By Clete Hux –
If anything has been learned about the recent scandals of modern televangelists which could be summed up in one word, that one word would be accountability (or lack thereof).
That word, more than any other, has surfaced and has been expressed by both the secular public and the body of Christ as a desperate desire to bring some kind of reform to the practices of certain popular TV preachers.
Most of the outcry has been as a result of the immoral conduct and lack of financial accountability on the part of Christian leaders who were supposed to be examples of clean Christian character.
Christians are to hold one another accountable for one another’s behavior (1 Jn. 3:17; Gal. 6:2; Tit. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:3,4; 4:16; II Tim. 4:2; Matt. 18:15-16). There is no doubt about being “thy brother’s keeper”! However, the fact that seems to escape most Christians is this: a person’s actions are the result of their beliefs. A person lives a certain way because a person believes a certain way. Doctrine frames behavior.
Christians are to be accurate and balanced when giving criticism. When a person or group that claims to be Christian and yet seriously departs from the historical biblical doctrines of orthodox Christianity, one cannot stand idly by in silence. (Matt. 18:15-16). To not speak out would be dishonoring to God and unloving, not only to Christians, but also to the propagators of the error.
When the Word of Faith (WOF) movement’s leaders, who through their own revelation knowledge, bring extrabiblical doctrines into the church, one must be prepared to respond correctly in accordance with God’s revealed will in scripture.
Watchman Fellowship is not the first to call attention to the unorthodox doctrines of the WOF movement, sometimes known as the Positive Confession movement.
Scores of scholars for years have spoken out. Those include Dr. Walter Martin, a charismatic theologian, and D. R. McConnell, also a charismatic and author of the recent book, A Different Gospel. Michael Horton, a well-known Christian author, has addressed the doctrinal issues in his book, The Agony of Deceit, as well.
As the issue is drawn into clearer focus, the reader needs to understand that this is neither a charismaticnor a non-charismatic issue. It is an issue of biblical truth and accountability to that truth versus heretical doctrines.
It is common for the word-faith teachers to warn, “touch not the Lord’s anointed”, meaning that one cannot criticize or question in any way the Word of Faith teachers and what they are teaching. Some of the WOF teachers have said to do so carries serious consequences.
For example, the Christian Research Institute has documented that John Avanzini, along with TBN’s Paul Crouch have said that the reason Walter Martin died is that God killed him because he spoke out against them. The implication is “that’s what will happen to anyone who does speak out against them” (Quote used on the “Bible Answer Man” broadcast from the Spring 1990 “Praise-A-Thon” on TBN).
It seems that if one disputes these leader’s words or deeds it is equivalent to questioning God Himself. Those who advocate such authority assume that scripture supports their view.
They point to biblical proof texts such as Psalm 105:15, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But if one looks at the passage, it will reveal that it has nothing to do with questioning the teachings of church leaders.
In the Old Testament the phrase, “the Lord’s anointed”, is used to refer to the kings of Israel (I Samuel 12:35; 24:6, 10, 16, 23; II Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalms 10:6), and not to prophets. In the context of Psalms 105 the reference is to patriarchs in general (vv. 8-15; ef, I Chronicles 16:15-22).
Psalms 105:15 has nothing to do with the issue of questioning the teachings of any of God’s “anointed”. In the context of this passage, the words “touch” and “do harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone.
Specifically, in I Sam. 24:6, the phrase “touch not the Lord’s anointed” refers to David’s refraining from killing King Saul when he had the opportunity. It means in that context, “not to kill”.
The fact is that David did rebuke Saul publicly more than once and called him to account for his actions before God. He said in I Sam. 24:12, “The Lord judge between me and thee, but mine hands shall not be upon thee”.
If this touch not mentality is applied in the way that the WOF leaders say to do, then it could also be argued that no one who claims to be a spokesman for God should be called to account for what he or she teaches.
No one would be rebuked, and one would have to accept the teachings of all who claim to be Christian, including Joseph Smith and Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society. Virtually all teachings, whether cultic or not, would be credible. The truth is that nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical judgment, especially those who are seen as leaders.
What allows Christians to claim Joseph Smith is a false teacher? It is not the fact that he claimed to speak “revelation knowledge”. It is because one examines the doctrine in comparison to the Bible. Doctrine must be the means of measurement.
Christians are not called to render a condemning judgment upon anyone (for that alone is in God’s hands), but are to render a discerning judgment upon all teachings. It is important for Christians to test all things by the scripture, as the Bereans did when they examined the words of the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11, I Thes. 5:2). The Bible is useful for correcting and rebuking, as well as for preaching and teaching (II Timothy 4:2).
Additionally, this is not a question of whether God has used these men in the salvation of many people. If and when the gospel is preached, “it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The problem is unbiblical doctrine which corrupts the essential Biblical teaching of the Person and work of Christ.
It has not been easy to write this article, because the issue is sensitive. There are many sincere, committed Christians following these teachers, sometimes not even realizing what they are teaching. It is also a crucial issue. It is not a threat from outside the church, it is a growth from within. Spiritual surgery, which is long overdue, is needed to stop it from spreading further. The Body of Christ must speak out.
First Published in Watchman Expositor Vol. 10, No. 3, 1993