Bernie Diaz, February 13, 2018
We’re in the midst of the nation’s worst flu epidemic in nearly 15 years, one which has killed dozens of children and resulted in the highest number of hospitalizations ever recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and according to professed Christian minister Gloria Copeland, one half of the renown word of faith and prosperity gospel duo with husband Ken, Christians possessed the vaccination all along.
Lady Copeland, who sat on the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisory board, drew criticism – and rightly so, for her recent Facebook video posted comments in which she said that the key to avoiding a medical flu vaccination was by the simple declaration, “We don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when somebody threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu.’ ”
She claimed that Jesus was himself protection from the flu and suggested that people avoid the virus by repeating the phrase, “I’ll never have the flu.”
“We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases,” Copeland said. “He redeemed us from the curse of flu, and we receive it, and we take it, and we are healed by his stripes, amen.”
I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when I hear or read of such insanity, where an alleged evangelical leader mangles if not butchers holy scripture to suit self-centered, felt needs. In this particular case, Copeland committed the common word of faith fallacy of quoting a scripture out of its context (Isa. 53:5) and misinterpreting its meaning all together.
When Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah to come would be a suffering servant for his people, by being “ smitten by God, and afflicted”, and “crushed for our iniquities” (53:4), he was clearly referring to the Christ’s substitutionary atonement or sacrifice on the cross, to make payment for sin, as evidenced by what follows the verse which Copeland quoted, “ … and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (53:6).”
Copeland is not of course, the first “evangelical” to call for limited medical treatment and misquote the Bible in the prcoess.
Some fundamentalist groups don’t believe in medications or psychological treatments for mental illness under any circumstance. Whereas small groups of faith healers and pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, which as John MacArthur rightfully said is, “Neither Christian nor science,” believe that prayer can heal and shun conventional medical support without taking God’s will or the effects of sin’s curse on this world into account.
Well, here is a shocker for Copeland and many from the “Name and claim it” wing of the most radical reaches of the modern charismatic movement: Christians get sick and die- just like the rest of humanity, a “creation itself (which) will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Ro. 8:18-22), when Jesus returns to take his church home in a glory which will realize its final victory over death, disease and sin.
As the apostle Paul remarked that the “natural man” (unredeemed) of 1 Corinthians 2 does not understand or discern the things of God – such as his word, cults like the JWs will claim that their obedience to God demand that they refuse to accept blood transfusions at the risk of their own lives and of their children. What do they base that doctrine on?
Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.. – Deuteronomy 12:23
How does one take a text about directly eating or drinking blood from an animal (a known pagan ritual) in times of antiquity and even remote parts of the world today, and equate it to receiving or giving a life-saving blood transfusion? Particularly when blood transfusions were not even a part of medical treatment in ancient times when the text was written?
Then again, what drives the Amish to refuse to allow heart transplants and, in some cases, heart surgery because they view the heart as “the soul of the body?”
Today’s Christian must be discerning enough to weed out the cacophony of noise coming from popular, prosperity faith and gospel preachers and televangelists promising health and wealth in Christ’s name to any and all that would just give enough to their ministries and be foolish enough to disregard the plain, face-value reading and understanding of scripture.
The only inoculation available for what ails mankind, is the blood-bought redeeming and saving grace of God found in Jesus by repentant faith alone, which strengthens us when we are faced by the inevitability of pain, sickness and suffering on this side of glory and heaven.
Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can bring about good from any situation. In fact, many disciples of Christ have looked back on times of sickness as some of their most precious times of their faith when they grew closer to God, learned to trust Him and his sovereignty more, prayed more and/or learned how to truly value life.
Making Disciples with the Echoes of God
There is no more provocative and clear an analysis of what has been ailing our country if not most of the world during the last generation or so, then the Bible passage of Romans 1:18-32, which I am in the midst of preaching for our church.
It is a text in which the total, moral corruption of mankind is laid bare for all to read. It reveals a society like ours, which has willingly chosen to reject God, “suppress” the truth or light which all men possess of his existence and glory, and a preference to exchange the worship of God for self-worship, resulting in God’s holy and just wrath or anger of abandonment, on a nation.
How do we speak to or evangelize a people like that? How do we share our testimony as witnesses to what Christ has done by saving us in a morally relativistic culture in the midst of an unprecedented sexual revolution?
Romans 1 tells us in two incredibly insightful verses that all peoples of all times and places that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Ro. 1:19-20). Remarkable.
God has said in essence from that text, that atheists don’t exist (see Pro. 14:1) and everyone has an echo of God that they can hear and yearn to be fulfilled if they would not suppress or muffle that echo. We have to turn up the volume on the sound.
Evangelical author and pastor Tim Keller has summarized our ‘echo’ mission drawing upon the work of C.S. Lewis in four ways, when he said that everyone shares a common ground– religious and secular people alike. He described this common ground as “echoes of God” that even atheists will acknowledge. I have added a fifth.
- The Passion for Justice Echo – we all care about it, yet for truly secular people there is no ultimate foundation of justice. We can tell people that true and everlasting justice- ‘where all wrongs are made right’, can only be found in the perfect judge that is God.
2. The Longing for Joy Echo – it was Lewis who most eloquently pointed out that our cravings for ultimate and lasting joy in this world points to another world. That world is the kingdom of God and heaven if we would just articulate it to others.
- The Echo to be known and loved – we all crave relationships where we are known and loved. This echo points directly to the greatest love man has ever known- Jesus Christ (Jo. 3:16; Ro. 5:8-9).
- The Emptiness Echo – even though many dismiss it, we all have a fear of death and loss of meaning in our lives. The gospel uniquely addresses these questions and only the gospel makes sense of and gives hope to those who suffer (Gen. 50:21; Ro. 8:28).
- The Religious Echo – I have been reminded through my study of Romans that everyone who has ever and will ever live is religious or ‘spiritual’ to one degree or another (see Acts 17:22-25). God has ‘made us for eternity’ or put eternity in our hearts.
This reality may cause us to worship ourselves or things other than God (Ro. 1:25-30). As Keller put it, “You have heard it said, that life is about getting what you want for yourself, but Jesus said that it is about knowing and following what God wants for you.
Or continuing in the language of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, that we can pursue any sex we want as long as we do not hurt others, but Jesus tells us that God made us and gave us important boundaries for our sexual relationships.”
Keller added, “We must contrast and teach what our cultural leaders say with what Jesus says. This will have a big impact on how we teach and preach as leaders in our churches.” Indeed, we must as disciple-makers be prepared to say, “You have heard it said, (worldly viewpoint), but Jesus tells us (biblical viewpoint).”
The world has an echo of God, but we have the entire sound of God to share.