Everything bad begins with a perversion of the nature of God.
At the same time, as Americans we are used to getting things our way.
So it’s not hard to see conflict coming early and often between the biblical truth of God and any number of Americanized versions built to compete with the original by offering folks exactly what they want.
Liberal, Conservative, and Libertarian professing Christians each have their version of Jesus. He does what they like, when and how they like it.
And what’s unattractive about that?
Well, a lot, actually, but only if you’ve been supernaturally saved and transformed by the actual living Lord and King of creation, the Jesus of biblical Christianity.
So the nature of the God (or god) we each individually claim and serve is what’s known in strict theological terms as a “really big deal”.
With this subject in mind and in keeping with this month’s theme of celebrating five years of Fire Breathing Christian, I’d like to offer up what I hope will be a helpful excerpt from the book Fire Breathing Christians. Naming and Claiming our Christian Candyland is the last chapter in Section 3 of the book, which introduces Mr. Potato Jesus. This excerpt is divided into two parts (Part 2 can be found by clicking here).
“It’s not enough to simply see it by faith or in your imagination. You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out, you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative.” ~ Joel Osteen.
“False teachers are God’s judgment on people who don’t want God, but in the name of religion plan on getting everything their carnal heart desires. That’s why a Joel Osteen is raised up. Those people who sit under him are not victims of him; he is the judgment of God upon them.” ~ Paul Washer
Mr. Potato Jesus loves you. All he wants is to be your pal. He’s your buddy. Your amigo. He’s your nonjudgmental confidant and ever-encouraging friend. He’s always got a smile and never a word of condemnation. He’s so absolutely, positively, universally wonderful that he knows nothing of sin and can’t bear to think that anyone might actually deserve eternal punishment. He only ever has the nicest of things to say through his picture-perfect smile.
Did I say Mr. Potato Jesus? I meant Joel Osteen. Or maybe Stuart Smalley. But since Stuart’s teeth aren’t that good and he isn’t a leader within the Word Faith Mythology movement (at least not yet), and Joel is, we are compelled to give Mr. Osteen the nod and have a gander at his views on Christ and Christianity.
While he uncritically embraces Word Faith Mythology whole (health; wealth; name it and claim it; blah, blah, blah…), he has crafted some memorable moments in the annals of heretic history through his, um, interesting descriptions of views widely held within the movement. One peach of an example came as the Guy Smiley of you-can-do-it evangelicalism delivered a most memorable Easter message. Join me now as we relive his description of a battle that he believes Jesus had with Satan in Hell following the crucifixion (and yes, he means this literally, folks):
For three days Jesus fought with the enemy. It was the battle of the ages, light versus darkness, good versus evil. But thank God Satan was no match for Jesus.
He grabbed Satan by the nap [sic] of his neck and He began to slowly drag him down the corridors of hell. All beat up and bruised because He wanted to make sure that every single demon saw very clearly that Jesus was indeed the undisputed Champion of all time!
And you thought South Park had bad theology.
Of course, wacky as all of this seems (or had better seem, anyway), it is par for the course where Word Faith Mythologists are concerned. Joyce Meyer has not only embraced the same particular brand of lunacy as expressed by Osteen, she takes the craziness a step further by making it an essential test for Christian orthodoxy. As Joyce put it: “There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting: You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in Hell.”
Here we see the peculiar and even goofy brand of evil lurking behind that Guy Smiley façade. While there is something silly about the Osteens and Meyers of the world, there is nothing the least bit funny about their vivid denials of the sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross.
The Insufficiency of Christ’s Crucifixion
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ~ John 19:30 ..
“If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
While Joyce and Joel may have visions of a Celebrity Deathmatch featuring their mythological Jesus and Satan in Hell, the Jesus of biblical Christianity is nowhere to be found in such pathetic flights of fantasy. The Christ of Christianity completely finished the work of atonement on the cross.
This is as foundational a matter as there can be to the biblical Christian worldview. It should be unthinkable that any professing pastor—much less one leading the largest mega-church in America—would find anything remotely resembling a warm response as he spouted such heretical views.
