Creative Leadership

Who Should We Call A Heretic?

One of the greatest challenges in Christian media today is trying to curb incorrect teaching.  You don’t have to hear religious radio or watch TV long to find some remarkable snafus when it comes to Biblical interpretation.  It’s not just who you might think – it’s a wide group that includes some TV evangelists, some word of faith teachers, and even some who you wouldn’t normally expect.   One of the great shortcomings of religious media is how little most TV pastors, teachers, and hosts value a serious Biblical education.  Certainly, education doesn’t solve everything – after all, colleges and universities have plenty of educated people who are pretty clueless when it comes to life. But I do wish pastors, evangelists, and ministry leaders in the media took a more serious approach to a legitimate theological education.

Few of the most popular personalities in religious media have a college degree at all, and even fewer have a graduate or seminary degree – and yet these people are teaching us scriptural principles for living.  That’s why they so often misread the Bible, preach scripture out of context, proof text, and in many other ways, just get it flat wrong.  Do they mean well?  Yes.  Are they doing some good?  No question.  But the problem comes from the potential size of their audience.  When a local pastor of a couple of hundred people teaches error, it’s bad enough.  But when a TV pastor does it in front of an audience in the thousands – or hundreds of thousands – the damage is far greater.

Although I’m not into being a “theology cop” it’s hard to disagree when some apologetic radio programs play some of the more outrageous clips of religious media personalities.  However, I would disagree when many are called “heretics.”  From my perspective, a heretic knows full-well that he’s teaching contrary to the orthodox, historic, Christian faith, and does it for a reason.  For whatever motive, he’s twisting or changing legitimate doctrine for his or her own purposes.  For that reason, Carlton Pearson is considered a heretic, because he knows fully how his “gospel of inclusion” deviates from traditional Christian teaching on the subject of salvation.

But when it comes to most errors we hear on religious radio or television, my position is that the vast majority are just cases of ignorance.  In most situations, they’re not trying to conflict with or change traditional teaching, but actually believe what they’re teaching is correct.  But because of misreading, proof texting, or taking scripture out of context, they make serious mistakes.  Admittedly, the damage is just as bad – particularly when it’s compounded through the media.  But calling them heretics is like writing them off.   I would prefer to look at it for what it is – preachers and teachers without a proper education who are trying to do good, but unwittingly teaching errors.  Hopefully, they could be corrected.

This is why other religious media leaders have to call them into account, and raise the bar when it comes to the value and necessity of a deeper education in the scriptures.  But one of the problems is that when a pastor or teacher becomes “popular” or “successful” – it’s a little embarrassing to humble yourself enough to sit in a college or university classroom.

Because when it comes to expressing the historic Christian faith to the culture – or to ourselves – we can’t afford to miss the mark.

Heretics or just ignorance?  Or does it matter?  What do you think?

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49 Comments

  1. I agree Phil.  Two things come to mind:

    It seems that there is little encouragement among Christian communicators to explore outside of the indivudual group they are currently involved with.  There is very little exploration of the viewpoints of a neighboring group of Christian communicators which might serve to enrich our individual presentations.  For example, Word Of Faith communicators discussing theology and cultural trends with Prophetic leaders.  Without that, each group is only educating themselves from within and turning over and over again the same message – they never develop beyond the revelation that founded their particular group and with that, comes a singular, weakened, and in some cases, distorted message.  What a leader says about the Bible becomes the focus of the next generation instead of a personal grounding in the study of the Word.

  2. I am for education…having myself multiple earned degrees.

    However, when it comes to the ministry, I guess all we have to do is look at scripture to see who "has the goods." Look at the educated poofs of the Bible…hardly your genuine spiritual leaders. Then we have Jesus and his lot…hardly your Harvard review board. But, then we have Paul who rose above his education, spiritually, though with much diress and persecution.

    Fast forward to John Wesley's day, we have one of the most educated but he was a rarity in his day….most were educated religionists. And Wesley's followers were NOT educated which blew the COA out the window. Wesley's uneducated preachers far exceeded anything that he could have ever accomplished by himself. It was just that the religious heirarchy of the day thought, "How dare you even think of standing in a pulpit without a seminary degree!" Wesley quipped, "So what. We'll do it from the streets and the cemetery tombstones!" And that he did, with no building big enough to hold his crowds and audiences.

    I have found when it comes to being spiritually minded…no amount of education can give you the spiritual know-how that can only come via the Holy Spirit. Education for the ministry can be a blessing or a curse. Within my early ranks (Methodism), education often worked against one's spiritual growth and progress. On the contrary, we frequently saw puffed up, intellectual buffoons. John G. Lake spoke of William Seymour (the unofficial leader of the Azusa revival), as the most spiritual man he had ever known. Seymour was a one-eyed Black man who listened from the halls of a Houston Bible school because of racism.

    I was disappointed to see that your list did not include some of the "heretics" of our mainline churches who do not even preach/teach the virgin birth or the born-again experience. I think Hannegraaff and colleagues rival some of our present day heretics. As for some of the more popular ones, ie., the Grassley Six, I will take their uneducated spirituality long before I will take Hannegraaff's and Anthony's. The flip side of this is, I would say, that you make many of us out to be blind followers of some of these more popular ministers…we ourselves, having educated minds and the ability to reason, pray and come to our own conclusions about the "heretics."

