King's Evangelical Divinity School

17 May 2012

Is this the best way to do it?

Received the following YouTube clip purporting to show a Word of Faith (i.e. prosperity gospel) preacher who, not knowing what is about to happen, has her theology publicly challenged and is rebuked by a Calvary Chapel pastor in her own church. It's painful to watch and raises some questions. But first, here's the video...

I have a problem with much of the prosperity message. Indeed, in preparation for a recent television discussion on heresy I participated in, my research led me to conclude that outside doctrines which question or deny the very person and work of Christ, the next big issue thoroughly condemned in Scripture as antithetical to the faith is the love of money and exploitation of the faith for greed (e.g. Annanias and Shapphira, Simon Magus, 1 Tim 3:6-10). In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul draws a strong link between false teachers who preach a different gospel (11:1-6), demand money for their ministry (verses 7-12) and who are servants of Satan (13-15). This kind of language is reserved for a select few in the New Testament.

When the money preachers are exploiting people in the name of the Christian faith, therefore, I believe it needs to be challenged robustly. And for anyone who says we mustn't rock the boat, that we should seek unity and harmony at all costs within the body of Christ (or else as some prosperity teachers like to [mis]quote, "Touch not the Lord's anointed"), the New Testament is clear about exposing and rebuking severe error and false teachers. Yes, there is a danger of this degenerating into going around rebuking everyone for absolutely everything. There will always be those who think they're God's mouthpiece, or who simply love to point the finger and criticise. But conversely, the New Testament does lay down and indicate clear examples of identifying and firmly rebuking extreme error. Too bad some in the Church have not always grasped this nettle and we've all paid a dear price. 

Anyway, back to the above video. My question is, in the video what are your views about how the young pastor went about it? I have mixed feelings. On the one hand he was respectful, initially articulate and challenged an unsound doctrine and practice. Also, judging by several things she said (e.g. "when he needs [a miracle] he'll know not to come to my church") he succeeded in exposing something of the money preacher's character. On the other hand, by focusing on miracles rather than money she was let off scott free on the prosperity side, while his statement was quite easily turned around to one where he denied the concept of the miraculous. Neither was the fiasco that followed particularly edifying.  

Did this achieve anything? Could it have been done better? Is there a danger that such acts allow the money preacher to claim victimhood and prove to unlearned followers that she is being persecuted for teaching a message from God? (watch outrage of the women on the front row). Has a clear articulation of the doctrinally unsound aspects of prosperity teaching been transmitted?

On the other hand, will it take acts of denunciation such as this to make people sit up and listen? Was the young pastor brave in what he did, managing to remain calm and dignified despite clearly strongly rejecting a false teaching? Might it have made some people in that hall (or tent) think twice and look into the issue further?

As I said, I have mixed feelings and would really like to know people's thoughts on this. In the meantime, separate to this, but not unrelated, is a piece I wrote on televangelism some time ago.


Antiochean said...

Hi Calvin,
As you say, tricky.
It looks to me as if this man saw error and weighed up how he could usefully stand against it. Doing it on the spot was risky in that initial reactions to rebuke tend to be defensive; the question is would any other method have been so effective in correcting error. I think He did the right thing as respectfully as was possible.
But if you’re faced with that kind of situation, it’s not an easy call…

Mark Anderson said...

think he achieved very little. Obviously the clip is a short except and the viewer is not privy to the wider context. But to attend a pentecostal/charismatice styled meeting and claim that a 'false message of miracles' is being preached, is a 'red rag to a bull'. It's futile. There are many non-pentecostals who believe in miracles and indeed have a continuationist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. I think a challenge on 'the prosperity' gospel would be more beneficial, though I don't think the setting would have been appropriate. Yes, the pastor was respectful initially, but I wonder was he respectful in publicly rebuking Mrs Muldoon.

Olivier said...

Hey Calvin,

I got to give it to the Calvary Chapel pastor to even display enough "chutzpah" to rebuke that lady on her turf. We must be bold with the truth. I am a bit disappointed though at how she turned the whole situation around and made herself and her following into victims. She also made it sound like the Pastor didn't believe in miracles, which I am sure is inaccurate. I also have mixed feelings about him rekuking her in public. I would like to know if he followed Matthew 18 properly . Hard to tell in such a short clip that could easily be taken out of context. That's my 2 cents!

Dissenters said...

We would need to know the context. This guy may object to miracles, or the charismata because of his reformed theology. This woman may not have been preaching anything wrong - the problem with prosperity teaching is that it focusses on selfish gain, and not giving away.

Tommy said...

Hey Calvin,

It's tricky....however I can understand why he felt compelled to do something...this was not her church it was a tent revival set up right over the road from his church and some members of his congregation had been attending! If you have read his comments it helps know the full context! Also I think he is the first to admit it might not have been the best way. See below for his comments provided to CARM apologetics ministry:

David Foster said...

A point of information, I know a little of Calvary Chapel. They are certainly a Pentecostal style Church but have a high view of Scripture both in terms of doctrine and praxis. That doesn’t of course mean that all others with a high view will agree with all they do and believe! I suspect though it was actually, the misuse of Spiritual gifts he was objecting to.

