Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 1
Midwest Today magazine opens its coverage of Promise Keepers with these important questions: "How faithful to the Word of God is the Promise Keepers men’s movement? How close of an association do its founders and board members have with the Charismatic fringe? What theology is really being espoused by its guest speakers, and its numerous books, videos and other materials that carry the Promise Keeper imprimatur?" It then adds, "These and other legitimate questions have largely been overlooked as this evangelical men’s group attracts uncritical and enthusiastic press coverage, and its ranks of members swell with every big conference it holds."
It is the intention of this paper, and those that follow, to carefully examine the above questions. That Promise Keepers is successful is beyond question; however, whether it is a movement of God, that honors the Lord and should be supported by His people, can only be discerned by exposing the movement to the light of God’s Word. We will start our examination by looking at Promise Keepers in general, pointing out what we believe to be positive and then finish by traveling to Atlanta to sit with forty thousand pastors at the 1996 Promise Keepers National Clergy Conference.
Some General Information about Promise Keepers
Promise Keepers is barely six years old and is already one of the largest Christian organizations in the world. Their headquarters receive up to five thousand pieces of mail and over ten thousand phone calls per day! It has a permanent staff of three hundred and sixty, and a budget of $120 million.
It is estimated that one million one hundred thousand men attended the twenty-two stadium rallies that were spread out over the country in 1996. Its official magazine, New Man, already has a circulation of three hundred twenty thousand, which by comparison, is three times greater than that of Christianity Today, the leading evangelical magazine in America.
Promise Keepers has held stadium events in three foreign countries, with requests from twenty-two more. Its radio program, Promise Keepers Highlights, can be heard on over twelve hundred radio stations; and Promise Keepers Week in Review, a thirty minute show, is on two hundred stations.
In addition to its large rallies, Promise Keepers also has its act together on the grass roots level. This comes in several forms:
Wake Up Calls — Promise Keepers hosted about three hundred of what are known as Wake Up Calls" in 1995. These mini-conferences serve three purposes: 1) to build momentum for the large conferences, 2) to bring men together who have a heart for men’s ministry, and 3) to stir men’s heart’s about needs within their community - to encourage them to get together, pray and form small groups.
Task-force — This is a group of ethnically and denominationally diverse men who meet for prayer and Bible study on the local level. Task Forces are comprised of Ambassadors and Key Men who meet as often as weekly. The principle goal of these gatherings is to share information and plan strategy on the local level.
Key men — Are liaisons between Promise Keepers and the local church. These men are attempting to promote Promise Keepers and its ministries in their local congregation.
Ambassadors — They are the liaisons between the key men and the task-forces.
A basic summarization is as follows: Key men are Promise Keepers’ promoters in the local church — they report their accomplishments and other information to the ambassador who in turn reports to the task-forces. The task-forces come together for Wake Up Calls. The Wake Up Calls promote the big rallies. The rallies send the men home with an encouragement to join a task force. This is organization (the envy of anyone)!
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If so, Promise Keepers ought to be greatly flattered, because several denominations have made attempts to duplicate the Promise Keepers format. Also, women, not wanting to be outdone, are starting to jump on the bandwagon with their own Promise Keepers type of organizations.
The reaction to Promise Keepers, as with anything of this size and magnitude, is mixed:
Christianity Today: "I think it is time to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is igniting a flame in the hearts of men all over the nation" (Feb. 6, 1996 p26). Many would agree with this assessment, declaring Promise Keepers to be evidence of a great revival in our country.
Paul Cain, the Vineyard prophet, thinks so highly of Promise Keepers that he claims it is a fulfillment of a divine dream he received when he was nineteen (Aug. 30, 1995 message at Christ Chapel, Florence, AL — reported in Beyond Promises, by David Hagopian and Douglas Wilson).
Some do not quite know what to make of Promise Keepers, as was evidenced when USA Today described its rallies as "Part rock concert, part football, part evangelistic crusade" (Mar. 23, 1996).
Still others, such as John Armstrong, who wrote the forward for Beyond Promises, take a critical view: "In the end Promise Keepers is simply what evangelicalism has become, a movement without a doctrinally defined focus, that can draw multitudes to exciting events but without a theology of the church that will build Christ’s church in a New Testament sense. . . .It will ultimately give us what several generations of similar "revival" movements have already given us — emotional burn-out and doctrinal confusion and indifference" (pp. 10,11).
Of course, no movement can be judged by its outward success, or by the opinion of its observers. Ultimately, only the Word of God can evaluate the Promise Keepers movement.
The overall agenda of Promise Keepers would be hard to challenge. The leadership of the movement has identified true problems, concerns and sins that exist in America in general, and in the church specifically.
First of all, racism is far too prevalent even among true Christians. Many believers are no different than their unsaved counterparts when it comes to racial issues.
Our prejudices must be exposed to the light of the Word and changed. That we should more aggressively pursue the removal of the walls of racism, and should seek friendship and fellowship with those of other races is a commendable goal. To think of oneself as superior because we happen to be born into a certain race, or of a certain color, is nothing less than sinful pride. Racism should not be tolerated among Christians. Promise Keepers is right to say so.
Second, there is a lack of male leadership in the home and in the church. We should definitely pity the American male at the end of the twentieth century, for he has never been more confused about his role in society. There was a time when he thought that he knew who he was and what he was to do in life, but that was before the women’s liberation movement.
As women began to change how they perceived themselves, it inevitably caused men to view themselves differently. Men who used to think they were strong, now understand themselves to be insensitive; leaders are tyrants, silent men are bad communicators, providers are workaholics, etc. Women expect more from men today, however, as men have tried to understand what women want, many have simply given up. They have interpreted women’s assertiveness as demanding control.
As a result, far too many men, even Christian men, have abdicated their role as leader in the home. Their wives are making the decisions about where the family will go to church, how they will raise the kids, how the money is spent, etc. Many men, finding it too much of a bother to challenge their wives leadership, simply walk away. They live independently of the family, at least on an emotional and spiritual level, which means the wife must now fill the void that her man has left.
Also See Feminism and The Bible
Promise Keepers has discerned this cycle and has sought to provide a remedy. They rightly point to this sin in men’s lives and encourage them to promise to make amends. While some of the messages and materials used to guide men back to home leadership are errant (as we will find later), Promise Keepers has correctly identified that a problem exists and they are trying to do something about it.
Third, there is an epidemic of spiritual deadness. Promise Keepers promotes commitment to Christ and godly living. This is a refreshing call to an increasingly secularized church.
[See Section The Contemporary Church]
Statistics often demonstrate that those who claim to be born again, are barely living above their unregenerate peers in the areas of morals, divorce, "addictions," and other measurable forms of sinfulness. Promise Keepers has recognized this and has called men to live up to what they profess to believe. We are more than happy to join in this invitation. Our problem, as we will attempt to show, will come in the specifics of the invitation.
The Clergy Conference 1996:
During the month of February 1996, the largest gathering of pastors that the world had ever seen, took place. Almost thirty-nine thousand pastors from every denomination (ranging from fundamentalists to approximately six hundred Roman Catholic priests) met in Atlanta for the first Promise Keepers National Clergy Conference. The purpose of the Conference, according to the founder of Promise Keepers, Bill McCartney, was to "Tear the hearts of pastors open so that a single leadership could be produced."
Randy Phillips, current president of Promise Keepers, apparently felt that the conference met its objectives. In the 1996 Spring issue of Men of Action, he said,
"The Clergy Conference in Atlanta was awesome! In just three days we began to see some of the walls which have divided the church for centuries break down" (p3).
Of course, evaluation is always subjective. One Christian journalist, writing from another perspective said, "The writer witnessed the most vivid illustration of massive emotional hysterical mind crowd control he has ever seen anywhere" (Promise Keepers, by Don Jasmin, p10).
So, which was it? A great movement of God or an example of mass manipulation? Even for those at the Conference, it would be difficult to subjectively discern. After all, were the loud cheers for Jesus, the hugs, the tears, the pleas for forgiveness, the excitement and enthusiasm, and renewed commitments, generated by the Holy Spirit for the glory of Christ; or were they well orchestrated reactions based upon methods guaranteed to produce emotional catharsis? This is a question that is always asked whenever a mass movement in the name of Christ (usually known as a revival or an awakening) takes place.
Is it of God or is it of man?
Charles Finney, the 19th century revivalist, after whom almost all movements such as Promise Keepers take their cue, assured the Christian world that the right methods will always produce revival, with or without the aid of the Holy Spirit. In his Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835) he stated:
The connection between the right use of means (methods) for revival and a revival is as philosophically sure as between the right use of means (methods) to raise grain and a crop of wheat. I believe, in fact, it is more certain, and there are fewer instances of failure (p33).
Os Guinness, commenting on Finney’s methods, writes:
On the one hand, his new methods accented the human initiative instead of the divine. On the other hand, they gave rise to a sense of "engineered" or "worked up" revival. Revival could occur whenever Christians used the proper means. . . Finney’s methods have been a defining feature of evangelicalism ever since. They have been demonstrated by later evangelists, such as D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday, or by the evangelistic approaches of the 1940s and 1950s. Billy Sunday, for instance, boasted to his sponsors that if "Gypsy" Smith could win converts for $4.92-a-piece, he could cut the cost to $2.00-a-soul when he got his system working.
. . .Reliance on methods has even been lifted to new heights by the church-growth movement. From parking-lot theory to platform-dress style, everything in worship as well as evangelism can now be engineered and enhanced. . . .Through it all pragmatism has become part of the evangelical soul. Finney’s "right use of the appropriate means" is our hallmark (Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, pp58,59). [See Section on The Church-Growth Movement
Is the Promise Keeper’s phenomenon a movement of God or Finney’s method updated? This is still a difficult question to answer, even if the leaders of Promise Keepers are using Finney’s "means." It is possible that in spite of (not because of) man’s manipulation — God is doing a great work!
This is the issue that Jonathan Edwards attempted to address in works such as, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, and Treatise on Religious Affections. Iain Murray, in his excellent book, Revival and Revivalism, attempts to distinguish between true revival in history, and its counterfeit, revivalism. His summary is:
In all revivals there are admixtures. It cannot be supposed that, in the high excitement attending a work of the Spirit of God, God’s saving work can be instantly distinguished from what moves men only temporarily or from what can be accounted for in psychological terms (pp 82,83).
And, it would be entirely wrong to suppose that periods of true revival are not also times of danger. To ignore that is to ignore a major lesson of history (p382).
Similarly, it would be foolish to argue that wherever earnest gospel work is attended by any errors or by any unwise methods, there cannot be true revival. . . .Calvinists have sometimes been inclined to deny God’s sovereignty by imagining that His work is always in proportion to the doctrinal correctness of the earthen vessels which He employs. But such is God’s mercy that His blessing may also be found even among ‘wood, hay, and stubble,’ as was the case in Corinth (I Cor. 3:12). . . .But this same qualification is misused (as Finney misused it on a grand scale) when it is employed as an argument to show that because God has granted His blessing, therefore the ‘wood, hay and stubble’ cannot be errors at all but must represent a cause which He honors" (pp382,383). [See Section on Calvinism]
So, the question remains: Is Promise Keepers a great movement of God or manipulation by men? It could be both, or neither — this is the issue we will begin to examine in our next paper. While we ponder this subject, let’s close this paper with two major concerns we have with the Clergy Conference:
The Charismatic Influence
If our presupposition, based upon our understanding of Scripture, is that the Charismatic and Vineyard movements are not of God (see our papers on the Vineyard Movement), then something is terribly amiss at the Promise Keepers’ conferences. Not only are the founders of Promise Keepers, many of the key leaders, and a number of favorite speakers Charismatic, but the very worship, music and methods of Promise Keepers spring from the Charismatic’s well. I believe that in a very real sense Promise Keepers is the machinery that is moving the evangelical church wholesale into the Charismatic camp, without most even realizing it.
