The Pill in the Peanut Butter

March 26, 2007

Peanut Butter 1

Have you ever had to give your dog medicine? I’ve heard that a good way to get a dog to swallow a pill is to put the pill inside a glob of peanut butter. The dog will swallow it whole without ever knowing it.

The same things happens in the church today. Of course, I don’t mean to compare people to dogs. But the principle holds true. Many Christians are swallowing false teachings because those teachings are given together with true teachings. But, unlike medicine, these false teachings are harmful.

We’re all susceptible to this. Here’s an example that relates to the apostolic-prophetic movement. I hear many “apostles” and “prophets” talk about the importance of “standing with Israel” and supporting the Jewish people as God’s chosen people.

This, in my view, is a correct and important teaching. The Bible teaches that God chose the nation of Israel and its people so that, through them, He could reveal Himself to the world. The Jewish people held a special place in David’s heart, causing him to say, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). They also held a special place in the apostle Paul’s heart as he reveals in Romans 9:1-5 and Romans 10:1.

God told Abraham that those who blessed Abraham’s descendents (the Israelites) would be blessed and those who opposed them would be cursed (Genesis 12:3). We see this happening throughout the Bible when God destroys nations that oppose Israel, like the Assyrians and Babylonians. This also will happen in the end times when Israel’s enemies will come against her at Armageddon (Joel 3:9-16; Zechariah 12:1-9; Revelation 16:13-16). God, Himself, will intervene and rescue Israel at His second coming (Revelation 19:11-21). During the end times, many Israelites, finally, will recognize Jesus as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). Jesus then will set up His physical kingdom, centered in the nation of Israel.

Unfortunately, a large segment of the evangelical church today either neglects or ignores these teachings about Israel. Because of this, many other Christians are happy when they hear apostolic-prophetic churches talking about Israel. They think that they finally found a group of Christians that supports Israel. But what they often don’t know is that many of these same “apostles” and “prophets” are also teaching things that are unbiblical and harmful — like the teachings that all Christians must submit to modern “apostles” and “prophets” and that “apostles” and “prophets” can give the church new doctrinal revelation not found in the Bible (and other unbiblical teachings I discuss on this blog).

This same principle holds true outside the apostolic-prophetic movement with other types of false teaching — even with cults of Christianity. Mormonism, for example, attracts many people because of its emphasis on family. Yet, people who join Mormonism often don’t know about Mormonism’s cultic teachings. They find out these teachings much later — after they’ve already committed themselves to Mormonism.

So, beware the pill in the peanut butter.


Naming Names

March 19, 2007

There’s a common view among Christians that it’s wrong to publicly criticize the teachings of other professing Christians.

People who hold this view cite Matthew 18:15-17. They believe this Bible passage teaches that anyone who has concerns about someone else’s teachings should go to that person privately.

They sincerely believe this is what the passage teaches. In fact, some people have recently warned me that my blog is a violation of this command because it identifies people who are bringing false teaching into the church.

But they don’t realize that this passage is being used out of context. It doesn’t refer to addressing false teaching. It refers to addressing someone’s private sin. This can be seen in the larger context, which includes a discussion, immediately after this passage, of forgiving those who sin against us. Also, this passages deals, specifically, with church discipline — the manner of dealing with those who sin in a local church.

The Biblical Principle for Addressing Sin

Here’s what the Bible teaches about addressing sin in the church:

• A private rebuke is given for private sin. Matthew 18:15-17

• A public rebuke is given for public sin. (See the apostle Paul’s public rebuke of the apostle Peter’s false teaching in Galatians 2:11-14. Also, see the apostle Paul’s public rebuke of a man who was flagrantly sleeping with his stepmother with his church’s knowledge in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. Paul didn’t confront this man privately. In fact, he had never even met this man, as shown in 1 Corinthians 5:1, when he refers to a report he heard about the man’s sin. Yet, Paul confronted this public sin publicly because the sin effected the whole Corinthian church.)

