Heretical or not?

If you read “discernment blogs” you will soon discover that there are very few, if any, teachers of the word of God that meet all the standards that have been set up.  Sooner or later, someone you have watched on TV or have read their book will appear on the latest blog watch list as persons to avoid as heretical.  The only one untouched by criticism so far as I know is John MacArthur.

Some, I think, rightly deserve some criticism – such as Rick Warren for inviting three non-Christian doctors to teach his people about weight loss and his seeker-driven mentality.  T.D. Jakes is a known modalist and has never repented publicly of that heresy.  Mark Driscoll cusses and speaks in an incredibly vulgar manner.  These men have drawn criticism for what they themselves have done.

Others have been skewered on the fire for associating with those who are suspect.  James MacDonald comes to mind for hosting the Elephant Room 2 and refusing to challenge T.D. Jakes on his modalist beliefs.  John Piper drew criticism for hosting a Desiring God conference at Rick Warren’s church.

Let me offer my opinion on three popular ministers and why I don’t think they belong on any “heresy watch list.”

Beth Moore

 

beth mooreBeth Moore is a favorite target of Ken Silva and others for having the audacity to include women from different denominations in her ministry.  Their argument against it has to do with The Roman Catholic Church being heretical and thus every person who is Catholic must be heretical too. I would agree that Catholic doctrine needed Reformation (and Martin Luther addressed that) but I don’t see why women from Catholic churches can’t come to a ladies’ bible study.

The second criticism comes from statements that Beth Moore makes such as “I heard God say…” or “I felt God lead me to…”  This hardly rises to the level of heresy.  As far as I know, cessationism vs. continuationism is not a fundamental doctrine that would cause one to be shunned from orthodox Christianity.

A third criticism arises from Beth’s participation in the “Be Still” conference where contemplative prayer and lectio divina were endorsed.  I too have questions about this and certainly don’t endorse this teaching per se but don’t consider it a deal breaker.  After all, John Piper stood right beside her at Passion 2012 and gave his blessing to what she did.

In my experience of watching Living Proof Live meetings, and having done the Daniel, Jesus the One and Only, Inheritance, Revelation and James bible studies – I like Beth Moore and her style of teaching. Now that she has her daughter Melissa doing research and writing, the overall quality of the materials has gone way up.  Before you crucify Beth Moore for her lack of hermeneutics in earlier works, may I remind you that the SBC has recently decided that women don’t belong in hermeneutic classes.  I’m certainly glad I went to seminary before women were barred from attending!

Perry Stone

 

Perry StoneI have watched Perry Stone and attended his meetings for a dozen years or more.  In all that time I have never heard or read anything from him that even remotely rises to the level of heresy.  One complaint I have heard frequently is his use of extra biblical sources in presenting a theory.  The people complaining though don’t mention that Perry always states what source he is using and that it is not to be considered as authoritative as the bible.  When he talks about giants in Gen 6:4 he clearly says that he has a theory about that instead of issuing dogmatic assertions.

The other complaint I have heard is his association with TBN and in particular Rod Parsley.  In the case of TBN, I’m grateful they have at least one person I like to watch who hosts the program on a semi regular basis.  As far as Rod Parsley, I’ve known him for over twenty years.  I can see where Perry and Rod would hook up – both are revivalists.  I don’t think though that Perry endorses every word of faith teaching that Rod would but that doesn’t preclude them from being friends nor should it.

Jonathan Cahn

 

CahnI almost hesitate to address this one as the firestorm of controversy is still brewing.  Let me say that I have read The Harbinger and have read most of the criticisms of it from various discernment ministries. Having spent over thirty years with charismatics and having attending seminary, I can see where both sides are coming from.

I think Jonathan has ably addressed the criticisms of his work and others have as well so that I don’t need to elaborate here.  What I will offer are some of my observations.

First, not everyone is a theologian.  You cannot judge books marketed for general audiences in the same way you judge theology textbooks.  The message of The Harbinger is that America needs to repent and turn to God.  How Cahn delivers that message could have been polished up a bit but it is hardly heretical to suggest repentance.  Rather than denouncing the whole book, a word of encouragement and some editing tips would have been more appropriate.

Secondly, just because he appeared on television shows to promote his book doesn’t mean he agrees with everything that television host has ever said.  Just because John MacArthur appeared on Larry King Live doesn’t mean he is Jewish.  He was promoting a book and took the advice of his press agent on what programs to appear on.  Cahn is not a media savvy celebrity and I hope he doesn’t become one either.  A little bit of grace would be nice for someone who is new to all this attention.

Summary

 

Not everyone is a heretic.  Most of the people in the limelight who are criticized are simply not as educated in academic theology as some of us would like.  That doesn’t make them a heretic and it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them either.

Hold people accountable for what they do and say not for appearing on the same show or stage with someone.  This whole guilt by association to the 2nd and 3rd degree thing is getting old.  Every person should stand or fall on what they themselves have said or done.. Amen?

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I found a ‘Jeremiah’!

