By Dr. Orrel Steincamp, The Plumbline Newsletter Archive
Unbelievable and largely unseen ecumenical coalitions and ad hoc alliances are forming. These alliances are being forged by a small cadre of seeker-driven mega church celebrity pastors/authors. These vision-casting celebrities are in effect acting as power brokers in forming ecumenical coalitions. As with all coalitions these players are attempting to gain something for themselves and their “ministries” and the expanding of their personal reputations. They are willing to exchange their platforms and pulpits with other celebrities of like class and clout. These platform exchanges often cross boundaries into false and even heretical territory.
Consequently, these celebrities become an endorsement of false teaching to the masses of low information evangelicals who are fans of these various Christian celebrities. The opportunity for these maneuvers is that classical evangelicalism as a theologically descriptive word is becoming near meaningless. Gregory Thornbury, now president of Kings College, states: “the evangelicalism I signed up for is gone forever….In fact many leading theologians today see evangelicalism as a relic of a by gone era.”1 The vacuum created by the disappearance of classical evangelicalism, unfortunately, has been filled by TV ministries, bookstores, stadiums, megachurches and extended megachurch campuses and their media promotions.
These new media leaders have launched their own media outlets replete with fully equipped transportable entourages. If you can’t attend the events you can get it all on GodTV or from these leaders themselves on a DVD, for a price. These efforts are the beginnings of a back door ecumenism, an unpublicized ecumenical convergence. A sort of reverse ecumenical big bang is upon us. There is an unseen and undocumented ecumenical contraction in Christendom. This phenomena is unreported and even mostly an unspoken practical ecumenism. It’s as if there is a spiritual gravitational pull that draws even the most unlikely supporters together. There is a handy deniable component built into this in that it is promoted by sharing a stage or platform.
These coalition partners promote each other by inviting other celebrities to their platform of their megachurch or stadium conferences. Some rush in to say that such so-called “platform ecumenism” is guilt by association. It is that, but more so, their presence together on a platform shouts for all to hear a guilt by endorsement. It is like forming a shadow government. This ground level ecumenism is not the product of denominational leaders. In fact, denomination leaders in this postmodern era have been essentially relegated to the sidelines as the sheeple (the sheep as people) blindly follow their celebrities. They pay little or no attention to their unknown denominational leaders. Beyond that, many denominational leaders also join right in.
The sheeple are out there and they easily can be organized to follow their leaders. Indeed, sheep follow other sheep. However, the seeds of this home grown ecumenical gravitational pull didn’t merely burst on the scene from nowhere. One can actually trace this back many decades. The seeds planted earlier are now are maturing. The media mega stars are now stage managing, not only huge stadium filled extravaganzas, but in the process they are engineering a major ecumenical event without even using the term.
Not long ago the SBC-promoted Bible teacher Beth Moore referred to it as a coming “outpouring” of the Spirit.2The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was among the earliest efforts that pointed in this direction when it made a major ecumenical ground breaking decision to include Roman Catholic prelates on their crusade platforms and assigned Roman Catholic responders to local Roman Catholic churches for follow up. Sorry, but it was in effect giving away a baby to a stranger.
The Charismatic Renewal
The Charismatic Renewal, of which I was a part, had the unintended experiential effect of promoting ecumenism. The best way I can describe this is the spectacle of Father Pearson pleading with the Virgin Mary to help a seeker be released in tongues. This did more to endorse Romanism that any words could convey. What a sight when Roman Catholic nuns in full habits spoke at Full Gospel business meetings speaking in some unknown tongue. The believers that pray “in the spirit” together also stay together. This is ecumenism beyond any denominational sanction or effort. One could write page after page of the how we have gotten to where we are today. But now we have to consider some the very recent events that point to more ecumenical chickens coming home to roost.
“Spiritual Formation” has been taking evangelicals by storm for some years now. Richard Foster and his seminal book Celebration of Discipline has been an attempt to fashion a Roman Catholic-style Contemplative Prayer experience for Protestants. The often used term Spiritual Formation is simply a code word for Contemplative Prayer. Contemplative Prayer itself is a revived form of early Roman Catholic mystic meditation; and these so-called “spiritual disciplines” actually date back to the early third and fourth centuries of Roman Catholic monastics called the Desert Fathers, who borrowed a form of transcendental meditation from interaction with Eastern mystics in Egypt.
