What Jesus (not the real one, but the one who came to our church on Sunday), Steve Chalke and the Prosperity Preachers have in common

Jesus came to church on Sunday – at least that’s who he said he was – and, alas, he didn’t much like it. So offensive is my preaching in his name, apparently, that he’s going to get the police to come and shut us down. His need for the police, I thought, rather undermined his claim to be the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given, but hey, it’s not every Sunday that Jesus gets up in the middle of the service and starts ranting at everyone.

As if ‘Jesus’ interrupting the service wasn’t bad enough, later on Sunday I encountered some prosperity preachers. To be fair, they were a lot friendlier and smilier than the fake-Jesus, but under the surface their messages were grounded in something very similar. You see, fake-Jesus got really annoyed with me when I tried to tell him what the Bible says, but he was quite happy to quote a few Bible verses to suit his purposes. So, when the Bible fitted in with his message, it was the authoritative Word of God to condemn us, but when the Bible contradicted what he was saying, suddenly it was a case of ‘Don’t tell me what the Bible says – this is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you!’ And while the prosperity preachers weren’t claiming to be Jesus, getting angry because we had missed his return, or chastising us for our prayers or our preaching, their attitude to the Scripture is remarkably similar (if somewhat smilier and more polite).

Like fake-Jesus, the prosperity preachers are happy to quote the Bible when it fits their message, but aren’t quite so happy when the Bible contradicts their falsehoods. When Scripture might go against the ‘man of God’, suddenly it’s the voice of the Holy Spirit that’s important, and which is used to sweep away the inconvenient Scriptures.

In other words, both fake-Jesus and the prosperity preachers set themselves up as a higher authority than Scripture. On paper they might deny this, but paper and practice aren’t always the same thing. It becomes a case of ‘Scripture is authoritative, as long as it says what I think it should say’, though, of course, when bits are rejected, it’s not attributed to human judgement, but ‘the voice of the Spirit’. (Just in case any one’s confused on this point, in reality the Scriptures themselves are the voice of the Spirit, so He’s not going to say something different now that contradicts them!)

Then on Monday, I woke up to find someone had sent me Steve Chalke’s article on the Bible, and there again was another example of the same thing – the authority of Scripture being undermined by parts being rejected. And again, it’s the ‘voice of the Spirit’ that gets the blame (though in a very different way).

So there you go: a three-pronged attack on the Bible in the church, but all boiling down to the same thing – placing us over Scripture as its judge rather than humbly submitting to the Word which God has spoken. Here we have three seemingly very different groups/ideologies – for lack of better names, I’ll call them the ‘crazy-fringe charismatics’, the ‘word of faith charismatics’, and the ‘liberals’ – but ultimately they’re all making the same attack.