Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getting Meyered Down

A few weeks ago I asked someone to please explain why Joyce Meyer was selected to be one of the distinguished plenary speakers at the 2007 World Conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) to be held in Nashville, Tennessee this summer. A friend's recent inquiry about my estimation of Mrs. Meyer's teaching prompted me to elaborate on the reason for my befuddlement.
First, let me state that my confusion about and objection to AACC's choice has nothing to do with the fact that Mrs. Meyer is not a formally trained, professional counselor (a number of the other plenary speakers are not either). I would be the last person to insist that formal psychological training is necessary for one to be an effective counselor. As one commenter pointed out, Meyer has written numerous books (many of them bestsellers) on emotional and mental issues that would certainly be of interest to those engaged in the ministry of counseling. The cause of my consternation is theological. I can't understand why an influential evangelical organization (AACC has a membership of nearly 50,000) with a vision of "want[ing] to serve the worldwide Christian church by helping it become more mature in Christ" and a commitment to historic Christian orthodoxy, would endorse someone who has consistently dispensed aberrant teaching including the unbiblical doctrine that Jesus' atoning work was only partially accomplished by his death on the cross and completed in hell where he continued to suffer on behalf of sinners (see the following articles from the Christian Research Institute, the Apologetic Index, and Personal Freedom Outreach for details).

As Meyer's evangelical audience has broadened, she has distanced herself from Word of Faith leaders like Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin. One would hope this is due to her having come to see the error of their teachings but a careful examination of her ministry's website leads me to believe that this dissociation is due more to savvy marketing than to any rejection of the erroneous tenets of Word of Faith theology.

Joyce Meyer Ministries tries to quell potential discomfort and/or suspicion on account of her Word of Faith ties with the inclusion of the following questions and responses in its FAQ's:
Is Joyce Meyer Ministries a "word of faith" ministry?
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes in the Word of God. Joyce teaches that God has made promises to us in His Word and as believers, we should trust His promises (see 2 Peter 1:3,4). However, it can be damaging when people place their faith in faith alone instead of placing their faith in God. Misappropriation of God’s promises solely for personal gain is not scripturally supported.
Does Joyce Meyer Ministries teach a "prosperity gospel"?
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes that God desires to bless His people. Joyce teaches that God’s blessings and prosperity apply to the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial areas of life. These blessings and prosperity are then to be used to bless others (see Genesis 12:1-3). A “prosperity gospel” that solely equates blessing with financial gain is out of balance and could damage a person’s walk with God.
Notice that in neither case does Meyer answer the question directly, allowing her to safeguard against alienating herself from either the Word of Faith audience with which she at one time more openly identified or mainstream evangelicals who would steer clear of anything that smacked of "name it and claim it" teaching. All she does is affirm belief in God's Word and promises, an affirmation with which every Christian (and many cultists) would agree. The critical issue is not whether Meyer believes that God has made promises in which we should place our confidence. It's whether what she believes the Word of God says is consonant with Word of Faith teaching in which case it is discordant with biblical teaching.

Meyer's caution against placing faith in faith instead of in God is hard to make sense of in light of her practice and advocacy of "positive confession." Linked to from her ministry's website is a list of confessions Meyer developed and began confessing over her life in the early 1980s. The following are some of the more interesting of the seventy affirmations with my comments in parentheses:
I love all people, and I am loved by all people. (cf. Luke 21:17)

