Skip to content

The Danger of AA

December 29, 2018

The Demon of Alcohol Abuse

Jesus: When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.
Alcohol Abuse: The Problem
6% of all deaths worldwide are attributable to alcohol consumption. More than 10% of children in the United States live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 survey. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 65.3 million Americans engaged in binge drinking in the surveyed month. Alcohol causes several forms of cancer, including those of the oral cavity (throat and voice box) and liver. Women who drink at least three servings of alcohol per day have 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol’s effect on the brain is profound. Long term use leads to blackouts, especially in women. Alcohol abuse is a risk factor for the physical and sexual abuse of children. The damage to the body of the long-term over-consumption of alcohol are mostly irreversible.
Alcohol abuse has caused great harm to my family. My father died at age 64 from the effects of alcohol. As a 21 year old recent graduate from college, it was heart breaking to watch my weakened father get the DT’s and then see him die two days later. My sister, who succumbed to brain cancer two years ago, suffered blackouts. We learned not to receive phone calls from her in the evening because she would not remember anything we discussed. Her husband, my brother-in-law, lost his managerial position due to alcohol abuse and recently had surgery to remove his larynx. I never met my father-in-law, because of alcohol. He abandoned his family when my wife was seven years old, and later committed suicide. My wife and I both have vivid childhood memories of being terrified in the back seat of our drunk father’s car.
Kings Park, My Hometown
When I was 10 years old, my family moved from Buffalo, NY to Kings Park, a small town on the the north shore of Long Island. A large percentage of the population was either Irish or Italian, and mostly Catholic. (Currently, the evangelical population of the area is 4%, while the Catholic population is 58%. I think a large percentage of the rest of the population are former Catholics who are now agnostic). At the time, Kings Park had the largest number of bars per capita of any town in the country. It was a true saying in my hometown: where four people are gathered, you’ll find a fifth.
I loved growing up in Kings Park, and have many fond childhood memories. However, Kings Park was, and is, a spiritually dark place. The town was named after its famous (now abandoned) mental institution, which consisted of 150 buildings that accommodated over 9,000 patients in its heyday (one of whom was my Aunt Nettie). Another institution in Kings Park is St. Joseph Catholic Church, my local parish. Three of her priests were molesting children: John Butler (1961-1965), Romano Ferraro (1973-1977), and Thomas DeVita (1978-1980). [I attended the parish from 1966 to 1974, when I went off to college. My campus priest also was convicted of the sexual abuse of a 16 year old boy]. Catholic publications recognize that its priests, perhaps due to their isolation, have a high incidence of alcohol abuse.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
The “12 Step” program created by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most common form of treatment for alcohol abuse in the United States. At 30,000+ member St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, you may receive the sacrament of Confession (considered the “second plank of salvation for those who have shipwrecked their faith) at two times. Either 6:30-7:15 on Wednesday evening, or 4:00 to 5:00 on Saturday. But you may attend an AA meeting Monday through Friday, and twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The total time offered for the sacrament: One hour and 45 minutes. The time offered for the various 12 step meetings at the church? 20 meetings covering 22 hours! It appears that 12 Step programs have replaced the Sacrament of Confession in dealing with sin in Catholicism by a factor of 12!
This is not only a Catholic phenomenon. In the Charlotte area, there are meetings (mostly at churches) scheduled almost every hour of the waking day. There are 577 AA meetings scheduled for this week in and around my hometown. This does not include meetings of other 12 Step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (130 meetings), Al Anon/Alateen (63 meetings), Sex Addicts Anonymous (21 meetings), Food Addicts Anonymous (13 meetings), Adult Children of Alcoholics (6 meetings), and Celebrate Recovery (12 meetings).
AA may be the only government-mandated religion in the U.S. Those who are convicted of alcohol-related crimes may be subject to Court-mandated attendance in AA. The effectiveness of AA in treating alcohol abuse is disputable. Some studies show that participation in AA is less effective than no treatment at all. One outspoken critic of AA has written extensively against the institution and its promises. What follows is my understanding of AA from a Christian perspective.

My Problems with AA

1) AA is a religion that competes with Christianity
The advocates of AA deny that it is a religion. The Courts disagree:
Alcoholics Anonymous materials and the testimony of the witness established beyond a doubt that religious activities, as defined in constitutional law, were a part of the treatment program. The distinction between religion and spirituality is meaningless, and serves merely to confuse the issue.” – Wisconsin’s Federal 7th Circuit Court.
In AA, they talk about god. They pray. They have a creed. They have a “bible” (The Big Book). They have fellowship meetings. They make confessions. They promote witnessing to other alcoholics. But they do not espouse Christianity, because it is too exclusive and restrictive.
AA is a false religion.
2) The founder of AA was never a Christian
It is a common misconception that AA was founded by Christians and is based on Christian principles. The founders of AA, while religious, never claimed to be Christians. Bill Wilson was a seeker of spiritual experiences. He conducted seances, seeking to contact departed spirits. He studied paranormal phenomena and became involved in the occult and spiritualism. He believed he personally had clairvoyant powers. Wilson was heavily influenced by pragmatic philosopher William James, known as the “Father of American Psychology,” and Gerald Heard, known as the “Grandfather of the New Age Movement.”  Heard acted as guide for Bill Wilson’s first LSD “trip” in 1956.
In December, 1934 Wilson became a teetotaler after one of his many hospitalizations for abusing alcohol. While experiencing delirium tremens (DT’s),he was sedated with a mixture of morphine, psychoactive drugs, and Belladonna (a hallucinogen). It was while receiving this treatment that Wilson had his intense “spiritual experience” that led to the “higher power” doctrine of AA.
Bill Wilson’s life-long marital infidelity led to chronic depression. He began experimenting with LSD in an effort to relieve these bouts and to seek other spiritual cures for alcoholism. Wilson was deeply attracted to the Catholic Church, and studied her doctrines with the help of Bishop Sheen. He allegedly had a “second conversion experience” in a meeting with a Jesuit priest in 1940.
As far as can be known, Wilson never received Jesus as his Savior.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Matt. 7:15-16.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet.
3) The god of AA is not the Holy, Triune God
AA is polytheistic. In their creed (The 12 Steps), they describe “God” as an impersonal force (a power greater than ourselves). Instead of being the God of Christianity, it is “God as we understood Him.” [Italicized for emphasis in the original document]. Those who struggle to believe in any kind of God are encouraged to consider the AA group their God.The god of AA is whoever or whatever you want him/it to be. It is a God of the human imagination.
Much to our relief, we discovered that we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect contact with him… When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. Big Book, page 46,47.
Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.
But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. 1 Cor. 8:6.
You shall have no other gods before me…for I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Ex. 20:3,5. 
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods.

