Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pentecostals on the ropes

J. Lee Grady, erstwhile editor of Charisma magazine, is bemoaning the collapse of three "charismatic" Pentecostal churches.

Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Florida, has bit the dust and is looking at foreclosure. At one time, 23,000 folks would show up for worship, but when Randy and Paula White, co-pastors, notified the world that their marriage was on the rocks, the operation began going south. "On Nov. 4 their bank filed foreclosure proceedings and demanded immediate repayment of a $12 million loan on the property."

Up in Georgia, just north of Atlanta, Global Destiny Ministries is also in trouble. Sheriff's deputies showed up at a worship service and told the head honcho, Bishop Thomas Weeks II, to get out. Last June, Weeks divorced his wife, Juanita Bynum. Now the church is $511,000 behind in its rent.

Also in Georgia, the Atlanta congregation of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill has put their church up for sale. "The massive Gothic building--which at one time housed one of the nation's most celebrated charismatic churches, with a membership of 10,000-has slipped into disrepair after lurid sex scandals triggered a mass exodus. The church's founder, Bishop Earl Paulk, has turned the 6,000-seat church (valued at $24.5 million) over to his son, Donnie Earl, who in recent years has abandoned orthodox Christian doctrines, and embraced universalism."

All of this signifies a "Charismatic" meltdown, says Grady. He asks "How did a movement that was at one time focused on winning people to Christ and introducing them to the power of the Holy Spirit end in such disgrace?"

He probably knows the answer.

But he warns that God's gonna get "us" [Pentecostals] if we don't change our ways. "God requires holiness in His house and truth in the mouths of his servants. His is loving and patient with our mistakes and weaknesses, but eventually, if there is no repentance after continual correction, His discipline is severe. He will not be mocked."

While I wish no one ill will, I'm not displeased that these charismatic fonts of religious quackery have crumbled into piles of broken bricks, shattered glass and prostrate pulpits. They represent a movement which erects monstrous monuments of ignorance and superstition from which they feed their flocks a form of Christianity that has little or no connection to the Jesus of the Gospels.

Grady writes that "The wrecking ball of heaven is swinging. It has come to demolish any work that has not been built on the integrity of God's Word."

That seems to me not the problem. When Pentecostals talk about "the integrity of God's Word" they are referring to a method of understanding the Bible that rests on the medieval pillars of literalism and inerrancy. Fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the work of biblical scholars over the past 300 years because the findings of these scholars would show their theology to be thoroughly suspect and would call into question many of their most cherished theological suppositions.

So let these churches fall. Nothing will be lost. Unfortunately, as long as Grady and his ilk pretend their decimation is the work of God and not the result of Pentecostalism's internal weaknesses and that derives from its treatment of the Bible as a magic talisman, nothing much will be gained, either. Other of these monuments to superstition and ignorance will soon arise from the ashes to continue the ministry of charismatic foolishness.

But watch out, 'cause lots of these folks want to remake the U.S. into their own image!

Grady's entire article is here.

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