I was speaking to a friend last week after church, and he was talking about how when he became a Christian, he prayed to God and asked God to “deliver me from the religion of man”. We spoke about the consequences of being true to God and the commands of scripture. These consequences can include the loss of friends who are “offended” by our insistence that God’s word is the final word. I agree wholeheartedly with what he was saying. We must always stand for God’s word above any desire or need to please men, or even to please family, or even leaders in a denomination. We all must understand that we are human and subject to failure or to erroneous doctrinal stances, and we must never blindly submit to everything anyone says, without question, no matter who it is. We must judge everyone’s words by the word of God, our final authority.
So this got me to asking myself, what are some of these “religions of men” that have caused, and are still causing, so much harm to the body of Christ? Here are some that I can think of, but in the end, they are all the same. They look to man’s wisdom, instead of God’s, and that is a fatal error for many.
Seeker Sensitive movement. At its core, this movement’s strategy tries to make the church look more attractive to unbelievers, using promotions, gimmicks, surveys, and technology. Robert Schuler helped popularize it, and his church was always full, but it was full of people who had “itching ears”, only wanting to listen to what made them feel good. Bill Hybels (of Willow Creek Association churches) was one of the biggest proponents of this, and only recently admitted it was a miserable failure. But what is Willow Creek Association doing now? Trying something else, trying to figure out what else can be done to make a church “successful.” What can we create that will work this time and bring in more people and help us “grow?” So now Willow Creek is dabbling in… maybe you guessed it, contemplative spirituality, as reported in an article from Lighthouse Trails Research.
Let’s not forget that the church is first and foremost for the believers, the body of Christ, for their edification and training. Let’s bring in the unbelievers to hear the gospel, but let’s not water it down into some faddish thing just to bring them in. If you bring them to church under false pretenses, they will soon leave after being disappointed that we did not deliver what they wanted. See Mike Oppenheimer’s assessment of this movement.
Word of Faith movement. (Also known as “name it and claim it”, “Positive Confession”, or simply “Faith Movement”). Richard J. Vincent describes it this way: “This is the group that would seek to convince us that Jesus and His disciples were rich, that to be poor is a sin, to be sick is a sin, and that faith is a creative force that we can use to shape our world just like God supposedly created this world and universe that we live in through His “faith”! And “positive confession” is the belief that if a believer speaks “spiritual” or “faith-filled” words then he can have what he says. (Clete Hux). This is all nonsense and completely unbiblical, yet we see so many people taken in by this today, and churches filled with thousands listening to the drivel spewed by these preachers who often take advantage of their congregation and those watching on television. (Got any seed money today?) Who are some of these folks? Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Creflo Dollar, Mike Murdock, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Marilyn Hickey, Rod Parsley, Peter Popoff, Fred Price, Robert Schuller, Robert Tilton, Paula White, Ed Young, Bishop Eddie L. Long, Clarence McClendon. I realize that some of them may be liked by some folks reading this, but the truth must be told and people warned about them. For ten reasons to reject Word of Faith teachings, see this article by Tricia Tillin.
Purpose Driven movement. Rick Warren is very popular, his Purpose Driven Life book has sold over 30 million copies, and he is sometimes called “America’s pastor.” Yet, he has boldly formulated his P.E.A.C.E. Plan which erroneously promotes the idea that we can not only work with all religions, hand in hand, but that we can actually wipe out poverty and hunger, and bring peace and prosperity to the world, through our own efforts. This is a lie because it contradicts scripture, yet so many have bought into this. I confess I bought into his book a few years ago and even used it for a while, but I thank God that he revealed to me the lies in his book, including his promotion of mystical authors and teachers, and his own unscriptural “steps” that we should follow in order to be better Christians. This is the danger of looking up to someone who is so popular, without being a Berean and checking everything he teaches and says. The lack of discernment has caused many to buy into his ecumenical plans and “purpose driven formulas”, without checking it biblically. We ought to pray for Rick Warren so that he can understand it is not man’s efforts that will bring peace, but peace will finally be established only after Christ’s return. See The Wonderful Deception of the Purpose Driven Paradigm.
