Home > Brandenburg, Methodology, Mix 'n Match > Are We Practical or Just Pragmatic?

Are We Practical or Just Pragmatic?

August 2, 2008

You won’t find the English word “practice” in the King James Version of the Bible. We do have the Greek word for “practice,” which is praxis. If you say “praxis” to people, they’ll think you have a speech impediment. The first time it appears in Scripture is in Acts 19:18 and it is translated “deeds.” It is found five other times and translated “works” and “office” (Rom 12:4) also. BDAG, the foremost Greek lexicon, says that it is “a function implying sustained activity,” “a way of conducting oneself, way of acting, course of action,” or “customary daily activity.” The verb form is prasso, which is found 38 times. BDAG says it means to perform an act or engage in an activity and shows how that prasso is used in that way.

Something that is “practical” is something that can be put into practice. Teaching is practical when it shows how to practice what is being taught. When we preach the Word of God, we want the listeners to practice Scripture. We don’t want just head knowledge, but we desire for the stuff in the brain to be lived out. Accurately obeying Scripture is the practice of Scripture. Living God’s Word can’t be easier than it is. We can’t take everything the Bible says to do and turn into something different than what Scripture says and have it be more practical. When it is practical, it is still Biblical.

The Problem

We have our problem, however, when men think that something that isn’t Biblical is superior to Scripture because it is either easier to practice than what the Bible says to practice or it seems to work better than what God has actually told men to do. This is where we run into a word that kind of sounds the same as practice but it is different, and that is the word “pragmatic.” The term “pragmatic” isn’t found in Scripture, but the Greek word is. Pragmateuomai is found once (Luke 19:13) and it is translated “occupy.” BDAG says it means “to do business.” The noun form pragmateia is also found once (2 Timothy 2:4) and translated “affairs.” Forms of the Greek word pragma are found twelve times. Friberg says that pragma is the result of something being done. Hebrews 11:1 uses the word pragma and translates it “things,” “the evidence of things not seen.” This helps us understand the difference between the word “practice” and the term “pragmatic.” “Pragmatic” puts the emphasis on the result of the activity and “practice” puts the emphasis on the activity itself.

When we look at Scripture, we see that we don’t have any control over the result. Man isn’t sovereign in the outcome; God is. He gives the increase. Of course, in Hebrews 11:1, the things not seen are eternal things. We live in a way that we might receive those things that we can’t yet see—heaven and eternal rewards, the pleasure of God. We assume that the results will be fine if we practice the way God wants us to practice. However, that idea has been completely turned around in modern Christianity. Men are more concerned about the results they can see than the results that God has promised if we do what He has told us to do. That isn’t living by faith. Living by sight isn’t practical. Only faith pleases God (Heb 11:6); sight doesn’t.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says our labor is not in vain in Christ. As long as our practice is lining up with God, it isn’t in vain. Some would say that it is. For instance, in the New Testament, repeatedly the Lord tells believers to go and preach. Jesus commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Some, however, would say that preaching the gospel “turns people off, so it isn’t practical.” It is practical, because it is practicing what God told believers to do. Paul informed us that the gospel was the power of God unto salvation, so he wasn’t ashamed of it (Romans 1:16). Being ashamed of the gospel is actually what isn’t practical.

What “Works”

Some might say that going and preaching “doesn’t work.” Do you see how the emphasis again is placed on the results? This teaches men to walk by sight and not by faith. When God sent us into the harvest to preach, He Himself wasn’t expecting everyone to believe. John wrote in 1 John 3:13, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” Jesus told us to expect hatred from the world (John 7:7; 15:18). Preaching the gospel will result in hatred. Do you see that result? If that is not the result you are expecting, it isn’t because God didn’t tell us it wouldn’t happen. He even told us why they hate us: because they hate the light for reproving their deeds (John 3:20).

Evangelism isn’t just so that people will be saved. When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10:3 He said, “I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” That doesn’t sound very practical, does it? When God sent out Isaiah, He told him (Isaiah 6:9-11):

Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.

