A Custom-Built Gospel

This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

A Custom Built Gospel

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

The last observation concerning this

great falling away is that it is a process which is consumed with the task of changing the gospel message.  After all, what better means could our enemy employ other than to deceive an entire generation into believing a false gospel?  If a false gospel is introduced into the church which can be largely accepted, it serves several important demands of Satan’s own kingdom program.

A false gospel will largely hinder the true gospel’s advance.  Obviously, every church which teaches a corrupt gospel cannot lead its membership to salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  It necessarily will then become a disarmed outpost in this spiritual war.  People will attend services, receive a fast-food “feeding” and feel somewhat enlightened and encouraged, so they may resume their life of sin with a false sense of security.

A false gospel serves to keep people engaged in “religion” while distorting access to the true gospel of scripture.  People who have not experienced salvation in Christ are necessarily people who will continue to struggle with the guilt of their sin.  As such, they continue to pursue the opiate of their false religious system.  They find some sense of works-based accomplishment, convincing themselves that they are doing God’s work, all-the-while not finding the peace which only Christ can grant via the true remission of sins.  A wonderfully ineffective church results from a false gospel; having a form of godliness but denying its power.

A false gospel system can easily be configured in such a way as to achieve maximum numerical growth and (false) evangelistic appeal.  The true gospel calls people to die to themselves while a false gospel always offers them self indulgence in some manner.  The true gospel calls one to servitude in Christ as Lord while a false gospel convinces man of his own importance, relevance and sufficiency in God’s sight.

Such was the nature of Paul’s warning to the church at Galatia.  The entire book of Galatians is a theological treatise by Paul which is aimed at the exposure of a false gospel message and the clarification of the truth.  A group of men were aggressively attempting to insert works-oriented principles into the gospel message.  They claimed that man experienced salvation by faith plus works of the law of Moses.  Known historically as the “Judaizers,” this group of men received every harsh warning imaginable from the apostle Paul.  Concerning this expanded doctrine, Paul uncompromisingly chastises the church at Galatia,

Galatians 1:6-8 (NIV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Three things should be noted from Paul’s discourse concerning those who attempt to create a “different gospel.”  First, Paul notes that such attempts at redefining the gospel of Christ results in a doctrine which “is really no gospel at all.”  The gospel message is therefore to be understood as permanently fixed.  It cannot be “tweaked” to the personalities and tastes of one’s cultural whims, nor can it be assigned additional or alternative meanings to make it more palatable to a particular audience.  In Paul’s case, Jews were attempting to “Judaize” it.  In play today are people who attempt to “Americanize” it or culturalize it in some other manner.

Any “different” gospel, according to Paul, is no gospel at all.  Just as a word is misspelled by a singular misplaced or incorrect letter, so the gospel cannot remain the gospel when any portion of it is altered, subtracted from or added to, as was the case for the Judaizers.

Secondly, Paul notes that such men ”are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”  Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines perversion as “a turning from truth or right; a diverting from the true intent or object.”{1}  Thus, a perversion takes that which is true and correct, and turns aside from it to something which is changed from the original.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  Perversion is characteristically identical to the idea of apostasy. 

Apostasy is defined as “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.”{2}  Thus, apostasy is necessarily arrived at through the process of the perversion of the true doctrines of the faith. 

Since Paul noted that the day of the Lord will not come until the great apostasy comes, one should expect to see perversion of the gospel message prior to the day of the Lord, or the end times.  As has been observed thus far in this series, such is precisely what one sees in the church today.  The gospel is being perverted by self-serving Word of Faith preachers and culture-hungry Emergents alike; each interested in somehow making the gospel more “relevant” to their own herds.

Thirdly, Paul unapologetically pronounces judgment on those who change the gospel.  He notes that, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

The terms “eternally condemned” are translated from the Greek term, anathema, which means literally to be cursed and cut off.  As such, it is no small thing to modify the gospel message!  Such fine tuning of the gospel make it completely perverted, illegitimate and “no gospel at all.”  It further renders the architect of such new doctrine the recipient of the curse of those who have no gospel at all; to be cut off and condemned.

Sadly, “no gospel at all” seems to be the latest recipe for church growth in our culture.

The Different Gospel of the Word of Faith

Not desiring to re-teach this entire course to point out the mass of WoF atonement errors, several simple references will instead be made without great detail.  However, the apostate WoF doctrinal system offers substantial abuses to the gospel of scripture.  They have added and taken away so many fundamentals over the years that their followers are literally prepared to believe anything they are told.

Their weird hyper-kenotic doctrines are certainly an omission of note from the true gospel.  By claiming that Christ was born a mere man and somehow was elevated to Godhood, they have changed the gospel message entirely.  No longer did God become man.  In their view, man became God and purchased salvation for other men.  In their view, Jesus was not God incarnate, but a mere man who was elevated to god-status through his faith.