4) AA denies the true source of power

Jesus, before ascending into heaven, reminded his disciples that He possessed all authority. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples… Mt. 28:18-19.
It is through the gospel message that this power is unleashed.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith. Rom. 1:16-17.
In AA, the power to quit drinking is received apart from the gospel. The “gospel” of AA is to surrender to any spirit that will then help you overcome your alcohol addiction.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; and promotes a false gospel.
5) AA has its own Bible
The “Big Book” (titled Alcoholics Anonymous) is the “bible” of AA. It contains the biography of its founder, Bill Wilson, and the doctrines of the religion (including the 12 Steps, the 12 Traditions, and the 12 Concepts). I recently finished reading the “Big Book” from cover to cover. I waded through 42 testimonies (over half the book) that proclaim the effectiveness of AA. In these accounts, there are exactly zero references to Jesus [So much for AA’s “Christian heritage”!]. The “Big Book” offers apologetics (for example, regarding agnosticism), advice to wives and employers, and contains a doctor’s recommendation. The purpose of the “Big Book” is to show precisely how a person can recover from alcohol abuse. An important theory is that only alcoholics can help alcoholics. Many long-time members of AA consider the “Big Book” to be divinely inspired.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; and studies a false bible.
6) AA holds to erroneous doctrine
Here are just a few of the incorrect doctrines of AA that contradict biblical teaching:
  • AA defines alcoholism as a disease, not a sin.
The “Big Book” says, “We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness.” One witness in the book considers this fact to be a freeing thought: “I learned that alcoholism isn’t sin, it’s a disease. That lifted the guilt I had felt.”
The Bible describes drunkenness as a sin. The wages of continuing drunkenness is death, surely spiritual and often physical. In a sense, sin is an “illness.” Every human being is born with this spiritual disease. We sin because we are sinners. We drink to excess because we are sinners. We are all guilty of sin.
The 12 Steps of AA have been transplanted to other “diseases” such as overeating, co-dependency, sex addiction, cluttering, and the list goes on. Just about any human behavior can be misdiagnosed and treated as a disease rather than sin. We are adversely affected by bad parenting, bad experiences, bad genes. These become excuses that keep us from truly acknowledging our sin and seeking a Savior.
  • AA defines alcoholism as an incurable condition. The alcoholic is only in remission.
The “Big Book says: “We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.'”
But the Bible states that through the power of God a person can be completely transformed. Speaking of drunkards, the apostle Paul writes:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 6:11.
  • AA, while encouraging submission to a higher power, is in reality a legalistic and works-oriented religion.
In order to retain your sobriety, AA mandates that you “work the program.”
According to the “Big Book”:
RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. There chances are less than average.
Sobriety entails hard work. One testimonial recorded in the “Big Book” put it this way:
A willingness to do whatever I was told to do simplified the program for me. Study the A.A. book — don’t just read it. They told me to go to meetings, and I still do at every available opportunity…
A person is saved from alcohol by working and reworking the 12 Steps, studying the “Big Book,” and practicing AA’s peculiar moral instructions.
  • AA treats a symptom, rather than the ultimate disease.
Alcohol abuse is but one in an endless list of human sinfulness. Our ultimate disease that led to our spiritual death is sin. Sin has separated us from the Holy God. Through Jesus Christ, the relationship with God is restored. AA treats (mistreats, really) one symptom of our rebellion, while having no effect on our broken relationship with God that is the source of our troubles. This restoration is only possible through the gospel: one must repent and believe in the accomplished mission of Jesus. Why is this condition necessary? Because God is holy and we are sinners. We need the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; studies a false bible; and teaches false doctrines.
7) AA is inclusive and ecumenical
AA proclaims a broad message of “spirituality.” In the Big Book there is a chapter entitled We Agnostics. It is an apologetic to the doubter about the existence of a “power greater than yourself.”
To us, the realm of spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek… When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God…Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. As soon as a man can say he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeated proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built… If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you.
This is a satanic lie. Joining them on the “Broad Highway” is spiritual suicide. If you want to be shunned at an AA meeting, share that Jesus is the exclusive way to heaven.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Matt. 7:13.
I am the gate. If whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; studies a false bible; teaches false doctrines; and promotes false ecumenism.
8) AA’s ecumenism results in improper gatherings
The AA convert is isolated from the true Body of Christ. For a non-Christian, AA keeps such a one busy participating in AA and away from the true Church of Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel. For Christians attending AA, these meetings are detrimental to their spiritual growth. The meetings focus around one issue: “recovery” from alcohol abuse. And since alcoholism is deemed an incurable disease, it is impossible to “graduate” from the AA program. To leave would be to risk falling back into old destructive patterns of thinking and ultimately losing the battle with the bottle.
Most AA’ers identify not as redeemed Christians but rather as recovering alcoholics. They gather in the name of Bill Wilson rather than in the name of Jesus Christ.
For a Christian, time spent going to AA meetings detracts from the importance of gathering with the saints to worship and serve Jesus. Further, we are warned not to interact on a spiritual level with unbelievers.
Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching. Heb. 10:25.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; studies a false bible; teaches false doctrines; promotes false ecumenism; and meets as a false fellowship.
9) AA focuses on a temporal hope
AA is a religion that focuses on temporal life and neglects eternal life. Christianity is focused on the eternal. AA is an uncertain hope. Faith in Christ, because of the resurrection, offers eternal hope.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor. 15:19-20.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through a curtain to God’s inner sanctuary. Heb. 6:19.
Since, you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Col. 3:1-2.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; studies a false bible; teaches false doctrines; promotes false ecumenism;  meets as a false fellowship; and offers a false hope.
10) AA provides dangerous spiritual experiences
The “Big Book” has this to say about the importance of spiritual experiences:
The distinguished American psychologist, William James, in his book “Varieties of Religious Experience,” indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired. If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may for a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such manners.
William James is the philosopher of American pragmatism. In his teaching, the effectiveness of a religious experience proves its truth. The end justifies the means. But the Bible warns that we must test our experiences, because there is danger in submitting oneself to unclean spirits.
Again, from the “Big Book”:
To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men. When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book.
This is in direct contradiction to the Bible:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God… by this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:1-6
AA encourages its adherents to seek spiritual experiences wherever they may be found. This is unwise and dangerous. It is anti-Christian. It places people in spiritual bondage.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods; promotes a false gospel; studies a false bible; teaches false doctrines; promotes false ecumenism;  meets as a false fellowship; offers a false hope; and seeks false spiritual experiences.
11) AA encourages selective proselytizing
Here is Step 12 of AA:
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12th Step is critical in AA. If you want to continue in your sobriety, you must actively proselytize others who are struggling with alcohol addiction. Instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ going forth, it is the “twelve step gospel” of AA. The result is a cult-like separation consisting of those struggling with alcohol. All submitting to an anonymous “higher power.” While claiming that it has a broad spectrum of adherents, it is really a ghetto consisting only of people who are focused on alcohol and false spirituality.
AA is a false religion; founded by a false prophet; that submits to false gods, promotes a false gospel, studies a false bible, teaches false doctrines, promotes false ecumenism, meets as a false fellowship, offers a false hope, seeks false spiritual experiences and conducts false witnessing
12) AA causes spiritual harm
In Christianity, conversion is effected by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin and its eternal consequences. This salvation heals the whole person, and is everlasting in its effectiveness. AA provides a false conversion experience. The religious experience of AA is through a false (anonymous) god. It deals primarily with one temporal issue, the “disease” of drunkenness. It creates a life-long reliance on attending AA meetings. It is a false spirituality that acts as a deterrent against the Holy Spirit and true conversion.
Last week I had a spiritual discussion with a friend who has been involved in AA for over 35 years. He told me that he always becomes “enraged” by any discussion of the exclusive claims of Christianity. In my mind he hates the name of Jesus, the only name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Alcoholics Anonymous and Building 93 of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center are eerily similar. Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) was published in 1939. Building 93 was constructed in 1939. AA stands as a monument to alleged soul healing through a man-centered god. Building 93 stands as a monument to alleged soul healing through electric shock and frontal lobotomies. There is one important difference. Building 93 is abandoned. The screams of its former inhabitants have long been silenced. The programs of AA and its clones are sadly still functioning to the eternal detriment of its followers.
Kings Park town historian Steve Weber warns that entering Building 93 is dangerous. “I strongly discourage anyone from entering those buildings.” Building 93 has been closed for 22 years, has been exposed to the weather and is filled with asbestos. “It is dangerous to go in. The asbestos covers your clothes and when you go home you get it on pillows, blankets. You breathe it in for weeks afterward.”
AA meetings are filled with deceiving spirits that covers your soul when you go home. It is dangerous to go in. You breathe it in for years afterward.
AA’s “anonymous god,” (the “god as you understand him”) is none other than the Evil One himself. Can Satan save you?
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the good news. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. 2 Cor. 4:4.
My earnest prayer is that AA would be abandoned by those unfortunates who are held in its spiritual bondage. Those who have temporarily expelled the demon of alcoholism through AA have multiplied their troubles by eight. The expelled demon of alcohol has invited his seven friends back into its former abode. Their joint mission is to keep these souls from ever receiving eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.
AA is a false religion, founded by a false prophet, that submits to false gods, promotes a false gospel, studies a false bible, teaches false doctrines, promotes false ecumenism, meets as a false fellowship, offers a false hope, seeks false spiritual experiences;  conducts false witnessing; and results in false conversion.

Do We Need Another 12 Step Program?

Given the proliferation of anonymous organizations and methods, is there a teaching or organization that can free someone from the clutches of AA? Here is my version of the 12 Steps that one can apply to help those struggling with addiction to AA meetings and doctrine:
Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over AA, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe only Jesus could save us from our addiction to AA.
Step 3: Made a decision to submit our lives to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and abandoned the false gods of AA and our understanding.
Step 4: Searched the Scriptures (not the Big Book), and found that Jesus is our only righteousness.
Step 5: Confessed our sins to God and to those whom we sinned against, not anonymously in an AA meeting.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to trust God to form our character through His loving discipline, not through attending AA meetings, working the 12 Steps, and studying the Big Book.
Step 7: Humbly thanked Jesus for paying for our sins, not the removal of our “shortcomings.”
Step 8: Made no list, but lived life in the Holy Spirit and performed the good works God had planned for us, rather than “being willing” to do them for the self-serving motives of AA.
Step 9: Loved others patiently, regardless of conditions or consequences. Did not hesitate to share the true Gospel with my friends in AA.
Step 10: Took a biblical inventory of the commands of Jesus, and admitted that we were wrong about AA and the God of our understanding.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation on the Scriptures to seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, not the false God of AA and our understanding.
Step 12: Having been born anew by the Holy Spirit to a living hope in Jesus, we offered the gospel to those ensnared in AA, and to practice these Christian principles.

There is much more that could be said. I encourage you to look into these matters for yourselves. To those involved in AA (whom I am certain to have offended), know that what I have written comes from a love for you and the prospect of your eternal salvation.
Don’t drink and drive during this holiday season! Better yet, don’t drink at all! May you be filled with the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and experience His glorious presence in the New Year.
In Christ (our Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace),

Do Catholics and Evangelicals Worship the Same Jesus?

October 24, 2017

In March I was visiting with a Catholic client to prepare taxes. The conversation veered to spiritual matters, and I explained why I decided to leave the Roman Catholic religion in December of 1991. I shared with him how I studied the Book of Colossians, and how this led to a spiritual crisis. He was receptive to further discussion, and we spoke for about an hour.

My friend made a comment that led me to the topic for this newsletter. He said “all Christian denominations have added their own traditions and interpretations to the simple, core doctrines of Christianity.” He claimed that Catholicism and evangelicalism both hold to these core convictions. “For example, don’t we both believe that Jesus is the Savior?” But my study of Colossians caused me to question everything I believed as a Catholic. My understanding of the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of Jesus would be completely altered. Numbers in parentheses are references in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Who Jesus Is? My Different Jesus

I. The Body and Soul of Jesus

As a Catholic, I was taught that the bread and wine become Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity.

“For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” (1324)

“By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and the whole substance of the wine into the substance of the blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” (1376)

[I now believe that the bread and wine are a symbolic memorial and are not the literal body and blood of the Savior.] 

II. The Authority of Jesus 

As a Catholic, I was taught that the Pope is the head of the Church.

“The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’ ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.'” (882)

“For by this Church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord.” (834) 

[I now believe Jesus is pre-eminent and is the head of the church, and  that the Pope usurps Christ’s authority] 

III. The Priestly Office of Jesus 

As a Catholic, I was taught to seek the intercession of Mary, the Pope, the Priest, the Saints, and the Church.

“Taken up to heaven she [Mary] did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix.” (969)

The intercession of the saints. ‘Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…[T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…'” (956) 

[I now believe and trust in only one Mediator, Jesus.]


Where Jesus is? His Different Location 

I. Jesus on the Altar 

As a Catholic, I was taught that I could worship Jesus at the local Church, where He is a sacrificial offering at the Mass. Jesus would become bread and wine and enter my stomach. He remained with me until fully digested.

