Scripture as Ornamentation

I recently had the misfortune to attend a church service which was conducted by a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.  It may have been one of the worst services I’ve ever attended. It certainly was among the top ten.  This gentleman was substituting for the pastor of my parent’s church while I was home visiting them.  His sermon illuminated two important facts for me. One is that many “pastors” simply use Scripture as decoration in their sermons. Two is that most people in the church are too spiritually immature to even notice.

Something you will see throughout the Scriptures is the phrase “Thus saith the LORD”. Usually, this is used by a prophet or apostle to convey the importance of what is being said. It was given directly to them by God Himself in those words and it was important that people listen.  Another idea we see commonly in the New Testament is the phrase “It is written”. This is the apostles and Christ Himself appealing to the Old Testament to back up their arguments.  These examples would seem to strongly suggest that, when attempting to talk about God, His Word should be the focal point of the discussion.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, at least with some pastors.

What I observed in the church was remarkable. The speaker rambled on for ten to fifteen minutes before ever opening the Scripture.  When he finally did open the Bible, he read an entire chapter of Matthew.  While I appreciate reading the Scripture, what he read did not back up his fifteen-minute rambling and was only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Further, after reading the chapter, he never referred to it again.  He did later read a passage from Isaiah, but he stopped before it referred to man being sinful and, again, the passage was barely related to what he was talking about. He never related the passages to what he was talking about in anything more than a purely superficial way.

It did not occur to me until after the service that what he was doing was using the Scriptural passages as ornamentation. They were there to look pretty and distract the listeners from the fact that what was being said was a slick modern repackaging of the old social gospel.  The speaker used the Scripture verses to appear orthodox while preaching an unorthodox message. Unfortunately, at least in this instance, it worked.

My father and I spoke with two members of church leadership in the immediate aftermath of the message. One, a deacon, confirmed he liked the message and thought it was useful and valuable. The other said nothing at all, only listened as my father and I attempted to get through to him why what had just been preached was heretical, before shuffling away sheepishly and never giving us a response.  Both of these were older men, people who should have been among the wiser members of the church, yet neither recognized the issue at hand. The bright shiny objects had worked.

In fact, if you look at how most unorthodox or heretical ministers speak, you will find a pattern. They will toss out a Scriptural reference here or there to retain the veneer of Christianity as well as serve as a shiny object the masses can point to. They will then say whatever they want and claim to be orthodox because they appealed to the Scriptures.  The masses of Christianity are so Scripturally illiterate that they assume any reference to Scripture must be in context.  False teachers are often quite skilled at making themselves sound orthodox and muddying the waters just enough to make the Scripturally illiterate believe them.

Unfortunately, the American church is so compromised, so heretical, that most in the church simply have no idea what the Bible actually teaches.  This makes them easy prey to false teachers like the gentleman who spoke in my parent’s church. As I told my father, people like the gentleman who spoke are the reason why ministries like In His Image must exist. We exist to correct the horrible errors and dazzling misrepresentations of the Scripture that arise from behind the pulpits of so many churches in America.  However, if the price for correcting every single false teacher in the world was shutting down ministries like this one, I would gladly take that deal. It is much better that the truth be told the first time than have to be taught the second.


Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

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