Thinking Out Loud

December 21, 2010

Joyce Meyer/Beth Moore Piece is this Blog’s #1 Post for 2010

On that penultimate day in January when I posted an article about Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer, I had no idea that months later, people would still be seeking out the pictures of the house where Joyce lives, which appears to be the main reason “Who Exactly Is Teaching The Women in Your Church” is the #1 post at Thinking Out Loud for 2010.

I have no regrets posting those pictures.    I don’t know if readers in the Christian blogosphere would have uncovered the work of a local journalist, and I thought that the photos should be more public.   I believe that while all Christians are accountable to God, people in ministry enter a public life not unlike politicians, which demands greater accountability.

James 3: 1-2a, The Message Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.

And then there was this comment, posted just today by Ryan, which brings much of this into focus:

Wow, I can’t believe people here are bashing the post.  It’s a simple concept that this is portraying.

Let me give you a scenario:  I’m asking YOU for your hard earned-limited money so I can promote the work of God say like, going to a third world country to help out some folks and buy food to take over there, plus to maintain the food supply to adequately feed them…and lets add to the cause of building an orphanage in Capetown, Africa.  I do that right? I do what’s promised and I can show proof.  However, if I’m living in a 20-million dollar mansion and/or driving around in a flashy expensive 7 digit car and/or flying around in my G6-I guess the real question is do I need your money which could go towards a more needing facilitator?

I’m going to be a dentist and all I can think about is what can I do more?  Not what can I get more of?  With me, the question is how many more mouths could I feed rather than living a lavish lifestyle on this temporary earth?

Which matters more to God? The acres I own or the acres I sacrificed to own? Doesn’t God say all these things will pass away? So why the need to own beyond what is necessary?

I’m not bashing anyone just stating facts and what posses a threat to what we are really called to do (be Gods hands and feet to the least of these)?   If I wasn’t a Christian I would dismiss all the good works that these people have done by the base of the $$$$ materialistic things they posses.

These things use to be important to me till I went on a mission trip. Changed my whole life and where I wanted a Lamborghini – big house – fancy car – maid service – everything that MY money could buy;  I would rather build a church and orphanage somewhere or do something that helps someone. You fill in the blank… They said this trip will mess up your life and it did, but in a GOOD way.

…I used to believe in the whole famous “Kingdom Prosperity” until God changed my heart.  Why are you giving?  To get something back?  So, on the pretenses of “if” – but only if I get something back I will give.  That’s the only reason why you give?  Your heart is in the wrong place.  Did Jesus die (give) his life in the expectancy of (getting) your life in return?  Nope, it was by choice.  He knew he would be denied by many, but still GAVE his life without the need to “GET”.  We are to be Christ “like” so that means to give without the expectancy of a return.

If you haven’t already, you can read the original post and comments here.   I’m going to close comments on this page so that additional responses may be added to the original piece.

July 26, 2010

As the Celebrity Pages Turn

Filed under: issues, media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:43 am

Well maybe. Maybe not.

On the last day of our vacation, the hotel where we were staying just outside of Ottawa offered me a free copy of The Saturday [Toronto] Star.   As is my habit, I tucked it away to read in detail when we got back home, which I did late that night.

On page three was the story of Benny Hinn and Paula White with which many of you are already familiar; though the picture — showing them holding hands — made the story almost unnecessary.  [Though the article tried to press the Toronto angle of Benny's early ministry in the area, it was inaccurate on a few points.]

This morning, commuters boarded mass transit trains in many North American cities and picked up one of the many commuter newspapers available free.   Chances are, up to 20% of the page count was taken by celebrity news.    This is what people want to read about.    The program Entertainment Tonight once was an interesting course in entertainment media, the visual “how it’s done” manual on all things related to movies, music, television, and stage.   Instead, it gave birth to a host of television programs which try to feed the insatiable desire for more knowledge of who is bedding down with whom.

Most of the time however, the news originates in Hollywood, not the Bible Belt.   The Benny and Paula story — they were seen together on the streets of Rome —  really looked no different than countless others, but we need to recognize that on some level, both of them are part of the superstar culture.

How did we get there?

For starters, here are some obvious reasons:

  • the rise of mega-churches, which suddenly made certain pastors significant nationally, and others less so;
  • the established past history of certain pastors or evangelists with respect to moral failure and the media feeding frenzy that these events are now certain to bring;
  • the outrageously excessive income and/or lifestyle of certain Christian “stars;”
  • the desire of certain Christian authors and artists to see their books or music “cross over” into the mainstream market; and,
  • our obsession with celebrity.

We created this mess ourselves, somewhat.  We conformed to the world.   We wanted our alternative Christian culture to be just as glitzy as theirs and we worshiped at the feet of anybody with a big church, a TV show or a best-selling book or CD.