“The Eucharist presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharist species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.” (1377)

Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord.” (1378) 

II. A Wafer to be Worshiped 

As a Catholic, I also worshiped him in a glass enclosure known as a monstrance.

“‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'” (1378)

[I now believe that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven.]


When Did Jesus? My Different Time Frame 

I. When Did Jesus Baptize Me? 

As a Catholic, I was taught that I was “born again” when I received the sacrament of baptism as an infant.

“Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.'” (1213)

“Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.” (1250) 

[I now believe that I was “born again” when I received Christ by faith at age 34.]

II. When Will Jesus Grant Me Eternal Life?

As a Catholic, I was taught that I would achieve eternal life through life-long adherence to the sacramental system of Catholicism.

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.” (1213)

“Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.” (1446) 

[I now believe that I have already received eternal life.] 

III. When is Jesus Sacrificed?

 As a Catholic, I was taught that Jesus was sacrificed on the altar at every Mass.

 “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different; ‘In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.'” (1367)

[I now believe that the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is sufficient for my salvation.]


How Did Jesus? My Different Righteousness

 I. Infusions or Imputation?

 As a Catholic, I believed I was receiving infusions of Christ’s righteousness by participating in the Catholic sacramental system. The sacraments would cleanse me and enable me to do good works. If I died pure and in a state of grace, I would go to heaven. If I died with some righteousness, I would enter purgatory.

“The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life.” (1813)

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (1030)

[I now believe that I have already been credited with all the righteousness of Jesus through faith.]

 II. Inherent or Alien?

As a Catholic, I was taught that I must be inherently righteous in order to merit heaven.

“‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” (1989)

[I now believe that I have been credited with an alien righteousness, the perfect righteousness of Jesus.]


Why Did Jesus? My Impossible Task

 I. Can I Merit?

 As a Catholic, I was taught that I must merit entrance to heaven. I could accomplish this through the intercession of the Church, the infallible nature and authority of the Pope, the mediation of Mary at the hour of my death, the intercession of the saints, making confessions to the priest, and through good works performed by the power of the sacraments, especially the Sacrifice of the Mass.

“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (2010)

[I now believe that it is impossible to merit heaven. Perfection is required. My only hope of heaven is Jesus and his righteousness. I am not worthy. It is all of grace.]

 II. Can I be Pure?

As a Catholic, I was taught that there were two kinds of sin, mortal and venial. Mortal sins bankrupted me of my righteousness and could only be forgiven in the sacrament of penance. I had to make satisfaction for my sin (usually by reciting a few “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers”) through penance in order to restore my relationship with God. Venial sins could be remitted by participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Through these sacraments I could be restored to a “state of grace.”

“Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.” (1415)

“Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.” (1861)

[I now believe that it is impossible to be in a pure temporal “state of grace,” and that grace is not like some commodity. I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am a saint.]


What Did Jesus Do? My Different Hope

 I. Is it Finished?

 As a Catholic, I was taught that if I sincerely did my best then I could enter purgatory when I died, and eventually get to heaven.

“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (847)

[I now believe that Jesus accomplished my salvation. My sins are forever covered by the shed blood and my hope is in Jesus’ perfect obedience and righteousness.]

 II. Assurance or Presumption?

 As a Catholic, I was taught that I could never be certain of my salvation. There was always the possibility of the commission of a mortal sin. To be assured is to commit the sin of presumption.

“The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption.” (2091)

“There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit.” (2092)

[I now believe  that Jesus accomplished my salvation. My faith is “the assurance of things hope for, the certainty of things not seen.”]



So, do my Catholic friend and I both believe that Jesus is the Savior? Shouldn’t this depend on our definition of “Jesus” and “Savior?” I am pretty sure we disagree on “Who Jesus is.” I am pretty sure we disagree on “Where Jesus is found.” I am pretty sure we disagree on “When Jesus saves us.” I am pretty sure we disagree on “How Jesus saves us.” I am pretty sure we disagree on “Why Jesus Had to Live and Die.” And I am pretty sure we disagree on “What Jesus Accomplished.”

We may have the same vocabulary, but we don’t have the same dictionary.

Why are 9Marks Churches So Unhealthy?

November 20, 2016
[This is the eighth in a series on improper submission: The first article (link) covered the similarities between Roman Catholicism and Islam, and mandatory submission. The second article (link) introduced improper submission that often occurs in evangelical churches. The third article (link) discussed the role of integrity (or lack thereof) in submitting to fallible creeds. The fourth article (link) warned about making rash oaths in submitting to church membership. The fifth article (link) described the problem of elders acting as overlords rather than as loving teachers. The sixth article (link) was a case study involving spiritual abuse related to a signed church covenant. The seventh article (link) discussed spiritual abuse at 9Marks churches.
What Makes 9Marks Churches So Unhealthy?


Apparently, I am the kind of person who has to learn by making mistakes. I became a Christian at a relatively late age (34). The only religious system that I had ever known was Roman Catholicism. So, I had no idea what to look for in a church. One of my first forays away from Rome occurred on January 12th, 1992. I attended The Church of Christ (Scientist). I thought it was cool that they had reading rooms. After the service, I picked up a book by the church’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) and went on vacation for a week in Florida. As I read about how sickness was not real, guess what? I got sick. The more I read, the sicker I became. By the end of the week’s vacation, I had developed Bell’s Palsy. One side of my face was paralyzed. Lesson learned, Lord. I returned the book to the church when I got back and never returned.

It is now almost 25 years later. Looking back I see that God has taken me on another “long vacation.” He seems to have made me an expert in 9Marks churches. I find it amazing that it has taken so long for me to learn the lessons that I needed. “Brothers and sisters, think what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards…”

I have read and reread the book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Finally I have figured out the problem with 9Marks. If you read the list of the marks, none of them seem out of place. Good preaching, sound doctrine, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, belonging, church discipline, discipleship, and godly leadership are all important. Where Mark Dever goes astray is that he pollutes each of the nine marks with his faulty paradigm. In the introduction to the book, Dever reveals his hand:
In God’s providence, I had done a doctorate focusing on a Puritan (Richard Sibbes) whose writings about the individual Christian I loved, but whose concessions on the church came to seem increasingly unwise to me.
This is what Dever means. The early Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote a book entitled The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax. The book exalts the gentleness and patience of Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners. Where Dever believes Sibbes erred is in extending this kindness and patience to the church. In a word, Dever has a Puritanical understanding of the local church. He is convinced that there are way too many false converts in the church and insists on changing that. And he is up to the job! This viewpoint pollutes his application of each of the nine marks. Dever has a very high view of the skill set of a pastor, and a very low view of the abilities of the sheep:

1) I hold the office of anointed one.
Comments from the book: “In our preaching, we stand in the place of God”
“It is appropriate for us to gather together and listen to one who is standing in the place of God…”

2) It is my job to purify the church. We must weed out the non-anointed.
Comments from the book: “It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re Christians”
“As we [use wrong methods] to draw people into the church, we end up polluting the very church we are drawing them into.”
“Membership is the church’s corporate endorsement of a person’s salvation”
“God’s plan for the local church does not encourage us to leave weeds unchecked.”
“How to Shepherd : help people to see that they may be mistaken about their own spiritual state”
“Do your church members recognize that they are to examine one another to see if they are in the faith?”

3) Since I stand in God’s place, submit to me! 
Comment from the book: “The kind of trust that we are called to give to our…leaders in a church, can never finally be earned. It must be given as a gift–a gift in faith, in trust more of the God who gives than of the leaders he has given.”
Keep in mind Dever’s Puritanical paradigm as I share the lessons that I learned attending 9Marks churches, and expose its problems.

Problem #1 – A Lack of Love

It is my humble opinion that the most damning issue at the 9Marks churches that I have encountered is a lack of love. Here is what I wrote to the pastor at my first 9Marks church that led to my excommunication:
Pastor, I urge you to consider these things [issues related to his improper excommunication of my friend]. The church at Ephesus had it all. They had right doctrine. They did not tolerate evil men. They put to the test those who called themselves apostles, but were really false. They persevered; they endured for His name’s sake. They did not grow weary. AND YET, THEY WERE THE ONLY CHURCH OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES THAT WAS THREATENED WITH THE REMOVAL OF THEIR LAMPSTAND! They lacked love.
I have experienced some good preaching at 9Marks churches. I have seen a passion for truth and protection from false teaching. I have witnessed tireless effort, discipline and zeal. But 9Marks churches appear to have the “Ephesian love problem.” In 1 Cor. 13, Paul speaks of the preeminence of love. A pastor may have prophecy and great insight, but without love he is nothing. The Father seeks true worshipers that will worship in spirit and truth. Love and integrity are two marks of a healthy congregation. If the pastor and elders are impatient, immature, unkind, aloof, worldly, or double-minded, you can be certain you are in an unhealthy church.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love thinks no evil.

Mark Dever’s paradigm is “Do not assume that the sheep are believers.” This exposes a lack of love that leads to flattened reeds and quenched flax.

Problem # 2 – An Inward Focus

It has been over 37 years since my last “date.” One of my problems in dating was that I was too self-focused. It caused me to try too hard. I longed to be like one of those extroverts who could easily interact with their date. [Thank God there was one woman who overcame my shyness and eventually became my wife!] An unhealthy self-focus is the second problem that I see in 9Marks churches.

When your paradigm is that it is your job to purify the church, the focus turns inward.  The preaching centers around exposing false converts. The theology concentrates on the sheep’s faults. The pastor spends his time convincing you that you may not have received the correct gospel. In place of true discipleship, the law is used as a mirror to expose false professions. Examine yourselves! Are you in the faith? Are we doing membership correctly? Are we staying pure enough by kicking out enough sinners?  I hope you get my drift. Self-focus exacerbates the lack of love problem discussed above.