In an earlier blog post, I asked the question “Where are the Jeremiahs?”  Where are the men of God who stand in the pulpit and pastor churches who actually speak against the heresy that is so pervasive in modern evangelicalism.

I am happy to report that this morning, my pastor Noel Dear, preached a sermon on Matt 7:13-14 ESV

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

In the sermon he mentioned universalism and specifically mentioned Rob Bell’s book Love Wins as an example of heresy even if dressed in Christian clothing.

To those who may be disheartened at the lack of clear, authoritative preaching in the church today – please take heart – there are still preachers who speak the truth with boldness.  I’m thankful for my pastor who is doing just that.

God Will Not Be Mocked!

Nancy Gibb of Time Magazine had this to say about the election of Obama:

Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope. Barack Obama never talks about how people see him: I’m not the one making history, he said every chance he got. You are. Yet as he looked out Tuesday night through the bulletproof glass, in a park named for a Civil War general, he had to see the truth on people’s faces. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, he liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began.

Comparing Barack Hussein Obama to Jesus Christ is not funny.  It is blatantly offensive to every true born again Christian.

3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:3-6 (ESV)

It seems as though the liberals, who are so fond of attacking Christianity, have made their own religion and anointed their own messiah.

4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Matthew 24:4-5 (ESV)

God will not be mocked! 

The latest from Wagner

Other bloggers have pointed out several notable things that Wagner has said in his recent release.  Let me address a few here:

While there must be no toleration or whitewashing of sin, there must also be no allowances for ungodly judgments in the name of Jesus. Hatred often masquerades as a passion for holiness. And while the church has had its share of tragic failures of leaders in recent days and equally tragic reactions, we must get this one right. It is possible to promote holiness and accountability in the spirit of grace.

The quickness to condemn and abandon a fallen comrade has caused us as much concern as has the actual sin of our friend. Some want to humiliate and expose Todd before the world. And then there are others who want to point to the obvious anointing on Todd’s life as the sign of God’s approval of Todd’s behavior. Neither is acceptable to us. There must be deep repentance and thorough restoration.

The restoration process must be firm but loving, while holding to the Kingdom standards of both holiness and grace. The initial goal is not to get Todd preaching again. It is to get him healed from the issues of the heart that have brought devastation to his family, and such shame and failure to him. His gift will always function when given an opportunity. We just want it to come from a place of personal victory and triumph this next time.

1.  Where is the discussion or even admittance of wrong doctrine being preached?  I have heard no repentance of false doctrine coming from this camp.

2.  Where is the discussion of the false prophecies given on stage June 23, 2008?

3.  I have seen no bloggers attack Bentley for his “moral failures” aka sin – what I have seen is much discussion on the wrong doctrine he promoted and his hyped up “revival”.  Still no admission of wrongdoing from Revival Alliance or Wagner.

4.  I also question their belief about “Todd’s gift will function when given opportunity”.  I question whether it was a godly gift at all.

I’m still waiting for Bentley’s public apology.  We could be waiting a long time.

The Anatomy of Deception

I have just finished reading The Anatomy of Deception by Art Katz.  It is only 23 pages but well worth the read.  He makes several points that I wish to bring up and discuss.

1.  The Love of the Truth

10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 (ESV)

Do we have the discernment to distinguish the authentic from the counterfeit? Are we so habituated to success, and so desirous of seeing some visible effect of power that we are not too discriminating so long as we ‘get it,’ somehow? We want the excitement; we want the titillation; we want the appearance of power; we want to succeed, because the possibility of failure is a form of death we are not willing to bear, thus avoiding the Cross. We ought rather to ask ourselves what is success as God defines it? (pg 3)

There is no greater tragedy in the body of Christ today than the following statement – “Yes, I do have quite a bit of problems with the man’s doctrine but he seems to move in miracles and healings.” If Jesus confirms His word with signs following, then who is confirming the works of someone who isn’t preaching the word?

2.  The Right Perception of God

Manifestation phenomena are already perplexing the Church, with many asking, “Is it God?” People seem to receive benefit; they are delivered from hang-ups and depression; marriages are reconciled; people are restored to the faith. There is much evidence of ‘good’ things, but when the Last Days’ deceptions come, of which we have been warned, will they not come with ‘good’ things? Can we tell the difference between the true and the false, especially when we want so much to be blessed and to have an experience and be relieved of our hang-ups and depressions? How discriminating are we about the source from which the ‘blessing’ comes? How do we tell whether something is of God, or a contrary spirit who is able to lift the depression that he may well have inflicted in the first place? Here is the key: our authentic knowledge of God, not as we thought Him to be, but as He, in fact, is. (pg 3)

26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
Psalm 18:26 (ESV)

Those who are rooted and grounded in God’s word and know Him personally, through time spent in prayer, will have a check in their spirit when faced with deception.  Sometimes we suppress that witness because of our hunger for the miraculous  or because we haven’t kept ourselves in the purity God demands.  When that witness comes though, will you obey or be lead by your senses?

