Fact Check: Is Paul Washer Partnering With Hillsong?
Is Paul Washer partnering with Hillsong?
Listen, I’ve been doing discernment work for years. Pulpit & Pen has been doing its thing for eight years. We have become the infamous “Rolex of Polemics Blogs.” Heck, we brought back the term, polemics, into vogue; before we pulled the term out of the dustbin of history, no one was using it. It’s hard to find a polemics ministry that has provided more material, more prolifically, and with more – how should I say – flare… than Pulpit & Pen. Our website, Pulpit & Pen, and sister site, Polemics Report, and podcast by that same name, are well-read and well-heard. We regularly break national news stories and are regularly in the mainstream news. I say all of that to say this; I know a thing or two about discernment.
We – that is, Pulpit & Pen – have also striven for impartiality. Without anathematizing our once-good friend, James White, we have criticized him both for his ill-advised Interfaith Dialogue and his even more ill-advised promotion and/or endorsement of NAR apologist, Michael Brown. That public disagreement has brought our ministry no shortage of angst, controversy, and hate mail. We have repeatedly shown ourselves capable of both disagreeing with someone and loving them at the same time. We have repeatedly drawn the line between heresy and heterodoxy, and are careful not to blur the distinctions between the two. And if we feel someone should be marked as one who causes division by teaching what is contrary to sound doctrine (Romans 16:17), we have marked them.
Furthermore, we are not known for using kid gloves on virtually anybody. We have been accused of being “incendiary,” and employing a “flamethrower” or “the nuclear option” even by our friends. Heck, I’ve even made it onto RightWingWatch a time or two. We have written harshly about Kenneth Copeland, Todd White, Paula White, Todd Bentley, Brian Houston, Carl Lentz, Mike Bickle, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, and the craziest of the crazy charismatics. We have written with much criticism toward New Calvinists and Social Justice Warriors like Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, and Thabiti Anyabwile. We’ve written with much comeuppance about the herd of cattle from Bashan, including Beth Moore, Anne Voskamp, Priscilla Shirer, and Joyce Meyer. I have literally been kicked out of Jim Bakker’s studio (metaphorically) and kicked out of a Rodney Howard Browne revival (literally). Even for those who we love, we’ve expressed disagreements – even mild and polite disagreements – with Dr. MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Carl Trueman and others of an ordinarily solid theological disposition.
Now, you might notice that I just used different categories to explain these different classes of people. There are charismatic crazies, New Calvinist Social Justice Warriors (SJW), the MystiChicks lady preachers, and the really good and solid guys who we might differ with on this point or that one. And, there are about a thousand different categories or cliques or gaggles of teachers, ranging from outright heretics to good brothers who might suffer from occasional imperfection. Based upon their degree of error, we try to treat them appropriately and in proportion to their error. Unfortunately (for us), however, many people over-react and consider any criticism to be an official anathematization and decision of the Sanhedrin to execute. A caricature – a false one at that – is often painted of all polemics ministries as “attacking everybody.” We try to prove that caricature wrong, even though we have a responsibility to do discernment impartially. We prove that caricature wrong by making distinctions between degrees of error and providing rebuke that is commensurate with the severity of the offense.
WHO IS SERVUS CHRISTI?
I don’t know this man’s real name. It may be Josh Chav or Joshua Chavez, or those could also be pseudonyms he uses online. I have spoken for several hours on the phone with the man, and after hours of speaking with him, have determined him a Sectarian Minimalist. He does not attend a church. He does not believe in the concept of the local church. He does not believe in a church that is institutional or organized (which is the only kind of church there is). Servus Christi is outside the Body of Christ, and so Jesus is not his Head. By the time I was done speaking with Christi, I informed him that I couldn’t even consider him a believer.
Servus Christi does YouTube videos in which he purports to do discernment ministry, and he runs a website that does the same. Although Servus Christi cannot rationally be considered a follower of Jesus (because Jesus leads people to His church), he views himself in the position to critique the church. He has no pastor. He is under the authority of no elders. There is no church by which he could be disciplined and no fellow church members who can hold him accountable.