Problem #3 – They Have Taken Their Eyes Off of Jesus

I turn 60 in a few days. I started running races when I was 14, and by God’s grace I still am able to compete in local 5k’s. The good news is that I will soon be entering a new age bracket! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 12:1-2. “…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

I believe that the flip side of the self-focus mentioned above is that 9Marks churches have turned their focus away from Jesus. They desire to be seen as healthy and holy churches. But they seek holiness in all the wrong places. They have become “nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” 2 Peter 1:9. Their constant refrain is “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.” They may deny this, but they have turned their focus away from Jesus, our Source of holiness.

Problem #4 – They Have Succumbed to Legalism

When a church becomes self-focused and has turned their eyes from the Savior, the inevitable result is legalism. Last fall I wrote an article comparing two legalistic religions that demand improper submission: Roman Catholicism and Islam. I found it interesting that both had a set of five legalistic demands.

For Roman Catholics, they are called the “Five Precepts”:
  1. Attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
  2. Mandatory confession of sins to a priest at least once per year.
  3. Receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
  4. Observe the days of fasting and abstinence.
  5. Provide for the needs of the Church.


For Muslims, they are called the “Five Pillars”:
  1. Mandatory worship 5 times per day.
  2. Mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca at least once per lifetime (Hajj).
  3. Testimony of faith – “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (Shahadah).
  4. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (Sawm).
  5. Mandatory giving (Zakat).

In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever lists what he calls the “Five Special Responsibilities”:

  1. Attend services regularly.
  2. Attend Communion particularly.
  3. Attend Members’ meetings consistently.
  4. Pray regularly.
  5. Give regularly.
The Pharisees were excellent rule followers. They tithed to the very last herb. But they did not learn the most critical lesson. Twice Jesus warned them:”It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire compassion, not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mt. 9:13, 12:7.

9Marks churches tend toward a stifling form of self-righteous legalism. One “fruit” of this is the creation of mandatory church covenants. Here is their reasoning. They focus on the law to purify the church.

Problem #5 – They Bind Consciences with Improper Oaths

The Pharisees were notorious for their oath taking. This is another characteristic they share with 9Marks. In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever writes:
…many Baptist and other evangelical churches express a commitment to God and to each other in writing by signing a “church covenant.” This is an agreement members make with each other and with God to live out the Christian life together in a local church.”
He goes so far as to recommend that this written Church Covenant be recited during the Lord’s Supper. This is a serious issue. It is the natural consequence of the first four problems. Once the focus is off of Jesus and on to legalism, how does one control the flock? Answer: by requiring oath-taking.

I cannot stress how inappropriate it is to recite a Church Covenant during the New Covenant meal. The focus of the New Covenant is the forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. What is the focus of the Church Covenant? Is it not my obedience? Dever has committed a grave error. He has replaced the New Covenant with a covenant of his own making. By requiring adherence to this covenant of obedience, he improperly binds the consciences of the members. All in an effort to keep the church pure.

Problem #6 – They Do Not Properly Administer the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper

Not only do many 9Marks churches improperly recite a legalistic covenant during the New Covenant meal, but they also divide Christ’s body. It has become customary for 9Marks churches to “fence the table.” During  the New Covenant meal, the pastor stresses that the table is restricted to those who are currently members in good standing at an evangelical church. This is wrong at so many levels! It is a very serious error.

Paul warns the Corinthians not to fence the table. “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” Paul goes on to rebuke this divisiveness: “For those [divisive ones] who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

9 Marks churches do not discern the body of Christ. Think for a moment about the issue of the wounded Christian. Perhaps she has been abused at her former (9Marks?) church. She is looking for a loving congregation at which to heal. She looks forward to sharing the covenant meal at her new church. Suddenly she is told that she is not to participate in the Lord’s Supper. She is cut off. The body is divided into two groups: members-in-good-standing and non-members. This has happened often to me, and it is grievous. Those who improperly “fence the table” have committed spiritual abuse. They re-victimize the multitudes of wounded sheep, the bruised reeds and smoking flax, that are part of Christ’s Body. Why do they do this? To purify the Lord’s Table by keeping the disobedient “separated brethren” out. I guess they think these wayward souls have lost their spiritual “covering.” Never mind that they commune with their Christian friends and attend. They are loose cannons, severely at risk since they are not submitted to the “anointed one” who speaks for God.

Another manner of dividing the sheep is the “worthiness requirement.” Only Christians who are pure enough are to come to the Supper. Having excluded non-members, now “impure sinners” are also excluded. It seems to me that this turns the new covenant meal on its head. “Sorry, you are not worthy enough to come to the Supper.” “I thank you, Lord, that I am worthy to eat at your table. I’m not like that sinful tax preparer over there.”At the Lord’s Supper the focus should be on Jesus and his forgiveness, not on me and whether I am worthy to participate. Paul says “But let a man examine himself, and then eat.” Truthful self-examination should reveal unworthiness, not worthiness. I think Paul is telling the Corinthians to examine the way they are treating their brethren. Examine their attitude. This fits the context of the entire passage. But the 9Marks paradigm fences out the “impure” and allows only the “pure” to eat. They are deceived. They are divisive.

Problem #7 – The Leaders Tend to Have Control Issues

It is my experience that the leaders of 9Marks churches have control issues. This is the natural result of the Puritanical paradigm. They are like over-protective “helicopter mom’s” that hover over their children. In order to become a member, you must sign a confessional statement. Never mind that you don’t understand all that is in it. Never mind that you have not been adequately instructed. Never mind that the confessional statement may contain errors. If you want to join us, YOU WILL SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE. Then, there is the restrictive Church Covenant, with all its unintended consequences. How many have been burned by swearing an oath that they eventually could not uphold? Or had their consciences seared? Or have been excommunicated based on a legalistic covenant?

Next, let’s ponder the issue of submission to elders. I swear, if mention is made of Hebrews 13:17 in a membership class you should immediately scream, get up and run out of the room! These 9Marks leaders misunderstand the issue of submission. Please listen to what I am about to say. IF SOMEONE DEMANDS SUBMISSION, THEY DO NOT DESERVE SUBMISSION. [This is an important lesson men need to learn in their marriages.] No one should ever submit to an unqualified, unloving pastor who questions their salvation, points them back to the law, mandates improper oaths, and improperly celebrates the Lord’s Supper.

But what about Hebrews 13:17? I doubt that these Hebrew leaders demanded submission based on their office. Instead, I believe they deserved voluntary obedience based on their character and teaching.

The effect of having pastors and elders with control issues is to quench the Holy Spirit. And this will inevitably lead to your church becoming a very unhealthy place, indeed!

Problem #8 – Immature Leadership

Okay, I admit that I am getting old. Thirty-five years ago I was sitting at a minor league baseball game with my wife when I noticed that every single player on the field was younger than me. Thirty-five years ago! But I have found that I am a much more mature person at age 60 than I was at age 25. A serious problem that I have encountered at 9Marks churches is immature leadership.

The New Calvinism that has swept into the church has been described as a movement  of the “Young, Restless, and Reformed.” Paul warns about the danger of immature leadership. “An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud and the devil would cause him to fall.” 1 Tim. 3:6.  There is also a warning in the Bible concerning treatment of older folk such as me: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” I fear that by setting up a “system” of 9Marks, the immature pastor becomes prideful in the “healthy church” that he is leading. Young, prideful pastors do not accept correction well. They also tend to be impatient. They are overly sensitive. They don’t listen to the advice of more experienced, discerning Christians who just might be among the “lowly sheep.” If problems arise, the first reaction is to kick them out the door. To keep the church “pure.” I think this is why you see so many improper excommunications and other forms of church abuse at 9Marks churches.

These are a very unhealthy traits. God will resist the proud.

Problem #9 – 9Marks Leaders are Overly Scrupulous

I recently watched a sermon on Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. The pastor pointed out that there were birds that nested in the large mustard plant. He warned that the church must be careful not to “shoo these birds away.” Perhaps these are unbelievers who are just beginning to fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they are new Christians that do not have a firm understanding of their new-found faith. His advice was to LET THEM NEST! But the paradigm of 9Marks is to purify the church. Better to kick out ten true Christians than let one false “Christian” slip into the church!

The stifling legalism of 9Marks leads to stagnant, unhealthy churches. These churches rarely witness the extraordinary grace of God in the salvation of sinners. I think much of the growth in 9Marks churches comes from lateral moves from other churches. If the Holy Spirit has been quenched, you will not see much “new blood” entering the church. The beauty of new believers is their unparalleled joy and zeal. If that is missing at a church, you may be participating in an unhealthy church.

Conclusion: Are the Nine Marks Biblical?

David Platt, in the Foreword of Dever’s book, writes this about the nine marks:
“You may think some of them are questionable and others of them are controversial. But brother or sister, these nine marks are biblical, and that is why they are so valuable.”

While the words and concepts may be biblical, the application of the concepts is unbiblical. The Roman Catholic hierarchy claims to faithfully teach the Word of God. They claim to be “biblical.” But they interpret and apply the Word improperly. So does Mark Dever and the 9Marks ministry.

If you think it proper to pursue a pure, regenerate, Puritanical church where a controlling, unloving, immature, unqualified pastor (who stands in the place of God) constantly preaches legalistic sermons that question your conversion, who assumes the worst about the sheep, who improperly administers the Lord’s Supper, who requires you to make improper oaths, that excommunicates your friends for not being pure enough, who point you away from Christ, who quenches the Holy Spirit, and who demands unquestioned submission, then a 9Marks churches may be for you.

But if you think that good preaching by a loving, qualified pastor based on sound doctrine that points the sheep to Christ and away from self, who reminds them of their former purification, who is inviting to strangers, who “holds the reins” loosely and lets the Holy Spirit lead the church, who assumes the best in the sheep, who gently woos people to submit based solely on their godly example and instruction, who encourages them to search the Scriptures for themselves, and who is patient when controversy or sin erupts, then 9Marks may not be a good place to congregate.

