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On False Teachers: Why We Insist on One Degree of Separation

News Division

What did they say when you warned them about the Kansas City Prophets and the New Apostolic Reformation and all the wicked things that happen there? What did they say when you told them about the death of Bethany Deaton and cover-up by IHOP and allegations of cult-like mind control? What did they say when you brought all those facts to them?

They said it couldn’t be that bad. Ronnie Floyd was speaking there. They weren’t going to turn around. If it was good enough for the SBC president to speak, it was good enough for them.

I took a frantic phone call from a woman and SBC church member in north Missouri, whose pastor was taking a number of men to the conference last weekend. She had emailed her “leadership team,” deacons, and the pastor. She brought them facts. She sent them links to IHOP’s theology. She sent them articles about the problems. She did everything but throw her aging body in front of them on their way out of the driveway. But they went and exposed themselves to what can only be characterized as demonic worship with scandalous speakers and even a track for Catholic worshippers. The event was the spiritual equivalent of a 70’s key party – promiscuous, open to anything, and no discernible standards for who you dance with.

Southern Baptists considered Ronnie Floyd’s presence an endorsement: Ronnie Floyd, you see, can start out saying that his speaking at IHOP isn’t an endorsement of their theology (which he did). But it doesn’t matter, because in reality, Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople wound up at IHOP and took part in the sins of Nadab and Abihu because Ronnie Floyd was there.

Roman Catholics considered Ronnie Floyd’s presence an endorsement: Jeff has written about that here and I don’t want to steal his thunder, but the “charismatic catholics” present at IHOP were encouraged at the “unity across denominational lines” and were encouraged by Floyd’s affirming presence.

Charismatics considered Ronnie Floyd’s presence an endorsement: When Floyd said, “We’re we’re not in total agreement about life, ministry or the Bible. … Yet my being here is a clear indication that people must come together and pray,” (1) Understatement much? That you’re not in “total agreement” is something you say to the other Southern Baptist church across the street…not the pseudo-christian cults and (2) you pray with Christians. With the Roman Catholics and Oneness Pentecostals present in this spiritual key party, it’s presumptive to assume we’re praying to the same deity.

But Floyd is not the only one.

John Piper just spoke at Giglio’s Passion Conferenceagain. He’s speaking with Word-of-Faith impastor, charismatic prophetess and Hillsong gal, Christine Caine. He’s also speaking with a few other odious characters, like with Judah Smith at Passion #2 later this month, but let’s just keep it simple and focus on the charismatic lady pastor from the overtly-wicked church. That should suffice for this current exercise. 

JD Greear and Matt Chandler are speaking with Hillsong‘s Brian Houston at the upcoming Exponential Conference.  Others, like Circle-Maker Mark Batterson will be there as well. Ed Stetzer will be there too, but he just spoke with radical Islamic clerics on how they can best reach evangelicals, so that’s nothing new. And really, it’s nothing new that Greear and Chandler would speak with nefarious characters. They’ve done that a lot.

And on and on it goes. Reformed leaders, as you’ve seen in the above list of names (Floyd excluded), are not immune from toxic associations. Granted, it seems that toxic associations in Reformed circles are typically limited to charismatic Calvinists who seem to suffer from repeated discernment issues caused by their continuationism, but it’s still troubling.

Why are polemicists and discernment-minded Christians upset that evangelical leaders like Floyd, Piper, Greear, Chandler, Stetzer, and Francis Chan (who frequents the IHOP circuit) et al speak with those who really no reasonable or serious-minded Christian would consider sound? Why is speaking with women preachers, charismatic prophets and faith-healers, people teaching positive confession and Word-Faith theology or other serious issues a problem?

And the answer is Bible.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

This passage from Paul isn’t about marriage. It’s about religious enterprise. What business doth John Piper have with Christine Caine? Or what fellowship doth Ronnie Floyd have with Mike Bickel? What accord hath Matt Chandler with Brian Houston? What portion doth the SBC share with IHOP? What agreement doth Greear have with Circle-Making Mark Batterson?

God does not need the devil’s pulpit, friends.

All of these men speaking at all of these events do not constitute a Whitefield-type attitude toward speaking in enemy territory. Whitefield said, “If the Pope himself would lend me his pulpit, I would gladly preach the righteousness of Christ therein.” It is safe to say that if Whitefield had the Pope’s pulpit, he would have only preached there once. As Justin Peters says, he would preach on TBN if they asked him, but he wouldn’t be invited a second time. Matt Chandler, to his credit, once gave a passive-aggressive backhand to Steven Furtick at his Code Orange revival, but too many times he’s spoken with and for such spiritual charlatans with no such subtle rebuke. And lacking a rebuke, a preacher’s presence makes for an assumed endorsement. No, these appearances by all of the above men (and many more) at such conferences are not done to confront the wolves, but done to run with their pack.

The fact is, the Bible forbids such partnership – and a speaking contract is certainly a partnership – between Christians and the types of people we saw John Piper and Ronnie Floyd speak with last week. Some call that “guilt by association.” And to that, I say, is as sure as hell is real. Yes, it is guilt by association, because the Bible forbids association with such darkness.

Where does it stop, the fanboys ask. So so-and-so knows so-and-so who spoke with so-and-so and now they’re bad all in a sudden? Nope. We’re asking for one degree of separation, not two or three or four. It’s sinful for Ronnie Floyd to speak at IHOP. It’s not sinful for someone to speak with Ronnie Floyd. It’s sinful for Francis Chan to speak at IHOP. It’s not sinful to speak with Francis Chan. It’s sinful to speak with a woman who shouldn’t be preaching, who is compiled with problems of charismania, prophetic status, Word-Faith theology and from Hillsong. It’s not sinful to speak with John Piper. We are, Biblically, to separate from the evil person or false teacher.

Don’t get me wrong. I would not endorse Piper, Chan, Chandler, Floyd, Greear or others on the grounds that they lack discernment and if slightly off track today, may be very off track tomorrow. With their charismatic windows left wide open, who knows what pied Piper might sneak into their heart or mind and lead them astray? I wouldn’t want to turn on a young Christian to their works, without knowing where they may be led in years to come after the leaven they associate with has leavened them. However, it’s not as though these men are bad, but that they cannot be fully trusted or endorsed. Not speaking with them, however, would be two degrees of separation and probably overdone.

Is one degree really too much? Like, is that terribly legalistic? Pharasaical? Fundamentalist? Do we all feel totally oppressed now, like some over-reaching nanny is pooping on our party? I would ask, “Are your heretic conferences really that important? Like, you can’t get along without them? John Piper is so important to the success of Passion and Ronnie Floyd is so important to the success of IHOP’s One Thing that it’s worth risking leading little ones astray? Is it worth the risk of earning a millstone?


[Contributed by JD Hall]