The pseudonymous individual explained to me on the phone that he left New York City (a city of seven million people, plus) because he couldn’t find any real believers there with whom to worship. Of course, I know a number of very good churches in New York City and its various boroughs, but to Servus Christi, none of them could suffice. Upon moving to his new community, across the country, he went back to a church he attended years ago and held up signs against the church from the sidewalk. His complaint, toward this random church of which he was not a member or personally invested, is that they spent too much of their budget on pastor salaries. This was, according to Servus Christi, normal and rational behavior.
I tried to explain to Servus Christi that the reason he couldn’t find believers with whom to worship is because of his terribly flawed theology, not that good churches didn’t exist. His bizarre understanding of 2 John 7-11, which I’ll get to in a moment, anathematizes every Christian from the Body of Christ, including Christ Himself. But, spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and my advice to him was not received.
WHAT IS HIS MALFUNCTION?
Servus Christi’s general malfunction is a misunderstanding of 2 John 7-11.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
What John clearly teaches, particularly in verse 11, is that someone who is teaching a contrary Gospel, should not receive a greeting from you or hospitality, aiding their effort. To provide hospitality or assistance in their false preaching is to take part in his wicked works.
There is disagreement in interpretation, even among like-minded Christians. Does this prohibit allowing Mormon missionaries in your house or offering them a glass of water, even if your reason for doing so is to evangelize them? Does this prohibit all forms of interfaith dialogue? The context of John’s exhortation was the threat of Gnosticism; does this apply to all heresies? Does this apply to those guilty of grievous moral failures and not just those guilty of heretical teaching? However, there is no agreement – I will say again no agreement – between orthodox Christianity and the interpretation of Servus Christi.
The pseudonymous Servus Christi’s interpretation is that the one taking in the heretic is as guilty as the heretic himself, and therefore the one who takes in the man who takes the heretic is as guilty as the heretic himself, and therefore the one who takes in the man who takes in the man who takes in the heretic is guilty as the heretic himself, and therefore the man who takes in the man who takes in the man who takes in the man who takes in the man is as guilty as the heretic himself.
In other words, his logic works like this: Bill Johnson (of Bethel Redding) is bad. Francis Chan greets Bill Johnson warmly; therefore, Francis Chan is AS BAD AS and THE SAME AS Bill Johnson. Kevin DeYoung greets Francis Chan warmly; therefore Kevin DeYoung is AS BAD AS and THE SAME AS Bill Johnson. John MacArthur greets Kevin DeYoung warmly; therefore, John MacArthur is AS BAD AS and THE SAME AS Bill Johnson. Paul Washer greets John MacArthur warmly; therefore, Paul Washer is AS BAD AS and THE SAME AS Bill Johnson. Servus Christi fails to realize (I’m presuming charitably) that this, in the end, anathematizes every individual on Earth. And frankly, it would anathematize Jesus Himself, who I assure you, will one day greet Paul Washer, John MacArthur and Kevin DeYoung warmly.
The end result of Servus Christi’s misinformed, theologically ill-advised and doctrinally-challenged attempt at discernment is a church that is entirely schismatic, unable to associate or worship with absolutely anyone, who in one way or another, tainted by a lack of an infintium degree of separation from all others, must put every Christian’s nose in the segregated time-out corner of separation. In short, the end result of Servus Christi’s theological inanity, should any choose to follow him, is a mass exodus from all of the Christian church. But that’s not what Christ wants; that’s what Satan wants. Whose side is Servus Christi on, exactly?
[bctt tweet=”In short, the end result of Servus Christi’s theological inanity, should any choose to follow him, is a mass exodus from all of the Christian church.” username=”pulpitpenblog”]
IS PAUL WASHER PARTNERING WITH OR ENDORSING HILLSONG?
