Apologetics, In the News

Hank Hanegraaff’s Response to MSNBC’s “Mind over Mania”

Summary Critique: Mind over Mania, MSNBC, aired Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teen Mania Ministries (TMM), the youth organization founded by Ron Luce, was portrayed as a mind control cult in a November 6, 2011 MSNBC exposé titled Mind over Mania. In reality, the MSNBC piece is a case study in sophistry, sloppy journalism, and sensationalism.

In Mind over Mania, Doug and Wendy Duncan, billed as experts specializing in recovery from mind control, seek to establish the allegation that all eight criteria of Robert Jay Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China are active in the teachings and practices of TMM [1]. In reality, the anecdotal evidence they provide clearly fails to establish the outrageous brainwashing” allegations. Moreover, many of the arguments proffered against TMM could just as easily be used to establish historic Christianity as a thought reform cult. Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited. If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.

Furthermore, while it is viscerally arresting to watch sensationalistic images of teenagers gagging on organic worms, it should be noted that footage hyped ad nauseum by the MSNBC promotion machine was recorded during the heyday of NBC’s Fear Factor, a TV program that elevated consumption of worms to veritable cult status. Nonetheless, Teen Mania leadership readily acknowledges that such practices were unwise and thus have rescinded them. As well, participants were clearly warned that the ESOAL event was designed to be physically and mentally challenging and were free to end their participation at will.

Finally, on a personal note, I have been acquainted with Ron Luce and TMM for over twenty years. I have found Ron to be a passionate father, husband, and ministry leader. Indeed, I still remember how impressed I was upon initially meeting one of his daughters. Since then I have recognized him to be thoughtful, teachable, and thoroughly committed to the essentials of historic Christianity. While I strongly disagree with Ron on various secondary matters, I stand shoulder to shoulder with him on the doctrines that form the line of demarcation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the cults. It is likewise noteworthy that TMM is a member in good standing with the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) and operates under the oversight of a credible board of directors, which includes Paul Nelson, former director of ECFA [2].

—Hank Hanegraaff

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute, host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, and author of many bestselling books, including Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century.


1. The following are Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as presented in Mind over Mania:

Milieu Control. Control of information and communication from without and within the group environment resulting in isolation.

Mystical Manipulation. The claim of divine authority or spiritual advancement that allows the leader toreinterpret events as he wishes.

Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and group members are constantly exhorted to strive for perfection.

The Cult of Confession. Serious sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either privately to a personal monitor or publicly to the group at large.

The “Sacred Science.” The doctrine of the group is considered to be the ultimate truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.

Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.

Doctrine over Person. The personal experiences of the group members are subordinated to the Truth held by the group.

Dispensing of Existence. Those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” and they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost.

2. See http://www.ecfa.org, http://www.teenmania.com/finances/, and http://www.teenmania.com/staff/.

Apologetics, In the News

Myths and Truths about Mormonism

Mormon journalist Joanna Brooks recently published an op-ed piece for the Washington Post entitled “Five Myths about Mormonism.” What Brooks purports to be myths are, for the most part, facts spun in favor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

The idea that “Mormons aren’t Christian” is for Brooks a myth, who contends millions of members of the LDS pray in the name of Jesus Christ, receive “a bread-and-water sacrament memorializing the body and blood of Christ,” and discuss Christ’s teachings in Sunday school. In her youth, she remembers being accused of belonging to a “cult,” knowing about “anti-Mormon films” being screened at local churches, and receiving “anti-Mormon notes” taped to her school locker. But she resolves, “Ask my Jewish husband if he thinks his Christmas-celebrating, New Testament-reading Mormon wife is Christian, and his answer will be absolutely yes.”

