the-apologist-e1414974402699

Defending the Faith

In the first few centuries of the church there came forth Christians who articulated a defense of Christianity against the pagan society of Rome; they were known as the apologist. Educated in Greek philosophy, they used commonalities to bridge the gap in understanding, showing that Christians worshiped the true and only God. At this early point in Christianity, many false assumptions where made about the new Christian faith. At first Rome believed they were just a branch or sect of Judaism and as such offered to them some relative peace in worship of their own God. Judaism had gained that exclusive privilege largely due to their history of rebellion to any suggested blasphemy and the Roman government had rather let them be instead of forcing the worship of other gods upon them as was the requirement of any other religion. However, when Rome realized the Jews hated the Christians it moved them into a new category of religion and that privilege was revoked. Soon rumors of indecency, cannibalism, and taboo rites begun to circulate from an ignorance of Christian doctrine and added to the fuel of persecution throughout the empire. The apologist rose to combat these false reports.

Early Apologist

The earliest known of these apologists was Aristides of Athens. Aristides contrasted other religions against the Christian faith to show how that it is superior to all others and is the only true religion.

Another early but unknown apologist wrote what is known as the Epistle of Diognetus. (click here to read earlier post on this work) Like Aristides, this work contrasted pagan idol worship and morals to present the Christian life as the only true way. He also used examples of persecution as evidence of this faith.

Athenagoras, a philosopher turned Christian, used his previous knowledge and understanding of Greek philosophy to articulate a defense Christianity against accusations of Atheism and for the foolishness of polytheism. He appeals to reason in his writing, “A Plea for the Christians” as can be seen here in part as he states, “it would be irrational for us to cease to believe in the Spirit from God, who moved the mouths of the prophets like musical instruments, and to give heed to mere human opinions.”

Another important apologist of this era was Theophilus, the bishop of Antioch. He also made strong use of Greek philosophy in his writing making cases such as in Chapter 4 of his book II, about the “absurd opinions of the philosophers concerning God.”

Justin Martyr

Finally the most well-known of the apologist was the skilled man named Justin Martyr. Justin wrote two apologies and another work called a “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” that we still have access to today. Justin’s philosophical apologies took aim at the pagan high-society, the empire, Judaism and heretics who misrepresented the Christian faith. He drew a distinction between Christian morals and those of the pagans as well as pulled from prophesy to prove out the truth of God.

The Logos

Common between these early apologists was the doctrine of the Logos. The Logos (the Word) was a concept understood by Greeks and afforded the opportunity to convince them of the true Logos; Jesus Christ. The Logos represented wisdom in the Greek understanding and allowed the skilled apologist to connect the wisdom of the Greek philosophers and everything that was good in them to the incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ as illustrated in this passage from Athenagoras, “the universe has been created through His Logos, and set in order, and is kept in being–I have sufficiently demonstrated. [I say “His Logos”], for we acknowledge also a Son of God.”

Leaving a Legacy of Defense

We must give thanks to the early work of these apologists; many of who were killed for contending for voicing the truth. These early fathers of the faith show us how we today can combat the false accusation and heresies of twenty-first century and beyond by contrasting the truth of scripture and the false world-view of man pointing the hearer to the glory of God and His salvation for man.

 

The post The Early Apologist: Lessons in Church History appeared first on Hearts for the Lost.

Alistair Begg

Too many leaders in the church begin their services with the question “How do you you feel, today?”. Honestly, what kind of question is that? If I relied on how I “feel”, I would question whether I was saved at all! Emotions and feelings are fickle at best and are not always based in reality. If an emotional response is not rooted in an objective truth, it cannot be trusted as reality.

Foundational truth at it's core must be objective in order to be standardized. That is where the Word Of God comes in. As the story of our God revealing Himself in history and ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Bible gives us a foundation upon which we can KNOW what is true and what is not.

This is a great clip from Alistair Begg on what we should ultimately base our Christian beliefs upon.

