Identifying False Teachers & False Religions

Both false teachers and false religion can always be identified by asking three simple questions:

  1. What about Christ?
  2. What about salvation?
  3. What about the Bible?

Allow me to explain:

  1. Concerning Christ, what does the teaching/religion being questioned say about Christ? If it’s NOT the Christ of scripture, the Son of God, second person of the trinity, the one who died for the sins of men it is a false Christ.
  2. Concerning salvation, how is any man saved according to the teacher or religion under scrutiny? If salvation comes not from grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone it is false doctrine. if men must add works for justification/salvation, or add works to remain justified after having repented and been forgiven for sin, Is is false doctrine.
  3. Concerning the Bible, what does that teacher or religion say about the Bible? if the Bible is not viewed as the Word of God and sufficient for everything leading to a Godly life, it is false doctrine. If other books are set alongside the Bible as equal to it, or traditions of men considered equal to scripture, walk away.

It might be beneficial to ask the questions in the order presented above, and here is why I say that. The wrong answer about Christ settles the matter. A correct answer concerning Christ can be given, but a wrong answer concerning salvation. Case closed. Correct answers can be given concerning Christ and salvation, but an incorrect view of the Bible means trouble. There are, in fact, theological terms for each of these subjects; Christology, soteriology, and bibliology. the Web site Got Questions has excellent summaries of all three:

“What is Christology?”

Answer: The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the words “I am God,” He made many other statements that can’t be properly interpreted to mean anything else.

What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Why is the virgin birth so important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.

What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ. It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well. An in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer’s daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in Him.

Recommended Resource: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles Swindoll

“What is Soteriology?”

Answer: Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. Soteriology discusses how Christ’s death secures the salvation of those who believe. It helps us to understand the doctrines of redemption, justification, sanctification, propitiation, and the substitutionary atonement. Some common questions in studying Soteriology are:

Once saved always saved? Perhaps the most heart-wrenching fear some believers live with is that we can do something to lose our salvation. But the Bible speaks clearly about the eternality of our salvation and how we are preserved by the One who bought us with His blood.

Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?

Is baptism required for salvation? What is baptismal regeneration? Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. While baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, the Bible is clear that baptism is not a requirement for salvation.

What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be a born again Christian? The phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” It is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes—a spiritual transformation. Other than Christology,

Soteriology is the area where Christianity is the most different from the cults and other world religions. Understanding Biblical Soteriology will help us to know why salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. No other religion bases salvation on faith alone. Soteriology helps us to see why. A clear understanding of our salvation will provide a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) because we come to know that He who can never fail is the means by which we were saved and the means by which we remain secure in our salvation. If we were responsible to save ourselves and keep ourselves saved, we would fail. Thank God that is not the case! Titus 3:5-8 is a tremendous summary of Soteriology, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Recommended Resource: So Great Salvation by Charles Ryrie

“What is Bibliology?”

Answer: Bibliology is the study of the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible is the inspired source of knowledge about God, Jesus Christ, salvation, and eternity. Without a proper view of the Bible, our views on these and other issues become clouded and distorted. Bibliology tells us what the Bible is. Common questions in Bibliology are:

Is the Bible truly God’s Word? Our answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its importance to our lives, but also ultimately will have an eternal impact on us.

What is the canon of Scripture? The basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we can’t identify what is Scripture, then we can’t properly distinguish any theological truth from error.

What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? While there are different views as to what extent the Bible is inspired, there can be no doubt that the Bible itself claims that every word, in every part of the Bible, is inspired by God (1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Does the Bible contain errors, contradictions, or discrepancies? If you read the Bible, at face value, without a preconceived bias for finding errors – you will find it to be a coherent, consistent, and relatively easy-to-understand book.

Is there proof for the inspiration of the Bible? Among the proofs for the divine inspiration of the Bible are fulfilled prophecy, the unity of Scripture, and the support of archeological findings. Its most important proof, however, is in the lives of those who read it, believe it, and live according to its precepts.

Bibliology teaches us that the Bible is inspired, meaning it is “breathed out” by God. A proper Bibliology holds to the inerrancy of Scripture—that the Bible does not contain any errors, contradictions, or discrepancies. A solid Bibliology helps us to understand how God used the personalities and styles of the human authors of Scripture and still produced His Word and exactly what He wanted to be said. Bibliology enables us to know why other books were excluded from the Bible. For the Christian, the Bible is life itself. Its pages are filled with the very Spirit of God, revealing His heart and mind to us. What a wonderful and gracious God we have! He could have left us to struggle through life with no help at all, but He gave His Word to guide us, truly a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). A key Scripture on Bibliology is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Geisler & Howe

Lies We Believe About God (a review of the new book by The Shack author William Paul Young)

by Pastor Gabriel Hughes, First Southern Baptist Church, Junction City, Kansas

Hot on the release of the mediocre film The Shack (18% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.8 viewer rating on IMDb), the book’s author William Paul Young has released Lies We Believe About God. It came out March 7, less than a week after The Shack hit theaters.