One example at the Clergy Conference will suffice at this time: Jack Hayford, one of the most often used speakers at Promise Keepers conferences, attempted to teach the thirty-nine thousand pastors how to "dance in the Lord." He said he had learned a little dance in Africa and later the Lord spoke to him directly saying, "May I have this dance?" At this point he demonstrated his dance before the pastors.
Hayford and Promise Keepers were subtly introducing thousands of pastors to some of the heretical teachings of the Charismatic movement. The focus was on a Charismatic form of worship — dancing in the Lord! The real issue, one that seemed to be missed by most of those pastors, is that this man is claiming direct revelation from God! Where was the outrage among those pastors? Are they being anesthetized by Promise Keepers to the extent that those who claim direct revelation are accepted without rebuke? If so, where will this lead? [See Cessationism]
A Centralized Authority
McCartney wants the hearts of pastors so torn open that a single leadership can be produced. Just who will assume this leadership? Is it to be McCartney? How about the leadership of Promise Keepers? Are all local churches and denominations to submit to the authority of Promise Keepers?
Randy Phillips believes that, "In just three days we began to see some of the walls which have divided the church for centuries break down." What walls is he talking about? The walls of doctrine? Pastors are now being told that they must lay down their beliefs in order to unite with a common leadership. Is this the real agenda of Promise Keepers? More on these things next time.
Within our last paper we pinpointed several areas in which we find agreement with the Promise Keepers' movement. In our remaining studies on Promise Keepers we will examine our areas of concern.
Author Thomas Hardy said that he had a friend who could go into any beautiful meadow and immediately find a manure pile (The Master's Plan for the Church, p22). We do not want to be like Hardy's friend. It is not our desire to nit pick, nor do we want to ignore something of great value while concentrating on the few problem areas. We want others to be fair and gracious with us, so we, in turn, strive to do the same — understanding full well that even the best of ministries are imperfect.
Having said all of this, we nevertheless, have deep concerns about Promise Keepers. We are not searching for small piles of manure in an otherwise beautiful meadow. Rather, there is a strong stench emanating from the Promise Keepers' meadow, and it is time to find out from where the smell is coming.
Let us begin with an issue that is very dear to the Promise Keepers' movement. In fact, it could be argued that ecumenicalism is central to, possibly even the very heart of, Promise Keepers. However, before we detail Promise Keepers' ecumenical agenda, we should first define ecumenicalism and place it under the light of Scripture.
Ecumenicalism means different things to different people. The broad definition includes the attempt to unite all religions under the same banner. The Parliament on World Religions, held in Chicago in 1994, is a good example. Broad ecumenicalism then is the attempt to break down the barriers that separate world religions so that cooperative efforts can be undertaken.
To others, ecumenicalism has a narrower definition, that is, to simply unite all "Christian" denominations under one umbrella. The efforts of the National Council of Churches stands out, because this organization has attempted for many years to break down the barriers that separate Christian churches and denominations. Here the one common denominator is the person of Christ. Due to wide diversity of opinions, no other doctrinal distinctive would be possible. Even the person and work of Jesus is up for grabs — defined, not by Scripture, but by personal opinion.
Promise Keepers fits a more narrow definition yet. They, and others in their ecumenical camp, hold forth several doctrinal essentials. Indeed, Promise Keepers claims in print that it does not promote unity at the expense of sound doctrine. The "essential doctrines," which they claim to uphold without compromise are: The inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, substitutionary atonement, Christ's bodily resurrection, and the need for regeneration and salvation by faith. Their brand of ecumenicalism then, is to unite all Christians around these essential doctrines. All other doctrinal distinctives are considered barriers to unity and must be discarded, or at least greatly minimized.
[See Salvation and Section on Jesus]
A Defense for Biblical Separation
At this point we need to pause and discuss whether, and over what issues, Scripture calls for believers to separate from other believers. We will be the first to admit that the doctrine of biblical separation has never been loved by many, is often misunderstood, and is frequently abused. Nevertheless, it is a clear teaching of Scripture and thus must be obeyed by God's people.
In addition to teaching that the believer must not be bound together with unbelievers in compromising situations (II Cor. 6:14-18), the New Testament also teaches separation from Christians who are under church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20); those living in unrepentant open sin (I Cor. 5: 10,11); those who are repeatedly divisive in the church (Titus 3:10); and those who teach doctrinal heresy (I Tim. 1:20). It is this last issue that concerns us in relation to Promise Keepers.
Promise Keepers wants us to ignore doctrinal differences, and unite with men of various beliefs. The fifth promise says, "A Promise Keeper is committed to reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity" (emphasis ours). Doctrinal disunity is ranked and equated with racism — a terrible and unbiblical accusation! The question is, "Are we to ignore any and every doctrinal difference for the sake of unity?" Let's look at what Scripture says:
We are to shun those who teach heresy (II Tim. 3:1-9).
We are to avoid the teaching of those who twist the Scriptures with worthless "chatter" (nonsense teachings) (I Tim. 6:20; II Tim. 2:16-18).
e are to rebuke and silence those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9-14).
We are to turn away from those who cause problems which result from not following scriptural teachings (Romans 16:17,18).
We are to have nothing to do with worldly fables that contradict sound doctrine (I Tim. 4:6,7).
We are not to receive (fellowship with, support) anyone who rejects the essential biblical teachings (II John 9-11).
We are to strongly oppose any who preach an unbiblical gospel (Gal. 1:8,9).
All true biblical unity is wrapped around biblical truth (John 17:17).
Remember, the most unified religious movement of all times will be the united worship of the world at the feet of the Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-18).
(Also See Men Who Run The World)
"Unity at the expense of God's Word is not true unity; unity at the expense of God's character is not holy unity. Unity at any level that pleases God and advances His kingdom will not be at the expense of His Word or character. The oneness Jesus prayed for in John 17 will not compromise truth and righteousness" (Richard Mayhue,Voice, March/April 1993, p9).
"Underneath the hoop, holler and hype of the Promise Keepers' movement is an ecumenicalism that smacks of the last days spoken of in Scripture, rather than what some have called the 'greatest movement of God since Pentecost'" (Psychoheresy Awareness Letter, Sept/Oct. 1995, p2).
Promise Keepers' Ecumenical Agenda
While we will affirm that disagreement over some doctrinal issues should not be a cause for the breaking of fellowship (e.g. modes of baptism, church polity, many eschatological issues), nevertheless we do have three major concerns with Promise Keepers' ecumenical view:
First of all, are there not some "essential" doctrines that are being left out? Are the doctrines related to the Trinity and the nature of God, the deity and ministry of the Holy Spirit, the two natures of Christ, eternal destiny of mankind, the sinful nature of mankind, the believer's relationship to the Law, the origin of the universe, eternal security, sanctification, the church, and the priesthood of the believer, unimportant? Can they be disregarded as nonessential for the believer attempting to walk with God today?
Second, even with the doctrines that Promise Keepers declares non-negotiable, there seems to be problems. How is it possible that liberals, fundamentalists, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Mormons, and Roman Catholics, all seem comfortable with Promise Keepers and its supposed doctrinal base?
Mormons do not believe in the deity of Christ; Catholics do not believe in justification by faith alone; Pentecostal/charismatics play loose with the Scriptures; and liberals don't accept any of Promise Keepers' essentials. Yet, they all are attending Promise Keepers' conferences and some have even moved into leadership positions.
It is one thing to write a doctrinal statement, it is quite another to adhere to it. Many liberal denominations (e.g. many liberal Presbyterians) have rather good doctrinal creeds, but have abandoned them in practice. This appears to be the road down which Promise Keepers is headed.
In addition, we would suggest that Promise Keepers takes a weak stand, even with the doctrines mentioned as "essential." For example, they espouse the inspiration of Scripture, but do they believe in the inerrancy, the infallibility, the authority, or the sufficiency of Scripture? Most cults will claim to believe in the inspiration of Scripture, but will add their own writings or twists to it. Promise Keepers leaves their statements open to fit the interpretation of almost anyone.
The third concern, which is at least as important as our first two, is that the whole thrust of Promise Keepers is anti-doctrine (at least this is their rhetoric). Theology is of very little significance to Promise Keepers, instead it is a "relationship with Jesus" that matters. Life, not doctrine is paramount, but there is no spiritual life without truth, and there is no relationship with Christ unless it is grounded in the Word. Christ and His truth cannot be separated!
Promise Keepers is on a mission to minimize the importance of biblical truth in the lives of God's people. Why? Because doctrine is divisive.
The two theme songs at the 1996 Clergy Conference were, "Let the Walls Come Down," and "Yes, We All Agree." Pastors and laymen are being sent home from every stadium conference with the message that truth divides. Therefore, we must minimize truth and major on Christ and unity. This strategy is disastrous. It will lead to the same place that all other such movements have lead — to an insipid liberalism that clings to a slogan but has lost the person and power of Christ.
By the way, with all of Promise Keepers down playing of doctrine, it is ironic that they very clearly have a doctrinal base. Every organization teaches something, and we will see what Promise Keepers teaches in future studies.
Trying to untangle what Promise Keepers says and what it does is confusing. "On the one hand, Promise Keepers has affirmed the fundamentals of the faith, but on the other hand, they have stated that we must overcome denominational barriers — barriers which were created by a denial of these fundamentals" (Beyond Promises, p239).
Just why do denominational barriers exist anyway? Mostly for doctrinal reasons. David W. Cloud says it well,
"Why, for example, is an Episcopal church different than an Independent Baptist church, generally speaking? Different doctrine. One teaches baptismal regeneration; the other teaches baptism is symbolic only. One baptizes infants; the other practices believer's baptism. . . One has a priesthood; the other has pastors and deacons. . . .One interprets prophecy literally and is looking for the imminent return of Jesus Christ; the other interprets prophecy symbolically and is working to establish the kingdom of God on earth. One allows its leaders and members to hold every sort of heresy and immorality; the other practices discipline and separation" (The Christian News, Dec. 30, 1996, p9).
Is it wise or profitable to break down such barriers? A Promise Keeper promises to reach beyond any denominational barrier, and sings songs about breaking down the walls. He may even meet with a small group, on the local level, of denominationally diverse men — promising not to discuss doctrine (which divides).
Any who would challenge such unbiblical activity are usually branded as divisive, of course, but just who truly is divisive, "Those who teach false doctrine as gospel truth or those who correct false gospel with gospel truth" (Beyond Promises, p241)? Besides desiring to break down denominational barriers, how directly involved with ecumenical compromise is the Promise Keepers movement? Note some examples:
MORMONS: The L.A. Times (5/5/96) claims that, "The Promise Keepers promises have attracted interest from Catholics and Mormons as well in the Los Angeles area." A Mormon leader, Chip Rawlings, said that because of Promise Keepers' interdenominational approach, "Fellow Mormon leaders of the Palos Verders Stake, or group of congregations, are urging members of the Latter-Day Saints to participate in the movement." He claimed that the Promise Keepers', "Seven promises are like the men's priesthood manual for the church."
