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Tag Archives: Charismatic Chaos

From Faith in Faith
to Faith in Christ

By: Peter Glover

Mark Haville’s is an extraordinary story. Converted into the Pentecostal/Charismatic church he quickly came under the spell of the Word-Faith teaching of men like Kenneth Copeland. But things did not stay that way for Mark…

Still in his mid-20’s, Mark became an itinerant minister travelling the country earning large sums of money through his ability to perform ‘signs and wonders’. Remarkably, he has renounced his former life, his beliefs, and his practices as a Word-Faith minister and is now speaking out boldly against the beliefs and practices of the current Signs and Wonders movement.

(Note: In the text ‘EN’ refers to Evangelicals Now, and ‘MH’ refers to Mark Haville. ‘PG’ is Peter Glover)

EN: “How did you first get involved with Word Faith teaching?”

MH: I was given lots of tapes and books by Kenneth Copeland which everyone was into at my church in North London. I believed that my Christian experience could validate my faith. It convinced me that what I was in was real. I was impressed by the numbers involved, their interest in the media, publications, the money and the general trappings of success – it bred the belief in me that biggest must be best.

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THIS IS THE VIDEO SERIES THAT EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST SEE!!!!!!!

This powerful 2 DVD set contains three full length documentaries exposing the signs and wonders movement. The money scandals, the false miracles and the manipulative methods of the likes of Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Morris Cerullo, John Avanzini and Rodney Howard-Browne are fully revealed on camera. This shocking material is desperately needed as a cure for the mass-hysteria and worldwide deception being perpetrated by this movement. The DVDs feature expert commentary from leading Christian experts in this field. Coded for all regions (such as USA and UK). Nearly 4 hours total running time.

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 The bringers of false and strange fire

 

Charles Fox Parham and Freemasonry

Parham was probably a member of the Freemasons at some time in his life.[14] The 1930 biography on Parham (page 32) says “Mr. Parham belonged to a lodge and carried an insurance on his life. He felt now that he should give this up also.”[5] The question is one of timing, the extent of his involvement, and how much of their teachings became merged with his theology. From his wife’s comments, it appears he was originally involved because of the good deeds they did in looking after their fellow man (something he did not feel the churches did a good job of doing), not because of their beliefs. Because many in the Pentecostal movement oppose the Freemasons so bitterly, some have said that he left the organization when he started his “Full Gospel” ministry. This would fit with the comment in the biography. What is clear is that, at the peak of his ministry (between 1900 and mid-1907) he had little time for involvement in any organizations. His bible school and his preaching were an all consuming task. Even his active later ministry left little free time for activities like lodges. Some feel there is evidence that Parham was still a member of the Freemasons in 1928 (they feel he “appeared to still have Masonic tendencies”), but source documents for this are not quoted. They may be drawing an inference from a letter that Parham wrote back home from his Palestine trip where he said “I am going to bring a gavel home with me … I am going to present it to the Masonic lodge in Baxter Springs with my respects.”(p373)[5] Yet if he had been a member then, it is likely that his wife’s earlier comment in the same book, where it tells of Parham’s decision to leave the lodge, would have been different. She said “I had been taught in the Friend’s church not to believe in secret organizations, and was very glad for his decision” [i.e. to leave the lodge].(p32)[5] It is just as likely that the gavel was simply a present for friends he had known since his original involvement. If Parham was involved in Freemasonry, the ultimate question is what the level of his involvement was, when he was involved, and if there are any indications of these beliefs in his ministry, especially during the period of his highest influence in the early pentecostal movement (from 1900 to 1907). Lower level involvement in smaller communities can be more of a social involvement than a belief in or an understanding of their principles (as it appears was the situation with Parham’s early involvement with the lodge).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Parham

Charismatic Movement: History and Error by David Cloud

This video is Part Two of a four part video series on the history and errors of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. In this sermon, Bro. Cloud compares the modern use of ‘tongues’ with scripture and history to show the many errors that surround this supposed phenomena. The entire four hour series is available from Way of Life Literature: 1-866-295-4143.

 

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The Word of Knowledge

OK, this might be a bit controversial, as I’m going to challenge a charismatic shibboleth…

I have had a blog entry in preparation for a couple of years now on the meaning of “word of knowledge”, as I am not sure that the what charismatics tend to use this phrase to mean is what Paul means when he uses it. Many charismatics use “word of knowledge” to refer to supernaturally obtained knowledge about a person. For example, when Jesus says to the woman at the well, “you have five husbands”, this would be seen as a “word of knowledge”. Personally I think that this would more naturally be called a gift of “prophecy” (Gk: propheteia) or even “revelation” (Gk: apocalypsis).

What’s more, there are some concerns I have with the way this gift is used. Very often it takes the form of announcing a specific fact about a non-specific person in a meeting. In other words, it starts with “there is someone here who…”. Now all the examples of “words of knowledge” that can be found in the Bible were directed specifically at the person they relate to. This meant they could be tested, at the very least by the recipient of the word of knowedge. And where Christians use any spiritual gift, that gift should be tested.

I think this non-person-speicific approach can result in “words of knowledge” that are very vague and therefore can be seen as a risk-free form of prophecy, where there is no come-back if it misses the mark. I sometimes hear what I call “words of statistical probablity” e.g. “there is someone here with a bad back” in a room of 500 people. People argue that it causes faith for healing to rise in the hearers. I would say that I have spoken to many for whom this type of utterance leads to skepticism. I have seen non-Christian magicians wow gullible people with probability tricks – “does the name ‘Steve’ mean anything to you?”. I’m not saying that God can’t give a specific prophecy without telling the prophet who it is for, but it just strikes me as out of keeping with the biblical precedents we have.

Anyway, I am not convinced we have enough exegetical material to know exactly what Paul means when he talks about a “word of knowledge”. It is only mentioned briefly in passing (1 Cor 12:8), and not given a definition. The Greek word for “knowledge” (gnosis) could refer to natural knowledge – the type you get by studying and learning, but also could refer to supernaturally revealed knowledge (hence the “gnostics”).

So which is it? Let’s survey the places the word occurs in 1 Corinthians to see whether it refers to knowledge obtained by natural means (i.e. being taught), or by supernatural revelation.

1 Cor 1:5 in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:1 we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. – again probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:7 However, not all possess this knowledge. – again natural knowledge (also 1 Cor 8:10,11)

1 Cor 12:8 to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit – the verse in question. not enough information from the context to decide

1 Cor 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. – could be either in this context.

1 Cor 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. – OK, now we have the feeling that Paul can use “knowledge” to refer to some kind of supernatural revelation. Surely we will not all be ignoramuses in heaven.

