Long Road to Ruin
By Pete Garcia
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” – Acts 20:29-30
With the passing of Jan Crouch last week, it brought to mind what we as Christians believe about ourselves in regards to what we consider doing God’s good work here on the earth. Moreover, what the world has come to think about the Americanized version of Christianity they see all over the television.
It used to be that the West sent out missionaries all over the world to the jungles and unchurched folk throughout the 18th-20th centuries in an attempt to preach the gospel and keep the mandate of making disciples of all nations. Nowadays, the modern missionary has a three piece suit, fancy cars, mansions, and a wife who probably spends more on makeup in a month, than what most people around the world make in a year.
The late Jan and Paul Crouch founded a televangelism empire with the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN). If we were to measure what the late Jan Crouch and her late husband Paul were able to accomplish in regards to earthly standards, they should be a resounding success. This empire operated successfully for decades and fiscally speaking, dealt in a realm of hundreds of millions of dollars. Operating successfully for 43 years and owning and operating six broadcasting networks. Their audience reach hits around 95% of American households who own a television. Not too shabby.
Yet, the bulk of televangelism isn’t built around preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because let’s face it, telling people that they’re destined for hell unless they repent isn’t all that popular a message, or even just theologically sound doctrine, because solid doctrine points you back to my first point. No, televangelism is usually built around the age old, time tested, snake-oil salesmanship. Televangelism is a multi-billion dollar industry that primarily feeds on the failed hopes and dreams of the poor, building up the emotional needs of the spiritually ignorant, and a stop-gap for the mostly churchless.
The hook is to make the view believe that if they sow their “seeds” of faith’ (seeds = money), that this somehow taps into the divine realm where God is forced to either meet their need, or give them a tenfold (as a minimum) return on their spiritual/financial investment. Presumably, since the Crouches’ and many, many others were able to tap into this desperation and make a comfortable living, what does that say about the state of biblical Christianity here in the West?
“These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” – Jude 1:12-13
The whole seed-faith doctrine began with men like William M. Branham and Oral Roberts in the 1950’s. With them, and the clowns dancing around the stages today proclaiming ‘blessings’ on people and “healings”, it seems to me at least, that they didn’t start out intending to become an apostate intentionally. Most in the ministry start out with good intentions. Even Judas Iscariot at the beginning, probably believed he was doing the right thing.
But two things are abundantly clear, the first is the road to ruin is always built with good intentions, and because it is inherent in our DNA to seek after self, which is a result of our sin nature. (Romans 3:10) Even so, I imagine at the outset the Crouches’ didn’t intend on ending up as they did, but success has a way of corrupting us. Now, not to give him too much credit, and while Satan isn’t omnipotent or omnipresent, he is a quick study on the nature of man, and knows that if he can’t destroy the Church, he is dang sure intent on corrupting it. And the same can be said for nations.
The United States was an experiment that took the best forms and practices of governance from many other nations and combined them into a constitutional republic that was protected by a divided government and a Bill of Rights. This allowed for the unprecedented economic explosion by unleashing the potential of the American worker to make his or her own fortunes. Along that same vein, early televangelists were simply entrepreneurs taking those same economic principles that had worked for many in the corporate world and applied it to the realm of mainstream Christianity, where the pickings were ripe for the taking.
Unfortunately, the “Greatest Generation” which came out of the horrors of World War II entered into a period of economic prosperity the likes of which the world had ever seen. This newfound abundance had a detrimental effect on orthodox Christianity by making it mainstream. Living the “American Dream” was as much a right as it was a destination, and belonging to a church or denomination became only slightly more important than it was to join the Masons or the Rotary Club. American church goers were lulled into the concept of being fed spiritually rather than feeding themselves and we got complacent. In our complacency, we grew spiritually lazy and content with where we were. It became more important to look the part than to be the part.
President Ronald Reagan once said;
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
The same could be said for Christianity. We don’t pass the salvific and finished work of Christ on to our children genetically, neither can it be obtained by our money. We might pass our denominational leanings on to our children, but never eternal salvation. Salvation has to be understood and believed by the individual. That means then that where biblical Christianity and government meet, is not with the former should rule over the latter because we as fallen (yet forgiven) humans would only offer up empty, bureaucratic religion. Rather, that the latter, should provide the open forum, where Christianity could compete on equal footing in the arena of ideas.