In all fairness to Promise Keepers, they officially renounce the teachings of the Mormon church (see New Man, Vol. 3 #7, Oct. 1996, pp40ff). Yet, inexplicably, Mormon men are feeling comfortable at Promise Keepers' rallies. Why? Could it be that nothing is being said that offends their beliefs? [See Section on Mormonism]
ROMAN CATHOLICS: Promise Keepers has made a practicing Roman Catholic (Steve Jenkins) a field ministry representative for Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. In July of 1995, a Promise Keepers' men's ministry leadership seminar was held in Steubenville, Ohio at Catholic Franciscan University. Six hundred and forty Catholic men attended this, and the conference was closed with a Catholic Mass.
Richard Gregory, National Executive Director of the IFCA, in the May/June 1996 issue of Voice (p8,9) stated that he was informed by Promise Keepers leadership that Roman Catholic priests were being considered as speakers in upcoming Promise Keepers Meetings. However, such priests would have to sign the statement of core beliefs. Gregory then asked (in a subsequent letter) how a Roman Catholic priest could break his ordination vow - part of which pronounces an anathema on those who teach salvation by faith alone (sola fide) — and still be considered a promise keeper? This is a good question, which has apparently received no clear answer. [See Section on Catholicism]
Promise Keepers places strong emphasis on returning men to their own churches — even if they are Roman Catholic or Mormon!
Jack Hayford, in Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper says, "Whether your tradition celebrates it as Communion, Eucharist, the Mass, or the Lord's Supper, we are all called to this centerpiece of Christian worship" (p19).
This is a good example of how Promise Keepers ignores or "breaks down barriers" between denominations. There is indeed a great difference between celebrating the Lord's Supper and celebrating the Mass. The Lord's Supper is a memorial dedicated to remembering the death, resurrection and coming again of our Savior, and has nothing to do with our salvation. The Mass is the repeated sacrifice of Christ for our sins — this is a "sacrament," and is thus deemed necessary for our salvation. The Lord's Supper and the Mass are not the same thing and the barrier between them (and all they stand for) cannot to be discarded by the true believer. [See The Catholic Mass]
Ages ago, the Church Father, Irenaeus warned,
"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself" (The Master's Seminary Journal, Vol.7#1, p49).
As someone has noted, "You can have a limited fellowship, or you will have a limited message." However, you can only have one. The Scriptures would condone unity, but only unity based on truth — any other unity is counterfeit.
[Also See Section on Ecumenism] and Holding Hands With The Pope
Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 3
In our first paper on the Promise Keepers' movement, we examined the areas in which we believe that Promise Keepers are doing a good job. Then, in our last paper, we began to point out some areas of concern, the first of which is Promise Keepers' ecumenical nature.
The leaders of Promise Keepers either do not understand, or have purposely chosen to ignore the biblical doctrine of separation. As we have seen, the Scriptures clearly teach that the child of God is to note those who teach error, refute them, reject them, remove them, and stay away from them — depending on the circumstances.
We are not to cozy up to false teachers, yet Promise Keepers has chosen to disobey this crystalline teaching of the Word of God and invite those who believe in rank heresy to join them. There would be no complaint if it was the agenda of Promise Keepers to invite such people in order to evangelize them, or to correct their false doctrines with the truth of Scripture. Unfortunately, one of the marks of this movement is that you can be a Promise Keeper and keep your errant views. As a matter of fact, they have promised to accept you no matter what you believe (promise #5).In addition, many who should be admonished are instead being drawn into leadership positions.
One might argue, "At least men are growing in Christ. Testimonies flow of men who have gone to Promise Keepers' rallies and returned home as better husbands, fathers and Christians. How can we knock a ministry that has accomplished so much good — that is drawing thousands of men to a closer walk with God?" To this thought we must give a two-fold answer:
Pragmatism is never the criterion by which we discern right from wrong — only the Word of God occupies that position. For example, by the standard of pragmatism the Jehovah's Witnesses cult must be of God. It is one of the fastest growing" churches" in the world. It must be blest of God — right? No, none of us would agree because the Jehovah's Witnesses cannot stand the test of Scripture. Therefore, everything must be judged by the Bible, not by pragmatism.
Next, and this brings us to the heart of this paper, we have deep and genuine questions about the supposed Christian growth and maturity taking place in Promise Keepers' members. As we deal with this subject, let's do so by first taking a look at how Promise Keepers is attempting to develop maturity in its followers. Secondly, we will turn to the Scriptures for its teaching on the subject. While doing this, we will attempt to compare and contrast the two throughout the course of the paper.
How Does Promise Keepers Promote Growth?
Promise Keepers claims that its mission is," To promote spiritual revival in the homes, churches and communities of this nation. This will be accomplished by modeling, praying for, and instructing all men to grow in Christlike masculinity; enabling them to become 'promise keepers' to the Lord who loves them, to their wives who trust them, and their children who need them, and to the world which must be influenced by them"(Men of Action, Spring 1992).
While we would prefer a stronger emphasis upon living for the glory of God, and while we are concerned with the whole idea of making "promise keeping" our goal (as we will see in a moment), we appreciate Promise Keepers' desire to call and equip men to become Christlike. The issue is how Promise Keepers intends to accomplish its goals. What is its strategy, what is its methodology? This is the point at which we find much that is out of line with Scripture.
Promise Keepers teaches that we grow by:
Becoming Keepers of the seven promises —
Bill McCartney says: We start by committing our lives to Jesus Christ and becoming a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).Then we make the kinds of commitments to growth embodied in the seven promises covered in this book(Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper pp 206, 207).
Randy Phillip writes:
These promises] are meant to guide us toward the life of Christ and to transform us within so that we might see transformation in our homes, among our friends, in our churches, and, ultimately in our nation (Ibid p9) (emphasis ours).
This may very well be the most overlooked fly in the Promise Keepers' ointment. Of all the promises and instructions in the Word of God, why are these seven chosen? Is there any Scripture that lines up these seven promises as the means of sanctification? Are we not to adhere to all of the biblical teachings as we march toward maturity, rather than just these few?
Even more basic than all of the above questions is the fact that Promise Keepers' primary method of growth (the keeping of promises) is legalism, pure and simple. Legalism is the teaching that the keeping of certain rules and laws will transform lives. Scripture is clear that this is not true.
The book, Beyond Promises says it well:
By so teaching, Promise Keepers has claimed something for the seven promises not even the ten commandments can do. Not even the 'holy and righteous and good' moral law of God as summarized by the ten commandments can transform our lives (Romans 7:12).Among other things, the moral law was given by God to convict us of our inability to keep it perfectly, in order to drive us to Christ as the only One who ever kept it perfectly for us (Romans 7:7; Gal. 3:23-25).And even after driving us to Christ, the moral law of God does not transform us in our Christian life. It does not and cannot make us righteous. It only provides a pattern of righteousness for us (I John 3:4). . . . The moral law is that standard. But never does the law transform us. . . . If the ten commandments cannot transform us, how can the seven promises? Paul teaches that what the law was powerless to do, God did by sending us His Son (Romans 8:3). . . . We do not begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh (Gal. 3:1-3)(pp39-41).
It should not be forgotten that unregenerate Paul, Nicodemus, the rich young ruler and others, were promise keepers. They, however, did not know God, nor were their lives changed by keeping promises. The power of God is what transformed them (II Cor. 5:17).This is the transformation which gives us the desire to obey God, but obeying laws or keeping promises cannot transform us.
While we are dealing with the promises themselves, we should point out another problem. In order to be a promise keeper we must eliminate the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).In that sermon Jesus discussed the teachings of some of the great promise keepers of His time — the Pharisees. By reducing the commandments of God down to external rules, they were able to keep those rules to such an extent that they were self-righteous. Yet, when Jesus moved beyond the external and challenged their hearts, the Pharisees realized that they could not keep God's Law. What man has ever promised to never lust — and has perfectly kept that promise???
We Grow As A Result Of Attending Enthusiastic Pep Rallies —
This concept is never stated in so many words (as far as we know), but it is the obvious view of the leadership of Promise Keepers. Bill McCartney, the founder of Promise Keepers, is not a theologian, nor a pastor, he is not even a Bible student. His religious background consists of Roman Catholicism and the Vineyard church.
McCartney has spent a good part of his life coaching football, and he was a good coach, as he proved by leading the University of Colorado to a National championship. McCartney definitely knows how to ignite athletes through the use of hype, pep rallies and motivational speeches.That he has carried over the same methodology to Promise Keepers is evident everywhere one looks — from the football stadiums in which the conferences are held, to the cheers for Jesus, "the wave," the enthusiastically empty motivational speeches; to the vendors selling Promise Keepers' T-shirts and ball caps, everything smacks of football!
One individual gave this description of a Promise Keepers' conference:
Balloons, gliders and beach balls are batted around. Blaring rock music pounds to increase the hype. Entire sections of the stadiums stand to challenge the other sides with chants of, 'We love Jesus, yes we do! We love Jesus, how about you?' They do the wave and commit themselves to God, family and racial reconciliation.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (6/27/95; pB10) said:
Promise Keepers combines the Jesus saves preaching of Billy Graham with the male bonding message of Robert Bly, the call for racial conciliation of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the marital advice of Ann Landers. . . . it (the 6/95 Promise Keepers' rally in the Houston astrodome) had men roaring and applauding Jesus as if he had just scored a touchdown (reported in BDM journal).
This is undoubtedly great fun. There is no dispute that emotions are running high and that men are enthused about something, and that something they believe to be God. We question however, whether the methods that create great athletes and enthusiastic football crowds, can be carried over to making great Christians? More importantly, are such methods biblical — are they the methods that God prescribes in His Word?
The answer to both of the above questions is no. Entertainment, enthusiasm, hype, etc. are easily mistaken for worship and commitment to Christ. Too often a mood has been created, but true worship has not taken place. Also, as we will see later, God does not teach such methods of progressive sanctification." The whole history of revivalism is the history of one sweeping emotional sect movement after another. After the hype wears out, people go back to doing what they were doing before and very often, cynical about the whole thing"(Beyond Promises p214).
Small Group Sharing Without Doctrine —
The leadership of Promise Keepers is wise enough to understand that the enthusiasm generated at the stadium rallies must be reinforced if it is to last. In order to do that Promise Keepers has scores of mini-rallies (Wake Up Calls) throughout the country every year.
In addition, they encourage all Promise Keepers to join a local small Promise Keepers' study group, composed of racial and denominationally diverse men. At the Bible studies, men are to share their lives, hold one another accountable, study Promise Keepers' materials and help one another grow in Christ.
Although all of this sounds good, there is a problem. In order to maintain denominational diversity, it is necessary that doctrine (i.e. biblical truth) be eliminated from study and discussion.
Gil Rugh, Pastor of Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, Nebraska states:
There is so much theological diversity among those involved with Promise Keepers that no in-depth discussion of Scripture or what it means to be a Christian could take place without tearing the movement apart.
He is right. When unity becomes more important than truth, truth will be minimized and eliminated.
