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 an 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. Still, 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 says, “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 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 churchgoers 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.