Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Is “Word-Faith” Cultic?
That is what the critics of one of the cult-watching organizations recently said. When cult-watching organizations first appeared twenty or thirty years ago they concentrated mainly on exposing the non-Christian beliefs and alleged brainwashing techniques of such groups as the Unification Church, the Children of God, and the Way International. In addition they sought to expose the teachings of religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, whose teachings are incompatible with the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
While these longstanding emphases have continued for many cult-watching groups (they number about 600 today), in recent years the counter-cult movement has increasingly focused its investigative energies on individuals and organizations that have a strong foothold in certain segments of the Christian community.
This new emphasis was reflected in the title of a conference in Philadelphia last September sponsored by Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNRR). The conference title was, “The Cults, Occult and Word- Faith Movement.” At one of the plenary sessions of this conference a panel discussion dealt with the question whether the Word-Faith movement should be considered cultic?
Plenary speaker Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), explained that according to Word-Faith teaching, “faith is a force, words being the container of the force. And through the force of faith, you can create your own reality.” Hanegraaff, whose best-selling Christianity in Crisisdetails the “erroneous teachings of Faith teachers,” added that within a Word-Faith context, “when you’re born again, you not only have salvation, but you have unlimited health and unlimited wealth. All you have to do is visualize it, speak it into existence.”
That such teaching is rank heresy is obvious to the Reformed believer. In addition it may be said that the Word-Faith movement’s teachings are “laden with aberrant and heretical departures from sound Christian doctrine.” They are shot through with Arminianism and neo-pentecostalism.
This means that the critics are correct. The Word-Faith movement is cultic. A cult, according to the dictionary, is “any religion regarded as unorthodox or even spurious,” and is often characterized “by excessive devotion to some person, idea, or thing.”
Among those identified as subscribing to some form of Word-Faith doctrine were Trinity Broadcasting Network president Paul Crouch, Korean mega church leader David Yonggi Cho, and television preachers Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Rodney Howard-Browne, and Kenneth Hagin.
God’s people ought to be aware of what these heretics are teaching. If that is to be true of God’s people, then the pastors of God’s church must carefully and diligently preach the sound doctrines of the Word of God, as those sound doctrines always stand against and expose the lie in its multitude of forms. Our pastors, in other words, must preach antithetically. The late Walter Mar tin, a pioneer of the contemporary counter-cult movement, was right when he said, “Cults live on the unpaid bills of the church.”
Specialized Ministry To Gay and Lesbian Support Group
Since 1991 the Rev. Jim Lucas, a gay Christian Reformed Church (CRC) minister has headed the Grand Rapids chapter of the gay and lesbian support group AWARE. This group has existed for over a decade but was not widely known until recently. The first chapter was formed in Toronto following a decision by the CRC synod to oppose a decision of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN) to allow practicing homosexuals to become church members and officebearers.
According to a May 1994 report of Classis Toronto on homosexuality, “AWARE (which stands for As We Are) provides a Christian fellowship for Christian Reformed and other gays and lesbians and their families and other supportive friends. AWARE recognizes that Christians hold a variety of views on questions related to homosexuality, welcomes the participation of those holding different views, and encourages dialogue.
“Since AWARE includes some participants who live in committed homosexual relationships and others who are celibate, it may feel uncomfortable at first to visit, but acceptance of homosexuals as people and fellow believers is not the same as expressing approval of homosexual behavior,” the Toronto report says. “A Toronto chapter of AWARE meets monthly at First CRC in Toronto. Don’t be surprised if you meet someone you know there.”
According to Lucas, AWARE now has three chapters: one in Toronto, one in London, Ontario, and one in Grand Rapids. The latter chapter meets in Eastern Ave. CRC, though it is not in any way connected to the ministry of that congregation. About a year ago the Grand Rapids group formed a nonprofit corporation called “As We Are, Inc.” The corporation includes the Grand Rapids chapter of AWARE, but does not include any of the other AWARE groups. Lucas has been serving as chaplain of the Grand Rapids chapter since 1991.
According to its mission statement, “As We Are, Inc. is a Christian organization whose mission is to provide faith-based support for gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons and to promote a positive response within the Christian community.” Lucas says, “We are not an ex-gay ministry, we’re not trying to change people who are gay, we take an accepting, non-judgmental approach to people who are gay and we promote a positive response within the Christian community rather than a condemning judgmental response.” Participants and board members of the Grand Rapids group are not limited to CRC members.
Rev. Lucas requested that Eastem Ave. CRC “call him to a specialized ministry with AWARE. In anticipation of this request Eastern Ave. overtured Classis Grand Rapids East in January of 1994 to establish a committee to study the appropriateness of various ministries to homosexual persons.” Eastern Ave. told Classis, “We have informed Jim that we wish to wait until the study committee’s report is received by Classis before requesting classical approval of a call to specialized ministry.” Eastern Ave. requested Classis to extend Lucas’ ministerial credentials and eligibility for call until September of 1995. If Classis East receives and approves the study committee’s report, Lucas could be called, by Eastern Ave. as early as January of 1995.
It grieves us to no end to observe developments such as these in our mother church. The Bible speaks so clearly to this issue. If we love homosexual persons we will tell them to repent and we will help them in their struggle to overcome this terrible sin.
Christ is Coming…Soon
Religious leaders from thirty countries called for creation of a world council of religions. Meeting in Sudan last month the leaders said such a council would enable major religions—in particular christianity and Islam—to join forces against materialist and secularist world views. Muslims are showing new interest in inter-religious dialogue since September’s United Nations population conference. Hassan Al Turabi, head of National Islamic Front of Sudan, said Christians and Muslims should form a coalition to “offer an alternative model of society” and a “new political world order.”
Before our Lord returns, certain signs must take place (cf. Matt. 24). Just before the Savior’s return the nations of the world will be united (in “a new political and religious world order”) under the antichrist and the church will suffer great tribulation (II Thess. 2:3-4).
The conference cited above is just another indication that the day of the Lord cannot be all that far off. This is all the more reason why we must take to heart the instruction of I John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”