Of course, it is not true that Promise Keepers does not teach doctrine — such is an impossibility. Even Promise Keepers' emphasis on avoiding doctrine is a doctrine. They are teaching that truth is unimportant and can be discarded without harm to the Christian life.
The great theologian B. B. Warfield said:
We deceive ourselves if we fancy that because we scout the doctrines of the creeds and assume an attitude of studied indifference to the chief tenets of Christianity we escape teaching a system of belief. Even the extremist doctrinal indifferences, when it ascends the pulpit, becomes necessarily a scheme of faith(The Master's Seminary Journal Vol.7#2; p248).
It cannot be a matter of indifference, therefore, what doctrines we preach or whether we preach any doctrines at all. We cannot preach at all without preaching doctrine; and the type of religious life which grows up under our preaching will be determined by the nature of the doctrines which we preach (Ibid p247,8).
Wise words!!! So, the question now is not whether Promise Keepers teaches a doctrine of Christian growth, but whether that doctrine agrees with Scripture.
A writer for The Christian News (9/16/96, p9), in a rather comical (and yes, sarcastic) way, points out the error of Promise Keepers when he writes:
My purpose here is not to debate the issues of the Reformation again but to say that agreement at Promise Keepers can only be based upon Mad Magazine theology as put forth by Dr. Alfred E. Newman:' What, me worry?' Why worry if some say works are required for eternal salvation and others say you can only be saved by grace through faith? Let's all buy a sweat shirt with a really nifty slogan on it. Why worry if some believe Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or if the flesh of man becomes a god or if a wafer becomes the flesh of God to allow a man to be godly? Let's all buy a book that talks about Jesus' sexuality, and phallic spirituality (The Masculine Journey). Why worry if some baptize babies and teach that act makes the child a Christian while others say baptism is only for adult believers to make them a Christian and some teach that baptism does not make anyone a Christian? Let's all sing praise songs and hold hands. Doctrine, schmoctine. Somebody order pizza!
Scriptural Teaching Concerning Sanctification
What do the Scriptures teach on this important subject? It's message can be summarized as follows:
We are not called to be promise keepers in order to be saved.
The gospel message is that Christ died as our substitute because we are unable to be promise keepers (Romans 8:3,4).It is Christ, not ourselves, who has satisfied the righteous demands of the Law. We are not called to keep the Law (be promise keepers) in order to be saved. Rather, we are called to turn from our sins and place our faith in Christ.
We are not called to be promise keepers in order to grow in Christ.
So, how do we grow in Christ? II Peter 3:17,18 tells us, "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. "We must recognize the fact that we cannot make ourselves grow spiritually any more than we can physically. For example, the high school boy may desire to be seven feet tall, but he cannot will himself to grow!
The same is true spiritually, so what are we to do? Although we cannot make ourselves grow, we can observe certain conditions which promote growth and which are essential to it.
A good illustration might be in the area of one's health. We cannot make ourselves have good health, however, we can do certain things to promote good health. We can eat and rest and exercise properly. Also, we can follow good medical advice, etc.
What then are we to observe in order to grow in grace and knowledge? Starting with the negative, we might say that we are to avoid everything that is harmful to our growth (II Pet. 3:17).
The majority of Peter's second epistle is taken up with warnings concerning the errors of "unprincipled men."We do not need to rehearse these things now, but if we will not take Peter's warnings seriously, we will not grow. As we have seen, Promise Keepers ignores this fact.
Perhaps a person wants good health, so they determine to eat, exercise and rest properly; but they continue to smoke two packs of cigarettes per day and drink a quart of whiskey each night. Quite obviously all of their good efforts are being undermined by their bad ones.
On the same note, some believers will follow all of the disciplines of the Christian life. Yet, they will allow themselves to indulge in certain sins, or certain false teachings and then wonder why they do not grow as believers.
(Also See Section Holiness)
Now moving to the positive, it is tempting to simply highlight the standard disciplines of the Christian life: Bible study, prayer, witnessing, fellowship, worship, church attendance, etc. While each of these should be a vital part of our lives, we do not find any passage where the Bible specifically says, or even implies that most of these are the means of growth.
For example, the Bible never says that we will grow if we pray. Prayer is an important part of the Christian life, but we are never told that it is a means of growth. The same is true of worship, witnessing and fellowship. There is only one discipline that we are actually told specifically contributes to genuine growth in the life of the believer — that is the study and application of the Word of God(refer to Acts 20:32; Heb. 5:11-14;I Pet. 2:2)!
In our search for specific statements on growth, we could have also looked for statements concerning sanctification, since they sometimes mean the same thing. We discover John 17:17, which tells us that we are sanctified by the truth of the Word. It is the Word of God, studied and applied that is used by the Holy Spirit to produce growth. This can be personal study or corporate (Eph. 4:11-16).Either way, the Word teaches that growth is impossible without the study and application of Scripture.
So, we can attend all the worship services we want, watch Christian plays, listen all day to Christian radio, pray until we are hoarse, witness to everyone we meet, fellowship with Christians all day, listen to testimonies and worship God with all of our hearts, and even be a Promise Keeper — still, we will never grow in grace and knowledge unless we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, study and apply the Word of God. Doctrine is absolutely essential! Promise Keepers has greatly erred in this area, having all but eliminated the importance of doctrinal truth from the sanctification equation.
Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 4
What does an organization, such as Promise Keepers, who has a primary goal of breaking down the walls of denominationalism teach? So far in our studies it would appear that they teach:
1) A core of five or six basic doctrines.
While Promise Keepers may adhere to the following doctrines, how much time is really devoted to instruction concerning the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement or the bodily resurrection of Christ? Since Promise Keepers is not primarily an evangelistic organization, even the doctrine of salvation by faith is probably seldom mentioned.
2) General encouragement toward the keeping of the Seven Promises.
If "controversial" doctrines must be avoided and if the core beliefs are seldom taught, what do the Promise Keepers do at their rallies, Wake Up Calls and small group Bible studies?
They spend a great deal of time time getting revved up, pumped up and excited about following the Promise Keepers' agenda. How long can intelligent men listen to the same cliches, pep rally songs and generalizations? Eventually the men must cry, "Yes, we want to do right, teach us how." At that point what are they taught?
This is the subject of the next two papers. Despite Promise Keepers' desire not to offend, we trust that at least some biblical truth is being taught, since some of Promise Keepers' teachers are relatively solid and know how to preach God's Word.
On the other hand, we are concerned about two elements that greatly influence (and often pervert) the instruction given at Promise Keepers' events. Those elements are the Charismatic influence and the teachings of psychobabble. We will focus on the Charismatic issue in this study.
The Charismatic Influence
The Charismatic influence upon Promise Keepers runs deep and cannot be denied. Bill McCartney, the founder and inspiration behind Promise Keepers is a former Roman Catholic who converted to the Vineyard movement a few years ago. Whether his Roman Catholic doctrinal views have changed since leaving the Roman Catholic Church we have never heard. We do know that McCartney is sympathetic toward Catholicism and accepts "good" Catholics as true believers.
Randy Phillips, Promise Keepers' president, is also from the Vineyard movement (for information on what the Vineyard church teaches, see our study papers on this subject). The pastor of the Vineyard Fellowship attended by McCartney, is on the Promise Keepers' board. The board chairman, Bishop Phil Porter, is Pentecostal.
Jack Hayford, predominant speaker at Promise Keepers' rallies, is Pastor of a Foursquare Gospel church — a denomination founded by Aimee Semple MacPherson. Members of Hayford's church include Pat Boone and Jan and Paul Crouch. The Crouches own the Trinity Broadcast Network, Christiandom's largest television network; home of virtually every errant doctrine, heresy and form of apostasy that can be found in the church today. While Hayford may not believe all of the Crouch's heresies, it is instructive that they are allowed to be members in good standing in the church, rather than being disciplined for apostasy.
At least six of Promise Keepers' board of fifteen are Charismatic/ Pentecostals of one stripe or another. There can be no question that the Charismatic leadership within Promise Keepers has a great impact upon the organization.
Literature and Roots
Promise Keepers' literature is starting to reflect this bias as well. A book was presented to the press at the Atlanta Pastor's Conference to explain to them what was taking place. The book was John Dawson's Healing America's Wounds. On page 219 it reads, "The same healing, cleansing, reconciling Holy Spirit that was poured out at Azusa Street (1906) is hovering over the nation (now) ready to be released."
In addition to confusing the Old Testament and the New Testament ministries of the Holy Spirit, Dawson clearly shows us Promise Keepers' Charismatic slant. The Azusa Street Revival was the beginning of what is today known as the Pentecostal movement.
The Pentecostals believe that what was being poured out on Azusa Street, in the early 1900s, was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was evidenced by speaking in tongues. The "revival" on Azusa Street lasted for years, as Christians came from all over the world to receive this great "blessing" (not unlike the laughing revival in Toronto and Pensacola today). It was a phenomenon unlike the world had ever seen.
See Tongues and The Second Blessing
Those who attended went back to their churches and spread Pentecostalism all over the globe. This supposed revival, when measured by the standard of biblical life and doctrine, has done immeasurable damage to the evangelical church. As a result of this, the church has been seduced by mysticism and experience oriented Christianity — and has moved further away from its Scriptural roots.
It is this supposed revival, the one that birthed Pentecostalism, to which Promise Keepers apparently desires to be compared. By the way, the Charismatic movement distinguishes itself from Pentecostalism by its associations. Pentecostals have some distinct doctrines and remain in churches of like mind (e.g. Assembly of God). Charismatics may believe in almost any set of doctrines and have infiltrated almost all denominations. There are Charismatic Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc.
The Vineyard movement distinguishes itself from both Pentecostals and Charismatics. They claim that there has been three major movements (or waves) of the Holy Spirit in this century. The first movement began around 1900 and gave birth to the Pentecostal movement. The second movement started in 1960 and began the Charismatic movement. The third wave was in the 1980s, out of which the Vineyard movement sprang. This is why the Vineyard movement is sometimes referred to as the "Third Wave."
While there are some doctrinal differences, each of these movements believe in extra biblical revelation and the continuance of the "sign gifts." The Vineyard places special emphasis on "signs and wonders" and down-plays tongues.
Promise Keepers often uses Charismatic speakers as well. There are many concerns here, but the most important is the claim of these speakers (as well as authors) to have received direct revelation from God.
Jim Ryle, Jack Hayford and Bill McCartney all claim to have received direct revelation and thousands are subjecting themselves to such "doctrines." (For Jim Ryle's revelation, see our study papers on Promise Keepers, Vol. 1, Issue #3, p2). Jack Hayford has claimed many revelations, but his most recent concerned his dance at the Promise Keepers' Clergy Conference. Bill McCartney claimed that God told him, "You can fill that stadium, but if men of other races aren't there (in greater numbers), then I won't be there, either."
This is one of the most disturbing elements of the Promise Keepers' movement. Tens of thousands of men are subtly being taught the Charismatic "doctrine" that God is speaking today outside the pages of Holy Scripture. This is a direct and disastrous undermining of the Bible. It will lead to the spreading of Charismatic beliefs into churches and individuals who had thus far been untainted by these errors.
