Monday, April 16, 2012

A Judgmentless Gospel-L. Winneroski

     In this promotional video for a book entitled Love Wins, the author is really posing one major question: How could a loving God send people to hell? From just the preview of his book, we see the author questioning if Jesus is truly the only way to get to heaven. His logic is that if God is a truly loving God, He will judge the heart as the true measure for acceptance into heaven. Perhaps an individual has been turned off from the message of the Gospel because of something another Christian has done or said. The author questions how this individual could be held responsible and sentenced to an eternity in hell. This preacher and author’s message falls within the category of the judgmentless gospel. Here, this man is denying and neglecting the idea of God as Judge. However, at the same time, he is stating that he wants justice for all people when it comes to where they will spend eternity. However, judgment and justice go hand in hand. We find that you cannot have one without the other.
    This author’s message points to the idea of universalism, or the belief that everyone will eventually be saved. Once again as shown through the therapeutic gospel, human sin is downplayed and causes us to question why we should even trust Christ with in the first place and wonder as to what exactly He is saving us from. Hell is not a light-hearted topic to discuss over the dinner table. Most prefer to keep all talk of eternal damnation under the table. The judgmentless gospel is appealing because it eases our conscience when talking about loved ones who are not saved and keeps all talk of evil, sin, and judgment out of the picture. However, God’s judgment stems out of His love and His very nature. We live in a world created and intended for good but corrupted by sin. Creation longs for the day when the evil will be judged and justice will be achieved. The scary part is that when you look at the Biblical Gospel, all of us contain evil, as sin has corrupted our very being. This means that all of us will face God’s judgment. Only if we have entrusted Jesus with our lives and allow Him to stand in our place will be pardoned for our sins and receive an eternity spent in heaven. As evident by each of the messages, both of these preachers focus on a different aspect within the Gospel message but find themselves falling into the trap of attractive counterfeits. Although ever so subtle, certain aspects within their messages fail to align with the one true Gospel: the story of the life of Jesus and his sacrificial death on a cross to receive the punishment that we deserve.

A Therapeutic Gospel-L. Winneroski

    Although this sermon does not specifically cover the gospel story (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration), the preacher implies his misled interpretation of the gospel story when addressing the upcoming decade. In this sermon, the preacher is really giving a motivational pep talk for the upcoming decade, beginning with 2010. He focuses his message on the blessings and favors of God, propelling his message into the category of the therapeutic gospel. The preacher states in his sermon that because you have trusted Christ and are a child of God, you will see a decade of increase, promotion, and favor. He states that your career will take off, you will accomplish your goals, you will get out of debt and pay your house off, and you get well again despite the medical reports.
    Here, it is as if the preacher is saying, Trust Christ and everything in your life will be great! According to Wax, this thinking is referred to as the Happy Meal Gospel. Under this reasoning, God wants us to be happy. Pursuing happiness becomes the main focus of our lives and we reach this goal of happiness by being nice and helpful to other people. This sermon also falls into the subcategory of the Paid Programming Gospel. Jesus is viewed as the means to turning your life around and making it “better.” Jesus is seen a mere addition to your existing life, rather than someone who transforms you from the inside out.
    As clearly evident by the packed stadium listening to this sermon, people want to hear this type of message. The motivational tone leaves people inspired and feeling good. The therapeutic gospels focus on human worth and God providing for our needs. However, often times, messages like this one leave us wanting God’s provisions and blessings rather than desiring God Himself. The therapeutic gospel does not address suffering and often leaves people struggling and questioning when suffering does come. This gospel also ignores the great weight and depravity of human sin. In this sermon, people are clearly cast in an optimistic light, suggesting that deep down people are mostly good. This downplaying of sin also downplays God’s grace and sacrifice of sending His son Jesus to die in our place. The therapeutic gospel uses Christ as a means of getting something else in life, such as blessing in an upcoming decade. This sermon focuses only on the blessings rather than the One who does the blessing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A "No Consequence to Sin" Gospel-M. Williams

    Another gospel presentation found at  talks about God’s love, yet this sermon does not talk about Heaven and Hell as the previous pastor did. When man sins, he is not supposed to spend too much time on the failure because God is a loving Father. Our Heavenly Father is like our earthly father in the sense that God loves us no matter what we do wrong. We humans are His special children who are of the utmost importance to Him, and when we sin He is more concerned about loving us than punishing us.
    This pastor also seems to present a gospel devoid of any real consequence of sin. This pastor embraces the fact that God forgives but spends very little time on the consequences of sin in the gospel story or community. The entire message is filled of instances where man is put on this big pedestal stating how special humanity is to God and how He will always regard us with unconditional grace, yet the message never included how mankind does not deserve this forgiveness. Part of the gospel is the recognition of a sin problem that mankind must be forgiven. The whole reason Jesus came was to solve this problem. The gospel constantly bolstering the specialness of humans minimizes this reason and does not help the ongoing spiritual health of Christians or Christian communities. By realizing people do not deserve forgiveness because sin is so horrible, sin becomes an undesirable action when forgiveness is achieved. The community of Christians cannot become better Christians or learn the greatness of Christ without first spending some time actually realizing how Christ saved such undeserving and rebellious children.

Entire Gospel Elimination?-M. Williams

    A particular sermon contained a presentation of the gospel concerned greatly with the love of God. The pastor begins his presentation by explaining that neither Heaven nor Hell is a real place. Heaven is more like the qualities of justice and love in the world while Hell is the greed and hateful qualities. We as Christians work towards a better tomorrow where Heaven qualities exist in people without any Hell qualities. This upcoming place will be what Jesus kept referring to as His new age, and this new age will be where the good qualities will be embody all people. Anyone can join this new age and be a part of “Heaven”. Jesus in the pastor’s message is one who is in all places of creation, and even if a community is worshipping a god of a different name they still may be worshipping Jesus and may be able to reach “Heaven”.
    The first false gospel presented an unknowable god and a Heaven anyone can join. The story of who God is becomes hard to understand since everyone on the planet could be worshipping a different god. The announcement of Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for man’s sins becomes irrelevant because there is no Hell. God in the Bible had Jesus die on the cross because man sinned, and man needed Jesus’s blood on the cross to avoid Hell. To eliminate the reason Jesus came is also to eliminate the community of Christians talking about the sacrifice on the cross since there was no need for the sacrifice.

A Judgmentless Gospel-D. Wernig

    In this video clip, a debate takes place on a radio show between two theologians, who are discussing the concept of God’s judgment and heaven and hell, and one of the pastors gives his opinion, displaying his interpretation of the Gospel as “judgmentless.” 
    The overall viewpoint of this preacher is that eventually all people will ultimately be saved from God’s wrath and from hell.  It is his theological opinion that individuals specifically choose hell, and resist God’s love, and once God’s love is accepted, they can be saved.  He further emphasizes (without biblical defense) that God is not a wrathful God, but is a loving one.  The current world is explained as being a hell, and when one dies without God in his or her life, hell continues in the spiritual realm.  Contrary to orthodox Christianity, he believes even within the confines of hell, a person has the opportunity to repent and be reconciled with God.  He further tries to apply a logical argument, claiming that a finite amount of sins does not deserve infinite punishment.
    Trevin Wax would say this form of the judgmentless gospel is when people believe, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose to go there,” and, “God looks at your heart.”  The pastor in the video seems to be implying that deep down, if a person is good at heart, God will melt our hearts and God’s love will conquer our will.  One big problem with this is that the preacher assumes that people are generally good, when the Bible teaches something completely different. 
    What is attractive about this gospel to so many people is that it eases their conscience in the matters of hell.  People don’t want to consider the possibility of an eternal punishment, and it makes them uneasy, especially when thinking about unsaved friends and family that could be experiencing such everlasting torment.  Also, by ignoring the judgment side of the gospel, it allows people to avoid facing their own evil, and they are given the delusion that they are “good” before God.
    In order to counter this counterfeit, Christians must remember that God’s Judgment demonstrates His love.  The anger and wrath of God is directly related to His love for people; he imposes judgment on people because of “His love for them and his desire for their best.”  God must deal with the sin in individual’s lives, and the evil in the world…for the world’s own good.  Also, followers should keep in mind the personal nature of sin.  It would not be holy of God to ignore one’s rebellion and rejection of him and his rule; in order to be just, He must deal out a punishment, and He cannot arbitrarily wipe away sin without any cause.  The cause by which sin can be washed away is through Jesus, and Jesus alone.  The true Gospel involves a true response of faith and repentance, during this life, in Jesus who offers to take our punishment through what he has done on the cross.

