The heresies of the church today
For a while now I have commented on the non-biblical teachings in some of our local churches. I have noted the false teachings of Todd Friel and Gary Thomas at Living Springs (my apologies to other Living Springs churches elsewhere), and the alleged use of another false teacher, Paul Tripp, at a neighbouring church.
Friel is a heretic who teaches that because I made a decision to pray a prayer to be saved many years ago, I am actually heading for hell. (For further information on Friel’s salvation heresy, follow this link at The Heresy of Todd Friel, a document I published on this website over two years ago.)
And Gary Thomas – words fail me to describe his satanic heresies being taught in a church that once claimed to be biblical. But by their fruit you will know them, and if Gary Thomas is evidence of the fruit to be expected of Living Springs, then their fruit is rotten to the core. (Follow this link to see what I said about his teachings in Gary Thomas – New Age Teacher which I also published on this website over two years ago.)
I was also informed almost 3 years ago that Paul Tripp materials were being taught at a nearby allegedly fundamentalist church. Tripp teaches that all Christians are infected with a disease which robs us of our identity in Christ, and that we need to be counselled in order to be freed from this dreadful epidemic. This is something truly biblical churches should not be teaching! (For further information on Tripp, follow this link at Paul Tripp – Heretic or Tare? which I published on this website over two years ago.)
Now for an update on these matters. Living Springs still advertises Friel on its website at https://www.lsbc.org.au/small-groups. It is disappointing that they haven’t done the job of testing all things, for then they would discover that Friel is a calvinist who denies the free will of man to receive the salvation offered by God to all mankind. Friel clearly believes that God has chosen his elect from the beginning of time, and only these chosen ones will be permitted to enter heaven. According to Friel, mankind therefore has no right to choose this day whom he will serve.
Friel says So, what must one do to be saved? Repent and trust. (Heb.6:1). (Read The Heresy of Todd Friel) So what does Hebrews 6:1 say? Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, This is a gospel of works, not of repentance. Is this what Living Springs teaches? Has Living Springs decided that one must be born again before one may believe in Christ and be saved? Does Living Springs now believe in the works-based calvinist salvation?
However, they appear to have just recently removed (from their website) their advertising of that new age “teacher” Gary Thomas with his satanic dogmas (using his yoga-based teachings in Sacred Marriage, I mean, who would say that a healthy look at sex can provide fruitful meditation on our need and desire for God!). Possibly someone has realised that what Thomas teaches is far from true Christian doctrine. However, I do suspect that he was more of an embarrassment to them, rather than this being a genuine effort to tidy up their teachings at Living Springs. Even the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14-16 would have been ashamed of the evil teachings of Gary Thomas.
Also, Living Springs, seemingly as part of its spring-cleaning to remove such embarrassments, has removed the statement that has been on their website for many years now: that they are a like-minded sister church to GraceWest (which is a calvinist church that believes the false calvinist gospel that if you weren’t chosen by God to go to heaven, then the calvinist God never intending saving you). GraceWest teaches that all who are chosen by God for salvation will come in faith and be saved. That is, if you aren’t one of the calvinist God’s chosen ones, then you won’t come in faith because you won’t be drawn by the Father as per John 6:44. The GraceWest doctrinal statement says: All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Father will receive. If you wish to be saved and you’re not one of the calvinist God’s chosen ones, then the GraceWest God doesn’t want to know you. As far as he is concerned, you can go to hell. Has Living Springs actually come to its senses and rejected the false calvinist teachings of GraceWest? Or was this just another case of removing embarrassing items from public view, like sweeping the dirt under the carpet?
Also, while discussing GraceWest, note their apparent support for such as J I Packer who is quoted twice in “The Sovereignty of God in Salvation” document on their website. Packer is heavily into mysticism, contemplative and centering prayer, and new age teachings. Just check out what Renovaré is all about!