Teachers who bring false doctrines into the church must be confronted publicly because their teachings are public. They write books, speak at conferences and appear on television programs promoting their teachings to thousands of people. Because they have public influence, they must be held to public scrutiny. If people go to them privately, then — in the meantime — thousands of people can be misled by their harmful teachings.

Teachers should expect — and even welcome — criticism of their teachings. The Bible warns them in James 3:1 that they are held to high standards because of their influence and will face stricter judgment from God than other Christians. They should be open to correction.

But, many times the false teachers, themselves, are the ones who teach their followers the misapplication of Matthew 18:15-17. They use this as an effective technique to silence criticism.

What the Bible Teaches About Dealing With False Teaching in the Church

Here are some of the things the Bible teaches, specifically, about dealing with false teaching. (My seminary professor, Kevin Lewis, provided the list below.)

• Name Names: In 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul identifies false teachers in the church, by name, four times. 2 Tim. 1:15, 2:17, 3:8, 4:14

• Warn the church publicly what the false teachers are teaching. 2 Timothy 2:16-18

• Silence the false teachers. (This means that church leaders shouldn’t allow people to teach false teaching in their churches.) Titus 1:10-11

• Refute the false teachers. Titus 1:9

• Do not give false teachers a platform or otherwise support them in their ministries. 2 John 1:10-11

Degrees of Error

I should point out that not all doctrinal error is of equal kind. There are many issues that Christians can genuinely disagree on.

But there are also false teachings that are so serious they must be exposed and refuted. Some of the teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement are of this second kind. These include the teachings that: (1) modern “apostles” and “prophets” give the church new doctrines that are not found in the Bible, (2) all Christians must submit to modern “apostles” and “prophets,” (3) modern “apostles” and “prophets’” enemies include Christians who reject their authority; (4) that modern “apostles” and “prophets” will lead physical warfare against their enemies, making the entire earth submit to them, (5) under the leadership of modern “apostles” and “prophets,” Christians will become sinless and superhuman, eventually attaining deity (the “manifest sons of God” doctrine).

Many of the leaders in the apostolic-prophetic movement teach these things. Of course, many of their followers don’t realize that yet. That’s why I started this blog — to alert people.

To learn more about tactics that false teachers use to silence criticism, read the book Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free From Churches That Abuse (Zondervan) by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. This opened my eyes to many of the methods of control that teachers use.


Bill Hamon’s Dangerous Doctrines

March 13, 2007

Bill and Evelyn Hamon You may never have heard of Bishop Bill Hamon, but you should know who he is. This man (pictured here with his wife, Evelyn) is one of the most influential “prophets” in the apostolic-prophetic movement, which has entered many charismatic churches — the fastest-growing churches in the world according to church growth researchers.

Hamon’s also one of the most influential charismatics in general — attending the invitation-only “Charismatic Leaders Council,” sponsored by Strang Communications (publisher of Charisma magazine), Jan. 15-16, in Lake Mary, Florida. Yet, Hamon’s teachings are some of the most unorthodox teachings in the church today.

Hamon’s Teachings
Hamon teaches that Christ can’t return to earth until Christians form a “militant” army — under the leadership of modern apostles and prophets — that will physically subdue the earth and start to establish God’s kingdom in the earth’s governments. Hamon compares this army to the Crusaders, who he describes as the church’s only bright lights during the Dark Ages.

Apostles. Prophets and the Coming Moves of GodGod’s end-times army will achieve victory, in part, by striking God’s enemies with blindness and calling down natural disasters on them — causing entire nations to convert to Christ, according to Hamon. The apostles and prophets will be so powerful that Christians who come into their presence with sin in their lives will be struck dead. All members of the army will become sinless and extremely powerful — as they become more and more enlightened through new doctrines given by the apostles and prophets — finally attaining their own immortality (this is Hamon’s unorthodox take on the rapture). See these teachings in Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God (pictured here).

