Honestly, this is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write. It is with a heavy heart that I write this, as I may very well lose friends in the process. But God never said being obedient to His Word comes without a cost. Before I move forward, I need to set up what it is I am talking about, and what I'm talking about is heresy. Heresy, apostasy, whatever you want to call it, is warned against in most every New Testament book, so it's obviously a issue we should take seriously. Why should we take it seriously? Because it is something (if believed and followed), leads souls away from the true gospel, and consequently to hell. With that being said, I have personally seen heresy being put forth in a local church gathering I attend. The heresy taught has been things like telling people they are "enough" with no call to repentance, using the Cross as means for solving temporal problems rather than our eternal one, and the usage of heretical material such as The Message Bible and Brian McLaren's work. I also want to make it clear that I do not believe those who are leading this ministry are heretics, but unfortunately have fallen into heresy/misguided doctrine and the usage of it.
Heresy vs. Modern Doctrinal Differences
I need also to be sure to define what I mean by heresy. I am not talking about anyone who holds a different theological view on a certain part of the Bible than I do. There are many Christians who hold different views on many different things, these are what we call "minor doctrinal differences". These are things like one's view on eschatology, whether they are pre-trib, post-trib, or whether they believe in the rapture at all. Things like spiritual gifts, pedo-baptism, women in ministry, etc. All these things, no matter which side of the aisle you're on, holds no bearing on your salvation. The common ground we all hold is that we are "saved by grace through faith, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8). It is the belief that we are all sinners damned for hell, that Christ died for our sins and rose again, and we accept this by faith and repentance.
Paul Claims Those Who Teach a False Gospel Are To Be Cursed
THIS is the message that CANNOT be altered. THIS is the message all the disciples and apostles were martyred for, and anything that differs from this message is considered heresy. Paul himself said in his letter to the Galatians: "But even if we or an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8) Paul doesn't care who it is who brings a false gospel, whether it's him or an angel from heaven, (and since it wasn't enough to just say "don't listen to them") Paul believes these people are to be cursed by God Himself. Also note that Paul doesn't care what pretense they bring it under... meaning the person teaching it may be doing so with the best intentions, and be very sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. The LDS church, for example, are extremely sincere people, but if they die without the knowledge and faith in the biblical gospel, they will go to hell. Of course not all heresy is as obvious to us as Mormonism. Most of it is right in front of our face, and is prevalent and taught in most American Churches today.
The Bible Not Only Commands Us To Call Out Heresy, But To Avoid It
Scripture tells us in numerous places to spot heresy, and avoid it. Romans 16:17 tells us to "mark those" who teach contrary to sound doctrine and to avoid them. The greek word used for "mark" in this passage is the same word used for scouts and sentries back in the day, who would go ahead and seek out danger and report back what they saw. Or, think of one who is assigned to the watchtower at night, and is actively looking for danger, and sounds the bell when it is spotted. That is the same word Paul uses in this passage for marking heretics. It is not enough to just passively sit by, but to actively be on the lookout, and when spotted, sound the alarm, warn others, so they may avoid it too. We are also to call them out by name so people know who they are (2 Tim 4:9-10), we are to describe what their heresy is (2 Tim 2:16-18), then we are called to avoid them (Eph 5:11-14, 2 Thes 3:6, Titus 3:10-11). Guys, God takes His Word very seriously. We are not to mess with the gospel, and are commanded to teach "sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). How would you feel if you wrote a letter to someone, and they then went and not only misrepresented what you said, but even re-wrote what you said entirely? This is what heresy and heretics do.
Heretics vs. Heresy
Personally Witnessing It In a Local Church Gathering
For the better part of a year, I have been attending a local church community for young adults. The vision on its surface was sound, as it called for people of differing theological backgrounds (presbyterian, baptist, non-denom, etc) to come together and worship God and hear the Word, as we all had one thing in common, Christ. I thought this was great! No Christian should look down on others, or think their denomination is better than another, after all, we are all saved by grace through faith and have commonality in the blood of Jesus. However, it wasn't long after attending that I began to see some red flags. (As previously stated, I am drawing a line here between heretics - those who intentionally deceive - and heresy, as I do not believe those who lead this ministry are heretics.) In the verse following Romans 16:17 above, it states "for such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive." This does not apply to those involved in this ministry. They most certainly are not in it for their own gain and undoubtedly have a heart of service. They are sincere, but as previously stated, sincerely wrong on many doctrinal points. This of course could be applied to any number of churches in America today, but until recently, I've never really experienced it firsthand. I bring this up because one: I think it's important to recognize it and know if you are in a church that's teaching it, and two: what to do next (which I get into below. This is where I may lose friends).
