Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says we let many popular books and movies promote false ideas.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So if it has glaring biblical and theological errors, why do we accept it? Why do we rave about it? Why do we give it five stars? Why do we buy it and read it? Why do they sell it in Christian bookstores?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 29. You need discernment when interacting with books and movies in the world. But when you walk into a Christian bookstore, you don’t have to worry quite so much, right? Not necessarily, according to Nancy.

Nancy: If you’ve not been with us earlier in this series, we’re talking about the issue of deception, which is so widespread. The Scripture said it would be many deceivers in the last days and those who deceive us theologically and doctrinally. Then once you’re deceived theologically in terms of what you believe, you can be deceived in terms of how you should live, because how we should live flows out of what we believe.

So I’m doing something in this series that I really don’t like to do, and that is to spend time concentrating on the false. I much prefer spending my time on the true. We’re told that in the FBI—I’m sure you’ve heard this—when they want to train agents to spot counterfeit money, they don’t spend a lot of time handling the counterfeit. They spend all their time handling the genuine—the authentic—so that when a counterfeit is slipped in, they can recognize it quickly and easily.

I have made a commitment in my life since the time I was a little girl to spend my life handling the genuine. So we’re taking a couple of days here at the beginning of this series to delve into some of the deception—just enough on the surface so that you can see the kinds of things that we’re talking about. Then we’re going to turn the corner and talk about discernment. What does it mean to have discernment and how can we know the difference between truth and error?

In the last session, I spelled out and gave you some illustrations of how New Age teaching and thinking is infiltrating our world and even being adopted by some in our churches today. Now I want to talk about another kind of deception in terms of teaching and writing that is more prevalent in the church than the New Age teachings.

The people I quoted in the last session—and you can go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and get that transcript if you missed it—these are not Christians. These are false teachers. They are not believers in Christ, and what they are teaching is heresy. It is totally opposite of the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ.

Today I want to talk about something that’s a little more subtle, and that is we have many widely-respected, best-selling authors, pastors, and teachers in the Christian world who are deceiving God’s people. Again, I don’t know their hearts so I can’t say whether they have an intent to deceive. I think some do. But I think more often they are themselves deceived and are just being used by the enemy—by Satan, the deceiver—in ways they don’t even realize. I think many of them are just blind.

We talked about different levels of theological and doctrinal issues. Some of the errors we’re going to talk about today are not first level errors. Some of them are. Some of them are more second level errors, but they are serious errors that can affect the way we live and think about God and about the Word. So I want to bring some of them to your attention.

Some of these teachers and teachings are very, very popular today and particularly popular with young people or with new believers. These are teachings and books that are being promoted in church youth groups, in Christian high schools, and in Christian colleges. They are rampant. They are widespread and they are not as completely erroneous as the teachings we talked about in the last session. These are more truth mixed with error. Some truth and some error, which makes it even more subtle, I think, in some ways.

Now in this session, I’m not going to name specific books or teachers if I can help it for a couple of reasons. First, there’s so many examples of doctrinal error out there that I couldn’t possibly identify all of them for you. And by the time this program airs, some months from when it’s being recorded, some of today’s bestsellers will be passé and there will be new ones. So I’m not picking on particular books or authors. I just want you to get the concept of how error works itself in.

Then, ultimately, you can’t depend on me or anyone else to tell you what is truth and error, what is right and wrong. You need to develop a spiritual centeredness on the Word of God, a groundedness in God’s Word, and spiritual antennae that go up so that you know what is truth and error. You can discern yourself. That’s what we’ll talk about in the upcoming sessions.

Let me put these in a few different categories. First of all, there’s this whole area of what I call shallow, feel-good Christianity. A lot of this involves self-help or self-esteem teaching that is packaged in biblical terminology but in many cases it is really devoid of the gospel.

It’s the concept that theology doesn’t really matter. We just want to help people feel better. So tied in with these kinds of teaching you’ll find a lot of psychotherapeutic theology—if you could call it that. It’s barely theology. Just a little bit of theology mixed in with a whole lot of psychotherapeutic teaching and in some cases psychobabble.

There’s a lot of teaching on how to be happy, how to be fulfilled, and replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. What you have is a teaching that tends to be what theologians call anthrocentric, which is man-centered, rather than theocentric, which is God-centered. It’s self-centered rather than Christ-centered.