  3. Excellent post Phil.

     

    One would hope that television would be the ideal forum for a conversation on these theological issues – as it seems to be with politics, sports, economics, entertainment viewpoints and so on.  But as you noted, most doctrinal ignorance skirts by unopposed on the airwaves. (probably why these guys don't blog more often).

     

    It would be nice if Christian "leaders" could hold each other accountable.  On the other hand it takes many people to put out a television program.  How many station owners, programming directors, producers, directors, script writers, editors, technicians, marketing professionals, media buyers, fund raising consultants and financial partners also share this responsibility?   It gives me joy as a producer to know that I share in the process and rewards of getting the message out.  Should we not also share the blame for the damage we cause?  Or should we say, "it's just a job?"

  4.  Great post, Phil… To wit:

     Naughty doxie is my trollop,
    How I love her so.
    Naughty doxie is my lover,
    I cannot let her go.

    Naughty doxie lets me do things,
    I otherwise could not.
    Naughty doxie is my mistress,
    Who never tells me, Stop!

    Naughty doxie is killing me,
    Everywhere I turn.
    Naughty doxie lets me do exactly,
    Everything I yearn.

    Naughty doxie is my broadcast,
    Most every Sunday.
    Naughty doxie underlies my method,
    Of my brazen way.

    Naughty doxie is my comfort,
    I give others worldwide.
    Naughty doxie is my support,
    For having so much lied.

    Naughty doxie is my moxie,
    Demanding I be paid,
    For pandering hell’s perdition:
    My professional charade.

    Who am I?

  5. The church of Oprah is causing far more damage than pastors or ministers taking scripture out of context. I would consider her a heretic…

  6. There is also the obvious question of context. We can't be as the mainstream media and pick up a sound-bite here or there and claim "heresy." How many times has someone repeated what you said, and you responded, "That's not what I meant."

    Even the most accurate, spirit-led teacher may say something goofy. That doesn't mean they are intentionally causing discension or leading people astray. We must all be diligent to engage with what we are listening to…and be responsible to question what we don't understand!

  7. I always thought a heretic was someone whose beliefs endanger their very salvation. All of us have an incomplete knowledge of God, but when we mess up on who he is, Christ's work on the cross, his deity etc we lose our salvation.

    By the way Paul has to rebuke Peter for falling back into heresy. So Im always reluctant to write people off – especially because the older I get the more aware I am of my own flaws.

  8.  Phil, it is hard to disagree with this guy. Education IS important when teaching scripture, no doubt. I am not condoning watering down scripture. However, when all we do is get locked into proving we are right like Hannegraaff and the likes tend to do, we miss people. And then what others tend to walk away with is a first hand experience of my pride and arrogance. Hank may be correct but his delivery and attitude are arrogant.

      Christ did speak with authority the things of God. Before he did that, he first served and related as a friend. Oh how often I get the order mistaken.

  9. Phil, as one who holds to the literal rendering of 2 Corinthians 5.21 and the variance of Hebrews 2.9 (among other things), I fall into Hannegraaff's category of "heretic" so I thought I'd offer a couple of thoughts.

    As Anthony Peterson writes, a heretic was or is considered to be someone whose teachings endanger the salvation of the hearers.  In Galatians, we see that with the Judaizers who "bewitched" the Galatians into following the law after Paul had established the gospel before them.  Hebrews demonstrates that if those believers willingly denied Christ in order to follow the law, they would have lost their salvation without any second chance.  Consequently, Paul said, "Let [them – the Judaizers] be cursed of God." (Gal. 1.9)

    In your post, you speak about "preachers and teachers without a proper education" erring in doctrine.  That idea, in my mind, is off the mark.  There are plenty of very well-educated theologians who have to come to deny the corporeal resurrection of the Lord, but they still teach the Bible and the New Testament in many of our uber-seminaries and universities.  On the other hand, there are many preachers who didn't make it through high school who skillfully handle the Word.  In short, Ephesians 4 doesn't present a theology degree or some kind of higher education as a litmus test for the five-fold ministry.  Concerning my own writings, I'd say I've had more beefs with the theological elite's takes on scripture than I have had with the educationally-challenged. 

    In the modern media the word "heretic" has become more a political term than a theological one.  In the late 80's, there was a swell of books and articles published calling out the Word of Faith camp as a camp full of "heretics" preaching "another gospel."  The books and articles were successful in the sense that they fired up donors, made a lot of money, and created a controversy in the Body.  After a lot of smoke had cleared, however, it was evident that the materials were poorly researched and hinged on debatable interpretations of scripture.  Despite that fact, the "heretic" label has stayed front and center because, as you have written previously, media ministries need an enemy.      

  10. By the way, whats the deal with so many Pastors (particularly the hi octane ones) lacking formal theological training, or even a basic degree?

    Dr Phil, is this the "Peter principle"? (promotion to ones level of incompetence) or can you offer some other explanation?

     

  11. I hear a lot of error from teachers who don't teach the "whole" counsel of God. As an example take the "Prosperity" type teachers. Every sermon is designed to come to the same conclusion and they rarely get into scriptures that actually teach people other doctrines of the Bible.

