Saturday, January 26, 2013

“the cult of the heresy hunters”

It doesn’t really matter what you call them – I prefer the term “heresy hunter” (HH), others like “Online Discernment Ministries” (ODM’s) or even “apologists”. These are not people who see a theological stance or movement, disagree with it, discuss it where necessary and move on with their lives. These are people whose sole purpose in life is to attack and sow discord among the brethren using whatever means they feel is necessary – lying, blaspheming the Holy Ghost, manipulation, fear tactics, etc.

I have taken some heat over the years because my position is that these people are not saved and/or have forsaken their salvation. Could I be wrong? Sure. Only God knows a person’s heart and only He knows what names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. But Jesus said that by their fruits we would know them, and the fruit of the heresy hunters is more poisonous than an unripe ackee.

Let’s look at what the heresy hunters use as a working definition of the word, “cult”.

Sandy Simpson of the “Apologetics Coordination Team” (Deception in the Church) writes,

“Any system of belief that desires to call itself by the name of a religion, but by its own beliefs teaches and promotes either explicitly or implicitly against the core beliefs of the religion whose name they desire to associate with, is rightly termed a “cult” of that religion.” (Sandy Simpson, Defining Terms) [source]

Sandy also quotes Alan Gomes (on the above site)

“A group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which system denies either explicitly or implicitly one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.” (Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults, Zondervan, 1995)One of the marks of today’s fanatical “discernment” witch-hunters, which include divisive Watchbloggers, overly-zealous “apologists,” and rabid Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs) is their common knack for isolating certain words, phrases, comments, or terms in hopes of painting someone as a heretic/apostate (or New Age/Liberal deceiver of some kind).

Their targets of choice are usually well-established/high profile authors, pastors/teachers, or church leaders. And if anyone seeks to defend their chosen targets (or attempts to stand for truth, as opposed to lies), then those individuals are subsequently targeted as well—and they are attacked with a level of hate and suspicion similar to that which was used against the original witch-hunter’s target.

There are two ways the heresy hunters operate in falsehood: theologically and sociologically. They mislead people into believing that God is hateful, grace is inaccessible, and the Spirit of God is powerless. They further mislead people into believing that God wants them to be suspicious of everyone and everything, that the way of Christ is hatred, that lying is an acceptable practice, and that if one does not toe the line (as defined by the heresy hunters) that one is in danger of condemnation. They exercise fear and manipulation – attempting to convince people that they are hell-bound or even unsaved if they listen to certain teachers or engage in certain BIBLICAL practices. They go to great lengths to convince people that their way is THE way and that all churches (other than their own) are suspect – no one has the truth like they do.

There is a cult in the modern Christian church – the cult of the heresy hunters. They hate God’s people and, if He shows up and does anything, they hate God Himself. In fact, one cult member state that he would rather burn in hell than serve the same God that John Burton and I serve. Given that John and I both adore our risen, living Lord and Savior, the Jesus Christ the Bible talks about, the Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever… that is a disturbing statement. I cried when I heard it.

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.”
Exodus 23:1

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will perish.”
Proverbs 19:9

“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence …”
Psalms 101:5

“Remind the people to … slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
Titus 3: 1-2

“Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.”
1 Peter 2:1

The original enemy they singled out from the crowd must be exposed and destroyed for God—and all those who dare to stand in God’s way are of the devil and must also be destroyed. This was the mentality behind the Medieval witch hunts and the Salem witch trials, which is partly why such activities went unchecked. People were afraid in 1692, for example, to perhaps step up and say, “Wait! Goody Osborne be no witch!” Because if they did so, they’d find themselves on trial as well. This is what we see happening today.

Challies hits the nail on the head with these comments. The Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs) that now litter cyberspace have become a quick fix for troubled hearts and minds seeking a daily dose of negative, rancid, hate-filled rhetoric that is fed to them under the guise of ministry, spirituality, godly correction, biblical rebukes, and being on fire for God. Challies offers two exquisite scripture and some godly words of advice:

I think of Paul’s words near the close of the book of Romans where he says, “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b). He wants these Christians to invest their time studying not what is evil, but what is good. When they have confidence in all that is good, the evil will become ever-more apparent.