Yet there he stands…and smiles: The Great Joel Osteen. The most recognized evangelical in the land. Arguably the best known “Christian leader” in the nation. He stands and delivers flagrant repudiation of the atonement of Christ on the cross from his Houston pulpit and is rewarded with thunderous applause.
What might somebody like, I don’t know, maybe the Apostle Paul, have to say about this? How might he react to Joel’s “teaching”? I’m thinking we might see something close to Smiling Osteen’s farcical Deathmatch depiction actualized were such a meeting to take place between him and Paul. Now there’s a pay-per-view event for the ages: Paul vs. Joel! (I think they could even use Joel’s “light versus darkness” and “good versus evil” taglines in all of the required pre-event promos.)
While even this small sample of Osteen and Meyers should help to illuminate the roach-infested corridors of Word Faith Mythology, we really must trudge through a bit more before we can have a solid feel for the depth and breadth of heresy driving this pervasive cancer within the professing church. After all, Joyce and Joel are but two within a large pack of ravenous, if smiling, wolves.
The God Who Fails
“I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is….The biggest one is God….I mean, He lost His top-ranking, most anointed angel; the first man He ever created; the first woman He ever created; the whole earth and all the fullness therein; a third of the angels, at least—that’s a big loss, man….Now, the reason you don’t think of God as a failure is He never said He’s a failure. And you’re not a failure ’til you say you’re one.” ~ Kenneth Copeland .
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost;for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” ~ Isaiah 6:1–5
.The god of Word Faith Mythology is a failure. He is a tool. But hey, at least he’s your tool…that is, if you know and are willing to apply the simple rules that will make him dance.
The God of biblical Christianity is completely sovereign over all of His creation—every bit of it. Every financial crisis and cancerous cell in His creation is always a tool used purposefully by Him to bring about His glorification. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is self-sufficient and unchanging. He needs nothing from us and always acts according to His own will according to His pleasure for the purpose of bringing Himself glory. He is the source and goal of every good thing and is utterly unencumbered in any matter by the will of any angel, demon, or man.
In Word Faith Mythology we see yet another in a seemingly infinite sea of examples where the “problem” of a sovereign God is concerned. Virtually every wrong theological turn begins with a misunderstanding or perversion of the nature of God, and far and away the most problematic attribute of God, from fallen man’s perspective, is His sovereignty.
His total Lordship over all that is—every thought, item, and action—simply cannot be allowed to stand. Therefore, it is universally opposed by every counter-Christian worldview and system of belief.
Put another way, total sovereignty is one option that you will never find in a Mr. Potato Jesus Playset. It scored the only absolute zero in the history of Team Potato Jesus test marketing.
While Kenneth Copeland’s description of God as a failure will rightly sound an alarm in the mind of any informed biblical Christian, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. By this, I mean that such lowering of God from His perch of perfect sovereignty is the norm where all counter-Christian systems of belief are concerned. In the wake of this demotion, the notion of God as a failure of some sort permeates, of necessity, each and every counterfeit version of Christianity.
The Seesaw Principle
So that we might get a better feel for the pervasiveness of this God minimizing doctrine, I’d like to make use of “The Seesaw Principle” as described by Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse:
We have long since adopted the old-fashioned method of the seesaw to test all doctrines. When children are riding two ends of a plank on a seesaw, we know that if one end is down the other is up, and if the first is up the second is down. So it is in the matter of all doctrines. There is an entire set of doctrinal interpretations, which exalts man and abases God, and there is another set that exalts God and abases man. We may be absolutely sure that the path of truth, in every case, exalts God. How far did man fall? Only part way, say some, so that he still has the power within his lovable self to lift himself back to God. Man is up in that interpretation, and God is down. But did man fall all the way, so that not one man could ever have been saved unless God had moved to do it all? That abases man to the place where God has said he is, but it exalts God, and that is the true interpretation of the Word of God. The same rule of interpretation may be applied to all the doctrines in theology. (emphasis added.)
In light of Dr. Barnhouse’s seesaw test, we can clearly see that Word Faith Mythologists have indeed radically exalted man through the axiomatic reduction of God’s sovereignty. But it is worth noting that the vast majority of contemporary professing American Christians do the very same thing, only to a lesser extent.
