In the world of American Evangelicalism, critiquing another’s theology is often shunned. In a secular sense doing so would be labeled something like self-righteousness, though in Christian terms, it’s labeled “legalism”. The term is roughly defined as using law and commandments to prop up one’s own piety while simultaneously lowering others’. Modern evangelicals almost exclusively use the term to describe when other Christians point out doctrinal error or make theological truth claims. But, some Christians argue this isn’t “legalism”, and rather, it’s carrying out the plain commands of The New Testament and conserving Christian orthodoxy.
Historically, the state of American theology wasn’t as hazy as it is today. American Puritans arriving on the continent were cut-and-dry with their theology. They held to confessions and catechisms that spring from the well of Reformed tradition. Historical denominations like Presbyterianism and Reformed Baptists richly populated New England. However, American theology eventually dwindled into something more palatable and culturally acceptable. Many consider that the theologically thin and “niceness” of modern Evangelicalism can be traced back to Billy Graham, who indeed was a skilled preacher, but he wasn’t known for doctrinal explicitness.
Kris Williams from Texas has experienced his own share of being called a legalist. He’s been pointing out error within the church since 2014. More recently he’s taken on conservative mega-stars and apparent “prophets” who claim to speak for God. Kris does much of his analysis on his YouTube channel and podcast “All Things Theology”. The name sticks. Not only does Kris dish out debate invites and theological critique, but he has other videos exploring hard topics like eschatology, baptism, and God’s sovereignty.
Some of Kris’ most viewed videos feature Marcus Rogers, a YouTuber and preacher with 600,000+ subscribers. Rogers is prolific for his elaborate “visions” he claims to receive from God. In fact, in almost all of Rogers’ videos he mentions that God has communicated with him in some way or another. Rogers reports that he’s pulled a snake out of the back of a woman, casted out demons, and that God gives him experiences similar to those of out-of-body ones. In some of these experiences God apparently knocks on his chest and tells Rogers to pray in the middle of the night.
Though, Kris says that Rogers’ theology is off and comes with its own form of legalism. Rogers will often allude that Christians who don’t have similar experiences as him (or, at least aren’t sympathetic to his claims) aren’t “a part of The Remanent” and “don’t walk in power“. Kris makes point of this in a video where Rogers says, “I’m used to the negative, the backlash, it doesn’t really bother me, I just feel sorry for those, they don’t know any better, they’re not walking in the spirit.” wherein Kris comments “Because we disagree with Marcus Rogers … we disagree with his false doctrine … works based salvation, ‘you must speak in tongues’ to be saved (or, it is evidence of salvation). Then, we’re not walking in the spirit.“
According to Kris, Christians are bound to scripture, and aren’t to rely on tales. “Marcus Rogers binds men conscience to his so-called revelation. If you don’t agree with the claims God is giving him then you are the Pharisee and hater. This is manipulative. We are bound by God’s Word found in scripture, not Marcus Rogers’ thoughts.” Kris said, providing comment.
Kris brings light to Rogers’ apparent prophesies on his YouTube channel. Rogers (along with others) said that God “showed” him that Trump would win the 2020 election, which, didn’t happen. “This is what Marcus Rogers likes to do. He wants to make a distinction between God telling him something and God showing him something. God ‘showing him something’ … ‘we might miss it’ (saying sarcastically). He’s hedging his false prophecy.“
Kris only has a little over 5000 subscribers on YouTube, but he has no problem addressing people with millions. Brandon Tatum, a conservative star with 1.75 million subscribers, is open in that he denies God is three persons in one being–The Trinity, more commonly called. Specifically, Tatum denies the historical doctrine that Jesus is God, a position that is similar to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tatum’s position is that Jesus was created by God, a position he expressed in an Instagram live after being asked about it. In an analysis video Kris responds “… but the Bible says Jesus is eternal. I mean, you go to John 1 … This is why the Jehovah’s Witness has to add all *other* things were made through him because they recognize if you view the translation as it is … you can’t have him being created and then creating all things… We talk about believing the text? We gonna believe this text? Did he make all things? All things created, did Jesus make? I say yes.”
Both Tatum and Rogers have been invited to defend their theology on Kris’ channel, however, the invite hasn’t led to any response.
Many will call Kris a legalist, but he asserts he’s only heeding the warnings inside the Bible–and that the teachings of Tatum and Rogers are dangerous. “These men give you a false Gospel because they have a false God. … I would encourage anyone to know the Bible. The apostle warned of many people coming from amongst us that will draw away disciples after them, speaking twisted things. This is why we should be alert.” Kris commented for The Sapient.
Christians have been debating theology and exposing false teachers for hundreds of years. This may be frowned upon today in the realm of modern evangelicalism, but even the Apostle Paul himself says in his letter to the Ephesians, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Perhaps, if the Apostle were here today, would he join with Kris in being labeled a legalist?
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