Eight Symptoms of False Teaching – J.C. Ryle

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Over 100years ago, J.C. Ryle shared a similar list that focused on symptoms of false teaching that still has tremendous relevance for the church today.

Here are Bishop J.C. Ryle’s 8 symptoms of false teaching:

1. There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error–their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.

2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.

3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today–many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.

4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded–many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.

5. There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers–they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.

6. There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship–people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men.

7. There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

8. There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians–every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.

All these are especially symptoms of our times. I challenge any honest and observant person to deny them. These tend to make the assaults of false doctrine today especially dangerous and make it even more important to say loudly, “Do not be carried away with strange doctrine!”

Source: UnlockingTheBible.org

Repackaged Lies – ‘Christian’ Meditation, Part II

As I promised in Part I, this post will contain the transcript of the audio from Introductory Session1, which was 10 minutes long.

Before the text, you need to know about the background audio, which was continuous throughout. I’ll try and describe it for you. There were essentially three parts to the audio.

  • A low-pitched tone in the background was constantly ‘humming’. Sometimes you couldn’t really notice it because the other two parts were often louder I heard the same tone in the background of worship music in the chapel we attend; that is until the then lead Chaplain moved on and took his synthesizer playing son with him.
  • A set of higher tones with a lot of ups and downs; sort of a melody, but not a real melody. Something you might hear in a lot of ‘New Age’ music.
  • A constant breeze, or wind dominated the background and was the most ‘important’ of the three parts. I think it was symbolize the ‘breath of God’. Think of the ‘Holy Spirit’.

These tips for success are offered:

1. The meditations are quick and easy, but they do require a commitment. Our most successful beginners set aside 10 minutes/day

2. It’s best that you meditate at the same time and place if possible.

3. Find a place that you won’t easily get interrupted for 10-15 minutes and somewhere you can relax in a chair.

4. Do the meditations with headphones if you have them. Noise cancelling are great, but you can just use the ear buds that come with your phone or iPod.  But remember: It’s better to do it, than to not do it!

As promised, here is the speaker. (I might toss in a few short comments that look like this.)

He begins:

“Welcome to Meditate On Christ, Day 1. Over the next seven days you’re going to begin a meditative journey that’s both easy and powerful. All we’re going to do is follow the example of Jesus and withdraw from our daily life to pray and meditate for a few minutes a day.”

(Did Christ really practice this sort of meditation?)

“If you haven’t been able to consistently pray and meditate before, don’t worry. I’ll walk you through it, step by step. As we begin, take a moment to get comfortable in your chair. It’s a good time to quiet the body in preparation for meditation. It’s nice to use a posture that won’t cause any discomfort or distraction in the next little while. So uncross your arms and legs, and rest your hands in your lap, with your feet on the floor. If you haven’t already, you can close your eyes. Just begin by giving in to God right now.”

He offers this prayer:

“Father, we thank you for this time we can take from the business of our lives to acknowledge you. Amen”

He then speaks to you as you learn to meditate:

“Know that you are in his hands and that you are completely safe right now. Release all of your cares and worries and concerns and attention to him, because he cares for you. This is your time with the almighty God, so take it, relax into it, enjoy it.”

(There’s the mention of God! It must be a good thing)

The meditation exercises:

“In the next few moments take a few breathes with me, loud enough that someone nearby could hear you. With each breath remember that it is God himself who gives us our breath. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God. God is present with us and one way that we will remember this is to ‘notice our breath’.

(You’ll hear a LOT about your breath from here on out.)

“Let’s try it now. Breathe in then breathe out slowly. Notice how the body relaxes as you breath out.”

. . .Try it again. . .

. . .One last time. . .

Remember that you can do this anytime of the day and you can experience his presence when you remember he gives you each and every breath.”

(Did you catch it…’experience’ his presence?)

“Let your breathing return to normal and notice that God is with you right now. Whether or not you are consciously aware of it, you don’t have to do anything or feel anything or make anything up. The Bible teaches us that God is always present with us

He is here, right now. He is present in the space around you filling this room, this area. He is here, flooding into your life

If it’s helpful, you can imagine his presence like a color filling in every space in the vicinity; or like breathable water filling up the room, covering you and everything around you.