Scripture says in John 1,

John 1:1 (NIV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:3 (NIV)
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

John 1:14 (NIV)
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  Clearly, Jesus did not get “elevated” to godhood, as Creflo Dollar states.

If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? If Jesus – see God’s already been anointed. If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? Jesus came as a man, that’s why it was legal to anoint him. God doesn’t need anointing, He is anointing. Jesus came as a man, and at age 30 God is now getting ready to demonstrate to us, and give us an example of what a man, with the anointing, can do. 
– Creflo Dollar,
Jesus’ Growth into Sonship, dated December 8, 15, 2002

Nor was Jesus “born again” as Ken Copeland noted in the last post.

The WoF soteriology (doctrine of salvation) claims, in fact, that Jesus came to restore man to a “godhood” status which Adam himself enjoyed prior to the fall.

Adam was God manifested in the flesh.
Ken Copeland – (Following the Faith of Abraham, Tape #01-3001)
When God made Adam all He did was make an exact imprint of Himself. He duplicated Himself
Creflo Dollar (Our equality with God Through Righteousness January 21,2001)
God came to earth and touched a piece of dust and turned it into a God.”
Benny Hinn (TBN, Dec 1, 1990)

And, “the gospel according to the Trinity Broadcasting Network” states wholeheartedly that the status of one who is born again is the renewed version of Adam’s pre-fall deity; a “little god.”

“ “I say this with all respect so that it don’t upset you too bad, but I say it anyway. When I read in the Bible where he [Jesus] says, ‘I Am,’ I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I Am, too!’”
Kenneth Copeland (Believer’s Voice of Victory, TBN July 9, 1987)
“He [God] doesn’t even draw a distinction between Himself and us. . . . You know what else that’s settled, then, tonight? This hue and cry and controversy that has been spawned by the Devil to try and bring dissension within the body of Christ that we are gods. I am a little god! . . . I have His name. I’m one with Him. I’m in covenant relation. I am a little god! Critics, be gone!”
Paul Crouch (Praise the Lord, TBN? July 7, 1986)
“When you say, ‘I am a Christian, you are saying, ‘I am mashiach’ in the Hebrew. I am a little messiah walking on earth, in other words That is a shocking revelation…. May I say it like this? You are a little god on earth running around.”
Benny Hinn (Praise-a-thon TBN November 6, 1990)

Once again, the gospel message has been changed by this apostate group of wolves.  Are they not subject to Paul’s anathema?  Is the true gospel message that God sent his Son into the world to become a vicarious sacrifice that he could make man into a god?  Even a “little” one?

Scripture plainly notes that our spiritual heirship with Christ involves something altogether different.

Titus 3:5-7 (NIV)
5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Becoming an heir with Christ, according to Paul, is to have “the hope of eternal life,” not the hope of becoming a little god.  Perhaps this group should go ahead and merge into Mormonism.  It seems their true hopes may be more aptly aligned with that group.

Likewise, Peter notes,

1 Peter 1:7-9 (NIV)
7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The object of one’s faith in the true gospel is the salvation of one’s soul- not some spiritual upgrade to a pre-fall deific Adam.

It is not even necessary to discuss the WoF doctrines of Jesus suffering in Hell, let alone their claim of Jesus’ being born again to clearly articulate their perversion of the true gospel.  Indeed, the gospel-changing attribute of this group should be absolutely sufficient for any true believer of Christ to utterly reject their teachings, ministries and status as believers in the Christ of the Bible.  The WoF, and their great enabler, TBN, fall uncompromisingly under Paul’s condemnation.

Anathema to them.  They are not among us, but are pretenders who have changed the gospel of Christ.  More importantly, they are apostates who have known the truth of scriptures yet have sold them out for their own purposes.

Paul, speaking of similar men who preach a “different gospel (11:4)” in 2 Corinthians notes,

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NIV)
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

The False Gospel of the Liberal Emergents

The perversion of the gospel of the Emergent liberals has perhaps even surpassed that of the WoF however.  While certain aspects of their teaching is hidden from public scrutiny by the shear ambiguity of their doctrine-less doctrines, their view of the gospel is clearly an attempted “upgrade” to the soteriology of scripture.  The true gospel is received, for example, through precisely ONE venue; that of Jesus Christ, who noted,

John 14:6 (NIV)
6 … “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Dissatisfied with Jesus’ exceptionally clear declarative statement, Brian McLaren redefines it entirely in his culturally friendly “custom-gospel,” noting that in fact, Jesus meant the opposite of what he said!

