What constitutes a “False Teacher”? Different people have different definitions, ranging from very specific requirements which must be met before being labeled a false teacher, to simply having a different theology. Scripture is very clear, however, when it teaches that someone who is a false teacher is someone who is trying to subvert the gospel, and/or lead a person away from Christ, and away from God.
It is safe to say that all false teachers will hold to one or more of the following:
1. An unbiblical view of God,
2. An unbiblical view of Jesus,
3. An unbiblical gospel.
For instance, Modalism teaches that there is one God who exists in three different modes or manifestations, either appearing as the Father, or as the Son, or as the Holy Spirit. Partialism teaches that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are each one-third, or equal parts of God. Although those who hold these positions still say they believe in and teach the Trinity, both Modalism and Partialism are obviously much different than the biblical teaching of one God in three distinct but inseparable persons, which is the orthodox teaching of the Triune God that has been held by the Church since its inception.
Therefore, a false teacher is someone who teaches a different God, a different Jesus, and/or a different Gospel; or, rejects the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. These are the essentials of the Christian faith, doctrines that are non-negotiable, and which one must believe in order to have salvation. Other doctrines, such as methods or modes or baptism, eschatological beliefs, young earth vs old earth creationism, etc. These are all secondary and tertiary doctrines which do not effect our salvation. Someone can believe and teach something other than what the Bible teaches on these subjects and still not be a false teacher. They may be in error, and be a questionable teacher, but they are not a heretic. Those who fall within the defined boundaries of a false teacher, however, are most certainly heretics, and are servants of the devil.
It is vitally important to know and understand, that the only foolproof way of recognizing false teachers and their false teachings, is to know the Word of God. The importance of daily reading and daily studying the Bible cannot be over emphasized. It is only when you know what the truth is, that you will be able to recognize a lie or a partial truth (both of which are equally bad). In addition to these two essential disciplines or practices of the Christian, one should also be involved with a biblically sound local body of believers, and engage in at least weekly corporate worship of our Lord. This is the practical example set forth by God throughout the Bible, and clearly what He expects from us. The Christian should also engage in daily family devotions (including reading and study) with his or her spouse and children (assuming one is married, and possibly with children). Ideally, this would be the responsibility of the husband as set forth in God’s Word; however, if no husband is available for whatever reason, the believing mother is responsible for teaching her children. Knowing the Word, and being in close communion with God, will result in phenomenal discernment, rock solid assurance, and faith beyond measure.
1. Word of Faith, Hyper-Charismatic, New Apostolic Reformation, Faith Healers.
Those who are aligned with these groups all believe one or more of the following heretical beliefs:
A. Health and Wealth. Also known as the “prosperity gospel,” this is the belief that God has guaranteed good health and financial prosperity to all Christians as they are the benefits of Jesus’ death on the cross. These teachers will often tell their followers they must “plant a seed” or a “seed vow” in the form of a financial donation to their ministry in order to demonstrate their faith to God. Of course, the more money you send them, the greater your faith must be, and so the more you send, the more you can expect to receive. It is not unlike a spiritual Ponzi scheme where the minister just gets richer and richer, and the followers just lose their money. The Health and Wealth doctrine has no actual basis in Scripture, in spite of the twisted meanings the Prosperity Preachers give to the Scriptures.
B. Unbiblical Manifestations of the Spirit. These include ecstatic babbling in a nonsensical non-language, barking, growling, howling, hysterical laughing, running around, flopping around on the floor, getting “drunk,” “high,” or otherwise intoxicated on the Holy Spirit, uncontrollable jerking and spasms of the body, and similar manifestations. These are not the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and they have no basis whatsoever in Scripture.
