The Way False Teaching Works


satans-lies-flag2False teaching seems to be on the rise. Mormons are clamoring to be recognized as Christian, universalists trumpet the inclusion of all people through all religions or none at all, progressives dismiss the historicity of the Bible, and Word of Faith’ers turn Jesus’s plan of salvation into a scheme to provide monetarily for those with the faith to believe. Other Christians are darting off in tangents that take them away from The Main Thing, if not directly into Bible-contradicting error. How does this happen?

No false teaching comes waving the flag of the enemy, or we’d all say, “Look, another one of Satan’s lies,” and run the other way. Instead, false teaching comes dressed in the guise of truth, in the same way that Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

The secret to understanding false teaching, how it takes root, and what allows it to flourish is in one basic fact: False teaching most often begins from a position of truth.

This is why Peter, Jude, Paul all talked about false teaching coming from within the ranks of Christians.

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (emphasis here and in the following verses is mine)

1 Tim. 4:1
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons

Gal. 2:4
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

Jude 1:4
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Generally, then, false teachers, whether believers who fall away or insidious rebels who creep in among the faithful with the intent to lead some astray, will show themselves within the church.

They will base their false teaching on truth. Notice, for example, how Jude pinpointed a group in his day who turned the grace of God into an excuse to live a self-indulgent lifestyle.

From a point of truth, false teachers next take a leap in logic or speculate based on that truth

That step leads to a point of error. Often this error becomes the cornerstone of their false teaching.

Those promoting a “health-and-wealth” gospel do this sort of thing:

  • God loves you [true],
  • and wants to bless His children [true].
  • He has promised to answer prayer [true].
  • Therefore, as God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, a child of God can expect Him to provide lavishly [not quite true—the point of speculation]
  • and can hold God to His word [inaccurate at best]

It is the “therefore” clause that is the insidious viper that works all manner of evil. In this case, the blessings God promises could as well be spiritual instead of physical, and the means by which we obtain them might come through suffering.

Further, the Bible takes a strong stand against putting God to the test. Jesus Himself rebuked Satan, using Scripture, for this very thing (see Matt. 4:7).

Finally, God’s promise of blessing and provision was never meant to crowd out other clear teachings. The gospel message is about the reconciliation Jesus made available with the Father through His sacrifice. The Word of Faith ideas water down this powerful life-changing message by insinuating physical blessings as the main gift Jesus provided.

Here’s another example of how false teaching works. Trinitarian Theology is the resurrection of an old heresy (which sounds very much like the position Rob Bell took in Love Wins). The following points are excerpted from “The God Revealed in Jesus Christ: A Brief Introduction to Trinitarian Theology” and the verses in parentheses are from Romans 5.

  • “Just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam]…[and] all sinned…” (v. 12). [true]
  • “How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ [the second Adam], overflow to the many?” (v. 15). [true]
  • And, “just as the result of one trespass [that of the first Adam] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [that of Jesus, the second or final Adam] was justification that brings life for all men” (v. 18). [true]
  • Jesus has not simply done something for us, he has done something with us by including us in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. [not quite true—the point of speculation: other scriptures qualify “all men.” See for instance Colossians 2:19a, “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast and not moved away from the hope of the gospel …” (emphasis mine)]
  • Therefore, we understand from Scripture that when Jesus died, all humanity died with him. [false—only believers died to sin, guilt, the law. Again see Colossians or Romans 6]
  • When Jesus rose, all humanity rose to new life with him. [false—see Colossians 3:1 and the “If” clause]
  • When Jesus ascended, all humanity ascended and became seated with him at the Father’s side (Ephesians 2:4-6). [false—unbelievers will face judgment and eternal punishment. Multiple passages verify this]

In short, understanding how false teaching works should make us more aware of the necessity for discernment within the church. We should be thinking with our Bibles open about what our pastors are preaching. We must keep our minds engaged and our hearts in prayer whenever we read Christian literature (including this blog!) False teachers can introduce false ideas through novels, biographies, commentaries, or devotionals. There is no “safe” author or book and we ought not rely on any Christian leader as infallible in his proclamation of truth (the statistics on Christian leaders are as solid as those on death: one out of one is a sinner).

God gave us a brain, and more importantly He gave us His Word and His Spirit. We are responsible for letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us and to be filled with the Spirit rather than quenching Him. He and the Word of God will lead us into all truth. If we close our Bibles or quench the Spirit, then we’re opening ourselves to all manner of false teaching. And plenty of it abounds these days.

This post is a revised and updated version of one that first appeared here in November 2011.

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 7:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Cleaning The Cup


1194095_wine_glass_dark_fieldIn recent years a fairly popular criticism of Christians in Western society is that those in traditional churches are playing the part today of the “religious leaders,” also called the Pharisees, who clashed with Jesus in the first century.

I maintain that this position compares avocados and watermelons. The Pharisees were trying to work their way into God’s good graces, even as they rejected Jesus. Christians—if they are actual followers of Christ—have understood that our best efforts fall short of God’s glory and have instead accepted the work of Jesus at the cross.

Does the fact that Christians follow Jesus mean we can then live as we please and do as we wish? Certainly not.

