For a while now I’ve been meaning to publish my personal testimony regarding different theological viewpoints. What I found interesting as I drafted the post is that it was a very multifaceted journey. I tend to describe it with a focus on one particular false gospel that I had believed before God brought me to the true gospel of Christ, but in reality, there were several different chapters in my story where one false gospel was preeminent and then another took its place in a different season. The reason I’d like to do a series on this subject is because I don’t think my experience is all that unique – the idols I worshipped in the name of Christianity are all very common ones. (And it also appealed to my linguistics-loving brain to realize they all start with a P. So, there’s that. Perfect recipe for a blog series.)
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the false gospels we see in either the organized Western church or the universal body of professing Christians. But I do see these three idols (which openly masquerade as Christ’s gospel) demonstrated in many of the most popular books, megachurches, music, and ideologies of contemporary Christian culture:
1. The Prosperity/Positivity Gospel
This false gospel essentially portrays God as a genie whose ultimate priority is our happiness and fulfillment. It could be separated in two categories, but I think they’re the same thing deep down. This post will deal with both the more explicit and heretical prosperity movement (think of Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and so on) which deals with tangible expressions of prosperity like health and wealth, as well as the more subtle teaching that worships emotional prosperity/positivity in a more intangible sense.
2. The Purity Gospel
This false gospel may be more common in regions like the southern United States or in denominations like Baptist fundamentalism, but it isn’t exclusively relegated to one place or space. This is the first false gospel I believed, personally. It places sexual purity above all other virtues and views believers who have failed sexually to be spiritually inferior in the eyes of God. The tricky thing about this false gospel is that it does value something that God values, but it does not have a holistic view of sin and redemption and it tends to treat sexual purity as a god in and of itself.
3. The Productivity Gospel (or pragmatism gospel)
This false gospel is also difficult to talk about because of its subtlety, perhaps even more than the purity gospel. It tends to have godly motivations on the surface level. It is often carried hand-in-hand with the true gospel . . . unfortunately similar to how the Israelites often followed some of the mandates of Yahweh while also worshipping the gods of the surrounding culture. The productivity gospel easily confuses the ends and the means, so that it aims for good goals of evangelism or sanctification but seeks to accomplish these goals through the elevation (and eventually the worship) of worldly systems and mechanisms. Pragmatism has always plagued the Church, of course. It’s just that our culture really values productivity above all things, and this is really an extension of pragmatic philosophies, so I think it deserves a full post of its own.
I’m aiming to have the first post published within the week, with each new post in the series published once every other day. And as always, if you have any thoughts or ideas regarding these topics or future series, please comment and let us know.