Packer is on Renovaré’s “Board of Reference” — Renovaré is an international, New Age, ecumenical organization that emanates from the religious traditions of Quakerism, whose message is that today’s Church is missing out on some wonderful spiritual experiences that can only be found by studying and practicing the “meditative” and “contemplative” lifestyle “of early Christianity.” In actuality, Renovaré espouses the use of the early pagan traditions of guided imagery and visualization, astral projection, “Zen” prayer techniques for meditation (i.e., Buddhism), and Jungian psychology (i.e., a blend of Eastern mysticism and Roman Catholic mystical spiritual tradition, which nicely fits the New Age model), all as means of obtaining “personal spiritual renewal” in the lives of believers. (For a more detailed analysis of Renovaré and the teachings of its co-directors, psychologist Richard Foster and William Vaswig, see Media Spotlight‘s Special Report of March, 1992: “Renovaré: Taking Leave of One’s Senses.”)
Now to Paul Tripp; I was reliably informed that Tripp materials were being taught by a neighbouring church in 2016. I did research on this false teacher and consequently wrote a document describing his teachings. Tripp has also had a lot of influence on Biblical Counselling which was largely developed at Westminster Theological Seminary in USA (which is claimed to be the birth-place of what is now called new calvinism). It is of interest that perhaps 2 years after the alleged teaching of Paul Tripp materials, this neighbouring fundamentalist church began advertising Biblical Counselling on its website. If the Biblical Counsellor is affiliated with Biblical Counselling Australia, then Paul Tripp materials are likely to have been involved in the training of that person. Biblical Counselling Australia training is mostly done through the Presbyterian Church of Australia, and through Westminster Seminary in USA, both of which are calvinist institutions (or, perhaps more correctly, new calvinist). Of course, the Biblical Counselling angle could have been a good reason for teaching Paul Tripp’s heretical materials in 2016.
There are so many false teachers around today with so many options for accessing their unchristian teachings that it is absolutely necessary to be testing all things as commanded in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Too many false teachers are trusted simply because they claim to be experts and very few churches can be bothered to do the hard work of checking them out. It also seems to be far better now in the eyes of many Christians to accept some measure of compromise in order to keep the peace in their church communities. And, it may be noted, the aggressive delivery style of many false teachers makes it difficult for more peace-loving Christians to resist their false teachings.
This therefore is a major headache for churches where members still desire good teaching from the Bible unadulterated by false teaching. Pastors are supposedly too busy (studying? counselling? fishing? holidaying? having a good time?) to be checking everything out, and church members (many of whom work full time) often lack the time to be testing everything that is taught. Add to this the plethora of published materials available for the use of pastors and church leaders. In most Christian bookstores you can purchase pastors’ annuals with sermons and Bible studies set out for the whole year. You can also obtain Bible studies and courses (book, DVD etc) on so many different topics, allegedly prepared by Bible teachers who seem to have all the credentials to “prove” their suitability.
But so many university degrees these days are not worth the paper they are written on (and this includes pastoral, religious, divinity, Bible-study, counselling etc degrees of all kinds). Many can be purchased online (and there are many such websites doing this). Here is one such website’s advertising.
We provide you bachelor degree for a fraction of the cost of campus based degrees. Attending a college is difficult financially, academically and intellectuality and you can avoid making great effort with bachelor degree. You will get your degree in less than a week and you will save time, money and effort . You do not have to spend on tuition fees and transport and you can get the degree from the comfort of your home. You can start searching for jobs once you get degree and you will boost your career.
…… You will find out the name of the university only after you graduate. In this way, we assure the confidentiality of the process and we do not disclose personal information about you to third parties because we believe confidentiality is essential in our field of activity.
Just because someone has a qualification doesn’t necessarily make him or her an instant expert.
Therefore, if a pastor wants to stay on top of all the teaching done in his church, if he wishes to be assured of what is being taught, he often has to literally write it all himself. And with so much being demanded of pastors today (including community and recreational needs!), how many have the time to do it all without delegating responsibility to others.
Yet churches (especially their leadership teams) are still responsible for what they teach their members. In particular, the pastor will be required by God one day to give account of what he has done with the sheep under his care. (Hebrews 13:17 – Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.)
