Ask Your Preacher
How many false prophets does the Bible mention?
Counting The Corrupt
Dear Counting The Corrupt,
The Bible doesn’t mention a specific number of false prophets – it just says that there are many (Matt 24:11). The world is fraught with false prophets who seek to use the Bible for their own gain and lead people astray. This is why John warns us to test all teachers and compare what they say to the Bible (1 Jn 4:1). Sadly, most of mankind is either duped by these false teachers or frustrated. Even within the Lord’s church, false teachers and sin cause people’s love to grow cold (Matt 24:12). False prophets are innumerable, and the way of truth is spoken against because of them (2 Pet 2:1-2). It is an uphill battle, but if christians continue to refer people to the Bible instead of their own wisdom, God’s Word will be glorified.
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false? What must I look for? Thank you for your time and help.
On The Alert
Dear On The Alert,
Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you look.
Does the Bible condemn alchemy?
Alchemy is defined by most encyclopedias as a mixture between science and religion. The science part of alchemy involves working with various metals and other inorganic substances in order to create new substances (like turning copper to gold) – this has absolutely nothing to do with religion and is often referred to as ‘practical alchemy’… which is a tad ironic because there isn’t anything practical about trying to turn copper to gold!
However, alchemy also involved a philosophical and religious desire to find a way to cheat death and create an elixir that would allow you to live forever. Several of the early alchemists are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline. This aspect of alchemy is immoral – and there is a decent argument that the two sides (practical and spiritual alchemy) are inextricably tied together. The Bible says that there is only one true path to eternal life – Jesus Christ (Jhn 14:6). Anything else is of the devil.
I work with a co-worker who claims to be an atheist. There are a myriad of apologetic books that speak to these types of people and their claims. However, I would like to seek your insights on how to best reason with this person. In the process of talking with him, he has actually asked me to share Scriptures of encouragement that he could share with his girlfriend. I have bought him his first Bible, Bible Dictionary, and a pamphlet on how to study the Bible, which he was moved by and gladly received. I also offered to study with him, but he has not yet accepted my offer. Still, he needs to be convinced that God is real and that we did not get here by accident. Is there a simple format or practical approach I can use?
Ironically, one of the best places to start with an atheist is to discuss their faith. The relationship you mentioned sounds like it is a “talk when we can” sort of situation, and so it can be hard to cover anything in a systematic, step-by-step way. Lord willing, you will eventually be able to have a sit-down class with this individual, but until then, you are really just trying to get him thinking about how important this issue is.
In the past, we have talked with our atheist friends about their faith, and it can really jar their eyes open. Most atheists believe they don’t have faith, but this simply isn’t true. An atheist cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God any more than you or I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is. At some point, both the atheist and the theist have faith. Faith is an inevitable element of life. Anytime you trust something you can’t see, it is an act of faith (Heb 11:1). When we take an aspirin, we have faith that it isn’t laced with arsenic. When we drive, we have faith that the traffic light is telling the other lanes to stop when it tells us to go. We visit restaurants because we have faith in the recommendation our friend gave us, and we buy houses based on our faith in the home inspector’s report. Everyone lives by faith – this is an important aspect of life. If your atheist friend had no faith, he couldn’t function in life.
This is a great place to start because when an atheist realizes that they already live by faith, you can begin to discuss the fact that faith is based off of evidence. We believe in God because we have been given enough evidence that we can reasonably believe in His existence. Read “Is God Real?” for a basic list of evidences. When an atheist begins to view their life as a life of faith, it changes the discussion from “science vs. religion” to “which faith do I choose?”. In our humble opinion, this is a good, practical place to start.
Is it a sin for a christian to marry a Muslim?
Dear Inter-Faith Marriage,
‘Inter-faith’ marriages have disastrous results, an awful track record, and God warns against them. The Bible’s most notorious example of this is Solomon. Solomon’s idolatrous wives turned the heart of the wisest man on the planet away from God (1 Kgs 11:4). If Solomon in all of his wisdom couldn’t resist the pull of a false religion, we should consider ourselves just as vulnerable. There is too much at stake. If your heart is turned away from God, your soul will be eternally destroyed (Heb 3:12).
No matter how much they love each other, there are only four possible outcomes for an inter-faith marriage, and only one of them is good:
- The Muslim eventually converts and obeys the gospel, becomes a christian, and is saved (GOOD).
- The christian eventually converts and becomes a Muslim, and they are both lost (BAD).
- They both make compromises in their beliefs, and the christian no longer fully serve the Lord (BAD).
- They both eventually renounce both of their belief systems, and are both lost (BAD).
The only positive outcome is the first one, and that isn’t any more likely to happen after you are married than before. Either the Muslim will eventually convert, or they won’t – getting married won’t increase the odds.
God warns against being ‘unequally yoked’ to someone with different values than you (2 Cor 6:14-16). Once you get married, you are ‘yoked’ to that person with a lifetime agreement. A godly marriage is designed around unity (Gen 2:24). If you aren’t unified on your core belief system, then everything else will be affected. Where will your children go to church/mosque? How much money will you contribute to Islam vs. God’s church? What happens when the Muslim wants to put up Koran writings around the house? These are just a few of the thousands of day-to-day problems you would run into. God tells us that a christian should marry someone ‘in the Lord’ (1 Cor 7:39).