One of the most harmful attempts to make the Gospel palatable to people is one which attempts to equate wholeness with holiness.
No where in Scripture is holiness—either as an attribute of God or as a quality of Christian character—used to mean or promote wholeness.
Imagine! Moses approaching the burning bush of Exodus 3 and hearing the voice of God say, “Take off your shoes because I am whole and complete.” What?
Or how about Moses when he wanted to see God’s glory, and God says, “Ok Moses, I’ll pass by you but I’ll have to hide you in the cleft of the rock so you don’t get killed by the fact that I am very whole and complete.” Huh?
What Is Gained By This Approach?
Not much! Those who promote this idea think they are protecting people from the excesses of the Classical Pentecostal movement which are known as legalism.
Certainly, the Classical Pentecostal movement promoted a tragic legalism which did a lot of damage. In its effort to guide its people into living holy lives they added terrible bondage to them instead. However, we gain nothing by watering down the message of the Bible.
What is Lost By This Approach?
Possibly everything! To be holy means to be set apart for God’s purpose, not simply to be happy, emotionally whole, or personally fulfilled. Holiness is not about us, it us about God!
When a preacher or teacher reduces holiness to a focus on human lives becoming whole and healthy, he or she negates the purifying, convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
It was God’s holiness which caused Isaiah to recognize himself as a man of unclean lips, leading him to repent (Isaiah 6). He was not convicted by how whole God was, nor was he suddenly driven to be a better person. He suddenly became aware of his sinfulness, his distance from God, and his disqualification from being used by God. The pain of this drove him to repentance. The “wholeness equals holiness” message rushes in to console Isaiah so that he doesn’t feel bad about himself.
The preaching of the gospel begins with a declaration of Who God is. It makes us aware of our sinfulness and our unholiness which in turn is used by the Holy Spirit to bring us to repentance (Romans 10:14ff). God says, “Be holy even as I am holy (Leviticus 11:45).”
Equating wholeness with holiness is nothing more than a feel-good gospel that focuses on the self rather than God. It is symptomatic of a culture that is afraid someone might disagree with them or make them feel bad about themselves.
What is Dangerous About Thus Approach?
Other than the several things mentioned above, thus teaching represents, not a message that proceeds from God’s Word, but rather, a subjective message that bends the Word to human subjectivism.
We are not invited to change the Word if God no matter how badly others have misused it. Our job is always to allow the Word of God to have its full hearing—as it is! Not as we wish it were.
Categories: Spiritual Formation