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Bad Theology

button Berean Bible Society
This Web site is home of the Berean Searchlight, the foremost ultradispensationalist journal since 1940. This group was founded by Cornelius Stam and J. C. O'Hair, two Chicago-area ultradispensationalists whose ministries peaked in the '40s and '50s respectively. Their distinctive teaching is that the apostle Paul inaugurated a new dispensation of grace, unveiling a brand-new gospel and (according to some) a whole new way of salvation. Paul's teaching is thus set against the rest of the New Testament and interpreted in a way that renders most of Jesus' teaching utterly irrelevant to the present age. Thus the Word of God is mangled in the name of Bereanism. Though no longer the force it was in the mid-20th century, this organization has stayed alive by adopting the cultish strategy of targeting untaught lay people to whom this bizarre hermeneutical approach (buttressed with selective proof-texting) appears deep and sophisticated.

buttonThe Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Steve Amato (who maintains this site) has always struggled with the doctrine of original sin. In the 1990s, he was peddling rank Pelagianism in various on-line theological forums. What he's teaching nowadays looks more like a do-it-yourself variety of semi-Pelagianism. It's not really clear whether Steve has finally nailed down a position he's going to stick with, but he clearly has no taste for the truth that Adam's sin left us all guilty and condemned (Romans 5:18). Steve has modified virtually every aspect of soteriology—original sin, grace, election, faith, sanctification, etc.—to fit his conviction that salvation ultimately hinges on human free will rather than divine grace. This is classic home-brew theology, making up its own definitions on the fly and devising novel explanations for vital points of theology as the situation demands. Along the way, Steve Amato takes a few humorous potshots at Calvinism in general and John Calvin in particular. Interesting stuff, but not to be taken seriously.

button Berean Grace Church
A well-designed Web site, presented with a sense of humor—but watch out for the doctrinal poison. This church's doctrinal distinctives include King-James-Onlyism and "Pauline dispensationalism" (ultradispensationalism). See notes on the Berean Bible Society (above). Bad theology in a pleasing package.

button The Bible Believers' Home Page
Some of the articles and arguments at this site have improved ever-so-slightly since I first linked to it, but it's still a fertile source of bad theology on almost every page. The site obsessively defends a strain of KJV-onlyism which insists that the King James Version of the Bible is as flawlessly inerrant as the Bible's original God-breathed manuscripts. For example, an article here states. "The original autographs were inspired. The King James Bible is those same autographs preserved up to today." That statement is laughable nonsense, because "original autographs" are by definition neither copies nor translations, but the original text on its original parchments. No reasonable or sensible person wishing to make an honest argument would claim that the autographs themselves are "preserved" in the KJV or any other translation. What the writer apparently wants to claim is that the KJV is a letter-perfect, inerrant translation—and yet he is backing away from the indefensible position of those who insist the KJV is inspired. This sort of twisted theology results from imbibing a steady diet of camels while obsessively straining out gnats. For a good antidote, see James White's page of KJV-only resources.

button Bible Believer's Resource Page
An uneven collection of articles—some exposing errors, some actually attacking sound doctrine. Kelly Condron maintains the site, which takes a militantly separatistic, quasi-Arminian, shallowly-fundamentalist point of view. The tone and depth of several of the articles leave much to be desired. If you're looking for cross-eyed and severely myopic leaders of the blind, this is the place.

button Blessed Quietness Journal
Steve Van Nattan's Web site—formerly "Balaam's Ass Speaks." The name change seems to have signalled a slight mellowing in the tone and content of this fundamentalist "journal." But don't expect too much. Steve has a hard time toning it down, it seems. Almost everything here will jar your sensibilities in one way or another—from the annoying flamenco music which (at this writing) plays in the background on the front page, to the endless variety of more or less lowbrow anecdotes and illustrations. (For a classic example of the kind of thing I'm talking about, don't miss "Donkey Dung.")
    Incidentally, you might want to mute your sound before visiting, because background music comes up on most pages. You can turn off the noise one page at a time, but you have to look for the imbedded-player buttons, and if you return to any page you've already visited, you'll have to shoot the piano player again. Steve's musical tastes seem to run to fundamentalist piano tunes with a honkey-tonk rhythm and style. (He tunes and repairs pianos professionally, so you'll find links to some interesting DIY info on piano maintenance on the side.)
    I've had this site listed in the "bad" category for nearly a decade with a two-sentence annotation that gave practically no rationale for classifying it as "bad." (In the earlier days of "Balaam's Ass Speaks," no explanation seemed necessary.) Aside from that notation, I don't think I have ever mentioned Steve or his website. Yet Steve lists me as one of his "adversaries," and has some characteristically colorful things to say about me. He's a rather eccentric fundamentalist who (ironically) has little appreciation for fundamentalist preachers. He dogmatically affirms KJV-onlyism, fiercely opposes Calvinism ("Did you notice that KJV haters seem to run with Calvinists?"), loves conspiracy theories, and was blessed with ten times more zeal than understanding. He's very clever with over-the-top sarcasm designed mainly to shock, and his rants and diatribes can be quite entertaining to read (in small doses, of course).

