Religious "Mad Libs"
If you are not familiar with “Mad Libs”, it is essentially a paragraph or short story with major details left unfilled, such as nouns, adjectives, etc. For example: “The (noun) was going to (verb) in the (noun).” The object of this game is to choose whatever words you want to fill in the needed blanks, and then to read the story aloud, often with humorous results. Continuing off the previous example, using “pineapple”, “swim” and “cheesecake”, the following occurs: “The Pineapple was going to Swim in the Cheesecake.” When this occurs in a spiritual context, however, the results are tragic instead of humorous.
This often occurs as a part of a defense for why a person chooses to continue in whatever religious practices they have chosen. When questioned or challenged on any particular belief or association, the defendant often times does so by playing spiritual “Mad Libs” using some version of the paragraph that follows:
“I have attended (a particular denomination) for (a significant amount of time). My (prominent family member) was a member of (same denomination) for (a large amount of time). I've (experienced major life events) with this church family. Through it all, I've always felt the (a Biblical emotion) of the Lord through (aforementioned denomination). I've done (some manner of spiritual activity), and I know (a declaration of God’s satisfaction with me). The way I see it, (a religious belief based on human reasoning).”
People make these sorts of arguments on a daily basis to defend all sorts of religious practices. In fact, offering up this sort of reasoning is often the parting shot of a person who is convinced of their own righteousness, and of their lack of a need to change said practices. It is sad that intelligent men and women will resort to lighting their own path through spiritual darkness, to their own destruction. Isaiah 50.11 reads: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” In this passage, those individuals who would seek to light their own path are contrasted with those in v.10 who “trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”
By playing spiritual “Mad Libs”, individuals are seeking to please God by filling in whatever suits them in the religious blanks and placing their trust in the outcome, when in reality what results is as spiritually ludicrous as the pineapple swimming in the cheesecake. Men and women are seeking to defend religious practice on the basis of length of time spent engaged, the feelings experienced as a result, the flimsy human logic behind it, etc. The real tragedy of this is that God, through His Word, has not left us to come up with our own spiritual “Mad Lib” to be graded at the end of our life here on Earth. He has given us “all things that pertain to life and Godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1.3b).
A person who seeks to be pleasing to God need only turn to the Scriptures for everything that they do. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3.16-17) Furthermore, we are warned repeatedly in the Bible against the dangers of depending on our own reasoning for what we do. Simply consider the three accounts in Matthew 25. In all three, the party that was in the wrong (the ten foolish virgins, the 1 talent man, and the goats) all depended on their own reasoning for what they did. All three laid “down in torment”, as God through Isaiah told would happen to those who depended on their own light to walk instead of The Light. (John 1)
The paragraph of the true believer in God will have answers derived from careful study of the scriptures instead of human reasoning: “I have been added to (the Church, the Kingdom of God: Acts 2.41, 47) since (I obeyed the Gospel: Mark 16.16, 2 Th. 1.8). I know that (human reasoning is not to be trusted: Jer. 10.23) and that (God’s ways are above our ways: Isa. 55.8-9). My church family (are children of God through faith: Gal. 3.26) and that there is/are (One: Eph. 4.4-6) way to God, and that is through (not my opinion, conclusion, or conviction, but only through Jesus Christ: John 14.6). To be pleasing to God, I must (love Him in obedience: 1 John 2.4-6), (love my brothers/sisters: 1 John 2.9-10), and (reject the world in favor of God: Matt. 6.19-24; 1 John 2.15-17)."