In Search of Critics– Part 2

In my previous post (cleverly titled, “In Search of Critics. Part 1“) I suggested that we should value the critiques from many sources. While in Blooms Taxonomy (cognitive side) the highest level is evaluation. Strangely, I have seen some lists that place Creation as above Evaluation, but never mind. A critic is an evaluator so one might suggest that the only critic one should value is one who has had massive training and practice (Remembering, Understanding, Applying, and Analyzing) a certain field. However, I don’t think this was what is being implied in this model. The model is for education, NOT for critiques. Two problems come up fairly obviously,

  • The Evaluator/Critic in Bloom’s Taxonomy is an Insider Critic. However, there may be value in Outsider perspectives as well (as noted in the previous post).
  • Even among Insiders, there are specializations that need to be recognized. For example, my wife and I like to watch the Australian TV show, “The Block.” Contestants take an old building or series of buildings/apartments and fix them up for sale. In that show, there are judges. However, these judges are not the only evaluators in the show. The judges primarily evaluate style/aesthetics and practicality. However, they are not the only ones. There are real estate agents who come in a look at the work, evaluating it in terms of marketability and value.  Additionally, there are inspectors, foremen, architect, and engineer, who evaluate in terms of safety, quality control, government regulations, and show standards. Further, there are people who evaluate the contestants in terms of their spending. Each have a role as insiders. However, at the end of the show are buyers who participate in an auction. They can, in fact, be thought of as outsiders— since they are not specialists within the field– not in style, not in practicality, not in safety, quality, regulation, or costing. And yet, as ones seeking to buy the places, they are the ultimate judges.

Often, the outsider perspective is valuable. I am from a rather conservative religious tradition, and so when someone I know hears something they don’t like they will say that it is “liberal.” Curiously, often the thing they label as liberal often doesn’t fit onto the spectrum of theology from liberal to conservative. These people just don’t like it and they don’t like “liberals” so they throw the sticker on it as a perjorative term.

But I would argue that this is a deep mistake. In fact, I would even argue that it is backwards. I am involved in two religious academic fields— Missiology and Pastoral Theology. Let me give an example from each.

Missiology.  Back in the early 1960s, with the joining together of the IMC and WCC, missions (particularly Protestant missions) took a sharp turn. While in 1961 there was still a strong formal commitment to proclamation of the message of God, within a short time, there was a rapid move away from proclamation and proselytization, and toward “presence” (doing good in a culture). Out of this was a reaction where Evangelicals formed their own interdenominational missions conferences. This was a much more conservative group. There was a strong focus on proclamation, with a demeaning of social ministry. The logic seemed to be (1) Christ is coming soon so any ministry work that is “good” but not strictly centered on moving people to respond to the gospel is actually “bad,” and (2) social ministry is not “real ministry” at least as far as what it means to carry out the Great Commission.

In my mind both groups were abysmally wrong. But I don’t get angry at the concilliar missions folks for deemphasis on proclamation. As people with a different theological perspective than my own, I would expect them to think and act different. What makes me more angry, actually, was the conservative side. As religious conservatives, I expect to believe them when they say that they seek to follow what the Bible teaches and have Christ as their example. The denigration of social ministry by many (or placing outside the sphere if valid missions) is horribly unbiblical and a clear rejection of following the example of Christ.  As one who is religiously fairly conservative, I consider those of similar theology to be insider critics. As such, I am very unhappy when they go against what they claim to be support (Bible and Christ). Those who are theologically liberal are an outsider perspective for me. Therefore, I don’t get mad at their viewpoint. Rather, I see if they have any validity to their perspective. Thankfully, in Evangelical missions, there was an adjustment and by the 1970s there was a (grudging?) recognition that social ministry is important and should NOT be separated from proclamation, discipleship, and churchplanting. This recognition came, in part, from the work of people like Stott and Newbigin, who maintained dialogue with both groups, rather than listening to only one.