IPS NOTE: Have Prophecy, Direct Revelation, Tongues, and Miracles Ceased? or are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Are cessationists asking questions of the Bible that will only affirm their conclusion? Or are they being honest and letting the text speak for itself, not forcing it into a prescribed theological framework? Putting the doctrine of cessationism to a biblical examination. See Cessationism
In addition, a Charismatic style of worship is being promoted at the Promise Keepers' rallies. We would be the first to admit that there are many legitimate ways and forms in which to worship God. Individual preferences and traditions play a big part in how we worship, so we do not want to argue worship styles as such. However, we do have at least two concerns:
First, the worship style promoted by Promise Keepers is almost exclusively Charismatic in nature.
The music is loud and of the "Christian rock" variety. The loud chants for Jesus, the high level of emotionalism that is orchestrated and the pep rally atmosphere, are things right out of the Charismatic worship "manual." This fits in well with Promise Keepers' desire to break down the walls of denominationalism. Still, history teaches us that when a wall is broken down, it is not long until a new one is erected. The leadership of Promise Keepers understands this and is in the process of building new walls.
Promise Keepers also understands the sad fact that most people will follow their emotions long before they will use their intellect. Advertisers take full advantage of this as they manipulate us over and over. A Greek philosopher once said, "Let me write the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws." This man understood human nature. Perhaps an example from church history might be instructive at this point. One of the most important doctrinal controversies that the church has ever had to handle dealt with the deity of Christ. A heretic by the name of Arius taught that the Son was not fully God, having been created by the Father. The great church Father, Athanasius, lead the opposition to this view. Ultimately the counsel of Nicene declared Athanasius and his belief in the full deity of Christ, to be biblical. The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) declared an anathema on the Arians. This, one would think, would solve the issue — not so. Fifty-four years later, only one congregation in Constantinople had not become Arian; Athanasius had repeatedly been banned from the church; and Arianism had almost taken over Christianity.
Why? Was it the careful study of Scripture that convinced pastors and laymen alike, that the Son was not God? No, Scripture teaches no such thing! It was the fact that Arius had learned the art of using music to popularize his views. At the council of Nicene, when Arius was asked to explain the nature of his theology:
He burst out into a long, sustained chant, having set his beliefs to music. These chants and songs were sung by the people. . . . The heart of the Arian mystery was in these rhymes sung to music employed by the Alexandrian dance bands. Arius. . . could repulse any theological argument by simply chanting one of these songs, and when Athanasius (or likely another) answered with a close-knit argument, there was consternation, for they seemed to be talking in different languages about different things (Christian History Vol. XV, #3 p17).
We are not against music, or exciting worship. Music, with proper theology, has been a great tool that God has used in the lives of all believers. However, the believer must be lead, by the music, to truth — and not the music masking error.
Also See The Power of Music
Promise Keepers' theme songs, such as, "Let the Walls Come Down," and "Yes, We All Agree" do not teach truth, but are marvelous instruments to spread Promise Keepers' agenda of ecumenicalism. The walls between Christians will not be torn down by dialoguing over doctrine; however, Promise Keepers can accomplish their goal by teaching a brand and style of worship to men who will go home and attempt to implement the same in their local churches. Of course, if their church is unable to rev up the emotions as Promise Keepers does, or if the leadership decides to reject Charismatic forms of worship, they will be labeled "dead," or "unspiritual."
Second, a Charismatic understanding of the Holy Spirit is being promoted.
In the Jan/Feb., 1995 issue of New Man we find a sample of an often repeated emphasis of Promise Keepers, as a description of Promise Keepers' rallies is given: "As the praise and worship music from the Maranatha! Promise Band sets the tone for each conference, one feels the presence of the Spirit of God" (p90).
Does it bother anyone that a tone needs to be set in order to "feel the presence of God?" Is this the presence of God or a response to a well rehearsed technique? What exactly does the presence of God feel like? The Bible never tells us. Is it possible that emotional excitement is being confused with the presence of God? Besides, where in the Bible are we taught to attempt to "feel the presence of God?" This is not a Scriptural teaching, but it is a Charismatic doctrine. So, we find that Promise Keepers does teach doctrine after all, although it is Charismatic in nature and often contradictory of the Word of God.
The bottom line is that Promise Keepers has become the Charismatic movement's greatest missionary strategy at this point in church history. Promise Keepers is not simply interested in breaking down walls between denominations. They are also in the business of building their own walls of doctrine and practice — and those walls are patterned after the Charismatic movement.
Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 5
The Teachings of Psychobabble
Promise Keepers appears to have two primary goals:
1. To develop godly men — "Promise Keepers is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become godly men who influence their world" (Men of Action, Fall 1993, p4).
2. To unify Christians and churches — "We believe that we have a God-given mission to unite men who are separated by race, geography, culture, denomination and economics" (Ibid).
In an earlier study (Promise Keepers an update, Part II) we examined in detail the ecumenical nature of Promise Keepers and found its stance in this area to be unbiblical. It is the subject of developing godly men that we wish to address at this time. We applaud Promise Keepers’ stated desire in this area and we do not wish to question their motives. Our concern is with the "how-to." How do men (and women, for that matter) grow in godliness?
We have seen previously (Promise Keepers — an update, Part III) that Promise Keepers promote growth through:
The Keeping of The Seven Promises
Scripture, of course, would disagree with Promise Keepers on this issue. For example, Colossians 2:20-23 and Galatians 3:2,3 are clear that man-made rules have an appearance of godliness, but cannot produce godliness.
Only the Spirit of God, as we walk according to the Word of God, can produce godliness. Promise Keepers’ promises can lead to morality, but morality is a cheap substitute for the Spirit- led Christian life. What Promise Keepers prescribes is purely legalism. It is an attempt to bring the Christian back under the Law. For example, it is true that godly men do not cheat on their wives, but not cheating on one’s wife does not produce godly men. The legalists have things backwards by believing that good living produces godliness. Instead, Scripture teaches that godliness leads to righteous living.
Small Group Sharing Without Doctrine
Promise Keepers’ seventh promise reads: "A Promise Keeper is committed to pursue vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs his brothers to help keep his promises."
Vital relationships with men in a small group setting is, according to Promise Keepers, necessary for godliness. Sounds good, but does it pass the test of Scripture? While fellowship within the body is important, and while God’s people have always encouraged each other in a variety of settings, the Bible never teaches this widely popular method for growth.
We find instead that God has given gifted men to the church to teach the Word which will in turn result in spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:11-16). Gil Rugh says, "When the church teaches people the Word, the people will grow spiritually and will no longer be "tossed" around by bad doctrine. As the Spirit of God enables men of God to teach the Word of God, the people of God will grow and mature. That is God’s plan for godliness. We do not have the right to decide that we have a better plan" (Promise Keepers, p21).
Enthusiastic Pep Rallies
While some true biblical instruction is given at the Promise Keepers stadium events, the rallies succeed on the back of hype and emotionalism. Men are not packing stadiums in order to hear detailed exposition of biblical truth (oh, that they were). They are coming for the music, fellowship and pep-rally atmosphere.
This is where the Charismatic influence (see Promise Keepers — an update, Part IV) is so powerful. Our primary concern is with the frequent revelations from God tossed about by many of the Charismatic and Vineyard leadership. I recently attended a Promise Keepers’ Pastors luncheon during which the Promise Keepers’ representative repeatedly reported God speaking directly to him. At one point he said, "I believe that God speaks to us today don’t you? You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t." — At that point I would have left, but I was still eating my ice cream.
(The body of Christ is very divided on these issues with the vast majority (those who have given it any thought at all) taking completely opposing sides. The ever-growing Charismatic movement (a twentieth-century phenomenon) emphasizes the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophecy, the gift of healing and on ‘personal experience’, all of which are contributing factors to the movement’s popularity. Many orthodox Christians, on the other hand, believe that tongues, prophecy and faith healing ceased after the completion of the New Testament canon). (See Have Prophecy, Direct Revelation and Miracles Ceased?)
There is one more prominent means used to develop godly men by Promise Keepers, and that is what some have called psychobabble. This is the futile endeavor, so widely accepted in Christianity today, of attempting to integrate secular psychology with the Scriptures. The result is always a disaster as we will see. The approach we will take is to cite several examples from the materials promoted by Promise Keepers based on their acceptance of psychobabble.
Winning the War Within
Psychobabble has absolutely inundated the Evangelical church. "Most Christian radio stations are saturated with Christian psychology programs, yet the vast majority of listeners to these programs know very little about the doctrine or church affiliation of these speakers. These men unify Christians, not on the basis of Scripture, but on their psychological influence which is trans-doctrinal" (Promise Keepers by Gil Rugh, p14).
A good example might be the first official book released by Promise Keepers, Winning the War Within. It is instructive to note that this volume was not written by theologians, bible teachers, pastors or other students of the Word. Rather, it was written by two counselors with training in secular psychology, Gary Smalley and John Trent. These two are probably best known for their association with James Dobson and their "right-brain/left-brain" theory (myth) that supposedly explains why men and women think differently (see their book, The Language of Love). This theory has been widely accepted in some Christian circles although it lacks both scientific evidence and more importantly, is not supported by the Word. In Winning the War Within, Smalley and Trent endorse an even more widely accepted myth, that of low self-esteem, as being the cause of most of our problems. For example they say:
"The degree of self-control you have in your life is in direct proportion to the degree of acceptance you have for yourself. Put another way, if you don’t value yourself, you won’t ‘pull in the reins’ on actions and attitudes that will affect you for the worst" (p44). They go on to say that addictions, guilt, pride and apathy are all caused by a distorted view of ourselves as a result of the damage caused to us by others.
So, if our sins (which is what addictions, pride, etc. are) are caused by low self-esteem, we would expect to find that Christ has come, at least in part, to save us from our own bad self-image (see Beyond Promises, p79). Bill McCartney seems to believe this when he says in Trent and Smalley’s book, that he came to Christ in order to "Gain some real satisfaction," since he "wasn’t feeling good" about himself (p11).
Of course, the Scriptures do not sanction the low self-esteem theory — it is thoroughly out of sync with the whole message of the Bible. "The problem of the natural man is not that he fails to esteem or love himself enough; it is that he loves himself too much" (Beyond Promises, p81) — is the true message of Scripture.
Even though a salvation from low self-image is not a biblical teaching, it has found great acceptance Robert Schuller’s theology. In his infamous book, Self-Esteem, the New Reformation, he says, "As we focus on Jesus Christ, we shall discover a new theology, one that offers salvation from shame to self-esteem" (p39). Again, "God wants us to reclaim and redeem lost humanity. We must tell people everywhere that God wants all of us to feel good about ourselves" p58). Once again, "To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image — from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust" (p68).
What makes this critique of Promise Keepers’ teachings on self-esteem so vital is that Promise Keepers, like Robert Schuller, have not only distorted the biblical teachings on sanctification, but they have also distorted the message of the Gospel. The self-esteem gospel minimizes sin, points us inward instead of to Christ, ignores the true purpose of the cross and presents Christianity as a feel-good, self-oriented religion, instead of a call to deny self and follow Christ. Are those who respond to the gospel of self-esteem truly Christians, or have they been deceived? Paul’s attitude toward those who preached a false gospel was to condemn them (Galatians 1:6-9), not to join them!
Isn’t it amazing how most conservative Christians can see through the heresy of a Robert Schuller, but swallow completely the same garbage from a supposed psychological expert?
