In case you haven’t heard yet, Christian hip-hop artist Shai Linne has released a single through Lamp Mode Recordings called Fal$e Teacher$. The track is on his upcoming album, Lyrical Theology: Part I. As you can guess by the dollar signs, this tune goes for jugular on prosperity teaching. Even if you don’t like rap, this is worth the listen (also check out his Attributes of God album – very rich!). But what makes this track so bold is that he actually does some name dropping. Take a listen.
Now I suspect there will be those who will be horrified that he has name dropped and will question who is he to make such assessments. I suspect that there will be some who will say that he is creating division in the church. And I question if the right criteria will be used to make such assessments against what this song speaks to.
But I get what he is trying to do. As one who has spent many years formerly embracing the teaching of those on this list, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on the subject. When I came to faith in Christ my first year in college (early 80s), I was a member of Fred Price’s church then called Crenshaw Christian Center. At the same time, I was also part of a small campus fellowship that was an outreach extension of an independent cult-like church in Los Angeles (of course I did not realize that at the time). And I also had a love for God’s word though it would be many years later until I was able to read it well. But for 2 1/2 years at CCC, I pretty much heard the same message: your faith needs to be increased so that you can believe God for blessings. Blessings are proof that you are favored from God. Poverty is not God’s plan and is a defeat to real Christianity. You need to speak over your circumstances so that they align with God’s favor, which comes in the form of material blessings. It was all about the blessings. And if you weren’t experiencing them, it was your fault for not having enough faith.
Now here’s the thing. He used the Bible. He read from the Bible. And he twisted the Bible. The reason Job suffered was because he didn’t have enough faith. Jesus wasn’t really homeless. Loss and suffering are the work of the devil. Jesus died on the cross so we could reign with him and claim our blessings. This is not the Christian message of Scripture.
While I did not realize that at the time, I did realize that the more I read the Bible the more I became aware that there must be more to the Christian life than pursuing blessings. So I ended up leaving CCC to go to the cult-like church, had a brief stint in another independent non-denominational church and eventually stopped going to church altogether for 13 years. It was a rebellious time away from the Lord primarily because I wasn’t taught properly about the all sufficient sacrifice that Christ made and sanctification.
When I repented after this 13 year rebellious period and came back into fellowship with the Lord in 1999, I continued to align with independent, non-denominational churches with Pentacostal/charismatic leanings. I discovered that sprinklings of the prosperity and Word of Faith teachings were peppered through the teaching that really did try to elevate God, proclaim the gospel and motivate the saints for love and good works. Well meaning Christian teachers and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ were influenced by some of these concepts, primarily that the presence of blessings was a sign that God favored you, that you can speak over your circumstances and that it was about going to the next level. It was a mixed bag. Bigger, brighter, better juxtaposed with the lordship of Christ. That doesn’t mean the gospel of Jesus Christ was not preached. It was. It doesn’t mean that there was a lack of acknowledgement of suffering and divine discipline. But Christian success rested on this type of favor, even to the point that bible reading was motivated by this purpose. I wrote more about that on my blog here.
Seven years ago, I went through a drastic paradigm shift and have come to a different understanding of our pursuit and the framework that all 66 books hinges on, which is about God, his sovereignty, character, and redemptive purpose. But that doesn’t mean that those who hold such pursuits are not Christian. And here is where I think we need to be careful.
Shai Linne expressed in a video explaining his motivation from the song, that it came not from hearing the teachers themselves but from their influence on their followers. He was confronted with the overwhelming focus on pursuing material blessings, which contrasted with the Christ-centered focus of scripture. And for good reason. Consider 1 Timothy 6:3-11;
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the soundwords of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
The contrast is stark. The servant of Christ is to pursue sound doctrine and righteous living (healthy, gospel centered teaching) as opposed to the pursuit of material wealth, especially to the extent that the teachings of Christ are distorted or dismissed. This is a pretty good gauge. I say that because of what I said earlier about criteria and my suspicion that fans of such teaching will use faulty criteria in their backlash. Colin Smith has a really good post on TGC here that talks about the criteria for false teachers. It is based on the message of scripture. That is our criteria.
But given my exposure to what he is referring to, I have to ask if the claim Shai Linne makes is that these folks are not Christian. That’s a serious allegation and one that I think should be assessed with a better foundation than two days of viewing. It is one thing to teach falsely and another to be false. I am apt to say some on that list would qualify but there are some I question.
Nonetheless, his observations give rise to the validity of what he is trying to address: the consistency in the message of followers that contradicts the Christ-centered message of Scripture. And here is where I’d say that I applaud his efforts to address some twisted teaching that unfortunately has run rampant in the name of Christianity.