A Therapeutic Gospel-D. Wernig

    One example of a counterfeit that can be noticed is in this video clip, where the Therapeutic Gospel is presented in a sermon having to do with the Gospel and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The common theme of this individual’s sermon is pressing on for our personal victory that God intends for us to have.  Examples are given throughout the sermon of how Jesus went through a similar process of persisting on the road to the cross.  He gives the story of Jesus praying in the garden, when “everything was against him,” explaining that the church is to follow his example and continue to hope because “victory” is coming.  Also, he speaks of Jesus not being able to carry his cross, saying that “even Jesus can’t carry the weight sometimes,” and like him, his followers don’t have to be strong 100% of the time.  Throughout the sermon, the pastor continually says, in regard to people’s trials and goals, that a resurrection is coming, implying that Jesus’ resurrection can be paralleled to overcoming any obstacles one may face.  Lastly, the video concludes with the preacher saying that, through Jesus Christ, God has given everyone the opportunity for an abundant life.
    This video metaphorically screams, “Therapeutic Gospel.”  It is what Trevin Wax would probably call the “Fill’er up Gospel.”  The speaker in the video continually states that God fills people up and provides for people in times of discomfort or pain.  Through his portrayal of Jesus, he seems to be making the point that the purpose of Jesus’ actions and his death on the cross was primarily to provide Christians with an example to follow when they are in times of hardship.  Jesus is about guiding followers through their trials, and helping them to reach their potential and achieve their goals.  He seems to imply that the resurrection is symbolic for our victories in times of trial, and it represents God’s promise that he will give us success in our ambitions. 
    This false gospel is attractive to so many people, probably because it emphasizes that God will be there to comfort people in their time of need.  Also is gives people hope for their current life on earth and for achieving their goals, especially when it is stated that God will give an abundant life to all who believe.  While Jesus does bring hope and comfort during one’s life on earth, it does not guarantee that all of one’s earthly ambitions and desires will be satisfied. 
In order to counter this counterfeit, one must remember to put God in the center, not one’s own personal plans.  This gospel is not about the person, but about God, and what He has done through Jesus Christ to save his followers from judgment, not from failure of earthly goals.  It is important that believers find their joy in God alone, and in the beauty of their salvation and God’s love and grace.  When salvation from God’s eternal judgment is replaced with salvation from lack of victory and lack of reaching one’s potential, the true gospel can easily be missed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Judgmentless & Activist Gospel-A. Visscher

     I watched a video called “Resurrection.” It was a short sermon on what Christ’s resurrection means for the world today. The pastor’s main point was that God hasn’t given up on the world but is rescuing it. The sermon states that God has called us to resurrection, not abandoned us. Redemption is God loving mankind so much that he doesn’t want people to stay the way they are. He meets them when they are low and when they accept him as Lord they become the vessels he uses to transform the world. Jesus’ crucifixion followed by his resurrection was an example of life overcoming death and victory continues today as God rids the world of evil to create life.
     “Resurrection” brings a powerful message of redemption, transformation, and a coming new earth while neglecting judgment. The sermon focuses so much on this life that it ignores the penalty of sin, Christ’s atonement on the cross, and the need to believe in Jesus as our Savior. Altogether, “Resurrection” is a counterfeit mixture of the judgmentless and activist gospels.
     The sermon appeals to believers and unbelievers by stating truths about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus often preached on the kingdom of heaven in both the present and future tense. On one hand, he brought the kingdom to earth when he was incarnated and on the other, he said that the kingdom would not be complete until he returned to reign. “Resurrection” touches on the present kingdom when it encourages listeners to begin God’s work of transformation. We can start a redemptive work now by following Christ and reaching out to the poor, broken hearted, and abused. We can be the hands and feet of the gospel by standing against the evils of this world. The pastor also mentioned the “life to come.” He was not referring to heaven but a renewed earth. This reference to the future kingdom of heaven is correct. Man was created to live in the world and the book of Revelation talks about God making a new earth where Christ will reign. The church acting in preparation for what is to come is a biblical concept that “Resurrection” captures perfectly, but on its own the message is incomplete.
     Adding facts to this counterfeit will address the falsehoods within it. The first truth to remember is that we need God because we are condemned by our sin. In the beginning, man’s relationship with God was severed because of sin. The result was death. In the same way Adam and Eve received justice, we will also be judged for our sins and they will bring eternal death. Therefore, we do not come to God simply because we’re feeling low but because we need him to restore our broken relationship and to grant us mercy from death. The second truth is that we need to live in preparation not only for redemption, but also for judgment. Since God will judge man at the end of time, man needs to be kept accountable and to maintain a relationship with God. We must go beyond recognizing a need for God’s mercy and doing good deeds to becoming spiritually prepared to face God as Judge. The final truth is that evil cannot be purged without justice. “Resurrection” calls for a transformation from evil to good. The only way for this to occur is through justice. Justice demands a penalty and with that, we return to the earlier mentioned concept of eternal death. Overall, the sermon captured the work of redemption but fell short by failing to it put it in context. It didn’t mention God’s relationship with man or judgment. Without judgment there is no reason to come to God or to expect evil to be erased.

A Therapeutic Gospel-A. Visscher

    I went online here and here and listened to a sermon entitled “Intensive Care.” The main point of the message was that Christians are not responsible for their sin but are a work in progress, continuously becoming better through Jesus. The preacher stated that man is insane and doesn’t realize that what he does offends God. When people accept Christ into their lives they are “in treatment.” They are receiving God’s favor and blessings and are in a healing process. According to this message, the church should become a place of unconditional acceptance and love where Christians never judge. The preacher encouraged the audience to forgive past offenders and to walk in prosperity, healing, and life.
    At first glance, this counterfeit seems legitimate but upon further inspection, the listener will notice that it is a rendition of the therapeutic gospel. The preacher promises improvement and blessing when a person comes to Christ. He ignores man’s responsibility for sin, whether the sin was committed before or after the person was saved. By using the word “insane” he takes away man’s guilt and replaces it with helpless ignorance. At its core, the message assumes that man is inherently good and it claims Jesus’ role as nothing more than a divine counselor. 
    Many people are drawn to this message because of the truths that surround the lie. It rightly points to Jesus as the source of change. No sin can be conquered with out the power of Jesus and no fruit can be produced without the work of the Holy Spirit. God desires to see us become more like him and he helps us along in the process. “Intensive Care” also points out the truth of God’s blessings. He wants to give good gifts to his children and his favor rests on those who seek his face. Finally, the message highlights the church by focusing on the forgiveness and love of believers. It is correct in saying that believers should be characterized by these traits and should extend them to unbelievers. These truths make “Intensive Care” appealing and its gospel seem accurate.
    Despite the nuggets of truth found in the sermon, the gospel is a fraud. It is important to weed out the false statements and counter them with truth. First, the church is called to judge others using biblical standards. Scripture states that believers are to keep each other accountable. Instead of ignoring their faults, Christians should gently reprimand brothers and sisters caught in sin. When addressing unbelievers, Christians should use the Bible to point out that man falls short of God’s standards and that he is responsible for his sin. Another truth to emphasize in the face of “Intensive Care” is that man is motivated to change by seeking God’s face, not his hand. Thus, our change should not stem from the promise of personal benefit but from a revelation of the glory of the Lord. This ties into a third truth: blessings are not the result of change. Our change does not bring us good gifts. Instead, good gifts come from God when we seek his face. Both change and blessings are a result of the pursuit of God. They do not have a causal relationship. Knowing these truths will prepare the listener to be wary of false doctrine and to follow God with a biblical mindset.

