"Religious Creed Doesn't Matter"

Larry Ray Hafley
Peoria, Illinois

The following article, written by Marilyn Elias, and entitled, "The Power of Personal Prayer," recently appeared in USA Today.

People who feel personally close to God have a deeper sense of purpose and are happier with their health than those who don't, a survey finds.

University of Akron (Ohio) sociologist Margaret Poloma surveyed 560 Akron-area adults. Those who pray in a personal tone and believe they feel God's presence get a boost in well-being, whether or not they go to church, she found. Religious creed doesn't matter.

"Religion has been under-emphasized as a factor leading to life satisfaction," says Poloma. . .

Other findings:

Satisfaction with religious identity has as much impact as happiness with job and friends on your life satisfaction.

Religion outstrips family and job in providing a sense of purpose.

Spiritual people feel more satisfied with their health than the non-rdigious, even if they have major health problems.

At first glance, one may feel like saying, "See, I told you so. It pays to believe in God." With a closer view, one can see the seeds of fatal and destructive error sown in the article. "Those who pray in a personal tone and believe they feel God's presence get a boost in well-being. . . . Religious creed (doctrine) doesn't matter."

There is no quibble with the fact that religious people feel better. It is true, perhaps. However, this life is not all there is. Self-satisfaction and general "feel-goodishness" will not get us to heaven, and "If in this fife only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19).

Muslims, Hindus and Jews doubtless "get a boost in well being" from their religious exercises, but they will go to hell if they die in unbelief. "For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24). "1 am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me' (Jn. 14:6). Their "deeper sense of purpose," their "life satisfaction" will not save them. That is one of the tragedies of modem religious thought.

Essentially, liberalism among saints imbibes the same philosophy. "Doctrines," it is said, "do not separate us from God. Smile; love everyone; forget Bible authority as it relates to the work, worship and organization of the church. Do not bother with details. Simply accept one another." This same posture explains how the present Pope can speak in a Lutheran church building, how Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis can attend religious services and pray together, and how brethren can join hands with the Christian Church. They feel better; they "feel God's presence." This is the essence of what brethren Garrett and Ketcherside have been peddling. When brethren disarm the truth, they can slobber in tearful prayers over one another while holding hands at a unity conference and go home with "a deeper sense of purpose." After all, "Religious creed doesn't matter." It is all so false and familiar.

Beware of those who feel that the answer to the lack of evangelism the cure for stagnant churches and the correction of false doctrine lies in sincere smiles, handshakes, back pats and earnest exclamations of "Praise the Lord."

The foolish man built his house on the sand. The sand was iniquity, lawlessness, lack of authority. He thought his house, which consisted of prophesying in the Lord's name, casting out devils and doing "many wonderful works," would suffice. Still, his house "fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matt. 7:21-27). "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.... Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:8,9,13).

True worship and faithful service to the Lord is not determined by good feelings. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end, thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:5,6).

Walking in truth, love and faith surely produces an inner peace and a profound sense of well-being, even "life satisfaction." But these results are not the evidence of being at peace with God. Saul of Tarsus felt good about his devotion to God (Acts 23: 1; 26:9-11; Phil. 3:3-6), but he stood condemned.

One of Satan's most sinister weapons is satisfaction with one's religious faith. A man can die with confidence in his heart and a smile on his lips and still wake up on the wrong side of hades. This does not mean that saints are to be malcontents, unfriendly, always bickering, brawling, "hateful and hating one another." Soundness in the faith is not determined by strife, quarrels and divided brethren - far from it. Neither, though, is the favor of God established by a personal sense of well-being.

Be wary of the brother who thinks personal joy and happiness is spiritual peace and that a smiling face at all assemblies is the cure for all the ills that confront the church. Job was miserable, but he had spiritual peace. Paul, too (2 Cor. 1:8-11; 4:8-10; 7:5). While a face like a hound dog may not mean you are sound, it is still better than frisking around in heavy traffic with a possum grin.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 22, p. 680
November 20, 1986