(Marsha West – Christian Research Network) Dr. David F. Wells lamented that he has watched “with growing disbelief as the evangelical church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy.” How can a believer in Jesus Christ plunge into biblical illiteracy? In part, the blame can be laid squarely on Christian publishing houses for printing theological rubbish.
Enter your local Christian bookstore, gaze around the shop, and eventually you will spot a couple shelves of Bibles in many sizes and colors, leather, hard cover, in every conceivable translation. Publishers promise that their version is the most “accurate” “up-to-date” and “easiest to read.”
Fortunately for me, my mother chose my first Bible. She bought it as gift for my 18th birthday. It was the KJV, Old and New Testaments, vintage black leather with gold gilding. Over the years I made many notations on the pages of that Bible. Mom was thrilled that her rebellious second born of five requested a Bible and not a trendy outfit.
The two of us spent many hours together browsing the aisles of Christian bookstores. She’d always nudge me toward the Theology section that housed giant hard cover commentaries, concordances and Greek Lexicons. I’d hang out with Mom for a short time then I’d meander over to the Christian Living, Fiction, and invariably end up browsing the “Christian” Music racks. Back then I wasn’t interested in taking a deep dive into God’s Word, even though I cherished my Bible and read it often.
Eventually I came to understand that many Bible translations are decidedly unorthodox and unfit for Christian consumption. Be aware that the translation you choose will become engraved in your mind and whatever you learn from it will become your truth. The scriptures you memorize will remain with you for a lifetime. Tragically, unorthodox material can lead immature (baby) Christians into heretical teaching, the cults, even the occult. More on this in a moment.
Visit just about any Christian bookstore (CB) and you’ll see display cases and shelves stocked with “spiritual” merchandise, including clothing, jewelry, figurines, framed pictures, posters, greeting cards, music, calendars and so on. What I find disconcerting is that some stores also stock books that attack the fundamentals of the faith! And a large number of books contain what respected scholars deem heresy.
Clearly, some CB owners feel no responsibility for the merchandise they sell to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
So-called Christian publishing houses produce books that purport, among other things, Word of Faith theology (WoF) a.k.a the prosperity/health & wealth gospel and then distribute this rubbish to Christian retailers. You ask, “What’s wrong with believing God for health and wealth?” For one thing, this is not taught anywhere in the Bible. For those of you reading this article who are unfamiliar with WoF theology, I’m providing a nutshell version of their beliefs. Once you know what these folks believe, and how different their beliefs are from what is taught in the Bible, you’ll join me in urging brick and mortar as well as online stores to remove books that teach heresy.
May The Force Of Faith Be With You
WoF adherents hold that faith is a force. Faith is controlled through the spoken word. When you utter the right words, or the right formula, God’s response to your “positive confession” will be to give you what you want.
For example, if you confess that you’re healthy, you will overcome disease. Confess you’re a millionaire, the money will come pouring in. Just ask health and wealth preacher and multi-millionaire Kenneth Copeland (who’s worth 27 million and utterly spiritually poverty stricken) how the faith formula worked for him. He will brag about the hangar on his estate that houses his private jet and perhaps a Rolls Royce. He owns way more expensive “stuff,” but you get the picture.
What is Copeland’s faith formula? “All it takes is 1) Seeing or visualizing whatever you need, whether physical or financial; 2) Staking your claim on Scripture; and 3) Speaking it into existence.”
According to Gary Gilley:
The Faith teachers, as is true of many other charismatics, believe that Christ provided for physical healing at the cross. As a result, not only are Christians saved from sin, they are promised a life of health, if one follows the Faith formula. Kenneth Copeland writes in Healed. . . to Be or Not to Be, “The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God. You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of these rights is health and healing” (p. 25). If healing is part of the atonement, why do Christians get sick? Lack of faith, as Benny Hinn explains: “The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now — he healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 44).