A Judgmentless Gospel-A. Student

    I watched a sermon called “How to Get Saved and Why”. If I had heard this man speak last semester, I would have thought it was a great message.  However, after reading What is the Gospel? and Counterfeit Gospels, it was almost painful to watch.  He began by saying that God has offered for us to live forever, and he said that when you get saved, you get saved from death—he did not mention being saved from sin.  He actually never even mentioned that we sin.  It was kind of implied, but how could a person who has never heard of Jesus know?  This immediately put up some red flags.  Without mentioning sin, the listener has no reason to believe that he needs to be saved.  But by convincing the listener to be saved from death, he would be missing the whole point of the gospel. 
    Throughout the video, verses were being loosely thrown around.  He never mentioned why those verses were sacred, though.  Most people realize that the Bible was written by men, so why should we believe what it says?  This video violated almost all of the counterfeits mentioned in Counterfeit Gospels (and it would have given Greg Gilbert a heart attack), but I believe the worst one was the Judgmentless counterfeit.  He never mentioned the fact that we are all sinners, which meant he never mentioned that God will judge us by our sin.  Trevin Wax describes the Judgmentless counterfeit by saying, “Restoration is more about God’s goodness than his judgment of evil…”  The verses that he used all focused on God’s grace and His ability to save.  They were great verses, but the way that he used them distorted the gospel.  He made Jesus out to be some kind of peaceful hippie. 
    It seemed like the speaker was doing a great job explaining how to be saved, but he barely touched on why.  He mentioned that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  But he did not give any further explanation.  I believe this man’s intentions were great, but overall, I would give his video a grade of a D.

A Therapeutic Gospel-A. Student

    I listened to a sermon titled, “Why Should You Get Saved?”  The sermon can be found at  .  Overall, the sermon was pretty good.  However, the first two points of the message were about the earthly benefits of being saved.  He began by saying that getting saved is the only way to blot out your sins.  This was a good start.  He then proceeded to say, “All your trouble is caused by your sin.”  This reminded me of the counterfeit, Therapeutic Gospel, which Trevin Wax describes by saying, “The church helps us along in our quest for personal happiness and vocational fulfillment.”  The reverend said that all of one’s problems will go away if he gives his life to Christ.  He was trying to convince people to get saved in order to find happiness. 
    For his second point, he said, “You should get saved, because then Jesus will carry your heavy load.”  Again, he said that Jesus will take all of one’s problems and burdens away when they get saved.  His text was Matthew 11:28-30 which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  He used this to say that Jesus will make their job (vocation) easier as well.  His third point was good.  He talked about getting saved in order to break the hold that hell has on one’s heart.  After giving an invitation, he said to the camera, “We’ll be back in a moment to pray for the sick.”  What happened next caught me a little off guard.  He began forming “healing lines” where he would touch the sick or injured and pray for them.  Then they went through some theatrics where the person got up and was “healed”.  Coming from a Fundamental Baptist church, that was not what I was expecting.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Tithing (or, Prosperity) Gospel-M. Thompson

    In this video, the speaker is condemning people that do not tithe.  In doing this he puts the importance of tithing upon a pedestal above things that are far more important, namely: a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The main issue of this message is that the speaker entirely undermines God’s grace and no longer gives Him credit for saving men and bringing them to Him but instead gives “the power of tithing” the credit of saving the souls of lost people.
    It almost seems too generous to give this presentation the title of “counterfeit Gospel” because it really completely isn’t the gospel at all.  It makes a god out of money and tithing, creating in a sense a new religion in worshiping money and how much we can possibly possess.  This form of a gospel presentation is generally referred to as the prosperity gospel because it promises prosperity to people that come to Christ.  The name has something of a double meaning because it also leads, somehow coincidentally, to the prosperity of the pastor leading the congregation.  This presentation attacks all three legs of the stool in that it puts a condition to everything.  God will be magnified through the story… only if there is prosperity.  Jesus came to save... from hard times and being non-prosperous.  The community comes together to share the glory of God and Jesus Christ… and how rich it got them.  This sort of message and Gospel presentation is utterly false and gets in the way of potential Christ followers from hearing the real truth.

A Judgmentless Gospel-M. Thompson

    The first presentation I watched was entitled “The Saviour of the World” which is a gospel presentation that sets out to denounce the “true” gospel by promoting the “really” good news, that is to say, their view of what the true gospel really is.  The view held by the speakers in this video can be summed up by one word: universalism.  Wax, in his book, discusses the judgmentless gospel as one of the most popular counterfeit gospels out there.
    The speakers of this video describe the gospel, or the good news, to be that God will save everyone through his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.  They condemn Christians that hold to a belief in hell by stating that they are not saved.  They take verses in the Bible out of context to attempt to show that there is no way that a loving God could condemn anyone to Hell and they therefore say that there is no eternal state of judgment, merely a temporary “correction,” that God merely will use the Lake of Fire judgment as a refining, chastising, and merciful judgment that will result in the righteousness of all men and even fallen angels.  This presentation found in “The Saviour of the World” lines up with the description given by Wax of “judgmentless” and impairs the gospel in a number of ways. 
    The Gospel as Wax describes it is a three-legged stool.  The three legs are the story, or the background of how God will be magnified, the announcement, or the story of Jesus Christ, and the community, or the overarching affect of the church sharing the gospel.  The story aspect is altered because restoration is now only about God’s love and not his justice or judgment.  The announcement portion is compromised because Christ’s death is no longer a sacrifice given to free men from God’s wrath; it’s merely to help defeat man’s enemies such as sin and death.  Finally the community of the Gospel is affected by the blurred line between the church and the rest of the world.  The presentation given in this video is entirely counterfeit in that it appeals to so many as “truth” but really is unbiblical and harmful to the truth of the real Gospel.