Mark Dever has made a grave error. He has an incredibly negative view of the sheep. This is what he writes about his ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist:
“It is in the nature of sheep to stray and of wolves to eat. I guess if I can’t deal with that, I should just get out of under-shepherding.” Mr. Dever, if that is your experience with God’s people, maybe you are doing something wrong. Maybe you should consider leaving the ministry.

It is my opinion that Mark Dever is a hypocrite who thinks the best of himself (he is a bruised reed) and the worst of others (they are false professors). He has devised a puritanical system that has caused much harm to the Body of Christ. He claims to stand in the place of Christ, and then tramples the bruised reed and extinguishes the smoking flax.

In the next part, I will discuss what I feel must be done to address the 9Marks movement.

Improper Evangelical Submission

January 23, 2016
To Submit or Not to Submit
In the last blog post, I discussed the mandatory submission required of adherents of Roman Catholicism and Islam. I discussed the false papal teaching of mindless submission to the Pope and the teaching authority known as the “Magisterium.” We discussed the similarity of the “five precepts” of Catholicism and the “five pillars” of Islam. Today I begin a study on Evangelical submission to elder and church authority. When should we submit and when should we be wary of submission?
Sometimes in reading the Bible we come to passages that seem to be opposites. For example, in the span of two verses in the book of Proverbs we are given the following advice:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
So, which is it? Should we answer or not? Is this a contradiction? Or could it be that we are to show discernment in answering fools? Some fools you can approach with godly wisdom. Others, not so much!
Here are two verses in the Bible that address submission:
1) Heb. 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them
2) Gal. 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
So, which is it? Should we submit or not? Is this a contradiction? Or could it be that we are to show discernment concerning to whom we are to submit, and when? For the “Hebrews Christian” submission to authority was advised. For the Galatian Christian, not so much! In other words, you better check your authority.
If you have been to a rodeo, you may have seen the bronco busting competition. This is where a cowboy tries to ride a powerful horse that does not want the dude on its back! The longer the competitor can stay on the broncin’ buck, the higher the score. There is another event that has become very popular at rodeos. It is “Sheepbusting.” The competitor climbs on the back of a sheep and holds on for dear life! The longer the “sheep-poke” can stay on the sheep, the higher the score.
Here is a link to see firsthand the exciting sport of “Sheepbusting!”
Most evangelical churches stress the importance of submitting to godly leadership. Most require that a Christian enter into a binding agreement in order to become a member of the church. One church in Charlotte, Elevation Church, even requires its volunteers to sign a legal document in order to participate in certain church activities.
Here is a link to Elevation Church’s covenant. Would you sign this agreement, and submit to this church’s authority? They probably won’t really sue you for gossiping, will they?
Over the next several weeks, we will explore the dangers of evangelical submission. We will investigate the potential for spiritual abuse that can occur when a sheep foolishly submits to unbiblical traditions and unaccountable leadership. I have personally been a part of abusive fellowships where the pastor and elders “ride on the backs” of the very sheep that they are called to love.
Here is a list of subjects that we will discuss:
1) Should a Christian be required to sign a statement of faith to join a church? Should they sign?
2) Should a Christian be required to sign a church covenant in order to join a church? Should they sign?
3) What constitutes an improper oath?
4) Who should be allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper? “Only members in good standing”? What if you are “between churches”?
5) Do mandatory church oaths and affirmations lead to unity or disunity within the body of Christ?
6) What are the Scriptural warning signs that are present when attending a spiritually abusive church?
7) What excommunication and church discipline issues are related to submission to church leadership?
8) Do Church Covenants and mandatory Statements of Faith lead to “church-hopping”?
9) Can legalistic church covenants and mandatory Statements of Faith quench the Holy Spirit?
10) Do Church Covenants and mandatory Statements of Faith violate the evangelical doctrine of Sola Scriptura?
11) Can Church Covenants and mandatory Statements of Faith improperly bind consciences and do they lack integrity?
12) Can Church Covenants and mandatory Statements of Faith lead to the loss of valuable “members” of the body, especially those who have discernment gifting?
My dear beloved fellow Christians, I urge you to beware of submission! Ultimately, you should take responsibility for safeguarding your soul. Just as Roman Catholics and Muslims should come out from under ungodly submission structures, so should discerning evangelicals! Beware the Sheepbusters!


Mandatory Submission and the World’s Two Largest Religions

January 22, 2016

[This is the first in a series of posts concerning improper submission to religious authority.]

One couldn’t escape the media coverage of Pope Francis and his visit to the U.S. in September. I was working out at the gym, and on the TV in front of me on Fox News was the papal mass in Philadelphia. Millions flocked to see the pope, and to listen to his messages.

We studied the book of Colossians (my favorite book) at the church I have been attending. In Colossians 1, Paul writes that Jesus Christ is preeminent in all things. He reconciled us to himself by the blood of His cross. He is the head of the body, the Church. Our faith is founded on submission to Jesus Christ. It is through faith alone in Him that we are reconciled to God and receive eternal life.

The largest religion in the world is Islam, which means “submission.” A “Muslim” is “One who submits.” The cardinal doctrine of Islam is submission to God and His prophet. In order to convert to Islam, one must recite the Shahadah: “I testify that there is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

The second largest religion in the world is Roman Catholicism. A “Catholic” is one who submits to the Magisterium, the teaching authority of Romanism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office…The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the ‘supreme Magisterium,’ above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine ‘for belief as being divinely revealed,’ and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions ‘must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.'” (CCC 891).

Submission to the Pope and bishops even extends to non-infallible declarations: “[even] without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to a better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.” (CCC 892). In the Papal Bull Unum Sanctum (link), submission to the pope is forever imposed as a condition for salvation.


Both Islam and Roman Catholicism have five laws that if followed guarantee eternal life to the faithful. For the Catholic, these five laws provide “the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in growth of God and neighbor.” (CCC 2014). They are known as the Five Precepts. In Islam, the minimum requirements are known as the Five Pillars. They are almost identical in nature and subject matter. Here they are:

1) Precept/Pillar concerning worship and rest

Roman Catholicism: Attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and rest from servile labor.

Islam: Mandatory worship 5 times per day (Salat).

2) Precept/Pillar concerning confession

Roman Catholicism: Mandatory confession of sins to a priest at least once per year.

Islam: Mandatory pilgrimmage to Mecca at least once per lifetime (Hajj).

3) Precept/Pillar concerning testimony of faith

Roman Catholicism: Receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.

Islam: Testimony of faith – “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (Shahadah).

4) Precept/Pillar concerning mandatory fasting and abstinence

Roman Catholicism: Observe the days of fasting and abstinence.

Islam: Fasting in the month of Ramadan (Sawm).

5) Precept/Pillar concerning religious support

Roman Catholicism: Provide for the needs of the Church.

Islam: Mandatory giving (Zakat).


For the Roman Catholic, faith is placed in the sacramental system of their Church and the “infallible” teachings of the Pope. Through this system, they are empowered to merit salvation by their good works. Revelation is ongoing, and includes Holy Tradition as delivered through the “successors to the apostles” – the Pope and bishops. Heaven is merited through faith and good works.

For the Muslim, faith is placed in the teachings of Muhammad, God’s final prophet. Those who submit to Allah, believe the prophet, and do good works will go to heaven.


For the Christian, we believe that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). We submit to Jesus, our living head. It is through faith alone in Christ alone that we are reconciled to God. We do not trust in earthly rulers in any way for our acceptance with God. We do not yield “Obsequium Religiousum” (religious assent -link). We are like Bereans, who search the scriptures to see if any teaching is true. Colossians chapter 2 led me to flee the Roman Catholic religion. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). “I say this that no one may delude you with plausible arguments” (Col. 2:4). “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or drink, or with regard to a festival, or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetisism…and not holding fast to the Head” (Col. 2:18).

All Hail King Jesus!

“If then you have been raised up with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2). Jesus Christ is our ruler; we submit to King Jesus. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).


The Sixth Day of Apostasy: Secret Societies

February 16, 2015

The Sixth Day of Apostasy

I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the sixth in a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology), here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel), here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology), here for Day 4 (Free Grace Salvation), and here for Day 5 (Subjective Charismania).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.


Strike up the music:


On the sixth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of SECRET SOCIETIES… Subjective Charismania! … Free Grace Salvation, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

Apostasy #6 – Secret Societies & Fraternal Orders

Keyword(s) from James: Do not swear (James 5:12)

Teaching: The “Belonging” Gospel

Beginnings: Pagan mystery religions

Motto: “Cross my heart and hope to die”

Influencers: The Jesuits, Albert Mackey, Prince Hall

Effects: Pagan worship/occultism; unequal yoking; favoritism

Cultural icon: National Treasure

Adherents: Freemasons, Knights of Malta (link), Greek Letter Organizations

Interesting reading: PCA Report on Freemasonry (link)

Click here for: A message for blood brothers

I. Warning against ungodly oaths. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be your yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. James 5:12.

Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil. Mt. 5:36.

Secret societies typically have an initiation ceremony that requires that the pledge take a vow or blood oath. James and Jesus provide strong warnings against such vows. Freemasonry and the Knights of Malta will be investigated.

II. We humans are wired to be social. We long to belong. We want to be accepted as part of the “in crowd.” We love the influence and the camaraderie. We want to feel special. The Church is the place that God has designed for Christian fellowship. We formally enter the church through the ceremony of baptism. We are part of the blood covenant of Jesus Christ. We vow loyalty to Him.

But Satan has his counterfeits that are designed to supersede or override God’s plan. Secret societies and elite organizations can offer the satisfaction of belonging. They make us feel special by designing secret ceremonies, oaths, and pledges. We formally enter the societies through an oath-taking. We vow loyalty to the organization.

