[Heresy , Church , Preaching ] July 27, 2011 08:10

http://chrissurber.com/pilgrim-pastor-blog.html  

I was asked recently: “Is Perry Stone is a reliable Preacher / Teacher?”  In a near vain attempt to locate any decent Christian television programming, I have watched his "Manna Fest" program a number of times.  I have always had somewhat mixed feelings about his ministry, though I continue to watch him on occasion.  My short answer is that I am of the opinion that he is reliable but must be viewed with caution.  While some people have written articles online calling him an out and out prosperity preacher charlatan on the order of a Creflo Dollar, I can find no evidence to support that claim.  He runs in questionable circles, being affiliated with so many prosperity preachers through TBN, I'll grant that, but he seems to be in an altogether different category of television preacher than Oral Roberts or Kenneth Copeland who are pretty obviously telling you to put your dime into the God slot machine to get out a dollar.  At any rate, it was a good question and here is what I hope is a good answer:  

 

  Perry Stone 

 

In 1 John 4:1 the Bible says to us:  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (NIV)  Rather than take any preacher’s words at face value, believers everywhere are instructed to ensure that the words of their teachers are consistent with the Word of God.  Sadly, many modern Christians lack a great deal of discernment.  False teaching abounds and believers are led astray, confused, and their faith weakened by it. 

 

This passage goes on to say that “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:2-4 NIV) 

 

This writer has watched several episodes of Perry Stone’s “Manna Fest” broadcast which is on regularly on Christian Television, examined his ministry website (www.voe.org), and read some material which others have written and posted about Perry Stone on the internet.  It is a difficult and humbling task for a pastor and teacher, such as the writer of this answer, to ever examine the teaching ministry of another brother in Christ.  Such a task should be done with great humility and in keeping with the Word of God.  By all indications Perry Stone is a genuine believer and his interests in teaching the Word of God are sincere.  However, we cannot possibly comment as to Perry Stone’s personal integrity, sincerity, or calling from God.  We can only accurately speak to the consistency between what he teaches and what the Bible teaches. 

 

Among popular television preachers, Perry Stone is among the very best in terms of doctrinal consistency and apparent sincerity.  While we cannot recommend Perry Stone’s preaching as unreservedly good or reliable, for the following reasons, if considered with discernment, there is a lot of helpful information coming out of Perry Stone’s ministry.  Is he a reliable preacher?  Yes, with caution.

 

The foci Perry Stone’s ministry is Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.   His teaching broadcasts are routinely filmed on location in Israel.  To his credit, he presents a great deal of information about modern day Israel that is highly informative to viewers.  He also presents a great deal of information about what life was like in the times of Jesus that may help his viewers to better contextualize the New Testament within the scope of its original audience, setting, etc.  The trouble is that while Perry Stone presents a great deal of accurate information, he routinely makes prophetic (and other) connections that the text does not necessitate or warrant.  It is not possible to read the newspaper in one hand and predict future events with the Bible in the other.  Much of this is purely speculation.   Perry Stone focuses so heavily upon the imminent return of Christ that citation of a specific example is hardly necessary.  It is nearly every broadcast multiple times.  One must understand that there are often competing and legitimate views in opposition to Perry Stone’s interpretation of biblical prophecy.  While much of what he says may be entirely accurate as it relates to present day Israel, as with all Bible teaching, viewers are encouraged to later read the specific passages he cites in connection with modern events and circumstances in Israel and check his interpretation against reliable Bible commentaries and with one’s own local pastor.  It is possible when one’s focus is so centrally upon Bible prophecy to read the second coming of Christ into every passage of Scripture and every newsworthy event. 

 

To Perry Stone’s credit, he is following our Lord’s admonishment to pay attention and be prepared for the time of His coming.  “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.” (Luke 12:38 NIV)  We do well to study what the word of God says with regard to the second coming of Christ.  Jesus says to us, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40 NIV)  To take this passage in historical context, it means that we obviously will not know exactly when Jesus will return regardless of how much we study.  Yet, the passage is telling us to live as though it could come at any time.  Perry Stone’s prophetic emphasis could potentially feed into the all too common attitude of many modern Christians to which Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill pointed when he wrote that “We believers are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), and judgment must still begin “at the house of the Lord.” I dare any preacher to start a crusade to clean up the Church.  The Apostle Paul, storming the gates of hell, cried, “I press toward the mark.” Believers today have the attitude, “Relax and be raptured.” (Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God's Way (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1984), 57.)  While Perry Stone touches on many biblical aspects of the second coming the possible links  between current events and Bible prophecy, we would simply caution a viewer to not take such possible connections as overly dogmatic.  Perry stone is prone to make a great deal out of very loose connections between various biblical passages and current events.  The imminent return of Christ is a central teaching of the Christian faith but we must proceed with caution lest we fall off course and neglect the more pressing matters of following  Jesus and doing the work He has called us to do today.  (Matthew 5:13-16, Mark 16:15)

 

Another element of Perry Stone’s preaching which must be taken into account is his majority theological bias.  To use the phrase bias is not at all intended as a slight to him.  We all have some sort of theological lens through which we interpret the Bible.  Obviously, the goal of personal Bible study and theological pursuit among pastors and scholars is to develop theological concepts and understandings that are most closely aligned with the Bible; thus making those lenses as clear and unbiased as possible.  The admirable aim of only “preaching the Bible” is a goal shared by all honest Bible teachers and students which we all meet to varying extents.  Perry Stone teaches from an unashamedly Pentecostal or Charismatic perspective.  He believes in and seeks the full manifestation of the so-called sign gifts of the Holy Spirit which are spoken of in the New Testament.  