     They are just all over the place from week to week finding a story or scripture that will prove their point. Yes, there is truth in God blessing us when we give, but some take this truth and pervert it for their own gain and I believe it is not a matter of being uneducated. They practice the doctrine of Balaam that is mentioned in the New Testament.

    If you systematically teach verse by verse through the Bible it gives you a natural progression of theology and context that will help and discipline a teacher from going off on tangents of error.

  12. I am not sure what teachers some people listen to…I suspect it is a lot of surface, bits and pieces listening. If you go to the many writings and books of Kenneth E. Hagin, the unoffical father of the WOF movement, you will find what, "you call the prosperity message," only a small part of the whole counsel of God that he has taught in his over 60 years of ministry. Growing up in Methodism and into my adult life as a Methodist, I only received what I call "theological fluff." I learned very little indepth Biblical exegesis. It was not until I discovered the WOF that I began to learn and receive the "whole counsel of God."

  13. Every week one of these fellows makes the headlines:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/09/20/state/n203741D02.DTL

    Take a gander at this "Christian leader" named Alamo:

    "Alamo said he thought polygamy was allowed in the Bible but said he did not practice it himself. He also said that "consent is puberty" when it comes to sex.

    "Anything that is in the Bible is law," Alamo said."

    Heretical?   I'm not sure I care.  Dangerous?  Absatively!  Or so we sniglet at Casa Conley.

    All of the Kookies are not in the jar.  Their preaching is dangerous. 

    Understandably, Phil Cooke calls for educating the leaders, and that's a nice start.  I call on all Christians everywhere to hone their BSometer often and early.  It's never to late or too early to read the Bible for yourselves and think, think, THINK!  Putting your brains in the keeping of any pastor is dangerous!

    In Christ,

    Elizabeth Conley

  14. I have had the same experience as AmeriKan. 

    Christianity and its teaching is not principally an intellectual experience. You don't know the Bible for yourself or its interpretation without the Holy Spirit. As for the whole counsel of God -who knows it? I think it is more of a sum of parts – as in body ministry. I think teachers and even pastors and churches are called to certain areas of truth. That is their part – even prosperity, faith, etc. I see spiritual specialists and find it legitimate. However, being anyone's groupie is not the idea. 

    The responsibility on the Hearer is key here.  Believers are charged in scripture to be careful how they hear as well as what. I have learned to examine everyone's teaching, including my pastor, because it is my responsibility as a maturing Christian. The babies need some protection, but as a believer matures, he must increase in his own examination of what he is hearing.  I feel it is a continual process of eliminating some things and retaining others. Of course, if someone continually contradicts scripture and you develop an uneasiness in hearing them, you must remove that influence from your realm.

    But, by and large, you will not find anyone you agree with completely. It is lazy and irresponsible to expect that.  It's not all up to the teacher, pastor or preacher to spoon feed truth and light to you. Christians have a responsibility, a scriptural charge, to weigh and consider what they are hearing – that it be scripturally sound, set well with their inner man and then to develop personally what is of edification.  If you desire to be well-rounded and partake of all that God wishes to make available to you, one will need to have a seeking after, looking to be led and going with what witnesses. It usually won't be a lot of outside teachers, though they can be a tremendous growth enhancement when it is the Lord who is connecting you.  And there are seasons for certain ones, certain areas or no para-church infusion for a while.  I see them as legitimate gifts to the body, but requiring responsible discernment between you and the Lord. 

    Here is a site of possible interest to some relating to WOF: http://www.victoryword.100megspop2.com/

     

  15. Phil,

     isn't it ironic that these are some of the people who are your clients?

    joel osteen, joyce myer etc. no college or seminary education. taking scriptures out of context to prove their point. God wants us to have everything in this life?

    over to you phil.

  16. You should be giving me kudos for speaking the truth, no matter what.  And by the way – speaking of lack of education, your spelling and grammar are pretty rough…   🙂

  17. Acts 4:13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

    Matthew 7:29  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

    John 7:15  And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
     

    1Corinthians 2:13  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man‘s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

  18. Thanks, Richardson, for bringing this into the proper, Biblical perspective!  We're just mere men, who think we know more than God.

    And, Phillips & Phil, wrong on Osteen (college education).  I don't know about Meyer.

  19. Actually, Joel didn't finish college.  He left early to help his father John Osteen launch his TV ministry.

    And to Richardson's Bible verses, which of these says that education is a bad thing?  God has used unlearned men and women for centuries, but it's interesting that when the most important doctrines that would form the New Testament were on the line, he didn't pick any of those people to communicate it, but a highly educated man of Roman citizenship named Paul.

  20. Of course Osteen did not finish his degree…that is why I said, "college education," and not BS, MS,….

    Paul was truely a Biblical exception and I think the education he received was completely thrown out the window on the road to Damascus.  Then he spent some 14 years getting his "real spiritual education" on "the back side of the desert."  He had to prove himself in a big way before the brethren accepted him.  Paul was humbled and stripped more than once of all pride.  He was told that he would suffer great persecution to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.   The problem with today's educated, is that their pride often interferes with being used of God and humility is not their forte.  But, then again, should "blindness strike them from heaven,"…just maybe, they might see things differently.

