Strange Fire: Beyond the Hype and the Hysteria (Part 3)

Selvaraj praying for some prominent Filipino Christian leaders in the 24th National Prayer Gathering, April 12, 2013,  at the Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City. From the "Intercessors for the Philippines" Facebook page. Image credit

That many Filipino believers fell for the self-proclaimed Prophet Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj is  “Exhibit A” that there is a dire need for Biblical discernment nowadays. (Read: “Nakuryente?” [Electrocuted?])

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That’s why, whether we agree or disagree with the way John MacArthur blamed the pentecostals and charismatics for the prosperity preachers, I still believe his Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship [1] is a clarion call for us today.

McArthur devoted two chapters on “Testing The Spirits” regarding the “fivefold test” with which we measure any and all movements that would claim to be of God. [2]

Only that which holds up to the scrutiny of Scripture can be embraced, while that which falls short must be confronted and rejected. Nothing less is the duty of every pastor and teacher as well as the responsibility of every true believer. We might frame these tests from 1 John 4:2-8 in the form of five questions: (1) Does the work exalt the true Christ? (2) Does it oppose worldliness? (3) Does it point people to the Scriptures? (4) Does it elevate the truth? (5) Does it produce love for God and others? [3]
Like the first stone among the five smooth stones that the shepherd boy David got from the creek, the first question alone is fatal enough for that Goliath called the Word Faith movement. 


Kenneth Copeland proclaimed, “You’re all god. You don’t have a God living in you; you are one! You are part and parcel of God.” Image credit

Does the Faith movement exalt the true Christ? No, they don’t. Shocking but true. Instead, they exalt themselves as “little gods.”
Some go so far as to assert that believers are little gods who can speak their worldly desires into existence. Paul Crouch responded to naysayers on national television with these words: “I am a little god. I have His name. I am one with Him. I’m in covenant relation. I am a little god. Critics be gone!” Kenneth Copeland similarly told his listeners, “You’re all god. You don’t have a God living in you; you are one! You are part and parcel of God.” More recently, televangelist Creflo Dollar echoed the teachings of Copeland and Crouch: “I’m going to say something, we are gods, in this earth, and it’s about time we start operating like gods instead of a bunch of mere, powerless humans.” Only one adjective fully describes that level of blasphemous arrogance: satanic (cf. Gen 3:5). [4]
Not only that prosperity preachers proclaim the satanic lie that we are gods, they also declare that Jesus became a satanic being on the cross.


Benny Hinn declared, “He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God.” Image credit
Benny Hinn proclaimed that Christ became one in nature with Satan.
Jesus Christ knew the only way He would stop Satan is by becoming one in nature with him. … He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God. [5]
That blasphemous statement is a clear misunderstanding of 2 Corinthians 5:21. (“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ESV) One Bible scholar explained it this way:
Paul probably intended that we understand what he wrote about Jesus Christ becoming sin in three ways: First, God treated Jesus as if He were a sinner, when He poured out His wrath on Him, and He bore the guilt and  penalty for all people’s sins. Jesus’ sinlessness is a clear revelation of Scripture (Isa. 53:9; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Second, Jesus Christ became a sin-offering (Lev. 4:24; 5:12), the perfect and final one. … Third, Christ became the locus (central location; focus) of sin under the judgment of God, the place in time and space where God judged sin. [6]
Note that none of the options tell us that Jesus took on the nature of Satan on the cross. It appears that these prosperity preachers are not merely “keen but clueless.” They are actually preaching a false Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)


Creflo Dollar claimed, “I’m going to say something, we are gods, in this earth, and it’s about time we start operating like gods instead of a bunch of mere, powerless humans.” Image credit