The instruction in the New Testament is for Christians, which I think we American believers sometimes lose sight of. Rather than concerning ourselves with all that the Bible says to Christians, we work to bring all of society into a godly lifestyle.

To an extent, this is not a bad thing. Christ’s teaching is life-changing and all of society would be better off doing what He says, but the truth is, it’s possible to clean up the outside of the cup and leave the inside disgustingly dirty.

Jesus didn’t advocate scouring the outside and leaving the inside filthy. Just the opposite. He said, essentially, clean the inside and the outside will take care of itself: “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matt. 23:26).

Here’s what Jesus was really getting to:

“So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 24:28)

In other words, He was talking to pretend Christians, or to religious people in other faiths who think doing a bunch of good deeds will put them in right standing with god or the universe or whatever it is they worship.

To be honest, a lot of those people clean up well. Their outside can look all spiffy and clean. One reason Christians team up with Mormons in political matters, I believe, is that Mormons are so very moral. They are pro-life and pro-marriage, don’t drink or smoke or gamble, go to church, give to charities, and generally present a face of kindness.

Clean cups, at least on the outside.

Honestly, moderate Muslims are right there beside them. The women dress modestly, all are law-abiding, they worship regularly, they oppose homosexuality, drinking, and abortion.

I could say the same about any number of people of religion—they do many, many right things because in their belief system, they have to. The doing is their ticket to “God’s” good graces—whether that means enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, or another planet where they will rule.

Shockingly, atheists can fall into this category, too. Their list of “right things” will differ from Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and pretend Christians, but they still have their list. Be tolerant of people who hold a different belief system than traditional Western culture, take care of the environment, avoid even the appearance of prejudice, speak only in a politically correct way, support gender equality, gay marriage, and labor unions.

The gods that the atheists are trying to please, of course, are themselves. They talk much about doing something meaningful for society and leaving a legacy. This is their nirvana, but to get there, they must clean the outside until it shines.

Jesus said he didn’t come for the people who have these spiffed up outsides. Those folk see no need for Him because they believe it’s up to them.

For the religionists God expects them to measure up, and for the humanists, they have to measure up to the standard they’ve set for themselves. So both groups busy themselves cleaning the outside of the cup, and when drink splatters, which it always does, they hurriedly wipe it away. When greasy fingers leave a smear, they wash and polish, until the outside shines again.

All the while, germs roam free on the inside. They can hate and lust and covet to their heart’s content. They can doubt God and rail at Him, they can be disappointed and think He’s let them down or doesn’t really care or isn’t really there. Just so long as on the outside, no one knows.

Jesus said He came to heal, but only sick people need healing. The well send physicians away. Services not needed here—only healthy people on site.

But that attitude is indicative of the spiritually blind. All people have fallen short of God’s glory—His righteous standard, and the only standard that matters.

Children run races and win trophies, but how silly if they strutted around claiming to be the fastest runner in the world. They have measured themselves against themselves and decided they are the best. But if they were to measure themselves against the world record holder, they would clearly, consistently, and always fall short.

So too with Man’s efforts, as soon as we measure ourselves against God’s holiness.

We might shine the outside of our cup in an effort to fool ourselves and others that it is clean, but to kill the germs crawling around inside takes the touch of the Master, the work of Jesus, the healing of the One who came to save.

This post first appeared here in June 2013.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 6:24 pm  Comments Off on Cleaning The Cup  
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Moral, Religious People Are Not Allies Of Christ


The_Moneychangers001When Jesus lived on earth, He often criticized the most religious, most moral group of people in Judaism–the priests, Levites, and Pharisees. He told parables in which they recognized themselves as the people on the wrong side of right. He usurped their authority to clean out moneychangers from the temple. He called them a “brood of vipers” on more than one occasion, and warned them that they stood under God’s wrath, that they were headed for hell (Matt. 23:26). He called them liars and said their father was the devil (John 8:44).

In spite of this example that Jesus set, many Christians today choose to embrace moral, religious people and call them allies. Fine Christian people are more fearful of the immoral, left-leaning liberals than they are of the legalistic religionist. But Jesus never went after the tax collectors or the Roman collaborators or the prostitutes the way He went after the Pharisees. He never called them names or painted them as uncaring cheats in His stories.

Why did Jesus seem so abrasive when He dealt with these Jews who were meticulous about keeping the law, and we twenty-first century Christians wink at the legalism of our new-found moral friends?

I’m referring specifically to Mormons and the Christians who are willing to “look past” their legalism, their false teaching, their lies, their distortion of God’s revelation and of His Person.

How heinous it is that we have a President who embraces abortion and gay rights, who reinterprets the Constitution. But why would we turn to a Mormon instead? Do we not care about the normalization of Mormonism as much as we care about the normalization of homosexuality? Do we think a man who believes in an invented religion with a prophet who has greater authority than the Bible, would actually think twice about reinterpreting the Constitution too?

It seems to me, Mormons have buffaloed Christians … and others, by their moral front. They want very much to be treated as just another Christian denomination, not as the cult that they are. The problem is, their founder’s and prophets’ writings show otherwise. Here are just a few points of Mormon belief many may not realize.