Here it is important for discerning Christians to scale the language barrier. Mormonism uses Christian terms like “Jesus Christ,” but twists them with a theologically cultic redefinition. It is important to remember that Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that all churches were wrong and all their creeds an abomination. In 1839, Smith purported seeing an angel named Moroni and receiving new divine revelation on gold plates written in “reformed Egyptian,” out of which came the Book of Mormon. Smith and other Mormon prophets received further revelations, which were then codified in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Yet, it does not stop with this “quad” of books, and Mormon prophets continually purport to receive new divine revelations. From these new extra-biblical revelations, the Mormon learns that God was once a man who progressed to godhood [1] and that people can likewise progress to godhood [2]. They also learn that the polygamous “Heavenly Father” has many wives who are collectively called “Heavenly Mother” [3]. They moreover learn that Jesus was the child of the sexual union between God the Father and Mary [4] and is the spirit brother of Lucifer [5]. Mormons, moreover, reject the essential Christian doctrines of the Trinity [6], original sin [7], and salvation by grace through faith [8]. These beliefs distinguish Mormonism as a pseudo-Christian cult (see “The Basics of Mormonism,” “A Different Jesus? Worse: A Different God, Gospel and Faith,” “Is Jesus Christ the Spirit Brother of Satan?Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine Part 1, Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine Part 2 and “Philosophical Problems with the Mormon Concept Of God”).

There may be a grain of truth to what Brooks’ labels as myths, such as “Mormons practice polygamy,” “Mormon women are second-class citizens,” and “most Mormons are white, English-speaking conservatives.”

Brooks also correctly points out that polygamy was practiced by Mormons, that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, that due to “political pressure” the LDS “phased out the practice,” that mainstream Mormons anticipate polygamy in the afterlife (the Mormon Millennial Kingdom), and that there are fringe Mormon “splinter-groups” maintaining the practice. Nevertheless, the Bible condemns polygamy on either side of eternity (see “Does the Bible Promote Polygamy?”).

The belief of a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother on the surface appears egalitarian; however, as mentioned above, the Mormon belief is in a polygamous Heavenly Father with many wives who are spoken of collectively as “Heavenly Mother.” One can even make the case that women are not really liberated in polygamous societies; rather, it is the uniquely Christian idea of monogamy coupled with the sexual ethics of the Bible that became a social structure contributing to the empowerment of women.

Mormonism even has a worldwide presence with converts from many different people groups; however, this is in spite of the fact that the LDS has through the years struggled with doctrines promoting discrimination and inequality, such as black skin being a curse on account of being less valiant people in their preexistence, and the former banning of blacks from the priesthood (see “LDS Church Acknowledges Anniversary’s Ban on Priesthood for Blacks”).

There are certainly a number of Mormons in public office, including Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney (R) and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), but also others including Senator Harry Reid (D). Brooks, however, considers the idea that “a Mormon president would blur the line between church and state” to be a myth and even notes that “for 2012, the church has asserted its neutrality and instructed employees and officers not to donate to, endorse or campaign for any candidate.” Still, it would be a mistake to think the religious beliefs of civic leaders have no influence on the policies they make, albeit a creed or confession is not a “deal breaker” when it comes to voting for a political candidate (see Is it Permissible for a Christian to Vote for a Mormon?).

— Warren Nozaki, Research

For further insights into the doctrinal errors of Mormonism, please consider Hank Hanegraaff’s latest resource Memorable Keys to the M-O-R-M-O-N Mirage

The following resources are also available through the CRI bookstore:

Mormonism 101

The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon

DNA vs. The Book of Mormon

Lifting The Veil Of Polygamy

Mormonism’s Greatest Problems Package


  1. The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Book Company, 1979), 345.
  2. Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City, UT: 1958), 104.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), 516.
  4. McConkie, 546-547, 742; Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington, DC: n.p., 1853-54), 158-59; Brigham Young, Desert News, October 10, 1866; Ezra Taft Benson, The Teaching of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 7.
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, 1992), 17–19.
  6. The Mormon belief is polytheistic, seeing a plurality of gods from the beginning, and the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate gods, as opposed to the Christian concept of the Trinity, which is there is one God who is revealed in three in coequal coeternal persons (cf. Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. 6. [Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Books, 1978] 473–479)
  7. cf. McConkie, 550; James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, 1982), 476.
  8. cf. 2 Nephi 25:23; According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “to enter the celestial kingdom and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept” (Joseph Felding Smith, The Way of Perfection [Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Book Company, 1970], 206).
Apologetics, In the News, Journal Topics

