Chapter Eight, Pauline makes a confession
9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Tyler and Pauline joined the class that Sunday morning, the class on Other Gospels. The room was chilly since whoever arrived first had to turn the heat on and they had apparently only just recently arrived. Pauline felt like they should huddle together to get warm. She pulled her mohair shawl tighter around her. The shawl she had recently knitted. Perhaps the last she could ever make, if writing was to be more important. She tried to tell herself that if there was something else she was supposed to, that was the important thing. To find it, and to do it. Why was she so driven anyway? It suddenly occurred to her that if it wasn’t fulfilling maybe she shouldn’t be doing it. If it made her need surgery on her hands it couldn’t be so fulfilling. Time to focus on the class, said Tyler with a wink. She smiled and opened her Bible.
“First,” said John, standing in front and teaching the class, “We need to understand what the definition of a gospel is. Any deep thoughts?”
“The teachings of Christ, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,” said Carol quickly.
“That is part of it,” said John. “Good answer though.”
“I looked it up online just now,” said Pauline . “It can mean ‘an idea or set of ideas that someone believes and often tries to make other people believe.’ You hear it when people say ‘That is the gospel truth.’”
“That is the other part. That is the part Galatians is referring to, people making up their own truths or distorting Father God’s truth. Paul even said other gospels are no gospel at all. So it appears that the word ‘gospel’ was meant to mean the words and teachings of Christ.
“Anyone--what is the definition of truth?”
“Something that can be proven.” Said Ken.
“Something that is generally accepted as true.” Said James.
“And of course anything that God said in his word. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life. Not a truth--the truth. As in the only one. As in not open to interpretation, or relative comparisons, or personal opinion,” said Pauline.
“I think that everyone knows what Jesus Christ said. But what are some of His key points?” asked John.
“Salvation through faith and grace alone.” Said Helen.
“Jesus Christ’ death paying for our sins.”
“Love one another.”
“Good. And what might be some of the false gospels?” asked John.
“Paying for sins with our works.” Said Kathy.
“False Gods like Molech, Baal, and the others in the Bible.”
“Thinking of ourselves first.”
“God helps those who help themselves,” someone said, drawing a laugh from the group.
“Yes, many people think that is actually in the Bible. Let me assure you that it is not,” said John, smiling.
“Now, what are some things that we see today, that could be considered false gospels?” asked John.
The room was silent for a moment. Carol spoke up. “The gospel of self! People are too busy with themselves to care about others.”
“We don’t want to get into denominations, do we? But there are pagan sects or cults that are not Christian that are false gospels. There are many denominations which are really pagan sect or cults and the members may not even know it. They may think they are Christians, they may think their church is the one true church, and therein lies the tragedy. They are in need of salvation and they think that they’ve already got it, so they aren’t looking for it. Let me read this definition to you from GotQuestions.org,
’Usually, though, a pagan sect or cult is more narrowly defined, and the word refers to an unorthodox sect whose members distort the original doctrines of the religion. In a Christian context, the definition of a pagan sect or cult is, specifically, “a religious group that denies one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth.” A pagan sect or cult is a group that teaches doctrines that, if believed, will cause a person to remain unsaved. A pagan sect or cult claims to be part of a religion, yet it denies essential truth(s) of that religion.”
“Yes,” said John. “And that is the direction I wanted this class to take. I wanted to call attention to these types of pagan sects or cults. Some that could be defined as such are the Seventh Day Adventists, because they have additional Scriptures and also they pull out of context a verse about women and jewelry. Other major faiths that do this are Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and then the more extreme examples such as Scientology.”
“Anything that promotes idols--which could be the love of money or any kind of addiction. Addicts might think their addiction was their most important thing or maybe that it was even their salvation.” Said Deb.
Pauline took a deep breath. “I used to know people who believed in fortunetelling, mediumship, and other new age practices. Those were definitely false gospels, and it gave the people a false sense of security, thinking they could control their own destiny and not rely on God. I even was drawn to that myself at one time and have renounced it all.” The room was silent and everyone stared at her. Tyler held her hand under the table. “Awkward,” said Pauline with a nervous smile. “I once enjoyed yoga as a form of exercise but I was always fascinated with India so it seemed like something that I wanted to do. I remember the day I found the book about yoga in the college bookstore and bought it immediately, even though I really couldn’t afford it, and started doing the exercises. I remember the pictures of the old people who could still do yoga. When I could afford it later in life I took classes. Classes were offered at exercise gyms, community education classes, hospital health centers, and even churches. They called it Christian yoga at the churches, and presumably used Christian music and prayer as part of the program. I found it to be a good form of exercise for flexibility and strength. I began to think differently about yoga though, years much later, when a yoga instructor asked us to salute the Sun God. I refused to do it and stopped attending that class. I thought to herself that was a pretty broad assumption on his part, that we all believed there WAS a sun God. They teach you to say Indian words and really you don’t know at all what you are saying. They say one word is a recognition of the divine within the other person, in a greeting. But we are not divine, and therefore that word is blasphemous, don’t you think?”