Pastoral Theology. In pastoral care and counseling, in the 1950s and 1960s there developed a strong influence from the social sciences (psychology, sociology, and anthropology). This led to some forms of care and counseling that were seen as not taking issues of morality, sin, and repentance seriously. It was seen as a “liberal” (there is that word again) agenda. Pastors commonly would throw around more psychological lingo, than Biblical principles. In the 1970s there was a conservative reaction in terms of the so-called Biblical Counseling movement. At its best it was a welcome adjustment to the past decades. At its worst, it was judgmental (nuothetic), reductionistic, and behavioralistic. And worst of all— it was labeled as “Biblical” even though its methods were so cherry-picked from Scripture, that commonly it would have to be described as sub-biblical.   Truthfully, today we are still struggling in this area. I am part of a denomination that has fallen in love with the term “Biblical Counseling” and commonly promotes some pretty sketchy stuff because someone placed the “Biblical” or “Conservative” label on it.

In truth, pastoral counseling and pastoral theology is an area where there is much room for improvement. Far too many embrace one sub-biblical view or another equally sub-biblical, and then ignore concerns from the other camp by the use of perjorative labels.

Ultimately, we need to learn from others and often we should listen most intently from outsider perspectives because they are the ones most likely to have seen things that we haven’t and thought of things we haven’t because… well, because they are outsiders.

Pulling the fisherman parable back in from the past post… the argument of who to listen to more, active fishermen or theoreticians, breaks down under scrutiny a bit. We would need to listen to all sides— and most importantly, the fish.

 

In Search of Critics– Part One

Rethinking the Fisherman parable. It points out the risk of becoming a theorist in ministry, particularly evangelism. I had referenced the story before, HERE.

Fishing generic.png

What got me thinking was a bit of FB dialogue I was somewhat in.   The discussion started out simply enough:  Do we in missions (and perhaps Evangelical Christianity as a whole) focus too much on marketing strategies and not enough on the gospel?  <Spoiler alert:  Yes>

But a couple of people decided to answer a different question from the one that was posed. Not sure why. The question a couple of them decided to answer was:

Who should we listen to— people who are theoreticians or the boots-in-the-ground folk that actually do ministry?

The direction of the answer was that they would listen to people who actually do ministry and not armchair theoreticians. One of them did a reference to the parable noted above when he said that he would listen to the fishermen, not the ones who sit around and talk about fishing. The context of the story is that it is about Evangelizers— those who encourage people to follow Christ.

This got me thinking because I do talk about, and commonly critique, evangelism and evangelistic methods. Three major critiques I make are:

  • Most evangelistic methodologies already presume a Christian worldview and belief in key assumptions of the Christian Faith. As such, most don’t actually work for those of other worldviews, and many are little more than getting (already redeemed) Christians to say the Sinner’s Prayer.
  • Most do not work with the cultural context of the responder, but rather try to get people to “itch where it doesn’t scratch.”
  • Few encourage honest dialogue. If dialogue is part of the program, it is strongly orchestrated to drive certain responses and/or is carefully flow-charted.

I think these are quite valid concerns. I remember learning the Dunamis method that essentially (in the Philippine context at least) “tricks” Roman Catholic Christians into saying the Sinner’s Prayer. I listen to a presentation of the Gospel to a devout Asian Buddhist where the presenter uses the blood atonement metaphor to address sin, liberally sprinkled with Bible references (a metaphor that the culture doesn’t recognize to address a problem the person isn’t focused on, quoting a book the person doesn’t value). I listen to an American college student screaming at a Filipino on the street here in my city— “YOU GOT TO BE SAVED!!!   YOU GOT TO BE SAVED!!”

But maybe it is true that I am a theoretician— not a practitioner. While I have shared my faith to groups, and in written form, I have only shared it one-in-one to strangers perhaps 20 or 25 times in my life. That is not a lot. Frankly, I see my ministerial calling more in training up future Christian leaders.