The source of Contemplative Prayer, unquestionably, is Roman Catholicism. But ironically there are probably more evangelicals pursuing this prayer method than Roman Catholics themselves. In recent times Roman Catholic monks Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen have devoted their entire lives to this prayer method and now many evangelicals are devoting themselves to apostate gurus like Merton and Nouwen. Contemplative Prayer is essentially a meditative discipline with a desire to attain an altered state of consciousness by entering the “silence.” In this silence, and out of this silence, one supposedly attains oneness with God.
But entering the silence is not easy; and so, an innovative Roman Catholic monk Thomas Keating—a close friend and associate with the late Merton—employed a Centering Prayer technique of repeating a chosen word known as a mantra.3 What formerly took monks months and years can now be attained in 20 minutes of Centering Prayer and repeating a mantra over and over. In the silence one supposedly finds God living deep in their unconscious being.
The rub is this. This internal God is also believed to be deeply buried in the unconscious of every other human alive today on the planet and even actually inhabits all created things. So this form of panentheistic meditative ecumenism eventually connects the contemplative not only to Roman Catholicism but all of creation. Roman Catholic monks Merton, Nouwen, and Keating are like the trinity of Contemplative Prayer. The fact is, this practice of Contemplative Prayer only serves to blur the line between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
Peter Scazzero, senior pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens NYC, is an evangelical and graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, who is a leading teacher among those evangelicals introducing this long neglected spirituality to mainstream evangelicalism. But Scazzero doesn’t mention Roman Catholicism; however, he quotes favorably—and often—in his books and teachings from the Contemplative trinity noted above. He also attends a Trappist monastery in Massachusetts each year.
Scazzero has also made available a skimmed down version of a Benedictine Daily Office for evangelical devotional use. Via DVD, Scazzero was introduced to our local AOG church. No one knew what it was all about but it did seem a little strange to a few. His pitch is that American Christians need to slow down from the daily grind and the best method is using the techniques of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. Scazzero has held conferences for Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, AOG pastors, CMA pastors, and Focus on the Family, to name a few notables.
If people would note Scazzero’s dependence on Merton, Nouwen and Keating they would know the source of this apostate prayer technique. For our purposes, Contemplative Prayer has proved to be a very effective ecumenical tool. You see, since it originates with Roman Catholic monastics, it inevitably tends to legitimize Romanism. For further information, the Net is full of solid works refuting the antibiblical practice of Contemplative/Centering Prayer. In fact, I have an article that can be accessed on the net via Google at Plumbline Newsletter Archive called: Scazzero Scares Me.
Along this line, Dr. Gary Gilley informs us even the mystics who practice Contemplative Prayer are aware of the dangers of this type of devination:
Merton demonstrates that there is much to fear when we try to mix truth with error. Merton saw that Buddhism, a religion with little interest in theology or truth, offered the same mystical experiences that contemplative Christianity did. They both used similar methods…. In the end Father Merton came to the idea that because doctrine did not matter and only experience did…Buddhism and his understanding of Christianity was offering the same thing.
This is precisely the problem; Christian discipleship, according to the Bible, is found in the teaching of its Holy Scripture. Searching for something more from ancient and modern “holy men” can only eventually end badly.
The Elephant Room Initiative
The Elephant Room was the brain-child Rev. James McDonald, the megapastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. McDonald’s idea was to bring together other celebrity megachurch pastors and have a television media event in which the celebrities spared with each other asking hard hitting questions. Someone described it as prize fight.
Television provided everyone with a ring side seat. No-holds questions barred. These episodes were full of hipster coolness. In Elephant Room One megapastor Perry Noble was challenged for his featuring the demonic band AC/DC’s Highway to Hell on during an Easter Sunday service. But in the end, the celebrities decided that Noble’s pragmatic prank was just a matter of personal choice. It appears that the real elephant in the room was an apparent disregard for the fear of the Lord.
McDonald surprised everyone in Elephant Room Two with his cheek in his decision to invite TD Jakes. Jakes was well known for his Word/Faith teaching and someone who denied the Trinity. Jakes has a well earned reputation as a “Jesus only” modalist. In modalist teaching the Trinity is denied by teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are just different “manifestations” of God. At various times the one person of God appears as a different mode or manifestation. The Father is manifested as the Creator, The Son is a manifestation of God as the Savior, and the Holy Spirit is the manifestation for the church age.