  21. Excuse me……the bottom line of Richardson's scriptures is that this is not rocket science….God does not need our education to do "anything" and historically God used unlearned men because they were the most humble and yielded.  Paul's education did not produce those qualities, hence the Damascus road and subsequent life-humbling experiences.  As for his education, I don't think it was so much that, as his genius.  There have been many theories as to his IQ.  Kind of like Lee Iacoca or the guy who started Wendy's…little education but brilliant minds.    

  22. So let me get his straight AmeriKan – you are actually arguing AGAINST education.  That's an incredible thing.  As I said, God uses people of all educational levels – I certainly don't argue with that.  But when it comes to expounding the scriptures – the scriptures that are thousands of years old written in Hebrew and Greek – scriptures that men and women of God have discussed and debated throughout the centuries – I want to be hearing from someone who has had serious training.  I assume when you go into open heart surgery, it will be OK to have a surgeon that hasn't been actually "trained" in a real medical school.  I'm sure you'll feel that some night school, friendships with other doctors, a real passion for medicine, and some personal time with medical books will be all he needs.

    Sheesh – it's no wonder so many pastors today are teaching error… I had no idea so many people out there actually encouraged staying away from a good education.   

  23. I have encountered prejudice against education and educated people in certain churches. 

    When I was a young Marine there was a preacher in Jacksonville NC with a large congregation who actively discouraged servicemen from higher educations and technical training.  He convinced them that education would make them too "worldly" to be of any use to God.  I've not been back in over 20 years, but I hope the old goat's out of business by now.  He was a real blight on the Christian community. 

    He's not the only one.  In most Christian groups, it's smart to keep your trap shut about your education.  It's also a good idea not to let on if you study the Bible regularly.  Few things make a pastor or lay leader feel more threatened than a "know-it-all.  Personally, I don't think they need to know scripture inside and out to do a good job.  But let them find out you know they don't know everything, and they may carry a grudge. 

    When people feel threatened, they get hostile.  A lot of trouble can be averted by playing dumb.  You don't have to be dumb, but it's better to be mindful of your audience before you launch a discussion deeper than "Praise the Lord!" and "Nice day, ain't it?" 

  24. An educated mind with a starved heart is a bankrupt soul and no matter how much we try it will eventually show itself thorugh our attitudes and our disposition to others. Is not funny that the everyone knows the person who suffers the disease called pride except the prideful person. Who were the elite financial gurus, are they not the ivy league elect who are ruining the global economy today – are they not the ‘highly elite ivy league’ graduates with no moral or heart foundation? Education is great but in and of itself without the right heart condition in place will only reproduce an educated mind but a souless life rooted in selfishness and we wonder why there is so much pride and arrogance amongst many (not all) educated people. God unlike human beings recognises that knowledge by itself is useless when the heart of the man is not humble and yielded to love and serve Him and His creation especially our fellow human beings. Unfortunately most of our education is not designed to serve people and better the world around us but rather the individual and their own personal well-being. Besides what is a degree or degrees in knowledge but a minute, infinitely tiny variant of a vast and infinitely large, immeasurable amount of knowledge that we haven’t even begun to discover. So let’s be humble about what we do or don’t have and just live to serve God and His people before even that degree becomes obsolete and outdated by our pride or just a change in times. In any case preaching heresy/error has nothing to do with one’s education ultimately but what rather what the person seeks to achieve from the hearers. There educated bible scholars who are doing great things for God but there are also many educated bible scholars who have education and yet completely ineffective for God and His Kingdom – it really is an issue of the heart.

  25. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

    I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
    I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.

    So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

    While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

    Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

    This is what the Lord says:
    “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
    But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
    that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
    and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

  26. Respectfully, the anti-intellectual lobby in the faith community sometimes takes it too far.

    The "Relevance" movement often sounds like the "dumbed down sermon" movement from the pews.  The "friendly" adult Sunday School seems mind numbingly devoid of substance from the metal folding chairs on the back row.

    Sure, flamboyant and charming crowd pleasers with modest education draw in big crowds.  That's a beautiful thing.  As a small kindness, tolerate the eggheads as well.  Just let them use an obscure corner of the building for their "irrelevant" discussions.  Don't fly into a snit if their minds seem to wander during sermons with less substance than cotton candy.  They're not the only ones.  Some of the elders are turning off their hearing aids and catching a snooze.  There's only so much candy-floss a human can handle on a single Sunday AM.

    Geeks know full well they're not the in crowd, and are only tolerated on sufferance.  You don't have to tell them again and again.  Most of them figured it out by 2nd grade.  Just live and let live.  If you show them minimal hospitality they'll do things for your organization that would cost you a fortune to hire out.

    If they seem soul-less to you, then just leave 'em alone.  They don't mind.

