Counterfeit Gospels

January 6, 2015

Having begun a new series of messages at our church, Freedom: A Study of Galatians, I am struck anew by the passion with which the Apostle Paul uncompromisingly declares: “There is NO OTHER Gospel!”  What Paul does throughout his letter to the Galatians, and vividly in the opening verses, is to impress that claim upon his readers as he points out and combats the counterfeit gospels – philosophies which purport themselves to be good news, but which are in reality fraudulent teachings dressed in Christianese garb.  Paul’s response to these philosophies is to declare: “Even if we (Apostles, including he himself), or an angel from heaven comes and teaches you something other than the gospel you originally received, let them be eternally cursed!.” The essence of what he says is: “Anyone who tries to teach a fraudulent gospel can just go to hell!”  He is obviously serious about this to offer such a severe retort.

Counterfeit gospels are not just something from the Apostolic age.  They are all too prevalent today – and not only in heterodox churches.  They are present in the best of churches, and in the hearts of some of the most sincere followers of Christ. I suspect it is in our spiritual DNA, part of our broken nature. Are hearts are deceitful. (Jeremiah 17.9)  We are susceptible to gospel distortions – which Paul reminds us “are no gospel at all”.

Some time ago I picked up and read a book by Trevin Wax, Counterfiet Gospels.  I found it to be among the most helpful books I have read.Counterfeit Gospels

In one sense, nothing in the book was new for me.  Still, Trevin does an excellent job of explaining the gospel in it’s various aspects:

  • Gospel Story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration
  • Gospel Announcement: Life, Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation of Jesus
  • Gospel Community: The Church

Just as important, he takes some commonly held notions and connects them to the different dimensions of the gospel. Included among the categories he connects with and compares to the gospel:

  • Activist Gospel
  • Moralistic Gospel
  • Pietistic or Quietistic Gospel
  • Therapeutic Gospel
  • Judgmentlessness Gospel
  • Churchless Gospel

In exploring these ideas, he shows that while at root they are in may respects good, yet how when misunderstood or misapplied they are contributing to an erosion of  the Faith.

What I don’t think I had ever before adequately considered was the connection of the categories Trevin identifies with the gospel. And what I think I appreciated most is that he identifies and examines not only the negatives of these  ideas, but he also explains their positives points as well.  He astutely points out that it is the very real positive aspects that make these points popular and palatable, and yet which also make them easily confused and dangerous.

In the short video above Trevin Wax provides a quick overview of his book, and briefly explains the categories he identifies.  So even if you find my description of his book a little fuzzy or confusing, take a moment to watch the video so Trevin can clarify what I am trying to convey.

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