Category Archives: Mormonism/Joel Osteen
When preaching, should pastors call out false teachers by name for the protection of their local church?
As is our most consistent practice of preaching, our church has been working through First and Second Peter. Chapter two of Peter’s second epistle focuses on exposing and excoriating false prophets and teachers. The picture that Peter paints is not a positive and encouraging one.
A cursory reading of the New Testament makes it evident that false teaching was not only a problem for the churches Peter was addressing, and therefore, it’s no surprise that false teachers and their teaching continues to be a problem today. Satan is a deceiver, and he deceives people and uses the deceived to deceive more people. It’s what he does. Peter was protecting the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-5) by letter and aimed to bring these dangerous teachers and their doctrine into the light. Shouldn’t present-day preachers and teachers follow Peter’s example?
But here’s the rub – well, it can be a rub for some. Should preachers today call out false teachers by name when they preach? Should they publicly expose enemies of Jesus during the sermon? Or should they just teach what is right, what is wrong, and let the audience sort through who qualifies as a false teacher and leave the prosecuting by name to God?
Here are a few of my thoughts and convictions:
- Even if I am convinced someone is a false teacher, I am often hesitant to call them by name. I have a few reasons for this. First, I don’t want it to be easy for those who are listening, to Google a name I mention and begin to listen to their teaching. In other words, I don’t want to advertise for false teachers. Second, I wouldn’t want this to be a stumbling block to a first-time guest who already sees Christians and churches as overly harsh and critical. And, yes, I know that the gathering is for believers, but I want to remove as many barriers to the gospel as possible so that the gospel might be heard without hindrance. And, yes, the thought has crossed my mind that maybe both of these are excuses because I care too much about pleasing others.
- Additionally, we live in a hyper-critical culture of name-calling and condemnation. Look, false teachers are real and eternally dangerous, but not everyone that is in error is a full-blown charlatan and destined for hell. I am under no illusion that I have everything doctrinally right. But not all error is the same. Some error(s) is the kind that will cause Jesus to say to you: “I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:23) Though you were certain you did. So we must be extra careful that our secondary doctrinal disagreement with someone is not portrayed as though it is a matter of first importance; an essential theological matter. As the difference between heaven and hell. But I also don’t want to make hyper-critical disciples with my preaching leadership.
- On the other hand, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Scriptures called out Christian impostors, betrayers, and false teachers by name. Recognizing that the original manuscripts didn’t have chapters and verses, an example of calling out gospel troublemakers by name is found in Second Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:15, Paul names Phygelus and Hermogenes for abandoning him in Asia. In chapter two, Paul identifies the disease-like teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus. In chapter three, he remembers Jannes and Jambres who opposed God, Moses, and “the truth” in Exodus. In chapter four, he singles out Demas, who loved the present world over the eternal Christ, leading him to abandon Paul. And finally, Paul identifies “Alexander the coppersmith” who did Paul much harm, saying the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. In four chapters, Paul calls people by names five times to warn Timothy about those who have turned their back on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unrepentant, public sin was publicly condemned by the Holy Spirit and Paul.
- Finally, consider that if someone who lived in your neighborhood was a known child predator and sexual offender, would you only teach your children what good people look like and what bad people do wrong? Or as the primary protector and shepherd of your children, would you say, “Don’t go near that house. The man who lives there is very dangerous.” Further, would you not describe him? And if you and your children knew his name, would you not tell them to stay away; to avoid even the proximity of his presence? If you knew who it was that could damage and even destroy your children, would you not give very specific descriptions and warnings? I would be as precise as possible to maximally protect my children. I know that pastors aren’t parents and church members aren’t children, but isn’t it a pastor’s job to know the dangers of the day and to know the people who peddle them? Is it loving for a pastor to allow false teaching in the name of Jesus to seduce the sheep he is to watch over and will give an account for (Hebrews 13:17)?
There is a reason so many fall prey to false teaching. Error is insidious, and it looks deceptively like the truth. It is true that all truth is ultimately God’s truth. But when you have a half-truth posing as a whole truth in the name of Jesus, it can only be classified as a total and deadly untruth (JI Packer). And concerning those teachers and preachers who seem to be saying some really good things that may even be helpful to some degree, but also say some questionable things about essential, gospel truths, wouldn’t it be better to stick with the people who are teaching us the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
What I know for sure is that people have strong opinions about this question. What do you think?
As with all things if you ask a handful of people about a topic then a handful of answers is what you would get. An appropriate question then would be, “So how do we know what is true and what is merely opinion?”
Former pastor of Eagle Heights and current Pastor at The Village Baptist Church in OKC, Jimmy Kinnaird, graciously pointed me to several resources that will help Christians understand the fundamental differences between historical, biblical Christianity and Mormonism. Here are several sights with different content and perspectives.
- Mormonism Research Ministry Mormonism Research Ministry is a missionary/apologetics organization that was organized in 1979 to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to critically evaluate the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.
- Utah Lighthouse Ministry Jerald and Sandra Tanner were raised in the LDS faith, both with a strong Mormon family history. The Tanners are authors of over forty books on the subject of Mormonism. They are well known for their extensive research into Mormon history and doctrine.
- Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry CARM is a Christian ministry dedicated to the promotion and defense of the Christian gospel. CARM analyzes religions such asIslam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Universalism, Wicca, etc., and compares them to the Bible.
- The Institute of Religious Research One of the titles from this website is, “Do You Have a Friend or Loved One Wooed by Mormons?