Gilley reveals even more extraordinary experiences faith healers claim to have had:
The faith leaders make some amazing claims. [Kenneth] Hagin, for example, has visited (so he says) both heaven and hell as well as had out-of-body experiences. He has had many visits from Jesus and angels. He boasts of the ability to heal, cast our demons and levitate people (p. 336).[Benny] Hinn opens his best selling book with these words:
It was three days before Christmas 1973. The sun was still rising on that cold, misty Toronto morning.
Suddenly He was there. The Holy Spirit entered my room. He was as real to me that morning as the book you are holding in your hand is to you.
For the next eight hours I had an incredible experience with the Holy Spirit. It changed the course of my life (p.1).
Benny Hinn speaks of frequent personal visits from the Lord, the first being at age eleven:
I saw Jesus walk into my bedroom. He was wearing a robe that was whiter than white and a deep red mantle was draped over the robe.
I saw his hair. I looked into His eyes. I saw the nail prints in His hands. I saw everything. . . .
When it happened, I was asleep, but suddenly my little body was caught up in an incredible sensation that can only be described as “electric.” It felt as if someone had plugged me into a wired socket. There was a numbness that felt like needles — a million of them — rushing through my body.
And then the Lord stood before me while I was in a deep, deep sleep. He looked straight at me with the most beautiful eyes. He smiled, and His arms were open wide. I could feel His presence. It was marvelous and I’ll never forget it (p.22).
When Hinn describes his conversion he does not mention the cross, repentance or faith; rather it is all couched in terms of experience:
What I really felt, though, was that this surge of power was cleansing me — instantly, from the inside out. I felt absolutely clean, immaculate, and pure.
Suddenly I saw Jesus with my own eyes. It happened in a moment of time. There he was. Jesus (p. 31). (Source)
You may have heard people label televangelists and faith healers “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it” preachers. These men and women get slammed for promoting a “gospel of greed.” WoF teaching is not only rubbish, but also theological heresy. People who believe they are saved by the prosperity gospel are going to experience a very hot ever after.
The Handsome Wolves
Joel and Victoria Osteen are two of the most recognizable prosperity preachers in the world. If you’re a follower of the Osteens, please don‘t stop reading — just hear me out. I realize that it’s hard to believe that this handsome couple would steer you off the straight and narrow path. However, sad to say that Rev Osteen has been steering you onto a path with large potholes for decades. Don’t be taken in by his humble demeanor, his neatly coiffed hair and dazzling smile. Around 12 years ago, he made clear his position on faith in his blockbuster book, “Your Best Life Now”:
You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out, you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you’re saying is good or bad, positive or negative.
What people who gobbled that book up failed to realize is that this so-called spiritual principle he promoted, and continues to promote, is known as the “law of attraction.” Do you recall New Age guru Rhonda Byrnes’ #1 best seller (thanks largely to Oprah) “The Secret”? In that book Byrnes proclaimed, “you create your life through your thoughts.” Sound familiar? If it does, the reason is that Rev Joel is advancing the same metaphysical nonsense Rhonda Byrnes promoted in her books.
Anyone who chooses to read Joel or Victoria Osteen books, attend or live stream Lakewood Church (a church with over 2 million subscribers on YouTube, where “More that 10 Million viewers watch his weekly inspirational messages through television, and over 60 million people connect with Joel through his digital platforms worldwide”) are allowing themselves to be deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Osteens are that bad! Moreover, they are not Christians! How do I know that? Because as a Berean (Acts 17:11) I’ve examined God’s Word to see if their teaching is true. In doing so, it is clear that Joel Osteen’s teaching is unadulterated heresy. I’m not alone in believing this to be true. Mainstream biblical scholars agree that WoF is a metaphysical cult. The truth of the matter, for those who care to hear the truth, is that anyone who embraces WoF theology has rejected biblical Christianity.