If there was any question about Young’s theology, this book leaves no doubt. Personally, I had no questions about what Young believes about God — it’s all in The Shack. But this hasn’t stopped scores of people from defending the book/movie as “just a story.” For example, rapper Lecrae, featured on the film’s soundtrack, defended it as just fiction and not theology, as though fiction gets a pass when it comes to the scrutiny God commands we are to give everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Aside from the fact that any talk about God is theology, Young has outright said The Shack is theology. In the forward to C. Baxter Kruger’s book The Shack Revisited, Young wrote, “Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.” (This is the quote given in the WWUTT video on The Shack vs The Bible.)

Kruger returned the favor by writing the forward to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. And it’s a really weird forward. It’s almost as if Kruger is saying, “I know the stuff you’re going to read in this book is kind of wonky, but I can verify that William Paul Young is still a Christian!” In actuality, Young in his own words exposes himself as a heretic. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. He already did this in The Shack.

All of Young’s chapters in the book are “lies we believe about God.” There are 28 of them, chock full of man-centered doctrine. It’s not kind-of man-centered. It’s all man-centered. Here are ten of the titles of these chapters and the theology they contain. Again, the titles are all “lies” Young says most people believe about God.

“God is good, I am not.”
And again, I must emphasize Young believes this is a lie. He goes as far as saying that there are pastors who are allowed to stand in their pulpits and preach this lie that people are not good. Young has a tenuous relationship with the Bible. Sometimes entire chapters of his don’t contain a single verse. So we don’t know how Young deals with passages like Romans 3:12 which says, “No one does good,” or verse 23 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Young repeats the liberal theological trope that everything God makes is good, and since I’m made in the image of God, I am good. But he misses the reality of original sin: since Adam, we have taken that image and desecrated it with our sin, exalting ourselves in the place of God, and for that we deserve His holy and divine wrath. Jesus, the only good man there ever was, satisfied the wrath of God with His sacrifice on the cross. All who believe in Jesus will live. That gospel message does not exist in Young’s theology.

“God is in control.”
Yes, Young actually believes that God is not in control. He says, “God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we generate, but that will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross.'” Does Young just not know that the Bible addresses this very thing? Peter preached at Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). God foreordains, but this in no way absolves men from the guilt of his evil acts. What we mean for evil, God always means for good (Genesis 50:20). We are responsible to turn from sin and to Christ for forgiveness.

“God does not submit.”
Young comes back over and over to the fact that we are created in the image of God and proceeds to draw false conclusions: Since I’m made in God’s image, whatever I’m like, God must be like that. Since I have to submit, then God also has to submit. Young also believes the Father submits to the Son. He does not. Young goes as far as saying God even has to abide by the golden rule: He treats us the way He wants us to treat Him. But Jesus serving us (Matthew 20:28) is not the same thing as submission. To submit means to yield to authority. We have no authority over God. Absolutely zero. The only person Jesus submitted to was His Father in heaven. He submitted to God and served us as the ultimate example of what it means to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. This fulfills the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17, 7:12).

“God is more he than she.”
Young tells a very remarkable story about how his mother saved an infant child who then grew up to become an Anglican priest who tells Young’s mother that Young was right to make God in The Shack into a large black woman named Papa. Ugh. He took a true, very heart-felt and inspirational story, and turned it into something self-centered and pretentious. Young says God possesses feminine qualities (nurse, mother, etc.); therefore, He can be a woman, too. Again, it’s all man-centered and feelings-based, not biblical. God created man to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. The husband is to be a picture of Christ laying His life down for the church, the wife is a picture of the church submitting to Christ, and the head of Christ is God our Father (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33). For all Young’s talk about “submission,” the one thing he doesn’t seem to want to submit to is the Bible.

“You need to get saved.”
Young says, “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!” He goes on: “Every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to Himself.” He references John 12:32 which says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” It’s the favorite verse of all universalists, and it’s totally out of context. Previously in John 3:36, we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

“Hell is separation from God.”
Since Young has already revealed himself as a universalist, surely you know he doesn’t believe anyone goes to hell. In fact, he quotes Romans 8:38-39 which says nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Therefore, hell cannot be a place where we are separated from God. Rather, Young says, hell is God. It is “the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive.” But Jesus said those who do not believe in Him and do the will of His Father in heaven will go away into eternal punishment at the final judgment (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8). Hell is a real place that real people will be cast into unless they in this life repent of sin and follow Jesus Christ. The Bible could not be more clear.