This is not the first or only time Paul has given this exhortation. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 he wrote “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” And in saying this he echoes the words of Jesus who exhorted His disciples and warned them of the persecution that would come, saying “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Such advice goes hand-in-hand with my most recent posts about these accusers of the brethren and the division they are causing within the church (see Don’t Believe Everything You Read…On the Internet, as well as ODM Update: Another Apologist Speaks Out, and ODMs: A Cult is Born?). We are in an era of great spiritual deception, and ironically, some of those dispensing the destructive deceptions are the very ones claiming for themselves the “We Are God’s Defenders of the Faith” label.

Tragically, today’s ODMs—who fancy themselves “contenders for the faith,” “watchmen on the wall,” Spirit-led “discerners,” and a kind of remnant of true Christians—have rushed headlong with reckless abandon toward the extreme end of the “negative” side of apologetics (see above) instead of the “positive” side of apologetics (see above).

Rather than being most concerned with defending their own faith against attacks, they have become fixated on finding error in others and correcting it. Heresy and apostasy is spun out of all kinds of non-doctrinal comments innocently made by someone or weaved out of non-doctrine-related methods of preaching that the ODM simply doesn’t like.

In other words, Walter Martin’s approach to apologetics/discernment—which had always centered on pure doctrinal assessments that focused on essentials of the faith—was perverted into heresy-hunting. The goal for today’s ODMs is no longer defending the faith. It something far more tantalizing—i.e. making sure to find error/heresy in a chosen target, using whatever means possible.

Rooting out heresy, even where it doesn’t exist, has become the prime directive.

Finding doctrinal errors in others has become the excuse for attacking others who do things slightly different and/or who might preach/teach in a way that make some uncomfortable.

Intense scrutiny of words, terms, and phrases mixed with a paranoid level of suspicion has become the modus operandi of choice.

The ODMs are nothing less than a modern, hi-tech version of the infamous Inquisition—minus the power to extract confessions and render punishments, thank God.

In my opinion, ODMs have repeatedly shown themselves to be what psychologists call pathological antagonists. This psychological disorder, more commonly used to describe individuals attacking churches/leaders with whom they are personally involved, was discussed in a highly informative article by Frontline Fellowship titled “Pathological Antagonists.” It reads, in part, as follows:

“These are not normal people, average complainers, critics and typical dissidents who are generally unhappy about life itself … they are deadly and have a knack for gathering a following of ordinary folk with common complaints and disagreements in the church. They can easily create the illusion that there are hordes of people against the pastor. They are masters at using the tyrannical they in their comments: ‘They are very unhappy about …’ or the illusive people: ‘people are saying that ….’ These are verbal instruments in the arsenal that they use to destroy a minister.”

Dr. Greenfield describes pathological antagonists/clergy killers, as persons with “a very mean spirited disposition … they are destructive. The damage that they want to inflict is intentional and deliberate. They are not out simply to disagree … they want to inflict pain and damage persons. … clergy killers are determined. They are headstrong and will stop at nothing. They may pause for a time, change strategies, even go underground to reconnoitre, but they will come back with a vengeance to continue the intimidation, networking and breaking all rules of decency to accomplish their destructive objectives. For them, their plans have priority over all other programs of the church.

These persons are deceitful … masters of manipulation, camouflage, misrepresentation and accusing others of their own atrocious deeds … experts at twisting facts. … maybe mentally disordered, but they do not yield to patience or love, nor do they honour human decency. Apparently clergy killers carry around a lot of internal pain, confusion, anger, and even rage. Spiritual leaders … become available scapegoats for this pain and confusion, which is unidentified and untreated.”