Last Dance-Chaz Bono and Dancing with the Stars

I’ll miss Dancing with the Stars. Watching it was a weekly family ritual everyone in our home looked forward to, so our decision to stop leaves a void. It’s not a decision made out of moral piety because, after all, plenty of performers on that show have behaved in less than saintly ways, and don’t even get me started on some of the costumes! Nor am I afraid that, as a noted psychiatrist recently warned, young people will become gender confused by viewing a transsexual. (After all, the transsexual in question saw plenty of non-transsexuals as a child, which tells me gender identity isn’t seen then mimicked) And it’s not, as some have stupidly said, an act of prejudice or hatred to stop watching DWTS because of Chaz Bono’s participation. For the last time, disagreement and hatred are two hugely different experiences that ought never to be confused.

No, it’s more than that. I feel that I, along with the rest of the country, am being asked to celebrate a female in a specifically male role. If Chaz was simply a guest on a cooking show, or talk show, then no big deal. But Bono is assuming an officially male role in Dancing, which I as a viewer am asked to applaud. Strike that – I as a Christian am being asked to applaud it. And that I cannot do.

My Creator looked on the His newly formed man and made His first critical remark about humanity – that it wasn’t good for man to be unbonded, unattached, alone. (Genesis chapters 1 and 2) The Female was then specifically and deliberately made for completion of the male, and the contrast between the two was as intentional as their very creation. And if, as God noted to Jeremiah, we are known from the womb (Jeremiah 1:5) then the sex we’re born with is assigned, not optional. Our subjective experience cannot overrule created intent, and I can’t in good conscience applaud, however well intended, attempts to change what was divinely decreed.

Yes, a person must indeed feel an enormous pull towards becoming the opposite sex if such a person goes through the time, effort and financial sacrifice to attempt a sex change operation. Some accept the outcomes of these operations as valid, but some, myself included, see them only as cosmetic attempts that disfigure (without changing) the original. So I can respect how strongly Chaz must have felt the need to be male, else why go through so much to achieve the goal? But herein lies the problem: If someone says they feel are one thing, yet their physical, verifiable state testifies to something else, are we really so wrong in assuming that the problem is not their physical status, but rather their feeling? To put it crudely, if I say I feel like Napoleon Bonaparte, yet my physical status clearly says I’m not, is it really fair to expect you to go along with my feelings and ignore what’s plain to both sight and common sense?

I don’t think so. And that’s why this season is the last dance for me and my house. I wish Bono the best, who I’m sure doesn’t share my worldview and therefore shouldn’t be expected to conform to it. But nor can I conform to Chaz’s, so I politely and respectfully withdraw.

I’ll sure miss Bruno’s rants, though. Nobody can do enthusiasm like that guy.

Joe Dallas is the program director of Genesis Counseling in Tustin, California, a Christian counseling service to men dealing with sexual addiction, homosexuality, and other sexual/relational problems. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is the author of books on human sexuality, including Desires in Conflict (Harvest House, 1991) and A Strong Delusion (Harvest House, 1996). For a more detailed article by Joe Dallas on transsexualsim, see his article “The Transsexual Dilemma” from the Christian Research Journal at http://www.equip.org/articles/the-transsexual-dilemma. The Christian Research Journal is a must-have tool in your apologetics library so please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).

In the News

Literal Interpretations and Reading the Bible for all Its Worth

Dave Lose, author of Making Sense of Scripture, and Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, recently contributed to the Huffington Post an article entitled “4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally.” I took an interest in reading the article, as the biblical writers utilized figures of speech (e.g. hyperbole; metonymy; synecdoche), and that there are instances when “Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water.”

A positive point made by Lose is that the Bible does not idealize humanity, but includes all of our warts and wrinkles. Abraham passed on of his wife twice, Moses murdered, David committed adultery, and Peter denied the Lord. “Whatever their accomplishments,” writes Lose, “most of the ‘heroes of the faith’ are complicated persons with feet of clay. And that’s the point: the God of the Bible regularly uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.” Problems also abound with Lose’ article, as the bulk of it is a disappointing criticism Bible inerrancy.

