Schuller: A Distorted View of Sin
Author: Wendy Goubej
Publish date:
Summary: Dr. Robert Schuller teaches that "There is no greater damage that can be done than to refer to the lost sinful condition of man." Does this teaching align with the words of Christ?
 
 

Robert Schuller is focused on never offending anyone’s self-concept, and that has caused a twisting of the way he understands sin:

Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem.i

Schuller is wrong. The Bible defines sin as the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). The law shows us our true state—it shows us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour (Romans 3:20).

James 4:17 NKJV tells us that "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin," which does sound a little like what Dr. Schuller is suggesting. But we must take the whole Bible in context. If everyone followed the law, there would be no hurtful wounds, beatings, killings, thefts, disrespect, or jealousy.

Dr. Schuller does not tell us that by obeying God’s perfect law we can prevent the hurtful destructive behavior we see so prevalent on the planet. Schuller does not even bring God into it. For him, it is all about us. Schuller does not point people to God’s perfect ways and uplift God and His plan for us. Instead, Schuller denigrates the definition of sin to merely offending anyone.

When Jesus came to this earth, He offended a great many people. The Pharisees were offended. Many of them were cut to their heart by what He taught. Some were jealous that so many followed Christ and found solace and hope in Him rather than them and their piety. The Pharisees had high self-esteem. They were perfect in their eyes. They thought God was obligated to take them to heaven for all the good they were doing. But Jesus did not support their beliefs.

God’s way is the way of the cross, the way of humility. God humbled Himself and He asks us to do the same:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Schuller says this:

Jesus never called a person a sinner...Rather he reserved his righteous rebuke for those who used their religious authority to generate guilt and caused people to lose their ability to taste and enjoy their right to dignity.ii

What we need is to positivise the words that have only had a negative connotation. There is no greater damage that can be done than to refer to the lost sinful condition of man.iii

Again, Dr. Schuller has misinterpreted Scripture. Jesus says in Matthew 9:13, "for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The only people He could help were those that recognized that they were sinners.

If we don’t realize our lost sinful condition, then we will never need a Saviour, and then we will be lost. Still, Schuller insists this:

I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.iv

In this case Dr. Schuller is in disagreement with God Himself. For Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to "reprove the world of sin…and of judgment" (John 16:8).

The apostle Paul charges Timothy to "preach the word…Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul also commands us to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11). 

Read Schuller's views on religious unity

 


 

i. Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982): 14.

ii. Ibid: 100, 126.

iii. Christianity Today (October 5, 1984), as quoted in David Cloud, "Billy Graham's Sad Disobedience to the Word of God," Fundamental Baptist Publishing Ministry (September 8, 2008).

iv. Johan D. Tangelder, "Robert Schuller: Sugar & Spice Gospel of Success," Reformed Reflections (September, 1987).

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