-- An Eyewitness Report --
[Brian Snider is a free-lance writer from Birmingham, Alabama; he represented FOUNDATION Magazine at the Promise Keepers Washington D.C. rally. The FOUNDATION Magazine article contains photographs taken by brother Snider].
To borrow a thought from a writer of long ago, one observes that the designs of God, when scrutinized ever so carefully and closely, are exceedingly more beautiful and intricate than can been imagined or seen on the surface. A flower is beautiful, but under high magnification, an even more beautiful, delicate and flawless construction is revealed. Conversely, the designs of men, which might appear to be smooth and attractive at first glance, under close examination, reveal imperfection, impurity and corruption. The surface of even the most finely polished metal, when examined under a microscope, will be found marred and imperfect.
And so it is with yet another design of men, the Promise Keepers movement and its recent national spectacle, "Stand in the Gap." A close examination of this movement, which appears on the surface to be sincere and helpful to so many Christians, is readily found to be a sad departure from the clear teaching and truth of the pure Word of God. While it is true that most major evangelical and charismatic leaders are praising, supporting and participating in Promise Keepers, we must speak out against its mixture of truth and error (please notice Rom. 16:17, 18; Eph. 4:14, 15; 2 Tim. 4:2; Jude 3).
It is estimated that more than one million men crowded onto the National Mall on October 4, 1997, to hear from a diverse array of speakers who came to call this cross-section of American churches to repentance. The crowd heard from charismatic, evangelical, black, white, Indian, Asian and Hispanic speakers. They spoke of the gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance from racism and sexual sin, the need for stronger churches and the conversion of sinners. And yet, upon closer examination, their words and actions are found to be a mixture of truth and error, deceiving millions of Christians into false and dangerous beliefs and alliances. While television and newspaper cameras showed hundreds of thousands of men on their faces in prayer, a survey of those in attendance confirmed that many of these same men did not understand basic and foundational Bible doctrines and were unable to provide a testimony indicative of a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. How is it that a million men, many of whom do not have a clear testimony of salvation, can redeem a nation by "Standing in the Gap?"
Sadly, a significant percentage of the Promise Keepers who were surveyed became angry at the concept that such an obvious display of unity should be questioned in light of God's Word. Men who did not have any problem with fellowshipping and unifying with denominations that ordain lesbian ministers, support abortion rights, or preach the false gospel of Rome, literally became red-in-the-face at the idea that God would not honor a mixture of truth and error, a fellowship with those preach a false gospel, and even their noble pilgrimage to Washington. This despising of doctrinal purity came in spite of the clarity of God's Word which not only forbids the believer from fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but commands the believer to reprove them (Eph 5:11). God's command to prove all things, to hold fast that which is good and to abstain from all appearance of evil was being sacrificed on the altar of unity in diversity.
The concept of unity in diversity has so permeated the evangelical church that seemingly no one on the Mall could offer any reason why God should not smile at this patched together conglomeration of liberals and conservatives, holy rollers and liturgists, Catholics and Baptists, old schoolers and new agers. An announcer on a local Washington radio station which covered the event spoke the beliefs of most of those present: "To a God who sees all, this must please his heart."
While we are instructed by Scripture to be of one mind, the evangelical today scoffs at the idea of true biblical unity based on complete agreement with, and submission to, God's holy Word. The only use of the word "unity" in the New Testament is found in Ephesians chapter four. It is a "unity of the Spirit" (v. 3), not of men. It is a "unity of faith" (v. 13) based on sound doctrine for which believers are to contend, not water down (Jude 3). No real spiritual unity can exist apart from doctrinal unity, and we are to "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Rom. 16:17).
As the speakers preached the Promise Keepers' gospel of repentance from denominational division, those in attendance revealed just what that means in a practical sense by their opinions and beliefs. The following is a paraphrased summary of answers given in response to a series of questions asked to a number of "Stand in the Gap" attendees. The survey was intended to merely show the mind-set and basic biblical knowledge (or lack thereof) of many, if not most, of those in attendance. As the random survey was conducted, it became readily apparent that the only real "unity" among the men on the Mall was their inability to provide consistent and biblical responses to the questions that follow:
1. What church do you attend?
Those responding to the survey included Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Charismatics, Independents and others. One Liberty University student claimed to be a Baptist with a Catholic background and said that both traditions are valid!
