A book that certainly lives up to its name, Fast Facts on False Teachings by Ed Decker & the late Ron Carlson certainly gives a plethora of great information about some of the various false teachings that still impact many a person to this day.
Before addressing the false teachings. Carlson & Decker write an introduction that define the terms “apologetics” and “polemics”, as follows:
Apologetics: Systematic argumentative discourse in defense, as of a doctrine. Defense of the faith.
Polemics: An aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another, as in denouncing heresy.
After this, the authors give biblically-based reasons for contending for the faith (pp. 7-10). The authors also give a brief timeline of people that publicly rebuked false teachers (pp. 10-13). Finally, the authors conclude the introduction with both a brief word on the Gospel’s simplicity and a comment about how the “aberrant religious groups cloud the clarity of the Word and bring chaos to the soul” (pp. 14-15). That the authors provided a strong warrant for their rebuking of false teachers is important because people need to see the importance of defending the faith and rebuking false teachers publicly. The Scriptures the authors mentioned make it very clear that contending for the faith is something all Christians should be doing (the following verses all come from the NASB):
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” -Jude 3
“For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.” -Philippians 1:7
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15
“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” -2 Timothy 4:2
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” -1 Peter 3:15
While there are other Scriptures the authors could have used (1 Thessalonians 5:21, Matthew 7:15, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-15, James 5:19-20, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 3 John 9, Galatians 2:11-14 to name quite a few), this book has “Fast Facts” in its title for a reason; the book gives fast but very good facts on various things (including the biblically-based reasons for contending for the faith). Fast does not necessarily mean “exhaustive” here.
In the first four chapters, Carlson and Decker (henceforth referred to as “the authors”) write about atheism, Buddhism, evolution, and God’s character (pp. 17-70). The authors do an excellent job of both explaining the facts and refuting the false teachings with Scripture. To conclude chapter one on atheism, the authors state that the Bible “is God’s love letter to you. God has taken the initiative to tell you that He loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you!” (p. 21). While it is true that Christ took the initiative by dying for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8), this concept of relationship is not emphasized all that much in Scripture per se. Furthermore, He would rather have people come to repentance than simply have a relationship with Him (Matthew 11:21; Luke 15:1-7; 2 Peter 3:9).
In chapters 5-8, the authors write about Freemasonry and the Masonic Lodge, Hinduism, Yoga, Reincarnation, Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (pp. 71-132). It is worth noting in chapter five that the authors give an invitation for any masons that are ready to get their lives “on track with Jesus” to pray what is essentially a sinner’s prayer (p. 89). No less than one site takes issue with this concept of the sinner’s prayer. Furthermore, in this prayer, the authors place an emphasis on asking Jesus to come into the person’s heart:
If you are a Mason and are ready to get your life on track with Jesus, pray this prayer right now:
Father in heaven, in the name of the Lord Jesus I confess that I have sinned. I confess that I have allowed myself to fall under the power and authority of Lucifer, the god of Masonry. I confess it as sin, and ask that You forgive me. I reject it and cast it from me and will immediately remove my name from its rolls. Jesus, I call you Lord and Savior and ask that you come into my heart and fill me with your love and Holy Spirit. Let no unclean thing remain! I am Yours and Yours alone! I am set free, in Jesus’ name. Amen!
While both the confession of sin and the immediate removal of one’s name from the rolls of Masonry is certainly a good thing, GotQuestions.org says the concept of asking Jesus into one’s heart is not expressly biblical. Cameron Buettel notes its dangers here. In fact, as he notes, there is a greater emphasis in Scripture on repentance than on simply accepting Jesus into one’s heart (Acts 2:38, 3:19, & 17:30 are some passages he cites).
In chapter nine, the authors, in a chapter titled “Jesus and the Cults”, write an excellent and well-summarized chapter about the four categories of cults prevalent today in America; these cults are the Pseudo-Christian cults, Oriental cults, New Age cults and Spiritist cults/the occult (pp. 133-145). The authors then write chapters on the heresies and endless toils of the Unification Church, the perversions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the definitions and history of the New Age Movement (pp. 147-193).
In the book’s last quarter, the authors write about prosperity theology, Roman Catholicism, Satanism, the occult and Transcendental Meditation (pp. 195-257). In the chapter on prosperity theology, there are several things worth noting:
- In refuting prosperity theology, the authors state, “In Malachi 3:10-11, we learn that if we are tithe payers, the Lord will open the windows of heaven to us, to an overflowing” (p. 204). However, that passage was not written directly to us as believers. Instead, it was written to a specific people in a specific time. As a result, the authors’ statement there is not quite accurate.
- The authors also cite 3 John 2. Here, they claim the passage states “we are told that we may prosper in all things, even as our soul prospers” (p. 204). Like the above statement, this one is also not quite accurate. After all, 3 John was written directly to Gaius, not to believers (3 John 1). As Jeremiah Johnson notes, the twisting of this passage triggered this “heretical movement” known as prosperity theology. Why would the authors take this passage and apply it to believers, as the prosperity “teachers” do, even though this was clearly written to Gaius?
- These authors do not name any specific names of those who teach prosperity theology. They state that this theology is “taught by many people on television” (p. 195). Who are these people, though? After all, one book I reviewed gave solid and Biblically based reasons for naming names. Despite that, this chapter names no names here. As a result, the authors missed an opportunity to give a clear picture of the main promoters of prosperity theology. Despite that failure, that does not mean that they are fully against naming or even confirming names. I attended an Apologetics Conference that Ron Carlson headlined in 2011. When I asked him about Joel Osteen (arguably the most popular prosperity “teacher” today), Carlson told me himself Osteen was one of the big headliners of prosperity theology. While the authors missed an opportunity in this book, one of them (Carlson) thankfully did not shy away from confirming one of the false teaching’s biggest names when I asked him in-person.
- The authors cite the “J.B. Phillips paraphrase” (aka the Phillips Bible) on p. 211. As noted in this book review here (under part 4), Phillips was regarded as a heretic who denied Bible inerrancy. Did the authors not know who this Phillips guy was? For a book that upholds the Bible and refutes false teachings as well as this book does, the fact it cites a paraphrase from a guy who denied Bible inerrancy is both strange and too glaring to ignore.
Despite the few things I noted, Carlson & Decker’s “Fast Facts on False Teachings” is still a good read. It lives up to its name, providing both fast facts on false teachings (not to mention a plethora of facts) and excellent passages in Scripture to refute said false teachings. Shortcomings aside, one would do well in reading this book and having it handy in his/her library, given the wealth of information it contains.