Paul had warned that bad theology undermines faith:
· See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8; ESV)
Bad theology can take us captive. Sometimes, it can even look benign:
· Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
Paul argued that even the smallest morsel of bad doctrine can undermine the entirety of our faith:
· You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:7-9)
A little bit of bad teaching can contaminate everything. I know that this sounds unbelievable, but just think about a computer virus. It’s just a small bit of information, but it can destroy your computer. The same seems to pertain to our faith.
Let’s take a couple of examples. Universalism is the belief that everyone will be saved in the end. They argue that, since God is love, He would never condemn His creations to an endless hell. However, this one simple belief contradicts the entire Bible.
Why should any bother to read the Bible if they are going to be saved anyway. The Christian life is not easy. We are called to suffer (2 Cor. 4:10-11). Why then live for Christ? Why be obedient if all will be saved?
The same goes for prayer, confession, repentance, and certainly evangelism. I would be ashamed to tell anyone that they need to come to Christ if they are going to heaven regardless. In fact, if all are to be saved, nothing in the Bible is of any real consequence. Better to eat, drink, and be merry!
Many other heresies will also undermine the entirety of the faith. Mysticism is becoming fantastically popular. Mysticism is the belief that we can enjoy the love and blessings of God without certain beliefs and doctrines. All that is necessary is the practice of certain mindless techniques/exercises like meditation to clear the mind, visualizations, repetitions of a single word, or imaginations.
If we can experience the love of God through the various mystical exercises, who needs the Bible, confession, repentance, faith, and obedience. Mysticism makes them all irrelevant. However, their various techniques are entering the Church like a tsunami.
Why? Progressives are coming to believe that experience, rather than our opposing beliefs, will bring world unity. Sociologist Tony Campolo wrote:
· A theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God…I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism. (Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, 108)
According to Campolo, we can plug into God through mystical techniques and experiences, and this common experience can become the basis of “common ground” among the various religions. He claims that he has been able to achieve “intimacy with Christ” through “centering prayer” (113). For him, this involves the repetition of the name of Jesus. However, he suggests that Muslims – and probably others – may also be able to achieve this same “intimacy with Christ” through the use of similar mystical techniques. If this is so, then theology and doctrine are no longer important. Instead, they build walls and present obstacles.
However, Campolo’s hope that people of different religions are experiencing our God lovingly and savingly is biblically absurd. Without having been reconciled to God through His Son, we cannot enter into His presence; nor would we want to. Israel had been so terrified by the manifestations of God on Mt. Sinai that they thought they would die (Deut. 5:25).
The Temple stood as a constant reminder that anyone not authorized to approach God would be struck dead. Even the authorized could only approach after lengthy preparations.
Jesus reiterated that fact that, naturally speaking, we hate the light of the presence of God:
· And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Jesus, therefore, is the last One the unredeemed would want to encounter. What then are they encountering when they claim to have an encounter with God through exercising their techniques? Paul had warned:
· For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Where then can we find safety from demonic deception and demonic encounters? Only through Christ and through His Word!