“Clergy killers are masters of intimidation, using it to violate the rules of decency and caring that most Christians try to follow. Intimidation is a powerful weapon … therefore, ministers and their supporters are easily intimidated by these persuasive and charming religious assailants. Clergy killers are experts of disguise when they see it would be to their advantage. They are able to present themselves as pious, devout and spiritual church members, who are doing their destructive work ‘for the good of the church to advance God’s Kingdom.’ They can convince naïve church members that they are raising legitimate issues. These religious monsters often hide among their allies of opportunity … they openly intimidate any opposition by making it clear that they will fight dirty and use any tactic to accomplish their goals. Gentle and peace-at- any-price church members are quickly sidelined by such threats, leaving ministers and those who support them to cope with the problem the best way they can.”

“Clinically speaking, … they may possess distinct personality disorders … anti-social, borderline paranoid, narcissistic … others have learnt to throw tantrums to get their selfish ways. They’ve learnt how to distract, confuse, lie and seduce to do harm to the vulnerable.”

“Clergy killers wound or destroy either by direct attacks or by inciting others to inflict the wounds. Sometimes they induce victims to self-destruct, by harassing them to the point of frustration and anger. … it only takes one or two in the church to create havoc and bedlam. Because these people live in denial as to their true nature, they would not see themselves in this chapter, even if they were to read it. Clergy killers have surrounded and insulated themselves with a whole array of defense mechanisms and justifications for their actions. They firmly believe that what they are doing in harming and terminating a minister is the right thing to do. For them, it is the will of God. Nevertheless, they are sick and mean people.”

There is a tremendous and fundamental difference between the two. As Christians, we can hold differing opinions and disagree – but  Jesus Himself commanded us to love one another (and show it. And MEAN it!) and to maintain unity. When we feel we must correct a specific person, we must follow biblical guidelines. We’d best be about His business building the Church, not tearing people down, chewing them up, and spitting them out.

We should take care ONLY to exclude those from fellowship who are clearly in error, unrepentant/continuing in their sin, and who show a shallow, casual attitude toward sin. We should also take care to note that those who presently must be excluded from the Body should be welcomed back with open arms immediately upon their repentance.

Yes. I do consider some of the heresy hunters to have crossed that line. That is my personal belief and I’ve taken some heat for it. I don’t stand in the place of God. But I do take Romans 16:17, Jude 19, and Titus 3:10 to heart.

Which brings me back around to this blog I was interacting on. Great blog, great guy who loves Jesus. Currently attacked by heresy hunters because he  accepts that Todd Bentley has repented and believes we should give him and the restoration team room to work. Of course, this makes him a heretic supreme. I’d posted a few comments, including the text of 1 Corinthians 13, especially the passage on “does not behave rudely”.

Now, whether He meant that the person is actually demon-possessed, or whether He meant that as destroyers of unity and attackers they have the same mind-set, I’m not sure. I’m not particularly sure that it matters. Regardless of whether they’re demonically influenced or simply operating from their own hearts, they are doing satan’s work.

What does God’s Word say about it?

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another… Therefore, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts… Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 3:8,9,12-15, 4:6 NKJV)

It’s often not what you say… it’s the spirit in which you say it. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34) – Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10).

Let me be very clear: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ACCURATELY, LOVINGLY, BIBLICALLY, AND TRUTHFULLY defending the faith and the Gospel by pointing out the errors of public teachers/preachers (or churches and organizations). We are not only to defend our own personal faith when asked (1 Peter 3:15), but when necessary, we are to preach the word of God, as well as “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

But these ODMs are not speaking the truth, let alone speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). They are not defending the faith. They are not engaging in actual apologetics. And they are not using biblical approaches to sound doctrinal critiquing. They are dividing the Body of Christ. They are falsely accusing the brethren. They are spreading fear, hate, and slander.