“The Cross was God’s idea.”
Young says God didn’t come up with the cross — we did. Again, the Bible addresses this point. See above. The Bible foretold that Christ would be crucified centuries before crucifixion was even invented (Psalm 22:16). This is not because God looked down the tunnel of time and learned something about the future, as though God needed to learn anything. That is a pagan myth rooted in fortune-telling and soothsaying. God knows the future because He foreordained it.

“Not everyone is a child of God.”
This again is something presented in The Shack, that everyone is God’s child. Logically, if everyone is made in the image of God, and everyone is good, and everyone is going to go to heaven, then of course according to Young, everyone is a child of God. He takes out of context a passage from Ephesians 4 to back up his point. But he missed the one in Ephesians 2 that says before we come to Christ, we are children of the devil subject to the wrath of God (see also John 8:44). God adopts us into His family through Jesus Christ, and we become the adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 John 3:1). Indeed, not everyone is a child of God. Only those who are followers of Jesus are children of God.

“Sin separates us from God.”
Again, we’re created in the image of God, and God doesn’t create anything bad. Sin, according to Young, “is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.” He then goes into a bunch of Osteenian affirmations of who the Bible says you are: “You are trustworthy! You have integrity! You are loving!” No, you’re not. The Bible says very specifically what sin is: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It is willful, open rebellion against the High King of the universe. Everyone has done it (Romans 3:23) and everyone deserves death for it (Romans 6:23). But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord for all who believe. Those who are in Christ will turn from a life of sin and pursue the righteousness of God.

EDIT: Someone asked me if in the book Young said Jesus was guilty of sin. Not exactly. Young postulates that Jesus made mistakes, like He misspelled a word or hammered a nail in the wrong place. His definition of sin is actually too soft for him to say that Jesus sinned. He basically says you are capable of living the human experience perfectly like Jesus did. Sin is when we think less of ourselves than we really are. It’s still heresy because it’s works-righteousness and if we say we don’t sin His word is not in us (1 John 1:10). But Young doesn’t commit the added error of accusing Jesus of sinning against God.

“God is One alone.”
Young says that the God who “needs to be appeased, and failure is met by wrath and judgment” is a false one. Unfortunately for Young, that’s the God of the Bible, only it’s not the whole picture. He is indeed a God of wrath and judgment, but He is also a God of love and mercy. Young says those two things cannot co-exist. God says that they do (Exodus 34:6-7). He displays the full spectrum of His glory by saving for Himself the objects of His mercy, and pouring out judgment on vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22-23). God is eternally gracious toward those whom He has saved and adopted as His children. He is eternally wrathful toward those who have rebelled against Him and rejected His Son. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, and be saved from the coming judgment.

Conclusion
Young closes his book by presenting a quote from the god of The Shack, and says that’s the god he believes in. Quite literally, he says the god he believes in is the god he invented in his own story. The Shack is a story, and it is a lie from the heart of a liar. With this new book, Young set out to “expose” lies we believe about God. Instead, he presented a lot of lies he believes about God.

Dr. Michael Horton Has a REALLY Good Point

Previously I posted a link to the article below. Based on some feedback I have received from someone recently, coupled with the fact that I know a lot of professing Christians who have bought into the ‘false religion’ of the WoF movement. I did myself a long time ago, but thankfully the written word brought me out of it. Without further comment, here is the entire article:

Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy

– Michael Horton

This opinion piece is by Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California.

Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration will include Paula White and possibly other members of his inner circle, Darrell Scott, “Apostle” Wayne T. Jackson and Mark Burns. They’re all televangelists who hail from the “prosperity gospel” camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith.

Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.

The prosperity gospel — the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we “decree” — is not just fluff. It’s also not just another branch of Pentecostalism, a tradition that emphasizes the continuation of the gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues. It’s another religion.

In terms of religion, this inauguration exhibits the confluence of two major currents of indigenous American spirituality.

One stream is represented by Norman Vincent Peale’s longtime bestseller “The Power of Positive Thinking” (1952). The famous Manhattan pastor is Trump’s tenuous connection to Christianity, having heard the preacher frequently in his youth. For Peale and his protege, the late Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame, the gospel of Christ’s death for human sin and resurrection for justification and everlasting life was transformed into a “feel-good” therapy. Self-esteem was the true salvation.

Another stream is represented by the most famous TV preachers, especially those associated with the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen and Paula White are the stars of this movement, known as Word of Faith.

The headwater for both streams is New Thought, formulated especially by Phineas Quimby, a late 19th-century mesmerist whose mind-cures attracted Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science. The basic idea of his “gnostic medicine” was that we’re sick only because we think bad thoughts. Illness and death are an illusion.

