Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Celebrity Christian Hot Takes (Driscoll, Graham, Groeschel, Lewis, Lucado, Piper, Vallotton)

 

I get lots questions about whether or not certain pastors, teachers, and authors are doctrinally sound, and whether or not I would recommend them. I mean, lots. And, can I just say- that’s really encouraging to me. When someone asks that question, it demonstrates a) that she knows there are teachers out there who wear the label of “Christian” yet teach unbiblical things, and b) that she doesn’t want to follow one of those teachers. Having interacted with scores of professing Christian women who don’t even rise to that basic level of discernment (i.e. they blindly believe everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is), that’s huge, and I love it.

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). All of the articles and entries on that page exist because someone (usually more than one person) asked whether or not that teacher is doctrinally sound. I wish I were able to write articles on every teacher I’m asked about so I could provide you with more thorough resources, but it usually takes me several days worth of research and writing to properly assemble even the shortest of those articles, and with a family to care for, and other responsibilities, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

All of that means that I have to pick and choose which teachers to write about (which is generally whoever is most popular and most people are asking about) and resign myself to the fact that there are teachers I’m probably never going to get around to writing about (few have heard of them, they’re not popular in my audience demographic, they’re dead, it’s uber-obvious they’re heretics {Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, etc.}).

Recently, I’ve been asked about a slew of teachers I’m probably not going to write articles about, not because they’re not important, but because they don’t influence as many people in my audience as other teachers do. So I thought what I’d do from time to time is gather up a few and just give a quick “hot take” – a thumbs up or thumbs down as to whether or not you should follow them – based on what I already know without researching them and/or no more than a five minute Google search.

I’ll be using the criteria outlined in my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own. If you ever need to know whether or not you should avoid a certain teacher, I would encourage you to use this article as a guide, and research him or her for yourself. Vetting teachers is not difficult, it’s a skill every Christian needs to develop, you shouldn’t just take my (or anyone else’s) word for it that someone is or isn’t a false teacher, and I won’t always be around. So if you’re interested in any of these teachers, consider these hot takes a jumping off point for doing more research on your own.

👎Mark Driscoll A definite thumbs down. Mark Driscoll is demonstrably apostate. He was charged with spiritual abuse (mostly anger, treating people poorly, abuse of power – things like that) at his former church, Mars Hill. He refused to go through the biblical process of church discipline his elders tried to enact, and instead quit and fled to another state. He now associates and yokes in “ministry” with New Apostolic Reformation heretics.

Billy Graham– Not someone I’m going to go around proactively recommending, but not someone I’d call a false teacher, either. I would categorize him as “generally OK-ish, but there are much better, stronger teachers you could be listening to instead”. I’ve read his autobiography and listened to several of his sermons over the years. Although I think some of his methods were biblically unwise, the basic content of his sermons and the gospel he preached was biblical overall. But you need to remember that Billy Graham was an evangelist, not a pastor, which means you’ll get the basics of the gospel by listening to him, but not much else. And if you’re already saved, while you never outgrow your need to hear the gospel, that’s not all you need. You need to grow and mature in the Word, and be taught the full counsel of God.

A couple of reasons many people wonder about Billy Graham’s theology have to do with his ecumenism (he basically embraced just about everyone who wore the label “Christian” – including the Pope) and his universalist statements (most widely known via his 1997 interview with Robert Schuller). Additionally, his daughter, Ann Graham Lotz, credits her father with heavily influencing her theology, and she is not someone I’d recommend.

👎Craig Groeschel– Nope. When Chris Rosebrough has done this many Fighting for the Faith segments and sermon reviews on somebody, take it to the bank- that’s not somebody you should be following. And then you’ve got things like: Craig preaching at this Hillsong conference (which also featured Bethel Music leaders), preaching with Joel Osteen at a conference hosted by Lakewood, he’s spoken at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference, he lets women and false teachers preach at his church, including Christine Caine (whom he calls “one of the greatest preachers of all time”) and Steven Furtick (who says in this clip that Groeschel’s church has influenced Furtick’s church {Elevation} “probably more than any other church”.)

Also, if you use the YouVersion Bible App, you might want to know that it was developed by Craig Groeschel and his church, and is still owned by his church (Life.Church), which is one of the reasons it’s not one I recommend when people ask me about Bible apps.

C.S. Lewis For fiction, you’re probably OK. I read my children the entire Narnia series with no real problems. I know sound brothers and sisters who have found Mere Christianity and other CSL books to be helpful, but, honestly, if you really want to study theology, I’d encourage you to steer clear and find better sources. There are questions as to whether or not he believed in evolution, universalism, the inspiration of Scripture, and penal substitutionary atonement.

