So what DOES it take to be labelled a heretic in Charismatic Circles?

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?

Heretic nametag

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


7 thoughts on “So what DOES it take to be labelled a heretic in Charismatic Circles?

  1. Come to think of it, you’re right. The charismatic church doesn’t call out heretics for fear of blaspheming the Holy Spirit or because they’re amazed at their numbers. One of my former Bible doctrine teachers is still following Jimmy Swaggart. My teacher said that what Swaggart did was wrong, but that his Bible studies are solid. My other former pastors and teachers might have some disagreements with some famous preacher or pastor but they don’t say anything because they have huge followers.

  2. I’m glad to see this, wish there was more of these. If more Charistmatic believers spent as much energy as they do pushing back against Strange Fire as they do the irrational and heretical teachings and teachers on their midst….

  3. I fully agree with this blog post. It is amazing to me how Charasmatics, of all sorts, do not call people to repentance due to their unbelief and faulty doctrine. It constantly amazes me when I approach the subject to a charismatic about their faulty view of scripture and Christian life and some of the gnarly things coming out of that movement, and they either defend it and yet say they would not fully agree with people like patricia king, or they just dust it off saying they are moderately charismatic yet do not define where the line is in needed correction and their understanding of true charismatic doctrine.

    This however is not why I write, as you know very well Lyndon, I am a cessationist and have stood up against faulty doctrines considering the work of the spirit to significant length, at the cost of my job in fact. I write on the flipside of this argument in saying that not only are “responsible” charismatics (as they are often called) not calling others to repentance, but that cessasionists are so quick to consider EVERY Charismatic an unbeliever. I say this for two reasons. One, Doctrine of salvation does not hold to your view of prophesy but rather your view of repentance and faith in what Christ did on the cross. Why are we calling EVERY charismatic a heretic? I don’t think this is biblically correct. I think we need to call them to repentance and show them their error, but not every charismatic goes so far as to jeopardize the gospel in their faulty view of prophesy, etc.

    Second, If we call EVERY Charasmatic, as John Macarthur has done, this means that people like Wayne Grudem and John Piper are not believers. This is absolutely absurd. I disagree with them in this issue, yes, but it does not mean they do not have the Gospel right. This is a claim, that if made in the way I have explained it, then the Gospel is then distorted in such that it is hinged upon something that is not about the work of Christ on the Cross.

    I think that the theological discussions, and often fights against the misrepresentation of the scriptures, in regards to the gifts, is incredibly important, but we need to make sure that we are drawing lines of heresy where they are called to be.

    Maybe I have misunderstood you a few times Lyndon in regards to who is in and out in regards to orthodox Christianity, as well as misunderstanding John Macarthur’s comments during the “Strange Fire” Conference. I would love to hear your thoughts in clarifying where is the line that you draw in regards to who, as far as charismatics, have gone too far and are THUS no longer orthodox, and what allows for a charismatic to still be a genuine follower of Christ if this is possible.


    • Wait a minute…where did MacArthur call every Charismatic an unbeliever?

      I’d dare suggest that this rumor has been addressed in the very first StrangeFire session, as well as at least twice in official statements online.

    • As far as the line, I would draw the line at the gospel. Guys who get the gospel right, without adding or subtracting unnecessarily to it, can believe the gospel.

      So if you have the person and work of Christ correct, as well as things like repentance and faith, but add “speaking in tongues” to the gospel (the only way you *know* you’re saved is by tongues), then you’ve added something to the gospel that changes it into a different gospel.

      If you get the person and work of Christ right but subtract something like repentance, you’ve again changed the gospel into a different gospel.

      This basically makes it a personal matter of conviction as well, since I’m not a judge of who believes what (and everyone is at differing stages of maturity), but Christians believe the word of God as they encounter its truths.

      That is why I would address the charismatic movement *as a movement*, separate from the individuals involved in the movement. The Bible establishes the categories, and we can inform people on what those categories are. People place themselves in those categories by their affirmations and denials of the propositional statements that from in those categories.

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