The Apostle Paul writes:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” Gal. 3:1-2
False teachers and legalists were prevalent in the early church even while the apostles were living. There was a constant battle between a theocentric theology and an anthropocentric theology even then. From the time of the Reformation until about 1825 the prevailing theology was theocentric and more specifically Christocentric. From about 1825 on theology has decidedly shifted to anthropocentrism.
More recently, over the last 40 years or so, there has also been a shift away from teaching the essentials of the faith toward either embracing fads or denouncing fads. On both sides leadership has assumed that because their flocks give mental assent to the essentials in their membership documents or Statement of Faith they therefore understand and can defend the essentials of the faith. This is so prevalent that Pastor Rick Warren announced that we don’t need a reformation of creeds but a reformation of deeds. He declares:
“We know what we believe.”
Contrary to Warren’s claims, pollster George Barna demonstrates that 91% of Born Again Evangelicals and 49% of Evangelical pastors are deficient in one or more areas of essential doctrine. One of the areas this shows up most clearly is the doctrine of Grace.
We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who write in their publication Our Kingdom Ministry:
“We want to give deserving ones the opportunity to learn of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and the Kingdom hope.”
It seems to escape their notice that if they are “deserving ones” then the grace they talk about it deserved. On the other hand, if grace is undeserved than there are no “deserving ones.”
We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with the shepherding movements and new cults such as the International Churches of Christ or Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship (Weigh Down Workshop). However, I think our time would be better spent looking at one of the more accepted teachers within the church who is one of the better promoters of a false definition of Grace and who has profoundly impacted many churches.