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Monday, December 7, 2009 | Comments (12)

John MacArthur

Former NASDAQ chairman Bernie Madoff ran a ponzi-scheme swindle for nearly 20 years, and he bilked an estimated $18 billion from Wall-Street investors. When the scam finally came to light it unleashed a shockwave of outrage around the world. It was the largest and most far-reaching investment fraud ever.

But the evil of Madoff's embezzlement pales by comparison to an even more diabolical fraud being carried out in the name of Christ under the bright lights of television cameras on religious networks worldwide every single day. Faith healers and prosperity preachers promise miracles in return for money, conning their viewers out of more than a billion dollars annually. They have operated this racket on television for more than five decades. Worst of all, they do it with the tacit acceptance of most of the Christian community.

Someone needs to say this plainly: The faith healers and health-and-wealth preachers who dominate religious television are shameless frauds. Their message is not the true gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing spiritual or miraculous about their on-stage chicanery. It is all a devious ruse designed to take advantage of desperate people. They are not godly ministers but greedy impostors who corrupt the Word of God for money's sake. They are not real pastors who shepherd the flock of God but hirelings whose only design is to fleece the sheep. Their love of money is glaringly obvious in what they say as well as how they live. They claim to possess great spiritual power, but in reality they are rank materialists and enemies of everything holy.

There is no reason anyone should be deceived by this age-old con, and there is certainly no justification for treating the hucksters as if they were authentic ministers of the gospel. Religious charlatans who make merchandise of false promises have been around since the apostolic era. They pretend to be messengers of Christ, but they are interlopers and impostors. The apostles condemned them with the harshest possible language. Paul called them "men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5). Peter called them false prophets with "heart[s] trained in greed" (2 Peter 2:14). He warned that "in their greed they will exploit you with false words" (v. 3). He exposed them as scoundrels and dismissed them as "stains and blemishes" on the church (v. 13).

Those biblical descriptions certainly fit the greed-driven cult of prosperity preachers and faith healers who unfortunately, thanks to television, have become the best-known face of Christianity worldwide. The scam they operate ought to be a bigger scandal than any Wall Street ponzi scheme or big-time securities fraud. After all, those who are most susceptible to the faith-healers' swindle are not well-to-do investors but some of society's most vulnerable people—including multitudes who are already destitute, disconsolate, disabled, elderly, sick, suffering, or dying. The faith-healer gets lavishly rich while the victims become poorer and more desperate.

But the worst part of the scandal is that it's not really a scandal at all in the eyes of most evangelical Christians. Those who should be most earnest in defense of the truth have taken a shockingly tolerant attitude toward the prosperity preachers' blatant misrepresentation of the gospel and their wanton exploitation of needy people. "But we don't want to judge," they say. Thus Christians fail to exercise righteous judgment (John 7:24). They refuse to be discerning at all.

How many manifestos and written declarations of solidarity have evangelicals issued condemning abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and other social evils? It's fine, and fairly easy, to oppose wickedness and injustice in secular society, but where is the corresponding moral outrage against these religious mountebanks who openly, brashly pervert the gospel for profit 24 hours a day, seven days a week on international television?

Advocates of abortion and euthanasia don't usually try to pass their message off as biblical. The people who say we need to redefine marriage haven't portrayed themselves as an arm of the church. But the prosperity preachers deceive people in Jesus' name, claiming to speak for God—while stealing both the souls and the sustenance of hurting people. That is a far greater abomination than any of the social evils Christians typically protest. After all, what the prosperity preachers do is not only a sin against poor, sick, and vulnerable people; it also blasphemes God, corrupts the gospel, and profanes the reputation of Christ before a watching world. It not only tears at the fabric of our society; it also befouls the purity of the visible church and abates the influence of the true gospel. It is surely among the grossest of all the evils currently rampant in our culture.

In the weeks to come, we're going to be looking at the preposterous claims and false teachings of some of religious television's best-known figures. We'll analyze why a disproportionate number of celebrity faith-healers and prosperity preachers have succumbed to serious immorality. And we'll see what Scripture says about how Bible-believing Christians ought to respond. I hope this series will challenge you to take a more active stand against the phony miracles and false teachings that are being peddled in the name of Christ.

[You can read John's next article in this series, "Unholy Trinity"]

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#1  Posted by George Haithcock  |  Friday, December 11, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I say Amen to both articles. We need men who will beging to stand for the Word of God and stop being afraid of people including those that might be in their own church and stand for the Word of God. Not only that but beleivers who will beging to study it and be able to spot false doctrine when they see and hear it.

Ezk said, God was looking for a man to stand in tha gap and make up the hedge i beleive john mac Aurthur is one of those men who has steped up to the plate in defense of the Word of God. I want to be one of those who is willing to stand with him in this fight for the purity of the word of God in these last days

#2  Posted by Christine Ravert  |  Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 2:44 AM

Pastor John,

Thank you for confronting current issues with the truth of scripture. We stand with you in this spiritual warfare.

Thank you for establishing TMS to train faithful men to teach and lead.

We need godly men to speak the truth.