Harvard’s William James took note of the phenomenon in his 1902 classic, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” He described it as “an optimistic scheme of life” rooted in Emerson and “spiritism,” suggesting that even “Hinduism has contributed a strain.” “But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct,” he surmised. “The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such …”

The Word of Faith movement was largely the brainchild of E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), who blended Quimby’s Emersonian transcendentalism with his more evangelical “Victorious Life” beliefs. “I know that I am healed,” he wrote, “because [God] said that I am healed and it makes no difference what the symptoms may be in my body.” Kenyon shaped many of the distinctive Word of Faith teachings, including the central idea of “positive confession.” “What I confess, I possess,” he said — in other words, “name it, claim it.”

As a student of Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, revered as “granddaddy” in Word of Faith circles, gave the faith-healing movement its theological core. It included odd teachings about us all being “little gods.” Those who are born again, Hagin said, “are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth.” “You don’t have a God living in you,” says Hagin’s student Kenneth Copeland. “You are one.” Creflo Dollar adds, “[The] only human part of you is the flesh you’re wearing.”

The positive-thinking movement appealed to urbane movers-and-shakers. Peale and Schuller were counselors to CEOs and U.S. presidents. Word of Faith has been more popular among rural sections of the Bible Belt, where faith healers have had a long and successful history. But in the 1980s, the two streams blended publicly, with Copeland, Hinn and Schuller showing up regularly together on TBN.

In the 1950s, American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described Peale’s message as a false gospel: “The basic sin of this cult is its egocentricity,” he said. “It puts ‘self’ instead of the cross at the center of the picture.” The Word of Faith teachings, conveyed from Quimby via Kenyon and Hagin, are similarly centered on not making God a supporting actor in our life movie.

Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”

Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.

So if you’re still a wreck, that’s your fault. Negative thinking. You’re the creator, so why not be a successful one? White puts it this way in a television TBN program: “There is creative power in your mouth right now. God spoke and created the universe; you have creative power to speak life and death! If you believe God, you can create anything in your life.”

Of course, to be a “little god,” you have to do your part, often involving a financial commitment. It’s what they call “seed faith.” White even gives her viewers the words to tell themselves: “So I’m going to activate my miracle by my obedience right now. I’m going to get up and go to the phone.” When you do that, she says, and “put a demand on the anointing,” you’re “going to make God get off His ivory throne.” “Don’t you miss this moment! If you miss your moment, you miss your miracle!” When Jesus raised Lazarus, according to the old King James Version, “his face was bound with a napkin.” It’s taken from John 11:44, so for everyone who sends $1144 (get it?), White said, she would send a napkin she blessed.

Some representatives, like Osteen, offer an easy-listening version that seems as harmless as a fortune cookie. It’s when he tries to interpret the Bible that he gets into trouble, as in his latest book, “The Power of I Am.” “Romans 4 says to ‘call the things that are not as though they were,’” he says, but the biblical passage is actually referring to God.

But it’s not really about God. In fact, one gets the impression that God isn’t necessary at all in the system. God set up these spiritual laws and if you know the secrets, you’re in charge of your destiny. You “release wealth,” as they often put it, by commanding it to come to you. “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan,” White told a television TBN audience in 2007. Oops. It was Jesus who said “anyone who would come after me” must “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Most evangelical pastors I know would shake their heads at all of this. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore tweeted, “Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe.” Yet increasingly one wonders whether modified versions of the prosperity gospel — religion as personal therapy for our best life now — has become more mainstream than we realize.

Thanks to the First Amendment, Christian orthodoxy has never been a test for public office. But it is striking that Trump has surrounded himself with cadre of prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines. The focus of this unity is a gospel that is about as diametrically opposed to the biblical one as you can imagine.

Since “evangelical” comes from the word “gospel,” that should make more of a difference to those who wear the label than it does at the moment. The prosperity gospel may be our nation’s new civil religion. It doesn’t offend anyone (but picky Christians). It tells us everything we want to hear and nothing that we need to hear most.

Michael Horton is author of “Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story.” He blogs at whitehorseinn.org.

Notorious False Teachers

A few years ago blogger, author and book reviewer Tim Challies wrote a series of articles spanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Having studied many of these teachers at length, I think it fair to say that these articles represent a good summary of each of these teachers along with their spurious teachings, and what the Bible has to say. This is one of those articles, taking a look at the life and legacy of a man who prepared the way for Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, and so many others – Norman Vincent Peale. Links to other articles are included after the article. – Dan C.

Norman Vincent Peale

Online Source

Norman Vincent Peale was born on May 31, 1898, in Bowersville, Ohio, the first child of Charles and Anna Peale. Charles was a Methodist minister who served a variety of churches in Ohio, and before long Norman, too, began to consider ministry as his vocation. When he was a boy, one of his teachers accused him of being “a weak willy-nilly” and he soon realized the teacher’s assessment was correct. He saw that he would need to push himself past a deep-rooted inferiority complex and crippling self-doubt.

