When I was a high school teacher in Savannah, Georgia, I discovered that all of my students felt that universal college education should be free, that so everyone could be equal. They reasoned that education would make them one of the idle rich.
Our society has been infected with pagan illusion. For example, why is it necessary that everyone attend college? Twenty years ago, as part of my graduate study, I took an education course entitled, "The History of the Community College Movement." My class was surprised to learn that many of the students taking welding and industrial arts courses at community colleges already had four-year college diplomas and some even had master's degrees. Our instructor pointed out that it was not uncommon for taxi drivers in Los Angeles to have doctorates in humanities or education. The dream of living by "wits" for these taxi drivers had died on the altar of reality.
Recently, President Clinton offered computers to Africans who had no electricity or telephone service. Clinton was just repeating the widespread foolishness that a new information age is delivering humanity from the need to labor. While it is true that tools like tractors and computers multiply our productivity, it is drivel to say the need to labor has passed. College graduates starting over to learn a trade at a community college have found that something more than magic words is needed to produce bread.
Bad Theology Has Horrible Consequences
The roots of this superstition are fed from a source that may surprise you. Where do Christians get the notion that we can speak magic words and create reality?
Let's stand outside almost every church in America. Clipboards in hand with our tape recorders ready, let's do some research:
Q: "Excuse me, Sir! Are you going to heaven when you die?" A: "Oh yes, I am born again."
Q: "Really, what makes you so sure you are born again?"
A: "Well, you see, I asked Jesus into my heart and the Bible says, 'Whosoever will call on Him shall have everlasting life' (Rom. 10:13). I know I am going to heaven, because I said the words of the Sinner's Prayer."
Q: "In other words, you spoke your way into heaven by the power of your words?
A: "Well, yes . . . er . . . not exactly, I just believed or trusted the Bible. That's all that's required. 'Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God' (ROM 10:17)."
Q: "I see, then, good works have no role in your salvation."
A: "That's right."
Q: "Then a drunkard or a thief doesn't have to reform in order to go to heaven."
A: "A drunk if he is saved will certainly get and stay sober and a thief will no longer steal but labor with his hands" (1 Cor. 4:12).
Q: "What good works have occurred in your life, sir?"
A: "Well, I wasn't a drunk or a thief."
Q: "Then you have no change in your life. Is that right?"
A: "I really don't see the point in this interrogation. You must be one of those Calvinists who believes every Christian must have a testimony backed up by a changed life. You believe in a works plan of salvation. You are a heretic! Good Bye!"
The point is not that all members of evangelical churches are superstitious pagans trying to presume their way into heaven without the evidence of a changed life to back up their hopes. I am certain that many evangelicals are genuinely saved, but I am also certain that many Christians have been robbed in their spiritual growth, set up for tribulation, beaten by bad health, poverty, and premature death. Bad theology has horrible consequences. The gospel of Christ changes us from covenant-breakers to covenant-keepers. Good works follow the good gospel; bad works follow the false gospel.
Murder Thy Neighbor
If we believe that we can save ourselves by a work that any man can do, such as praying the "magic words," we live in a world of illusion that is hell on earth. If we believe and persuade others that only gross sinners like drunkards and thieves must demonstrate that the Lord is setting them free from sin, we are claiming or witnessing to a salvation that does not exist. The genuine salvation, that is not of works but of the Savior, will change our lives into a life like the Lord's. Progressively, we will see areas of our lives improving in terms of keeping the Ten Commandments (the covenant). If we cannot point to victory over sin in our lives, we are walking downward to hell.
The Bible warns of such, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Mt. 7:20). We must judge ourselves before the great and totally true Witness which reveals by our works whom we are really trusting for salvation. For too many, it will be the disappointing dream of the creative power of their own words. The church member who witnesses to the impulse of self-devised devotion will take his seat in hell with all pagans who search for escape in magic words. Those who measure themselves by the law-word of God will take their seat in heaven.
Man cannot speak words and be saved. The Savior must answer the Sinner's Prayer. Only Jesus saves. Man cannot produce bread except by labor. Man cannot get good health, long life, or any good thing for that matter but by means of the covenant of Christ. To believe otherwise is to fall into pagan theology masquerading as Christianity. Has the Lord answered your child's prayer? It is not necessary to wait until death to find out if your child is saved. Examine your child. Is he growing in the power to obey authority (see Ex. 20:12)? Is he growing more truthful, industrious, and chaste? There is a way that seems right, but it's pagan magic, not the gospel. Don't stand on the throat of your child by allowing him to claim the love of God without a testimony measured by the Bible. "By this we know that we love . . . when we love God, and keep his commandments" (1 Jn. 5:2).
- Ellsworth McIntyre