C. The Kenotic Doctrine. This heretical doctrine states that while He was on earth Jesus set aside, or abandoned, or was otherwise stripped of His Divinity and/or Divine attributes and/or abilities. These teachers will use passages such as Philippians 2:5-8, which they will twist and eisegete in order to get it to support their teaching. The reality is, however, that Jesus did not set aside or abandon His Divinity, nor His Divine abilities, nor was He stripped of them. If He had been then He would have ceased to be God, and the Trinity would have ceased to exist, instead being only a biunity. The Kenotic Jesus which is taught by the Word of Faith preachers and teachers is a different Jesus, and not the Jesus of Scripture. Not the Christian Jesus.
D. Atonement in Hell. This is the belief that when He died, Jesus descended into hell where He was subjected to the horrors and tortures of hell at the hands of the devil and the demons. It was through His suffering in hell that Jesus atoned for our sins. This doctrine is also taught by the New IFB movement. The Bible is very clear that it is Jesus’ shed blood and death on the cross alone that atones for the sins of believers. The Jesus that had to suffer in hell to atone for sin is not the same Jesus that atoned on the cross. The Jesus that had to suffer in hell is a different Jesus, and not the Jesus of Scripture. Not the Christian Jesus.
E. The Born Again Jesus. This is the belief that Jesus, because He was a man, and died as a man, and took upon Himself all of the sin of mankind, He was then a sinner and needed to be born again. This is an obvious heretical teaching, yet many in the Word of Faith movement believe and teach it. However, to say that God Himself is a sinner and needed to be born again is blasphemy. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5 and elsewhere all teach that Jesus was completely without sin. He was sinless. The Jesus that was a sinner and needed to be born again is not the Jesus of the Bible. It is a different Jesus. Not the Jesus of Scripture, and not the Christian Jesus.
F. The Little Gods Doctrine. This is the belief that as a child of God, the believer is, in fact, also divine – a “little god” (small “g” as these teachers say) in fact, with the ability to create just as God Himself did. Some of these teachers will explain it something like this: “Each kind begets according to its own kind. Dogs beget dogs, cats beget cats, horses begets horses, and God begets gods.” While this sounds reasonable, and it certainly gets their followers excited, it has no basis in Scripture. If these teachers and their followers would just read their Bible they would see that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Believers are not begotten by God, they are adopted into God’s family.
G. Extra-Biblical Revelation. Quite often these teachers and preachers will claim to have received a “word of knowledge” or a “word from the Lord.” Sometimes they will go so far as to claim that Jesus or God the Father was visibly with them and speaking to them. Obviously, any word that comes from God to us is inspired and on the same level as Scripture. If it comes directly from God, then it is inspired Scripture. The very word inspired means “God-breathed.” It means that it came directly from God. That is why the prophecies from the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist are considered Scripture, and are written down in the Bible. For these teachers, or anyone for that matter, to say that God told them, or they have a word from the Lord, or God revealed to them, etc., then they are saying that whatever the thing is, it is equal to Scripture. This is a form of gnosticism. This is not to say that God doesn’t lead His people to do things or think things. He does. But the only time God tells us something or reveals something to us it is in the Bible. Scripture is how God talks to us. Scripture is how God reveals things to us.
This includes groups and movements such as the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, the New Independent Fundamental Baptist (New IFB) movement, Westboro Baptist Church, and other similar (far too many to mention individually here) churches, organizations, and movements. There are several characteristics that identify these churches, groups, and individuals.
A. Hyper-Literal Interpretation of Scripture. These groups are characterized by their strict adherence to a hyper-literal understanding of every word, verse, and passage in the Bible – even when it is clear the author is speaking metaphorically, poetically, prophetically, etc.
B. King James Onlyism. They are also characterized by the strict adherence to King James Onlyism – the belief that the King James Bible, and only the King James Bible, is the literal, inspired, inerrant, infallible, supernaturally preserved holy word of God. Hyper-Fundamentalists also seem to find it necessary to state “King James Version,” or “King James Bible,” or KJV1611” or some derivative of these every time the quote a passage of Scripture. It should be noted that there are a relative few of these churches, groups, and individuals who use the King James version, but do not place such an idolatrous emphasis on it as most of them do.