What a valuable training library you opened up when you opened the vault on 40 years of your teaching. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

#3  Posted by Michael Leiker  |  Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 9:41 AM

I am Tiger WoodsI need of God's amazing need of God's mercy to show up daily in my need of accountability from others. Not from those who condemn but those who will tell me the truth and walk with me toward freedom....broken....capable of betraying that which matters most for that which is hollow and fleeting....always in need of Jesus being Jesus. His name means savior and daily I need him to save me from the world, flesh, devil--from myself....more than willing to build a brand of myself for public consumption that creates a huge gap between who I am and who other's perceive me to be, only to live daily with the haunting knowledge that I can't be who I have told others I who needs to be reminded that it is possible to sin much and yet, end up loving God even more.

Say it with me...I am Tiger Woods!

#4  Posted by Kevin Greene  |  Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7:47 AM

I am not a fan of Tiger, but the post by Mr. Leiker is correct. I'm also very happy to see Pastor Mac take on the false prophets, yet again! I feel that Pastor MacArthur is the watchman of Ezekiel 33.

#5  Posted by George Law  |  Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 11:05 AM

What would the rich man's responce be when told by the Lord Jesus to give all he ownes to the poor then follow me ???? time will tell

#6  Posted by Michael Grant  |  Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 6:09 AM

I was watching a program called "American Greed" and they were doing a piece on "Greater Ministries" who operated a scheme much like Madoff. They spoke of "sowing your seed" and God will give you X10 your money back or something to that effect. The sad thing is this type of thing is going on today on INSP network and others when they promise the same thing. Perhaps they are not operating a ponzi scheme but they are certainly deceivers using the same methods to fleece the flock to make themselves rich.

Michael Grant - Moores Corner Church

#7  Posted by David Smith  |  Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 2:03 AM

Pastor John, I'm not afraid to say that I differ with you in many areas. But on this topic I agree with you completely. The vast majority of TV preachers bring shame upon Christ and His church. I hope you will use your platform and position to speak out against these heretics and thieves. We are not just talking about theological differences, but outright deception, so please don't be afraid to name names.

#8  Posted by Scott Thompson  |  Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:45 AM

it seems everybody in my family is in to this movement thay wont listen to me. they wont even let me read this artical to them. thay take all the scriptures about healing and prosperity and quote them [they have tunnel vision] all they can see in the bible is what fits in there theology im just curious is this the way the rest of the chrismatics and pentecostals are in this nation they love there theology more than God CHECK THIS OUT one paralized person today most of the time have several doctors if he was to get up out of his wheelchair totally healed with the media we have today it would make all the major headlines news it would be on the internet it would be all over the news these phonys will answer to God for this. God bless gty for speaking truth

#9  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Hi Scott,

What a difficult situation. Sadly many people in the word of faith movement are like your family - they've effectively been brainwashed by the false teachers. There is evidence that psychological and hypnotic techniques are used by many WoF preachers to produce intense emotional experiences in their congregations (which are falsely claimed to be the working of the Holy Spirit). and this helps to lock people in, preventing rational analysis.

There is also evidence that televangelists target poorer neighborhoods when they send out mailings. I guess many people who follow them are possibly from the lower social classes, maybe with limited education, and are likely to believe the words of an apparently successful preacher wearing an expensive suit, who is a gifted (and manipulative) orator, rather than question them.

I've no idea what the statistics are - certainly not all the pentecostals and charismatics are corrupt - if you look beyond the high-profile figures and large churches you'll hopefully find sound churches and honest pastors.

I've prayed for you and your family, but I really don't know what the answer to the problem is - the WoF movement does have cult-like characteristics, and sadly those people who do get out often have no faith left when they leave. I'm grateful to John MacArthur for using his position to speak out against this deception, and I only hope he isn't just preaching to the converted.

I completely agree with you regarding your comments on healing. If people were genuinely being healed in the numbers claimed then there would be some verifiable cases. I think I said in another post that 10,000+ healings were claimed during the so-called Lakeland revival of 2008. If the figure was 10,000 and just 1% of these could be confirmed, then you'd have 100 people who could testify. Well, guess what, Nightline investigated and couldn't find a single person. Conclusion - the whole thing was a sham.

PS I've said in comments on other posts that I'm a charismatic myself and certainly don't have a cessationist axe to grind.

#10  Posted by Scott Thompson  |  Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 4:16 PM

Thank you david for your comment and God bless you for your prays i read and reread your comments to retain them in my spirit and i hope it didnt sound like i was bashing all charismatics but i was abel to vent some frustrations on this blog because of whats going on in my family strang way out teachings like we were with GOD before the world began and we chose to come be born. and the church is going to take over the world and then Jesus is going to come back they call it kingdom theology my brother is a big fan of Rick joyner of morningstar min from n.carolina God talks to them all the time they call each other prophets so its hard for me just to sit back and keep quiet. but with family members thats all i can do. but i know there must be others like me whove not just seen this on tv but it has hit home in our daily lives people around us work place ect..... i like your wisdom David keep up the good work............

#11  Posted by Alex Soriano  |  Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 7:25 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#12  Posted by Alex Soriano  |  Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 7:29 PM

I'm glad to see that GTY.ORG has already blog and allowing readers to comment. I'm a regular user of this website and studying Pastor John's sermons.

I'm from the Philippines and though we are far from the headquarters of this 'prosperity gospel' I can see the pervasive influence of this teaching not only to church members but even to pastors. Admittedly, I was once, in some degree, believer of this teaching, but not anymore. I thank God for the Macarthur Study Bible that helped me to discern the errors of such teaching. I never regret buying that study bible despite of its cost (and that my wife got angry with it) but I can say now that I would rather buy another expensive study bible than throw my hard-earned money to prosperity preacher.

Thanks Pastor John.