👎Max Lucado– No. He recently embraced Jen Hatmaker as a guest on her podcast. He has preached at Lakewood (Joel Osteen), affirmed Bill Johnson (Bethel), endorses Beth Moore, wrote the foreword for Christine Caine’s book, Undaunted, etc. And the church Max pastors, Oak Hills Church, is egalitarian.

And then there’s this quote from Max during an interview with Preaching.com: I really enjoy listening to Joel Osteen. I think Joel has a unique assignment in his ministry, and that’s to cast a wide net. He’s got a different assignment and a different gift mix than, for example, a John MacArthur; and I enjoy listening to John MacArthur equally; but you can see that they’re two different types of preaching. I enjoy Joel because I think his assignment in ministry is to encourage people, and we live in a day that is so discouraged, discouraging. I enjoy John MacArthur because I think—it seems to me—his assignment is to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding. He’d be more like a Beth Moore or a David Jeremiah; I think we need that, as well.

I’m sorry, but do you really want to be taught the Bible by someone who someone who is so undiscerning he can’t tell the difference between Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, and John MacArthur? That he thinks Joel Osteen and John MacArthur just have different gifts and different preaching styles? And that Beth Moore, like John MacArthur, has an “assignment to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding“?

John PiperJohn Piper’s books, sermons, and blog are mostly fine, and while I disagree with him on several points of theology, I certainly do not consider him to be a false teacher. But he’s not somebody I’m going to proactively recommend, either. Here’s how I’ve answered readers in the past who have asked me about John Piper:

While I consider Dr. Piper to be a generally doctrinally sound Christian brother and agree with him in many aspects of theology, he is not someone I proactively recommend for a few reasons:

1. Dr. Piper is a continuationist. I usually limit my endorsements to cessationists  because I believe this is the biblical view of the gifts. (I do not consider otherwise doctrinally sound continuationists to be false teachers, however.)

2. I’m concerned about Dr. Piper’s associations and partnerships with false teachers (which violates 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 9-11). First he appeared to embrace Rick Warren when he interviewed him and invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference in 2010. More recently, he has been a featured speaker at events like the Passion conferences where he has shared the stage with Christine Caine, Priscilla ShirerBeth Moore, and Judah Smith.

3. Dr. Piper’s complementarianism seems muddled at best. On the one hand he will go so far as to say that Christian women should not be drill sergeants and police officers (the Bible mentions nothing of the sort), yet on the other hand he joins in ministry with the aforementioned Caine, Shirer, and Moore who – in addition the the false doctrine they preach – all actively and unrepentantly violate clear Scripture by preaching to men. It’s quite confusing.

I’m not going to warn people away from John Piper as a false teacher, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend him either.

👎Kris VallottonAbsolutely not, no way, no how. Kris Vallotton is the “Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)” which means he is a New Apostolic Reformation heretic, not a Christian, and certainly not someone any other Christian (or lost person, for that matter) should be following. Read more about the blasphemies and heresies of Bethel.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is “Jesus loves you” enough of the gospel?

 

I work in a parachurch organization in which I teach children. I have a passion for these kids to know God and know His Word. My direct supervisor, as well as the head of the organization, want to only emphasize God’s love and that we are ALL children of God. I am wrestling with this because I just don’t believe that I should make saying “Jesus loves you” the main message to the kids but rather the gospel in full context (of course getting down to their level but in no way changing the message). What should I do?

It’s always great to hear from someone who’s working with children and wants to put correct theology on the bottom shelf where their little hands can reach it. Thank you for serving God’s Kingdom this way!

There are three issues I think are important to address in this situation. Let’s take a look…

We are NOT “all” God’s children.
All humans are indeed made in the imago dei – the image of God. That’s definitely an important aspect of theology to teach children, and if that’s what your supervisors actually mean when they say “we’re all God’s children,” that’s super. But they need to use correct, biblical language and say “We’re all made in the image of God,” (age-appropriately explaining what that means, of course) instead of saying “We’re all God’s children.”

It’s not just a quibble over semantics. There are two very important reasons to get this right.

First, it’s simply not true on its face and you don’t want to be teaching the children a lie. I mean, Jesus once told some Jews (aka: God’s set apart people group) He was talking to, “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” So, obviously, people fall into one of two categories: you’re either a child of God or you’re a child of the devil. Just as a person has to be physically born into a family or adopted into a certain family in order for that particular mom and dad to be her parents and for her to be their daughter, “you must be born again,” – a spiritual birth (and adoption) – in order for God to be your Father and you to be His child.

