Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. –Colossians 2:8
I fear that many nominal Christians–that is, Christians in name only–are this way due to the error of ancestor worship. Normally, in the study of world religions, if a person were to use this expression, then they would be referring to what you can see in Chinese folk religion, like in the Disney movie Mulan. There are several scenes in that movie that depict Mulan’s family shrine. Ghosts of family members’ past are prayed to and sometimes appear to bring help and guidance. This also exists in some forms of folk Catholicism in Mexico with the Day of the Dead. In this rationalistic, post-Enlightenment age of science, like we have in Europe and America now, the literal forms of ancestor worship such as seance-like ghost contact are mostly absent. But the outward forms of it still persist, in the stubborn intellectual continuity of those still living, out of honor and respect for their dead loved ones. But how much of this is really just “the tradition of men”? Republican and Democratic political philosophies, a secular work ethic, Americanism, profanity, deceit, hypermasculinity, competition, feminism, racial opinions, denominational memberships, materialism, and lots of other things like this are often inherited from parents and grandparents.
Unless the Bible comes into the picture; and the Holy Spirit is free to authoritatively use it to reevaluate everything a person believes, then it is likely that people will simply roll along in the traditions of their fathers (Galatians 1:14). Ask yourself: do you believe all the things you believe simply because your mom or dad believed them? If that’s the case, you might be wrong about some of your opinions. Take yourself to the Word of God. Take that conviction you hold, that opinion, that notion, or sentiment, and see if you can find any support for it in the Bible. If there is no support for it, then discard it. Congratulations if you get into the habit of doing this, because Jesus said that we become sanctified when we allow Scripture to do that for us. John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Are your religious convictions weak because your dad’s religion was weak? Are you a United Methodist just because your dad was a United Methodist? Do you love your dead parent so much that you’re also willing to copy him in his errors? Why! You are committing the idolatry of ancestor worship if you’re doing that. You’ve got the Bible right there. Stop comparing yourself with your dead ancestors! It’s about God, it’s about you, and it’s about the Bible. Deal with it like that. Your life and your soul’s eternal state are nothing to be trifled with: nothing to be cast into the hands of mere nostalgia for the past. Faith alone in the revealed principles of the Word of God is the only thing that will land you safely on Heaven’s shore. John the Baptist addressed this once. Matthew 3:7-10: “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Are you following your dead parent into eternity? If so, then why? Follow Jesus!