[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYNBdrFR5Bo” autohide=”0″ fs=”1″ hd=”1″]

Let your knowledge of the truth lead your emotions. Not the other way around!

sproul-macarthur-piper
Today on Facebook, someone posed this question in the Reformed Baptist Fellowship & Theology Forum:

“Help me guys on preacher and teacher
A) R.C. Sproul
B) J.F. MacArthur
C) J Piper
Who do you prefer? And Why?”

While this kind of question is like having to choose between Mexican, Italian or Chinese food (another conundrum if you ask me!), it did spark my thought processes and so here they are.

I have a deep respect for all three of these Men of God and choosing one of them in no way diminishes my respect for the other two.

That being said, my choice is John MacArthur. His expository method gets to the heart of every text on which he preaches and I have a deep respect for one who loves the church with such passion.

The slight disagreements that I have with R. C. Sproul and John Piper are certainly secondary, maybe even tertiary differences on issues that do not adversely impact the clear Biblical teaching of Salvation.

First of all, my main disagreement with R. C. Sproul is on the issue of baptism. Baptism is a picture of what has taken place in the heart of one who is elect and from the examples in Scripture was done as an outward sign after one's conversion to illustrate what God has done in that person's life.

Next, my main disagreement with John Piper is Non-Cessationism. He believes that the signs and wonders gifts are still operational today, even though he has not personally experienced them. Once again, the examples in Scripture illustrate that the purpose for the signs and wonders gifts was to validate to their world that the Apostles indeed were called by God and given authority to speak on His behalf. Since we now have the completed Canon of Scripture, there is no need for the message to be validated in the same manner.

Christ spoke in Mark 8 and Luke 11 that an evil generation seeks a sign. Seeking a sign can indicate a lack of faith. I pray that in my own life I can exhibit the kind of faith Christ spoke of in John 20:29:

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'”

But even with these disagreements, all three of these men are being used by God to build His kingdom and I thank the Lord for such giants of the Faith and I pray for His continued blessing on their efforts to bring honor to the Lord's Name and that the Lord continues to draw his elect to Himself in the process.

It’s not the best morning. Yesterday was election day here in Ontario and the results did not go the way I had hoped. We have the same government as the day before, but with a much clearer and stronger mandate. I find it a particularly troubling and even threatening mandate. In the aftermath I find my faith being tested. Can I find joy today? Am I going to believe Romans 13:2 today? “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God knew this. God saw this. God allowed this. God instituted even these authorities. Will I believe it? Will I find joy in it?

Today is a good day to consider the nature of my faith and, even more so, the object of my faith. Last week I was reflecting on the faith of Abraham and observed this: True faith does not demand answers. We don’t need faith when we have all the answers. We need faith when we don’t have all the answers. We need faith when the way ahead seems unclear or intimidating, when answers are hard to find. Faith is trusting in someone who has the answers we lack. Faith is trusting in the goodness, in the character, of God.

This is the faith I see in Abraham when he assented to God’s demand that he offer his son as a sacrifice to God. God asked Abraham to sacrifice the long-awaited son through whom God had guaranteed a multitude of nations and, even better, a Messiah. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).

The promise was made, the promise was fulfilled, and now God threatened to take it all away. But still Abraham obeyed. Why? Because of this: Ultimately, faith is not in an outcome, but in a person. Abraham’s faith was not in Isaac’s survival; his faith was in God. This means he could lose Isaac without losing his faith. He was so convinced of the goodness and faithfulness of God that he was willing to do what looked impossible. He would hold back nothing.

Later, in the book of Hebrews, we read more about Abraham. The author is boasting in God’s people, bragging about their faith, and he says this: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

Quite simply, Abraham believed the promises of God because he trusted the character of God. He trusted God even when the way seemed so strange, so unclear, so contradictory. The Christian faith is sometimes lampooned as being a blind faith, but that is all wrong. The Christian faith is not a blind faith but a seeing faith. We have seen God and love God and trust him to such a degree that we do not need or demand all the answers. We trust and obey, even when we do not understand and even when we cannot see the finish line.

And today I find myself wondering this: Will I trust God even when the way is unclear and even when I do not understand? Will I joyfully submit to God’s will, knowing and trusting that he is good? Is my faith deep enough to say, “I don’t understand, but I know God is good.” Is my faith in an outcome, or is my faith in God?

