“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
I dropped my wife off at an appointment the other day and had about an hour before picking her up. It just so happened that a national chain bookstore was located around the corner, so I spent my time looking at books. I wasn’t shopping this time, just looking.
Have you ever noticed how Christian books are often located in the same area as Spirituality, New Age and Philosophy books? Having almost an hour to look gave me time to compare the books in the Christian section to books in the other nearby sections. You would expect to find BIG differences between them, right?
Unfortunately, the differences between Christian books published during the past 15-20 years and books in the Spirituality, New Age and Philosophy sections are getting smaller. I read about Hindu Yoga in the Spirituality section, then read a book about Christian Yoga in the Christian section. I used to be a student of Yoga and Hinduism, so I wasn’t convinced that going through the same poses and just replacing Christian thoughts for Hindu thoughts was a good idea.
I read books about New Agers having friendly conversations with Christians in the New Age section and Christians having friendly conversations with New Agers in the Christian section. The idea of both books was to find common ground for the purpose of successful engagement in those common beliefs. Having been involved in some New Age activities in my youth, I wasn’t convinced that choosing common ground for successful engagement between Christians and New Agers was a good idea.
When Did That Happen?
Do you sometimes find yourself asking yourself that question: When did that happen? When did books in Christian sections of libraries and bookstores start agreeing with non-Christian writings?
My parents were born in the early 20th century and their parents were born in the late 19th century. They told me stories about how religious liberalism affected Christianity during their teen and young adult years. One example was ‘religious naturalism’ (also known as ‘spiritual naturalism’), an attempt to remove supernaturalism from religion. Religious naturalists replaced supernaturalism with a worldview grounded in the natural sciences, humanities and the arts. They emphasized the ‘humanity’ of Jesus and de-emphasized His ‘divinity.’ They emphasized the dignity of humanity and de-emphasized what the Bible taught about the depravity of humanity. Humanity or Deity? Dignity or Depravity?
How To Recognize A Counterfeit?
Fast forward to my recent stroll through the bookstore and that’s what I found in many books in the Christian section: an emphasis on the dignity of humanity and humanity of deity. So, my question becomes – how can we recognize what’s credible from what’s counterfeit in books that are identified as being ‘Christian?’
You’ve probably heard this example before, but it bears hearing again in this context. The U.S. Secret Service trains bank tellers and others in how to detect counterfeit money. Here’s the first thing the Secret Service recommends:
“Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.” United States Secret Service
Here’s my takeaway from the Secret Service for how Christians can recognize a counterfeit book.
- Look at the suspect book, really look at it.
- Compare a suspect book with the genuine Book paying attention to the quality of what’s printed and truth characteristics.
- Look for differences, not similarities, between the suspect book and the genuine Book.
Banks train their tellers to recognize a counterfeit bill by having them study the real thing – credible bills. Christians need to go through the same kind of training to be able to recognize a counterfeit book from the credible Book, the Holy Bible. If you want to know what’s wrong, study what’s right.
In my humble opinion one of the main reasons Christians are falling for counterfeit books, teachers and churches is because they were poorly trained with the ‘credible’ Book. Instead of being able to recognize ‘differences’ between the Bible and books found in the Christian section of bookstores, many Christians can see only the ‘similarities.’ They think that because a book is in the Christian section of a bookstore, the author claims to be a Christian and mentions God and Christ a few times, that the book is spiritually safe and will build them up in the Christian faith. That’s a real danger and what counterfeit authors are counting on Christians doing.
Counterfeit authors know how to use ‘Christian’ language to fool Christians into thinking they are reading a Christian book. These authors use words and concepts that Christians recognize from attending church, religious groups and conferences. Because many Christians have not been trained to recognize counterfeit teaching, they fall into the traps of counterfeit teachers and authors.
One of the scary things about falling into the trap of a counterfeit teacher or author is that many Christians don’t realize they’re trapped. Counterfeit teaching includes a spiritual veil that leads Christians to believe they’re right where they should be as a believer in Jesus Christ. The problem with that thinking is counterfeit teaching doesn’t include something absolutely necessary for following Christ: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
Counterfeit teachers/authors may include ‘some’ of the things Jesus commanded, but they don’t include ‘all’ of the things Jesus commanded. They ‘pick and choose’ what supports their personal agenda and ‘twist’ plain teaching of Scripture. They also ‘add’ things to their sermons and books that are not in the Bible. Reminds me of something Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia:
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8-9
Learning about ‘all things’ Jesus commanded is a great way to begin learning how to see the ‘differences’ between what’s ‘credible’ and what’s ‘counterfeit’ in Christian writing and teaching.
We shouldn’t be surprised by any of these ‘differences’ between the writings in the Bible and the writings in many books found in Christian sections of book stores. It’s not like we didn’t see this coming:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:24-25
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 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 20:28-30
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4:1-3
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
How Can I Train To Recognize Counterfeit Books?
Paul’s answer to that question is easy to read, but hard to do.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The words ‘rightly dividing’ mean ‘cutting a straight line, handling correctly.’ It’s work, hard work, to train in ‘rightly dividing the word of truth,’ but it is absolutely worth it. In fact, anything less than ‘right division’ is disobedience to what God has commanded us to do.
At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul gave Timothy another piece of advice about ‘words’ to follow.
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Paul personally trained Timothy to believe the Word of God ‘rightly divided’ and told him to hold fast the pattern of ‘sound’ words which he had spoken to Timothy. They were the same words Paul had heard from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Timothy knew what was ‘counterfeit’ because Paul had taught him what was ‘credible.’ Paul told Timothy to commit those credible and sound words to ‘faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’ That’s our pattern and how we should train Christians today to detect counterfeit ‘Christian’ sermons and books.
What Do I Do If I Have Counterfeit Books In My Possession?
First, let’s get some advice from a credible author.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Just as we would ‘withdraw’ ourselves from a counterfeit teacher, we should withdraw from counterfeit books. Destroy them. Don’t give them away because someone else might read them and be drawn in by the lies. Destroy them.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”