I’m thinking, for example, of the pastor of what may be the largest church in the country, certainly one them. The essence of his teaching is seven principles for success and those principles are:

1. Enlarge your vision
2. Develop a healthy self-image
3. Discover the power of your thoughts and words
4. Let go of the past
5. Stand strong against opposition and adversity
6. Live to give
7. Choose to be happy

This particular teacher urges you to get up every morning and say, “I’m going to do something great. This is going to be a great day.” When you do this, you agree with God who “is trying to promote us, to increase us, to give us more.” These are direct quotes from one of his best-selling books. When I say best-selling, I’m talking huge bestsellers, being read and imbibed by Christians who at best are getting cotton candy.

This is a psychological message with a thin covering of theology. It starts with ourselves rather than God. God is a positive God. So you have little or no concept of His holiness, His wrath, His justice, and again virtually no mention of the cross, the blood of Christ, atonement for sin, the resurrection of Christ.

These don’t just define who we are, they are who we are. You take these out and you have nothing left. You have no substance. You have no life. You have no hope. But in this kind of teaching, none of that is considered really necessary. They miss the gospel entirely. So the problem as they see it is not that we are fallen sinners or rebels, but that we have a negative self-image and that’s all up to us to change.

We’re not dependent on the transforming work of God’s grace to change us. It’s moralism. It’s changing your outward behavior without really changing your heart or taking you to the gospel that gives you a personal relationship with Christ.

One blogger I read summarized a message he watched by this pastor of the megachurch. The blogger’s comment was there was no Christ, no cross, no mention of man’s moral bankruptcy. Just the feel-good, positive message of assurance that God always rewards human effort and virtue.

Now is there something wrong with buying one of those books and reading it? Well, I’ll just tell you this for me, and we’ll get to this when I talk about discernment. Those are books I don’t buy. Those are books I don’t read. Will it destroy your soul if you read it? The problem is if you fill your mind and your heart—it’s like telling your kids you can’t eat all this junk before dinner because then you don’t have an appetite for the real stuff.

That’s where we have anemic Christians who don’t know how to deal with suffering, don’t know how to deal with pain, don’t know how to deal with sinful habits and issues in their lives. It will just leave you weak, anemic, and impotent spiritually at its best. At its worst it could be very, very deceptive.

Now let me move to another area that I’ve been asked to comment on more than once. I’m going to say so little about this that I hate to bring it up, but just enough for you to know that there are a lot of red flags here and that is the whole issue of what has been called today the “emerging church.”

The emerging church today is by and large an attempt to reach post-moderns who are unchurched. What you find of many in the emerging church movement is that they are reactionary. Now anything I say is not going to be true of all of them, but these are some of the characteristics that seem to me to be pretty common.

  • A lot of them are reactionary.
  • They are disillusioned with traditional, organized church.
  • They feel it’s become irrelevant in our culture, and there is some truth to that.

There is some truth to all of this. But therefore their inclination is to throw off Christian dogma, Christian terminology, systematic theology.

You find those in this movement often reacting to propositional truth or direct proclamation of the gospel. When I say propositional truth, I mean a gospel that is rooted in objective propositions and truth about the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, the substitutionary atonement and death of Christ. They would say that’s not really how you reach people. You reach them more with one-on-one dialogue, with conversation. That word conversation is a big word in the emerging church movement.

They react to what they would call confrontational evangelism. “[God] commands all [men] everywhere,” the New Testament says, “to repent” (Acts 17:30). That’s not the kind of language that you would often hear used in the emerging church. They want to give people freedom to discover truth through dialogue, interpersonal relationships. Within the emerging church movement, you will find unorthodox views on such doctrines as blood atonement, salvation by faith, the existence of hell, etc.

Let me quote from a very popular, huge best-selling book—somebody who’s influencing a lot of Bible college students. A lot of seminary students are reading this stuff and are being very influenced by it. This author said, “For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.”

Now I won’t take the time to dissect all of that, but let me just say that is very, very dangerous kind of teaching. It’s deceptive. It’s not that there’s no kernel of truth maybe in parts of it and I’m not saying this person isn’t a nice person. I don’t know the man who wrote this.

