Walkin’ into the Enemy’s Camp, Layin’ our Weapons Down – Part 1

Lately I’ve been thinking about Paul’s warnings against Christians checking their brains at the door of the church. I’ve been meditating particularly on 2 Corinthians 10. The context is that Paul is defending his ministry and in particular his harsh words for false teachers. He says in v. 4:

… weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses

Now many have taken this verse and transformed Paul’s statement into a rallying cry for some Star Wars version on spiritual warfare where our weapons are Angelic versions of Luke Skywalker running around sword-fighting with bad Halloween costumes spurred on by our prayers. In this Spielberg concept of Paul’s statement, the fortresses in question are “demonic strongholds” usually associated with some particular demonic specialist who is identified by simply picking your favorite sin and tacking on the phrase, “Spirit of _________” (i.e. he has the demonic spirit of bad table manners). However, Paul says otherwise, he goes on to name both the weapons and the strongholds:

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

In other words, the weapons seem to be the ability to take every thought captive and the thoughts in question are the speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. I think we can infer that if we are to imitate Paul, we are to take every thought captive, which means we should take every speculative opinion and test it under our obedience to Christ as Paul was doing with false teaching. It seems to me that it is a corollary to 1 Thessalonians, 5:21:

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

Given the passion with which Paul explains the value of obeying Christ by examining arguments and speculations, two questions strike me as important:

1) Why is it that so many Christians follow after any Tom, Dick and Joel Osteen who has a Armani suit and a bestseller about a new exciting idea that for some reason neither the Apostles nor Jesus seemed to find important enough to even mention in passing let alone sermonize about (ever notice how many verses Paul dedicates to “Seven Things that Steal Your Joy or for that matter “12 steps” to anything?).

2) Why is it that, within the aforementioned bestsellers, we find sandwiched between “Yes you can!” and “Claim your miracle!” are usually really bad speculations about the very nature of God?

On point two, let me just give you a sampling of the people who fire off statements that evangelical sheeple (sheep like people) have bought without so much as a flinch:

• T.D. Jakes admits that God isn’t a trinity really; he’s just an immortal guy with three jobs. Not much fuss from the Christian community. Jakes is still popular. Even with Promise Keepers.

• Kenneth Copeland says that God has to ask permission to work within the world after the fall in the garden. God had to make a deal with Abraham to allow Him (God) to work in this world. Jesus later had to use the words of faith to enter the world as well. Copeland as of this writing is still one of the wealthiest “evangelicals” (and I use that word loosely. . . “evangelicals” not “wealthiest”) in America and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee asked for Copeland’s help in raising money. As of this writing Copeland is still on the air teaching false doctrine for fun and profit, but ironically Huckabee seems to now be running for vice-president or possibly secretary of interior.

• Gwen Shamblin teaches that Jesus was the first thing God ever created. There was no major reaction from the Christian community until MCOI publically addressed her teaching. Shamblin’s Weigh Down Workshop was accepted by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson as well as thousands of churches who seemed to feel the mandate of the church was to declare war on fat. Evangelical sent Ms. Shambling in excess of 100 million dollars which evidently provided enough revenue to pay for the hairspray for her Sandi Patti inflatable Christian hairdo.

There is not time, space, or antacid to mention the number of heresies that Benny Hinn has propagated and then recanted on TBN.

Sometimes the surrender of our weapons occurs in a blatant way. Gwen Shamblin said that Jesus was created and “being fat is sin” (see our article Weighed Down With False Doctrine and people may not buy this malarkey (loosely from the Greek meaning “Insanely obvious heresy”) because “I want to lose weight and this ‘Bible study’ will help me do that.” Other times it is more subtle. There is a surrender of our reason to our emotions or our lack of will to think and pray about difficult issues within our worldview. If God is all powerful then we can’t have free will so when Copeland extracts a story about faith being a force that Jesus uses to enter the world, the sheeple say, “That seems right. That explains a lot. And Kenneth has such a lovely Learjet, God must be blessing him.”

What all of these speculations have in common is that they err by bringing God down in his attributes in order to make him personable (from the French meaning “fuzzy and soft.”) The idea is that if the trinity is a mystery, it frustrates our relationship with the Godhead three in one. I’ve heard people say as they surrender their discernment, “How can a God who is triune, immutable, omniscient (and a lot of other Latin words I don’t have the time nor inclination to look up), understand me? I want a relationship with God that is personable. You know, God is my big buddy. Besides, new Christians can’t be expected to understand this stuff.” Christianity Today quotes T.D. Jakes in their article Theology: Apologetics Journal Criticizes Jakes :

I think it’s very, very significant that we first of all study the Trinity apart from salvation, and first of all that we embrace Christ and come to him to know who he is. Having come to know who he is, then we begin to deal with the Trinity, which I believe is a very complex issue. The Trinity, the term ‘Trinity,’ is not a biblical term, to begin with.
It’s a theological description for something that is so beyond human comprehension that I’m not sure that we can totally hold God to a numerical system. The Lord said, “Behold, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one, and beside him there is no other.” When God got ready to make a man that looked like him, he didn’t make three. He made one man. However, that one man had three parts. He was body, soul, and spirit. We have one God, but he is Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration.

Here we have an example of a speculation that is in dire need of bringing captive to the obedience of Christ. The text does not say God made man to look like him with parts. It says, “God made man in his image.” The imago dei (don’t be sheeple, look it up) is not about looking like God since Jesus says, God is spirit, immaterial. He doesn’t have a body. I’m amazed I have to make that case so often in mainstream churches. I get my crotchety curmudgeon suspenders on and start talking about “these young church goers with their PowerPoint and their music, no respect for church history and the creeds.” Then I take Metamucil.

