Home Pastors Articles for Pastors When Heresy Begins to Creep In

When Heresy Begins to Creep In

If you were to ask the church leadership, “Do you believe in the Trinity?” you would no doubt hear an emphatic, “Of course!”

But when they use that vocabulary, are they employing a biblical dictionary? And even if they do, are they employing theological care with whom they bring in to speak, the books in their bookstore, or the conferences they highlight?

Another example has to do with the health and wealth gospel. This is the idea that if you walk faithfully with Christ, and [usually] give to a particular ministry, you will be rewarded with “health and wealth” in return as a result of God’s blessing.

The “health and wealth” gospel has become widely decried, but much of its emphasis has been reintroduced by mainstream evangelical churches in the way it talks about faith, or the reward that comes with tithing. It may not be “health and wealth,” but it sure does sound like “name it and claim it.” The idea of having “big” faith is that it will allow you to achieve whatever your dreams may be, and that, along with giving to your local church, will be the avenue to prevent terrible things from happening in your life.

The danger is that while God clearly does respond to faith, our faith is not a set of orders to God, as if our faith says, “Jump,” and God has to say, “How high?” It’s not something to be presented as one would “positive thinking” or “achieve what you believe.” That’s nonsense, and has little to do with the sinews of faith.

Further, giving to the local church of which you are a part is something I firmly uphold as a command of Scripture, and I believe the Bible teaches clear blessing/reward attached to it. But the nature of that blessing can be any number of things. And the idea that if we don’t give, terrible things will happen to us, is a reverse form of “health and wealth” that seems intent on manipulating people into giving, which the New Testament knows nothing about. Yes, giving invites God’s involvement in that aspect of our lives, but the giving dynamic is not what keeps out, or lets in, the demonic. It’s more about what invites in, or keeps out, God’s supernatural activity.

As Bonhoeffer had to differentiate between the nature and power of authentic grace, as compared to its counterfeit — what he called “cheap” grace, which was grace devoid of repentance — there is a need to talk of “cheap faith.”

Cheap faith is faith without sacrifice, without suffering, without deprivation, without selflessness. Authentic faith is faith that has little to do with what you get out of it, and everything to do with how God is glorified through it.

Such matters are subtle, to be sure.

But that’s the nature of heresy creep.

It just creeps in.  

Previous articleHow Hiring Staff is Like Marriage
Next article5 Things You Need to Know About Connecting the Unconnected
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.