Rather than showing themselves to be legitimate apologists, they have proven repeatedly that they are actually torch-bearing witch-hunters seeking targets of opportunity—i.e., public figures that they can conveniently mold and shape (via false accusations and misrepresentation) into some heretic/apostate using cult-like psychological manipulation tactics on those who read their cyberspace venom. Their modus operandi is much like the one used by Commie-hunters during the infamous McCarthy Era of the 1950s and its so-called “hearings,” wherein innocent persons were accused left and right of being Communists based on false evidence, groundless speculation, and trumped up charges (see the semi-documentary movie

have now begun to tread dangerously close to becoming a “cult” not only from a psychological perspective, but from a theological perspective as well. An good argument can be made for this observation based on the apparent willingness of these ODMs to add extra-biblical conditions of salvation to the pure Gospel, which is salvation by grace alone through faith alone. In fact, there is an ever-growing list of conditions being attached by the ODMs to the Gospel that include:

• the “biblical”/”Christian” way to think about politics and/or political candidates;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” position on certain theological issues over which believers can legitimately disagree;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” method of preaching from the pulpit;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” judgment of a specific pastor/teacher
• the “biblical”/”Christian” songs (or music styles) appropriate for worship;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” stand on what is appropriate entertainment for Christians (i.e., what music one can and cannot listen to, what movies one can and cannot watch, etc.);
• the “biblical”/”Christian” perspective on the end-times;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” take on debatable points of non-essential doctrines;
• the “biblical”/”Christian” limits on associations/friendships a believer can have with unbelievers;

The list goes on, and on, and on……..and on. The bottom line for them seems to be that if a person does not share THEIR exact mindset regarding one or more of the above, then that person is unregenerate, heretical, unsaved, lost, in need of repentance, apostate, or a deceiver. Such an attitude, of course, tramples a number of biblical verses that deal with freedom(s) in Christ (Rom. 14; Gal. 2:4) and passages indicating that Jesus is our Lord/Master before whom we stand or fall (Rom. 14:4). Also relevant are Christ’s words: “‘If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

In other words, we are free in Christ from the “yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1), which is not only a reference to the slavery to sin, death, and the world, but also any kind of slavery to rules/dos-and-don’ts (or the Law)—i.e., the kind of slavery that Pharisee-like religious leaders and misguided religious zealots invariably place on the backs of those seeking to follow God in humility, peace, joy, and spiritual freedom.

More importantly, and more obvious, is the fact that none of the items in the aforementioned “biblical”/”Christian” checklist are part of the pure and simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul clearly outlined in (1 Cor. 15:1-4):

“I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

It is the height of irony that these ODMs would add anything to the pure and simple Gospel because by doing so they are actually compromising the very Gospel that they are claiming to defend! And this is also what makes their words and actions so tragic.

When ODM people make such strident & narrow charges against other Christians, even against pastors & other Christian leaders, they are guilty of breaking the commandment about not bearing false witness.

They don’t even have to say anything false, they just have to say it with rigidity & condemnation & they stifle their target’s ability to be used by God—flaws & all—in extending the kingdom through the preaching of the simple gospel.

When ODM people demand their own brand of sophisticated, theologically complex ‘orthodoxy’ to keep them from denouncing anyone else, they also prohibit young & growing Christians from candidly sharing their faith in their own unsophisticated, simple way from fear of intimidation by those more articulate.

Finally, when ODM people demand completely precise & complex theological jargon from every Christian who speaks or writes about his faith, they abort any candid theological development through discussion; “iron sharpening iron” becomes “knives slicing bloodily through the sheep.”

There would never have been lay evangelism or theological development or common martyrdom if the early church had been cursed with the high-handed judgmentalism of the ODM community.

Most tragic is how so-called “Christians” are contributing to this proliferation of misinformation and disinformation throughout cyberspace. It’s almost beyond belief that individuals supposedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit could be partakers of such activity. But the facts show that a significant number of “Christian” blogs & websites have indeed become dedicated to attacking others; more specifically, dedicated to attacking other Christians!

And such attacks are not just limited to simple assaults on other points of view, but penetrate into the realm of questioning another person’s Christianity, misrepresenting the faith of others, and deliberately seeking to destroy the reputation of various public figures (i.e., fellow believers). These persons have actually formed a new “cult” of sorts. This “cult,” which I have termed the “Cult of Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs),” has demonstrated that its real mission/ministry is the destruction of fellow Christians with whom they disagree. Ironically, they do it under the guise of defending the faith against cults and false doctrine via apologetics/discernment.