Second, saying “We’re all God’s children,” smacks of universalism.  Universalism is basically the idea that everybody goes to Heaven when they die. No repentance is necessary, no belief in Christ, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, if any. If this is what your supervisors are teaching or wanting you to teach, I would encourage you to find employment elsewhere. This is blasphemous false doctrine that no Christian organization or its employees should be teaching.

Teaching the WHOLE gospel
Jesus loves you” is part of the gospel, and one that we need to make sure we’re including any time we share the gospel with others. It is only because of the amazing, unfathomable love of God that Christ came to earth to die in the first place. Without the love of God there would be no gospel at all. However, it is not the entirety of the gospel. The gospel also includes the components of sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.

Since this is a Christian organization you work for, I’m unclear on why (assuming they’re not universalists) your supervisors would not want the whole gospel taught to the children. Only three possible reasons come to mind:

1. They’re concerned that the children are too young to understand sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.
You didn’t mention the specific age of the children you’re working with, but I got the impression from your original message to me that they are elementary school aged. I have six children of my own and have taught every age level of children from birth through high school in church, parachurch, and school settings for most of my adult life, and I can tell you that elementary school aged children are perfectly capable of grasping these concepts when they’re explained at an age-appropriate level.

I would think anyone qualified to be in a supervisory capacity at an organization like yours would – as an experienced professional – know that children this age can intellectually handle these concepts, and would – as a Christian – want them to know the whole gospel so they can be saved and take the gospel home to their families.

2. They’re concerned anything more than a generic “Jesus loves you,” is going to offend some of the parents.
Tough. The gospel is offensive to sinners. They need to get over that fear of man right quick. And it’s not like the parents were tricked into putting their kids into a program they didn’t know was Christian, right? (By the way, this is not the tone I’d recommend using when speaking to your supervisors :0)

3. You’re spending too much of your time evangelizing the kids instead of teaching them the main topic(s) they’re there to learn.
That’s not the impression of you that I got from your original message, but just make sure that, if, for example, you were hired to teach the kids how to play kickball, you’re teaching them how to play kickball, not turning every practice session into a Bible study.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around why any organization that openly bills itself as “Christian” would only want part of the gospel presented. I would suggest sitting down with your supervisors and asking them politely why they don’t want the whole gospel presented to the children at appropriate times in age-appropriate ways. Perhaps they have a good, biblical reason for it, but I’m at a loss to imagine what it is.

Submitting to authority
Submission to authority is a big theme in the New Testament. Christians submit to God’s authority, wives submit to our husbands’ authority, church members submit to the authority of their pastors and elders, as citizens we submit to our civil authorities, and, in the present day, we understand the passages about slaves submitting to their masters in light of the employee/employer relationship.

In God’s structure of authority, He is always at the top. So if any other authority in your life – husband, boss, government, pastor, etc. – wants you to do something that conflicts with God’s written Word, your response must be the same as Peter’s: “I must obey God rather than men.”

I’m still unclear as to whether or not your employers are asking you to do something that conflicts with God’s Word. After talking it over with them, praying about it, talking to your husband about it (if you’re married), and possibly seeking counsel from your pastor or a mature sister in Christ at your church, if you come to the conclusion that your supervisors are not asking you to disobey God’s Word, then the proper godly response is for you to submit to their authority and joyfully do as they ask. If you come to the conclusion that they are asking you to disobey God’s Word, prayerfully ask to meet with them again, and kindly, with Scripture, explain to them that you cannot in good conscience truncate the gospel. Perhaps God will open their eyes and they will change their policy. If not, it might be an appropriate time to tender your two week’s notice.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Doctrinally Sound Teachers

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

a few good men 1Ladies, the Christian retailing machine isn’t doing us any favors when it comes to Bible study and theology.

First, they’ve created the impression that in order to study God’s word, we have to buy a book, workbook, or DVD by a Christian author. Next, they show us the materials we have to choose from by cordoning off part of the store or web site under the heading “Women’s Bible Study.” Finally, they fill the shelves in that department with materials penned almost exclusively by women, the majority of whom (even at supposedly trustworthy LifeWay) are false teachers.

Let’s think outside that box, shall we?

