Blind acceptance of religious leaders - Do it to your own peril!
I have to admit that I have not really lived under a system where the blind acceptance of a religious leader was a major part of my life.
Oh yes, for the first nine years of my life I lived in a family where we were members of the World Wide Church of God (WWCG), a total hierarchically based, top-down dictatorial cult run solely for the good pleasure and at the whim of the late Herbert W. Armstrong.
Yes, my family were a part of this cult until 1974, so I guess you could say I was under that system, but from 1965 to 1974, from the time I was born until we left the WWCG, the sanctity of the WWCG Church and its Pastor General were now seen in our home as something that our family, particularly my late father, were becoming more and more uncomfortable with.
A Roller Coaster Ride
My dad had had his difficulties with Herbert W. Armstrong. At several times during the period of 1965-1974, my father was ready to resign and leave the WWCG because of the major disagreements he had with Mr. Armstrong.
He was told one time by one evangelist that he should not read the Bible for 10 years during a major disagreement that he had with Mr. Armstrong. I can remember my father refusing this, but lamenting that the main criteria for getting along in that denomination seemed to be:
1. Don't think
2. Don't ask any questions
3. Don't propose any new ideas
4. Just blend in and do nothing different from anyone else
5. Only propose ideas that you know the boss will like and just fit in with what he (always a he seemingly) is teaching.
He hung in there until 1974 when we left. After that time, my father started into ministry and his first primary readers were the tens of thousands of people who left the WWCG after Herbert W. Armstrong's prophecies of the Second Coming of Christ taking place in 1975 (then later 1975) failed.
Thousands of people were touched by my dad's ministry in those WWCG circles.
The World Wide Church of God was a church
where blind acceptance was demanded
When we were in the WWCG, the church leaders told you the following:
1. What to do
2. What not to do
3. Who to do what they told you to do with
4. When to do anything
5. Why you had to do anything
6. Where you had to do anything
7. How to do anything
Of course, if you were a woman, you had a whole other level of the above because not only did you have your husband (that is, absolute master controlling everything you do) in charge of you, you also had the church leaders in charge of him, which meant that they also were in charge of you.
I've talked a little bit about that here -
Now, as I said, in my former church, blind acceptance was demanded by the church members. You were a sheep to be fed by the shepherds and mainly by the top shepherd, the Pastor General himself.
It was totally a one-way system. Information was not exchanged and learning and growing was NEVER EVER encouraged. Blind obedience, on the other hand, was not only encouraged, it was demanded.
The only thing that was exchanged was huge sums of money that were exchanged between the church members and the church leadership, which really went to address the priorities of one man in the WWCG, the Pastor General.
Doctrinal committees existed in the church, not to promote new truths or progressive thinking. NEVER! They were there to keep people in toe and for people to reinforce existing church teaching.
I have also talked a little bit about that here -
Blind Acceptance - A Modern Example
Now, in an environment of blind acceptance of church teachings, you have no incentive to think for yourself. You just let someone else think for you.
There is only one problem with this approach. What if that person is wrong? Or worse yet a false teacher?
This situation demands that you take appropriate action to check what you are being told and being asked to believe and especially what it is that God wishes you to do versus what God wishes you not to do.
Now, look at this simple example. I will now refer to a discussion that my late father had concerning his review of a small evangelical publication from the UK:
"there are preachers and evangelists who abuse the contexts within the Bible to apply various teachings to themselves or to those to whom they minister. Look at how this is done. Once I reviewed a small publication called "The Little Bible." It was published by an evangelical group in England who decided to pick what they considered the most important verse from each biblical book to instruct the child of God in his daily life. The portion of a verse they picked from Leviticus was
"Do not drink wine nor strong drink" (10:9).
The impression they wanted to leave with the reader was that God didn't want any of His people to drink wine. But this was an utter perversion of the faith they were trying to promote. Certainly, the use of too much wine or strong drinks is wrong, but the publishers failed to tell their readers that the verse they used pertained only to the priests of ancient Israel (not laymen in general), and even then it only concerned them "when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation" (10:9). The priests were allowed to drink wine or strong drinks at other times.
Really, the pious Christian publishers of "The Little Bible" were well aware of the real teaching of Scripture on this matter, but they falsified the truth by trying to get their readers to think the command was meant for all Christians at all times. This procedure of taking teachings out of context is wrong, but it is being used on a wide scale today.
It is important that we do not interweave scriptural teachings meant for certain peoples at particular times in human history, with revelations of God meant for others at later times. Though God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, none of us is expected to do the same
thing. The truth is, God has even overthrown previous teachings in favor of more advanced (spiritual) ones. Only chaos will result when all the disciplines of the Bible are jumbled together in an attempt to make a homogeneous system. It is time we should all heed the admonition of Paul and start "rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). The
teachings of the Bible will then begin to make sense." (Ernest L. Martin - Progressive Revelation in the Bible, Foundation for Biblical Research: Pasadena, CA: 1974)
There is one other thing that this publication failed to tell their readers. One of my scholar friends, Dr. Randall Heskett, who many of you will know due to his work against corporal punishment and my reference to his work in my own, has written a very important book concerning the history of wine in the Bible.
Now, on an FB discussion, I asked a question on my wall about what people thought the Bible meant by the use of the phrase: "Strong Drink".
A number of people said: Liquor, Whiskey, etc. focusing on a strong drink well above the level of wine in alcoholic intensity.
Randall pointed out that the Hebrew word in question means exactly "beer."
The point to all of this though is very interesting because of the publishers of that Little Bible really understood the text to mean "strong drink" in the hard liquor sense and as Randall also mentioned, liquor or spirits were probably not even invented until the 1400's.
Now, the clear point to all of this concerns our attitude to information we receive. Are we just going to accept everything we are told without checking anything? If we do, we risk being in a situation where we are letting people who may not only not have the proper knowledge we need to help us decide spiritual matters for us, but they also may be governed by other priorities which are not accurate according to the Biblical revelation.
Let us be careful with the information we receive especially in a religious context. Be prepared to challenge information and look things up. Things that do not feel right to you, go with those feelings and follow them up. Check to make sure, if something doesn't feel right.
In closing, keep this text in mind and always check on things to make sure that they are correct.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)