Today, I watched Pastor Dale Thompson of Fort Smith’s First Baptist Church preach a sermon on “Truth”.
I found this to be an incredibly amusing choice of topic for a Christian, since, as an atheist, I find religion to mostly be made up of BS. How do you determine what the truth is as a theist? You base it off of your emotional attachment to a fictional deity, and the words of a 2,000 year old book, of course! This is a terrible recipe for truth, but it’s what they’re going with.
This sermon covers the Second Epistle of John, which is a letter to a church warning them not to believe those crazy Gnostics. Many Gnostics at the time believed that all matter was evil. Since Jesus surely wouldn’t have taken on an evil, fleshly form, he therefore must have been just a spirit. When the apostles thought they were seeing a real fleshly body, it was really only an illusion. This line of thinking really must have pissed off the early church leaders, because there are several references throughout the bible railing against it. There are even parts of the bible that were added in later on just to prove that the Gnostics were wrong, like the Roman stabbing Jesus in the side with a spear.
Pastor Thompson starts off by stating that he believes ALL of the bible, not just some of it.
“Now, you need to understand, in our culture today you’re a bit of a simpleton. And they feel sorry for you because you believe God’s word. That you don’t believe the voices of men in the world. But I believe all of God’s word. And I believe that there’s a reason for everything that’s in the scripture.”
He then spins this chapter into a lecture against all forms of heresy. Specifically, he takes issue with postmodernism and the idea that there are more ways to get to God than through Jesus.
“Truth is so very important. Have you ever been hoodwinked?”
“Christians, we deal in truth. We have a intelligent, functioning, warring enemy that hates our souls (the Devil). And he hates truth. And his merchandise, what he sells is lies. But as Christians, we function in truth.”
“Truth” in this sense means being saved through Jesus. Any other way of getting to God is a lie and therefore from the devil. This sets up a false dichotomy where anything that is against what the church says is a quick path straight to doom and gloom.
How can the truth ever be reached in this way? Don’t people have to come together and talk things through? Weigh the pros and cons of each side? Decide what the best path is? Nope. It’s my way, or a highway to hell.
In fact, at one point, he says that God worked through John’s heart to write this letter that was eventually included in the bible, ensuring that the words written were exactly what God wanted. How does Pastor Thompson know this? I have no idea. Probably some feeling in his gut.
He goes on to speak about how in the world today, anyone who believes they have the truth is treated as though they are out of line, unkind, and an unpleasant person. The idea today is that there is no absolute truth. Kids are the biggest victims of this, he says. They go to vacation bible school, youth camp and on mission trips. Then, they grow up and go to college. After taking Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Humanities, they come home and tell their parents that they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way to God.
But these kids never really knew Jesus. Per 2 John 1:2, once you know the truth, it abides in you forever. So clearly, these kids were never true Christians. They said the words and attended the events, but they never felt the truth of God. They couldn’t lose their faith, because they never had any. This is, of course, the No True Scotsman fallacy. Pastor Thompson can’t imagine that anyone could lose their faith in God once they’ve felt that incredible feeling. I’m reminded of a story my brother once told me where he talked to a friend of his who no longer enjoyed the music of the Grateful Dead. My brother didn’t understand how you could just stop liking that band one day. Clearly, he told me, his friend didn’t “get it”. He never got it. If he had, he wouldn’t have forsaken that incredible music.
This belief is often used as a weapon against those who are losing their faith. Having doubts about God? If you really knew the truth of God, then you wouldn’t be questioning at all. Questioning is bad. Stop that. Are you some sort of sinner? I’ve heard other Christians say that doubting is common and a normal thing, but this church obviously isn’t cool with it.
Reason is left completely out of the equation here when the pastor talks about truth. He even speaks against it, saying that you don’t need to make up your mind about these things. Once you know God, you’re converted and you never sway in your convictions. Christianity and rational thinking, at least in this church, are completely at odds. If you’re reasoning something through, cut it out and just check your bible.
Overall, I found the bit about kids coming home from college with different ideas about their faith to be the most intriguing. I believe there was a study recently that actually showed numbers on this. Kids go to college and learn how to think, then they lose their faith. This preacher obviously has picked up on this, and isn’t happy about it.