Charles J. Aebi

A professor of entomology (the study of insects) assigned his students to collect certain bug specimens for a laboratory project. Two young men decided to play a trick on the teacher, so they caught a grasshopper, a centipede, a wasp, and several other little creatures. They killed them, dissected them, and glued their parts together into a strange-looking bug and took it to the professor. He examined it carefully and asked the boys, "Did this bug hum when you caught it?" The boys said, "Uh ... Yes." The teacher said, "Then perhaps we should call it a humbug!"

Sometimes people do things in religion similar to what the boys tried. They take a little from this and a little from that and put them together to make a church, a system of theology, or a religion. There are lots of examples of this in Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and various other religions. Mormonism, which has been noticed recently because of Mitt Romney, is a mixture of elements derived from the Old Testament, the New Testament, myths and legends about Indians current some 180 years ago, and the imaginations of Joseph Smith and others. Anyone familiar with the Old Testament will notice that parts of it have been lifted, changed, and plagiarized into the humbug called the Book of Mormon. Islam and the Koran, of recent interest because of Barack Obama, is a humbug made of pieces taken from Judaism, Christianity, and paganism.

Medieval Catholicism is a similar humbug, having in it elements of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the paganism of Europe. The priesthood with all its trappings, the burning of incense, candles, and other rituals are taken from the Old Testament. Baptism, the cross of Christ, and other things are taken from the New Testament, altered, and incorporated with that taken from the Old Testament. To this are added various pagan holy days and practices, along with a large body of traditions. The practice of circumcision from the Old Testament is coupled with baptism from the New Testament to justify infant baptism, and tradition is employed to develop it into sprinkling instead of immersion.

Protestantism owes much to John Calvin, who took from various sources like Augustine (a North African bishop over a thousand years before Calvin) and the European reformers of Calvin's own 16th century. The average Protestant church today is likewise a humbug, taking some practices from Calvin, some from Catholicism, and some from modern traditions, many of them only a few decades old. Both Catholicism and Protestantism are constantly changing, adding new practices that spread like infections but often die out after a while. Many churches try to "blend with the trend" that is newest. Trends of bus ministries, mega-church operations, soup kitchens, alternative worship services, drive-in church, and dozens of other practices sweep across the country. Some of these last a few years, some longer, but most are replaced after a while with something else. If everyone would just stick to teaching the gospel as it is, we would not need to be forever finding some new program or leg or wing to make a humbug.

The simplicity of New Testament Christianity is what is needed to save the souls of the lost, but the more it is mixed with other concerns, the less effective it is in actually saving souls. Preaching the word is what New Testament Christians did (Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 2:2) and what we should do. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.


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