I should take a cue from Abraham. God gave Abraham three days to walk from his home to that mountain where he was to offer up his son. But on that long and sorrowful walk where he must have been tempted to despair, Abraham was not brooding. He was not complaining. He was not lamenting. Instead, he was considering how God would use this for good. We are told in Hebrews that Abraham made up his mind that God could and would raise Isaac from the dead. When Abraham was being tested, he chose not to focus on the pain, but on the triumph, and spent his time imagining how God was going to work even this “for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I should do no less.

God remains. God’s promises remain. My trust in God remains.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

 

Mack Stiles has a new book called simply Evangelism. I haven’t read it all yet, but I sure did enjoy this quote about the power of a church that evangelizes. Don’t you long for this kind of a church?

I long for a church that understands that it—the local church—is the chosen and best method of evangelism. I long for a church where the Christians are so in love with Jesus that when they go about the regular time of worship, they become an image of the gospel. I long for a church that disarms with love, not entertainment, and lives out countercultural confidence in the power of the gospel. I long for a church where the greatest celebrations happen over those who share their faith, and the heroes are those who risk their reputations to evangelize.

I yearn for a culture of evangelism with brothers and sisters whose backs are up to mine in the battle, where I’m taught and I teach about what it means to share our faith; and where I see leaders in the church leading people to Jesus. I want a church where you can point to changed lives, where you can see people stand up and say, ‘When I came to this church two years ago, I didn’t know God, but now I do!’ I long to be part of a culture of evangelism like that. I bet you do, too.

 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article explaining why I believe Pope Francis is a false teacher. This generated a fair bit of controversy and brought many responses (most of which were, thankfully, both measured and kind). One critique I heard several times was this: “You do not understand the Roman Catholic view of justification; if you understood Catholic theology you would see the pope as a defender of truth rather than an opponent of truth.” I do not wish to say that I know Catholic theology better than my Catholic friends, so I would like to try something different today.

I believe there is a vast gulf between justification as the Bible teaches it and justification as Rome teaches it. We agree on the problem: we are sinful people who have alienated ourselves from God and are thus in need of salvation. But we disagree in very significant ways as to how sinful people can receive that salvation. The thing is, Rome believes this too. The Catholic Church understands that there is a gulf between us and they deem it every bit as serious as I do.

What I would like to do today is put aside my understanding or misunderstanding of Roman Catholic theology. Instead, let’s look at the way the Roman Catholic Church understands what I believe. What I have found is that the Roman Catholic Church understands my theology very well. Many years ago the Council of Trent closely examined the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers and responded to it with a series of canons. As they did that, they declared my faith anathema, an abomination to God. While Trent happened a long time ago, the canons have never been rescinded. Vatican II, despite its emphasis on ecumenicism, did not nullify or modify the canons of Trent (see here for an explanation from Catholic Answers).

So instead of having me explain Catholic theology and point out concerns, let’s allow Roman Catholicism to explain my Protestant view (using EWTN’s translation of the canons).

If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. (Canon 9)
I believe that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required and nothing else needs to be cooperated with, to obtain the grace of justification. Rome understands exactly what I believe here and rejects it. (Rom 3:20-28, Eph 2:8)

If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema. (Canon 12)
I believe this! I believe that justifying faith is confidence in God’s divine mercy which remits sin for the sake of Christ and on the basis of the work of Christ. It is this—faith—and nothing else that justifies us. (Rom 3:28, John 1:12)

If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. (Canon 14)
This may require some nuance, because I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin; however, I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners. (Rom 5:1)

If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)
I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification. I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation. (Gal 3:1-3, Gal 5:1-3)

If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)
I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)

If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)
This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.

As I read the canons of the Council of Trent I see a systematic explanation and thorough denial of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I see that Rome understands what I believe and declares it anathema. Of course it is her right to do this, but let’s not miss some important implications: Whatever else Rome teaches, she will not teach that we are justified solely by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. If she teaches a gospel that adds to the work of Christ, she teaches a false gospel, doesn’t she? And if Francis is the head of the organization that states this as official doctrine, if he is her chief defender and propagator, I must judge him a false teacher. What else could I do?

