5. Pragmatism Goes to Church

The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer)

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Mt. 4:4 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 23:13 π Mk. 7:13 π Lk. 5:37-39 π Jn. 1:11 π Jn. 8:31-32 π Jn. 8:33 π Jn. 8:59 π Jn. 10:27 π Rom. 10:17 π 1 Cor. 3:12-13 π Gal. 3:24 π Phlp. 2:10 π 2 Ths. 2:11-12 π 1 Tim. 1:9 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Heb. 12:25 π 1 Jn. 5:19

All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.

Tozer wrote:

The nervous compulsion to get things done is found everywhere among us. We are affected by a kind of religious tic, a deep inner necessity to accomplish something that can be seen and photographed and evaluated in terms of size, numbers, speed and distance. We travel a prodigious number of miles, talk to unbelievably large crowds, publish an astonishing amount of religious literature, collect huge sums of money, build vast numbers of churches and amass staggering debts for our children to pay. Christian leaders compete with each other in the field of impressive statistics, and in so doing often acquire peptic ulcers, have nervous breakdowns or die of heart attacks while still relatively young.

Right here is where the pragmatic philosophy comes into its own. It asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it. It accepts our chosen ends as right and good and cast about for efficient means to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works, it soon finds a text to justify it, “consecrates” it to the Lord and plunges ahead. Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree. After that any question about the scripturalness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away. You cannot argue with success. The method works; ergo, it must be good.

The weakness of all this is its tragic short sightedness. It never takes the long view of religious activity, indeed it dare not do so, but goes cheerfully on believing that because it works it is both good and true. It is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that its works may go up in smoke in the day of Christ.

As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that a part, a very large part of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism but almost completely controlled by it. Religious methodology is geared to it, it appears large in our youth meetings; magazines and books constantly glorify it; conventions are dominated by it; and the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it.

What shall we do to break its power over us? The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from these instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.

I say the answer is simple, but it is not easy for it requires that we obey God rather than man, and that always brings down the wrath of the religious majority. It is not a question of knowing what to do; we can easily learn that from the Scriptures. It is a question of whether or not we have the courage to do it. (“Pragmatism goes to Church,” God Tells the Man Who Cares, pp. 82-84 – emphasis in original)

Wherever we find a compulsion founded on a philosophy that bears fruit contrary to the fruit of the Spirit, we have stumbled upon the work of the demonic. Tozer’s first paragraph here describes well the bad fruit – pursuit of numbers, more “church” buildings, staggering debts and competition to the point of ill-health. How could anyone mistake this for being the true way of Christ? Yet it is done so on a vast scale because the demonic, who holds power over the world ( 1 Jn. 5:19 ), is able to deceive the worldly people who claim to follow Christ so that they will believe just about anything that’s not too outrageous. As these people continue to prefer the distortions the demonic has convinced them to be truth, soon even God will send strong delusion upon them because they failed to receive the love of the truth (by which they might be saved) and instead took pleasure in unrighteousness. ( 2 Ths. 2:11-12; top )

Tozer’s second paragraph in this quote well covers the mental subterfuge required to keep a demonic scheme working – “results justify the means” is the hidden, underlying, deceptive philosophy and soon a Scripture text is found to support it (most often from the Old Testament). The whole mess is “dedicated” to “the Lord” (who graciously allows us to do just about anything we want to in any way we want so long as we remember to ask Him to bless it in our public prayers), religious “experts” voice their written and oral approval and, voila!, we have yet another uncontestable tradition of men that wars against the word of God. (see Mk. 7:13; top ) But no one can see it for what it is except for the ones and twos who are quietly but sincerely seeking the Spirit of God and these are quickly shown to the door, told to go find (or start) a “church” that agrees with them and they are denounced as divisive and contentious.

“The method works, ergo, it must be good” is where the “church” starts but it is not long before “good” results are not even necessary. “Churches” that only motivate 1-5% of their population to become involved in any form of ministry still believe they are doing “good.” “Pastors” of such abominations defend their 3-5% conversion “success” rate – in truth, a 95-97% spiritual abortion rate! So long as the main contributors to the offering plate feel “good” about their “church,” all is well. Never mind the spiritual reality that the “church” now assists far more people into hell than it does into heaven. (see Mt. 23:13; top )

When any such methodology (and the leadership implementing it) is impervious to challenge or reproof, the demonic has built some movement of men into yet another hardened wineskin completely incapable of containing any real work of the Holy Spirit of God (see Lk. 5:37-39 ) – though indeed it will be a haunt for every other kind of spirit. The demonic will go to great lengths to cause “church” leadership to deny the spiritual reality that their work is wood, hay, stubble or even mere lawlessness. (see 1 Cor. 3:12-13 ; Mt. 7:21-23; top ) which will indeed go up in smoke in the day of Christ.