In respect of these events, he’s obviously been asked to the front to say something. In my experience, often dubious ministries look for endorsement from those who are respected and here presumably he was a pastor from a respected local church. Given that that was the position he was in, I think he had little option but to say what he did and to a degree, she asked for it! Whether, he should have allowed himself to be in such a position or even been at the meeting is another question. I too wish he had mentioned the prosperity thing, particularly as on her website it is tied into giving to her which I think is pretty ghastly, Think the world would call that a con.

What should we learn? Well we should always be suspicious of over-reaction. A normal reaction would at least be to ask to elaborate. In the face of a very serious charge, I believe a godly ministry would refrain from ministry pending investigation by those to whom they are accountable. I’m sorry, but to launch into such a tirade, apart from a lack of humility, suggests to me they know they’ve been rumbled and a “big cheese” mentality which has no place in any ministry. Accountability (or the lack of it) in the western Church is something I could say much about but no-one should be untouchable.

The other thing is discernment of course, a huge problem. I love the illustration that says when bank workers are trained to spot forged notes, they have to spend hours studying the genuine ones, never the forgeries themselves. This is the only way we can gain discernment is by many hours of studying scripture, in fact a lifelong activity for the believer; and not just leave it to the pastor! Fact is my generation of 50 / 60 somethings messed it up and would often look to the likes of Peter Drucker to grow the Church rather than the Bible. But, the previous generation from the pulpit only wanted to put believers under condemnation for the lack of growth in the Church without giving the tools for evangelism, that’s how it seemed anyway. On prays that the next generation will have the Bible knowledge and discernment lacked by the previous ones!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Calvin L. Smith said...

Sincere apologies. Inadvertently removed this comment (which, fortunately, was still in my inbox):

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Is this the best way to do it?":

Here is the personal statment about this event by Pastor Scott himself:

Posted by Anonymous to Calvin L. Smith at 24 May 2012 15:37:00 BST

Brendan said...

Hi good Folks,
I agree with what your good selves have discussed in relation to the video involving the Calvary Chapel pastor and the prosperity preacher.
Christianity throughout the ages has tended to 'suffer' in certain areas of it's theology and ministry, due to 'prosperity' preaching. Thankfully, the reformation also challenged and exposed the prosperity message within the institutional church at the time, challenging the purchasing of relics of the saints for private veneration - the outcome was the intercession of the saints. The church's masses for the dead - the more masses prayed the more efficient the outcome of experiencing the beatific vision, if only you were saved. The practice of purchasing plenary indulgences to secure an outcome of salvation. Three small examples of 'spiritual prosperity' preaching within church history.
Perhaps at the present age of post-modern materialism, power, and wealth, some areas of the church feel that their only survival as a church denomination is to coalesce at some level with the present secular age. This material culture is 'outcomes' focused . Of course it also means that the prosperity preacher may be happy to oblige, and earn a comfortable living from doing so. However, it does speak volumes about where some of our brothers and sisters are in their lives, and the perhaps their private demand for an outcome that they're willing to pay money for.
Yes of course, miracles are part of GOD's reality...but can GOD be bought? Or are our brothers and sisters in Christ so desperate and deluded by the current climate that they actually believe that only prosperity means GOD's grace, GOD's blessing by a miracle, GOD's favour?
Perhaps we can pray with integrity that all of the church may realise that Christ's teaching and preaching was counter-cultural at the time, is now, with the hope of renewing our world through his grace once more.


LeeW said...

Hi Calvin,

I saw this clip a couple of weeks ago and my initial thoughts were "well done". However, on second thoughts I do think it could have been done better. Yes, he was certainly polite and articulate but, like you mentioned, he missed out on hitting the prosperity gospel. I don't know what happened prior to this apart from what he said about reading a lot of her material and speaking to various people but I wonder if he'd attempted to broach the subject with her privately which may have yielded better results (unlikely as that is). This sort of stuff needs challenged for sure but I am beginning to think a lot of these cases are lost causes. Many of these people have been approached and many of the congregation members have also been warned by good godly friends but choose to ignore the sound teaching of Scripture and prefer to have their "ears tickled". This young man had a right heart and was brave but I think it was a lost cause from the outset as it would just have appeared to those people that it was an attack of Satan (that's the way they think which Ilm sure you are aware of).I've had a lot of tine recently to reflect on this type of thing and my personal conviction is that I really want to focus on making sure that what I'm preaching/teaching is correct and lines up with God's word. The Lord has been teaching me a lot of hard lessons lately but He is starting to open up a lot of ministry opportunities (at my local church and elsewhere). I think if we stick to making sure that we are properly feeding the sheep that the Lord sends our way then we can build up and disciple these people who will know false doctrine from sound doctrine and be able to teach others who are willing to listen. If we know what God has really said then we will know what He's not said! Yes, we should always stand up for the faith and point out error but, for me, I only want to do this as God brings it to my attention. I no longer want to go heretic hunting as I find it wastes a lot of my time and it has no doubt contributed to my health challenges. There has been a number of times that I've come very close to a heart attack due to these things. So, in summary, let's make sure we have got it right and we are feeding and building up those that the Lord wants us to speak to. If a situation arises that we need to speak out against then let's do it but let's ask God for His wisdom about how to go about it. Finally, I don't want in any way to undermine what this young guy did. I believe he did it with the best of intentions and I pray that the Lord used what he did. God bless you Calvin, Lee