Is Chris Hodges a false teacher?

Category 3

Verdict: Chris Hodges comes from a shady background and preaches a sophisticated Prosperity Gospel

Preface

At the request of one of our readers, we have been asked to investigate whether Chris Hodges is a false teacher. You can make a request here, and we will honor it. It is a source of joy to be trusted in such a way. Part of what we want to do in our Discernment ministry is to go beyond the low hanging fruits and answer your questions about prominent teachers today.

Why He’s Famous

There is no question about why someone would want to question whether Chris Hodges is a false teacher or not. According to Wikipedia, he operates the second largest church in America, the Church of the Highlands.

Background

The formative theological training of Chris Hodges began under the wing of Ted Haggard who was his youth pastor, before becoming the head of the National Evangelical Association. It’s critical to note, that Ted Haggard is a homosexual pastor, but perhaps wasn’t when Chris Hodges was training under him. Still Chris Hodges was fond of using this relationship to advance his own credibility until 2006 when he (Haggard) was involved in a homosexual sex scandal. This association should raise questions.

After being groomed for ministry by Ted Haggard from about 1987 to 1994, he worked for Bethany Church in Louisiana. Their statement of faith reads:

We affirm that the “stripes” placed upon Jesus Christ at his crucifixion provide physical healing to all who will believe and receive.

The overt affirmation of the Prosperity Gospel of health and wealth would make Chris Hodges an undesirable candidate to pastor at a biblical church.

Church of the Highlands of Alabama

It’s safe to say that Chris Hodges’ churches preach the Prosperity Gospel. The statement of faith at Chris Hodges Church in the Highlands is an interesting one. Read our white paper on the Prosperity Gospel to learn more about this heresy.

GOD’S WILL FOR PROVISION

It is the Father’s will for believers to become whole, healthy and successful in all areas of life. But because of the fall, many may not receive the full benefits of God’s will while on Earth. That fact, though, should never prevent all believers from seeking the full benefits of Christ’s provision in order to better serve others.

  • Spiritual

    (John 3:3-11; II Corinthians 5:17-21; Romans 10:9-10)

  • Mental and Emotional

    (II Timothy 1:7, 2:11; Philippians 4:7-8; Romans 12:2; Isaiah 26:3).

  • Physical

    (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:17; I Peter 2:24).

  • Financial

    (Joshua 1:8; Malachi 3:10-11; Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:6-10; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 34:10, 84:11; Philippians 4:19).

This is full of exegetical error that promises good health and wealth to Christians. This addition in a statement of faith is typical of Prosperity Gospel preachers. But there’s more. They placed faith healing in their statement:

HEALING OF THE SICK

Healing of the sick is illustrated in the life and ministry of Jesus, and included in the commission of Jesus to His disciples. It is given as a sign, which is to follow believers. It is also a part of Jesus’ work on the Cross and one of the gifts of the Spirit. (Psalm 103:2-3; Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 16:17-18; Acts 8:6-7; James 5:14-16; I Corinthians 12:9, 28; Romans 11:29).

While continuationism is not a primary issue, it’s interesting that they emphasize it in their statement of faith.

Marriage: We believe marriage is defined in the Bible as a covenant, a sacred bond between one man and one woman, instituted by and publicly entered into before God (Matthew 19:4-6).

Unlike most protestant churches, Church of the Highlands has a third sacrament of marriage.

Even the logo is somewhat shady in an Illuminati or sun god sort of way.

Conclusion

Its not a church I would recommend. Church of the Highlands believes that Christ died to redeem our physical bodies whilst we live on earth, and thus their statement of faith places a large emphasis on physical healing that just is not backed by Scripture. Christ died for our Spiritual resurrection as well as our physical resurrection, but we are not physically resurrected when we are saved. It’s clear that Church of the Highlands preaches a health and wealth Prosperity Gospel.

His Preaching

In a sermon titled “Prosperity“, Chris Hodges distances himself from what he calls “hyper-prosperity” which can be summarized as what Paula White does for a living. Chris Hodges differentiates by modifying prosperity with the word “biblical” in front. Thus he defines biblical prosperity as “having more than you need so you can make an eternal difference in the lives of others.” However this message distancing itself from Paula White quickly find itself deep in biblical misunderstanding. Every good thing is a gift from God, therefore to assert that God’s purpose in blessing us is for us to bless other people isn’t accurate for it assumes that God only blesses believers in a eternal way. But God is the author of creation. His providence and sovereignty over mankind is for eternal purposes. So his blessings to pagans may not appear as though they serve God’s purpose to our experience, but God is in control, so they must in some capacity receive blessing for some eternal purpose. God blessed Nero with a seat atop of the world’s most revered empire and used this blessing for eternal purposes. Therefore God’s sovereignty renders “biblical” prosperity as a meaningless distinction. Secondly, Hodges conflates the purpose of blessings with man’s purpose here on earth. It is true that God expects us to have stewardship over creation soli Deo gloria; however, once again, we find ourselves as believers in an ununique situation with no real differentiation between believers and unbelievers. Hodges’ antidote to Paula White’s version of the prosperity gospel is to focus more on hyper-charity, as opposed to “sowing faith seeds.” However this false asserts that God needs us to be wealthy in order to fulfill the great commission and that more money automatically makes missions more effective (see NAMB.)  But God’s work is hardly conditional upon our actions. God works through people more than he works through dollars and always has. This is a more sophisticated Prosperity Gospel.

Eisegesis

The method of preaching used by Chris Hodges is eisegesis, meaning he chooses the message and finds bible verses to support him. The context for these verses is usually not given. Prosperity Gospel preacher often use eisegesis to support the claim that the promises of God include health and wealth, and bible verses to support this claim must be devoid of context. For the propensity in which false teaching necessitates this method of preaching. Any preacher who uses eisegesis is someone to walk away from.

