In my book, I also go over encounters that I had with some Christians outside the church who I perceived to be over-zealous fanatics. Because they would seem so full of joy and enthusiasm when they would talk about Jesus and what He did on the cross. And, for the life of me, I could not figure out why in the world anyone would be so joyful about Jesus merely making a way for us to save ourselves through works of obedience. Because, for me, it had always been horrible news (and rightly so), because I just knew I was going to fail on “my part” and end up in Hell. Any honest person would!
As a former, fourth generation member of the CoC, my testimony reveals that there is no true possession of the gospel in the CoC. There is just possession of a system that Jesus supposedly left us with. But the true gospel is that Jesus actually accomplished redemption on the cross for His people, rather than just making a system available, where one can redeem themselves. Jesus never made a way for God to lower His perfect standard of righteousness! On the contrary, Jesus fulfilled God’s perfect standard of righteousness on behalf of His people. He died for their sins so that they can have His perfect righteousness credited to their account, and so they can serve God out of a loving and reverent fear, rather than a legalistic fear.
In the CoC we were theologically conditioned to believe a different gospel and “hope for the best,” thinking our good would somehow outweigh the bad. But reality constantly testified to the fact that it was impossible! Although I believed in God with all my heart, I had a hard time believing in a Savior that supposedly died for everyone but allowed many that He supposedly died for to perish in Hell. Our false doctrines made me think that whatever He did for sinners, it must not have been enough to save us from ourselves, let alone save us from Hell. So although I thought that I had come to Jesus to be saved, I still lived in constant fear that He would allow me to perish in Hell if I didn’t do everything “just right.”
But I didn’t realize then that I had come to another Jesus, one not represented in Holy Scriptures. It was a different Jesus and a different spirit that I had received; a Jesus who was unloving and untrustworthy unless I “did my part;” a Savior who couldn’t really save, unless I saved myself; a taskmaster who would meet me in the waters of baptism, but leave me as soon as I rose out of the water and sinned again. So I began to feel as if I would have had more hope if I had drowned in the waters of baptism.
Yet, while going through the physical process, there was this grand illusion of resurrection to new life, because that’s what we were led to believe baptism literally did. While under such suggestive, baptismal regeneration conditioning, one couldn’t help but to imagine that one’s sins were literally being washed away in the water, due to the trick terminology used. But in practical reality… it never played out that way.
Inwardly, I had become even worse, for to my former guilt I had added the sin of self-righteousness. But even though I was told that I was now a Christian, my conscience was still far from being purged from guilt, no matter how hard I tried to believe that I had actually come to Christ in baptism. I was told that I had peace where there was no peace (Jer. 6:14).
Instead of carrying God’s pardon sealed in my heart by the Holy Spirit, through faith in Jesus, I then had to carry the added burden of trying to earn God’s pardon by throwing myself into the CoC’s “second laws of pardon.” For although we were taught that baptism was supposed to initially put one into Christ, and initially put one into right standing with God, we were also taught that one could fall from grace out of Christ as soon as one sins.
This was a classic example of tap water theology, where one turns the grace of God on or off at will. One minute I would be repenting for a certain sin that would immediately be replaced by another….and then another. And yet, this was the vicious cycle that I had to learn to live with, as one who was still dead in sins and trespasses, for I had not been truly changed and born again by the sanctifying power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Instead, I was deceived by a false support system that could only support me as long as I supported myself, by fulfilling the “second laws of pardon” that allowed me to “grow in Christ,” which meant gaining more salvation brownie-points. So, like many, I became extremely “religious,” but still lived just as worldly as any other lost sinner. Because, in the CoC anything went, as long as it was socially sanctioned and/or popularized on television.
Since we didn’t have formal, doctrinal positions to safeguard any kind of true, biblical structure in our lives, we could believe or do anything outside the church that we wanted, as long as we just kept a misguided trust in the CoC’s outward codes of behavior and its unique interpretations of Scripture.
I thoroughly go over how the CoC’s conditioning process produced a type of religious schizophrenia, for we had to disassociate our legalistic and perfectionist theology from our worldly lifestyles and our lust for worldly entertainment. This was the only way we could still claim to be Christian, and yet still fit in with the world. So, predictably, we ended up blending in perfectly with the world.
Instead of being separate from the world as “salt and light,” our selective perceptions allowed us to choose those things which were of the devil, disassociate them from our theology, and still maintain our social status as a “Christian.” After all, it was still fashionable to be considered a Christian. But in instances where it wasn’t, we kept silent and made sure to never “rock the boat.”
In my book I unfold how compulsive conformity was the name of the game in the CoC. Far from promoting spiritual growth in the midst of life’s problems, the CoC’s system of theology served to promote neurotic and psychotic tendencies that affected how we viewed ourselves and God. Although we sincerely thought we were “doing right,” we were actually being led further and further away from the true God and Savior of Scripture. Sincerity is no guarantee of Heaven. As it has often been said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” And there are many ways to Hell, but only one Way to Heaven….the true Jesus of the Bible.
Copyright ©2019 by Lee Anne Ferguson