Christianity went toe to toe with polytheistic Rome and eventually won. But consider if the world were all like North Korea or all under Islamic rule. True, Christianity spreads under tyranny, but it doesn’t mature because most Christians in those circumstances are purely in survival mode, sticking to the basics since there isn’t time nor energy devoted to deep diving on non-salvific doctrines due to the sheer amount of wickedness forced upon them. Thus, while freedom allows for extended pursuits into the deeper things of God, it does allow for the wickedness of man to be exploited.
And while our Founders had the right intentions and all came out of the Judeo-Christian mindset, I’m sure they couldn’t even fathom religious cornucopia that would be available these days. Had they known or had the foresight, they probably would devoted more wording and energy to preserving the very religious system that even allows for a Bill of Rights to even function. (I’m pretty sure they didn’t imagine a future US President one day promoting Sharia Law over Christianity). That same freedom of religion we as Christians enjoyed for two hundred years, would eventually become an albatross around the neck of true biblical Christianity as today. Every quack pot religious idea is given equal weight to that of Christianity. (Think Jediism, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Satanism, etc.)
But since this world is currently under the temporary control of Satan, (Luke 4:5-6) he has done everything in his power to thwart the spreading of the Gospel. Unfortunately for him, when he persecuted the Church it only caused it to spread like wild fire. Since the 3rd century, he has found a much more effective tool against biblical Christianity, which is to corrupt the churches from within Christendom.
It began in Europe, and by the middle of the 19th century, the European mainline churches led the way into embracing liberalism. Liberalism led to heresy, apostasy, and eventually, the death of those churches. That luke-warmness spread from the European seminaries across the Atlantic to the American ones, and the disease continued to multiply amongst many learned theologians of influence. The freedom we had been afforded, had allowed for one of the most comprehensive hermeneutical pursuits Christianity had ever seen from the likes of Dispensational theology. But without true persecution and adversity, American Christianity began turning soft and by the mid-twentieth century and began producing a generation of theological light-weights. That might sound harsh, but how many churches today would tolerate the preachings of a Billy Sunday, and/or Charles Spurgeon?
One of the greatest lies Satan ever told the world was “you don’t need to make a decision about Christ right now, you have all the time in the world”. Complacency wrought about by economic prosperity had been extremely effective in transitioning the American church goer from being the spiritual head of their homes, to being zombie-esque pew warmers at church. The talent pool of shepherds coming out of the increasingly liberal seminaries became increasingly estranged in their theological teachings, while latching on to all sorts of unbiblical doctrines and practices because they could and none would be the wiser. Add to that a society in decline and you had all the necessary ingredients for a nation bound for apostasy.
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” – Matthew 24:3-5
At the time of Christ’s ministry, the Roman Empire was at its height of empirical and militaristic power. Rome also happened to be polytheistic in their religion, not really caring who people worshipped, so long as they paid homage to Caesar as well. Jesus, a Jewish Man from a backwater province of the Roman empire, along with 12 other rag-tag Jews that none of the Romans (save Pontius Pilate) had ever even heard of, made the audacious claim that one day at the end of the age, ‘many would come in His name, pretending to be Him’. He didn’t say that there would be many different gods coming forth, but that many false prophets would come and pretend to be Him.
And this is why the world moved away from the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman gods…because you can’t counterfeit something that isn’t real. Satan seized on what makes Christianity….Christian, and he twisted it. This is why for the past 200 years up until today we have had an explosion of pseudo Christian groups along with heretical movements primarily coming out of the United States and spreading around the world. From the social justice gospel to the word-faith movement (name it/claim it), the emergent church, Hebrew Roots, liberal theology, replacement theology, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, universalism, and many, many more have been flowing out like a counterfeit missionary movement.
And not to pick on TBN that much, but they took the concept of multiple gods, seemed to the Roman pantheon with their gods TBN and the like may not openly promote the ‘god of thunder’ or the polytheistic Mormonism, but they tend to present many different ‘Jesus’s’, who presumably can’t function divinely without our money…er, I mean ‘seeds of faith’. The constant barraging for money, along with the negative press these ‘wolves’ in suits bring about when their caught buying their jets and mansions, has left a bitter taste in the mouths of those who are watching from without. They aren’t alone.
To the church at Laodicea Jesus said;
“These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’-and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” – Revelation 3:14-17 Even so, MARANATHA!