Sunday, January 6, 2008

More on word-faith and our homeschool confession

I have had so many thoughtful and encouraging emails from friends, family and fellow homeschoolers since I wrote the post I titled Reality Cheque on December 29. That post was a manifesto, of sorts, giving details of our financial situation and our committment to homeschool the girls through wallets thick or thin. (Just in case you wondered, thick is easier.)

It was interesting to note that several of the emails I read all made the same point about God's will and financial prosperity: If God intended for financial prosperity (and bodily health) to be signals that His will was being carried out, you'd sure never know it from the precedent set in the Bible. Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets, the apostles, Mary, Joseph and most of all, Jesus -- all of those people were given some kind of tough path to follow. But God set each one upon His chosen course for their lives and then gave them the strength to run the race, as St. Paul described it, in spite of the obstacles they encountered.

One of the hallmarks of mature Christianity is perseverance through trials, the ability to press on toward the goal to win the prize.

Yesterday, I spent several hours making out lesson plans for the World Literature class I teach for the Teen ARCHES group. The students will be reading the literature of the early Church as part of their independent study work for January, and one of the things they're supposed to read is the Didache.

The Didache (pronounced dih-dah-KAY) was compiled in around 66 AD, which is not quite thirty-five years after the ascension of Jesus. It is subtitled The Teachings of the Apostles. It is a short piece that was never considered as part of the canon of the New Testament scriptures because nothing new is taught in it -- it is a reiteration of things that people already knew but had not yet written down, so the doctrine expressed therein is presupposed. The Didache served as a handbook for priests and is divided into three parts. The first part, known as "The Way of Life and the Way of Death" was a catechesis that a priest would use to test a catechumens' knowledge of the Christian faith before baptizing them or their children. The second part describes the liturgy of the early Church and the sacraments, while the third part is a how-to manual for receiving fellow Christians, traveling preachers and prophets into the community.

One part that stood out to me very strongly was this passage from the eleventh chapter (from Part III, which is titled "Concerning Teachers, Apostles and Prophets."

1. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. 2. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not.

Even back then, there were heresies to watch for. The Gnostics, the Manicheans and the Aryan heresy of the Visigoths were either getting started or looming on the horizon. Those heresies still continue today in one form or another, mostly because the devil is not very creative.

I'm not sure if today's word-faith heresy that could so easily distract a Christian from the path God has asked him to follow is part of one of these, part of another, or wholly new. I don't know. I'm a reader, not a scholar. But I do know a clear warning when I hear one: If the teacher teaches another doctrine that detracts from or destroys what Christ taught, hear him not.

Word-faith theology (or prosperity gospel, or health-and-wealth or whatever you want to call it; the terms are interchangeable) was not and has never been part of the Christian faith. It's a lie concocted with a little bit of truth and is capable of deceiving "even the elect," as Jesus said. In fact, it is such an intricate lie that you can say to one person, "I don't believe in this health and wealth stuf you're trying to sell me" and they may well say in indignation, "What I'm telling you has nothing to do with all that health and wealth balderdash! I'm trying to teach you about the word-faith confession!"

They don't even know. That's how deep this heresy cuts, how powerful the deception.

For you homeschoolers who wrote to me to tell me about your struggles with this, either in your own lives or with your families who think you're either sweetly naive or downright stupid to continue homeschooling your children in the face of pressing financial issssshewwwwws, take heart.

Jesus also said that the truth would set us free. Continue to reject what is false and live what is true. No matter what your bank statement or your medical records say, God is in control and He will provide. You may wonder what in the world He's thinking. You may wish that His ways weren't so inscrutable at times. You may wish that God would come knocking at your door in the manner of the Prize Patrol from the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. We do, here at our house. But we can't deny that we have always made it through one way or another. There have been indications along the way that we have not been abandoned. You haven't been abandoned either.

And someday, we can look forward to meeting Him face to face, knowing that we had roots that were planted deep in good soil. We didn't wither and burn when trials tested us. Oh, we might have drooped over from time to time and maybe looked a little wilted, but all in all, we were healthy plants.

We believed that the course He set for our families was to homeschool the kids, no matter what. So we stuck with it, in spite of not having enough money to keep up with the piano lessons, or being permanent, humble fixtures on the local parish's Thanksgiving basket list. In spite of disconnect notices that make us scramble in the sofa cushions for loose change to pay the bill and feet that need snow boots so that you can stop loading your kids on your back like a pack mule on the way out to the minivan. The minivan with 250,000 miles on it.

All those things will be so worth it when we hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord." THAT will be the reward. THAT is when we will live in perfect health and prosperity. That is the promise and the hope of heaven.

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