Evangélicos se desmarcan de ARENA (2008)

Evangélicos se desmarcan de ARENA

http://archivo.archivoscp.net/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=1385

Por Edgardo Ayala

SAN SALVADOR- El 12 de julio de 1896, Samuel A. Purdie, un misionero de Baltimore, Estados Unidos, se bajó del vapor Panamá tras atracar en el Puerto de Acajutla, y pisó suelo salvadoreño. Era mediodía y el primer pastor evangélico había llegado.

Purdie llegó a estas tierras para montar un puesto de avanzada de la Misión Centroamericana, un proyecto concebido por el misionero evangélico Ciro Ingerson Scofield, de Dallas, interesado en sembrar la semilla del protestantismo en esta región. Los primeros misioneros estadounidenses habían llegado a Costa Rica en febrero de 1891.

Dos días después de su llegada, El 14 de julio, Purdie, que dejaba ver una abultada barba blanca, rentó una habitación en San Salvador, en la 1ª Calle Poniente, cerca del Hospital Rosales, y pensaba alquilar una casa amplia para abrir un culto cuanto antes. Pero no pudo. Así que fabricó tres bancas de madera y allí mismo, en su cuarto, montó el que sería el primer culto evangélico en El Salvador.

A ese histórico primer culto, de la Misión Centroamericana, sólo se hizo presente un borracho nicaragüense, según se narra en el libro Cien años de presencia evangélica en El Salvador, una compilación sobre el origen del evangelismo en el país, editado en 1996.

112 años han pasado desde entonces. Purdie difícilmente habría imaginado cómo aquella primera membresía, constituida por el borracho nicaragüense, se extendería tanto y llegaría a conformar entre el 30 y 32% de la población total, según varios estudios. Eso equivale a 1.8 millones de fieles. Tampoco habría concebido que los evangélicos serían un factor importante en el juego político del país e incluso podrían ser fuerza decisiva en una elección presidencial.

El vínculo entre iglesias evangélicas y política electoral tomó forma definitiva en los comicios presidenciales del 2004, cuando se dice que buena parte de la feligresía evangélica, víctima de la propaganda que dibujaba a Schafik Handal con un ateo quemabiblias, votó mayoritariamente por Arena, dándole el triunfo a Elías Antonio Saca.

Génesis pro derecha

Los evangélicos han sido un sector cuya visión del mundo ha sido, en general, de corte conservador, pro derecha. Habrá que diferenciar, sin embargo, a las iglesias evangélicas llamadas “históricas”, como la Luterana o la Anglicana o un sector de la Bautista, que en los años 70s se identificaron plenamente con las luchas de los movimientos sociales de izquierda, en plena guerra civil, lo cual resultaba peligroso.

“A uno de nuestros pastores lo mató el Batallón Atlacatl en 1984, y le cortaron la lengua”, recuerda Medardo Gómez, Obispo de la Iglesia Luterana.

Aparte de esas “históricas”, el resto de evangélicos abrazan más una visión conservadora, y desde allí podría resultar fácil que salten hacia posiciones de derecha. Los preceptos bíblicos son, en esencia, radicalmente conservadores. Temas como el aborto, los homosexuales, prostitución, drogadicción, etc., son vistos desde una perspectiva religiosa poco tolerante, distanciadas de posiciones más liberales, abrazadas más por la izquierda.

También está de por medio la conexión entre marxismo y ateismo, que fue justamente el elemento que jugó en contra de Handal en 2004.

Además, a finales de los años 60 hubo también un claro interés del gobierno de los Estados Unidos de contrarrestar los movimientos católicos que apoyaban cambios sociales en Latinoamérica, y el Documento Santa Fe, de 1975, deja en claro el peligro que eso representaba para los intereses norteamericanos, reforzando la visión de apoyar las dictaduras militares.

Estados Unidos apoyó, entonces, el crecimiento de las sectas protestantes de corte fundamentalistas. También en los años 80, el predicador Pat Robertson, un televangelista de la derecha estadounidense, utilizaba su programa Club 700, transmitido en El Salvador por Canal 4, para lanzar peroratas cristianas a favor de dictaduras militares en Centroamérica. Club 700 era visto por miles de evangélicos salvadoreños, y las prédicas de Robertson fueron parte importante en cómo iban a ver el mundo no solo religioso, sino también político.

Los amigos de Saca y Rodrigo

Dentro del actual espectro evangélico, es posible identificar aquellas denominaciones y congregaciones más notorias y su inclinación política ideológica.

Se sabe que los pentecostales conforman alrededor del 80% de la comunidad evangélica. De ese grupo se dividen unas 50 denominaciones, entre las que sobre salen las Asambleas de Dios, Príncipes de Paz, Apóstoles y Profetas, los Apostólicos, etc. Todos muy cercanos a la derecha. Hay que aclarar, empero, que la feligresía no necesariamente sigue siempre “una línea” dictada por la cúpula.

El Tabernáculo Bíblico Bautista Amigos de Israel, liderado por el pastor Edgard López Bertrand, conocido como “Toby”, es quizá el más fácil de identificar con Arena y el Gobierno. Toby dice contar con unos 740,000 fieles, pero ese dato resulta abultado para todos las fuentes del sector evangélico consultados por ContraPunto. Un dato más real, dicen,
sería la mitad o menos.

Las Asambleas de Dios, de corte pentecostés, es sin duda la congregación más grande del país. Son alrededor de 10,000 iglesias las diseminadas por todo el territorio nacional, con miles de pastores y feligreses. Si bien
institucionalmente no se puede decir que las Asambleas han endosado un apoyo directo a algún partido, su línea conservadora la ubican dentro de la derecha. Y no sólo eso.

Algunos de sus pastores han conformado organizaciones vinculadas con Arena, o en algunos casos, nacidas específicamente para apoyar a ese partido, como es el caso de la Comisión Nacional de Pastores y Líderes (Conapal),
surgida para apoyar a Saca en las elecciones del 2004. Allí estaban pastores como Mauricio Navas, de la Iglesia El Camino, entre otros. La cúpula de las Asambleas de Dios permitió ese apoyo, pues no lo vetó.

A las Asambleas de Dios pertenecen también estas iglesias de regular membresía y con una clara posición de derecha: Iglesia Josué, el Centro Evangelístico y el Templo Cristiano, así como el Centro Misionero El Sembrador.

Hay también iglesias “independientes”, escindidas de congregaciones más grandes, que jalan hacia la derecha. Una de ellas es la Iglesia Kemuel, del pastor Juan Carlos Hasbún, amigo de Saca y de Rodrigo Ávila. Hasbún acaba de ser nombrado presidente de la Alianza Evangélica, que aglutina a la mayoría de congregaciones evangélicas del país.

Además de congregaciones e iglesias, en la derecha se han gestado organizaciones con claros fines político electorales. Allí confluyen pastores de varias denominaciones, aunque no todas, agrupados en un frente común contra
la izquierda.

La ya mencionada Conapal es una de ellas. La Red Nacional de Pastores Torre Fuerte surgió como una nueva versión de Conapal, obteniendo recursos financieros de la partida secreta del Presidente Saca, según Rómel Guadrón, uno de sus fundadores. “Falsos profetas que apoyan a los corruptos”, dice el pastor William Chamagua, director general de Radio Cadena Mi Gente, quien construyen en el país la Iglesia de los Nueve Millones.

Ahora Guadrón se ha desvinculado de Torre Fuerte, y ha hecho renacer Conapal pero desmarcada del Gobierno. Dice que Tony Saca les falló al no nombrar un Comisionado Presidencial para las iglesias evangélicas. “Sólo querían los votos, nada más”, dice.

Izquierda bíblica

Pero también hay pastores y cultos que muestran más independencia del poder; incluso algunos son etiquetados de izquierda.

La Iglesia Elim, también pentecostal, que posee una membresía que sobrepasa los 120,000 seguidores, se encuentra en el sector que podría ser catalogado, en términos políticos, como centro izquierda. El pastor Mario Vega incluso ha sido calificado ya como “rojo” por algunos medios de comunicación, debido a las posiciones críticas mostradas en temas de
actualidad, que lo desvinculan de aquellos otros grupos cercanos al poder.

Probablemente no es que Vega abrace opciones de izquierda. Sus convicciones religiosas lo llevan a criticar duramente aquellas injusticias o abusos de poder gestadas en las esferas gubernamentales. “Nunca he mencionado en mis cultos (preferencias políticas), y ni siquiera en pláticas”, dice. A la pregunta de si él personalmente abraza una línea política, dice: “Prefiero no hacerla pública”. Vega es considerado por líderes de otras congregaciones como uno de los pastores más pensantes del gremio.

En esa misma línea va Carlos Rivas, del Tabernáculo de Avivamiento Internacional (TAI). Este pastor recuerda que fue convocado por los colegas que estaban ya en la gestación de Conapal para empujar la candidatura de Saca en el 2004, y en efecto se reunió con cuadros de Arena, como René Figueroa, Francisco Laínez y el mismo Saca. “Me invitaron, pero cuando vi el panorama, supe que era manipular a la iglesia evangélica. Entonces me dije: puya, esta onda no me llega”.

Rivas agrega: “Me han etiquetado de izquierda, pero es porque al que es crítico inmediatamente lo vinculan con el otro lado”.

En cambio, William Chamagua, de la Radio Cadena Mi Gente, es un pastor que sí tiene claro su apoyo a la izquierda y, concretamente, al FMLN: “El Frente es la única opción de cambio, y ese sentido, indirectamente o directamente lo estoy apoyando, para beneficio del pueblo”, dice.

Chamagua sufrió un giro radical. De inmigrante ilegal en Estados Unidos pasó a soldado estadounidense, atiborrado de propaganda republicana anticomunista. “Ronald Reagan era mi Commander in Chief (comandante general)”, recuerda, “sin saber las masacres que él estaba cometiendo contra el pueblo salvadoreño”. Destacado en Alemania, se hizo evangélico, y de allí pasó a pastor con una clara visión de izquierda.

La tortilla dio vuelta: Arena pierde a evangélicos

Datos del Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública (IUDOP), de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Canias (UCA), revelan que, en las elecciones del 2004, un 44.1 de los electores que dijeron ser evangélicos votaron por Arena, mientras que un 28.6% por el FMLN. “Hay algo de cierto de que el voto cristiano evangélico aportó al triunfo de Arena”, dice Jeannette Aguilar, directora del IUDOP, citando la campaña del miedo al ateismo de Handal como uno de los elementos determinantes en esa tendencia.

Pero eso ha cambiado radicalmente, para desdicha del partido en el gobierno.
La encuesta del IUDOP de septiembre del 2008 revela que, si las elecciones presidenciales fueran el próximo domingo, un 41.8% del voto evangélico votaría por el FMLN, mientras que un 30.9%, por Arena.

“Hay un desencanto generalizado sobre el rumbo de país”, dice Aguilar, y agrega que las preferencias de los evangélicos van aproximándose cada vez a la tendencia del electorado general.

¿La razón de ese cambio? “La difícil situación económica del país”, explica la directora del IUDOP.

Efrén Reyes, presidente de la Unidad Cristiana Vida Nueva para El Salvador, actualmente en gestación, dice que a los evangélicos, como parte de la población, les ha calado el deterioro de la economía. “Los evangélicos, en términos de votos, son un terreno en disputa, ya no son dominio de la derecha”, señala.

Además, ya no está de por medio el elemento ateismo-quemabiblias que jugó en contra de Handal en el 2004. Ven a Funes, por el contrario, como un símbolo de cambio dentro del FMLN.

“Arena sabe que el voto evangélico ha girado, y están preocupados viendo cómo hacen”, dice el rector de la Universidad Evangélica, Víctor Segura. Y agrega: Por eso, Saca y Ávila van al acto en el estadio (Cuscatlán) de Toby. No van por Toby, van por reforzar su imagen ante la población evangélica. Y por eso va también Mauricio Funes”.

Biografía del Hermano Tobi

El Dr. Edgar López Bertrand

nació en Chalatenango, El Salvador, el 30 de septiembre de
1939. Sus estudios de Primaria y Secundaria los realizó en el Liceo Salvadoreño. Estudió su primera carrera en la Escuela Nacional de Agronomía(ENA). Continuó sus estudios en Los Estados Unidos de Norte América, en donde se gradúa como Ingeniero Mecánico.

Luego de unos años de trabajo como ejecutivo de multinacionales, se convirtió en un próspero empresario. Recibe a Jesucristo durante una campaña evangelística en Huichtla, México el 11 de septiembre de 1970.

Escuchando el llamado del Señor, deja sus empresas e ingresa a Temple University en Chattanooga, Tennessee, ordenándose como pastor el 17 de julio de 1975. Posteriormente obtiene 2 doctorados, en Teología y Psicología.

Por más de 30 años ha predicado el Evangelio por los 5 continentes. Es el predicador preferido por muchas iglesias y denominaciones. Sus sermones se escuchan por la radio en todo El salvador, Guatemala y
Honduras. A través del Internet se le escucha en todo el mundo.
Dios le ha utilizado grandemente, edificando una obra ministerial gigantesca. Su iglesia cuenta con más de 65,000 miembros, los cuales, con su fidelidad como diezmadores han hecho posible la apertura de más de 200 iglesias y 200 campos misioneros.

La historia de nuestra iglesia comienza hace 30 años [ca. 1978] en la casa de habitación de nuestro pastor general, aquí comienza a reunirse con un grupo de familias que querían estudiar la Biblia. Este grupo de personas aumentó a un punto que ya no cupieron, y buscaron otro lugar, pasando así al Centro comercial El Rosal, ubicándose en los locales comerciales.

Las personas que llegaban invitaban a otras, esto aunado a la tarea evangelizadora que siempre inculcó el pastor, hace que estos locales se queden pequeños, y después de un tiempo, nuevamente ya no cabían y buscan un nuevo lugar; llegan al local de La Sultana, en donde ya había un edificio para los cultos de los adultos y otro para la Escuela Bíblica, pero el crecimiento no se detuvo, y llegó un momento en que otra vez ya no se cupo; pero la visión fue más allá, no se buscó un local, se buscó un terreno para construir un templo que cumpliera con los requisitos de espacio y comodidad, es así como llegamos al local que actualmente tenemos; y aun así con el paso de los años poco a poco nos hemos ido expandiendo comprando los terrenos aledaños, construyendo edificios y parqueos para ofrecer las mejores comodidades a nuestra creciente congregación. El nuevo templo tiene capacidad para 10.000 personas.

A popular Salvadoran Christian evangelical minister remains in the custody of US federal authorities in Houston, Texas. According to
news stories, Edgar Lopez Bertrand, known as “Brother Toby” was arrested in Houston for falsely claiming that a young girl was his
daughter on a passport application. Because he is a naturalized US citizen, the false passport declaration obtained US citizenship for his purported daughter as well. He is said to be working out a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Brother Toby is one of the highest profile evangelical preachers in El Salvador. Since his May 16 arrest, his story has been front page news in El Salvador. He leads the church the Baptist Biblical Tabernacle Friends of Israel, which has 80,000 members in El Salvador. He also heads a television channel, a radio station, and a newspaper. His ministry has spread to the Internet as well: http://www.tabernaculo.net/.

The web site of the church reports that 12 inmates have been converted in Christianity while Brother Toby was in custody with them.
The faithful of his flock have been holding prayer vigils and tying yellow ribbons in hopes of his liberation from US custody.
SOURCE:
http://luterano.blogspot.com/2005/05/case-of-brother-toby.html

STRANGE FIRE. The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church

STRANGE FIRE. The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church.
Van Der Merwe, Travers and Jewel

Table of Contents
Dedication and Foreword 2
Chapter 1: Strange Fire 3
Chapter 2: Gnosticism 9
Chapter 3: A Gnostic Gospel? 14
Chapter 4: The Supernatural 20
Chapter 5: The “Elite” Concept 26
Chapter 6: The Mystic “Link” 31
Chapter 7: Spirituality 41
Chapter 8: The Exaltation of Man 47
Chapter 9: False Prophets 49
Chapter 10: Neo-Gnosticism 56

DEDICATION

This Book is dedicated to Travers van der Merwe (1935-1995). The burning passion of Travers’ heart was to give a clarion call to the Church that he saw falling in line with Gnosticism and leaving the simplicity of the Word of God.
In severe pain he preached his last message on the subject of mysticism. After his departure from this life, the following definition was found in his
jacket pocket, in his handwriting:
“Mysticism: The timeless quest for higher/hidden truth, spiritual experiences and knowledge of God by using imagination, intuition, so-called’Holy Spirit revelations’ and subjective feelings rather than fact, reason and the undistorted Word of God.”

FOREWORD

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is
that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there
anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old
time, which was before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

Some books are written before their time. This is one such book. It was
never our privilege to know Travers van der Merwe but we had heard of his
exemplary walk before God and man while on Earth. While battling cancer,
a painful ordeal that lasted for many years, Travers and his wife Jewel
penned this book. He saw an ancient heresy arising in the modern Christian
church and it weighed heavily on his heart.

After the book was completed, it lay dormant for several years. In the
meantime much was happening in the Christian church nationally and
internationally to confirm that there was a revival going on – not
accompanied by repentance and a turning away from dead works – but of
Gnosticism.

Gnosticism has a chameleon-like ability to appear like the genuine article,
true Christianity, and thus has managed to transform itself to fit the times in
countless new wrappings over the centuries. It particularly adapts itself to
that place where the ideas of the east and west meet. Whenever eastern
mysticism and western rationalism collide, one can find there the seedbed
for a pseudo-Gospel that mimics the real thing.

Gnosticism is fool’s gold, shiny and beckoning on the surface yet phony.
Modern Saints are poorly equipped to recognize the counterfeit. Much
Gnosticism enters the Church via the popular Christian media, where the
real and the false get mixed up in a garbled soup of doctrines and teachings.
The rise of the New Age movement, and the extent to which it has permeated
Christian thinking, further clouds the issue. How is a Christian to sort out
these strange teachings?

When Jewel first sent us the unpublished manuscript for the book it was
because we had been asking her for more information about the rise of
modern Gnosticism. The book, she said, would answer many of our questions. Indeed, it did. So many, in fact, that we then began pressing her to let us publish the book. We believed that it should be widely disseminated and read by Christians who were seeking to understand their growing uneasiness with the “new” moves of God, signs and wonders, “laughing revivals”, and ecumenical unity.

Strange Fire is a brief, easy-to-understand book that explains how to tell the
Truth from the Lie. It doesn’t dwell on the spectacular manifestations, but
concisely illustrates modern Gnosticism. The real gold of the Gospel is
presented in such a way that it outshines the fool’s gold of Gnosticism.
Readers will have no doubt as to which is which. This handy tool enables
even the unlearned to discern Gnosticism the next time they encounter it.
This is one little book that may save many a soul from walking into the error
and falsehood so prevalent in our time.

Lynn & Sarah Leslie; December 1995

Chapter 1: Strange Fire

“And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire
before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, . . .”
(Numbers 3:4).

Even though Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron the high priest, they failed when they presented their offering to God. They knew they were in the wrong. However, like Cain, they thought their way was better! They had obviously taken up with a “new thing” with which they thought God would be pleased.

God created man and woman to live on this planet called Earth. In his Infinite Wisdom, He set forth the laws of nature, looked upon His creation and was satisfied. He said, “it is good”. The universe continues day by day, ordered by God’s commands that issued forth in the first book of the Bible.

God’s Plan and Purposes

From the beginning God set forth His PLAN and PURPOSES in clear
unmistakable language. Beginning with His directives to Adam and Eve, and throughout Scripture, He did not do anything that was not explicitly laid out to His creation, who were the inhabitants of this planet. What an all-Wise and all-Knowing God! He made known His Ways to the children of men!

Every prophecy given in the Old Testament concerning the coming
of the Messiah was fulfilled literally and in minute detail at the coming to earth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God’s PLAN and PURPOSES were on course!

Down through the annals of human history, man in his disobedience, has continually tried to take matters into his own hands. Eve desired to eat of the fruit that God had commanded Adam to avoid. Cain determined that his sacrifice was sufficient as it was the fruit of his labours. Even to this present day, man continues to try in his own strength to replace God. God is abandoned from his thoughts and replaced instead by his accomplishments.

Man becomes tired and impatient. He does not like to wait for God and
instead tries to help God along in His work. Man’s efforts at the best
are not sufficient! However hard he tries, his wisdom comes to naught.

Despite the attempts of mankind to improve on His wisdom and programme, the PLAN and PURPOSES of God move steadily forward with infinite precision. The courses of empires are ordained by God. All things are created by HIM and for HIM. Even the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar had to come to acknowledge this fact. After his humiliation he declared:

I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever,
whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from
generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as
nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and
among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto
him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:34, 35)

Every Scripture concerning Christ’s return to this planet, this planet
Earth that God loves, will be literally fulfilled. God gave His Son, His
only Begotten Son to die for this sinful Earth in order to fulfill His
PLAN and PURPOSES. Because man was corrupt in all his ways
(having forfeited God’s commands and reign) God in His infinite
Mercy gave His only begotten Son to die for corrupt man in order to
redeem him and thereby fulfill His PLAN and PURPOSES.

The supernatural realm has always been held in fascination. Imagine
being able to partake of the supernatural! Experiences of the beyond
continue to titillate the imagination. Yet man was not created to live
in that (the invisible) realm. He was created to glorify God on this
Earth. Man’s obedience in the natural world and faith in God’s Word
serves as a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to man (1
Cor. 4:9). The supernatural realm regards God’s creation in wonder.

The angels are amazed at God’s glorious plan of salvation as they
see mortal man (through Jesus Christ) faithfully follow the Word that
God has spoken. As believers we are being closely watched by
angels and men – as the revelation of redemption unfolds as the
prophets foretold:

Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did
minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have
preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;
which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12).

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the
heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom
of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord: (Eph. 3:10-11)

To live according to God’s PLAN and PURPOSES here on this Earth
takes faith! It is the faith of Hebrews 11 that trusts unquestionably in
the God whose mercy endures forever. In the face of trials, whether
by tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or
sword – we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
The child of God rests in the knowledge that God is faithful!

Heresy Hunters or Bereans?

As menacing teachings permeate the fibre of the Church, there is a vigorous attempt being made to silence anyone who opposes the status quo! Labels are handed out freely if you question what is happening. The most popular label is “heresy hunter”. Anyone who does not “go with the flow” for unity is considered “divisive”.

Whatever happened to the ability to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints? Many pastors who are “going with the flow” refuse to even read an article that will question some of the popular practices posing as “new revelation” and “deeper truths”.

When asked if they have read a book or an article documenting some of the heretical thoughts being propagated, pastors will invariably have several excuses among which are: (a) “the author only wants to sell books”, (b) “I’m too busy”, or© “I’m not really interested”. In the meantime the hole in the dyke has given way to an avalanche of false teaching and heretical thought.
It is frightening to realise that beliefs can be created merely by passively accepting information without attempting to analyse if what is preached or taught is truth! Unfortunately today much depends on the personality delivering the message. If it is a charismatic figure with a certain appeal, he/she can say anything they want and get away with it! The only criteria for truth seems to be if a book has been published and sold many copies, the author must be right.

This is why the knowledge of the Word of God is so important. It is
not enough to parrot off someone else’s teaching and sound like a
great name in miniature. Any man can lead you astray – no matter
how nice or how spiritual he sounds. You have to stand before God
yourself! The Word of God says explicitly, Study to show thyself
approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. (1 Tim.2:15).

Listening to hours and hours of tapes or watching “Christian TV” is not a substitute for honest and earnest study of the Word of God. Be like the Bereans who checked out everything they heard to see if those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11). They were commended for doing so – not told they were divisive, critics, fault-finders and “heresy hunters”.

An astonishing event was an outburst by Paul Crouch on the world’s largest Christian TV network as he denounced anyone who would speak out for sound doctrine and against the “gnostic” trends in the church today.. . . that old rotten Sanhedrin crow, twice dead, plucked up by the roots . . .they’re damned and on their way to hell and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them . . . the hypocrites, the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christians’ eyes . . . when they’ve got a whole forest in their own lives . . .I say, ‘To hell with you! Get out of my life! Get out of the way! Quit blockin’ God’s bridges!’ [CIB Bulletin, vol.7, no.7, July 1991]

There is a concentrated attack on those who have been labeled “heresy hunters”. Unfortunately there are those who hold to the contention that “most Christian truths were formulated and defined in response to heretical half-truths. Thus, heresy comes before orthodoxy – and may in fact be a precondition for orthodoxy.” [‘Confusing the Roots with the Fruits’, William L. DeArteaga, Ministries Today, July/August 1991, p.56]

The DeArteaga article also said that The critics have tragically misunderstood how the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work in instructing, reminding and moving the body of Christ into truth. From a biblical and historical perspective, the process is plain: The Holy Spirit sovereignly uses both heathen and heretics to move the church from a status quo of theological laziness and conventionally accepted error to a position of corrected, renewed and invigorated truth.

So the author actually says that:

The idealist cults understood the critically important role that the mind,
acting in faith, had in prayer and the miraculous – especially in healing.
Christian Scientists, regardless of their heretical view of sin and evil and
their muddled view of God, did have successes in their healing ministry . . . it was semipagan, but persistent enough to channel God’s healing power.

He continues by saying that New Thought leaders “moved steadily closer to biblical reality”. Among these he included Emmet Fox and Glenn Clark, yet he admitted they never separated from their Gnostic origins. In mentioning Agnes Sandford he said that:

Her healing theology might best be considered a second-level ‘Bible filtration’ by which the half-truths of Christian Science were discerned, separated and amplified in a biblically valid form for the Christian community.

So DeArteaga’s conclusion is that:

The church has experienced heightened power for ministry and
evangelisation – all because God chose to repeat the ironic heresy-before orthodoxy process that has occurred many times before in the life of the
church. [‘Confusing the Roots with the Fruits’, William L. DeArteaga,
Ministries Today, July/August 1991]

This is pure “Gnosticism” and it was in response to the impact of Gnosticism in the early church that the church decided on the “Canonicity of Scripture” and the “Apostles Creed”. Most of the heretical trends in the church can be traced to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Benjamin Walker writes: “There are few unorthodox, schismatic or heretical movements in Christian history that cannot be traced back to gnostic sources.” [Benjamin Walker, Gnosticism: Its History and Influence, The Borgo Press, 1983, p.163]

This was precisely the philosophical and mystical religious concept of the Gnostics, propagated in John the Revelators day. It was called “the doctrines of the depths of God”, while in fact it was the doctrine of the depths of Satan. (Revelation 2:24).

What is Gnosticism?

Gnosticism was an esoteric religious movement that flourished during the
second and third century A.D. and presented a major challenge to orthodox Christianity. Most Gnostic sects professed Christianity but their beliefs sharply diverged from those of Christianity in the early Church. To its
adherents, Gnosticism promised a secret knowledge of the divine realm.

Sparks or seeds of the Divine Being fell from this transcendent realm into
the material universe, which is wholly evil, and were imprisoned in human bodies. Re-awakened by knowledge, the divine element in humanity can return to its proper home in the transcendental spiritual realm. [Gnosticism, Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Vol.12, p.10]

The definition of Gnosticism is “a system of religion mixed with Greek and Oriental philosophy (1st-6th century A.D.), intermediate between Christianity and paganism, which taught that knowledge, rather than faith, was the greatest good, and that through knowledge alone could salvation be attained.” [Webster’s Encyclopedia of Dictionaries; Baltimore, Maryland, Ottenheimer, 1978].

Basically what is being said here implies that man’s redemption and
justification is not by faith in God according to the Scriptures, but rather in “mystical knowledge” acquired by a personal experience. This is the theme that is intrinsically intertwined in all the doctrines of the cults and occults.

The issues at stake are serious. It is not merely a “cosmetic” problem. The “roots” are not only being threatened, they are being “chopped off”. As this dreadful surgery is being carried out, the life is slowly sapped and in its place is another gospel. This is a gospel that puts man on the throne.

A gospel that does not need the cross, the blood or even acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ.

The more you get to be like Me, the more they’re going to think that way of
you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was
God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah.
That’s what you’re doing. [Voice of Victory, Feb.1987, Kenneth Copeland
prophecy, Dallas, Texas]

This “divine utterance” is given in the first person. We must take this as Jesus Himself speaking to the Church. But, if Jesus didn’t claim to be God, who was He?

The Scriptures are very clear: Jesus is called God. Isaiah 9:6 says:
For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given: and the government
shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
2. Jesus accepted worship. Jesus expressed to Satan in Matthew
4:10 that:
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus accepted worship in Matthew 14:33:
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Are we to sit by and let these strange teachings develop without a word? Must we just ignore what is happening and smile passively in agreement without a protest?

A popular evangelist will stand before a congregation and ask, “how many here have read my books?” As hands go up, the evangelist will nod his approval and continue. He will give a Scripture text, but does not refer to it again. Instead he will quip out phrases that are met with cheering and clapping from an adoring audience. Before long it sounds like a pep rally with enthusiasts ready to jump on whatever bandwagon is presented with no thought to what has even been said.

The more vociferous the participants become in proclaiming useless
verbalisation of nonsensical half-truths, the more the cry goes out,
“Do not name names”. In other words, you can freely quote the
heretical statements, but just don’t let anyone know who is
preaching the error!

We have to use caution and not lump many names together and paint them all with a single brush. The Latter Rain Movement will be alluded to in the course of this book. Within the movement were many children of God who remained true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, there were those that started out well, but along the way were influenced by “strange” fires that has brought the church to accepting so many different teachings today.

Chapter 2: Gnosticism

The word itself conjures up an image of obscure men in long robes, poring for hours over ancient texts and scrolls, seeking in musty tomes the essence of truth. In reality this teaching was in existence long before the formalization of Christianity. Today it is also among the most prevalent new concepts. Its influences are not confined to the long dusty bookshelves in some forgotten college library, but are seen and heard worldwide.

An abundance of information on Gnosticism is readily available. Many books and articles on the subject have been written and can be obtained in any quality bookstore or library. Old manuscripts with reference to Gnosticism dating back to the early Church are also available, and provide great insight into the teachings and influence of Gnosticism on the world and in particular, the Church.

W.H.C. Frend writes that “in the second century Gnosticism was a world-wide movement.” [The Early Church, W.H.C.Frend, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1965, p.62]. Gnostic sects sprang up all over the world. Jacques Laccariane says, “No sooner was Gnostic thought born than it began to be disseminated along the great routes of the Orient”. [The Early Church, W.H.C.Frend, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1965].

Since that time Gnosticism has entrenched itself in the major religions of the world and not least of all Christianity. Gnosticism, while appearing to be a complex system of thoughts, is really quite simplistic and can be rather easily defined and understood.

The following attempt to set forth and explain some of the basic Gnostic thoughts will help some Christians to be on guard against the “winds of doctrine” blowing through the Church. The greatest challenge in the Church today is to discern between Gnostic thought and Christian thought.

What is Gnosticism? According to Webster, it is “an occult salvational system . . . stressing [knowledge of spiritual things] as essential . . . combining ideas derived especially from mythology, ancient Greek philosophy, ancient religions, and eventually, from Christianity”. [Webster’s New World Dictionary, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988, p.577].

The doctrinal core of Gnosticism is basically a form of mystical
religious or philosophical doctrines which other adherents and
some early Christian sects spread and which the early Church
leaders vehemently rejected as heresy. Believers in Gnosticism are
called Gnostics. The word “Gnostic” is derived from the greek word
gnostiko or gnosis (inner mystic knowledge).

The Gnostics believe that “gnosis” is subjective (internally perceived by the mind or feelings) knowledge of the divine element or spark in every man that needs to be discovered to be known. They believe the divine spark
originally came from the “realm of light” (totally alienated from the world and the flesh), and is resident in the soul of man and is held there in captivity by the flesh (a product of demons).

The only way to release the divine spark is through divine “revelation knowledge”, experienced within in the spirit. Also they believe that only when the unconscious spirit in man is awakened by revelation from the “realm
of light” can he come to know his real self – the god within.

Explained in a nutshell:

God is within, waiting to be revealed. Any external influence (matter) is evil.
Finding the god within comes only via your mind or feelings. There are no
external checks or balances, only those which your inner spirit appropriates as you progress in your revelation.

Characteristics of Gnosticism

1. Man is Co-Substantial with God

As soon as man by “gnosis” (self knowledge) discovers and releases the imprisoned divine spark (spirit), he then starts on a mystic ascent to divine substance and on into the “realm of light”.

Through divine revelation knowledge experienced in self, man becomes conscious of his origin with God, his essence as God and his transcendent destiny – all God. The unconscious self of man (the unawakened inner spirit) is co-substantial with the Godhead, i.e. having the same substance or essential nature. This is the kernel Gnostic thought that has led to the creature being deified, worshipped and served more than the Creator.

2. Elitism

The mystic “gnosis” (or knowledge) is only taught to the elite – those
who have a special capacity beyond the force of reason and the flesh. According to Gnostic writings, this special capacity was imparted by a messenger bearing a “spark” of light from the “realm of light” even before the creation of the world. The goal of the Gnostic is the release of the inner man by virtue of gnosis (inner knowing) and his return to his native “realm of light”. There seems to be a special “place” for a special “people” who are called out or chosen. That is how the spiritual elitism comes forth. It is this
Gnostic thought that is behind many of the aberrant teachings of the
Latter Rain Movement. (This will be discussed at length in Chapter 3).

3. Intuitive

The Gnostic concept of God is determined by the depth of illumination and revelation subjectively (by mind or feeling) experienced “about God”. The concept rejects external faith in God the Person. The reference point for godhood is in self. Gnostic revelation must be distinguished from Christian revelation because it is not rooted in history and transmitted by Scripture. It is rather the intuition of the mystery of self. The dark cloud of mysticism that
overshadows the Church can readily be traced to the Gnostic’s “intuition of the mystery of self”.

