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"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but every diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. -- Matthew 7: 15-20 (ESV)
This is not an easy topic for most of us. When someone passes away we are prone to feel compassion, as we should. We tend to even distort the realities in favor of being sympathetic. There is the old Christian adage of living a life that does not force your pastor to have to lie about you at your funeral. Most of this is because we always value the wrong life. It is the eternal life that we ought to value above this temporal existence. As such, when someone passes there is nothing left to be done regarding that person. There is no need to pray for them. There is no easing their suffering, if that is their eternal reality. We are given this life to accept or deny Christ. Once this life is over, the die is cast.
Then there is the prevalent Christian thought that we are not to judge who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. While I am not entirely convinced this is entirely biblical I think it causes us to avoid any rational discussion of the life that was led in favor of being politically correct. For example, the truth is while we may never know if avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens sought forgiveness and trust in Christ on his deathbed, like the thief on the cross, we can certainly evaluate his life as not serving the cause of Christ. I think it is theologically responsible to do the same when it comes to leaders within modern Christianity because it seems while everyone shudders that the thought of assigning them to hell they have little problem with pretending they are in heaven. While the truth is we do not know either way, the life still remains for consideration. So that the unsaved can see a frank discussion about the realities of this life and this death but also those under false teachings might realize their own path before it is too late. This brings us to the passing this week of Jan Crouch.
Let us start with what should be obvious. We should pray for peace for her family in this time of loss. No matter of the consequences of one's life there is no denying that their loved ones will be hurting. Secondly, we ought to take no joy in the death of anyone.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? -- Ezekiel 18: 23 (ESV)
Nothing makes me sadder than seeing Christians taking joy when someone in the world who was famous, even in their anti-Christian stance, passes away. We should be always hoping for the thief on the cross who sought Christ, not the one who mocked Him. Saying RIP is a prayer of hope that even the wicked with their last breath called out to Christ. Christ had no more vocal opponent here on earth than the aforementioned Hitchens yet I pray he repented when he saw his end was near. Why? Because that is the heart of God.
This same concept applies to false teachers. As difficult as it may be, we should be hopeful that they repented at the end. We should not wish that any spend an eternity in suffering. So this is not an exercise in being happy that Jan Crouch has passed away but rather an honest assessment of her life as someone who claimed the mantle of Christian leadership. This is necessary because there is no doubt that Jan Crouch was a purveyor and distributor of some of the most egregious false doctrines in the past several decades. It was interesting to see comments after articles written about her passing and how absolutely clueless people are who consider themselves Christians. First of all, let's dispel the martyr nonsense. The empire Crouch built was worth over 50 million dollars. If you think this too harsh, just listen to this 40 second clip from Crouch as she instructs poor people to "give God their grocery money to ensure blessings."
So a woman sitting on a 50 million dollar fortune is shilling false promises and blessings from God and instructing poor people to send her money instead of feeding their families. This clip is not an anomaly either. This was the business model for TBN and remains so to this day. Jan Crouch was not some missionary working in the jungles of Peru. There was also a prevailing sentiment that she "spread the Gospel around the world." In order to do that, she actually needs to believe in the Gospel and it is apparent by whom she supported and promoted that she did not. At least not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sure, she supported the prosperity gospel. She supported the word faith gospel. She supported the greasy grace gospel. She supported the false signs and lying wonders gospel. But the actual Gospel? It is not found on TBN.