Verdict: Chris Hodges comes from a shady background and preaches a sophisticated Prosperity Gospel
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.
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.
(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).
(Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:17; I Peter 2:24).
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 06/2020 – Clarified the conclusion. And additional paragraphing