  27. There is nothing wrong in being educated or having a solid education in any field especially where the bible is concerned. You can be educated and be humble, you can be an illiterate and be proud but there is a greater tendency for a person with an education (from degree to Phd and above) to lean towards being proud, self sufficient and looking down on others. There are many who could easily outsmart educated people but they do not have the opportunity, or the access to such higher learning, are they less candidates for teaching God’s Word? What about countries where being a Christian is a crime? Do they suddenly stop teaching the bible because they do not have the ‘biblical education’ (or access) to do it? This was the problem of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, they focussed so much on the intellectual, the laws, the principles that in the process they lost sight of the heart and spirit of God. The thing is, we human beings do not know how to handle abundance whether it is finances or knowledge – because as soon as we get just a fraction of it more than someone else, and the finance and or the knowledge can start doing some things that we once used to trust God for, we want to become our own god (and dominate others in the process) and subtly or obviously we then reject the true God because we are ‘independent’ as if God is only there for our provisions and needs. No wonder so many marriages and relationships in the Western world fail at an alarming rate when most of it is based on selfishness and independence rather than serving others and selfless living. When we have the privilege of being highly educated, it is not to brag and belittle others, but rather to serve better and improve lives. Who really cares how much you know, when most people really want to know (and see) how much you care.

  28. Where there is word study – using the concordance to look up the Greek and Hebrew words – you are working with the word, not just man's ideas. This practice has been passed along to followers – chain referencing, comparing spiritual with spiritual. I am concerned that religion not replace true Christianity.  The apostle Paul was a religionist before he met the Lord Jesus. What followed in his spiritual walk afterwards is the example we are to follow – becoming available to the Holy Spirit to reveal truth – in the scriptures. It is man developing addendums and natural answers to spiritual problems that leads astray – such as the religious leaders of Jesus' day. Saul (before being called Paul) was one of those. Paul's studies AFTER he met the Lord and was filled with the Holy Spirit are the meaty contribution that is profitable – not his previous Pharasaical studies. He said he counted that all dung.  The scriptural referencing of the mind in the NT is that it be renewed according to the word, not go off on its own.  There is reference to the spriitual mind, the mind of Christ. 

    There is level ground at the cross. From there, anyone can follow on to know the Lord and develop their mind, their thinking, in his word or veer off into books about the word, dispirited wranglings and such. The base of the development of thinking to me is the key.  The scriptures will agree on any solid truth, not just an isolated phrase or reference. Joyce Meyer, by the way, is a crowd drawer, along with others, who track well because they develop the word as their base. As you reference, not perfect, but again, listeners have a responsibility. Anyone can educate themselves in God's word and rightly train their thinking.  

  29. "Some of these leaders need to hit the books more."(??) "Bit more reasoned."(??)   Who says they are not already…purely an ignorant assumption.  It is apparent that some on this blog have not done much of their own reading or studying lately.  I am going to mention some names that would fall under WOF/Charismatic/the accused of "heresy."  F.F. Bosworth, P.C. Nelson, Lester Sumrall, Charles Finney, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Rick Renner are just a few of the many men and women who have little to no formal education.  It would not take too much study and reading to find just how much these men and women, too, have accomplished in the way of study, prayer, and preparation, yet with minimal formal academia.  Read the volumes of books and commentary they have written.  It behooves each of us to do our own study and homework before we spew out some of these "cute cliches" that are void of any real basis or substance.

    Perhaps you are an ardent student of Joyce Meyers writings….I would assume that to be the case from your comment…at least I would hope that in your conclusions of Joyce you have thoroughly studied and read her writings to make these public comments.

    My brother, who has been a long time Methodist (>50 years) said that because seminary graduates are down, they have started ordaining Methodist ministers who are not seminary educated….only a few classes and instruction the church offers before ordination.  One of their more recent pastors was of this latter group and my brother stated he was the best pastor their congregation had ever had.  The uneducated pastor had a closer connection to the people and was able to preach and teach from the pulpit, the Bible, in a way they had never known.  Needless to say, their congregation grew.  One of my best college pastors was a Methodist and seminary educated….he "remembered the point"….it was his heart….he was a rarity.

    1. I just stumbled across your comment and want to say that you are not correct about Rick Renner.
      Don’t know if you’ll get this but……..I copied this from an ebay page.

      “After graduating from high school, Rick attended the University of
      Oklahoma, where he studied Classical Greek, Journalism, and Mass
      Communication. In the years that followed, he continued his extensive
      study of the Greek New Testament, later earning a Doctor of Philosophy
      in Ministry.”

      He is not only highly educated but has extensive knowledge in NT history.

  30. "Paul's studies AFTER he met the Lord and was filled with the Holy Spirit are the meaty contributions that are profitable not his previous Pharasaical studies.  He said he counted that all dung."   Brilliant, Richardson….God's Word always settles the discussion. 

    "Joyce Meyer….who track well because they develop the Word, as their base."  You could not be more correct…as she is a student of the Word…it is the basis for everything she says and teaches.

  31. "Who says they are not already…purely an ignorant assumption."

    "I would assume that to be the case…"

    You assume a great deal, over and over again, and it has gotten old.  That, and the never ending parade of straw man constructs. 

    I concede the field to you entirely, AmeriKan.  You reign supreme in defeating straw men.  No one does it as well as you do.  Wow!  You rule. 

  32. I’ve read with interest and in some cases alarm the various posts in response to Phil’s comments about an educated clergy. First, I think we have to be more precise in our use of the term education. Historically we’ve recognized three types of education: formal, informal, and nonformal. Informal education is what we get primarily from our parents, while nonformal education often takes the form of seminars, workshops, conferences where we might even receive continuing education credits or certification in a particular skill. Formal education is the focus of this debate and in particular formal theological education. I think we make an anachronistic historical mistake by trying to find scriptures that support our modern day notions of education. Very little formal learning in the modern sense of courses, grades, levels, and degrees existed in the ancient world of the OT or NT. There was more informal and nonformal learning that took place in the home or in the temple and synagogue but which didn’t produce any official degree.