2. Are you born again?
Almost everyone, including the Catholics interviewed, responded "Yes" to this question, though several offered disclaimers by saying something along the lines of "I don't mean 'born again' the way most people mean it."
3. Do you speak with other tongues?
About a third responded that they did.
4. What is your understanding of the Bible? Is It to be taken literally?
Responses to this question were somewhat delayed, and much explanation was needed to develop each respondent's personal view of what the Bible has to say and how It is to be read. Answers were extremely mixed on the inerrancy of Scripture. Most indicated that the Bible should not be taken literally on history or science.
5. What will be the final condition of the church when Jesus returns?
Answers to this question were almost evenly split between those who believe the church of Christ will be large and powerful and those who had never considered such a question and had no thoughts to offer on it. No one said that they believed the church would be a small remnant of true believers or that apostasy among professing Christians would increase as the return of Christ is approaching.
6. How important is it to you that there is little doctrinal agreement among the members of Promise Keepers?
Almost every person interviewed quickly answered that it was of no consequence to them that there was no agreement on Bible doctrine among members of the Promise Keepers. Most took great pride in the ability to ignore Bible doctrine for the cause of forging an ecumenically styled unity. The one surprisingly pleasant answer to this question came from the only woman interviewed. She was a 27-year-old volunteer handing out some of the one million free Stand in the Gap Contemporary English Version New Testaments. She answered that she was very concerned that there was not much emphasis on doctrine.
7. What do you believe the Bible says about the importance of doctrine?
Many answered with the question, "What do you mean by doctrine?" Others said the Bible teaches that there are only essentials to which all Christians must subscribe and that there is great freedom beyond that. The female PK volunteer was the only one who answered that the Bible treats the subject of doctrine seriously.
8. Do you believe there will be a revival before the return of Jesus Christ? How will it manifest itself?
"Yes. You're looking at it," was the primary response. One respondent said that there would be a revival and deception at the same time. No one else interviewed indicated there would be any type of apostasy that should be avoided.
9. Do you believe that Roman Catholics are Christians?
Almost every respondent said yes, though several added weak stipulations. "Yes, they can be," and "Yes, if they accept Jesus Christ, they are," were the most typical answers. No respondent said flatly that Roman Catholicism is not Christianity.
10. Do you know what the Eucharist is?
Most had no understanding of the Catholic Eucharist. One former Catholic understood completely and renounced the Eucharist as unchristian. Another evangelical understood that it represented the literal body and blood of Christ, though he seemed not to object to its use.
11. Do you believe that a Christian can pray to Mary?
This question produced some of the most surprising answers as several said that a Christian can pray to Mary but should not expect an answer. After receiving that answer, the question was rephrased to say, "Do you think God minds when a Christian prays to Mary?" Some of the respondents changed their opinion and provided a weak response such as, "Well, I suppose," but many refused to consider the possibility that it was not pleasing to God.
If space permitted, many other responses from those in attendance could further attest to their lamentable lack of understanding of biblical doctrine and fidelity to the Word of God.
It is not necessary to give a great deal of space to the fair speeches delivered from the platform. Most of the danger in Promise Keepers, as with all neo-evangelical organizations, lies not in what is said (though that is often bad enough) but in what the leaders refuse to say.
One could cite Dr. A. R. Bernard, pastor of Christian Life Center in Brooklyn, New York, and his continued references to the great work of reconciliation performed by Martin Luther King. Would not the cause of Christ be better served by calling on black Christians to jettison their allegiance to a man who was no Christian in any biblical sense. Will God not judge those who follow a man who denied the deity of Christ, who spent his last night on earth in the same adulterous pattern he had lived through the last years of his life, and who preached not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather the gospel of social reform?
One could cite Jack Hayford, Randy Phillips, Raleigh Washington, or any of the numerous speakers who urged men to their knees in repentance, yet they themselves refused to acknowledge that there was anything to repent of in attending churches run by false prophets, liberals, homosexuals or women.