 

Perry Stone often uses straw men arguments when discussing this matter.  He will prop up a caricature of those who disagree with him on this matter and then combat them with his view that every person should seek and be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”  This doctrine is also known as the second blessing.  This is the majority view of Pentecostal Christians.  This view asserts that after such a time as believers receive Christ by faith and are brought into the body of Christ by faith, for those who seek it, there is a second work of God’s Holy Spirit – known as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – which is accompanied by the outward sign of speaking in unknown tongues, or other languages that the person speaking has never learned.  Interestingly, with the exception of occasional claims to the contrary with little supportive documentation, these languages are not discernable as any known language modern or ancient.  They sound like babble.  While we do not question the sincerity or salvation of Charismatic believers, this practice and view is highly problematic with Bible teaching on many levels.

 

First, while the Apostles did speak with unknown tongues as recorded in Acts 2:4, the operative element of the speaking in unknown languages is that the languages were unknown to those who spoke them but known to those who heard them.  What transpire today are unknown languages being spoken and unknown languages being heard.  While this writer is not arguing that God no longer performs miracles, there is an obvious inconsistency between what happened in the book of Acts and what happens in modern day Pentecostal churches.  In the account that follows we see that those in the crowds on that day in Acts chapter 2 heard the Gospel proclaimed in their own language.  (Acts 2:6-12)  Many of these people were compelled toward belief in the Gospel and were converted.  (Acts 2:37-41)  That is not consistent with what occurs today in Charismatic settings.  A man preaches and as he preaches he occasionally speaks in an unknown language to both him and the audience and no one is converted on this basis.  On the Perry Stone broadcast as recently as the date of the writing of this present paper, a guest on the “Manna Fest” broadcast claims to have spoken in tongues and as a result someone was converted.  Such claims are common but evidence of them is seldom produced.

 

A person of a Charismatic theological persuasion would not likely be troubled by this perspective of Perry Stone’s ministry.  However, to teach the necessity of the second blessing of the Holy Spirit is to imply that the salvation experience is somehow insufficient.  This is not the case.  Every believer who is saved by faith in Jesus Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit and equipped for spiritual empowerment.  A life of growing submission to the will of God is the means of increased spiritual power, not a second work of grace.  It is growth through trials that brings spiritual maturity and empowerment.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:2-5 NIV)  There are no shortcuts to spiritual power.  It comes through trials and affliction, through prayer and submission, and through study of God’s Word and application of it to our lives.

 

The Holy Spirit moved in a specifically powerful way in the first century in order to establish the word of the Apostles and thereby establish the Church.  “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.” (Ephesians 3:4-5 NIV)  However, that is no longer the normative pattern for the work of the Holy Spirit.  He does not demonstrate the power of God as often outwardly miraculously.  He works through the Church as we follow Jesus by faith.  God still performs miracles but they not as routinely as outwardly expressive as they were in the early church.  A viewer of Perry Stone who is not of a Charismatic persuasion should be aware that he is teaching from this particular bias so as to properly interpret much of what he says. 

 

Again, Perry Stone is reliable so far as he appears to be teaching with proper motives and does use the Scriptures as a foundation for his teaching.  While he is prone to strong assumptions with regard to the current events and Bible prophecy, his emphasis is upon the Scriptures, though with a sometimes loose interpretive method(s) employed.  Unlike many preachers who appear on television, this writer can find no evidence to support the claims of some who have accused him of being a prosperity preacher on their websites.  Prosperity preachers by definition claim that God will bless you with financial gain if you send them money as a “seed of faith” for a blessing from God.  This is not the focus of Perry Stone’s ministry at all.  He does solicit funds for his ministry and sell materials but it does cost a high amount of money to provide ministry through television media.

 

In the humble opinion of this writer, Perry Stone is reliable, given that a viewer comes to the television with a clear understanding of his theological leanings, intends to check what is taught against the teaching of the Bible, and that the viewer is in regular participation in the worship and teaching life of a local biblical church.  Television ministries can help as supplemental instruction and provide useful and interesting insights and perspectives on the Bible.  However, unless a person is absolutely not able to attend worship and teaching at a local Bible based church, no Christian should without the regular participation in a local church.  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

 

Pilgrim Pastor

 


[Heresy , Prosperity Gospel , Church ] April 10, 2011 21:44

In marketing, it has been said that “excellence always sells.”  Oh, how I wish that were true!  In terms of modern biblical preaching, often heresy sells.  Or, perhaps excellence does sell in the pulpit – so long as the excellence spoken of is how God is going to make my present life excellent!  In my experience and observation, too few are scouring local churches seeking to find excellent Bible teaching which is based on excellent exegetical methods.   Most commonly, church goers today are primarily interested in whatever is the most entertaining, easy, and expedient. 