4. Self-Knowledge

The Gnostic believes that gnosis (selfe knowledge) is redemptive and as such needs to be discovered and known. As a result of gnosis, man subjectively discovers as a creature, the reality of his lasting unity with the transcendent God. He discovers that his life is immortal and that he is an ongoing manifestation of the light and the god that dwells in his inner self. This knowledge, it is believed, has a redemptive quality that takes the spirit in man to the ultimate realm of light such as the fulness of God.

5. Redefinition of the New Birth

Love and salvation are reckoned obvious consequences of “gnosis”. Pure knowledge without subjective reality provides intellectual enlightenment that comes from force of reason and must be avoided because it suppresses the gnosis of Divine Reality. The only substantial evidence of Divine Salvation comes from within the self-consciousness of man. It is in the experience of the inner gnosis that the Gnostic is “born-again”.

The redemptive quality in man must not be sought in the incarnation of God in Christ through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures or in faith through grace, but rather in the self-conscious seat of his own divinity. In
other words, the fullness of divine self-consciousness is the source
and evidence of the Gnostic’s “New Birth”.

6. Divinity

To the Gnostic the mystery of God was already unveiled (at least in secret) long before the birth of Jesus Christ and even before the Scriptures were written. In fact, they say it was revealed and buried in man before the creation of the world. Therefore, the only way for man to know about God is through gnosis (self knowledge). As a result, he will experience and know the Divine Spark within himself and know he is a member of the Elite – a “Manifest Son of God”.

He who exalts and prizes above everything else, the Divine Spark within
himself and sincerely believes that eternal life is found only in the Divine
Element will be certain to come into harmony with all of life and thereby
bring into consciousness the Spark of Divinity and so immortalize his soul … by obedience to the Divine Law, man attains unto Christhood, become the
Son of God. [Jacques Lacarriere, The Gnostics, Peter Owen, London, 1977,
p.43]

The Gnostic strives to find God in the creation, i.e., in “self” rather than in the Person, Christ, who is the Creator! This pursuit winds up in pantheism.

Perturbing Trends

Unfortunately, Gnostic trends are developing at an alarming rate within the Church. As early as the Second Century, Gnosticism infiltrated Christian theology. Since that time, it has gradually saturated the Church and is now, in these last days exploding not only within the Church, but also within secular institutions. The world is being prepared for a predominant Gnostic religious form, a New Order that will govern a great part of the world before Christ
returns.

Because certain “popular” theological concepts are not being measured and subjected to strict Scriptural scrutiny, Gnosticism is gaining a stronghold. As a result of new theological thought, even fundamental orthodox doctrines are being grossly changed into seed-beds for Gnosticism.

The statements below (originally in chart form) is adapted from Which Jesus Do You Follow? by M. Dauer.

FUNDAMENTAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY:
• Based on: God’s Word.
• Acknowledges: Deity of Jesus Christ.
• Believes: Man is basically sinful, and only GOD can correct the evil in
him.
• Gives glory to: GOD
• God: Believe in a PERSONAL GOD who is all good.
• Salvation: Spiritual rebirth that takes place when an individual chooses to
believe by faith the DEITY of JESUS CHRIST, recognizes the SIN in his life
and chooses to follow Christ and turn from his sin according to the Scriptures.
• Faith based on: The Word of God.
• The Answer: Jesus Christ – according to the Scriptures.
• Christ: Jesus Christ, the one and only fully God and fully man.
• The Bible: NOTHING should be added and NOTHING should be taken
away from the Bible. It is the COMPLETE WORD OF GOD. Interpreted
literally and the literal meaning received.
• Commitment: To the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.

GNOSTIC/NEW AGE THOUGHT:
• Based on: Man’s word.
• Acknowledges: Deity of man.
• Believes: Man is good and getting better.
• Gives glory to: Self
• God: Belief in God or a great force or energy or One Mind. An impersonal God with both good and bad.
• Salvation: Spiritual awakening that comes when an individual experiences
“his own divinity”.
• Faith based on: Experience.
• The Answer: Finding the “self” or “god” within and striving with “works”.
• Christ: A position of status held by all deserving members. Arrived at by
“self”, “experience” and “works”.
• The Bible: They pick and choose Scriptures to suit their purposes. They
say the Scriptures can be “interpreted” in many different ways.
Spiritualised to say whatever they want.
• Commitment: To self – or God through a passive or emotional experiential
form of religion.
. . . they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also other Scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16)

Chapter 3: A Gnostic Gospel?

Having defined and illustrated the doctrinal core of Gnosticism, we can now effectively identify Gnostic thought as it emerges in the church today. There is a growing network comprised of loosely linked groups with a common Gnostic theme. They refer to themselves in many ways. They use Biblical sounding titles such as “Overcomers”, “The First Fruits”, “Manifest Sons of God”, “The Elect”, “A New Breed”, “Son of Man Company” and even “The Manchild Company”. These groups can be involved in a wide spectrum of teaching from anti-Semitism, Prophets and Apostles, Restoration, Kingdom Now Theology, and most sinister of all – the New Age philosophy.

Though diverse in their outworking, these groups have a common origin in three main bodies of teaching: the Latter Rain Movement, the New Order and the Rosicrucian Order. We will study these three groups in detail, and as we do, the underlying Gnostic philosophy will be evident. Bear in mind, the essence of Gnosticism is finding your divinity – the god within you, by subjective experience.

The Latter Rain Movement

Most Pentecostal history books date the historic Pentecostal revival of the Latter Rain movement to 1948 and attribute its geographical origin to North Battleford, Canada. Its beginning was explosive among the Pentecostals and like a wild fire spread quickly throughout North America and many places around the world.

The movement was characterized by many healings and miraculous phenomena . . . There was an emphasis on spiritual gifts which were to be
received by the laying on of hands. [Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Zondervan Publishing House]

Leaders felt that God was giving the Church, in these last days, great insight into the mind of God by prophetic revelation and manifestations. With the outburst of the revival the ministry of an apostle and a prophet was elevated to the rank of an “office”. “The ministries were not restricted to penetrating the mysteries within the Bible but included the unveiling of people’s lives and heart.” [Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Zondervan Publishing House (emphasis added)].

New revelations into the spiritual world emerged – communication with angels, divine visitations, and out-of-body experiences. Dangers Revealing a “new thing” or gaining knowledge either by allegorizing the Scriptures or by personal prophetic revelation was the spirit of absurdity that overtook what initially seemed to be a move of God.

The records show that the revival started out well. Unfortunately, in certain major respects, it ended in abuse and apostasy, thus showing once again the need for the teaching of true Biblical doctrine.

The Latter Rain Movement had a notorious reputation for imparting
an assortment of strange teachings. The origin of these teachings,
which have no thread of Scriptural foundation except where the
Scriptures have been applied out of context, can be traced beyond
any reasonable doubt to the occult. These teachings are invariably
accompanied by what seems to be supernatural manifestations,
which when examined, are characteristically descriptive of the
occult. There is evidence that with the Latter Rain revival came a
blaze of subjective theology that centred on man, his senses,
imagination and intuition above the objective and scriptural knowledge of truth.

This new emphasis started a paradigm shift. The initial paradigm, an
orthodox perspective of Christ shifted or changed, caused
Christians to be receptive to subjective impressions of Christ,
experiences and ideas. To maintain the interest of followers, new
ideas and new revelations were (and are) continually in the making.
Most people who have had any history in Pentecostalism at all have
been influenced at some time in their lives by the Latter Rain
Movement.

There have been many sincere people who felt they were part of the move of God for the Last Days and were earnestly partaking of the fruit that was offered. Since 1948 the Latter Rain influence has permeated the churches, Bible Colleges, evangelism and Christian television broadcasting networks. The overall magnitude of its influence makes it more difficult to warn of the inherent dangers that are involved.

As a result of the Latter Rain influence in the Christian Church two basic streams of thought exist side by side. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the one from the other. Like the tares and wheat they have grown up together. Only through God’s written Word can a true separation be discerned. The first stream is “Gnostic” thought – the inspiration of many masquerading as apostles and prophets. The second is “Christian orthodoxy” thought based on the Holy Scriptures. It is the Gnostic stream of thought that divides the
Christian Church into a dichotomy.

Tangents

Here are some of the subtle doctrinal concepts the Latter Rain fraternity have come to popularise:
• Positive Confession and Prosperity Message
(Hagin, Copeland, Capps, Price)
• Restoration – Apostles, Prophets and the “Inner Voice”
(Bickle, Hamon, Cain)
• Shepherding/Covenantalism
(Simpson, Godwin, Mumford)
• Kingdom Now Theology
(Paulk, Hamon)
• Manifest Sons of God
(Cerullo)

There are many more names and new ways these streams are flowing together now. In spite of these erroneous teachings, many souls around the world have come to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour. However, through these aberrant doctrines, many Christians have or are being swept into a form of religion that too often fits the description of the cults and occult.

Prophets and The New Order

Today with the rise of new “prophets” and “apostles”, we are hearing terminology that is clearly unscriptural. Yet, enough Scripture references are used to make the teachings palatable to the average Christian.

The elevation of prophets and apostles obviously made way for individuals to abuse Scripture. It allowed some to give the ‘Spoken Word’ equality with Scripture. ‘There could be no greater error’, denominational leaders warned. . . [The Assemblies of God] General Secretary, J. Roswell Flower cautioned, ‘Predictive prophecy resulted in untold disaster wherever it had been given free course’.

Flower was well-versed in the history of Pentecostalism and recalled numerous prophecies that had come to nothing. The New Order of the Latter Rain in fact was nothing new. The ground had been covered before, with lessons learned through costly mistakes. Now a new generation seemed to want to repeat it all. [The Assemblies of God, A Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism, Vol.2, Edith Blumhofer]

This “New Order” has survived and has influenced the course of Pentecostal history. All along there has been interaction among the salvation/healing revivals and the Charismatic movement for the past 40 years. Now another generation later, we are facing the same situation that our forefathers faced, only this time it is exacerbated because of the mass media, telecommunications, huge conferences and a strong interlocking network.

When the terms “Illumination”, “New Revelation” and “New Order” are used, immediately the imagination is titillated into wondering, “What does God have new in store for me?” Promises of a “New Anointing” and a “New Thing” keep the conferences filled and the tape and book sales rolling! When the term “New Thing” is used, the following are some of the thoughts behind the term:

1. New “mysteries” revealed;
2. New “knowledge” of the Christ within – self consciousness;
3. New “form of godliness” that will be the light of the world;
4. New “power” that will do marvelous new things;
5. New “Law of Love” without Scripture;
6. New “Inner Voice” above the Scriptures to guide and govern;
7. New centre of divinity – the soul;
8. New ministries that exceed even those of the prophets and apostles of old; and
9. New consciousness/self potential – self-esteem, selfimmortalisation
and self-the temple of illumination.

These thoughts are the bedrock of Gnostic experience and its objective of self-realisation of the god within and its subsequent fruit of love and works (born not out of the working of the Holy Spirit but of connecting with your inner self.)

The Rosicrucian Order

There is a clear link in modern trends and the above teachings to what is known as “The Rosicrucian Order”. (A Gnostic religion). This seems like a bold drastic statement. However, in 1925 there was a book written entitled The Sons of God. It was “A Foreshadowing of the Coming World of the Messenger of The New Age” (R. Swinburne Clymer). Note the similarities in the following quote:

In each life is a spark, a germ of the Divine Nature. This spark is the
potential Christos or the potential individual Soul or that “light which
lighteth all the world of man’s consciousness”. When man becomes conscious
of this light within his own being and recognizes and obeys its ‘still small
voice’, he has reached a state bordering on Illumination of Soul or
Immortalisation. When he has found within himself the CENTRE whence
cometh the LIGHT, Soul Consciousness is attained. This is the beginning of
Initiation; the first revealment of the Divine Mysteries.

The Divine Spark in each individual may be developed into a centre or globe of pure white fire; it may become a dynamic nucleus of living fires – the Fire of Love and Immortality. This fact gives the key to the significance of the term ‘Temple of Illumination’. Man in toto, is the nuceau of Illumination, the Temple of the living, radiating Christos . . . ‘God in me and I in you’. Thus, by obedience to the Divine Law, man attains unto Christhood, becomes the Son of God. (page 15)

Out of Gnosticism a variety of religious cults and orders emerged, one of which was Druidism that spread rapidly during the mediaeval era throughout Europe including Britain. It became a prime factor in the direction of all European culture, religion and society. From Gnosticism and Druidism evolved what has come to be known as the Rosicrucian Order that openly admits to having originated in Gnosticism.

We can date the Rosicrucian Order back to 1379. According to their own writings, a Rosicrucian is one who has learned, or is learning a philosophy of life – a path to confident living. Among famous people who were known Rosicrucians were to name a few: Gottfried Leibnitz 1646-1716, Francis Bacon 1561-1626 and Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790. The Rosicrucians boldly advertise “Become united with enlightened minds everywhere”. The tragedy is that men who were great thinkers and spiritual leaders in their day became influenced by the Rosicrucians, just as the same thinking is influencing the church in varying degrees today.

As a result of the Rosicrucian philosophy in the eighteenth century, the Freemason Society became one of the strongest influences in Europe and North America. Thus, in the USA as well as in other parts of the world, Gnosticism helped shape much of the Christian thought, culture and politics of the day.

The book Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects by Time-Life Books not
only seems to confirm the fact that Freemasonry in part owes its existence to Rosicrucianism, but also substantiates the fact that Gnosticism is at the core of Freemasonry. With reference to the enormity of Freemasonry influence on North America, this book says:
Today of course, the fraternal service group known as the Free and
Accepted Masons is a secure strand in the social fabric of the developed
world. In the United States alone, some 16,000 lodges welcome several
million member Masons, and the leading citizens of many a town consider it
a privilege to belong. In some ways, however – in the observance of hidden
rituals, the profusion of symbols and honorary titles and high-flown
ceremonial language – the Masonic order remains the secret society it has
been for centuries untold. (page 83)

Needless to say, a great portion of Freemasonry membership comprises of the Christian clergy and to some extent accounts for the strong Gnostic influence in the Church.

According to the same book, on page 53:

Rosicrucianism’s spread in seventeenth-century Germany may have gained impetus from a Gorlitz cobbler named Jakob Boehme. Boehme reportedly has his first spiritual ‘illumination’ in 1600 when, at the age of twenty-five, he sat gazing at the light reflected from a pewter dish. The revelation led the shoemaker to abandon his trade for mystical studies. It was William Law’s introduction to Jakob Boehme which poured light into Law and inspired him to write The Spirit of Love and The Spirit of Prayer. People who love William Law’s writings and respect his teachings cannot believe he was influenced in any way by Rosicrucian thought that was basically Gnostic.

The founder of InterVarsity, Norman Grubb, testifies in his biography,
. . . from Boehme, most difficult to read because he could not easily put the
depths of his illuminations into readable form, I got my answer, and to this
day know no writer to match him . . . He is the last word to me . . . I am
saying that everything is a form by which He manifests Himself, much as my
body is not exactly I, but an outward form of the inner me. This fact,
gleaned through Boehme, confirmed through the writings of many others,
with the foundations in Scripture, has given me my anchor. [Once Caught,
No Escape, Norman Grubb, Intervarsity Press]

Norman Grubb confessed to receiving more from mystic writings than from studying the Bible. Apart from Boehme and William Law, other great mystic writers that proved a spiritual help to him were as follows: Saint Teresa, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, John Tauler, John of Rusbroeck, Walter Hilton, Plotinus, Angelus Silesius, Richard Rolle, Lady Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, William Kingsland and Rufus Jones.

These names are well known for their Gnostic and even theosophical ideas. With reference to some of the mystic writers he said, “These are out of bounds to the orthodox; but I have often got more from them than from normal Bible exegesis”. According to his own testimony, during a time of severe despair and doubt as to the existence of God, he desperately sought
for answers amongst the writings of mystics. “My answer came
through the mystics and has been widening ever since”, he writes.

Norman Grubb is a typical example of countless others, who for
whatever reason, struggled to walk by faith and unfortunately turned
to Gnostic ideas (mysticism) to experience a sense of spirituality
and a feeling of belonging to God. Like Norman Grubb, numerous
Christians, in spite of all of their experiences, are floundering in
doubt for lack of faith in God’s Word and instead are searching for
answers in mysticism – the spirit of Gnosticism.

No wonder the masses are receptive to the modern Gnostic apostles and prophets. Scripture very clearly gives us insight into the realm of the
supernatural. We know that the supernatural realm suffered a terrible rebellion as Lucifer made his bid for godhood. God became man, and this man was Jesus Christ who was born of corrupt humanity. He bridged the supernatural chasm between God and man. All things work and progress according to God’s PLAN and PURPOSES and the supernatural realm functions within the parameters God has set. As natural man, we are forbidden to attempt to even peer into those unseen things that scripture refers to. We are presently to be occupied with bringing the Gospel to the natural realm, the creation.

However, there is a time soon coming, even the angels know that at this appointed time, when the last trumpet heralds the return of Jesus Christ, the saints will put on immortality, cross the supernatural barriers and judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).

Today we are seeing a strange trend as again, man, but his own endeavours (experientially and philosophically), tried hard to relate to the “supernatural realm” and walk in a sense of godhood. The nature of this is clearly characterised as the New Age philosophy, as opposed to Orthodox Christianity. Regretfully, a great part of the church has latched on to this trend.

By all appearances, Christians are knowingly or unknowingly dabbling in eastern mysticism and the spirit world. Unless they resist this temptation, they will ultimately fall prey to Satan’s control. Deeper spiritual understanding seems to be the motivation behind it all. The problem is that Christians are no longer satisfied with the literal Word of God. They are looking for experiences “beyond the sacred page”. The Bread of Heaven, according to their inner “sacred feelings”, has become stale and outmoded.

Scripture indicates that participation in the supernatural realm is ours to be had. However, not until the prescribed Biblical time – the literal return of Jesus Christ! Any participation in the supernatural realm apart from this is treading on the same path that Lucifer walked in pursuit of going beyond his limits. Until this appointed time, the saints should be content to live and rest in the Word of God. They are to live by faith, keep God’s commandments and with a passion, resist dabbling in the spirit world.

To Believe or Not to Believe

With the variety available on the “gospel menu today, how does the ordinary person discern between truth and error? We are hearing tales from those who are preaching on “spiritual warfare” that make the toes curl. Their so-called experiences and encounters with the spirit world not only renders the cross of Christ of no effect, but clearly manifests spiritual deception and a departure from the Holy Scriptures. We have heard reports of people, when engaging in the recent “spiritual warfare” craze, that have received actual bruises and injuries from their encounter with territorial spirits or demonic
beings.

Almost a reward in itself, the recipients’ reaction to this phenomenon is one of gratitude, as if he or she has truly entered into a high spiritual level to have been so offensive to the enemy to experience such an attack.

Prophets are proclaiming that God is now “birthing” the supernatural, and new revelations, based on dreams, visions and personal experiences.

Mysticism is on the increase. Yet, we hear with all sincerity, “It must be God” because the advocates have an intuitive witness that it is true, whether it
accords with Scripture or not. Be on your guard whenever you hear this defense. It is not a defense, it is an excuse for deception!

It is abundantly clear in the history of the human race that humanity
finds it easier to believe in mysticism rather than doubt it. Inquiring
minds always tend to want to know or experience something new. In
religion, this is especially true. More than 2,300 years ago even the
Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “the ability to doubt (mysticism) is
rare, . . .” The general responses of Christians to pagan practices and Gnostic doctrines shows that many are gullible and ignorant of the Scriptures.

Mysticism

In listening to many tapes that are coming out of the present day “prophetic movement”, the underlying current is mysticism. Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopaedia defines “mysticism” as “an immediate, direct, intuitive knowledge of God or of ultimate reality attained through personal religious experience”. Experiences are being set up as the criteria for truth. There are many Christians who cannot communicate spiritual knowledge without the use of this term. The danger lies in that when experience is the basis for faith instead of the Word of God, erroneous theological ideas arise. This gives way for a deviance from the Word of God.

The interest in mysticism grows strongly as the churches become ever emptier and the religious festivals become mere periods of recreation amid a boisterous, heedless world. It is evident that contemporary society, if it is at
all interested in spiritual things demands direct experience and not merely
teaching that comes from ancient texts, nor is it impressed with traditional
doctrine that does not have a savour of a living force behind it. [The Mission
of Mysticism, Richard Kirby, London SPCK, 1979]

A lady had called to a local radio talk show exuberantly declaring her belief in Inner Healing. When referring to Ruth Carter Stapleton, she just oozed with the “wonder experiences” she had had as a result of Ruth’s ministry. When questioned about some of Mrs. Stapleton’s strange beliefs that did not accord with orthodox Christianity, the caller assured her listeners that she had been to
Bible College. Yet she could not establish a basis for Mrs. Stapleton’s teaching other than her own experiences.

Those associated with the “prophetic ministries” on the scene today bristle when they hear that some say they are New Age. A New Age book states that “Charismatic congregations in mainline churches are entry points into the Aquarian frontier”. [Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness by Theodore Rosak]

Why would a New-Ager even try to make an inroad with someone
who makes a claim to be part of the blood-washed body of Christ?
We believe that instead of the attention being drawn to the cross of
Christ, it is being directed to supernatural experiences which have
become the basis of faith. This has caused an almost imperceptible
cross-over. Johanna Michaelsen said it well:

We have ever so subtly allowed our base to shift from the solid objective
grounding of God’s Word and have come instead to place our focus on our
experiences as the standard for our beliefs. [Ministries Magazine, Spring
1985]

The apostate church is a bearer of mysticism as her structure and
institutions are subtly being overtaken. From the very beginning,
mysticism has plagued the church. In these last days we are witnessing ominous manifestations. This should not be surprising for the Scriptures foretold this:
The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine . . . they shall
turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables. (2 Tim.
4:3-4)

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there
shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in
damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and
bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall
depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines
of devils . . . (1 Tim. 4:1)

The following quote is how a Gnostic looks at the Church today:
The implication of the continuation of Christian mysticism (admittedly
under the guise of spirituality, with which it is none the less almost
synonymous) is simply that Christianity cannot be thought . . . to be
redundant in the face of the proliferation of modern mysticism. Far from it:
Christianity has always been the womb and the cradle of western mysticism, and it welcomes rather than fears modern mysticism. [The Mission of Mysticism, Richard Kirby, London SPCK, 1979]

This takes us back to Gnosticism. It was already manifest in John’s day. It was called “the doctrines of the depths of God”, while in fact it was the doctrine of the depths of Satan (Revelation 2:24). It boils down to the fact that in Gnosticism man’s redemption and justification is not by faith in God according to the Scriptures, but rather in “mystical knowledge” acquired by personal experience.

This theme is intertwined in all the cults and occults.Though the heavens disappear in a burst of fervent heat and the earth is obliterated out of existence – what will abide? Your experience – or the Word of God?

TAKE HEED PASTORS! You may not want to agree with every
statement listed below; however, for the sake of your flock and the
Lordship of Christ, discern every form of mysticism clearly adverse
to Scripture and deal with it. By no means do I suggest a witch hunt.
At this time in the history of the Church, extreme caution is of the
utmost importance.

Signs and Entry Points to Mysticism
1. The cross of Christ is not the sole basis for redemption.
2. The Holy Scriptures are not the complete single revelation of God
to man.
3. Experience is the way to perfection and knowledge.
4. Experience takes the precedence over the Scriptures.
5. Intuition is given preference to Scripture and sometimes a
substitute for the Holy Spirit.
6. Faith in the Word of God is defected to faith in the Church, man,
self, experience, etc.
7. Transubstantiation of the Eucharist becomes Christ in you – i.e.
symbols of Holy Communion namely the bread and the wine are
transformed into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
8. Mediators other than Jesus Christ are acknowledged and believed on.
9. Self is deified.
10. The allegorical method of interpretation replaces the literal.
11. Salvation is based on experience and not the Word of God.
12. The coming of Christ for His Church is spiritualized.
13. The presence of God is sought in a mystical sense.
14. Astrology (the Zodiac) is seen as an accessory to the Gospel – a
source of enlightenment.
15. The Church is the ongoing incarnation of the literal presence of Christ.
16. Inner Healing, imagery, centering and “psychology” are
substituted for the power of the Gospel.
17. Personal revelations, dreams and visions are given priority to
Scripture as final reference in judgments, decisions and guidance.
18. Experiences are sought rather than God’s will and His
righteousness.
19. A euphoric form of love and unity with little or no regard for
Scripture or sound doctrine.
20. Like Simon the sorcerer, signs and wonders are sought instead of true repentance and a right heart before God.
21. Hyper-faith, positive thinking, self-potential, and self-deification are taught as gospel truths.
22. Finding Christ or forming Christ within according to Eastern mysticism or New Age philosophy.
23. Meditation void of the Scriptures and reality.
24. The obsession of “spiritual warfare” with a Gnostic and “New Age” slant – allegedly doing battle in the supernatural realm to free cities and areas from the control of spirit beings before the Gospel can be preached effectively or have power to save sinners in the natural world.

True Spiritual Warfare

The Christian’s battle (true spiritual warfare) is not a reeling, an intuition or an imaginative experience in the spirit realm – however real it might seem. On the contrary, the warfare is against every form of mysticism that ties the feelings, intuition and imagination into the spirit world which God strictly forbids. (Deut. 18:10-12).

As Christians we war against the strongholds of spirit mysticism that war against our minds, feelings and intuitions. By the power of the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified we cast down:
• Reasonings, pagan philosophies, Gnostic concepts and carnal dogmas that
nullify the Word of God.
• Imaginations, theories, religion, fables, metaphysics, theosophy and
meditations that defy the knowledge of God; and
• Every thought, form of godliness and spiritual intent or practice opposed
to the Gospel of Christ.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God
to the pulling down of strongholds: Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . . (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Chapter 5: The “Elite” Concept

No matter how we view Gnosticism, it is always an elitist faith. Each member esteems himself superior to heaven (no wonder the “Gnostic Christian” shows no interest in heaven or the personal return of Christ). Only the “elite” (the subjectively illuminated ones) can achieve godhood.

All evidence of the writings of the Gnostics leads to an egocentric direction which is a religious life with self as the object of its devotion. It is a form of narcissism with an escape from the real world into a world of myth and fantasy where no absolutes, parameters or judgements apply. This is why “spiritual warfare” as promulgated today has such an appeal to many. The imagination is titillated as the “spirit realm” is unveiled, and excited warriors find they can do battle with creatures of the netherworld.

The essence of a “Gnostic” is a life-long journey into self. His (imaginary) pursuit is perfection, immortality, godhood and an “elite” form of godliness that sets him apart from the flesh and the world and takes him into the “unknown”.

Elitism

There are certain groups of Christians that fall into the category of “elitism” notwithstanding their affiliations. They use the same catch phrases: “Come out of your man-made systems”, “Denominational walls are breaking down”, and “Christians need to be ‘delivered’ from ‘Spirits of Religion’ and sound doctrine”.

The guilty groups are primarily among the Charismatics. They go by many names and sometimes no name at all. We spot them by the teachers that are involved and by similarities in their teachings. There may be some variations among the different groups; however the common denominator that ties them together is the “elitism” concept. This is set out as follows:

God is forming an overcoming company within the body of Christ called,
among other names, “The Manchild Company”, etc. (Revelation 12:5). The
Manchild is the true church. Those that are the real Christians are the
Overcomers (Revelation 2 & 3) and are becoming more and more perfected so that they will be able to drive Satan from the world. This must be done before Jesus can return. They believe that the church is not ready for the coming of the Lord. They are not looking for His imminent coming. They believe that Christ must come TO His Church before He comes FOR His Church.

All do not necessarily use this terminology, but the premises are the same. The language is becoming increasingly militant as the “Army of God”, “Gideon’s Army”, or “Joel’s Army” take shape. A common thread is that they are expecting a “New Order”: “In all revolutions there are noisy and dangerous times as the OLD ORDER is replaced by the new . . . after the dust settles, we can proceed to build the beautiful kingdom that the Lord has purposed from the foundations of the world”, says Vinson Synan, one of the leaders of A.D.2000. [Fulness, Jan-Feb 1990, Vinson Synan, p. 24]

Gary North, a leader of the Reconstructionists, proclaims:
We are now witnessing the beginning of a true paradigm shift . . . the
Christian community in the United States has at last begun to adopt the
intellectual foundations of a new world view, and this is always the first step
in the replacement of a dying civilization which is based on a dying world
view . . . the rotten wood is ready for burning, and a new civilization is being
prepared to replace it. [Dominion and Common Grace, The Biblical Basis of
Progress, Gary North.]

It all has such a spiritual sounding ring. One of the modern day prophets, Paul Cain, calls this elitism the “inner court experience”. He announces joyfully that there is an empty place on Jesus’ bosom for those who can “enter in”. The problem with this “elitism” theory is that Christians are to enter into the “inner court” of God, not by the way of the Cross, through faith, but through a subjective experience of a “nirvana” experience.

A Manifest Son adherent says:
But the purpose of God reaches from before the foundation of the world. It
plans the transplanting of his sons and his daughters. It plans the creation of
a NEW ORDER (the elite) on the earth and thus it transplanted celestial
children to a physical world. It brought them forth into being in the bodies
of the Adamic race. [Tape recording by William Swift]

A “prophet” from the Kansas City Fellowship in an interview session
in 1988 proclaims that the Lord looked at him and said, “I have called the best of every blood line in earth unto this generation . . . I have elected to bring them forth in this generation . . . the ELECT GENERATION. [Bob Jones transcribed from 1988 tapes]

This “New Breed” does not believe in the Rapture eschatology.

According to Rick Joyner, one of the “Prophets”:
. . .the doctrine of the Rapture was a great and effective ruse of the enemy to
implant in the Church a retreat mentality . . . already this yoke has been cast off by the majority in the advancing church, and it will soon be cast off by
all. [The Harvest, Rick Joyner]

The Scripture, Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. (Luke 17:34-36) is being construed to mean that the imperfect one shall be taken (removed from the earth) and the perfect one left. Since the Elite (The Manifest Sons) are being perfected on earth, the true Church is to become The Christ – the ongoing Incarnation of Christ. Therefore, the Church as “The Christ” is empowered to drive all demons from the earth, perfect the Church and establish the Elect’s reign. The emphasis is always on the super
spiritual race rather than on the person, Jesus Christ. One well known teacher summed it up as follows: “It is time to take him (Jesus) off and move up into the place God has ordained for us.” This is heresy in its diabolic essence.

The Foremost Danger in Elitism

The foremost danger in these divisive teachings is that Jesus Christ is removed from His high place as God the Son, to the level of all the sons of God. The sons of God are moved up to Christ’s place. The truth of the humanity of Christ is taken to an extreme. This is one of Satan’s chief ways to discredit and finally destroy God’s Word – to add to His message by pushing it to the extreme. History shows that the worst danger in Gnosticism, especially in the concept of elitism, is its inherent propensity to extremism. Given free reign, it inevitably leads to moral, political and spiritual extremism.

An immediate case in point is its extremist abuse of the Scriptures.
Gnosticism has a notorious reputation for riding roughshod over the
Scriptures then adding and subtracting in pursuit of extreme
religious ideals. Revelation 22:19 clearly reveals what happens to
anyone who adds to God’s Word.

And if any man shall take away from the Words of the book of this prophecy,
God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city,
and from the things which are written in this book.

Undermines Evangelism

The new Elite doctrine undermines the message of evangelism. Everyone is just where he is supposed to be – where God wants him at that time. Recruits for the movement are not obtained from the ranks of the unsaved, but are plucked off one or two at a time from Christian groups by phrases like “Wouldn’t you like to learn new, deep truths?”, “Have you entered in?”, “Come into the inner court”, or “Surely, you want to move on with God?”.

These phrases stir spiritual pride and elitism in most, as well as a sense of inferiority or feeling of being unspiritual if we do not understand and want to
participate. Everyone else seems to understand, why not us?
Spiritual pride comes to those who think they understand and are
part of the “New Thing” because they have these “new deeper
truths” and the rest are just poor babes.

The Restoration Movement has had a profound impact on the
Charismatic movement. With the new call to “unity” with no regard
to doctrine, the influence is flooding all aspects of evangelical
Christianity. Restorationism presents a great challenge to
conservative Biblical interpretations and is successful because it
appears to be more “spiritual”. This “spirituality” actually causes a
deterioration, becomes divisive and splits churches. A spiritual
“elitism” is formed. Others who do not get into the same “deep
revelations” of the hidden meanings of Scriptures are left out and
made to feel that they are not “spiritual”.

Elitism Undermines the Word of God

The new and yet old elite doctrine that has suddenly burst forth in
the church is in actuality the brain child of New Age Christian
Gnostics. Many of them do not even realize they are “Gnostics”. At
the expense of God’s Word, the Scriptures are spiritualized to
illustrate “The Church” (as they define it) as a special “breed” of
God’s people.

The Bible is perceived as a symbolic book. As a result of symbolic
interpretations, preposterous thoughts and blatant cultish concepts
have emerged. Rejecting the literal sense of the Word allows the
Scriptures to be interpreted and applied indiscriminately. For
example, 2 Corinthians 3:6 (The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth
life) is allegorized to mean the Scriptures is a dead letter without the
Spirit. However, that is not what the Apostle Paul is saying. Paul is
making a difference between the Old Covenant and the New
Covenant. The old brought death whereas the new as a life-giving
spirit.

To the mind of the Gnostic, the true meaning of the Scriptures
appears only when they are allegorised or spiritualised. Unless this
rule is applied, the Scriptures remain a dead letter. By this nonliteral
method of interpretation, the neo-Gnostics have spiritualized
themselves into being “Sons” equal with Christ and part of the “elite
order” in the Church.