1 Cor 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? – I’ve seen lots of attempts to differentiate between these four terms. I have no idea who is right. Here’s my suggestion. Paul is saying: “revelation or knowledge … in other words … prophecy or teaching” i.e. revelation is another word for prophecy and knowledge is another word for teaching. Its only a guess though.

1 Cor 15:34 For some have no knowledge of God. – this is talking about personal knowledge rather than factual so doesn’t help us

I won’t bore you with all of Paul’s other uses of this term (and there are a lot), but suffice to say that on the whole when “knowledge” refers to knowledge of factual information rather than personal knowledge of God, its source seems to be through natural means. So someone teaches us doctrine, or we study the scriptures ourselves, and we come to have knowledge – knowledge of the truth about God, about doctrine, about the mystery of salvation. In other words, with the exception of 1 Cor 13:8, it seems Paul does not usually use knowledge to mean “something that I didn’t learn from any person or book – God dropped it into my head”. Prophecy or revelation are the words to describe that. What’s more, the knowledge Paul is usually talking about seems to be doctrinal in nature – which again is out of keeping with the idea of facts about people being the normal content of a “word of knowledge”.

So on balance I am tempted to think that the gift of knowledge refers to some who has a working understanding of the Bible and a good grasp of theology, who edifies the church by explaining things to people, whether it be one on one, in a small group context, or in a teaching ministry. They bring a “word of knowledge”, by applying that knowledge in a way that teaches people, and gives them insight to see and appreciate how the Bible applies to them, and to understand God and the gospel better. This is not a dry intellectual gift – the Holy Spirit is impressing these truths on them as they study the word so they can share them with others.

What prompted me to finally post about this was that I listened to Mark Driscoll preaching on 1 Cor 12 (listen here), and he takes a similar line, arguing that the person with this gift is a “book geek” who loves to study and research, and is over the moon at the arrival of a new parcel from Amazon. People with this gift assimilate loads of information and like to hear all sides of an argument. They become a “google for Jesus” as people come to them to ask difficult questions and they love to explain what they have learned in a way that is accessible. Although its a long sermon, its well worth listening to. He also explains in it that his position on the gifts is that he is a “charismatic with a seatbelt”, and his definition of how you know whether you are in a charismaniac church is hilarious (11 minutes in to the sermon). The discussion of the gift of knowledge is towards the end of the sermon.

Anyway, whatever the gift of “knowledge” really means, I like the idea of studying to be a “google for Jesus”. I think that kind of describes a lot of Christian bloggers – theology book lovers who are looking for people to share what they have read with.

http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/2006/08/11/the-word-of-knowledge/

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Title: CHARISMATIC DELUSION: KENNETH HAGIN AND THE “SPIRIT OF THE SERPENT” — w/Video

Subtitle: Hagin is shown as not being able to discern between the ‘paranormal’ and the ‘supernatural’, between that which is from Satan and that which is from God. The entire ‘Word of Faith’ movement fails to properly discern the difference; thus, as the world moves closer to the ultimate deception of the Antichrist, this movement has become more deluded than ever and more of a participant in Satan’s ‘paranormal’ activity, all the while thinking they are serving Jesus. From Paw Creek Ministries, video tape, Pastor Joe Chambers narrating.

Kenneth Hagin began to wander off the Biblical “Narrow Path” early in his ministry — 1938 to be exact! In December, Hagin tells of a young girl about 16 years of age that went into a trance and remained over eight hours in a frozen position. The pastor of the church where Hagin was preaching this revival weighted over 200 pounds and the two of them tried to pick this young lady up; they wanted to move her near the single stove heating the building. Hagin said that this poor girl was “glued to the floor ” so that these two strong men could not budge her. He called this manifestation the Power of God, but the truth is that this incident was absolutely the result of the “paranormal” activities of demons.

Paranormal Versus Supernatural

To understand what appears to be the root, the foundation of Kenneth Hagin’s departure from Biblical truth. We must start with these two concepts: paranormal and supernatural. The entire “Word of Faith” movement, as it is called, fails to discern the difference, and from this failure, their doctrines have systematically moved in a downward spiral, away from the true God of the Bible and toward the Abyss of the Pit. The “spirit of the serpent” has gradually manipulated this crowd of otherwise sincere individuals until now the serpent can manifest himself in their midst while they appear oblivious to his presence; but, worse, the power of the serpent is manifesting himself in their midst, while they believe they are following and serving Jesus Christ! This great deception is the deception of Antichrist and it is running rampant in these type of churches.

Paranormal activity operates in an in-between world of the natural and the supernatural. This activity is above the natural world but below God’s supernatural dimension. The Bible has many examples of Satan and his fallen helpers appearing and performing their activities. The word paranormal means, “Not within the range of normal experience or scientifically explainable phenomena.” {Tormont Webster’s Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary].

Satan can appear before God to push his cause and defend his legal standing (Job 2:3-7) that Adam and Eve surrendered to him in their act of disobedience. Satan’s temptation of Jesus was loaded with paranormal activity. No natural powers could have accomplished such feats as taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, or showing Him all the nations of the world (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan and his ministers can transform themselves as angels of light and ministers of righteousness for the express purpose of deceiving the undiscerning!

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” (2 Cor 11:13-15)

When you understand the difference between the paranormal and the supernatural, you can very easily discern between a false prophet and a man of God. Jesus healed a woman who had been bound with paranormal powers for eighteen long years. She was bowed over into a state of crippled existence by severe demonic power.

“And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity … ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? ” (Luke 13:10-12)

Did you understand who had held this woman in physical bondage for 18 years? Satan had demonically forced this woman into this physical infirmity through the outworking of his paranormal power. The early church understood the principles of Satan’s power opposite the powers of God. If Satan is supernatural, then the contest between he and God would be on an equal footing, which is the belief of occultists throughout the world even today. Thankfully, this has never been the case, and Holy Scripture is filled with Biblical certainty, that God is infinitely greater and more powerful than Satan.

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18)

The supernatural power of God is never manifested to titillate the flesh or to win favor for God’s ministers. One has only to study the life of Jesus and the history of the New Testament church to confirm the absolute absence of paranormal activity by the Holy Spirit! You will never see in the Bible a young girl “glued to the floor” so tightly no two men could budge her. You will also never see people slithering to the floor as serpents, apparently losing total control of their bodies, nor will you see the minister “hissing” like a snake and the audience “hissing” back! Not one time does the Bible record the early Church as displaying such strange happenings that would satisfy the appetite of curiosity seekers. In fact, Jesus said:

“And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:29-30)

Supernatural powers are exactly what the word suggests. While the word, supernatural, does not appear in the Bible, the closest equivalent may to be “eternal”. God takes “eternal” actions and his existence in the eternal dimension definitely qualify as supernatural. Satan, by his very nature, cannot operate in the eternal realm, and so his actions are termed paranormal. ALL God’s acts are eternal acts. To even imagine God doing things of a paranormal nature is to completely miss His holy nature and His eternal characteristics.

