We at TGCA have been very critical of the health and prosperity gospel. We have been at pains to unpick its false understanding of blessingWe have warmly reviewed and commended “American Gospel”, with its exposé of the “Word of Faith” movement. Paul Barker’s review of Joseph Prince’s Destined to Reign and Stephen Tan’s critique of Bill Johnson and the Bethel Movement remain two of our most sought-out posts.

Eternal destinies are at stake. Only the real gospel has the power to save. False gospels kill those who preach them and those who heed them

We don’t enjoy being critical. We know it makes many Christians see us as harsh, divisive and judgmental. But we persist because are convinced that eternal destinies are at stake. Only the real gospel has the power to save. False gospels kill those who preach them and those who heed them—or as Paul puts it (in much stronger terms than we use):

Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

For all these reasons, it was all the more wonderful to listen to one of those preachers mentioned in “American Gospel” and hear him repent of his false teaching and confess his desire to preach the full gospel. In a sermon last Sunday (July 26), Todd White declared that God has been painfully pruning him; that he has been brought “trembling shaking [to] a new place of fear of the Lord.” He said that he is “in school again” that he is “so convicted I can’t even tell you.” At one point he says “It’s hard for me because I feel like I haven’t preached the whole gospel. And I repent.” (30:25)

A Man-Centred Gospel

The partial gospel that White has been proclaiming is, as he calls it, a “man-centred gospel”:

  • a gospel that offers lifestyle improvements but which fails to tell people that they need to be saved from judgment.
  • a gospel that downplays the holiness of God.
  • a gospel that pretends there is no hell to be saved from.
  • a gospel that is afraid to follow the example of Jesus and call people ‘sinners’.
  • a gospel that offers people false promises of lives without suffering.

This is the gospel he is repenting of. Now he says:

There’s really no need for a person to realise their need for grace if they don’t realise that they’ve offended God. (1:08)

The American church has lost the reality of what repentance looks like and I’m broken … all of us are going to stand before the judgment seat (2:22)

How can you want to be found if you don’t know you’re lost? How can you want to see if you don’t know that you’re blind? How can you want to really live if you don’t know that you’re dead? The Bible says that we’re dead in our sin. Dead! The wages of sin is death. It’s the truth! We have to somehow get to people and not just promise them a better flight … This isn’t legalism it’s the truth. There is a day of wrath coming … We have to know that we’ve sinned against God … Jesus didn’t just die for us to give us a great life. (18:40)

How many people have been told to come to Jesus if you’re tired of your life and you’d like to give Jesus a chance? We have created half-hearted Christians. (26:05)

Some people are like “my God would never do this and my God would never create a hell for people. My God is good, and my God is this …” Your God doesn’t exist! (22:31)

Defection and The Defective Gospel

White laments the terrible post-conversion dropout rate in American Christianity and traces it to the same roots. First the reluctance to talk about sin:

Jesus didn’t despise sinners but he hated sin and he addressed it all the time and he said words like “sinners” to people who were in sin. Yet he loved them and everybody followed him. What has flip-flopped in the church today?

Second, he fingers our failure to tell people that God demands a radical whole-life surrender:

When someone comes to Jesus for what they can get from him it doesn’t last long, but when someone comes to Jesus and surrenders it all and sees that they’re guilty of offending a holy God, they’re going to stay. (32:30)

Third, he acknowledges a dishonesty about suffering. He says (33:55) that he would now warn new believers with the words of 2Timothy 3:12: “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted;” and Acts 14:22—“through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

A Miraculous Transformation

Todd White doesn’t explain how God brought about this change. Sometimes he makes it sound like Jesus has been speaking to him directly; in other parts of the same message he mentions that he has been reading Charles Spurgeon (11:23) and quotes extensively from Ray Comfort. He says that it has been going on for six months and that God has been especially convicting him in the last month. Some of the things he says make it sound like he’s been watching “American Gospel” and taking it to heart. The most encouraging sign comes where he marvels how his new understanding of the gospel (though he also says it’s the one he believed at first) “lines up with so many scriptures that it’s crazy!” (33:28)

The most encouraging sign comes where he marvels at how his new understanding of the gospel ‘lines up with so many scriptures that it’s crazy!’ (33:28)

Yet, however it has come about, we thank God for it and pray that it continues. We pray that Todd White would put down deep roots into the Bible and glory in the great themes of God’s Word. We suggest that it might be appropriate for him to withdraw from ministry for a while—both as an act of repentance and to take time to strengthen and confirm himself in this new understanding.

Ultimately we pray that his conviction would spread right across the “Word of Faith” network. Imagine if God transformed those gatherings into real churches preaching the real gospel of real grace to real sinners!

In the meantime, we praise God for this reminder that he changes people: not just when we are at our wits end and there’s nothing left to lose; he can even reform someone like Todd White who has had so much invested in the “man-centred gospel.” As Jesus says of rich men and conversion, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

Don’t ever think that you are above correction from the Lord, says Todd at 3:31. What a good word. May he keep correcting Todd and may he be working to transform us in our lives and understanding too.