Vol.X No.VI Pg.3
August 1973

Testing Testimonials

Dan S. Shipley

Testimonials represent an effective method of advertising. Experts have learned that a public statement of recommendation by a well-known (or even unknown) personality can sell a lot of merchandise. Even such important considerations as price, quality and other related facts are apt to be forgotten in the hearing of a persuasive testimonial about some product. As intended, we easily relate ourselves to a TV testimonial, for example, to the extent of acquiring an unfounded confidence that, 1ike theirs, our wash will be whiter, our teeth brighter, and our itching feet relieved when we use what they use. Fortunately, it only costs a little money to learn that all such testimonials are not reliable.

But, in matters of religion, it's different. Though a lot of it, like merchandise, is promoted through testimonials, its purchase price may be wrought with eternal consequences. For this reason, every such testimonial should be tested. Souls are at stake and we must be sure. Chance and experiment may have their place with toothpaste and soap, but not in determining one's eternal destiny. At a time in which feeling and experience oriented religion is increasing in popularity, its voice and promoter the testimonial, needs examining.

Accordingly, one of the first tests to which religious testimonials should be subjected is the purpose test. What purpose does the testimonial serve that is not already served in the gospel? What message would God convey to man experientially that has not already been expressed in words? God says the gospel is capable of furnishing men unto all good works (2Tim. 3:17), bringing men to faith (ROM.10:17) and saving their souls (ROM.1:17). Can testimonials direct men to something better? If not, what purpose do they serve except to detract from the gospel that must be known and obeyed unto salvation?

In addition, such testimonials need to be examined from the standpoint of subjective evaluation. The spiritual significance of the "experience" upon which the testimonial is based is totally dependent on personal impressions. Thus, "God's leading" is subject to man's interpretation -- which makes it man's leading and man cannot direct his own steps (JER.10:23). Because men are not infallible, they are apt to be mistaken, not only in evaluating their "experiences" but even in attributing them to a Divine source.

Finally, these testimonials and those who make them should be subjected to a truth-test. Do their recommendations differ from gospel truth? (GAL.1:8,9) Are they presently abiding in the doctrine of Christ? (2JOH.9). If not, it is unthinkable that God would contradict Himself by experientially blessing those who reject His written word. It is inconceivable that God would give a "Holy Spirit-experience" to one who has no regard for Holy Spirit-revealed truth. When men are influenced to truly serve God it will be through Divine testimony and not human testimonials! "And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace..." (ACT.20:32).