THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Detecting False Prophets
The Case Study of Nigerian Pastor TB Joshua
By Gary Meredith
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How can Christians spot a phony modern day "Christian prophet"? One man gives us a perfect current example — TB Joshua, the "Nigerian Prophet," founder and General Overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. He claims 15,000 attendees, including some powerful government officials, and 1.5 million Facebook followers. His Emmanuel.tv channel reaches every continent except South America. Though some members of SCOAN may truly be born again Christians, they are all being either deceived, or are part of the deception and share in Joshua's guilt and condemnation (Galatians 1:8-9). Predictably, they are increasingly displaying the signs not of maturing Christians (Galatians 5:22-23), but of cult members — becoming secretive, defensive, offensive, and deceptive.
When I worked in a bank, a Secret Service agent spoke to the staff about how to spot counterfeit money. He said the key is to study the real thing. The more you study real money, the easier it is for you to spot the fakes. In the same way, the more you study the Bible — God's true and perfect word — the easier it will be for you to spot fakes like TB Joshua. Following are just a few of the many reliable standards God gives us in his word.
True prophets give very specific messages that can easily be tested and proven as true or false when the time comes for fulfillment. For examples of very specific prophecies see 1 Samuel 10:1-7; 2 Kings 19; and Daniel chapters 7-12. They do not produce a long list of vague predictions they can later claim came true no matter what happens, like fortune tellers. Of his 98 predictions for 2015, not a single one meets that test. For example, his first prediction says: "I foresee problems coming before the election [in Nigeria] that may stop the election. What God revealed to me is there will be no election in 2015 if we do not pray to avert it. [trouble]." In other words, he is "predicting" that there either will or will not be an election — so what? You don't have to be a prophet to say that. God knows for certain if there will be an election. Obviously TB Joshua does not. He's always predicting deaths and disasters, but with vague language so that whenever one hits anywhere in the world he quickly claims credit.
True prophets do not get surprised by unexpected doom that strikes them. (1 Kings 22:24-26; 1 Kings 18:19-40) In September, 2014, a SCOAN building collapsed, killing 116 people. While TB Joshua was busy warning people all over the world about coming disasters, he didn't foresee the tragedy that struck his own church. He has since suggested that journalists exposing his faked "miracles" were behind the disaster, and also that it was the result of an attack by high-tech weapons. What kind of prophet makes such wild accusations? The inquest has just proven that the tragedy resulted from shoddy, sub-standard construction.
True prophets do not run away as cowards (2 Samuel 12:1-7; 2 Chronicles 18:6-27). TB Joshua was the only one of 32 witnesses about the building collapse who refused to testify at the inquest, instead fleeing to South America. In 2015, for the first time, he did not attend his own birthday party, though it will still be celebrated and televised around the world over his Emmanuel.tv network. He also boasted he would personally bring his "anointed water" to Ebola victims, then sent someone else in his place.
True prophets' actions do not harm innocent people. During last year's Ebola crisis in Africa, TB Joshua told people they could safely go back to living the way they were before the epidemic, that they could "write off" the disease. The epidemic then got worse, possibly because some acted on this dangerous advice and spread the disease. TB Joshua also offered his "anointed water" to stricken nations for victims of Ebola. Only Sierra Leone accepted, and from the time the water arrived in August 2014 through the end of the year, the disease spread much more rapidly — possibly due to a false sense of security that sanitary precautions to contain disease did not need to be followed, in direct contradiction of Scripture (Leviticus 13 and many other passages).
True prophets never glorify themselves. They instantly stop any attempt to take God's glory for themselves (Acts 10:25-26; Revelation 19:10). Members on his website's video have replaced Jesus with TB Joshua in John 3:16, and also refer to him as a modern Messiah — blasphemy! TB Joshua loves to show the long video about himself at his church. SCOAN members even sing a song with the words about God's "anointed servant TB Joshua, the Man of God...Everything about him is good." His birthday is celebrated in countries around the world, televised over his TV network from the main celebration at SCOAN headquarters, to which he sells tickets! There is no example of any biblical prophet displaying such an ego. He claims he was in his mother's womb for 15 months, not 9, and that his birth was prophesied 100 years in advance. Everything about his ministry points to himself — his birth, his calling, his powers, his vision for the entire world — rather than pointing others to Jesus, as we are called to do (Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 3:5-7; Philippians 2:5-11).
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