Colossians 1:19 may also contain all the elements of “supernatural”. Let us review this Scripture:

“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” [ Col 1:19-20]

The key word in this passage is “fulness”, which in the Greek is “pleroma”, (Strong’s # 4138). This Greek word means to completely fill up, to fill. For example, “fulness of time” denotes the completion of a particular period of time before ordained and appointed”; this term also “denotes a fullness of the Godhead in Christ, as it was constituted, God was in His fullness …” [“Key Word Hebrew-Greek Study Bible, p. 1749].

This word, “pleroma” denotes a dimension of being that only God can fulfill. Thus, this may come as close to “supernatural” as any other word in the Bible. God clearly operates in the “supernatural”, while Satan operates in the lower dimension, “paranormal”.

We see events in the Bible where God did eternal things that men interpreted them to be paranormal matters. The Bible states that God made Ezekiel dumb (Ezekiel 3:26); that an angel made Zechariah dumb when he believed not the angel’s message (Luke 1:20); and that He made Saul of Tarsus blind (Acts 9:8, 18). When we try to interpret these acts of God’s judgment or His method of dealing with an individual into a pattern for New Testament Church life, we create an absolute theological mess. This kind of Biblical interpretation is at the heart of the Kenneth Hagin doctrines. The very idea of using one’s faith to acquire earthly riches is nothing more, nor less, than paranormal manipulation. The following verse describes Kenneth Hagin and all his ilk, as they not only use their dangerous type of “faith” to gain riches, they use the spirit of the serpent to deceive their followers.

“… in their covetousness (lust, greed) they will exploit you with false (cunning) arguments. From of old the sentence of condemnation for them has not been idle; their destruction (eternal misery) has not been asleep.” [2 Peter 2:3; Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary]

Kenneth Hagin And His Doctrines

It appears that Mr. Hagin’s doctrines were developed in his early years and were acquired from a man named E.W. Kenyon. Much of Mr. Hagin’s writing and radio broadcasts are labeled by some excellent scholars as plagiarized materials from Kenyon’s writings. Page after page of the actual writings and materials from Hagin are exact, word for word, from E.W. Kenyon. Mr. Hagin claims God gave these doctrines to him, and they just “happen” to be exactly like Kenyon’s writings. If Mr. Hagin received doctrines from God, that would place him on a level of the men through whom God wrote the Holy Scriptures.

Kenneth Hagin: “Physical Death Wouldn’t Remove Your Sins”

This statement should tell you all you need to know about the error of Kenneth Hagin. On the surface, you might ask why Hagin would even dare to say such a thing! The answer is in his paranormal approach to Christianity. If men are going to have this kind of power in their tongue or words, they have just elevate themselves to be on a level with Jesus Christ. That is impossible, unless you bring Jesus down to a different, a lower, theological position. Kenneth Copeland , one of Hagin’s stars, offers an excellent example of bringing Jesus down to a lower level; he actually states that if the physical death of Jesus could have saved, then any prophet, including himself could have saved the human race. Notice that Copeland just elevated himself to the level of “religious prophet”, at the same time he lowered Jesus.

Remember one of the End Times prophecies concerning Antichrist and his minions? Listen:

“Then he will blaspheme the High God …” [Daniel 7:25; Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary]

Here are Kenneth Hagin’s actual words: “He (Jesus) tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? PHYSICAL DEATH WOULDN’T REMOVE YOUR SINS. He’s tasted death for every man, lie’s talking about tasting spiritual death.” – KENNETH HAGIN (Christianity In Crisis. Hank Hanegraaff, p. 60; Emphasis added)

The entire doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and His eternal Sonship is effectively denounced or rendered valueless by this statement. The Biblical truth is that Jesus Christ was the ‘Passover Lamb,” the very sacrifice that God the Father required and offered to pay the price of sin. His sinless, physical body and blood was the price He and His Father paid to redeem us back to their heart. To deny this is to remove man’s only hope of escape from the horrible penalty of sin. The Bible leaves no possibility of denying His blood sacrifice as a “finished work” necessary to redeem us from our sins and restore us to Right Standing with God the Father.

Read these verses carefully so you will know the Truth and be not deceived by this workers of iniquity!

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, bath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56).

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).

“Whom God bath set forth [to be] apropitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:25).

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all).” (Hebrews 10:10).

The last verse noted makes it clear that it was His body and the natural blood (sanctified) by the virgin conception that was offered for us. There is no cleansing or salvation in any of the acts of Jesus separated from His blood sacrifice. I believe Kenneth Hagin is a lost man plunging his way toward hell.

Kenneth Hagin: “They Had Jesus Within Their Powers.”

This strange heresy does more than deny the power of Jesus Christ as our substitute sacrifice. Remember it was in His substitute death that He was able to take our judgment upon Himself. Hagin – Copeland says that His spirit went into hell under the powers of Satan and the demon world and by His victory of being “born again,” we are redeemed. This means we are not redeemed on the cross by the shed blood of Calvary in this dimension, but by Jesus descending into Hell under the power of Satan, where He was “born again” during his suffering in Hell. When Jesus’ spirit left His body on Calvary, man was not yet redeemed!

This is a totally unbiblical approach to both man and the Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of metaphysical approach to mankind is New Age, New Thought, or whatever name the deceptive world of Satan may be using at a given time. Here are Mr. Hagin’s own words (or Mr. E. W. Kenyon’s):

“Here is a picture of Christ in awful combat with the hosts of darkness. It gives us a glimpse of the tremendous victory lie won before He rose from the dead. The margin of the King James reads, ‘He put off from himself the principalities and the powers.’ It is quite obvious and evident that whole demon host, when they had Jesus within their power, simply intended to swamp Him, to overwhelm Him, and hold Him in fearful bondage.” (Metaphysical Elements In The Faith Movement, Compiled by Leon D. Stump, p. 98-99, taken from “The Word of Faith”, “The Name Of Jesus, ” April, 1976, pp.4-6).

These words are actually plagiarized from a book by K W. Kenyon, “The Wonderful Name Of Jesus”, pages 8-9. Even the reference to the King James margin came from Kenyon. (Notice that Mr. Hagin said that this victory was won before Jesus arose from the dead, not when He bled and died on the cross.)

This theological thinking has Jesus spending three days in bondage to the devil. There are several problems with such an impossible idea. First, Jesus stated the following, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30).