But who should be listened to more— a seasoned practitioner or an academic? Let’s consider the points for or against the seasoned practitioner— the expert evangelist. One positive is that such a person “knows what works.” That is, he may have tried out different things and now knows what people respond to better. One negative is exactly the same thing, however. Talking to expert evangelists one can learn the “marketing secrets” to evangelism. Going to the practitioners leads to the problem suggested in the first question (the red-letter question at the top). A second positive is their specialization. No one is good at everything— so the best people to talk about the specialty of evangelism is someone who specializes in it. A second negative is also this issue of specialization.

A broader view can help. Is evangelism effective if it doesn’t dovetail into discipleship and faith community? I recall an evangelizer “practicing” on me. Once I responded positively as I was supposed to, the person gave me a teeny-tiny Gospel of John (I think Mark or Luke would have been better) and told I should pray and find a church. And that was that. There was no follow-up because that person only shares the gospel. That person claimed to lead at least three people to Christ day after day, every day. However, the method was manipulative, and the follow-up was completing lacking. Perhaps an outside critique could be helpful. Evangelizers can feel the temptation toward “What is the least I can share and the least the responder can do so that I can slap a “Christian” sticker (figuratively-speaking) on her forehead.”

What about an academic “arm-chair” evangelism critic? The most positive aspect is the advantage of an outsider perspective. Insiders can get together and “pool ignorance” every bit as well as well as ivory tower theologians. But reflection without action commonly becomes skewed. We learn iteratively by bringing together action and theological reflection.

This seems to me an improvement over deciding one group is not helpful to learn from. Maybe we might try listening to everyone.

  • Talk to evangelists
  • Talk to theologians
  • Talk to missiologists
  • Talk to those who have responded positively to the gospel message and have grown in the faith
  • Talk to those who have rejected the gospel message
  • Talk to those who have not yet heard.

 

 

Paradoxical Missions

Image result for two ducks

I am teaching Contemporary Missions at our seminary, and as I am doing so, I am realizing there are many things changing rapidly that means I probably need to (finally) move on from Stan Guthrie’s book “Missions in the Third Millenium” as required reading. Good book, but the class is CONTEMPORARY issues rather than TWENTY YEARS AGO issues.

Looking over my notes, I would like to promote a vision for future missions that I would like to call “Paradoxical Missions.” It is called that because it suggests values that are traditionally not encouraged in missions.