According to Lose, “There is no hint that the authors of the Bible imagined that what they were writing was somehow supernaturally guaranteed to be factually accurate.” Elsewhere in the article he asserts, “Earlier Christians—along with almost everyone else who lived prior to the advent of modernity—simply didn’t imagine that for something to be true it had to be factually accurate, a concern only advanced after the Enlightenment.” Yet, this makes no sense. If God has spoken to us through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, then it can be deduced that the information communicated would be without error. Common to each of the Gospel is teaching on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; yet, if this teaching is not factually accurate, then the theology is also good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. Paul gets it when in stating: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Inerrancy does matter!

What are the so-called “errors” of Lose? One is Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, which the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke record towards the end of Christ’s ministry in contrast to John who places it at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. It is true that the wooden literalist, whether liberal or conservative, stumbles when coming to grips with the chronology of the Gospel writers, the issue is not the four Gospels contain factual errors; rather, the Bible student is to be sensitive to the literary structures inherent within the biblical text noting the unique ways the Gospel writers under the inspiration of the Spirit constructed their account. There is no contradiction with “Christ’s Cleansing of the Temple.” Lose also makes a fuss about the crucifixion occurring on the Passover in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but on “the Day of Preparation” in John. This is simply making a mountain out of a molehill, and John’s “Day of Preparation” is simply a reference to the Passover week. D. A. Carson writes, “ ‘Passover’ can refer to the Passover meal, the day of the Passover meal, or (as in this case) the entire Passover week (i.e. Passover day plus the immediately ensuing Feast of Unleavened Bread” [1].

Lose’s assertion that “Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally” is correct in so far as it means the wooden literalist interpretation of fundamentalist on the left and on the right only came about in the last hundred and fifty years; however, the allegorical interpretation associated with Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine and other early church fathers can likewise be considered problematic. It is really through the historical grammatical interpretive method that we can come to grips with the intended message communicated through the text.

God has spoken and, while fallible human agents were used to compose the message, these prophets and apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that what was produced was the infallible Word of God. The task of the Bible student is to read God’s Word and using sound principles of hermeneutics, which is the art and science of biblical interpretation, draw out its intended message. For further study on this subject, Has God Spoken by Hank Hanegraaff is highly recommended.

— Warren Nozaki


1. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 604.

In the News, Journal Topics

Christian Discernment in Response to the Norwegian Massacre

Over the weekend CNN reported Anders Behrig Brevik, the suspect accused of massacring dozens of youth at a Norway retreat center, returned to the scene of the shooting as part of a police investigation. As many can recall, numerous mainstream media (MSM) news sources began reporting that on Friday, July 22, 2011, there was a bombing of government offices in Oslo, Norway, and a connected shooting at a youth summer camp on Utoya Island, which left seventy-seven people dead. [1] The person who confessed to carrying out the attacks being the thirty-two-year-old Norwegian named Anders Behrig Breivik, who was arrested on the same day. [2] MSM sources such as CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times describe Breivik as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” opposed to multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to Norway. Even “Christian” news sources like The Christian Post recapitulated the “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” label to describe Breivek.

Christ’s followers can certainly mourn with those who mourn over this tragedy; however, when mass murderers are labeled “right-wing fundamentalist Christian,” all are encouraged to use discernment in determining truth from error. One must ask, “Just what is a right-wing fundamentalist Christian?” The term right-wing has broad connotations, and it can be used in reference to views expressed in biblical Christianity as well as unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies such as those associated with militant extremist groups like Christian Identity and America’s Patriot Movement. As news reports continue to update the situation, one finds Breivik’s views are more akin to the latter than the former.