Immortality for the Elite

This teaching is becoming more widespread as popular circuit “Prophets” proclaim in Kansas City:
. . . There is a ministry after the five-fold called the ministry of perfection -the Melchisedek Priesthood . . . your children will be moving into the
ministries of Perfection . . . coming into that Divine Nature of Jesus Christ . .
. they themselves will be that generation that’s raised up to put death itself
underneath their feet . . . because the Lord Jesus is worthy to be lifted up by
a church that has reached the full maturity of the GOD-MAN! [Bob Jones,
(Kansas City Fellowship) transcribed from 1988 tape]

Those who are overcomers believe they will never be sick or die and
they will be here when Christ returns. They believe they are now
living in the prophetic time when the Church is being restored and
perfected by the five-fold ministries (apostles, prophets, etc.). The
Elite (Overcomers) are now in the process of putting on immortality,
perfection and godhood and taking dominion of the earth. The
Church is about to birth the Man-child – the Sons of God, the
incarnation of Christ and brotherhood of Christ.

The essence of this concept is pure Gnosticism and actually accords with the following New Age thought (Gnosticism):
The real object of man’s life on earth is primarily his self-improvement and
his own ultimate perfection. This perfecting process depends upon the
attainment of unity within himself, a harmonizing between his physical and
spiritual forces; the unity of human with the Divine nature, which is the
essence and, in a spiritual sense, the NEW BIRTH. This perfection, or unity,
becomes a STATE of the Soul, a degree of being, a SENSING and FEELING
rather than a mere belief. This condition or state of being is possible only
through the development of the divine nature of man from WITHIN himself
and is the result of a process by which whatever is evil and unworthy is
transmuted, i.e. changed or SUBLIMATED into the higher or spiritual
entity – IT IS A BECOMING; the change from the purely animal-human to
the human-Divine.

The second object of man’s life on earth is to lead other men VIA the
same path so that ultimately all men shall have developed and
brought into manifestation and activity this same nature and thus
will God’s church or universal Brotherhood become an established
fact. [The Sons of God by R. Swinburnbe Clymer, Published by The
Philosophical Publishing Company (emphasis theirs)]

Secret Coming for the Elite

The neo-Gnostic believes the manifestation of the Sons of God comes about in a secret inner coming of Christ TO some Christians which would transform them into “Overcomers”. “Christ should visit the saints . . . and minister His life ‘in secret’ before He is openly manifest.” [The Feast of Tabernacles, George Warnock, Springfield, MO – Bill Britton, 1951, pp 108]. In doing this they reject the literal resurrection and Rapture (the personal coming of Jesus Christ FOR His Church). It is interesting to note they will acknowledge Christ is coming, but His coming is off in the future. The emphasis is not on
Christ’s soon appearance but on the great “power” or “new anointing” that is to be manifest in the Church. Again, a subtle change of emphasis.

Chapter 6: The Mystic “Link”

The Apostate Church, New Age and Elitism. The exaltation of self, “I am a god”, or “I am divine” is the Gnostic connection with the “New Age” and “elitism”.
The following quotes identify the Church’s new wave link with New Age thought. It shows the source of the elite mindset taking over in the Church as well as the secular world:

1. The Principle of the Cosmic Christ = Pantheism.

. . . it is not those who rely upon a personal historical Jesus for their
salvation by ‘belief’, but the real Christians are those who have recognized
that the Cosmic Christ principle is verily and truly their own higher Self,
and who strive to have that ‘brought to birth’ in them, so that even here and
now they may act in the power of that supreme divine nature, even as the
historical man Jesus is reputed to have done. It is these alone who can
truly say that their ‘life is hid with Christ in God.’ (Col. 3:8)

‘The discovery of the Mystic Christ in you is being “born from above”. This
knowledge is of the utmost importance to human victory over the lower
self. The imperishable secret of human life is the mystic Christ in all men,
their hope of glory.’ [Archdeacon Wilberforce, Mystic Immanence, p.5]

2. Man is inherently divine – a ‘god’.

Yet verily, this is a mystery. We can but dimly apprehend the heights and
depths of it. We can but follow, each in his own manner and circumstances,
that Road, that PATH BY WHICH TO DEITY WE CLIMB, which has been
pointed out to us by the great teachers of the past, and of the present . . .
‘enter in at the straight gate’ which leads to life eternal; it will only be a few
who will accept that underlying teaching of the Christian Scriptures which I
have here endeavoured to elucidate as being in line with what the Sages
and Initiates of the Ancient Wisdom have taught in all ages, i.e. the great
fact of Man’s inherent divine nature, and the potentiality which every
individual possesses of realizing that divine nature in all its potency to
overcome every human disability – sin, sickness, death – and thereby to
attain, even here and now, ‘the peace which passeth all understanding . . . ‘

It is by belief in or recognition of this great fact of the indwelling ‘Christ’
(not the historical Jesus) that the individual may start on his return journey
to his ‘Father’s home’, and step by step may attain at last, here and now, to
the conquest of sin, suffering, and death, even as the man Jesus is
represented as having attained. [The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom in the
Christian Scriptures, Bradford and Dickens, London, 1936, pp. 211-15]
The Soul or Spirit of man is the centre of divinity – making subjectivity and not objectivity of the Word of God the final authority.

Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise From outward things whate’er you
may believe. There is an inmost centre in us all Where truth abides in
fullness; but around, Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in. In the CENTRE of our being is to be found the Soul, the source of all truth,
and the Christos, wherein will come the Father. Toward this CENTRE we
must direct our search. But before we can drink of this fountain of life and
wisdom, which as a spring of clear and living water, we must break through
“wall upon wall” of “the gross flesh” that “hems it in” [The Sons of God by
R. Swinburne Clymer, Published by The Philosophical Publishing
Company, 1925]

From the above three quotes we learn:
• The Rosicrucian and the modern “New Age” Christians believe in the “Cosmic Christ principal”, i.e. the divine nature element resident in every man.
• The “god-man”, “the Christ” is the dormant or quickened spirit/inner soul of every man.
• The way to conquer sin, suffering and death is through the divine spirit (force or spark) in man.
• The power of redemption lies within the soul or spirit and is therefore independent of the Gospel of Christ and redemption through the blood of Christ.

The following quote chosen from a vast file of material gathered from modern T.V. evangelists proves how current Christian thought ties in with Rosicrucian (New Age) and “Manifest Sons of God”. It shows how an “elitist” mentality is
permeating Christian thought.

Your spirit, ladies and gentlemen, is God-like, he’s God-like in every way . . . The second this spirit-man comes into our being, pops into our bodies, we’re born again. He’s spirit, what’s born of the spirit is spirit. Say after me, within me is a God-man.

Say it again, within me is a God-man. [congregation repeats]. Now let’s say even better than that, let’s say, I am a God-man. When you say I am a God-man you’re talking about your spirit-man. Become spirit-man conscious. Become new creation conscious . . . This spirit-man within me is a God-man. Say after me, he’s born of heaven, he’s a super being. This spirit-man within me never makes a mistake. I do but he never. This spirit-man within me never sins, I do but he never does . . . Say after me, my body is the sinner, my spirit is the saint . . .

Say I’m born of heaven – God man. I’m a God-man. I’m a sample of Jesus. I’m a super being. Say it! Say it! Who’s a super being? I walk in the realm of the supernatural. Say it! Who walks in the realm of the supernatural? . . . Say after me . . . Here’s what I want you to say after me OK?

Col. 3:10 Get the knowledge, get the spirit-man renewed, get him strong,
and when he’s strong, he’ll hold off sickness. He’ll keep your body well, and
brother, you want to prosper. Money will be falling on you from left, right
and centre. God will begin to prosper you, for money always follows
righteousness and righteous living . . . Say after me, I hold my destiny . . . The reason many of us ask and never get is because our spirit-man isn’t strong enough to give it to us. Say after me, everything I ever want is in me already. [Benny Hinn, aired on Saturday, October 20, 1990 on TBN]

Although Benny Hinn has since made a public statement to the effect that he has recanted much of his earlier teaching, the mindset and receptivity among
Christians toward this Gnostic philosophy is very evident. At the time of the airing of these ideas, few believers responded in the Berean-like way, comparing Hinn’s ideas with Scripture. Those that did respond with justified criticism were often met with counter-criticism. The majority of listeners, already receptive to the idea of “new deeper truths”, sat passively glued to the T.V. sets, absorbing yet another “deep truth” and becoming more entrenched in Gnostic philosophy.

An Example The following is an account of Frank B. Robinson, the notorious cult leader of the “Psychiana Movement” in 1928 (Moscow, Idaho). At the time he was in his room crying out to “find God”.

As the moment passed he stood perfectly still, hopefully waiting for he knew not what. Then he fell to his knees, closed his eyes, and heard himself say, ‘The spirit within me is the Spirit of God, the same spirit that has moved in the lives of all great men. I have confessed this Spirit for many years, but I have also suppressed it. I want to express it from this moment on – fully, completely, perfectly.’

Kneeling there, he felt his mind cleansed of every thought save the thought
of the presence of God. His eyes filled with tears and he found himself
breathing deeply, repeating with every inhalation words which seemed to
have been whispered to him, ‘I believe in the Power of the Living God!’

He had the vivid feeling that he was not along in the room. He could sense
the Presence of something or someone, although he could see no one nor
hear anything but the words he so earnestly repeated. Yet something
had drawn aside a curtain deep within him and he seemed to be standing
face to face with the Power that is life. No longer, he said later, did he feel a
limiting consciousness; he felt only a single specific sense of complete
unity with God. In that flashing moment of insight, he realized as never
before that he was the inner counterpart of a divine creative power.
From then on he was convinced that he was the personalized activity of cosmic force . . . after that afternoon he was a changed man. [Strange Sects and Curious Cults: A Study of Their Origin and Influence, Larsen, Egon, New
York: Hart, 1972]

Frank B. Robinson’s Gnostic premise rejected:
1. The deity of Christ.
2. The blood of Christ.
3. Confession of sin.

He believed in:
1. Unity with God through universal consciousness.
2. The gospel of prosperity and personal revelations apart from and contrary to the Scriptures.
3. The voice of God with no respect to the Scriptures.
4. The spirit of man is the final voice on matters of divinity.

The concept that the spirit or soul of man is the divine element in man is
the form of mysticism that races against the Scriptures for the prize -thought to be true spirituality.

Mysticism Defined

“Mysticism is the idea that direct knowledge of God or ultimate reality is
achieved through personal, subjective intuition or experience apart from,
or even contrary to, historical fact or objective divine revelation.” Arthur
Johnson, a professor at West Texas State University, elaborates:

When we speak of a mystical experience we refer to an event that is
completely within the person. It is totally subjective . . . Although the mystic may experience it as having been triggered by occurrences or objects outside himself (like a sunset, a piece of music, a religious ceremony, or even a sex act), the mystical experience is a totally inner event. It contains no essential aspects that exist externally to him in the physical world . . . A mystical experience is primarily an emotive event, rather than a cognitive one . . . Its predominant qualities have more to do with emotional intensity, or ‘feeling tone’ than with facts evaluated and understood rationally. Although this is true, it alone is a woefully inadequate way of describing the mystical
experience. The force of the experience is often so overwhelming that the
person having it finds his entire life changed by it. Mere emotions cannot
effect such transformations.

Furthermore, it is from this emotional quality that another characteristic results, namely, its ‘self-authenticating’ nature. The mystic rarely questions the goodness and value of his experience. Consequently, if he describes it as giving him information, he rarely questions the truth of his newly gained “knowledge”. It is this claim that mystical experiences are “ways of knowing” truth that is vital to understanding many religious movements we see today. [Our Sufficiency in Christ, John MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1991]

The concept of Gnosticism is at the heart of Rosicrucianism, New Age
thought and Manifest Sons of God teachings. By Christian orthodox
definition the core of these thoughts (inner mystic knowledge) and beliefs
are occultic. In varying degrees this thinking has and is infiltrating the
church at an alarming rate. The Pentecostals and Charismatics are not
exempt. The most common characteristic is an “elitist” mentality.

Heresies

The following ideas and beliefs are characteristic of Rosicrucianism and
Manifest Sons of God, some of which, and in some cases all, are being
received and taught by a great part of the church. See whether you can
identify any of the following heresies:

1. Have an “elitist mentality”.
2. Consider themselves essentially Divine, equal to Christ.
3. Believe they are the Manifest Sons of God.
4. Believe their Divinity comes from within themselves.
5. Reject the literal Biblical view of the resurrection and the “rapture” of the
church.
6. Are Overcomers and Conquerors of evil and the world.
7. Are in the process of becoming perfect and immortal in this age.
8. Claim to be members of the Melchizedek Order – High Priest with Christ.
9. Will purge the world of undesirables.
10. Will reign on the earth as gods.
11. Attribute their revelations to the Divine Gnosis (knowledge) located in them.
12. Share the same political ambition to establish the government of the “Sons of God” to the exclusion of the personal presence of Jesus Christ.
13. Insist the Bible should be interpreted allegorically, symbolically and spiritually.
14. Believe it is wrong to interpret the Bible literally.
15. Reject Israel as a chosen nation of God.
16. Are anti-Semitic.
17. Reject the written Holy Scriptures as the final, inerrant and infallible Voice of God above all other voices or experiences.
18. Stress love and unity with little or no regard for sound doctrine or a sound mind.
19. Reject the resurrection and redemption of the body.
20. Spiritualize the resurrection and redemption of the body.
21. Reject the personal coming of the anti-christ.
22. Look forward to the dawning of the New Age on earth, ushered in by a select group of Overcomers, the Sons of God.
23. Reject Orthodox Christianity.
24. Are always receiving “new deep truth” apart from Scripture.
25. Are essentially into “mysticism”.
26. Believe in the attainment of perfection and immortality here on earth without a literal resurrection and Rapture.
27. Rejects redemption by the blood of Christ.
28. The spirit of man is the god-man.

These heresies project the following picture:
The New Wave “Mystery Babylon” (New Age Religion) riding on the back of
orthodox Christianity fulfilling the age long dream of the “Church of
Illumination” (Rosicrucian/Gnostic church) i.e., the uniting of the Church
founded on “love” and “godhood” – Satan’s fruit.

THE CHURCH OF ILLUMINATION has been steadily at work with the
idea that ultimately the various churches would merge for the benefit of all religions as well as of all mankind.

THE CHURCH OF ILLUMINATION looks forward with confidence to a
constantly increasing feeling of good will and religious tolerance among the various creeds, so that some day in the not too distant future the dream of unification can be realised and one allembracing religion taught to all the peoples of all the earth. [The Church of Illumination by Rev. R. Swinburne Clymer, M.D., Quakertown, PA, USA.]

This is the vision the Church, for the most part, is accepting and upholding,
above the Scriptures. This is the “elitism” that fundamentalists,
charismatics, pentecostals and evangelicals are now opening to. This is
the mysticism that enshrines the new age form of “elitism” in the Church.

The Heart of Elitism

The core of spiritual elitism lives in the psyche of man. Psyche, generally
means mind, the invisible spirit part of man, life, soul, self, passions,
feelings, desires, appetites, etc. There are a few theories as to what it
means. However, it is quite safe to say, psyche is at the core of man’s
individuality, and personality, thoughts and feelings. Satan knows this and
is why he is interested in the psyche and individuality of man.

When the “psyche” of man, through the subtle influence of Satan, assumes
the role of a “god-man”, the individual will very likely become spiritually
and morally unnatural. Thoughts and ideas become abstract and esoteric
in nature. Behavior generally assumes one of two directions, “Legalism”
or “Liberalism”. Extremism, as well as “Elitism” usually characterizes the
god-man role. Sometimes, it is difficult to identify the psyche of an
individual. But, given enough time it will eventually surface and be quite
evident.

The teachings of the “New Age” as well as that of the apostate church, for
the most part, are designed to magnify and glorify the psyche of man, hence the present obsession with “self-esteem”, “self-potential” and “selfindulgence” within many churches.

Any gospel centred on self-glorification (self-esteem) will in a matter of
time pervert the psyche and give rise to an unnatural individual. How is this
so? Scripture clearly indicates that at the heart of man dwells
unrighteousness, the springboard for all sin and evil doing. Scripture says
that even our righteousness is as filthy rags. Scripture calls man to faith in
Christ and repentance toward God.

The self-glorification (self-esteem, psychology-friendly) gospel declares man to be essentially good (essence is god-like) and calls him to self-realisation of this good(god)ness. Instead of casting our failure, frailties and sin at the foot of the Cross, and allowing Jesus Christ to live His life in us, we permit “godhood” to dwell in our unregenerate spirit. As this thinking courses to its extremist conclusion, we’re right back to Eden and the lie of Satan “ye shall be as gods”.

It was in view of this happening in the Church in the last days that the
Apostle Paul sternly warned the Church against seducing spirits and
doctrines of devils. (1 Tim. 4:1).

The unnatural individual is identified in the Scripture as: one who changes
the truth of God into a lie . . . worshipping the creature more than the
Creator . . . changes the glory of God into the image . . . made like to
corruptible things and has pleasure in what is unnatural. When these
psyche characteristics appear it means the individual is under wrong
influences or demonic control.

Having individuality is perfectly natural, in fact it is a God-given faculty and
certainly deserves recognition, nurturing and a place in our thinking and
relations. However, when individuality is used to build a case in support of
man’s potential superiority over the Word of God, the Creator, the Deity of
Christ, righteousness and the Cross of Calvary – “spiritual abuse” is in
focus.

This brings us to the heart of elitism. Ever since the fall of man,
individuality has thrived on self-esteem, egoism, introversion and selfish
exploits, to the point that the Creator, the Scriptures, and the Cross of
Christ have suffered abuse. Experience has proven over and over again
that when self is deified or glorified in any way, shape or form, the Gospel
of Christ (in its unadulterated form) becomes a sore offence. When
individuality steps or tries to step beyond the natural as defined by
Scripture, an abstract world emerges, generally characterized by
sensualism, mysticism, Gnosticism and elitism. (Romans 1:18-32).

Unnaturalism is an escape from reality. The unnatural individual’s
justification for how he feels and believes hinges on – “I am a god”.
Unfortunately the deified psyche philosophy has and is permeating the
whole of society with no exception to the Church, affecting millions of
members who sit Sunday after Sunday listening to another gospel. Self is
pr-eminent in the Gnostic gospel. Instead of the truth sought in God’s Word
and insight into what is right or wrong in the laws of God, “self” is sought.
The current self-centred “elitist” religion denies the deity of Christ as the
only true God; denies the vicarious atonement, the glory and wisdom of the
cross and the efficacy of the blood of the cross.

Whoever accepts or includes Gnostic thought in their preaching renders the cross of Christ of no effect and could inadvertently become an enemy of the cross. For true Christians there is only one pre-eminent concept and that is the
Gospel of the glory of the Cross where self and the world died. At the
Cross the devil was soundly defeated.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Gal. 6:14)

The Glory of His Cross

Oh, the glory of His Cross I see!
By works the glory I hoped to gain,
In experience and self I sought in vain.
Ego, pride and vanity reigned o’er me,
Blinding me to Calvary.
But now by grace, through faith,
I, the glory see.
Oh, the glory of His Cross I see!
In my quest how I strove to see.
Wretched was the nature of my soul;
As, if it were dragged to Sheol.
Then through Christ the Crucified,
I beheld the glorified,
as the Spirit bade me, see!
Oh, the glory of the Cross I see!
Which no spark of self ere gave me.
Though time in meditation spent
Nothing could God’s glory represent,
Save the Cross of Calvary.
Oh, the glory of the Cross I see!
Oh, the glory of the Cross I see!
There provision for sin was made,
Sin and shame was borne away
and debt to sin in full was paid.
Through Christ redemption came
To all who see and call His name.
Oh, the glory of the Cross I see!

Chapter 7: Spirituality

Much of the error we are witnessing today is coming along in just enough orthodox garb to make it seem acceptable. As long as the terminology seems to sound right, many are afraid to warn others of the inherent errors that are abounding in the midst of the Church.

We do have to be very cautious and realize that many purporting these “strange doctrines” are sincere and feel that they have entered new depths of spirituality. They are caught up in their experiencing of “new revelation” and are eager to share their knowledge with others.

We all have different ways of measuring spirituality. It is probably because of this we are so disappointed when someone we consider “spiritual” fails. It seems to be normal to get our eyes on man. However, there is an area where man is exalted to such a degree that his feet are no longer clay.

The “Gnostic” sense of spirituality is derived from an inner gnosis
(experiential mystic knowledge) that goes beyond reason, logic and
most of all, the Holy Scriptures. For many, spirituality is perceived
intuitively or psychically, as opposed to Biblical faith, i.e., simply
believing and obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Spirituality experienced mystically is thought to be a witness of an inner union
with God, the basis of which is self-consciousness which means it is no longer a matter of reason, faith and grace. An inner selfconscious feeling of holiness seems to be of primary importance. To arrive at a high spiritual level, all objective consciousness of the external world must be lost. The Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Scriptures, doctrine and morality becomes irrelevant. The ideal sought after is a higher consciousness of union with the divine inner self called the “Christos”.

When this union is experienced, a sense of spiritual worthiness as well as a feeling of being a “Son of God” equal with Jesus Christ is felt. This subjective experience is seen as a baptism into the Christhood and a knowledge of one’s own worthiness.

A danger of “Gnostic spirituality” is that it creates an attention to self that supersedes the worthiness of the Word and the need for faith. False prophets have actually been heard to say that their spiritual experiences have been so great that they have no need of faith. They boast to having a deep communion with the Holy Spirit, the depth of which is equivalent to the extent of their feelings. How they feel and perceive their spirituality determines the measure of their communion with God. The “Christian Gnostic”, especially the current false prophets, have a problem accepting the Holy Scriptures as God’s only sure link between the Church and the Holy Spirit. The present day Gnostic theosophical concepts will, as always, remain in conflict with the Holy Spirit and the Bible standard of spirituality.

Gnostics believe that either a passive or an emotional subjectivity is
at the core of true spirituality. It has been described as “A passionate subjectivity”. Church history reveals that this form of spirituality or anything that resembles it, invariably leads to spiritual dualism (two extreme opposites) namely “asceticism” or “libertinism”.

The ascetic believes that the love of the body (philosomatia) is a hateful evil, and he who cherishes the body and lusts after the flesh lives in erotic error, remains wandering in the darkness, and suffers the things of death. The
libertine on the other hand takes great care of the body, tends it night and
day, washes and anoints himself, feasts on strengthening foods to make his
body strong, so that he can devote himself to fornication, and be able to
render its fruits whenever required. [Gnosticism, Its History and Influence,
Benjamin Walter, The Borgo Press, pp 126]

It is significant to note in the history of Christianity through to the current time, that wherever and whenever Christianity subsides into a form of mysticism “Christianity” assumes a path of one of the aforementioned extremes. It is this element of Gnostic mysticism that causes cultish extremism to arise. The fact that “gnosis is not concerned with a moral life, but with mystical enlightenment and freedom from the bondage of creation” [Gnosticism, Its History and Influence, Benjamin Walker, the Borgo Press pp 126] makes it a theosophy, free to flow in any spiritual direction it chooses.

The essence of the gnosis spirituality lies in its mystic knowledge, not
only of the “deep things of God”, but also of the “deep things of
Satan”. “It comes by divine grace through the revelation of the Saviour”,
says Benjamin Walker, but then he exposes the error of his thought
as he adds, “Whoever achieves gnosis, says the Gospel of Phillip,
becomes no longer Christian, but Christ”. [Gnosticism, Its History
and Influence, Benjamin Walker, The Borgo Press, pp. 101]. This is
typical of much of modern preaching.

The Spiritual Paradigm Shift

Christian Gnostic authors have observed the following:
In Christianity, there is a great deal of mystical thinking which goes on
almost unnoticed in the most conservative parts of the Church . . . Another
kind of Christian spirituality if not exactly mysticism, is the Charismatic
movement which has seen a revival in recent years. But a more general
Christian hunger for mystical experience has expressed itself in the
proliferation of Christian groups for spirituality. Christianity is rapidly
adding to its repertoire for the laity such enterprises as silent retreats,
ecumenical meditation groups, and practices combine Buddhist and yogic
techniques with Christian prayer and meditation.

In doing this it is undoubtedly going to make up some of the deficit, the congregations it has lost through a lack of direct religious experience for the parishioners. The remainder of the deficit will be further reduced when Christianity adjusts itself to the science-fiction culture. But despite these relatively superficial desiderata, Christianity is bound to have a vital part to play in the mission of mysticism as here conceived. [The Mission of Mysticism by Richard Kirby, pp.114-115, SPCK London]
Theosophical concepts of the new birth and spirituality are fast
becoming very much part of the Christian thinking. Many forms of
spirituality experienced and expressed are Gnostic in nature and
pseudo in character.

The doctrine, “the just shall live by faith” for which the great reformers paid an enormous price, some with their own lives, is now under the New Age influence and is being discarded in exchange for a form of spirituality justified by self gnosis. The impact of New Age Gnostic thought has subtly changed the Biblical meaning of faith to a modern Gnostic version which in reality is a recall of the “Dark Ages” of mysticism and superstition.

The Church is on a spiritual path of mysticism which by all accounts is cultish. It is only a matter of time and it will fall to demonic forces – the worst apostasy hell can afford. Already the attitude of the Church toward sin, repentance, morality and God has changed to such an extent that one wonders
why they bother to use the Bible. For instance: “Sin – the transgression of the law” has now come to mean a maladjustment or merely a psychological disorder.

True repentance, which is an admission of guilt, confession of sin,
forsaking of sin and surrendering to God, now has come to mean
simply a change of attitude toward God. Morality and keeping the
commandments of God has become irrelevant. God, the first Person
of the Godhead has become localised within the physical frame of
man, who is now co-substance with God.

Out of New Age spiritual concepts, demonic schools of thought and
practices are bound to arise. This warped form of spirituality is
taking over the churches, dividing Christian families and causing
strife on an unprecedented scale. Christian Gnostic forms of
spirituality are manifest in one or more of the following ways:
A show of humility with deep piety characterised by mysticism.
Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (2 Tim.
3:5).
Spirituality is structured around subjective experiences with little
regard for the Scriptures.
Superior knowledge, new discoveries and new revelations are a
sign of spiritual depth and maturity.
Spirituality is centred on a subjective Christ-consciousness rather than on faith in the person, Jesus Christ.
Continually seeking for a deepening spiritual experience rather than a deepening faith in God’s Word.
Spiritualising the Word of God rather than taking the literal meaning of the Word.
Spirituality is measured by experiences.
Look to an inner voice (gnosis) for divine direction.
Love feelings and self, more than God.
Look inward for solutions.
Spirituality is sought in success, achievement and works.
“Have faith in yourself” and “The way to know God is feel Him”, is
thought to be the true mark of spirituality.

A Fine Line

Sometimes the line dividing the Christian from the Gnostic is so fine
that it is hardly visible. The only way for a Christian to safely discern
Gnosticism is in the light of the Holy Scriptures.

A “Christian Gnostic” is easily identified by his show of piety and
especially by his air of humility. The more mystic he appears or
sounds, the more spiritual he feels. He takes great pleasure in
believing he has attained to a high spiritual level and sees himself
as being a member of a special breed of people. Sometimes it is
called “The Manifest Sons of God”, “The Melchizedek Order” or “The
New Breed”.

His spiritual inspiration comes from a mystic source sometimes described as a “still small voice” purported to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. Confidence in the “still small voice” takes precedence over the Scriptures. The written Scriptures are used only in so far as they seem to support particular convictions and concepts. The whole motive behind the “Christian Gnostic” is to make himself and others believe HE is a GOD. In fact, his ultimate dream is to prove to the world that he has power and is a god with limitless potential.

Why Such an Outcry?

The question may be asked, “Why such an outcry against shades of
Gnostic thought in the Gospel presentation? Doesn’t the adage, ‘unity in diversity’ apply in this case? Shouldn’t we as Christians show tolerance towards Christians who don’t quite believe as we do? Is it not true that within Christianity there should be room for diversity of thought and belief? After all is said and done, is not love the unifying bond over the doctrines that often prove so divisive?

The answer to these questions is two-fold. Yes, within Christianity there is ample room for diversity and tolerance. However, there are limits to creative diversity. When a concept, a teaching or an action in the name of Christianity exceeds the basic tenets of faith, or is utterly different from the “faith which was once delivered to the saints”, it becomes a contradiction of Christianity. When that level of contradiction is reached, the church, as well as the advocates of the Word of God, must aggressively content for the faith. The defense of the “most holy faith” is one of the greatest functions of the Church,
without which the Church loses the truth that distinguishes her from
error. EXCEPT THE CHURCH EARNESTLY CONTENDS FOR THE
FAITH, SHE FORFEITS HER RIGHT TO BE THE VEHICLE OF GOD’S
TRUTH.

Repudiation Necessary

The worst moments in the history of Israel came when Israel was seduced by false prophets to follow after gods of their own making. It was for this very reason that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as the enemies of God. Jesus warned His disciples against the religion of the Pharisees. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (which is hypocrisy). The Pharisees claimed to embody the essence of the faith, Jesus called them “hypocrites”.

Teachings and practices that are wholly different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be opposed, even if they come from within the Body of Christ. Gnosticism plagued the early church. In fact, some of the Pauline and Johanine epistles were written to address the Gnosticism that was edging its way into the Gospel of Christ. In the writings of the early Church Fathers, Gnosticism was addressed and condemned in the strongest terms. It was on account of Gnosticism that the early church found it necessary to draft the “Apostolic Creed” and form the “Canonicity of Scripture”.

A study of Church History will show that within the church there has always been the temptation to accommodate Gnostic thought. As in the past, and
more so now, it poses a persistent danger to the biblical faith.

Gnosis and Magic

According to the great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, the perpetual enemy of faith in the true God is not atheism (the claim that there is no God), but rather Gnosticism (the claim that God is known). At another point Buber wrote:
The two spiritual powers of gnosis and magic, masquerading under the
cloak of religion, threaten more than any other powers the insight into the
religious reality . . . the tribes of Jacob could only become Israel by
disentangling themselves from both gnosis and magic . . . [Against the
Protestant Gnostics, Philip J. Lee, Oxford University Press, 1987]

New Age Threat

A “New Age” writer around 1917 wrote the following:
. . . the church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and
serves but a transient resting place for the evolving life. Eventually, there
will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear
towards the close of this century . . . This Church will be nurtured into
activity by the Christ and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ
principle, the TRUE second Coming has been accomplished . . . The
Christian church in its many branches can serve as a nucleus through which
world illumination may be accomplished . . . the church as a teaching factor
should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which
they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance.
The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving
the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to
church usages. Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread;
the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church
to heal must be demonstrated. [The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, Alice
Bailey]

According to Alice Bailey, the Church is being used as merely a part of an overall plan to bring in world peace, world domination and to set up the “Kingdom on earth”. In the church there are “disciples of the Great Ones” (Gnostic or New Age apostles) to be found. They are steadily gathering momentum and before long they will enter upon their designated task.
When it is observed how far the “New Wave” is taking us from the
absolutes of the literal Word of God, it would not be surprising to
find before long the Church and the New Age merging into ONE FORCE.

Note of Caution

Ever since the inception of the Church, Gnosticism has been the arch enemy. Now, in these last days, it is proving to be one of the most formidable threats to the Church, to the Christian faith and to the written Word of God.

Because a Christian ignorantly happens to hold to some Gnostic
views does not necessarily mean he is a Gnostic or that he is not a
Christian. However, it does mean he is in serious error and, in
certain respects, alien to the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus.
Gnostic views conflict with the sound doctrines of the Bible and for
that reason always influence a Christian against the written Word of
God.

Chapter 8: The Exaltation of Man

According to the “Christian Gnostic”, Scripture is basically concerned with the theology of man. To his way of thinking, man is the centre of attraction on Earth. He believes that God’s supreme purpose on Earth is to glorify man by exalting “the Christ” in every man. Therefore, man is to be reverenced and hallowed. When Christ appears in man, this is supposedly the consummation and manifestation of God’s glory. The conclusion drawn is that man is
essentially divine, equal to Jesus Christ and is ascending to the very
authority and dominion of God Himself.

When this thinking takes over, Scriptures which are normally
considered to refer to the person of Jesus Christ are instead applied
to the “Corporate Body of Christ”, or Manifest Sons of God equal to
Jesus Christ. The prophecies that speak of the glorious personal
revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven now apply to the
creature (man) taking dominion. The creature instead of the Creator
receives honour, glory and worship. Who changed the truth of God
into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the
Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:25).

The “Christian Gnostic” has no desire to see the glory of God in the
PERSON of Jesus Christ as foretold by the prophets of old. Their
prayer is to be exalted into an EXPERIENCE that will centre all of
God’s glory on them. While the true Church looks forward to the
personal glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, the
“Christian Gnostics” are preoccupied with their narcissistic
(excessive love or admiration of oneself) theology. Their lives are a
hive of activity as they join forces to restore the church and take
dominion with a view to establish the ultimate divine glory of man.
“To man be the glory great things he hath done.”

Knowing God

The “Gnostic” teaches that knowing God and His Presence is
experienced in a mystic or intuitive sense rather than through faith
in the person Jesus Christ according to the Holy Scriptures. The
Gnostic builds his faith on subjective experiences, whereas the true
Christian builds his faith on the written Word of God, the only Godgiven
premise of the true faith.

As in the eastern religions, the perception of God is sought subjectively rather than in God Himself and the written Word. There is a desire to know God through feelings, mystic thoughts, voices, visions and dreams. A “sense” of the “presence of God” is believed on as long as spiritual experiences last. When these experiences subside or cease, spiritual fervour wears down to rise again when a spurt of vain and endless fantasy starts a new “spiritual” cycle.

Gnostic prophets are known to have a form of godliness based on a
spiritual roller coaster experience. Their philosophy of known God
depends on touching God experientially. Faith is produced
subjectively through experiences and then turned inward on self
until a feeling of “knowing God” or “possessing God” comes about.
The Word of God and the commandments are not believed on as the
final voice of God, or as the only source by which He is known. One
of the characteristics of a false prophet, albeit sometimes hard to
detect, is the lack of love toward the commandments of God. (1
John 4:6; John 3:23, 24: John 14:15). Warning: If a prophet tries to
draw one to God either by mystic or subjective experiences without
reference to the Scriptures as the only authentic way of knowing
God, he is false and must be avoided! To impress the ignorant or
naive Christians that they (the Gnostic prophets) have profound
knowledge and a deep spirituality, it is not uncommon to see them
manifest certain quirks thought to be spiritual traits.