That doesn’t sound very practical, well, that is, unless you think empty houses and desolate land sounds that way. It doesn’t; yet it is. Why do we know it is practical? Because God told us to practice it and then He said that He would produce this result. His result. Whatever God does is practical. When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10:16 He told them:

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

What we know when we are practicing what Jesus commanded is that if they despise us, that they despise Him too. We don’t get to see that identification of Jesus Christ with us except by faith. We trust the Lord and know that when men hate and revile us, that Jesus associates Himself with us.

Upon Further Evaluation

Many churches do a poor job of evangelizing their areas because they get better results from other types of practice. Because they have seen results, they are convinced that they are more practical than the ones who do evangelize everywhere and don’t see the same numerical results. We have actually made disobedience something practical. It isn’t practical. It is pragmatic. Unsaved men didn’t get the light or got less of it, so that they couldn’t or wouldn’t hate anything, because nothing or little they would despise was even offered. To offset anything that men might not like about the Lordship of Christ or repentance or men’s universal lack of goodness or eternal punishment in Hell to every sinner, modern Christianity lists the benefits like it is selling men on a time share. Perks are added on the way to promoting or marketing Christianity.

Joy is the outstanding outcome of Christian practice. Happiness or flesh gratification are the replacements from pragmatism. The success afforded by human techniques brings happiness. If the means doesn’t bring that desired end, however, one gets unhappiness. It’s then when the pragmatist says ’embrace joy.’ “You’re a Christian; don’t get down,” at least until the next successful result of humanly devised endeavor. Then be happy. Joy gives a level planed Christian life. Happiness brings the roller coaster. Or perhaps better the stormy tossed to and fro effect.

God motivates Christian behavior, which is described as patient endurance, by the hope of an eternal reward in the sweet by and by. James examples the farmer waiting long for his crop. Modern Christianity rejects the pie-in-the-sky for the bright cotton candy of the passing here and now. You can’t microwave eternal bread.

Because a crowd is lured to one location at a specified time, a church leader will think his practice has succeeded; therefore, whatever technique or strategy he employed was practical. Is it practical to do it a different way than what God said? Is that practicing Scripture? Is that practicing faith? If it isn’t what Jesus and His followers did in the New Testament, then it isn’t practical. The truth is that it isn’t even pragmatic. Something that is pragmatic should have the best possible result. Harming the gospel and obedience to Scripture, sending the wrong message about what church is about, Christian people perfected in the man-made strategies more than the work of the ministry, and covetousness encouraged as a motivation—none of this is practical. In the end, it doesn’t honor God either, because it isn’t acting in faith. It wasn’t the plan God showed us. It was something that we made up because we knew that it would be appreciated by the target audience, which wasn’t God. None of it came by holy men looking to obey what they have fleshed out through exegesis of God’s Word. And if it isn’t faithful, it isn’t well done.

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  1. Peter Salzmann
    August 3, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Hello Kent,

    I think you wrote this very well.

    Good job,
    Peter Salzmann

  2. Don Heinz
    August 3, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Amen. The Word never returns void. It may not be accomplishing what WE want, but it is accomplishing what God wants always.

  3. Peter Salzmann
    August 4, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Kent,

    I just thought I would re-read and found this which may seem ambiguous to readers.
    What we know when we are practicing what Jesus commanded is that if they despise us, that they despise Him too. We don’t get to see that identification of Jesus Christ with us except by faith. We trust the Lord and know that when men hate and revile us, that Jesus associates Himself with us.

    People can be hated for many different reasons. The key that Kent pointed out in the first part of the paragraph is practicing what Jesus Christ commanded us to do. When we are acting more like Christ, the more the world hates us. Boy do they hate us when we share the good news! If we were to practice being like Christ without sharing the gospel, chances are that they wouldn’t care as much. What makes me think this? Because we as people seek more after our gratification. As Kent says –
    Modern Christianity rejects the pie-in-the-sky for the bright cotton candy of the passing here and now. You can’t microwave eternal bread.
    At first reading I didn’t get this, then I remembered a class we had at Church one weekend. This really spoke to me because I think we are all guilty of this at some point in our life. I would even say that we constantly do it, perhaps less noticeable then other times. Instead of the pie-in-the-sky and cotton candy analogy the teacher used a diamond and tinsel. We need to practice reaching for the diamond, not grabbing at the tinsel.