As a young man Peale attended Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology. During his first summer break he returned home and was asked to fill a nearby pulpit. He dutifully prepared a sermon and showed it to his father. His father read it and promptly advised burning it, telling his son, “the way to the human heart is through simplicity.” These are words the young man took to heart.

In 1922 he was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was assigned a small congregation in Berkeley, Rhode Island. Two years later he moved to Brooklyn, New York where he established himself as a gifted communicator so that in only three years he grew a church from 40 to 900 members. He spent a few years at another Methodist congregation in Syracuse, New York, before changing his affiliation to the Reformed Church in America so he could pastor Marble Collegiate Church, one of the oldest Protestant congregations in America. When he arrived, this church had around 600 members; upon his departure 52 years later it had 5,000. It was here that he would gain worldwide acclaim and notoriety as a teacher of positive thinking.

clip_image002Peale developed a fascination with psychiatry as an answer, or partial answer, to his congregant’s problems. While he was at Marble, he teamed up with a Freud-trained psychiatrist, Dr. Smiley Blanton, to begin a religious-psychiatric clinic in the church basement. They wanted to respond to the psychological needs of their congregation and especially the deep-rooted effects of the Great Depression. In 1951 this clinic was organized into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, with Peale as president and Blanton as executive director.

Peale spread his teaching through a variety of media. While serving the church in Syracuse he founded a radio program called “The Art of Living,” and it would broadcast his sermons for 54 years. By 1952 he and his wife were also on the new medium of television, featured on the show “What’s Your Trouble?” In 1945, along with his wife Ruth, and Raymond Thornburg, a local businessman, he founded Guideposts. What was at first a weekly four-page leaflet evolved to a monthly inspirational magazine that would soon have 2 million subscribers.

During his lifetime, Peale authored 46 books, and the most successful by far was The Power of Positive Thinking. Published in 1952, it stayed on the New York Times list of bestsellers for 186 consecutive weeks and sold 5 million copies, making it one of the bestselling religious books of all-time. It began with these words:

This book is written to suggest techniques and to give examples which demonstrate that you do not need to be defeated by anything, that you can have peace of mind, improved health, and a never-ceasing flow of energy. In short, that your life can be fully of joy and satisfaction.

The book had chapters with titles such as “I Don’t Believe in Defeat,” “How to Have Faith in Healing,” and “Power to Solve Personal Problems.” Each chapter contained sections titled “energy-producing thoughts,” “spirit-lifters,” or “faith attitudes.” Much of his teaching was distilled to lists of eight practical formulas or seven simple steps. This book rocketed Peale to new levels of fame and acclaim, and elevated his message with him. He became one of the most influential Christian leaders in the world, gaining a voice into business and politics, even officiating at the wedding of David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon. On March 26, 1984 President Ronald Reagan awarded him the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his contributions to theology.

Peale retired as senior pastor in 1984 and died of a stroke on December 24, 1993 in Pawling, New York. He was ninety-five years old. President Bill Clinton honored him with these words: “While the Clinton family and all Americans mourn his loss, there is some poetry in his passing on a day when the world celebrates the birth of Christ, an idea that was central to Dr. Peale’s message and Dr. Peale’s work. He will be missed.”

False Teaching

Readers were thrilled with this notion that if they believed it, they could have it, or be it, or do it.

Norman Vincent Peale popularized what came to be known as positive thinking. He took existing ideas from Christian Science and other inspirations, gave them a biblical veneer, integrated them with psychology, and packaged them for the masses, spreading his message through The Power of Positive Thinking and his other works. His foremost contribution to the world was this notion that thoughts are causative, that our thoughts can change our lives, our health, our destiny. Readers were thrilled with this notion that if they believed it, they could have it, or be it, or do it.

Peale believed we live in a world that is mental more than physical and this allows our thoughts to be determinative. If this is the case, all that stands between us and our desires is properly controlling our thoughts. In one of his books he taught the importance of a form of mental activity called imaging. It consists of vividly picturing, in your conscious mind, a desired goal or objective, and holding that image until it sinks into your unconscious mind, where it releases great, untapped energies. It works best when it is combined with a strong religious faith, backed by prayer, and the seemingly illogical technique of giving thanks for benefits before they are received. When the imaging concept is applied steadily and systematically, it solves problems, strengthens personalities, improves health, and greatly enhances the chances for success in any kind of endeavor. (Positive Imaging)

None of this would be remarkable, except that he taught it as a minister who claimed to be a Christian. Yet as a Christian minister he denied that God was a being, saying “Who is God? Some theological being? He is so much greater than theology. God is vitality. God is life. God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized!” (Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking). As a Christian minister he told Phil Donahue, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” He denied the very heart of the Christian faith and replaced it with his doctrine of positive thinking.

