection of systematic theology.
I'm embarrassed to admit that this was definitely me not too long ago.
I was a "Spiritual Island Unto Myself" who only prayed when I needed something, who only went to church on Christmas, Easter, or for baptisms, funerals, and weddings, and who determined my beliefs about God The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit by referring mainly to my "Personal Relationship With Jesus" (whatever that meant since it varies from person-to-person to suit their own needs!) instead of the immutable Word of God.
That's why I'm forever grateful to those complete strangers who called me out on it (Proverbs 27:5-6), who lovingly pointed out the errors of my thinking (Ephesians 4:15), who lovingly pointed me to the truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and also to the Lord Who forgave me for my sins and converted me to true faith in Him and His Word (John 14:6; John 3:16; Romans 5; Jude 1).
Given my own experience, I'm willing to bet this is how far too many people have defined their faith in these Post-Modern "Let's Agree To Disagree!" days (even if they call themselves "Christians") -- with their own ideas, opinions, preferences, prejudices, presuppositions, and thoughts that are influenced daily by the devil, the world, and the flesh when they should be letting their faith be defined by the One who is the very source of that faith (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Speaking from experience, the sad reality is that many people believe the parts they like and ignore and reject what they don't like (or don't completely understand). Yes, even well-meaning "Christians" with good intentions can be deceived like this (Galatians 2:4-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2).
Plus, even though the Bible doesn't contradict itself, there are still a few parts that will forever remain confusing to us, but rather than let them exist in tension, we want to rationalize everything to death since allowing for "The Mystery of God" to exert itself upon us is just too much for us to accept and to handle.
It's a shame that we think we know better than God Himself about anything and everything, but it's hardly surprising due to our fallen, sinful nature that's at war daily with our new spiritual nature.
It's not "arrogant" to believe, teach, and confess creeds and doctrine derived from the holy Word of God itself or "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) that have defined the Christian faith for thousands of years from the very beginning, but the height of arrogance to assume that you personally have discovered something "new" all on your own through this "Personal Relationship" nonsense. That's being a cultist wrapped in a Christian label.
Again, I would know, because that was me.
It's supposed to be about faith, not feelings.
Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Faith fueled by pure, unadulterated doctrine always endures.
Feelings are fickle and often change for any number of reasons.
Typically, those who always want to talk about their "Personal Relationship With Jesus" all the time use it as a defense mechanism, and they rarely roll up their sleeves to sit down with another concerned brother or sister in Christ to go through the Bible to discuss the serious un-Biblical beliefs that they hold to.
Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
What Christians who live and die by this un-Biblical belief fail to realize is that if "A Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ!" is all a person ever really needs, then they certainly don't need the Lord's Word and Sacraments let alone Christ's Church and the Office of the Holy Ministry (a.k.a. called and ordained Pastors) for the forgiveness of their sins and the strengthening of their faith.
The problem? The Lord actually says that those things are supposed to be important in a believer's life whether they think so or not for it's His Word and His Sacraments that are spiritual gifts that He uses to come to us for our benefit here on earth, and Christ's Church and His servants that were created to deliver those spiritual gifts to us on a regular basis.
By rejecting all of that, aren't you really saying that you're willing to reject all of Him and all that He has to offer you?
In a Lutheran layman's terms, a "Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ" may be a popular Christian phrase these days, but it is not the Gospel.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!