I’m currently in my office, working away, listening to Jesus Culture (it’s white noise that helps me study and refrain from getting distracted), and preparing for a talk I’ll be giving in 25 hours. I’m going to be at a church in the Vancouver area giving a presentation on what the Bible says about false prophets/false teachers. I’ll post my notes on the web once I’ve turned them into a post (or series), and there’s some rather interesting and frightening stuff I’ve learned as a result of this most recent study project. I’ve basically been speed-reading through the whole scripture for a few days and making extended notes, and as I was in 2 Peter I had to stop and soak in a passage:
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:18-19
That verse, in a nutshell, explains why I have been spending a majority of the last 8 months writing about the false teaching and false teachers that absolutely run amuck in charismatic circles. There’s a common lie that cessationists like myself think that every single charismatic person is some sort of damned wretch that is beyond the grasp of grace, but this couldn’t be further from the truth; there are plenty of believers in Charismatic circles. The thing is that 2 Peter 2:18-19 informs me that the false teacher who runs amuck in a charismatic church (often as the pastor or some other leader) ensnares those “who are barely escaping from those who live in error”, meaning they prey on the spiritually immature and weak.
They’re spiritual predators.
False teachers are the spiritual equivalent of Ariel Castro.
The false teachers victimize those who come to them, wide eyed and impressed, looking to them for instruction in the ways and words of God. Those false teachers take those trusting sheep, make them promises that they cannot keep (nor experience themselves), and utterly destroy their spiritual growth.
Some of the people ensnared by false teaching are Christians. Some are not. Only the Lord knows who’s who, but the Lord’s sheep are precious to him and need to be warned and, if at all possible, rescued.
In conservative circles, there has been a whole lot of thoughtless jesting, false witness, name calling and trivialization of matters that are of the utmost seriousness to God; the hottest spot in Hell is reserved for false teachers (2 Pet. 2:17). Some of those in my circles, including myself, have forgotten that the people that are ensnared by false doctrine are just that; ensnared. When I hear Chris Quilala or Kim Walker Smith singing on a Jesus Culture album, I also hear a thousand or more kids in that sweaty room singing with their eyes closed that think they’re the euphoria they’re experiencing is some sort of manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Those kids are singing their hearts out because they are taught that, ultimately, the amount of emotion they can cultivate by singing in a church service is somehow related to the quantity of spiritual power they’ll have in their lives to deal with all the sins, stresses and struggles that they have to face once the concert is over.
They’re ensnared by error.
Those kids are being sold a lie, and they’re being ensnared by a few musicians who have themselves been lied to by a man who holds the title “pastor”, which is the one thing he is not.
When I was ensnared by error, I wasn’t really aware of it; I trusted those over me to tell me the truth but they lied through their teeth to me. I, in turn, ensnared others with the false doctrine that I was taught.
I didn’t use to just be an unbeliever; I used to be a budding false teacher (though by God’s grace I never actually made it into a position of real authority or leadership).
I’m glad that someone else was gentle but firm in confronting me in my spiritual apathy and deception, and I’m forever thanking the Lord for the tsunami of grace unleashed in my life. It’s only my hope that some of us who write on these issues will be able to offer something forth that warns or, if possible, is instrumental in rescuing some who are ensnared.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “ever-struggling to balance compassion with clarity” Unger