This certainly is the case of most that ascend the ranks or purchase enough airtime on Christian television.  With the exception of a few quality preachers and ministries, the vast majority are pushing the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all.  Why?  Heresy Sells.

I caught a couple of minutes of a broadcast of Joseph Prince this evening.  Here are his words as I tuned in just in time for the conclusion to his sermon: “Just see yourself with the check with all of the zeros, thank God, thank God, you are having it!  You are having it!  You are having it!” Now, that was plenty for me but just before I went hunting around the dial for more spiritually edifying television, like say a Green Acres rerun, I caught the sales pitch at the end… “Call land receive this resource to learn secret truths of the benefits of biblical mediations.”

I have listened to Joseph Prince before.  I have actually even heard him say a few things to which I could easily give a hearty “amen."  For example, on this same snippet of hisbroadcast, he said something like “The further you are away from God the more you judge.  The closer you are to God,the more you see other believers as covered by the righteousness of God.”  Depending on his context, I could probably get on board with a statement like that.

Here’s the trouble, as I see it.  We are as much to blame for Prince’s heretical prosperity preaching as he is. Ok, perhaps not as much to blame, but certainly the modern church is complicit.  Why?  Heresy Sells. If we weren’t buying into such nonsensical unbiblical ideas as the notion that biblical meditation is primarily a way to “believe things intoexistence,” he would actually have to exposit the Bible, teach the Bible on its own terms in light of historical Christian methods of interpretation, rather than to look for “hidden meanings” in the text in order to hold the attention of his sizable audience.

Heresy sells because we buy it.  We buy it for a whole host of reasons that basically boil down to perhaps two:  it satisfies our me-centered worldview and/or because we have not gone to the Scriptures forourselves to see if that is actually what God says to us in His Word.  

Prosperity gospel Heresy will stop selling when we stop buying it.  Junk food vendors are not invited to a whole food convention.  

[Heresy , Prosperity Gospel , Bible , Apologetics , Church ] April 05, 2011 13:11

There was a time when I thought that to love meant it was wrong to confront something that was wrong. More specifically, I used to be convinced, though suspiciously, that it was possible to stand for truth without ever confronting lies.  I have become completely unconvinced of that idea.

In Matthew 7:15 Jesus tells us to “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (NIV)  Today, false prophets abound. What is more troubling to this shepherd is that there are droves of people who gladly follow after them, buying their latest cliché ridden self centered books, tapes, DVD’s, and whatever else they are selling for just one easy payment of $19.95.

Listen to what megastar celebrity prosperity preacher Joel Osteen says on a recent installment of “Moments of Encouragement” which is broadcast on YouTube and made available on his ministry website.  Joel says that, “Praise precedes the victory,as you were giving God praise today; you know what, your praise is just sending out your faith.  That’s allowing God to just arrange things in your favor… You are supposed to reign in life, as the Scripture says, like a king.” (link at bottom of post)

Here’s the trouble with what Osteen says here.  Well, here’s one of the many troubling things...  Where in the Bible does it say that we are supposed to reign on this earth now like a king?  Since Osteen seldom quotes Scripture directly, I am forced to guess what passage he is presently taking out of context, and my best guess is that he is alluding to II Timothy 2:12: “if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.” (NIV)  Here’s where Joel’s sloppy exegetical work is so obvious that I would expect even the simplest of Bible reader to catch it, but sadly, they don’t.

Perhaps it is not that we are unable, but unwilling.  Like so many spiritual children, cotton candy is greatly preferred to a healthy meal.

The passage says that we shall reign with Him.  Not that we are reining.  In this life Christ endured suffering and pain and shall one day return to earth to reign.  Presently the world groans under the weight of sin, pain, sorrow, and the Devil’s attacks on believers.  The preceding passage says “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him.” (II Timothy 2:11 NIV)

Friend, while in this world, Jesus suffered and died.  He put the mercy of God on display.  Jesus didn’t have His “Best Life Now.” (One of Osteen’s book titles)  Our calling is to look like Jesus and we are not necessarily going to have our best life now either!  In fact, I don’t want my best life now!  Even the best life in this broken and fallen world pales in comparison to the life that is coming through faith in the one who suffered and died for sin.

Praise is not a means to an end.  We don’t worship God because of what we will get out of it. We worship Him because He is worthy. That’s it.  We don’t allow God to do anything.  He does what He does according to His sovereign and supreme will.  God is arranging things according to His will in a way that celebrates His glory and when we get lost in His worth we find our ultimate peace and joy. We are His servants, His people, His children, His Church!  God is not our genie in a bottle

This is just more of the common-sell coming from American pulpits… I I I ... You You You… Me Me Me… but more on that in another post… 

  1. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6eK-W32IME0#at=186

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