Okay, I’ve been doing more research (as is often the case) and I came across the answer to questions that have been asked frequently:
– Why don’t the Charismatics police their own movement?
– How bad does someone’s doctrine need to be in order to be labelled a heretic?
We’ve heard from some people that they do police the movement, but the only examples that I recall are things like impropriety among women in church, or personality worship, or something general like that. I don’t recall too many people actually naming names and calling people out for actual heresy. I have seen one or two examples, but they’re extremely rare.
Then I ran across this article, which I actually found surprising.
Mike Bickle, easily a well recognized and well-seasoned insider to the crazy side of the charismatic movement, makes some comments about Carlton Pearson, a noted celebrity heretic who used to be a star poster-boy for the movement (here is a telling interview with Carlton Pearson). More or less, he’s about as orthodox as the worst liberals in existence.
Regarding Carlton Pearson, Mike Bickle says:
He has become a Universalist, claiming that people do not need conversion in order to be saved by Christ.
Pearson’s deception has been widely reported. In Charisma we followed Pearson’s demise and announced that one organization, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops’ Congress, labeled him a heretic in 2004. Since then Pearson has convened a national conference about Universalism that featured John Shelby Spong, an Episcopalian who affirms gay ordination and does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You would think that every charismatic leader in the United States would sever ties to Pearson until he renounces his apostasy. But that is not the case.
What? Carlton Pearson is a universalist! He has explicitly abandoned the gospel! Mike Bickle then comments on the reaction from charismatic pastors:
When I bring up the issue of Pearson’s apostasy I usually get a lot of glazed looks from people who don’t want to believe that a brother has fallen into deception. “Don’t be so hard on the guy,” is a typical response. “Maybe we don’t understand his message.”
I don’t need any more explanation. Pearson has a banner on his Web site that announces “God Is Not A Christian.” At press time, his church was to host a combined service on November 17 with a local Unitarian congregation in Tulsa. (Note: Unitarians are nice people, but they do not believe in the deity of Jesus.)
I’m sorry I sound harsh. But I would not be walking in the love of God if I weren’t willing to issue this warning in order to protect vulnerable people. Sometimes we have to be willing to offend. “Love your brother” does not mean, “Always be nice.”
Wow. I have to give kudos to Mike Bickle for sounding like he blogs for the Pyromaniacs (well, for about 3 sentences). So what does Bickle think is the root problem?
The International Communion of Charismatic Churches (ICCC), which Paulk founded, still lists Pearson as a member. When I asked an ICCC leader why they did not remove him, he said the organization does not currently have any mechanism to restrict membership based on doctrinal or character issues.
Huh? I think we’ve identified the root problem. In the loosey-goosey world of charismatic independence, we find it almost impossible to police our own. Everything is about “fellowship,” but we lack the teeth in our policies to ensure that we can properly discipline preachers who veer off into doctrinal error…
…It’s time for all of our congregations, denominations and church networks to raise the bar and defend the faith from those who pervert it.
I’d give that a hearty amen, and I’m surprised to hear Mike Bickle be so up front in talking about the problem. I’m guessing that there’s a whole lot of people who wish Mike Bickle would shut up! Though I like what he says, I have to disagree with his diagnosis of the root problem. The problem isn’t that the circle in which Mike Bickle travels is too “loosey-goosey” or lacks “the teeth in our policies to ensure that we can properly discipline preachers who veer off into doctrinal error”.
The root problem is that without a conviction about the doctrine of scripture (i.e. inspiration, authority, sufficiency, etc.) and a consistently applied process of hermeneutics and exegesis, there’s no consistent way to firmly define error. With the metaphorical/inconsistent way that people like Mike Bickle himself handle scripture (take a look at this, or this, or this, or this, or this) there’s no coherent way to uncover any sort of consistent and objective biblical standard for judging what is heresy. Without the application of a precise and rational hermeneutic that derives the meaning of the scripture from the actual words of scripture as understood in their various circles of context, you basically end up with this:
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Unger