     

    Do we need a formally educated clergy in order to avoid some of the problems Phil and others have identified? I think it is necessary but not sufficient and certainly not the only means available to someone who seeks to lead God’s people. However, there are canons of interpretation (hermeneutics) that have been in existence since the Old and New Testaments that one needs to know in order to teach and preach God’s word accurately. People learn this best in a community of faith from practitioners who have experience with the literature and the practice of preaching and teaching. Whether this needs to take place in a formally accredited seminary or Bible college or whether we can achieve it in cyberspace faith communities is debatable but some form of education (formal, informal, nonformal) seems wise and supported by scripture. Not in the sense that any one of these forms is mentioned but that both testaments in Hebrew and Greek are filled with words of an educational nature that refer to the various processes of teaching and learning. In the Book of Acts alone there are over 50 different Greek words that used for various forms of communicating truth (see All Things New, Carl Hoch). I think it is the responsibility of the one called to preach and teach to prepare fully him or herself to accurately and faithfully teach and preach the scriptures (the whole counsel of God or all of the word of God from Genesis to Revelation).  

     

    But I also think, as one post mentioned, that there is also a responsibility for believers to do what the Bereans did with the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:11 – “they searched the scriptures daily to see if those things were so.” They were checking out Paul to make sure his views and interpretations of scripture were accurate. If they could do that with Paul then we ought to be able to do that with Joel or Joyce. Of course, this assumes that those who hear like the Bereans know enough about the scriptures to check someone out. So we have this cycle of clergy with inadequate knowledge of scripture teaching and preaching to those with an inadequate knowledge of scripture and we end up with a lot of confusion and sometimes heresy (although I think we have to be careful using that word about other believers). The mega church solution to this is to train their own and not send them off to Bible college or seminary for formal theological education. They certainly have that option, as long as the church has competent and informed mentors and disciplers who can make up for what a theological education can provide. Part of the problem is that many of these churches produce competent ministry artisans who specialize in one particular church ministry and learn how the church wants to do a particular ministry. What they need in addition to practical indoctrination in ministry polity is a sound biblical and theological rationale for ministry that connects all facets of ministry to the Mission of God which is now the Mission of the Church. Without this biblical perspective we simply don’t know for sure whether what we are doing is what we ought to be doing in terms of ministry that furthers the Mission of God and expands the Kingdom of God.

     

    In summary, I would say we need an educated clergy but what form that education takes is flexible and diverse. I don’t think there is any one single path of preparation that one needs to follow in order to arrive at a stage of being a competent and Spirit empowered communicator of God’s Word. But it must be an informed path that avoids depreciating learning and education (no matter what form it takes). I know many who are in seminary who have been told by family, friends, and members of their congregations, that they are wasting their time and money and probably will come out after graduation less of a preacher than when they enrolled. This kind of dumbing down of the Christian faith is the real heresy because it deforms the image of God in us that instills within us a desire to think God’s thoughts after him. We have to get away from this notion that coming to church and being a Christian means that you check your brain at the door. We have a church in our area whose tag line on their television ads is “It can’t be explained only experienced.” Well, if you can’t explain it (offer rational reasons), then it isn’t orthodox Christianity! The Christian faith is a verifiable faith grounded and rooted in history not just an emotional experience of the heart. This half-headed thinking is evident in that hymn we often sing at Easter, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.” Well, in one sense that is true but if that is the only basis for your belief in the resurrection of Jesus then you don’t have enough evidence to convince another who hasn’t had your experience. You need objective historical evidence to point to in addition to your own personal experience of faith. We have this tendency to swing back and forth between head and heart depending on your denominational affiliation. Although a general characterization, we often see Pentecostals stressing the heart while Presbyterians stress the head. God has created us as whole persons and we need both to achieve complete and total transformation into the fullness of Christ. Those who stress the head need to embrace the heart and those who stress the heart need to embrace the head. Both need to embrace the feet and live out the faith in the totality of the image in which God created them in order to bring glory to his name.

  33. Finally – a literal apologist. Stop holding out on us!!!  Please provide all your proofs of the resurrection, faith, the conscience, the soul and everythng you have relative to the Christian faith. Quick – we are being persecuted because we can't prove these things.  Quick – provide all material asap – got pictures, can we view them on site??  Provide all immediately.  Christians in China are being tortured because they don't have this proof.  Stop holding out. Solve it all now. 

  34. Steve, many of our fine Pentecostal/Charismatic/WOF churches/fellowships have done just that….they have their own accredited universities and theology schools.  This is not new and has been in progress for many years.  They are doing just what the Methodists and Presbyterians did in their infancy, who in time, started their own higher levels of educational institutions.  The early Methodists were firey, charismatic, spirit-filled in practice, and students of the Word, without any formal or academic education.  Over time, they lost something called, "the letter alone, killeth, but with the spirit there is life." In their early years they saw revival and rapid growth but over the last half century, they have drastically decreased in numbers and church planting.  However, there has been a resurgence of the, "getting back to their roots," and some progress has been made in isolated congregations with growth and increased interest in the literal Word of God.