Photo credit: Shutterstock

 

The False Teachers

A few weeks ago I set out on a series of articles through which I am scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notable false teachers and to examine the false doctrine each of them represents. Along the way we have visited such figures as Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Ellen G. White (Adventism), Norman Vincent Peale (Positive Thinking) and Benny Hinn (Faith Healing). Today we turn to a man who helped lead the Emerging Church and who was once named by TIME as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.

Brian McLaren

McLarenBrian McLaren (born in 1956) studied humanities at the University of Maryland and graduated with graduate and post-graduate degrees in English. Beginning in 1978, he taught college-level English, before founding Cedar Ridge Community Church in 1986. He served this church as its founding pastor until 2006, when he handed off the role so he could focus on writing and public speaking.

In 1986 Zondervan released McLaren’s first book, The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix. This book established him as a leader and thinker in the church at a time when Christians were attempting to grapple with the dawning reality of postmodernism.

However, it was his 2001 work of fiction, a New Kind of Christian, that introduced him to the wider church and earned him Christianity Today’s Award of Merit in 2002. It was the first volume in a trilogy and quickly became one of the foremost texts for what was soon known as the Emerging Church movement. A New Kind of Christian tells the story of Dan Poole, a pastor who finds himself ready to give up on Christian ministry. Increasingly disillusioned, he has become less and less certain about what he believes. When he takes his daughter to a concert he meets Neil Oliver, a high school science teacher, and together they discuss a long list of core Christian doctrines. According to the publisher, “This stirring fable captures a new spirit of Christianity—where personal, daily interaction with God is more important than institutional church structures, where faith is more about a way of life than a system of belief, where being authentically good is more important than being doctrinally ‘right,’ and where one’s direction is more important than one’s present location.” McLaren became known as a Christian leader who was talking about life and faith in ways that seemed new and fresh.

McLaren followed this book with many more—nearly twenty to date. The most noteworthy of his books have probably been A Generous Orthodoxy which he calls “a personal confession and a manifesto of the emerging church conversation” and A New Kind of Christianity in which he offers responses to “ten questions that are central to the emergence of a postmodern, post-colonial Christian faith.”

In 2005 McLaren was named by TIME as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America under the heading “Paradigm Shifter.” They pointed to his ambiguous statements about gay marriage and said that he represented a kinder and gentler form of Christianity. The following year he joined with Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr, and others to found Red Letter Christians, an organization dedicated to seeing Christianity liberated from both right-wing and left-wing politics in America. Where Christianity has been dominated for too long by discussions of abortion and homosexuality, this movement prefers to look to the words Jesus spoke and focus on issues related to social justice.

McLaren has traveled the world as a teacher, preacher, lecturer, and conference speaker, and has been granted honorary degrees from both Carey Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary. In September 2012 he made headlines for participating in a gay marriage ceremony for his son Trevor and his partner Owen Ryan. The wedding was officiated by a Universal Life minister, with McLaren leading a commitment ceremony built around Christian themes.

False Teaching

As McLaren’s theology has matured and taken shape over time and through his books, he has stepped forward as a leader in a new and revived form of theological liberalism. This displays itself most clearly in his view of Scripture.

In A New Kind of Christianity he insists that Christians have long been reading the Bible through the distorted lens of a Greco-Roman narrative. This narrative produced many false dualisms, an air of superiority, and a false distinction between those who were “in” and those who were “out.” These three marks of false narrative have so impacted our faith that we can hardly see past them. His book attempts to do that, and to reconstruct the Christian faith as it is meant to be.

Leading the way is his view of the Bible. He does not see the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word. He displays this, for example, in his interpretation of the account of Noah by saying, “a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship.”

