***I looked at my “drafts” folder tonight and realized that I had 54 blog posts at some stage of being written. I’ve committed to finish up a one for you that will hopefully be a quick and useful reference at some point. This post only has been 8+ months in the making…sigh…***
Over the past 2+ years as I was reading my eyes out and learning a boatload of information about the Renewal (Pentecostal/Charismatic/Word Faith/etc.) movement, I ran across a lot of questionable information on the internet that suffered from three common problems:
- Unverifiable Citations. As I followed up on some quotes and claims, I found that many of them were either unable to be substantiated or questionably fabrications (I explain this problem in a full post here). Because of that, I made a point of trying to stick to print resources in my research. This ruled out some of the more colorful stuff that I could have used, but it was a point of scholarly integrity for me. If you cannot track down a quote to an original source and verify its credibility, it doesn’t really exist.
- Quote Misrepresentation. Again, as I looked at some writers, I found plenty of zinger quotes that lost their zing when I followed them back to the original source. Far too often, zinger quotes are extracted from a larger citation that is dealing with an entirely different subject matter. Other times, a quote is simply stretched to infer something it doesn’t actually say.
- Invalid Arguments (including any number of logical fallacies). As I looked at some writers, I found far too many arguments that didn’t hold much liquid. Things like “guilty by association” arguments (person X is a heretic and person Y spoke at a conference with them, therefore person Y believes any number of heretical beliefs espoused by person X). Here’s a nifty and useful chart of logical fallacies for those that are interested:
In researching Renewal people, I wanted to avoid misrepresenting them, since bearing false witness is still a sin when you bear false witness about heretics. Also, if you’re going to tear apart an idea/argument, it’s more powerful to tear apart the idea/argument in its strongest and most accurately represented form.
I may be too cautious for most folks but generally speaking, the internet needs a whole lot more caution.
Those previously mentioned problems (and a few more) are behind some of my reticence of speaking out about certain individuals. For example, I’ve never written about Beth Moore mostly because I haven’t confirmed anything bad about her. That’s not to say I haven’t heard a bunch of claims, and watched some rather incriminating video clips. Still, I haven’t read anything that she’s written and therefore don’t have any official opinions on her outside of “I don’t doubt that she may have a bunch of good stuff, but based on the level and frequency of accusations she receives, it’s probably wise to steer clear of Beth Moore.”
That brings me to Joyce Meyer. She was once a rather…uh…colorful heretic who said all number of things. The internet is full of sound clips and sermon quotes from Joyce Meyer, especially from the early-mid 1990’s. But in 1999, when Joel Osteen inherited Lakewood Church in Houston, several of the big names in Word of Faith circles all concurrently (and suspiciously) decided to change their image in order to reach a far larger target market. In the first few years of the new millennium, along with Joel Osteen (this was Lakewood before Joel took over…you may notice a slight change to now) Joyce Meyer went through a rather Oprah-esque change of image. Not only did she have some serious cosmetic modifications…
…but she also changed from a tongues-speaking, fire-breathing Pentecostal preacher into a glorified life coach who never stops smiling (though that’s also due to extensive cosmetic surgery). Joyce toned down her image and aimed it for a wider audience. It worked well as her audience is now gigantic, but she couldn’t leave her various Word of Faith heresies behind. She toned down her image and message, but some standard Word of Faith heresies still found their way into her printed works. Stuff like:
A. The Spiritual Death of Jesus.
“Jesus was taking your sins and those of everyone else upon Him as He felt this absence of His Father’s presence. He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (SEE MATT. 27:46, author’s paraphrase). Jesus knew it would happen, but the horror of separation from the bright presence of the Father was worse than He could have imagined, and it caused Him to cry out. He committed His Spirit to the Father and died. So they put Him – that is, His body – in a grave, and His spirit went to hell because that is where we deserved to go.
Remember in the very beginning of this book, I said that when you die, only your body dies. The rest of you, your soul and spirit, goes either to heaven or hell.
There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place. He became your substitute and took all the punishment you deserve. He bore all your sins. He paid the debt you owe.”
Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, New York: Warner Faith, 2003), 32-33 (bold and italics original)
B. The harrowing of Hell.
“Jesus went to hell for you. He died for you. He paid for your sins. God was faithful to Jesus. God did what he told Jesus He would do. He raised Him from the dead. But until that happened, He was alone for three days satisfying the courts of justice and conquering the hosts of hell. He took the keys of hell and death. He preached to the prisoners held captive there about paradise. He led them out victorious.”
Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, New York: Warner Faith, 2003), 33 (italics original)
Now those quotes are 12 years old, but that book (which is a book specifically laying out the gospel), is still for sale on places like Amazon.com (and both quotes can be read there in the book preview; feel free to verify them yourself). Joyce hasn’t pulled that book off the market, so it stands to reason that she likely hasn’t renounced anything in it. Also, both quotes are directly addressing those subjects; they’re not passing allusions. In the first quote, she clearly and directly says that Jesus’ spirit actually went to hell. In the second quote, she clearly and directly says that Jesus led people out of hell. I’d submit both quotes as sufficient and compelling evidence that, theologically speaking, she’s about as reliable as The Muppets.
I won’t get into hammering out the theological (and monumental) significance of both ideas; that would be a rather lengthy post in and of itself (though I’ve already written on whether or not Jesus went to Hell). Nor will I give a biblical response to both errors. This post has been sitting in my draft folder for several months, so I’m going to cut it off here and get it online.
Knowing that I have multiple writers (of no small influence) who read my stuff, I’d like to give this closing encouragement:
When writing about people of questionable theological orientation, always do your best to support accusations of questionable theology with verified direct citations related to the topic at hand from accessible resources.
That is a far higher standard than many currently hold themselves to. It’s a lot more work and it takes a lot longer to do adequate research and write anything of substance. Still, as a Christian, you’ll have to give account for every word you write, right? (Matt. 12:36-37) How unfathomably horrible would it be to have your writing “ministry” be the source of missed rewards for all eternity?
Do your best to keep your sticks on the ice folks.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “lying about heretics is still lying” Unger