Many Christians critiqued Peale, including Episcopalian theologian John Krumm who saw that Peale had reduced God to a force and made Christianity self-centered rather than God-centered. “Very little is said about the sovereign mind and purpose of God; much is made of the things men can say to themselves and can do to bring about their ambitions and purposes.” Surprisingly, some Christians continued to embrace him. In 1966 Billy Graham said, “I don’t know of anyone who had done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me.”

Followers & Modern Adherents

The popularity of Peale’s teachings guaranteed his lasting influence. One of his most committed devotees, who patterned himself accordingly, was Robert Schuller, also a minister in the Reformed Church in America. Schuller restyled “positive thinking” into “possibility thinking,” but kept much of the core teaching intact. But Peale’s influence was much wider than that. His voice can be heard behind contemporary books like The Secret, which advocates the law of attraction, another way of speaking and believing reality into existence. His voice can be heard behind the Oprah Winfrey’s, Joel Osteen’s, T.D. Jakes’, and Tony Robbin’s of the world, along with a host of others who teach that the power of the mind, combined with some kind of faith, can change your life and change the world.

Mitch Howoritz points out, rightly I think, that this idea that thoughts are causative is one of the most important theological and psychological concepts of our time. Before Peale it was rare to hear phrases like “Nothing is impossible” or “Be all you can be.” But today we take such phrases for granted. It is not coincidental that the first chapter of Peale’s book is titled “Believe in Yourself.”

What the Bible Says

The Bible makes it clear that the troubles we experience in this life are not merely the result of negative thinking that can be overcome by tapping into our potential through positive thinking. They are the result of a deep-seated rebellion against God that involves not only the mind, but the will. We simply cannot overcome the evils of this world, or even the evil in our hearts, in our own strength. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). Apart from being born again, we are eternally dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Where Peale taught that our deepest problem is a lack of belief in ourselves and that our salvation comes with a simple shift in thinking, the Bible teaches that no man can save himself, regardless of how positive his thoughts may be. His salvation must come from outside himself. The glory of Jesus Christ is in the fact that he “has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” sinners “who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21-22). Tragically, by his life and legacy, Peale showed that he rejected this Savior and chose to trust in his own strength.

Links to Tim Challies’ articles:

Arius (AD 250 or 256–336)

Pelagius (Circa 360 – 418)

Muhammad (Circa c. 570 – 632)

Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844)

Ellen G. White (November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969)

Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898 – December 24, 1993)

Marcus Borg (March 11, 1942 – January 21, 2015)

Creflo Dollar (January 28, 1962 – Present)

T. D. Jakes (June 9, 1957 – Present)

Benny Hinn (December 3, 1952 – Present

Brian McLaren (1956 – Present)

Marcus Borg (March 11, 1942 – January 21, 2015)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969)

The Charismatic Spin Doctor

I ran across another Fighting For The Faith broadcast that hit it out of the park called “Michael Brown’s Spin Control for Bill Johnson”. This program has as it’s guest Phil Johnson, of Grate To You Ministries and discusses an interview between Dr Michael Brown (referred to as “Baghdad Bob” a few times) and Bill Johnson, leader of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, who just might be the most dangerous ‘wolf wearing a sheep suit’ on the planet. I highly recommend heading over there, listening to the F4F episode, watching the embedded clips of Jenn Johnson comparing the Holy Spirit to a ‘blue genie’, and also checking our some of the other links, especially the link The Bill Johnson Cornucopia of False Teaching.

If you do head over there and do a little research, let me know what you think, please.

Discernment Troubles?

In the facility where I work there is a Wednesday lunch time fellowship/Bible study. I am not a frequent Visitor, for a variety of reasons, but I’m on the distribution list the study facilitator maintains and I receive the Wednesday morning announcements confirming that it will indeed take place, along with the topic of discussion. Yesterday morning I received this one:

“Today, we’ll continue our new study of Psalm 91: God’s Umbrella of Protection, from the book by Peggy Joyce Ruth. We’ll look at Chapter 2 which looks at verse 2, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’” Peggy says to circle the word ‘say’ in verse 2 in your Bible, “because we must learn to verbalize our trust.” She believes that the more we say verses 1 and 2 out loud, “the more confident we become in His protection.” Do you believe as she does? Bring examples of when speaking Scripture out loud boosted your confidence. Peggy also says that in times of trouble, “Take notice of what flies out of your mouth.” “The worst thing that can happen is for something to come out that brings death. Cursing gives God nothing to work with. This Psalm tells us to do just the opposite – to speak life!” What comes out of your mouth in times of trouble, death or life? I think this will be a great day of discussion. See you at noon! Bring your lunch.”

The first questions that came to mind were 1) Who is Peggy Joyce Ruth? 2) Am I looking at Word of Faith (ala Kenneth Copeland) teaching? And 3) Is Psalm 91 really about our needing to “verbalize our trust”?