Red Flags That Point To Heresy
Red Flag Number One: Improper View of Scripture
The first one came about a year ago when I got coffee with the pastor who leads it. Upon meeting for coffee, we discussed our backgrounds and views on Scripture. I said that with Scripture, there is only ever one interpretation, but multiple applications; meaning that for each passage, the writer and the Holy Spirit were only trying to say or convey one particular thing. For instance, the famous passage in Corinthians of "don't be unequally yoked" was talking about the Corinthians not joining themselves in ministry with unbelievers, it actually wasn't about marriage at all. But since Paul was speaking on broad terms, it can most definitely be applied in that area (the line of interpretation vs application can be fine, but it's important). Anyways, this pastor was not in agreement. He said that everyone can interpret the Bible in their own way. He then likened it to a painting on the wall behind me, saying how each person can look at art or a painting and get something else out of it. (This is so dangerous!) He then ironically used the example of the Old Testament prophesy of the "suffering servant" and how we interpret that as Jesus, but the Jews see that as them. He was only proving my point! This is why interpretation matters! Obviously one of those is right, and one is very very wrong. In fact, one is so wrong that it has caused them to dismiss Christ as their Savior, therefore leaving them outside of God's grace and being a target of His wrath. This was the first red flag.
Red Flag Number Two: The Esteem of Other Heretics - Eugene Petersen
The second red flag came when during one of his messages, he quoted Eugene Petersen, author of the heretical and grossly mistranslated Message Bible, stating that he was his "favorite pastor". (Again, drawing the line of heresy vs. heretic. Eugene Petersen is a heretic, as he intentionally rewrote the entire word of God adding his own new age philosophy to the text - it should also be noted that the phrase "Lord Jesus" does not appear once in his translation - Link about Message Bible's heresy ) That really set my alarms off, but I continued to go because as of yet, I had not heard a message that was exactly heretical, plus I enjoyed the fellowship.
The Lines Into Heresy Crossed
The Heresy of Telling Others They Are Good or Enough
Within the last few weeks, it had finally come to a point. A message was taught that crossed the line, and if any unbeliever there took that message to heart, it would send them to hell if they went on believing it. What was it? Well, he used the story of Jacob's ladder to show how God meets us where we are at... (okay, no heresy so far), but he continued to say "you are enough, you are enough for God". I was waiting for this to be brought around to the true gospel, but it never was. The whole message was essentially this: "God loves you, you are enough for Him, go in peace..." That's it!? What about man's sin? What about the fact that without faith in Christ's sacrifice they are a target of God's wrath? If any unbeliever was there that night, they would walk away thinking they are "good enough" and are in right standing with God, when in reality they are a target of His wrath.
No One Is Good Except God
This message was taught with the best intentions at heart. The first part of his message was right, that God meets us where we are at. Yes, God loves us, and calls us to come as we are... but not to stay as we are. "He commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) To say we are "enough" and leave it at that is simply not biblical. We are indeed not good enough for God. Only one is good, and that is God. We see this when the rich ruler comes to Jesus and calls Him "good", and Jesus replies "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God." (Luke 18:19) Jesus wasn't denying being good, but was admitting His divinity. The Bible speaks volumes how man is sinful, fallen from God, and far from good. "No one does good, no not even one." (Romans 3:12) You might be thinking, "Calm down Peter, it was just one message!", but it hasn't been just one message, but every message.
Jesus Died for Our Loneliness, Depression, etc.