  1.  From Great to Good. With due respect to the book by James Collins,  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, I would like to promote a move in missions from Great to Good rather than Good to Great. I am not the first to suggest this. Way back in 2003, Eric Swanson wrote an article in Christianity Today, “Great to Good Churches.” I really enjoyed that article. Of course, the idea is that the two terms  (great and good) are on two different scales. Great is on a scale of Success. Good is on a scale of Righteousness. Of course, one can try to combine the two. One book tries to merge the scales a bit– Good to Great to Godly by Mike Bonem and another book, Good to Great in God’s Eyes by Chip Ingram, seeks to move the term Great into the Righteousness scale. I have read neither of these books, and have no issue with either one to the extent that I am familiar with the books. However, for me, the term “Great” is a problematic word. Much like the term “Prosperity,” even though it has good potential meanings, it commonly becomes a toxic lure. To me, Christian missions should avoid anything that tempts one towards greatness. There are  enough people and organizations striving for greatness. Let them get the accolades, and we should strive for goodness instead. https://munsonmissions.org/2012/03/03/great-to-good-christians/
  2. Strong to Weak.  Missionaries have commonly, and traditionally, come into a new culture from a position of strength. Early on, many missionaries considered mission lands as places that are under colonial rule, and often, although not always, served with support of the colonial authorities. Missionaries often would come in and be in a position to get their way because of funding from outside sources that locals lacked. In recent years, this strategy has been questioned. It may not be good for missionaries to be linked to colonialism/imperialism. It may not be good for missionaries to be seen as sources of economic blessings (leading to odd constructs such as prosperity gospel or cargo cults). It may not be good to promote dependency in developing churches in developing countries. It may not be good to keep a faith “foreign” by keeping it under economic hegemony of a foreign church or agency. Out of this has come the growth of Vulnerable Missions. While I don’t really care for the term “vulnerable” I don’t have a better one. I do personally prefer “Weak Missions” but I know that is just to prone to misinterpretation. But in weakness, a missionary enters a culture as a lamb, not a lion. He or she has a more catalytic role than authoritarian role. Reliance on God takes precedence over reliance on State, Denomination, or Financial supporters.   (In Christian missions, I do have a lot of respect for the Honor-Shame Movement, that gives greater respect to “patronage.” I have not reconciled these— the support for dependency in the patronage system and the rejection of dependency in Vulnerable Missions. Maybe someday I will figure it out.)  https://munsonmissions.org/2013/07/12/weak-and-vulnerable-missions-its-about-time-part-1/
  3. Big to Small.  I suppose this is implied by the other two, but I still feel it is worth emphasizing.  For many, Great implies Big, as does the word Strong. In missions, we talk about churchplanting movements, saturation strategies, and “discipling a whole nation.” They sound Great, they sound Strong, they sound Big. However, having been raised in the “Burned Out District” of Western New York– a region of big revivalism and saturation strategies in the 19th century, I feel justified in being a bit cynical about the long-term repercussions of such Big strategies. While AD2000 (the most well-known such activity) and other mission programs have pushed Big toals with poorly justified deadlines, change is commonly occurring in the mustard seed activities around the world. As I have noted before, some like to modify the “Dream Big!!” mantra with the more realistic “Dream Big, Start Small.” For me, however, it doesn’t honor small. Small doesn’t have to be apologized for. We are all small, and it is entirely possible that a God-size vision is often a small vision.  https://munsonmissions.org/2017/06/01/dream-small/

If one looks at some of the most effective times in Church History, one must note the growth during the 1st three centuries of the church in the Roman Empire and neighboring lands. One must also consider the growth of the Chinese Church in the 20th century. Both grew without superstars or superprograms or super-anything. They were good people, faithfully doing small activities, reaching out from a position of weakness.

I know that there can be a case made for Great, Big, Strong Missions. However, I tend to think that in this post-modern, post-colonial, and (in some places) post-Christian world, success will typically not be to the swift and the strong. The swift and the strong will have their successes in many arenas, but I think success in missions will be to the Good, the Weak, and the Small. Paradoxical Missions.

<Okay, I will admit that I used the picture at the top of this post because “Paradox” sounds a wee bit like “Pair of Ducks.” However, Ducks are also one of my favorite illustrations of missions. Ducks symbolize a bi-cultural bridge. They are comfortable on land, in trees, in the air, on the water, and (for diving ducks) under the water. And, I don’t know, but seeing this picture of two animals clearly designed to swim and fly, competently walking on snow seems to say something as well. Missions needs more ducks.>

What Does Your Front Door Look Like?

Most people see the front door of your church. They don’t see your church’s interior. They don’t see people of your church. They see what you present to the world. This is obvious… a truism in fact.

So why do we do such a poor job on how we present ourselves to the world around? My suspicion is that the dominant reason is that even though we may SAY that we want strangers in our community to come to our church… the fact is that we typically market for people who are already like us… and probably already are tied to a church.

Let me give you a couple of examples… one from Christianity and one from Islam.

AG1

The one above is from a church near where I live. Actually, I have friends who are part of this church. so I am not speaking ill of the church. But the presentation to the community is horrible. What are some problems?

A. The term “World Conquest” is really problematic. Using the war metaphor to the community has no positive message. If you are a Christian and don’t see it that way, consider the next example, the one for Islam. What if it said, instead of “Discover Islam,” the banner said “Islam World Conquest.” Would that be an enticing message? Certainly not for outsiders. (2) The terms “win souls” and “make disciples” are Evangelical jargon that is not informative to non-Christans. The first of those terms is especially problematic. (3) All of the expressions are targeted only to Evangelical Christians. The ones listed above only are meaningful only to Evangelicals, and the AG symbol is only valued by people already in that denomination.