In an interview over Fox News Sunday on December 23, 2007, Chris Wallace asked prosperity preacher Joel Osteen, the “pastor of America’s largest congregation” as Wallace described him, “Is a Mormon a true Christian?” Here’s the transcript of his answer from the Fox News website:
OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are. And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don’t think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that's what I felt like.
WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?
OSTEEN: I probably don’t get hung up in them because I haven’t really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don’t know. I certainly can’t say that I agree with everything that I’ve heard about it, but from what I’ve heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that’s a common bond. [6]
To be fair, Osteen confessed his utter ignorance about Mormonism: “I probably don’t get hung up in them because I haven’t really studied them or thought about them.” He even admitted, “I don’t know. I certainly can’t say that I agree with everything that I’ve heard about it”. We don’t really know the extent of what he heard about the Mormons up to the time of that interview. One wonders if he actually heard that they teach that our Lord Jesus is a spirit brother of Lucifer. [7] (Thus, the Christ of the Mormons is definitely not the Christ of the Bible.) Assuming that he didn’t know at the time, I believe many people already reacted and pointed out to him the difference. Assuming that he knows now, would Osteen still say what he said about the Mormons being true Christians? Would he still claim that his belief in Christ is the same as what the Mormons believe about Him? That there’s a common bond between him and the Mormons? 

When asked whether the Mormons are true Christians or not, Joel Osteen replied: “Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it.” Image credit
What I find disturbing is when Osteen said, “I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. … I just try to let God be the judge of that.” What the Bible taught about Christ is never insignificant or non-essential (as far as I understand what Osteen meant with “the little details of it”). In fact, God already judged (read: condemned) those wrong beliefs about His Son as not from Him (1 John 4:1-6). The Apostle John would label such as “false prophets” and has “the spirit of the antichrist… and the spirit of error.” 

So, does the Faith movement as represented by Hinn, Crouch, Copeland, Dollar and Osteen exalt the true Christ?  The answer would have to be a resounding “No!” Thus, we are to reject and not embrace the Word Faith movement. 



Time to take sides. We cannot afford to be neutral. Image credit
For the pentecostals and the charismatics, it’s time to take sides. For them not to be lumped with the heresies of that movement, they have to make a clear stand on the issue. They can never afford to be neutral. To do so would be to agree with the prosperity preachers and to prove McArthur right in blaming them for the cultic movement. 

Read Part 1 | Part 2

[1] MacArthur, John. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013. 

[2] Ibid, 37-82. 


[3] Ibid, 39.


[4] Ibid, 11. Italics his. This “little gods” teaching and other heretical doctrines of the Word Faith movement are also well-documented in Hank Hanegraaff’s Christianity in Crisis 21st Century (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009).


[5] As quoted by Hanegraaff, 172-173.


[6] Thomas L. Constable, “Dr. Constable’s Notes on 2 Corinthians 2014 Edition,” Sonic Light, http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/2corinthians.pdf (accessed April 4, 2014). Italics his.


[7] “Transcript: Pastor Joel Osteen on ‘FNS,’” Fox News, 23 December 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/12/23/transcript-pastor-joel-osteen-on-fns/ (accessed April 4, 2014). 

[8] According to Mormon Voices website (“an independent organization that is supportive of, but not controlled by or affiliated with, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”), the claim that Mormons believe Jesus is the brother of Satan “is only a half-truth; a half-truth which leaves the uninformed reader with the false impression that Mormons place Jesus and Satan on equal footing.” [“Jesus Brother of Satan,” Mormon Voices, 19 July 2011, http://mormonvoices.org/1/jesus-brother-of-satan (accessed April 4, 2014)]. However, here’s how they explained it: “Latter-day Saints believe that God is the father of all spirits (Hebrews 12:9). These spirits include all humans, as well as angels, demons (including Satan), and Jesus Christ. In this sense, we are all brothers and sisters to each other. We are all brothers and sisters to Christ, as well as to Satan. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers in the exact same sense that all men and women are siblings to Satan. … Mormons believe God created all things. We are his children.  Jesus and Satan were both sons of God in the beginning, and thus it is technically correct that Mormons believe Jesus and Satan once were brothers–in this sense.” (Ibid. Italics theirs. Emphasis mine.) But the relationship of God the Father with our Lord Jesus is different from His relationship with His created beings. Also, even if angels like Lucifer were called “sons of God” (Job 1:6, ESV), they were created beings. On the other hand, Jesus is the Creator and not merely one of those “sons of God.” He is the eternal Son of God. 

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