Writing around 1960, Tozer left his testimony that the demonically inspired philosophy and practice of pragmatism virtually ruled the “Christian” “church” world of his day. Things have not improved on that score in the last 50 years but have instead drastically worsened as mere trends in his day have become enshrined, hallowed traditions.

Tozer’s question – what shall we do to break pragmatism’s power over us? – is a valid, even necessary question. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word [if you cling to what I tell you], you are My disciples. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ( Jn. 8:31-32 ) So long as we abide in and cling to the philosophies spawned in hell – pragmatism, “church” and clergy being but three of a multitude of spiritually deadly ideas – we will be like the Jews who denied they had ever been in any kind of bondage even as we seek to murder the true messenger(s) of God. (see Jn. 8:33 , 59; top )

“We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church,” Tozer wrote. As far as it goes, this statement is almost correct. But because Tozer held to elements of the “church” paradigm – which included “church” leadership who had the right to lord over the people, especially on the “business side” of the “church” – the clergy continue to hold the real power and Christ is just the figurehead who presides over honorary dinners and balls but who remains respectfully silent during business and committee meetings.

Let us restate his quote a little more accurately and clearly:

We must acknowledge and embrace the right of Jesus Christ to personally control the activities of His people.

Many “churches” today downplay or even derisively dismiss the need for each individual to hear the Lord for themselves. They must do this because, in their hearts, they know there would be inevitable competition for their followers’ hearts. The New Testament leaves no question, however, about this. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them., and they follow Me.” ( Jn. 10:27 ) Those individuals who do not hear the voice of the Shepherd – no matter how well “churched” they may be – are not His sheep, they have no ability to follow Him and, on the last day, the Shepherd will say to them, “I never knew you.” ( Mt. 7:23; top )

“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks,” the writer of Hebrews tells us, “For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven.” ( Heb. 12:25; top ) If we wish to escape the snares of the devil and avoid sharing his condemnation with him, we must listen to and obey what our Lord in heaven says to our own hearts.

“Faith comes by hearing,” Paul wrote, “and hearing by the word of God.” ( Rom. 10:17 ) And Jesus rebuked the devil by saying, “Man does not live on bread alone but [he lives] by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” ( Mt. 4:4 ) So long as we, the people of Christ, take our cues from the words that proceed from the mouths of men and neglect to hear the words proceeding from the mouth of God, there is no chance whatsoever that we can either acknowledge or embrace Christ’s right to be King over His own people. Yet again, He comes to those who are supposed to be – even claim to be! – His, and His own refuse to receive Him as King and Lord. ( Jn. 1:11 ) There is coming a day, though, when every knee shall bow to Him ( Phlp. 2:10; top ) and it will be too late then to choose which side – His or Satan’s – we will be on.

Tozer wrote, “The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it.” Some who read that quote will equate this with the list of do’s and don’t’s they’ve concocted or bought into at their “church.” But this is not the instruction the New Testament gives. The New Testament is not a new law to replace the Mosaic law of the Old Testament. No, the New Testament tells us we have a Head, Christ Jesus, who, by His Spirit, will direct us to live in ways that more closely resemble God in all His righteousness, wisdom, truth and transcendence. The rules are for the lawbreakers ( 1 Tim. 1:9 ) and are only a tutor to teach us, as children, to submit to the Spirit of Christ. ( Gal. 3:24; top ) Once we have come to Christ, we are no longer under law but under His Headship – which will require more of us than any law could! This makes Tozer very correct when he says, “Any deviations from these instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.”

As we conclude this chapter, let us note that even in 1960, Tozer recognized that the “religious majority” within the “churches” would exhibit the same response as the Jews exhibited against Jesus and all His followers – wrath. Even then, the “religious majority” were a mixed multitude rejecting the sound doctrine of hearing the Lord and submitting to His rule. And this has now become a key, highly venerated, hallowed tradition of men. (see 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top )

Courage and conviction – as Tozer says would be required to overcome the effects of pragmatism in our midst – are characteristics rarely if ever produced in followers of a modern “church” as they are the results of a tested faith. The “church” – as a system designed to rob you of your personal, interactive faith in Christ and replace it with a mere form of godliness – is going to quietly anesthetize you into lukewarm numbness. Go sit quietly at the Lord’s feet – avoid the weekly pablum sermons and turn off your “Bible-teaching” radio and even set aside your study Bible and “daily devotions” - and simply ask the Lord to show you what’s on His heart. His answer(s) – assuming you possess a genuinely contrite heart willing to allow God to remove all your preconceived paradigms, notions, philosophies, creeds, doctrines and dogmas that are not from Him – will rock your world as you find out just how many subtle, deceitful, idolatrous things have caused you to remove your faith away from the living, Most High God.

4. The Wasp and the Church Member (Part 1) π 6. The Way of Christ Is Still Narrow
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