“Thank you for your honesty, Pauline . That is the danger, is it not, thinking you are in control and that you don’t need the Father God of the Bible.”
“Yes, and I have even heard people like that mocking Christians and Christianity. It just breaks your heart. I think to myself that they will find out the truth one day when it is too late. Sometimes I pray for them that I or someone else will get through to them, that they will repent before it’s too late.”
“And this is something we all should do when we are offended or when we come into contact with people who are lost. It is like heaping burning coals on them--not literally but the Word of Father God should burn at their souls and trouble them until they repent.”
“Does anyone else know of practices that are questionable but may be false gospel? I think we can include yoga and other Indian beliefs. People, even Christians, do yoga and don’t realize that it is based on a Hindu religious system. Hindus have many Gods and they don’t even agree with each other. Their texts are ancient but the people are so poor that many do not even have a copy of them.”
Unfortunately Pauline had altered the mood with her confession. People stared at the floor, at the clock, out the window, anywhere but at her. Finally someone spoke.
“What about the women’s movement? I don’t want to step on any pointy toed shoes here, but these women that think they shouldn’t be serving their families but have a career instead may be misled. I realize oftentimes families need two or more incomes to survive, but that may be due to their priorities that are out of line with Father God’s will.” The speaker, Ken, got another laugh out of his first comment.
“Ken, that line of thinking will be saved for another class. You are on the right track but that is not really where we’re going in this class.”
“And I believe that is all the time we have for today. Good responses, everyone, and think of more that you can share next week. Let’s pray.”
“Our dear Father God, I thank you that the eyes of your people are being opened. I pray that you keep us safe from the deceiver and from his false gospels. I finally pray that you send us people who need to hear this message for themselves and their families. Bless all these and keep them safe as they travel to their homes and throughout the next week. In Jesus Christ’s precious name, Amen. Class dismissed.”
The students pushed their chairs back and stood up. Helen and Jean gathered the Bibles and put them back on the shelf.
“I did not know that about you, Pauline , said Jean. “I appreciate your courageous confession.”
“Well I just realized that not everyone knows what is out there. There are scary things that people don’t believe in, but they should. I think everyone’s heard of the Satanists, and their black house and their evil demonic statue. But that seems so distant and far away. There are witches right here in our home town. I met an author who wrote a book about it, and about her escape from witchcraft and her subsequent salvation in Christianity. She actually played a tape for us of a supposedly evil demonic voice she had recorded. It was a low guttural toned voice and it terrified me more than anything. She said she has to be vigilant every minute so as not to be drawn into it again. She has to press harder toward Christ than people who never had to fight for their salvation. I heard she even reads the Bible through over and over, faster than anyone else I know. I guess you know what you have to do if you are really in step with Christ.”
“Black house and evil demonic statue? Really?” Repeated Helen.
“Yes--I saw it in the news one day that they were unveiling this new statue in front of their headquarters. A horrible looking goat like thing. They even painted the windows of their house black.”
“I wonder if there are people in our Lutheran church like that,” wondered Jean. “Not among the committed members I’m sure.”
“You might be surprised. There may be some who have given it up but their evil demons still haunt them. They may seem nice and responsible and everything good, but I wonder if we should avoid everything that even brings us fear, even something as innocuous as scary movies, for instance, because Father God’s perfect love casts out all fear. We may be just making it harder on ourselves. You know--to put fear on ourselves and expect God to cast it out when it’s our fault in the first place?”
“Well that is too deep for me,” said Jill. “I don’t see what’s wrong with a little entertainment. I have watched scary movies all my life, and look at me. Didn’t you watch the Wizard of Oz? Didn’t you watch the Disney movies about crooks that scared children?”
“That may be true, but I guess I would prefer to be entertained by different things. Things that promote Christian values.” Pauline could tell she had worded that badly when Jill turned on her heel and walked away in a huff without a backward glance. She sighed. People often got angry when you called them on something or pointed out their misconceptions. Maybe she needed to take a class in winning friends.
The two of them went out to one of their favorite restaurants, the Wild Dog, after church. Waiting to place their order, Tyler and Pauline mulled over and discussed the class. “I wish you hadn’t said that to Jill,” said Tyler . “It sounded confrontational.”
