Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Celebrity Christian Hot Takes (Driscoll, Graham, Groeschel, Lewis, Lucado, Piper, Vallotton)

 

I get lots questions about whether or not certain pastors, teachers, and authors are doctrinally sound, and whether or not I would recommend them. I mean, lots. And, can I just say- that’s really encouraging to me. When someone asks that question, it demonstrates a) that she knows there are teachers out there who wear the label of “Christian” yet teach unbiblical things, and b) that she doesn’t want to follow one of those teachers. Having interacted with scores of professing Christian women who don’t even rise to that basic level of discernment (i.e. they blindly believe everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is), that’s huge, and I love it.

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). All of the articles and entries on that page exist because someone (usually more than one person) asked whether or not that teacher is doctrinally sound. I wish I were able to write articles on every teacher I’m asked about so I could provide you with more thorough resources, but it usually takes me several days worth of research and writing to properly assemble even the shortest of those articles, and with a family to care for, and other responsibilities, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

All of that means that I have to pick and choose which teachers to write about (which is generally whoever is most popular and most people are asking about) and resign myself to the fact that there are teachers I’m probably never going to get around to writing about (few have heard of them, they’re not popular in my audience demographic, they’re dead, it’s uber-obvious they’re heretics {Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, etc.}).

Recently, I’ve been asked about a slew of teachers I’m probably not going to write articles about, not because they’re not important, but because they don’t influence as many people in my audience as other teachers do. So I thought what I’d do from time to time is gather up a few and just give a quick “hot take” – a thumbs up or thumbs down as to whether or not you should follow them – based on what I already know without researching them and/or no more than a five minute Google search.

I’ll be using the criteria outlined in my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own. If you ever need to know whether or not you should avoid a certain teacher, I would encourage you to use this article as a guide, and research him or her for yourself. Vetting teachers is not difficult, it’s a skill every Christian needs to develop, you shouldn’t just take my (or anyone else’s) word for it that someone is or isn’t a false teacher, and I won’t always be around. So if you’re interested in any of these teachers, consider these hot takes a jumping off point for doing more research on your own.

👎Mark Driscoll A definite thumbs down. Mark Driscoll is demonstrably apostate. He was charged with spiritual abuse (mostly anger, treating people poorly, abuse of power – things like that) at his former church, Mars Hill. He refused to go through the biblical process of church discipline his elders tried to enact, and instead quit and fled to another state. He now associates and yokes in “ministry” with New Apostolic Reformation heretics.

Billy Graham– Not someone I’m going to go around proactively recommending, but not someone I’d call a false teacher, either. I would categorize him as “generally OK-ish, but there are much better, stronger teachers you could be listening to instead”. I’ve read his autobiography and listened to several of his sermons over the years. Although I think some of his methods were biblically unwise, the basic content of his sermons and the gospel he preached was biblical overall. But you need to remember that Billy Graham was an evangelist, not a pastor, which means you’ll get the basics of the gospel by listening to him, but not much else. And if you’re already saved, while you never outgrow your need to hear the gospel, that’s not all you need. You need to grow and mature in the Word, and be taught the full counsel of God.

A couple of reasons many people wonder about Billy Graham’s theology have to do with his ecumenism (he basically embraced just about everyone who wore the label “Christian” – including the Pope) and his universalist statements (most widely known via his 1997 interview with Robert Schuller). Additionally, his daughter, Ann Graham Lotz, credits her father with heavily influencing her theology, and she is not someone I’d recommend.

👎Craig Groeschel– Nope. When Chris Rosebrough has done this many Fighting for the Faith segments and sermon reviews on somebody, take it to the bank- that’s not somebody you should be following. And then you’ve got things like: Craig preaching at this Hillsong conference (which also featured Bethel Music leaders), preaching with Joel Osteen at a conference hosted by Lakewood, he’s spoken at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference, he lets women and false teachers preach at his church, including Christine Caine (whom he calls “one of the greatest preachers of all time”) and Steven Furtick (who says in this clip that Groeschel’s church has influenced Furtick’s church {Elevation} “probably more than any other church”.)

Also, if you use the YouVersion Bible App, you might want to know that it was developed by Craig Groeschel and his church, and is still owned by his church (Life.Church), which is one of the reasons it’s not one I recommend when people ask me about Bible apps.

C.S. Lewis For fiction, you’re probably OK. I read my children the entire Narnia series with no real problems. I know sound brothers and sisters who have found Mere Christianity and other CSL books to be helpful, but, honestly, if you really want to study theology, I’d encourage you to steer clear and find better sources. There are questions as to whether or not he believed in evolution, universalism, the inspiration of Scripture, and penal substitutionary atonement.

