Heresy, False Teaching and Mal Couch – Part 2

It has been over a decade since Mal Couch home went to be with Jesus. Some of you knew him well, while others perhaps did not have the privilege. Mal was one of those believers that helped alert us to the invasion of false teachers into the church. He was rightly concerned with the issue of distorted doctrines coming into the church and into Christian higher education. We were both concerned as we observed doctrinal erosion taking place and God’s truth being sacrificed on the altars of bad exegesis, experiential religion and unbiblical tolerance.  

And we both believed Paul’s warnings. The Apostle’s warnings given centuries ago are certainly materializing in today’s church.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4, ESV) 

“…the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times, some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1)

False doctrines have not gone away and new ones are being added. Therefore, it is important for believers to periodically look at the theological landscape. The flood of false teachings that we all saw a decade ago has turned into a tsunami and is destroying churches and damaging many of God’s people. Unhealthy doctrine eventually produces unhealthy spiritual living. And we are seeing this again and again in the lives of believers. But it is unfortunate that today, in the present church culture, it is seen as unloving or judgmental to call out false teaching and those who promote it. But the Apostle Paul did that very thing and named names (e.g. 1Tim. 1:3-6, 18-20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:16-18). In fact, Timothy was told that “in pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 4:6). Peter tells us that everything we need for living a life that is pleasing to Christ is found in God’s Word (2 Pet. 1:3-4). So, beware when false teachings come in that are “needed” to bolster the Christian life, or when previously unheard of “spiritual secrets” are being taught. Satan is the puppet-master behind all such things and he has a dazzling display of falsehood. Each of us is capable of being deceived by the great counterfeiter, Satan. There is such a variety of false teachings that the Deceiver has many options in snaring believers. He is on the prowl, looking for prey (1 Pet. 5:8-9). But, as Peter notes, he is foiled by God’s truth. There are a multitude of false teachings but we can only deal with a few of them.

  • The “deconstruction of Christianity” movement. This movement encourages Christians to dismantle their beliefs in Christianity. In our culture today, reality is what I believe to be true. There really is no outside standard for truth. This has seeped into the church. At the very core of the deconstruction movement is the rejection of the authority of Scripture. (This was discussed in my “Mid-Month Musings” of May, 2024 which can be found on my website: Paulbenware.com).
  • The Enneagram. There are many fine believers who use and believe that they have been helped by the Enneagram. Some see it as a kind of personality test that will help them on the path of life. There are nine personality possibilities (each has a number). Find your number and it becomes a kind of map for your life, giving greater clarity and even help being a better Christian. (Note there is nothing scientific behind the enneagram). But the Enneagram is not as innocent as it might seem but, in reality, it is a New Age Trojan horse that has entered the church. Bad theology never does not produce good living, and heretical beliefs are found in key individuals within this movement.

ITS HISTORY. It is not ancient as it often claims (“ancient” wisdom is seen as something desirable). It actually began in the early 1900s, not to identify personalities, but as a mystical way to understand the universe. It was in the 1970s that Claudio Naranjo developed the Enneagram’s 9 personality types. He states that he got these through automatic writing (an occult phenomenon where demonic beings transmit information). It came to some Jesuits in Chicago in the late 1970s (not approved by the Roman Catholic Church). The key promoter of the Enneagram is Richard Rohr, a Catholic priest. Rohr’s influence has been very widespread. His theology is terrible. He believes that God is in all things; believes in universalism; denies Christ’s substitutionary death; denies hell and future punishment, and many non-Christian beliefs. He has had a great influence on numerous Christian Enneagram teachers. Some notable Christian enneagram teachers are Beth McCord, Elizabeth Bennet and Ian Cron (who was mentored by Richard Rohr).

The Enneagram is spiritually dangerous. (1) It puts the focus of life on self and takes it off of Christ. (2) It begins to take over the role of the Holy Spirit, especially in the matter of diagnosing sin in life and giving guidance to our lives. (3) It is built on the bad theology that there is your “false self” (the outward you which is your response to bad influences) and the “true self” (the real inner you with your divine essence and no original sin). Some Christians say this idea is just the Bible’s old nature and the new nature, which it is not. A careful study of the Scriptures on the matter will confirm this.