Pentecostal, Jesus Only followers are thus named “Oneness Pentecostals. McDonald and Driscoll, however, merely lobbed Jakes slow toss softballs and Jakes was allowed to say he believed in the Trinity but preferred to explain it with the term manifestations rather than persons. Driscoll and McDonald could have simply asked Jakes one simple question: “Do you think the Son existed before the Son came to earth at Bethlehem?” But, for whatever reason, that just never happened.
I have no idea what McDonald and the other celebrities actually had in mind when they staged the Elephant Rooms. But, for example, there is no doubt that the result let Perry Noble and TD Jakes off the hook. In fact, Elephant Room 2 was hardly over before the celebrity pastors were rushing to invite Jakes and other Word/Faith personalities to their own megachurch platforms.
Perhaps because Jakes was invited to McDonald’s platform another participant of Elephant 2, pastor Steven Furtick, was emboldened to invite Jakes to his Elevation Church, and also publicly called T.D. Jakes his favorite pastor. Joel Osteen, a Word/Faith megapastor from Houston, and Christine Caine from Hillsong in Sydney, Australia—a Word/Faith megachurch from down under—and other famous Word/Faith personalities were suddenly invited to a wide range of mainstream evangelical megachurch platforms.
The result was to mainstream W/F Heretics world wide. Now I will explain why I believe that Word/Faith teaching is heretical.
Mainstreaming Word/Faith Heretics
Word/Faith teaching was largely brought to us by Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003). Hagin actually based his views on the writings of E.W. Kenyon, which becomes obvious as we consider Hagin’s plagiarizing of Kenyon’s writings. Before Hagin began to promote Kenyon’s views he was an AOG minister. Hagin’s teachings then became known as Word/Faith. Until recent times Word/Faith has generally existed on the periphery of pan-evangelicalism on a parallel track.
But now, rather than a close parallel movement, it has essentially gained full acceptance within the mainstream of the visible Christian church. This is alarming, for Word/Faith teaching remains throughly heretical. Based on Kenyon’s works, Hagin taught among other things that when Adam was created he was a fully divine person and an exact replica of God. In the fall of Adam lost his divinity and the human race lost the potential of divinity.
Word/Faith teaching also asserts that when Jesus died on the cross He died physically; but more importantly, it holds that Jesus died spiritually on the cross and lost his own divinity. Jesus then descended into hell and was tormented by satanic beings for three days. Then the Father intervened and restored Jesus’ lost divinity and Jesus became the first born-again man.
According to Word/Faith theology, now anyone who is born-again is rewarded with restored divinity on a par with Jesus; and even God (that is God with a small g.) This is why Kenneth Copeland and others would aggressively proclaim their own divinity as “little gods.” It’s also why Word/Faith believers claim they can create new realities through their spoken words because, in their theology, they are now born-again replicas of The Father, even as Adam was before the fall.
Though not discussed openly right now due to criticism, this teaching is central to Word/Faith theology and widespread among the Word/Faith faithful and its TV network TBN. As the aforementioned Gary Gilley states: “Faith teachers like to teach that Christians are little gods.” It is true that this heretical teaching is emphasized by some Word/Faith teachers more than others, particularly Hagin’s successor Kenneth Copeland. But a web search can rather easily find this teaching in almost all of them; for example: T.D. Jakes And Joyce Meyer Teaching Word Faith “Little Gods” Doctrine.
The reason I call Word/Faith heresy is because it is changing and demeaning the work of Jesus completed on the cross. Below Gilley summarizes for us Word/Faith views about Jesus and His death:
1) Christ was re-created on the cross from divine to demonic. To put it in Faith vernacular, Jesus took on the very nature of Satan himself.
2) Your redemption was not secured on the cross, but in hell. In fact, many Faith teachers claim that Christ’s torture by all the demons of hell was a “ransom” God paid to Satan so that He could get back into a universe from which He had been banished.
3) Jesus was reborn (or born again) in the very pit of hell.
4) Christ was reincarnated through His rebirth in hell and that those who (like Christ) are born again can become “incarnated” as well. (source)
Consequently, this is all infinitely much more serious than, say, holding a different view regarding the time of Jesus return, etc. Once again, a simple question will do the job: “Did Jesus complete His atonement on the cross or later in hell?
Kenneth Copeland, James Robison, Brothers in the Lord with Pope Francis
The late Tony Palmer is a former director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in South Africa. Later Palmer became a bishop in an Anglican charismatic group of churches. As an Anglican charismatic, while working with Catholic Charismatics in Argentina, Bishop Palmer became a close friend of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future pope Francis. Earlier this year the pontiff invited Palmer to the papal residence and recorded a message to Kenneth Copeland’s, annual pastors meeting at Copeland’s Eagle Mt. mega church near Forth Worth on his iPhone.