  35. I must tell you that as a college professor I find this strand nauseating, deliberately obtuse, and more than a little full of cowardice.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, evangelicals still lag behind our more secular counterparts in college educations period – not just in the area of theology and ministry.  What is this suspicion of education?

    Does Scripture not call us to worship God in spirit and in truth?  I had a college professor of my own once say – "If all you know is your Bible, you don't even know that."  Spiritual revelation doesn't exist in a vacuum – it didn't when it was first revealed, and it doesn't today.  Education is a gift. The fact that God occasionally supernaturally intervenes and heals doesn't keep us from studying medicine nor should it prevent us from any other understanding of God or His world.  Like any gift, it can be mismanaged.  But from where I sit, there has been an equal amount of damage done by the educated AND the uneducated in Christ' name.  The issue isn't education, but the manner in which it is used.

    If God really is the author of all truth, we have little to fear in its honest pursuit.  In fact, it is an act of cowardice to not fully utilize the talents and gifts at our disposal.  I'm reminded of the man who buried his talent only to face God's wrath, lose his talent and see it given to someone else with a bigger view of God.

  36. We tend to consult our inner baseness before we consider the inner highness. Education is part of training in life but not all of training as we all need to be trained in other areas not just academically. Areas where we are most deficient in, such as our emotions, behaviours and simply attitudes towards ourselves and others – improve our people skills. In regards to the post I think a lot of criticisms amongst and between TV ministers (known and unknown) would better dealt with if they just had invited each other to dinner and discuss why they believe the way they do and do what they do. Before they publicly bash one another (and just further hurt the Body of Christ) can they not just have lunch or meal together and just talk to each other – just talk over tea or coffee or find something they do eat in common and find out what it is; they (and we) may be surprised what a dinner conversation can bring out especially when you cook the meal real good. So before Hank Hannegraaff or anybody else spends good TV money on critiquing other ministers, I think they should have made sure that they have tried better ways to communicate in love the errors they see in others even if it is taking them out. Prior to Apollos meeting with Aquila and Priscialla's his initial teachings was very limited (and check it out he was well-educated) and teachings after his encounter with them. They didn't go around embarassing the guy and disqualify him from teaching, they just called him aside and told him the part he was not knowledgeable about – I think it was their lovely, approachable attitude that won him over to humble himself improve on his teaching and learning. I think we need to find ways no matter how small to begin to mend and heal in the Body of Christ and find certain things that we can begin to agree on consisently even though we are different in many areas there are some things that we can work with that we do agree and are actually happy about.

  37. Leslie…such a "novel idea" but you are simply, right!  This has always puzzled me…because my roots are fundamental and evangelical.  Years later, after my endorsement of the pentecostals, WOF and charismatics,  I soon saw the "great divide" and the incessant and endless attacks of the former to the latter.  I saw a love, steadfastness and genuineness in the pentecostal/charismatic circles that depicted the NT church in many convincing ways….spirit-filled, evangelistic, focused, the fruits of the spirit, diligent in the Word and Godly men and women of prayer.  They were consumed with fulfilling the "great commission" and appeared to have little time for fault-finding in the body of Christ.  Many of my mainline church friends and associates saw the same…their inner man seeking and desiring more of, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall….."  They saw the same devisive attitude, within their ranks, ultimately leaving and partaking with the pentecostals/WOF/charismatics.

  38. Professor….how is it that evangelicals lag behind?  Some of our church affiliated colleges and universities are excelling in the arts and sciences providing exemplary undergraduate and graduate level educations, ie., for medical and law school entrance.  My daughters graduated summa cum laude from ORU and both finished their masters at Fordham and Carnagie-Melon (with 4.0).  They believed their "evangelical," undergraduate education more than prepared them for these secular graduate programs.  I will concede in the areas of research…they may be weaker.  But, when it comes to theology and ministry, I think the evangelical education far exceeds the secular, especially when many deny the virgin birth, the literal interpretation of the Bible and even the born-again experience (Ephesians 2:8,9).

    To "worship God in spirit and in truth," means in the "true spirit of God's Word."  Your professor would have a hard time debating someone like Smith Wigglesworth who read ONLY the Bible…not even the newspaper.  And, yet, he (Wigglesworth) had more than twenty medically documented people that he had prayed for and were raised from the dead…one women had already been embalmed.  Every continent he touched, revival followed.  You can access his books on Amazon.com 

    The issue of knowledge is this, "that it puffeth up," I Cor. 8:1.    First Cor. 13:8, speaks of knowledge passing away because "it will lose its value and be superseded by truth (AMP)."  Truth being God and His Word.  You are right, "the issue isn't education but the manner in which it used"….the heart.

  39. Can someone show me the Hannegraaff ministry or calling or office in the New Testament?  A self-appointed judge?  Talk about itching ears of those who would listen – the sound bites, the wrong spirit, actually going off on his callers when his favorite peeves are brought up. No one will ever be smarter or more educated than the word of God, not if you intend to see God, either through the spirit in this life or hereafter. His word is forever settled in Heaven. His spirit is awesome in revelation and insight. What if the "watchdogs" implemented prayer in faith, like Elias?  How much do we care about the body of Christ, the church, the brethren, God's representation on earth if we resort to heartless means to attempt to correct what we deem a hindrance and danger to the flock?  These appear to be exercising an oversight that belongs to pastors. Do they arise because pastors are not exercising true oversight and warning?  If so, still no excuse to go outside the bounds of the word and spirit.  Very typically  their fruit does not recommend their orientation as being from God, but that they have taken matters into their own hands. 