He is here…he is here.”

(And there I thought God lives IN us through the Holy Spirit…who knew?)

You can talk to God:

“I’m grateful for your presence here with me. Thank you, God, that you have never abandoned me and that all I need o do is recognize that you are here with me. All I need to do is turn my attention to you. So often my attention is distracted by the things around me; by my own worries, concerns, thoughts, and even by fun, entertainment, or work. Yet through all these things you are with me.”

(Is this where we empty our minds, like good little Hindus?)

Our instruction continues:

“Take a few moments now to notice that God is with you in every moment of your life, including this one.”

(Are we ever going to ‘notice’ anything from scripture?)

“As thoughts or distractions come into your mind right now, don’t try and ignore them, or to suppress them, or to anything at all about them. Simple let them be. They will pass away as you turn your attention to God’s presence with you again.

And don’t be discouraged or frustrated, as it’s completely normal to have thoughts continually bubbling up, especially when you begin to focus on God’s presence.”

(Nope. “God” is mentioned, but no actual Bible verses. . .yet)

In case it’s hard to get those distracting thought out of your head:

“If it’s helpful, you can always return to ‘noticing your breath’. There is no need to breathe differently or change your breath; simple ‘notice it’. ‘Notice’ how regular it is or how one breath differs from the last. And as you do, remember that it’s a gift from God.”

(Who knew breathing could be so fascinating?)

. . .Just tones for about 10 seconds. . .

“As you continue breathing you may notice that different thoughts come up, but as before, don’t worry about them. As soon as you recognize that you have been distracted just go back to ‘noticing your breath’.

Notice the breath of God in your life and you gratefulness for that breath.

. . .Just tones for another 10 seconds. . .

The grand finale:

“As we come to the end of this session, allow yourself to lowly come back into the rest of your senses. As you gently open your eyes. Remember that all it takes in any given moment today to remember that God is with you, is to ‘notice it’.

From time to time, try briefly turning your attention to God throughout the day and simply ‘notice’ what effect that has.

(‘Notice’ enough yet?)

“That’s all for today, God be with you, Amen”

______________

So that was the first session. Day 2 was pretty much a regurgitation of Day 1 (I listened to it), with pauses for ‘just tones’ that were a bit longer. That, and they added imagining the room being filled with smoke (like in the OT presence of God before the Israelites). You are encouraged to ‘feel’ the smoke in your nostrils. And of course, lots more ‘noticing’ of this and that.

Now you tell me, is there ANYTHING “Christian” about all that?

Repackaged Lies – ‘Christian’ Meditation, Part I

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I have no idea if you’ve seen ads on Facebook like the one above, but I’ve been getting them for a few weeks now. They are pretty slick. They offer something that sounds great, not enough information for you to make an informed decision, and a link to a ‘get started’ page. The only way to find out more is to sign up for a ‘free’ introductory course.

There are others just like this one, selling other ‘Christian’ courses. One thing common to most, if not all of these ads is an ability to comment until you say something critical about their false teaching and whatever they’re selling and then you might find yourself banned from making any more comments. That’s happened to me on several of similar ads about ‘Christian’ meditation.

So as not to be branded an uniformed idiot by some who love this sort of ‘Christian’ meditation, I actually signed up for the introductory 7 free sessions. I had a ‘gut’ feeling that this would just be another offering of Eastern meditation dressed up in ‘Christian’ garb. I wasn’t disappointed. And I actually painstakingly listened to the entire first session and transcribed every word of the narration.

But before I launch into the contents of Session 1, I thought I’d provide you with some of the actual content of the Web site.

The founder of Meditate on Christ is one Dean Davis:

Dean’s personal journey into Christian contemplation and meditation began over 6 years ago and was an important part of overcoming the depression caused by the sudden and untimely loss of his Father in 2010. Wanting to contribute something to Christians everywhere he started Meditate On Christ in 2015.”