About God and Jesus (source for these excerpts, Truthnet.org):

  • “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…”(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345)
  • “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangilble as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Spirit has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit…” (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22)
  • “As man is, God once was: as God is, man may become” (Prophet Lorenzo Snow, quotedin Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, 105-106)
  • Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is” (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 1:123)
  • When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one his wives, with him. He helped to make and organized this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! About whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom we have to do” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:50)
  • Jesus is the brother of Satan this is revealed in the Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 4:1-4 and affirmed by Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses, 13:282)

About history in America (source of this quote is Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry):

  • The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the account of people who came from the Middle-East to the Americas. It covers the period of about 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. It tells of the Jaredites, people from the Tower of Babel who came to central America but perished because of their own immorality. It also describes some Jews who fled persecution in Jerusalem and came to America led by a man called Nephi. The Jews divided into two groups known as the Nephites and Lamanites who fought each other. The Nephites were defeated in 428 A.D. The Lamanites continued and are known as the American Indians. The Book of Mormon is the account of the Nephite leader, Mormon, concerning their culture, civilization, and appearance of Jesus to the Americas.

latter day cipher coverFor a more comprehensive look at Mormonism, check out The Mormon Mirage by Latayne Scott. For a look at Mormonism through the personal means of a story, see the murder-mystery Latter-Day Cipher also by former Mormon Latayne Scott.

Published in: on January 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Best Of Men


As the 17th century English adage goes, “The best of men are men at best,” so it should come as no surprise when a remarkable and admirable person does something stupid. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

So when I learned today that Franklin Graham and his much revered father were instrumental in having Mormonism removed from the list of religious cults on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website, I shook my head. Too bad.

For half a century Billy Graham has stood for one thing–the clear gospel message that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, and that Jesus died to redeem us from that sin. That’s it. Sermon after sermon, crusade after crusade. He preached the good news night in and night out.

And now, having met with Governor Mitt Romney some weeks before the election, Franklin Graham, according to news reports, promised to do whatever he could to help Mr. Romney’s campaign. And off the cult list came Mormonism.

Ouch.

The fact is, Mormonism belongs on the cult list. One of the worst things coming out of this election–yes, one of the worst!–is this murkiness surrounding Mormonism. Christians need to be clear. Mormons use terms like “son of God” and “atonement” but they mean something very different from what the Bible means by those same terms.

For one thing–and this is something Mormons can’t disguise–this false religion uses extra-Biblical sources to arrive at their beliefs. The Book of Mormon is only one of those. They believe that the leaders of their church also receive utterance which has the same, or more, authority as the Bible–more, because it is more recent. God, they believe, continues to update His revelation.

Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ and His role as Creator and Redeemer. He is not only the center of Mormon worship, He leads the Church personally through revelation to His prophet (the President of the Church) and by giving the authority to church priesthood-holders to act in His name . . . Mormons wish they had even more scriptures and know that more will be given as they are more worthy to receive them. (excerpt from Mormon Beliefsemphasis mine)

Equally troubling is what Mormons believe about Mankind. We are first spirit born–children of God in a very literal way, offspring of his union with his spirit wives, so when we are born physically we are leaving the father and will one day return to him.

According to Mormon theology, God the Father, Elohim, dwells on a planet with His many spirit wives producing numerous spirit children who await to inhabit physical bodies so that they too may one day ascend to godhood as their parents did. (from “The Mormon Doctrine of Jesus: A Christian Perspective” by Patrick Zukeran, Probe Ministries)

From the Mormon Beliefs website:

For Latter-day Saints, mortal existence is seen in the context of a great sweep of history, from a pre-earth life where the spirits of all mankind lived with Heavenly Father to a future life in His presence where continued growth, learning and improving will take place.

And another explanation from Mormon Beliefs:

Mormon doctrine holds that all people have existed eternally as individual “intelligences,” and then that God the Father created us spiritually, before we came to earth. (emphasis mine)

This idea of Mankind is a contradiction to what the Bible tells us about Creation. It also has major ramifications for what Mormons believe about Jesus. They believe he is simply the first of God’s spirit children. In other words, he is a created being himself.

According to the Mormon view, Jesus is not unique from the rest of mankind. He is simply the firstborn spirit child. The Doctrine and Covenants states, “The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind.”{4} That is why Mormons refer to Jesus as elder brother. (Zukeran)

In addition, Jesus is Jehovah, the one who interacted with man in the events recorded in the Old Testament. Yet he is a distinct person from the Father, not “the fullness of God in bodily form” as Scripture states.

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ has always been a separate person from God the Father. In some ways Christ Himself is our father—He is the creator of the heavens and the earth; He is a father to all those who are born-again; He is one with God the Father in all the attributes of perfection, power, and authority.(Mormon Beliefs – emphasis mine)

In other words, He is not God in the way Christians understand the tri-unity of God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

There’s more, much more. This post barely scratches the surface. But I think it’s enough to illustrate that Mormons believe very differently from Christians on major tenants of the faith.

For a succinct overview of what Mormons believe by an ex-Mormon, visit Recovery from Mormonism.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm  Comments (5)  
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