Hamon’s Influence in the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement
C. Peter Wagner The apostolic-prophetic movement’s most prominent leader may be C. Peter Wagner (pictured here). Yet, Wagner admits that he got many of his views from Hamon, calling Hamon one of his “closest prophetic colleagues” and confessing his great admiration for Hamon (see page 11 of Wagner’s book Changing Church and the foreword Wagner wrote to Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God).

Many in the apostolic-prophetic movement regard Hamon as one of the most influential “prophets” today, and those who’ve endorsed his books include Oral Roberts, Tommy Tenney, Cindy Jacobs, Emanuele Cannistraci, David Cannistraci, Earl Paulk and Ed Silvoso.

Background on Bill Hamon
Prophets and Personal Prophecy As the founder and bishop of Christian International Ministries Network based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, Hamon oversees over 600 churches in 19 countries (see the list here), and he’s authored several books that have been influential in the apostolic-prophetic movement, including Prophets and Personal Prophecy (pictured here). He conducts popular seminars that teach people how to prophesy. (I attended one at the Azusa Street Centennial in Los Angeles last April, and the line of people went out the door. His questionable methods for “activating” people into prophetic gifting are topics for another post.) He also founded Christian International School of Theology, from where he earned his own two degrees: a bachelor of theology and a master of theology. According to his Web site, he also was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1973 from an unnamed “national university,” which was when he assumed the title “Dr. Hamon.”

Hamon also serves on the faculty of the Wagner Leadership Institute, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Prophet-Apostle Hamon
In addition to the titles “Bishop” and “Doctor,” Hamon calls himself “Prophet-Apostle.” In fact, he believes God has chosen him to restore doctrines that the church lost through the ages and to reveal new doctrines and final assignments.

Many of Hamon’s doctrines can’t be found in the Bible — but this doesn’t concern Hamon, who teaches that modern “apostles” and “prophets” give the church new doctrines that supplement those given by the original apostles and prophets. In Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, Hamon says:

“He [Paul] also reveals that this anointing for divine revelation was not just given to the prophets of old but has now been equally given to Christ’s Holy Apostles and Prophets in His Church” (page 140).

This teaching — that new doctrines are needed to supplement Scripture — is a mark of the cults of Christianity, like Mormonism. In contrast, Protestants believe that Christians get their teachings from the Bible alone, which God revealed through the original prophets and apostles.

Hamon’s New Doctrines vs. the Bible
While Hamon claims that his new doctrines supplement Scripture, they also contradict it. The revelations given by the apostle John in the biblical book of Revelation, for example, teach that the judgments against the wicked will be brought by God, not Christians, and that the rapture will be God’s means of sparing Christians from the effects of those judgments, not a means of attaining their own immortality.

‘Manifest Sons of God’ Doctrine
Hamon’s teachings are consistent with the heretical “manifest sons of God doctrine,” which teaches that a breed of super-Christians will arise and subdue the earth. Another common strain of this doctrine is that Christians are gods, whose divinity will be revealed — or using King James Language — be manifested. Read more about this doctrine here.

Supporters of this doctrine misapply the biblical teaching about the church being Christ’s body, using it to argue that the church actually becomes part of God. (See pages 266-267 of Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, where he seems to be misusing this teaching this way.) Also, in his books, Hamon capitalizes the words “Church” and “Bride” to show the church’s “union with Deity through Jesus Christ,” according to an explanatory note. Statements like these, which appear throughout Hamon’s materials, make it appear he is teaching that the church actually becomes part of God.

Of course, 2 Peter 1:4 does teach that we “participate in the divine nature,” but this refers to the Holy Spirit who indwells us, enabling us — as the passage goes on to state — to “escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” It does not teach that our nature actually becomes divine. The teaching that human beings can become divine is the same lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In light of these troubling teachings, Hamon’s influence on so many Christians today disturbs me. I plan to read more of his writings and discuss more of his teachings in future posts.


