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11/13/13 at 01:43 PM 0 Comments

Copycat Church

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Photo: Flickr/Mathew Ingram - Creative Commons
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In preparing a series on the book of Daniel, I took notice (again) as to how many Christian preachers, writers and popular speakers simply copy their theology from others. Rather than studying Scripture for themselves, they act more like Masons and are able to only repeat by rote what the initiated told them the book means. God calls us preachers to be "workmen who rightly divide the word of truth," not copycats who pass on the creed. The Bible was not given as some secret code only understood by the initiated. When the wise men came "from the east" searching for "The King of the Jews," they were neither Jewish nor wise - they were Persians who had read the scroll of Daniel and knew the time had come for the Anointed One to appear (see Daniel 9:24-27). There's profound benefit from reading and studying the Bible for ourselves.

Unfortunately, it seems modern evangelicalism has created a climate in churches where we preachers get our theology though copycatting what others say about the Scriptures in question. I never found this more true than during my study of Daniel when I realized that the phrase "at that time Michael... will arise" (Daniel 12:1) is most naturally understood as a prophecy of the first coming of Jesus Christ. It was only after my personal study of Daniel that I learned that John Gill, John Calvin, John Wesley, Adam Clarke and a host of other 18th century theologians believed that the Michael of Daniel 12 is an Old Covenant reference to the future Messiah. A couple of Christians emailed me after reading my post and expressed great consternation over what I had written about Michael. They'd been taught something different by their pastors, and what I taught "was something the Jehovah Witnesses believed." Rather than engage in a discussion with me based upon their own personal study of Scriptures, the plumb line of truth for them was what others had told them Scriptures meant.

It's a given that since the early part of the 20th century, most Christians have been taught something totally different about the Michael of Daniel 12 than what the 18th century theologians I mentioned above believed about Him. Evangelicals of today project the appearing of the archangel Michael to a future and mystical tribulation period of a yet-to-be built restored covenantal Israel. Where do most evangelical preachers get their theology? From copycatting what they hear others teach. It seems to be a novel approach today to teach something based upon your own personal study.

What I believe about Daniel runs counter to what most modern evangelicals are teaching today about the book. However, I came to my understanding on my own. Were I to believe that the Michael of Daniel 12 is Jesus Christ because Gill, Calvin, Wesley or the others believed it, I would be committing the same error of my contemporaries. What strengthens my belief in the correctness of my view is that the men who agree with me are those from a generation that studied the Bible for themselves. The copycat church has lost that art.

If there's anything worse than copycat theology it is copycat methodology. At least people who spout what others say about a text are attempting to deal with Scripture. Cutting edge, contemporary speakers and preachers all cut their hair the same, wear the same brand shirts and jeans, and design worship their worship services to all look and sound the same. Very few of them seem to even attempt to teach the Bible and disciple believers. You ask a modern copycat church about Daniel and they'll think you are asking about a new jean designer. That's an observation as well as a criticism. It's true our parents' churches also copycatted methodology, but at least they were attempting to copycat theology.

I anticipate the day is coming when modern copycat churches will go belly up. There's something awful ugly about preachers in designer jeans and shirts, living in sprawling houses, and congregating people in glow-in-the-dark worship centers during days of dark depression and civil anarchy. The only thing that holds up during times of persecution--when church buildings are destroyed by political forces, when God's people are persecuted by pagans who care nothing for the Divine, and when the future seems as grim and dark as the midnight hour--is the Prince who reigns over an everlasting Kingdom that He inaugurated at His first coming and will one day consummate at His second when the meek shall inherit the earth.

Ask Daniel.

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