👎Max Lucado– No. He recently embraced Jen Hatmaker as a guest on her podcast. He has preached at Lakewood (Joel Osteen), affirmed Bill Johnson (Bethel), endorses Beth Moore, wrote the foreword for Christine Caine’s book, Undaunted, etc. And the church Max pastors, Oak Hills Church, is egalitarian.

And then there’s this quote from Max during an interview with Preaching.com: I really enjoy listening to Joel Osteen. I think Joel has a unique assignment in his ministry, and that’s to cast a wide net. He’s got a different assignment and a different gift mix than, for example, a John MacArthur; and I enjoy listening to John MacArthur equally; but you can see that they’re two different types of preaching. I enjoy Joel because I think his assignment in ministry is to encourage people, and we live in a day that is so discouraged, discouraging. I enjoy John MacArthur because I think—it seems to me—his assignment is to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding. He’d be more like a Beth Moore or a David Jeremiah; I think we need that, as well.

I’m sorry, but do you really want to be taught the Bible by someone who someone who is so undiscerning he can’t tell the difference between Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, and John MacArthur? That he thinks Joel Osteen and John MacArthur just have different gifts and different preaching styles? And that Beth Moore, like John MacArthur, has an “assignment to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding“?

John PiperJohn Piper’s books, sermons, and blog are mostly fine, and while I disagree with him on several points of theology, I certainly do not consider him to be a false teacher. But he’s not somebody I’m going to proactively recommend, either. Here’s how I’ve answered readers in the past who have asked me about John Piper:

While I consider Dr. Piper to be a generally doctrinally sound Christian brother and agree with him in many aspects of theology, he is not someone I proactively recommend for a few reasons:

1. Dr. Piper is a continuationist. I usually limit my endorsements to cessationists  because I believe this is the biblical view of the gifts. (I do not consider otherwise doctrinally sound continuationists to be false teachers, however.)

2. I’m concerned about Dr. Piper’s associations and partnerships with false teachers (which violates 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 9-11). First he appeared to embrace Rick Warren when he interviewed him and invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference in 2010. More recently, he has been a featured speaker at events like the Passion conferences where he has shared the stage with Christine Caine, Priscilla ShirerBeth Moore, and Judah Smith.

3. Dr. Piper’s complementarianism seems muddled at best. On the one hand he will go so far as to say that Christian women should not be drill sergeants and police officers (the Bible mentions nothing of the sort), yet on the other hand he joins in ministry with the aforementioned Caine, Shirer, and Moore who – in addition the the false doctrine they preach – all actively and unrepentantly violate clear Scripture by preaching to men. It’s quite confusing.

I’m not going to warn people away from John Piper as a false teacher, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend him either.

👎Kris VallottonAbsolutely not, no way, no how. Kris Vallotton is the “Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)” which means he is a New Apostolic Reformation heretic, not a Christian, and certainly not someone any other Christian (or lost person, for that matter) should be following. Read more about the blasphemies and heresies of Bethel.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Calvinism/Arminianism, Celebrity Pastors, Cessationism/Continuationism, Church, Complementarianism, Homosexuality, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Keep On Keeping Up: 5 Issues Christians Need Guidance About from Our Pastors ~ Part 1

Originally published January 16, 2014

14333566699421

Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.

"Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates."
“Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates.”

Last week, I read a great article by Justin Peters entitled “Ignorance Is Not An Option.” In the article, Dr. Peters addresses a recent incident in which “charismatic theologian, author, and radio host Dr. Michael Brown” claimed not to know about the reputation and heresy of Benny Hinn, one of the most notorious false teachers in the Word of Faith movement. I know about him. You probably know about him. How could someone in Dr. Brown’s position not know at least the basics about Benny Hinn and why no Christian should endorse him?

It got me thinking- “ignorance is not an option” applies to far more than this one, isolated incident. We church members desperately need our pastors to keep up with at least the basics of current trends and thought in evangelicalism, and in theology and doctrine.

Why? There is a tsunami of materials, ideas, and personalities out there, and church members- even though we should seek to keep abreast, ourselves -need help sorting through it all. What’s biblical? What’s not? Also, pastors need to be informed about who and what they endorse (even tacitly), lest they encourage their church members to follow a person or doctrine that is not in line with God’s word.

So, what, specifically, are some of those current trends that we folks in the pew need our pastors to keep up with? Here are a few, along with some great resources to spare pastors some leg work:

Celebrity Pastors and Christian Authors: Do you know who Joyce Meyer, Matt Chandler, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, John Piper, John MacArthur, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Tony Campolo, David Platt, and Rachel Held Evans are (just to name a few)?

