With Mitt Romney among the presidential hopefuls, a lot of Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) are re-examining their faith and a few are leaving it. It is always healthy to re-examine one’s faith. But what standard are we using? Let me suggest several “tests of faith,” for those leaving one of the hundreds of denominations and cults that claim to be “Christian.”
- Christ must be the focus. In many religions the church is the focus. It is, “the church does that or the church teaches this.” The focus must be on the teachings and person Jesus Christ and the teachings of the apostles which he sent with His authority. He is the permanent head of His church and no man, no hierarchy can take His place or speak or act on His behalf.
The teachings of Christ must be followed. Groups that claim to be followers of Christ who hate, persecute, commit genocide, go on “crusades,” torture and kill their fellow-humans, and make wars of aggression against others are not Christian.
- There must be a standard authority. For Christians, the standard is the revelation of God, specifically, the Old and New Testaments. Before there was a collection of books that today we call the Bible (the word, “bible” is not found in the Bible), there was the Law, history, poetry and prophecy contained in what Christians call the Old Testament (which leads us to Christ) and the gospels, the book of Acts, the letters and the book of Revelation. These manuscripts were circulated among the churches. The existing copies of the books of the Bible (and there are literally thousands of manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts – more than any other ancient book) are extremely accurate. This cannot be said about the books and collections of laws that some religions use as authority.
- You must have an accurate history. Of course not every fact in any history can be proven – not much you can do about that. But the points of history that can be examined must fit the facts. No one can prove that a huge fish (not a whale) swallowed Jonah or that the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea. But the existence of the persons and places mentioned in Scripture is so accurate that archeologists (both religious and non-religious) use it to locate the sites they excavate. The languages used are known languages. The people and races mentioned are historically and scientifically accurate. The animals mentioned really existed in the time the accounts were written.
Some say faith is blind. That’s just not true. Faith in what is not seen is based on what can be seen.
- You must have prophets whose revelations can be tested for accuracy. If a prophet prophesies something that didn’t happen, he or she is a false prophet. If your religion features a prophet or prophets, check out their predictions for accuracy. Furthermore the prophecies must not contradict what has already been revealed in the standard authority (see No. 4).
Don’t just leave one of the hundreds of denominations and cults for another one! You can be a Christian without joining any denomination or cult. You can simply decide to follow Christ. All He asks is for you to be reconciled to God through Him and by virtue of His sacrifice. If you believe trust and obey Him — that makes you a Christian. For fellowship with others, you can find a group seeking to be just Christians only and gather with them for encouragement and Bible study (see my article on Assembly). They won’t be perfect, but neither am I or you. Are they seeking to apply these four tests? That’s what counts.
Christ’s church has no certain name. He adds to his church those trust and obey Him. This is his assembly, his body, his bride and anyone and everyone can be a member.