By Omozuwa Gabriel Osamwonyi (07-08-2015)
Fela Kuti Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, for many reasons, will remain evergreen in our national memory. He was a maverick cultural icon that sought to illumine society’s conscience. He bravely spoke truth to power consistently. With his legendary Afro-beat creation, he fiercely fought to protect the fundamental rights of Nigerians to determine their future and elect leaders in accordance with democratic principles. For these and many more reasons, he enraged military dictatorships and was a victim of their brutal assaults. Almost pointless to state, the title of this article is a slight modification of his song, Teacher Don’t Teach me Nonsense.
More than ever before, pastors are prone to embrace errors and teach nonsense. It is apparent to every discerning believer that teachers of heresies are everywhere. Streams of error are as common as sand. Apostate teachers have access to revered pulpits and Christian television channels. First shocker, you are likely to find some on TBN. Well, it happens to be one of my favourite channels, that is why I know. These teachers of errors generally manifest as apostles of syncretism. Some infuse New Age concepts and practices like contemplative spirituality into Christianity. Others wed Christianity with Afro-Caribbean Spiritualities, amongst this group, are those who see God as a serial killer ever-gloating in the death of the wicked, or better said, in the death of their imaginary progress-retarding enemies. I see on TBN some religious teachers who syncretise Judaic customs with Christian doctrine and practice. And there are those who promote the rituals of Neo-paganism, polytheism fuelled by Eastern religions. They have given rise to a new form of phoney Christianity, which could be termed voodooistic Christianity.
One of the greatest Christian thinkers in modern era, C.S Lewis, aptly posited that: “When poisons become fashionable they do not cease to kill.” Regrettably, wells of poisonous errors are commonplace in the churches of Nigeria. Note, I didn’t say the Church in Nigeria. Worse still, is that our famed it-is-well attitude has blinded us to prophetic red flags. Hence, many heroes of faith are sleepwalking through terrains thick with landmines.
Let me offer some contextual clarifications before proceeding any further. Nonsense in this context denotes beliefs, doctrines, rites and rituals, or practices that are not rooted in scripture, yet are upheld by pastors. Any theology, deliverance methodology, prescriptive formulaic prayer, or practice that lacks sufficient biblical evidence espoused and observed by a pastor could be considered as ecclesiastical nonsense. In other words, whatever is against scripture is nonsense, regardless of the ecclesiastical pedigree of the purveyors.
To hold back the tide of heresies from eroding the foundation of truth requires consistent scripture-based spiritual enlightenment, a willingness to cast off from our minds pious fables that have formed multilayered refuge from harsh realities and expose the spirit of error. Error detection demands Berean-like vigilance, as opposed to uncritical acceptance of whatever emanates from the pulpit. I wish it could be said of Nigerian Christians as it was said in Acts 17: 11 that: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
In this day when it pays to market falsehoods, error exposure requires the fearlessness of Maccabean martyrs.
One of the befuddling ironies of our time is that wolves are leading sheep. Devourers parade as life coaches, ever churning out self-help books. Soul-care giver, which is a New Age terminology, is increasingly becoming popular amongst hype-charismatic. A pastor that designates himself as a soul-care giver is likely a courier of delusion, particularly, if he did it with full understanding, not that he is being faddish. One that prefers “As above, so below” to “as it is in heaven ... on earth” may be steep in New Age philosophy. Don’t be fooled into New Age mysticism. There are no “new territories of consciousness” to be explored.
One common attribute of sheep led by wolves is that their worldview is not Christ -centric, because the gospel proclaimed to them is largely man-centric. The need for pastors to make people feel good has given rise to a form of warped humanism. In many seeker-friendly churches, there is a gradual shift from God’s authority and capabilities to humanism, which is about faith in human-based morality, values and abilities. Sin rules and reigns where the righteousness of God, which comes by faith in Christ, is made secondary to human-based morality. The gospel of humanity according to humanity and for humanity is an obscene travesty of the Gospel of Christ.