III. One of the appealing factors of these organizations is their mystery. The origins of secret societies can likely be traced to pagan mystery religions. Some of the ceremonies of modern-day fraternal organizations have ties to Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology. God’s chosen people often succumbed to the appealing nature of the religion of their neighbors. They worshiped other gods.

IV. The secret oaths and secret rituals are their hidden “motto.” The Freemasons have their secret handshakes and greetings. College fraternities do as well. The Freemason apprentice calls down threats of bodily harm upon himself to dissuade him from ever divulging the secrets of the organization.

V. Why is there such a severe prohibition against oath-taking in the Bible? The swearing of unbiblical oaths represents a willful rebellion against the God of providence.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

No one may vow to do anything forbidden in the word of God, anything hindering a duty commanded in the word, or anything not in his power, which he has neither the ability nor warrant from God to perform. In this respect, monastic vows of perpetual celibacy, professed poverty, and consistent obedience do not perfect us but are actually superstitious, sinful traps, in which no Christian should entangle himself.

The Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity and unquestioning obedience to the pope. During the Counter-reformation they were the pope’s secret spy network that infiltrated foreign governments, using whatever means necessary to counteract the Reformation.

Albert Mackey was an influential Freemason writer. Prince Hall started the black lodges. Freemasonry is not just a fraternal organization. It is false religion. Many Christians who get involved in Freemasonry do not realized that they are participating in pagan idolatry. A report by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2000 found that over 1,000 SBC pastors were Freemasons and that 37% of the members of Freemasonry are Southern Baptist.

A study by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) found that:

  •  Freemasonry is a universalistic religion

“Masons meet in “temples” where “prayers” to a “deity” are made. They kneel at their “sacred altar” to make their “sacred oaths.” They are to be in subjection to the leader of the lodge who is called a “Worshipful Master” who has hanging over his head a large letter “G” which symbolizes the Masonic concept of deity. On the “sacred altar” is placed a “Bible,” a “Koran,” or other sacred book depending on the particular religious faith of the candidate. One cannot join the lodge without swearing belief in “a Supreme Being.” Moreover, the candidate in the rituals is “taught” the immortality of his soul.”

  • Freemasonry has a degrading concept of God

“Freemasonry affirms the existence of one God, but Masonry’s concept of the unity of God is not Christian. Masonry’s one God is a syncretizing of the names of deities of several monotheistic religions in the world.”

  • Freemasonry denies the sufficiency of Scripture

“Freemasonry does not see the Bible as the sole written revelation of God to man. The Bible contains only parts of the Truth. In the lodge the Bible is one of three great lights on the altar. The other two being the square and the compass. The Bible is only seen as a symbol of God’s will to man.”

  • The Freemason concept of Jesus is blasphemous

“Masonic authority Albert Pike has said, “It (Masonry) reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more, and allows every brother of the order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and truth require.”

  • Freemasonry teaches a works based salvation

“The purpose of Masonry is to enable man to rid his nature of sin’s pollution . . . but without Jesus Christ! We are told by Masons that Masonry’s purpose is to enable “good men to be better.” Masonry, in the meaning of its symbols and in the performance of its ceremonies, denies the Bible’s concept of original sin. Masonry emphatically declares that men can, by their own good works, achieve eternal salvation.”

  • Secrecy is not legitimate when dealing with truth about God

“Freemasonry, while claiming that its secrets contain truth good for all men, are to be in secret so that the profane not be privileged to it. The stationing of the Tyler outside the door of the lodge symbolizes the restriction of Masonry’s mysteries to its initiates only. Pike has declared: ‘Secrecy is indispensable in a Mason of whatever Degree. It is the first and almost the only lesson taught to the Entered Apprentice.'”

  • Freemasonry requires ungodly oaths

“All Masons are required to take sacred oaths never to reveal Masonic secrets, and they bind themselves under blood curdling penalties if they dishonor this oath… Furthermore, the Masonic oath is taken before one even receives the secrets that he is swearing never to reveal. We must be fully aware what we are swearing to, lest we be guilty of rashness… Finally, one cannot separate the oath from implicit involvement in the religious teaching of the lodge. If an oath means anything it is full identification of a person with the group to which the oath has bound him. Masonic authorities and the ritual do not take oaths lightly; the Bible doesn’t either.”

There are several excellent ministries that reach out to those in bondage to secret societies. You may want to check out Ephesians 5:11, Ex-Masons for Jesus, and Denounce Greek (links).

VI. Members of Freemasonry and Greek Letter Organizations perform rituals and recite prayers to gods who are not the God of the Bible. This is a dangerous practice that amounts in many cases to occultism. Christians who become blood brothers with non-Christians are unequally yoked and participate in the sin of the non-Christian. Participation in secret societies encourages favoritism. Participation in these secret societies becomes a way to receive special treatment from well-to-do “brothers.”

VII. Natural Treasure was a movie starring Nicolas Cage. The movie makes many references to Freemasonry, and promotes the idea that the United States was founded by Freemasons.

VIII. Another elite secret society is the Knights of Malta, which has separate Catholic and Protestant branches. Its members come from the upper echelons of society. The Catholic Knights of Malta (link) is headquartered in Rome, is a member of the United Nations, and has diplomatic relations with over 100 nations. Rick Joyner, founder of Morningstar Ministries, explains why he joined the Protestant order of the Knights of Malta:

“In 1987 I met a man from one of the old noble families of Eastern Europe. His family had owned a large and prosperous industry before the communist takeover in their country. In a conversation with him, I was told about an extraordinary order of knights who were keeping alive the vision of chivalry and the defense of Christianity, and were waging a brave fight to reclaim what had been lost to the enemies of the cross. He explained that you could not join this order, but had to be recommended and proven to be true of the most stringent biblical standards of morality and integrity, and have risked your life for the sake of the gospel. I was very intrigued, and decided to research this order called “The Knights of Malta.”…Over the next couple of years, I often traveled through Europe, and was surprised to find many who still revered the famous Knights of Malta. I became convinced that, even though the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, there was a desperate need for such courageous souls to again band together and vow to retreat no further before the enemies of the cross. I saw many parallels in the history of the Knights of Malta, who are also called the Order of St. John (OSJ), with what I had been shown prophetically in the vision I was given about the coming harvest and the struggle that much of the world was about to face.”

Just what Christianity needs: rich and powerful secret soldiers to defend the honor of Jesus Christ against the anti-Christian hordes! Wouldn’t it be a great idea (link) to form a religious worldwide organization to resolve the worlds knotty problems and to promote religious understanding?

The Fifth Day of Apostasy: Subjective Charismania!

February 2, 2015






The Fifth Day of Apostasy 

The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the fifth in a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology). Click here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel). Click here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology). Click here for Day 4 (Free Grace Salvation).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.


Strike up the music:


On the fifth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of SUBJECTIVE CHARISMANIA! … Free Grace Salvation, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

Apostasy #5 – Subjective Charismania!

Keyword(s) from James: Deceived by gifts (James 1:16-18)

Teaching: The Second Blessing Gospel

Beginnings: Asuza Street Revival,  A.G. Garr (link)

Motto: “Be filled with the Spirit”

Influencers: Dennis Bennett, Kevin Ranaghan, Sovereign Grace

Mouthpiece: Charisma Magazine

Effects: False prophecy; Satanic deception; false unity

Cultural icon: Trojan horse

Adherents: Pentecostals, Third Wave, Charismatic Renewal

Interesting reading: Charlotte connection: Garr Church (link)


Click here for: A message to Charismatics


I. Deceived by false gifts. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:16-18.

For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. Mk. 13:22-23

Satan is more than happy to provide people with “gifts from below.” As James warns, we must be alert for his deception. It is critical to understand that the Bible is our sufficient instruction in what pleases God and what He expects of us. It also speaks prophetically to us, and brings us forth into His truth. There is temptation for Christians to receive demonic presents from Satan, re-gifted via his false prophets.

II. Charismatics believe that extraordinary spiritual gifts (as displayed in Acts and described by Paul in 1 Corinthians) are still being manifested in our day. Most charismatics teach that the gifts are received as a “second blessing” (after initial conversion) and are accompanied by the gift of tongues. This blessing is known as “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Another sign of the filling is to be “slain in the Spirit,” where a person falls down to the ground by the Spirit’s influence. A criticism of the movement is that chaotic actions may be displayed by those “under the influence” of the Spirit. Examples include “Holy Laughter” and the Toronto Blessing (links), where people laugh hysterically, make animal noises, and preach while drunk. [A local connection: the “drunk” preacher in the video is John Scotland, a missionary and spiritual advisor for Correll Missionary Ministries, part of Morningstar Ministries of Charlotte. We will meet the head of Morningstar, Rick Joyner, in our sixth day of apostasy].

Cessationists do not think that the extraordinary gifts continued after the age of the apostles. They emphasize that the purpose of signs and wonders was to validate the apostolic teaching (Heb. 2:4). [Personally, I am not completely convinced by the cessationist arguments. However, the abuses of the charismatic movement are self-evident. I will discuss these abuses and related issues.]

III. The modern Pentecostal movement began in 1906 with the Asuza Street Revival, led by African-American preacher William Seymour. Meetings were held around the clock at a run-down building in downtown L.A. that had recently been used as a horse stable. During the meetings, people would speak ecstatic utterances, sing and speak in tongues, make loud noises, and have involuntary convulsive fits. Over the next ten years, thousands of people visited the site of the revival. Healings were reported, and missionaries were sent out from the movement. One of these missionaries has a connection to my hometown – A. G. Garr, who went to Calcutta and then returned to found a church in Charlotte. My children attended preschool at Garr Memorial.

