So you’ve decided to forgo the straight and narrow and teach things that are… well… not strictly speaking true. It makes sense; after all, surely we’re all a little bored by the same Christian message year after year, millennia after millennia. And it didn’t exactly work out well for Jesus’ apostles, did it?—lives of hardship followed by grisly ends. No, if you’re going to make it big in today’s modern world, you need a modern message: something fresh, something new, something with you at the centre.
Yes, I suppose there are eternal consequences to such activity. But we shouldn’t be too quick to forget the truly fabulous short-term benefits: wealth, fame, power, even sex. No earthly pleasure is denied the false teacher who can correctly ply their trade.
However, you face a challenge, the bane of false teachers everywhere. That’s right, I’m talking about biblical literacy.
There is absolutely nothing worse than some punter with their head in the Bible while you’re trying to tell them what God really says. You’ll find them regularly popping up at the worst moments, quoting parts of the Bible and requesting references. Worse still, when you provide those references (ideally obscure Old Testament passages from the King James Version) they go and look them up!
This is one of the most frustrating occurrences you can face.
Now several options are available to the false teacher at this point. You can expel them from your congregation and forbid everyone else from having any contact with them. You can recognize a devil in them and perform an exorcism, leaving them too emotionally damaged to ever mess with you again. Or simply exert your power over them as a prophet of the divine and insist on them marrying into one of the more amicable families in the church.
However, sometimes these approaches, whilst effective, can garner bad press, and even work against your ambition to make a name for yourself.
But do not fret! Here are a few tips to deal with these difficult people, should you be so unlucky to find them amongst your congregation.
1. Quote verses out of context. Ideally do this from a version of the Bible that is notoriously hard to understand anyway. You can make the Bible say anything you want if you’re clever about it. Don’t ever worry about the context, and you’ll soon find people overwhelmed with the weight of verses thrown at them. After all, they’re not about to disagree with what the Bible says! Of course, there will be some frustrating people who demand to read the context too, but that’s when you move to step two.
2. Learn ancient Greek and Hebrew. “Who cares what your English translation says? I can tell you what words really mean.” Your listeners have little capacity to disagree. However, sometimes you run across someone else who can read the biblical languages too; this poses a more serious problem. That’s when you move to step three.
3. Learn ancient history. Ancient events of the past lend themselves comfortably to wild speculation; the able false teacher must be able to use this to his advantage. Through your vast study (or pretence thereof) of ancient pottery and ceramics, you are able to explain the exact situation in ancient Ephesus that supports your explanation of a passage. Oh, it might appear to people on face value that the Bible says something, but show them a map, a square inch of old mosaic, some tattered parchment and a quote from a questionable academic, and they’ll all come to see that it actually means quite the opposite. In fact, it can mean whatever you want it to mean; you’re really only limited by your creativity at this point.
4. Get personal. Should all of these attempts to rein in an out-of-control Bible reader fail, you really only have one final recourse: the tried and tested personal smear campaign. But it can get messy, and you don’t always end up looking favourable, and so should remain a last resort.
Back in the 16th century, William Tyndale did us all a great disservice by putting the word of God in the hands of even the common ploughboy. Well, now we need to reclaim it for the scholars, academics, experts, and self-appointed apostles. The sooner we can get Bibles out of people’s hands and get their eyes off the pages and onto us, the sooner we can get on with building our own ministry platforms, property portfolios and expanding influence within the denomination.