The fountain of all error is to put man at the centre of theology and God at the fringes. Anthropocentric theology is not God-glorifying, faith-building or life-changing, at best, it is a psychological prop for world-wearily escapists hopping from one miracle arena to the other.
Ordinarily, these are danger signals. But our spiritual alarm system is dysfunctional. To expose error is to run the risk of being tagged an alarmist, or an outlier with humanistic sentiments. The big question of today is do we have sentinels like Apostle Paul in the watchtower of truth? For me, the critical need of our generation is spiritual shepherds who are committed to guiding our cherished apostolic legacies of true faith and maintaining high fidelity to scriptures in all things.
Believers are now pleased to be deceived on purpose and for purpose. Any pseudo-religious, psychology-based scheme that promises flourishing health and wealth holds a universal appeal in Christendom. This explains why some Christians will elatedly eat grass. It is the same reason why some husbands will allow their wives to sleep on the miracle-performing beds of apostles of fruitfulness.
Pastor Chris Okotie Last week, in the first part of this article, I argued that pastors are not immune to error. Ecclesiastical impostors are having a field day dredging up fables that impoverish the spiritual, mental, financial and emotional wellbeing of many. In fact, in a bid to make Christianity a syncretistic, money-spinning, show biz religion, some Nigerian pastors have inadvertently become couriers of delusion. It is worthy of reiteration, if a pastor is swayed by the spirit of seduction, he will be Satan’s bait to those within the orbit of his authority. Doom looms when people uncritically accept theological nonsense.
There is hardly any catastrophe as huge as having a pastor that is Satan’s bait to his flock. It fosters satanic colonisation of the minds of weak-knead churchgoers. Baits do numb minds. They induce false happiness, senseless actions and blind loyalty. It is safe to assume that was why some South African Christians eagerly ate grass under the instruction of their pastor, claiming it will get them “closer to God.” Generally, heresies have the effect of a lullaby, when dripping from the mouth of a respected preacher. Or better, tsetse-fly effect; causing the sleeping sickness of the soul. If a Christian starts listening to “doctrines of devils”, he would inevitably cultivate dangerous habits of the mind and become docile in Spirit, even though he may still be hyper-active in church.
It appears religious people do not primarily use their minds to seek truth, but to authenticate falsehood they wish were true. Hence, we sometimes justify twisted truth, condone apostates and castigate those who warn us about their antics. Largely, we do not bear in mind the forewarnings of Paul at Miletus to the pastoral elders of Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 20:29-31: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!”
As promised in the first part of this article, let me draw your attention to some mushrooming nonsense in the Nigerian church. I am not well predisposed to name and shame game; so, this is not to expose anyone to vulgar taunts, but to contribute to stemming the rising tide of error. Time and space will fail me to highlight many common errors. However, I will endeavour to state their working principles.
Nonsense number one: This witch-must-die syndrome, fall-down-and-die prayer. These nonsensical practices affront the integrity of God’s word. Spirits don’t die. Praying for the death of your perceived enemies is not consistent with biblical truth. Jesus is a life-giving saviour, not a terminator. He wants all men saved, not dead. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, not the doers (1 Jn. 3: 8). Hence, during his earthly ministry, he did not call angels from heaven to consume those who vehemently opposed him.
It seems to me that churchgoing witch hunters are not seekers of God and truth, their longing is not to live the Christ life. They are ensnared by fear and drowning in delusive superstitions, so, they clutch burning straws. Don't be fooled. Your blessing is not in the devil's storeroom. No enchanter can bury your glory. Witches don't have to die for you to live your best life. You can reign in their midst.
Noticeably, hermeneutic laxity marks the way some pastors approach the sacred duty of studying and feeding God's flock. Also, some manifest paucity of knowledge about exegesis, which is the art of drawing meaning from biblical text. What is common is “eisegesis”, which is reading ones meaning into biblical text. Some read their cultural idioms, biases and stereotypes into scripture. This has given rise to many doctrinal errors, predicated on pre-conversion experiences.
