Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snake oil in the 21st Century

Snake Oil Salesmen

These were gentlemen who traveled the Wild West in wagons, hawking their products. The wagons would double as stages, and they'd put up very entertaining shows indeed, music, people being healed, the infomercial of the 1700s if you like. The "snake oil" they sold could (allegedly) cure the common cold, fix tooth aches, reverse baldness, heal piles, cure dropsy, regain eyesight, regain hearing, grow back severed limbs and instantly fix a hangover. And that was before breakfast. They were the undisputed masters of the half truth, the double negative, and the sweet talk gymnasts. These guys made money with their verbal virtuosity, but mostly because their target market did not understand the principles of health. People were told what they wanted to hear, everyone wants to be healthy so they in their ignorance bought the questionable liquid.

If their audience understood the principles, there would be no way on earth you could fast talk them - just like most modern folk won't buy a lunar-radiation-emanation-cranial-shield (tin helmet) no matter how good the salesman. He simply would not be able to convince you that the full moon can cook our brain. (Well, actually, I know a couple of guys I might be able to sell on that idea, but that's another (sad) story for another time.)

Today we are in the 21st Century; we are educated confident that our intellect will protect us, we are street wise and could never be fooled by a fast talker. Unless of course he spoke on a topic that we have little first hand knowledge in and he combined that with what we wanted to hear. Something that would appeal to our vanity, pocket book, or enabled us in our lethargy.

New Pastors

Fast forward to the sixties, there was a war on and a portion of North America’s youth didn’t want to go to war, but the only way out was a debilitating health problem, running to Canada, going to university or religion. A health problem couldn’t be faked; some chose living in exile in Canada and most could not afford university, so that left religion. Then as well as now you could mail a small amount of money to an address and become an ordained minister, it didn’t matter if you believed in the gospel or not, you got out of the military. With this new found legitimacy you could start a church or at least be hired at one. After all a job is a job. Today we are reaping some of what was sown then.

The messages spoken today do not even resemble the messages of even 30 years ago. Many ministers today do not believe in the inerrant word of God in the bible. Some bible schools have been teaching that Genesis is only symbolic. Not a true account but one with symbolic meanings. So God did not create the world in 6 days, Adam was probably a creation of alien genetics program and the snake was nothing more than more aliens trying to protect us from a controlling God, and on goes the story. Genesis is not the only part of the bible refuted by today’s bible schools Noah and the flood also take a beating in the intellectual forum of bible schools. The ark is symbolic as well as the flood. Prophecy is completely off limits even though roughly one third of the scriptures deal with prophecy. Rapture, Hell, second coming, heaven on earth, resurrection … Many other portions of the bible are either denied or explained away.

Many may wonder where these non believing “Christian” leaders came from, others
being lost in the world say that this distorted and watered down belief system makes more sense and follow it. My question is which gates they will follow it to. We are seeing churches grow as a result of this “new” message. Although proponents argue it’s not a new message at all but a revived message lost in the historic times of the church. They are right about that, after all these centuries the heretic Gnostic teachings are filling our churches.

The fact remains that many pastors today deny foundational beliefs in the bible. ……. Sea of Faith, which has attracted names such as "Godless vicars" and "atheist priests". It claims it has up to 50 vicars and some Roman Catholic priests in its membership, as well as rank and file church members……it draws on several denominations and also other religions. But what binds the members together is that they share the view that religion is a "human creation". Some of its members go further and believe that God is also a human creation - a metaphor for human values such as love and forgiveness. In other words, some of them believe there is no such thing as God in the traditional sense of an independent being.