Islam 2

Islam

B. The two above are from Discover Islam… a group that is located less than a half kilometer from the above church. The upper image is not much better… But is a modest improvement. The image is not meant to encourage people to visit their center, but rather to visit their website (their electronic front door). Negatively, the top script is in Arabic, since the only people who can read Arabic are Muslims and those that have left Islam, it is odd to put it in the banner— it just emphasizes that it is a foreign, non-Filipino faith. Why do that? The picture of the earth could make people think that Islam is a universal faith or ideology, It could be interpreted by some in terms of world conquest. Of course others see simply the tie-in to the Discovery Channel design aesthetic. The uncertainty of the imagery is not very helpful. On the positive side, the message “Discover Islam” is clearly a positive message unambiguously targeting those outside of their religion. The lower banner is much better. It got rid of the foreign message of the Arabic Script, and the positive, even if hard to read, message that everyone is welcome.

Nothing is perfect. I remember visiting the educational center associated with the Grand Mosque, I saw a plaque prominently placed expressing support from the Muslim Brotherhood. This group has often be known for expressing their faith in a way that non-Muslims would not see enticing. But you will note that this message was inside their center not in a big banner over their front door.

We aren’t perfect either. I like the banner for our church… having an image combining a heart, a cross, and a tree. I find it relevant… But I can’t help but wonder if those outside of the church may find the image confusing.

I guess I better find out.

Responding to Doubters Inside and Outside of the Church

doubters

There have been some recently-in-the-news people who are famous for being Christian, who have “left the faith.” One of these is Josh Harris. When I was dating age (decades ago), he wrote a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I never read it. Marty Sampson, a member of Hillsong, also publicly announced his loss of faith. I avoid Hillsong as much as I can while still attending an Evangelical church.  So I don’t know much about either one in terms of who they were or who they are. So I won’t deal with them directly here.

I have read a few responses to these announcements. Some call them guilty of Apostasy (perhaps a bit premature). Some Christians appear to be genuinely angry. Not really sure why. Perhaps they are wrestling with theological issues surrounding eternal security. Perhaps there are some who have emotionally invested themselves in these people and now feel betrayed. Others were bothered, seemingly, that they chose to express their rejection of faith so publicly. But if they weren’t given a forum in church to express their doubts, it is hardly surprising that they chose a medium outside of the church. I think I would argue that it is quite refreshing that they had the confidence to share their struggles with others. I wish all of us in the church had such openness.

A more constructive response I have seen is the note that apologetics is important. One of them, Marty I think, had mentioned that a lot of the questions he had were not being dealt with in church. People have honest questions and Evangelical churches often pride themselves (“hubris themselves”?) in an anti-intellectual perspective. I remember when a Mormon roommate of mine hit me with the old classic, “If God can do all things, can He create a rock too big for Him to lift.” That did not bother me very much because even back then when I was something like 22 years old I already knew enough Christian theology to be aware that Christians believe that God is unlimited in power, and that is very different from believing that “God can do all things.” That old chestnut that my roommate shared falls apart if one understands this difference. (Of course, it is also damaged a bit if one rejects the “anthropomorphized” god of Mormonism.) But I can understand its effectiveness in dealing with Christians. That is because the phrase “God can do all things” and its ilk are so commonly used in churches, and these commonly go unchallenged and unreflected upon. I mean, if “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good,” how does one reconcile that with experiences that show that God does not respond in a manner that you and I would consider normal for a “good God”?

Good theology and good apologetics can help. Some think that apologetics is a primary tool of evangelism. I don’t think so generally. Few come to Christ by being intellectually overwhelmed by Christian apologists. More modest goals are that apologists:

  1. Demonstrate that Christianity is a safe place to be for the rational seeker.
  2. Demonstrate that Christianity is a safe place for the doubter to remain faithful.