Jesus said this before His death on the cross, clearly expressing the fact that Satan had “nothing in me” or no power over Christ and His death.
Jesus stated on the cross, “It is finished.” He also told the repenting thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ (Abraham’s Bosom).

The veil of the temple was rent when He Died, not when they say He was born again at the end of three days, or at His resurrection.

Kenneth Hagin: “The Believer Is As Much An Incarnation As Was Jesus Of Nazareth.”

It is impossible to know whether Mr. Hagin is denying the deity of Jesus Christ or proclaiming the deity of all born-again believers — or perhaps, both! This idea of “manifest Sons of God” was part of the Latter Rain Movement in the 40’s and 50’s and has certainly become big again in the present charismatic confusions. Again, this shows the paranormal powers and ideas that undergird Kenneth Hagin’s entire theology and methods. Man is raised to some kind of spiritual creature that can actually evolve into glorified saints/spirits and establish the kingdom of God on earth. This belief brings Hagin into alignment with New Age Movement, who claims that man can evolve into a “god” that can then establish Paradise of Earth! Ken Hagin then may be thought of as a “serpent-led” New Ager!

Here is a further statement of the above words by Mr. Hagin, “Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” (Christianity In Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff, p. 175, taken from “The Incarnation”, Kenneth Hagin, p. 12). Mr. Hagin’s use of familiar Scriptural terms and the very Biblical phraseology of these words is planned to cloud the entire picture. If you look carefully you will see that Hagin does not just place us as “Sons of God”, but we are placed on the same level as our Lord Himself! This kind of arrogance about man’s position breeds the very spirit you will see when try to reason with persons caught in this trap.

This is a form of White Magic that has invaded the this church movement!

Kenneth Hagin: “If You Will Lean, To Follow That Inward Witness I Will Make You Rich.”

This statement that Hagin says came from God only serves to strengthen the context of this entire article. He is talking about a kind of human that the Bible knows nothing about, a paranormal human. Look at the broader picture in his statements.

“Then the Lord said this to me in a vision in 1959, which is not just for my benefit, but for yours. ‘If you will learn to follow that inward witness I will make you rich. I will guide you in all the affairs of life, financial as well as spiritual’ . I have followed that inward witness and He has done just what He said He would. He has made me rich (p.33)… The inward man, who is a spirit man, has a voice – Just as the outward man has a voice. We call this voice ‘conscience’. We call this voice the still small voice. Your spirit has a voice. Your spirit will speak to you (p.47). .. Your conscience is the voice of your spirit (p. 49).” (“Metaphysical Elements In The Faith Movement”, Compiled by Leon D. Stump p.55, taken from “How To Be Led By The Holy Spirit”, Kenneth Hagin.)

Hagin also stated, “The Lord said, ‘I’ll have to correct your theology a little’ (I’d been indoctrinated with all that ‘religious’ thinking, and unconsciously I still thought that maybe it was wrong to have the things of this world.) ‘In the first place-and this will help you-don’t pray about money anymore; that is, the way you’ve been praying. Claim whatever you need ” (“Metaphysical Elements In The Faith Movement”, Compiled by Leon D. Stump, p.55. taken from “The Word of Faith Magazine”, ‘How God Taught Me About Prosperity’, Kenneth Hagin

I have heard and read a lot of efforts to show how unbiblical this idea is, but Kenneth Hagin is nothing more, nor less, than a guru of a metaphysical, paranormal cult and his ideas are similar to other New Age proponents. It is basically a religion of White Magic that is directed by demons. It is not even similar to Christianity, except in a vague way. This crowd uses a host of Scriptures taken out of their context to weave a tapestry of deceit.
The true child of God will enjoy many wonderful blessings as they faithfully follow the truth of Scripture. Every promise of God is yea and amen. The Psalmist wrote as moved by the Holy Ghost, “But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD ; and in his law doth he meditate day and night And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth fruit in its season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:2-3).

Kenneth Hagin And The Spirit Of The Serpent

The final chapter of Mr. Hagin is being written even as I write this article. This video — Kenneth Hagin And The Spirit Of The Serpent — tells the whole truth. The serpent spirit has grown in his teaching and methods until I believe this real occult source is being made manifest. Kenneth Hagin has just conducted a “Holy Ghost” meeting in Chesterfield, Missouri. The meeting was held from October 12th to October 24th, 1999. On the third night he began to manifest this serpent spirit with his tongue sticking out and writhing in and out just like a serpent’s tongue. He also began to hiss. On Thursday night, as he began to hiss, many of the people began to slither down out of their seats feet first. Some of the people would hiss back at him. The emotional response of the audience is indescribable.

When Ken Hagin began to hiss like a serpent, demons began to pour out of him, as he was their channel; he was literally offering his body as a channel between the paranormal realm and this physical realm. By “hissing”, Hagin was allowing demons to pour out of his mouth, into the audience, “demonizing” each member of the audience. Remember, each member at this meeting had already “given permission” to the demons to pour into them. This spiritual reality is the reason so many people began to slither out of their seats, flowing on to the floor like serpents, and totally losing normal control of their body and mind.

Kenneth Hagin and many of the people then became insanely ” spiritually drunk.”

On the last night of the meeting, the demonstration became extremely bizarre as he began to “bless” the people for the closing. Three men could not hold him up because of his spiritually drunken state. Hagin became incredibly heavy, a most definite sign of demon possession.

Hagin declared that this was the first filling demonstration of this new spiritual anointing he said God had promised. Kenneth Copeland was present and got right in the middle of this final insanity. You will see his eyes suddenly rolling up into the top of their sockets revealing the whites of his eyes, a definitive sign of demon possession.

This entire meeting reflected the judgment of God on this ministry and its supporters.

It is apparent that God the Father is ready to judge this entire deception and the whole crowd that has given glory to such heresy. He calls those caught in its web “mad”. “Babylon [and Mystery Babylon] hath been a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine ; therefore the nations are mad.” (Jeremiah 51:7).

The Book of Revelation saw this religious system and called it “Mystery Babylon” [Revelation 17]. This system will certainly be larger than the Kenneth Hagin ministries, but he is clearly a part of it. Revelation warns:

“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when! saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawed was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Revelation 17:6-8).

This beast is the False Anointing by the false spirit masquerading as the Holy Spirit. The Hagin Ministries has destroyed thousands of churches that once were bastions of Biblical truth. Tens of thousands of church members have been spiritually martyred and those who have resisted have been lambasted as inferior or worse. Her judgment is coming. But, Antichrist must needs come first!

The Spirit of the Serpent has lifted his head. Pray for those caught in this web that as many as have not blasphemed the Holy Ghost may be reproved and delivered. This spiritual occult outpouring within apostate christian churches is one more huge sign of the End of the Antichrist. Remember, Antichrist can only arise as the apostasy of the church grows to its “fulness”.

