Religion as Entertainment

By Jerald Fluit

A few months ago I visited the Crystal Cathedral in Pasadena, CA. As I was talking to the lady and looking intently at the huge glass facility, she drew my attention to the new tan carpet that was laid over the old. It was a gift from a wealthy friend in North Carolina and would be used to protect the original carpet when the animals came in. Animals? She explained that the large walkway down the center isle and the extended stage area were specially built for the animals which would participate in the popular Easter pageants in a few weeks. This idea of entertaining in church and appealing to our senses to spread the gospel message is very widespread. But through it, modern Christianity has fallen into a very serious sin - the blatant transgression of the second commandment of God’s holy law - thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, physically or in our minds, nor worship Him in any other way than what the Scriptures reveal.

The desire to create an image to worship God can be found in former generations as well as our own. Of old, man has "sought out many inventions" (Ecc17:29). It seems that when God is not present (that is, to our carnal senses), then we try to fill the void with the works of His own hands and mind, and then think we do God a service.

See Aaron and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, waiting for Moses to return from the mount. They had seen him go up there with their own eyes, yet in his absence they began to say to Aaron in Exodus 32:1 "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." Impatiently they requested an idol - the golden calf - to be made and would attribute unto it their journey out of Egypt, You would say, "How?" How could such a terrible thing be done by a people so close to the immediate workings and presence of God?

Man’s religion is one of sense. Adam and Eve were tempted by fruit that was "pleasant to the eyes" (Gen. 3:6). Man wants to see, and to hear, and to feel, and to "experience God" as many churches say today. When God withdraws Himself from Christianity because of our sin and unbelief, then Christianity continues, but it is lacking something. Lacking what? Lacking the power of God! Christianity today has lost the power of God. It misses the indispensable working of the Holy Spirit and it fills that void with its own inventions and images, images of God and of Jesus that are not found in His Word, the Bible.

Perhaps you ask, "Why does such a religion flourish?" Why do millions prefer such an outward, shallow, and empty religion? Idolatry has always been popular. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, 450 of Baal’s prophets and 400 prophets of the groves which ate at Jezebel’s table ( I Kings 18:19) were there! And they did not lack for courage, boldness, or zeal! What was lacking? The power of God! Baal was no God. All the images and symbols of Christianity today also lack the presence and power of God. It is all an empty, flesh-pleasing worship of an image of God, created in the minds of people, but not according to the holy will of God. God will be worshipped according to His own revealed will and way.

King David in II Samuel 6 brought the ark of God upon a new cart - not upon the shoulders of the priests as God had ordained. There were thousands watching, with much mu- sic, and zeal, but...it was lacking God’s favor. Uzzah fell dead and David’s purpose of bringing the ark is frustrated. Later, when he brought the ark in the prescribed manner, abasing himself before it, then he received the approval of God.

Israel was always prone to follow the form of a sacrifi- cial religion without the power of God. The Lord complains of Israel’s false, empty religion in Isaiah 1:11 &12 saying, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord... When ye come before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?" And in verse 14 He says, "I am weary to bear them" - the additions, which they had made to His worship, grieved the Lord. He then admonished them, beginning in the 16’" verse, "wash you and make you clean." God looks on the heart and despises all formal, empty religion.

Today, we are surrounded with this same type of empty profession of Christianity. Everything can be made "Chris- tian" and everything in the Holy Scriptures may be repre- sented and used at one’s whim in the effort to bring the message of Jesus to every creature. Nativity scenes, Passion Plays, reenactments of all parts of the Bible are common in many churches. This idea of drama in the church also is not new.

The book, Huntington - Pastor of Providence, relates that many churches in the late 1700’s were involved in using plays and various musical ideas as "means," as they called them, in their worship services. Pastor Huntington was persecuted and slandered because he preached vehemently against such abominations in the worship of Christ. Our fathers in the faith of that age condemned all such practices and so do we.

Is it any wonder that today we have gospel rock concerts, praise festivals, pageants, and all sorts of live enter- tainment in churches everywhere? But, as we read in II Tim. 3:5, "from such turn away." The gospel of today’s "easy Christianity" was alive and well already in Huntington’s day. He says "They preached the love of Christ to sinners to draw them to Him and then, when they were supposedly ’converted,’ they gave their converts the law to show them how to live." Does this not sound very familiar? Instead of preaching the law as a schoolmaster to bring a dead elect sinner to a full Saviour, Christendom of today preaches a Jesus of love and then enourages "what can I do for Jesus." All such religion is busily inventing all sorts of things to paint images - images of a Jesus and of a God that are not according to Scripture. Rather, they are false, graven images

formed in the minds of young and old. These are tactics used by the evil one to deceive many.

Some weeks ago, Rev. Vogelaar emphasized this when he expounded the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 35, question and answers 96 and 97. "What doth God require in the second commandment? That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded in His Word." "God neither can, nor may be represented by any means." Rev. Vogelaar explained clearly that we can make wrong images of God in our mind by building mental pictures or images of Him. This is just what the media of modern Christendom is busy doing - building pictures of a Jesus and of a God they do not know and which are nothing but idols.