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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Our brothers in Christ

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This past week I attended the Perry Stone conference in Huntington, WV hosted by Christ Temple Church.

The greeters, ushers and staff of Christ Temple were warm and hospitable.  The facilities were clean and comfortable.

The music was wonderful.  Christ Temple choir led worship during the night services with special music by Larry and Gina Bean.  Larry and Gina led us in the morning services. The music was upbeat, loud and energizing.

The reason I like Perry Stone is because he is charismatic yet doesn’t let services get confusing or out of order.  Worship lasted for 20-25 min. followed by 10-15 of announcements and offering.  He preached for about 70-80 min. and people were free to leave during the ministry time with no brow-beating from the front.

After having been away from the charismatics for about three years I found myself checking out everything and watching everything for signs of heresy.  Surprisingly, I didn’t find any.

Yes there were differences of style from where I attend now (a SBC Baptist church) but there was nothing said or done that could be considered heretical.  No one rolled on the floor laughing hysterically or barking like a dog.

Several of Perry’s sermons were on current event topics and what a proper biblical worldview on those topics would look like. He wasn’t afraid to call sin – sin but was also quick to extend Christian love and restoration for those caught in sin.

Several of the sermons could be considered pastoral in nature.  One was on the sin of adultery, how one gets lead into it and why it is so destructive.  Another was on the iniquity of homosexuality and focused on getting people set free from the bondage of it.

My thoughts on leaving the conference were that too many times we lump all charismatics together and call all of them heretics because of what happened in Toronto.  Not every charismatic falls into that mold.  I found people at the conference had a solid biblical worldview, loved with the genuine warmth of Christ and responded to the gospel message enthusiastically.

They are our brothers in Christ.