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Understanding Spiritual Abuse
By M. E. Hagemann

Prologue
Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

What is Spiritual Abuse?
For our purposes, it is enough to state that spiritual abuse is “the misuse of power, position and influence for the personal gain or egotistical needs of the leader or leaders of an organization or a movement.” There are many excellent books that have been written on this subject. Spiritual abuse, rooted in hyper-authoritarianism, is not a new phenomenon, it has been a part of religious life for centuries and elements of spiritual abuse can be found across the entire spectrum of Christian and quasi-Christian faith groups. Lately, it seems that spiritual abuse is becoming more common in Charismatic churches.

Spiritual abuse is always about the misuse of power and authority. We need to make it emphatically clear, from the beginning, that God is a God of order and that within the church there has to be a healthy (mutual) submission between church members and the authority that God rises up. Having said that, it is a disturbing fact that authoritarianism and power posturing is evident in many churches. There are two reasons why it is so disturbingly common in charismatic groups.

The first is that flimsily constructed and often unbiblical teachings on authority are popular and circulate within the charismatic movement where they are seized upon by “leaders” who would seek to establish themselves as “legitimate” spiritual authorities. We must not underestimate the power of these teachings; most originate out of America and range from the views of Dr. Mark T. Barclay who would label familiarity between a pastor and his congregation as “sin” to the doctrine of “fathering” that holds sway in many charismatic churches. The fathering doctrine is based on a misunderstanding of I Corinthians 4: 15 “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Upon this simple description of the founding relationship Paul had with the Corinthian church, some dare build a teetering edifice of complicated, hierarchical relationships in the church.

Secondly, it must be noted that amongst the Charismatics, Bible scholarship is poorly established as a personal or group discipline. This is as true of charismatic church leaders as it is of individual believers in charismatic groups. Unlike the Bereans who queried and tested every word that Paul brought to them, many modern Charismatic Christians accept anything and everything that flows to them out of their Perspex pulpits. Most modern Charismatics have not read the Bible through, and too many rely upon Bible paraphrases such as The Message in their moments of Biblical reflection. Serious study and intellectual application is commonly sneered upon in charismatic circles, further complicating the situation.

Recognizing Spiritual Abuse
Spiritually abusive situations can be recognized quite readily. People involved in an abusive situation begin by feeling that generally things just don’t seem right. As they focus attention on their growing dis-ease; a typical pattern of abuse might manifest itself with one or more
symptoms much like these:

• The leader(s) will always need to have absolute control and the final authority over a ministry. If there is an eldership, it will be composed of only a few men (and women) who are chosen not according to the “leadership qualifications” (as listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13) but because they can be controlled by the “set man” and relied upon to defend all things he says and does. It is unlikely the leader will be in any meaningful relationship with people or churches outside of his group. He will avoid being held accountable by a denomination or his peers in the so called “professional ministry”. It is quite likely that the set man will justify his lack of interaction with other churches via a disapproval of their doctrines or even spiritual smugness.

• The leader or “set man” will be insecure in his calling and will likely interpret any questioning as a direct challenge to his authority. An insecure leader will need to bolster his position by “teaching” on authority in the church.

• The abusive church will exhibit a clear hierarchical structure. Despite the fact that scripture (in 1Corinthians 12:12-24) uses the analogy of the body, where all parts are knitted together, none more special than the other, and where each has a unique place, the abusive church will have a clear rank oriented hierarchy. At the top of the pyramid will be the “set man” or founding pastor the man with “the vision”. Underneath him will come another, usually a senior elder or assistant pastor, whose job it is to act as the set man’s bodyguard and “hit man”. A little lower will come the rest of the elders, and even here might be another rank split, with some within eldership being more “trusted” than others, and so permitted into the inner circle of the set man and his 2 i/c.

Underneath the elders will come the home group leaders-the last of the “ranked” members. Underneath these will come the “dumb sheep”. The 98% of any church.

• The abusive leader is deceptive. The abusive leader cannot afford to be transparent and is likely to be a master at slick speech and manipulative words. The abusive leader is not above lying or deliberately engineering circumstances to get his own way. When the abusive leader chooses to confront or discipline members, the atmosphere is typically that of a kangaroo court. Judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner are roles filled by the “set man” and maybe one of his trusted henchmen The accused will be “tried” in secret, and no reliable records kept. As the abuser lays waste to his victim, he will cover his tracks the best he can.

• The abusive leader and his cohorts will have a list of unwritten, unspoken rules. Whilst “freedom” might be preached, in reality a complex series of unwritten laws apply to “the sheep”. The sheep, of course, never know what these rules are until they have unwittingly broken one of them. Many of these unwritten rules are attempts to govern the way that sheep relate to their leaders. Thus one can be found guilty very quickly of having a “bad attitude”…

• There is little or no financial accountability in an abusive ministry. Tithing will be required of ordinary members, but despite the enormous revenues that tithing can generate in a church the church books and accounts will not be freely available for inspection. It is unlikely that annual congregational meetings will take place at which balance sheets and accounting of expenditure will be made available. The salary and benefits of the set man will be a closely guarded secret and the congregation is likely to be unaware of debt incurred on their behalf. Neither will their permission or advice be sought for placing the congregation in debt (i.e. to finance a mortgage bond on a church building).

• Abusive leaders tend to have dominating “in your face” attitudes when they choose to confront apparently errant sheep. Haughtiness and anger, instead of gentleness and a loving spirit are too often experienced by those unfortunate Christians who do not meet the tyrant’s demands or conform, as quickly as might be required. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:2-3 that “the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” [emphasis added]. Persons on the receiving of tongue lashings from abusive leaders are demeaned, humiliated and systemically broken down by leaders with haughty attitudes who rail, uncontrolled and unchecked, against a fellow brother in Christ.

• The abusive leader is somewhat paranoid. He will compound this paranoia by a reluctance to keep written records or minutes of meetings etc., This further fuels communication problems as he will get vital information mixed up and confused as the net closes in.

• The abusive leader loves things and uses people. One of the hallmarks of an abusive church is how many people have left the group because they could no longer stand being used and manipulated.

• The abusive leader or religious system works very hard at creating and maintaining a superlative image-spectacular programs, public ministrie s etc,. There will likely be church schools, feeding programs, youth groups, bands and outreach ministries that are spectacular in nature. Look carefully at them; do they reflect back on the glory of Jesus Christ or are these monuments to the group leader.

• There is likely to be a noticeable discrepancy between the “vision statement” and the actual state of the ministry’s various programs. Thus churches with a declared aim of moving into a certain region or area, are unlikely to have done so in any meaningful way.

