Thursday, March 18, 2010

Holy Heresy pt 2

Today we will begin assessing the Charismatic movement in more theological detail, giving attention to the marks of all heretical movements that are characteristic of the Charismatics. Today we will looks at the first two (1) Novelty, and (2) Mystical experience
Marks of Heresy Within the Charismatic Movement

• Novelty

New ideas are the part and parcel of heresy. In theological matters novelty is another name for heresy. Even a cursory reading of the Reformers will reveal how deeply they believed that they were standing in the stream of historic Christianity. The sheer number of citations made by Luther, Calvin and Zwingli of Augustine and the other Fathers is proof of this assertion. They knew that novelty was just another name for heresy.

Many a Charismatic preacher is guilty of using lines like: “Are you ready for something new?” They love to entice their audiences with bits of new revelations from God that only they have. When Benny Hinn taught his now infamous nine-person Trinity, he told his audience that he was going to shock them. Little did he know! The comic book theology of Creflo Dollar, Morris Cerulo, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, ad nauseum, is usually presented in a way intended to shock their audience, but it is always presented with quasi-divine authority.

The real problem that seems to be under this claim to obtain novel revelations is that it seems like a very thinly masked power trip. If a preacher has an inside track to secret information from God, then we need him/her for the well-being of our own relationship with God. This is Gnosticism. Once this dependence is created, anything can be pawned off on the followers, and usually is.

When one reads the great polemical works of the Church, such as Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, one is struck with how common this feature rears its ugly head. Contemporary cults, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons depend on this very feature of novelty for their existence. The line of reasoning frequently goes like this: “During the early centuries of the Church, she went off course and stayed off course, so that the “Christianity” that we know today is utterly wrong. We alone have the true teaching as it was passed on by Jesus to His Apostles.” Many Charismatic preachers use a similar logic. They assert that their version of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or Tongues, or Prophecy, or some other such thing was lost by the Church for centuries. Only recently has it been rediscovered and they have the inside track on and the means of dispensing such knowledge. Again, this is pure, unadulterated Gnosticism.

Just for the record, Gnosticism must always be false because Christ Himself said, “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.” John 18:20 (Emphasis mine)

• Mystical experiences as a source of post-biblical revelation

Another common feature of heresy, and especially the Charismatic movement, is its appeal to unverifiable spiritual experiences which, in turn, serve as sources for extra-biblical revelation. Charismatics pay lip-service to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but it is no secret that they rely much more on “words of prophecy,” or words in supposed “tongues.” And if a “word of prophecy“ ever runs counter to the revealed word of God, the “new” always takes the place of the old. Tommy Tenney sold millions of copies of his God Chasers, wherein he refers to Scripture as old worn-out love letters. 1 He tells of a mystical experience where the church’s Plexiglas pulpit split in two, throwing the speaker to the ground. He then appeals to this as proof of all the erroneous things he says throughout the book. Tenney interprets Hebrew 1:3 (upholding all things by the word of his power) by saying that God not only holds all things together, but that He is the sum of all things! 2 Even the untrained eye can see that this is heresy! It is not Christianity; it is pantheism – the same pantheism taught by Hindus for centuries. It would be easy to question the reality of the “split pulpit” story, but that is beside the point. Even if it were true, it is still not a verification of doctrine.

I’m going to rabbit trail on this habit of using experience to validate doctrine for a minute. When Paul says that he doesn’t care if even an angel appears preaching something else, that has to be the definitive rebuttal to this nonsense. I run into people all the time who place their own experience over Scripture. Recently I was at a birthday party for a friend’s 2 year-old. Friends and family were gathered around the table engaged in half a dozen different conversations. I wasn’t feeling well so I was sitting alone in the corner, but I was listening. I heard a man remark that although he didn’t believe in ghosts, he has been in places that gave him that “spooky feeling,” as he put it. The person he was speaking to replied immediately that she had taken some pictures recently on a family trip and there were ghosts in the picture. We’ve all heard the same type of stories. But what struck me is that she seemed to think that her, “I have pictures,” forever solved the question of whether or not ghosts are real. What instantly came to mind were Scriptures like Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Luke 16:19-31 and Luke 23:43, that tell us that the souls of the dead go immediately, either to heaven or hell: they do not wander the earth for any reason whatsoever. Yet people are willing to throw these declarations right down the toilet because they have pictures. For a true Christian there is never a battle between experience and Scripture – Scripture is always superior!

Back to the subject at hand. Kathie Walters has a book entitled The False Spirit of Judgment. It is the usual Charismatic drivel: a refusal to submit their theology, rather mythology, to the bar of Scripture. (Let me just insert another quick observation here. The title of her book is a dead give-away. Everyone she fingers as having the "false spirit of judgment," is someone who has questioned her veracity or critiqued her theology. Charismatics are notorious for crying, "Judge not!" when someone points out theological heresy.) In the book, Walters, who by her own estimation, knows how to live in the supernatural realm of the Holy Spirit, recounts how her four year old daughter was taken up to heaven. The 4 year-old saw and talked to Jesus. She came back down saved and speaking in tongues. The little girl can give you a description of what she saw and heard.

Of course, the acorn (or should I say ‘nut’) doesn’t fall far from the tree. Walters has had “several dynamic angelic visitations.” 3 Plus she has had two very special visitations with the Lord. On the first one, she was “taken up into heaven every day from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.” On another occasion, she was taken to heaven every day for three and a half weeks. She promises us that she can describe it all and she is writing a book about it. The book, she says, will probably surprise many of her evangelical friends. Of course, none of us can compete with this, so she is above the law. But what never seems to strike any of these people is that in Scripture there is not a single description of heaven or hell by any of the people who died and came back to life.

Tertullian refuted this tomfoolery nearly 2000 years ago. He wrote, “Now, although Paul was carried away even to the third heaven, and was caught up to paradise, and heard certain revelations there, yet these cannot possibly seem to have qualified him for (teaching) another doctrine, seeing that their very nature was such as to render them communicable to no human being.” 4 If Paul was not permitted to communicate what he saw and heard in heaven, what makes these people believe they are allowed to do so? Walters explicitly tells us in her book that she has had visions which she believes are prophetic “for the entire Church.” 5 If that is not a claim to inspiration on the level of the Biblical Prophets, nothing is!

The upshot of all these extra-biblical experiences is the professors are thereby impervious to correction. The unspoken assumption is that if God deemd a person worthy of receiving such experiences or revelations, that puts them above criticism.. This is plainly false. Someone once said, “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” Granted, this saying has a legitimate use; it is unfortunately true regarding adherents of heretical experiences. When people like Kathie Walters, Benny Hinn or Oral Roberts claims to have had angelic visitations or personal meetings with the Incarnate Christ, how are ordinary Christians like you and me supposed to compete?
1. Tommy Tenney, God Chasers
2. ibid.
3. Kathy Walters, The False Spirit of Judgment
4. Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 24
5. Kathy Walters, The False Spirit of Judgment
Tomorrow we will analyze the Charismatics' bizarre methods of expounding Scripture and their often blatant diregard of it.

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