Scandal of Evangelical Dishonesty [Excerpts]
By Randy Alcorn
I am painfully aware that the subjects I address in this article are uncomfortable and controversial. Some of my good friends will think it inappropriate to raise these issues publicly.
As followers of Christ, we are to be different. We’re to walk in the truth (3 John 3), love the truth, and believe the truth (2 Thess. 2:10,12). We are to speak the truth, in contrast to “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph:4:14). We’re to speak the truth “in love” (Eph:4:32).
Truth is far more than a moral guide. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me” (John:14:6). He didn’t say He would show the truth or teach the truth or model the truth. He said He is the truth--Truth personified. He’s the source of all truth, the embodiment of truth, and therefore the reference point for evaluating all truth claims. Jesus came full of grace and truth (John:1:14). He takes the truth personally, because it’s part of who He is.
The phrase “I tell you the truth” appears 79 times in Scripture, 78 times spoken by Jesus. He is the truth, and He tells the truth. We can fully trust everything He says. If we are His representatives, people should be able to trust everything we say.
The Holy Spirit leads men into truth (John:16:13). Christ’s disciples know the truth (John:8:32), do the truth (John:3:21), and abide in the truth (John:8:44). We are commanded to handle the truth accurately (2 Tim:2:25), and avoid doctrinal untruths (2 Tim:2:18). The “belt of truth” holds together our spiritual armor (Eph:6:14).
God “does not lie” (Titus:1:2). He is “the God of truth” (Ps:31:5). “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num:23:19).
No matter how we rationalize it, all deception within the evangelical community dishonors Christ, and serves the devil’s agenda. We need to identify deception, repent of it, and embrace the truth of Christ which will set us free to represent Him accurately to a world sick of being lied to (John:8:32).
Truth in the Pulpit? As it turned out, I flew 3,000 miles to not preach in a prominent East Coast church.
When I was shuttled from hotel to church, a Christian leader rode with me. He’d been accused of dishonesty and financial improprieties. I asked him about these charges.
“Did you really graduate from Harvard, as you say in your messages?” He said he’d taken a class at Harvard once, but no, he hadn’t graduated.
He admitted saying other things that weren’t true, but this didn’t seem to bother him. I told him, calmly, that I thought he should repent and publicly ask forgiveness for his dishonesty.
Five minutes after we arrived at the church, I was escorted to the private office of the senior pastor, where we were to pray before I preached in the service. When I stepped in, the pastor slammed the door and screamed at me. His face turned scarlet, veins showing. He poked his finger at me. I honestly thought he was going to hit me.
Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw the man I’d just confronted. The pastor told me I’d had no right to do this. “No way will I let you preach from my pulpit!” he said.
I tried to explain, but he wouldn’t listen. He was aware of the man’s reputation but thought it none of my business. We went straight into the service. The pastor took the microphone. His voice suddenly sounded sweet and spiritual. He introduced the man I’d confronted, who then conducted the offering, challenging people to give generously because he knew their wonderful pastor. The pastor then told the church he felt “the Holy Spirit’s leading” to dedicate the service to sharing and healing, so regretfully there wouldn’t be time to hear from the guest speaker.
On the long flight home I considered how Christian leaders, who should be guardians of God’s truth, could have such disregard for truth.
This isn’t new. “‘Do not let the prophets deceive you. Don’t listen to their lies. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah:29:8-9). Various Christian celebrities, including John Todd, Mike Warnke and Lauren Stratford, were proven to have lied about their experience with Satanism, and sold millions of books and entertained countless evangelical audiences in the process. The world scorns the church for serving as a platform for such lies.