Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.(Acts 20:28-32)
We have been doing an autopsy on the Charismatic movement, trying to consider how it is that a Holy Spirit movement, which brought hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life into the saving knowledge of God, the love of Jesus Christ and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Ghost, could so degenerate that now a person is worse off for association with the charismatic movement, than they would be had they never heard of it.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, millions of people came into the Christian faith in those days, but being born again is a beginning, and not an end itself. It is one thing to be converted, and another entirely to “Abide in Christ”. Much of staying power is dependent on teaching. Pastors are supposed to receive new converts and feed their souls that which is truly nourishing to the soul, “The sincere milk of the Word of God”, as Peter says.
But faithless Pastors are like a broken tooth or a sprained ankle, if they pass on false teaching, or passively allow false teachers to infect the flock, it is devastating. This is a major cause of the death of the Charismatic movement.
Perhaps my own personal experience can serve as a microcosm of the movement as a whole.
In 1978, shortly after I was born again into the wonderful world of evangelical, Pentecostal Christianity, I plunged into the local church which first introduced me to these things.It was there that I first saw people worshipping and adoring God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, tears streaming down their faces, hands lifted up, singing songs I had never heard before.
The people of First Assembly of God, in Ames Iowa, were so earnest, simple and beautiful in their love for Jesus and concern for each other. I had never sen such love, and belief. If any were sick they would pray, and their would be constant testimonies of real hearings and miracles.
For example, A farmer refused to miss church, one Sunday, though he had hay laying in the field waiting to be bailed and put away, even though a terrible rainstorm was threatening. But God honored his faith, and the rain stopped just short of his property line. He put God first, and it paid off. I couldn’t wait for testimony time, and eagerly went forward for prayer every chance I got.Those were simple, beautiful days.
Not long after I was saved, someone gave me a 12 pack of Kenneth Copeland teaching cassettes, which I eagerly devoured. I didn’t realize it but I was plunging fully into heretical Christianity, the Word/Faith Movement. Copeland was such a communicator, engaging, folksy and personal, furthermore he was a “mans man” and not “religious” or stuffy as it seemed so many pastors were.
But I was too immature at the time to discern Copeland’s defective theology, such as his teaching that the Believer is a “Little God”, who could “frame his world” by the use of Words, as God made our world by Words. Copeland seemed to make sense, teaching that “Dogs have baby dogs, and Cats have kittens”, but when God has children, they are “little gods”(with a little”g” of course.
Here is an example from Copeland’s tape, “The force of Love”-
He is a spirit. And Jesus said the time will come and time now is that they that worship him worship him, in spirit and in truth. And he imparted in you when you were born again…Peter said it just as plain, he said we are partakers of the divine nature. That nature is life eternal in absolute perfection. And that was imparted, injected into your spirit man and you have that imparted into you by God just as same as you imparted into your child the nature of humanity. That child wasn’t born a whale…born a human. Isn’t that true? Well now you don’t have a human, do you? No, you are one. You don’t have a god in you, you are one (The Force of Love, tape #02-0028)
These teachings are devastating, because they engender pride. Word of Faith(WOF theology literally eschews classic Biblical humility, teaching a form of the serpent’s lie in the garden, that “Ye shall be as gods…”. In fact the teaching that makes men out to be “god” is the ultimate corruption of spirituality, and is in fact the very “mystery of iniquity” that the Apostle warned about.
Copeland was not alone and the above is far from the only problem with this sick aberrant theology, all of which is based on perversion of scripture. Kenneth Hagin, Oral Robert, Robert Tilton, Jerry Savelle, Charles Capps and a host of other Word of Faith teachers disseminated these heresies to those hundreds of thousands who had recently been born again and flocked into Charismatic churches, hungry for Christian teaching.
But they all looked and acted so powerful! They all seemed to perform miracles and seemed to be spiritually far beyond “Religious”, “churchy” regular old ordinary ministers, of the normal church as most people had once known it.
One aspect that I think in retrospect furthered their deception and seduction of so many, was that a lot of these ‘bold men of God’ would use a kind of derisive mockery of the old fashioned meek, (humble ), traditional pastors and leaders. We were all in on the joke, because we knew that we WORD/FAITH people had ‘the anointing’ and operated in revelation knowledge, and were the furthest thing from the old religious prudes of the old system.
I don’t know how many sermons I heard which began with a comment like this, “Now I am fixing to upset your doctrine here, so hang on to your seat…”, as if orthodox Christian doctrine is wrong, and insufficient, compared to the “new light” the new gurus were bringing to us. We would laugh and clap as these teachers undermined the ancient faith “once and for all delivered to the Saints”.
In retrospect, each heretic took the Charismatics further from the Truth, they built upon each other. William Branham, (of whom I have much to say shortly) was an arch heretic and yet a wonderworker who deceived millions, and set the stage for the apostasy we see now. He made possible the acceptance of Hagin and Copeland, who paved the way for John Wimber, John Arnott and Rodney Howard Browne. There would be no Bill Johnson or Mike Bickle without these earlier apostates. Todd Bentley would have been rejected as a lunatic without the constant , thirty or forty year garage of mysticism, false teaching and experienced based (Pseudo) revival promoted by these deceivers.
What happened to me? The Holy Spirit gave me the power to overcome this Anti-Christ Spirit, this is the true meaning of I John 4:4, “Fear not little children for you have overcome them , for greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the World”.
It was a confluence of events, of which two things dominate; 1) When Dave Hunt came out with a book, “The Seduction of Christianity”, I saw by the reaction of my “leaders” that they acted cultic. “Don’t read that book”, they said, “…it will hurt your ‘anointing’ “. I thought that our faith could stand up to any scrutiny!
Why shouldn’t we read a book that challenged it? They hated and reviled Hunt,(whom I had never heard of) they castigated him as though they were afraid of his message! Ithought it odds, but I still hadn’t read his book yet, but then…
2) I went with my wife to a WOF pastors conference, (by this time we had started a church in our home).One of the pastors pulled in, sporting on his Car a ‘vanity license plate”, which said”IAMAgod”.
I looked at Kris,(my beautiful wife) and she looked at me and we both said,”What have we gotten ourselves into?”. We reeled. What is this? The other pastors congratulated the man for his “bold faith” but we knew that was blasphemous! Then I believe I heard the Holy Spirit, for a clear thought penetrated my troubled mind…”All he is doing is taking your teachers to their logical conclusion!”.
I had to undergo a season of serious reflection and repentance. I had to re-examine everything I thought I believed, in the light of the Word of God. I had to turn my back on ‘my teachers’ wherever I found them to be false.This took about five or six years.
I had to commit to a new loyalty(which was actually the original loyalty) . My loyalty must be to the Word of God, not to teachers or a movement, or a teaching or revelation which contradicted the Word of God. And finally I had to ask my self, “What drew me to these heretics anyway? What is it in me, that they appeal to?”
I realized then that I don’t want to be a “God”, not a big one or a little one, nor do I want to be a “man of faith and power”. In fact all I wanted to do is go back under GOD, and be a redeemed worshipper again, a nobody, a nothing, a man. Under God.