IV. The Bible records many instances of people being “filled with the Spirit.” Examples include Elizabeth, Zacharias, the 120 in the upper room at Pentecost, Peter in front of the Sanhedrin, Stephen, and Paul. Several times in the book of Acts the Holy Spirit filled those who believed the gospel, most notably Cornelius and his friends. The Holy Spirit is promised by Jesus to all who receive the good news of the Kingdom. He is the Helper who illumines the mind, convicts the world of sin and righteousness, brings comfort and guidance, and enables believers to persevere in the faith.
But Charismatics typically look beyond these workings of the Spirit. They seek extraordinary signs and wonders — such as healings, tongues and interpretations, words of knowledge, and prophecies. One of the questions to be answered is “how are these prophetic utterances, signs and wonders validated?” If there are valid miracles, can we be certain of their source?

V. The movement expanded beyond Pentecostalism and into many denominations in the 1960’s. The Charismatic Renewal began among Anglicans, with Dennis Bennett receiving “the blessing.” Theologian Larry Christensen became a leading voice in Lutheranism. The Renewal reached Roman Catholicism in 1967 when a group of Catholic students and professors from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh received the gift of tongues. The Charismatic Renewal grew quickly in Catholicism. Deacon Kevin Ranaghan wrote an influential book Catholic Pentecostals. The movement also reached the Reformed churches. Former Catholics Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney were instrumental in forming a group that morphed into Sovereign Grace Ministries, a group of like-minded churches that espouse some of the charismatic teachings. The interdenominational aspect of the Charismatic movement has been an encouragement to some that this is the work of the Spirit to bring unity to the Body of Christ.

VI. Charisma Magazine was founded by Stephen Stang in 1975. In 2005, Stang was listed among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine.


VII. It is a fact that in the last days there will be a multitude of false prophets. We should ask, “Is God still speaking authoritatively to His Church outside of the Bible?” The Papacy answers that question with a resounding, “Yes!” Rome teaches that God’s Word is made up of both Scripture and ongoing Tradition. Prophetic messages and visions (link) occur worldwide by a spirit claiming to be Mary. Many charismatics believe that new revelation is being spoken by God daily. But how should we treat prophets who make prophecies that do not come to pass? Are they false teachers?

The Word-Faith movement and the Prosperity Gospel are linked to Pentecostalism. There are many false teachers who bring Satanic deception and teach the doctrine of demons. Offers made by Satan that Jesus rejected have all too easily been accepted by followers of these “charismatic” teachers.

Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of the movement that spans the theological spectrum is the resultant false unity that is promoted. The Pope’s video (link) to the Kenneth Copeland conference is evidence of this growing apostasy.

VIII. I choose as the cultural icon the Trojan Horse. “I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts” wrote Virgil. Satan is known as the deceiver. One means that he uses to deceive is to counterfeit the gifts that God gives to His Church. God’s gifts are good, true and perfect. Satan gives false prophecies, false words, false wonders, false signs, false miracles, false revivals, false charismatic leaders, and false religions. All these are Satan’s “gifts” to mankind. James describes these gifts as “earthly, natural, demonic.” James 3:15. We don’t really need Satan’s help to drum up false spirituality – our natural emotions can drum up experiences that we attribute to the Holy Spirit.

IX. Pew Research estimates that Pentecostals and Charismatics make up 25% of all Christians. In sub-Sahara Africa the percentage is estimated to be 44%. A movement known as the Third Wave (link) began in the 1980’s. John Wimber (Vineyard churches) and C. Peter Wagner created a course at Fuller Theological Seminary to promote a new kind of Pentecostalism, one that utilized church growth strategies with a Charismatic viewpoint. Theologian Wayne Grudem holds to a continuationist view of the spiritual gifts, but believes that conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are simultaneous. This doctrine is usually held by “Third Wave” churches.

The Fourth Day of Apostasy: Free Grace Salvation

January 22, 2015

The Fourth Day of Apostasy

I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology), here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel) and here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.
Strike up the music:
On the fourth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of FREE GRACE SALVATION, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.


Apostasy #4 – Free Grace Salvation

Keyword(s) from James: Faith without works (James 2:14)

Teaching: The Carnal Christian Gospel

Beginnings: Antinomian Controversy, John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson

Motto: “Lordship may come later, but it is not necessary”

Influencers: Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges

Mouthpiece: Grace Evangelical Society

Effects: False assurance; sowing of tares in the church

Cultural icon: Elmer Gantry

Adherents: Dallas Theological Seminary, many evangelicals

Interesting reading: MacArthur on Lordship Salvation (link)


Click here for: A Message for Free Grace Teachers


I. No evidence. What use is it, brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14,18. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil. 1 John 3:7-8.


II. One can receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and exhibit no obedience or holiness of living. They can live a carnal lifestyle, bearing little or no fruit (showing no evidence of the new birth), and still be saved from hell. Even those who go on to repudiate the faith are saved, since they met the requirement for salvation when they previously believed in Jesus as their Savior. Free Grace theologians see James’ admonition (can that faith save you?) as being rescued from the temporal consequences of sin. So, a fruitless faith may lead to illness and death, but will not result in eternal damnation in hell.

This theology is totally contrary to Scripture. Faith is always tied to repentance in the Bible. Only one kind of faith saves: a repentant faith. Sorrow for sin, ongoing repentance, and the “fruits of repentance” are marks of true Christians. For an excellent rebuttal of Free Grace Theology (a/k/a “No-Lordship Salvation”), click here. PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE!


III. Confusion as to the interaction of faith and works as regards to salvation is not new. It has been the center of controversy from time immemorial. In America, the battle began in 1636 with the so-called Antinomian Controversy. The Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony were Christians, many of whom fled England due to religious persecution. The founders of the colony were also the founders of the church in the New World. Certain preachers began teaching that true Christians were united with the Holy Spirit when they first believed, and that assurance of salvation came only through union with the Spirit. Assurance was never to be sought by inspecting the fruit of the Christian’s life. Those who taught the doctrine of sanctification as necessary fruit of the Christian were condemned by these teachers as holding “a covenant of works” rather than the “covenant of grace.” John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson were involved in spreading the “antinomian” teaching. The churches in Boston favored the new theology. Those of the surrounding towns were solidly opposed. Eventually the leading “antinomians” were charged with sedition.


IV. Christ as Savior, but not Lord. Free Grace theologian Bob Wilkin writes:

“the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one’s Savior. None of the following are conditions of eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one’s life to Christ, baptism, doing good works, or persevering in the faith.”

What does it mean to “trust in Christ?” Those who oppose Free Grace (holding to so-called “Lordship salvation”) see repentance as an integral part of true faith. Jesus preached, “Repent and believe the good news.” Repentance itself is a gift of God — a gift that results in Godly sorrow and “fruit in keeping with repentance.”


V. Charles Ryrie (1925- ) and Zane Hodges (1932-2008) were two Dallas Theological Seminary professors who are/were defenders of Free Grace theology.

Hodges wrote Absolutely Free: A Biblical Response to Lordship Salvation. The book is a response to a critique of No-Lordship salvation by John MacArthur. He argues that if one believes the bare facts about Jesus, then he has true saving faith. He holds that repentance is not necessary, since the word “repentance” is not used in the Gospel of John. He teaches that God’s grace does not necessarily result in a changed life.

Ryrie wrote So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ. In the book, he claims that repentance is only a change of mind about Jesus Christ. Repentance does not include a repulsion for or turning away from one’s sin. He claims that one can be a saved Christian but not be a disciple of Christ. “Confessing Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9) is defined only as believing in His deity.


VI. The Grace Evangelical Society (GES) (, founded in 1986 by Bob Wilkin, promotes Free Grace salvation. It publishes a semi-annual journal, and has an annual conference. One of the five solas of the Reformation is sola gratia – grace alone. The Reformers held that all of salvation – including regeneration, effectual calling, repentance and faith, justification, sanctification, and glorification – are by God’s grace alone. GES effectively denies the fullness of God’s grace.
VII. Free Grace Salvation critically distorts the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In attempting to protect sola fide, these theologians make a mistake similar to Roman Catholicism. They confuse cause with effect. Martin Luther wrote, “”Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.” When people are taught that works are not a necessary fruit of salvation, they receive a diluted gospel that gives them false assurance of salvation. Jesus said that the way of salvation is narrow, and that few find it. Can one live like the devil (who also “believes” in Christ) and still be a Christian? Their doctrine brings shame to the cause of Christ and results in false professors becoming influential in the Church.


VIII. Elmer Gantry (1927) is a best-selling book by Sinclair Lewis, and also a movie starring Burt Lancaster in 1960. It is a satire on evangelical life in America. It is all about hypocrisy. Mr. Gantry is an unethical womanizer who is ordained as a Baptist minister. I choose this as the cultural icon because it relates to the common reaction many unbelievers have to Christianity: we are a bunch of hypocrites. When churches are dominated by false professors, “lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved….” (Mt. 24:12)


IX. The influence of Dallas Theological Seminary is seen in regards to dispensationalism as it relates to Free Grace salvation. Dispensationalists hold to a future literal 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ. Applying the teaching of Free Grace to the millennium, some teach that those who do not “accept Christ as Lord” and who evidence no fruit of salvation are cast outside the city, where they will weep and mourn. Thus, a kind of purgatory is created for those who “believed” in Jesus but did not accept Him as Lord. Only those who receive Him as Lord are allowed to reign with Him for a thousand years. This is similar to the Mormon teaching of the celestial versus terrestrial heavens, and to the Jehovah’s Witness teaching on the anointed 144,000 who get to live in heaven while the rest inhabit the earth.

Apostasy #3: Liberation Theology

January 12, 2015


The Third Day of Apostasy


The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the third of a series of twelve apostasies.

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.


Strike up the music:


On the third day of apostasy, James is warning me… of LIBERATION THEOLOGY, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.