Of course, both parties have issued denials that anything untoward is happening.   Is it just me, or are both denials the work of the same copywriter?

A great day for Movie-of-the-Week screenwriters and producers.

A sad day for the Kingdom of God.

My advice to Benny and/or Paula?  It’s peaked.  The season is over.   Shut it down.   All of it.   The television ministry.   The crusades.   The books.   Pay the staff a decent severance.   The TV contracts you can’t get out of, give the airtime to another ministry.    The arena contracts you can’t get out of, give to another [type of] evangelist, or even a Christian band.   Retire somewhere nobody can find you.

And Benny, take the Nehru jackets to a local thrift shop.

Related post on this blog:  My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

Best place to follow this story (if you must):  The other “Benny;” the blog, Bene Diction Blogs On

Picture:  National Enquirer article.  Who else?

March 26, 2010

No Caption Required…

…because the real caption is funny enough…

According to USAToday’s online religion page, Catholic TV launched 3-D programming this week “in an effort to reach younger people and to make the faith message more vivid.”  More vivid.   As in, what you see above. Oh right, I guess you need the glasses.

The actual caption reads:

Father Robert Reed points during a preview of the 3-D programming that the CatholicTV network debuted in some of its shows today.

Reed went on to say, “It’s a way for us to show that we believe the message we have is relevant, and we’re going to use every possible avenue to bring that message to people.”

You can Reed read the whole AP story at USAToday here.

You can watch a 3-D a Roman Catholic mass or a reading of the rosary in 3-D at CatholicTV.com

Related post at Steve McCoy’s blog, Reformissionary:  Learning About Catholicism 3/23/10

March 14, 2010

Random Sunday Notes

  • I’m increasingly impressed with the New Living Translation.   I often explain the relationship between the old Living Bible and the current NLT is similar to buying a house that you really like but it needs to be brought up to the standards of the building code.   So you bring in a number of contractors who fix the parts that need fixing and leave everything else that’s good.   Bringing The Living Bible up to translation status was a similar project.    Passages like Romans and Hebrews gain additional clarity, while the Olivet Discourse in John’s gospel reveals its rather stark simplicity.    I like this treatment of Ephesians 2: 8-9:

    8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

  • This morning in church we looked at this passage in I Samuel 2: 12-13a

    12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests… 22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.

    It’s a reminder that today’s television evangelists who seem to have outright contempt for their followers and for God Himself, with their misuse of money and serial affairs are really nothing new.

  • Imagine you’re sitting in church and the service is nearing the end and an usher walks up to the person in the row in front of you and hands him/her an envelope and whispers, “Thanks for your offering, but we don’t want to accept this from you, even though it’s perfectly useful cash.”   That would be like something out of a weird dream, right?   But that’s what we do when people offer their [other kinds of] gifts to the church but they can’t jump through the hoops or clear the screening process.   We’re basically throwing their gift back in their faces.   The church should be a place where gifting + willingness determines ministry.

June 25, 2009

Sheila Schuller Coleman to Lead Crystal Cathedral

sheila_colemanShe won’t be given the title “senior pastor,” but Dr. Sheila Coleman, the daughter of Robert H. Schuller has been named to the top administrative post at the Garden Grove, CA Crystal Cathedral and its Hour of Power telecast.

Read the story at the USA Today Religion page here.

April 2010 Update:  For some reason this post is drawing a lot of internet traffic lately.   Here’s a more recent post on this blog on this subject… click here.

May 18, 2009

Christianity in Crisis: Confronting Word of Faith Theology

Christianity in Crisis

In a new edition, Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century, the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcasts and head of Christian Research Institute makes it really clear it’s the excesses of “Word of Faith” theology under discussion, not issues with the wider Pentecostal, Assemblies of God or Charismatic doctrine.   As such, Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff (Thomas Nelson) is probably the best tool we have to confront those who espouse the “name it and claim it” or “prosperity gospel” fringe of Christianity.   The doctrinal flights of fancy are simply too numerous to list here; and the Christian blogosphere is thankfully home to people whose beliefs — for the most part — are a litte more stable.

But what a visible “fringe” this is, accounting for a huge percentage of the airtime purchased for religious broadcasting, not to mention entire networks.   Why is that?   That question is beyond the scope of this work, though I wish Hanegraaff had waded into the question, “What is it that draws these evangelists to one particular medium — television — while remaining almost entirely absent from radio and having only a minimal presence on the internet?”   It does make you appreciative of the doctrinal balance to be had on Christian radio.