    Because a crowd is lured to one location at a specified time, a church leader will think his practice has succeeded; therefore, whatever technique or strategy he employed was practical. Is it practical to do it a different way than what God said? Is that practicing Scripture? Is that practicing faith? If it isn’t what Jesus and His followers did in the New Testament, then it isn’t practical. The truth is that it isn’t even pragmatic. Something that is pragmatic should have the best possible result. Harming the gospel and obedience to Scripture, sending the wrong message about what church is about, Christian people perfected in the man-made strategies more than the work of the ministry, and covetousness encouraged as a motivation—none of this is practical. In the end, it doesn’t honor God either, because it isn’t acting in faith. It wasn’t the plan God showed us. It was something that we made up because we knew that it would be appreciated by the target audience, which wasn’t God. None of it came by holy men looking to obey what they have fleshed out through exegesis of God’s Word. And if it isn’t faithful, it isn’t well done.

    I quite liked this paragraph. This could very well be in response to something I wrote in the Witnessing to Mormons post, I said I confirm that we can know for certain that God does exist. That knowledge unlocks so much more then just fear. Admiration and love, desire to please and joy. Outright joy that the Heavenly Father exits and that He sent His Son to allow us to return to Him. The most blessed happening in the universe. I must assert that this knowledge is to be sought after!
    I am not sure if this was Kent’s intention. If it was I would like to thank him for thinking of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka “Mormonism” as Christians. Better then that, he may have called us Modern Christians, as opposed to Early Christians. I would count that as almost accepting us as Christ’s church. Don’t worry Kent, I am just having fun with your words.
    If Kent’s intention was a response to my particular post I thought I should point out that the intention has never been to promote covetousness but to promote turning to God in prayer. The scriptures are the yard stick to measure what one preaches. With many different interpretations to be made from them, anything supported by Scripture can be termed Biblical. The scriptures should never be used as a replacement for the Living God, they are a tool for measuring someones life against and also a warning (I am aware that there is more to them then that). When someone only looks to the scriptures and doesn’t turn to God, to seek His will, they seem to be hearkening to their own understanding and when they call the scriptures the ultimate authority it almost seems like they are setting up the scriptures as an idol to be worshiped. The first and greatest commandment Mark 12:30, it doesn’t say love thy scriptures.
    The point of the scriptures is to turn people to God, not turn people to the scriptures. Adam talked with the Living God, Noah talked with the Living God, Abraham talked with the Living God, Moses talked with the Living God, Christ did also talk with the Living God, Peter talked with the Living God, Joseph Smith talked with the Living God.
    You too can talk with the Living God. He is just a prayer away.

    Of course Kent may not have been referring to my post. If that is the case I think this was still a worthwhile read. Both Kent’s diatribe and mine.

    Kind regards,
    Peter

  4. Bobby
    August 11, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Peter,

    If you are a Mormon, then you are anti-Christ. The readers should beware of this. You are a false apostle and you have no “part nor lot in this matter.” The Apostle John warned believers against so much as bidding you “godspeed.” Kent’s article is good for the readers to examine, but your works and words are to be reproved as “unfruitful works of darkness.” The heresy of your church and you has been noted abundantly. You have been admonished by the men of God here and I trust that they will Scripturally reject you.

    Joseph Smith did not talk with the living God. The Scripture makes it clear that men like Joseph Smith are deceived and damned. I urge you to repent of your wickedness and flee to the grace of God.

    I’m writing this because I’m assuming that Kent, Dave, and Jeff have not noticed your post. It needs to be stated that we are not in agreement with you, your church, or your contention that it is a truly the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  5. Matt
    August 12, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Bobby,

    It saddens me that you call pete and i anti-christ when our sole purpose is to persuade men to come unto Christ and be saved.

