On January 7, 2013, I was interviewed by Jan Markell, Founder and President of Olive Tree Ministries, and her guest co-host Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Jan has written eight major books with prominent Christian publishing houses. She has produced a dozen DVDs, some featured on Sky Angel. At one time she traveled full time across America as a speaker. Since 2000, Jan has been broadcasting her nationally syndicated "Understanding the Times" radio program over the airwaves and Internet. It is a great source of news and commentary-driven information.
Jan, Eric and I spent the one hour radio program discussing how to discern discernment ministries and expressed our concerns over some of their increasingly bitter attacks on the Church and Christ-redeemed Christians rather than on exposing the Enemy and his plans.
Jan Markell: We've been talking on this program about contentious contenders. We asked them, "Can we not disagree in love? Can we not focus more on the essentials of the faith?" While peripheral issues aren't always minor, they are certainly not cause to divide the brethren.
Eric Barger: It strikes me as we've been talking, just what truly is going on here. This topic about contentious contenders has been something we on "Understanding the Times" have labored about so much over. Christians appear to be treating each other just like opposing politicians, trying to undermine one another. Have we learned that from the world and then brought it into the Church? That seems to be what is happening.
My advice would be to everybody that unless you have personally examined and really taken the time to look at all sides of a theological debate, don't take anything that any of us or anyone else says as gospel until you look for it yourself. Find out for yourself, but if you won't, then honestly and bluntly — keep your mouth shut!
So often we have jumped into the fray and decided that because we have connected with a particular teacher, or in this case a discerner or an apologist, that if they say it must be gospel then it is gospel. This is just like the biblical situation where people where claiming, "I follow Paul! I follow Apollos!" Now we are following along after others rather than finding out the biblical answers for ourselves.
We as Christians also need to remember in the case of the Brian McLaren's of the world and the Rob Bell's of the world that their teachings are radically different from what the Bible teaches. They are the ones we should be contending with. Instead, we are talking negatively about people who are honestly bona fide Christians and who have not denied the fundamentals of the faith. Dr. Reagan points out those fundamentals in his article. It is something I have written about. It is something we have talked about on air. If those fundamentals have not been violated, then the rest of this should be merely discussion instead of slamming and besmirching other Christians.
Jan Markell: Dr. Reagan listed five essentials including the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Jesus, the atoning death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of Jesus' return. Dr. Reagan in his article says:
"When a Christian denies one or more of those fundamentals, his ministry should not be respected or supported, and it can be legitimately considered as apostate. Disagreements over other points of doctrine are important, but they should never serve to disrupt our fellowship in the Lord. Truth is important, but not all truth is equally important. So, for example, whatever the truth may be about the Millennium, it is nothing compared to the truth that Jesus is Lord."
David, there are some peripheral issues worth debating over, for instance to me the issue of Replacement Theology is so crucial because it's so distorting Scripture when all of the promise verses given to Israel are then transfered over to the Church. The Bible is practically changed inside out. So, I have a huge issue with that, though it's not primary doctrine.
Dr. Reagan: I would agree with you, Jan. Of course, you know me, I'm a very strong supporter of the State of Israel. I believe very strongly that God is going to bring a great remnant of the Jews to salvation at the end of the Tribulation. And yet, one of the men that I admire greatly who has gone on to be with the Lord is Dr. James Kennedy. For 47 years Dr. Kennedy was the pastor of Coral Ridge. The man had great sermons about the Christian heritage of America. He stood for that Christian heritage and he spoke out about it. He was criticized for his stance, but I admired him greatly for it. And yet, he was one of the foremost proponents for Replacement Theology. So, I would disagree with his view and I'd even argue with him about it, but I wouldn't condemn him to Hell just because he held that particular position. It's one thing to disagree with a person and disagree with them strongly, but it's another thing to attack them personally and call them all kinds of names and defame them.
In my article I give another example of disagreement, this time with C.S. Lewis. I would imagine most people are very familiar with him. He was a brilliant Oxford professor. He came to the Lord when he was about 40 years old and he wrote some of the greatest defenses of the Christian faith in all the 20th Century. He wrote great books like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, and yet he revealed in one of his last letters that he believed in Purgatory. Well, that just blew me away! How could anybody who knows the Bible as well as he knew the Bible believe in Purgatory? I would have argued with him about that all day long. I hope when I see him in Heaven that we can sit down and have a talk about that, but I'm not going to condemn him to Hell just because he was wrong about something.
People are not saved by perfect knowledge. We are saved by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and believing that we are going to be saved by grace and not by works.
Some people, if they believe a person is wrong about even just one thing, they explode on the offensive and attack that person personally and tear them to pieces. It's just terrible! Even you, Jan, when you invited Jonathan Cahn to speak at your latest wonderful conference, there were some people who ripped you apart personally for that. Such behavior was just so un-Christ-like.
Jan Markell: I didn't ask you to bring that topic up, but I will certainly speak about it. I am very proud of my friendship with Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. By the way, those who don't know, though many of my listeners do know, Jonathan gave an invitation for salvation at my conference. We had him close out the event with a call for repentance and salvation, and somewhere between 50 to 100 people got saved that particular afternoon. So, I find it particularly troubling when a man like this is virtually slandered. On one website, a woman went as far as insisting that he had ties to the Kabbalah and was an occultist!
So, yes, there were many accusations against Rabbi Cahn. Eric, why don't you pick the topic up, because this is a little bit too raw for me.
Eric Barger: David, we've discussed with Jonathan his book, his ideas, his theology, and where he is coming from. We talked to him personally. We read. We listened. You know for a fact the guy believes in the fundamentals of the faith and he is an evangelist at heart. And yet, because people decided his hermeneutics weren't as narrow as they wanted them to be, this feeding frenzy is what happened.
In the third and last part of this panel interview concerning when discernment turns ugly, Eric leads the discussion on how to be discerning discerners.