He goes on to say, “I’m recommending we read the Bible as an inspired library. This inspired library preserves, presents, and inspires an ongoing vigorous conversation with and about God, a living and vital civil argument into which we are all invited and through which God is revealed.” After all, “revelation doesn’t simply happen in statements. It happens in conversations and arguments that take place within and among communities of people who share the same essential questions across generations. Revelation accumulates in the relationships, interactions, and interplay between statements.” He understands the Bible to be a slowly-evolving human understanding of God. “Scripture faithfully reveals the evolution of our ancestors’ best attempts to communicate their successive best understandings of God. As human capacity grows to conceive of a higher and wiser view of God, each new vision is faithfully preserved in Scripture like fossils in layers of sediment.”

This is nothing less than theological liberalism in twenty-first century, post-modern clothing (which is why Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism offers a rebuttal, though it was written 90 years earlier). Like Fosdick and other liberals before him, McLaren has assumed authority over the Bible instead of placing himself under its authority. His understanding of Scripture frees him to see Christian doctrine as evolving, and himself as an instrument of this evolution. In this way he revisits and reinterprets whatever does not accord with modern sensibilities. He has denied the literal nature of hell along with its eternality; he has denied the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ; he has denied Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father; he has affirmed homosexuality as good and pleasing to God. And he continues to think and to write, meaning that his theological development is not yet complete.

Followers and Adherents

McLaren has long been a leader in the Emerging Church, and almost all of those who “emerged” with him have known his influence. So too have many of his fellow progressive Christians. He continues to have a broad speaking platform and to write popular books.

What the Bible Says

The Bible insists that it is the living and active Word of God, breathed out by God himself. It is not a man-made document subject to error, evolution, antiquation, or reinterpretation. Jesus himself spoke clearly about the authority and relevance of Scripture, and showed no hesitation in unfolding its meaning and faulting others for misunderstanding it. In Mark 12:24 “Jesus said to them, ‘Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?’” He declared “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Where McLaren casts doubt on the idea that we can ever really confidently know and understand the Bible, Christians have long held that God spoke and inspired his prophets and apostles to write because he actually intended to be heard as saying something, and that the message would be carried on and be understood forever after (see 2 Peter 1:16-21). This is why Jude calls it “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and why Paul is so emphatic with Timothy that he “guard the good deposit entrusted to [him]” (2 Timothy 1:14). Kevin DeYoung says it well in Taking God at His Word: “The Bible is an utterly reliable book, an unerring book, a holy book, a divine book. … There is no more authoritative declaration than what we find in the word of God, no firmer ground to stand on, no ‘more final’ argument that can be spoken after Scripture has spoken.”

 

The False Teachers

A few weeks ago I set out on a series of articles through which I am scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notable false teachers. Along the way we have visited such figures as Arius, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White and Norman Vincent Peale. Today we turn to one of the most outrageous charlatans of our time, a man who claims to have healed countless people. His name is Benny Hinn.

Benny Hinn

Benny HinnToufik Benedictus Hinn was born on December 3, 1952 in Jaffa, Israel (modern-day Tel Aviv), the son of a Greek father and Armenian mother who had immigrated from Greece. He was raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition but educated in Roman Catholic schools. After the Six-Day War, he and his family emigrated to Canada and at the age of nineteen he professed faith in Jesus Christ. He immediately became involved in the Pentecostal movement in Toronto and was mentored by Dr. Winston Nunes of Broadview Faith Temple.

In December 1973 Hinn traveled with other Christians to Pittsburgh to attend a miracle healing service led by Kathryn Kuhlman, the foremost faith healer of that day. Though Hinn never met Kuhlman personally, she left an indelible impression on him, and at that service he had a life-changing religious experience. Shortly after, he received a vision of people falling into a roaring fire and heard the words: “If you do not preach, every soul who falls will be your responsibility!” Later that year he began to preach and claimed that at this time God miraculously cured him of a terrible stutter. He soon began to imitate Kuhlman and even to sponsor services endorsed by the Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation. In 1979 Hinn moved to the United States of America, settling in Orlando, where he met Suzanne Harthern, a pastor’s daughter who would become his wife.