Dear reader, you must understand that WoF teachers such as the Osteens, Copeland, Hagin, and Hinn preach a false gospel…..that saves no one. Let me repeat: the WoF gospel has never saved a living soul and it never will. Why? Because their gospel message is not taught in Scripture. Theirs is the gospel of greed, inspired by Satan himself. Those of you who take what I’m saying with a grain of salt must come to terms with how dangerous and spiritually bankrupt the WoF teaching is. WoF is not historic, orthodox Christianity that the martyrs shed their blood for.
Your Best Life Is To Come
Following is an excerpt from a sermon by John MacArthur:
It was about a dozen years ago that a popular book came out written by Joel Osteen, the title of the book was your Best Life Now. And it sold about 8 million copies at the time. It’s been 12 years since then and 12 rather dramatic years particularly, the more recent ones.
Such a jarring disturbing shift has taken place in the social order that we have in our country and around the world that I think few people are convinced that this is their best life right now. That would be a hard sell, probably good that the book came out before the current stress began, or it might not have been very popular. In fact, there may be a number of those 8 million who would like to get their money back since this didn’t turn out to be what they had hoped. We are now living under dominant deception, dominant lies, hatred, crime anger, selfishness, immorality. A pandemic of wickedness that most of all hates the truth and will assault the truth every possible way it can. And that means that the church of Jesus Christ is going to experience things that we haven’t experienced in this country or even in the West, ever perhaps. The noble experiment of America to have a just and civil society based on biblical morality and firm legal control by government exercising the threat and the reality of punishment to those who violate the law, is essentially over.
He went on to say…
Nobody really seems to care to hide any wickedness anymore. Hearts are unmasked while faces are masked. This cannot be our best life! And it’s not going to get better. Evil men grow worse and worse. This is a free fall, not temporary. We’re going down and we’re going down under the sheer force of unbelief and sin unprotected and unrestrained by the judgment of God.
Later in his sermon…
This is not our best life, not by any means. To all who are in Christ, our best life is yet to come. Our best life is the glory of heaven. (H/T Tim Hurd)
Ensnaring The Lambs In Heresies
Following is an excerpt from a blog post by Mike Ratliff where he examines the difference between apostasy and heresy. He writes,
The English word “heresy” is a transliterated word from the Greek word αἵρεσις (hairesis). In Classical Greek, it means, “seizure, taking, acquisition, choice, desire for something, and purposeful decision.” Later it came to denote “the teaching or the school of a particular philosopher with which a person identifies himself by his choice.” The Septuagint in Leviticus 22:18, 21 translates the Hebrew נְדָבָה (nedâbâh) a “freewill offering”. So what does this tell us? This is our context and if we look at the New Testament usage of αἵρεσις we see that it follows this very same meaning. Heresy is a choice, a deliberate decision to “seize” upon a particular teaching that is not orthodox.
We must know our enemies. We must not waste time on apostates outside of the Church when we are focusing on those who are infiltrating the Church with false teaching hoping to ensnare people in heresies. Here is 2 Peter 2:1:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB) (Source)
In our pop-culture, so-called Christian books appeal to the believer’s desire to find meaning in their faith. One would think the front line for combating this desire would be the Church, but this is not the case. Instead of pointing out the doctrinal truth that comes from reading the Bible, Church leaders have caved to the demands of our self-obsessed culture and promoted books that will do nothing to facilitate real spiritual growth. As long as there is a demand, you can count on the fact there will be Christian publishing houses that will give these individuals exactly what they want regardless of the harm being caused.
Our once trusted publishers are all about making a buck, even if it means compromising. And what about Christian Book dispensaries? The same applies to them. I do not believe for a moment that people who work for these organizations are unaware that Your Best Life Now is chock-full of unorthodox theology. The word has been out for at least 12 years that Joel Osteen is a charlatan. Dr. MacArthur was right to call him out on heretical teaching. If only more pastors would get over their fear of man and call out men and women who seriously mishandle the scriptures.
I’ll close with words of warning from our Lord Jesus:
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:22-23
Watch Out! Apostasy Alert! – naming names
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Copyright by Marsha West, 2021