If you have been a follower of my blog, you will know that one of the things that I keep harpening on about is ‘be a Berean’. The scripture above states that the Bereans didn’t just take Paul’s word ‘as gospel’ when he spoke but they examined the scriptures to see if what he said lined up to it. They questioned the ‘man of God’. Even Paul wasn’t untouchable when it comes to scrutinizing what came of of his mouth.
But what does being a Berean actually mean? Why is it so important? How is it done in practice? Why is it that Christians who choose to be Bereans are seen as the unloving ones but false teachers are defended?
1. False View of the Atonement
Paula White did a series called 8 Promises of the Atonement, that at the time of my writing this, is currently featured on your ministry website. In it, she states that physical healing and financial abundance in this life are provided for in the atonement of Christ. See the following video at the 25:00 mark where Paula White teaches “salvation includes healing.” She says it again at 28:30. But then she goes even further. If you keep listening, she talks about commanding her body not to be sick because of the blood of Christ. She ends this section by boldly declaring around 29:40:
“You are not going to die of sickness. When you go, it’s going to be because of your appointed time of old age and full of life”
For Paula White to say this to a large crowd of people is both false and irresponsible. She has no idea how those people are going to die. The truth is that Christians do get sick. Many godly believers die at young ages from sickness and it is not due to their lack of faith or because they haven’t embraced what’s theirs through the atonement. It’s because God is sovereign.
As He says in Deut. 32:39, “‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”
Psalm 139:14 says “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”.
God sovereignly determines when we live and when we die. And if He appoints or allows a sickness to take our lives, it is because His infinite wisdom determined that it be so.
At the 2:00 mark of this video on your website, Paula White lists “financial abundance” as one of the promises of the atonement. This is false. It is also a slap in the face to the millions godly saints throughout the world today (and church history) who do not live in “financial abundance” like many of us live here in America. Jesus commends the church in Smyrna when He says:
“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” - Rev. 2:9
In His kindness and care, the risen Savior tells the church in Smyrna that He is aware of their poverty. What does He say after that? Does He tell them that they’re poor because they haven’t fully embraced the promise of His atonement? Does He say they’re poor because of a generational curse, as Paula White teaches at 13:20 in this video? No. He reminds them that though they are materially poor in this world, they are actually rich in God’s eyes because of their union with Jesus Christ! Like C.S. Lewis once famously said, “He who has God and everything else has no more than He who has God only.”
In 1 Timothy 6:7-8, which is in the same context of a passage I mentioned in the song, it says “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” This is consistent with the New Testament emphasis on contentment, which is almost always mentioned in contrast to the love of money (Heb. 13:5). I’m encouraged to see that you try to put that into practice in your own life, Brad. But in doing so, you’re actually contradicting the teaching of Paula White, who says that the atonement promises your financial abundance. She obviously embraces this teaching herself. It is well documented that she, along with others mentioned in the song, was investigated by the U.S. Senate for financial impropriety due to their extravagant lifestyles. Much more could be said about this, but let me get to the next false teaching.
2. False “Sow a Seed” Teaching
This is something that is common among the people I named in the song, including Paula White. The premise is that if you give a certain amount of money, God will multiply it and you’ll get more money back in return. As I studied the prosperity teachers, I noticed that they often used this tactic when taking an offering. But when you study the Scriptures, you find that the “sow a seed” passages that are usually referred to are not talking about money at all, but the knowledge of the kingdom of God, which leads to salvation (See Matthew 13:1-23). Even in 2 Cor. 9:6-15, where seed is used in connection with financial gifts, the emphasis is on generously supplying the needs of other churches (vs. 12) and having what you need to serve others effectively (vs. 8). Living out the American Dream is not in view there.
In the following video, Paula White gives an appeal for money at The Potter’s House, the church pastored by T.D. Jakes. Around 2:10 she says, “God is speaking to many”. She then tells them what God is supposedly saying, “Give a $126 dollar offering. For some it may be $1,260, for some it may be $12,600”.
Now if I’m sitting in that audience that day and Paula White says, “God is saying give $126 or $1,260 or $12,600”, what am I supposed to do? If God is saying it and I don’t do it, I’m being disobedient. But here’s the thing. I don’t have to wonder whether or not God is saying that through Paula White because God has already spoken in His Word, the Bible. And in the Bible, God said:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)
What Paula White does in that video absolutely qualifies as compulsion and it actually made me sad for her as I watched it. In this video at 25:08, in the middle of an appeal for money (Start it at 22:28 to get the full context), Paula White promises that “Your seed today is gonna turn everything around for your children, your grandchildren, your family, your spouse, everyone in relation to you. But you have to activate it. Call that toll-free number.” There is no way that that statement could be true for each of the thousands of Christians and non-Christians watching the show that day! What makes it worse is that she’s claiming to speak for God as she does it. And that brings me to the final and perhaps most serious falsehood.
3. Falsely Claiming to Speak For God
As I’m sure you know, Brad, God takes speaking in His name very seriously. To say that God said something that He didn’t say is to lie on God. God takes this sin so seriously that in the Old Testament, the person found guilty of this was to be executed. Check out Deuteronomy 18:20:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’”
The verses following that one give the litmus test for how we can determine whether or not someone is speaking for God:
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” (Deut. 18:21-22)
There is nothing new under the sun. People have been falsely claiming to speak for God for thousands of years. Here’s what God said when it was happening in Jeremiah’s day.
“Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.” - Jeremiah 23:32
As sincere as Paula White may be, she is extremely reckless in the many false things that she says God told her to tell her listeners. The videos I provided are enough. Just go back and listen to how often she says God is saying something that He could not possibly be saying to everyone listening to her at the time. “You are not going to die of sickness” is just one of many examples I could give. Sadly, her teaching is characterized by this falsehood. She and the other people I mentioned in the song do this all the time.
By the response in the videos, you can tell that most of the congregation just swallowed up what she said and that is where the danger is in many congregations. Nobody really stops to say ‘Hold on a minute. That’s not correct. That’s contrary to scripture’. False teachers are very good at wrapping up their teaching in scripture and twisting it.
For some simple rules on how to read the bible correctly, rightly dividing the word of truth, see this post and this one
To hear Paula White being challenged about her divorce and her doctrine, you can also listen to a interview on this post.