All my children have lots of Christian friends, and God has set aside a Christian wife or husband for each of them.
I take good care of my body. I eat right, I look good, I feel good, and I weigh what God wants me to weigh.
I operate in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are tongues and interpretation of tongues, the working of miracles, discerning of spirits, the word of faith, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, healings, and prophecy. (Aside from the fact that the apostle Paul teaches that no believer possesses every spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12: 4ff), the omission of what Paul identifies as a higher gift is interesting in light of the following confession.)
I am a teacher of the Word.
I know God's voice, and I always obey what He tells me.
My car is paid for.
I am rich - very rich.
I receive speaking engagements in person, by phone, and/or by mail every day.
We have all the new furniture we need. We have a new car.
More on the power of positive confessions can be found in Meyer's commentary on "healing Scriptures" and her brief article "God's Prescription for a Sound Mind" in which she advises: "As you recognize a lie to your mind, always defend yourself out loud. That means speaking to Satan and the evil forces out loud, binding them in the Name of Jesus, and forbidding them to lie to you and to use your mind" (emphasis hers).
In an excellent article titled "Those Know-Nothing Christians," Michael Spencer describes and seeks to account for a widespread phenomenon in American evangelicalism - the desire on the part of high-profile Christian leaders to be as doctrinally nondescript as possible so as to achieve what Spencer calls "doctrinal invisibility." As he puts it:
Contemporary Christians want to go high-profile in every conceivable way except in saying what they believe. In doctrinal matters, the best most can do is a kind of generic "Jesus is Lord-ism," and the worst is to declare war on confessional Christians as divisive bigots harming the Body of Christ and driving away seekers.
Spencer identifies three contributing factors to doctrinal invisibility, among them - commercial interests. His comments on this point are relevant to the subject of this post:
Take, for example, the Christian publishing empires. A successful author such as Joyce Meyer now crosses any and all confessional lines and is marketed as a generic evangelical. Her books are as palatable to Pentecostals and Baptists as they are to Charismatic Catholics. The fact that Mrs. Meyer is a member in good standing of the Word-Faith movement of Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin is not going to be emphasized. The day when a Word-Faith teacher would be unwelcome in a Baptist church are gone. Mrs. Meyer, who has many commendable applications of scripture, gives no evidence in her popular books of a specific commitment to anything other than the most generic kind of Christianity. One will read all her books without finding that Mrs. Meyer holds loyally to the bizarre views of Hagin and Copeland.
Such doctrinal invisibility is on purpose. The editors and publishers of the thousands of books Meyer sells will make sure that no hint of her own specific Word-Faith doctrines appear on to those pages. While there are some publishers that exist to present specific doctrinal points of view, the largest and most influential Christian commercial interests are the most skillful practitioners of doctrinal invisibility.
Perhaps Joyce Meyer speaking at the AACC conference is a testimony to the effectiveness of the kind of doctrinal camouflaging Spencer describes. I'd prefer to think the invitation was extended because of ignorance of her theological leanings rather than with full knowledge (though that raises other questions about the care taken in selecting speakers). Whatever the case, it's lamentable that the AACC is commending her to pastors, lay counselors and clinical professionals called to serve a church sorely lacking in biblical discernment.


Mike Messerli said...

good post, thanks. I agree completely! Theology does matter, in spite of what we see around us. thanks for your words.

Mr. Jergens said...

Thanks for elucidating some of Meyer's beliefs and teaching, I've been curious ever since I have walked into Barnes and Noble and seen her face dominating the Religious books section. It is intriguing that she'll be speaking at the AACC Conference.

whisper said...

Do you consider you are doing Gods work by writing your critique on Joyce Meyers? Some who read your words could be discouraged and confused by your article, forming a personal opinion without really knowing who Joyce Meyer is. This does not seem like real Christianity,
hopefully it will not take a crisis or serious persecution before Christians love one another so others will recognize us as the brothers and sisters that we are meant to be.

KP said...

whisper, it's not necessary to "really know" who a teacher is before assessing his or her teaching in light of Scripture. If I have erred in anything I have said about Meyers I'd appreciate your pointing it out.

You make a serious error in equating loving each other and never critiquing the content of each other's teaching. The two are not in opposition as Scripture calls us to both.

By the way, should I conclude from your criticism of what I wrote that you don't love me?

dianestranz said...

KP is absolutely right that we have a duty to God and to each other to "shine our lamps" on heretical doctrines and practices. I have read quite a bit about Joyce Meyers (online and from her own books) and feel quite confident that every criticism made in this blog post is valid, on point and necessary.

Before reading this post, however, I admit that I was unfamiliar with Joyce Meyer's conception and practice of "positive confessions." It is fairly obvious that these "confessions" are nothing other than New Age affirmations wrapped loosely in a pseudo-Christian garb . . . and New Age affirmations are unbiblical because they are indistinguishable in form and purpose from an attempt at magical incantation.

Thank you for taking the time to write and publish such a thoughtful and professional blog post on this topic.