Why you won’t see me endorsing these people…

I spent 6 years at DTS to get my ThM (Masters of Theology). In those 6 years I heard numerous chapel messages since chapel was a requirement (6 years is a long time!). Truth be told, in my maturing years, I have trouble recalling a lot. But one message made a profound impact on me delivered by Nathan Holsteen, a professor in the Theological Studies department. Now I took many classes with Dr. Holsteen and he was also one of my thesis readers. But what really resonated with me is this chapel message he delivered in 2013 entitled Beware of Mud.

The message was built on 2 John 6-11

And this love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of the Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

He laid out the problem, that certain teachers from among the flock were going about teaching something that contrary to the Christian message. And let’s be clear; they weren’t just some obvious outsiders disparaging Christianity but those who came from within the church, who “proclaimed” the name of Christ but used his name in a dishonorable fashion. Continue reading

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Should we call the prosperity gospel something else?: a subtle deception

money on the altarThe Gospel Coalition posted the first article in a series on the prosperity gospel. As I read through, 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel, and I’ll get to these points in a minute, I couldn’t help but think that calling it prosperity might be a bit misleading. Why do I say that? Because in reality, proponents of prosperity teaching don’t refer to it as such. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that many proponents of prosperity teaching would reject the notion that the aim of our Christian existence is to get rich and would be quick to label the Creflo Dollars of TV fame as charlatans. So I think by labeling it “prosperity gospel” might have the impact of turning a deaf ear to it’s troubling foundation.

Herein lies the subtle deception of prosperity teaching. The premise of what is called a prosperity gospel is simply put: material blessings are a sign of God’s acceptance and favor. One does not necessarily have to believe that riches are the goal to buy into prosperity teaching. This is evident in looking at the five points outlined in the article. More than anything, I think that many people who buy into prosperity teaching are well intentioned about the Christian faith and strive earnestly to live that faith out. But I believe the main contributor to prosperity promotion is a lack comprehension of what material blessings meant in the Old Testament. It is evident in the teaching (which I myself embraced for many years, that prosperity teaching fail to consider that the whole theme of Scripture is rooted in God’s redemption of his creation in an elaborate scheme that involved calling out a people called Israel as his own. This only serves as the basis of how he will unite Jew and Gentile as equal heirs to his promises fulfilled in Christ.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll highlight a couple of the five points in relation to point I’m making that prosperity teaching is more about the material blessings as the basis of genuine faith. But I encourage you to read all 5 points; Continue reading

Does Calling-Out Apologetics Really Work?

Well I don’t know if that is an actual apologetic category, but as I’ve watched internet discussions ignite over John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference and its polemics against Charismatics, I’ve been reflecting more broadly on this approach of using a conference platform as a polemic against certain teaching. And in this case, its against a broad swatch of folks who identify as Charismatic, some of whom are genuinely orthodox. Rightfully, they are really hurt by this approach. In my opinion, the approach is problematic more so than the content, which I pretty much agree with.  It’s not so much that there is some strange doctrine and practice that needs to be addressed.  For the abuses on the fringe that are deceiving a lot of people, yes absolutely. And the pushback I’ve heard validating this kind of approach is that false teaching needs to be called out.

To be fair, I’ve engaged in this myself when shai linne released Fal$e Teacher$. He called some prosperity/WoF folks out specifically by name. It was bold but got much support from people who agreed with him. And I did, so I chimed in here and pepper my blog from time to time with the intent to demonstrate that there is some teaching a lot of Christians are claiming as truth, is actually non-Christian.

man-shouting-megaphoneBut there’s a question that keeps popping up in my mind – are the ones who really need to hear this listening? You can blast false and distorted teaching all day, calling out its teachers. But those who adhere to the teaching are generally convinced of its truth. And I couldn’t help but think that this tactic probably has the opposite affect. The more you call out names and movements, the more its followers will probably tune out. What’s left is raising a megaphone to people who already agree with you. How fruitful is that, especially when unnecessary division has occurred because of failure to make proper distinctions? Continue reading

Why Do They Stay?: Slavery to Doctrinal Abuse

convicts, work gangs, hard labor, punishment, prison, serving timeI drafted this post shortly after the brouhaha over shai linne’s Fal$e Teacher$ had come out a processed in a number of posts, including mine. But then, I never got around to posting it. Though the dust over his song has settled, I was reminded yesterday that the teaching he was addressing has not. I’m thankful that the song generated a resurgence of talk about teachers that promote these philosophies. I myself have written a number of articles on related to the perverse nature of this teaching. As a former endorser of such teaching, I would hope that if I can just articulate why this teaching puts a corrupt twist on scripture then people will wise up.