• Performance based approval is heavily promoted. Apart from the fact that performance is the opposite of God’s grace, many charismatic groups are quite open about their requirement for members to “perform” or demonstrate their commitment. A South African independent charismatic fellowship published a positional paper that included this statement “to function in the gifts and calling of God (true riches) we must prove ourselves faithful in that which belongs to another (whether God or man)”. Quite often this performance is linked to indeterminate time spent in menial “service” (cleaning toilets) for example. Quite often, too, abusive leaders will have the uncanny knack of honing in on a member’s God-given gifts and talents and specifically excluding them from service that utilizes those gifts. An example would be a talented musician who may not play on the music team until he has shuffled a few thousand seats around a hall for a year or two.

Abusive ministries are notorious wasters of talent.
• An over-reliance on untested prophecy and “words of knowledge” in deciding the direction of a ministry or program within the church.

• Any occurrence of teaching or practice that has the effect of watering down or nullifying an individual’s ability to hear God for himself. Specifically ordinary church members might be required to “submit” for approval any ideas, even decisions of a personal nature, that they might have or believe that God is guiding them into. Scripture warns us that is safety in the counsel of numbers, but it is a fine line between getting a second opinion and being told what one may or may not do.

• People who choose to leave the group will do so under a cloud. They will not be released with love or any kind of public farewell usually. There will likely be shame or slander directed at them as they leave. Over time, an abusive group will have quite a collection of alumni with similar horror stories of abuse to talk about. A grossly abusive group will, of course, not be experiencing increase in membership.

• Victims of abusive churches very often manifest broken lives and crushed spiritual faith after departing a dangerous religious group. Divorce, depression, drug and alcohol addictions, family and work problems are the price of their religious addiction. This further fuels the abusive church leaders who thrive on scary stories about what happened to ‘so and so’ after he/she left the group…

The twisting of Scripture
One of the most common “tricks” employed by abusive religious groups is the out –of-context use of scripture or blatant “cut and past” of pieces of scripture to support an idea or pet doctrine that they seek to impose upon their followers. This is probably the direct result of the overall appalling standard of Biblical exegesis and theological training in charismatic circles. The normal rules of Biblical interpretation (an academic science called hermeneutics) are thrown overboard precisely because so many charismatic leaders have no theological training even worth mentioning. Whilst there are some scriptures that stand as Christian truth on their own (Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection for example) there is an exceptionally large proportion within the body of Holy Scripture that cannot be lifted out and applied willy nilly to an aspect of life. The established principals of scriptural interpretation are roughly as follows:

• What does the verse appear to say?
• What does it say in the context of surrounding verses/chapters/books of the Bible?
• What is the historical and social context of this set of Scriptures?
• How does the interpretation of this scripture change as one reads it in the original languages?

These are important issues and it is because of the sheer lack of scholarship and the smug attitudes many charismatic leaders have towards theological training, that so much hurtful rubbish is preached out of charismatic pulpits around the world. Some classical examples of scripture twisting are reviewed below. Most commonly, authoritarian leaders will use 1 Chronicles 16:22 (or its parallel Psalm 105:12-15 to justify stifling any criticism directed at leaders. This scripture says quite clearly (or so it seems):

“Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm” (NIV)

Thus any number of authoritarians will claim the divine right to do as they please. The problem is that the verse is taken completely out of context and applied to a contemporary situation that was the furthest thing from the mind of Ezra, the author. The original intention of the scripture was to record the historical fathers of the historical facts of God’s ongoing provision and guidance of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the historical fathers of the Hebrews/Israelites). Thus when we read the verse in Biblical context it becomes very different in character and meaning to that which modern authoritarians would have it be applied:

When they [meaning the patriarchs] were but few in number, few indeed and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed non man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings; ‘Do no touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm’ 1 Chronicles 16:19-22 NIV)

Interestingly, all Christians are “God’s anointed”. A quick look at 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 describes this amazing fact:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Thus the twisted logic employed by the authoritarian wielders of 1 Chronicles 16:22,  lounders entirely on the simple fact that as Christians we are all God’s anointed…. Leadership have the God-given duty to lovingly correct; rebuke and even excommunicate brothers caught in obvious sin (e.g. fornication, drunkenness etc.,). Church discipline always has its goal the repentance and restoration of the sinner caught in scripturally defined sin, but the leader’s right of correction never, under any circumstances whatsoever, extends to the hateful scorning, slandering , humiliating, breaking down, abusing, shunning, attacking or in any way tearing down a fellow Christian.

A similarly twisted piece of Scripture is that in Hebrews 13:17
“17 Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”

This Scripture is often cited by certain political groups as Scripture justification for not resisting even the foulest and most corrupt of civilian governments. The key to understanding this scripture is that we are only required to obey authority that is legitimate and to the point that our obedience does not clash with Scripture or our consciences. When the church authorities make requirements of you that you know are not Biblically justifiable; or when church authorities stop being servants and become, instead, tyrants (thus becoming illegitimate authorities) then we are not required to obey them. David “disobeyed” Saul by fleeing from him. Jesus regularly floutedthe laws and traditions of the Jewish religious leaders. Peter and Paul bluntly told Jewish religious leaders that they would obey God before man. The principle of Hebrews 13:17 is to obey legitimate authority; but we are certainly not required to obey madmen or people who would lead us astray with their teachings.

Often people in abusive situations find themselves in situations where they need the protection of civil authority. This is when the hoary favorite of the Scripture twisters, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is flashed around with impunity.

1 When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right? 2 Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we Christians will judge angels?

So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disagreements here on earth. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why do you go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these arguments? 6 But instead, one Christian sues another—right in front of unbelievers! 7 to have such lawsuits at all is a real defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? 8 But instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your own Christian brothers and sisters.

This scripture illustrates a very important Biblical principle – that it is infinitely preferable for petty matters to be sorted out within the church. The problem here is that the sort of disputes that can arise in abusive situations are no longer petty matters of offence taken and so on.

Very often, civil or common laws have been breached and there is absolutely nothing wrong with approaching the police or the courts to prosecute and resolve such issues. A clear instance of this is seen in Acts 22:23-29 where Paul, accused by Jewish leaders of various “religious” crimes makes full use of the extraordinary benefits of being a born Roman citizen, to prevent himself from suffering an illegal beating. Further into the Book of Acts, Paul uses his legal right of appeal to Caesar in order to defend himself against the false charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders:

7 On Paul’s arrival in court, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove. 8 Paul denied the charges. “I am not guilty” he said. “I have committed no crime against the Jewish laws or the Temple or the Roman government.” 9 Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial right before be there?” 10 But Paul replied “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty. 11 If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, neither you nor anyone else has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 Festus conferred with his advisors and then replied, “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you shall go!” (Acts 25:7-12 New Living Translation)

Another Favorite of scripture twisters is 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are (NIV) This verse has been offered up countless times as justification for some of the silliest things ever done in the church – the appointment of incompetents to positions of leadership for example. Whilst this Scripture seems like a license to do weird things and get away with it, the actual intent of the Scripture is less liberal. In these words Paul is showing us that the way of the cross is so simple that anyone can understand it; that salvation is totally from God and not dependent on works that we might do.