By the spiritualizing of the Scriptures they eloquently express fantastic ideas to reveal how deep they “feel” and “think” about God. It is appropriate to say that spiritual experiences are not necessarily wrong. However, if they conflict with the Holy Scriptures, draw a believer away from the Word of God or substitute the Word of God, as do the Gnostic experiences, they are devilish.
“Gnostic” prophets subtly send out a message that their insight of
God exceeds that of the written Word of God. They appear as if they
know something about God that others need to search for through them. It is as if they have the keys which unlock the secrets of divine life.

Christians are told to look inward to find God. The danger in this
pagan belief makes Christians open to input from the supernatural
realm beyond God’s written Word. Claiming to know God in any way
other than through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is religious speculation. History proves it leads to doctrines of devils. God in His wisdom gave man the Bible. Through this precious Book he can come to know God without man’s religious wisdom. Anything short of the Scriptures stops short of the redemptive knowledge of God. All the sought-after experiences to know God on a deeper level lead to both carnal and demonic activities. How do you know God? The answer is so simple. You know Him through His Written Word! The Holy Spirit leads and teaches in no other way!

A Deep Relationship

The Gnostic teaches: Through a Gnostic “new-birth” a man becomes a Son of God, i.e., a god, and as such has an experiential relationship with God and access to deeper knowledge of God. That the “Gnostic new birth” is the start of a divine journey into the deep, is how they describe it. It by-passes the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and The Word.

The Gnostic believes that he is the Son of God, filled with the Spirit
and therefore has a God-given right to the knowledge of God stored
in himself. By simply turning his thoughts inward to the spirit, he
receives revelation knowledge. When he meditates, he empties his
mind with little or no reference to the Scriptures. In meditation he is
always expecting a mystic revelation or a personal experience. To
his mind, the reality of the new birth, as well as real spiritual depth,
lies in a subjective experience. Without a passive or emotional
experience, he has a real problem receiving the knowledge of the
Scriptures. He cannot rest with the written revelation of the Bible. He
prefers a deeper and better revelation that comes through inward
thoughts of the spirit.

Chapter 9: False Prophets

The ministry of a “Gnostic prophet” is always characterized by mystic
experiences said to be of God, with the focus on self. It is difficult for him to
exercise a ministry within the confines of Scriptural revelations. The Gnostic
Revelator has a freedom to minister whatever he likes, whether or not it is
Scriptural. As we hear their words we shake our heads in bewilderment and
disbelief wondering how it is possible to get away with such statements as:

. . . we had the odour of incense fill a meeting for about fifteen minutes. It was so intense that you couldn’t help but smell it. I mean, it was not one of those instances where you ‘think you get a whiff,’ but He gave it as a witness that He was receiving the intercession from these people – the prayers and their intercession. He had said He would come with a sign: that we would smell the incense. It came so powerfully faith was hardly needed. [Fullness, The Unfolding of a Prophet, Rick Joyner, p.13]

God can fill a place with sweet smelling incense. Nothing is impossible with God. However, the presumption to say that faith was hardly needed shows that these “new” dimensions are indeed in “another realm”. A realm of deception. The Bible says, Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. Nevertheless, this prophet and others like him are applauded and their messages carried in leading Christian periodicals.

Quite a number of Gnostic ministers are masquerading as true prophets of God
and assuming to have a special anointing and relationship with the Spirit. Their ministries are widely recognised, respected and feared. Personal prophecies and prediction of future events are given with some measure of accuracy. They get people to believe they have great power with God and that in them dwells a quality that makes them “god-like”. Control of minds and lives is gained by their feigning spirituality and assuming a “god-like” authority.
To gain power, twisting Scriptures and abusing authority is of no consequence. One cruel method used is to instill fear in the hearts of those who dare to criticize or question their ministries by making harsh judgments against them. Sometimes those judgments even contain a death threat! They definitely are not prophets of the Word, nor can they be, because they put no confidence in the Written Word and its judgments.

The New Breed of arrogant apostles and prophets are known to usurp and abuse judgment over God’s people. They are reported to make the Church pass under what they call the “Shepherd’s Rod” of judgment. It is another divisive technique to control God’s people. They say the “Shepherd Rod” is the judgment seat of Christ on the Earth by which the so-called prophets judge the Church. The idea is borrowed from Old Testament Scripture where reference is made to “The Shepherd’s Rod” and “Judgments”. However, the way the test is applied to the church is false. It cries out against the true interpretation of God’s precious Word.

This is one of the bizarre directions that Gnosticism is taking the church. The
following unedited quote from one of the so-called “fallen” national prophets
speaks for itself:
So when he [the prophet] went under that Shepherd Rod, we saw more people leave here than we saw anointed. They were rejected from leadership ‘cause they had flaws in them. See that which is going to be holy unto the Lord must not have any flaw in it . . . It’s all in Scripture. When you go under it He just turns you upside down and He looks every place on your body. And if you be found all right, He marks you to be sacrificed as a living, holy sacrifice unto Him. One out of ten is marked totally unto the Lord. That’s a Shepherd Rod . . . He evaluates everyone that knows the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour . . . when I went under at this time He said, ‘There’s a couple of things that’s still wrong in you. There’s going to be a seven month delay in your anointing.’ [The Shepherd’s Rod, Bob Jones tape from Grace Ministries, October 1989]

The Bible warned against false prophets

There were FALSE PROPHETS also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers AMONG YOU. (2 Peter 2:1).
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart
from the faith, giving heed to SEDUCING SPIRITS, and DOCTRINES OF
DEVILS (1 Timothy 4:1).
For I know this, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in
among you, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:29).
Many false prophets Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord HAVE WE NOT PROPHESIED IN THY NAME? and in thy name cast out devils and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me (Matthew 7:22,23)
We must challenge the false prophets (Ezekiel 13)
Son of man, PROPHESY AGAINST THE PROPHETS . . . that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord. (v.3)
Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit and have seen
nothing . . . Mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that
divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of my people . . . (v.9)
Set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of
their own heart; and prophesy thou against them . . . (v.17)
Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations; for I will
deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
(v.23) Jeremiah 23

Jeremiah speaks for the Lord:

In the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied . . . (vv 20,21)
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying,
I have dreamed, I have dreamed . . . (v.25)
Behold, I am against them the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, HE SAITH. Behold I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and DO TELL THEM . . . ‘YE HAVE PERVERTED THE
WORDS OF THE LIVING GOD.’ (vv 31,32,36)

The inspiration and test of a prophet

A false prophet usually draws his inspiration from intuition, imagination and psychic thoughts. Sometimes the inspiration comes from Apocryphal or Gnostic writings. Unlike the musicians, artists and writers who take inspiration from natural innate qualities (not to be confused with the inspiration of God), the false prophet derives inspiration from demonic sources or a corrupt nature. It is a gross error to attribute God’s inspiration to a subjective experience (be it passive or emotional) or to writings outside of Holy Scripture. Divine authority or inspiration does not emanate from (a) the natural or unnatural, (b) the higher self or lower self, (c) the conscious or unconscious. It comes from the infallible Word of God.

“The Word” remains God’s eternal inspiration. God-given inspiration must have as its source the Word of God. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit comes through the Holy Scriptures – “The Sword of the Spirit”. The true message and inspiration of a prophet of God is always undergirded with, “Thus saith the Lord”, for “it is written”.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Tim. 3:16).
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private
interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but
holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20,21)

Some of the so-called “prophets” promoted by national Christian magazines and the broadcasting media are being acclaimed Prophets of God. They cite their extraordinary gifts to foretell events, reveal situations, perform signs and wonders and blameless lives as proof of their God-ordained prophetic ministries. Because these prophets claim to have heard angels singing, smell the odour of incense fill a meeting and see the wind of the Spirit blow so that they could see people’s hair blowing, many have taken it to mean God has approved their ministries with signs and wonders, and that God is speaking a message and trying to say something to the church.

Another practice seen by many church leaders as a sign of a “true” modern prophet is his ability to allegorize current events and thereby determine what God is specifically saying to the church today. This new trend is both
demonic and a delusion to seduce people away from God and His Word.

The prophets’ wave of signs and wonders

There will also be some new wonders coming to the church. We had some of these just recently, where Bob Jones and I [Rick Joyner] heard angels singing twice in a meeting. This didn’t even take any faith, it was so loud and so clear; it was like the choir singing.

Another time we had the odour of incense fill a meeting for about fifteen
minutes. It was so intense that you couldn’t help but smell it. It mean, it was
not one of those instances where you ‘think you get a whiff’, but He gave it
as a witness that He was receiving the intercession from these people – the
prayers and their intercession. He had said He would come with a sign; that
we would smell the incense. It came so powerfully faith was hardly needed.
And we saw the wind of the Spirit blow so hard at a meeting you could see
people’s hair blowing!

So He is coming a whole lot more dramatically. As one brother said, ‘This
hardly takes any faith, it is so obvious.’ But when He comes in ways like
that, it is always to give a message. He is not just trying to tickle our
curiosity or our interest in supernatural things, He is trying to say
something to us.

For example, the sign of being slain in the Spirit is to get us to totally rest
in Him. And the miracle of leg lengthenings that went through the body for
so many years defined our imbalanced stand upon the two legs of grace
and truth. There needed to be a readjustment in the body. [Fullness, Jan-
Feb 1990, The Unfolding of a Prophet, Rick Joyner, page 13]

From the above quotes two messages come clear and loud: (a) The Church hardly needs the Holy Scriptures to perfect a man of God and thoroughly furnish him unto good works, (b) Christians hardly need faith in this new day and age. The position taken by the prophets as well as by their followers is that a prophet must not be judged by what he says, but rather by his fruit. In other words, what a prophet says doesn’t really matter. This position is both incomprehensible and satanic to say the least.

What if the prophet denies that Jesus is come in the flesh (His incarnation at birth)? What if he does not speak according to God’s written Word? Does that qualify him as a false prophet or a true prophet? God’s answer is clearly written, “He is Anti-Christ!” Notwithstanding the ostensibly godly life of a prophet, or the signs and wonders wrought by him, the Word of God sternly warns that when the hearts of people are influenced away from God and His written Word to the voice of another god, he is a false prophet in the sight of God.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:2 & 3)

In Deuteronomy the situation is viewed in a very serious light.

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which though hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto
him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

The apostles of light

For such are FALSE APOSTLES, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:13)

Judge false prophets

Unto the church at Ephesus write: . . . how has tried them that SAY THEY ARE APOSTLES and are not, and has found them liars. (Revelation 2:2).
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of
God: because many FALSE PROPHETS are gone out into the world. Hereby
know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is
come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-christ
whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in
the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because
greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:1-3).

True apostolic and prophetic ministry

There are those in the church who have true apostolic and prophetic ministry.
This has always been recognised, although seldom have they been credentialed as such. When a person claims to be a prophet:
If they ignore or are ignorant of Bible prophecy I am CONCERNED.
IF THEY SAY BIBLE PROPHECY IS UNIMPORTANT and SUBSTITUTE their own revelations for guidance in the churches, I am SUSPICIOUS.
If they REJECT prophetic concepts of the Bible (ridicule the rapture, millennium, etc.) then it would seem POSSIBLE that the individual is a FALSE PROPHET. [David Lewis, David Lewis Ministries, Springfield, MO]

False prophets have a subtle way of catching sincere ignorant Christians in the
web of their religious thoughts about God. They use the same ploy Satan used on Eve in the garden of Eden – the BIG LIE, “Ye shall be as gods”. The essence of their appeal, although ostensibly to glorify Christ, is always self-centred. The gist of their Gnostic-spirited ministries contains the following New Wave seed thoughts plaguing the church:
Some of the suggestions made to the believer by deceiving spirits at this time may be: (i) ‘You are a special instrument for God’, working to feed self-love; (ii) ‘You are more advanced than others’, working to blind the soul to sober knowledge of itself; (iii) ‘You are different from others’, working to make him think he needs special dealing by God; (iv) ‘You must take a separate path’, a suggestion made to feed the independent spirit; (v) ‘You must give up your occupation, and live by faith’, aiming at causing the believer to launch out on false guidance, which may result in the ruin of his home, and sometimes the work for God in which he is engaged. [War on the Saints, Jessie Penn-
Lewis, The Christian Literature Crusade, 1977, p.73] God help the church to expose these false prophets before innocent souls and good Christian assemblies of God’s people are further caught in the web of deception of the beguiling foe.

Assurance of Salvation

With reference to man’s redemption, the Gnostic maintains the Holy Scriptures are not God’s total revelation. He contends that real redemption can only be fully known through an inner gnosis (self-knowledge) experienced in the selfconsciousness of a man. The real knowledge that matters in redemption comes from within. Reason, faith, grace and God’s blood covenant (free gift) is not sufficient to save without some form of an inner illumination. The experience is seen as a first installment to a great manifestation of the divine in self. This is basically their concept of salvation.
The inner revelation knowledge of redemption assures a “Christian Gnostic” of the following: A Christian (a) is a little god, (b) is a Manifest Son of God on a par with Christ, (c) is a member of the Melchezedek order, i.e. a priest after the order of Jesus Christ, and (d) is a member of the elite (Aryan) breed of people. In essence, the Christian Gnostic is saying, “God is in you, discover him and you will experience His Presence and know you are saved” and that you, too, are a little god. Basically, this Gnostic concept is rapidly possessing a great part of Christian thinking and preaching.

According to the contents of much preaching today, salvation is perceived in
terms of a subjective experience. This is stressed to such an extent that a
significant number of Christians have come to think that the real knowledge of
salvation lies in a personal, spiritual experience, instead of in the sole authority of God’s Written Word. For precisely this reason, many Christians are being subjected to Gnostic thought. Multitudes are leaving “sound doctrine” and “sound mind” for experiential knowledge of present day Gnosticism.

Chapter 10: Neo-Gnosticism

Truth is absolute! That is why Jesus could say, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” His words give understanding to the simple. Those who perish are those who do not have love for the truth. When the love for the truth is absent, . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. The delusion is interpreted in the text as “straying from orthodoxy”.

The orthodox position on truth, or “sound doctrine” is being slowly undermined by a desire to build an earthly political kingdom, self-centred ministries and marketing the anointing. As a third generation Pentecostal, it is sad to see the inroads the New Age is making amongst our own ranks. Sadder still, Shepherds are too busy hooking up to the latest fad to realise that in the process they are selling the truth. Proverbs 23:23 tells us to Buy the truth and sell it not . . . God’s truth is to be valued above thousands in gold and silver. (Psalm 119.72)

Today people are so “experience” oriented and so busy looking for a “new
anointing” and “new thrills” that they are willing candidates for just about
anything!

An evangelist from South Africa (Rodney Howard-Browne) is drawing huge
crowds because of an unusual phenomenon. People roll on the floor and howl with hilarious laughter. Upon watching a videotape of several services, it was amazing to note how the laughter broke out, cackling and derisive, during the reading of the Word of God. The overtones of the comments of those laughing were sexual and very carnal (i.e. comparing their “experience” with that of those drinking alcohol in very graphic terms). Amid all the hilarity they were trying to find a Scriptural basis.

It is very interesting to note that New Age writers refer to laughter as being
“healing”, “therapeutic” and “a way to break down reserves”.

Solomon (a king to whom God granted wisdom) also speaks of laughter in
Ecclesiastes:
I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, what doeth it? (2:2) Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better . .. but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (7:3,4) For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool:this also is vanity! (7:6)

It was heart-rending to note pastors, leaders of the sheep, falling for this absolute deception! Listening to the bedlam was like hearing all the demons let loose from their abode. There isn’t time to worry about being labelled “critical”, “judgmental”, or “touching God’s anointed.” This is the blind leading the blind! First it was “falling out” that was the anointing. Everyone swoons and falls and believes that they have a “new anointing”. Now it is taking leave of one’s senses as they roll on the floor thinking the “anointing” is being drunk!

What on earth is next? It will have to be a good one. Will it be levitating? Rodney Howard-Browne needs to be strongly rebuked and taught the Word of God! What has put so many of the NEW ANOINTERS beyond the Word of God? In Acts 18:24-28 there was Jew names Apollos who was very fervent, an eloquent man and MIGHTY in Scriptures! He spoke very diligently the things of the Lord – but his DOCTRINE WAS NOT RIGHT!

Obviously this was very important because when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly! Today Aquila and Priscilla would be called heresy hunters. Yes, they were! Praise God! They loved the Word of God! They were jealous with a Godly jealousy for truth! As a result Apollos left Ephesus and mightily convinced the Jews from the Scriptures! The truth is powerful! It convinces the soul of righteousness and true standing before God.

Gnostic Thought and Practices

When a high value is placed on personal experiences or revelations, Scriptures
are then unscrupulously twisted and misquoted. We find those who believe the
feelings of a congregation must be hyped up in order to “feel” the Presence of the Lord or else the church is thought to be “dead”. Instead of music being used to worship and glorify God, it is used as a means of “connecting” or “feeling” the Presence of God. If the “location” (or a feeling within) of God is not aroused and sensed, the Spirit is said to be either absent or bound. To counter this passive situation, worship is intensified, the devil is “bound” and certain forms of excitement are encouraged until “God’s Presence” is “felt”.

Many times music is used as the conduit for the “feeling”. A popular slogan to advertise a certain music company is: “Feel the Presence of the Lord”. The church has been taken down this primrose path for so long that they equate the Presence of God with a certain feeling that they obtain by doing certain things. The “goose bumps” or the “warm fuzzies” or tears of comfort, is their way of “knowing” that God is present.

So what this thinking boils down to is simply: “To know God’s Presence you must feel Him.” In actuality this is pure Gnosticism.

If knowing God is contingent on feeling, then Gnosticism and pantheism have a place in Christian thinking. Pantheism (from two Greek words meaning ‘all is God’) is that system of thought which identifies God with the universe. Trees and stones, birds and animals, land and water, reptiles and man – all are declared part of God, and God lives and expresses Himself through these substances and forces as the soul expresses itself through the body. [Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible by Myer Pearlman, Gospel
Publishing House, Springfield, MO, pp. 53]

Gnosticism is linked with pantheism in that it supports and overlaps the idea of the soul (self) harmonizing with nature and the universe as the means of
perceiving God. The common tie between Gnosticism and pantheism is that both purport to find “God” in creation. Gnosticism finds “God” within man – relating to the feelings and pantheism finds “God” in creation as a whole. The two blend in that both worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. The Gnostic god is localised in a subjective experience, a soulish feeling of being in union with creation and God. It rejects the relationship with the Creator based on faith in His written Word – regardless of feeling. A very tough pill for experience-driven Christians to swallow.

True Worship vs Gnostic Worship

Worship is an integral part of the Christian faith. Sometimes feelings of ecstasy are experienced. The Presence of God is rightly acknowledged by true worship. However, when emotional feelings become the doctrine of God’s Presence, then God has been reduced to a “gnosis” form of Presence. For many, the doctrine of “knowing the Presence of God” is sought in a subjective experience. An emotional experience, especially a repetitive one during a worship service, if not kept in proper perspective or check, can lead to an altered state of consciousness in which the capacity for rational reasoning is greatly reduced.

At this point the congregation is open to delusion and can be easily led astray. In many charismatic groups an altered state of mind is explained as “getting into the Spirit” or as a manifestation of the presence of God. Uncontrolled spiritual feelings transcend sound scriptural rationalism and give rise to the doctrine of “the Presence of God” built on an experience.

The Serious Gnostic Deception

A very serious practice which gives deceiving spirits the opportunity for
deception, is the notion that God is localised in them (consciously) or around them (consciously). The desire on the part of some is to “feel” the presence of God through prayer, worship or otherwise as evidence of His presence. They are disappointed if they leave a service and don’t think that they have “felt” God. They will run from church to church looking for this “feeling”.

Sensing the presence of God is revered. We do “enjoy our religion”. God has
made us emotional creatures. However, when experience becomes the evidence of our relationship with God, it is then dangerous and could prove spiritually counterproductive. “The just shall live by faith” is still the only principal the righteous live by and relate to God.

Some believers so live inwardly in communion, worship and vision, that they
become spiritually introverted, and cramped and narrowed in their outlook. As a result, their spiritual capacity and mental powers become dwarfed and powerless. Others become victims to the “inner voice”. They go about declaring, “God told me this, God told me that”. Many times very impractical decisions come as a result of that which is thought to be God speaking.. . . Turning inwards to a subjective location of God as indwelling, speaking, communing and guiding, in a MATERIALISTIC OR CONSCIOUS SENSE, is open to gravest danger; for upon this thought and belief, sedulously cultivated by the powers of darkness, the most serious deceptions of deceiving spirits have taken place. [War on the Saints, by Jesse Penn-Lewis, The Christian Literature Crusade,1977]

“New Age” thought with its strong emphasis on the supernatural, feelings and paganism is so preponderate in today’s society that it is no wonder the present generation of Christians are becoming more and more Gnostic in thought.

The Gnostic Approach to the Bible

The Gnostic believes it is wrong to use only the Bible to interpret the Bible.
Besides the Bible they believe there are additional inspired manuscripts and books on a par with the Bible and hearing the Voice of God apart from the Scriptures. A Rosicrucian writer neatly puts it:
In order to obtain a satisfactory comprehension of Bible teachings, it is essential to give careful consideration to its symbolic, allegorical and mystic elements. The student and interpreter must learn to consult the vast library of Legend, symbol and myth as faithfully and as accurately as he would resort to a Lexicon of Hebrew and Greek terms and radicals. These elements – symbolic, allegorical and mystic . . . are skillful devices for concealing yet half-revealing the deepest truth. [The Sons of God: A Foreshadowing of the Coming World of the Messenger of the New Age, R.
Swinburne Clymer. The Philosophical Pub.Co., Quakerstown, PA, 1923]

Preaching today is filled with allegory. Symbolism has replaced substance and in the modern day “prophetic” movement it is revelation apart from the Scriptures. A pamphlet advertising a newsletter (“Streams of Shiloh”, John Paul Jackson) gives some topics that will be discussed in the future such as:
The Prophet and the Gift. The manner in which revelation comes is of vital
importance. The role that dreams, visions, trances, impressions, visitations,
translations, and transportations play will be discussed.

Pick up any New Age magazine and what is it full of? Dreams, visions, trances, impressions, visitations, translations and transportations! Yet the “prophetic” enjoys cloaking their delusion (departure from orthodoxy) in such ethereal terms as: “Intimacy with Christ” and “renew the body of Christ.”

It is no wonder that the Word warns us all, the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Tim. 4:4).

John Paul Jackson goes on to say:
Interpretive skills need to be developed in order to communicate what is meant by revelation. The meanings of colours, numbers, types and symbols, as well as personal symbols will be studied. Ways to enhance interpretive skills will be covered. . .

Heavy duty occult activity sanctioned and encouraged! Numerology, auras,
symbology, astrology, out-of-body experiences, trances given prominence. At the expense of what? The Word of God! Rather than training believers in the fear and admonition of the Lord, develop “revelatory” skills. You might even end up thinking you are David Koresh.

There is a concentrated effort, especially in psychology, to bring about a blending of ancient wisdom and modern techniques. Shamanism is being reintroduced in an unprecedented manner to the modern society. One of the ancient practices is Huna (a Hawaiian esoteric philosophy.)

This philosophy teaches that we are to be able to develop intuition, work with our dreams, make shamanic journeys and vision quests, raise our personal energy profile . . . dialogue with the spirits of nature for two-way teaching and healing, and work with visible and invisible energy patterns to influence the past, present and future. Journeying through other dimensions, we gather information, explore the unknown and the mysterious, and release our powerful creativity. [Omega, Summer 1993, p.76]

We cannot separate Christ from His Word. He is the Word and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. We can not know Christ apart from His Word. John 5:39, Search the Scripture; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.
There will never be any revelation apart from the word of God. Revelatory gifts apart from Scripture take the soul into fables, myths and Gnosticism. For the Scriptures to be properly understood, the Gnostic holds that they need to be interpreted symbolically, spiritually or allegorically. The literal interpretation is thought to be presumptuous and unspiritual. Most of the theological controversy dividing the church stems from the rejection of the literal interpretation of the Bible.

In the 2nd and 3rd century the church came to prefer the allegorical
interpretation to the literal. It was this change that opened the church to
Gnosticism. No wonder Gnosticism is so deeply entrenched in Christian theology. As long as the allegorical method of interpretation is used, Gnosticism will continue to have influence on Christian thinking. It is quite common to find Christians interpreting the Bible allegorically. In fact, most of the preaching behind the pulpit today is allegorical. The literal method is
steadily being phased out in preference for the spiritualising/allegorical method.

Generally, Christians are so accustomed to subjecting their ears to allegorical
preaching they automatically make good candidates for Gnosticism. It comes as no surprise why this new wave of Gnosticism is flooding the church and why the Gnostic prophets have a hold on the Christians.

A Note of Warning to the Churches

The church that strays from the literal method of interpretation and fails to use
Scripture to interpret Scripture is in danger of being absorbed into Gnosticism or mysticism. The church that slides into the Gnostic school of thought will
inadvertently depart from the authority of Scripture and become a law unto itself.

Most of the new and weird teachings can be traced to the allegorical method of interpretation. The only way for the fundamental and evangelical churches to guard against this Gnostic method is to stand firm on the literal method of interpretation, i.e., on the literal meaning of all Scripture.

The Internal Deity/Authority

The Gnostic believes that the real spiritual birth comes from a consciousness of the divine spirit dwelling in every man. Through this experience the presence of the “Spirit” is perceived, the “knowledge” of God is learned and spiritual maturity is reached. Their reference point is not the Scriptures although sometimes they misapply Scripture in their support. Their reference is an internalised experience, based on the idea that “God” dwells in every man and knowing this is the start of spiritual life and maturity to godhood. On the authority of this concept they build their spiritual lives. It is from this viewpoint they emphasise “holiness’, “intimacy with God”, etc.

This form of Gnosticism is often detected in teachings and preaching. With the modern emphasis on the Holy Spirit, Christians are conditioned into thinking, sometimes unwittingly, that the Scriptures are insufficient to be a total effective authority. Therefore, they feel the Scriptures should be supplemented and substituted by some internal authority such as feeling, experience, conscience, intuition, inner voice, etc. The ever increasing problem with this form of authority is that it is being rated above the Scriptures in the name of the Holy Spirit.

Christians are encouraged to give greater heed to their self-conscious internal
authority over their faith in the voice of the Word. When a Voice, be it conscience, intuition or a subjective impression replaces the authority of the Scriptures and takes precedence over “God’s Word”, then it is
cultic. Cults have always sought divine authority in man, while Christians seek divine authority in God’s Word. The cults, like many modern Christians, place the inner voice above all else. They teach that the real guiding Voice or Light comes from within. The emphasis and substance of their religion hinges on an inner voice or experience which they claim is the light of God.

For example, consider the following statement by R. Swinburne Clymer, a Rosicrucian:
This light, to a lesser or greater degree, is in all men. It is that which the
Philosophers and Initiates of all ages have called the Divine Spark, the voice of conscience, which, to the degree of its growth and development, speaks unto all men. He who possesses but a little of this light and wisely uses it, shall perceive (develop) a greater light and this process shall continue until he has all light necessary for his Immortalization . . . The voice of conscience speaks to all men more or less clearly unless it has been totally destroyed through continued acts of evil. It is essential that man should listen for and heed this voice which is his light. If he does this, then gradually the light that leads the way – the Voice – will become strong and ultimately always will be with him . . . This is the light that is in man and is the Voice that must be obeyed . . . The light, which is the LIFE, leads to the CHRISTOS. He who follows the light assuredly follows the CHRIST, the MANISIS, and with each good deed, kindly act, loving thought and compassionate service, the CHRIST child in the manger (the body) grows stronger, until at last manhood is attained and man has become (glorified) the Son of God. [The Sons of God by R. Swinburne Clymer, The Philosophical Publishing Company, Quakerstown, Pennsylvania. (Emphasis theirs)]

Any authority apart from Scripture will lead to apostasy. When the voice of Scripture is quenched in favour of a personal internal authority, disaster follows. History readily proves this:
During the Middle Ages, the Church of Rome concentrated in itself through its episcopacy all the authority of tradition, bishops, councils and anything else that held sway over the mind of the church. This movement culminated in the degree of Papal Infallibility of 1870, which holds that ‘the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, has that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer endowed his church, in defining a doctrine of faith or morals’. [Unger’s Bible Handbook by Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago, p.6]

As a result of a Gnostic emphasis on the internal authority of man as a substitute for the authority of the Scriptures, the church has and is being inundated with popes – “apostles and prophets” – exercising ministries centred on self, each being a law unto himself. The Gnostic “popes” interpret their internal authority to represent the presence of the Holy Spirit and divine inspiration. Here is where error, such as the New Age and satanism starts. Unfortunately many well meaning Christians at the expense of God’s written Word have faith in an internal authority.

Unknowingly they are grieving the Holy Spirit and could experience a strong
delusion from Satan. Nationally acclaimed so-called prophets and apostles, are
notorious for their claims to having internal authority and knowledge on a par with Scripture.

One of the prophets gave a word to a pastor and his wife regarding their personal affairs. As a result they resigned their pastorate and heeded the word of the prophet to move to another city. When questions, “How did you know it was God’s direction?” The answer came back, “Oh, I felt it, I just knew it was God. The prophet told me things no one could ever know.”

The questioner persisted, “But how did you know it was God? What was your reference point?” The conversation couldn’t get beyond the point of internal feelings. Shortly afterwards it was learned by the questioner that the prophet involved exercised an unscriptural ministry, sometimes prophesying the most bizarre thoughts and concepts to be imagined. His outrageous prophecies have been well documented. However, the point being made here is that the couple followed their own intuitive or internal dictates without regard whether or not the situation they were getting themselves into lined up with the Scriptures.

Had they only turned to the authority of the Word, they would have found the prophet as well as the church in which he ministers in gross error. Unfortunately, they preferred to stay with their internal thoughts and feelings instead of with the authority of the Word.

The Hidden Voice

In the following quote, a typical “Christian Gnostic” position can be detected.
We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, (the wonder being they could hear directly from God without Scripture) and could hardly realize that ‘we’ were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by Him Personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their churches, books and other source. [God Calling by Two Listeners]

In essence, the above quote is a Gnostic testimony because the source of their
knowledge is attributed to a personal subjective experience believed to be the
voice of God. Their experience sets them apart as spiritual elitists. There is
enough leaven in this short quote to trigger off a whole new doctrine in favour of Gnosticism.

According to the new Gnostic emphasis, spiritual maturity comes from being attuned to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit is subjectively heard in one form or another on an ongoing basis, mature spirituality has not been reached. In other words, spiritual maturity comes from hearing God beyond the sacred page (Scripture).

Christians that insist on the Holy Scriptures as their only most trusted source of spiritual knowledge are considered to be into idolatry and bondage. Because Christians faithfully reverence the Holy Scriptures as the VOICE of GOD, they are accused of worshipping a book and of over-reverencing the Bible. The following quotes are typical examples:

Most of the people in this faction have gotten themselves in bondage to the written Word of God and seem to be bent on dragging everyone else into prison with them. They have let their respect for the scriptures run overboard and plunge into idolatry. [Restoration, James Robison, James Robison Evangelistic Association, Fort Worth, TX]

We see it today in people’s reverence of the Bible. I remember the day I
stood in the pulpit and played the role of the iconoclast. I was decrying
‘bibliolatry’ – worship of the Bible. I wanted to call people to the God of the
Bible for many had made the Bible a god . . . So I took an old Bible and
began ripping the pages out of it, throwing it to the floor to demonstrate it
was only a book – not a sacred idol. Some of the people were shocked,
offended and infuriated. I had pulled down their idol. [Jamie Buckingham
Ministries Today, Buckingham Report, Jan/Feb 1989, p.19]

Any Christian in his right mind will not worship a book, binding, pages or ink. But he certainly will utterly reverence God’s inspired Holy Scriptures. It is impossible to over-reverence the written Word just as it is impossible to over-reverence God to the point of making Him an idol – absurd! Even God shows utter reverence for His Word when He says, . . . for thou has magnified thy Word above all thy name (Psalm 138:2)

The Peril of the Gnostic Voice

The “Christian Gnostic” religion is a mystical form of godliness experienced
intuitively and all too often is construed to represent the Presence or Voice of the Holy Spirit. The peril of this concept relegates the inspiration of the Scriptures to a subordinate position to personal “inspiration” or to “private interpretation” of Scripture.

It is quite commonplace to read or hear messages sometimes by popular
preachers saying, “Hear from God”. This emphasis is ostensibly to improve a
Christian’s quality of life. The problem with this well-sounding phrase is that it invariably disregards the written Word of God and gives self preference over the Word of God. Christians hooked on “hear from God” without regard to Holy Scripture are not only open to serious error, but also disposed to strong delusions. This could lead to a self-centred “cult like” religion at the expense of God’s precious written Word.

If a man truly hears from God, he will reverence and honour the written Word of God more than ever and over everything else. Many Christians are into a form of Gnosticism dangerous to themselves and to others. They have a real problem distinguishing the voice of God from their own thoughts, feelings and
imagination. The reason is they don’t align their minds with the written Word of God. Many have never learned to understand their experiences in the light of Holy Scriptures.

How can anyone know God’s voice or will apart from Scripture and how can anyone know the truth of God if he allegorizes the Scripture or takes a text out of context in support of his own ideas, thoughts and wishes? Any other way of assuming to know God’s voice apart from Scripture is perilous. However God chooses to minister to His children will always confirm and accord with Holy Scripture.