One could cite James Ryle, pastor of the Boulder Valley Vineyard, who gave a clear presentation of the Gospel calling on all the men present to repent, and yet failed to acknowledge his own false prophecies and repent of them (for more information on Ryle's false prophecies, c.f. "False Prophets, Pseudo Apostles, & A New Gospel," Fundamental Evangelistic Association).
While more than a million men streamed into Washington to acknowledge their sins, they went home just as ignorant of what many of those sins are, even after spending the day prostrate in prayer or in group hugs.
Those who have witnessed this modern-day evangelical event encounter firsthand the amazing ignorance, or perhaps indifference, that exists today regarding apostasy in the church in these last days before the Lord's return. Multiply that phenomenon by one million, and you have "Stand in the Gap." One British newspaper described the audience in this way: "Every denomination was represented, from Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Baptists to 'Bikers for Christ'.
. There were guitar-playing Christians calling on people to 'Jam for the Lamb' and muscular Christians sporting logos of a Herculean Christ under the words 'Lord's Gym.'"
Even the Chicago Tribune took notice of the disparity of beliefs among participants:"...Joseph Stowell, president of Chicago's Moody Bible Institute and representative of one of America's most venerable and buttoned-down evangelical institutions, spoke from the same podium as Charismatics and Pentecostalists who practice a wildly different kind of worship." For Promise Keepers, "wildly different" beliefs and practices are of no concern unless they produce division, and only then do they believe there cause for repentance. Furthermore, Promise Keepers believe
that fellowship with apostate denominations is not something to be avoided, but something to be embraced. How different this is from God's instructions for believers: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11). The Promise Keepers would do well to learn from David, a man whose heart was perfect with the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4): "I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked" (Psalm 26:4-5).
In these deceptive last days of the church age, there are a number of issues that should be of primary concern for any group that caters to new-evangelical Christians, including:
- Ecumenism and the return to Rome.
- Worldliness in the church.
- The replacement of the Gospel with psychological counseling.
- Homosexuality in the church.
- The charismatic invasion of churches
- False prophets and teachers in the church.
- The legitimization of liberal churches that desecrate the Word of God through unbelief and apostasy.
- The flippancy with which publishers have perverted The Word of God.
Not once was any man at "Stand in the Gap" warned of, or given an opportunity to repent of these grave sins before a Holy God. The concept of standing firm on any particular doctrine or belief has been utterly abandoned by the majority of evangelicals today. It has been replaced by a concept of God's love at the expense of God's holiness in which anyone who names the name of Christ, no matter how far astray in doctrine, is welcomed into the fellowship of believers.
Promise Keepers is just the latest tower of Babel-a feeble attempt by all concerned to reach God on their own terms. As the days of Babel were marked by reliance on human effort to reach God, we know from Scripture that the last days will be characterized by the same haughty spirit of spiritual self-achievement.
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
This attitude of spiritual self-achievement was obvious on the Washington Mall. The Promise Keepers brought with them their own covenant and stuck it in God's face for Him to sign. "We are building a covenant with God, statement by statement," Hayford announced early in the day. Throughout the day, Stand in the Gap was arranged around a series of steps and commitments that each man was to enter into with God. They were:
- An Extraordinary God.
- Acknowledging The One And Only God.
-An Extraordinary Response.
- Acknowledging Our Need For Jesus.
- An Extraordinary Hope.
- Understanding God's Heart For A Unified People.
The audacity of men who would deign to design their own covenant with God is amazing. God made a covenant with Noah. God made a covenant with Abraham. God made a covenant with Moses. God made a covenant with David. God made a covenant with Israel. Men do not construct covenants with God. Men have no authority to create such covenants, nor do they have the power to keep them. This is yet another example of how the Promise Keepers twist the meaning of biblical truth to suit the designs of their own making. Through Promise Keepers, men are offered the opportunity to improve themselves and their families--to live a life that is more fulfilling. But the believer is to take the narrow road, the road of self-denial, the road of fidelity to the Word of God, the road of truth and love, the road of hatred toward the wickedness of this world and the road of willingness to forsake family and friends to follow the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Surely the large numbers of men attending Promise Keepers rallies provide validation that this is a move of God, do they not?