First, you do not have to use someone’s book to study the Bible. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Just pick up your Bible and study it in a systematic way. Next, if you do decide to use a Bible study book or other resource, it does not have to be written by a woman (though there are some great female teachers I’ve recommended herehere, and here). If you limit yourself to women authors, you’re going to miss out on some wonderful teaching by the many doctrinally sound male teachers out there. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorite pastors and male authors of Bible studies and other great Christian books and resources.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Don’t take my (or anyone else’s) word for it that any ministry, podcast, book, or blog is biblical in its doctrine. You MUST do the work of comparing with Scripture everything you read and hear. If it doesn’t match up with God’s word (in context), chuck it.

download1. Charles Spurgeon– “The Prince of Preachers,” Spurgeon was “England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century…Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000.” Most of his works are still in print in both hardcover and e-book format, and many are available on line for free. You may wish to use his sermons as individual Bible study lessons, or try his commentaries as you study. The brief devotions in Spurgeons’ Morning and Evening  are a favorite of many, and you’re sure to be edified by his many other books as well.  Facebook  Twitter

2.  John MacArthur– “John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.” Dr. MacArthur has written approximately 400 books, including study guides, commenataries, Bible studies, and more. You might enjoy one of his free on line daily devotions, one of his study books, a sermon on the passage of Scripture you’re studying, or one of his books on a variety of biblical topics.  Facebook  Twitter

3. Steve Lawson – A pastor for 34 years, Dr. Lawson is now founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, “a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring zEWv7vOI_400x400about a new reformation in the church.” He serves on the board of Ligonier Ministries and The Master’s Seminary, where he is also Professor of Preaching. Dr. Lawson has written twenty books, from commentaries to preaching texts, to an interesting series of profiles of godly men of the past such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Tyndale, and others. Study the Bible with Dr. Lawson’s transcribed sermons and Bible study lessons, or listen to one of his many excellent messages.  Facebook  Twitter

4. Todd Friel– Todd is the host of Wretched Radio, a daily two hour program dealing with discernment, evangelism, the church, theological aspects of current events, and various other topics (Wretched TV is a daily 30 minute television version of the show). “Witness Wednesday” is a great way to get “boots on the ground” training in how to share the gospel. Todd has produced a myriad of materials for both churches and individuals on biblical topics such as marriage, church history, parenting, anxiety, pornography, and more. His most recent book, Judge Not, deals with the false doctrine dreck and seeker-driven shenanigans that are currently infiltrating the church.  Facebook  Twitter

paul_washer_profile5. Paul Washer– An echo of Paul the Apostle, Paul Washer served as a missionary in Peru for ten years where he also founded the HeartCry Missionary Society. HeartCry now supports church planters in Peru and indigenous missionaries world wide. Paul is a challenging author and a sought after speaker who boldly exhorts the church. You might enjoy working through one of his studies, The One True God or The Truth about Man, or being built up by one of his sermons.  Facebook  Twitter

6. Chris Rosebrough– Chris is the host of the daily discernment and Bible teaching radio program, Fighting for the Faith. He is also the pastor of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church in Oslo, Minnesota. If you want to learn discernment, how to rightly handle God’s word in context, and keep up with the latest false doctrine infiltrating the church, look no further. In addition to the daily broadcast, listen to Rosebrough’s Ramblings as Chris takes his Sunday School class through various books of the Bible, and explore the other recommended teaching resources on the web site.  Facebook  Twitter

7. R. C. Sproul– A former seminary professor, ”Dr. R.C. Sproul was co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and chancellor of Reformation Bible College. He was the author of more than ninety books,” headed up Ligonier Ministries, and recorded a daily radio broadcast, Renewing Your Mind. Find teaching materials on nearly any passage you’re studying, follow the daily devotional, or order biblical books, music, and other resources.  Facebook  Twitter

Update: Dr. Sproul went home to be with the Lord on December 14, 2017. He is greatly missed, but his materials are still phenomenally beneficial to the church and remain available at the links above.

img18. Phil Johnson–  “Phil is the Executive Director of Grace to You. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of John’s major books…Phil was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group.” Phil is an amazing lecturer and preacher with an incredible depth of knowledge of church and biblical history. You’ll enjoy the theological richness of Phil’s sermons (check out his “Bible Q & A” teachings) and be challenged by his blog articles at Pyromaniacs.  Facebook  Twitter

9. Alistair Begg– “Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975.” Formerly of Scotland, “in 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.” Subscribe to the daily Truth for Life devotion or get the app, listen to a sermon on the passage of Scripture you’re studying, check in with the Truth for Life blog, or read one of Alistair’s fine books.  Facebook  Twitter

preaching-w-logo-copy10. Voddie Baucham– After serving as a pastor and seminary professor in Texas for several years, Voddie recently accepted a position as Dean of Seminary at African Christian University in Zambia. “Whether teaching on classical apologetic issues such as the validity and historicity of the Bible or the resurrection of Christ or teaching on cultural issues, such as gender roles, marriage, and family, he says his goal is to help people understand the significance of thinking and living biblically in every area of life.” Listen to one of Voddie’s many fine sermons, or check out his books on a variety of biblical topics.  Facebook  Twitter


Also check out:
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few Good Men, Again!: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers