Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Purveyors of a False Gospel

By Bruce Mills
A good friend and brother in Christ sent me a link to a video with John Piper speaking on his feelings about the prosperity gospel. It is quite strong and forceful. You can view it here. It takes less than three minutes. Watch it and then come back and read the rest of this article.

As I watched it, I was thinking about how the American church is so caught up in the glorification and accumulation of wealth and the opulent trappings of our culture that we have forgotten that Jesus said that no one can serve God and wealth (Matt. 6:24). So instead of condemning materialism as sin, the false teachers of the prosperity gospel glorify it and build an entire theological system around it.

It is time for those within the evangelical church who hold to the true gospel to stand up and condemn this heresy just as Piper has done in this video. So often we are unwilling to speak out against those who teach this garbage when friends or family members speak affirmingly of them. But we must be willing to stand for the truth, regardless of what others may say. Because when we allow this heresy to go unchallenged, all we are doing is allowing those men and women to continue to put more and more people on the broad road to destruction, when our call is to lead them to the narrow path to righteousness.

So who are some of the false teachers who are promoting this heresy? They include T. D. Jakes, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, Joyce Meyer, Randy and Paula White, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and others. These are the names who, today, are most often associated with the prosperity gospel or, as it is otherwise known, the “health and wealth” gospel. They are teaching a false gospel which panders to the unregenerate heart’s love for that which benefits itself. They do not preach a gospel which proclaims the utter depravity of man who is dead in his sin, hopelessly on his way to hell because his sin has offended a holy, righteous God, and that he needs a Savior, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. You will not hear them mention the need for people to repent of their sin and turn in faith to Christ for forgiveness of that sin, trusting Him and Him alone for salvation, and you most certainly will not hear them say that following Christ may cost you everything you hold dear, including your family, your possessions, your job, even your life.

Instead, they proclaim a false gospel in which there’s really no need for Christ as our mediator, since God isn’t really all that holy and we aren’t so morally perverse as to require the death of God’s Son in our place. God is our buddy who just wants us to be happy, and the way to be happy is to cash in on God’s blessings of health and wealth by recognizing your own potential and living in accordance with it.

Dr. Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, explains that the gospel being proclaimed by these people reflects the broader assumption among evangelicals that individuals are saved by making a decision to have a personal relationship with God. He comments that in this approach to salvation…

If one’s greatest problem is loneliness, the good news is that Jesus is a reliable friend. If the big problem is anxiety, Jesus will calm us down. Jesus is the glue that holds our marriages and families together, gives us purpose for us to strive toward, wisdom for daily life. And there are half-truths in all of these pleas, but they never really bring hearers face to face with their real problem: that they stand naked and ashamed before a holy God and can only be acceptably clothed in his presence by being clothed, head to toe, in Christ’s righteousness.

This gospel of “submission,” “commitment,” “decision,” and “having a personal relationship with God” fails to realize, first of all, that everyone has a personal relationship with God already: either as a condemned criminal standing before a righteous judge or as a justified co-heir with Christ and adopted child of the Father. “How can I be right with God?” is no longer a question when my happiness rather than God’s holiness is the main issue.[1]
The issue, then, is that these prosperity gospel teachers, as well as most other evangelicals, have the gospel message wrong. We need to get back to a gospel message which confronts people with their sin and the serious result of its offending God’s holiness, and then explains how Christ took the place of sinners and offers eternal life through His substitutionary atonement.

Sadly, when you go into every “Christian” bookstore in most cities, you will find the shelves stocked with the books of the prosperity gospel teachers, thus providing affirmation that they are “accepted” as “Christian” leaders and authorities. I am convinced that one reason they are so popular is that American Christianity is so weak. People call themselves Christians and attend churches where the service focuses on the music and emotional worship, yet the inspired Word of God is never opened and taught in an in-depth, verse-by-verse manner so that those who are there are instructed in what God has actually said. I love good Christian music. I even like Christian music with a good beat and tempo. But the teaching of the Word is to be the priority of our worship—not the music. Only when we get back to emphasizing the teaching of the Word will evangelical Christians learn that the trash being passed out by these false charlatans is worthless for their spiritual growth.

[1] Horton, Michael S. “Joel Osteen and the Glory Story.” http://www.wscal.edu/.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent! I'm not sure much more can be said...