Jimmy recommended others but I culled the list to get a variation of reference resources. I think what you will find from all of these is that there is a consensus that Christianity and Mormonism are fundamentally different and the difference is of primary and salvific importance. Doctrinally speaking, Mormonism and Christianity are incompatible, though they may superficially look and sound the same. I hope this helps because that is my intent.
Audit Yourself and Then Others
Is it better to be audited or to audit yourself? Neither sounds like much fun, and the word can even be quite scary. Christianity is not for the cowardly. To follow Jesus means that we are guaranteed to have to be people of courage. After all, the scriptures are clear that we will give an account to God for every single word and deed that flows from our lives (Matthew 12:33-37; Romans 2:3; 2 Cor. 5:10). An audit of our lives is inevitable because God will and so will others; will you audit your own life? The wise and brave person will audit and examine their own life now so that when they are audited and evaluated by others, the process will be far less painful.
God through Jesus has called us to live in community with others and to evaluate our brothers and sisters in Christ. I said yesterday that “judge” in the context of Matthew 7:1-6 means to: “criticize and find fault based on the evaluation of evidence in order to seek to influence the lives and actions of others. ” Jesus is not prohibiting this judgment completely or otherwise the whole Bible would be a contradiction since it repetitively calls us to judge people and their doctrine. If we are to be obedient to the scriptures, we who are Christians have no choice but judge and correct doctrinal and moral failures (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). The key is what Jesus says after verse one. If we are biblically wise we will not judge others in a way that we in turn are judged for the thing we condemn (v. 2). Jesus says if we are to avoid human and divine judicial retribution we are to examine our own lives (Matt. 7:3-5) and look to see if we are helping or harming our brother or sister in Christ (Matt. 7:5).
The beauty of Jesus’ teaching is that when we rightly judge others, when we audit the lives of others, we have to first judge or audit our own life and our motivations toward that person. If we don’t look to our own lives first then we have already blown it and we will be judged. But many people do themselves a disservice by reasoning that they have no right to judge others because they have their own baggage and shortcomings, but the reality is that they are not only letting their brother and sister continue in a life of disobedience but they are also nurturing their own sin by not dealing with it so they can love and help others. If you judge biblically you will help both yourself and your brother or sister, if you ignore the biblical way to judge then you will hurt yourself and others. Judge correctly because it is good for everyone.
Three Questions Before We Judge Others
- Did we pray about whether we should judge someone and how should we do it?
- Did we look and evaluate and judge our own life first?
- Did we ask, “Will my judgment or criticism hurt or help?” One qualifying remark; Of course it is going to hurt but there is such a thing as a healthy pain.
Is A Mormon A Christian?
I had a young man come to me after the worship gathering on Sunday Morning and let me know that he wasn’t pleased with the way that I and other baptist preachers judge Mormons as not being Christians. If any person affirms the teaching or theology of the LDS church then they are not Christians in the biblical sense of the word. By the way, I was harder on Joel Osteen than I was on the Mormons. Osteen ought to know better. Biblically and historically the Mormons do not believe Jesus is the same Jesus that Christians have historically and biblically believed in. The Mormon Jesus is not the same Jesus when it comes to what the Bible comprehensively teaches about Him in eternity past. Here is a comparison chart showing the difference if you are interested. Here is another article worth looking at: Are Mormons Christians? (Additionally, if you click on the link you can look to the left and see numerous articles on Mormonism. These articles have been written by various authors under the umbrella of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.) I want to make one distinction between Mormonism and historical, biblical Christianity.
Christians have historically and biblically believed that Jesus was and is co-eternal creator with the Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus was always there as a part of the Trinity. (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:13-22) Mormons believe that Jesus was a preexisting soul just like you and me.
A quick summary: According to Mormon theology we were all up in heaven without a body and then our souls got beamed down to earth. God the father, who was once a human man like you and I, came down from heaven and physically impregnated Mary. Because Jesus was the only person who was ever conceived on earth by god the father with a fully human woman, Mormon Jesus is therefore the only-begotten son of god. He is the only begotten because he is the only person who was begotten directly by the father. An implication of this teaching is that we as humans are fully brothers and sisters of the Mormon Jesus. In other words, there is some sort of intrinsic equality that we share with him. The Bible teaches that Jesus is completely God in essence though different in person and that He is in His essence all-together different than us. Jesus was and is and always will be God. We never were and never will be God. He did humble himself by becoming like us in taking on flesh to sympathize with us and die for us and the Mormons would be with us there, but it is eternity past where we believe something essentially different. And it is an essential and primary difference. Anything that has to do with the person of Jesus, is of fundamental and salvific importance to our faith. (2 John 8-11) We would agree with Mormons on some Bible truths, but who Jesus was in eternity past for Mormons is something completely different then what we believe as Christians. It may sound confusing, but real Christianity is something completely different than Mormon Christianity. If you have talked to many Mormons then you know that some know these things and some don’t. Some will refute what I have said, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that we believe different things and mean different things when we talk about the person of Jesus. It is also important to realize that some Mormons might disagree or not know about their own beliefs, just as some Baptists don’t, but they are still culpable because they are committed or devoted to a church and its doctrine that is fundamentally flawed and is a false gospel (Galatians 1:8-9). This may be especially hard to swallow when we have friends and family who are Mormons, but our love for someone and their sincerity about who they think Jesus is, will not help us when we stand before God who has made a way for us to heaven through Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). If any person picks and chooses what they want Jesus to be they will have only made their own religion, their own gospel. I am afraid that is what Mormons have done. Jesus is not who we want Him to be, He simply is “I Am” (John 8:58). The Christian “I Am” is different than the Mormon “i am”. A very helpful summary blog from Gospel Coalition. Kevin DeYoung on Mormonism.