    It appears that you dsicounted everything Peter said. Peter encoraged us to pray to our Heavenly Father. If your against that because i’m not a member of your church, maybe you should re-think attacking other peoples faith.

  6. August 13, 2008 at 4:53 am

    You reject the Jesus of the Bible – and embrace your own made up Jesus (man that became god, brother of Lucifer) – that makes you an antichrist according to God’s Word.

    2 John 1:7-11 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

    You don’t know the Biblical Jesus; therefore you have neither the Father nor the Son.

  7. Bobby
    August 13, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Matt,

    The “Jesus” that Joseph Smith invented was “another Christ” who had “another gospel” and “another spirit.”

    The Apostle Paul did not sit quietly by and listen to the type of heresy your are espousing, not even for one hour.

    I urge you to turn from your idols and trust the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver you from darkness and damnation.

    You have been given all the Truth that you need as Dave and Kent have dealt with you from the Holy Scriptures. I hope you will embrace it.

  8. Dave Mallinak
    August 14, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Matt,

    The problem, once again, is not with Peter asking us to pray. We pray, and we believe that we ought to pray. To say that we oppose praying is to twist what we have said.

    The problem is with Peter’s challenge that we lay aside the Bible as self-attestingly authoritative, and that we seek outside verification of its truth. If the Bible is in fact true, then it needs no external verification. If the Bible is God’s Word, given directly by God to man, then we must accept it on its own merits, and not on the merits of a direct revelation that we received independently of the Word.

    Seeking this outside verification, which Peter plainly called for, is sign-seeking in its purest form. It is not a way of knowing the truth. It presupposes that the truth is known through a burning in the bosom, rather than through its own merits (which are verifiable).

    Most of all, this search for outside verification is rebellion against the Living God. God has given us His Word (II Peter 1:21; I Thess 2:13), and God demands that we receive it as such. If we believe the Word on its own authority, then we are obedient. If we believe the Word because we have had it proven to us, then we have made ourselves the authority for what is truth and what is not truth. And this, of course, puts us in the same category as Eve, who, when she knew God’s Word, decided to step back and make herself the judge.

    Matt, you have made yourself the judge of whether or not God’s Word is truth. Naturally, then, you will decide for yourself which parts of the Word to accept, and which parts to reject. You have made yourself the god. This is rebellion against the one true God. And you must turn from this sin, repent, and accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the ultimate authority, as God’s Word to man.

  9. Matt
    August 14, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Dave,

    I didnt make myself the God, and i didn’t reject Him or make myself the judge, neither did Peter.

    Praying to ask The Father, in the name of the Son, with a sinceare heart and real intent, to ask wether the bible or any other book of scripture is from God and is his word, does not contradict scripture. It supports it. It is the way the Lord gave us to turn the belief that reading these sacred records gives us into faith.

    God Himself is the ultimate authority.

  10. Dave Mallinak
    August 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    First, it is a rejection of the self-evident authority of the Bible. If God Himself is the ultimate authority, as you say, then you accept God’s Word on its own merits, not because you have had your own special revelation or witness of its truth. When you accept the Bible because of some external proof that you have had, whether it be because you saw a vision, heard a voice, or felt a moving in your heart, then you are saying that the Bible cannot be trusted on its own say-so. It needs outside verification. And that means that you have, like Eve, stepped back and judged for yourself whether or not it is true. That is what I mean when I say that you have made yourself god.

    I have repeatedly challenged your way of knowing. You say that you know because you have had confirmation in the form of a burning in the bosom. But neither you nor Peter nor any other of the LDS visitors to this site have given any warrant for believing that this is a legitimate way of knowing. I do not mind once again offering a demonstration that it is not.

    First, you run into problems when you try to explain your rejection of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. Do they not have the same epistemology as you? Do you deny that they also have a burning in the bosom, or the witness of the Spirit (as you prefer to say it)? The only basis you could possibly have for saying that they are not right in their doctrines and practices is by saying that it is different than yours.

