"Nothing is more shameful than to affirm before knowing."
[Cicero, Academica, i. 45.)
Do you have a strong testimony about your religion? Do you believe it is true beyond the shadow of a doubt? How do you really know it's based on truth? Can you prove it? This post describes the traps that can lead to unrealized false testimonies. The next two weekly posts will provide additional insight on the subject and tell you how to confirm what you believe.
What is a testimony?
In religion and law, a testimony is a "solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter." Members of every religion attest in their own way to what they believe is the truth. A Christian's testimony normally consists of how one became a Christian. A Mormon's testimony, however, is different. It claims to be an attestation of the truth of their church's beliefs received directly from the Holy Ghost (despite the mechanical method mentioned in the previous post). Of necessity, the Mormon testimony must include five particulars, usually accompanied by "I know" or "I bear witness."
"I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith was a prophet; that the Book of Mormon is true; the LDS Church is the only true church, and I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, and President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, seer and revelator."
Their all-inclusive, heaven-sent testimony which is verbalized with fervor, is proof to them that what they believe is true. But do personal testimonies like the above really testify to the truth beyond any doubt? I suggest not. It can't be, because Mormons aren't the only ones who declare them.
Members of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church testify (often with tears), "I know that Reverend Moon is the Second Messiah." Muslims declare: "I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger." Jehovah's Witnesses and other fringe religions, cults and sects also have their emphatic testimonies. But, they can't all be right.
The problem is that a religious testimony is subjective (an opinion influenced solely by personal bias and emotion existing only in a person’s mind and heart). Thus, it is susceptible to deception. But can a testimony about one's faith ever be objective? (based strictly on observable phenomena) Is there a way to confirm one's testimony so as to remove any doubt? Yes . . . there definitely is. We'll get to that soon. But first, here are ten traps that blind many in assessing the validity of their testimony:
Trap 1. Believing your church and its doctrines are true because of the personal fervor and emotion exhibited in other members' testimony, as well as your own.
Trap 2. Assume there is no need to question because the leader is anointed by God and is more spiritual than you.
Trap 3. Suspend critical thinking because the area of mind doesn't pertain to spiritual matters.
Trap 4. There is no real objective way to prove a religion true or untrue, so blind faith must be utilized. As long as they acknowledge Jesus, everything is fine.
Trap 5. The church makes me feel good; therefore, it must be true.
Trap 6. No need to question or investigate other options. All truth is encompassed in my church.
Trap 7. I must reject all facts that conflict with my personal testimony.
Trap 8. Extra-biblical revelation is a necessity, because the Bible is ancient, faulty and unreliable. New truths are required for new times.
Trap 9. Embrace different doctrines, rituals and paths to salvation that come via a leader's revelations, even if not found in the Bible.
Trap 10. View historic Christianity and the larger body of Christ as apostate, and one's own church as true.
Ponder the above. Analyze your own religious testimony. See if it gets you to thinking. Next Tuesday (Feb. 7th) I'll post seven tips to counter these traps. Then, the following Tuesday (Feb. 14th) I'll give you three steps that will enable you to authenticate and confirm what you believe. You'll either end up a happy camper, or you will embark on a quest you hadn't anticipated.
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