A Judgmentless Gospel-J. Tellers

    In this video, the pastor is being interviewed on Good Morning America about his new book, Love Wins. In this interview the pastor is given an excellent opportunity to share the gospel to a national audience. Here are some of the things that he said.
    The first question he is asked is about what is his response to being charged with heresy over his new book. His answer is that Christian history is very diverse and that Christ is big enough to cover the controversy.   He seems to suggest that Christians have had many evolving views of the gospel over time.
The next question asks specially if people of other faiths are condemned to hell.  The pastor does not give a straight answer to this question. He begins to answer the question by stating that he believes the primary aspect of God is love. He continues on and does not give an answer and unfortunately the reporter does not push him for one.
    Later in the interview he twists what Jesus has said about “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He claims that Jesus wants us to create heaven on earth. When asked about those who are extreme sinners, he says we are all sinners and since we all sin we all are going to experience salvation. He says that sinners create a hell for themselves a hell on earth, and is not specific, but seems to suggest they do not suffer eternal punishment after death.
    There are three problems with the gospel that this pastor is presenting. First he refuses to say that people of other faiths are wrong and we end up in hell. Secondly, his twists Jesus’ words and suggests that we create our own heaven and hell on earth. Finally, he says that because everyone has sinned, it is not fair for only some to receive grace.
    The overarching problem is that he is advocating a judgmentless or Universalist gospel where God is all loving and would never want to punish someone. The pastor is narrowing in on God’s mercy and ignoring His judgment. He uses phrases and ideas that Christians accept as true, and tries to give them his own spin and meaning. He uses the Lord’s prayer to advocate creating heaven on earth. He uses the concept that all have sinned and that we should not throw the first stone to say that we all will receive grace since we all sin. It is clear from his interview that he does have a very selective and warped approach to Scripture, which can be worse than outright denying it as there is some truth mixed into what he is saying.

A Judgmentless Gospel-J. Tellers

    In this video a pastor is being interviewed on Larry King Live. The first question King puts to him is whether or not the pastor believes that salvation comes from trusting in Jesus Christ and not by the good things you do. His answer was you have to know Christ and if you know Christ you will do good works. When asked if people of other faiths would go to heaven, he said “I would be very careful with saying who or who would not go to heaven.”
    He then talks about a time he was in India and how those people believed in their “god” and their sincere so he claimed to not really know if they would be going to heaven.  When questioned by a viewer about John 14:6 the way, truth, and life he again sidesteps the question by saying he cannot know someone heart. He refused to say that atheists, Jews, or Buddhists would be wrong if they did not believe in Jesus.
The problem with his version of the gospel message is it is very obvious he will not openly say that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that people who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell. What makes his message tricky is that he pulls several very important biblical truths into it.
His first evasion about whether it is Jesus Christ or being good that gets you into heaven is not necessarily a wrong. He says that true belief in Christ will bear fruit so you have to have both. I believe he paraphrased a section of scripture that comes from the book of James. The problem comes when in the follow question he is asks if someone believes in another god, again he is evades with the quote from Samuel that only God knows the heart.
    This pastor’s gospel could again be described at judgmentless as he would not say that Christ was the only way to heaven. Especially with this example, I found it really disappointing that the pastor did not say that Jesus is the only way to Christ. He had a national audience and was basically gift wrapped the question. With this interview it almost sounded as though that pastor would rather be considered politically correct and not saying anything controversial than to speak the truth of the gospel.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Judgmentless Gospel-W. Tatum

    This counterfeit is the judgmentless gospel, which is characterized by a God whose love outweighs His need for justice and the glossing over of eternal condemnation. It emphasizes Jesus’ love and how we are to love others and that we are headed towards an age of renewal. The pastor reminds the listener to be careful of lasting judgments, for Jesus contradicted religious expectations during his life by accepting the poor and modest, rather than the elite. He explains Jesus did not speak in explicit terms regarding who will be included in the coming age, but rather proclaimed he would renew all things, not just good Christians. Furthermore, the term “Hell” is only mentioned twenty times in the Bible, and Jesus often meant a literal town rather than an eternal destination. The pastor claims that throughout the Bible, God seeks repentance with His creation. There cannot be a point when this hope ends if the cross and resurrection took care of sin. Therefore, we must allow room for the “wide expansive love of God.”
    In a postmodern society especially bent on tolerance and inclusion, the judgmentless gospel presentation is particularly appealing. Unfortunately, it severs God in half, removes accountability, and manipulates biblical content. Still, the pastor is correct in saying that we should avoid making lasting judgments against others. Romans 2:1 states that when we judge others, we are, in fact, condemning ourselves. Only a blameless God has the right to condemn, and believers should avoid pounding their pretentious gavels in other’s faces. Nevertheless, humanity cries out for justice, yet it cannot occur without judgment. Those who wish to ignore God’s need to judge also ignore His perfect nature. Our sin prevents us from entering God’s holy presence. Judgment was necessary for reunion with God. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was motivated entirely by love and conquered the Hell we all deserved. The cross is the ultimate confirmation for why God’s love and judgment could not be separated. John 9:39 says that God’s judgment was enacted so that the blind could see. Therefore, we should not revile judgment but be grateful that its fulfillment in Christ allows reconciliation with our Maker.
    In conclusion, the temptation to ignore the essential aspects of the Gospel can result in disillusionment about God and disappointment in our relationship with Him. God’s Word is often contrary to Westernized culture as it does not guarantee happiness or tolerate our immorality. Yet the joy of the gospel comes when what we least expect is fulfilled, for we once were blind but now we see, we once were lost but now are found.

A Therapeutic Gospel-W. Tatum

    The Gospel can be compared to a cobweb. A result of one Creator, it is a multi-faceted, complex structure which requires perfect synchronization of every element in order to achieve its purpose. Yet its structure remains simple enough for even a child to sketch, and its unique form aids easy recognition. Trevin Wax’s book Counterfeit Gospels dispels six Gospel myths which threaten to destroy the intricate workings of God’s plan.
    This counterfeit Gospel presentation is Therapeutic in nature because its primary objective is to promise blessing and success as a result of faith in God. It shows a sermon which declares that Jesus’ anointing as Savior leads to “The Blessing,” that is, burden-free living. This blessing was first declared by God in Genesis when He gave man dominion over all material creation. The speaker declares that Jesus as Savior means He is responsible for our welfare and future, and that all will go well for us if we walk in love and faith. He explains that, “Faith comes in when you expect that choice to payoff in blessing”, and further expounds that faith begins when the will of God is known. There is a promotional excerpt at the end of the video which further guarantees “The Blessing.” The implication is that, because the creative force of God is within every believer, they will be able to thrive and even administer physical healing.
    While this Therapeutic counterfeit is seductive, its very foundation equates God to a Jack-in-the-Box. All a Christian has to do is crank the handle, and blessings will pour out. To be fair, the speaker correctly establishes God as a loving Creator. He also explains the importance of prayer and relying on God’s strength. Unfortunately, he fails to mention the depraved nature of man or that salvation is intended for God’s exaltation. Salvation is a gift man does not deserve, and he is not owed additional blessings. It is like waking from an emergency heart surgery in which the doctor performed heroic measures to save one’s life, and then whining, “Hey, where are my breast implants?” II Corinthians 4 stresses our lost state and that the natural result of salvation should be thanksgiving. (NIV) We give glory to God for who He is and what He did for us, not the other way around. It further describes the life of a believer to be filled with persecution, and that, though hard-pressed and struck down, we are not destroyed. This passage rebukes the notion that prayer is a magical potion for an easy life. Indeed, Christ fervently prayed that he might not have to undergo death, but ultimately submitted to God’s will which resulted in crucifixion, not comfort. If Christians pursue this sort of Gospel, they will find God to be inconsistent, unpredictable, and ultimately, untrustworthy. If God promises unceasing blessings to all believers, what about those affected by Hurricane Katrina, or the families of the victims of 9/11? To them, God must be a liar. Instead, II Corinthians 4:18 encourages us to fix our eyes not on the temporary world which is sure to disappoint, but instead on that which is eternal.

