"But doctor, I feel good and people say I look great!" (A Parable of 21st Century Church Health!)

"But doctor, I feel good and people say I look great!"

(A Parable of 21st Century Church Health!)

Once upon a time there was a man who had lived a very active life for quite a number of years from the time of his birth. He had gotten his education, married his sweetheart, pursued a successful and rewarding career, and raised a family. He was active in his church, gave time and attention to his family, and been involved in some community organizations which existed for the purpose of enhancing the community of which the man and his family were a part.

Time had passed and now he was in the sunset years of life but still active in a number of ways due to having "excellent health" as he was fond of telling people. After all, he still kept up his daily discipline of jogging and working out!

Each year on his calendar was a special date he never failed to observe. It was his annual physical exam with his doctor. Every year it had been quite routine -- he passed with "flying colors" and his doctor gave him a clean bill of health -- in fact, he didn't even need any kind of medication.

But this year as he went through the check up with various tests and x-rays, the doctor approached him with a look of deep concern on his face -- no smile as in previous years -- no "Everything is fine -- no problems of any kind!" statement this time.

No, this time the doctor said, "We have found a huge mass -- a fast growing tumor -- and you'll have to have surgery as soon as possible!" The man protests, "But doctor, I feel good, and people say that I look great -- and I'm still very active and doing a lot of things -- you must be mistaken!"

A biopsy reveals the tumor to be malignant and if not removed, the man will die.

The patient with the deadly tumor is the modern church, and the tumor is a combination of heretical and apostate[1] teachings that have been dispersed throughout the ranks of Christianity for quite a period of time. Mainline denominations have been exhibiting the reality of this tragedy for decades. The United Methodist Church with its 8.4 million membership is a prime example of that person who has the deadly tumor but still insists that he feels well and healthy, so therefore the doctor must be making a grievous mistake in his diagnosis. And besides, why shouldn't the doctor concentrate on the "good things" that are presently happening in the man's life, such as a normal heart beat, good eye sight, keen hearing, taste buds functioning well, eating normally at each meal, and engaging in exercises each day. And that doctor with the "bad news" should take note of the fact that his patient is doing a lot of very noteworthy things -- active in church and teaching a Sunday School class -- doing volunteer work at the local senior citizen center, helping with activities at a special care home for the elderly, and giving time to help with Boy Scouts! Shouldn't the doctor just concentrate on those many good things which are happening in the life of the patient and forget that "negative" stuff?

If you were the patient, would you insist that the doctor focus on all those "good things" and pronounce you to be "alive and well" while overlooking and never mentioning the reality of a deadly tumor that will kill you in due time? Do you see a similarity in today's church experiences -- join in a chorus that affirms that we are "alive and well" and silence those "bad news" people who make negative statements about the condition of the church!

Or consider another possible far fetched scenario in such a situation. The patient upon hearing the news that he has a deadly tumor quickly asks the doctor, "What are you going to do?" The doctor replies, "Nothing --- the AMA has recently adopted a new approach to the malignancy issue. We now go by what is known as 'Physiological Pluralism.' We physicians now believe that all cancer cells, viruses, bacteria, and various infections have as much right to inhabit the human body as what has formally been considered "normal" and "healthy" cells! We now make no distinction and avoid using negative terms such as "malignant," "unhealthy," "abnormal," "harmful bacteria," "deadly virus," etc. We now are going to celebrate this "diversity" in our practice of medicine. Of course, this means that cancer cells in the human body will now be viewed as being normal, and it would be very prejudiced on our part to single them out and suggest that they should be removed from the body!"

"Preposterous!" you say, and rightly so. Yes, it is highly unlikely that the AMA will ever adopt an approach such as viewing cancer cells as "normal," or that nothing should be done in getting them removed from the body. Or for that matter, that bacterial and viral infections should be accepted as normal in the name of "pluralism!"

Yet this is precisely what has been permitted to happen over past decades within the ranks of professing Christianity. Apostate teaching with its denial of God's clear revelation has steadily infiltrated the ranks of Christianity with little protest. If anything, the few who attempt to point out and identify the spiritual malignancy in its varied forms are considered the "bad guys!" They are labeled as being "mean spirited," "judgmental," and very "unchristian" as the apostate element is exposed for what it really is! Even as the spiritual "cancer" threatens the body with a slow and agonizing death, we are told it is so much better to see smiles, hear gushing statements of "good things" that are happening, positively reaffirm that we are "alive and well," and celebrate our "diversity" of lifestyles and beliefs!

Can you picture the cancer patient and his doctor pouring champagne into their glasses and then raising their glasses in a proposed toast -- "Here's to good health, supplemented by the cancer cells in the body -- may "Physiological Pluralism and Diversity" be an endless blessing to the human race!"

IF you dare -- search the holy Scriptures on the subjects of apostasy and heresy! Note the primary problem the Old Testament prophets dealt with as they contended with those who felt they could pervert the clearly revealed laws and standards of a holy God in order that they could live at or below the level of barn yard morality!

Examine the clear warnings of Jesus Christ and New Testament authors concerning the adoption of perverted standards which are diametrically opposed to the holy standards God has spelled out for human behavior and relationships! Note also the details of a descent into an immoral abyss which is slated to take place prior to the return of Jesus Christ to this planet at some point in the future. For starters you can take a look at the following statements in 2 Timothy 3:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV

Warnings abound of an onslaught of false teachers peddling destructive doctrines, all the while claiming to represent Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

A common thread found throughout the Scriptures can be phrased in a simple question which originated in the Garden of Eden a long, long time ago. That question was, "Has God really said that?" In the generations following even to this present time it appears to be the popular thing to do with increased frequency -- theologians, pastors, laity, and secular minded continue to ask, "Has God really said that?" This is followed by the performance of defiant acts which prove to anyone listening and watching that we believe God didn't say much of anything, especially when it comes to setting boundaries as to how humans should behave and relate to one another and to their Creator!

Go ahead -- take an honest look and see for yourselves in spite of the declarations of being "alive and well," you see the bitter reality of those who "profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." (Titus 1:16).

Where do you stand? Do you choose to do the popular thing and join the crowd as it shouts enthusiastically, "We are alive and well!" while denying the stench of death? OR will you protest, stand for truth unflinchingly, and pray that God would purge the apostate and heretical elements from the body (the church), just as a faithful surgeon would remove every malignant destructive cell from the human body in order that it's health would not be jeopardized?

It is time for You to act, O LORD, For they have regarded Your law as void. Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way…. I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word.
Psalm 119:126-128, 158 NKJV

Definitions: [Definitions are from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary]

1. Apostasy: an abandonment or falling away from what one believed in; as, apostasy from one's religion, creed, or politics.

2. Heresy: (1) a doctrine, opinion, or set of opinions or principles at variance with established or generally received views or doctrines, as in politics, morality, philosophy, etc. (2) in theology, a doctrine or belief that is contrary to the fundamental doctrine or creed of any particular church; especially, such a belief specifically denounced by the church and regarded as likely to cause schism.
Return to commentary where I was reading.

September 21, 2001

by Clayton D. Harriger
Retired Elder in Full Connection
Western PA Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
Presently pastor of
Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Gipsy PA

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