Examination of Creflo Dollar’s “Great Misunderstanding” message requires more than a simple review of the stated topic. It demands a dissection of much deeper issues with truth and the faithful delivery of that truth in this postmodern culture. My review is not intended to be comprehensive, but perhaps it will help bring clarity to the importance of hearing beyond the soundbites. Here we go…
Creflo Dollar’s recent message is considerably different from how it is being portrayed in the press which is only pointing to his belief that tithing is not part of the New Testament Church. I believe this is largely related to his emphasis on shock value instead of the heart of his message. After a complete review, I believe the central theme should be, “Giving is a declaration of God’s ability to take care of you.” If that had been the headline, the message would have been far more valuable to the Body of Christ.
I will include links below for the Message and a few news articles.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
I understand and applaud Creflo’s effort to distance himself from some of his past teachings, which were clearly manipulative. He is a talented and dynamic speaker, but, at least in this case, his hermeneutic and rhetoric leaves much to be desired.
Here are a few quick things I would have liked to have seen him do differently:
LAW & GRACE
His explanation of grace and law is superficial and incomplete. As is often the case in contemporary culture, the emphasis is on God’s grace in our salvation, rather than grace in our living out the expectations of the Spirit. Romans 5-8 are really addressing the latter. His use of this passage in this message is out of context and misleading. In context the passage discusses our struggle to overcome temptation to sin, which is only possible though the power of grace.
ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE
Dollar makes several arguments from silence concerning what Jesus / Paul did NOT say. If we accept this as reasonable rhetoric, then we must also accept progressive/liberal arguments that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality or fill in the blank. Was all of that only “under the old law” as well? Certainly not! See Romans 1 for starters.
DISMISSAL OF JESUS’ STATEMENT ABOUT TITHING
Dollar argues that in Mt 23:23, Jesus was speaking as an OT prophet and, therefore, his commendation of tithing is unimportant to us today. If so, why is it a part of the church record? Why didn’t he clarify he was overriding it as he did with Peter and his vision of the sheet, or with Paul on circumcision? This argument is very similar to those I hear/read from modern day cheap grace “preachers” who submit that all the Second Testament was written for sinners, not saints. If we’re saved, we can just ignore it. Or so the argument goes. “Love Wins”. This is not a faithful rendering of the passage and it flies in the face of 2,000 years of Church History.
MIXTURE OF LAW AND GRACE
Dollar says, “Nothing ever happens when you are under a mixture [of law and grace]”. If that is truly the case, and it is NOT, most of us would be in deep trouble. We are constantly working out our salvation and reaching for more grace while seeking to shed legalism. (Ph 2:12)
TYPES OF LAW
The message contains no mention of the 3 types of law: Moral; Civil; and Ceremonial. We have recently seen what happens when people try to ignore Moral and Civil Law. The principle of sowing and reaping still applies. (Galatians 6:7) We end up in turmoil personally and corporately. Moral and Civil law remain. God has not told us to worrying about murder, adultery, coveting, etc. We must be careful when we dismiss all of the First (Old) Testament.
Ceremonial law, including feasts, sacrifices and circumcision is the area that Paul spends most of his time on. He dismisses the need for circumcision of the gentiles (which was intended for Israel in the first place). He also dismisses strict observance of festivals and certain foods. It should be noted however that he arranged his missionary schedule to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:13), went to the temple regularly, and observed other rituals because he continued to view them as important-even if not required.
Since tithing is not part of Paul’s heated discussions, we don’t know all his thoughts on the subject. He certainly encourages giving and as Creflo stated, he wanted it to be done with joy and without manipulation. This is part of the real central theme and should have been the headline. (I know, gotta make it go viral…)
Creflo emphatically states, “Paul OBVIOSLY (emphasis mine) didn’t want them to follow [tithing]” but only supports the statement from silence (see #2). This is clear eisegesis (making your point without proper scholarship). As a result, it warrants no rebuttal, only a footnote.
In a clear move toward hyperbole, Dollar states that the Widow didn’t have 10% to give. In truth, she gave 100% according to Jesus, “And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:43-44)
This message and its media fall-out represents a grave problem in modern church and culture. Clickbait and hyperbole seem to rule the day. Posts state as absolute truth one side of an argument that people of good faith can legitimately debate. Pontificators often make statements that are more focused on getting attention than they are at conveying truth. These statements are then often abused by those whose hearts are far from God. They use the script as evidence of why people don’t need church or tradition as part of their “spiritual experience”. And they do this, even though the Bible is clear on the importance of doing community together under the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. (Ephesians 4:12)
The people of Israel were expected to follow Eli even when the tabernacle [church] was a hot mess. Jesus affirmed this in the Second Testament as well: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.…” (Mt 23:3).
People who truly love Jesus and believe they know what went wrong with the Church are obligated by the Holy Spirit to pray and take action. Like Martin Luther, they should call for reform according to Scripture. They need to show up and speak the truth of God’s Word in love. After all, it is Jesus’ Church. The very one He said he would build, and the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18). Wouldn’t it be a shame if what Hell could not do, Christians did by their retreat. We are to be one Body and one Spirit using our unique gifts to build His Church. (John 17, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4) Let’s quit trying to tear it down. After all, Jesus was clear, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)
All that Jesus said and did could not be contained by books (Jn 21:25), but today, everyone wants to distill everything into a soundbite or clickbait. God help us rightly divide the Word of truth! And God help us do it together. Amen!