In 1983 Hinn founded Orlando Christian Center and began to perform miracles and conduct healing services, claiming that God was using him as a conduit for these supernatural deeds. Soon his “Miracle Crusades” were being held around the world and, by 1989, were being televised across America. The daily talk show “This Is Your Day” followed, and is now broadcast in over 200 nations around the world. In 1999 he handed the leadership of Orlando Christian Center to Clint Brown so he could focus entirely on travel and crusades. Millions, or even tens of millions, attend his crusades each year. The largest event to date took place in Mumbai, India, where over seven million people attended over a three-day period. He claims to have preached the gospel to over a billion people, either face-to-face or through television.

In recent days Hinn has been the subject of scrutiny on a number of fronts. In 2010 his wife filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences.” This was shortly after the National Enquirer published photographs of Benny Hinn and fellow televangelist Paula White walking out of a Rome hotel hand-in-hand. However, nearly three years later, Benny and Suzanne were remarried at The Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando. His claims of miracles remain unverified despite a host of programs and publications that have looked for evidence. He has also been widely criticized for his lavish lifestyle, which includes a private jet, a multi-million dollar mansion, and regular stays at hotels costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per night. This extravagance led to United States Senator Chuck Grassley announcing that the United States Senate Committee on Finance would be investigating Hinn’s ministry.

False Teaching – Faith Healing

Critiques of Benny Hinn can span a multitude of areas—his Word-Faith theology, his “little god” theology, his claim that each person of the Trinity is actually his own trinity, his outright lies about his accomplishments, and much more besides. But for our purposes, we will recognize him as the world’s most recognized faith healer.

Hinn teaches that God intends for everyone to be healed of all of their diseases. If people simply have the faith to believe they can be healed, God will heal them through the agency of a healer like himself.

Hinn’s crusades are carefully constructed to lead and manipulate those in attendance, with singing and repetitive music that build a particular atmosphere and sense of anticipation. These crusades crescendo in a time where he announces that God has begun to heal people and he then invites those people to come to the stage to tell what God has done, a technique that was mastered by Kathryn Kuhlman and has since become a staple of faith healing. Hinn claims that God is working powerfully through him to heal others and begins to list those miracles, usually starting with ones that are invisible and unverifiable at the moment—diabetes, depression, and the like. As the healings begin, many people come forward, hoping for their own miracle. Generally, though, only people who claim to have already been healed are showcased on the stage where Benny speaks to them and then often “slays” them in the Spirit.

In this way he has manipulated countless people to give money to his cause, believing that giving money will be key to activating their miracle. Not a single one of Hinn’s miracles has ever been verified, though many have been proven to be temporary or false.

Benny Hinn Prayer

Followers & Adherents

Hinn’s television show “This Is Your Day” is broadcast around the world and remains regular viewing for millions. He speaks to millions more each year through his crusades. He has also perfected faith healing techniques that have been imitated by a host of others. He is the world’s best known and most notorious faith healer.

What the Bible Says

While the Bible clearly presents a God who is capable of healing and a God who at times does heal miraculously, it never tells us that it is always God’s will that we be healed. In fact, it may be God’s will that we suffer for a time. Never does the Bible tell us that our healing is dependent upon the quantity or the activation of our faith. And most Christians hold that even while God does still heal people today, he no longer does so through the agency of a healer (see James 5:13-16 and read about A Presbyterian Healing Service).

Hinn’s theology of healing is laid out in his book Lord, I Need a Miracle. Richard Mayhue points out eight grave errors: Benny Hinn holds it is wrong to pray “Lord, Thy will be done” even though Jesus Christ did (Luke 22:42); Hinn believes that God always intends for believers to be healed, even though some great saints of the Bible were unhealed (the apostle Paul among them); Hinn teaches that believers should command God to heal, while the Bible instructs them to ask (1 John 5:14-15); Hinn suggests that miraculous healing from God is gradual, while the miraculous healings of the New Testament were instantaneous; Hinn teaches that faith on the part of the sick person is essential to healing, while a man like Lazarus could not have exercised faith when he was healed since he had been dead; Hinn believes that we must do our part before God can heal, while the Bible teaches that God is sovereign; Hinn believes that Christians should not be sick, while the Bible teaches that Christians can be sick and will all eventually die; Hinn implies that a person’s healing can be lost and that the healed person must do certain things to keep the healing, while such a notion is completely foreign to the Bible.