It is easy to be deceived when elements of truth are present. The Apostle Peter teaches that false teachers do this regularly. They “secretly introduce” error. The word means that truth is brought in alongside of error (2 Pet.2:1). This is an old ploy of the devil. We hear the segments of truth and believe that all is truth.

There are many more important details about the Enneagram, and it is recommended that you tap into an excellent resource; that of Marcia Montenegro, an ex-new age astrologer, and now follower of Christ. She knows this subject well and explains why the enneagram seems “to work” for many people. An abundance of material can be found at: christiananswersforthenewage.org.  

  • The Contemplative prayer movement. This movement which has entered many churches makes the claim that if you want to be a “world-class” Christian or if you want to achieve a deeper level of spirituality, then the experience of contemplative prayer can fulfill these desires. To do this, the individual is instructed to choose a one syllable word (like “Jesus”) or a short phrase (like “you are my God”) and silently repeat it for a period of time (maybe 20 minutes). This helps get rid of all thoughts, allowing one to enter the “void”, the “profound mystical silence”. It is in this condition that God can now work in the believer’s heart and bring one into a new, deeper relationship with God. Those who approve and support contemplative prayer include “emergent church” leaders Brian McLaren and Rob Bell; Roman Catholics such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and the “desert fathers”; and notable leaders, such as Max Lucado, Rick Warren and Richard Foster.

Psalm 46:10 does tell us to be still and know God. Meditation. But meditation requires deep thinking about who God is, not mindlessly entering into some profound mystical silence. Meditation is a scriptural truth and is encouraged, but it is not at all the same thing as “contemplative prayer.” When we meditate, we are to be thinking about the Lord God and scriptural principles. The mind focused on the Word of God plays the critical role in spiritual transformation (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 2 Pet. 1:2-4. The contemplative prayer idea has made its way into evangelical churches coming through Roman Catholic mysticism; which got it from religions like Buddhism. At its core, entering into mystical silence really is an occult practice coming from New Age thinking. And people can have “experiences”, but these are not biblical ones. 

  • The Prosperity Gospel. The idea of this false teaching is that God’s desire is for everyone to be healthy, to be financially well off and to prosper in all ways. This speaks powerfully to the desires and wants of people. The believer is told that to enjoy these blessings, one must have faith. There is great appeal for many to think that God is just waiting for a person to “step out in faith” and claim what He is so wanting to give them. In fact, according to many in this theology, God is really obligated to respond to the claims/demands of people. In this theology, God becomes the servant of man and is really like a genie in the bottle, just waiting to pop out and deliver a lot of good things. This “gospel” is heresy. 

Some of this aberrant theology is ripped out of the Mosaic Covenant, where God had a special commitment to Israel, that if they would obey Him, then He would prosper them in many ways. These specific promises related to the land of Israel and the people of Israel, and not to prosperity thinking. Also, this theology regularly misuses Bible verses, such as Luke 6:38 and Mark 10:30 where the subject is not money but spiritual matters such as mercy and blessings in heaven. Some of this theology is simply a baptized version of the power of positive thinking. These teachers prey upon needy people and end up making their lives miserable. Many of these preachers are millionaires because they have persuaded people to give to them so that God can give much to their followers. This prosperity gospel is taught by Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Steven Furtick, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and many others. This damaging doctrine has brought disappointment and confusion to many.

A Concluding Thought. The New Testament writers prophesied that the last days of the church would find error flooding into the church. With so many distorted doctrines, how can a person get a handle on all of them? The key to identifying counterfeits is to be very familiar with that which is authentic. Becoming familiar with healthy doctrine enables one to be alerted to false doctrine. This is yet another reason for each of us to be people of the Book. The Scriptures, not experiences, must be the foundation for all that we believe.