I’m just saying I could name a half-dozen names that many of you . . . some of you young people are reading these books. They’re reading them in the church youth groups. They’re being very influenced in some of our conservative Christian schools. Some of the teachers are using some of these books as textbooks.

I hate to just say it and leave it at that but that’s what I’m going to do. We have some resources available at ReviveOurHearts.com that can help you explore more on these kinds of teachings if you’re interested in that.

Let me mention another teaching that is making the rounds today—something called redemptive-movement hermeneutics. You may say, “I can’t even spell that.” That’s okay. Go to the transcript. We’ll have it for you there. Actually, some of this is tied into some of the emerging church theology.

Hermeneutics has to do with how you interpret Scripture, and redemptive-movement hermeneutics—redemptive, that’s a good word, and hermeneutics, that’s a good word—but the meaning here is that you have to interpret Scripture progressively, that it doesn’t necessarily mean today what it meant when it was written and that the Bible has to be interpreted in light of where culture is, where culture has evolved.

For example, homosexuality may have been a sin in Bible days but those passages now have to be interpreted differently based on cultural changes and advances in our understanding of psychology and sociology. One of the areas where this hermeneutic—this approach to interpreting Scripture—has been the most damaging and the most deceptive is on the whole issue of women’s role in the church.

The egalitarian position that says there should be no differences between men’s and women’s roles in the church, that women can be pastors, women can be elders in the church. That theology has been very influenced by this redemptive-movement hermeneutic.

Is this a first level teaching or doctrinal issue? It may be in some cases. In some cases it touches on second level issues, secondary issues, but in some cases it can take you to really do damage to the gospel.

Let me mention another movement. This is moving into a different field here. I’m not trying to bash anybody. I hope you know my heart. I want your eyes to be opened to the truth that is in Christ and to the deception that can pull us away from that truth. But we’ve had now for at least a couple of generations this whole movement called word-faith or word of faith.

This is where preachers promise complete physical healing for people who believe God’s Word. They say that in the atonement of Jesus Christ comes not only spiritual healing but also physical healing. The second tenet of this word of faith theology system is that God wants His people to be financially prosperous. So many of these teachers guarantee that God will reward followers with new homes, with cars, with better jobs, of course, in exchange for your donation to our ministry.

God wants you to be wealthy and God wants you to be healthy. We have what’s been called under this branch of theology the “name it and claim it” teaching, which in essence says you can speak anything into existence by positive confessions.

Now again we could do a long whole series on this word of faith theology. I’m not saying that everything in all of these teachings is heretical. I’m saying there is plenty of heresy and false teaching embedded and infiltrated into these systems. I’m just saying you must be cautious. You must be discerning, because there’s a lot of deception here.

Now let me give you one more illustration. This is a book that at the time of when we’re recording right now is very, very hot in the Christian world. I walked into my local Christian bookstore the other day. It was front and center. As of today, I think it’s the number eight bestseller on Amazon.com on their ratings, which is huge, huge, huge. This is a Christian book. This is not a New Age book. This is not a book written by some New Age guru. This is a book that purports to be a Christian book.

I’m not going to name it because by the time we air this it will be something different, but let me just tell you a little bit about it. I went to an online resource—I’m trying to say this without naming what it is—that sells Christian books and saw the description on this website for this book. Here’s the product description:

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, this book wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" [So far, so good.] The answers that the main character gives will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book.

Now that’s not the description on Amazon.com. That’s the description on a site that sells Christian books. And it’s our Christian bookstores promoting this book. This book is endorsed by a list of who’s who in the Christian world. A well-known Christian leader and author endorses it on the front with a line that says something like: “This book will be to its generation what Pilgrim’s Progress was to Bunyan’s generation.”

So it likens it to something of the stature of Pilgrim’s Progress, which in my view could not be further from the truth. The man writing that statement is a godly, pious man who has written some wonderful things and loves the Lord. So this is where the confusion can enter in.

I skimmed through—there were 118 reviews on this Christian website—reviews of this book. The vast majority are rave reviews. Almost all of them were fives. A handful of them were zeros, which meant in terms of five stars—five is the most you can get. So the average was about four. But it wasn’t because there were people in between. People either thought this book was the most fantastic thing since the Bible, or they thought it was heresy, which I don’t think you have to guess which camp I’m in on that subject.