“She was wrong though, you know. It’s just like when people watch crimes on the news and then copy them. When people watch shows about magic and fortunetellers, they might decide to try it themselves. Especially when it’s targeting teens and young people. If their parents aren’t aware, or even present, they could get into a lot of danger before they realized it. So many parents work now, or sometimes there isn’t even a second parent on the scene, to watch children and see what they’re involved in. And even if they can, they don’t always know what to watch out for.”
“OK, but I have to tell you I don’t see that it’s so bad. Kids will be kids.”
“You probably don’t know this, but even if they don’t consciously copy it, watching shows about evil demonic activity can open the door to it in your own life. It’s just like all the vampire movies--the vampire has to be invited in, and then it can wreak havoc in the lives of innocents.” Pauline mentioned several--the Lost Boys, The Vampire’s Assistant, and of course Dracula, but also Dark Shadows, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood television show series. To tell the truth, she had enjoyed these shows at one time. But now that she was finding out more about them, they held less interest.
“Well--I’m ordering a rare burger just the same,” joked Tyler , making a vampire reference. The two of them laughed and that broke the seriousness, and they dropped the subject until a much later time. It was a warm fall day and they were sitting outside in the sun. There probably wouldn’t be too many days like this left. He was such good company, Pauline thought to herself. He made her laugh, he was there beside her when she had a bad day, and he was incredibly handsome and intelligent. She thanked Father God every day for him. Sometimes she thought he must be the reward for everything bad she ever went through in her life. Of course much of it was her own doing, but she was curious and a bit of a rebel. God was surely looking out for her, all the problems she had almost had but didn’t. It made her want to understand and find out why.
They enjoyed their burger and salad and then after lunch the two of them strolled to the end of the street to the waterfront park where other people were enjoying the weather and walking along the river.
“That was a good meal, said Tyler, but they’re making burgers far too big nowadays. I do feel better after this little walk.”
“Yes, I agree,” said Pauline. “But we don’t have to order so much and we could take some home instead of finishing it here.”
“Yes, except the waffle fries don’t reheat well and the bun gets soggy by the time you want to eat again. Next time let’s split it or I will eat the whole thing all over again.”
On the way home, they drove by the old mansion that the civic group was working on restoring. Pauline and Tyler had toured it a few times and absolutely loved it. They actually had one table there that Pauline used to own, with a gold leaf leather top, a little drawer, and lion’s paw feet, and for some reason she had sold it. It might be the very same table and it fit the period of the house beautifully. The historic foundation could probably use another pair of hands to help with the restoration, but the two of them hadn’t gotten around to volunteering yet. Of course the rumors said it was haunted, but that was just to bring in the crowds. They very much enjoyed its antique furnishings as well as many unique features including large murals on the wall in the dining room, a completely tiled kitchen, a ball room on the third floor, and many beautiful antique ball gowns. Now that they were remodeling their own house it was even more fun to look at restored homes for lighting and woodwork ideas. “I wonder if the people who lived in the house really were into the forbidden occult,” wondered Pauline out loud. “Or maybe the supposed haunting is from when people died in the house. It was used as a prison office at one time, and a religious order had it at another time. It’s possible many people could have died there.” Pauline remembered other rumors of the area. It was hard to believe someone had used that prime real estate for a prison. And when it was a seminary, the nuns had tiny rooms separated by curtains, each just big enough for a small bed.
“I thought you told me the dead couldn’t say anything or communicate with us,” remarked Tyler . “Did you not?”
“You were listening!” exclaimed Pauline . “That is good. It’s true that is what the Bible says. Some kinds of communication, like automatic writing, I think is from the living person’s own mind. They so want to hear from their dead relative that their mind makes up a scenario where it appears that that is what is happening. But what do you think hauntings really are?”
“I heard once that they were manifestations from the minds of the insane,” he replied. “Maybe it’s that simple. I just know that a lot of people believe in ghosts. Do they still have those ghost hunting shows?”
“I suppose they do. I really never enjoyed those, but I guess there are a lot of people that do. I think maybe that hauntings are evil demons posing as dead people that we knew. And those shows seem to be so fake--a bunch of overgrown boys trying to scare each other AND their viewers.”
“So do you think that our departed dogs and cats go to heaven?” quipped Tyler .
Pauline rolled her eyes as they pulled into the driveway. “You had better hope not. Your job would be to empty all those cat litter boxes.”
Tyler shot back, “Well yours would be to pick up all the feathers the angels dropped from their wings!” They laughed together.
As they walked into the house, the cats came running to greet them. They laughed again.