Beware of false preachers

Jonas Yanthan

The conversion of Saul into Apostle Paul should be clear enough for any reader of the Bible to understand that to serve man is to serve God. Acts 9:3-5, “Now as Saul approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said. “Who are you, Lord?” And the Voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” And in Mt 25:31-46 Jesus says, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” This verse taken from the last judgment clearly affirms that taking care of neighbors, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry is serving God. 

C.Cho-o’s denial of the Christian maxims as mere notions and saying that “work is not worship and to serve man is not to serve God” and then brushing them aside “as not Christian philosophy but of heathen origin” in his article, ‘Worship series 1’ appeared on local dailies, is not only a superficial approach to the Bible but also anti-Christ. The elucidation is a false preaching amounting to what Jesus warned us against, “Beware of false Preachers who will come in my name” and the falsity stems from poor theological learning due to lack of proper philosophical knowledge.

The statements ‘service to man is not service to God’ and ‘keeping the law is not worship’ are blatant denial of the gospel teachings and the subsequent statement that ‘Christian worship is life centered and relational’ is contradiction. It amounts to saying that man should relate to God only through unintelligible vacuum. However, man can relate to the ultimate meaningfully only through the reality of life like neighbor, love, pain and happiness as these are more tangible and real to us. The truth of life tells us that man cannot love in a vacuum except by loving and caring for our fellow men nor serve God or worship God in the air, especially in Christian context, but by observing His commandments that govern our lives. 

Man is a spiritual being because he has a soul but he is limited by his very nature-a being in the world of created reality of which he is one-that he cannot relate with God tangibly and meaningfully without the medium of the ‘other being’ called neighbor. This is the reason why Jesus pronounced his greatest commandment as Love of ones neighbor. To substantiate His teaching, Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you” and “Wash each others’ feet as I’ve washed yours.”

The statement “going to church regularly is not worship” and then saying that “failure to attend worship services is an indication of spiritual sickness” though he tried to explain is in itself a poor approach to the issue. What should have been said was merely going to church for attendance sake is not true worship or giving church contribution as a show does not constitute true worship etc. 

The statement “giving (tithes and offerings) is not worship because we can’t buy salvation” is true because God doesn’t need anything from us nor can we give Him a thing directly since He is only in spirit and besides whatever we are and have belongs to Him and therefore, the only way to repay God is by sharing the wealth of the earth among fellow beings. This truth is the core of Christianity, which not only makes it the most palatable of world religions but also the most challenging because men often suffer from the diseases of selfishness, greed, egoism and hatred more than anything.  

The opinion that “prostrating, kneeling, bowing and raising hands are simply postures of worship” is correct but to say that they are not from the heart is false. In point of fact, these postures are from the heart, whether sincere or insincere, and also indicates that a person is in prayer and worship and not in the football or cricket field. Denying the postures as not coming from the heart, without specifying from where these actions of worship come, not only shows deficient reasoning but also leaves room for anomalous conclusions as coming from the stomach, legs etc. 

The statement that ‘sacrifice is not worship because rituals cannot bring salvation’ is a jam backed logical error. The concepts: sacrifice, worship, rituals and salvation are volumes in themselves and using these to negate or explain each other is nothing but lack of logical reasoning. First of all, it is a universal understanding that sacrifice in religious sense, whether acceptable to God or not, is what we call worship. Rituals are symbolic practices and gestures employed in sacrifice. For example, the practice of breaking of the bread in the Lord’s Supper is one such instance. 

Though we must resent ritualism, rituals are part of human way of worshipping God, who is in truth and in spirit. A Christian healer employs various kinds of rituals just as Jesus himself employed in Mk 7:32-35 where Jesus, leading the man with deformed hearing and impaired speech away from the multitude, thrust His finger into the man’s ears and spat and touching the man’s tongue said the word, “Eph’phatha,” meaning, “Be opened” and cured the man. While salvation is a gift to us; it is also an earnest call to man to strive for in response to attain it.

In conclusion, contrary to what is opined, the root of nominalism in Christian faith is not poor worship or preaching, for these are only symptoms, but an effect of shallow understanding and approach to the values and teachings of Christ resulting from the core root i.e., low institutional standards and recruiting students of poor educational caliber. Most of the students in the evangelical seminaries and bible colleges are candidates who are weak in studies, recovered or recovering drug edicts, alcoholics and in some cases black sheep of families whereas, the subjects that they are to study are not less than metaphysics which deals in concepts like God, soul, salvation and a highly complex book, the Bible. 

Gestures such as bowing, kneeling and prostrating, employed in worship services, are signs of our total surrender to God. However, these acts in themselves will not be complete if we do not translate our worship into our way of life through love of neighbor, being honest in public life and propriety in general well being. In other words, worship is not an end in itself but a continuous act of renewal of ones faith and affirmation of God’s infinite love and above all a reiteration of our commitment to God in our day-to-day life.

To remedy this gigantic anomaly, the first and foremost reform, NBCC and churches must effect, is to standardize the Bible institutes and recruiting only candidates with a minimum qualification of 10+2 and above and that too through screening by a church board. Secondly, a full degree course in philosophy, being the primary foundation for all theological studies, be introduced and only those who qualify the degree must be permitted to study theology. Thirdly, official preachers and pastors must be from this group while those who fail and yet desires to work in the ministry may be employed as church workers in other capacities. Lastly, one of the ways to reform the prevailing ‘fish market situation’ in the churches and the ministry presently is to introduce mass refreshers, courses led by a highly qualified down to earth theologian for all serving church leaders. In this regard, we must appreciate the recent resolutions passed by the Nagaland missionary movement conference of Dimapur, which gives due importance to this urgent requirement.