One of the greatest challenges in Christian media today is trying to curb incorrect teaching. You don’t have to hear religious radio or watch TV long to find some remarkable snafus when it comes to Biblical interpretation. It’s not just who you might think – it’s a wide group that includes some TV evangelists, some word of faith teachers, and even some who you wouldn’t normally expect. One of the great shortcomings of religious media is how little most TV pastors, teachers, and hosts value a serious Biblical education. Certainly, education doesn’t solve everything – after all, colleges and universities have plenty of educated people who are pretty clueless when it comes to life. But I do wish pastors, evangelists, and ministry leaders in the media took a more serious approach to a legitimate theological education.
Few of the most popular personalities in religious media have a college degree at all, and even fewer have a graduate or seminary degree – and yet these people are teaching us scriptural principles for living. That’s why they so often misread the Bible, preach scripture out of context, proof text, and in many other ways, just get it flat wrong. Do they mean well? Yes. Are they doing some good? No question. But the problem comes from the potential size of their audience. When a local pastor of a couple of hundred people teaches error, it’s bad enough. But when a TV pastor does it in front of an audience in the thousands – or hundreds of thousands – the damage is far greater.
Although I’m not into being a “theology cop” it’s hard to disagree when some apologetic radio programs play some of the more outrageous clips of religious media personalities. However, I would disagree when many are called “heretics.” From my perspective, a heretic knows full-well that he’s teaching contrary to the orthodox, historic, Christian faith, and does it for a reason. For whatever motive, he’s twisting or changing legitimate doctrine for his or her own purposes. For that reason, Carlton Pearson is considered a heretic, because he knows fully how his “gospel of inclusion” deviates from traditional Christian teaching on the subject of salvation.
But when it comes to most errors we hear on religious radio or television, my position is that the vast majority are just cases of ignorance. In most situations, they’re not trying to conflict with or change traditional teaching, but actually believe what they’re teaching is correct. But because of misreading, proof texting, or taking scripture out of context, they make serious mistakes. Admittedly, the damage is just as bad – particularly when it’s compounded through the media. But calling them heretics is like writing them off. I would prefer to look at it for what it is – preachers and teachers without a proper education who are trying to do good, but unwittingly teaching errors. Hopefully, they could be corrected.
This is why other religious media leaders have to call them into account, and raise the bar when it comes to the value and necessity of a deeper education in the scriptures. But one of the problems is that when a pastor or teacher becomes “popular” or “successful” – it’s a little embarrassing to humble yourself enough to sit in a college or university classroom.
Because when it comes to expressing the historic Christian faith to the culture – or to ourselves – we can’t afford to miss the mark.
Heretics or just ignorance? Or does it matter? What do you think?