This leads to the second point— Churches are NOT generally a safe place to be a doubter.

Consider the following experiment:  Go to your church some day and when people are sharing struggles speak up and share something to the effect,

“My family has been struggling both financially and with health. This has led me to struggle with the idea that God is good. In fact, often I wonder if there is no God out there or maybe I am just praying into empty space.”

There may not be an immediate response by the group… but keep track of the different responses you get afterward.

  • How many play the apologist and try to “prove” to you that God exists and is good, showing that your reflections on your situation are invalid? (I have had friends put on FB things that essentially say that if you doubt God due to circumstances your faith is based on feelings rather than on truth… so it you YOUR FAULT. In my mind that is both wrong, and unhelpful. If the church doesn’t helps a person reconcile God’s truths with the truths of human experience, it is the church’s fault as much or more than the one who is struggling.)
  • How many will seek to pray with you that your doubts about God will disappear (without addressing the underlying concerns)?
  • How many will express their concerns, either to you directly or indirectly to others, about the validity of your salvation? (How many will suggest you need a real salvation experience, or a new baptism, or a new second blessing, or a new exorcism, or something else new that demonstrates that you have a problem that the rest of the church lacks?)
  • How many will appear to avoid you as if you have a disease that must be quarantined?
  • How many will come up to you after and say something like, “I often struggle with doubts about God as well so I appreciate you sharing this with us. Maybe sometime when you have time we can sit down and you can share with me more about this struggle.”?

My feeling is that the last one will be pretty rare… yet I think we all struggle with doubts at times— Faith is not the absence of doubt, but a matter of trust that acknowledges uncertainty.

If the church is an unsafe place for doubters, and

If most Christians doubt (whether they admit it or not), and

If most Christians pretend to live a doubtless faith (whether or not such a faith exists)

Then, church is an unsafe place for Christians

I would recommend:

  • Normalize doubt. We don’t believe in God because it is impossible to rationally believe otherwise. We respond to doubt with faith, NOT negate doubt with faith.
  • Treat doubt as a healthy thing to address in church. Don’t destroy it, or quarantine it, or shame it (or the doubter). Doubt is a part of the human experience— and we are all humans.
  • Delve into tough questions in church— fairly and without bumper sticker “Gotcha” one-liners or ad hominem attacks.  (No “People who think like that are a bunch of liberals/apostates/sinners/etc.”) Babylon Bee has a great satirical take on this. You can click HERE.
  • Don’t stifle doubters and minority opinions. In practice, one may have to decide which person is honestly struggling with doubt and which are actually proselytizers of a different belief system. I have met a few people who act like they doubt, but in actuality use every opportunity to evangelize their the new belief that they lack doubt in. There is a need for boundaries there. But people who honestly struggle with their faith should always be honored in church. Church should not a a place of “Groupthink” where people espouse the same aphorisms while hiding their real thoughts.

I don’t pretend to be perfect, or even good, in this area. Back a few decades ago I was in the Navy and my roommate had two friends visiting. Both of them were raised in church and both expressed to us that they they struggled with doubt about God and the Christian faith. My response was that I had no such doubt. They both expressed the desire to have no such doubt. In practice, however, it was a dead end for this part of the conversation. They opened up to me, and I responded essentially that I cannot relate to their experience. They expressed a desire to be like me in this situation, but that was impossible, since they DID have doubts. Desire does not change things. And if I was more honest with myself back then, I would have to admit that my faith was on choosing to trust in the God of the Holy Bible, rather than a certainty that I could not possibly be wrong.

Dem Pesky False Prophets (Part 2)

Clearly this is part 2 to a part 1. You are welcome to click on that HERE, if you had not read it yet.

To continue… one may assume that a true prophet would have the qualities that were suggested from Matthew 7 and enumerated in the last post.