    Secondly, you have a problem when you attempt to justify your epistemology and give a warrant for it. If you say that this epistemology comes from the Bible, then you are not faithful to your epistemology. Because you are relying on a different way of knowing than the one you profess to believe. If you must pray about it before you can determine whether or not it is the truth, then I have to ask, did you seek outside verification for this way of knowing that you saw in the Bible before you used this way of knowing?

    Thirdly, your way of knowing is circular reasoning, plain and simple. If you insist that the way we know the truth is by “Praying to ask The Father, in the name of the Son, with a sinceare heart and real intent, to ask wether the bible or any other book of scripture is from God and is his word” (your words), then I have to ask how you know that this is a way of knowing. Did you ask God if this is a way of knowing? For the sake of argument, let us say that before you prayed about whether the Bible was true, you first prayed about whether praying about the Bible was actually a way of knowing. Even then, you are making an assumption… you are assuming that you must pray about these things before you can know. You are assuming what you should prove. That is circular reasoning.

    Fourthly, if I take your position, and insist on testing every truth claim the same way, since the only way I can know a thing to be true is by praying and asking God whether it is true, then I am going to have trouble with denying anyone else’s truth claim. How do I know what God told them? What if God gave them a different answer than me? I surely cannot say that God does not give different answers to different people, can I? What if I come up with an answer like, say, Tom Greene, or Warren Jeffs, or even Brian David Mitchell? What then? I can’t deny the burning I have in my own bosom, can I? And what warrant do you have for denying it? Did you pray about my testimony before you denied it?

    At this important juncture in our discussion, I want to point out an important claim that Peter made in one of his comments during my discussion with him. It comes from comment #67 under “Witnessing to Mormons.” I quote it here…

    The Holy Ghost will testify of truth wherever it is found. If you prayed about Jesus being the Christ of course you will have this experience, because Jesus is the Christ. If you prayed and asked if God is a metaphysical being that somehow manifests itself into three people, then you wouldn’t have this experience. You could point to scriptures that support this but we could also point to scriptures that demonstrate that God, His Son and the Holy Ghost are separate distinct beings. What we teach, would have an accompanying burning of the bosom (or however else God wishes to let you know).

    Do you not see here the gigantic logical leap that Peter is making? He is urging me to pray about the truth… almost in a piecemeal fashion. I should pray about Jesus being the Christ. I should pray about the Trinity, the doctrine of the Triune God. He is telling me that for whatever really is the truth, I will have an accompanying burning in the bosom or some other similar verification in my heart. God will let me know. That is what Peter says. But before I even pray about it, Peter is already telling me which truths God will verify, and which truths God will not verify. Wow!

    It leaves one to wonder what is the point of praying. Peter already told me that there is no Trinity, and God will not give me an experience to tell me otherwise. So, I guess, if God does give me a testimony that there is a Trinity, then my burning in the bosom must be false. Peter has already told me that what the LDS church teaches, those who pray will have an accompanying burning in the bosom in some form or other. So, I guess that if I experience a burning in the bosom that says otherwise, well… it must be false.

    So, Matt, once again, you are left with trying to explain to me how I know that my experience really is correct. I am interested to hear your answer. After claiming that the truth is known subjectively, will you now give me an objective standard? Will you tell me that the LDS church is the standard, and that any experience or testimony that says otherwise is false? Do we measure our experience/testimony/burning in the bosom by LDS church dogma, or do we maintain that we know these things through prayer and asking God to show us?

    I’m waiting anxiously to hear an answer on this, Matt.

  11. Doyle
    August 18, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t even know what everybody is talking about, but what I know is that God is true, and every man a liar. We just need to accept it. The LDS church is false, not only because it is polytheistic and has obviously false doctrines (they say Satan was Jesus’ brother and that all the gods have sex for eternity), but also because of their traditions. This world is filled with ignorance and idolatry, FULL OF IT. You wouldn’t believe how many people call themselves Christians but actually are not. Mystery Babylon (the Roman Catholic Church) is filling the world with lies like it always has. Lucifer has done it again. Isaiah told the nations to stop their idolatry, but let’s just say we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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