“For too many people the name Jesus has become a symbol of exclusion, as if Jesus’ statement ‘I am the way, and of the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me’ actually means, ‘I am in the way of people seeking truth and life.  I won’t let anyone get to God unless he comes through me.’”  Brian  McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy,   Page 70.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  McLaren has a problem with Jesus being exclusive!  Instead, he reverses Jesus’ clear teachings concerning himself and states rather that,

“… I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherence to the Christian religion.  It may be advisable in many(not all!)circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.  This will be hard, you say, and I agree.  But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many “Christian” religious context, either.” 
Brian  McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan), 2004, page 260.

Sadly, McLaren was only in the shallow end of this theological cesspool when making such statements.  Ultimately, this liberal group of Emergents teach what they refer to as an “inclusive” doctrine.  According to Alan Jones’ book, Reimagining Christianity,

“Christ and Buddha are not antithetical.”  Page 146
“Jesus is the way to a new kind of life.  Jesus and Buddha have this in common with all great spiritual teachers– to make human beings more conscious of themselves, to get to be more real.” Page 194
“Our first task in reimagining religion, then, is to move from the narrowly tribal, where our story is the only story, to a wider definition of “tribe” that can embrace stories other than our own, told by people who are different from us.”  Page 16

Indeed, “the gospel according to Emergents” contends that,

“Again, although I believe in Jesus as my personal savior, I am not a Christian for that reason.  I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.”  (italics original) McLaren, Brian, A Generous Orthodoxy,   Page 100.

No, Brian, that is why you are not a Christian, sir.  Likewise, his good friend, Rob Bell chimes in,

when Jesus died on the cross, he died for everybody. Everybody. Everywhere. Every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every people group. Jesus said that when he was lifted up, he would draw all people to himself. All people everywhere. Everybody’s sins on the cross with Jesus. So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.’ All things, everywhere. This reality then isn’t something that we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, (Zondervan) Pages 145-146

Thus, all are forgiven in spite of their acquiescence to Christ as Lord?  In spite of God’s call?  In spite of the Holy Spirit’s prompting of the truths of the gospel?

It is simply painful for me to study these impostors.  The most widely know scripture verse on the planet single-handedly refutes this ridiculous custom-gospel.

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is “whoever believes in him” that “shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Two verses later Jesus further destroys this silly postulate as he notes,

John 3:18 (NIV)
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Increasingly Emergents are galloping closer toward full-blown Universalism, where everyone is redeemed- regardless of their own beliefs, actions or professions of faith.

Continuing down this miry slope is the omission or redefinition of an absolutely foundational principle of the gospel; that of substitutionary atonement.

Penal substitutionary atonement is the doctrine which teaches that Christ’s death on the cross vicariously paid the penalty for man’s sins.  While the penalty was owed to God, Jesus was allowed to pay on man’s behalf the sentence of death for man’s sin.  As Isaiah noted,

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Indeed, penal substitutionary atonement is the heart and soul of the gospel message.  While Paul notes that a “different” gospel is no gospel at all, if one chose to remove substitutionary atonement from the gospel one would create an “anti-gospel,” where the sins of man are utterly unpaid, and the penalty of death is irreversible.  The gospel is the “good new”- but a gospel without atonement is “no good news,” – an anti-gospel.

Yet, anti-Gospel is precisely the custom-doctrine of the Emergent movement.  Alan Jones declares in Reimagining Christianity that,

“The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God.  Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine.” (p. 168)

Vile doctrine???  Behind me, Satan.

Brian McLaren wholeheartedly concurs that if penal substitutionary atonement is true, then

God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive.  And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.

May I wholeheartedly suggest that Mr. McLaren prepare himself to be “kicked.”

At the end of the pseudo-theology of the WoF and the Emergent left lies a simple and all-encompassing biblical assertion:  this is no gospel at all.

This great apostasy is growing out of control.  Today, one cannot walk into a Christian bookstore without being inundated with wolves which have gathered on the shelves to feed on the sheep.  They preach prosperity.  The preach ascension to god-status by either the “little-god” fallacy of the WoF or the ultimate goal of Emergent meditational practices; to become all-enlightened and “jacked in” to the “spiritual oneness.”  They destroy their version of the gospel further each time they presume to teach about it.  The remnant church of the real Jesus Christ must fight continually to keep their demonic doctrines at bay.  There is not a month that goes by that someone I know personally has not fallen victim to one of these numerous adulteries against the true gospel of scripture. 

Such adulteries are not surprising, however.  For although they attempt to relegate God’s word to poetic interpretation, scripture has written about them far in advance.  This spiritual adultery against God will not cease.  It will grow until such a time when it will literally overtake the religious structure of the earth.

Revelation 13:5-10 (NIV)
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. 9 He who has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

[1] “perversion.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 15 Apr. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perversion>.

[2] “apostasy.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 15 Apr. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apostasy>.

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