button Doorway papers by Arthur Custance
Custance was a scientist, anthropologist, inventor, and eccentric intellectual. He defended the "gap theory" of creationism, and wrote some fascinating bits about science and the Scriptures. He also wrote a fairly competent book in defense of divine sovereignty, called The Sovereignty of Grace, but at the end of it, he denied the everlasting punishment of the wicked. There's a mixture of good and bad here. You'll profit from what is good, but be on guard against the bad.

button Evangelical Outreach
Not as evangelical as the name suggests. This is sheer semi-Pelagianism, teaching that salvation is a cooperative effort between the sinner and God—with final salvation depending on the sinner's performance. The bulk of the articles here are written (by Dan Corner) to argue against the perseverance and security of the believer. A sample of what you'll find: "The real issue is not God's faithfulness to us, but our faithfulness to Him to the very end of our lives." Wow! On the other hand, there's actually some good here, but it's seriously tainted by so much semi-Pelagianism. (Moreover, they regard Charles Spurgeon as a complete rogue because he wrote "A Defence of Calvinism" and smoked cigars. No doubt Spurgeon would have borne the reproach of their disapproval gladly.) The site has a new, slick-looking but hard-to-decipher Flash intro, but the pages underneath are formatted in a fashion that matches the doctrine taught therein: slipshod and utterly unappealing.

button Flashpoint
The ramblings of Texe Marrs, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like.

button Grace Evangelical Society
Masters of voodoo exegesis. Look for the "Grace in Focus" link—a misnomer if ever there was one. It takes you to an on-line collection of mini-manifestos for GES's unique brand of antinomianism. Other resources here all tout the radical anti-Lordship doctrine this group exists to promote.

button Grace Fellowship International
Charles Solomon's "Exchanged Life" approach to counseling and sanctification. It's a hodge-podge of deeper-life doctrine, armchair theology, pop psychology, and amateur exegesis. My major complaint about Solomon's approach is that while he insists that "the cross" is central to his message, he has subtly shifted focus, so that rather than being a message about what Christ has done to redeem sinners, "the cross" in Solomon's system signifies a quietistic method by which the believer can supposedly attain "victory." This has a lot in common with the classic Keswick approach to sanctification. B. B. Warfield's critique of Charles Trumbull's Victory in Christ in Warfield's classic Studies in Perfectionism will be helpful to anyone who wants to understand what is wrong with this kind of teaching.

button House Church Central
For those who want to play "church" but despise authority. This branch of the house church movement embraces an unbiblical egalitarianism that subverts the role Scripture assigns to elders and overseers of the flock of God (cf. Hebrews 13:7, 17). From the Web site: "One of the main distinctions of house church vs. institutional church is the use of dialogue rather than lecture and sermon." Now there's an unbiblical recipe for shepherding the flock. But biblical shepherding is inherently out of sync with house-church populism. Predictably, this site is hostile to formal training and full-time pastors. The result is a theological home-brew that is both inconsistent and confusing. Don't waste too much time here. The pseudo-scholarly pontifications on doctrine and church history aren't worth the bandwidth it takes to download them. NOTE: I have nothing against churches that meet in houses, but I object to those who insist that's the only way a church should meet. As for their opposition to biblical eldership, see 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Corinthians 9:5-14. The approach to church government advocated here is a recipe for weak teaching and discord in the flock. It is also unbiblical. See Hebrews 13:7, 17.

button Jesus-Is-Savior.Com
The first thing you'll notice about this site is how cluttered, disorderly, and tawdry it looks. The content is no different. It's as if the page was constructed with a deliberate effort to eliminate anything that might edify or encourage. This is a seriously ugly muddle of fundamentalist pet issues, 911 Truther propaganda, and various amateur analyses—all thrown in your face with high-decibel, high-velocity force. The webmaster here seems drawn to every repugnant trope that has ever been commandeered in the name of religion—unsightly images, distasteful themes, loathsome tales, sinister gossip, and sensationalized headlines ("Satanism In The Vatican!") He blends these themes with favorite points of fundamentalist controversy and presents them in a way that seems carefully calculated to maximize the shock value. This is not ministry; it is exploitation. It's a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing profitable.
    Some people insist that the only way to reach our generation with the gospel is by laboring to seem as cool or as non-confrontational as possible. This guy seems to think the goal is the opposite: to be as cheesy and offensive as possible. Both strategies are equally misguided.