There are other examples of Scripture twisting that we can quote, but most often the best preparation against scripture twisting is to know what the Bible has to say about leadership and how leadership should conduct itself. J. Lee Grady, in his book: What Happened to the Fire:

Rekindling the Blaze of Charismatic Renewal, writes these inspired words on the subject of leadership and authoritarianism:

The Apostle Peter laid down a set of guidelines for church eldership where he wrote his first Epistle to the early church:

To the elders amongst you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1Peter 5:1-3)

We lord over others naturally. That is the way of the way of the world. But Peter reminded the believers in Asia minor that Christ had introduced a revolutionary new approach – leadership though humility, servant hood and example. Jesus demonstrated that radical approach to leadership when He dressed like a slave and washed His disciples’ feet. When two of his closest followers entertained a lust for power, Jesus told them:

You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. No so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)

This godly method of governing, however, has not been the rule in most charismatic churches, particularly independent ones. Since the renewal blossomed in the late 1960’s, many groups that began with vibrant faith degenerated quickly into legalism and authoritarianism. Some ministry leaders have exalted themselves as kings over their own kingdoms, giving their churches or ministries the characteristics of cults [emphasis added].

When and how to escape an abusive church Many people will agonize over leaving a group they have begun to see as manipulative and abusive. No matter how bad the situation might be, the wrench of leaving threaten an impact similar to the traumas of death and divorce in the family. Some, clearly desperate to do the will of God to the end, will stick it out and justify their staying with genuine cries of: “God hasn’t told me to leave.” The only kind of logical response to this, is the single question: “Has God told you to stay”

One of the reasons why people are reluctant to leave is a misunderstanding of who owns the sheep in God’s flock. The pastor most certainly does not own the flock; they belong to God.

The passive acceptance of staying in the church where one appears to have been placed by God needs serious debunking. The Bible warns us most severely against being led astray by false teachers and false prophets. We, as Christians, have a duty to know our doctrines well and to test everything that is taught to us. We have no business sitting in churches where false teaching is tolerated.

Another aspect to consider is this: One of the major purposes behind belonging to a church group is that one can be encouraged and grow in faith and Christian maturity. If one is not being encouraged, if people are experiencing harshness instead of love; the people are marking time or regressing in their spiritual walks, then clearly something is seriously amiss with that particular group and it would be wise to consider moving “home”.

Leaving an abusive church is, however, something that only people involved can decide upon. Concerned friends and family cannot make that decision for them. The decision of whether to stay or leave must be made with the full knowledge of the consequences involved.

If you stay If you choose to stay in an abusive church, you have two options: fight for the truth or submit entirely. An abusive leadership will not allow you to pick your fights selectively, so it’s a commitment to fight for the truth (note: not fight against people) or resolution to surrender to the ways of the leaders. The option to fight is not one that is open to people who lack the stamina for a protracted battle or for people with thin skins and thinner theology. It is for the determined and mature believer only. Someone who knows how to fight error with scripture and who will not be intimidated by the posturing of leadership.

If you leave Those who choose to leave an abusive church will not find immediate relief. When David fled from Saul, he did so alone. It will be the same way if you choose to leave. No one will go with you and it is likely that friends and family still in the group will shut you out. This isolation is sometimes enough to cause people to stay in an abusive group. Furthermore, if you leave, then it is almost certain that gossip about you will circulate, at the highest levels even, gossip that is malicious and about which you can do nothing.

Is there any hope?
Recovery from spiritual abuse is a lengthy process. I am not a psychologist, but my own experience and research will lead me to believe that recovery is a sometimes lengthy process that will go through the following cycles or stages:

• Disbelief (in the initial stages one numbs out the awful reality of what is happening)
• Anger (deep and bitter anger directed at he abusers)
• Despair (a feeling of utter despair and hopelessness; people feel that recovery from the abuses they
have suffered will never occur)
• Acceptance of what has happened (an acceptance of the reality of the events, not an approval of what happened)
• Reexamination of core doctrines and beliefs (a healing process)
• Forgiveness and moving on (a decision one has to take, eventually)

My own experience was that the advice of friends etc., “put it behind you”, “don’t dwell on it” was sincere, but misguided. The person who experiences spiritual abuse has been grossly violated by people he trusted implicitly. That this has happened in the church, the one place supposed to be safe and secure, compounds the problem. The wounds inflicted reach so deep into one’s psyche that no band aid, no little prayer, no little sermon or comforting word is sufficient to undo the damage. Recover from this abuse is a process that depends on:

• A determination to recover, knowing that one has to forgive for recovery to happen
• A retelling of the story to someone who can listen empathetically. (This was absolutely vital in my case as I had to go through a process where the experience was validated, i.e. that I came to know that I did not make it up or imagine it (as my abusers told me I did!).

I am exceptionally reluctant to make the claim of PTSD for myself, but in my research, I came across the American Medical Association’s criteria for the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition is most commonly diagnosed in people who have suffered the effects of many other kinds of traumas. Listed below is an extract from a university sychology department’s web site on PTSD. I can however, identify with some of the intrusive and  voidant symptoms described in the web site article below:

While PTSD usually appears within three months of the trauma, sometimes it can surface months or even years later (APA, 1997). Psychiatrists categorize PTSD symptoms in four categories:

• Intrusive symptoms
• Avoidant symptoms
• Symptoms of hyperarousal
• Associated features

Intrusive Symptoms
The symptoms in this category are perhaps the most distinctive and readily identifiable. Here the traumatic event remains a dominating psychological experience that evokes panic, terror, grief, or despair as manifested in daytime fantasies, traumatic nightmares, and psychotic reenactments known as PTSD flashbacks (Friedman, 1996). These flashbacks are so strong that the individual thinks that he or she is actually experiencing the trauma again.

When a person has a severe flashback, he or she is in a dissociative state (APA, 1997). When this occurs, the individual may actually start to act out the incident as if he or she was experiencing the traumatic event again.

Avoidant Symptoms
Avoidance symptoms are characterized by emotional constriction or numbing—a need to void feelings, thoughts, and situation reminiscent of the trauma, a loss of normal emotional responses, or both (Long, 1997). These symptoms reflect the behavioral, cognitive, and emotional strategies used by PTSD patients to attempt to reduce their psychological response to the traumatic stimuli (Friedman, 1996).

