In the song, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," from the Disney film Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews sing these lyrics: "Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious, if you say it loud enough, you'll always sound precocious." This perfectly describes how Christian leaders have distorted the message Jesus commanded His disciples to preach.
When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world, He didn't leave them a mountain of directives on how to operate the newly formed Christian religion. Nor did Jesus tell his disciples to develop a cumbersome system of religious jargon and ceremonies.
Jesus' instructions were very simple: He told His disciples to preach the "good news" (Mat. 11:5), the "glad tidings" (Mark 1:14), and simply to be His "witnesses" (Acts 1:8). The Apostle Paul described the Gospel with equally simple language: He referred the "blessed hope" (Tit. 2:13) and in 1 Corinthians 1:23, he summed up his whole ministry in few words: to preach "Christ crucified."
Thousands of other religions compete against Christianity today. Very few of these can match the Gospel's simplicity. If you were to check into the salvation plan of some of these other religions, most would give a mumbo-jumbo spiel like this: "To find the ultimate state of consciousness you need to achieve complete symmetry between the celestial and physical plains of existence."
You don't need to go through a 20-step program to become a Christian. All a person needs to do is realize his sinful state, ask Jesus to be his Savior, and then follow Jesus' example of pure living. I can make this process even simpler. American currency features these words: "In God We Trust." If you were to personalize this statement in everything you do, saying, "In God I
Trust," you would not go wrong.
I've noticed three main areas in which man has "supercalifragilisticexpialidociousized" the Christian message: Words, Rituals, and Traditions.
Throughout the Church Age, a host of scholarly men has spent a good deal of time formulating an elaborate roster of religious words. By adding all these new words and terms to Christianity, the intellectual thinkers of the Church have slowly transformed the once-simple Gospel message into a complex matter.
How can any Christian expect to reach the common man with words like "exegesis," "hagiography," "examologesis," "hydroparastatae," "soteriology," or "anthropomorphism"?
Sometimes we use big words to get people's attention. For example, I entitled this web page "Supercalifragilisticexpialidociousism" to do just that. At other times, we use complex words to inject humor. One well-known prophecy speaker, just for laughs, pitches the following tongue twister to his audience: "Well friends, today we're going to think anew about the contemporaneous implications of psychophysical monism."
Unfortunately, getting attention and laughs isn"t always the goal of some Christian speakers who use big words. One preacher, who wasn't joking with his audience, constantly used $10 words whenever he spoke. For example, instead of saying "prophecy," he would say "eschatology"; instead of using the word "Gospel," he would use the word "exegesis." It wasn't "Jesus" he was studying, it was "Christology."
The host of a local cable program frequently invited this preacher to appear on his show. The host, whose name was Joe, said that he received a number of complaints from viewers about his guest's vocabulary. After telling the preacher to tone down his talk and not getting any compliance, Joe finally decided not to have the preacher on the show anymore. I also learned from Joe that some people who went to the minister's church stopped going because he was using those annoying, graduate-level words.
You might be wondering why that joker was shooting himself in the foot by using that type of language. The reason was simply pride; he wanted to appear to "know it all." Unfortunately, his smart talk only ended up making him look foolish.
The dictionary describes Christian rituals as the use of symbols, gestures, objects, words, and music to involve the community in a church function.
The original purpose of Christian rituals was to symbolize or represent a certain aspect of the faith. What has happened, in many cases, is that rituals have become a substitute for true Christianity.
One good example of how rituals have replaced God's original intent is the idea that being baptized in water means you're saved. Instead of relying on the blood of Jesus to wash them clean, some folks believe that a dunking in earthly water has the power to make them ready for the heavenly world to come. I've met many people who live in total opposition to the Gospel message, yet because they were baptized in water, they believe they have guaranteed their salvation. I once worked with a woman who wants her baptismal certificate placed in her hand when she dies.
So far in my life, I've been baptized on three different occasions. I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; in the name of Jesus; and, while on a tour of the Holy Land, I was baptized in the Jordan River.
None of these baptisms has any power to save my eternal soul. After being baptized so many times, I should be able to freely rob banks and still be saved. Anyone who holds to the sole requirement of water baptism for salvation should ponder the situation with the thief on the cross.
Rituals cannot save us from our sins; they only act to hide them. You can put a priestly robe on pornography king Larry Flynt, have Charles Manson do the rosary, or have Bill Clinton recite the Lord's Prayer in Latin and change nothing. If you fail to reach the heart of a man, any changes you make on his outside are meaningless.
Traditions of Men
From the very beginning, men's traditions have been a continuous threat to the Gospel message. In most cases, when a groups adds a tradition to the Word of God, it has absolutely no concrete Scripture to support the alteration. If it's not in the Bible, then it's not valid. This should be every Christian's motto.
The teaching of purgatory is an example. Where did this come from? Look in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find any hint of there being a halfway place for those who need to suffer or pray their way to Heaven. Nor will you find a mention of a place in which people can wait for their family members to give enough money to buy their dearly departed's way out of purgatory.
In my research of the topic of purgatory, I discovered four roots of its origin: 1) tradition; 2) a quote from "the lost books" which states that we should "pray for the dead" (2 Maccabees 12:46); 3) the Council of Trent, which said purgatory exists; and 4) a vision claimed by St. Frances of Rome, in which St. Frances, through divine revelation, claimed to have gotten a peek at this place, which appeared to have upper and lower levels.
None of these explanations for the existence of a purgatory had anything to do with the Holy Bible. Before the church fathers dreamed up the concept of purgatory, they should have read Revelation 22:18: "For I testify unto every man that hearth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things God will add to him the plagues written in this book."
In recent years, I've noticed that several traditions of men have been creeping into the Church. Some of these are environmentalism, liberation theology, politics, psychology, and self-esteem. These add-ons only work to choke true Christian doctrine.
Paul warns believers to be wary of strange new doctrines: "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:9).