CNN offered readers’ comments on the question: “Should Breivik be called a Christian fundamentalist?” In a Washington Post op-ed piece entitled “When Christianity becomes lethal,” Susan Brooks Thislethwaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, finds the term Christian fundamentalism to be “less helpful today in understanding right-wing Christianity,” but laments that “Christians are often reluctant to see…connections their religion and extreme violence.” The distinction between biblical Christianity and unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies is simply indiscernible in her article.

Biblical Christianity has good reason to reject multiculturalism’s moral relativism and liberal intolerance. Scripture also teaches Jesus is the only way; however, this truth claim is certainly not the grounds for any evil done in Christ’s name, and criticisms on the purported biblical justification of holy wars and divine genocide simply hold no water.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17, ESV)

—Warren Nozaki


  1. CNN Wire Staff, “Norway Honors Victims of Terrorist Attacks,” http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/29/norway.attacks/index.html?iref=allsearch
  2. Cf. CNN Wire Staff, “Timeline: Recounting Norway’s three-hour nightmare,” http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/24/norway.terror.timeline/index.html?iref=allsearch
Apologetics, In the News

The Fact and Fiction of Bruce Chilton’s Mary Magdalene

Last week for the Huffington Post, Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell professor of religion at Bard College, offered a synopsis of his book Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday, 2006). Chilton explains that Mary was a common name, which is why the biblical character was associated with a place called Magdala, so that she would not be confused with the other women with the same name. He points out that Jesus’ statement about the tax collectors and prostitutes having a better chance at getting into heaven before the chief priest and elders (Matt. 21:27) has led some to conclude Mary Magdalene worked the oldest profession (albeit the idea stretches credulity beyond the breaking point).

Chilton also mentions legends about the biblical character, such as her sailing on a rudderless ship to France, levitating while she prayed, being Jesus’ concubine according to the Cathars, or having sexual relations with Jesus and conceiving a child, as depicted in faked parchments produced by Pierre Plantard after World War II, which became subject to the popular fiction The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Please seeMary Magdalene’s Modern Makeover and The Da Vinci Code: Revisiting a Cracked Conspiracy” by James Patrick Holding.

Chilton believes Mary Magdalene was the one whom the Lord exorcised demons out of, and identifies her with the women who anointed the Lord at the end of His ministry in Mark 14. There is nothing problematic with these assertions per se; however, red flags are raised with Chilton’s statements about Mary’s encounter with the resurrected Lord being merely a vision. “Mary Magdalene’s vision, precisely because it was a vision in the earliest account (Mark 16) and not the inspection of an empty tomb, placed Jesus in the realm of heaven,” writes Chilton.

The idea of Mary Magdalene having a visionary experience of the risen Lord does not really pan out, particularly in light of the many other eye witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. Paul Maire notes, “The ‘psychological’ or ‘hallucination’ theory would be attractive if only one person had claimed to see a vision of the risen Christ, perhaps Mary Magdalene, who formerly may have had psychological problems anyway. But the disciples were a hardheaded and hardly hallucinable group, especially Thomas. And, if sources have any validity, there would have to have collective hallucinations for different groups of up to five hundred in size, all of them seeing the same thing—a virtual impossibility in the case of a phenomenon that is usually extremely individualistic.”[1] (Please see, “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION The Recent Revival of Theories” by Gary Habermas.) Warren Nozaki, Research

For further study, please consider the following bookstore resources:

In The Fullness of Time


The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ


1. Paul L. Maier, In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1997), 196.

In the News

Do Ministers Like Joel Osteen and Charles Finney Help or Hinder the Church?

Charles Finney?

