Are you a Biblicist or a Pragmatist?


The Apostle Paul once told the Corinthian Church, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos…that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written…” (1 Corinthians 4:6). In other words, follow our example of being Biblicists – i.e., those who aim to live their daily lives by the Word of God alone and not by the religious traditions or sincere emotions of men. But if we begin to look honestly at the modern-day evangelical church (which includes our own lives, families and churches), we must confess that Christendom is moving along at a very low ebb, spiritually-speaking.

Why so? Well, there are obviously many factors leading up to this phenomenon. However, the following ones are probably the most prominent: Our own indwelling sin (Romans 7:14-25), the man-centeredness in our pulpits and corporate worship services (2 Timothy 4:2-5), the Scriptural reality of religious self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9), the plague of prayerlessness (Luke 18:1), an overall lack of spiritual discipline (1 Timothy 4:7), and the absence of “true” revival in America ever since the New York prayer revival of 1858 (Psalm 85:6).

Put simply, a shell of religion usually overshadows the visible church during these times because we become weary in the everyday spiritual battle(s) of living in a fallen world. At such a crossroad, genuine repentance, holy resolve, and the pursuit of godliness become hollow exercises — even though many protestant church-goers today would say that nothing is more precious to them than God’s Word, yet they often live their lives as if God has never spoken (Matthew 7:21-23).

Sadly, many religious people have learned to live double lives – one life which says “Jesus is Lord!”, while the other life rarely consults God’s Word for living in this sin-soaked world, Monday through Saturday (2 Timothy 3:1-5). As a result, as soon as they or their child become depressed or dysfunctional, they either run immediately to the “professional” instead of to the one who will have to one day give an account for their soul (Hebrews 13:17) or to their spiritual leader who will instead direct them to the “professional” (2 Timothy 4:3). At such a time, their first thought is not Scripturally, “I must go to God’s Word for counsel,” but rather therapeutically and subliminally, “which path should I take that will not make me feel that I have not been a consistent and repentant Christian, spouse, or parent.”

This morally, spiritually, and Scripturally unfounded practice of giving God’s Words mere lip-service while exchanging them for a lie (Romans 1:25), is no more clearly seen than in the modern church’s reception and integration of modern psychology into its regular counseling ministry. And what is the result? – A practical rejection, in nearly every sphere of its ministry, of the absolute authority of God’s Word for its personal, family and local church life. Pragmatism trumps Biblicism in such cases. What is pragmatism? – “If it works, do it” – or “the end justifies the means.”

How long ago did this shift begin to take place? It began when pastors, church leaders and those in the pews, most everywhere, began to think that the immaterial part of a human being (the non-physical) can be better understood by psychology than by God’s Word. The result has been spiritually-crippling to the evangelical church of today. Biblical counselor David Powlison summed up this problem best when he said, “The Church [has] lost that pastoral skill … [which] knows people, how they change, and knows how to help them change.” O dear believer, let’s begin today to return to such Biblical thinking and practice by embracing afresh our Lord’s penetrating yet hope-filled words in Matthew 4:4, “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jerry Marcellino is pastor of Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel. He can be reached by e-mail at