In this video message we witness pope Francis pleading in tears with those Pentecostal and charismatic pastors for a unity of brothers in Christ. Copeland responded by praying in “tongues” (with no interpretation following) to the group and asked Palmer to record a response (apparently this was all set up in advance) to the pontiff. Palmer then announced to these Word/Faith pastors that “‘the protest’ (code for the Protestant Reformation) is over, is it over for you?” As Palmer speaks, the over 1,000 Word/Faith pastors at the meeting can be seen standing and cheering.
A few days later, James Robison also televised this same iPhone message on his daily TV program Life Today with Tony Palmer as his guest. Shortly after this appearance on Robison’s program—which is highly influential in Pentecostal and charismatic circles—Palmer would arrange for a papal visit for Copeland, Robison, along with some other Pentecostal and charismatic leaders. Copeland later reported of the meeting: “I am blessed! What Jesus asked the Father for in John 17:21 ‘that we all be one in Him’ is finally coming to pass.” You can see this all for yourself right on the Net.
Sadly, it as Rev. Robert S. Liichow, himself a former Word/Faith preacher and “founder of Discernment Ministries International,”4 recently pointed out:
There are two major forces within the Church today; that of the Roman Catholic Church (1.2 billion members) and the Sign-gift/charismatic move- ment (584+ million members). The Pope himself is a sign-gift enthusiast as well as being a member of the Jesuit order. These two groups comprise the majority of the visible Church. (source)
Postscript: Not many days after the papal visit Bishop Tony Palmer was killed in a motorcycle accident in England. May God grant his family special grace.
These assorted media episodes are very visible and loudly, without words, they shout out: “I am essentially suggesting that this ministry is accepted.” This is simply guilt by endorsement; despite the fact some may retort that, even though we may have different styles and message emphasis, we are still only different battalions in the one army of the Lord.
All of these events noted above appear to have little specific planning, at least as far as we know. Indeed the megachurches are all about becoming bigger and more visible in the culture. Perhaps some of it is simply “keeping up with the Jones” and striving to increase one’s market share. But, in any case, the sheeple are just going along for the ride wherever the celebrity pastors and authors will take them. Unfortunately, the sheeple are undergoing reconditioning thus preparing them to be ready to follow their false brethren. It’s critical to remember that such as these never teach easily recognized and obvious error.
Paul referred to the Jewish Christians in Galatia who were calling for Gentiles to be circumcised as “false brothers.” Now keep in mind here that these “false brothers” believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. But still Paul called them anathema (accursed). They only wanted to add circumcision to the salvation message. Seems small compared to praying to Mary, and re-offering Christ as a sin offering each time in the Roman Catholic Mass. Conversely, however, through their Council of Trent—specifically convened to refute the Protestant Reformers—the Roman Catholic Church today still declares anathema anyone who holds to “faith alone.”
False teachers have always folded ecumenical leaven into the whole loaf. But a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. What is happening today in platform ecumenism is the leavening of false teaching into an ecumenical loaf. This despite the warning of God the Holy Spirit I just referenced; specifically — A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).
And remember, as the Cardinals were in their holy conclave in Rome, Rick Warren called for prayer for God’s choice of a new Roman Catholic pope. After Francis was chosen, self appointed celebrity New Apostolic Reformation prophet Kim Clement would give his oracle: “This man has been appointed to join the hearts of the Protestant faith – Catholic – those who are Spirit-filled.”
Unfortunately for such as these, the spirit that’s filling and/or leading them is most definitely not God the Holy Spirit.
- ON CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY AND CHARISMANIA
- THOMAS MERTON AND THE BUDDHAS
- THOMAS KEATING GUIDELINES FOR CONTEMPLATIVE/CENTERING PRAYER
- Thornbury, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism, Crossway, 2013, pp. 223 ↩
- For example see: Future Outpouring “Prophecy” Of Beth Moore. I also discussed this ecumenical event further in A Second Pentecost: Is There The Hope Of An End-Time Repeat Of Pentecost? ↩
- Transcendental mantra meditation originated with Hinduism: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mantra, accessed 9/20/14. ↩
- https://discernmentministriesinternational.wordpress.com/about-our-ministry/, accessed 9/20/14. ↩