Waiting is a priestly function, and we need to wait to see if our spirits are hospitable to what is being mediated from church platforms. Is it compatible with our already existing knowledge of God? If it is not compatible, they can stand on their heads, run all over the platform, and every other kind of madness. We are not to mindlessly give ourselves to it at all. Our integrity in God needs to be guarded, and we should not allow ourselves to be influenced, taken up and affected by the current trends, or else we will never have anything significant to give. (pg 4)

3.  Profanity in the Church

26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ Exodus 20:26 (ESV)

The priests in the Old Testament ascended to the altar by means of a ramp instead of stairs lest perchance some glimpse would be seen of their flesh.  Do we have that reverential fear of God in our midst?  Does the Spirit of holiness within you cringe at the sight of people being openly vulgar in the house of God?

At the heart of priestliness is waiting upon Him for the time that pleases Him. If we want to be the revelation of His radiance, then we are going to have to reconsider what we are doing when we launch off into worship and choruses or any other kind of simulation of ‘waiting upon God.’ Unless there is a sense of priestliness, worship will become a mere mechanic, a technique, a device and a manipulation. It is not an entering into the holy place at all. If we degenerate into becoming some kind of charismatic fellowship that celebrates praise, believing that we have some kind of revelation, but have made of it only technique and manipulation, then our end will be disastrous. I cannot think of anything more tragic than that worship should become mere rhetoric and words, a vocabulary that is appropriate to us, but a vocabulary that has no real life or meaning. (pg 7)

 
4.  Absence of the Word of God
 

When we see a phenomenon touted as revival, in which the word of God is conspicuously absent, or denigrated as not being the source of God’s greatest blessing, our alarm bells should start ringing. When those who are at the forefront of any revival phenomenon begin to deprecate their own preaching, saying that what they are now seeing far eclipses any result that they saw from their preaching, then we have already embraced a deception. If the avenues by which the ‘blessing’ comes are not the word of God, or our response to God’s word, which has always been the operative principle of God, but rather, it comes through the hearing of the testimony of others, or seeing men decompose before one’s eyes in drunken stupor, sagging and collapsing on the platform, accompanied by shrieks of delight and the inducement to join in, then we have already crossed an invisible line of truth. It may be an avenue of receiving alleviation from dullness and boredom from church programs, but we have already succumbed to deception. (pg 8.)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (ESV)

The gospel  is the power of God for salvation!  Paul goes on to say in Romans 10 “how will they hear without a preacher?”  To me, the biggest sign of deception in the church today is the absolute drought of the word of God being preached. 

How many churches, conferences and meetings I’ve gone to where the bible was never referred to – never needed during the service.  Many people have quit bringing their own bible to church!  Is it any wonder we have weak Christians who need to be spoon fed?

In Conclusion

It is not just the truth, or the acknowledgement of the truth that God makes the key to the issue of deception, but they did not receive the love of the truth. Truth needs to be loved, or we are not going to suffer the sacrifices by which truth is obtained. Confessing your faults one to another is being truthful. It is a painful and humiliating sacrifice to do so, and we will only do it because we love the truth. The love of the truth that will withstand whatever cost it requires is God’s only provision against the deception that comes from lying signs and wonders. If we are only habituated to the effect of them, if we only want to see the excitement, if there is a void in our lives that wants to be titillated at the apparent miracle and power without asking too many questions about how it is performed, and by whom it is performed, and who is ultimately receiving the glory for the performance, then we are candidates for being deceived. Do we love the truth so much that we will raise those questions, that we will be alert to them, that we will not just be impressed by the performance? (pg 21)

Will you exalt God above all else?  Will you hold forth the Word of God as being the source of truth in this day and hour?

Ernie Gruen Report

I have just finished reading Ernie Gruen’s report of the Kansas City Fellowship (link to download pdf file here ).  He has gathered testimonies from those directly involved as well as statements from Mike Bickle and Bob Jones themselves.

The picture that emerges is that of a cult.  Power plays, false prophecies and blatantly false doctrine are the hallmarks of this fellowship.  Furthermore, failing to correct obviously false prophecies and false prophets is only more proof that this sect of Christianity needs to be exposed and repudiated for the benefit of all.

Since we are quoting a man who claims to have mystical experiences virtually every night of his life–usually five or ten different ones in one night–it must be stressed that there are many more wild stories than we can possibly present here.
MB: “…Bob normally gets five or ten visions a night, maybe he sees angels ten or fifteen times a week, you know, or whatever, in dreams and it’s just, so it’s such a way of life…” (P.His 2, p. 14)
Statistically, from 1974 (when the visions started), Mike’s above statement–if accurate–would mean that Bob Jones had received between 27,375 to 54,750 visions, and seen angels between 7800 and 11,700 times…
So, as you read these representative samples, remember that these and other examples throughout this document not only received Mike’s “seal of approval,” but were also things Mike wanted Bob to share publicly for the promotion of their cause.

In contrast, Peter had one vision and one encounter with an angel yet was a leader of the early church and was used of God to write Scripture.  Paul had maybe 3-4 visions/encounters with angels and yet wrote 75% of the New Testament and headed the missionary work to the Gentiles.

I would encourage you to download the pdf file and read it for yourself.  God bless.