Standing and Praying-E. Stanton

    One example of altering the Gospel message can be found in this video. In this clip the preacher is finishing up his sermon and begins a prayer. He prays about giving everything to God, and believing that He is in control. He continues to ask the congregation if they were to die if are they certain that they would go to heaven? He then goes on to say all you have to do is accept the gift of salvation, come to God as a little child and He will help you clean up your life and to become everything He has created you to be. He gives them an opportunity to show God they're “not ashamed of Him”. He asks people to be bold, not to put it off, and when people start to stand up, he presumes to say there ought to be others, and to not go home without peace. “I feel like there ought to be a few more,” he says; all while the congregation is vigorously clapping. After the clapping has died down he says, “I’m proud of you.” Then, the people standing repeat a prayer that goes like this, “Lord Jesus I repent of my sins, come into my heart, wash me in your blood. I make you my Lord and Savior.” To the people who repeated the prayer he comments, “The moment you stood up God washed away all your sins, all your mistakes, all your failures.” He then finishes off the clip by encouraging people to come back to church.
    I honestly don’t know if I was more disappointed or more angry when this clip ended. There are so many problems with this short clip, starting with the fact that he did not present the gospel fully. When he had the people repeat the prayer, “Lord Jesus I repent of my sins, come into my heart, wash me in your blood. I make you my Lord and Savior,” he leaves out the aspect of God creating us, the fact that He sent His Son to earth to die for our sins, that we would go to Hell if it weren’t for Jesus shedding his blood, and the major part of us having to really believe that he came and died for us to have salvation. He just candy coated the prayer to make it a feel good so when people leave they feel like they went to church and did something great that day. This was only a clip of his prayer after his sermon, so maybe he went over all these points and the whole gospel message during his sermon, but he still should have included those aspects when having people repeat the sinner’s prayer. The way he did it did not focus on the Gospel and our need for a Savior, or the sacrifice Jesus made for us because of our filthy sin. The fact that he didn’t present the gospel when leading the people in prayer means that those people went home thinking they were saved because they repeated after him. When, in reality, they were still as lost as ever. Another part of the clip that was teeming with false doctrine was when the pastor said that the people were saved the moment they stood up! How many people went home that day thinking that they were saved simply because they felt bad about their sin so they stood and repeated words after the preacher? This is ludicrous! Salvation comes when you believe on the Lord and what He has done for you, and admit you are a sinner in need of the Savior, not when you simply stand up from your seat during an invitation. The preacher should have been directing his flock, but instead he just led them even deeper into the darkness.

Missing Much Data-E. Stanton

    One example of presenting only part of the gospel can be found at this link. This short clip talks about the relationship between faith, works, and salvation. It uses a math equation to discuss the controversy of salvation by faith, salvation by works, or salvation by both. Throughout the clip things are added or subtracted from the equation to show you that salvation is truly by faith. The clip enforces the idea that works are not needed for salvation, but they do show the world that we have the love of Christ in us.  In the end, the conclusion is that we are saved by faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone.
    This clip was great in describing the false teaching that salvation is by works, but it missed many major points. Yes, salvation is by faith, but they never said faith in what. There are so many different options that could be filled in behind the word faith. This message is unclear as to what your faith needs to be placed in to obtain salvation. Although this video was completely correct in stating that if we are saved we need to be known by our fruit, hence our works, it was completely lacking in the gospel presentation. The gospel and salvation are more than just having faith, or going a step further and having faith in God alone. The gospel is knowing that God created us in His image, we are fallen creatures filled with sin, we deserve an eternity in hell because of this sin, God sent His son to earth in human form, Jesus took our payment on the cross by shedding his blood for us, and we need to believe on Him in order to be saved. This presentation completely skipped over the God, man, Christ, response aspects of the gospel. This clip would be good for believers who are wondering if they need to do good works after they are saved or for people who think that salvation is only achieved by doing good works. However, for a person who is completely lost and looking for salvation, this clip explaining that salvation is by faith just isn’t sufficient to bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If the clip would have expounded more on the person in whom we need to have faith in, it would have been much more useful in explaining the plan of salvation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Judgmentless Gospel-C. Snyder

    In a popular video from YouTube, a pastor shares a brief message describing his upcoming book.  The pastor, moved by his interpretation of God’s love, seeks to explain that a good God will not send anyone to hell.  The message in this video portrays the judgmentless gospel, as explained by Wax, nearly perfectly.
This version of the judgmentless gospel alters all three aspects of the gospel message as described by Wax.  According to this pastor, the gospel story says that man is inherently good and deserves to go to heaven.  The speaker finds a problem with the way the gospel is presented because he does not believe that a good God would send good people to hell.  The gospel announcement basically exclaims that since God is good and God is love, he will ultimately save everyone from hell after death.  While this is not explicitly expressed, it is the central theme the speaker is conveying.  This gospel with no danger of anyone going to hell raises a major problem with the gospel community, however.  If no one is doomed to go to hell, then why should Christians evangelize?  If a person’s actions in this life do not ultimately affect where they spend eternity, then Christians have no need to place a burden on others.
    This counterfeit is very attractive to most people.  Since no one wants to go to hell, nor does anyone want people they love to go to hell, a gospel message that erases the notion of judgment and hell is attractive.  In addition, if hell is erased, and God’s love wins in the end anyways, people can live their life however they please.  They are then free to live the immoral life they desire with no danger of going to hell.  Knowing that no one is suffering in hell also makes it easier for some people to cope with his or her life on earth. 
The judgmentless gospel is undoubtedly attractive, but it can be countered on many grounds.  Contrary to the thinking of this speaker, judgment should be seen as good news.  Humans should rejoice alongside the psalmist in Psalm 96 that the injustice in the world will one day be punished by almighty God.  Christians should also recognize that if God is truly love, then he must hate sin and punish it.  Wax argues that “a god… who lets evil go unpunished is not worthy of worship” (77).  Another interesting point about judgment is that God’s judgment is personal.  A person will be judged and punished according to his or her deeds while he or she was on earth.  A person fully deserves the punishment he or she will receive because of his or her utter rejection of God and his authority.  Ultimately, however, God will vindicate all good.  The righteous God who created the world and has dominion over it has the authority to control his creation.  He has given humans the right to choose, however, whether or not they will serve him.  When people reject God, they condemn themselves to hell.  God is indeed love, but contrary to what this speaker believes about the nature of God, he does allow those who reject him to endure eternal punishment in hell for their rejection of the eternal God.

