What Do False Teachers Do?

false-teachersFalse teachers do not march into church carrying a sign that reads, “I hate Jesus and You!”  They come into church dressed in religiosity, Christianese, and shallow kindness.  The Apostle Paul wrote that false teachers have “the appearance of godliness but deny its power (2 Tm 3:5). False teachers will throw on a coat of niceness over their evil souls before coming to church this Sunday. But that form of godliness does not change their character. These false teachers still remain some of the most selfish, prideful, unloving, deceitful, slanderous, and hateful people in the world.

So how can we determine who is genuine and who is false? How do we discover who is in the ministry for the money, for self-promotion, and for sex and who is in the ministry to love the broken, to help the needed, and to encourage the faithful?

Though the hearts of men and women are hard to judge their actions are more easily seen. False teachers generally do two things according to Paul. He writes in 2 Timothy 3:6-9

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.  But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

Avoid Those Who Go After Little Women:

False teachers are attracted to the weak and the defenseless. They are particularly drawn to weak or little women.

Paul is not equating femininity with gullibility. Paul valued women in his own ministry and view them to be integral members of the church. He evangelized Lydia in Philippi and later stayed with her (Acts 16:13-15). He praises Phoebe as a servant of the church and spoke well of the evangelistic couple Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:1-3). And in 1 Timothy 3-5 and in Titus 2 Paul reveals that churches will only be healthy if they have faithful, reverent, and godly women. Paul was not a misogynist.

Paul is not attacking women in 2 Timothy 3. Rather, he is discussing reality. In 2014, The Telegraph estimated that a majority of cult members (70%) tend to be women even though most cult members are men.  False teachers prey on women with weak or little faith.

False teachers do not go after the woman who has a knowledge of the Bible, the woman who can confidently speak of the grace of God, and the woman who regularly chooses Christ instead of the her own wants. The false teachers go after the woman who is overcome by sin, is led astray by passions, and is always learning.

False teachers prey on women who feel the weight of their sin. They have had a secret abortion and yet they can never forget those horrific moments. They feel guilt when they think about all the mistakes they made as a parent. They feel condemned because they can never make it to church on time. They feel the weight of their sin day after day. They long to escape it but do not know how. False teachers seek out women who fear God will never approve of them.

They also seek out women who are controlled by their passions. Instead of being self-controlled, these weak or little women do what they want when they want to do it. If they seek affirmation, they devote their lives to chasing complements on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. They will jump into affairs and expose themselves to gain a fleeting complement or a sense of love. They live their life for approval. And once the complement fads, they once again feel the weight of their sin ever so deeply.

They also chase meaning through stuff. They buy shoes, carpets, toys, books, and anything else that catches their eye on Amazon, Waiyfair, or Zappos. The ladies run up the credit card bills and find themselves lying to their friends and spouses about their spending habits. These women bend and shape their life, families, and budgets to fund their passions. But once the rush of the order is replaced with the boredom and worry about debt.

Passions lead to hopelessness. False teachers seek out women overcome by sin and controlled by their passions.

And lastly, false teachers seek out women who are always learning but are never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. Again Paul is not saying that the women who are attracted to false teachers are intellectually stupid. Rather he is saying  women of little faith do not understand the gospel. 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul defines knowledge of the truth as follows:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Knowledge of the truth is knowledge of the gospel. The women who are targeted by false teachers are women who want something more than the gospel. Yes, they understand that God created the world, that men and women sinned, that Christ died for their sins, and that salvation is freely given to all who repent and believe. But these women want something more. They want to be able to do something. They want to say a special prayer, to find a special diet, or to create a special list that grants them everything for life and godliness.

They read book after book, they go to class after class, they do spiritual thing after spiritual thing, thinking, “Surely belief, repentance and faith can’t be enough? There must be more!”

False teachers thrive on this sentiment. Bruce Wilkinson wrote the Prayer of Jabez for such women. He told his readers that they would experience an amazing physical and spiritual life if they would pray one little prayer from 2 Chronicles over and over again. Sadly, Wilkerson’s teachings were extremely flawed as evidenced by his failed African ministry. Yet, his book continues to sell.

Those who have a form of godliness but deny it power prey on weak women overcome by sin, driven by their passions, and who are unable to grasp the truth of the gospel. We need to avoid such false teachers. Moreover, the church needs to be on the lookout for woman who are struggling and must offer them Biblical love, support, and counsel.