The Gnostic school of thought subtly divides the ministry of the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures. This position demises the Scriptures and pits the church against God’s final voice of authority. The switch of emphasis to the Holy Spirit at the expense of the Scriptures is seen by some as a NEW THING God is doing in the believer and the world. This is a strong delusion.

The Still Small Voice

Because God at one point in time chose to speak to Elijah the prophet through a still small voice, and at another time to Balaam the prophet through an ass, it no way obliges God to repeat the performance in our day and age. It would be wrong on the part of a Christian to turn inward to self in the hope of hearing a still small voice, just as it would be to go to an ass out in the country in the hope of hearing God speak.

The “still small voice” concept is such an obsession in certain segments of the
church it is no surprise that bizarre messages and presumptuous judgments and decisions are made in the name of the Lord. The concept has sown more
confusion in the church than any other presumption. If only Christians would
learn to line up their thoughts and intuitions with Scriptures, we would have more of the Spirit and less of the flesh.

God’s Sovereign Voice to the Church

God in His sovereignty gave man the Holy Scriptures. All we need to know about God, redemption, holiness, eternal life and ourselves is recorded in the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit provided the Scriptures so that by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ the world might come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel of Christ according to the written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to sinners and saints alike. Holy Scriptures remain the final Voice of God – whether the world believes it or not. The Holy Spirit uses the written Word of God to save, sustain and mature the believer.

Any other source used to determine spiritual growth other than the Scriptures is false. It is wrong for a man to presume he knows the mind of God if it is not according to the Scriptures. To do so is to be grossly presumptuous. God is Sovereign. He will speak whenever He chooses and in whatever manner He wills. But, if and when He speaks, it will be a Sovereign Act. God’s sovereignty is not negotiable. It cannot be monopolised or
manipulated by our wishes, thoughts, prayers, cries, meditations or even by our communion with Him. It is impossible for man to control God’s sovereignty. When God speaks or acts, He never contradicts His written Word.

Christianity vs Gnosticism

The Christian does not look inward for his redemption. He looks UPWARD to God who is seated in heaven far above principalities and powers. His redemption was bought and brought nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ. The Christian’s approach to God is by faith in Christ’s complete work of redemption at the cross. Redemption is not an experience, it is God’s salvation bought by the precious blood of the Lamb – and is a free gift.

Christians know they are saved, not by any experience they might have had along the way but because they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. Even their faith from the heart is the witness of the Holy Spirit and their redemption. Sometimes Christians have great spiritual experiences, but refuse to glory in the flesh. Their glory is only in the Lord. The only premise the Christian builds his life on is not by “self-consciousness”, but by the written Word of God. The only God the Christian knows and desires to know is the God of the HOLY WRITTEN WORD.

The god of the imagination and the god of self was resoundly crushed and defeated at Calvary some two thousand years ago.

The Christian’s affections and thoughts are not turned inward, but rather upward toward heaven from whence they expect the personal and glorious appearing of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. For at the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the archangel, the saints in Christ, both the living and the dead, shall put on immortality, incorruption and see Jesus Christ face to face and be like Him. Amen!

Cuba: la Teología de la Prosperidad, donde la fe lo puede todo

Cuba: la Teología de la Prosperidad, donde la fe lo puede todo.
Por: Mario Hechavarria Driggs.*
agosto 08, 2012

“Si usted tiene dificultades económicas, es que no está orando como debe…y si no ora bien, no puede tener la bendición de Dios”…así predicaba el pastor de la Iglesia del Nuevo Pacto, ubicada en la barbacoa de una vivienda en la Habana Vieja….., “para tener el refrigerador lleno de comida, hay que orar de noche y de día.”

La capital se está llenando de “casas culto” en las que se predica la llamada “Teología de la Prosperidad”, movimiento religioso surgido en los Estados Unidos, que asocia el éxito económico con el respaldo divino y tiene su fundamento en citas bíblicas sacadas de contextos…,”Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece” Flp 4,13 “El Señor es mi Pastor nada me falta”, Sal 23, etc.

En el culto se canta efusivamente, la gente llora, le pide dinero a Jesucristo, un carro, una visa, se expulsan demonios, sanan enfermos, y se “empastan dientes y muelas” por la acción del espíritu. Todos buscan la bendición de Dios en forma material, la pobreza es diabólica.

Al final se recoge la ofrenda, para el “sostenimiento” del Pastor y se reparte un vasito de refresco instantáneo, los congregados sienten una sensación de poder… “Estamos en Victoria”.

En una sociedad marcada por la frustración, la miseria y el miedo, la “Teología de la Prosperidad”, viene siendo como la cocaína para el espíritu, muchos la buscan para huir de la realidad.

En los hospitales, “cristianos ungidos” han intentando desconectar los equipos de la unidad de terapia intensiva, para orar por los enfermos y sanarlos. Algunos dicen que los pacientes psiquiátricos están endemoniados, hay que expulsar a los demonios.

A continuación, el nombre de algunas “iglesias” habaneras, que predican la Teología de la Prosperidad: “La Familia de Dios”, “Lluvias de Gracias”, “El Shaddai”, “Hablando en Lenguas”, “Fuego Divino”, “Estrella de Belén”, “Los Mambises de Dios”, “Los Aleluyas”, “La Iglesia de las Casas”, “Cristo Viene”, “Cristo esta Aquí,” “Pan y Pescado” y los 666.

Las iglesias tradicionales, sostienen que estas casas culto atentan contra la unidad de los cristianos y la sana doctrina, por lo que no se deben permitir, sin embargo el gobierno las tolera: “Siempre que estén invocando a Dios o al diablo, no habrá problemas”.

*Periodista independiente cubano, radica en Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba y sus artículos pueden ser leídos en los sitios de Internet de temas cubanos.

El Paradigma Neoapostólico Latinoamericano

EL PARADIGMA NEOAPOSTOLICO LATINOAMERICANO: UN DIALOGO HERMENEUTICO
George Reyes

El paradigma neoapostólico ha despertado inquietud dentro del contexto evangélico latinoamericano contemporáneo en general. Esta inquietud se extiende incluso a la comunidad hermenéutica que considera que el texto [1] sagrado es la revelación escrita de Dios la cual, aunque fijada en un horizonte cultural diferente al nuestro, continúa siendo palabra viva, autoritativa y relevante que, por ese mismo hecho, debe tener centralidad en la tarea hermenéutica y permitírsele hablar libremente en la misma. [2]

Como agentes del Reino, nos interesa sobremanera saber lo que Dios pueda estar haciendo hoy en nuestro alrededor, ya que El, como el Señor de la historia, puede obrar en ella según sus soberanos y bienhechores propósitos. [3] Por eso no podemos ni queremos relativizar ese señorío ni ese obrar; lo que sí podemos y queremos es seguir ejercitándonos en la interpretación de los signos de los tiempos, pero no sólo en sintonía con el Espíritu y en comunión con la iglesia, sino también en sujeción al texto sagrado. [4] Es que cualquier testimonio de ese obrar en la realidad sociohistórica contemporánea debe estar fundamentado en ese texto y no en ninguna agenda o percepción preferencial humana.
Es necesario y urgente que así sea, mucho más en un contexto como el nuestro evangélico actual donde otras prioridades suelen ocupar el lugar central que le corresponde a la exposición seria y contextualizada del texto, pero donde también el mismo suele ser violentado hermenéuticamente a la propia conveniencia. Así, pues, el fundamento hermenéutico-exegético ha de ser un parámetro con base al cual se pueda medir la legitimidad de cualquier testimonio de fe o movimiento religioso-doctrinal emergente.
La tarea que resta es, entonces, desafiante. Además de estudiar en el seno de la iglesia ese testimonio o movimiento, esta tarea consistirá en dialogar con ellos desde un ángulo hermenéutico-exegético. Y habrá que hacerlo sin generalizaciones, [5] cientificismo absolutizante ni, mucho menos, malicia para ninguno, pero sí con responsabilidad, discernimiento, posición teológica definida y, de ser necesario, con criterios hermenéuticos alternativos viables. Esto guía al propósito del ensayo.
El propósito del ensayo es triple: dos primarios y uno secundario de fondo. Aunque el aspecto constitutivo del paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano pareciera ser, al igual que el de los movimientos neocarismáticos, línea evangélica dentro de la cual se inscribe, básicamente una experiencia, un propósito primario es discernir la tendencia hermenéutica bíblica global que subyace detrás de su modo de leer el texto bíblico; el otro primario es dialogar crítica y constructivamente con esa tendencia. Y el secundario, aunque no por eso menos importante, es proponer algunos criterios hermenéuticos filosóficos analógicos que considero hacen mayor justicia al texto y son abiertos críticamente al actuar de Dios en la realidad histórica contemporánea.
El ensayo consta de tres partes restantes. La primera hace una lectura descriptiva, breve y aproximada del paradigma en mención, a fin de ver su modo de leer el texto para así poder articular su tendencia hermenéutica global; la segunda, al tiempo que dialoga con esta tendencia, propone entretejidamente los criterios hermenéuticos antes señalados; y la tercera hace una conclusión general a modo de síntesis.
Debo subrayar, finalmente, algo que considero incide en la naturaleza y alcance del ensayo. Esto es que el paradigma neoapostólico es, además de multiforme, emergente y difuso, por lo menos en Latinoamérica. Esta emergencia y falta de definición pone al lector de este paradigma en mayor riesgo de proyectar su propia subjetividad, y permite a la vez que el ensayo sea provisional y limitado en todas sus partes y aspectos. [6]
Una limitación evidente es que aquí, por cuestión de espacio y tiempo, no realizo una lectura alternativa de los textos usados por la hermenéutica neoapostólica, aunque para más de alguno remito oportunamente a una bibliografía personal; tampoco realizo una lectura alternativa de la historia contemporánea. [7] De modo que este trabajo debe ser considerado como lo que en realidad es: un esfuerzo ensayístico limitado de diálogo hermenéutico y abierto al mismo, especialmente con aquellos que posean la misma pasión.
I. LECTURA DESCRIPTIVA DEL PARADIGMA NEOAPOSTOLICO LATINOAMERICANO Y SU HERMENEUTICA
El propósito primario de esta parte es hacer una lectura descriptiva, breve y aproximada del paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano, especialmente de sus enseñanzas centrales. [8] El fin de esta lectura es ver el modo cómo este paradigma lee el texto bíblico para poder de aquí articular su tendencia hermenéutica global subyacente. Para entender algo del impacto que la realidad socio-cultural e ideológica contemporánea ejerce sobre la iglesia, es importante leer primero, aunque sea brevemente, el fenómeno de la globalización, especialmente su ideología en torno al poder.
El fenómeno de la globalización: Marco espacio-temporal cultural e ideológico contemporáneo
El mundo entero, incluyendo Latinoamérica, se globaliza. Aunque este proceso no es reciente, el consenso general es que habría comenzado con la caída del muro de Berlín (1989) y la posterior incorporación de la Europa del Este a las economías de mercado (Deiros 2006a:2). [9] Este proceso, que es en sí un fenómeno ambivalente e irreversible de unificación del mundo a partir del sistema económico neoliberal, se extiende paulatinamente a todos los continentes y rediseña sustancialmente nuestro marco espacio-temporal (Samuel 2002:9; Lot 2002:101-110). [10] Por eso, a la hora de leer este proceso es valedero hacerlo también usando la ideología del poder como clave hermenéutica, a fin de poner en evidencia uno de sus más oscuros vectores y lo que estaría ocurriendo hoy también en determinados círculos evangélicos posdenominacionales. [11]
El filósofo africano F. F. Lot (2002:105-110 cp. Touraine 2002:327-329; Padilla 2004:55) arguye que el proceso de globalización toca las campanas fúnebres para la diferencia cultural, [12] pero también para la libertad y dignidad individual, al promover el dominio de los unos (los que tienen el poder) y el sometimiento de los otros (los que carecen del poder). Es que este proceso es fruto del “progreso” tecnológico, de la ampliación de los mercados y del intercambio de los mismos; siendo así, prosigue Lot, está mediado, controlado y legitimado por el discurso ideológico capitalista neoliberal, que subraya esencialmente la libre competencia y la maximización de la rentabilidad, pese aún a la inestabilidad e incertidumbre financiera subyacentes en el proceso.
Ya que el énfasis es en una libre competencia mal orientada institucionalmente, la globalización, opina Lot, se presta a actitudes opresivas. Tal cosa es así, prosigue este autor, porque esta mala orientación permite no sólo el surgimiento de posiciones dominantes de poder y relaciones de fuerza, especialmente entre grupos de presión, sino también la evasión de la práctica y promoción de la justicia por parte de los mercados que tienden a remunerar el esfuerzo y la oportunidad. Es así cómo, según Lot, el proceso de globalización amenaza el equilibrio entre sus actores nacionales e internacionales. [13]
A lo anterior, habría que agregar otro poder que, al recurrir a discursos con saberes o verdades legitimadoras aliadas al poder económico, acrecienta el consumismo, la sensación de carencia y el deseo de acumular riqueza y dar culto a la persona o a su imagen. [14] Este es el de los medios masivos de comunicación que amenaza, además del equilibrio anterior y al igual que la propia globalización, la solidaridad y el respeto a la dignidad humana y la conciencia individual diferenciada, valores bíblicos fundamentales.
Así que, de una forma u otra, la globalización conlleva en sus entrañas el virus del poder “perverso”. No es de extrañar por qué los grupos de poder suelen recurrir no sólo a la persuasión de la imaginación por medio, por ejemplo, del discurso comercial televisivo que opera como verdad ―hace de lo trivial prioritario y del espectador el centro y protagonista del universo―, sino también a la corrupción y al chantaje directo y descarado. En palabras de Plutarco Bonilla (2006), quien resume bien este juego de poder y sus tácticas más comunes:
Vivimos, en efecto, en una América, que como el mundo todo, se globaliza, aunque para lograrlo, los poderosos usen no sólo la persuasión sino también el chantaje (probablemente más éste que aquella). En el proceso de globalización del que somos testigos, lo que prima no es la atención de los grupos humanos más necesitados… La prioridad la tiene la obtención del poder [“perverso”] (que dan la posesión de bienes materiales, de riquezas naturales…, de conocimiento, de instrumento de destrucción selectiva y masiva). Las ansias de poder, casi de cualquier naturaleza, permean la vida de nuestros países y de nuestras comunidades… lo que presenciamos actualmente es que la gente se corrompe para obtener poder o más poder. Y una vez obtenido el poder, la corrupción aumenta en forma exponencial. La relación entre poder y corrupción no es una ruta de una sola vía; es una relación dialéctica. No en vano el autor de la carta a los Colosenses llama “idolatría” a la avaricia… (El énfasis es suyo).

Hijos del marco espacio-temporal
El pueblo de Dios está llamado a surfear y a responder inteligentemente a las olas del cambio. La realidad, sin embargo, se ha empeñado en demostrar que este pueblo no siempre ha cumplido esa tarea, ya que no está inmune a las influencias del marco espacio-temporal dentro del cual se gesta y desarrolla su ministerio.
Dentro del protestantismo latinoamericano actual, especialmente en algunos sectores posdenominacionales o neoapostólicos, lo anterior es confirmado en el desarrollo y práctica de un nuevo estilo de liderazgo pastoral; por ser semejante a su homólogo secular, este nuevo estilo tiende tanto a subrayar la figura del ejecutivo empresarial y su “éxito” económico como a orientar el ministerio hacia la obtención, manejo y conservación del poder, sacrificando frecuentemente la ética del evangelio. Describiendo algunos modelos históricos de pastoral, Samuel Escobar (2004:282; cp. Reyes 2004:6-9) observa:
Al presente un nuevo desafío lo representan los modelos de pastoral que han ido desarrollándose en las iglesias carismáticas y las llamadas megaiglesias posdenominacionales o neoapostólicas. Por su insistencia en pastores con dones carismáticos especiales recibidos de alguna personalidad autodefinida como “apostólica”, presentan un modelo de ministerio que enfatiza la cura de almas, reduce la tarea de predicación y enseñanza y busca un estilo autoritario de liderazgo, sin un marco congregacional o denominacional al cual se rinda cuentas de la labor. Este nuevo modelo se acerca mucho más al modelo medieval y sacramental que ha persistido en el catolicismo. Por ello parece encontrar eco en países de tradición católica. Podría decirse que el nuevo modelo carismático conecta con el modelo clerical propio de la cultura católica que ha permanecido en el subconsciente de nuestro pueblo.
Escobar generaliza. Pero puntualiza y trae a la mesa de discusión un estilo de liderazgo pastoral que, al igual que el propio de la globalización, debe seguir siendo evaluado desde una sustentable perspectiva bíblico-hermenéutica. [15]
Síntesis
Actualmente, vivimos un proceso uniformador que se describe como globalización que nos interna en la era del mundo aldea y de la cultura planetaria. Por ser un proceso ambivalente, la globalización es movida por valores ideológicos que crean actitudes y mentalidades contrarias a lo que el Evangelio enseña. En nuestro contexto evangélico, esto es evidente en los nuevos estilos autoritarios de liderazgo pastoral que vienen desarrollándose y practicándose en algunos sectores neoapostólicos. Estos nuevos estilos deben seguir siendo evaluados desde una sustentable perspectiva bíblico-hermenéutica.
Del paradigma de la cristiandad al paradigma neoapostólico
Con el fenómeno de la globalización, incluso el mapa religioso latinoamericano ha venido experimentando una drástica mutación estructural (Bastian 1997:13-19 cp. Escobar 1999:14-18). [16] En el campo protestante, esta mutación, la cual se ha venido acelerando con los cambios de paradigmas en proceso dentro de la historia cristiana, es evidente especialmente en el área de la eclesiología (Deiros 1997:100-132; 2006a:9).
Es que, en el campo protestante, opina Deiros (2006a:12-15), desde finales del siglo anterior está rayando en el horizonte un nuevo paradigma, quizás el final de la historia: el neoapostólico. [17] Según esta perspectiva, éste estaría dando paso a una tercera y nueva manera de ser iglesia y de cumplir con la misión; en otras palabras, estaría propiciando una revolución misionológica, con base a dos elementos esenciales en el mismo: (a) una marcada expectativa escatológica —que permite leer el presente a la luz del futuro, esto es, del “todavía no” del reino— y (b) una restauración del don de apóstol y de profeta. [18]
Tal revolución, expectativa y restauración, opina Deiros (2006b:1-2, 5), se justifican por dos razones esenciales. Habiendo prometido una restauración de todas las cosas antes del retorno de su Hijo, la primera es que Dios quiere que su iglesia sea hoy como lo fue al principio: “llena del Espíritu Santo y dotada con todos los dones necesarios para completar en estos tiempos finales la misión que le fue encomendada, mientras con denuedo predica el evangelio acompañada de señales y milagros”.
Debido al propósito anterior, la segunda razón es que nunca fue la voluntad de Dios que el don de apóstol y de profeta sean erogados, aunque con el correr del tiempo y con argumentos arbitrarios se los haya eliminado o se les haya cambiado el significado de su función en el Nuevo Testamento. [19] De ahí que, concluye él, Dios esté restaurando hoy en la iglesia ambos dones.
Los textos que suelen ser usados para argumentar la restauración anterior son Efesios 4:11-13 y 1Corintios 12:28. [20] Con base a ellos, se implica: “los apóstoles forman parte de un pueblo apostólico y la iglesia es una asamblea apostólica bajo la dirección de los apóstoles…La iglesia es apostólica…también en el sentido de que cumple un ministerio apostólico bajo el liderazgo de los apóstoles” (Deiros 2006b:4). [21] En la página cinco de la misma fuente anterior, Deiros se pregunta: “¿Qué dice la experiencia?” Y él responde:
Muchos cristianos alrededor del mundo sienten que algo más grande que Pentecostés está a punto de ocurrir: se viene un mover de Dios que va a eclipsar a cualquier otro gran movimiento en la historia del testimonio cristiano. La restauración del ministerio apostólico en la iglesia y el ejercicio del don de apóstol es una indicación de este poderoso mover del Señor en estos tiempos finales. Conforme el Señor va derramando más del Espíritu Santo… tanto más se están reactivando el don y el ministerio apostólico, a fin de preparar a la iglesia para la gran cosecha final. (El énfasis es mío).
De modo que, según esta manera de pensar, durante este nuevo milenio sucederán cosas jamás vistas después del primer paradigma apostólico. Entre ellas están una explosión apostólica creciente —que sacudirá al mundo— y un disfrute por parte de la iglesia tanto de los primeros frutos de otro avivamiento masivo —el propio del fin de los tiempos o del “todavía no” del reino— como de ciertas experiencias que no habrían estado en actividad en el transcurso del paradigma de la cristiandad. Estas experiencias son la democratización de los dones (carismas), la decadencia del denominacionalismo y el desarrollo de nuevos modelos experimentales (Deiros 2006a:16-19; 1997:100-108).
La democratización de los dones tiene que ver con un hecho interpretado en clave hermenéutica escatológica: su devolución hoy a los miembros de la iglesia, después de haber sido por muchos siglos un privilegio exclusivo del clero “profesional”. Este hecho está permitiendo que, por ejemplo, el pueblo actual de Dios sea cada vez más semejante al apostólico novotestamentario, es decir, lleno del Espíritu Santo, repleto de carismas—a los cuales comienza a vérselos como herramientas de trabajo— y fiel a una proclama acompañada de señales. Se arguye que tal avivamiento contemporáneo y los otros frutos de esa llenura del Espíritu, fueron vislumbrados por las profecías antiguotestamentarias relacionadas con el fin de los tiempos como lo es la de Joel 2: 28-29.
Dentro del marco escatológico que envuelve la profecía de Joel en ese capítulo, hay promesas de abundancia y productividad contenidas, por ejemplo, en las dos lluvias: la de otoño y la de primavera (2:23) (Deiros 1997: 173). “Los pasajes bíblicos citados [Jl 2:23 y Dt 11:4]”, agrega Deiros (1997:182), “tienen un profundo significado profético, que haríamos bien no sólo en procurar entenderlo, sino también en aplicarlo a nuestras vidas individuales y a la vida de nuestra comunidad de fe”. (El énfasis es suyo). Puesto que, según esta perspectiva, el alcance de estas dos lluvias va más allá de un fenómeno meteorológico, físico y regional de Palestina en un momento dado, Deiros hace, en la misma página anterior, la siguiente declaración y salto hermenéutico:
En el Nuevo Testamento, la lluvia temprana y la lluvia tardía [de otoño y de primavera, según la Nueva Versión Internacional] están relacionadas con la promesa de la Segunda Venida de Cristo y el fin del presente siglo. Santiago enfatiza esto cuando escribe: “Pero ustedes, hermanos, tengan paciencia hasta que el Señor venga. El campesino que espera recoger la preciosa cosecha, tiene que aguardar con paciencia las temporadas de lluvia (“la lluvia temprana y la lluvia tardía, RVR). Ustedes tengan paciencia y manténganse firmes, porque muy pronto volverá el Señor (Santiago 5.7-8, V. P.).
Según esta hermenéutica, Santiago enseña que antes de que regrese el Señor es necesario que vengan esas dos lluvias refrescantes y nutrientes que no son sino tiempos de avivamiento espiritual, derramamiento del Espíritu y crecimiento numérico generalizado. “Muchos serios observadores del cristianismo contemporáneo”, concluye Deiros (1997:182), “creen que el desarrollo de la renovación pentecostal-carismática de nuestros días es parte del cumplimiento de estas promesas”. Si en todo lo anterior no hubiese consenso general, se afirma, hay algo más incuestionable en marcha que se podría calificar de auténtica revolución eclesiológica: la decadencia del paradigma de la cristiandad.
La intensidad de tal decadencia no sería igual en todas partes. Pero es evidente que varios de los elementos de ese paradigma como lo es el denominacionalismo y sus productos históricos están en crisis y viviendo así sus últimos días. [22] Por lo tanto, la superación de las barreras denominacionales y doctrinales separatistas está en marcha y dando paso a un proceso de homogenización teológica, misionológica y litúrgica, de tal modo que cada vez resulta más difícil hablar de doctrinas bautistas, metodistas o pentecostales; de esa cuenta, se impone la necesidad de un ecumenismo entre las diversas iglesias cristianas y de una conciencia de que ya no es posible reclamar el derecho exclusivo de la verdad doctrinal para cada tradición denominacional. Esa superación anterior en marcha está, además, dando paso a un surgimiento paulatino de nuevos modelos experimentales tanto eclesiales como organizativos. Estos modelos son evidentes en el modo cómo se lleva a cabo hoy la misión y la pastoral: a través de redes apostólicas. [23]
Tendencia hermenéutica neoapostólica global
Nuevamente, me gustaría pensar que la tendencia hermenéutica global del paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano es, al igual que el paradigma en sí, multiforme. No obstante, pese a que mi lectura es limitada e interesada, me permito argüir lo siguiente.
La clave hermenéutica más predominante, con base a la cual el paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano lee el texto bíblico, es, en suma, la experiencia personal. [24] Esto, que es el resultado lógico de la naturaleza misma, sistema de fe o cosmovisión de este fenómeno religioso, explica por qué lleva a cabo la lectura del texto sin la mediación, al menos consciente, [25] de dos marcos hermenéuticos fundamentales: a) uno metódico-exegético sustentable, y b) otro filosófico de fondo. [26]
Consecuentemente, la tendencia hermenéutica global del paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano es subjetivista. ¿Qué significa que ella sea subjetivista? ¿Qué implicaciones tendría esta tendencia? ¿Cómo se podría dialogar crítica y constructivamente con ella? Es lo que procuraré a continuación.
II. DE LA LECTURA DESCRIPTIVA AL DIALOGO HERMENEUTICO
Con el fin de subrayar implícitamente la autoridad y centralidad que la Biblia debe tener en el acto hermenéutico, en esta parte procuraré brevemente tanto un diálogo crítico y constructivo con la tendencia hermenéutica global neoapostólica como algunos criterios hermenéuticos filosóficos alternativos. Teniendo en mente este doble propósito, comenzaré discutiendo en torno al subjetivismo, viéndolo como uno de los grandes problemas hermenéuticos, y, a partir de allí, señalar los riesgos que representa una hermenéutica subjetivista del texto para finalizar sugiriendo un recurso hermenéutico que nos puede ayudar a surfear inteligentemente ese problema y esos desafíos.
El subjetivismo: Un gran problema hermenéutico
A lo largo de la historia, y en el contexto evangélico, el texto bíblico ha sido leído con base a distintos y hasta divergentes marcos metodológicos, a fin de explorar su sentido o mensaje original. Sin embargo, aunque este cometido es legítimo, [27] pocas veces estos marcos han permitido hablar fluidamente al texto y estar consciente de que ese cometido es contrario a lo que pareciera: una tarea objetivista, pura y simplista. [28]
Pese a que es imposible concordar con todo lo que Gadamer (1991:400-458; cp Marlé 1973;Ricoeur 1978:263-277;Croatto 1984;Reyes 2001:66-71;2006b) pueda argumentar, él ha traído a la mesa del debate los grandes problemas ―planteados originalmente por quien iniciaría la reflexión hermenéutica: F. Schleiermacher (1768-1834)― que interfieren decididamente en el arte del comprender y dan cuenta de su naturaleza compleja.
Entre estos problemas recalco, destaco y simplifico uno decisivo y del cual pocas veces se ha estado y se está consciente en la tarea hermenéutica. Este problema es quien lee un texto histórico lo suele hacer desde una experiencia que le es significativa porque ésta ha producido un “efecto histórico” o, más claramente, una influencia significativa en su vida; en otras palabras, por estar condicionado históricamente, todo lector realiza su tarea hermenéutica desde su propio horizonte de vida. [29]
Consecuentemente, todo acto de lectura es no sólo subjetivista, sino también situado existencialmente y, por lo tanto, como diría Ricoeur, merecedor de la hermenéutica de la sospecha. [30]
Lo anterior es evidente en la hermenéutica neoapostólica. Por leer el texto usando como clave interpretativa la experiencia, es, al igual que las neocarismáticas (Deiros y Maida 199:185) y muchas de las posmodernas (Reyes 2006a:26-35), subjetivista, es decir, situada existencialmente. Ya que tiene serias implicaciones, esta tendencia hermenéutica, que debe vérsela también a la luz del giro cultural y epistemológico posmoderno, no se debe soslayar ni dejar de evaluar.
Entre estas implicaciones está, en primera instancia, el riesgo de hacer aquello que hiciera la hermenéutica liberacionista y hacen otras contemporáneas de esa misma línea como las “del genitivo” (feminista, indígena y otras) y las semiotistas que, haciendo un rodeo por las presuposiciones posmodernas del lenguaje, concluyen que la revelación normativa sigue abierta con un nuevo contenido (Croatto 1984;Richard 1996:55-59;Reyes Archila 1997:9-36).
Esto es privilegiar la experiencia, cultura, religión o la realidad sociohistórica —acontecimientos tales como el avivamiento espiritual generalizado el cual, según la percepción neoapostólica, es señal del “todavía no” del reino— como lugar teológico primero y fundamental y fuente de verdades con rango normativo. De modo que así esta hermenéutica corre otros riesgos: considerar al texto como lugar teológico secundario y dispersarse en el relativismo epistemológico posmoderno.
Si en la tendencia hermenéutica neoapostólica se aborda el texto desde una carga de sentido —el horizonte escatológico vivencial—, habría que agregar su práctica eisegética y sus implicaciones. Esto es así ya que, al ser releído en el texto normativo ese horizonte escatológico, con el cual se lo aborda, y al sobrepasarlo, corre el riesgo no sólo de anticipar un sentido a ese texto, sino también de “recrearle” o, más exactamente, imponerle uno que puede ser antojadizo [31] y de convertir la lectura en una excesivamente escatologicista y espiritualista en la cual el clamor de los sin voz de este subcontinente sea apenas audible.
Ciertamente, se debe reconocer, la hermenéutica, exégesis y teología protestante en general ha estado constantemente bajo la dictadura de marcos conceptuales y metodológicos racionales propios de la ciencia moderna. Tal dictadura no ha hecho sino que, en el contexto académico tanto liberal como fundamentalista y conservador, incluso “progresivo” y pentecostal, se practiquen lecturas del texto sagrado “clausuradoras” de sentido [32] y condicionadas por enfoques no sólo excesivamente racionales o intelectuales, sino también, por ende, concordistas, poco intuitivos y paradójicamente escepticistas.
En estas lecturas, de las cuales también se debe sospechar, se tiende tanto a olvidar que la tarea hermenéutica es objetiva y subjetiva a la vez (Reyes 2006b) [33] como a buscar coincidencias entre los eventos narrados en el texto y nuestras situaciones para, entonces, creer que Dios está manifestándose por medio del suceso arquetípico (Croatto 1984:13-14). De ahí que se tienda a limitar el actuar del Dios trino a situaciones que tienen su equivalente en la experiencia de Israel o de la iglesia primitiva, y, por lo tanto, a restar en la práctica su capacidad de manifestarse en otras maneras y en nuevas circunstancias como las actuales o en la vida de la iglesia y en la personal. [34]
Esto plantea la necesidad de articular una hermenéutica más aliada a la vida y menos a la razón instrumental. Así, el resultado sería una hermenéutica que, además de no idolatrar ingenuamente lo objetivo y absoluto, es abierta a otras racionalidades y capaz de leer el contexto con los ojos de la fe y a la luz del futuro, a fin de palpar allí la presencia activa del Dios trino y, consecuentemente, de prepararnos para una “praxis” congruente.
De este modo, se contribuiría a una ruptura hermenéutica en relación con los modos dominantes de leer el texto hasta la fecha. [35] Así también se contribuiría a una ruptura con por lo menos dos tendencias arraigadas en las presuposiciones epistemológicas modernas, que no han hecho sino proyectar un perfil indiferente, impersonal e incluso conceptualizado (enmarcado en el discurso teológico/ doctrinal racionalista y denominacional) del Dios trino y acrecentar, por ende, la desesperanza en un contexto como el latinoamericano donde impera la injusticia, pobreza y muerte. Estas tendencias son clausurar la manifestación de Dios en la historia bíblica y, con base a ello, como ya dije, apologizar que El se manifiesta necesariamente del mismo modo como en el pasado. [36]
Lo anterior, sin embargo, no debiera olvidar que la lectura del contexto debe ser mediada e iluminada por el texto normativo, a fin de que podamos discernir correctamente la presencia de Dios en el mismo y mantener viva la esperanza. Tampoco debiera olvidar que, para validar este discernimiento y procurar un balance epistemológico en la tarea hermenéutica, es necesario una actitud metodológica y filosófica, es decir, un consciente y valedero marco metodológico-exegético y filosófico pluralista, multidisciplinario y analógico. Pese a las dificultades, este marco ha de ser capaz de hacer mayor justicia al texto, respetando su propia objetividad o estrategias interpretativas (gramática, guía narrativa, poética y otras) y su derecho de hablar sin interferencias extrañas. [37]
Así, pues, el texto sagrado normativo estaría siendo privilegiado como lugar teológico prioritario y fundamental. Así también la tarea hermenéutica resultaría menos simplista ni podría fácilmente descontextuar el texto (pasar por alto su distancia histórica: entorno sociocultural y religioso original) ni irrespetar su alteridad discursiva que lo vuelva autónomo; así tampoco relativizaría la capacidad que éste tiene de hablar y leer la realidad con propósitos solidarios y transformadores ni haría del subjetivismo la norma para la fe ni clave hermenéutica única para la lectura del texto o de la realidad social y espiritual.
Espiral hermenéutica analógica
A la luz de todo lo anterior, y ya que la tarea hermenéutica es también subjetiva, me gustaría, finalmente, proponer, en primera instancia, una auto-aplicación de la sospecha a nuestras propias hermenéuticas, una validación de las mismas y consulta crítica de los aportes incluso del pasado. [38] En segunda instancia, también me gustaría proponer un recurso que considero sería de gran ayuda en la tarea interpretativa, pues, al tiempo que privilegia al texto sagrado como lugar teológico por excelencia, y no reniega de la lectura del contexto, lo establece como el parámetro con base al cual su lector puede evaluar y aún enmendar y desechar cualquier precomprensión (carga anticipada de sentido) errónea o lectura arbitraria o, en su defecto, light.
Este recurso es la espiral hermenéutica analógica en la que el texto (con sus estrategias interpretativas), su autor y lector, al tiempo que dialogan, se condicionan o influyen mutuamente. [39] Este proceso, que es interactivo, continuo y de desarrollo progresivo, [40] ayuda a evitar el objetivismo o el subjetivismo “perverso” y, consecuentemente, lecturas absolutistas-univocistas o relativistas-equivocistas.
Puesto que lo he trabajado, incluso gráficamente, en otro lugar (2001:68-73), aquí lo simplifico diciendo que esa evaluación o enmienda es posible si el intérprete permite que, después de su lectura inicial del texto, éste lo interrogue y le modifique cualquier precomprensión y comprensión que no le hiciera justicia. Posteriormente, desde su nueva precomprensión, el intérprete interroga otra vez al texto con este resultado: una nueva modificación de lo anterior, un mayor apego al texto y mejor comprensión del mismo. Y el resultado final es, por decir algo, una eclesiología más fiel al texto, contextual o relevante a la realidad sociohistórica dolorosa contemporánea.
Si tuviese que, finalmente, argumentar algo más, ésto sería lo siguiente: que la tendencia hermenéutica neoapostólica latinoamericana, y cualquier otra lectura cautiva de las precomprensiones “perversas”, tiene el desafío, en suma, de esforzarse por procurar un balance epistemológico analógico y medirse también con el texto. [41] Este esfuerzo es determinante, si quiere evitar que en ella el lector siga siendo la fuerza decisiva única, tal como lo es en algunas hermenéuticas posmodernas y lo señala el gráfico siguiente:
Hermenéuticas posmodernas
Hermenéutica neoapostólica
——————————►