button Living Way Ministries
Jack Hayford's media ministry. Hayford makes a false dichotomy between "head" and "heart"—constantly pitting subjective feelings against rational intellect and invariably championing "heart" over "head." (When Scripture uses the term "heart," it includes the intellect. The proper biblical meaning of the term has very little to do with subjective feelings.) In Hayford's FAQs, for example, he admits that there is no reference in the Bible to being "slain in the Spirit." He nonetheless lists biblical references about people who fell prostrate when they encountered the Lord, and he tells readers, "As you look up these passages, pray and ask the Lord to confirm to your heart the truth of this . . . [And] if you are ever in a situation where someone is 'slain in the spirit,' just ask the Lord to witness to your spirit if this was really from God or not. He will"—as if the Holy Spirit would confirm to our "hearts" something Scripture doesn't teach to our "heads." Taking this approach to "discernment" has naturally set Hayford against those who see that biblical discernment requires us to understand and defend sound doctrine. Hayford believes this is inherently hostile to "Christian unity."
    Hayford himself has endorsed everyone from Fred Price to Benny Hinn—further undermining both true biblical discernment and true Christian unity. While Hayford is an articulate speaker, his teaching is too full of error (and personal whimsy) to be recommended.

button Modern Jesus Army Streetpaper
. . . championing every wrong cause, it appears. Here's a quarterly digest of British evangelicalism's pathological inability to exercise biblical discernment. The "Jesus Army" is a charismatic ministry with a minimalist creed doing outreach work among homeless and poverty-stricken young people in the UK. But the "Streetpaper:" reveals an obsession with typical evangelical faddism and an uncanny knack for obscuring the actual facts of the gospel while trying to appear streetwise.

button One 4 the Child
The owners of this site wish to defend the sanctity of marriage—a worthy goal, but they take a wrong approach. They insist (with selective biblical proof-texting) that an act of sexual intercourse establishes a permanent bond of marriage in God's eyes. So if someone has sexual relations even once as a teenager, then later marries a different partner, the later "marriage" is merely an adulterous relationship in God's eyes—and the former act is not simply fornication, but rather a permanently binding union. Try to reconcile that with Jesus' remark that the woman at the well had no husband, even though she was cohabiting with (at least) her sixth partner (John 4:16-18).
    Biblically, what constitutes marriage is the covenant between husband and wife (Malachi 2:14), not the act of sex. The whole point of the marriage ceremony (in virtually every culture) is to solemnize and make public the covenant vows between husband and wife. To treat a covert act of fornication as equivalent to a valid marriage covenant is to subvert the sanctity of marriage, not defend it. What you'll find at this site is selective Bible-quoting with a topical, issue-driven agenda. And that almost always breeds bad theology.

button People to People
Bob George's variety of "Classic Christianity" is a novel sort of antinomianism. In short, Bob teaches Christians that their position in Christ means they no longer need to ask God to forgive them for their sins (thus nullifying one of the main points of the Lord's Prayer).

button Protestant Reformed Church
There are some helpful, even excellent, resources linked here. I deliberated long and hard about whether to put this in the "Helpful Resources" category. The problem is that the PRC holds to an extreme Calvinism that denies God's common grace and the free offer of the gospel. This is a form of hyper-Calvinism, and is fraught with many dangerous ramifications. I could not with good conscience give it a thumbs up. Not a few people have written to ask how I could class a denomination that adheres to the Three Forms of Unity in this category. But the PRC's most distinctive feature—its utter denial of the gospel's free offer—is, after all, bad theology.

button Rapture Ready
More rapture hype. Don't miss the "rapture index," a ridiculous attempt to provide "a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity" and measure the nearness of the Rapture by tracking 45 leading indicators. The index is maintained by periodically assigning numerical quantifiers to categories such as "satanism," "unemployment," and "the mark of the beast" ("New advancements in microcircuit technology has [sic] upgraded this category"). Though this looks like it might be a joke or a parody, apparently it is for real.

button Sound Doctrine
Not quite. Check the article titled "Another Gospel!"—which argues (in contradiction to Romans 4) that Old Testament saints were not justified by faith the same way Christians in this age are. The doctrine represented here is fraught with Scofieldian error, unfortunately.