Avoid those who deny the Scriptures.

All false teachers oppose the truth like Jannes and Jambres. These two men opposed Moses by magically turning the staffs into snakes to compete with Aaron’s message from God (Ex 7:10-12). Today’s false teachers do the same thing.They replicate the ministry of true teachers with one subtle difference. The false teachers deny the truth of the Scriptures.

Again, they do not come out and say that they hate Jesus and the God of the Bible. Rather, they talk about unhinging the Bible from its less popular parts that unnecessarily confuse the average non-Christian. They talk about evolving beyond the antiquated spirituality of yester-year that defined the four gospel and the writings of Paul. They talk about finding the real Jesus was has been deformed and hidden by religious thinkers over the years. The false teachers claim to be purifying, improving, or saving the faith. But in reality, they are just denying it.

They words of Paul William DeYoung reveal this to be true. The author of The Shack released a theological book, Lies We Believe About God, in 2017 to further explain and expound upon the theology symbolized in Mack’s encounter with God. He clearly and unreserved goes against the Scriptures when he writes,

Is God a Christian? If you are asking if God is about separation and treats people of different denominations, faiths, and ways of thinking as outsiders until they pray a special prayer to “get in”…then of course not.

About a hundred pages later, Young calls the God of the Bible “a cosmic child abuser,” and boldly asserts, “Better no god at all than this one.

Such sentiment boldly denies the truth found in 1 Peter 2:21-25:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

False teachers want to snatch bits here and pieces there, but they do not want to follow the one true Jesus who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. If the false teachers wanted to follow Jesus, they would affirm the Scriptures. Jesus did no less in Matthew 5:17-19

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Essentially, false teachers want to claim Christ, but they want to claim a Christ that they can understand, control, and manipulate. Instead of submitting to God, they require God to submit to them and their finite ideas. And as the false teachers take ownership of God, they cannot help but seek to change, improve, and better the the the Word of God. They cannot help but oppose the truth.

What If Someone’s On the Fence

No some of us may be sitting on the fence wondering if that guy over there or if that girl over here is genuine or false. How do we tell? We wait them out.

We patiently observe them. We watch them. No one can fool all of the people all of the time. Their works will become evident in time. They will tip their hand. They will continually boast in the Scriptures or they will talk about how we need to change with the times and embrace the sin. They will love others well or they will start taking advantage of the women of little faith teaching them error, taking their money, and even exploiting them sexually. The secret works of the heart can never be hidden forever. They will be find out and in a timely matter. Keep watching.

Can you spot the false teachers?

The Shack: A Dangerous Journey For Evangelicals

the-shackThe Shack is a beautiful story of redemption. It is mysteriously beautiful journey that seeks to explain the relationship between God, humanity, and evil. And as we see the likable, rugged Mack grow in his understanding of God, we cannot help but see ourselves in his story. And because The Shack is such an effective literary devise, the book and now movie could prove to be extremely dangerous.

The doctrines that Christians would readily balk at if seen in cold text books can often slip by unnoticed when dressed in the beauties of a compelling narrative. And though The Shack protests against being classified as a theological work, it is just that. We must see it as such. If we do not, we will find our worldview being reshaped. As Dr. Albert Mohler said a few years ago,

In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied.

The same can be said of the movie as well. For us to be discerning  Christians, we must take this narrative back to the best narrative, the gospel. We must examine The Shack’s theology. We must see if the God of the Bible and the God of The Shack are the same.

Is the Shack True?

At first glance, the answer appears to be yes. The author barrows heavily from the language of conservative Christendom, encouraging us to enter into the dialogue with an open mind in an attempt to escape the false notions of God that we have created. But despite his claims to the contrary,  Paul Young commits the very crime his book seeks to overcome. He has recreated God, by taking, “the best version of you that you can think of.”