Daniel Harrell, Senior Minister at Colonial Church, in Edina, Minnesota, wrote a column for Patheos.com entitled, “Meet Joel Osteen’s Forefather, Charles Finney,” offering a general portrait of the nineteenth-century revivalist preacher, and highlighting certain parallels with the twenty-first century Word-Faith televangelist. For example, just as Osteen markets his ministry for the masses, investing $95 million to renovate the Compaq Center into a modern evangelical church without crosses, stained glass, and religious iconography, but with a café, wireless Internet access, videogames, and a vault for tithes, Finney similarly used theatrical preaching, introduced the altar call (perhaps to recruit new converts to assist in his anti-slavery campaign), called sinners out by name, prayed in “colloquial language,” which many considered “vulgar” at the time, and utilized publicity and mass media to promote nightly meetings.
Finney’s ideas, according to Harrell, were derived from a commitment to natural theology. Seeing that God endowed humans with rational faculties, the nineteenth-century preacher believed God could be known through human reason, volition, and ability; yet, Finney also found the doctrines of total depravity and original sin senseless, and taught that one could attain perfect sanctification. Harrell is right to point out “Finney’s take is not the Biblical gospel of grace.” Finney simply took human freedom to an unbiblical extreme, and the idea of Christian perfectionism is simply an error.
Harrell, having mentioned Finney in a sermon, received an apoplectic e-mail from a church elder complaining that the nineteenth-century preacher was responsible for much of what is wrong with American Christianity, to which Harrell agreed in part; yet finds “heirs such as Lakewood’s Joel Osteen, while at times terribly misleading and deserving of critique, are also the very messengers through whom thousands upon thousands of people first consider the possibility that they matter to God.”
It is true that people need to know they matter to God; however, can the message of Joel Osteen direct them to the God who cares? Osteen is in reality a new generation of Word-Faith teachers who teach a theologically aberrant prosperity gospel. Just as Word-Faith luminaries like Essek William Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn propagate the idea that faith is a force, words are containers of the force, and through the force of faith man can speak into existence their health and wealth, Osteen likewise teaches, “Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. And there is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and you seeing God’s favor manifest in your life. And some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You’re living a holy consecrated life but you’re not really experiencing God’s supernatural favor and it’s simply because you’re not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.” [1]
Harrell appeals to the principle of becoming all things to all people in 1 Corinthians 9 as justification for starting a contemporary worship service at his church, but also values Finney, Osteen, and other megachurch ministries as examples of ministers following the same principle. Is this what Paul really had in mind? Yes, a church designed like a popular entertainment venue or shopping mall with a practical life lesson delivered by a proficient orator attracts crowds, but is that really why believers gather together to worship? Who is the object of worship?
Are crowds really the “proof”? Many flock to so-called revival meetings to witness so-called signs and wonders performed by revivalists like C. Peter Wagner, Kim Clement, Bill Hamon, Bob Jones, Rick Joyner,and other associated with Joel’s Army, a part of the latter rain movement that believes the church is presently experiencing an end time restoration of super apostles and prophets; however, what they are really getting is spiritual counterfeit, which utilizes hypnosis to produce altered states of consciousness to induce bizarre behaviors like being slain in the spirit, or sardonic laughter. One can even argue that the hypnosis, altered states of consciousness, and induced bizarre behaviors were at one time relegated to the occult mystical practices associated with Hindu gurus and their ashrams, but now have entered into the church by the rock star like revival preachers. Some churches may attract the crowds, but are we witnessing the transformative work of the Spirit, or simply reproducing Counterfeit Revival?
—Warren Nozaki
Christianity in Crisis 21st Century (B995/$22.99) by Hank Hanegraaff further expounds on the problems on the problems with the Word-Faith movement, and Joel Osteen in particular.
Counterfeit Revival (B614/$12.99) by Hank Hanegraaff examines false revivals led by teachers purporting an end time restoration of super apostles and prophets manifested in bizarre signs and wonders such as being slain in the spirit and sardonic laughter.
1. Discover the Champion in You, Trinity Broadcasting Network, May 12, 2003. Cf. “Promoting the Gospel of Self-Esteem,” and “Osteen’s ‘Gospel-Light’ Message” by Bob Hunter.
In the News, Reviews

Atheism Will Doom Britain, but Does It Have to Be this Way?

In an op-ed piece for The Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach laments “Godlessness has doomed Britain,” since “Atheism equals nihilism, neither of which are fertile ground for a national resurgence.” The logic of this is impeccable. Boteach points out that Britain’s greatest exports on the subject of religion are from thinkers who despise religion, such as Richard Dawkins who “compared religion to child abuse,” and Christopher Hitchens, who “titled his 2007 book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He also observes that whereas 92 percent of Americans believe in God, according to Britain’s National Center for Social Research, only 35 percent in Britain, and 43 percent declare no religion.