C. Hatred. These groups are primarily known for their hatred, which they express at every available opportunity, and in some of the vilest ways imaginable. Many are at least vaguely familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church and its protesting of military funerals, usually holding up many signs and placards slandering the deceased and God as well by attributing to Him Westboro’s sinful beliefs. Westboro is not the only group in this category that expresses hatred publicly. The numerous churches in the New IFB movement also like to express their hatred. More often than not, two groups of people are targeted by the New IFB as recipients of hate-filled diatribes: Those who disagree with their many false teachings, and homosexuals. They completely disregard the words of the Bible in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which tells us that homosexuality and other heinous sins are still forgivable to those who truly repent and place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
3. Progressive/Liberal Christianity
This category includes the Emerging Church Movement, as well as Liberation Theology/Social Justice/Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality, and other forms of Marxist ideology––also known as The “Woke” Church movement; as well as those churches, groups, organizations, and individuals who take snippets from each of these subgroups, and mix them together in an effort to be relevant to the dominant social culture of the society they live in. Some mainline “Christian” denominations have become very progressive and liberal, embracing ecumenism, homosexuality, abortion, and more, and labeling them all as Christian. Some of these denominations include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church – USA (PCUSA), the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church of America, and others. The five categories of Progressive/Liberal Christianity are The Emergent Church, Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and the “Woke” Church. There are, of course, other aspects of Progressive and Liberal beliefs in some churches and individuals that do not neatly fit these five categories. However, the vast majority of Progressive and Liberal “Christians” will subscribe to one or more aspects of the following categories.
A. The Emergent Church. The Emergent, or, Emerging Church movement was characterized by the eisegetical teachings of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and other Emergent Church Movement leaders. Many, if not all of these individuals reject historic biblical Christianity, and instead focus on culturally relevant issues of the days such as environmentalism, social justice, etc. They also tend to focus on being relevant in a post-modern, post-Christian culture. They do this by trying to incorporate the dominant social culture of the society they live in, into the Scriptures. This form of eisegetical teaching and preaching does nothing but lead people away from God, and into the culture they are trying to mimic, which, of course, leads to more and more apostasy, heresy, and rejection of God.
Some characteristics of the Emergent Church are:
• An inclusive approach to different religions and religious belief systems.
• Emphasizing creating a relationship with others as opposed to sharing the gospel with them.
• A rejection, whether whole or partial, of historic Christian beliefs, traditions, creeds and confessions, etc.; preferring a loose, casual, informal, “coffee shop approach” to worship. Almost like a resurgence of the stereotypical “hippie” gatherings.
• The use of various objects to create a “welcoming atmosphere” during worship. These objects include candles, statues, icons, incense, poetry readings, open mic periods, videos, ethereal music and sounds, etc. Some or all of these (and other) gimmicks are used by the Emergent Church.
B. Liberation Theology. Popularized by liberal theologian James H. Cone, Liberation Theology (and its inevitable offshoots such as Black Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Queer Theology, etc.) is based on, and focuses on, the Social Justice paradigm of the oppressed vs the oppressors. To some extent, Liberation Theology can also be found in the Social Justice movement, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, LGBTQ+ ideology––literally the whole gamut of “Woke” ideology and theology. In each of these subgroups, it is believed that Jesus identifies with oppressed people (generally with the people group represented by each subgroup being the most oppressed and therefore Jesus identifies most with them––i.e. LGBTQ+ ideology claims that homosexuals are the most oppressed, Black Liberation Theology claims that Blacks are the most oppressed, and so on and so forth). The actual gospel is replaced with a call for reparations of some sort, whether money or recognition, or equal rights, etc., for each particular group. These reparations apparently serve to both lead those making the reparations to salvation of some sort (the greater and more often the reparations the more the person moves toward salvation––this is an unbiblical works based salvation), as well as leading those who receive the reparations to salvation, with the more they receive, the greater their salvation. This is contrary to the Bible’s teaching that we will receive our rewards (not reparations) in heaven, not here on earth. Liberation Theology in itself, as well in all of its subgroups, is based on pride, greed, and hatred. It is about as antithetical to biblical Christianity as it can be.
C. Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is best defined by those who subscribe to it, as well as teach and promote it, as encompassed in what they call the “Five Tenets of CRT.” They are:
•1. Racism is Ordinary. This tenet states that the majority (i.e. “White”) culture promotes “color blindness” and “meritocracy” (people are chosen based on their abilities). The purpose of these is to marginalize people of color, by helping White people maintain their power and positions of authority within society. They also allow Whites to not bear responsibility for the hardships of people of color. They also serve to promote racism and white supremacy, both of which are inherent within all White people, whether they realize it or not.
•2. “Interest Convergence.” This is the belief that Whites will allow and support racial justice and progress only to the extent that there is something positive in it for them. In other words, a “convergence” between the interests of Whites and people of color.
•3. The “Social Construction Thesis.” This is the belief that that concept of race was conceived and constructed by Whites, specifically for the purpose of creating and causing detrimental loss, injury, and damaging harm to people of color.
•4. “Storytelling” and “Counter-Storytelling.” These are based on the belief that “storytelling” (and its opposite, “counter-storytelling”) has the ability to “accurately” explain the untruthfulness of certain beliefs that are commonly believed to be true, and to unlearn help people (primarily children) to unlearn them (presumably in order to learn a “new truth” that fits the CRT narrative). The ideas of “storytelling” and “counter-storytelling” have allegedly become necessary due to schools not being neutral spaces that treat everyone justly (here is that common aspect of social justice). CRT advocates believe and teach that all school curricula across the nation are structured around mainstream, White, middle-class values, thus causing a continual widening of the racial achievement gap.
•5. Whites Are The Actual Recipients of Civil Rights. This is the strongly held belief that it has been Whites, and not minorities, who have been the actual recipients of civil rights, and affirmative action legislation; and both of these are designed to best serve Whites, rather than actual minorities (specifically racial minorities).
There is nothing about CRT that is remotely biblical; and, in fact, is actually contrary to the clear and explicit teaching of Scripture which tells us that there are only two types of people in this world: the saved and the unsaved. It teaches is that those of us who are saved are all one body, the body of Christ, the temple – both individually and collectively, of the Holy Spirit. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male of female. There is no distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised, no distinction between barbarian and Scythian, nor between slave and freeman. These categories of people are from Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11, and they encompass racial distinctives, ethnic differences, social classes, and any other differences and distinctives that the world places on people. They are all done away with at the point of salvation, because they are of the world, and not of God. We are all one in Christ. We are all exactly the same. We shed our culturally driven, fleshly identities, and become a new creation in Christ Jesus. CRT is behind us, and beneath us as Christians.
D. Intersectionality. Intersectionality teaches that people are defined by an interconnected group of social categorizations such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, weight, physical appearance, height, age, disabilities, and other “identity markers” as determined by the dominant culture. It teaches that each of these “identity markers” are intersecting one another, and will cause the person they identify to be either empowered or, more likely, marginalized and oppressed. The more of these intersectional identity markers one has, the greater their oppression will be. In other words, people (specifically non-White, and non-White males) are often disadvantaged, marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against due to multiple interdependent sources of oppression.
Intersectionality creates victims, with many people vying for the category of “most victimized.” It also serves to divide people, and create hostility between these divisions. It is clearly antithetical to the Bible, and should be avoided by Christians.
E. The “Woke Church” Movement. Those within the Church who are considered or consider themselves “Woke” (whether they admit it or not), have taken bits and pieces and snippets from the above listed Progressive and Liberal groups and movement, and applied them to themselves. These people will often disdain Bible believing Christians, and tend to embrace the dominant culture as a method of “reaching the lost within the culture.” And while they are reaching the lost, they are not reaching them with the Jesus of the Bible, nor the God of the Bible, nor the gospel of the Bible. They offer a different version, a worldly centered version, of each of these. While we should not be quick to label every professing Christian who is “woke” as a false teacher and heretic, we should view their teachings and beliefs as potentially dangerous, and possibly heretical. Each of their teachings and beliefs must be carefully examined by comparing them to what the Bible actually teaches.