Every message has focused on our temporal problems rather than the eternal one. The danger in this false gospel is that people come to Christ to "fill that hole in their heart", or to cure their depression or anxiety... only to find that they are just as anxious or as depressed as they were before, and think "this Jesus did nothing for me", so they leave the faith. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for our sins so we wouldn't have to pay for them ourselves in hell. The unrepentant unbeliever cannot be saved unless he knows what he is being saved from. Jesus didn't die for our loneliness, or our depression, and all the messages taught there treated Jesus like our mental health therapist rather than our Savior from hell. (We must have a biblical view of Jesus and the gospel)
The True Gospel
"Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For i would not have know what it is to covet if the law had not said 'you shall not covet' ". (Romans 7:7)
The good news isn't that we are "good enough", but that WE AREN'T. The good news is that Christ died for us anyways, "while we were sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) The difference in believing the true gospel is that the sinner puts his faith in Christ to save them from hell, not from depression or loneliness. That way when trials do come, they can rejoice and sing, as Paul and Silas did in prison, because they know suffering is temporary and that it is nothing compared to what they were saved from, and nothing compared to the glory that awaits them in heaven.
Line Two: The Usage of Material From Heretics As The Basis For Sermons
Basing Sermons Off Brian McLaren: Rewriting Christianity and Satisfying Itching Ears
The next thing that crossed the line for me was when I found out that the messages being taught were based off writings from Brian McClaren. For those who do not know, Brian McClaren is a widely recognized heretic amongst the theologically-sound community. The man is not saved! He does not believe in the biblical gospel, and purports a different one entirely. In his book A New Kind of Christianity, McClaren essentially states that we've had the Christian faith "wrong", and brings forth a new version of Christianity that is more palpable and less offensive, thus fulfilling what Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy when people "will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and turn away from listening to truth and wander off into myths" (2:3-4).
Brian McLaren: The Heresy of Claiming God Is Not Worthy of Us
Brian McLaren is also part of the heretical emergent church movement. He does not believe the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. He does not believe the flood of Genesis to be
real. He believes it's against God's character, stating "a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship." (A New Kind of Christianity) We do not get to decide which terms God must be worshiped under!
We are hardly worthy of Him, not the other way around. That statement is heretical to the extreme. God's judgement is always righteous, and always good.
Further reading on his heresy is at these links:
(The False Teacher: Brian McLaren)
(Christianity and McClarenism)
Line Three: No Foundation
Not Believing the Bible To Be Inerrant
We recently got coffee again, and it was during this meetup that I soon discovered views that were far more unbiblical than I had originally thought. First, he made it very clear that he does not believe the Bible to be inerrant, which can be tremendously dangerous. Who then decides which parts are erred or not? Inerrancy is a core issue we must address. John Piper had this to say on inerrancy:
2 Timothy 3:16 states that "All Scripture is inspired by God." The term "inspired" here is not used in the sense of "Beethoven was inspired to write great symphonies." It literally means "God-breathed." This applies to the entire Bible, and extends to the actual words, not just the concepts ("all Scripture"). Jesus also affirmed this for the Old Testament (Matt. 5:18) and promised this for the New Testament (John 16:12-15; 14:26). Since God always speaks the truth, it follows that the Scriptures are without error. Jesus treated them this way, even basing his point in an argument with the Pharisees on the tense of a single word (Matthew 22:31-32; see also Galatians 3:16 where Paul does this as well) and stating "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). This is called the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration, which means that the very words (verbal) of the Bible were all (plenary) God-breathed.
He then suggested the book "The Bible Tells Me So" by Peter Enns, a man who dismisses the Bible as a historical book, and picks and chooses
which parts of the Bible are true and which aren't. Very dangerous stuff.