Bible Study Guides
One of the key elements in the Promise Keepers’ system is the use of small group Bible studies and sharing groups. What kind of materials are encouraged by Promise Keepers to be used in these small groups?
Keeping in mind that "theology" is off-limits (because it is divisive), what kind of materials could be used without stirring up trouble? Apparently those that are psychologically oriented. An excellent example is the Masculine Journey Study Guide, published by Navpress, and officially representative of Promise Keepers. Here are a couple of "Bible" study activities that the groups are to enjoy as they discuss their phallic, or sexual side:
The leaders are first warned that if the men in the group are having problems talking openly and empathetically with each other about their sex lives, they are to stop and talk about why they are having difficulty (p32). ~~And you wondered why so many men suddenly wanted to go to Bible studies.~~
After the leaders get beyond that hurdle here is one of the discussion questions: "Our culture has presented many initiation rites, or passages to manhood, that are associated with the phallus. Which ones have you experienced? Do you have a story to share with the other men about one such event? Some examples are: When were you potty trained and when did you stop wetting the bed? Pubic hair and growth. An unfortunate experience with pornography. My first dating experience. My first really embarrassing moment with a girl. The wedding night. Conceiving my first child."
Another activity starts out like this: "Man’s primary fantasy is ‘having access to as many beautiful women as desired without risking rejection,’" says Warren Farrell, who polled 106,000 men and women from all walks of life. Farrell also tabulated many secondary fantasies, some of which are listed here. From these options choose the one that best completes the sentence for you: ‘The daydream, wishful thinking, or primary fantasy that recurs for me is. . . .’"
Does this stuff sound like Bible study or Freudian psychology? Isn’t it interesting that Christian men can be united as they practice and apply godless theories from godless men, but they cannot discuss the Word of God!
The Masculine Journey
The Masculine Journey by Robert Hicks (the book as opposed to the previously mentioned study guide), is a classic example of what passes for biblical teaching in many circles today. Rather than turning to the Bible for truth, Hicks finds a concept in a secular book, then goes to the Scriptures to see if he can find some way to support that concept. Failing at that, he forces the Scriptures to mean whatever he wants in order to accomplish his purpose. He then passes off his views to unsuspecting and apparently ungrounded believers, who swallow every line.
Hicks’ book is built on the premise (not found in Scripture and unproven in research) that men pass through (or at least ought to) six stages of life. This theory did not emerge from the study of Scripture, but from secular psychologist Daniel Levinson’s book, The Seasons of a Man’s Life.
Hicks then identifies six Hebrew words that he believes dovetail with Levinson’s teachings. No Bible scholar would agree with Hicks’ exegesis but that does not stop Promise Keepers from endorsing his book. Hicks says that males were meant to pass through the following stages: Noble savage, phallic (sexual), warrior, wounded, maturity and mentor.
Since Hicks develops his thoughts through a combination of personal experience, psychological theories and biblical principles, his views are a mixture of a great deal of error with just enough truth to deceive poorly taught Christians. Yet, amazingly Howard Hendricks, long time professor of Dallas Seminary, endorses the book.
Space does not permit a thorough critique of The Masculine Journey, but we will attempt to point out a few of the more obvious areas of concern:
Hicks’ primary resources are secular psychologists, etc. His book is full of references to Freud, Jung, Levinson, Margaret Meed, Gail Sheehy, etc.
Hicks all but glorifies war and violence that is characteristic of the warrior stage. In addition, he does not recognize the element of pride that is behind much of this conflict. For example, he says with approval, "To be a male warrior is to be characterized by strength, competing to be superior, using one’s energy to be prominent, or vying to be important or to gain significance" (p77). The believer might think of James 4:1-3 in light of such a statement.
Borrowing from Robert Bly (secular men’s movement leader) and Carl Jung (self-confessed demon-possessed contemporary of Freud), Hicks claims that, "In order for men to discover what manhood is all about, they must descend into the deep places of their own souls and find their accumulated grief" (p99). Nowhere in Scripture is anything like this taught but it has become a fad among many Christians, thanks to the writings of men like Larry Crabb (see Inside Out, by Crabb).
Hicks apparently has a low view of Scripture. The most blatant example of this is found on page 114: "I call the Psalms of David the musings of a manic-depressive." The Holy Spirit is surely impressed with such a statement!?
He clearly soft pedals sin. In an interesting paragraph concerning "Christian" homosexuals, Marxists and Catholics that he has known, rather than confronting such people he confesses, "I have learned that the way to look at the world is not necessarily through the lens or categories I currently believe are the correct ones" (p134).
In an incredible statement on page 177 Hicks says, "I’m sure many would balk at my thought of celebrating the experience of sin. I’m not sure how we could do it. But I do know we need to do it. For example, we usually give the teenagers in our churches such a massive dose of condemnation regarding their first experience with the police, or their first drunk, or their first experience. . . with sex or drugs. Maybe we could look upon this as a teachable moment and a rite of passage. Is this putting a benediction on sin? Of course not, but perhaps at this point the true elders could come forward and confess their own adolescent sins and congratulate the next generation for being human" (p177). —Unbelievable!!!
He has an almost blasphemous view of Christ. He claimed that Jesus experienced homosexual temptation (p181). A careful study of Romans 1:18ff would reveal his mistake here.
He makes numerous erroneous statements about male sexuality, claiming that the second stage of manhood is the phallus (penis) stage (p48). Hicks goes on to state, "The phallus has always been the symbol of religious devotion and dedication" (p51). Also, "Improper teaching on phallus will drive men into sexual sins because their spiritual God-hunger is not satisfied. Sexual energy is essentially spiritual" (p55). Again, "Our sexual problems only reveal how desperate we are to express, in some perverted form, the deep compulsion to worship with our phallus" (p56).
I trust that the complete ridiculousness of such statements (that spring from the well of godless psychology, not Scripture) are obvious to any student of the Bible.
Due to an outcry of criticism concerning The Masculine Journey, Promise Keepers has recently attempted to distance itself somewhat from the book. They no longer sell it, but on the other hand they have not retracted their support of the book, nor repented for promoting its teachings.
As a matter of fact, in its official letter in answer to criticism, they turned the tables on the critics by claiming that the problem was not with the content of the book, but "In the way that the book is read." If we are offended by the teaching in The Masculine Journey, that is our problem, not theirs. Is this the way "men of integrity" are supposed to apologize for error?
Promise Keepers goes on to say, despite the books’ faults it is, "A biblically-centered, frank and honest account of a man’s journey with God. We were convinced that it would help men pursue Jesus Christ amidst the challenges of the twentieth century. . . . We endorse it because we believed that it would be a tool that challenged men to grow in Christlikeness, to become "zaken" or wise men of God, as Hicks writes."
As is obvious, "The issue is not whether or not Promise Keepers teaches doctrine. The issue is really whether or not it teaches true doctrine" (Beyond Promises, p109).
Unfortunately, we are discovering that in far too many cases — it does not!
Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 6
Even though its goals are commendable and its efforts to create godly men are herculean, it would appear that many others, besides ourselves, are uncomfortable with Promise Keepers. We are concerned because of the methods used, the ecumenical nature, the Charismatic influence, the constant psychobabble and Promise Keepers’ legalistic nature. These are grave and important issues that cannot and must not be easily dismissed, either by Promise Keepers or by individual believers. We must ever strive to follow the example of the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). Within this paper on the men’s movement known as Promise Keepers, we desire to discuss some final (if somewhat less important) concerns:
The Promise Keepers Small Group System
One of the primary ways that Promise Keepers hopes to reinforce their views and to develop godly men is through the use of small group "Bible" studies, known as "task-forces." While these task-forces can be composed of men from a single church, Promise Keepers encourages men to meet with those from other denominations and races — in fulfillment of Promise #6 which states: "A Promise Keeper is committed to influence his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20)." Attempting to keep this promise effectively creates Bible studies that are outside the authority of any local church. "Even if the small groups spawned by Promise Keepers are intended to supplement the ministry of the local church, in practice, they usually end up supplanting it" (Beyond Promises, p215).
Why is this true? Because, "Never are men told in Promise Keepers’ literature to set up a small group under the oversight of the local church. What ends up happening is that the small groups fostered by Promise Keepers end up functioning like pseudo-churches" (Ibid., p217).
Promise Keepers is making an end-run around the churches. They have won the heart and loyalty of thousands of Christian men. Therefore, if the pastors and leaders of local congregations are not supportive of Promise Keepers they risk losing their men to other churches.
The mentoring concept is very closely related to that of the small group. Promise Keepers is dedicated to the idea that men cannot live God-honoring lives unless they are, "Pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs his brothers to help him keep his promises" (Promise #2). This idea is so ingrained in Promise Keepers that E. Glenn Wagner, writing in Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper laments, "Many men do desire to share their deepest feelings — but mostly with a woman they admire rather than another man in a mentoring relationship" (emphasis his) (p58).
There is some fuzzy thinking going on here. Where did we ever get the idea that we are to share our deepest feelings with another man? There is no scriptural mandate for any such a thought! Also, "Where did we ever get the idea that hanging out with the guys necessarily makes us better husbands? Where did we ever get the idea that unless we give other men ‘passports’ to our hearts we cannot become the husbands that God has called us to be? And where did we get the idea that the Bible requires either" (Beyond Promises, p55).
Promise Keepers presuppose that even wives are of little value in men’s spiritual development. Therefore, men are encouraged to find a male mentor, as well as a small group of men that will enable them to be godly.
We assume that Promise Keepers is attempting to pattern their mentoring and vital men relationships after the paradigm of Christ and the apostles. If so, they have spent far too much time reading Carl Rogers and not enough time reading the four Gospels.
For example, Ken Canfield, in New Man, Nov/Dec 1995, Vol. 2 #6, p54, relates the structure of these "manly" relationships and groups,
"The first job of men’s small groups is to learn complete acceptance: no judgment, no ‘I told you so,’ or ‘you should have known better.’ No hidden agendas! I’m not out to change you and you’re not out to change me. . . . Complete acceptance, however, will create a safe place where men can really be themselves" (see also Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, pp59ff).
Unconditional acceptance is modern psychobabble, but it is not biblical. Are we not glad that Jesus loved his apostles (and us) in their sins, but he loved them (and us) too much to leave them (and us) there? Are we not thrilled that Jesus did not let His apostles (and us) live and let live? He never says, "I’m okay (although He was) you’re okay."
The Scriptures tell us to rebuke a sinning brother (Matt. 18:15-20), to restore a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1-4), to even discipline those who refuse to repent (I Cor. 5). How does all of this square with the unconditional acceptance of Promise Keepers?
Vows are serious business with God (Num. 30:2). They should be made only after deep contemplation and complete understanding of what is involved. We believe that Promise Keepers fail on both counts.
Promise Keepers urges men to make promises (or vows) springing from emotional hype at the end of large rallies. We realize that most so-called evangelism follows the same pattern today (taking its cue from Charles Finney) — but this is not the biblical method.
Jesus often sent His followers away contemplating the cost of discipleship. He did not hype them up emotionally then call for a "decision." Such decisions seldom "stick" as follow-up studies on evangelistic efforts such as "I Found It" and Billy Graham campaigns have shown. Some studies have shown, for instance, that less than three percent of the Billy Graham "converts," ever join a local church of any kind.