4. Seeker Sensitive / Purpose Driven Movements. Sometimes known as “Circus Church,” these churches are intent upon entertainment and pandering to the fleshly natures of unbelievers (and spiritually immature believers as well) as a method of enticing people to attend their churches, and thus grow their attendance numbers (as well as increasing the amount dropped in the offering buckets and boxes). Once they get these people into their church, they will entertain them with musical numbers, laser light shows, comedy skits, zoo animals, sideshow attractions, and more. When they finally get around to presenting a “sermon,” it is primarily designed to make the audience feel good about themselves. Rarely, if ever, is the true biblical gospel ever presented. If a gospel is presented, it will usually be a watered down, non-condemnatory, feel good version that does nothing in the way of actually presenting salvation in a biblical manner. Although the Seeker Sensitive and Purpose Driven churches tend to be mega-churches with the ability seat thousands in their auditoriums, not all large churches subscribe to these methods. Additionally there are numerous small churches that have adopted the Seeker Sensitive and Purpose Driven methods in an effort to boost their attendance numbers.
5. Pseudo-Christian Churches and Groups. These are churches, groups, organizations, and individuals that present themselves as Christians, calling themselves Christians, etc, but whose doctrines and beliefs demonstrate that they are not Christians, but rather “Pseudo-Christian” or “false Christian.” Churches, groups, organizations, and individuals that fall into this category range from well established organizations such as the Mormon church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Seventh-day Adventism (there is debate as to whether or not the SDA is actually Christian. Please see the entry, Seventh-day Adventism for more information on this), The Roman Catholic Church, the Hebrew Roots movement, Black Hebrew Israelites, Children of God, The Way International, The Worldwide Church of God, The Unity School of Christianity, the New Thought groups, The Jesus People, LGBTQ+ “Churches,” and others; to smaller groups and churches, and even individuals. What ties them all together, however, is their denial of the essential beliefs of historic biblical Christianity––namely those beliefs that one must hold as a true biblical Christian. Denial of these beliefs is a denial of true biblical Christianity. As with all of the denominations, groups, organizations, movements, and individuals mentioned herein, what they believe and teach must be compared to the clear teaching of Scripture, in order to determine if their beliefs and teachings are actually biblical and true, or lies from the devil.
6. Non-Christian Cults and Religious Movements. This category would include those cults, groups, and religious movements that are clearly not Christian, and do not claim to be Christian. This would include Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shamanism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Bahá'í, Paganism, Spiritism, Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation, some forms of Gnosticism, Swedenborgianism, and other similar groups. These religions and religious movements are not based in Christianity or the Bible, and they do not make any claims to be. As Christians, we are to view them as simply another part of the world, and those who follow those religions as lost and unbelieving sinners. They still need salvation, they still need prayer, and they still need someone to be sincerely concerned for their spiritual well-being. It goes without saying that Christians cannot embrace any form of ecumenism with these groups, and any attempt to do so would be an affront to God, and a grievous sin.
7. Occultism. The word Occultism simply refers to theories and practices that involve a belief in, knowledge of, and use of supernatural forces or beings, and mystical and/or magickal beliefs, practices, or phenomena. The term does not simply refer to Satanism and Witchcraft (which are obviously Occult in nature), but it also refers Theosophy, Astrology, Astral Projection and Spirit Travel, Palmistry, Dowsing, Fortune Telling, the Enneagram, and other forms of divination, Spiritism, Ouija Boards, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Spiritualism, Mysticism, Metaphysical groups, the New Age groups, the Magick groups, some forms of Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and other beliefs and practices that fall firmly into the realm of the occult.