ARC

Chris Hodges is one of the founding leaders of the Association of Related Churches or ARC. It appears this organization got its start while Hodges was at Bethany. ARC does not state its beliefs on its website. The association as well as Hodges is well associated with Robert Morris, who is perhaps a more questionable preacher than Hodges, and then there’s Dino Rizzo who after a scandal was restored quickly to prominence by ARC. ARC itself seems to use Church of the Highlands as its model church. So what goes on in CotH will be spread to the other ARC churches. At one point, but original documents cannot be found, ARC seemed to promote heaping amounts of hyper-charismaticism. In addition to a shady leadership model and collection, ARC associates with several “ministry” organization. We did not exhaustively go through their list as this would be outside the scope of Chris Hodges, but the list includes several church plant industry organizations and some secular companies they use. ARC does not seem to have denominational or theological scruples in their church plants. It’s an industry. Around my area there is a Foursquare church and several generically named churches in the ARC family. Church planting is an industry and ARC sort of operates like a denomination without any theological distinctions. It’s like an investment firm for church plants.

Conclusion

Despite habitually distancing himself from the most obvious prosperity preachers and organizations & individuals that no longer benefit his reputation, Chris Hodges does not distance himself from the theology of the Prosperity Gospel, instead reconciling it with observable reality as is shown in the statement of faith for his church. This does not put him on the same level as a Joel Osteen.

The question of whether Chris Hodges is “spiritually dead or theologically brain dead” remains to be speculated in all this, but there is enough evidence to show that he is not a teacher we should be following in any church capacity. This does not necessarily make him a false teacher, Category 4 or 5s are false teachers. Combining a questionable background with some questionable teachings is only sufficient enough for a Category 3.

 

Updated 03/2020

Updated 06/2020 – Clarified the conclusion. And additional paragraphing

4 comments

  1. You argue that, “God’s sovereignty renders ‘biblical’ prosperity as a meaningless distinction.” Furthermore, you say that, “to assert that God’s purpose in blessing us is for us to bless other people isn’t accurate for it assumes that God only blesses believers in a eternal way.”

    God’s purpose in blessing us is for us to bless other people is not scripturally ignorant nor is it a form of eisegesis.

    Since we obviously disagree on this point, I went an did some research on what the Lord really taught about money. Here are the results:

    • Jesus taught that a legitimate use of money is to support the Lord’s work through the religious institutions the Lord established (Matthew 23:23; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 8:1-3).
    • Jesus taught that we should use our financial resources to help the poor and needy through benevolence (Luke 10:29-37; 18:18-25; compare James 2:15-17) and missions/ministry support (Luke 8:1-3; 10:1-9).
    • Jesus taught that we should use our material possessions to meet essential family needs (Matthew 7:7-12; Mark 7:9-13; compare 1 Timothy 5:8 and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10).
    • Jesus taught that we should exercise careful money management and exercise shrewd wisdom prior to making any purchase (Luke 14:28-30).
    • Jesus taught, particularly through his frequent illustrations of stewards (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13) and farming (Matthew 13:8, 23; John 4:34-38), that it is appropriate, and even expected by the Lord, to invest our resources for long-term gain and/or financial security.

    However, all of that has to be balanced against what the Lord taught about how money should not be used…

    • Jesus taught that we should not depend upon our resources, but upon God, as the source of our supply, trusting him to meet our essential family needs (Matthew 6:9-13, 19-34; Luke 12:22-34).
    • Jesus taught that, since we are merely stewards, we should invest ourselves into the lives of others, not hoard our resources to ourselves (Matthew 25:34-40; Luke 6:30-38; 10:25-37; 12:15-21).
    • Jesus taught that we should not use the power of money to lord it over others, either through arrogance or coercive manipulation (Matthew 18:23-34; Luke 7:40-43; 20:9-16).

    So it is completely reasonable to simplify the Lord’s commands concerning material blessings (i.e. money) into a simple principle that combines these teachings:

    ○ As stewards of God’s resources, we should understand that we own nothing and that everything we have comes from God.
    ○ Since we do not own God’s resources but merely use them according to God’s purposes, we should use any resources given to us over and above what we need to provide for ourselves to provide for others for the purposes of making disciples and loving others.

    This EXEGESIS is 100% consistent with “God’s purpose in blessing us is for us to bless other people.” However, that statement probably should always be qualified with something like, “God also blesses people to demonstrate his love for us and to accomplish his purposes in the world.” These points reinforce one another; they are not mutually exclusive.

    God’s purpose for believers is given in Ephesians 2:10. Our mission is given in the Great Comission. Our commandments are simplified into loving God and loving others. God gets the glory in all of this. Curiously, I find nothing in “God’s purpose in blessing us is for us to bless other people” that contradicts any of this. In fact, it is even consistent with the blessing of salvation; why else does God not end our lives and take us into heaven to be with him at the point of conversion, if not to continue to accomplish God’s work – including being a blessing to others – here on Earth?

    Given all this, I do not think you successfully made your point that Pastor Chris Hodges is a “prosperity gospel” preacher.

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  2. Having attended Church of the Highlands for 10 years and I served on the dream team as a small group leader and on the Correctional Ministry team for over 5 years, I can tell you with 100% certainty they do not share the complete gospel. I created a website after my awakening to the heresies being taught and getting truly born again. The website is http://www.churchofthehighlandsbloodlessgospel.com – I point out specific errors being taught and provide truth to wake up my brothers and sisters that still attend. Like a cult once I left over a year ago, most of my closest friends stopped communicating with me. I hope this inside information helps to clarify whether Chris Hodges is a false teacher or not. I continue to pray that he will repent and share the complete Gospel with his church to save many. He has been given a huge platform and he could impact the world.

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