Word of Faith theology is the entire focus of this work.   In a world where critics obsess over the current emerging/Emergent church; where a new Dan Brown movie reminds us of the gullibility of the public when it comes to Biblical truth; where Jesus Seminar practitioners such as Marcus Borg and Shelby Spong undermine the validity of the gospel accounts; and where atheists are become more militant in their attacks on faith; in all of these situations, a book called Christianity in Crisis could address a variety of battlegrounds for Christ-followers.    It doesn’t.   But its single focus is sufficient to fill all its 400-plus pages and Hanegraaff is wonderfully restrained in expressing his outrage over what gets broadcast, 24-hours a day, over so called “Chrsitian” networks.

If the new edition of Christianity in Crisis were a research paper, it would, at first, score an A- for actual research and a D- for organization of material.   Since this book is a little longer than ones I normally review, I want to take a bit more time to qualify both ratings, beginning with the D-.

Despite a penchant for alliterative and acrostic outlines — some of which are borrowed from the author’s other writings — which appear to show superior organization,   much of the material in the book is repeated, over and over and over again, in different sections.   Transcriptions of television broadcasts are used as a kind of proof-text for multiple points, instead of beginning from the transcripts themselves and then fleshing out their various implications.   Honestly, I’m not sure where the greater efficiency is to be found, but the latter would eliminate the possibility of reading a quotation for the fourth or fifth time, as is presently the case.   The main points of the book might be said in half as many pages, though some of the finer nuances of each TV personality’s beliefs would be lost.   This should not distract from the importance of each individual argument, however.

But I have to qualify the A-, also.   Because the author heads a group called Christian Research Institute, there are immeasurable hours of compiling transcripts of religious television represented here.   Nobody does it better.   But wait a minute, look again at the second half of the updated edition’s title:  “…The 21st Century.” Despite this reference to the 21st Century, there’s very little internet citation here; there is little commentary from other critics — which abound online — and many of the citations and statistics are from the period in the late 1980’s when the original edition was written.

Contrast that with the other updated title I’m reading now, The King James Only Controversy by James White (Bethany House) where you see dozens and dozens of internet references per chapter as White gives fresh information and renders his re-make of a 1994 title appear to be “hot off the press.”

White’s book also highlights a flaw in Hanegraaff’s update inasmuch as entire sections of the original edition are imported wholesale; so a section on recommended Bible translations and study Bibles refers to The Living Bible, not the New Living Translation and there’s no mention at all of the biggest thing in Bibles to happen in the last decade, The English Standard Version. Readers counting on the book for advice would be hard pressed to even find a copy of The Living Bible, though Tyndale keeps a single edition in print.

But you might say, “Internet links are fleeting and the groups under discussion might modify or remove offending pages if Christianity in Crisis were to cite them.”

True.   But as it stands, the seventy-odd pages of bibliography and footnotes contain references to transcripts to Christian television broadcasts that absolutely nobody has access to, unless they also are recording every single thing that airs on TBN and other networks.    Also, without more internet citations, the book has very little relevance to next generation or postmodern readers, who expect the web to form part of modern scholarship.

hank hanegraaffStill, one doesn’t wish to overdo the criticism because we do owe a great debt to both Hanegraaff and his organization for all that they are doing to keep TV preachers accountable.   This book makes its point and makes it well:   The theology being broadcast daily on Christian television is, for the most part, nuttier than a fruitcake.

Based on what I read here, I wouldn’t let Benny Hinn or Joyce Meyer, or Myles Munroe or Creflo Dollar or Joel Osteen walk my dog, let alone watch my kids for five minutes.   It’s not that they aren’t “rightly dividing the Word of God,” but given financial and marital evidence, it’s more like they can’t properly handle anything.    And that includes the trust and responsibility that they’re given when they invade the homes of the unsuspecting on a daily or weekly basis.   Thankfully, Hanegraaff resists the temptation to do any more than allude to character issues, keeping his focus squarely on the contrast between errant doctrine and Biblical truth.

So if there’s someone in your sphere of influence caught up in the world of Paul Crouch, Rod Parsley, Juanita Bynum, Paula White, John Hagee, or any of the other aforementioned scripture twisters;  ignore all of the above critical comments and buy the book.   Read it all, and then loan it out to people who need to see the contrast between Christian television and orthodox Christianity.

October 26, 2008

Robert A. Schuller Removed From Hour of Power Telecasts

Crystal Cathedral founder Reverend Robert H. Schuller has removed his son as preacher on the church’s weekly “Hour of Power” syndicated TV broadcast.

Schuller said in a statement read to some 450 congregants Saturday by church president Jim Coleman that he and his son, Robert A. Schuller, “have different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry.”

“For this lack of shared vision and the jeopardy in which this is placing this entire ministry, it has become necessary for Robert and me to part ways,” Schuller said.

Robert A. Schuller will remain as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, though it was unknown whether he will continue to preach, a church spokesman told the Los Angeles Times…

So begins a story on the religion page of USAToday.   Link to that story here, the Orange County Register story here, and a short summary from United Press International (UPI) here.

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