Most of the readers of our blog haven’t surrendered their weapons. Here’s a principle to engage in loving admonition (from the Latin for “harp on at the top of your lungs in polite company”) your weaponless friends with the next time they say, “I know [insert flashy Christian celebrity here] has some strange doctrines about God but they make me feel like God . . .”

The Discernment Principle: Bad conclusions almost inevitably follow from bad premises and if it’s doctrinal conclusions, to paraphrase Paul, bad premises about the nature of God particularly corrupt good doctrine.

Addendum to the Discernment Principle: (even if it makes you lose weight).

In a few weeks I will talk about false dilemma between a mysterious, unchanging, all powerful God and God who loves me extravagantly and obscenely.


Walkin’ into the Enemy’s Camp, Layin’ our Weapons Down – Part 1 — 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this. Discernment is on the top of my mind lately, since some new-fangled ideas have infiltrated my own conservative church, brought by a pastor-to-be who is close to graduating from seminary.
    Just two weeks ago he played a Rob Bell video in which, and I took notes as Rob Bell spoke, Bell said “Jesus is like God.” Bell went on to say how, when he thinks of God, “I hear a song” (emotion-based). Bell said it’s really hard to “get our heads around God,” but that’s okay because we can get our mind around goodness and generosity of which Jesus is the “model.” According to Bell, we can know generosity, justice and compassion when Jesus is the model; we don’t need to access or know God through Jesus Christ, because Jesus as a mentor or model is enough.
    Shortly after this, I was reading R.C. Sproul who said “We need to get back to caring who God is.” But why care about who God is if people are being told God doesn’t matter and that we can’t “get our heads around God?”
    John MacArthur has an excellent critique of the Emerging Church when he says it is a “celebration of ignorance, a celebration that we can’t really know.”
    These false teachings are all about keeping people in the dark, under the misguided attempt at self-esteem: making people not feel bad. Conviction, repentance and forgiveness is left completely out of the equation, and therefore so is God and the redemption that can only come from and through Him. False teachings are causing little and big alike to stumble, and instead of being loving in nature are actually a form of bondage and slavery. I know that the most loving thing God has done and will continue to do for me is redeem me through His conviction upon me which leads to my repentance and His forgiveness which allows me to then forgive myself. This is what leads to changed lives, confidence in God (not that awful self-esteem in self) and true joy. This is what so many are not experiencing because they are following “teachers” trying to show them a false shortcut to new life and joy.

  2. About John MacArthur’s comment on “celebration of ignorance.”

    I’m still not that well read up on what the emerging church is, but there are so many things I don’t know. However, thinking about what I don’t know is never a cause for celebration.

  3. Excellent article, however, I do have a few questions.

    While it cannot be denied God in His “unity” is indeed spirit and has no body, must it not also be taken literally that God “walked with Adam during the cool of the day” in the garden of Eden? Unless we wish to make this some kind of talking protoplasmic ball of the shekina glory or some metaphorical, allegorical interpretation wherein God was “in Adam’s heart” or “the presence of God was with him” (true though these statments would also be) are we not forced to admit that somehow God was striding along with Adam on two legs in fellowship and communion?

    The best proof I can offer for this is the other pre-incarnate appearances of Christ (theophanies) as we also see seven generations later with Enoch and at various times throughout the OT. Does this not also leads us, therefore, to understand Jesus in his physical body as prexistant throughout all eternity; and further that this body as the possession of Christ was the chosen manifestation of the undivided essence which none can ‘see’? Or, to put it another way: God in His essence (undivided triunity) has no body–but in His tri-manifestations (or individual members of the trinity) is seen by man in the being of Christ who’s “bodily person” ever was and will be. This might help with the “only begotten” description we see in John in that only Christ was “begotten” by God or “given a permanent physical form”. To complain this lowers Christ is only to buy into the Greek-Gnostic idea that all matter is evil or somehow unworthy of God’s presence.

    We do run into issues with temporal mechanics in this theory because obviously Jesus wasn’t “born into a body” until the incarnation any more than He was apparently ever without one. Apparently it seems in the eternal view of Christ’s body, we can not only say “that which was will always be”, but also “that which will be always was”. Nevertheless,such statments as these are no more (or less) difficult than “the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world” which echos them.

    These are indeed great mysteries, prone to aberrations and poor teaching simply because they are beyond our understanding. The difference between the Creator and the Created being is, of course, the infinte verses the finite– Jakes is clearly off base in saying God is ‘one guy with three jobs’ (is he Jesus only?)but having said all this one wonders if He (errant though he was) is not telling us something we should consider more carefully before discounting out of hand. It’s not as if there is no evidence at all for an extension of “Imageo deo” to include the man’s physical form which, as far as we can tell, has been the possession of Christ for all eternity.

  4. I hope this is relevant to the question i am about to ask. I would like to know what are your thoughts on the Global Day of prayer. Some evangelical churches are paticipating in it here in San Antonio. I see no scriptural reference of this in God’s Word unless i missed something. I hear nothing of salvation and the Word isn’t preached. I am wary of anything that sounds global. Thank you.

  5. Michael,
    I don’t think we have to take “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” as literal or a pre-incarnation. It could just be a figure of speech much like the verses in chapter three when it says, “and their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked” [I’m quoting this from memory but you get the idea] Genesis uses figures of speech like this. So this seems to me a viable interpretation.

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