Do you know why your people should or shouldn’t be listening to/reading them? What about any controversies surrounding them? Do you have a general awareness of whether they have a track record of, and are currently teaching, sound doctrine or false doctrine?

Church members may not know the answers to these questions, but they’re walking into Christian bookstores and buying their books, re-tweeting them, and listening to their podcasts. If a church member comes and asks you about one of these pastors/authors, what will your recommendation be? We church members need our pastors not to go by the pastor/author’s popularity, whether what they write or say sounds pleasing to the ear, how many books they’ve sold, that their stuff is sold at a store you think is trustworthy, or how big their church is. Whether we know it or not, we need your deciding factor to be: Does what they teach consistently match up with God’s word (in context)?

*Resources:
Fighting for the Faith: Listen regularly, or make good use of the search box. Chris Rosebrough has analyzed the teaching of nearly all of the people in the list above as well as many others.

Apprising Ministries: While I sometimes feel Ken Silva’s tone is too sharp, his posts are saturated with links to articles and videos of questionable teachers (plus tons of other resources) that you can check out for yourself.

Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: In a nutshell, complementarianism is the view that God’s roles for men and women in marriage and in the leadership of the church are different, yet equally important. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to lovingly lead their wives and children. The roles of pastor and elder are reserved to men, and women are not to teach the Bible to men or hold authority over men in the church.

Egalitarianism basically says that there are no gender restrictions on any positions in the church, including that of pastor, and that husbands and wives are to be “mutually submissive” to one another, removing any distinctive definition of headship.

The church, and women, especially, have been heavily influenced by culture on this issue, but what does God’s word say about it?

Resources:
Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism- Which View Is Biblicaly Correct? by GotQuestions.org
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Cessationism vs. Continuationism: Did the “miracle” or “sign” gifts such as speaking in tongues/other languages, healing, visions, direct revelation from God, raising the dead, etc., come to an end with the closing of the canon or death of of the last apostle, or do these gifts continue in the same way today?

Resources: 
Strange Fire Conference audio from John MacArthur

Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview With Dr. Wayne Grudem- Part 1 and Part 2 by Tim Challies

Calvinism vs. Arminianism:  I don’t think I could boil down the tenets of Calvinism or Arminianism to a brief paragraph in any sort of way that wouldn’t have people on both sides hot under the collar. This has been a strenuously debated topic, particularly for Southern Baptists, for the last several years.

So, let me just say, and I’m sure everyone on both sides can agree, it is extremely important to know what the Bible says about our sin nature, free will, election and predestination, and whether or not a person can lose his salvation. These are weighty issues with eternal consequences that shouldn’t be dealt with lightly or in a way that seeks to reinforce our own opinions at the expense of what God’s word says.

Resources: 
Calvinism and Arminianism by Theopedia.com

Homosexuality In the Church: Homosexuality is certainly not the only sin out there, but it’s the sin that’s the hottest topic right now. Do you know the Scriptures that address homosexuality? Do you know how to answer the canard: “Christians say that homosexuality is against God’s law, yet they eat shellfish and wear garments of mixed fabrics, which is also against God’s law,”? What would you tell a church member who thinks it’s not loving to call homosexuals to repent of their sin and trust Christ or that godly “love” means we should validate their sin? Do you know how to help Christians who are former homosexuals deal with temptation to their old sins? Is it biblical to allow unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to serve in leadership positions in the church? Things like this may be going on in your own denomination, so it’s important for church members to be trained in what God’s word actually says.

Resources: 
Homosexuality by CARM.org
How Can We Help Christians Who Are Struggling with Homosexual Desires? by John Piper
Homosexuality and the Modern Church by Robert Gagnon and Tony Reinke

*The resources given are obviously not an exhaustive list. For the most part, they are resources I have used myself, found to be helpful, and trust to be generally doctrinally sound. There are many other wonderful resources out there, but, naturally, our most important resource is to compare all things to God’s word in context.

 

Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.

Calvinism/Arminianism, Celebrity Pastors, Cessationism/Continuationism, Church, Complementarianism, Homosexuality

Keep On Keeping Up: 5 Issues Christians Need Guidance About from Our Pastors ~ Part 1

14333566699421

Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.

"Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates."
“Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates.”

Last week, I read a great article by Justin Peters entitled “Ignorance Is Not An Option.” In the article, Dr. Peters addresses a recent incident in which “charismatic theologian, author, and radio host Dr. Michael Brown” claimed not to know about the reputation and heresy of Benny Hinn, one of the most notorious false teachers in the Word of Faith movement. I know about him. You probably know about him. How could someone in Dr. Brown’s position not know at least the basics about Benny Hinn and why no Christian should endorse him?

It got me thinking- “ignorance is not an option” applies to far more than this one, isolated incident. We church members desperately need our pastors to keep up with at least the basics of current trends and thought in evangelicalism, and in theology and doctrine.