1) Peggy Joyce Ruth. Well, at first I couldn’t find out a lot about Peggy Joyce Ruth other than a short bio on her ministry website and a few transcripts of interviews with Sid Roth, of “It’s Supernatural” fame. It seems that she spent about eight years in psychological torment, including electric shock treatments, received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at a Pepsi Cola meeting in New Orleans, had peace for two years and the spirit of fear came back to torment her again.

Then one night God appeared to her in a prophetic dream/vision one night and spoke to her audibly and said ‘‘in your day of trouble call on Me, and I will answer.’ To make a long story short, she said this was God leading her to Psalm 91, which she has been studying for about thirty years while receiving ‘divine’ insight to its meaning. She now has published a series of books about Psalm 91, with editions for toddlers, youth, teens, mothers, and military members (regular and pocket sized editions), as well as a collection of testimonies of those who come through some really tough stuff and were miraculously delivered thanks to clinging to the promises of Psalm 91 and quoting it a lot.

2) The Kenneth Copeland Connection. A day after looking into her ‘ministry’ and reading Sid Roth Interviews I discovered the August 2015 edition of Kenneth Copeland’s Believer’s Voice of Victory magazine. She was the cover story for that edition and there was a lengthy article about her inside which focused more on all of the ‘taking spiritual authority over demons and dark forces’, as is to be expected from Kenneth Copeland. While Sid Roth was all about the “Supernatural”, Kenneth Copeland was all about “taking authority”.

3) Psalm 91. The other thing I did was read Psalm 91 again to see if it was teaching anywhere that we “must speak/verbalize” Psalm 91 to see miraculous deliverance(s) when we are in a pickle. (Especially verse 2, the crux of Ms Ruth’s ‘divine’ revelation). Turns out from my plain reading in context and ALL of the commentaries I consulted (10 or so); Ms. Ruth’s teaching is nowhere to be found. The Psalm certainly promised divine protection for those who trust in the Lord, in all manner of circumstances, but no way does it teach any “Word/Faith” techniques/practices.

Discernment Troubles?

All this brings us to the crux of this post – discernment. You see, after my initial questions and first round of research, I sent an email to the Wednesday Bible study facilitator with my concerns:

“It might be profitable to actually examine Ps 91:2 to see if it is actually teaching “we must learn to verbalize our trust”, or is it an expression of a heart sentiment, knowing and trusting that God is a refuge and strength. Don’t take my word for it. Here is a link to several commentaries concerning Psalm 91:2.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/91-2.htm

This a wonderful Psalm concerning God’s protection in all the circumstances and storms of life, and one in which we can take great solace and comfort, but is it really teaching about personally verbalizing a passage for better confidence. Personally, the more I read and study scripture the more confidence I have in its truth. In this case, reading and studying other passages that speak about God’s protection for his children will go much farther in that regard.”

I received a hearty “Thanks for your input!” reply and sent another short email asking if anyone had looked into Peggy Joyce’s credentials as a Bible teacher. Here is the reply from my friend:

“I did a little bit and nothing jumped out as questionable.”

At that point, and mostly because I had not been attending the Bible study and been part of the process in selecting something new after the previous topic being discussed, I could only wonder why my friend found nothing questionable about this woman’s teaching if he had looked into her. Was it because his ‘little bit’ of investigating was very, very little, or he found the same stuff I had found (since there was little to find anyway) and was clueless concerning bad doctrine? Did he get sucked in by the novelty of new revelation that was pleasing to itching ears? What?

This is not a personal criticism, but rather an observation. After all, my friend might have a LOT of company. While I am sure that there is a certain amount of truth in Ruth’s books and teachings, I am equally sure that lies always ride in on the horseback of truth. I don’t remember when I first heard it or who said it, but someone said that sound discernment isn’t so much knowing the difference between truth and lies, but it’s being able to tell the difference between truth and ‘almost’ truth. Perhaps he was right.

On the other hand, maybe the disease technically termed “itchingearitis” causes the desire for plain Biblical truth (inherent in the new heart of a believer) to fly out the window. If that’s an accurate statement, there is a single and 100% effective solution for that believer. Read the Book for what it says, and be cautious concerning ‘extra’ material. First and foremost, let scripture interpret scripture. When we do that, our ears become sensitive to little clues that something might be amiss, and are less susceptible to being tickled.

Yes, I would say that ‘discernment troubles’ abound in the ranks of professing Christians, given the amount of very questionable ‘teaching’ these days.

And remember. . .lies come prancing in on the horseback of truth.

If a personal word of prophecy spoken over you fails, it’s YOUR fault!