    God's system and methods have correction built into them.  Those who have gotten back to "the book" and developed in it are actual agents of change.  As mentioned above, over the past decades, which sectors of the church have dwindled and dried up and which have increased and thrived?  It's obvious when you are honest about it.  It's also obvious when critics express sour grapes over it.  Where are the results on the missionary fields? Among mainline denominations? Don't think so. Let's really care about excesses and perceived errors enough to pray fervently concerning them and mostly, deal in word truth and spirit ourselves, demonstrating the authentic which exposes that which is otherwise. Keep that zeal in God's hands.  

  40. P.S.  True, scandals have arisen from the ranks of the charismatic, WOF, pentecostal circles, breaking into the national consciousness.  Not so much among the denominational circles who have lost the "mike."  Simple.  The wolf howls where there is meat.  There is still a devil, even if most seminaries have voted him out.  He focuses where he is being most challenged.  If you care — pray and believe.  And be smart enough to look and go where God is pointing, not where secular man points, aided by the devil.  

  41. Richardson…thankyou for your comments.  The scandals are on both sides of the aisle.  In my days of denominationalism and since, I have seen all kinds of issues transpire within their circles, ie., the pastor running off with the church secretary, murder, infighting, church splits, homosexuality, child abuse….the list goes on.  In fact, in a small neighboring city a church (mainline) secretary had an affair with the pastor (and other men in the church) and, together, they murdered the secretary's husband.  Eventually, they were convicted and sent to prison…both are out now…and, "naturally," a movie was made.  The problems are ever present.  It is just as you have indicated…the mainline churches' voice and effectiveness has been greatly diminished.  The devil maintains…"Why bother.  Let's get those who are making the greatest impact against hell (whether they have slipped up or not)."

  42. I am all for education. I have been involved in higher
    education for many, many, years and have taught at some of the nations top regionally
    and ATS accredited Christian universities recognized by the U.S. Department of
    Education and ranked very high by the Princeton Review and the US News and
    World Report.

     

    My multi-disciplined degree majors are in Christian Studies,
    Practical Theology, Business Administration, Organizational Leadership and Law
    (General litigation). My Ph.D. dissertation is published on the University
    of Michigan’s ProQuest database for
    doctoral dissertations, archived in the Library of Congress and is readily
    available for graduate level research as are all fully accredited PhDs. (there
    are many phony PhDs out there that are held out as real) 

    Ok, that was a mouthful and a half.

    My take on ignorant preachers is that they are called to
    preach and teach the Word of God and their accuracy will be contingent upon their
    relationship with God, diligent study of the Scriptures, and being in tune with
    the Holy Spirit. I taught and preached for many years without any formal education
    and after over 16 years of higher education under my belt, I have to contend
    that the Bible is still the Bible and is not hard to understand or believed and
    most importantly — obeyed. 

    Carleton Pearson DOES INDEED have a formal and very rigorous
    education and is no academic dummy by any means. Whatever made him abandon ship
    from orthodoxy had little or nothing to do with academia, but a willful
    rebellion against the words of Jesus Christ and the lust for popularity and
    acceptance by the world.

    Moreover, Hank H. does NOT have a formal education in
    theology and is labeled as the “bible answer man” which means little or nothing
    from what I have heard on his program. Hank usually implements the use of Ad
    Hominem attacks against ministers who believe in divine healing, covenant prosperity,
    or unwavering faith in God — not based on scripture, but based on some “poor
    little saint who gave money to the church and died of cancer anyway.” Yet at
    the same time takes a huge salary, lives in a palatial home and hardly is a
    credible source of sound biblical exegesis. — Hank, please do us all a favor
    and go to school for real please. You’re embarrassing to us real and legitimate
    scholars I assure you. 

    I submit that heresy BEGINS IN THE HEART, and has little to
    do with academics of the head. Moreover, I agree with Phil, that well meaning preachers
    ought to be corrected as appropriate and not assassinated by Charisma Magazine
    or other forms of Christian media. Most of the “preacher bashers” that I read
    about online either have zero biblical education or went to a bogus bible school
    that is neither recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or any
    legitimate accrediting agency; yet hold themselves out as highly educated and scholarly
    heresy hunters – in my estimation is the epitome of hypocrisy, arrogance, and
    of course, flagrant ignorance.

    — Stepping down from my soapbox

    Dr. E

  43. if education alone was a prerequisite for understanding spiritual truth, then Saul of Tarsus would have known truth… I find it interesting Mr Cooke wrote this, yet have done TV work for some of these that don’t have formal education… I would put Joyce Meyers, Andrew Wommack, Kenneth Hagin up against any of the “educated” ministers that misrepresent, don’t believe in gifts of the spirit and don’t divide the word correctly… yes there are those in charismatic circles that miss the mark, but also those with PHD’s miss the whole target!

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