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The god that failed

James Hetfield of Metallica performs at the Global Citizen Festival at Central Park in Manhattan, New York, September 24, 2016.
James Hetfield of Metallica performs at the Global Citizen Festival at Central Park in Manhattan, New York, September 24, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

About a decade ago, our city built a massive 22,000-seat arena designed to host the largest sporting and entertainment events. And in all that time, with plenty of big-time athletic and musical bookings having taken place there, only one event has completely sold it out: a concert by the 80’s heavy metal band Metallica.

Being a decades-long classic rock listener, I’ve heard my share of Metallica music, but two songs of theirs, in particular, sent my Christian antennas up when I first heard them: Until it Sleeps and The God That Failed.

Both songs cover the same ground and were written by the band’s founder, James Hetfield. Hetfield’s mother died of cancer when he was only 16. Both of Hetfield’s parents were Christian Science devotees so they refused medical treatments for the mother’s disease, to which she ultimately succumbed.

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The anger and hurt caused by his parent’s decision to not seek medical attention, and what he saw as God’s failure to intervene, is captured in part of Hetfield’s song The God that Failed:

Pride you took, pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you'd kneel
Not the word, not the love
Not what you thought from above

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the God that failed

The awfulness of this outcome is two-fold: the death of a loved one that could have likely been prevented and the rejection of God by Hetfield who was a secondary victim of Christian Science lies.

Christian Science is neither

Thankfully, you don’t hear much from Christian Science adherents these days. Founded in the late 1800s by Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science exhibits the classic characteristics of every Christian-themed cult.

Eddy claimed she fell on a sidewalk and was near death, when – two days later – she asked for a Bible, read Matthew 9:2, and miraculously rose on the third day of her injury. The doctrines of the cult are spelled out in Eddy’s work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in which she stated: “I should blush to write of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as I have, were it of human origin, and I apart from God, were its author.”

A primary teaching of Christian Science is that sickness and death are an illusion, never mind the fact that its founder suffered from various illnesses, wore glasses and false teeth, and ultimately died. Moreover, as all cults do, it presents a false Christ – one who was a mere human that reflected the “divine Christ”, who was not crucified, and whose blood does not cleanse anyone from sin.

Instead, Eddy believed people must use Jesus’ metaphysical principles to save themselves. Consequently, those adhering to those beliefs – like Hetfield’s mother – not only endanger themselves physically by their practice, but they risk their eternal lives as well.

Spotting a false prophet

When it comes to painting a picture of what false prophets liked Eddy spiritually look like, no one does it better than Jesus’ half-brother Jude:

“These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 12-13).

By being “hidden reefs,” false prophets cause shipwrecks of people’s faith like Metallica’s Hetfield. Fake teachers also prove to be a disappointment just like clouds that promise rain to those who desperately need it but fail to produce.  

Instead of being “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” (Ps. 1:3), a false prophet is double trouble being “without fruit” themselves, thus spiritually dead and consequently producing no spiritual fruit in others.

Being “wild waves,” fake teachers are untamed, and sooner or later their deeds come to light, much like waves that cast their foam and scum up onto the seashore. As Isaiah wrote: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked” (Is. 57:20-21).

Lastly, Jude says they are like “wandering stars.”  An unpredictable star provides no trusted guidance or navigation to travelers and instead, it leads people astray. Like Jesus said: “If a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matt. 15:14). 

Unlike the enemy who is behind all false teaching, Scripture tells us that God never misleads anyone nor fails in whatever He intends: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Is. 46:10). While God never fails, conversely, fake gods, counterfeit Christs, and the false teachers who proclaim them can do nothing else but.

The lesson for you and me is simple but incredibly important – don’t be someone that follows the god who fails. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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