Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Marks of the Modern False 'Therapeutic' Gospel

The devil has infiltrated much of the modern church
and ministries to such a great extent
that they are disseminating and promulgating
a false man-centered, therapeutic 'gospel',
which is no gospel at all.
In essence, the misguided church says to Jesus:
"We have corrected Your work".

I agree with David Powlison who writes:

"The church has shifted course.
It has decided to meet instinctual human cravings

It has decided to BEND its message to felt needs,
rather than calling forth the high, holy, and difficult freedom of faith working through love.
Jesus’ biblical example and message
are deemed too hard for weak souls,
and the church has decided to make it easy."

Powlison describes the 'therapeutic gospel' as:
"...structured to give people what they want,
not to change what they want.
It centers exclusively around the welfare of man
and temporal happiness.
It discards the glory of God in Christ.
It forfeits the narrow, difficult road
that brings deep human flourishing and eternal joy.
This therapeutic gospel accepts and covers
for human weaknesses,
seeking to ameliorate
the most obvious symptoms of distress.
It makes people FEEL better."

The modern, middle-class version of therapeutic gospel takes its its cues from this particular family of desires...

 * I want to feel loved for who I am,
   to be pitied for what I’ve gone through,
   to feel intimately understood,
   to be accepted unconditionally;

   * I want to experience a sense of personal significance
     & meaningfulness,
     to be successful in my career,
     to know my life matters,
     to have an impact;

* I want to gain self-esteem,
  to affirm that I am okay,
  to be able to assert my opinions and desires;

* I want to be entertained,
  to feel pleasure
  in the endless stream of performances
  that delight my eyes and tickle my ears;

* I want a sense of adventure, excitement, action,
  and passion
  so that I experience life as thrilling and moving.

These are today’s significant felt needs that the gospel is BENT to serve. Jesus and the church exist to make you feel loved, significant, validated, entertained, and charged up.

...today’s therapeutic gospel...bypasses the sinful human heart. You are not the AGENT of your deepest problems, but merely a SUFFERER and VICTIM of unmet needs. The offer of a cure skips over the sin-bearing Savior. Repentance from unbelief, willfulness, and wickedness is not the issue. Sinners are not called to a U-turn and to a new life that is life indeed. Such a gospel massages SELF-LOVE. There is nothing in its inner logic to make you love God and love any other person besides yourself. This therapeutic gospel may often mention the word "Jesus," but He has morphed into the meeter-of-your-needs, not the Savior from your sins.
It corrects Jesus’ work.
The therapeutic gospel unhinges the gospel.

Powlison contrasts the false therapeutic gospel with:


The REAL gospel is good news of the Word made flesh,
the sin-bearing Savior,
the resurrected Lord of lords:
"I am the living One,
I was dead,
and behold,
I am alive forevermore"
~ Revelation 1:18

This Christ turns the world upside down.
The Holy Spirit rewires our sense of FELT need
as one prime effect of His inworking presence and power.
we keenly feel a different set of needs
when God comes into view
and when we understand that we stand or fall in His gaze. My instinctual cravings are replaced...by the growing awareness of true, life-and-death needs:

 * I need mercy above all else:
   "Lord, have mercy upon me";
   "For Your name’s sake, pardon my iniquity
    for it is very great"

 * I want to learn WISDOM,
    and UNlearn willful self-preoccupation..

* I need to learn to love both God and neighbor:
  "The goal of our instruction is love
   that comes from a pure heart,
   a good conscience,
   and a sincere faith";

* I long for God’s Name to be honored,
  for His kingdom to come,
  for His will to be done on earth;

* I want Christ’s glory, lovingkindness,
   and goodness to be seen on earth,
   to fill the earth as obviously as water fills the ocean;

* I need God to change me from who I am by instinct,
  choice, and practice;

* I want Him to deliver me from my obsessive
  to slay my lust for self-vindication,
  so that I feel my need for the mercies of Christ,
  so that I learn to treat others gently;

* I need God’s mighty and intimate help
   in order to will and to do
   those things that last unto eternal life,
   rather than squandering my life on vanities;

* I want to learn how to endure hardship and suffering
  in hope,
  having my faith simplified, deepened, and purified;

* I need to learn to worship, to delight, to trust,
  to give thanks, to cry out, to take refuge, to hope;

* I want the resurrection to eternal life:
  "We groan within ourselves,
  waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons,
  the redemption of our body";

* I need God Himself:
  "Show me Your glory";
  "Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus."

Make it so, Father of mercies.
Make it so, Redeemer of all that is dark and broken.

Which gospel will you live? Which gospel will you preach? Which needs will you awaken and address in others? Which Christ will be your people’s Christ? Will it be the christette who massages felt need? Or the Christ who turns the world upside down and makes all things new?

The Grand Inquisitor [of Dostoevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov')] was very tender-hearted towards human felt need—very sympathetic to the things that all people everywhere seek with all their heart, very sensitive to the difficulty of changing anyone. But he proved to be a monster in the end... It is ultimately cruel to leave people in their sins, captive to their instinctive desires, in despair, under curse. The current therapeutic gospel sounds tender-hearted at first. It is so sensitive to pressure points of ache and disappointment. But in the end it is cruel and Christ-less.

~ David Powlison

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