The result has been a great division within the church—unnecessary division because their attacks are based on things that have NOTHING to do with doctrinal teachings or whether or not a person is in the church. They base their attacks on:

- political views,
- methods of preaching,
- preferred styles of music/dress,
- different perspectives on various non-essentials of the faith,
- positions on eschatology,
- public friendships/associations they enjoy with certain believers/unbelievers
- certain verbiage used to communicate biblical truths

The targets of these Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs) are summarily labeled heretics, false teachers, deceivers, conspiratorial players in some Antichrist scenario, apostates, fake brethren who lead fake churches, compromisers, New Age sympathizers—the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the way these people/ministries make their charges stick is by use of:

- half-truths,
- false information,
- outright lies,
- faulty reasoning,
- unsubstantiated assumptions,
- quotes taken out of context, and
- manipulation of facts

As a public figure, I myself have been enduring this kind of persecution for years—as have several of my friends and associates in ministry. It’s been discouraging, frustrating, and painful to witness. So, for the sake of all that is good, right, true, just and biblical—don’t believe everything you read on the Internet:

- Test all things, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21).
- Verify information before you simply believe it.
- Go to the actual sources of isolated quotes that sound damning (they’re often taken out of context).
- Contact, if you can, the person being attacke and ask them for confirmation of what you’ve heard.

And for those of you who, like me, have had unkind/untrue things said about them on the Internet, hang in there. JUDGMENT WILL ONE DAY COME.

I close these word of warning/caution with a quote taken from someone who, in my personal opinion (as a professional apologist for over 15 years), is one of the worst of the worst ODMs. This ODM has posted her attacks repeatedly against God’s people and encourages others to do likewise (very much like Jezebel encouraged false charges to be brought against God’s people, see 1 Kings 21:10). She stated the following in one of her recent posts:

“Technology affords so many opportunities now to communicate with others and the world that can be used for good. It also offers us many new snares and opportunities to sin. . . . [W]e need to be ready to examine ourselves and honestly look at our motives and behavior in light of God’s Word. If we can’t control the temptation a technology brings, we need to do rapid surgery and get rid of it so that Satan does not gain a foothold in our lives. If we can use a technology for God’s glory with a clear conscience, we need to carry on and thank God for the opportunity.”

SCRIPTURES ON WHICH TO MEDITATE

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:15

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.”
Exodus 23:1

“A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.”
Proverbs 16:28

“An angry man stirs up dissension.”
Proverbs 29:22

“A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.”
Proverbs 12:17

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will perish.”
Proverbs 19:9

“Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor.”
Proverbs 25:18

“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence …”
Psalms 101:5

“He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.”
Proverbs 10:18

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Ephesians 4:31

“Remind the people to … slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
Titus 3: 1-2

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.”
James 3:6

“Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.”
1 Peter 2:1

4 comments:

L. A. Marzulli said...

I was attacked by a Heresy hunter and when I confronted the person I received no reply! These people are modern day Pharisees.

L. A. Marzulli
la@lamarzulli.net

Vincenzo said...

From what I'm reading it sounds like many of these heresy hunters operate from the same scoffing spirit as the pseudo skeptics running around the internet who are out to debunk everything that doesn't line up with their atheistic, materialist worldview, men like James Randi. Different sides of the same coin.

Saint said...

I don't even look at discernment ministry websites anymore. The people who run these websites do not believe in the full council of God's word, and they do not take rebuke, at all.

If the website says we are hear to expose the NWO teachings of _____, I'm done.

Anonymous said...

You have been called out by Mike Hoggard. According to him, you have taken out or added words to scripture. You are a Hebrew roots mystic. The old and new testament are one and the same and we must follow the law. I would be interestes to see if Hoggard would answer if you questioned him on this.