It might be a tough life being a good biblical pastor today – it always has been – but sitting in a boat while fishing, or at a picnic table, scribbling down a few notes on what you’ll teach on Sunday morning is a gross dereliction of duty to those sheep of God. Cutting corners might make more time available for recreational needs (such as taking a boat out fishing, or taking a holiday), or having barbecues to keep up church “community”, but the true church will suffer if you don’t spend time studying the Bible for the sake of your congregation. You can’t cut corners without hurting someone; you can’t cut corners without risking false teaching getting in via the front door. Pastors are called to shepherd God’s people, not to have a good time making lots of money (and making sure that the congregation remains big enough to pay for your luxury car, big house, and relaxation needs!).
And this brings me to my final point here. Too often people see the pastoral position as a means of climbing the financial success ladder. First you build your mini-empire, which can be hard work in the beginning. But, if you put in the effort early, and are prepared to deliver what the people ask for, then you may have a reasonable assurance of eventual success. Of course, this can involve some substantial measure of compromise, shutting your eyes to obvious transgressions among your congregation; you just cannot afford to get rid of the money they put in the offering. (You rarely build big churches by regularly pointing out the sins of the congregation. They’ll end up leaving and putting their money in the offering of a church that “likes” them better!)
Being a pastor or minister has always been a bit of a status symbol in some churches, especially those of calvinist or reformed persuasion (such as Presbyterians or Lutherans). Such people were considered the elect of God, and therefore couldn’t lose their salvation. Even if they committed significant sin (such as running off with another woman) they couldn’t be declared non-elect, and were likely to be moved on elsewhere to places where they could start again with a “clean” slate. (I have known personally a Presbyterian minister who ran off with another woman, and his church just refused to talk about him; to them he was an embarrassment that couldn’t be removed because he was still one of the elect! And I have also known personally a Lutheran pastor who was merely shifted to another distant area of his state after having a serious affair with another woman; like the Presbyterian minister, he just couldn’t be permitted to lose his elect status.) But you cannot merely sweep dirt under the carpet and pretend it just isn’t there. No amount of pretending can ignore the inconsistencies of remaining elect especially when a person who was not a pastor would probably have been removed from their elect membership for doing the same thing.
To be a mega-church today (with lots of money in the offering plate, of course – a pastor needs his big house, luxury cars, and relaxation equipment such as caravans and boats!) you need to offer a lot of goodies, such as a free rock concert on Sunday mornings, and lots of community-building activities such as BBQs, parties, luncheons, holiday retreats, camps, counselling, child-minding, old-age care – the list goes on and on. It seems that the least of their requirements is to have good on-the-ball teaching from the Bible. In many churches, the rock concert that kicks the service off lasts far longer than the sermon itself (which can often be more like a short devotional). Give them what they want! After all, what do most people prefer today: a rock concert or a sermon? (Please note that churches should obtain their music from godly sources or else their church music will be tainted by worldliness. For this reason I would choose to avoid music from Hillsong which is used by many churches today. I advise all churches to carefully assess the source of their music before obtaining something that is likely to have been designed to merely entertain the masses that turn up on Sunday mornings, thus making lots of money for the song-writers. That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? To make money for those who run the shows?)
And, like Rick Warren advises, avoid the use of “negative” terms like sinful, evil, condemnation etc; instead, use positive terminology that encourages people to come again (and, of course, put money in the offering plate – after all, the pastor needs a new big house and another car or two). A former counsellor of Warren’s Willow Creek church says of its shallow doctrine: “Willow Creek is a mile wide and one-half inch deep.” (G.A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996), p. 268)
When will churches get back to solid Bible doctrine untainted by the winds of heresy? We need more godly men to be pastors in the small churches where finances struggle to pay for expenses, but where the sacrifice leads the lost to salvation in Christ alone (something the calvinists just do not seem to understand). After all, why is the church on the Earth? To have a good time? To make lots of money especially for the church leaders? To be popular in the world? Or to preach the gospel regardless of the sacrifice required? Note that the Bible clearly teaches that those who live godly lives as Christians will suffer for their faith. 2 Timothy 3:12 – Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. There are very few suffering pastors in today’s world, and many of those who do suffer, dream of the day when they, too, will have the world at their feet like the rest. God bless those pastors who never dream of such but instead, like the disciples, are rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. (Acts 5:41)