Fuerza decisiva: Fuerza decisiva:
———— texto, autor y lector lector
◄———―————————
Hermenéutica metódica y espiral analógicas

CONCLUSION
La lectura del paradigma neoapostólico latinoamericano arroja lo siguiente. En sus estilos de liderazgo pastoral, algunos de los sectores neoapostólicos reflejan la ideología del poder global y, en su lectura del texto sagrado, una tendencia hermenéutica situada existencialmente. Estos estilos de liderazgo deben seguir siendo evaluados a la luz del texto y de una hermenéutica sustentable; por tener serias implicaciones, su tendencia hermenéutica no debe soslayarse ni dejar de evaluarse.
Entre las implicaciones está el de privilegiar la experiencia y la realidad sociohistórica como lugar teológico primario y fuente de toda verdad con un rango casi normativo. Es así como corre el riesgo de considerar al texto sagrado como lugar teológico secundario y de dispersarse en el relativismo posmoderno. Habría que agregar, además, su tendencia eisegética y sus riesgos: anticipar el sentido del texto, imponerle uno arbitrario y convertir su lectura en escatologicista en la cual el clamor de los más necesitados se perciba apenas.
Ya que la hermenéutica, exégesis y teología en el campo protestante en general han estado bajo la dictadura de marcos conceptuales y metodológicos racionalistas, la hermenéutica en este campo ha sido también excesivamente concordista y paradójicamente escepticista. De esa cuenta, urge una hermenéutica menos racionalista que, además de sospechar de sí misma, sea abierta a otras racionalidades y sea capaz de leer el contexto y de romper con tendencias arraigadas en las presuposiciones epistemológicas modernas.
La lectura del contexto debe, sin embargo, ser mediada por el texto normativo y llevada a cabo por medio de un consciente marco hermenéutico metodológico y filosófico en, suma, analógico. Puesto que la tarea interpretativa es objetiva y subjetiva a la vez, la espiral hermenéutica analógica es decisiva en ella para que pueda darse un “triálogo” e influjo mutuo entre el texto, su autor y lector, con base a lo cual se evitaría interpretaciones relativistas-equivocistas, y se obtendría una eclesiología más bíblica y relevante.
BIBLIOGRAFIA
Libros en general
Bastian, Jean-Pierre. (1997). La mutación religiosa de América Latina. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.
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Deiros, Pablo A. y C. Mraida. (1994). Latinoamérica en llamas. Miami, Florida, USA: Editorial Caribe.
Deiros, Pablo A. (1997). Protestantismo en América Latina: Ayer, hoy y mañana. Nashvile, USA: Editorial Caribe.
Escobar, Samuel. (2004). La educación teológica y la vocación pastoral. En O. Campos (Ed.), Teología Evangélica para el Contexto Latinoamericano (pp. 267-291). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Kairós Ediciones.
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Foucault, Michel (1992). Microfísica del poder. (3a. ed. en español; J. Varela y F. Alvarez-Uría, trads.). Madrid, España: Las Ediciones de la Piqueta.
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Hughes, Richard T. (2003). Myths American Lives By. Chicago, Illinois, USA: University of Illinois Press.
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Thompson, John B. (1993). Ideología y cultura moderna: Teoría crítica social en la era de la comunicación de masas. (1a. ed. en español; G. Fantinani Caviedes, trad.). México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana.
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Volúmenes
Piccardo, Horacio R. (2006). Introducción al cuerpo epistolar del Nuevo Testamento (Vols. 1-2). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones del Centro.
Stam, Juan. (2006). Apocalipsis (2a. ed., Vols. 1-2). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Kairós.
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Escobar, Samuel (1999). Entender a la América Latina en el nuevo milenio. Apuntes Pastorales 17/2, 12-18.
Samuel, Albert. (2002, marzo). ¿Qué es exactamente la globalización? Spiritus, 43/1, 7-11.
Lot, Francois-Frederic. (2002, marzo). La globalización: ¿Una amenaza para el ser humano? Spiritus 43/1, 1001-110.
Núñez, Emilio Antonio. (2001, julio-diciembre). El movimiento apostólico contemporáneo. Kairós 29, 77-98.
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Reyes Archila, Francisco. (1997). Hermenéutica y exégesis: Un diálogo necesario. Revista de Interpretación Bíblica Latinoamericana 28, 9-36.
Reyes, George. (1999, julio-diciembre). La interpretación poética y los acercamientos históricos críticos. Kairós 25, 53-78
Reyes, George. (2001, julio-diciembre). La historicidad del texto y el papel del texto en la interpretación poética. Kairós 29, 41-75.
Reyes, George. (2004). El grito del salario: Ensayo de lectura literaria y sociológica de Santiago 5, 1-11. Revista Bíblica 1-2, 79-97.
Reyes, George. (2005). El desafío de la tendencia posdenominacional. Signos de Vida 36: 6-9.
Reyes, George. (2006a, enero-junio). El giro hermenéutico contemporáneo: Lectura de tendencias. Kairós 3, 26-42.
Richard, Pablo (1996). Interpretación bíblica desde las culturas indígenas (mayas, kunas y quichuas de América Latina). Revista de Interpretación Bíblica Latinoamericana 26, 45-59.
Material inédito
Deiros, Pablo Alberto. “Análisis Histórico-Social de la Iglesia y de la Realidad Latinoamericana”. (Material fotocopiado para el curso “Análisis Histórico-Social de la Iglesia y de la Realidad Latinoamericana” del Programa Doctoral Latinoamericano (PRODOLA), Universidad Evangélica de Las Américas (UNELA), San José, Costa Rica, 2006a).
Deiros, Pablo Alberto. “Entendiendo el oficio de apóstol”. (Sermón fotocopiado para el curso “Análisis Histórico-Social de la Iglesia y de la Realidad Latinoamericana” del Programa Doctoral Latinoamericano (PRODOLA), Universidad Evangélica de Las Américas (UNELA), San José, Costa Rica, 2006b).
Reyes, George (2006b). Verdad hermenéutica posmoderna y una nueva racionalidad hermenéutica analógica bíblica. (Artículo por publicarse en Kairós).
Roldán, David A. (2006). Theologia paulina perennis. San Pablo en el interés de los filósofos y teólogos del siglo xxi. Balances y perspectivas para la realidad latinoamericana. (Artículo por publicarse).
Material de internet
Beuchot P., Mauricio. (2005, noviembre). Perfiles esenciales de la hermenéutica: Hermenéutica analógica. Recuperado el 24 de noviembre de 2005, de Bonilla A., Plutarco. (2006, agosto). Reflexiones en torno al libro Nuevas formas de poder. Movimientos apostólicos y mesiánicos “evangélicos”, de Freddy Guerrero Fariño y Yattency Bonilla Cerquera (Quito: Editorial FLEREC/ FLET/ CLAI, 2005). Recuperado el 25 de agosto de 2006, de http://www.lupaprotestante.
Kirk, J. Andrés (2006, octubre). Hermenéutica bíblica y hombre nuevo. Revista Bíblica 36/1, 47-58. Recuperado el 12 de octubre de 2006, de http://www.severinocroatto.com.ar/media/publicaciones/6.DOC.

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[1] Aunque es obvio, a lo largo del ensayo el término “texto” significa un discurso fijado por escrito, es decir, un tejido literario no sólo en el que los elementos de la lengua (por ejemplo, palabras, frases y unidades literarias)
están organizados intencional y formalmente, sino que también es el objeto de la interpretación y la comprensión. De modo que aquí no me refiero a discursos orales ni a aquellos que van más allá de la palabra y el enunciado como, por ejemplo, los eventos, contextos o formas simbólicas sociales.
[2] Con ello, sin embargo, no quiero decir que la tarea hermenéutica sea simple, pues, como subrayaré más adelante, una de las grandes dificultades con las cuales hay que lidiar a la hora de leer el texto es el condicionamiento histórico suyo y de su intérprete.
[3] Por eso, como más adelante subrayaré, es legítimo considerar la realidad sociohistórica, la creación o el cosmos (“el libro de la vida”, según algunos autores) como un lugar teológico, pues también allí Dios habla, obra e interpela al ser humano. El problema es cuando se privilegia unilateralmente este lugar y se relega la Biblia a un segundo plano como si fuese un texto al cual ya no hace falta recurrir por ser mudo y carente de autoridad, relevancia y luz para iluminar una realidad histórica desconocida por sus autores humanos (el “adelante-del-texto”, según Croatto).
[4] Pues, como creyente viviendo en esperanza (1P 1:3; Ef. 4:4), también quiero, con esa sintonía, comunión y sujeción, mirar el presente a la luz del futuro y vislumbrar esa era de justicia, solidaridad y vida que añoramos los seres humanos de este subcontinente y aún la creación entera.
[5] Pues habría que recordar que ningún movimiento religioso suele ser monolítico, pero sí multiforme y difuso como es el caso de los emergentes.
[6] Siendo emergente y, además, narrativo ―como todo movimiento neocarismático―, es de suponer que su hermenéutica no habrá sido aún reflexionada, sistematizada ni puesta por escrito. Ahora bien, esta emergencia no sería la razón única para el riesgo antes mencionado, si de entrada se recuerda que toda lectura es interpretación y que siempre se lee desde una tradición cultural, ideológica, teológica o doctrinal— y el lector podría constatar tal cosa ya desde esta introducción En este sentido, ninguna lectura textual, o de aquella que va más allá de la palabra y el enunciado, es, quiérase o no, totalmente fría y desinteresada, sin que necesariamente esta realidad signifique licencia para abandonar la lucha por serlo aunque sea en algún grado y así evitar, entre otras cosas, perspectivas infundadas.
[7] Otra limitación es que, debido a la casi inexistente bibliografía neoapostólica del contexto, la lectura es realizada usando sólo fuentes del más destacado vocero del paradigma en Latinoamérica: P. Deiros. Aunque estas limitaciones, como observara mi amigo David Roldán, quien gentilmente leyera el manuscrito, puedan restar riqueza al ensayo, el esfuerzo está ahí y me reta a una futura lectura alternativa de los otros textos.
[8] Aquí, obviamente, describiré aquellas que han sido puestas por escrito y que revelan y difunden sus convicciones, aunque algunas de ellas, sobre todo las articuladas y escritas desde el contexto norteamericano, tienen el propósito de orientar a los líderes neoapostólicos incluso latinoamericanos.
Por eso hay quienes ven que este paradigma, al igual que el neopentecostalismo y muchas ideas tocante a la teología, la misión, la liturgia y el gobierno de la iglesia, es una novedad importada de Norteamérica, por lo menos en su versión original. Hace poco leí que, en una facultad estadounidense de teología, un profesor norteamericano dijo a sus estudiantes: “Si quieren problemas teológicos de respetable altura académica, escuchen o lean a Europa; si quieren ideas novedosas para el gran público, dirijan su antena a los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica, especialmente a la costa occidental”. Aunque la exageración es evidente, es una realidad que pocos negarían.
[9] Deiros cita aquí a Enrique González Pedrero, “La globalización y las soberanías nacionales”, en La globalización y las opciones nacionales: memoria. (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000) 79.
[10] Esto es así ya que la globalización, como nos recuerda A. Samuel 2002:9, incluye un proceso de internacionalización y de interacción rápida y funcional económica, cultural y religiosa, de bienes y servicios, de producción y consumo, por medio de aquello que constituyen sus símbolos: el internet, la expansión industrial neocolonialista de las transnacionales y la política-militar de integración; por ser un proceso ambivalente y aliado con la ideología deconstructivista posmoderna, la globalización promueve también antivalores tales como lo es la espiritualidad subjetivista la misma que va a ser decisiva incluso en las hermenéuticas contemporáneas, incluyendo la neoapostólica.
En lo que sigue, subrayé, sin embargo, otro de esos antivalores no porque considere que la globalización promueva sólo valores de esa clase o porque defienda ingenuamente —sabiendo que es un fenómeno irreversible— una postura antiglobalización y así quiera caricaturizar a ella y a los sectores posdenominacionales que reflejen ese valor; lo haré porque considero oportuno y urgente hoy desmitificar, de algún modo, en el contexto secular y cristiano, discursos y “verdades” producidos y sustentados por un poder autoritario, opresivo o neocolonialista que atenta contra no sólo la democracia— la que al parecer había triunfado con el derrumbe de los regímenes totalitarios, a finales del siglo xx—, sino también la solidaridad, la libertad y dignidad de la persona y el modelo pastoral bíblico.
[11] Aquí habría que incluirse, además, algunos sectores tradicionales que exhiben ciertas tendencias propias del posdenominacionalismo, o que poseen grupos de poder, control o cacicazgo.
[12] Diferencia que, de acuerdo con Lot, respeta al otro y su diferencia, algo que no hace y percibe la globalización sin rostro humano como la actual. Lot denuncia que, por causa de ella, “el jean y la camiseta han reemplazado, al menos en las grandes metrópolis africanas, al taparrabo, la coca cola reina en las mesas de todos los ‘maquis’ (cantinas) marfileñas” (p. 107). Más adelante (p. 108) arguye que este atropello contra la diferencia cultural se lleva a cabo también por medio de las series televisivas occidentales (como la brasileña que él mismo señala: “La Torre de Babel”) que cuestionan la moral tradicional.
“El poder y la seducción de la imagen”, agrega Lot, “ halla frente a sí la simple autoridad de los padres y de la tradición. Desde este momento, el pensamiento, el discurso no se imponen tanto por la luz que tienen sino por el poder que ejercen la técnica y el arte sobre la efectividad y la imaginación”.
[13] Esta amenaza se puede constatar en la desigualdad cada vez más profunda entre los actores más beneficiados del proceso de globalización (los individuos, organismos y naciones desarrolladas que poseen el poder económico y que, por lo tanto, pueden generar grandes monopolios empresariales y dictaminar las políticas económicas y de otra índole) y los menos beneficiados del mismo (los individuos y naciones pobres, que al no poseer el poder económico, político o militar, son explotados, sometidos u obligados a integrarse al sistema para no quedarse al margen).
En este sentido, el proceso de globalización es excluyente, generado y regulado sólo por quienes detentan esa clase de poder. De ahí que la amenaza actual tanto para el equilibrio anterior como para la democracia, la sobrevivencia de los más pobres y aún para el ecosistema sea el capitalismo neoliberal salvaje y sus aliados: los organismos internacionales como el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) o tratados como el de Libre Comercio (TLC). No sería de extrañar, como muchos vislumbran, un estallido social revolucionario mundial en búsqueda de un sistema económico alternativo.
[14] Una de estas verdades legitimadoras (reglas con base a las cuales se distingue lo verdadero de lo falso y se liga a lo primero los efectos políticos de poder) es el mito de que la integración de las economías locales al sistema capitalista mundial abrirá las puertas al progreso o a la edad de oro incluso de los países “en vías de desarrollo” y de los consumidores; una deconstrucción de este mito occidental, que viene desde los centros de poder como Estados Unidos, es la de Hughes 2003:126-152. Razón tiene, entonces, Foucault (1978; 1993 cp Reyes 2006b) cuando propone que cada sociedad tiene su régimen o política general de verdad: tipos de discursos (como los televisivos) que acepta y hace operar como verdad, y que a partir de Edipo (obra a la cual le da una interpretación contraria al de la Grecia clásica y la sicoanalítica freudiana), lejos de escindirse, (como falsamente se ha creído y cree en Occidente), la verdad y el poder (que está en todas partes) se alían, conjugan y relacionan dialécticamente, produciendo represión, discursos y aún formas de saber. Es que especialmente esta clase de poder (que yo llamo “perverso” y del cual he venido hablando) necesita siempre de verdades que lo sostengan y legitimen.
[15] Ver, por ejemplo, la de Núñez (2001:77-98;2002:57-89) y Guerrero-Bonilla (2005), aunque esta última adolece no sólo de deficiencias y desinformación en casi todos los niveles, incluso en el hermenéutico-exegético, ortográfico y redaccional, sino también de generalizaciones. Hay que tomar en cuenta que, aunque en sus perspectivas tiende no sólo a la generalización, sino también a la idealización, Deiros (1997:106 cp. 2006a:68-69), por ejemplo, arguye que, “las estructuras organizativas” en este nuevo paradigma están, entre otras cosas, “menos orientadas hacia la obtención y conservación del poder”. Con todo, en la página 105 de esta misma obra él parece afirmar lo contrario.
[16] Esta mutación se la debe ver, al igual que el subjetivismo, a la luz de las tendencias sociales y culturales de la posmodernidad, específicamente desde la explosión de lo religioso, la misma que está conduciendo a un pluralismo y multiformismo en cuanto a la concepción de Dios; cp. Hong 2001:9-21, 92-94.
[17] El primer paradigma, según esta manera de pensar, fue el Apostólico, es decir, el primer modelo de iglesia que abarcó los tres primeros siglos de la era cristiana y se distinguió por su particular comprensión de la misión. El segundo es el de la cristiandad que corrió a partir de la controvertida conversión del emperador Constantino— a comienzos del siglo iv—, y se distinguió por una iglesia que comenzó a funcionar como parte y parcela del aparato del estado por lo cual ella, el mundo y el Imperio pasaron a ser una sola cosa; de esa cuenta, por ejemplo, la misión fue concentrada en un clero que habría de constituirse en el símbolo de lo sagrado, los mediadores y dispensadores del ministerio de la Palabra a un pueblo espiritualmente ignorante. Este paradigma habría de estar vigente hasta finales del siglo xx; Deiros 2006a:12-15; 1997:103, 167-192; para más detalles históricos tocante a este último paradigma, ver Bosch 2000, el capítulo cinco.
[18] Núñez (2002:60) señala que, en Apostles, Prophets, and the Coming Moves of God (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, USA: Christian International, 1999: 53), Bill Hamon, unos de los líderes del neoapostolicismo estadounidense, arguye que el movimiento de restauración ha cubierto cinco décadas del siglo anterior: la década de los cincuenta fue la década de restauración del ministerio del evangelista; la de los sesenta la del ministerio del pastor; la de los setenta la del ministerio del maestro; la de los ochenta la del profeta; y la de los noventa fue la década de la restauración (plena, según otros) del ministerio de apóstol.
[19] Hay quienes son más precisos en esta argumentación y afirman que tal eliminación o cambio, que se llevó a cabo después de la muerte de los primeros apóstoles, fue por causa de la incredulidad y la tradición de la iglesia; cp. Núñez (2002:59), citando a John Eckhart, Moviéndose en lo apostólico: El plan de Dios para conducir a su iglesia a la victoria final (s..t. y l. ni c. e., 1999) 29-32. Así, pues, se sobreentiende, que la causa de esta cesación no fue otra cosa sino la apostasía y el papel del clero el cual, a lo largo del paradigma de la cristiandad, monopolizó y profesionalizó el ministerio pastoral; ver la nota 17 anterior.
[20] Efesios 4 suele usarse para subrayar también, entre otras cosas, un modelo pastoral corporativo y capacitador el cual, como se verá más adelante, se arguye es practicado en las iglesias neoapostólicas.
[21] Nótese aquí la preeminencia funcional dada sutilmente a los apóstoles en comparación incluso con los profetas, a pesar de que el ministerio de éstos antecede al del apóstol en la historia bíblica. ¿Será que esta preeminencia funcional obedece al hecho de que los apóstoles aparecen primero en la lista de Efesios 4:11, o porque están, según se arguye, dotados, además del privilegio de recibir revelación de parte de Dios (ya que son también profetas), de autoridad? No se puede dar una respuesta tajante, mucho más cuando, contrariamente a otros líderes que parecen otorgarles a los apóstoles una autoridad ilimitada y piramidal, Deiros, como ya dije (nota 14), opina que tal autoridad es fijada por el Señor y, por lo tanto, limitada.
[22] Entre estos productos están las misiones modernas, la escuela dominical y la educación teológica residencial y denominacional. Este ocaso se puede apreciar en el hecho de que, según esta manera de pensar, las viejas iglesias y denominaciones han venido decreciendo numéricamente y en su impacto en el contexto actual posmoderno; ver una descripción más detallada al respecto, en Reyes 2005:6-9.
[23] Según algunos defensores de este paradigma, estas redes estarían por reemplazar las estructuras denominacionales modernas y caducas; para más detalles tocante a este otro aspecto de la revolución eclesiológica y tocante a esta homogenización, ver Deiros1997:100-108; 112-116 cp. Reyes 2005:6-9. Ahora bien, según la opinión de algunos de los líderes neoapostólicos, este modo de llevar a cabo la misión y pastoral explica que el nuevo enfoque misionero de la iglesia actual (entiéndase neoapostólica) sea uno en el cual se da la integración, la relación y la participación mutua en una misión inconclusa que reconoce la prioridad del contexto sobre la estructura y las necesidades de sanidad, liberación (espiritual), prosperidad o de acompañamiento que afligen a las personas; de modo que esta iglesia no está preocupada tanto por su doctrina, sino por su unidad, praxis y testimonio, todo ello en conjunción con un énfasis en manifestaciones sobrenaturales que incluye la presencia y movimiento tangible tanto de Dios y de su Espíritu como de Satanás.
Es así como en este sector las iglesias están no sólo dejando de ser comunidades introvertidas y egocéntricas, sino también experimentando, además de un cambio de cosmovisión, antropología y epistemología, una renovación espiritual en todos los niveles y atestiguando un avivamiento incluso satánico generalizado. No es de extrañar, como opinan algunos de sus líderes, que la teología y pastoral de este restauracionismo esté remplazando a la teología y pastoral tradicional, que suelen presentar a Dios como un ser impersonal y distante.
Tampoco es de extrañar que en este restauracionismo se haga énfasis en nuevas revelaciones y en una guerra espiritual que, como bien señala Hong (2001:42), llega a convertirse en un eje, punto de partida para la sanidad, liberación y prosperidad, y en otra clave hermenéutica para la lectura de la Biblia; ver más detalles de esta revolución, en Deiros 1997:94-112; Reyes 2005:6-9; ver una crítica penetrante e interesante de la misma desde el ángulo filosófico-teológico, en Roldán 2006.
[24] Legítimamente, otras de las claves, con base a las cuales el neoapostolicismo contemporáneo lee también el contexto sociohistórico, son la intuición ―considerada por Ricoeur como “lectura ingenua” y la primera fase del proceso de comprensión; las otras dos restantes son la exégesis metódica y, por último, el saber comprehensivo; ya que es un proceso evidente de desarrollo, este hermeneuta, para explicarlo, usa la imagen del arco y no la del círculo hermenéutico― y la escatología o, más concretamente, las “señales” del esperado “todavía no” del reino. En ellas, sin embargo, estaría de por medio la clave de la experiencia personal, incluso la de otros, lo que hace que esta tendencia hermenéutica sea subjetivista.
[25] Considero que ésto es así, ya que en toda lectura hay implícito un marco hermenéutico metodológico y, de fondo, uno teórico filosófico que determinan incluso cuál marco metodológico se debe usar.
[26] Aquí, distinguiéndola de la exégesis (hermenéutica aplicada o utens) y de cualquier otro sentido contemporáneo, la hermenéutica bíblica significa tanto el conjunto teórico de principios (hermenéutica pura o docens) para desentrañar en primer lugar, aunque no exclusivamente (hay textos que van más allá de la palabra y del enunciado), la verdad del texto sagrado comunicada en las palabras de su autor como el método usado (parte integral de la hermenéutica aplicada o utens) con ese propósito.
Aunque el marco filosófico no lo agota, es parte de ese conjunto. De ahí que entienda la hermenéutica bíblica como ciencia, pero también como arte y técnica de la interpretación de la verdad del texto y de las condiciones y de los niveles en que se puede acceder a ella. De modo que la hermenéutica no ofrece simplemente principios o “trucos” que hay que aplicar mecánicamente, olvidando que existen de por medio serios problemas hermenéuticos, con los cuales se viene luchando desde la antigüedad griega a propósito de la interpretación de los mitos y tradiciones culturales como la homérica; cp. Marlé 1973:15-22.
De ahí que, también al tratarse con textos polisémicos, se haga necesario que la hermenéutica sea una tarea analógica, es decir, una en la que confluyen los tres elementos esenciales de la comunicación literaria: autor, texto y lector, y mantiene como resultado un equilibrio entre el objetivismo univocista positivista moderno y el subjetivismo equivocista relativista y anarquista posmoderno—propio de las tendencias hermenéuticas contemporáneas; de este modo, ella no se dispersa ni en lo uno ni en lo otro, preservando la verdad del texto, es decir, la verdad del autor fusionada con la verdad —significado—del lector); ver Reyes 2006a. Este equilibrio más puntual es, entre otras cosas, lo que diferencia mi propuesta de aquella de Beuchot (2005) que concede más al subjetivismo equivocista.
[27] Ciertamente, la tarea hermenéutica es complicada no sólo por el problema que de aquí en adelante recalcaré, sino también porque hay otros involucrados en ella como los siguientes: la palabra escrita pareciera asumir a veces vida propia, las palabras pueden poseer una mayor carga de sentido que la intentada por su autor y la tendencia suele ser prestar mayor atención a lo que sus palabras comunican al lector. Pero tampoco esto debiera impedir que el desentrañar y preservar el sentido literal, no psicológico, intentado y expresado por el autor original en sus palabras, use o no lenguaje figurado, sea el cometido legítimo de la hermenéutica analógica. De hecho, este es uno de los grandes aportes de esta hermenéutica; ver la nota 26 anterior.
[28] Ver los manuales tradicionales de hermenéutica y trabajos como los de Piccardo 2006, Stam 2006 y Guerrero-Bonilla 2005. Estos manuales y trabajos dan la impresión de que la tarea hermenéutico-exegética es, además de objetivista, pura y simplista, solamente filológica o, peor aún, etimológica, con lo cual se cae en la falacia de considerar que el sentido de un término es determinado por su raíz. Basta leer una crítica literaria “secular” para comprobar tal cosa también en este campo cultural.
[29] Gadamer, quien así se constituye, después de Schleiermacher, W. Dilthey y M. Heidegger y otros, en uno de los precursores más influyentes de la epistemología posmoderna, arguye que este condicionamiento histórico ―que para él es un elemento positivo y generador de significado― es también del texto.
Ya que ambos están condicionados (no poseen horizontes “objetivos” e “inmutables”) comprender es el acto por medio del cual el horizonte del texto se funde con el del lector en el momento en que ellos (los horizontes) dialogan mutua y enriquecedoramente; de esa cuenta, ya que comprender no es incorporar violentamente un horizonte dentro del otro, la hermenéutica no es una ciencia que exija método alguno para descubrir el asunto (Gadamer) o mundo (Ricoeur) del texto ni es una ciencia de dominación como cuando se interroga a éste para ver si tiene una respuesta a la pregunta que a mí me interesa responder; ver, en Croatto (1984:19-26), otros problemas que desembocan, entre otras cosas, en lo que se conoce como “autonomía” del texto, es decir, independencia del “lastre” de la intención de su autor/ redactor, de sus circunstancias históricas y de sus lectores originales, todo lo cual, según se afirma, otorga al texto una cualidad supratemporal y una riqueza semántica; cp. la nota 27 anterior; ver una crítica al respecto, en Reyes (2001:41-75).
[30] Por ser todo acto de lectura subjetivista se es incapaz de discernir la verdad total del texto, aunque esta incapacidad se debe también a otra cosa que complica aún más la tarea hermenéutica: el texto sagrado posee también un autor divino y, por lo tanto, una verdad supraliteral, es decir, una que supera al sentido intentado por el autor humano. Por eso y otras razones soy de la opinión que por medio de la narración bíblica del pasado Dios habla al presente y quiere que, pese a lo complicado de esta tarea, el lector halle en ella un sentido que supera las circunstancias locales en que fue escrita originalmente.
Opinar que El habla solamente a través de la historia es negar incluso este hecho y, por implicación, no sólo la profecía predictiva bíblica, sino también la capacidad que tiene el texto de hablar hoy y, como ya dije (nota 26), lo legítimo que es escudriñar su sentido; contra Croatto y otros quienes opinan que la meta interpretativa es producir sentido, no reproducir o repetir algún original, lo que justifica su afirmación de una revelación normativa abierta aún.
[31] Así, pues, aunque la hermenéutica neoapostólica no hace un rodeo consciente por las presuposiciones posmodernas del lenguaje, su tendencia eisegética la alinea con las hermenéuticas “específicas”, semiotistas y con otras posmodernas radicalmente antrópicas (por ejemplo, la denominada “Reacción del lector”) que, haciendo del lector el referente único y decisivo en la tarea interpretativa, también se ven, después de despojar al texto de la defensa paternal de su autor, con el derecho de “recrear” o “releer” (producir arbitrariamente) su sentido (ver Reyes 2006a: 26-35).
Para quienes hemos optado informadamente por la autoridad suprema del texto, cuatro riesgos más de estas hermenéuticas, incluyendo la neoapostólica, saltan a la vista: (1) hacer del intérprete otro autor del texto, (2) especular, (3) oscurecer la intención del autor, y (4) rechazar la inauguración definitiva del nuevo eón; así, pues, se corre otros riesgos más: enseñar cosas sin fundamento bíblico-teológico alguno, dar lugar a “nuevas” revelaciones doctrinales, que podrían colocarse por encima del consenso de la comunidad de fe o de la misma revelación definitiva en Cristo, y hacer de la inspiración bíblica un acto inconcluso. En sus “relecturas” de los textos, los autores bíblicos extendieron o recrearon el sentido de los mismos, pero esto no otorga al lector de hoy el derecho de hacer algo igual, con base a una particular iluminación; cp. Kirk 1974:47-58.
[32] Es decir, aquellas univocistas positivistas como las puramente histórico-críticas y muchas de las histórico-gramático-literal de ciertos círculos académicos conservadores que, suponiendo ser totalmente desinteresadas, creen haber agotado y fijado el sentido absoluto, puro u objetivo del texto ―incluso de aquellos oscuros o debatidos― que pareciera ya no quedar nada para otras posibles lecturas.
[33] En este ensayo intento una búsqueda de nueva racionalidad que, por ser analógica y dialogal, reconoce que lo objetivo y subjetivo coinciden y se relacionan dialécticamente en la tarea hermenéutica; así evita que esta tarea se alinee al objetivismo moderno o se disperse ingenuamente en el subjetivismo relativista posmoderno. El problema con hermenéuticas como la neoapostólica es que son excesiva y unilateralmente subjetivistas que hasta no parecieran reconocerlo ni ver los riesgos a que se exponen con ello.
[34] En el fondo de todo pareciera que, como subrayo más adelante, la tendencia en estos contextos es enmarcar dogmáticamente al Dios trino dentro de los esquemas teológicos denominacionales racionalistas. Por eso, pocas veces hemos sido entrenados no sólo a explorar otras posibilidades de comprensión del sentido del texto, sino también a interpretar o captar, por medio de la fe, las señales de los tiempos.
Así, es posible que hayamos calificado, en el mejor de los casos, de espejismos subjetivistas quizás hasta los auténticos indicadores de la presencia de Dios en nuevas circunstancias; así también es posible que hayamos mirado el futuro solamente desde el presente (cp. Mt 16:1-4; Lc 12:54-56). Con ello, lo que se ha promovido es un sistema de fe que raya en un escepticismo práctico, y un descuido hacia lo que todavía queda pendiente por explorarse en los círculos evangélicos conservadores: otras posibilidades de comprender el sentido del texto como producto del uso adecuado y crítico de la clave hermenéutica, por ejemplo, de la imaginación.
[35] Por ejemplo, aquellos que operan con base a presupuestos modernos diacrónico-ideológico-racionalistas que no sólo pretenden ser los “eruditos” y legítimos por excelencia (olvidando que existen otros como muchos de los literarios que pueden explicar mejor lo que ellos consideran incongruencias o interpolaciones tardías en ciertos textos; ver Reyes 1999:53-78), sino que también han traído serias consecuencias como aquellas señaladas por Reyes Archila 1997:31-33.
Sin embargo, ha de ser una ruptura crítica inteligente, que no deseche los presupuestos epistemológicos, filosóficos ni metodológicos valederos de estos y de otros modos de lectura como los sincrónico-literarios o semiotistas. Así, como lo dejo entrever más adelante, podría hacer de la hermenéutica una tarea pluralista y multidisciplinaria, y evitar “coquetear” con los presupuestos epistemológicos irracionalistas y antrópicos posmodernos; ver la nota 31 de este ensayo.
[36] Ver, sin embargo, lo argumentado en la nota 30 anterior. ¿Qué dice lo dicho arriba también contra esas tendencias que, sin una hermenéutica sustentable, consciente, entre otras cosas, de la naturaleza descriptiva y representacional del género narrativo, se empeñan en exigir de Dios milagros, señales y maravillas como si El estuviese en la obligación de estar a la orden hasta de nuestros caprichos?
[37] Para ver qué significa un marco de esa clase, consultar Reyes 2006a. Precisamente porque el texto no es solamente una realidad extralingüística o referencia al mundo histórico y porque la hermenéutica es una tarea objetiva y subjetiva ella, además de analógica, debe estar mediada y controlada por un marco metodológico en la cual, como ya dije, tanto el lector como el texto y su autor tengan un lugar prioritario; así habría mayor posibilidad de evitar no sólo quedarse, como lo hace la tendencia hermenéutica neoapostólica, en la fase primera del proceso interpretativo que Ricoeur (quien otorga valía al método, la exégesis y, semejante a Gadamer, a las precomprensiones) denomina, como ya dije (nota 24) “lectura ingenua” (intuitiva, subjetiva, existencial o sicológica, no científica) del texto, sino también falacias objetivistas-univocistas modernas o subjetivistas-equivocistas-relativistas posmodernas, y comprensiones erróneas o arbitrarias; así, además, con su ayuda se vería que, por ejemplo, la eclesiología paulina está lejos de ser jerárquica y hasta qué punto es posible argumentar a favor de una restauración del don de apóstol en los textos que se aluden; ver una crítica a esta restauración, en Núñez 2002:57-89 y Van Engen 2005:xix-xxiv; en Reyes 2004:79-97, ver una lectura literaria y sociológica de Santiago 5 (incluyendo los versículos7-9) que considero hace justicia al texto y su autor que aquella intuitiva-subjetiva de Deiros.
[38] Es que a través de toda la historia de la iglesia y de su tarea hermenéutico-teológica, el Espíritu ha estado activo proveyendo “cobertura” e iluminación. De ahí que el consenso interpretativo sea importante y pieza clave en la validación de nuestras interpretaciones; ver otros criterios en Klein y otros 1993:145-151. Por eso y por desconocer la naturaleza de la investigación académica creativa y del conocimiento humano es equivocada la perspectiva que ve como una forma de dependencia, represión de la creatividad y señal de poca erudición el consultar o apoyarse en los aportes valederos de otros autores. Considero que una consecuencia de esta manera de pensar son esas “obras” como aquella que aludo críticamente en la nota 15 de este ensayo.
[39] Nótese que lo que se da en esta racionalidad analógica (que por naturaleza es dialogal) es un “triálogo” que lleva finalmente a la fusión de esos tres horizontes (del texto, su autor y lector) y hace evidente que el proceso de lectura se da en una triple, no doble dirección como afirman muchos, incluso Gadamer y Ricoeur.
[40] De ahí que prefiera usar la imagen de la “espiral” y no la del célebre “círculo” hermenéutico.
[41] Y, desde luego, con sus autores humanos originales. Esto implica, entre otras cosas, que debe recordar lo ya argumentado: la tarea hermenéutica es no sólo subjetiva, sino también objetiva, por lo cual ella, con la ayuda de la espiral arriba señalada, ha de esforzarse por conseguir algún grado de objetividad a la hora de leer tanto el texto sagrado como la historia contemporánea.

Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World

Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World by Barbara Ehrenreich
Jenni Murray
Sunday 10 January 2010

Every so often a book appears that so chimes with your own thinking, yet flies so spectacularly in the face of fashionable philosophy, that it comes as a profoundly reassuring relief. After reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, I feel as if I can wallow in grief, gloom, disappointment or whatever negative emotion comes naturally without worrying that I’ve become that frightful stereotype, the curmudgeonly, grumpy old woman.
Instead, I can be merely human: someone who doesn’t have to convince herself that every rejection or disaster is a golden opportunity to “move on” in an upbeat manner.

Ehrenreich came to her critique of the multi-billion-dollar positive-thinking industry – a swamp of books, DVDs, life coaches, executive coaches and motivational speakers – in similar misery-making circumstances to those I experienced. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and, like me, found herself increasingly disturbed by the martial parlance and “pink” culture that has come to surround the disease.
My response when confronted with the “positive attitude will help you battle and survive this experience” brigade was to rail against the use of militaristic vocabulary and ask how miserable the optimism of the “survivor” would make the poor woman who was dying from her breast cancer. It seemed to me that an “invasion” of cancer cells was a pure lottery. No one knows the cause.
As Ehrenreich says: “I had no known risk factors, there was no breast cancer in the family, I’d had my babies relatively young and nursed them both. I ate right, drank sparingly, worked out, and, besides, my breasts were so small that I figured a lump or two would improve my figure.” (Mercifully, she hasn’t lost her sense of humour.)
I had long suspected that improved survival rates for women who had breast cancer had absolutely nothing to do with the “power” of positive thinking. For women diagnosed between 2001 and 2006, 82% were expected to survive for five years, compared with only 52% diagnosed 30 years earlier.
The figures can be directly related to improved detection, better surgical techniques, a greater understanding of the different types of breast cancer and the development of targeted treatments. Ehrenreich presents the evidence of numerous studies demonstrating that positive thinking has no effect on survival rates and she provides the sad testimonies of women who have been devastated by what one researcher has called “an additional burden to an already devastated patient”.
Pity, for example, the woman who wrote to the mind/body medical guru Deepak Chopra: “Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise and supplements, the cancer keeps coming back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps re-occurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it does get harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude.”
As Ehrenreich goes on to explain, exhortations to think positively – to see the glass as half-full even when it lies shattered on the floor – are not restricted to the pink-ribbon culture of breast cancer. She roots America’s susceptibility to the philosophy of positive thinking in the country’s Calvinist past and demonstrates how, in its early days, a puritanical “demand for perpetual effort and self-examination to the point of self-loathing” terrified small children and reduced “formerly healthy adults to a condition of morbid withdrawal, usually marked by physical maladies as well as inner terror”.
It was only in the early 19th century that the clouds of Calvinist gloom began to break and a new movement began to grow that would take as fervent a hold as the old one had. It was the joining of two thinkers, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby and Mary Baker Eddy, in the 1860s that brought about the formalisation of a post-Calvinist world-view, known as the New Thought Movement. A new type of God was envisaged who was no longer hostile and indifferent, but an all-powerful spirit whom humans had merely to access to take control of the physical world.
Middle-class women found this new style of thinking, which came to be known as the “laws of attraction”, particularly beneficial. They had spent their days shut out from any role other than reclining on a chaise longue, denied any opportunity to strive in the world, but the New Thought approach and its “talking therapy” developed by Quimby opened up exciting new possibilities.
Mary Baker Eddy, a beneficiary of the cure, went on to found Christian Science. Ehrenreich notes that although this new style of positive thinking did apparently help invalidism or neurasthenia, it had no effect whatsoever on diseases such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhus, tuberculosis and cholera – just as, today, it will not cure cancer.
Thus it was that positive thinking, the assumption that one only has to think a thing or desire it to make it happen, began its rapid rise to influence. Today, as Ehrenreich shows, it has a massive impact on business, religion and the world’s economy. She describes visits to motivational speaker conferences where workers who have recently been made redundant and forced to join the short-term contract culture are taught that a “good team player” is by definition “a positive person” who “smiles frequently, does not complain, is not overly critical and gratefully submits to whatever the boss demands”.
These are people who have less and less power to chart their own futures, but who are given, thanks to positive thinking, “a world-view – a belief system, almost a religion – that claimed they were, in fact, infinitely powerful, if only they could master their own minds.”
And none was more susceptible to the lure of this philosophy than those self-styled “masters of the universe”, the Wall Street bankers. Those of us raised to believe that saving up, having a deposit and living within one’s means were the way to proceed and who wondered how on earth the credit crunch and the subprime disasters could have happened need look no further than the culture that argued that positive thinking would enable anyone to realise their desires. (Or as one of Ehrenreich’s chapter headings has it, “God wants you to be rich”.)
Ehrenreich’s work explains where the cult of individualism began and what a devastating impact it has had on the need for collective responsibility. We must, she says, shake off our capacity for self-absorption and take action against the threats that face us, whether climate change, conflict, feeding the hungry, funding scientific inquiry or education that fosters critical thinking. She is anxious to emphasize that she does “not write in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness… and the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking”.
Her book, it seems to me, is a call for the return of common sense and, I’m afraid, in what purports to be a work of criticism, I can find only positive things to say about it. Damn!

Megachurches, Megabusinesses

Megachurches, Megabusinesses

Luisa Kroll, Forbes Staff
9/17/2003

Maybe churches aren’t so different from corporations. World Changers Ministries, for instance, operates a music studio, publishing house, computer graphic design suite and owns its own record label. The Potter’s House also has a record label as well as a daily talk show, a prison satellite network that broadcasts in 260 prisons and a twice-a-week Webcast. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has a chief operating officer and a special effects 3-D Web site that offers videos-on-demand.

It publishes a magazine and holds Cashflow 101 Game Nights. And Lakewood Church, which recently leased the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, has a four-record deal and spends $12 million annually on television airtime.
Welcome to the megabusiness of megachurches, where pastors often act as chief executives and use business tactics to grow their congregations. This entrepreneurial approach has contributed to the explosive growth of megachurches–defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 members–in the U.S.

Indeed, Lakewood, New Birth, The Potter’s House and World Changers, four of the biggest, have all experienced membership gains of late. Of course, growth for them has a higher purpose: to spread their faith to as many people as they can. “In our society growth equals success,” says Scott Thumma. Scott Thumma , faculty associate at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. “And religious growth not only equals success but also God’s blessing on the ministry.”

In 1970, there were just ten such churches, according to John Vaughn John Vaughn , founder of Church Growth Today, which tracks megachurches. In 1990, 250 fit that description. Today, there are 740. The most common trait that these churches share is their size; average number of worshippers is 3,646, up 4% from last year, according to Vaughn.

But they also demonstrate business savvy, with many holding conferences (47%) and using radio (44%) and television (38%), according to a 1999 survey conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. The average net income of megachurches was estimated at $4.8 million by that same survey.

Churches are exempt from income taxes. But in some cases they do pay an unrelated business income tax on activities not substantially related to the church’s religious, educational or charitable purposes. (Churches do pay payroll, sales and, often, property taxes.)

*Catholic churches are not tracked for this study. This is all 2003 attendance data and represents total weekend attendance for each congregation. Source: Dr. John N. Vaughan, Church Growth Today

Church Attendance* City, State Pastor
Lakewood Church 25,060 Houston, Tex. Joel Osteen
World Changers 23,093 College Park, Ga. Rev. Creflo Dollar
Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa 20,000 Santa Ana, Calif. Pastor Chuck Smith
The Potter’s House 18,500 Dallas, Tex. Bishop T.D. Jakes
Second Baptist Church 18,000 Houston, Tex. Dr. H. Edwin Young
Southeast Christian Church 17,863 Louisville, Ky. Bob Russell
First Assembly of God 17,532 Phoenix, Ariz. Dr. Tommy J. Barnett
Willow Creek Community Church 17,115 S. Barrington, Ill. Bill Hybels
Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale 17,000 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Pastor Bob Coy
Saddleback Valley Community Church 15,030 Lake Forest, Calif. Dr. Rick Warren
Technology also plays a large role in helping these giant churches communicate with members and keep track of them. Many provide a transcript of the weekly sermons and an events calendar on the Web site as well as sell products, such as books and CDs. They also allow members to post prayers and donate online. Almost all (99%) have Web sites. “Cell phones, e-mail, complex phone systems and the Internet all enhance the way megachurches work,” says Thumma, faculty associate at the Hartford Institute.
Helping churches grow is a business in itself. There is even a publicly traded company, Kingdom Ventures , whose sole mission is to help faith-based organizations get bigger. In its latest 10Q, the company did disclose that it’s received a subpoena from the Securities And Exchange Commission relating to its stock and transactions.
Founded in 1999, the tiny company operates 12 subsidiaries and claims to work with 10,000 churches on everything from fundraising to event planning (it provides speakers and artists for events) to upgrading technology by helping sell new audio and visual equipment and sound systems. “One of the reasons megachurches are as big as they are is because they use the technology of today,” says Kingdom Chief Executive Gene Jackson Gene Jackson , “We can help smaller churches become big with technology.”
If that doesn’t help, they may steer folks to a new book they are about to publish: PastorPreneur, which is hitting Christian book stores this month. The book teaches pastors to think like entrepreneurs; for instance, encouraging them to set up strategic partnerships with nonchurch groups and to use event marketing to draw in new members.
For a lesson in marketing, religious leaders would do well to study the success of Bill Hybels. Bill Hybels and his Great Barrington, Ill.-based Willow Creek Community Church. In 1975, he and members of his student ministry went door to door asking residents what kept them away from church. Hybels then crafted his services to address their concerns, becoming one of the first pastors to use video, drama and contemporary music in church and encouraging a more casual dress code.
“Hybels really showed that churches can use marketing principles and still be authentic,” says Michael Emerson , a Rice University sociology professor who has studied megachurches. Willow Creek, which has a staff of 500 full and part-time employees, is renowned for its conferences and seminars that teach other churches how to market themselves as well as for its “buzz” events, featuring well-known personalities such as country singer Randy Travis. Randy Travis , NASCAR Champion owner and former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Joe Gibbs and Lisa Beamer. Lisa Beamer , widow of Sept. 11, 2001, hero Todd Beamer. Todd Beamer –all intended to attract nonchurch goers.
Media has helped spread the message, particularly for Lakewood Church, the largest megachurch in the U.S. In 1981, Joel Osteen Joel Osteen , son of then-pastor Joe Osteen Joe Osteen , quit college to set up his father’s television ministry. The services eventually aired in 140 countries. He also advertised Lakewood on local television and on billboards throughout Houston where the church is located. After his father passed away in 1999, Osteen became pastor and expanded the church’s media strategy.
Like most churches, Lakewood’s broadcasts had been relegated to the very early Sunday morning shows. Lakewood instead decided to target the top 25 markets in the nation and negotiate for timeslots on the four top networks between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M., rather than working with just one network. It also agreed to increase its budget for airtime to $12 million from $6 million. Its program now can be seen in 92% of the nation’s households.
Never satisfied, the church analyzes its media strategy each quarter.
As for the services themselves, Lakewood makes sure to put on a grand show. It has a 12-piece stage band, a lighting designer to set the mood and three large projection screens. The technology will be even more spectacular when it moves into its new home in the former Houston Rockets’ stadium “We really want it to feel like a concert,” says Duncan Dodds. Duncan Dodds , Lakewood’s executive director. Something is working: Church attendance has grown from 6,000 in 1999 when Osteen became pastor to 25,060 today.
Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message. His Pastors.com, which reaches 100,000 pastors worldwide each week, has e-mail forums, archives of all of his sermons from the past 22 years and a place to post prayer requests. He also sends a free weekly newsletter, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, to pastors.
When it came time to launch his book, The Purpose Driven Life, last year, Warren used Pastors.com to invite churches to participate in a “40 Days of Purpose” event (to correspond with the book’s 40 chapters). The 40-day-long event attracted 1,562 churches and was kicked off with a simulcast broadcast to all those churches. Some 267 radio stations ran a “40 days campaign” during the same time period. And a CD of “Songs for a Purpose Driven Life” featuring well-known Christian artists was also released.
From the start, the books and CDs were distributed in mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart , Costco Wholesale , Barnes & Noble and Borders Group . It quickly became a New York Times bestseller and has already sold 5.8 million copies, outselling Billy Graham, and making it one of the most successful book promotions in Christian publishing history.
No doubt, churches have learned some valuable lessons from corporations. Now maybe they can teach businesses a thing or two. Companies would certainly appreciate having the armies of nonpaid, loyal volunteers. “The business world would love to have that kind of fellowship,” says Vaughn.

The Truth about the Word of Faith

Ex-Word of Faith Preacher tells “THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORD OF FAITH”
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORD OF FAITH
exwordoffaith.blogspot.com
Damon Whitsell | February 24, 2009
I used to wonder why Shepherding reappeared in the Charismatic churches considering that the founders pretty much shut it down around 1990, and publicly repented. It didn’t make sense why it not only lingered, but began thriving again. I have lately found out why it reappeared. It snuck in through the teachings of the Word of Faith, one of the most influential movements since the Azusa Street Revival of 1906. The Word of Faith may be influential, but it is also an apostasy, and carries Shepherding clinging to it like a leech.
I was a follower of the Word of Faith doctrine from 1990 until 2005. Even when I began to break with the Word of Faith over the extremes of the Prosperity Gospel, I still maintained connections with them. I was a licensed minister through a Word of Faith church from 2004 through 2007, and my wife worked for Kenneth Copeland Ministries from 2003 until late 2007.
During that time, I noticed more and more spiritual abuse, things that reminded me of Shepherding. I began to wonder, “Is the Word of Faith in general, and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in particular, Shepherdist, or merely spiritually abusive, or am I nuts?”
Early this year (2008), I found out that I am not nuts!
In his book A Different Gospel, D.R. McConnell points out the origins of the Word of Faith. This is not a rant by a Fundamentalist preacher. This book began as McConnell’s master’s thesis when he was a student at Oral Roberts University. He is a Charismatic pastor, so this is an insider’s look at something he finds disturbing.
McConnell says that today’s Word of Faith preachers (Kenneth Copeland, John Avanzini, Creflo Dollar, etc.) base their doctrine on the works and teachings of Kenneth Hagin. We knew that. McConnell then says that Hagin based (some say plagiarized) his doctrines on the works of E.W. Kenyon. We knew that, too.
But then McConnell drops a 2,000 megaton bombshell, ripping through my views of the Word of Faith like a lawnmower through Bermuda grass. He states that Kenyon based his teachings and beliefs on what he was taught in college, at the hands of teachers who were Gnostic and Christian Scientist.
Whoa! That makes the whole doctrine pretty much suspect from the beginning!
Kenyon attended the Emerson School of Oratory in 1892. There, he was under the influence of Charles Emerson, a Christian Scientist; R.W. Trine, a Gnostic who wrote one of the major books on New Thought; and M.J. Savage, a Unitarian whose church Kenyon attended.
Let’s look at those beliefs and see how the Word of Faith dovetails into them.
Gnosticism is a complex system of beliefs hammered together from earlier ones. It has existed as far back as before the time of Christ and was a real problem to the Church as early as the time of John and Peter. To summarize Gnosticism, it believes that salvation is through knowledge of mysteries (gained through intuition), that all matter is evil and that only spirit is good (a belief called Dualism), that Jesus could not have been purely good because He was in a human body, that Jesus was a mere man, that God created lesser gods, and that only Gnostics, “people who knew,” were guaranteed salvation.
They also believe that God could only be reached through gnosis, through the divine revelation of mysterious knowledge. Gnostics also believe that God is a hermaphrodite; half male, half female. Gnostics believed in a divine formula, that once understood, would destroy the power of evil.
Gnosticism’s more modern offshoot, New Thought, states that Spirit is the ultimate reality, the true human self is divine, divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good, most disease is mental in origin, and that right thinking has a healing effect. While that may sound Biblical, it is actually a form of early Humanism, and was founded on pantheism, occultism, spiritualism, and the basics of Gnosticism.
Christian Science is founded on the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy. This system believes a lot of things that are Biblical, but some of the things that they believe that aren’t include “mind over matter,” the idea that all things are spiritual and the material world is an illusion, and the denial of physical ailments. Please note that Christian Science is not Scientology.
Hmmm … I see parallels already. Let’s review some of them.
The Word of Faith believes:
— Divine Revelation: well, I believe in it, too, but all divine revelation has to mesh perfectly with the Bible. Word of Faith preachers teach that they are the dispensers of this revelation, and imply that only they are capable of giving it. They will rely more on what “God told them” than on what was written in the Bible, despite their insistence that we, the congregation, must find three scripture verses to support what we want to do. This is not unlike the Gnostic belief in mysterious knowledge.
— They put God in a box: Word of Faith preachers deny God’s sovereignty and actually mock the concept. They make God a slave to “spiritual laws” that even He can’t break. They teach that we can twist God’s arm to get what we want, enabling us to write our own ticket with Him (Kenneth Hagin’s term), or turn God into a vending machine (Richard Roberts’ term). The concept of spiritual laws and the idea that God is at our beck and call is definitely Gnostic.
— Jesus died spiritually: while the idea that Jesus went to Hell is as old as the Church, the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds do NOT say that Jesus died spiritually and had to be born again. If Jesus did die spiritually, then Jesus was a mere man, and not God incarnate. Again, this is a Gnostic belief — that Jesus was a mere man.
— Spiritual laws: Word of Faith is founded on the concept that there are spiritual laws in the Bible, that even God is bound to obey. These spiritual laws include things like reciprocity, sowing and reaping, the law of sin and death, the law of the tongue, etc. Once these laws are understood and worked with, then Satan has no more power over the Christian. That may be true, and I’m not saying that it is, but it sounds an awful lot like the Gnostic belief in divine formulas.
— God is as much female as He is male: I don’t know where they get this from Biblically, but more than one Word of Faith has said this. They also teach that Adam was both male and female at the same time, and God removed Adam’s female half, not just a rib. If this were true, then the pronoun for God in the Bible would be either “it” or “s/he,” not “he.” A hermaphroditic view of God is pure Gnosticism.
— Man is equal with Jesus and God: the idea that we are made in God’s image is Biblical, but the Word of Faith teaching that we are little gods, or that we are made in God’s class is not. Being equal with God is Gnostic at best, Lucifer’s rant at worst.
— Our words can change time, space and matter: this is known as “Name It and Claim It.” Sure, our words can change attitudes and maybe our bodies, but not to the extent that we are the “prophets of our own lives.” This is Christian Scientist “mind over matter,” retooled for modern times.
— Emphasis on Dominion over the Earth instead of forgiveness of sins and the need to love others: Most Word of Faith theology is rooted in having dominion over the Earth, and that Adam was the god of this planet. Do I have to go into that? Gnostics believed that they were gods.
— The reality of sickness and sin is denied: The Word of Faith says that they do not deny sickness and sin, but deny sickness and sin’s place in their bodies. It’s the same thing. Christian Science denies sickness, often to the point of dying instead of taking medicine. Word of Faith preachers do the same thing, often mocking doctors and medicine, despite having them on their daily television shows.
— Prayer is replaced by confession: Prayer connects us with God. Confession connects us with us. In other words, confession, whether it is what we desire or a Bible verse, is a Gnostic practice of mumbling chants and spells, replacing God with our own minds, because we have the knowledge it takes to save ourselves.
— God can only be pleased by faith: This is based on a verse in Hebrews. The implication is that if we are not standing on three scriptures from the Bible, believing we receive, and holding God to the spiritual laws, then God is not pleased with us. This is very similar to the Gnostic concept that the only way to God is through gnosis (in this case, the only way to God is through the strict definition of faith that the preacher uses). This totally rules out the concept that the way to God is through Jesus Christ.
— Dualism: The Word of Faith stresses that everything is spiritual, and that the physical is not important. They mock education and creatitivy and the five human senses. They hate sex (Kenneth Copeland said that we were supposed to speak our children into existence, Gloria Copeland said that sex was a product of the fall of Adam, and Benny Hinn said that women were originally supposed to give birth from their armpits). Despite their obsession with healing, they hate the human body, calling it an “earth suit.” Dualism is a Gnostic belief. Sure, you find the same teaching in the works of St. Augustine, but remember, he was a Gnostic before becoming a Christian.
I should have seen all this from the beginning, but I didn’t. I fell for the teaching that I could get rich quick and that I didn’t have to be sick a day in my life. There is a sucker born every minute! The reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of other Christians, is that there is a lot of Biblical truth in it. Much of what Word of Faith preachers teach is sound. But what they teach that is sound is nothing more than the truths found in the Pentecostal movement of 1906 and the Charismatic Renewal of 1967. It’s the rest that’s poisoned; the part that originated with Kenyon, was modified by Hagin and has been perpetuated by Copeland.
Another reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of others, is that the preachers are genuinely sincere Christians who love Jesus! Kenyon, Hagin, Copeland, Dollar and others have helped millions of people know Christ better. They really believe that what they preach is totally Biblical. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Kenyon fought against the metaphysical religions of Christian Science and New Thought, denying their more obvious unbiblical teachings. Yet, he ended up embracing enough of these unbiblical teachings to turn the Word of Faith from what should have been a new branch of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement into a genuine cult.
I know, I know … there are Word of Faith apologetics that refute every one of these observations. The thing for me is this — I was an insider and saw this firsthand. I saw the abuses, and the apostasies, and people running around chanting their mantras, and I had enough. McConnell’s claims make sense to me. They explain what I saw. You have to decide for yourself.
This does not make the Word of Faith a heresy. Heresy is a rebellion against the doctrines of an established church. The Word of Faith is its own denomination, so it has nothing to rebel against. It is instead, an apostasy! An apostasy is nothing less than a rebellion against God Himself.
It gets worse. There is a direct link between the Word of Faith and Shepherding.
Tricia Tillin, in her online testimony, shows this direct link. She lives in Great Britain, and was involved with KCM and the Word of Faith during the latter part of the 20th Century. In her blog, she writes that in 1985, she visited the UK headquarters for KCM and had a conversation with the worker there. During this conversation, Mrs. Tillin brought up how she was relieved that Kenneth Copeland was so opposed to Shepherding. Mrs. Tillin expected the worker to agree with her.
Instead, Mrs. Tillin writes “She was evasive, would not condemn Shepherding doctrines, and then said that there had been a change of heart and the Copeland ministry would now be working more closely with the Shepherding leadership, and we should be praying for unity between them. This was devastating! Formerly they agreed Shepherding was in error, but now they’d changed their minds, and were going to work alongside each other!”
Then there is Stephen Parson’s book Ungodly Fear. Parson writes that in 1985 (the same year that Mrs. Tillin visited the KCM headquarters in Great Britain), at a convention of the Network of Christian Ministries, Kenneth Copeland said the Word of Faith and the Shepherding doctrines ought to be merged.
So, two different sources identify that the Word of Faith and Shepherding married each other. This does, at least to me, explains what I saw during my tenure with KCM and the Word of Faith. If the Word of Faith was so far from the truth to begin with, then it’s easy to understand how it could so easily embrace another apostasy like Shepherding.
And it also explains how Shepherding has made so many inroads into the Charismatic churches and ministries. Kenneth Copeland is a highly respected and influential teacher among many Charismatics. They are simply doing what they see his ministry and church do.
http://exwordoffaith.blogspot.com/2008/02/truth-about-word-of-faith.html

Predicas de Vladimir Rivas

Predicas de Vladimir Rivas
USA LO QUE TIENES PARA SER BENDECIDO”
Reflexión: “Usa Lo Que Tienes Para Ser Bendecido”
Escrita por: Dr. Vladimir Rivas
Cita Bíblica: Jueces 6:12
“…Ve con esta tu fuerza y salvarás a Israel de la mano de los madianitas…”
Dios no te va dar más cuando sabe que tienes fuerza para reclamar y juzgar.

Otro caso. Un día Jesús dijo a sus discípulos que dieran de comer a la multitud que estaba con Él. Ellos empezaron a ver lo que no poseían, le respondieron que no tenían dinero y le preguntaron si conseguían 200 denarios para darles de comer. Entonces, el Señor les preguntó que tenían. Uno de ellos dijo que un niño tenía cinco panes y dos peces. Entonces Jesús les envió llevárselos para bendecidlos y éstos se multiplicaron. Alcanzó para darle de comer a toda la gente y también sobro. (Marcos 6:34-44) Los discípulos de Jesús no estaban enfocados en lo que debían hacer. Su mente estaba en otro lado. Y el Señor los desafió preguntándoles que tenían. ¿Por qué no miras lo que tienes y empiezas a bendecidlo para que produzcas algo más? El secreto no está en hacer cosas grandes, esta convertir algo pequeño en grande. Pídele al Señor que te ayude en convertir lo pequeño que posees en algo grande.
En Marcos 8:17 dice: ¿Qué discutís, porque no tenéis pan? El Señor se les acercó y les dijo: ¿Acaso no se recuerdan cuando solo tenía 5 panes y 2 peces, no nos sobro después de haber lo multiplicado? No entienden que con algo pequeño se puede lograr algo grande un día. Duros de corazón no lo hacen porque no lo creen. Con algo pequeño se puede hacer algo muy grande.
“…La diferencia es que hay gente sentada esperando que Dios haga algo, y otros están haciendo algo para Dios…”
Moisés tenía un palo, pero se aferró a ese palo y lo convirtió en una vara milagrosa. David una honda, un instrumento artesanal para conseguir frutas. Es sus manos se convirtió en una arma mortal. Noé, no era ingeniero, no poseía una maestría en navegación, no era un constructor y construyo el barco más grande e indestructible de la humanidad. El titanic es recordado por su fracaso, el arca es sinónimo de vida 4,500 años después, y no lo hicieron profesionales. Eliseo poseía un trapo, pero se aferro a él como señal de su compromiso ante el padre, su manto era su fuerza. Todos los anteriores que menciono creían que Dios estaba con ellos. Estas personas tenían menos que nosotros y lo lograron. El éxito consiste en tomar aquello que aún no tienes y se te está ofreciendo, para hacerlo grande. ¿Cuánto vale una pelota en manos de Jordán? ¿Cuánto vale un piano en manos de Marcos Witt? ¿Cuánto vale una guitarra en manos de Santana? ¿Cuánto vale un micrófono en manos de Luís Miguel?
¡Quién tiene una palabra lo tiene todo!
http://iglesiacompaz.blogspot.com/2008/03/usa-lo-que-tienes-para-ser-bendecido.html