Why? There is a tsunami of materials, ideas, and personalities out there, and church members- even though we should seek to keep abreast, ourselves -need help sorting through it all. What’s biblical? What’s not? Also, pastors need to be informed about who and what they endorse (even tacitly), lest they encourage their church members to follow a person or doctrine that is not in line with God’s word.

So, what, specifically, are some of those current trends that we folks in the pew need our pastors to keep up with? Here are a few, along with some great resources to spare pastors some leg work:

Celebrity Pastors and Christian Authors: Do you know who Joyce Meyer, Matt Chandler, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, John Piper, John MacArthur, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Tony Campolo, David Platt, and Rachel Held Evans are (just to name a few)?

Do you know why your people should or shouldn’t be listening to/reading them? What about any controversies surrounding them? Do you have a general awareness of whether they have a track record of, and are currently teaching, sound doctrine or false doctrine?

Church members may not know the answers to these questions, but they’re walking into Christian bookstores and buying their books, re-tweeting them, and listening to their podcasts. If a church member comes and asks you about one of these pastors/authors, what will your recommendation be? We church members need our pastors not to go by the pastor/author’s popularity, whether what they write or say sounds pleasing to the ear, how many books they’ve sold, that their stuff is sold at a store you think is trustworthy, or how big their church is. Whether we know it or not, we need your deciding factor to be: Does what they teach consistently match up with God’s word (in context)?

*Resources:
Fighting for the Faith: Listen regularly, or make good use of the search box. Chris Rosebrough has analyzed the teaching of nearly all of the people in the list above as well as many others.
Apprising Ministries: While I sometimes feel Ken Silva’s tone is too sharp, his posts are saturated with links to articles and videos of questionable teachers (plus tons of other resources) that you can check out for yourself.

Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: In a nutshell, complementarianism is the view that God’s roles for men and women in marriage and in the leadership of the church are different, yet equally important. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to lovingly lead their wives and children. The roles of pastor and elder are reserved to men, and women are not to teach the Bible to men or hold authority over men in the church.

Egalitarianism basically says that there are no gender restrictions on any positions in the church, including that of pastor, and that husbands and wives are to be “mutually submissive” to one another, removing any distinctive definition of headship.

The church, and women, especially, have been heavily influenced by culture on this issue, but what does God’s word say about it?

Resources:
Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism- Which View Is Biblicaly Correct? by GotQuestions.org
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Cessationism vs. Continuationism: Did the “miracle” or “sign” gifts such as speaking in tongues/other languages, healing, visions, direct revelation from God, raising the dead, etc., come to an end with the closing of the canon or death of of the last apostle, or do these gifts continue in the same way today?

Resources: 
Strange Fire Conference audio from John MacArthur
Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview With Dr. Wayne Grudem- Part 1 and Part 2 by Tim Challies

Calvinism vs. Arminianism:  I don’t think I could boil down the tenets of Calvinism or Arminianism to a brief paragraph in any sort of way that wouldn’t have people on both sides hot under the collar. This has been a strenuously debated topic, particularly for Southern Baptists, for the last several years.

So, let me just say, and I’m sure everyone on both sides can agree, it is extremely important to know what the Bible says about our sin nature, free will, election and predestination, and whether or not a person can lose his salvation. These are weighty issues with eternal consequences that shouldn’t be dealt with lightly or in a way that seeks to reinforce our own opinions at the expense of what God’s word says.

Resources: 
Calvinism and Arminianism by Theopedia.com

Homosexuality In the Church: Homosexuality is certainly not the only sin out there, but it’s the sin that’s the hottest topic right now. Do you know the Scriptures that address homosexuality? Do you know how to answer the canard: “Christians say that homosexuality is against God’s law, yet they eat shellfish and wear garments of mixed fabrics, which is also against God’s law,”? What would you tell a church member who thinks it’s not loving to call homosexuals to repent of their sin and trust Christ or that godly “love” means we should validate their sin? Do you know how to help Christians who are former homosexuals deal with temptation to their old sins? Is it biblical to allow unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to serve in leadership positions in the church? Things like this may be going on in your own denomination, so it’s important for church members to be trained in what God’s word actually says.

Resources: 
Homosexuality by CARM.org
How Can We Help Christians Who Are Struggling with Homosexual Desires? by John Piper
Homosexuality and the Modern Church by Robert Gagnon and Tony Reinke

*The resources given are obviously not an exhaustive list. For the most part, they are resources I have used myself, found to be helpful, and trust to be generally doctrinally sound. There are many other wonderful resources out there, but, naturally, our most important resource is to compare all things to God’s word in context.

 

Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.