For example, in Yoruba mythology, Ṣàngó is venerated as the god of thunder and lightning, his double-axed attribute makes him a willing destroyer of wrongdoers. Someone raised in this cultural milieu may read Elijah’s fire-from-heaven encounter with the prophets of Baal and their eventual death as a biblical parallel of Ṣàngó’s workings and enact a prayer doctrine out of it.
This is worrisome, for Nigerians unduly place religious leaders on the pedestal of avatar of enlightenment. Hence, many people without thinking or testing the biblical validity of what their spiritual leaders say, act as told and spread their sayings.
Nonsense number two: Praying to the God of your pastor in the name of your pastor. Proxy access to God is erroneous. Apostle Paul did not confront controlling spirits by flaunting his impressive spiritual pedigree. He did not pray like this: I am Paul, the author of two third of the New Testament, erudite Apostle to the Gentiles, veritable church planter and leader builder, o God hear me, or you demons get out. His spiritual sons did not wage war against the forces of evil by alluding to his exploits of faith. His testimony was not their weapon of war, or access to God.
So, why do some of us pray in this fashion: The God of Pastor Fire Abu, whom I serve answer me now by fire? Remember the error of the seven sons of Sceva. Don’t relieve their mistake. Devils don’t bow at the mention of the name of celebrity preachers. Their names cannot cure a rat’s headache.
The faulty beliefs that pastors are infallible and mediators between God and men have fuelled this practice of name-dropping while praying. It also makes us to accord greater significance to their words than scripture. As a result, the expression “my pastor said” is used more frequently than “the Bible says.” This indicates shift of authority and loyalty. Where the Bible is not revered as the final authority in matters of Christian doctrine and practice, unthinking religious parrots would confer false primacy on the words of their pastors.
Nonsense number three: Physicalising weapons of spiritual warfare and idolising symbols. Biblically, it is nonsensical to fight spirits with physical instruments and symbols. Koboko services are Pentecostal jamboree. You cannot flog demons. Prayer shawls from Holy Land are not access code to God’s heart. Jerusalem candles don’t repel evil. Holy water sanctifies nothing. Olive oil is not the anointing. You cannot “give the devil a hot slap in his face” by waving and offering dollars. I am sure you have read: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled”
Pastor, don’t teach me nonsense. The fact that you are always digging deep for fresh revelation is salutary. But the feverish quest for “new truth” could lead to error. It is detestable to elevate Jewish mythology to the rank of canonised truth. When you say things like Lilith was the first woman, not Eve, without situating it in its proper mythological context, makes the occasional use of earplugs desirable when you are speaking.
Pastor, don’t teach me nonsense. God is not money-oriented. He does not esteem men based on their possessions. Buying a customised Bentley 2014 model is not a proof of God’s love.
God is not a money doubler. Yes, He is in the business of blessing generous people. But it is not consistent with His character to bless people, because, psyche pressure was mounted on them to give. Some sold their cars after listening to action-inspiring messages about “24-hour miracle”, and nothing happened. Others gave $119: 99 to activate the blessing of Psalms 119: 99, yet, nothing happened.
The clarion call is: Pastor, don’t teach me nonsense. Protect the sanctity of the pulpit. Be a custodian of truth. Uphold the inerrancy of scripture. What and how you teach matter. Habitual failure to differentiate biblical truths from personal opinions demeans the pulpit. Dogmatism, which is about conferring the force of truth on opinion, often fuels heresies. This is because; it is hostile to enquiry, and open to unquestioned acceptance of propositions. This mode of transmitting knowledge cannot raise defenders of truth. You cannot force feed people and hope they will become heroes of faith poised to extend kingdom frontiers. Imitate Paul. He had an effective teaching ministry. He wasn’t dogmatic. He was a master of the arts of polemics. Hence, his spiritual seeds could smash warped philosophies, break down barriers erected against truth and heal massively corrupt cultures.
Pastor, don’t teach me nonsense. It may bring quick fame and fortune; make you the pastor of the fastest growing, always-in-the-news church in town. But at the end, stardom is vain. Make your works free of Satan’s fingerprints.
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