Dealing With The Crazies, Or Doubting Someone’s Relationship With God

This post is adapted from one of my very first on Charlie’s Church of Christ – back when I was on blogspot about four years ago. Since I was traveling full time I didn’t post regularly and the blog died after three entries.

Oh geez I might be maturing.

Because I grew up in an ultra-conservative church where every year we were taught this is the one when Jesus finally returns, I used to think I had some sort of license to tear up the fairly ridiculous pastors and leaders that make those sorts of claims.

Back in 2007 when I originally wrote this post, Pat Robertson had just announced that in prayer God revealed to him the U.S. would see mass killings. “The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that,” Pat was quoted as saying. As soon as I heard these claims I had a strong skepticism, and obviously looking back now in 2011 – well, the mass killings never happened.

Okay I couldn't find a photo of Pat Roberston praying, but Rick Warren will do.

Here’s the thing – I’m not comfortable doubting Pat’s relationship with God. It just doesn’t feel right. As easy it as to say “wow – what a nutcase,” something in me holds back.

I’m sure Pot prays and talk to God and struggles with him and tries to listen to him, just as I do. So for me to say that I doubt God told Pat Robertson to watch out for mass killings in 2007 it means that I discredit this man’s personal communion with God. I don’t want to do that, even though his claims are asinine. I can’t completely doubt them.
What do you do with someone who is seemingly a man/person of God, who seemingly loves Jesus and wants to advance his kingdom (though I have a suspicion of our views of the kingdom differ greatly) yet says things like this? They’ve been Christians for double my lifespan, they can quote a heck of a lot more Scripture than I’ll ever be able to, and though these don’t necessarily lead to a closer relationship with God or knowing him any better, it nonetheless puts us all in a hard place.

Similarly, for those of you out there who may not side with my more progressive Christian tendencies – can you really doubt my entire relationship with Jesus? It may seem like I have some glaring holes and painfully obvious mistaken beliefs – but does that mean I have no relationship with God at all.

How do you reconcile this? I’ll assume that Rob Bell prayed about the contents of his book, and we can assume God never put up a stop sign. I feel convicted about my beliefs, and so do those who disagree. What do you think?

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21 Responses to Dealing With The Crazies, Or Doubting Someone’s Relationship With God

  1. Carla says:

    Charlie, why do you always have to put up posts that I can’t fully agree or disagree with? And that always require more thought before I comment? 🙂

    I think Christians are all to quick to question someone’s relationship with Jesus and I think this is a very dangerous, and hurtful practice. But just because we don’t question the fact that they have a relationship doesn’t mean we have to believe that God leads them in everything they do. I become a Christian when I was in high school and then I went to a very liberal college and my values changed without me even being aware they did. I still loved Jesus and I had a relationship with Him, but it was similar to the relationship I had with my parents when I wasn’t acting the way I should. I loved my parents and I let them into the parts of my life I thought they could handle, that’s kind of how Jesus and I were too.
    After college I met some very conservative, fundamental Christians (who I love dearly, now) who questioned what and how I believed what I did and still called myself Christian. I was ok with having different beliefs than them and even discussing them (and I will tell you now I wasn’t letting God lead, so they were actually right, I just didn’t know it at the time) but it was when my relationship to Christ and my actual salvation was questioned that it became a hurtful experience. I think there is a difference between questioning whether some one is letting God rule their life and whether they have a relationship at all. I’ve questioned friend’s motivations before because I knew they wanted to please Christ, but I saw them going in a different direction. But even if I am extremely worried about the path someone is taking, I’m not going to question if someone has a relationship with Christ. Only God knows a man’s heart.
    But I know even though I claimed to get my beliefs and ideas from God in the past, I got them from my own sinful mind and the culture around me, because I had not surrendered to the Lord’s leading. But I knew Jesus, just not as well as I know Him today.

    Great post! Crazy Christians are always the hardest to contend with, you don’t want to agree with them, but you don’t want to throw them under the bus, either!

    • I really got stuck on how we are all getting to know Jesus – as we know more and more of him – which obviously means at one point we didn’t know him as well. That makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for the great comment – sounds like I struck something with you!

  2. David says:

    Being saved does not mean that someone hears from God – certainly not perfectly.

    We have lots of problems in the church. The first and largest is that lack of 5-fold ministry in most of it. A guy like Robertson would be shut down for is prophetic antics along with some others. We have bred this superstar generation of Christians that have anointing in some areas, yet they claim to have it in other areas.

    We are a body, and there are spiritual gifts. As believers we are to test prophecy, but tell me when it the last time you had a sermon on that?

    If we had all 5 cylinders firing, these lone rangers would not get so far out there. This how we got half our pseudo-Christian cults. Unless we embrace a leadership model that has discernment in teaching, prophecy, pastoral, evangelical and apostolic roles, we will continue to miss it. We will have false and twisted teaching, false prophecy and that like.

    Christians are crazy because we are poorly taught.