I’m especially concerned because of the enslaving nature of such teaching. One of my FB friends had this to say about the burdening nature;

Prosperity Gospel teachers bind up sheep as slaves imprisoned to fear, guilt, disappointment and disillusionment when God does not respond as the teachers promise he will.  The TRUTH is supposed to set people FREE–NOT imprison them in guilt, shame, fear, etc…

You can argue it’s God all you want, but this runs so contradictory to the freedom that Christ came to provide. His truth is based on grace that we undeservedly obtain because of the Father’s love that he lavished on us through the Son. Anyone reading Ephesians 1 and with no agenda, can see that we do not have to earn favor through faith or giving. Favor comes through Christ. Anyone willing to humbly invest in the study of scripture that seeks to understand the whole message of 66 books will come to the conclusion that the reaping, sowing, word proclamation so rampant in these circles is NOT the focus of scripture. Christ is the focus as I wrote about here. Continue reading

Seedtime and Horror: The Prosperity Philosophy Built on Genesis 8:22

Genesis 8:22 has served as a foundational verse for prosperity teaching with the philosophy of seedtime and harvest.

As long as earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night,

will never cease

grain in bagThe idea is that our Christian life is about sowing seed to reap a harvest. So financial giving then becomes the indicator of our faith to make this happen.  An entire theology and numerous ministries have been built on this one verse.  If you don’t believe me, do a Google search. Now the promoters of seedtime harvest ministries will say that it’s biblical. But it is an egregious distortion of the Biblical text and the Christian faith.

1) The context: Putting this verse in it’s context shows that this prosperity philosophy has nothing to do with sowing or reaping. In fact, it has nothing to do with our activity at all. The entire chapter is about God remembering Noah and his family. Then he gives a promise to Noah after the flood that he would no longer destroy all living creatures as he had done in the flood (vs 21). Seedtime and harvest is another way of saying seasons and the verse as well as the entire chapter is telling of God’s control over them. In other words, the passage is saying that the earth will always experience seasons. It has nothing to do with Noah’s activity but God’s promise.

2) The canon: It is also significant to note that Genesis is a narrative. It’s telling of what happened as God progressively revealed himself to humanity. We have to examine any verse or passage according to the whole: the whole of what is going on in the OT and how that relates to the NT. To say that seedtime and harvest is central to what is being played out imposes something on the biblical narrative that isn’t there. But in context of God’s covenant promises to Abraham, his selection of a gathered people as a light to the nations, his provision for how these people would worship him through priestly activity, his rulership over them through selected kings and words spoken to them by the prophets, being ‘biblical’ points to this activity.

3) The Christ: All of this OT foreshadowed Christ. As God made promises and provisions, it was telling of the Messiah who would come and fulfill God’s promises made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16).  He is the one who perfectly fulfilled God’s requirements for perfection (Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:1-4) by fulfilling the offices of  prophet, priest and king foreshadowed in the OT. The book of Hebrews sums this up nicely. During his earthly ministry, his mentioning of seed and harvest were related to those who would put saving faith in him because it was an agrarian society and that’s what they could relate to. He is the central theme of scripture.  Our sowing and reaping for blessings is not the central theme of Scripture. Seedtime and harvest puts a corrupt twist on Christian teaching and robs it of its central theme, which is what God does through his Son for fulfillment of promises.

The sad reality is that the seedtime and harvest promoters have pretty much ignored the biblical context, the passages placement in the canon and the centrality of Christ. But this is the underpinnings of prosperity teaching that has spread like wildfire. It does go to what I said in my last post of the kinds of teachers that Paul was addressing in his letter to Timothy. It was those who would distort the meaning of OT activity and infuse speculations and novelty into the Christian faith.

Why does it matter? It matters because how we read the text is how we think about God. And how we think about him will motivate how we approach him. Seedtime and harvest is guaranteed to approach him in a way not befitting of his holiness.