A Therapeutic Gospel-C. Snyder

    In a popular sermon from YouTube, a pastor shares a sermon about expectancy.  At the surface, his message seems innocent and genuine, but when it is scrutinized closely, it is obvious that the pastor preaches a false gospel.  The sermon is a brief exposition from the pastor of a large church explaining that his congregation needs to expect great things from God.  Upon examining the content of his message, however, is it apparent that this pastor preaches a version of the therapeutic gospel that can be accurately described as the expectancy gospel.
    The expectancy gospel distorts the true Gospel in all three of the major aspects of the Gospel.  For example, the gospel story according to the expectancy gospel says that humans do not have the material possessions they want because they do not expect to get them.  Sin is forgotten, asserting that human pessimism is essentially the problem with humanity.  The gospel announcement is altered by explaining that God simply wants to unleash material blessing on those who await it.  The picture of the gospel community is tainted by insisting that Christians should only be friends with people who encourage the Christian to excel.  The expectancy gospel, as explained in this sermon, does not even include any of what Jesus has done for the world.  This gospel assumes that God wants to unleash blessing on all people simply because of his goodness.
    The expectancy gospel is attractive to people for many reasons. First and foremost, everyone wants to be blessed physically.  If someone is told that they can be blessed by the creator of the world simply by being optimistic, he or she will believe it.  In addition, this counterfeit is attractive because it claims that a person “will draw out God’s blessing and favor” when he or she “[starts] expecting to accomplish [his or her] dreams” (Quote from the video).  The expectancy gospel is also attractive because it eliminates many of the supposedly negative consequences of the gospel.  While Jesus explains that Christians will be hated by the world, the expectancy gospel simply encourages one to expect the persecution to stop.  The expectancy gospel claims that God always sends blessings to those who expect it. 
    Despite the attractive nature of the expectancy gospel, there are many ways to counter it.  Foundationally, the expectancy gospel is man-centered.  If a person reads any of Scripture they will learn that the entire universe has been created for God and his glory, rather than the physical pleasure of man.  Additionally, the expectancy gospel confuses the nature of God’s blessing.  This gospel claims that humans should aim to receive God’s material blessing instead of receiving Jesus.  The true Gospel asserts that humans should seek Jesus Christ and his glory in their lives, and God will supply with them with his infinite joy.  Christians are also called to love God because of his good nature, not because of his good gifts.  The expectancy gospel assumes that a person needs to expect God’s blessing before they love him.  The expectancy gospel is a humanistic type of counterfeit gospel that completely annihilates the true Gospel message of Christ and his redemptive work on the cross, replacing essentials of Christianity with a lie.

A Therapeutic Gospel-J. Rich

    In Counterfeit Gospels, Wax dubs one of these counterfeit gospels the “therapeutic gospel”.  In this stance on the gospel, our spiritual symptoms, such as troubled marriages, anxiety, anger issues, and addictions are confused with our spiritual disease of sin.  What often happens is that because the view of sin is confused, so is the treatment plan for sin.  Often this view is plagued with searching for happiness or material gain.  God is worshipped not because He is God, but because He can give us nice things or make us feel better.  In a video of a sermon by a famous American pastor, we can see this view of God and the gospel as he shares about blessing. 
This clip of a sermon starts off seemingly well, with the pastor speaking about the memorial stones that the Israelites used to use to remember the great things God had done for them.  However, this message soon turns entirely from remembering God for His miraculous deeds, to focusing on what He, and then to what we, can do to bless our lives materially.  He says that God has “good things in store for you” and that the next year is going to be “a supernatural year”.  He says that in the next year we won’t be the same place financially, in our careers, in our health, and in our marriages.  He says that all we need to do is to believe that this will happen.  He tells us not to let yesterday’s problems get us down, because each day we have a new beginning.
    This feel-good version of the gospel has several problems.  One is that it gives an unrealistic view of God.  God is the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful God who made us by hand, who knows us better than we know ourselves, who has always been, and always will be.  Presenting only the side of God that gives out blessings and gifts makes us seek God for what He has to offer, and not because of His glory.  In addition, we know that God does not only give us blessings, in fact, sometimes He even asks that we give it all up for Him, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)  There is also another key problem.  The pastor emphasizes that the people in the congregation will be blessed in the next year, so much so that it seems to be a certain fact.  This gives them an illusion that life will be all pleasure, and that there will be no trials or tribulations.  When these trials and tribulations do occur, the people in the congregation may become disillusioned and begin to doubt their faith because they expected everything to go just right.  We know that there will be trials and tribulations, this is made certain in James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”  This verse does not say “if”, it says “when you fall into various trials..”  There will be trials, but we can look to God for strength during them, and as the rest of the verse tells us, consider the trials as joy because they help us to grow. 
    The therapeutic or feel-good gospel that is portrayed in this video is not a clear or complete picture of the God of the Bible.  God does bless us, in fact the Bible says He delights in this; however, we cannot just look at the aspects of God we like.  God will allow us to go through situations that are less than a blessing, and He does demand justice.  We must find our joy in God alone, and not just what He has to offer. 

A Judgmentless Gospel-J. Rich

     In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax presents several different understandings of the Gospel that are biblically incorrect.   Wax dubs one of these counterfeit gospels the “judgmentless gospel”.  This understanding of the Gospel deemphasizes or totally disregards God as the ultimate Judge.  Consequently, proponents of this belief often deny the existence of hell, or misrepresent whom exactly goes to hell.  Unfortunately this belief, which is very contrary to the teachings of the Bible, has become very common in our culture today; this is evidenced by the teachings of a very famous American pastor who has been interviewed by Larry King in a video that shows his controversial beliefs.
    In this video, King asks the pastor what happens if you are do not accept Christ and you die.  The pastor does not give a very definitive answer.  He says that he is not very sure, and that he does not like to judge whether someone will be going to hell or not.  He says that God looks at a person’s heart and judges them accordingly.   He goes on to say how he has visited India many times and he has seen how the people there love god (mind you, he is not referring to the God of the Bible), and that he just doesn’t know where they’ll go after they die.  Then a woman calls in to the show to ask him why he is being so noncommittal and references John 14:6.   The pastor says he agrees with her that Jesus is the only Way to the Father; however, when King then asks if a Jew wouldn’t go to heaven the pastor says no.  Overall the pastor being interviewed is extremely vague on who will go to heaven, and does not accurately represent the Bible.
    There are several problems with the gospel message supported by this pastor.  To start, the reality of hell is indeed biblical.  Luke 9:43b describes it as, “‘..the fire that shall never be quenched.’”  Now this pastor did not necessarily deny the existence of hell, but did not want to say that those who do not accept Christ will go there.  As unfortunate as it may seem, those who do not accept Christ will go to hell, in fact Matthew 25:32-33 talks about God separating those who accepted Him from those who haven’t, “’All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.’”  How do we know who is considered a goat, and whom a sheep?  Well as the woman who called into the show pointed out to the pastor, John 14:6 shows us that we will only get to the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ.  Although the pastor wouldn’t commit to saying that only Christians will get into heaven, this does not change the fact that this is indeed the truth.
    The judgmentless gospel is a fallacy that too many in our culture have believed.  It changes our view of God, and of our mission here on earth.  If anyone can get into heaven, or if there is no judgment, then our call to go into all of the world and share the message of Christ is no longer important, and we can live our lives in our sheltered Christian environments, never needing to bring others to Christ.  Because this is not the case, we must instead be bold evangelists for Christ so that we may bring more people to a relationship with Christ, and consequently eternity in heaven. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Therapeutic Gospel-A. Pitts

    This presentation focuses on the death of Jesus Christ and the difficulties that He faced on the way to His greatest victory. It begins by analyzing the imagery of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the way that He carried His cross on the way to Golgotha. The speaker mentions that in His moments of greatest need, even Jesus needed God to send encouragement and strength; in the Garden, there was an angel, and when He was carrying the cross, Simon came along to help Him carry it. From these points, the speaker goes on to state that God always sends someone along our path to help us in our most difficult hour of need. Though we may face moments like Jesus where we feel alone and abandoned on a cross, God is always working for our good, and we are headed toward our very own resurrection and the abundant life that God has for us. The gospel is all about our victory and our success.
    This presentation appears to fall under the counterfeit category of the therapeutic gospel. For all of the mention of Jesus on the cross, it never addresses the true reason for His being on the cross; here, it is simply another obstacle on Jesus’ path to victory.  This presentation seems to be more concerned with our well-being, abundance, and victory in our own dreams and lives as opposed to the fact that we are sinners in need of Jesus’ redeeming blood. It does not seem to consider sin in the equation at all, and makes God look more like a dispenser of blessing than an almighty and holy Lord. In spite of these flaws, this particular presentation does rightly mention the fact that God is a keeper of His promises and that He is a provider of comfort and strength through our times of need, but it puts more emphasis on the fact that we should seek God for these promises and comforts rather than seek Him simply for who He is. It causes people to seek gifts above Giver. As a counter to this counterfeit, it is essential to return Jesus to the center of the gospel, not blessings or wealth or an abundant life. Though followers of Jesus do receive blessings, those blessings are not to be the focus of the gospel. If Jesus is the greatest treasure, then it will not matter when suffering and loss are encountered, because those who are suffering will know that their abundance lies not in earthly things but in the eternal and living God. It is also extremely important to put mankind’s worth in the gospel, not the gospel’s worth in mankind. The gospel is not about mankind or about mankind’s worth to God, it is about the work that He has done – and His work of salvation was not done because of man’s value, but through mercy that was not deserved in the least, mercy that was given to men totally depraved and sinful in nature.  When these changes are made to the therapeutic gospel, it begins to conform to the image of the one true gospel.

