Question

I'm in a situation with a ministry that requires me to financially support what I believe is a false Gospel and many other beliefs mostly in the Word of Faith movement. I'm an intern and I made a commitment to the leadership last August to stay for an entire year. That was before God graced me with a deeper understanding and knowledge of who He is, who His Son is, and what His Gospel is. Since I made a commitment to stay here for a year, I have to pay to stay here (for room and board, and other expenses) but I feel like now I can no longer support this ministry with my time or money because of the idolatrous view of God (all love and forgiveness) they present in their doctrine. This greatly affects the Gospel they preach making it false I believe.

When I state that I desire to leave they bring up the story of Joshua and the Israelites making a covenant with the Gibeonites upon entering Canaan. Leadership always tells me that I need to fulfill my commitment just like they did; fulfilling their commitment even though they were deceived into making one in the first place. Is this right? What would you say to that?

Answer

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like you are wrestling several issues. I'll try to address two of them specifically.

The Gospel



The first issue is the question of what the gospel is. The doctrinal statement provided on the "beliefs" page of the ministry's website is not sufficient to be a historically "Christian" statement of faith. It states:

We believe the Bible to be the inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe in the resurrection of the saved to eternal life, and the everlasting punishment of those who have rejected God's forgiveness in His Son. We strive to contribute to achieve greater unity in all that we do within the Body of Christ.
I say this because it omits many of the doctrines listed in the Apostles' Creed, which is a good historical summary of a minimal doctrinal statement. If a group does not affirm at least those doctrines, it isn't really Christian, at least historically speaking. But perhaps this was unintentional the ministry may well affirm these doctrines, even if it does list them in the doctrinal statement.

The doctrinal statement is also insufficient to demonstrate that the ministry is Evangelical, since it does not include a summary of the gospel. This is particularly troubling since the stated goal of the ministry is to evangelize. This was, of course, a main point in your question. It is unclear to me, however, what they believe the gospel is. So, I'm unable to comment on whether or not the ministry affirms the biblical gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ alone.

I should point out that many people in the Word of Faith movement actually believe a biblical gospel. However, they have a poor understanding of the Bible's promises and a poor understanding of God's intentions for our lives in the modern world. Nevertheless, we are not saved by good theology. Anyone who has a biblical view of Christ (including his atoning death and resurrection), and who trusts only in Christ's grace for salvation, is an Evangelical.

I should also point out that the view of God expressed in the doctrinal statement does not seem to present him as "all love and forgiveness." The doctrinal statement specifically mentions the "everlasting punishment of those who have rejected God's forgiveness in His Son." While that is not an accurate summary of why people go to hell, it does not strike at the heart of the gospel. Moreover, it does seem to admit that God has more attributes that love and forgiveness. Of course, it may be that those with whom you minister do not affirm this aspect of the doctrinal statement. In that case, it would be wise for the ministry to correct them.

On the one hand, assuming that the ministry teaches a false gospel, it would probably be unwise for you to stay there and work with them. Of course, you could also stay and make the ministry itself your mission field, unless it was impossible for you to do that without simultaneously promoting their false gospel. 1 Corinthians 8 indicates that we are free to do a wide variety of things, but that we should limit our freedom when our example stumbles others into sin. In this case, if remaining in the ministry causes others to believe a false gospel, that means you are stumbling them.

On the other hand, assuming that the ministry does not teach justification by works, or some other false gospel, then you would not be justified in leaving the ministry on the basis of a false gospel. Christians are obligated to count as brothers and sisters all who confess a biblical gospel. But that doesn't mean you can't leave.


Christian Commitments



There are a wide range of commitments people can make, and not everything we say is an oath or a promise. Sometimes we indicate that we are thinking about doing something. Sometimes we indicate that we will try to do something. Sometimes we indicate that we want to something. Sometimes we indicate that we will try very hard to do something. The list could go on and on. And the same thing is true of God. Not every word that comes out of his mouth is a promise (cf. Jer. 18). And when he hasn't promised, he is not absolutely obligated. This article on historical contingencies by Richard Pratt includes a good summary of this idea (https://thirdmill.org/newfiles/ric_pratt/TH.Pratt.Historical_Contingencies.html). It's a bit heavy, but worth reading if you can get through it.

Moreover, just as God's commitments are typically conditional (see the article above), human commitments are also normally conditional. And just as in Jeremiah 18, these conditions don't have to be stated in order to be in force. For example, your commitment to work with an evangelistic ministry probably assumed that the ministry would preach a true gospel. If it turns out that they don't, and if you haven't promised to stay, then you should feel free to leave.

Your question did not specify what kind of commitment you made. In general, the greater your commitment was, the greater your obligation to keep it is. Oaths/vows/promises/covenants are the highest level of commitment and therefore carry the highest level of obligation. If you took an oath to remain with the ministry for a year, then you should honor that commitment. God takes oaths very seriously (see my answer on Jephthah and Sinful Vows: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/99760.qna/category/ot/page/questions/site/iiim). But if you didn't promise, you should feel free to leave if the circumstances have changed, or if the ministry did not accurately represent itself to you at the time you made the commitment.

If there is a covenant between you and the ministry, it is also possible for the ministry to break that covenant. If the ministry has turned away from promoting the gospel, as it claimed when you entered your agreement with the ministry, then you can be released from your covenantal obligations. Covenants never bind only one way. Two parties enter the contract, and both must keep their ends. Consider the example of a marriage covenant. If a husband cheats on a wife, the wife is free to divorce him. That divorce released both parties from the marriage covenant. It cannot release the wife from the husband without also releasing the husband from the wife. It cannot be the case that the husband is still married while the wife is unmarried.

So, the big question is: what was your commitment? Did you take a promise/oath/vow? If so, what specifically did you promise? If you didn't promise, you aren't absolutely obligated to stay. And even if you promised, you aren't obligated to keep that promise unconditionally unless your promise was explicitly unconditional.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.