Saturday, August 02, 2014


i) Recently I've run across criticisms of Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, and Sarah Young. This is framed in terms of the perennial cessationist/continuationist debate. I'll have more to say on that shortly.

I do think it's good that these people are scrutinized. Unfortunately, those who need to hear it aren't listening while those who listen don't need to hear it. It would be more effective if more of their critics were coming from the charismatic movement, rather than outside the movement. That's a typical failing of the charismatic movement. 

I myself only know them by reputation. I haven't read them or read much about them. I'm happy to delegate the evaluation to countercult ministries. A few years ago, I listened to Joyce Meyer for a few minutes, just to see if I could figure out the basis of her appeal. She struck the pose of a stand-up comedienne. Maybe that's what her fans like about her.

ii) There seem to be a number of women in this general vein. In addition to Young, Meyer, and Moore, you also have Gloria Copeland, Cindy Jacobs, and Paula White. One question is whether there's a distinctively charismatic component to their following. 

From what I can tell, it's more about gender than theology. Female bonding. Some women like to listen to other women. Some female speakers (and authors) have a strong following among women. I daresay their followers almost exclusively female. And it doesn't have to have a religious component, much less a charismatic component. Take Oprah Winfrey, Ann Landers, "Dear Abby," Joyce Brothers, or Laura Schlessinger. 

Likewise, you have popular women in the culture wars, like Janet Parshall, Sandy Rios, Beverley LaHaye. You also have popular women who are evangelical, but not charismatic, viz. Catherine Marshall, Elizabeth Elliot, Elizabeth Schaeffer, Jill Briscoe, Joni Tada, Anne Graham Lotz. On the Catholic side there's Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica.  On the "progressive" side there's Rachel Held Evans. Cori ten Boom had a following. She was charismatic, but she also had an inspiring personal story about hiding Jews from Nazis. 

So, from what I can tell, the religious or charismatic factor seems to be pretty incidental. It's mainly about gender. Women of no particular religious persuasion gravitate to women like Oprah. Evangelical fans gravitate to evangelical speakers. Catholic fans gravitate to Catholic speakers. Charismatic fans gravitate to charismatic speakers. The common denominator is gender. Women are fans of a woman who happens to be evangelical, happens to be Catholic, happens to be charismatic. They seem to be draw to women they can relate to, woman to woman. Women who "speak" to their situation. Women who understand what it's like to be a wife, mother, &c. The religious identity is accessory to that baseline appeal. A collective sense of sisterhood. 

It's like the way women are the market niche for soap operas and Harlequin romance novels. Not all women, of course, but hardly any men. By contrast, I don't think most men read or listen to other men because the writer or speaker is a man. More that he usually happens to be a man. Someone like Greg Laurie might be an exception. 

iii) On one level, cessationism has a simple way of winnowing the wheat from the chaff. If God no longer speaks to people, then, by definition, a modern-day prophetess is a false prophetess. 

iv) However, critics often discredit them for heresy, mispredictions, or demonstrably false claims. That's independent of cessationism. 

v) Although the cessationist criterion is practical, it lacks a basis in principle inasmuch as you had prophetesses in the NT church (cf. Acts 21:9; 1 Cor 11). Christians during the NT era did have to evaluate their claims (e.g. 1 Jn 4:1ff.). They couldn't invoke cessationism, for even if cessationism is true, the canon wasn't closed at that juncture.

vi) Cessationist critics say that if God still speaks to Christians, then the canon is open. Given continuing revelation, we should add that to Scripture.

One problem with that argument is the conspicuous fact that the NT church didn't draw that inference. For instance, Paul talks about prophetesses in 1 Cor 11, but he doesn't record their revelations. Luke talks about daughters of Philip, but he doesn't record their prophecies.  The reason, presumably, is that most of these prophecies were ephemeral. Addressing a particular individual, in his particular circumstances, with his particular needs. Not for Christians in general. Not for all time. 

vii) Apropos (vi), cessationist critics say that if God still speaks to Christians, then we must submit to Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, et al. But by parity of argument, that would mean 1C Christians ought to submit to Jezebel (Rev 2:20ff.). That objection is far too indiscriminate. 