Where Word Faith Mythologists or The Artists Formerly Known as The Emergent Church may seek to yank the God of Christianity far from His perch of 100% sovereignty, the typical, more conventional professing Christian in America also seeks to exalt his will over God in at least some—or at the very least, . All who employ this approach, even to the slightest extent, find themselves in the same super-huge and ever-growing camp.
This is the ultimate Big Tent experience. All dwelling therein reject the absolute sovereignty of God. In doing so, they all qualify for a Team Potato Jesus t-shirt, too.
This is a dangerous place to be, of course, so the examination of Word Faith Mythology and emergent theology may serve us far more than originally expected. How many professing American Christians of any stripe actually believe that God is sovereign over their individual will in all matters and is never bound by it? Food for thought…
Now, back to this particular take on a controllable god: The idea of a god who is somehow subject to the will of man is an essential first step towards constructing an even better god who will more readily do our bidding, grant our wishes, and indulge our desires.
This god will give us health. He will give us wealth. At the end of the day, he will do any and every thing that we wish, when we wish, and in the manner we wish. Once we embrace the notion of our will having any binding power over God in any way at any time, this is the path that we are on.
The Artists Formerly Known as The Emergent Church and Word Faith Mythologists may be well on down the trail, comparatively speaking, but when we seek to move God down from His actual position of complete sovereignty, even an inch or in a single matter, we join them on the same road.
You can confirm this by simply reading any copy of the Mr. Potato Jesus Owner’s Handbook. The step-by-step process of self-serving god assembly is all covered right there, not that we aren’t able to figure it out intuitively. Such pursuits come quite naturally to fallen man, after all. Just ask Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.
Health and Wealth by Your Command
“You have a covenant with Almighty God, and one of your covenant rights is to a healthy body.” ~ Kenneth Copeland .
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about streets of gold. I don’t need gold in heaven. I gotta have it now! I mean, when I get to glory, all my bills will be paid, brother. I won’t have bills in glory! I won’t need to worry about bills in glory! I gotta have it here!” ~ Benny Hinn
The pursuit of personal health and wealth right here and right now is anything but difficult to understand. Where The Artists Formerly Known as The Emergent Church are zoned in on appeasing their collective ego through the exaltation of a Marxism-driven, socially-focused counterfeit gospel, the Word Faith Mythologists opt instead for a more primal, basic appeal to naked greed and gluttony. In ways, these two groups could be said to be camping under opposite sides of the tent, but any way you slice ’em, these favored tools of Mr. Potato Jesus are built upon the same basic foundation: A rejection of the perfect God, Word, and Spirit of biblical Christianity in favor of a god, message, and movement of their own making.
It’s important that we acknowledge just how thoroughly these groups have come to infiltrate and subsequently define contemporary American Christianity. In many cases, the names and faces discussed in the last three chapters of this book are the names and faces most closely associated with Christianity in America by most of the nation’s population.
Rob Baal and Donald Miller are wildly popular in the professing church. Joel Osteen is even bigger. Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and Kenneth Copeland each have very large and thriving “ministries.”
Like it or not (and you shouldn’t), these are the faces of Christianity in America. They’ve entertained us into oblivion by tickling our egos and scratching our itching ears through an endless parade of books, videos, tours, and presentations aimed at one thing: The exaltation of man through the debasing of God. It is difficult to imagine any force from outside the church successfully doing even a large portion of the damage that has been done by these movements from within.
With evangelicals like these, who needs a Whore of Babylon?
This is part one of a two part excerpt from the book Fire Breathing Christians. You can read Part 2, With evangelicals like these, who needs a Whore of Babylon?, by clicking here.
 Joel Osteen Easter service at Lakewood Church, sermon #CS_002 – 4-23-00, 23 April 2000, transcript formerly online at http://www.lakewood.cc/sermons/cs_002.htm; transcript archived online at http://web.archive.org/web/20040408215244/http://www.lakewood.cc/sermons/cs_002.htm, retrieved 15 April 2009.
 Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make: A Complete and Thorough Understanding of What It Means to Be Born Again (Fenton, MO: Life in the Word, 1991), 37.
 Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Invisible War (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965), p. 119]
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