The Gospel According To The Faith Movement

The Gospel According To The Faith Movement: What The “Prosperity Gospel” Names And Claims

by Rev Rafael D. Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries
It’s impossible to miss a certain irrepressible influence in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles today for it extends far beyond them into the deepest parts of Christian culture globally. Their leaders are unmistakable figures, almost forces, as they enthrall tens of thousands with their tongues of fire as televised from vast megachurch settings. Glitzy ads selling the DVD’s of their services and tickets for evenings at their mass meetings held in a sports arena somewhere fill their air time. The message of their vibrant and folksy preaching is wonderfully uplifting and encouraging, so positive and yet practical and it seems to uncannily “read your mail,” touching you just where you are.
Their disciples are your coworkers, your aunt, or your neighbor who will tell all around them how to get off antidepressants or how not to speak negatively, lest a curse fall upon on oneself. They range from the rich black sales executive tooling his Lexus SUV with the fish sticker on his bumper through a New York rush hour to the poor white single mom living in a battered trailer in the backwoods of Louisiana. There are few more distinctive people in Pentecost today than these believers who, in their zeal to live out a practical Christian life, uphold this global force’s message as the “uncompromised Word of God,” and who unhesitatingly base their lives and faith around it.
This influence is known by many popular designations, but the most obvious title calls it the Word of Faith Movement, an exceedingly popular school of thought found throughout Christian circles of primarily Pentecostal or Charismatic persuasion literally around the world.
This movement takes many organizational and cultural forms but is probably more accurately described as a closely knit subculture in Christianity that advances a body of teachings referred to generically as the “divine wealth,” “prosperity,” or “faith message.” It has attracted tens of millions of Pentecostals and Charismatics who are captivated by the alluring claims of Faith teachings that promise so much unimaginable blessing that can be tailor made to one’s own circumstances and desires.
The focus on practical Christian faith that they take is so deep that many movement members call themselves “faith people.” A certain translation of Mark 11:23 is the basis for this teaching, and it has mainstreamed into society today with an appealing, simple and compelling message that attracts millions: “According to the Bible, it’s God’s Will for you to be healthy and wealthy!”
This message is expanded enthusiastically upon by many of the “faith people”: there are divine laws that God himself interacts with to bestow these blessings upon all who will unquestioningly accept them as Gospel truth. It further teaches that a good God loves His people so well that His Son Jesus was sent not only to die for their sins, but to deliver them from pain, pestilence and poverty. Words with creative power can be confessed to bring this level of victorious Christian life to all true believers in Christ.
The present galaxy of luminaries within the Faith movement features many of the most popular preachers of our day among them. They include it’s late “founding father” Kenneth (aka “Dad”) Hagin, the legendary Oral Roberts and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland.
Perhaps the most well known figures of the Faith movement today who expound with and fully identify with its’ guiding principles are Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn and the “smiling preacher” Joel Osteen, whose father John Osteen was a contemporary of Roberts and Hagin. Other equally well known Faith leaders are Marilyn Hickey, Rod Parsley, Creflo Dollar, Frederick Price, and Charles Capps whose teachings, crusades and miracle campaigns – all aired over the bully media pulpits such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Daystar and SkyAngel channels and innumerable other satellite and cable systems (1).
Following hard on their footsteps are a seemingly endless legion of Faith clergy who, after 50 years of germination and explosive growth, have created a vast and almost seamless movement of established Bible colleges, megachurches and ministerial fellowships as well as burgeoning business networks. Spanning the globe with alliances based on shared participation in religion, merchandise and self-improvement concepts, many in the Faith movement came from non-Pentecostal backgrounds or the Charismatic movements.
In an effort to find solidarity and a heritage behind which they achieve personal perspective, they often readily identify with and embrace the storied history of pioneering Pentecostal days. The sacrificial lives of the first Pentecostals who endured privation and persecution decades before the Charismatic movement even existed are upheld as examples of a spirituality they seek to dig roots deeply into.
And they and their own disciples, fanning out with innumerable church plants and parachurch innovations have gone on to cultivate a degree of political, spiritual and economic strength that would have astonished many a Pentecostal pioneer who came from the “wrong side of the tracks,” a potential not lost upon the business world. Faith ministers, driven by an aggressively entrepreneurial vision to penetrate the world with the Faith movement message, have developed churches and outreaches with a dynamism and passion that defies the religious status quo – wielding a social and cultural influence unthinkable by Pentecostals only a generation or so ago.
What Does “Prosperity” Name And Claim? A Summary
It is the promise of a healthy, wealthy and blessed life as the birthright of all Christians that attracts so many to the Faith movement. “Faith churches” are almost always Charismatic or Pentecostal in spirit and are usually marked by a vibrant, enthusiastic and genuinely appealing congregational life led by equally lively ministers who may call themselves “five fold” pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets or evangelists.
They can be found in virtually every socio-economic layer of Christian culture under the sun. You can find Faith doctrine thriving in the megachurch with tens of thousands of members as well as in the storefront hovel attended by three or four families. The heart of the Faith movement’s teaching can be summarized as follows:
First of all, Faith teachings claim that God has always dealt with mankind through the usage of covenants and that he is legally bound by the New Covenant of New Testament Christianity to bestow blessings upon all Christians since it was sealed through the shed blood of Christ. Faith teachings then go on to say that, under this covenant agreement with God, spiritual laws have been revealed for believers to enjoy their legal birthrights as children of God, rights that mandate the Christian to enjoy a life of rulership over sin, sickness and poverty.
We are literally a New Creation, a new breed of people supposedly destined to an abundant, triumphal life lacking nothing. And finally, the Faith movement teaches that the key to a successful Christian life is the development of a personal and positive confession that uses “words of faith” to release powerful spiritual forces that will spiritually materialize literal blessings – be they for healing, direction, or prosperity.
With divine authority, Christians can speak “victory” that forestalls defeat of any kind and “life” into situations where the powers of death seem imminent. These “words of faith” are empowered by spiritual forces, governed by spiritual laws so all powerful that even God Himself must exercise faith in them to accomplish His will.
The lifestyle of the Spirit-filled believer, then, need not be a powerless and fruitless exile in a dreary world where enemies lie in wait to overturn one’s faith. The New Creation’s realities, so it is said, have restored to the Church manifold blessings through the supernatural power of God meant to enable it to rise to a level of glorified victory over all earthly problems. This level of blessing is a foreordained heritage unknown to a powerless church, it is believed, because of clinging to the deadening traditions of men that have blinded it to these “lost” truths (click to hear a Faith “revelation” by Real Audio).
It is no wonder then that the Faith movement champions the concept of receiving these special truths from God by a spiritual illumination popularly known as “revelation knowledge.” This spiritual faculty supplies “rhema words” of direction and revelation as needed to the Body of Christ, and the principle source for them comes through the “five-fold ministry,” the clergy of the Faith movement. These fresh and new insights into Scripture are part of the New Creation’s authority for complete victory over all of life’s conflicts.
For those in need of a fresh touch from God, “holy laughter” and many other extraordinary signs and wonders are at the disposal of the redeemed who know how to walk in faith. “Generational curses”, demonic oppression, the bondage of poverty over families and nations can be broken through this Gospel of the “Anointing,” which was the “cornerstone message of the church”, “the message of the early church” as renowned Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland would have us believe (2)
So therefore, if these “named claims” are Biblical truths, than according to the very titles of their well known publications, Faith teachers are indeed showing us the way to a better Christian life. Why wouldn’t anyone want such a lifestyle? It is just this kind of exhilaratingly triumphal living that the titles of many a Faith author assure is the birthright of all Christian believers. Jerry Savelle’s “Victory And Success Are Yours” is one such book while a Kenneth Hagin tract edifies us with an discussion of “How To Write Your Own Ticket With God.” Marilyn Hickey shows us how to “Make Your Faith Effectual,” while Robert Tilton encourages us to “Decide, Decree, Declare” that victory will be ours.
When Charles Capps reveals that key to such blessings are through “The Tongue, a Creative Force,” then we need to be listening. As surely as Gloria Copeland has categorically declared that “God’s Will Is Prosperity,” it would seem then that far too many of God’s children are living beneath their privileges since so many of them (as the Faith teachers would tolerantly remind us) seem to do so.
Why should we want to struggle through life in such miserable states of lack, sickness, infirmity and struggle when, according to the Faith movement, we only need to speak to the mountain with words of faith and have it cast into the sea out of our way? The traditions of religion have for too long clouded our perceptions, and we need to make a clean break with them, so as to claim the inheritance of the King’s Kids. We should boldly “name it and claim it” – we should triumphantly make a confession that brings possession.
The Big Question : Is It In The Bible?
How does the movement support such a startling position as “divine health and wealth” from Scripture? All honest and thinking Christians, who are confronted with the apparently Biblical evidences that Faith teachers present to support their claims, however, must face the serious questions such claims raise: Has God truly given us such authority? Does the Word of God give us such power?
Most importantly, is the message of the Faith movement preserving the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ? These articles are simply one Pentecostal’s perspective on these questions, an earnest attempt to supply a balanced and Biblical examination of the Word of Faith movement that won’t demonize but will discern, one that won’t scandalize but will be searching.
Let me take pains to emphasize none too strongly that this is not an attempt to attack or slander any Faith teacher whatsoever, but it is rather an examination of Faith teaching itself. The Word of God commands us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to continually “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith,” to “test everything” and to “hold on to the good.” Christians are all to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” as Ephesians 5:21 exhorts us, and, in this spirit, we wish to humbly offer this assessment.
And once the Bible is opened up to examine it, honest examination will find that the “prosperity gospel” version of the Gospel has been Biblically weighed and found seriously wanting. The seriously fouled taproot of error within the Faith movement has been discerned in the clear light of God’s Word as being not only questionable but dangerously heretical.
There are three major errors of Faith teaching that are evident in its’ doctrine and practice as just summarized, although they are by no means the only ones. This contention is disturbing and saddening but Biblical tests show this to be true. For those whose convictions are centered around the Faith movement’s claims, this is not a popular or even desired observation but for the sake of Biblical truth, I cannot do anything else but uphold it.
So the following set of articles will seek to detail the contradictions and fabrications that are being mistaken as sound teaching in the Word of Faith movement which must be exposed for what they are. The spiritual survival and destiny of many Christians depend on their grappling with this critical question.
I know many Pentecostal and Charismatic believers who share similar concerns and disagreements with Faith teaching as I do. Our email inbox receives these almost daily and some of these have been posted on our website here. Ample evidence exists that many, many others within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement (if not a silent majority) have seen the same fatal flaws – many of them ministers themselves.
Many have gone on record taking firm stands for an orthodox and balanced understanding of how faith should apply to Christian living. Yet far too many others keep these views to themselves in an all too quiet privacy of fear. It is the fear of the indignation of their Faith brethren, or even a fear that they might be found to be attacking the “apple of God’s eye” in full violation of the unwritten rule and Holy Ghost straw man that Christians must “touch not Mine anointed and do my prophets no harm” that silences them. Ultimately, it is the fear of man that pulls whatever conviction and spine out of many Christians when being faced with the choice of standing for what they know is true, and what they see all around them is popular.
But such an illusion of fear that one might “grieve” or “blaspheme the Spirit” and bring “disunity within the Body” only helps to perpetuate and cloak the real evil: the truly grievous blasphemy and division that Faith teaching itself has inflicted upon the Body of Christ. As has been mentioned in this and other articles, there has been a deafening silence of Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders who are aware of and are “personally opposed” to the practical errors of Faith teaching. Their silence alone, however, has directly contributed to not only the grief millions of Bible believing Christians, but to the infinitely greater degree of anguish that I believe Jesus feels when He beholds how it has impacted His Body over whom He is Lord.
Therefore, in regards to the Faith movement, I feel that I must speak compassionately, yet uncompromisingly. We are not dealing with a heretical cult group outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy. Instead, we are looking deeply within the Body of Christ to examine the teachings of fellow brothers and sisters who are, to their shame and the abject horror of Bible believers everywhere, energetically spreading a heresy no less twisted or unbiblical than the Mormon doctrine of godhood or the Boston movement’s abusive “shepherding” practice. We see added to this tragic situation an extraordinary tendency of many of these same Christians to debate defensively rather than dialogue deliberately with one another when personalities and positions become targets of scrutiny (3).
Usually, we will always find an explosive mixture of knee-jerk reaction, rather than thoughtful response. These same Christians will cry aloud “stop causing strife and judging everyone! You’re dividing the Body of Christ!” Yet, to remain shamefacedly silent when error is being called truth only contributes to the actual division of Christ’s Body – I cannot allow such a travesty of Christian faith go unchallenged and unopposed (and such was the situation that Ezekiel prophesied against in the opening Scripture text we’ve quoted).
The heart cry of Paul the pastor found in Acts 20:26-31 voices so well the inner passion of any true shepherd concerning the subtle deceptions from within that confront the Body of Christ. I cannot remain silent, either. No Christian filled with the love of God will fail to stand for the truth of God also. And it is long overdue for those voices calling for discernment to speak up and be heard.
The overall principle of Scripture that most compels me, however, to persevere in such an examination is a Biblical mandate that no one can ignore: test everything and hold fast to the good (1 Th. 5:21). Therefore, this Pentecostal’s perspective on the subject endeavors to assess the Word of Faith movement’s claims in the light of such an absolute. Not every Pentecostal or Charismatic will agree with this assessment, and I have no illusions that they will. The pastoral concerns that stir me when considering how Faith teachings confuse, amaze and overthrow the faith of many Christians haunt me to this day, and are also part of the motivation the Holy Spirit uses to spur me on in this investigation.
Case in point:

In October, 1987, I was returning to Lee College after a fall break “invasion” of evangelistic work with some fellow college students. No sooner had we gotten out of the rickety old van that we had driven half the day from Florida back to Tennessee than I found myself almost knocked over by a young girl, a friend, who we’ll call Sarah who had been waiting nearby for the van to arrive. She was in tears, and it was clear that she’d been crying for a good while. Her embrace was that of a drowning woman desperately looking for a hand of rescue, and her trembling fairly shook her whole body. It took me a few minutes to calm her down enough to understand the torrent of frenzied questions she was hurling at me.

Sarah had been a stroke victim – even though a young woman of around 23. Her subsequent physical and speech therapy had only helped minimally. She walked with a distinctive limp and had some slurred speech, although mentally she was completely unaffected by the stroke. We had become friends at Lee after having met in the chapel services. That weekend, while I had been away, she had gone to a local restaurant and had been noticed by two students there who were from the New Life Bible College, a local Word of Faith school founded by a Kenneth Hagin associate named Norvel Hayes.

Convinced that the Spirit was leading them, they hailed her at her table and began to insist that if she had enough faith, they could lead her in prayer and deliver her of her physical infirmity. The subsequent impromptu prayer session that they forced upon her became loud enough for the restaurant manager to notice, and who insisted that they leave if they were to continue to pray. After helping Sarah out to her car, they continued to pray for a time with her, then left her with the parting observation that a besetting demon of sickness was inflicting her and that if she was ever to be delivered, she needed for it to be cast out. This happened on a Saturday night, and for the remainder of that night and all day Sunday and Monday, she had lived in utter horror at the thought that a demon could be possessing her body.

I will never forget that wild gleam of sheer terror that blazed out of her stricken, reddened eyes when she gazed at me through the hot new flood of tears that she shed as she told me this story and begged me over and over, “oh Rafael, is it true? Is it true there’s a demon in me? oh, is it true?” The torment this brought her was truly fearful to behold – and the knowledge that such an edifying observation came from two “spiritual” young Charismatic Faith students filled me with a bewildered rage that someone so “learned” could so casually inflict spiritual abuse such as this in the name of God’s deliverance.

As my ministry has proceeded these past 25 years, I could relate so many other examples, but this one so well illustrated the human cost that must be borne by those who are forcibly confronted by the deceptive and destructive “truths” of Faith teaching and why it must be confronted vigorously.
The Unhidden Agenda: The “Kenyon Connection” And The Faith Movement
To understand where you are in life and where you might be going, you need to consider where you’ve come from. The rest of this article and the last portion of the second one will address how the Faith movement’s “prosperity gospel” arrived on the scene of Christendom in recent history. It did not come about overnight. Understanding the spiritual, social and cultural influences that brought it about will be vital before thinking about answering its claims.
While the teaching influences of Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts are the most well known, there is a third figure whose shadow towers over the Word of Faith movement and eclipses the other two. It is surprising to realize that most within this subculture of the Pentecostal and Charismatic worlds have never heard of E.W. Kenyon but are intimately familiar with his core teachings.
The impact of Kenyon upon the Faith movement was largely unrecognized until the early 1970’s when Faith teachers began to actively endorse his work as supplements to their own teaching. Hagin himself was profoundly influenced by Kenyon’s writings and along with Oral Roberts’ “seed faith” theology, the three men laid down the essential direction for the Faith movement itself. Tens of thousands of those who attended Hagin’s Rhema Bible School, such as Ray McCauley and Keith Butler, were thereafter introduced to his doctrine. For it is no secret that Kenyon’s books are routinely used as textbooks, devotionals and library holdings in Charismatic and Pentecostal institutions of learning around the world – they are still in wide circulation through Kenyon’s publishing ministry that to this day still preserves his work. The powerful sway of Kenyon is so widespread and so seemingly mundane that it continues unabated and hidden in plain sight.
Kenyon had been a young Free Will Baptist preacher and student at several schools in New York where he was born in 1867. In 1892, at the age of 25, he attended the Emerson School of Oratory in Boston and it was then that his doctrinal formation took the radical turn that it apparently did.
New England in the 1800’s was where much of the American development of what came to be called “New Thought” philosophy took place. During the early part of the 1800’s, a New Hampshire spiritualist named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (who is sometimes cited as the “father of the New Thought movement”) (4) became convinced that mistaken beliefs were the basis of illness and that the discovery of “truth” led to cures.
Claiming these healing methods were used by Jesus, he counted as one of his disciples a young Mary Baker Eddy, who would go on to found the Christian Science movement in Boston. For a brief time, these concepts – also described as “Transcendentalism” – captured the imaginations of tens of thousands of converts across the United States, particularly in the New England and Californian regions with a revivalism almost as fervent and influential as that of the Evangelical movement. And it was during the height of its national popularity that Kenyon enrolled in a school where many of the faculty there were known advocates of the metaphysical positions of New Thought.
One of them was Ralph Waldo Trine, a New Thought writer and former classmate and contemporary of Kenyon who published his most well known inspirational work In Tune With The Infinite while Kenyon was his student. Trine was a faculty member of the college, and it is certain that Kenyon came into contact with him and his teaching during his studies there. Key concepts that were asserted so eloquently in Trine’s book (and certainly his teaching) were that existence was composed of two realms, the spiritual, which was causal and creative, and the material, which was the realm of effect and manifestation, fundamental truths to all New Thought proponents. The world of the spirit directly controlled the natural order by usage of the same laws that even Jesus “lived in harmony with” (5). “Thought forces” that bestow blessings or curses are part of a daily spiritual broadcast each human being emanates (p.91).
He also taught that humans have a spark of divinity within them that must be realized to raise their consciousness to higher and therefore happier planes of positive living, a realization that Jesus also made to “teach .. the Christ within.” (7). Such lofty words captured the imaginations of many people seeking a faith that “accentuated the positive” and downplayed uncomfortable thoughts like eternal judgment, repentance from sin and the acknowledgement of personal spiritual depravity.
Christian Science, the Unity School of Christianity and other religious “mind science” sects enthusiastically embraced writings like Trine’s and his book was a runaway best seller and is still considered today a metaphysical classic text. With his social presence and popularity at the Emerson school firmly established (8) and by his position as Kenyon’s teacher that he held, the seed thoughts of Trine’s New Thought teaching would eventually become evident in his later work (9).
Kenyon’s book New Creation Realities is a good representation of his essential thought and how he translated his New Thought indoctrination into Christian “doctrine.” He wrote that there are two kinds of Christians in the world, those who were bound by natural limitation and those transformed through the new birth into a literally new creation, a new race of spiritual supermen destined for absolute dominion as sons of God and masters of nations.
These of the “new creation” are filled with the “’zoe’ – the Nature of the Father that Jesus brought” through the resurrection – are enabled to imitate God through the use of His words to create enduements of power, blessing and healing. Being a “faith God”, a Deity that uses faith to “do things”, he has supplied to those who walk as part of the “New Creation” the same ability to use words as creative forces (10).
Through a proper understanding of the spiritual nature behind the work of redemption, no Christian need ever again have to suffer limitation and lack. Those who do are carnal believers, he went on to explain, whose lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives reaps for them a weak, powerless existence in the “realm of darkness where men walk by the senses” (11). Right thinking and right belief are vital to avoiding such a trap, with sickness and other forms of affliction being seen as fundamentally spiritual problems that betray unbelief and sin.
Another example Kenyon left for many contemporary Faith teachers was to freely paraphrase various Scripture passages as well as various Bible translations to support his doctrinal teachings and make many unwarranted doctrinal assumptions based upon them. Some of his paraphrases were highly suspect, yet became the foundation for much of his teaching on the “deeper life” of the “New Creation.” It also helped reinforce the concept of relying upon free usage of Bible paraphrases as authoritative sources for explaining “hidden” meanings in Scripture – not actual Bible translations themselves.(12)
Kenyon’s teaching would have remained outside the Pentecostal-Charismatic culture, overlooked and unseen, if had not been for the advent of Kenneth Hagin, who at the age of 20 became licensed with the Assemblies of God in 1937, when Kenyon was 70 years old.
In 1937, Kenyon’s devotional books were in wide circulation and his pioneering radio program “Kenyon’s Church of the Air,” broadcast from KJR in Seattle, were within reach of the Pentecostal communities of the prairies of Oklahoma and Texas of whom Hagin was a part. It is highly likely that this was how he came under Kenyon’s teachings: his claims of not having even heard of Kenyon until two years after his death in 1948 seem more like an attempt to evade closer scrutiny of his early ministerial influences. The similarities of Hagin’s work with Kenyon’s teaching are simply too close to be coincidental. They are also too important to be ignored or dismissed, for Kenyon’s interpretations became the backbone for Hagin’s doctrine and generations of Faith teachers who he would go on to influence.
Hagin’s prolific writings, magazines and tape ministries have spread vast amounts of his Faith teaching for many years, yet it seems that some of them weren’t actually inspired by direct revelation from the Spirit of God as he often likes to claim. Christian researcher and pastor D.R. McConnell has conclusively demonstrated that Hagin was not above plagiarizing the writings of others. His book entitled The Believer’s Authority was, in it’s original form an almost word-for-word copy of a Christian Missionary Alliance minister’s writings (there would not have been a new version of Hagin’s book in 1984 had an Alliance official not confronted Hagin with the plagiarization that same year) (13). This is most significant: without pausing to discuss the ethical implications these suggest in themselves, they do offer further clear evidence that Hagin’s doctrinal formation involved absorbing whatever popular sources he found around him. They also effectively call into question the divine inspiration that Hagin supposedly was operating under when these “revelations” came to him, and furthermore make suspect his subsequent declarations of prophetic teaching ministry.
If Hagin borrowed from a variety of teaching sources that included Kenyon’s work and then subsequently characterized it as part of a divine commission from God to “teach my people faith,” (documented in his biographical information printed in his tracts and books) then his labor is based upon occultic speculations passed off by Kenyon as cutting edge Christianity, as “revelation knowledge” straight from the throne of God. Hagin’s claim of breaking from worldly religious tradition is completely unfounded, and his reputation as a respected prophet-teacher within the Faith movement went on to assure a vast audience for the propagation of his retreads of Kenyon’s theology with most, if not all, of the participants being entirely unaware of it.
These affinities that Kenyon made with New Thought and which he apparently believed could be reconciled with orthodox Christian doctrine and practice are what McConnell calls the “Kenyon Connection,” a link that would extend deeply into the Word of Faith movement to unite it with the New Thought movement itself of the 1880’s. It is diabolically ironic that at the same time the Pentecostal movement was beginning to form, the occultic New Thought movement (complete with its own dynamic healers and preachers) was establishing itself firmly into the American religious topography, as if preparing for the eventual conflict to come. This conflict has been fiercely waged ever since by those within the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements who recognized it’s errors and empty promises and who have sought to uphold sound doctrine in the face of those who demand the shallow and the sham.
The Revival Of New Thought Gnosticism In Last Days Faith Teaching
We have observed that E.W. Kenyon’s teachings are a cross-breeding of Evangelical perfectionist piety and New Thought metaphysical teaching which have a connection with ancient Gnosticism, a mystical pagan tradition encountered by the early church. While Kenyon was not a Pentecostal, his writings often sound quite familiar to within Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, for their own doctrinal roots in the Christian holiness movement held to a distinctively Methodist theology of perfectionism, a theology that Kenyon would have been conversant with during his time. Having come from a Methodistic and Free Will Baptist background, he apparently adapted these Biblical concepts that were most familiar to him and reassigned to them new interpretations that were deeply colored with New Thought dogma. When considered carefully, Kenyon’s synthesis of Christian perfectionism with Gnosticism has less to do with “cutting edge Christian revelation” and more in common with a nineteenth century revival of that ancient pagan spirituality than anything else. There is no easy or diplomatic way to assert this, so the facts should be squarely considered. The Faith movement essentially upholds a modernized form of Gnosticism, an ancient Near Eastern spiritual movement that many in the pagan world earnestly sought hope within and it is E.W. Kenyon who became an earnest evangelist of error.
Gnosticism was perhaps one of the Church’s greatest threats from its earliest of days, overthrowing by perversion of the faith of many early Christians for it twisted the Gospel of Christ freely to clothe Gnosticism’s occultic worldview in the guise of Christian doctrine. It was centered around recovery of a lost revelation of sophia (the Greek word for “wisdom”) through the gnosis, an initiation into an expanded awareness of the world of the spirit and one’s exalted place within it.
This lost wisdom was a revelation of the universe as composed of both natural and spiritual worlds, of an occult worldview in which an unknowable God is manifest in spiritual “emanations” such as Christ and sophia. The spiritual world was the highest reality, and the world of the flesh smothered one’s spiritual faculties with a crushing and blinding weight that prevented humanity from redemption of its ignorance of the spiritual. (14)
While Gnosticism had various schools of thought on this it was generally believed that the uninitiated were “dead” due to their ignorance and in need of being “resurrected.” Those who did not possess the hidden sophia stood in dire need of being released from the bondage of physical corruption. It was of paramount importance that the soul be “awakened from the sleep of death” in the tomb of the physical body before it could be ultimately and fully liberated after the death of the body.
Having achieved this resuscitation, the Gnostic initiate was then spiritually lifted into what was called the pleroma, or “fullness” (a realm where ultimate reality – the spiritual plane where God reigned) and was assured by their Gnostic masters that they alone were the spiritually pure who understood all things for what they really were.
The allure of receiving special revelation for spiritual insight was what was so attractive to both pagans and Christians. The Christian concept of redemption by the revelation of Christ was foreshadowed in Gnosticism’s emphasis on spiritual deliverance and cunningly reinterpreted by many false teachers who wandered from church to church in the ancient world. Since the Gnostic “resurrection” was simply a spiritual experience of expanded insight and awareness, it made works of the flesh beneath any great concern.
Being “pure,” therefore, moral or ethical concerns were of no consequence to the “spiritual” Gnostic. These implications were not lost on the the various Gnostic sects in the ancient world such as the Borborite Gnostics (who committed sexual abominations beyond belief) and the Archontic Gnostics (whose ascetic excesses, according to the early church leader Epiphanius, “ruin(ed) their bodies”). (15)
Gnostically-influenced Christians who would not bow to these immoral excesses, however, were not above a self-exalting pursuit of new revelations of spiritual power and insight and not above creating divisive factions within the Church to achieve them. Paul’s struggles with Christians wholly preoccupied with such fantastic self-delusions are seen in many of his New Testament epistles (16).
Many Bible scholars have concluded that some of the references to “the spiritual” who withstood apostolic authority in 1 Corinthians were Paul’s own responses to Gnostic influence among the overzealous in Corinth. It has also been suggested that the explicit references to the Incarnation of Christ in the New Testament epistles were also written to directly counter the seductions of Gnostically-influenced oral traditions among the early church that denied His physical nature, historical existence and full deity.
While Gnosticism was driven underground with the rise of the Church’s temporal power in the third and fourth centuries, it was never fully eradicated. It survived among an occultic elite across time that included the Rosicrucians and other practitioners of metaphysical philosophy.
It’s fundamental principles were revived by the advocates of the New Thought movement and differed from its first century form in one important form: unlike the first century version of Gnosticism, which was filled with fluid pagan thought and mysticism, the New Thought revival attempted to incorporate a well-established and highly developed Christian worldview into its belief system. The high moral and ethical ideals of the then dominant Christian culture in America were woven into a supremely subtle New Thought counterfeit that, in effect, undercut and reinterpreted Christianity itself. The targets of this deceptive work were a new generation of spiritual seekers in Western civilization whose diligent inquiry took place long before the Pentecostal movement began.
The parallels between Gnosticism and New Thought are well documented and the worldview they share is echoed in Kenyon’s teaching, which directly shaped the Word of Faith movement’s doctrine and practice. Both advocate a mystical approach to inner spiritual illumination through a process of initiation involving acquiring knowledge of spiritual laws. Both present a dualistic worldview sharply distinguishing the inferiority of the natural world to the power of the spiritual world, where good and evil are equally powerful, eternally at odds with one other. Both systems declare that with the right kind of thinking and speech, spiritual objectives such as salvation, revelation and self-transformation are within the full grasp of the initiate after mastery of those same spiritual laws.
So by taking its cues from the Pentecostal passion for direct action, the movers and shakers of early Faith teaching readily adopted a proactive position in which they would seek the hand of God. But along their individual spiritual journeys, sober consideration of the Biblical mandates regarding the true relationship between faith and practice was ultimately subordinated to Pentecostal pragmatism. Spirituality that “works” has always been a prized emphasis of the seeker in any religious community, especially in Evangelical circles where Pentecostal and Charismatic impulses are embedded. Tragically, the neglect of careful Biblical study by Christian leaders that might provide an appropriate check in questionable or extremist doctrinal and practical formation is too readily apparent in church history. I assert that it again occurred here.
The desire to perpetuate popularity and notoriety at the expense of truth is a historic weakness of the Church when quick solutions are demanded of it. With such potent impulses for spiritual innovation in Western spirituality at work, we can see how these neo-Gnostic principles as set forth by the American New Thought movement became enthusiastically combined with Pentecostal Christian spirituality to birth the Word of Faith dogma. It is just how this errant doctrine has leavened the Faith movement that we will explore in our next article as well as how the principles of the occultic New Thought movement have been foisted off by “anointed” preachers as cutting edge “present truth.”

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ENDNOTES
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(1) The consolidation of mass media power as wielded by the Trinity Broadcasting Network today, as pioneered by the work of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club and Pat Robertson’s CBN television networking, is a fascinating story in itself that goes way beyond the scope of our work here. An interesting master’s thesis authored in 2006 posted online explores the concept of TBN as being a microcosm of the Faith movement itself and can be accessed in PDF file format here.
(2) Copeland, Kenneth. “Now, That’s Good News.” Believer’s Voice Of Victory, April 1995, p. 3.
(3) One sad example of many I could cite involved a young woman I’ll call Angela. She attended a well known Faith church here in Cleveland and had come out of an aberrant cultic movement and had become a devoted student of Faith teaching. Having mutual interests (the “full gospel” Christian life and reaching cult members for Christ), our fellowship was sweet but short lived. When she asked me my honest opinion on the Faith teaching of another popular Faith minister in town, and I responded that I had serious issues with his doctrine as well as his practice, her face fell and she became very quiet.
She then began to tearfully and earnestly voice a passionate concern that I had just “spake curses” on a man of God and that it deeply upset her that I would pass judgment on another Christian’s ministry. By simply questioning the quality of the teaching, Angela felt that I had committed an unspeakably mean spirited sin against this teacher. Shaken, she left our home and we never saw her again. It is this kind of emotion-laden reaction against anything remotely sounding like criticism as expressed by legions of sincere Faith Christians in defense of Faith clergy that guarantees the Faith movement much its invulnerability to real discernment. We will discuss this point more fully in our next article.
(4) An excellent Christian overview of how the New Thought movement factored into a larger general revival of metaphysical spirituality that swept Western civilization was published in Todd Ehrenborg’s study book entitled “Mind Sciences” (Zondervan, 1995) which can be purchased here. Click here to find a collection of links about the present state of the New Thought’s spiritual legacy, that being the religious and mind science movements still active today.
(5) Trine, Ralph Waldo. In Tune With The Infinite, (Dodd Mead, 1921), p. 167
(6) ibid, p. 91
(7) ibid, p. 90. Here we see yet another subtle redefinition of Christian truth in the redefinition of the term “Christ.” The Biblical definition of “the Christ” is a direct reference to Jesus, God the Son Himself as the “anointed one” ( ), the exclusive Chosen One and Savior of mankind whose prophetically foretold death, burial and resurrection would provide a very real and very literal salvation to those who would believe upon Him and His work. However, Trine – like many false teachers – freely rejects the Biblical truth and historical fact of Christ’s revealed identity to redefine it in terms much more comfortable to New Thought ears as “the immanence of our Father-God in humanity; the fact that individual men are separate items in a vast solidarity in which Infinite Mind is expressing Himself. Jesus has shown us what the ideal is to which that principle will lead . . . . The mystic Christ will win us here or hereafter. To find him within us now, to let him conquer us now, to recognise him as Emmanuel, God with us, God for us, God in us, is the secret and the soul of spiritual progress.’ It was the divinity of man that the Master revealed — the true reality of man — in distinction from the degradation of man. This it was that he realised in himself, and that he pleaded with all men to realise in themselves.” (emphasis mine – quote taken from an online version of Trine’s book The Man Who Knew accessible here). The claim that this “divinity of man” is what it means to have the “Christ within” is a long standing one adopted by syncretic New Age teachings for many years. So Trine’s lofty exaltation of human nature as essentially divine is typical of many New Thought suppositions that deny Christian truths, such as those which assert just the opposite, that man is essentially depraved.
This painfully misguided assumption that he reinforces underlies such erroneous belief systems from Hinduism to Mormonism to the New Age movement and is a restatement of the central Lie of Satanic origin first recorded in the garden of Eden at man’s fall : “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” (Genesis 3:5).
With this kind of deception introduced into the mind of man, that secret knowledge once attained will elevate him to the same exalted plane as God Himself, it was only a matter of time before it would be restated throughout depraved mankind throughout the history of religion. Trine’s reflection leaves little doubt where his doctrine comes from: “I sometimes hear a person say, ‘I don’t see any good in him.’ No? Then you are no seer. Look deeper and you will find the very God in every human soul. But remember it takes a God to recognize a God. Christ always spoke to the highest, the truest, and the best of men. He knew and he recognized the God in each because he had first realized it in himself. .. What a privilege and how enjoyable it would be to live and walk in a world where we meet only Gods. In such a world you can live. In such a world I can live.” (p. 92-93) As we shall see in the following articles, this blasphemous teaching has found enough fertile ground to survive today in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in some form, although by no means is it the only circle of “Christendom” where its deceptive lie can be found.
(8) In an irreverent 1900 essay published by the “Philistine,” a periodical of the literary Society of the Philistines, Trine’s popularity around the social circles of the Emerson School of Oratory was noteworthy enough to be a subject of no little attention. An excerpt of this essay with information on Trine can be found here.
(9) In his seminal work A Different Gospel, (Hendrickson, 1995 – updated version), D.R. McConnell has done an outstanding job in demonstrating how fully dedicated to the New Thought cause that Emerson College’s mission and faculty were. He also recounted an incident in the life of Kenyon in his later years – as recollected by another ministerial acquaintance Ern Baxter – that gave great insight into how well Emerson College fulfilled it’s mission. While on a visit to his home, Baxter recalled finding Kenyon
sitting at a reading spot in my living room where I had some miscellaneous books in a shelf, one of which was Mary Baker Eddy’s Key To The Scriptures, which I kept there for reference purposes, being vigorously opposed to her whole position from just about every standpoint. But I found him reading it, and I smiled as I passed by, not wanting to disturb him. I came back 30 or 40 minutes later and he was still reading it. .. I made a comment and he responded very positively that there was a lot that could be gotten from Mary Baker Eddy. That alerted me. I can’t say it surprised me, but it alerted me to the fact that he probably wasn’t formulating his faith positions entirely from sola Scriptura, and that he was influenced by the metaphysicians. (emphasis in original) (p. 26)
A young minister, John Kennington, who looked upon Kenyon as a mentor, had conversations with him in which he could “remember him saying ‘All that Christian Science lacks is the blood of Jesus Christ.’ .. He admitted that he freely drew the water of his thinking from this well” (emphasis in original) (p. 25)
(10) Kenyon, E.W. New Creation Realities (1945)
(11) ibid,
(12) ibid,
(13) McConnell, ibid, p. 67-69.
(14) Rudolph, Kurt. Gnosis (Harper, 1983), p. 190. An absorbing perspective by the late Travers Van Der Merwe on how Gnosticism has impacted the church can be found in his book he coauthored with his wife Jewel entitled Strange Fire: The Rise Of Gnosticism In The Church (Conscience Press, 1995) and can be found online here.
(15) ibid, p. 257
(16) 1 Corinthians 1:22-29, 3:18-21, 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, Galatians 4:8-11, Ephesians 5:8-17, Colossians 2:20-23, 2 Timothy 3:1-9 are just a few of these New Testament references to divisive spiritual challenges whose practical and doctrinal affinities scholars feel are references to Gnosticism and the ancient mystery religions of Greco-Roman influence in the ancient world.
http://www.spiritwatch.org/firefaith1.htm