  3. I am speaking for myself here Charlie and I don’t have it all figured out yet. We are told to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” I John 4:1. We are to pray for discernment. I think we try to do that, maybe going too far in some cases, but try nonetheless. I would not so much question PR’s faith as I would his sanity. Just kidding. I question his irresponsible “journalism/prophecy.” I do not hold to David’s 5-fold thingy (not sure what to call it so that is not meant to be a disparaging remark) so I do not believe prophecy is a gift for today, unless prophecy is preaching. i do think PR needs to read the Scriptures and be careful about making what I consider asinine remarks that are proven later to be “junk prophecy.” sort of like those who predict when Jesus is coming. I realize that even as I write this and someone reads it they are judging my veracity to even doubt the reality of the 5-fold thingy, as well as the “gift of prophecy.” But, as a shepherd of a church, I am responsible for protecting and warning the sheep of whacko stuff. Those are just some thoughts I have swirling through this pea brain of mine at the moment. Hope I didn’t muddy the water or get away from your issue.

    • David says:

      Interesting take Bill. With guys out there like PR, I can see why pastors would want to steer clear.

      If you are interested in learning about the 5-fold ministry of the NT church, here is a book that I have written on the subject.

      Apostolic Reform

      There has to be a way for God to do all the things that he describes through the apostle Paul. If we read 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14, there is a heck of a lot of ink for something that does not exist.

      Just my take, you can’t hurt my feelings if you’re not interested. If you are, we can have a civil discussion anytime you like.

    • alright Bill vs David GO!

      Just kidding I unfortunately don’t know enough about the 5 fold thing in order to speak intelligibly (I’d never heard of the concept til David rolled on the scene). I definitely know about junk prophecy and how eternally frustrating it is.

  4. Darius says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone question Rob Bell’s salvation. As you said, that’s between him and God. Which has irritated me when some people have claimed that Reformed Christians were doing that. They were merely pointing out that his is a false teaching. His salvation is a different story. What we see in the New Testament are Paul and others not talking so much about the salvation of false teachers but the need to silence their bad teaching. Paul seems to indicate that there is still hope for those false teachers, but that they need to be turned out of the church until they repent. Peter and Jude do say that they will reap destruction. I would say that Rob Bell is probably yet a Christian, but he puts his soul and many others in jeopardy when he denies basic attributes of God, attacks the saints, and teaches un-Biblical doctrine. Jesus had some very strong things to say toward those who don’t treat his followers well.

    What we need to remember is that the false teachers of the NT were usually genuine in their beliefs. They weren’t trying to intentionally lead people astray. After all, Satan clothes himself as an angel of light. There is no Biblical basis to assume that false teachers must be disingenuous in what they teach. And since there is nothing new under the sun, we know that false teachers still exist. The question, then, is how to determine who is a false teacher and what to do with them. For that answer, we must turn to the Scriptures.

    • Jason says:

      Good answer, Darius.

    • Tony Alicea says:

      I’m reading Love Wins now. Did you read it Darius?

      • Darius says:

        I have read most of it, just a chapter or two left, Tony. Some good stuff, some really bad stuff. Generally a silly book though.

    • I didn’t write this post about Rob Bell at all, I just threw him in at the end. But now I know where you stand on that, huh? I didn’t write anything about people questioning his salvation, though I do recall reading something early on that did ponder his status. I don’t remember where, and really it’s not important.

      You raise a great point – that false teachers are not malicious. They are genuine, and don’t see how they’ve been misguided.

      • A. says:

        I have read (I am not the scholar) that the N.T. distinguishes between false teachers that are truly wolves and mistaken teachers that are simply ignorant or have wrong information. Interestingly, this same article I read said that false teachers are always named in the bible but mistaken ones aren’t, as though there is some kind of grace extended to them so they can learn and be corrected without losing face. Interesting tidbit and possibility.

        As a newbie to your ‘church’, I love your titles, Charlie. They are a hoot, and clever to boot!

      • that’s interesting. How do you determine when someone is teaching maliciously?

        And thanks for the compliment, I have to admit I love naming posts. I could name posts all day if I didn’t have to fill them with content!

  5. Amy says:

    I have nothing to add. I really like Darius’ answer though.

  6. Tony Alicea says:

    What I have come to look to is confirmation. There are numerous passages in the Bible that point to the testimony of two or three witnesses. People are off sometimes. I’m off sometimes. I would hope that people don’t take everything I say as Gospel. I pray they seek things out for themselves. God ALWAYS confirms truth. Whether that be through circumstances or people.

    I’m okay with Pat Robertson being off because I’m not a lemming. I don’t blindly follow or believe every single word out of every mouth of a person claiming to hear from God. That doesn’t discredit the person. I just go back to what God says. If He said it, He’ll confirm it.

  7. Larry Hughes says:

    Well I guess this is the reason I am not a prophet or try to be one.

    The way I see it, If the beliefs of others are aligned with the scriptures, Praise God. If they seem to have a different take on the scriptures such as adding false sayings and passing it as the truth, shame on them especially if they are making money off it.

    One I heard once at a revival was an evangelist stated he had heard from God and that God wanted all in attendance to give all they had to raise $10,000.00 for the revival that night. ” Dig deep brothers and sisters. This is God’s command.” I didn’t buy it.

  8. Su says:

    That’s a tough one. And it doesn’t have to be people who are flashy or famous… there are plenty of people about whom I occasionally think, “Are you sure God told you to do that?” But, in the end it’s not up to me. So I encourage the best I can, and remember that people are probably saying the same about me, and move on.

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