For today’s post I want to elaborate a little further on what I said yesterday, talking about how the psychologizing and softening of the biblical message is leading to many false gospels in the popular culture. I would like to do this in light of the following verse:
If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people! (Micah 2.11)
The moment I read this verse it pierced my mind as a clear evaluation of Christianity in America today. I’m not going to dialogue much, at least not yet, but I just want to pin this passage up against three quotes from three popular teachers espousing three weak, feel good, pandering theologies in best-selling books and media. The three theologies are the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, contemporary justification by good works (or modern pelagianism), and Christian universalism.
- Health, wealth and prosperity
[Y]ou can accomplish your dreams before you go to heaven! How can you do that? By tapping into God’s power inside of you. . . . Please understand that [sin, mistakes, bad attitudes, &tc.] are all things from which you have already been set free. But here’s the catch: If you don’t appreciate and take advantage of your freedom, if you don’t get your thoughts, your words, your attitudes going in the right direction, it won’t do you any good.
You may be sitting back waiting on God to do something supernatural in your life, but the truth is, God is waiting on you. You must rise up in your authority, have a little backbone and determination, and say, ‘I am not going to live my life in mediocrity, bound by addictions, negative and defeated. (Joel Osteen, Become a Better You, p.41)
- Modern pelagianism
Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which version of reality we trust. . . . Jesus measures [people's] eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived, specifically in regard to the hell around them (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.146, 148)
- Christian universalism
Here’s what I’d say. Judgment is real. Accountability is real. A good, just, reconciling, loving, living God is in everybody’s future. The danger of wasting your life and ruining other people’s lives is real. Whatever road you take, you’ll end up facing God, and that means you’ll face the truth about your life– what you’ve done, who you have become, who you truly are. That’s good news– unless you’re a bad dude, you know, unjust, hateful, unmerciful, ungenerous, selfish, lustful, greedy, hard-hearted toward God and your neighbor. You know, if God judges, forgives, and eliminates all the bad stuff, there might not be much left of you– maybe not enough to enjoy heaven, maybe not enough to feel too much in hell either. (Brian McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That, p.137)
Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell] . . . Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I’d rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important. (Brian McLaren, Christianity Today, 5 May 2006)