What does God think about men who make vows in the heat of the moment, only to break them shortly thereafter? Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 tells us that it is a sobering thing to our Lord and a discipline situation for the violators. By the way, if vows (promises) are so important for the believer, why is the New Testament virtually silent about them? Why does God not instruct us to make such promises?
Another issue in which Promise Keepers fail is the probability of keeping these promises. Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount that to reduce God’s commandments down to external observances does not fulfill God’s demands. To be faithful to one’s wife is a marvelous thing, but it does not fulfill the command not to commit adultery. Matthew 5:27-28 is clear that to truly obey this injunction one would have to not lust. Keeping the vow not to lust — ever — would surely be impossible for a normal man. Promise Keepers’ must make certain the nature of their promises.
As one man laments, "It remains a mystery what qualifies this man (Bill McCartney) to lead a men’s movement." The Lord is sovereign in His choice of servants. Therefore, we cannot declare Bill McCartney unqualified to lead in this capacity simply because he lacks certain formal education or training. However, it does give us pause to wonder how a former Roman Catholic with little if any solid Bible training, having never been a member of any biblically based church (he is presently a member of a Vineyard church), suddenly knows exactly what every church and Christian man in America apparently needs to grow in godliness. Where did McCartney gain all this knowledge and insight? He has appointed himself to be the leader of Christian men in this country, but what does he know about the Scriptures or Christian leadership? Those who so blindly follow Promise Keepers should examine these questions seriously.
Could many of the concerns we have with Promise Keepers flow from this initial problem of unqualified and biblically untrained leadership? Only in America with its love of the free spirit and its disdain for roots, could such a man make such an impact on the churches of a country.
This is certainly one of the predominate themes of the Promise Keepers’ movement. "Promise Keepers asserts that men, by walking away from their family duties, are responsible for much of America’s societal dysfunction, and that we can restore the nation by exhorting men to become ‘promise keepers’ instead of promise breakers" (Biblical Discernment Ministries notebook).
This year (1997) Promise Keepers hopes to draw one million men to Washington D.C. to kneel in prayer between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument to seek forgiveness as men ask God to restore America. The theme of restoring America to her former glorious roots is certainly not original with Promise Keepers. As a matter of fact, virtually none of Promise Keepers’ views and methods are original with them, they are mainly reflecting the predominate themes already found in the evangelical community. This explains why few have recognized the errors of the movement and why many are so defensive when those errors are pointed out.
America, say the popular preachers, was founded as a Christian nation. She has been chosen by God to be an instrument for the salvation of the earth. Her great blessings, material prosperity, military strength, and world leadership are evidences of this special calling. They reflect also that America indeed has been a good nation. ‘America is great because America is good,’ they say. . . . Recently, within the last generation, they lament, the glory has departed. America has turned to gross immorality, and so is declining rapidly. It is now almost too late; but we may save America if we act immediately. While these themes are far from new, they recently have gained new life as important components of a political agenda. America is to be brought back to her Christian heritage through political action (The Search for Christian America, p126).
There are some real problems with this popular view of America. First, America is not Israel. Israel was God’s chosen people before Christ came. God ruled directly over the nation as it lived out the Old Testament Law.
Since the time of Christ, the church is God’s people. I believe, as a dispensationalist, that God still has a plan for the nation of Israel, distinct from the church — in the future — but during this "church age" no nation, not even America is God’s people.
II Chronicles 7:14, which so many attempt to apply to the USA does not apply directly at all! The principles of humility and prayer are center for all ages. Still, God has not promised to heal our (America’s) land if we obey these injunctions.
Secondly, the idea that America was once a great Christian nation is quite simply not true. It is true that the Judeo-Christian values had great influence on our society; but it is also true that Deism, the Enlightenment and humanistic philosophy had great influence as well! Most of our founding fathers were religious — but not Christians. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution make virtually no mention of God and are based not on the Christian’s Bible, rather on the Enlightenment’s "self-evident" truths or "laws of nature and nature’s god."
The United States was the first Western nation to not include a Christian symbol in its flag. The 1797 treaty with the Islamic nation of Tripoli, in which George Washington and John Adams both played a part, states, "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion. . ."
In fact, America was founded on the basis of compromise among many prevalent views of the day. It was never the intention of the founding fathers to submit government to the direct influence of the Bible.
To urge people to return to the biblical roots of our founding fathers is to confuse what is biblical with what is moral, or with what simply makes good common sense. It is to, "Appear to attribute the authority of God’s Word to what is in reality a com- promise between biblical and extrabiblical influences" (Ibid., p133). In other words, Promise Keepers is calling us to something that is neither biblically true nor historically accurate.
Also see One Nation Under God and America’s Unchristian Beginnings
God is not calling His people to purify America through the political process. He is not calling us to establish Israel in America. He is calling us to bring souls to Christ and disciple them to live for Him.
God is not calling us to deify a certain moment in American history and attempt to move back to that time. He is calling us to be lights in the midst of darkness.
If we desire to be part of the political process, we have that privilege. We even have the biblical example of Paul’s effective use of the centers given to him by the pagan Roman government. However, to believe that "moralizing" America is God’s commission to His church is to confuse the teachings of Scripture. Promise Keepers surely means well, but they have the wrong agenda!
Some Current Developments
Promise Keepers has recently changed their doctrinal statement to appease Catholics. The following are selections taken from the latest edition of Our Sunday Visitor (July 18,1997), which is an influential conservative Catholic weekly publication. An article entitled "Making New Catholic Men: Promise Keepers ‘gospel for guys:’ Is it just the thing that Catholic men need, or is it bound to loosen male bonds to the Church?" The article describes the efforts which have been made by Promise Keepers leaders to make Catholics feel at home in their organization.
The following quotes have been adapted by David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist News Service:
While there are no hard figures, some say that 10-20 percent of those men (attending Promise Keepers conferences) are Catholic. And, recently, Promise Keepers, a largely evangelical movement, has taken steps to attract even more Catholic men to its events and principles of discipleship.
At its March meeting, Promise Keepers' board of directors welcomed Mike Timmis as a new member. A Detroit-area lawyer and businessman, Timmis is a longtime leader in the Catholic charismatic renewal.
At several rallies this year, Promise Keepers has spotlighted Catholic evangelist Jim Berlucchi as a speaker.
PROMISE KEEPERS FOUNDER BILL McCARTNEY TOLD OUR SUNDAY VISITOR RECENTLY THAT FULL CATHOLIC PARTICIPATION WAS HIS INTENTION FROM THE START. He said, 'back in 1992, at our first stadium event, we very clearly stated from the podium that we eagerly welcomed the participation of Roman Catholics, and we've had scores of Roman Catholics attend and go back to their churches excited. . .'
As executive director of Christian outreach at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, (John) Sengenberger cites Promise Keepers as the inspiration of the men's conferences his own office has sponsored since 1995. . . . Sengenberger invited representatives from Promise Keepers to visit the university. 'We had some frank discussions and told them we needed to see some Catholic involvement on the leadership level.' . . .When Steubenville hosted its first men's conference in 1995, Sengenberger invited two Promise Keepers' officials to attend: Dale Schlafer, who was at that time chairman of the board, and Glenn Wagner, a vice president. 'It was their first time in a Catholic evangelistic setting,' Sengenberger said. 'They were impressed. When they were leaving, we invited them to go through our bookstore and take out any books they wanted. They went home with all kinds of theology books, Vatican II teachings. . . '
Both men returned to Steubenville for the 1996 men's conference, where Sengenberger took them to a Eucharistic holy hour. 'I took them aside and explained what we were doing, how THIS ONLY MAKES SENSE IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS.
Yet profound differences remained between the evangelicals of Promise Keepers and Catholics who were sympathetic. Last year, Promise Keepers published a 'statement of faith' with lines that seemed to be crafted to exclude Catholics —- or force them to reject their Catholic faith. Section five of the Promise Keepers' credo read: 'We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of sin, was alienated from God. That alienation can be removed only by accepting, through faith alone, God's gift of salvation, which was made possible by Christ's death.
'Faith alone' is a key doctrine of the Protestant Reformation. Though the phrase appears nowhere in Scripture, it was inserted by Martin Luther into his German translation of the Bible. Concerned about this development at Promise Keepers, Sengenberger had several Catholic theologians review the statement and present their objections to Wagner last summer.
EARLY THIS YEAR, PROMISE KEEPERS REVISED THE STATEMENT IN A WAY THAT PASSED THEOLOGICAL MUSTER WITH THOSE CATHOLICS. 'Only through faith, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, which was made possible by His death and resurrection, can that alienation be removed.' Paul Edwards, Promise Keepers' vice president for advancement, explained that the statement of faith is a 'dynamic' document, and that Promise Keepers is open to change.
We find ourselves in agreement with the following comments from David W. Cloud, of Fundamental Baptist News Service:
We see in this article more evidence that Promise Keepers' leadership is playing politics with their ecumenical agenda. When questioned by "Protestants" about Catholic participation in Promise Keepers, they claim they want Catholics as they are as brothers in Christ without any desire to evangelize them away from their "church."
We see that Promise Keepers’ leadership is bending over backwards to increase Catholic participation in its movement and to calm the fears of Catholic leaders about the prospect of Catholic men leaving Romanism because of their participation at Promise Keepers’ events. They are not requiring that Roman Catholics reject Rome’s false doctrines. Promise Keepers’ leaders are not exposing Rome’s blasphemous gospel and doctrines which have led multitudes to eternal damnation. Promise Keepers’ leaders are faced with the same dilemma as all ecumenists. If they were to preach the truth boldly and identify false doctrine plainly, it would destroy their ecumenical agenda. The Apostles were not content merely to preach the Gospel in a positive manner; they continually exposed false gospels and warned against doctrinal perversion. We are to follow in their footsteps. Our commission is to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We are to fight for the truth and AGAINST error. Promise Keepers’ leaders refuse to do this.
Promise Keepers (an update) - Part 7
Promise Keepers is one of those organizations that many people seem to believe is above scrutiny. It seems so good, so well intended, so above criticism, that many become angry if one challenges it — even with an open Bible. Therefore, one must expect criticism when examining the movement with any level of discernment, and this is as it should be. Exhortations in sound doctrine and refutations of those who contradict (Titus 1:9) are just as open to biblical critique as Promise Keepers.
The issue is this: When our thoughts are examined do we have a solid biblical base on which to take a stand? If we do not, we must repent of our positions, realign them in light of Scripture and teach truth.
With these thoughts in mind we need to deal with some of the common criticisms we have faced, and will face, as we attempt to hold Promise Keepers’ feet to the fire of biblical truth. These criticisms come in the form of various arguments:
Argument #1 - Lack of Knowledge
Lack of knowledge is almost always the most difficult circumstance to confront. As the old adage goes, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." When people support an issue, theology, program or movement, BEFORE they have carefully examined these things, it is almost impossible to convince them that they are in error.
This is the reason that we have written so many papers on the subject of Promise Keepers. It is extremely rare to run into a Christian who has actually studied what Promise Keepers stands for and teaches. Most will say, "You should attend one of the rallies and you would change your mind." Why? If Promise Keepers clearly compromises truth, teaches error and ignores Scripture — as we have demonstrated — why should we change our mind by attending a rally? If we are persuaded to change our views due to the hype and emotions perpetrated by Promise Keepers, rather than by what is taught, have we not been manipulated rather than exhorted? Is this not evidence of the danger of Promise Keepers rather than a cause for rejoicing?
