Matthew Richard writes an informational and well-organized book called Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: 12 False Christs. The title is somewhat self-explanatory; it explains twelve different types of false Christs that are in the world.
After some pages of endorsements and one page of acknowledgements, Richard writes an introduction that explains some theories for why he believes many false Christs have come into the world. It is worth noting that he does not cite any Scriptures that specifically address the presence of false Christs (pp. xv-xxii). Jesus Christ Himself, the Savior of the world and the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11) even said that many false Christs and false prophets would arise (Matthew 24:24; see also Matthew 7:15-23, Mark 13:1-23, 2 Peter 2:1-22 and 1 John 4:1 for other references). How Richard missed those Scriptures in his assessment is baffling, especially since he is a pastor. Furthermore, given the plethora of false prophets/Christs/teachers that run rampant today (i.e., Eugene Peterson, Carl Lentz, Samuel Rodriguez, Jabin Chavez, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, John Maxwell, Louie Giglio, Kenneth Copeland, Steven Furtick, Andy Stanley, Brian Houston, Craig Groeschel, Jennifer LeClaire, Jennifer Eivaz, Christine Caine, Kris Vallaton, Bill Johnson, Shawn Bolz, “Doctor” Michael Brown, etc.), there is really no excuse to not have those Scriptures cited as part of his reasoning. While his premise is still informational, it leaves much to be desired.
What Richard does do, thankfully, is give some discussion questions at each introduction’s end. This is worth noting because each chapter (as well as the conclusion) primarily follows a certain model. First, Richard introduces the reader to a fictional character who has fallen victim to the false Christ discussed in the chapter. Second, he introduces the false Christ in more detail after giving the fictional character’s story. Third, he gives ways to respond to those who have fallen victim to the discussed false Christ. Fourth, Richard asks, “Will the real Jesus please stand up?” as he concludes the chapter. Finally, discussion questions come after each chapter. This is a good structure to follow for the sake of simplicity, readability and clarity.
Another thing Richard does in each chapter is define certain terms or phrases. These include but are not limited to ethical hedonism, religious pluralism, incarnation, Keswick theology and the two kingdoms, among others. He dedicates distinct sections of these chapters to these phrases. These explanations help one better understand each chapter.
As mentioned in the title, Richard discusses twelve false Christs. These are the Mascot, the Option Among Many, the Good Teacher, the Therapist, the Giver Of Bling, the National Patriot, the Social Justice Warrior, the Moral Example, the New Moses, the Mystical Friend, the Feminized and the Teddy Bear (pp. 1-198). None of these false Christs are found per se in the Scriptures. Instead, Richard crafts these from the experiences he has had “over the past twenty years” (p. 201). Although Richard does not derive these false Christs from the Scriptures, he does use Scripture as he explains how these false Christs fall short of the true Gospel.
In the book’s conclusion, Richard recaps each false Christ (pp. 199-200). He also notes how important it is to understand that the explanation of each story was done to “raise awareness of the widespread idolatry problem within North America and recognize the idols we must not worship in our own lives” (pp. 200-201). Richard then tells his own story of how he once was deceived by a false Christ (pp. 201-204). Finally, Richard gives the “incredible news” of how Jesus Christ (the Real Jesus) is already standing (p. 207). Conversely, none of the false Christs can stand on their own (p. 207).
SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING
The book is not the cleanest read; it has several grammar errors, including a loss of count on what number false Christ “the Feminized” represents (p. 171). Richard also states that the Apostles’ Creed is both “Gospel” and “God’s Word of Gospel, His divine Yes” (p. 244). While the Apostles’ Creed does say some very good things, to call it “Gospel” (and he does use the capital “G”) seemingly puts it on the same level as the Bible. Richard does not necessarily call this Creed “inspired of God” per se (for only the 66 books of the Bible are inspired of God, per 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says nothing about any creeds of any sort), but such high praise could make anyone think he does indeed believe such a thing.
While Richard gives good descriptions of his encounters with the different false Christs, his descriptions fall short in giving modern-day examples of those who may best fit one of the different false Christ personas. As mentioned earlier, many false Christs have gone into the world (1 John 4:1). As a result, it would be good to know who best represent these false Christs. After all, we are called to mark and avoid such people (Romans 16:17). He does name the Word-Faith movement (p. 71). However, he does not name any specific people that may best represent one or more of these false Christs. I find this lack of information baffling given these stories of these experiences spanned “over the past twenty years” (p. 201). As mentioned earlier, many false Christs/apostles/teachers run rampant today. I am sure that Richard could have found ways to insert in Oprah Winfrey as a modern-day “Option Among Many”, Jennifer LeClaire as a modern-day “Mystical Friend” and Joel Osteen as a modern-day “Giver Of Bling”, among other examples. I noted in a book review on Judge Not by Todd Friel (who is not a pastor per se) the plethora of Scriptures that showed how names were named (2 Timothy 1:15, 2:15-18 3:8, 4:10, 14; 3 John 9; Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Timothy 5:20). In a book about false Christs coming from over twenty years of personal experience, why did Richard, a pastor, not name a single name of those who may best portray these false Christs? It makes no sense to me.
This book certainly provides good head knowledge of these twelve types of false Christs. Furthermore, Richard gives good methods for how to respond to some of those who have fallen victim to false Christs. However, he certainly could have been a lot more clear in giving modern-day examples of these false Christs, especially since he pulled these false Christs from over twenty years of living. Furthermore, he could have had a way stronger premise in assessing why he believes there are so many false Christs in the world today. This book has both good information and zero poison pills. Although it still leaves much to be desired (probably due to my high expectations), I would recommend this book as a good read.
On February 11, 2018, I changed the last two sentences of my conclusion. For a while, I found this book hard to recommend. I then read Trevin Wax’s book Counterfeit Christians: Rediscovering The Good News In A World Of False Hope. Richard and Wax’s book share some commonalities. In fact, both do not really name a whole lot of names. However, one can still make connections between a false christ/gospel and who represents one of those types. As I was writing my review for Wax’s book, I found myself essentially fully recommending that book. This made me think of the review I wrote on Richard’s book. While I still believe Richard’s book does leave something to be desired, it is a good one, hence my changing my tune as far as recommendation level. If I can recommend Wax’s book but not Richard’s, something is wrong with me. Well, something is wrong with me anyway, but to hold conflicting recommendation levels on books that are similar to an extent is just bad. As a result, in an effort to be transparent, the reader should know that I did once hold to a position that did not fully recommend Richard’s book. While I still agree it leaves much to be desired, it is still a solid book for the Christian to have.