Should Christians Experience the Supernatural?

March 6, 2007

Charisma cover, Feb. 2007 The February 2007 issue of Charisma magazine (pictured here) featured an article by Patricia King, titled “Living in the Throne Room. King (a “prophet” in the apostolic-prophetic movement and founder of Extreme Prophetic Television in Canada) argues that supernatural experiences — like seeing the Lord on His throne, being visited by angels, or being transported from one geographical location to another by the Holy Spirit — should be a “normal part of a believer’s experience.”

This, of course, is a big claim. If such experiences should be a normal part of the Christian’s life, then many of us — myself included — are falling far short. Yet, this teaching is common in the apostolic-prophetic movement. So, I think it’s important to consider it. After reading King’s article, I found at least five key errors in her reasoning.

Error 1: She equates these types of experiences with God’s love

Patricia King headshot The first major error King (pictured here) makes is she claims that these types of supernatural experiences should be ours because God loves us.

She starts off this argument with a correct statement. She says that an intimate relationship with God, like a marriage relationship, should include experience of His love for us. I agree. In the Bible, we see that God’s people not only had sound doctrinal knowledge about Him, but they also had a loving relationship with Him. King David’s psalms express great depth of feeling and experience with God. Unfortunately, some Christians today stress the importance of doctrine, but they undervalue the roles of experience and emotions in our relationship with God.

So, King starts off correct. But then she makes a huge logical leap. She argues that experiencing God’s love includes experiencing the wonders of the heavenly realm, here and now — including God’s throne, angels and golden streets. She says that because God loves us, “we have been invited to discover and partake of it all.”

But King can’t support this teaching from Scripture. True, the church is called the “bride of Christ.” But we’re currently betrothed to Christ. The marriage — though certain — won’t take place until He returns for us and takes us to our new home with Him in heaven. Until then, we can’t expect to experience the wonders of our heavenly home.

I’m afraid many Christians may be burdened in their relationship to God because of King’s mistaken teaching. When they don’t have the supernatural experiences she speaks of, then they may feel disheartened that God doesn’t love them or that they’re not pleasing Him. But, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christians should expect to see heavenly scenes or experience such overtly supernatural occurences during their earthly lives.

Error 2: Her main biblical support is a passage that she quotes out of its context

In her article, King says: “Not only are we to seek Jesus, but we are to actually seek the things of the kingdom — the things of the unseen realm” (emphasis hers). To make her point, she quotes Colossians 3:1-2, where Paul urges the Colossians to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

King’s argument hinges on this Scripture passage. But, when you read it carefully, in context, you may see that the “things above” do not refer to angels or throne room scenes. In fact, far from it — just six verses before this verse — Paul warns the Colossians about false teachers who were promoting angel worship and who were claiming to be spiritually superior because of visions they received. Colossians 2:18

The “things above” that Paul told Christians to focus on are the truths that (1) we have died to our old sinful nature, and (2) we have been resurrected to new life with Christ, which will be fully revealed at Christ’s second coming. As a result of these truths, we should no longer engage in the sinful things listed in verses 5-9, but we should do the holy things listed in verses 12 through chapter 4 verse 6.

So, the passage does not tell Christians to seek supernatural encounters — as King claims it does.

Error 3: These types of supernatural experiences were never sought in the Bible

King also fails to recognize that, in the Bible, God’s people never sought after these types of supernatural experiences.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of one instance where we have an indication that the prophets, apostles or evangelists sought out the amazing, otherworldly experiences they had. Instead, these experiences happened to them when they least expected it. Phillip was suddenly visited by an angel who told him where to go. Phillip didn’t seem to know that he was being directed to the right place at the right time to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch. As soon as he finished baptizing the eunuch, Phillip found himself whisked away to another location. The angels who visited Abraham, Mary and the apostle John all showed up — seemingly unexpected. And the list goes on.

Error 4: These types of experiences weren’t typical in the Bible

King also misrepresents these types of supernatural experiences as normal occurrences in the Bible.