Details available here: (The Bible Tells Me So: Book Review)
Denies the True Gospel
This one should not be complicated, and honestly,it broke my heart. The gospel is clearly given to us in the Gospels. I asked him to give me the basic, simple gospel, but he couldn't even do that. He didn't believe it was as simple as the Bible puts forth. I broke it down into the five points, being 1) Sin, 2) Punishment/Hell, 3) Christ's Penal Atonement/Resurrection, 4) Faith, 5) Repentance. He didn't agree at all. He said I was too focused on hell, and even said he was actually "saddened" by my view. How is that sad!? Christ paid for my sin, took my guilt, shame, and suffered the wrath of God FOR ME! I then asked him if he believed Christ's death on the cross was penal, and he couldn't answer the question. He never admitted (or denied) it. He said that penal atonement was "one theory", and that the gospel has a bigger picture. In a sense we were both right... Christ did come so that we may have abundant life. He does care about our temporal problems here and now, He is our Wonderful Counselor, but the point I tried to emphasize (which he grimaced every time I brought it up), was the sinner being a target of God's wrath. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36)
This is the gospel clear. If you don't believe Christ's death was penal, I doubt your salvation, for why else did Christ die? We can't address temporal problems without first addressing the eternal one. It's like modern medicine in trying to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. All believers should boldly be able to admit Christ's death was penal, that is why we have such joy! (Which he doesn't think I have) I admit, in my zeal I can come across a little strong, but it's only because I am passionate about the gospel! The gospel is the dividing line that separates the sheep from the goats, those who are going to heaven or to hell, and I'll be damned to sit idly by and let others follow a false gospel! You see, I do have joy because I was SAVED!
Why do we use that term? Because we are saved from hell! Christ on the cross said "It is finished". What was finished? He just suffered a horrible death. Was the death of God's Son really necessary for a temporal issue? Of course not! My joy comes from being redeemed from my sin, past, present and future. He of course agreed with me when I said this, but he always had a "but" to add... "but you're missing the bigger picture". But what? There is no "but", that's the gospel, that's it! It really is that simple! Yet, he couldn't admit to Christ's penal atonement when the Bible is clear on this issue: Romans 5:9, 1 John 4:10, 1 Thess 5:9, 1 John 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:8-9, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 3:25, 1 Thess 1:10, Isaiah 53:4-6, 1 Thess 1:9-10, Hebrews 2:17, Isaiah 53:10, Hebrews 9:22, Romans 3:24-25)
He also admittedly refuses to talk about hell, even though Jesus spoke on hell more than anyone else in the Bible. He said he didn't need to bring it up because he believed most people are aware of their brokenness and sin. This theory is easily proven wrong by asking people "do you think you're a good person?" 95% of people will say "yes, of course I am a good person!" I then go into the Ten Commandments, using it as a mirror (as Paul speaks of) to reveal their sin.
He went on to say how the gospel can be something else to so many different people... how for one person it can be giving them a loaf of bread to eat, etc. No, that is not the gospel. I don't, or won't ever negate hospitable acts. I think it's foolish for missionaries to go abroad and not fill a need they are well capable of filling. But if thats all they do, they have committed a far greater error, which is not addressing their sin and need for a Savior. They can go to the grave comfortably with a full stomach, but they will die in their sins.
The Purpose of Gathering Together as a Church
Church is Not a Place to Boost Our Self-Esteem: He Must Increase, I Must Decrease
The true gospel is offensive, and we must not shy away from it! Forgive me if in reading this it seems like I have an axe to grind, I really don't, I am just defending faith. I don't believe this man is out there intentionally sharing a false gospel, he just unfortunately has been misinformed by other "theologians", and has ultimately let their views direct his faith, rather than the Scriptures themselves. In being too focused on the "big picture", he bypasses the core tenet of why Christ died in the first place, and focuses too much on building up our self-esteem. All the messages taught had the same theme: Self-help. Every message was an encouraging, self-esteem boosting, motivational speech, with a bit of Scripture thrown in to make it seem legit. Don't get me wrong, not all the messages taught were heresy (as it is with many heretical churches), but I found that the foundation of it all was. An encouraging message isn't necessarily bad every now and then, as we are called to edify one another, but the purpose of edification isn't to boost our self-esteem, but that "none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb 3:13) And with that, we refrain from sin by sanctification and conviction through the Holy Spirit, but I did not hear any convicting messages. Also, church isn't meant to be a place for boosting our self-esteem... church isn't about us, but about Him. Encouraging sermons are great! But if that's all you ever get at church is a self-esteem boost, then it might be time to find another church, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
The Steps I Took to Correct the Issue
I Went to Them Privately First
I reached out to the pastor and one other leader via email addressing my concerns. We then met up for coffee, which I mentioned above.