Keyword(s) from James: Anger does not achieve righteousness(James 1:20)

Teaching: The Gospel of the Oppressed

Beginnings: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gustavo Gutierrez

Motto: “Preferential option for the poor”

Influencers: James Cone, Marxism

Mouthpiece: Trinity United Church of Christ

Effects: Politicizing of theology to transform society; violence may be necessary to overthrow oppressive structures

Cultural Icons: The Raised Fist; Occupy Wall Street

Adherents: Some Black Churches, Latin Base Communities

Interesting reading: Ron Rhodes: Liberation Theology; Black Theology (links)


Click here for: A Message to Rich and Poor


I. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:20.

One of the difficult ideals of Christianity is the theology of persecution. We are told to “turn the other cheek” and to pray for our enemies. We are to be longsuffering when wronged. In this way, we are salt and light to the world. Retaliation for past offenses may not be an appropriate Christian response. What should one do to “achieve the righteousness of God”? James answers: “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21.


II. There is much to be approved in teaching that has concern for the poor, the oppressed, and those who suffer injustice. It is a mark of true Christianity to be generous and to provide for the needs of the widow, the orphan, the alien and the poor. But the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is threatened when concern for the oppressed becomes the gospel. Was it the purpose of Jesus to come and die to save the poor from political oppression? Was this not the incorrect assumption of the disciples? They asked “When would Jesus make Israel free from her Roman oppressors?”

The political zealots of Israel were waiting for a political messiah.  It turns out that Messiah came to save us from the deadly oppression of sin. That is the gospel message.
III. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Nazis taught that it is unacceptable to see a distinction between the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. He promoted situational ethics. In his Letters and Papers from Prison he wrote:

“God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without Him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us.”

He also wrote that “the Christian is identified not by his beliefs, but by actions, by his participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.” He denied the deity of Christ, believing instead that he is not a real person but rather a “corporate presence.”

Gustavo Gutierrez is a Catholic theologian who coined the phrase “Liberation Theology” in his 1971 influential work A Theology of Liberation. While much of Gutierrez’s teachings align with Catholic Social Teaching (link), the Catholic Church until recently has suppressed the Liberation theologians due to a concern about its tendency toward Marxism and to violence that it has spawned in several Catholic-dominated countries (e.g. Nicaragua). Gutierrez calls for the radical transformation of capitalist societies that misappropriate wealth to the disadvantage of the poor.


IV. One motto of Liberation Theology is “Preferential Option for the Poor.” The focus of this theology is the injustice done to the poor by the wealthy. Since God is concerned with the poor, and since we see so much poverty in the world, Liberation theologians call for changes to political systems to favor the poor.


V. The Theology of Liberation has been especially influential in black churches. One of the original advocates for black Liberation Theology was theologian James Cone. Cone teaches that “white Christianity” has corrupted the truth of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the oppressed. Theology is not seen as universal, but must rather be interpreted according to its social context. Cone writes:

“Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience, or God is a God of racism…. The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God’s own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering….Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity.” A Black Theology of Liberation pp. 63-64.

Marxism is a philosophy that encourages public ownership of the means of distribution of goods and services, in contrast to Capitalism in which private ownership controls much of the means of distribution and is characterized by free competitive markets.


VI. Perhaps the most recognized church that promotes Black Liberation theology is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The church came into the headlines during the 2008 presidential election and the controversy over inflammatory statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. President Obama, a long time church member, addressed the controversy in his speech A More Perfect Union (link). The President also denounced (link) the divisive statements of Wright during his campaign.


VII. There are valid arguments for Christians to engage in politics to bring about change consistent with biblical principles. Unfortunately, Liberation Theology focuses so extremely on the reaction to injustice that it effectively replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is great danger to society when the focus is entirely on the temporal well-being of humanity at the expense of eternal realities. The gospel transcends political affiliations.

Where the gospel is neglected, violence often becomes the mode for attempting change. This year is the 50th anniversary of the riots in Rochester, NY. My mother’s family lived within a mile of the burning businesses. Ten years later I would take the bus from my college campus to visit my relatives. The bus route passed by the area of the riots, and was an urban wasteland. Now fifty years later there is Ferguson. Violence begets hatred, mistrust and sometimes increased oppression.


VIII. There was a game show several years ago called 1 vs. 100. After the global financial crisis and the bailouts of financial institutions in 2008, the one vs. the ninety-nine came into vogue. Disgust for perceived injustice that favors “the one-percenters” led to protests such as the occupation of Wall Street. Click here to see how much you must earn to be among the 1% of the world’s highest earners. I think you will be surprised.

The raised fist (link) is the symbol of resistance against oppression. Another symbol is the “tea party.” One man’s oppressor is another man’s oppressed. I am a CPA, and know many wealthy people. I have clients who work 80 hours in a typical week and make six figure incomes. They go home from work, take their children to multiple activities, and then collapse in front of the TV for a few hours before starting the routine all over the next day. They feel oppressed by a government that takes up to 50% of their earnings while they struggle to afford the $50,000 per year that they pay to send their children to college, as well as pay for their creature comforts. Idolatry knows no class distinctions. Neither does anger, as you can see by watching MSNBC and Fox News.


IX. The history of slavery and oppression of blacks in the U.S. is appalling. Blacks in America were brutalized and marginalized by White authorities. Historically, the Christian churches were part of the problem rather than the solution. The history of discrimination against people of color is a large part of the ongoing problems experienced in black communities. But the effect of a deformed gospel on the black community is another cause, especially of the disintegration of black families. Please take the time to read the article by Ron Rhodes on Black Theology.

It is sad that Christ’s church is perhaps the most segregated institution in America. Whites and blacks must come to understand that racism (going both ways) is not a “Black and White Issue.” This is true with regards to Black Theology and its emphasis on liberation for this life only, and that with the focus only on the oppressors. Liberation Theology fails to look inward (at personal sin and its consequences). It also fails to look outward – in a way that promotes biblical reconciliation.


The Second Day of Apostasy: Prosperity Gospel

January 3, 2015

The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the second of a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.


Strike up the music:


On the second day of apostasy, James is warning me… of the PROSPERITY GOSPEL, and of Lib-er-al Theology.

Apostasy #2 – Prosperity Gospel

 Keyword(s) from James: Ask wrongly (James 4:3)

Teaching: The Prosperity Gospel

Beginnings: New Thought Movement

Motto: “Name it and claim it”

Influencers: Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts

Mouthpiece: Televangelism, Trinity Broadcasting Network

Effects: Fleecing the sheep; disillusionment

Cultural Icon: Tammy Faye Bakker

Adherents: Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, one in eight African Christians

Interesting reading: The Power of Positive Thinking (link)

Click here for: A Message to the Positive Thinkers

I. Wrong motives. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. Gen. 3:6.

We are naturally self-centered and seek our own comfort and happiness. The prosperity gospel feeds these self-centered tendencies.

II. Because God is loving, he will graciously pour out financial and material blessings on those who demonstrate their faith. Positive speech and positive thinking, combined with donations to Christian ministries, will bring an increase in wealth, success and happiness. Some hold that Jesus and the disciples were men of means.

III. The New Thought Movement. Beginning in the 1830’s, the New Thought Movement taught that the mind had great power to heal. Philosopher William James labeled the movement “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” Obviously, there is great appeal to the belief that we can control our circumstances – that we can be like God. Here is a representative list of the best selling books of all time:

  • Think and Grow Rich (1937 – 70 million)

  • The Alchemist (1988 – 65 million)

  • You Can Heal Your Life (1984 – 35 million)

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970 – 40 million)

  • The Power of Positive Thinking (1952 – 20 million)

  • The Purpose Driven Life (2002 – 30 million)

  • The Secret (2006 – 20 million)

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936 – 15 million)

  • Your Erroneous Zones (1976 – 35 million)

  • The Hite Report (1976 – 50 million)

As you can see, we are desperately seeking the quick fix that will guarantee our comfort and well being.

IV. Motto: Name it and claim it. I use this motto that describes the teaching of the “Word-Faith Movement.” Second place rhyme: health and wealth. This describes the teachings of those who treat God as a vending machine of their success and comfort.


V. Oral Roberts (1918-2009) “discovered” the prosperity gospel when he randomly opened his Bible one morning to 3 John 2. The verse: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. He shared the verse excitedly with his wife, and thus was born a worldwide ministry. Roberts taught the seed-faith message: that contributions to his ministry would be like seeds that would grow to material blessings to the donor. Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003) was convinced that comfort and blessing were promised by Jesus to those who have faith: Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mk. 11:24. Hagin stresses the importance of your words – that you can speak your reality into existence. He claimed to have visited heaven and hell, and that Jesus had come to him in visions.

VI. The heyday of televangelism began in earnest in the 1970’s with the founding of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) by Paul and Jan Crouch and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In 2011, the “nonprofit ministry” received $95 million in contributions, $62 million in program revenues, and $17 million in investment income. Its assets totaled $845 million versus liabilities of $18 million. The ministry is described as a “church whose primary purpose is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through its television based ministry.” Popular televangelists that have aired on the network include Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and John Hagee. In 2012, TBN was accused (link) by their whistle-blowing former CFO, Crouch’s granddaughter Brittany Koper, of financial misappropriation, including the purchase of side-by-side mansions, private jets, and a $100,000 mobile home for their dogs.

VII. The people getting rich from their “faith” are the prosperity teachers. They do so at the expense of their students. The cause of Christ is polluted by the lavish lifestyles (link) of many of these false shepherds.

VIII. Tammy Faye Bakker and PTL. The co-host of the PTL Club with her husband, Jim Bakker. Here is a vintage video of the program. I visited PTL’s water park at Heritage USA (Fort Mill, SC) back in 1987 with my family. I didn’t have the nerve to attempt the waterslide (link). Dr. Jerry Falwell took the plunge, though (in return for $22 million in donations to resurrect the PTL complex). Is that what is meant by “backsliding?”

IX. Some prosperity teachers. Click for links to videos (one for first name, one for last). Benny Hinn. Kenneth CopelandCreflo Dollar. Be blessed?

Coming next:

The third day of apostasy.

In Christ,