Patients try to avoid all situations that might serve as stimuli for the traumatic event. When taken to the extreme, this may superficially resemble agoraphobia because the PTSD patient is afraid to leave the house for fear of confronting reminders of the traumatic event (Friedman. 1996).

Dissociation and psychogenic amnesia are included among avoidant/numbing symptoms by which individuals cut off conscious experience of trauma based on memories and feelings.

Because PTSD patients cannot tolerate string emotions of any kind, they perceive only the cognitive aspects of psychological experience and not the emotional aspects. This “psychic numbing” acts as an emotional anesthesia and makes meaningful interpersonal relationships extremely difficult (Friedman, 1996; Long, 1997)

Symptoms of Hyperarousal
Individuals with PTSD often act as though they were constantly threatened by the trauma that caused their illness (Long, 1997). These symptoms most closely resemble those seen in panic and generalized anxiety disorder (Friedman, 1996). Although some symptoms such as somnia and irritability are generic anxiety symptoms, hypervigilence and startle are more unique. The hypervigilence in PTSD may sometimes become so intense that it appears to be  simply paranoia. The startle reaction of PTSD patients also has neurobiological implications (see “Etiology” for more on the neurobiological causation of PTSD).

Associated Features
The person with PTSD may attempt to rid themselves of painful flashbacks, loneliness, and panic attacks by abusing alcohol and other drugs. These serve the purpose of blunting the patient’s emotions and helping them to forget their trauma. Related, a PTSD patient may also
show poor control over his impulses, increasing the risk of suicide (APA, 1997). (See  epidemiology” for statistics on drug abuse and suicide among individuals with PTSD).
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Now that you have read my article, take this self quiz below. Be honest. Where you are unsure of an answer, give your potential dangerous group the benefit of the doubt and record a “no” vote.

The “Am I A Member of A Dangerous Religious Group?” Self Quiz
A group starts with two people. And two individuals can find themselves embroiled in many of the same fundamental destructive group dynamics that large organizations fall prey to. Are you “UNDER THE INFLUENCE” of a destructive group or belief system? Find out with this:

SELF QUIZ
• Does your group discourage doubts, criticism or ideas that differ from their belief system?
Yes____No____
• Do you tend to rationalize whatever the group does even when it goes against your sense of right and wrong?
Yes___ No___
• Do you often feel exhausted from lengthy group activities, meetings and projects?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have its own unique words, cliches, slogans, chants, prayers and doctrinal
phrases that reinforce the group viewpoint?
Yes___ No___
• Are doubts viewed as a lack of faith, dedication, commitment or disloyalty?
Yes___ No___
• Have “your thoughts” become “the enemy?”
Yes___ No___
• Do you often find yourself doing more and more things in the group or because of group peer pressure that you would not have done on your own?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group publicly humiliate or criticize members?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have a system of punishments and rewards for behavior?
Yes___ No___
• Group paranoia: Does your group obsessively think other groups or people with different beliefs are out to get them?
Yes___ No___
• Does the prospect of leaving your group seem scary, difficult?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel the need to leave in secret?
Yes___ No___
• Have you been told something bad might happen if you leave?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group/belief system think they have/are the only or highest truth, or have the solution for the world’s problems?
Yes___ No___
• Are your leader’s ideas or belief system considered beyond reproach or sacred?
Yes___ No___
• Do you follow a particular individual or belief system that requires unquestioning obedience and loyalty?
Yes___ No___
• Do members of your group feel specially chosen, superior, exclusive, elite?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel the need to save or convert others to your belief system or ideology?
Yes___ No___
• Is your group secretive to outsiders about its inner workings, teachings, activities or beliefs?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group equate purity and goodness to being in your group, and impurity or evil to those outside your group?
Yes___ No___
• Do you place your group’s mission or agenda above your own goals and ideals? Do group
interests come before your own interest
Yes___ No___
• Do you find yourself thinking in a we-they, us-versus-them mind set?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group/system have a clear outside enemy?
Yes___ No___
• Do you see less and less of your family and friends who do not belong to your group or who do not subscribe to your group’s belief system?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group use frequent public testimonials, confessions, or sharings that reinforce the
group’s mission or agenda?
Yes___ No___
• Is communication within, into and out of your group controlled or censored in any manner?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group criticize, shun, abandon or demean individuals who leave the group?
Yes___ No___
• Do members seek approval or get permission from group leader(s) for personal life choices?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel pressured to attend meetings, events, lectures, seminars? And do you feel guilty if you don’t attend?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel pressured to give a portion of your income to the group, or spend money on courses,
books or special projects?
Yes___ No___
• Are the group’s financial needs more important than your own economic well-being?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group discriminate against anyone regarding race, gender, belief, or sexual  orientation?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have a totalitarian structure: a strict, top-down centralized control?
Yes___ No___
Do you wonder if you have been in a destructive group?
Yes___ No___
Do you…
…have difficulty forming new friendships and intimate relationships?
Yes___ No___
…have low self-esteem, poor self-image or loss of identity?
Yes___ No___
…have difficulty making simple decisions and choices?
Yes___ No___
…often feel depressed, anxious and nervous?
Yes___ No___
…feel isolated, lonely, guilty, cynical?
Yes___ No___
…feel like you are just now growing up, becoming a mature adult?
Yes___ No___
…have short-term memory difficulties?
Yes___ No___
…feel you have nothing to believe in?
Yes___ No___
…often feel anger and rage towards the group?
Yes___ No___
…have nightmares or unpleasant dreams?
Yes___ No___
…find it difficult or impossible to stop mental or other group ritualistic practices?
Yes___ No___

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This quiz has no scientifically predetermined number of “yes” answers to indicate a distructive group. However, answering “yes” to any of the above questions means you may need to examine your group and its influence in your life in those areas.

This quiz is copyright 1998 by John D. Goldhammer and Prometheus Books References:

This paper was written in an attempt to collate together material that I had noted or come across in a number of sources. For more information on this topic, I suggest one look at the following books:

Marc Du Pont – Walking out of Spiritual Abuse
David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen – The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
J. Lee Grady – Where’s The Fire? Rekindling the Blaze of Charismatic Renewal
Ken Blue – Healing Spiritual Abuse
Stephen Aterburn & Jack Felton – Toxic Faith
Hank Hanegraaf – Christianity in Crisis
Gene Edwards – The Tale of Three Kings

Some good web sites to begin researching this topic are:
http://www.spiritualabuse.org
http://www.discernment.org
http://www.wellspringretreat.org
http://www.testingthespirits.com
http://www.watchman.org

http://2ndchancecc.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/understandingspiritualabuse.pdf