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Ralph Waldo Emerson said that many religious sects are nothing more than an “elegant incognito to save a man from the necessity of thinking.” Emerson wasn’t right about a lot of things, but I think he was exactly right about this. Religious sects like this can rise up within any religious denomination, and within churches that still retain the legitimate name of “Methodist,” "Presbyterian,” "Baptist" or whatever. Good churches have been and can be transformed into hideous, oppressive, mind-warping sects, usually by ignorant, insecure, egomaniacal, sociopathic types of men who masquerade as pastors.

Genuine ministers of the Gospel aren’t afraid of the exercise of individual thought. They encourage it as they preach and teach the truth of God’s Word. They are reasonable, biblically grounded men who are “apt to teach,” “speak the truth in love” and who “preach not themselves” or their own personal interpretations or preferences. They don’t try to micromanage people’s thinking. They don’t take it personally and they aren’t petulant, pugnacious or defensive when something they say is challenged. While they may seek to persuade and convince people concerning God’s truth, they don’t try to “save a man from the necessity of thinking.” The apostle Paul’s philosophy and practice is an example for us all:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in Demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

—1 Cor. 2:1-5

Good pastors don’t make people afraid to think or appropriately express their thoughts. Those who do this are terribly dangerous to the entire lives and the eternal souls of people. Their goal is to dominate the minds, spirits and (in some cases) even the bodies of those who come under the influence of their tailored “biblical” teaching and their domineering tyrannical personalities. They need to be identified, and then avoided as though they are carriers of something worse than the bubonic plague.

There are many really good churches and pastors whose ministries focus on the plain truth of God’s Word. These are essential to the challenge, cultivation, and good mental and spiritual transformation, strengthening and renewal that we all need. Fellowship with these is pleasant and altogether profitable for us. Take whatever time it takes and get whatever help you can to find a good church that is conformed in its doctrine and in the spirit of its ministry to that which is described in the Bible, and don’t settle for one without the other. (Share this if you can).


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