When I was in college I went on a field trip to the Scientology Celebrity Centre. This is the kind of thing you do when you go to a Christian college. While I was off meeting Tom Cruise, some other group of students was visiting the local Mormon ward. Our tour guide explained that Scientology is not a religion and that their membership included members of all kinds of faith.
We were on a fact finding trip so all of our questions were only meant to clarify not to challenge. But even if I were allowed to challenge the glassy-eyed young woman I don’t think I could have successfully influenced her to believe that a Christian could not truly call themselves both a Christian and a Scientologist. The two would seem to contain mutually exclusive propositions. The deeper your knowledge of the two became the more in conflict they would appear to be. (for example )
The topic of the security of salvation for Mormons is often brought up when LDS and Evangelicals get together. Quite frankly it’s often put in these terms by Evangelicals “you’re going to hell”. I don’t wish to debate whether or not Mormons are Christians or pretend to know who exactly is going to hell. The only thing I know about it is that we all deserve to go there and Christ alone is the judge of what level of belief a person must have to warrant his grace.
But one thing is for sure, false prophets are specifically condemned by nearly every New Testament writer and Jesus himself. We MUST be on the look out for them and we MUST reject their teachings. It doesn’t appear to me that a true disciple of Christ can follow a false prophet. At best you could say a person is a failed disciple of Christ.
An immature believer might continue to engage in sin. But as that person is disciplined and molded into the character of Jesus their transgression will lessen in frequency and severity. This is the good fruit of a true believer.
Likewise, I think we can expect to see immature believers following after false prophets and bad teachings. I don’t expect to find the serious elite of Christianity sitting in the pews of the health-and-wealth churches. But as they investigate the Bible and their own faith with more seriousness, as they learn to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, they will learn to recognize false prophets when they hear them.
So what should we think of a person with a salvation experience who goes on sinning? Their bad fruit makes me nervous for them. They certainly are not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven and I don’t know if I can say with any certainty that they ever will. Over 70% of US citizens claim they have a personal relationship with Jesus that is still important to them today. Clearly there is a difference between saying you have faith in Jesus and actually practicing faith in him. I simply don’t know if they ever loved Jesus.
I think the same can be said for those who listen to false prophets. It can be excused as immaturity to some degree. But when those individuals start reaching into leadership positions and serious Biblical study, their inability to understand “sound doctrine” leaves me puzzled at the seriousness of their commitment to Christ. To be sure, they exhibit a serious commitment to their religious practice and to the false teachings they’ve adopted. But if they can not abandon those for their first love, I don’t know if I can say they ever loved Jesus.
But a true follower of Jesus will seek after righteousness and truth and strive to abandon both sin and falsehood. Is a person who goes on sinning a true Christian? “By their fruits you shall know them.” Is a person who follows a false prophet a true Christian? “By their fruits you shall know them.”
Now before everyone gets their panties in a bunch. I don’t think this line of reasoning is necessarily good news for me. I think the same can be said for rejecting a true prophet. I think Joseph Smith clearly demonstrated himself to be an abusive, manipulative false prophet. If he happens to have been a true prophet of Christ (with the longest leash in history), and I reject him and encourage others to reject him, what kind of standing do I have with Jesus? “By their fruits you shall know them.” The last thing you could say about me is that I am a “good Christian”. My actions prove otherwise.
Perhaps there is a third way out. Do you believe a true follower of Jesus could follow a false prophet or reject a true prophet?