An Activist Gospel-A. Pitts

    This presentation begins with an account of the world as it was being ruled by the Roman Empire, comparing and contrasting the resurrection of Jesus Christ with the “resurrections” of other Roman gods, and also comparing and contrasting the rule of Christ with that of the Caesars. From this point, the presentation springboards into how Christ was unique and different from the other Roman gods and how His reign was far better than the reign of the Caesars. Specifically, the presentation begins to look at how the followers of Jesus carried out His reign in light of how the Caesars carried out their reign. Whereas the Caesars thought they were making the world a better place through military might and political coercion, those who followed Christ believed they were restoring the world through loving and serving others, not ruling over them with an iron fist. This naturally led others to question what was different about these people who, as a community, called themselves the Body of Christ. From here, the presentation closes in on the theme of the gospel as a way of life, as a community and a place where Jesus is held as Lord. According to this gospel presentation, the gospel is you; the good news is that we are the reflection of the resurrected Christ.

    This particular presentation falls into a sort of activist gospel trap; while it does properly acknowledge the sinfulness of man and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and man’s need to accept Jesus, it puts far too much emphasis on the idea that the church community is the gospel – whereas instead the community should be presented as the effect of the gospel. Initially, this can appear to be nothing out of the ordinary, as it does seem to display the kind of power and love that can make a real, tangible difference in the physical world through service and taking up the cause of the oppressed. It also rightly brings to light the fact that those who follow Christ should be rising up and getting involved in such ways that we do serve others, and that we press on in doing good deeds. However, with this particular presentation, there is a misplaced belief that this work of the church and this work of believers is the gospel. In order to properly counter this belief, it is essential to see that the gospel is not our works or our love or our service to others; the gospel is what leads us to do all of these things, but these works are not themselves the gospel. It is of the highest importance to keep Jesus Christ at the center, and realize it is about what He has done, not what we have done.

A Judgmentless Gospel-E. Oberholzer

    Is there really a hell? Would God really send anyone to such a place? The answer given in this video is a definite no! In this video, the gospel is presented with the belief that ALL of humanity, with no exceptions, will be saved because of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Because Jesus is the savior of the entire earth, all humanity will be saved and an eternal hell is unnecessary and does not exist.
    The first point made by this message is that Jesus is the Savior of the whole universe (I Timothy 4:10). Because of this universal salvation belief, this video presents a judgmentless gospel. The presentation in this video insists that God will save everyone in the end because Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all the sins of creation. This announcement sounds like great news, and it certainly removes an unpleasant barrier and fear of judgment from Christianity. The speaker insists that, while all are originally spiritually dead in Adam, everyone will be made alive in Jesus. Notice however, there is no mention of the rebirth in spirit that is necessary for people to come alive in Christ. Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3 that unless a man is reborn, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Without repenting from sin, believing in Jesus Christ, and being spiritually reborn, man cannot be freed from the dark stain and condition of sin that exists in his spirit. Jesus has certainly made the necessary sacrifice for the world to be saved; however, those who wish to be saved must be reborn into His Spirit to receive this gift made possible by Jesus’ incredible sacrifice.
    The speaker also insists that Hell is unbiblical and unnecessary. The speaker noted that humans detest torture of all kinds and asked how sincere Christians could believe that a loving, caring God would even create and send people to hell for eternal punishment. While the message mentioned mankind’s disgust of torture, it did not address mankind’s love of and need for justice. Humans have this need for justice because they were created in the likeness of a perfectly just God. Also, those who claim an eternal hell does not exist must ignore many Scripture passages such as Matthew 25:46, II Thessalonians 1:9, and Revelation 20:10. If Jesus’ death and resurrection indeed automatically freed man from sin without the need to be reborn, then no one would suffer eternal punishment. However, there will be justice in the end of time; while reborn Christians will receive the reward bought for them by Jesus, those who have not believed, repented, and accepted this gift, will experience the just wrath of God.
    This universal, judgmentless gospel is quite attractive. This presentation secures mankind’s final destiny, removes any barriers of offense from Christianity, and does not force humans to acknowledge the evil within them. However, this presentation of the gospel ignores many Scripture passages and its conclusions are derived from fewer, individual verses. Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior of the world because he provided a way for His beloved creation to be restored. But, if humans are to be set free from their evilness and be pardoned from the just punishment of God, they must first be reborn into His Spirit.

A Therapeutic Gospel-E. Oberholzer

    On an Easter Sunday in 2011, the speaker at this service delivered a very encouraging, inspiring message about how coming to belief in Jesus will transform the listener’s life from average to successful, joyful, and fulfilled. He stressed that everyone would like some change “at least here and there in our life.” While he most successfully described the beneficial advantages of coming to Christ, he unfortunately did not tell his listeners about who the Bible says God is, describe the depth of mankind’s sin, nor the necessary, righteous judgment of the holy Creator. Instead, he talked mostly about how human life would be better with the fruits of the Spirit and free from guilt.
    Before listing the fruits of the Spirit, the speaker asked the audience to raise their hands when he got to the fruit that they would not like to have in their own lives. After listing them, he asked, “Whose relationship with other people wouldn’t be better with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?” While he did correctly quote “In order the change the fruit, you must change the root,” he did not explain the reason for changing the “root” beyond that it would lead to an enjoyable, fulfilled life. According to Trevin Wax, this view and presentation of the Gospel could be called a therapeutic gospel because it answers the question “What are we here for?” with “a more fulfilled life” (Wax, 44).
    The speaker also suggested that many people unnecessarily hold on to guilt, which hinders them from “moving forward.” He said that “We need the power of the resurrection to release us from our guilt.” Even though he acknowledged that man has failed to meet God’s standard, he only mentioned guilt as the consequence of sin. Scripture describes a much more disastrous effect of humans’ sin than simply guilt; because of sin, humans have spiritually died, been separated from their Creator, and have become subject to God’s judgment and eventual wrath. This shallow view of sin is another reason this message could be classified as a therapeutic gospel; the sermon pictures sin as merely a hindrance to humanities’ quest for a better life. Instead of emphasizing the gift of repentance, the speaker told his audience that Jesus would forgive any sin and never remember it, thus relieving everyone from their guilt and shame.
    The humanistic emphasis of this message is the main reason it can be viewed as therapeutic presentation of the gospel. When listening to the speech, a listener may get the idea that God exists to make life better for humans. The idea of man existing for the glory of the Creator was not mentioned, and while the speaker made a life in Christ sound quite attractive, overall, he failed to communicate the Biblical reason for repentance and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.    