In the final analysis, Benny Hinn is a dangerous deceiver, a fraud and charlatan who enriches himself at the expense of countless others.

 

The False Teachers

A few weeks ago I set out on a new series of articles through which I am scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we have visited such figures as Arius, Pelagius, Joseph Smith, and Ellen G. White. As we move steadily closer to contemporary times we must pause to take a brief look at the life and ministry of Harry Emerson Fosdick, the foremost proponent and popularizer of theological liberalism.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

FosdickHarry Emerson Fosdick was born in Buffalo, New York, on May 24, 1878. As a young boy he claimed to have been born again, but even as a teenager rebelled against the “born again” movement known as fundamentalism. He developed an early interest in theology and chose to pursue ministerial training at Colgate Divinity School where he was influenced by William Newton Clarke, an early advocate of the social gospel. Upon graduating from Colgate he continued to Union Theological Seminary. In 1904 he accepted his first pastorate at First Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey, and four years later also accepted a faculty position at Union where he was to teach until 1946. Fosdick quickly proved himself a skilled communicator and compelling speaker and it would not be long before he would be known as America’s foremost minister.

In 1919 Fosdick was asked to become associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in New York City, though he was allowed to retain his baptistic convictions. He quickly gained a reputation as a leading Christian voice, and hundreds and then thousands descended on First Presbyterian to hear his sermons. It was here, on May 21, 1922, that he preached the sermon that came to define him: “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In this sermon he proclaimed that there was a great battle in the church between the fundamentalists and the modernists or liberals, and that he was going to stand firmly on the side of the liberals. Because of his desire to modernize the Christian faith, he soundly rejected belief in a series of traditional Christian doctrines including Christ’s virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, and the literal return of Jesus Christ. He decried the fundamentalists as being intolerant for demanding adherence to doctrines that science, reason, and a modern world could no longer sustain. John D. Rockefeller enjoyed this sermon so much that he had 130,000 copies printed and mailed to every Protestant pastor in the nation.

“Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” set off what would soon be called the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. We need to be clear that we cannot import into this battle a twenty-first century understanding of fundamentalism. When Fosdick battled the fundamentalists of his day, he battled nothing less than traditional or conservative Christianity. Fundamentalists were those who insisted upon the key tenets of historic, orthodox Christianity—what they defined as the fundamental doctrines of the faith.

Fosdick was by no means the only liberal theologian of his day, but he was the one to gain the widest acclaim and the broadest platform. While many others were pressing theological liberalism in the seminaries and the halls of academia, Fosdick was on the radio waves and in the bookstores, taking his message to the common people. His voice extended through his radio program, The National Vespers Hour, which was broadcast in the Northern and Eastern United States, and through many bestselling books which eventually sold in the millions. On two separate occasions he was on the cover of TIME magazine.

By the mid 1920’s Fosdick had established himself as the leading voice of twentieth-century liberalism. His stand for liberalism put him at odds with many of the conservative voices in Presbyterianism, and this led him to leave First Presbyterian Church in 1925 and to go instead to Park Avenue Baptist Church.

In the early 1920’s, J. Gresham Machen emerged as one of the foremost opponents of liberalism. His 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism was a strong, biblical response that drew comparisons between the Bible and liberal theology and showed that the two were in clear opposition. He rightly asked, “The question is not whether Mr. Fosdick is winning men, but whether the thing to which he is winning them is Christianity.” Others joined the battle as well. Fosdick remained firm in the face of such attacks, declaring “They call me a heretic. Well, ‘I am a heretic if conventional orthodoxy is the standard. I should be ashamed to live in this generation and not be a heretic.

In 1929, Princeton, once a bastion of Reformed thinking and teaching, was reorganized under modernist influences. Almost immediately four Princeton professors who held to the Reformed faith (Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen, Oswald T. Allis, and Cornelius Van Til) withdrew from Princeton and established Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in order to continue upholding the faith Princeton once defended. If the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy was begun with Fosdick’s sermon in 1922, if was effectively cut off among conservative churches in 1929 with the departure of those professors.