And we know this because, he portrays God the Father as both a “large, beaming African American woman” and as a “dignified, older, wiry [man with] sliver-white hair pulled back into a ponytail.” The Holy Spirit is described as wiry-looking “Asian woman.” The very descriptions of God defies God’s commands. Young has placed his own human into God’s nature. In so doing, Young has clearly violated the command of Exodus 20:4 which says:

 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

By making God the Father and the Holy Spirit appear as people, Young has blasphemed the very God he claims to be representing. And as Octavia Spencer, Graham Greene and Sumire Matsubara seek to represent the God of the universe on the big screen, they will fall infinitely short of the biblical descriptions of the Father and Holy Spirit. And, they cannot help themselves. No created being can capture the grandeur, holiness, wisdom, purity, justice, grace, mercy, goodness, and truth of the God of the universe who set the whole world in motion and who sent his son to redeem the lost. Regardless of their talent, no actress or actor can authentically role-play God. It is antithetical to their nature.

Now, the actors’ very inability to accurately represent God is the very thing that will make the book and the movie so appealing.  Humans can easily relate to the trinity that resembles them. But in making God more relatable, likable, and personal, Young’s narrative fails to capture the God of the universe that humanity desperately needs to understand. Young promises hope but delivers only confusion.

And because Young’s framework for understanding God exists apart from the ‘book,’ the God of The Shack advances many unbiblical doctrines, heresy.

First, Papa claims that there is no hierarchy in the trinity. The trinity is said to exists in a “circle of relationship, not a chain of command.” Yet in John 8, 14, and 16, a hierarchy is present. Jesus does the will of the Father, and the Holy Spirit comes to make much of Christ. Remember Jesus’ words:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

Since Young misunderstands the nature of the trinity, he cannot help but misrepresents the nature of human relationships, advocating for the abolition of the distinctive roles of marriage. According to Jesus of The Shack, God never wanted women to find their security in men and men to find the joy in their work. God wants relationships to exist structures that do not demand respect. God wants, “male and female to be counterparts, face-to-face equals.” Surprisingly, the Jesus of The Shack appears to have forgotten about the words he spoke in Genesis 2.

The God of the Shack seems to also have forgotten about the biblical doctrine of salvation. Instead of coming to pay for the sins of the world, Jesus comes to reconcile the whole world to God by removing pain, the darkness that keeps us from seeing God. According to Papa, God has no, “need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my purpose to cure it.” Sin is not our ultimate problem. Lack of relationship is. Thankfully the cross has cured this aliment for all.

Later on in the book, Papa tells Mack bluntly that, “through his [Jesus’] death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world…The whole world, Mack” (p.194).  Not too surprisingly, Jesus tells Mack that, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims…many are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions…I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want them to join in their transformation in sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my beloved.”

While Young clearly deems most religious activities to be fruitless, he readily teaches that all people will be in heaven after they sincerely being seeking after God. The path traveled does not matter. The universalism of The Shack directly contradicts the words of the real Jesus who said,

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

Not too surprisingly, humanity’s response to this divine drama is not one of repentance and faith at least not towards God. (We are called to liberate others by forgiving them thereby empowering God to reach them.) Because Christ died on the cross, we no longer have to follow the divine law. We are to do the opposite. The Holy Spirit tells Mack, “In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful.” In short, repentance and faith have been exchanged for the ambiguous ideas of love and relationship. If we love well, we have pleased God. We are to forget the the whole idea that God’s law has been written on the hearts of his children (Heb. 8;10:16). We are to  abandon the notion that salvation results in us having the divine power necessary to keep God’s “ You shall not” commands (John 14:5). As the Spirit tells Mack, “contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty.” God wants us to embrace the beautiful uncertainty of loving relationships.

And now we have arrived at the crux of the argument presented in The Shack. God is mysterious, unknown, and bigger than historical Christianity. He/She cannot be and must not be reduced down to the Bible. As Young writes, “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book.” This is our greatest problem. We have reduced God to the Bible.

This is not a new complaint. Young joins a long list of liberal theologians who have regularly sought to free, “Gods’ voice” for the leather binding of our ornate study Bibles. What’s new is not the content of The Shack  but the accessibility of the doctrines it follows. Regardless of how palatable the format of fiction is to our senses, Young’s liberal theology will continue to be just that, liberal theology. And we evangelicals must not let the beauty of this narrative confuse us. God’s narrative in the Scriptures is far superior.

We do not have to fear The Shack. But we must recognize the book and the movie for what they are: a distortion of the gospel. We must exercise biblical discernment. Towards that end, I encourage you and your family to pass on the film this weekend and every weekend. Don’t go to the cabin. Go to the Word.