As a follow up to my last post On Shai Linne and Judging False Teachers, I’ve been reflecting on the underlying problem with the teachers represented in the song. It leads me to this question: does prosperity teaching deny the gospel? Put another way, do the teachers mentioned in Shai Linne’s preach another gospel? Clearly, there is an issue with teaching that is being promoted and it does run contradictory to main themes in Scripture. But what is the underlying problem of the teachers mentioned and what they promote? I found this comment here from the last blog post helpful.
Some watch bloggers and heresy hunters in their zeal to nail falsehood have become all too casual and blasé in labeling someone a “false teacher” and furthermore, they make swift assumptions about their motives such as “so and so is teaching these things to fleece people of their money”.
The reality seems to evade them that it is POSSIBLE to be “an honest heretic” or “an unconscious deceiver” in the sense that the person truly believes in their mind and conscience that what they teach is true biblical interpretation and they want to share it with their followers with a genuine desire to help them…If you are deceived yourself you’ll be naturally deceiving others.
I think he is right. There is a difference between intentional deception vs passing on erroneous teaching because of faulty presuppositions. Having listened to most folks on this list for years, I can attest to the fact that not everyone on that list is a straight-out charlatan. Now some would say that the theological core of the teachers represented is corrupt – denial of God’s character, denial of the atonement, denial of the hypostatic union of Christ. Well, the reality is that the teachers represented do not represent a monolith theology. The reality is that some do not deny the work and person of Jesus Christ and that salvation is based on him.
The issue however, is where Christian hope is placed. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is addressing this very issue.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9)
What was the problem? The judiazers (probably professed believers themselves) were telling the newly converted Gentile Christians that in order to be accepted to God, faith in Christ alone was not enough. Now they did not deny the work and person of Christ per se. In other words, if you were to ask these false gospel-ers who Jesus was and what he did, the conversation would go something like this;
Asker: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?
Asker: Do you believe that he died on the cross for our sins?
Asker: Do you believe that he rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father?
Asker: Do you believe that we are saved by putting faith in Christ?
So here’s the problem: their Christian hope was placed in performing circumcision and compliance to the Law of Moses. Paul’s rather angry retort was that is another gospel. Why? Because hope was placed in Christ + something else. It was in the reliance of the something else that made it a different gospel, actually no gospel at all. That’s why he says “I do not set aside the grace of God. For if my righteousness can obtained through obedience to the Law, then Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:21)” It is the setting aside of grace and receiving faith through other means that makes something a false gospel.
So to the extent that this is true with the teaching represented by those on the list gives weight to the reality of another gospel. Even if there are some on the list that proclaim Jesus Christ and use the Bible, the question remains where are they indicating people should place their hope? How is one approved by God? Is it in the all sufficient sacrifice of Christ alone? Is it in the gift of God’s grace alone? Or is our Christian reality based on something else?
If acceptance from God is built on how much faith we have, that’s not the gospel. If our Christian reality is built on changing the atmosphere through the words we speak, that is not the gospel (it’s not even Christian). If God’s unmerited grace is found in the blessings we receive and pursuit of those blessings, that’s not the gospel. If we trust in our experience as proof that God accepts us, that is not the gospel. The gospel is sourced in what God did through his Son. Christianity is about proclaiming him, and living for him and dying to ourselves.
Now no one is denying that God does not want to bless us or that we should not pray to receive blessings. That is supported by scripture. But if faith is built on any activity other than the work and person of Jesus Christ and that other activity is being promoted as necessary for an authentic Christian existence, then another gospel is being promoted and THAT is what creates deception. Besides we are already blessed in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). He is the center and pursuit, not riches or elevation of self.
The proof is in the pudding of who or what is being promoted. Take a look at this video of a woman who tells her tale of teachings promoted from the teachers on that list. Where did she place her hope influenced by the teaching she received? Thankfully, it has a happy ending. I can only hope that more eyes will be opened.