I Prayed and Sought Council From Wiser Men
I prayed about it fervently. I went to men wiser than me whom I trust and know the Scriptures. I went to my brother (who has dealt with a similar circumstance in the past back when he was a youth pastor) and got his input, he agreed. I also went to my pastor, he agreed telling me "It looks like the Lord has already given you discernment on this issue", and also reached out to a couple of friends. I don't say that to flaunt, but to show I took every biblical precaution necessary before exposing their heresy.
Avoiding Heresy: Why I Stepped Away, and Urge Others To Do The Same
Are those who are involved with and attend this ministry genuine believers? Yes of course, I am sure most of them are, but unfortunately have fallen trap to destructive heresies. I would encourage any and all reading this who know of the ministry I speak of to do as Paul commands in 1 Thess and "test all things" (even everything I've mentioned), and hopefully come to a biblical conclusion... can you continue to attend or support a ministry that doesn't teach sound doctrine? Can you continue to go to a church where its leader doesn't believe the Bible to be an inerrant, historical account of the world, God, and His redemptive plan for mankind? I'm not saying it's a sin to continue going, but I would then question the purpose of doing so, as spiritual growth and edification through sound teaching (the whole purpose of church) is absent. I know to many this post may seem unnecessary, but if we don't stand up for the gospel and the Word of God (the most important things in the universe), what else is there? I at least pray that all who attend actually go to a biblically sound church on Sunday mornings.
Also, I do not write this to be divisive, but the natural consequences of exposing heresy is just that... division. People take sides, and the body is cut in half. This is unfortunate. This is why I ask those reading who know the ministry I speak of to strongly consider what I've brought forth, as I understand the decision will not be easy, as you are just at much at risk for losing friends as I am. As I stated earlier, we should not be divisive over minor differences, but when the gospel itself is distorted, the Bible itself is attacked, or the character of Christ is misrepresented, these are the issues we must stand on with firm conviction, and to me, it seemed like the leader of this ministry has none. Anyone can see or interpret the Bible as they want. The gospel can be this to you and that to me, all is good under the sun. This cannot be. Some say I am being too narrow minded, or that I can't put God in a box... Jesus said "I am the way...no one comes to the Father except through Me" and "narrow is the gate" that leads to Salvation. If by "narrow minded" and "box", you mean confining God to Scripture, then God put Himself in a box. Everything He wanted to reveal to us He has already done through His Word. I am narrow minded on the gospel because Christ was narrow minded... it's His way, or the highway to hell. His character, the gospel, and His Word cannot be dealt with loosely.
Again, I write all this with an extremely heavy heart, as I have personally invested in this ministry... I even developed their website for them, but have since relinquished all responsibility involved with it, as I could no longer support them. I went to them personally/privately first to address my concerns, but since no repentance nor change was to be made to align their ministry with Scripture, I must then obey Scripture and call out the heresy I've seen. Writing a blog and presenting their heresy against Scripture seemed the best way to go about this, as standing outside their church and publicly defaming his ministry would probably not go over well (It may have worked for Paul, but I am trying to have a bit more discretion). If people ask me why I left, or want to take the time to read this blog, then this information is publicly available here, and I will not speak of it outside of this unless personally asked. I have purposely not given the names, or the name of the ministry, as those commands were more reserved for those who intentionally deceive, rather than being deceived themselves, otherwise this blog would be a lot longer as I would be calling out 80% of churches in America. But since I've personally been involved with and supported this ministry, I must correct the issue. Plus, I believe I've adequately and biblically given the case for sound doctrine and how to recognize heresy when you see it.
Again, it's not that I think they are intentionally deceiving others, but as Paul wrote to the Galatians: "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." (1:6)
You see, Paul never called these believers heretics, but he did call out the heresy they were so easily believing, and this is what I believe has happened.
From what I've seen, they have turned to a different gospel and away from sound doctrine. It pains me to write this and to call out those whom I have called friends,
but my stance on Scripture will always come first. Christ and obedience to His Word will always come first. Sure, I may lose friends, but again as Paul wrote in Galatians:
"Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (1:10)
If you disagree with me, or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to meet up for coffee (on me) and
discuss things further!