One can also point out that the militant approach of New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens carries a strong rhetorical sway, and their arguments on the surface appear convincing. It is only when one examines them closely under the light of truth that one realizes none of them hold any water. (See “Village Atheists with Vengeance.”)

Boteach finds that there is nothing comparable in Britain to American megachurch pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and reasons that in the latter there is no official state church with religion being entrepreneurial, in the sense that “religion lives and dies in America like a commercial enterprise.” Pastors who “excite” with “uplifting and relevant” messages will fill pews, and those who do not will have empty pews. He also attributes “religious fervor” to the growth of America, “from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth,” whereas British influence has waned in the past century with “militant atheism” being “a key reason.” His explanation is that “atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is accidental.”

The endgame of belief in a purely material universe that came about by random chance through the Darwinian Evolutionary process with its survival of the fittest and extinction of the inferior is nihilism. Boteach is certainly on target.

Whie it is generally true that “religious fervor” is a contributing factor to the growth and expansion of the United States, it is not “relevant” preaching that forms foundations of innovation and progress. One can argue that an attempt to be relevant makes for irrelevance (see “How Relevant Is Relevance?”). While Joel Osteen does have mass appeal, his overall message can be considered a “Gospel of Self-Esteem” or “Gospel-Light.” Whether or not his name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel can provide spiritual foundations for lasting social transformation is doubtful.

To be more precise, one can make the case that the Bible has been the spiritual source underlying progress in Western Civilization. Vishal Mangalwadi, in his lecture series entitled “Must the Sun Set on the West,” makes a compelling case that the sun is setting on the West because the West has severed itself from the source of its greatness, the Bible; however, the sun need not set on the West, because people can still return to the source of their greatness. Ultimately, it is from minds deeply influenced by the truth of Scripture that have gone on to make innovations that ultimately transformed the West. How Christianity Changed the World also explores the way Christianity inspired the highest achievements in Western civilization from its humble beginnings.

— Warren Nozaki

For further related study, please access the following:

“Christopher Hitchens’s Sledgehammer Rhetoric” (Douglas Groothuis reviews God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens)

“The Cook’s Tale: A Naturalist’s Quest for the Ingredients of Life” (Angus Menuge reviews The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins)

“Darwin’s Rottweiler: Fierce Barks, Feeble Bites” (Doug Groothuis reviews The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins)

“Dawkin’s and Darwin’s Three-Ring Circus” (Jonathan Wells reviews The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins)

“Can Morality Be Based in Our ‘Selfish’ Evolutionary Past?

Please also consider the following bookstore resources:


The Book that Made Your World B1044/$22.99

Apologetics, In the News

Modern Medical Technologies, Abortion, and the Gendercide of Baby Girls

The Wall Street Journal bookshelf recently posted a review entitled “The War Against Girls,” wherein Jonathan V. Last offers chilling facts about the unequal ratio of aborted female babies over males worldwide, which is the general thesis of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (New York: Public Affairs, 2011) by Mara Hvistendahl. Whereas natural ratios in birth are 105 boys to 100 girls, with 104 to 106 being in the normal range, Hvistendahl observes certain countries fall out of the natural window. China, for example, has a ratio of 112 boys to 100 girls with some towns over the 150 mark; Azerbaijan is at 115, Georgia at 118, and Armenia at 120. Last notes, “Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons.”

Hvistendahl explains that the increased availability of new medical technologies (e.g. amniocentesis, MRI scanners, ultrasounds, etc.) has made it much easier for a person to know the sex of their child, and decide to abort on the basis of a preferred sex. Surprisingly, the decision to abort baby girls is made by women, either mothers or sometimes mothers-in-law. Socio-cultural-economic reasons also play into the decision—it is cheaper to pay for a sex test than a dowry. The unequal and unnatural ratio of more males to females, according to Hvistendahl, potentially leads to other social ills, such as increased crime, inflated dowry price, and even greater demands in the mail-order bride industry. Nevertheless, Hvistendahl remains pro-abortion, and fears unless the unnatural selection of female abortions is addressed the “worst nightmare” of feminism could come about—a ban on abortions on the basis of gendercide.