G12 movement. What is G12? From gotquestions.org: The G12 vision / movement is a cell-church discipleship strategy pioneered by Cesar Castellanos at International Charismatic Mission of Bogota, Colombia, where he was a pastor. Castellanos believed that God spoke to him in a vision, laying out what He desired the Church do in response to the end times. This vision was the “government of 12” principle, a hierarchal pyramid scheme of discipleship and authority. He proposed that because Israel had 12 tribes, and Christ had 12 disciples, the Church needed to base their structure on this governmental model and become a cell-church.
This movement has come into the Nazarene denomination as well, mainly in Latin American countries. It is also essentially the same as what is called The Master Plan, and a group of Spanish speaking Nazarenes have started a FaceBook page to ask questions about it as well as the emergent movement, and other Nazarenes from Argentina and other countries have joined Concerned Nazarenes, and we also are concerned about this movement which really does not seem to have any true basis in scripture. For a description of this movement, go to gotquestions.org for the full article.
Emergent church movement. This movement is not of God, because it questions the word of God. How can any movement be ordained by God, when it’s leaders question so much biblical truth? When they say that we haven’t gotten it right in over 2,000 years, what does that say of the power of the gospel and all it has done in that time? When they say you can only trust the Bible in “matters of salvation”, what does that really mean, except that it is a loophole to question the creation account and a whole bunch of other historical accounts?
When they claim that Adam and Eve may have only been allegories, what does that say of Jesus, who referred to them and other historical figures as real people? When Jesus said that sin and death entered the world through the first humans, what does that say of Jesus when they question the reality of Adam and Eve? How can this movement be of God, if they say that we ought not to judge what other people believe and teach, totally contrary to what scripture tells us to do? How can this movement be of God, when it promotes pagan rituals like prayer labyrinths, when we are clearly warned in scripture not to take on the practices of the heathen? And when Brian McLaren compares the sacrifice on the Cross by Christ as irrelevant and to being a form of cosmic child abuse, what does that say about their discernment when they follow him like lemmings to the edge of the cliff?
This movement will be taken down eventually, because it cannot withstand the truth of God. But in the meantime, we ought to do all we can as Christians to rebuke the leaders of this movement, to rebuke the promoters of it, and warn everyone possible of this “religion of man” that is deceiving so many.
Then there is the social gospel movement (see T.A. McMahon’s commentary on that). And let’s not overlook the “let’s save the planet” gospel of Brian McLaren and others, practically worshipping the created instead of the creator. And the ever insidiously dangerous contemplative spirituality/mysticism movement, also known as spiritual formation, which is a cornerstone of the emergent church.
These movements are all man’s religion. Nothing more, nothing less. Instead of boldly preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, and turning to Christ in faith, and teaching that we are all headed for destruction if we seek our own ways, these movements have perverted and watered down the gospel, and made a mockery of the simple message of faith and trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.
I believe all these “religions of men” come from pride. Pride is one of the most dangerous things we can experience as Christians. We can sometimes drift into our own little world of how we “think” things ought to be, instead of asking- what does God’s word say? We want it our way. We think we know what is right for our times. Yet, the scriptures have said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Prov. 14:12
We can sometimes use the excuse of, “well, the culture has changed, and now we don’t really need to follow these directives’ they’re outdated. It’s not for us anymore.” This is pride, this is arrogance, and this is man deciding that he knows better than God, and deciding that God did not give us His word that can be relevant to all cultures and throughout all ages; instead, we become the arbiters of what is “relevant” to our culture today. Thus the perversion of what is clearly written in scripture, in order to suit our own wants and desires.
May God give us the wisdom to continue seeking His ways, not man’s ways.