John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop: …..questions the power of prayer to bring divine intervention. He has already made clear that he denies the virgin birth and the literal resurrection of Christ.[] As for same sex marriages, Spong has admitted having to bless roads, farm animals and other equally unimportant things in the name of the church during his tenure as a bishop. Extending that logic, he has said that not blessing a loving couple despite the man made religious gender rules that prohibits gay relations is unreasonable. The best way to lose all is to cling with desperation to that which cannot possibly be sustained literally. Literalistic Christians will learn that a God or a faith system that has to be defended daily is finally no God or faith system at all. They will learn that any god who can be killed ought to be killed. Ultimately they will discover that all their claims to represent the historical, traditional, or biblical truth of Christianity cannot stop the advance of knowledge that will render every historic claim for a literal religious system questionable at best, null and void at worst. [Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, NY, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? pg. 22]

  • The list of non believing priests, ministers and pastors and goes on and on and on. It’s not possible to list all the areas that pastors deny for it changes according to the goals of each pastor. Some argue lifestyle because the True Faith doesn’t condone it so it does not love, some want the flesh pleasured so the message is hype, loud music, and positive self pleasuring messages that tickle our ears. Messages that are reinforcing the values of the world,
  • - God wants you to have it all
  • - The ends justify the means (pragmatism)
  • - The bible is harsh and unloving, must of been written by man(a loving God wouldn’t deny you anything)
  • - The word of God as written isn’t good enough for today’s generation, (we are intelligent today)
  • - Name it claim it gospel, (if you want it God wants you to have it)
  • - The need to feel special, important and a purpose, (even though it’s not about you???)
  • - God wants you to be rich. (a loving God wouldn’t give you hardship)
  • - God within each of you, (Jesus really wanted us to find the inner God)
  • - Good works and being a good person, (a loving God will accept you)
The list goes on for as long as there are personal agendas. One common theme that underplays most of the lies is that all faiths are recognized, “all faiths contain a portion of truth” (Rick Warren). Like spoilt children arguing, no longer is one right and one wrong but all have truths and it’s together that we can solve the world’s problems and have love and peace forget truths or lies.

Nimrod had similar ideas, God told the people to spread out over the land, but Nimrod convinced them to go against Gods’ word and stay together, together he thought they could accomplish anything. Nimrod believed as many today that working together would solve all, in other words a pragmatist, the ends justify the means. I hope you know the bible well enough to know how that ended. In a society that has put God’s word behind money, possessions, and of course toys its no wonder that we don’t know the bible well enough to have alerts ringing in our head when we hear these New Age teachings. We know enough of the bible to be dangerous to ourselves. My dad always told me if you don’t believe in something you will fall for anything. When you believe in something you study it and learn it. How many of you can recite NFL or NHL stats but don’t know the 12 disciples? It seems we have many religions today not just the “recognized” ones.

What we need is a message that allows me to believe but doesn’t tie up my time and gives me the freedom to live the way I want. That would teach love, exhorting and forgiveness and leaves out sin, guilt, rebuking and Hell (read Timothy).

That’s a belief system that everyone can get behind, our churches would grow in no time and then we would be convinced that we are on the right track. After all, the enemy doesn’t have any say in the matter so God must be blessing it. There is no corporation or organization on the earth that is successful without God’s blessings is there? That of course is absurd, but it’s the thinking in the church today a belief that everyone can relate to. Is that really the message that God or Jesus spoke? I recall Christ reprimanding the disciples, individuals, elders and leaders. Yes He loved them, loved them enough to do the hard things, give the tough messages. Messages so hard the people couldn’t take it and killed Him. Christ knew it meant His life all along but still he was thinking further down the road, not thinking of satisfying the here and now.

Being a father the hardest thing I had to do was hand out punishments to my children, but I knew that they needed to learn for their own good. I would pray for God’s guidance and incidentally strength. Jesus loved us enough to hand out the hard message that unless we live for Him, and believe in His word we would burn in Hell for eternity

  • Are you a pastor that loves people enough to give them the cold hard facts even though it would mean your job, or do you need the people to admire you?
  • When preparing your messages do your thoughts stray to who might be offended by God’s words as written, do you think about toning it down a little,
  • do you consider presenting it in a different way to lessen the impact?
Rick Warren says the message won’t change just the method. These are thoughts of a man centered message. A God centered message would be one that little thought was given to the consequences and only in preaching the word as written. We do not please God when we tone it down.

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Pastor I recognize just how hard your job is, everything that you’re up against and everything that’s against you, I will pray for you.