button Miles J. Stanford
Here you will find the musings of the late Miles Stanford, one of the last devoted guardians of "Pauline dispensationalism." Stanford held to several of the more arcane idiosyncrasies of early dispensationalism long after most dispensationalists had quietly disowned them as ill-advised novelties lacking any biblical support. Stanford insisted, for example, that there are two distinct gospels in the NT. He taught that Christ gave the apostle Paul a new and different gospel, not the same message that was theretofore being preached by the other apostles. In the mid-twentieth century, that same notion (which had percolated among Darbyites and Scofieldians for some time) gave rise to ultradispensationalism, and the folly of the two-gospels idea quickly became evident. Most leading dispensationalists, including Charles Ryrie and John Walvoord denied that Paul's gospel was different from Jesus' gospel. Stanford was piqued by modern dispensationalists who abandoned those and other bizarre features of old-line dispensationalism. He wrote and distributed papers challenging the views of those whom he believed were drifting. Those papers, and several of Stanford's other writings, are catalogued here. They contain numerous peculiarities on sanctification, the believer's relationship to the law, the covenants, etc. Also, Stanford's quaint jargon ("horizontal dispensationalism"; "the identification truths"; etc.) is often hard to decipher. A better glossary would help. The chief value of this site is the graphic proof it provides to show that dispensationalism is not, and never has been, a monolithic system.

button Calvinism—Ten Little Caveats
Bob Moore reckons he knows what is wrong with the church. It's Calvinism. And Bob says unless Calvinists change their views, the world will not be able to believe, because "Calvinians" are disrupting the unity of the church. (Bob has an annoying tendency to refer to Calvinists as "Calvinians.") Although Bob seems to regard himself as neither Arminian nor Calvinist, what he proposes as an alternative to Calvinism is indistinguishable from historic Arminianism. Beginning with a rejection of unconditional election, Bob is forced to adopt a very Wesleyan view of prevenient grace in order to reconcile his presuppositions with the doctrine of human depravity. Then he argues that election is based on God's foresight of events He has forfeited His sovereign control of.

button Theologia
This site is the work of Mark Horne. When I first discovered it in the mid-90s, it was one of most provocative and interesting theological sites on the Web, featuring an impressive collection of meaty articles.
    But I noticed Mark seemed be writing more and more material that troubled me—championing sacramentalism (including paedocommunion) and nuancing the doctrine of justification in ways that seriously compromise the principle of sola fide. His unrelenting advocacy of N. T. Wright and the "New Perspective on Paul" finally persuaded me to move this link (with deep regret) to the "Bad Theology" category. Mark labels me "Romophobic"; and indeed, precisely what I fear in so much of what he writes is a not-so-subtle Romish tendency. There's still some good to be found here if you sift through all the chaff. Do it with extreme caution, though. Chaff often looks very much like grains of wheat.

button Way of Life Literature
David Cloud's material is a blend of some helpful material and a lot of half-cocked pronouncements against various writers and teachers who are not "fundamentalist Baptists" sharing Cloud's precise convictions on a long list of secondary issues. His stance on most of those issues appears to mirror very closely that of The Sword of the Lord during its heyday under John R. Rice (Arminian, combatively separatistic, narrowly Baptistic, and somewhat more concerned with practical, rather than doctrinal, standards). There is one notable difference: unlike Rice, Cloud holds strongly to KJV-onlyism, and he has made that issue one of his favorite hobby-horses. Mr. Cloud is a better writer and somewhat more refined in his rhetoric than most publishers of the popular IFB rant-rags. But bad theology in dressed-up rhetoric is still bad theology.

button The Wesley Center for Applied Theology
Everything you wanted to know about Wesleyan theology.

button Whosoever Will
These are Herman Hoeksema's writings on grace and the gospel call. His perspective on these issues amounts to a kind of hyper-Calvinism. He denies that the gospel invitation includes a bona fide offer of salvation to anyone but the elect. Hoeksema was brilliant, and a good writer. In fact, there is enough of real value here that I originally placed it in the "helpful" category. But the more I see of the fruits of this kind of thinking, the more convinced I am that it deserves to be plainly labeled as bad theology.

button Words of Righteousness
Here's a slick-looking site peddling a skewed view of the gospel. I was immediately troubled by the many articles at this site that downplay or denigrate the significance of Christ's righteousness imputed to believers—and stress instead the believer's own works of righteousness. More troubling still, the theology taught here suggests that heaven will be bifurcated between believers who will rule because their earthly works were sufficiently righteous, and believers who will be ruled over because they did not attain sufficient righteousness in their earthly lives. This not-so-subtly sneaks the issue of human merit back into the salvation formula, teaching, as do all the various cults and isms, that full redemption depends to some degree on the sinner's own righteousness. Although the writer of this material pretends merely to be remedying an imbalance while giving lip-service to justification by faith, this is patently bad theology.

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