To the contrary! To the discerning Christian, large crowds should raise a question in his eyes that something is not right with the group. Jesus never commanded the love and admiration of the masses, nor does He today. Men, on the other hand, have always relied on the arm of flesh as an indication that things are going right.
Arguably, King David's greatest sin was numbering the people (2 Samuel 24:10), and seventy thousand men died before God's judgment was complete.
Today, as in other ages, men are tempted to look at the overwhelming numbers involved in Promise Keepers and say to themselves, "This has to be of God." We would do well to remember that God often reduced the numbers of Israelites sent out to fight, lest they take for themselves the glory for the victory.
This reliance on numbers has led Promise Keepers leadership to the heady self-opinion that they are God's prophets for this age, as Bishop Phillip Porter, chairman of the board, said in Washington: "Men, it is not Promise Keepers that have called you here today, but it's been Almighty God. Promise Keepers are like the prophets of old-they've served as God's messengers for this assembly." The Promise Keepers often adopt the terminology and the concepts of the Old Testament when they are convenient but rarely look very deeply into the reality of the truths presented there. Old Testament prophets were consistently rejected, hated, maligned and killed by those whom they were sent to reach. They certainly did not have mega-ministries spring up around them. The fact that only the most ardent lesbians and feminists protested this event (and they seemed to be radically out of step with everyone else who had an opinion about the rally) should serve as confirmation of the unholiness of this alliance. Stand in the Gap stirred the praise of commentators as diverse as George Stephanopolous and Rush Limbaugh.
President Clinton, not widely known as a Promise Keeper, said, "No one can question the sincerity of the hundreds of thousands of men who are willing to reassume their responsibilities to their families and to their children and therefore to our future." Even false prophet Louis Farrakhan seemed to be impressed: "I have nothing but praise for the Promise Keepers." Should not alarms go off when the enemy offers his praise? According to the Bible, they should: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6:26). This diverse praise of men is similar to the incongruity that exists when news magazines like Time and Newsweek heap derision and doubt on Jesus Christ, yet praise Billy Graham. Something is wrong with this picture.
John Leo, a columnist for U.S. News and World Report, wrote an op-ed piece exposing the frustration of liberals who expected negative coverage of the event. "In Washington, the media not only played it straight, they gave Promise Keepers an edge," Leo said. He attributed this to "Promise Keepers' total absence of anti-gay and anti-feminist rhetoric. A prominent homosexual minister told the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper, "The irony for me is that I'm getting so many letters from gay men who are going to the Promise Keepers' event, and I'm alarmed."
Had the Promise Keepers speakers shared with the world the plain declarations of Scripture regarding homosexuality and feminism, howls of outrage would have quickly drowned the voices of one million men. The truth of God's Word would have unleashed such a feeding frenzy, that the media would have torn apart the "politically correct" appearance of the movement in the eyes of the nation.
But by far, the most tragic aspect of Stand in the Gap would have to be the million-plus men in attendance. In 1948, the World Council of Churches came on the scene with a frontal assault on the church of Jesus Christ. Their attack? To unify all Christian denominations into one. In that era, fundamentalist Bible believers were well-grounded enough in Bible doctrine and prophetic truth to recognize the church of antichrist when they saw it. But only one generation later, the children of those steadfast Christians have simply become another Bible prophecy fulfilled. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
What should the Bible believer's response be? Every person reading this article most likely knows someone involved in this movement. It is incumbent on us, in this last day, to wage a good fight against any church, man, organization or movement that does not operate in accordance with the will of God as revealed in His holy Word. It is Satan's ultimate goal and desire to entangle Christians in the his snare. We are not to be ignorant of his devices. We must, with compassion, continue to speak boldly against this movement. We must warn other believers, even though they will not readily listen.
Sounding a faithful warning is often where the reproach of the cross manifests itself: when we lift up the truth of Scripture before a world-and Christians-who have rejected that the truth of Scripture before a world-and Christians-who have rejected that truth. It takes much patience, love for the brethren and the continued application of Scripture to bring light to those minds darkened by this deceitful movement. But we must keep shining that light. God is faith.
This resource is available from the Fundamental Evangelistic
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