What they believe:

“We believe that meditation and listening to God has become a lost art. We believe that while secular mediation has some benefit, Christian meditation is far more powerful due to the fact that we are communicating with, and submitting to, the Almighty God of the Bible

The Mission Statement:

“…to bring powerful meditations and prayers to Christians seeking God to enrich their lives and assist them in knowing Christ.”

The Promises:

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Why not just do secular meditation?

“Well there’s many benefits to it (secular meditation) for sure… but what’s missing is the ever present reality of God. By acknowledging the Holy Spirit in your meditation it moves into a spiritual practice that is life changing. There’s a good reason that the great Christian figures of history, such as the mystics, monks, nuns, etc spent so much time in prayer and meditation. It just plain works!”

Theology of Meditation (TheBait):

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The Hook:

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The Testimonials:

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The cost:

The 7 introductory lessons are free! These lessons include a 10 minute session. The ‘advanced’ lessons (don’t you want to be an ‘advanced’ learner?) have longer sessions available (15, 20, 25, 30 min), for a price, of course.

(Drum roll please. . .)

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(Drum roll please. . .)

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___________________

Notice the appeal to “Get the Full ‘meditate On Christ’ Experience”. This ad, and all of the others like it, appeal to feelings and experiences, just like a myriad of secular ads we see every day that appeal to our senses. I’ve seen a lot of them, and you have too.

Well, that’s enough for Part I. Check back in a couple of days for Part II, the transcript of the entire first session.

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.

“Today I Will Listen for the Voice of God”

That sounds like an admirable goal for any Christian, doesn’t it? I first saw it on a Facebook post by ‘Jesus Savior Beliefnet’. I’ve seen it a couple of times with different pictures in the background. It’s part of a ‘Christian’ oriented advertisement inviting the reader to ‘Live a Daily Life in The Presence” and offering a free streaming DVD from which you could learn more about ‘Living in the Presence’.

Curious, I signed up for the DVD. I was provided the login/password ‘LiveIn/ThePresence’ after providing some information about myself. I logged in and began the video stream. The presentation is the first episode, with more to follow, designed to teach you how to ‘live in the presence’ of God 24/7. The main menu offered five numbered sessions with a small segment about ‘spiritual journaling’ before the first session and after the fifth session. The remainder of this post is a summary of the contents of the DVD, including the spiritual journaling segments and the five main ‘sessions’.

My first impulse was to take a peek at the spiritual journaling beginning and ending segments. Since they ‘bookended’ the sessions it seemed to me significant to the overall purpose of the DVD’s teaching. I was not disappointed.

The segment at the beginning “Introduction to Journaling” presented four steps/keys to spiritual journaling.

1. Quiet yourself down.

2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

3. Turn to spontaneity.

4. Write down what you envision, hear, and perceive.

The final segment was called “A Brief Guide to Journaling” first explained that spiritual journaling is different than ordinary journaling. Ordinary journaling is more like a diary and contains a record of daily activities. Spiritual journaling is all about inward thoughts and emotions. Then we are told to:

1. Use the provided participant guide as a journal and always have it handy.

2. Set and keep a set time to journal your thoughts and emotions.

3. Be prepared. Bring your Bible and read it.

What caught my eye during that segment was seeing pictures of people ‘journaling’ in different quiet settings, but there wasn’t a Bible in sight. When it mentioned the Bible it did show a graphic of a woman sitting on a couch and reading it. Was there a message in that?

The ‘Sessions’

The five ‘sessions’ had three interspersed main elements. There was an interview between a woman and a Catholic Priest in Haiti. There was another interview between a man and Johnathan and Mellisa Helser, who are worship leaders for Freshwater Worship, a Christian multi-media organization based in Mooresville, N.C., and the producers of The Presence. Lastly, worship music by the worship team lead by the Helsers.

Session 1 – Breakthrough (@30 mins)

The DVD narrator introduces The Presence as a series of stories from all over the world sharing how people in various locations are “experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, including the miraculous.” We are told that we can all expect and experience “heaven to earth encounters” and that “His presence is your breakthrough.”