Why should Hvistendah see the ban on abortions the “worst nightmare”? If the ratios of aborted fetuses were more identical to what occurs naturally would that justify killing girls and boys inside the womb? Is not the pro-choice rhetoric resounding so vividly in the United States that abortion liberates women with full body autonomy the real farce? Is this really not a misunderstanding true human dignity? In this instance, medical technology and abortion become the means for people with a skewed sense of their own human dignity—namely the idea that it is more valuable to have a boy than a girl in this world—to essentially carryout the unnatural gendercide of baby girls. The real question is where can people rediscover their own human dignity? Is not the biblical teaching on the imago Dei (the image of God in humanity spoken of in Genesis 1:27) the foundation to the sanctity of human life, the equality of the sexes, and key to our understanding of human dignity?

— Warren Nozaki, Research

For further study, please access the following:

Annihilating Abortion Arguments

Suffer the Violinist: Why the Pro-Abortion Argument from Bodily Autonomy Fails

The Shifting Focus in the Abortion Debate: Does the Humanity of the Unborn Matter Anymore?

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 1)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 2)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 3)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 4)

Also recommended is the following bookstore package:

Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-life Persuasion Audio CD Package

Apologetics, In the News

Can We Consider the Physician-Assisted Suicide of “Doctor Death” Jack Kevorkian a “Good Death”?

Jack KevorkianJack Kevorkian, who had been dubbed the moniker “Doctor Death” for his pro-euthanasia views and activism, died without assistance on June 3, 2011, at the age of 83. During the 1980s and 1990s, Kevorkian published articles on physician-assisted deaths; invented devices for suicide, such as the DIY Thanatron “death machine” and the Mercitron “mercy machine”; and even assisted 130 people to end their own lives. In 1998 he was tried and convicted for the “second-degree” murder of Thomas Youk, and imprisoned until his parole in 2007. In an article for Slate entitled, “Life after Kevorkian: He Fought for the Right to Assisted Suicide. Now What Should We do?” William Saletan praises Kevorkian as a person who “fought for the right to assisted suicide.” Yet not everyone would agree. Pointing out the dark side of Kervorkian’s career, in a blog for The Telegraph entitled, “Jack Kevorkian’s Horrible Career Offers a Warning Against Legalising Euthanasia,” Tim Stanley points to the facts that “some patients died in the back of Kevorkian’s van. The gassing procedure didn’t always go smoothly, leading to unnecessary suffering and panic. Dead bodies were left behind in motels, sometimes two at a time” and that “Kevorkian was not trained as a psychiatrist and made judgment calls about people’s mental state that were subjective.”

The issue of physician-assisted suicide is not dead. For example, euthanasia is explored in the popular television series House in an episode entitled “The Dig.” Dr. Remy Hadley “Thirteen” (Olivia Wilde), who suffers from Huntington’s chorea, shares about her own dark secret of euthanizing her own brother who had suffered from the same nerve-degenerating disease at a more advanced stage. Her greatest fear, however, is over the fact that when her time comes, there will be no one for her. After uncovering Thirteen’s secret, the brash nihilistic diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) says that he would kill her when the time comes.

Is the idea of a “quality of life” a good way of determining whether or not a person can commit suicide? How does idea of “quality of life” square with the biblical teaching on the image of God in man, which implies humans have intrinsic worth and value in spite of their circumstances? How is the Christian to think about euthanasia?

Is euthanasia ever permissible?

Kevorkian: A Glimpse Into The Future Of Euthanasia?

The Euthanasia Debate (Part 1): Understanding the Issues

The Euthanasia Debate (Part 2): Assessing the Options

Did Early Christians “Lust After Death”? A New Wrinkle in the Doctor-Assisted Suicide Debate

— Warren Nozaki, Research