In an article published 11 August at the ‘Jennifer LeClaire Ministries’ website titled “Why Some Would-Be Life-Changing Prophetic Words Don’t Come to Pass” (also published in Charisma Magazine and via the Chrisma podcast), Jennifer LeClaire has this to say to us concerning the ‘prophetic word(s)’ over our lives:

At the end of the day, it really does boil down to this: There is a war over the prophetic word over your life. Sometimes that war comes from the wicked one. Sometimes that war comes from our own carnal nature that wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Either way—and whether in Scripture or via prophecy judged accurate—we must fight the good fight of faith so we can walk in the fullness of God’s promises.”

I see a couple of problems with the above declaration. First of all it assumes that extra biblical ‘prophetic words’ over our lives are part of ‘the fullness of God’s promises’. Of course, as Jennifer tells us concerning these prophetic words, “you need a certain maturity to walk out the word by faith”. In other words, your spiritual immaturity could cause these ‘prophetic words’ to fail. Neither of these two points is taught in Scripture, but must be read into the text.

What is her scriptural support for this? What is the Biblical text into which Ms. LeClaire tries to fit her assertions? The parable of the sower, the seed, and the different types of ground upon which the seed falls (Matthew 13:3-23)! Jennifer tells us (prophetically?) that “In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains some spiritual truth about the Word of God. But it can also apply to prophecies that come straight from His heart.” (emphasis mine). In other words, the ‘prophetic words’ that others can speak over us, that we can speak over ourselves, or that we can receive in dreams (more about that in a bit), are straight from Jesus’ heart. So how do we know that a ‘prophetic word’ is from Jesus’ heart or an imperfect and still sinful human heart? I have no idea and Jennifer doesn’t explain that one.

Then we have the ‘spiritual warfare’ that takes place in the spiritual realm and/or in our own flesh that can thwart that the parable describes (because Jennifer says so, of course):

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one who received seed beside the path” (Matt. 13:19-20). It’s important you understand exactly what God is saying prophetically. Many people miss it on the interpretation or application, especially in the dream realm. Of course, some prophecies are hard to misinterpret, especially ones about having babies or operating in some spiritual gift.”

Jennifer’s concluding advice is this:

“Continue to declare the prophetic word over your life. Remember, the enemy doesn’t really care about you. He hates you, yes, but ultimately he just doesn’t want the prophetic word to come to pass because, when it does, God’s will comes to the Earth.

If you are in a season of waiting and warring, hold on. Keep in mind it was at least 15 years between David’s prophetic anointing and David’s kingship. And it was about 13 years in between Joseph’s dream and his promotion to Egypt’s prime minister.

Chances are, it won’t take that long for you to see the first fruits of life-changing prophetic words spoken over your life. But even if it does, don’t give in to the enemy’s strategies. Ultimately, this is the Lord’s battle. Declare the prophetic word over your life and keep fighting the good fight of faith.”

Really? What the bible tells us about the possibility of genuine prophecies failing seems to disagree with Jennifer:

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).

Not surprisingly, Jennifer never touches that passage, nor can she without suffering a huge loss of credibility, at least with the Biblically literate among us.

Furthermore, the penalty for prophesying falsely, in the name of the one true God or any other false god, was death (Deut 18:20). Period. End of story.

Ms. Leclaire, as well as other false prophets among us would have far fewer followers, not to mention ‘students’ at their “Schools for Prophets” (they’re out there) if God’s true word concerning claiming to speak directly for Him were read and heeded. While we don’t actually see false prophets being executed at the hand of man, or God for that matter, they will all face judgment. Perhaps if one were to drop dead, perhaps at a ‘prophecy open mic night’ (they are out there too), some of their mouths would quickly become silent as they repented and begged God for mercy. That is not the case however.

What can we do to stem the advancing tide of false prophets claiming to speak directly from God’s lips to our ears? If the spiritual tsunami of apostasy lead by false teachers and lying prophets is part of the end times great delusion, maybe nothing. It could get worse and worse. We can however, stand up for truth and the sufficiency of scripture for all things in our lives. We can expose the lies and falsehoods out of a love for God’s revealed word, a burden for lost souls, and the spiritual welfare of believers we know who have bought into the lie.

__________________________________________

The Jennifer LeClaire Ministries article can be read here. The same article is in Charisma Magazine here. I mention Charisma Magazine because Ms. LeClaire is a Senior Editor at CM, which is the ‘flagship’ publication for Charismatics everywhere. I also have Christian friends who are Charismatic/Pentecostal and for whom I care deeply. I used to be one.

As a final note, Chris Rosebrough over at Pirate Christian Radio Episode addressed the same article/issue in a recent ‘Issues, Etc.’ podcast you can listen to here. It was listening to the podcast that led to more research. It was hard to believe that someone would twist scripture as badly as Ms. Leclair (I’m thinking giant pretzel).