Then we read the following quotation to set the stage for the rest of the DVD:

“We must develop a growing awareness of God’s presence among us as if we are to draw from the presence and walk out our own God given assignment.” – Bill Johnson, Bethel Church

In the interview between Sally and Father Rick (Richard Frechette), we are told of life in Haiti and the dangers present there caused Father Rick to begin seeking “deeper”, for “something more”. He spoke of becoming “fully alive” as a result and the need to “train the inner life”. We must all learn to discern between the ‘evil voices’ that can speak to us and the actual ‘voice of God’ – something anyone can do.

In this first session, the interview with the Helsers (worship leaders) we are told that the first step in learning to live in The Presence is to be “willing to let the presence come in”. She spoke of being healed of a disease and it coming back, and having been healed again. I assume that to be connected to being in/out of The Presence in some way.

(Where do we see anyone in the Bible healed twice from the same malady/disease?)

Session 2 – Peace in the Storm (@5 mins)

Living in The Presence means “listening and actualizing God’s Gifts.” Do we feel the need for “something more?” That something more is “the presence of God.”

(Doesn’t the bible tell us already have the inward presence of God in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit?)

Father Rick called living in The Presence “living in the awareness” Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. “You need to put yourself into that stage of consciousness.”

Session 3 – Hearing the Holy Spirit (@5 mins)

According to Father Rick, the Holy Spirit is the 6th Sense we talk about. The Holy Spirit can speak:

1. In a still small voice

2. In what family and friends in Christ say to us

3. In impressions, feelings, and experiences

4. As a consequence of sin

The emphasis in the DVD is on numbers 1 and 3. Where’s the Bible in the list? It isn’t, and yet it is through the Bible, the written word, through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us as we read, study and pray.

Father Rick however, tells us we just need to develop the skill of discerning God’s voice and only acting on its leading. Knowing God’s voice out of all the others is spiritual; maturity. A can do it, but you have to be taught.

In the small segment with the Helsers, Melissa tells us that if we REALLY want to know what God is like, we need to live in The Presence and be able to “access the presence on a moment’s notice.”

Session 4 – Becoming Like Him (@5 mins)

In this session, we are asked by the Helsers if there’s a “religious rhetoric” or “traumatic event” that is hindering us from entering The Presence?

After all, Saul became Paul because of an encounter with God’s presence! Our transformation likewise begins by ‘encountering his presence’. We are given advice for becoming like Jesus: “As you journal this session, ask the Holy Spirit how you can become like him in your daily life.”

(We can’t just read the Bible and find that out?)

Father Rick talked about dealing with things like ‘hate’ and needing to speak ‘mantra’ like to yourself something like “I cannot carry hatred like this anymore” over and over and over.

Session 5 – True Worship (@5 mins)

Quotes:

“Worship is not what we do but who we are and who we were created to be.”

“We are free to worship in all kinds of ways that use our talents and personalities.”

“The key to true worship is to resonate with the song God is singing over you and sing it back to him in the setting he has provided for you. A lifestyle of unreserved thankfulness is a life of true worship.”

(The worship team featured throughout the DVD is seen really rocking back with Melissa imitating a ‘whirling dervish/Tasmanian devil on stage.)

Personal Conclusion

I could have skipped the 5 sessions and trusted my initial impressions from just reading the ad. The ‘spiritual journaling’ segments said it all. What is being taught is nothing more than a ‘Christianized’ form of transcendental meditation. The music is a ‘hook’ to suck in the undiscerning believer, ‘experience’ based rather than Bible based Christianity. Subjective feelings and impressions rather than objective truth based faith. Beware of this and anything else that smells like it!

Scripture tells us we know we know God if we keep his commandments. Start from 1 John 1 and then research the rest of the Bible for what it tells us about knowing God. Maybe that’s another post all its own.

It is not almost a week since I watched the DVD and wrote this review. I hesitated to post it until I kept seeing the same ad for ‘The Presence’ and reading all the “Amen” comments approving it. I even got into a couple of interesting conversations in ad comment sections. Overall, people are being deceived in vast numbers, and some are our brothers and sisters in Christ!

You can share this with whomever and however you want.

Dan C.

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.