Regarding Servus Christi’s video, entitled, “Paul Washer Partners With Hillsong Speakers,” the answer is no. Accepting an invitation to speak at an event is not the same as “partnering” or “endorsing” that individual, unless you’re the one planning the event and putting it together, OR unless there is an actual, explicit statement of endorsement (like the kind Francis Chan or Ronnie Floyd gave at IHOP). Now, for the sake of the record, do I want Paul Washer speaking with Trip Lee or John Piper? No, not really. I’d rather Washer be preaching to 60 thousand Brazilians or scaring the daylights out of youth in Paraguay or something. George Whitefield needs to be out in the field. Furthermore, as I’ve said with MacArthur, I wish people around these men would keep a closer guard on with whom or where they speak. However, to claim that Paul Washer is “endorsing” or “partnering” with Hillsong in any way, shape, form, or fashion, is asinine. The correct headline should be, “Paul Washer is Going to Speak at a Conference With Another Guy Who Spoke at a Conference With Another Guy Who Spoke at a Conference With Another Guy Who is Somehow Associated with Hillsong.” That is an accurate headline. But, that doesn’t draw Youtube clicks. And even though the bulk of Servus Christi’s YouTube traffic is paid-for bot traffic, there are still a few people who will read a headline and not spend the 59 minutes and 52 seconds necessary to figure out that the video is one part baloney to two parts cow-paddies. Clickbait works.
In reality, Servus Christi spent roughly 47 minutes out of 59 minutes “poisoning the well,” a strategy that seeks to form an opinion before giving the thesis by throwing out impertinent, negative information, preemptively in order to taint the thoughts of the reader against the “target.” The pseudonymous character spent 47 minutes talking about Bill Johnson, even though Paul Washer is not speaking with Bill Johnson. He spent 47 minutes talking about Francis Chan, even though Paul Washer is not speaking with Francis Chan. He spent 47 minutes talking about Mike Bickle, even though Paul Washer is not speaking with Mike Bickle. He spent 47 minutes talking about Hillsong, IHOP, and Bethel, even though Paul has literally nothing to do with those cults. And even though Thabiti Anyabwile is a pretty awful character, theologically, unless you’re in the discernment community and have been reading Pulpit & Pen or other discernment sites (or Phil Johnson’s Twitter feed) you probably don’t know that. Paul Washer is probably hog-tying demons in Bolivia or wielding a machete to take the Gospel to cannibals in the jungle somewhere, digging out his own canoe to traverse the Amazon river with his Swiss army knife. He’s not on Twitter or reading Pulpit & Pen, I would highly doubt it. The same should go for Dr. MacArthur, who is probably preparing a 3,497-part expositional sermon series from the Old Testament, set to be finished when he’s 107 (he’ll make it to 107, I’m sure of it). Speaking at a conference with an infamous and well-proven heretic (something neither MacArthur nor Washer would do) is altogether different that speaking alongside a sketchy character that full-time discernment guys just figured out was sketch last week, and it’s certainly different from speaking with a guy who’s spoken with a guy who’s spoken with another guy who sang a Hillsong song once back in 8th grade VBS.
Before I end this blog injection of common sense and pray it works, one line, in particular, stood out to me from Servus Christi:
[Paul Washer’s] silence concerning John Piper over the last several years has been deafening.
I saw Paul Washer at Shepherd’s Conference and prayed with him a couple years ago, asking God to give him strength and energy. I did so because he did not look well. He looked worn out (because he is). Then, I saw him at G3, and again, he did not look well. And then, he about dropped dead of a heart attack (and was as close to dead as modern medical instruments could measure). I’ve seen him preach in person at least a dozen times in my life, and every time I wonder how he doesn’t die of a coronary before leaving the pulpit. I have also texted Paul Washer numerous times in the last couple years without receiving a text back from him. And you know what? I don’t pout about it, and I don’t weep or gnash my teeth. Do you know why? It’s because he’s Paul Washer and he’s busy. On top of that, he’s recovering from a heart attack. On top of that, I am not worth responding to; I probably wouldn’t respond to me, either. I’d rather Paul’s hand be on the plow and avoid texting back random people that want his genuinely precious time. Finally, I would actually hope that brother Paul is so busy preaching the Gospel and sending out missionaries that he completely forgets I exist. And, frankly, I hope he forgets that John Piper exists. I hope Paul Washer forgets the Internet exists. And frankly, I doubt Paul Washer even knows that Hillsong exists.
That’s the thing, when you’re not stuck behind the keyboard (like I am now) and actually get out and do some real ministry. You turn your eyes upon Jesus and the things of the world grow strangely dim. That includes dumb, faux-discernment ministries and Lone Ranger Christians playing polemics vigilantes who don’t even get out of bed to go to church on Sunday morning.
[Contributed by JD Hall]