A different what?!
Through my wanderings in religiousity, I have found something worthwhile to criticize (suprise, surprise). I have noticed that when the chips are down, instead of arguing doctrine with someone, it is much easier to call them a heretic or a false believer. Because we are hard wired (thanks to the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil) to compare differences in things to determine which is “better”, it has become quite common to say that someone is preaching/teaching a different ___*blank*__ than you are. The two most common (or most “gasp!” worthy, if you will) are “preaching a different Jesus” or “preaching a different Gospel” than that of the Bible. What does that actually mean? Essentially, it seems that it is a very pompus way to use many words and actually say nothing.
Now, I can understand… if a pastor is preaching from the “Gospel of Mary Magdelene”, then we have an issue. If it is in the cannon of the 66 books of the Bible, it shouldn’t count as “a different gospel” because it is all the testimony of God. That doesn’t mean that one of the two in the argument isn’t wrong, it just means there needs to be ample explanation on both sides from a Biblical perspective.
If you ask the preacher who Jesus was, and he tells you that Jesus was born of a virgin in Israel, He lived a sinless life, and subsequently died for the sins of the world… then it sounds like we are talking about the same dude. If, however, the pastor tells you that Jesus was a mexican dude that was married three times to four different women and has 9 kids… then yes, we are talking about two completely different people.
What is always interesting to me is to see these two phrases thrown around when discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of the Word of Faith Movement (thank you wikipedia…). Now, the Word of Faith movement does not teach anything new about Salvation. It is through the Grace of God, by the death of Jesus Christ. It does not teach anything too far out of the ordinary about the imminent return of said Jesus Christ. In fact, other than the philosophical argument about JDS doctrine, there isn’t too much that is really worth arguing about. I think the WoF was taken to a dangerous extreme (IE, you don’t need to take your medicine!), but I also think that the majority of the church doesn’t place enough emphasis on the power of our words. Yet for some reason, when “debated” the common tactic is to declare men like Oral Roberts and several others heretics and claim that they are preaching “a different Jesus and a different Gospel than that of the Bible!” However, I have never gotten someone to fess up as to what that actually means. “Name-it-Claim-it” isn’t heretical… its just foolish… and Biblically incorrect… but you don’t go to hell for it.
Now, I do not agree with Word of Faith theology… I think they are dead wrong about a good many things… but so am I. In fact, I’m so sure that I’m wrong about a good many things, I pray that God will correct me in a way that will get my attention without hurting me too much. I have said several times to several people that it is high time we stop interrogating the sheep to find a wolf and start trusting the Shephard. It’s a lack of scholarship and revelation to simply say that someone must not be talking about the same Jesus or the same Bible as you because you don’t agree about some stuff. I know there are a ton of different translations of the Bible, but come on… It’s the same four books that talk about the same dude. We all get some funky ideas from those four books, but that is why you keep praying and keep digging… just like Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek guys.
Imagine having the humility to come out publically and say that apparently everyone who said you were wrong is actually right? The public apology and “back to the drawing board” type statements being made by these men have humbled me a great deal. They have one of the largest churches in North America, and the pastor and “godfather” of the church come out and say that they are doing a disservice to their members by not helping people to grow in their faith. If nothing else, it makes me want to pray for them even more. May God give grace to that church to keep the members sincere and without offense until the day of Christ (the real one…).
(Author’s note: one of these days, I will post my in-depth thoughts about the Word of Faith movement and the Seeker Friendly crew… but I need to get some sleep right now.)