(April 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 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 Crouche’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.
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 extrabiblical 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.
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.
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
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.