Yes, there are many miracles in the Bible. Yet, for the patriarchs, prophets and apostles who experienced them, they weren’t typical occurrences in their lives. Whenever Paul spoke of his Damascus Road encounter with God, for example, he always spoke of it with amazement. He didn’t treat it like it was no big deal — just another, run-of-the-mill supernatural experience.

Error 5: Supernatural experiences aren’t always from God

King, rightly, warns her readers that not all supernatural experiences are from God. Her article includes a 2/3-page sidebar, titled “Avoiding Spiritual Pitfalls,” that seeks to warn people of dangers they might encounter in the “invisible realm.” It’s good that she warns her readers of the reality of such dangers and advises them to test all their spiritual encounters by the Bible.

Although these warnings are great, I’m afraid King isn’t heeding them herself. Her Extreme Prophetic Web site and television program promote troubling “prophets” like Todd Bentley. Bentley claims to have supernatural encounters all the time. He says: “Never more than a few days go by that I don’t encounter third heaven and some kind of prophetic experience — at times it happens daily for months. Supernatural experiences have become part of daily Christianity for me.”

But one of the angels that Bentley claims visits him is an angel that was associated with William Branham’s healing ministry, according to Bentley. See Bentley’s report of the “angelic” visits here. This should concern Christians because Branham — a “prophet” in the Latter Rain movement — taught many false and heretical doctrines. See this source for more information. These false teachings include:

• Claiming that he was the angel in Revelation 3:14 and 10:7
• Claiming he was Elijah, who would precede Christ’s return
• Denying the Trinity and calling it a satanic doctrine
• Teaching that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent, producing human beings who are destined for hell, which is only a temporal place. But those who receive God’s seed (Branham’s teaching) are the “Bride of Christ”
• Saying that anyone who was a member of any denomination had taken the “mark of the beast”

• Giving a number of false prophecies about the end of the world
• Teaching that the Word of God had been given in two other forms besides the Bible: the zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids
• Some of his followers thought he was God or had been virgin born and, when he died in 1965, they believed he would be resurrected.
• Many of Branham’s critics believe he genuinely had a supernatural gift of healing, but that it wasn’t from God since he promoted heretical teachings

Bentley claims that, whenever Branham’s angel shows up at one of Bentley’s meetings, he gets a supernatural ability in his left hand to diagnose people’s sicknesses, and he also gets correct words of knowledge about details from their lives — just as Branham claimed. In the same article I linked to above, Bentley also talks about another troublesome “angel” named Emma, who I will address in a future post.

How can King claim to practice discernment in the spiritual realm, yet promote “prophets” like Bentley? This should alarm King’s followers.

Important Qualification
So, should we experience the supernatural regularly? My quick answer is “yes.” This may surprise you, given my above response to King’s article. But, it’s all in how you classify the supernatural. If, by supernatural, one means that we should talk with angels and take trips to heaven, then the answer — according to the biblical evidence — is no.

Yet, the Christian life is a supernatural life. First, our new birth is a major miracle — through it, we are convicted of and washed of our sins, we receive eternal life, and we are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit who starts the work of conforming us to Christ’s image. After this initial miracle, our lives as Christians should continue to be characterized by the supernatural. Here are many types of supernatural works that Christians should consistently seek and see in their daily lives:

• Love for others, including our enemies 1 John 4:7-21
• Fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22-23
• Conviction of sin in our lives John 16:8-9
• Gifts of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 14:1
• Assurance of our salvation by God’s Holy Spirit Romans 8:16
• Comfort from the Holy Spirit and direction to truth John 14:15-18
• Inner strength from the Holy Spirit Ephesians 3:16
• Guidance from the Holy Spirit Acts 16:6-7
• Power from God for effective ministry Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:20, John 15
• Boldness in evangelism Ephesians 6:19-20
• Answered prayers (when they are according to God’s will) John 15:16, 16: 23-24