Past, Present and Perfect
by Ed Harrell
I am always amazed to find classified advertisements in publications that profess to be “Christian.” But one of the most widely—circulated magazines in the nation has just such a section. Here is a sampling:
EXTERNAL DEGREES FOR PASTORS AND TEACHERS.
Would someone please tell me what “external” degrees are? And how they differ from “internal” degrees? And where do you hold the thermometer to tell the difference? There are indeed degrees of pastors and teachers, but anybody who answers such an ad hasn’t reached the first degree on either chart.
STUNNING CHRISTIAN JEWELRY. FREE INFORMATION FROM YOUR CHRISTIAN JEWELRY SOURCE.
Maybe this stuff has been baptized, but I wonder how they got it to believe and repent? I also wonder if the apostles wore “Christian jewelry” or just the regular old secular kind?
CHRISTIAN MAN, 40-50, WISHES TO SHARE LARGE ATTRACTIVE APARTMENT.
Why not find a large attractive Christian woman to share it with-having taken care of the legal niceties, of course. Actually, what intrigued me about this ad was how one got to be 40-50 years old. I like that. I think I shall make up a vita advertising EXPERIENCED AND AMIABLE TEACHER AND PREACHER, 45-55 years old (or maybe 30-55 years old).
The absurdity of such nonsense is obvious, but there is an even more offensive facet to it. Such thinking makes trivial the name “Christian.” Whatever value one may put on degrees and jewelry in their proper places, they have; nothing to do with the grand design of being a Christian. Pastors and teachers commissioned by God feel no need a for the reinforcement of “degrees” and are openly offended by the shallow egotism which pretentiously parades an “external degree.” As for the jewelry, make certain it is “modest.” Let us honor the word Christian, casting the money changers out of the temple.
I did notice one ad that might be of use, however;
OUT-OF—PRINT BOOKS FOUND.
Just in the unlikely case anyone is looking for one of my more obscure books. You could give the guy a run for his money if you made him hunt it.
Two preachers were recently successfully sued for $150,000 because they erroneously told audiences that the author of a popular book had committed suicide. Their remarks were judged to be malicious and, thus, slanderous.
I have noted a tendency among some to be too quick to repeat every rumor about religious false teachers, often with only the flimsiest of evidence. Some such reports have been libelous, in my judgment, should the accused see them and choose to prosecute. Besides, rumor-mongering is not a Christian pastime.
In addition, an overemphasis on the moral degeneracy of false teachers (which is certainly sometimes readily apparent) can cause us to lose sight of why we oppose them—because they are false teachers. One who misleads people is not primarily wicked because he is insincere (he may be fanatically dedicated) or reprobate (he may be puritanical), but because he is wrong. He does not teach the truth. That test must not get lost in the midst of more sensational charges.
P. S. I confess I did wonder where those preachers got the $150,000 granted them by the judge.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE MARCH, 1984