Rockefeller money soon built a grand new building on the Hudson, and in 1930 Fosdick was installed as pastor at Riverside Church. He would pastor this congregation for sixteen years, and, after his retirement, attend it for a further twenty-eight. This church became his laboratory for liberalism and it was here that he practiced his liberal values to the full. (To be fair, and to give credit where credit is due, he was a strong advocate of racial reconciliation and was perhaps the most notable preacher to invite African-American preachers into his pulpit.)

Fosdick died in New York City on October 5, 1969, two weeks after being hospitalized for a heart attack. He was ninety-one years old.

False Teaching

Harry Emerson Fosdick was not an original thinker as much as a popularizer who took the theory of liberalism from the seminaries and brought it to a common level. He wanted to modernize the faith by making it attractive to, and compatible with, modern times and modern sensibilities. At heart, liberalism questioned the nature of the Bible and denied its inerrancy, infallibility, and authority. Liberalism denied that the Bible is the Word of God and insisted instead that it contains the Word of God. Once Scripture’s authority had been denied, a host of doctrines would necessarily fall in its wake.

Fosdick questioned the essential beliefs necessary to be a Christian and began to challenge long-held, orthodox Christian beliefs such as the virgin birth, and the return of Christ Jesus. Robert Moats Miller, one of Fosdick’s biographers, wrote, “Fosdick could not believe that Jesus was virgin born. He did not ridicule those who did, but he was adamant that such belief was not essential to acceptance of Christian faith. … Fosdick doubted whether Jesus ever thought of himself as the Messiah; perhaps he did, but more probably Jesus’ disciples may have read this into his thinking.” He also denied the wrath of God, suggesting that wrath was simply a metaphor for the natural consequences of doing wrong. With wrath removed, it was inevitable that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ would also be denied. Before long Fosdick’s Christianity looked nothing like historic Christianity.

In a later sermon, “The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism,” Fosdick spoke of his methodology in modernizing the Christian faith, saying, “We have already largely won the battle we started out to win; we have adjusted the Christian faith to the best intelligence of our day and have won the strongest minds and the best abilities of the churches to our side. Fundamentalism is still with us but mostly in the backwaters. The future of the churches, if we will have it so, is in the hands of modernism.” Of course, he was too optimistic, and too blinded by his own success. Liberalism posed a major challenge to the faith, but like all other challengers, it would rise and then wane.

Followers and Modern Adherents

If Fosdick was the man who popularized and legitimized liberalism, we can rightly say that subsequent liberals, and especially those who operated at the popular level, followed in his footsteps. Men like Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller and John Shelby Spong are among them. Martin Luther King Jr., a theological liberal in his own right, regarded Fosdick as the greatest preacher of the century and in 1958, inscribed a copy of Stride Toward Freedom for Fosdick with these words: “If I were called upon to select the foremost prophets of our generation, I would choose you to head the list.”

But Fosdick’s influence extends farther than that. Though the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy began within Presbyterianism, it soon spread to other Protestant denominations, eventually leading to today’s division between “mainline” and “evangelical” Protestant churches. About half of today’s mainline Protestants consider themselves liberal, and they, too, whether they know it or not, are influenced by Fosdick.

What the Bible Says

Fosdick’s teaching was false in many areas, but the heart of it all was his denial of the inerrancy, infallibility and authority of the Bible. He elevated human reason above the plain words of Scripture; he made reason the final arbiter of truth. All the other doctrines he denied depended upon first undermining the Bible. Christians have long insisted, as the fundamentalists did in his day, that God’s Word, not science or human reason, is the measure of true knowledge. Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” Our understanding of ourselves and the world around us is flawed; we must depend upon God to reveal true knowledge.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Fosdick wanted to make the Christian faith soothing to those itching ears and, in so doing, distorted it beyond all recognition. The reality is that the Christian faith is, and always will be, offensive. If we remove the offense of the gospel, we have removed the power of the gospel.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians are perfectly suited to Fosdick and his liberalism:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)