Let me read to you what some of these reviews said. This one said, “This book has transformed my life and the lives of the nine individuals I have given it to.” Another said, “I have read hundreds of books in my life. This book is the most compelling, impactful book I have ever read, after the Bible, of course.”

Now when you go to a Christian website and you see those kinds of reviews—and there are many, many of them on that site—would that not make you think maybe this is something that would be good for me to read? I can understand if you would think that.

But the problem is that mixed in with a smattering of helpful insights in this book is a perspective on the nature of God, on the trinity, on salvation, and on other core doctrinal issues that is incompatible with Scripture.

The problem as I read through these reviews on this Christian website is that most people seem more than willing to overlook those doctrinal differences and deficiencies. That’s what bothers me.

Let me give you some examples. One reviewer said, “An incredible book. I bought copies for my friends. Some who have a problem with the doctrine are missing the true message.” Hello?! The doctrine is the message.

Another reviewer said, “The book has glaring theological and biblical errors but the book is not about theology. It’s about forgiveness, reconciliation, and getting past the dead structure of churchianity in order to live the relationship of Christianity with God and man.” Again, I say, hello?! It’s not about theology? Forgiveness is theology. Reconciliation is theology. A relationship between God and man—that is theology!

So if it has glaring biblical and theological errors, why do we accept it? Why do we rave about it? Why do we give it five stars? Why do we buy it and read it? Why do they sell it in Christian bookstores? Can you tell I’m exercised?

One more. “I think we can all learn from this book,” one reviewer says, “is that the important thing is that we have a personal relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This is just one man’s unique take on it and if it works for him and keeps him close to God, then who are we to judge?”

The test of validity of a book or a teaching or a radio program is not: Does it work? Does it help somebody? Does it make somebody feel closer to God? The test is: Does it accord with the Scripture? That’s where I go back to the Scripture.

Again we hear the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”—Christ who is the truth.

Proverbs chapter 30, verses 5 and 6: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Ladies, you may find it in the Christian bookstore. It may be the number one bestseller. It may sell a gazillion copies, and you may hear the authors on Christian radio, on interviews, on television. You may read about them. You may say they look like really nice people. They are really nice people. They’re really articulate. Don’t be deceived. If it’s not according to this Book, it’s not truth. And don’t spend your time on it.

I hesitated in a sense to do this part of this series because I’ve been told that if you point out the errors in something, people are more inclined to want to go read it. I’m hoping that my talking about some of these things does not at all incline any of our listeners to go pick up a copy. Don’t go pick up a copy. You don’t need to.

If you need to know more about it, go on the Internet. You can find some outstanding reviews that will tell you what the doctrinal errors are, but then don’t take it into your system. You don’t need it. Get your life rooted and grounded in this Book—the Word of God. It’s the truth. Measure everything you read according to how it stands up to the light of God’s holy, holy Word.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing you to the one solid place you can stand. You need to know God’s Word and use it to discern the messages you hear from the mainstream media and within the church.

I hope you’re evaluating everything you hear on Revive Our Hearts according to the Bible. This topic is so important to Nancy. When she recommends a resource to you, she evaluates it in the way she’s been describing.

So we’re happy to recommend a book by Tim Challies called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. It will help you gain tools of discernment that you can apply to messages at the Cineplex or the megachurch.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts we’ll say thanks by sending you The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Call with your donation at 1-800-569-5959 and ask for the book by Tim Challies. Or visit ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Is there any type of deception we as women specifically need to watch for? Nancy will address that tomorrow. Now she’s back to lead us in prayer.

Nancy: O Lord, I love Your Word. I love Your truth. I love Jesus. I love the gospel. And Lord, my heart is so broken when I see the deception in the Christian world—people who are buying into ways of thinking that are reactionary and that redefine your Word and reorder it and dissuade us from thinking in ways that are in accordance with the simplicity and the purity of the doctrine of Christ.

O Lord, I pray that my heart has come across, that I will not seem to be just making a loud noise or being contrary or cantankerous. I want people to love the truth because it’s the truth that sets them free and it’s the truth that lifts You up for who You are and lifts up the gospel for what it is. This is precious truth. Help us to love Your truth more than we love life itself and to stake our lives on it. For Jesus’ sake I pray it, amen.

Leslie: Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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