  1. A true prophet understands him/herself. The prophet understands that he/she is called by God to speak on the behalf of God. <As noted before, this is not a good test since many false prophets, mistakenly, believe themselves to be speaking for God.>
  2. A true prophet claims to speak in God’s name (rather than some other name). Again, not the best test since many people will claim to speak in the name of God… or the Bible… or Jesus Christ… or the Holy Spirit.
  3. A true prophet does signs and wonders that provide veracity that they are true prophets— at least if they do signs and wonders. Many many prophets in the Bible did not appear to do miraculous signs, and the passage in Matthew 7 does not imply that all true prophets perform miracles. In fact, Matthew 7 points to an opposite problem. The ability to perform miracles is NOT guarantee that an individual is not a false prophet.
  4. A true prophet produces good fruit.  We will talk about this last one the most, and note that #5 won’t be included on this list (it doesn’t really fit here).

Matthew 7 suggests that the most valid of these is the 4th one. A true prophet produces good fruit. False prophets can also be productive… but what they produce is ultimately worthless or counterproductive. The issue here is then not success.  False prophets can be quite successful. So what might be some good fruit?

  • Truth. A true prophet says what is true. Truth is identified in confirming to what is true. If God is true, the Bible is true, and the Created Word is true, then what the prophet reveals must conform to it. The words of the prophet must speak of God in line with the character of God. It must also conform to canon (the Holy Bible). It must also conform to Creation. So if a prophet was one who retells the future, most don’t, the words must conform to that future.
  • Moral good.  A true prophet must be fruit-bearing… but such fruit must be a moral good. So if prophet seeks wealth or power (a la Simon Magus) then the person is not a true prophet. If the prophet places him/herself above morality, then the person is false. When the prophet appears to be working at odds to God or the church, one should be concerned. (Note of course that a prophet, like Jeremiah, sometimes preaches against God’s people to encourage them to return to God.)

So let’s consider possible false prophets:

Hananiah.  Jeremiah 28.  Did Hananiah know he was a false prophet. Not sure. He was a court prophet, meaning that he served the king. There is an inherent challenge to serve both God AND king. Nathan appeared to be able to do it. Hananiah clearly wasn’t up to the task. He ended up telling the king and leaders of Judah what they wanted to hear. Ultimately, his message was proven false. His false message also led people to do the wrong thing— keep on keeping on.

Harold Camping.  Harold Camping is a different type of false prophet. For those who don’t know, Camping made several predictions over around 17 as to the return of Christ. He would probably be described as a Christian. Most would probably use the term “born-again” to describe him. As such, we might be uncomfortable calling him a false prophet. Also, he may not have self-identified as a prophet. Instead of saying that he is an accurate sharer of God’s message. However, he did claim to accurately discover and share secrets in the Bible. In reality, he was filtering the Bible through the dubious frameworks of numerology and pretrib-style dispensationalism. Unfortunately, bad came of it. Many Christians bought into this message… and then were disappointed.  100 million dollars was siphoned into a world-wide Christian message campaign that was false. Camping sold off many of his radio stations for this (at least he wasn’t doing this for the money). Non-Christians were given added confirmation that Christians were gullible. And since the message was linked to the Bible as if the predictions actually came from the Bible (although they didn’t), so some people would understandably reject the Bible.

Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj.  This is a recent self-styled prophet in a somewhat classic stereotype (claiming special powers to foretell based on information from God). He has made lots of prophecies with very little success. But in each case there is a contingent aspect to the prophecy to cover his back side. There is nothing wrong with that I suppose. But after awhile one must wonder if he is just a faker. Certainly, he has benefited from the celebrity status accorded him by those faithful to him. Some people have been able to overlook his bad foretelling, and his bad theology (like the Prophet Joel floating around the conference that he was speaking at). But some believed one of his predictions so much, that they either (1) fooled a major network to create a false news story, or (2) a member of that network did it intentionally. Certainly not good stuff. Falsifying news stories to provide veracity to a false message is truly wrong. Instead of rehashing this painful story… please just review my previous posts on this.