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Activist Gospel-L. Mumme

    The pastor outlines the common religions and practices around the time of the early church and asserts that the early Christians claim that Jesus had risen from the dead was not something all that unique from pagan religions and emperor worship. The church made an impact on people’s lives by doing good works and then inviting others into their community. Anyone could be part of this community; even the most broken people could be brought in and loved. They wanted people to see the hope that was within them and the life that was possible through Jesus Christ.
    In this presentation, the main issue of man is said to be his own soul. This world is broken and fallen apart. People sin and are prideful, cynical, and indifferent to the suffering of others. The good news though is news that “at some point in the future, God [is] going to put it all back together again.” It is all about the restoration of this world. The main thing that Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection is the power to make this world a better place. And so, following the example of the King, Christians are to do what they can to make this world a better place by bringing the kingdom of heaven down here on earth in its fullness.
This presentation can is much like the activist counterfeit in that it attempts to unify the church by good works and not by the amazing gospel. It is tricky because it has many praiseworthy points but many of the issues in it result from unclear and undefined terms. My question relates to the compatibility of the solution. If the main problem is the fallen nature of man and of the whole world then how does making the world a better place solve the problem? How is the sinful nature fixed? All that is stated is that God will put everything back together again, but even that statement is unclear. Is the pastor saying that sinfulness equates to a state of being in pieces? Is God putting back together something that is still tainted? Does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mainly give us power “to make a new and better world”? The pastor
asserts that the early church did many good deeds, shared their possessions and were an inviting group of people, and that “they lived this way because they had this profoundly mystical understanding of what they were doing with their lives.” It seems to me that this presentation is simply offering people something to do with their lives. We need some mysterious realization of an ideal that can manifest if we live a certain way. At the end of the story the pastor states that, “You are the good news. You are the gospel.” If the good news is people, then Christ’s work here on earth was just a way to get us to realize that we can do it. If there is not payment for sins, no repentance and belief in Jesus, and no dying to sin and being raised to righteousness, then of course we can be the gospel! The activism is seen in the sense of wonder that the pastor
elevates. The church is to invite others in so that people can see how wonderful this life could be, how ubiquitous and universal their good influence could be, and how beautiful it is to serve others and not to rule them by brute strength. The goal of the church’s efforts is to instill wonder in people at world the church is creating; this fascination is what motivates people to join them.
    To counter this counterfeit we must first realize that Christians are to take a stand on social issues, feed the poor, reach to the lowest persons in society, and seek after the kingdom of God. However, as Wax makes clear, there is a difference between the gospel and the effects of the gospel (181). Keeping the gospel message based on Christ and what he did for us will guard us from an activist gospel. Another key point that Wax puts forward is that Christians should seek to relieve human suffering in this life as well as the next life (183). What a tragedy it would be if we pour ourselves out for broken people so that their pain here on earth is reduced and yet fail to share the truth, without which they will be thrust into eternal agony. Not that salvation is dependent solely on us, the saving is God’s work, but God certainly has called the church to be good stewards of his glorious gospel. The pastor in this presentation solely addresses life on this earth, but fails to mention the eternal aspects of the gospel. The truth is that the gospel has implications for now and for eternity and instead of seeking after human ideals that we accomplish, we ought to set our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

A Therapeutic Gospel-L. Mumme

    In the Rubik’s Cube presentation of the gospel, the pastor begins by addressing
the fall of man in Adam’s rebellion against God. Since the fall, man has been struggling
to find wholeness and completeness. The idea the pastor is trying to communicate is
that the result of human beings’ fallen nature is a deep emptiness. We are thrust into a
plight to fill that void and find meaning so that we can feel whole again. The only way
we will feel whole is through the work Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross. People go
to God because he is the only one who knows how to complete us and fill what is
lacking because he is our Creator. In the pastor’s own words, “all we have to do is quit
struggling on our own to do what we’ll never be able to do on our own.” We cannot find
order or meaning on our own, but with God “we can have peace and prosperity and
health and happiness and we can know what it’s like to be made right with God again
because of what Jesus did.”
    The main issue with this presentation is its neglect to tell the gospel Story:
creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This presentation is similar to the therapeutic
gospel that Wax addresses. Though the pastor mentions the creation and rebellion of
Adam he never uses the word “sin.” There is no mention of man’s fallen nature being
evil and deserving punishment. So now all the listener can infer is that Adam rebelled
and now all of mankind is incomplete and in chaos. So the creation aspect is
referenced, but the fall is not clearly explained. Now we move to redemption. The main
thrust of this gospel presentation is that human beings cannot fix this situation, but God
can! God can put everything back together and create order out of the chaos. Since
the main result of the fall was human emptiness, the only solution needed is a good
filling. God is the one who can provide this filling according to this presentation. The
result of “trusting Jesus and the work that he did for us on the cross” is peace,
prosperity, health, and happiness.
Redemption is initiated by Christ but then we can except it simply by trusting in
Jesus and his work for us. There is a serious downplay of the concept and the reality of
sin, and as a result there is no mention of repentance. Instead of repenting “all we have
to do is quit struggling on our own.” This attitude is dangerous because a failure to deal
with the real problem, which is sin, results in an unsolved problem that is very serious.
The wrath of God still stands against sin and as it stands in Scripture “it is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
    In countering this counterfeit one first has to realize that there are some very
good aspects of this Rubiks Cube presentation of the gospel. There is a very real
sense of emptiness and futility within humanity. Generations come and go and there is
no cessation of the suffering and pain in this world. Christ even comforts “those who
hunger and thirst for righteousness” by assuring their coming filling and satisfaction
(Matthew 5:6). But the hunger of the human heart, while the gospel completely satisfies
it, is not the main end of the gospel message. This is because our desire to be filled is
not our main problem. God is holy and has opened his heart to mankind and humanity
has transgressed his laws and profaned his holy name. We have built up a unending
debt of sin. Christ is the perfect solution because on the Cross he paid our debt to the
full and satisfied God’s justice. He died but then God raised him from the grave,
showing that those who follow Christ in dying to sin will also be raised to new life with
him. God in his glory chose to extend forgiveness to us in this way and so we are the
benefactors of grace. Keeping God at the center of the gospel will help keep us from
viewing salvation as a sort of therapy for our present state.

A Therapeutic Gospel-A. Moore

            This sermon falls under the “Therapeutic Gospel,” but in a slightly different category: “God as the Vending Machine.” This particular video is an excerpt from part of a series on how to acquire wealth. The basic premise of the message is that in order to get anything from God, an exchange must be made. He discusses the story of Elijah and widow with the oil in 2 Kings 4. He points out that in order for the widow to receive the miracle, she had to offer up the little oil she had. She had to give something in exchange for what she wanted. He says that Christians today must do the same thing. If Christians want to receive anything from God, they must offer him something physical in exchange, instead of simply just hoping and praying that God will provide. His last statement in this video sums up the message well: “Ain’t nothing free in the Kingdom of God.”
            This gospel is attractive because it gives people a sense of control. If they are obedient and play by the rules, God is obligated to give them what they want out of life. Trevin Wax would call this gospel counterfeit, but I would go a step further and call it an outright lie. God does not owe people anything, no matter how obedient they attempt to be. He provides for the needs of his children out of his love, but not because of anything they have done. If people embrace this type of gospel, they will eventually become frustrated when they try to be obedient but God does not give them exactly what they want. They will pursue God for what they can get out of Him and miss out on the joy of pursuing God himself. They will miss a relationship with the creator in favor of pursuing cheap material gain. That is the opposite aim of the true gospel.