I received a letter from a pastor who admitted, "I have never attended any of their meetings. I have read none of their literature. . . .I have also never read The Masculine Journey, nor had I ever even heard of Robert Hicks. I am somewhat familiar with the Vineyard Movement. . . ." Then he proceeded to tell me how wrong I am in my critique of Promise Keepers. Astounding!
In my reply to this pastor I mentioned that it was difficult to contest a position that one has never studied. On the other hand, it is difficult to help a man understand the issues when he is content with outward appearances. Yet, the argument from ignorance will be a prominent one.
Argument #2 - Why Attack Promise Keepers?
The thought behind this argument is that there are so many other things to oppose, expose and refute, why pick on something that at least seems close to truth? Sure, Promise Keepers may err in some things, but it is at least as good as most evangelical organizations and better than many. — So the rationale goes.
There is some validity to this argument but a deeper look is necessary. We believe that every major heresy in the church today began with minor errors. To wait until those errors have completely infiltrated the church and many are lead astray, is a sin that the shepherds of the flock must not allow.
In addition, God’s people are largely aware of the "major" heresies that challenge the church. These individuals do not need more information concerning the cults and the New Age movement, those are readily available. They need information concerning the breaking issues of the day — on those things that appear sound, but are flawed at the roots.
We then are not saying that Promise Keepers is the worst thing in the world of Christianity today, but it is a current movement that we believe is fundamentally defective. Some will be helped by Promise Keepers, we do not doubt that, but in the long run Promise Keepers will undermine the church’s stand for truth due to its emphasis and compromises.
Argument #3 - Our concern about ecumenism is overdone
Many today misunderstand the scope and danger of the type of ecumenism that Promise Keepers supports. One pastor wrote me saying, "Ecumenism is a concept advanced by liberals to unite many brands of Christians with many brands of non-Christians. Obviously this is not a scriptural concept. . . . Twenty years ago ecumenism may have characterized the spirit of the age. . . but today the ecumenical movement, is largely a dead movement."
My response to this pastor was, "You are in great error in your definition of ecumenism. At one time it was a concept advanced by liberals to unite many brands of Christians with many brands of non-Christians. And I agree with you that that movement has lost much of its steam (although worldwide ecumenism is far from dead). But surely you are aware of the far more dangerous brand of ecumenism espoused by those who claim to be evangelical Christians. I have no doubt that you have read the books by Chuck Colson such as, The Body, that cries for a uniting of evangelicalism and the Roman Catholic Church. I am sure you have given detailed study to the ‘Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT)’ document that declares good Catholics (those who believe the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and were regenerated at the rite of infant baptism) and evangelical Christians, ‘brothers in Christ.’ No, friend, ecumenism is far from dead, it is just repackaged in a new lethal form that is taking in unsuspecting Christians."
Argument #4 - Unity is more important than truth
The argument runs something like this: God is far more interested in the unity of believers than He is that we understand and defend truth. This is evidenced by Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17:20-23. Doctrinal errors should be tolerated in the church (except perhaps for one or two issues) in order that believers might work together and accomplish more for Christ.
How are we to answer such an argument? We agree that God desires unity among the brethren, Scripture is clear on this issue — but God does not desire unity at any cost.
Let’s look first at the well loved prayer of Jesus in John 17. Note two things:
In the verses immediately prior to Jesus’ prayer for unity (vv16-19) He prays that the Father would sanctify His followers. That is, that they might be set apart from the world. How were they to be sanctified? "In truth," Jesus prays. What was to be the basis of the believers’ sanctification from the world and their unity with one another? Truth! God calls for unity, but a unity based upon the truth of the Word of God.
This passage is greatly misused by those seeking unity at the cost of truth. Chuck Colson and Father Neuhaus repeatedly turn to it in the ECT. What they neglect to mention is that this is no longer the prayer of Christ — it has been accomplished. I Cor. 12:13 makes it clear that this prayer was answered when God established the one body (the church) into which all believers have been baptized. Christ is not calling for external unity, that theory is a complete mis-understanding of the passage.
Next, we move on to the epistles. We must remember that the writers of the epistles spent a great deal of time correcting and warning churches. Those who were leading the believers astray were those WITHIN the church itself. They were not outsiders, but often, members in good standing. The writers of the epistles were not shy about pointing out error at the expense of unity. Note the following survey:
a. In I Corinthians 15:12ff some were teaching error concerning the resurrection. This issue so concerned Paul that later he excommunicated two men for similar teaching (cp II Tim. 2:1 with I Tim. 1:20). Although the issue here is somewhat different, it was still excommunication over doctrinal issues surrounding the resurrection — a very disuniting thing to do.
b. The whole section of II Corinthians 10-13 is dealing with those within the church who were challenging Paul and his teachings. There, he was concerned that they were being lead astray from the truths concerning Christ, the Holy Spirit and the gospel (II Cor. 11:3,4).
c. Galatians 1:9 pronounces a curse on those claiming to be believers who were perverting the gospel; Gal. 2:1ff illustrates disunity between Paul and Peter over legalism because of its reflection on the gospel.
d. Ephesians 4:11 shows that one of the reasons that pastor/ teachers have been given to the church is to produce unity. Yet, how are they to do this? Obviously through sound teaching of the doctrinal truth (4:12-16). Note that unity will only be a reality when Christians are no longer tossed about by every wind of doctrine (v 14). That is only possible when believers have been taught truth.
e. In Colossians 2, after pointing out the importance of living by truth (vv 6,7) Paul warns of three errors that were affecting the believers in the church. These errors were being taught by those who at least claimed to be Christians. The first was philosophy (v8). This corresponds today to the "Christian psychology" that has inundated the church. The second is mysticism (v16-19) that all but defines the Charismatic and Vineyard movements. The third and last would be that of asceticism and legalism (vv20-23). In no uncertain terms Paul underlines the errors of those teaching these false views of Christianity. He does not ignore these issues for the sake of unity.
f. In II Thessalonians 2:1-2 some within the church at large were teaching error concerning the second coming and Paul brings them up short. There is also no real basis for dismissing those described in I Tim. 4:1-5 and II Tim. 3:1-7 as non-Christians. Great Bible teachers take both positions
g. How about the doctrine (truth) of serving masters in I Tim. 6:3-5. Paul issues a major rebuke to those who would not follow the biblical teachings even in such a practical issue.
h. II Peter 2 & Jude — I think it should be pointed out that Peter’s audience did not believe these individuals to be false teachers. They were part of the church, they had risen from among the people (II Pet. 2:1). They also did not announce their sinful living nor their false teachings. It is for this reason that Peter warns his readers to beware. The warning is still in place today.
i. I John 4:1-6 — Some believe that this passage expresses the only test of orthodoxy — the test of Christology. Think that through for a moment. This would mean that the Roman Catholic Church is orthodox and of God? Now, I am not speaking of individuals here, but of the apostate church itself. The Roman Catholic Church believes in the deity of Christ every bit as much as evangelical Christians, so have they passed the test of orthodoxy and may now be embraced by the evangelical church? Certainly not, for they deny salvation by faith alone, they deny the finished work of Christ, they teach dozens of heretical doctrines. So what is John saying? When we examine the whole book we realize that John was in a battle with the early roots of Gnosticism which taught esoteric and mystical revelations through the spirit world and at the same time denied the deity of Christ. Against that backdrop the passage is to be understood. John was addressing a particular heresy, not every heresy.
The Scriptural doctrine of separation does not call for the breaking of fellowship over minor issues. While we may seek to correct one another over smaller issues, we should only draw the line over issues of fundamental proportion. Two such issues that I believe Promise Keepers compromises on are salvation and Scripture.
Concerning salvation, I believe that uniting with Roman Catholics must of necessity compromise the gospel, no matter how Promise Keepers’ doctrinal statement reads. At the Council of Trent it was stated,
"If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ; or that it is that trust alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema."
That has never been recanted and is the teaching of Rome today. To attempt to distinguish between Catholic and the Roman Catholic Church, as some have done is also cause for great concern. I will agree that there are some Catholics who are saved, but only if they have renounced the teachings of the church. In which case they should obey Scriptures and get out of the Roman Catholic Church (II Corinthians 6:14-18). To actively seek and recruit those within the Catholic church as leaders of Promise Keepers shows the extent of their compromise. We are talking about the gospel here, not musical preference. [See Section on Catholicism]
The Scriptures are also under attack by Promise Keepers. Its leadership is dominated by Vineyard and Charismatic men. These men believe in direct revelation from God today. Many of them have claimed to have received such revelation. These views are being taught by Promise Keepers on both the national and local level. Only a few years of such influence, unchallenged by men who should know better, will have a profound affect upon the church’s view of Scripture.
It is for reasons such as these that we are concerned about Promise Keepers and those who support them. We are concerned for shepherds who have either not taken the time, or cannot take the time, to go below the surface of such movements.
That is why we write these study papers. There exists a breed of evangelical leaders and pastors today that are extremely naive about the schemes of the devil. They trustingly take everyone and everything at face value and cry for unity and tolerance even in the face of great error. They believe that the only danger that the flock faces is external and obvious. As a result, they do not study, nor are they concerned with the issues, movements and doctrinal novelties that the church faces.
Paul strongly warned the shepherds of Ephesus that savage wolves would come in among them, not sparing the flock. He told them that these wolves would spring up among themselves (they would be professing believers). Then he admonished them to be on the alert (Acts 20:27-33).
Shepherds are to be on the alert for savage wolves among us. This implies that the flock will have a hard time distinguishing the wolves from the sheep; therefore, it is the obligation of the shepherd to identify the wolves. We do that, not by superficial means, not by external examination, but by studying what they teach (doctrine). When we see error we must warn and protect the flock, to do otherwise is a travesty. Did Paul not combat the legalistic Christians (mostly Jews)? The book of Galatians and Acts 15 tells us that he did. These men may have been believers but they were in error — they were the very wolves that Paul warned against.
If it is the shepherd’s obligation to protect the sheep and if we must identify wolves in order to do that, then we must know the wolves. We need to study doctrines of the current wolves. Do we know what the fastest growing elements of so-called "evangelicalism" are teaching today?
Do we know what the Faith movement, the Vineyard movement, the Spiritual Warfare movement, Evangelical and Catholics Together, and many others teach? Do we know that professors at Trinity and Wheaton are writing well accepted books denying creationism and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do we know that men as "evangelical" as John R.W. Stott and Josh McDowell are teaching a new form of universalism known as "wider grace?" Not to mention the overwhelming flood of Christian leaders who have bought into "Christian psychology."
Are we aware that four evangelicals have just written a book claiming that even God does not really know the future and has no control over it (The Openness of God)? [See The Foreknowledge of God] These are important issues being taught by evangelicals that will destroy the flocks that lack strong, well informed and discerning shepherds. We are not talking about secondary issues. We are talking about the raping of the fundamentals of the faith: salvation, Scripture, the resurrection, the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God!
Are we willing to join arms with men who teach such error for the sake of some kind of outward conformity? Promise Keepers is! Do we not see where such a movement will lead the church in a few years?
Surely we have something better to offer Christian men than a morality that all religions can embrace. We have the local church. We have the Word of God. We have numerous opportunities to strengthen men and families without compromising with those who attempt to make men godly through unbiblical means.