Teachings in Conflict
IT USED to be that you knew what a clergyman would teach just by noting his religion. He would teach the beliefs of that religion. But this is no longer the case.
Today, within every church system in Christendom, clergymen in good standing with their religion are disagreeing. Not only do they disagree with other clergymen in their religion, but they disagree with the teachings of their own religion. This includes basic doctrinal beliefs.
For instance, most church systems officially hold to the doctrine of hellfire. This says that gross sinners will be tormented with physical pain for eternity. Indeed, during the ecumenical council, the Catholic Church reaffirmed the reality of hell as a place of eternal punishment for sins.
Yet, more and more priests and ministers of all religions are teaching different things about hell. They may say that hell is only a state of mind, or that it is merely separateness from God, or that it is just ‘hell on earth,’ thus contradicting their own religion’s official belief. Pastor Kaj Jensen of Denmark said in his book Where Do We Go?:
“The talk of everlasting perdition is crazy. It is not Christianity. It was only in times past that there were hell preachers who from the pulpit thundered about the devil and the inextinguishable fire. But that time is over.”
How do you think people feel who have believed their church’s teaching of hellfire all their lives when they hear such statements by their clergymen now?
Three Australian Presbyterian clergymen publicly expressed disbelief in the immortality of the human soul, although their church system teaches this. One of the clergymen, Ian Steer, said: “The problem is that to some extent there is a double standard. This is not confined to the Presbyterian Church. Ministers are taught one thing and sometimes teach another.”
From childhood, Catholics were taught total obedience to the authority of the Catholic Church. But when 37 prominent priests, nuns and other Catholic leaders in the Netherlands were asked how they felt about this obedience to the Church’s authority, many said they could no longer give such obedience.
In regard to Church authority, Catholic theologian John L. Mackenzie, a Jesuit priest who has taught at Notre Dame University, said bluntly that the Church was run by “an ecclesiastical Mafia.” The Toronto Daily Star added: “He [Mackenzie] goes so far as to liken the institutional church today to a rat-hole. ‘And one does not like to hear that one has poured one’s life into a rat-hole,’ he says.”
Younger clergymen are especially outspoken in contradicting their church’s teachings.
Most churchgoers expect their clergymen to promote high moral standards. But clergymen now are greatly divided on the subject of sexual morality. More and more of them are saying that fornication, adultery and homosexuality are not wrong.
In England, Methodist minister Lord Soper said: “The idea that sex should be confined to marriage is ridiculous.” Episcopal minister F. C. Wood told an all-girl college in Maryland: “There are no laws attached to sex. I repeat: absolutely no laws. . . . Premarital intercourse . . . can be very beautiful.” And director of the Roman Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University, priest Thomas Walsh, said:
“It’s not such a big deal for a girl to say she is a virgin if she has never permitted herself to be touched. She makes the grade [stays a virgin] by being inhuman. I would prefer a person who was loving and outgoing to others, even if she is not a virgin. . . . It’s not our place to preach morality.”
But if men who profess to be ministers of God will not preach morality, who should? And how do you view the decision of ninety Episcopal priests in New York who agreed that the church should classify homosexual acts as “morally neutral”?
To determine what you really think of this new trend toward approval of fornication, adultery and homosexuality, ask yourself: Would I approve of my daughter committing fornication? Would I approve of my wife having sexual intercourse with another man, or my husband sleeping with another woman? Would I tell my son it is all right for him to become a homosexual?
You should also consider something even more important: What does God think of the matter? Of that there can be no doubt. He tells us in his Word: “Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, . . will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
All of this confusion and division in the churches over what they should teach is having its effect. Many people now feel the same as British author Malcolm Muggeridge, who said:
“Institutional Christianity, it seems to me, is now in total disarray, and visibly decomposing, to the point that, short of a miracle, it can never be put together again with any semblance of order or credibility.
“In its present state of decomposition, institutional Christianity is . . . just a joke.”
Many church members are disgusted with the divisions within the churches on so many teachings and practices. They have lost confidence in their clergymen. So they are abandoning the churches.
But it is important for you to know that the divided churches of Christendom do not represent Christianity. Their very divided state proves that, for the Bible counsels that true Christians “should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought. Does the Christ exist divided?”—1 Cor. 1:10, 13.
True Christians are not divided. But the churches are.