For instance, the fact that Sarah Young says Jesus speaks to her doesn't give me the slightest reason to think Jesus speaks to her. It's not as if Jesus told me that he speaks to her. Indeed, I have reason to think God is not speaking to these women. From what I've read about her, Joyce Meyer bears an uncanny resemblance to a savvy, shady businesswoman whose found a lucrative market niche among gullible customers. 

One thing I notice in pop charismatic circles is that people who have no particular competence find it convenient to claim direct revelation. That's a substitute for what's clearly lacking in terms of acuity, judgment, and expertise. 

viii) There's also an ironic tension in followers who look to modern-day prophets for spiritual guidance. Based on their prooftexts (Jn 5:45; Acts 2:17; 1 Jn 2:20,27), isn't a special class of prophets or prophetesses redundant? Given the charismatic premise, why would Jesus speak to Sarah Young but not to her fans? Given the charismatic premise, Christians should not be dependent on a priestly caste of prophets and prophetesses, for isn't every Christian a prophet in the making? 

ix) However, irony can be a two-way street. In the case of women, cessationism intersects with complementarianism. But that also exposes certain tensions in the coalition. Joni Tada was a speaker at the Strange Fire Conference. How is that consistent with the prohibition against female preachers, in mixed company?  

Moreover, does she have a female fan base for essentially different reasons than Joyce Meyer, Sarah Young et al.? Aren't the psychological dynamics very much the same? 

Likewise, notice how these same staunch complementarians praise Janet Mefferd for reproving a male pastor (Mark Driscoll). But doesn't that upend their stated position on Biblical manhood and womanhood? We witness some cynical role reversals when it furthers their own agenda. The message clashes with the messenger. 


  1. I hate how Pentecostal and Charismatic get treated as synonymous, when originally the Pentecostals who were already here opposed the Charismatic movement when it began.

    I am an Independent Baptist with certain Pentecostal inclinations.

    I'm a Man who likes some Romance Novels. And Pretty Little Liars is my favorite TV show. The vast majority of favorite singers are Women, among Christians Singers I Jennifer Knapp.

    I'm a strong opponent of the traditional view that Women can't be Pastors/Preachers. I simply point to Deborah and Priscilla.

    I do view the Canon as closed, but I do not view the Spiritual Gifts including prophecy to have ended. But what any Prophet says must be evaluated against Scripture.

    1. "I'm a strong opponent of the traditional view that Women can't be Pastors/Preachers. I simply point to Deborah and Priscilla."

      I notice that egalitarians and feminists often feel the need to pit Scripture against Scripture like this. On the one hand, passages like 1 Timothy 2:12 are bad. They keep women down. Enforce the patriarchy. On the other hand, complementarians should look at Deborah and Priscilla (and Miriam and Junia...)! See how the Bible upholds these fine women!

      But if men and women are equal, but with different roles to fulfill, then all of these passages can be perfectly harmonized by the complementarian. So those holding the traditional view can accept the whole Bible without pitting Scripture against Scripture.

    2. Although she may still be classified as a "Christian artist", Jennifer Knapp can't be classified as a Christian based on the teaching of Scripture (she's a self-professed active and unrepentant homosexual).

    3. Agree with Mathetes.
      It seems that many people in many circles and groups "pit scripture against scripture" as if it's an effective means of forming doctrine.

    4. I hate how Pentecostal and Charismatic get treated as synonymous, when originally the Pentecostals who were already here opposed the Charismatic movement when it began.

      As a continuationist myself, I agree that Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement shouldn't be treated as synonymous since their teachings aren't identical.

      JaredMithrandir, do you oppose the charismatic movement yourself?

      I ask because arguably the most well known and one of the most (allegedly) miraculous Pentecostals of all time is Smith Wigglesworth. I don't know if you know this, but among both Pentecostal and Charismatic circles there's a famous story of how Wigglesworth prophecied a future revival of the spiritual gifts in the Church that would spread out of Pentecostalism and enter the mainline denominations. Many continuationists (Pentecostals Charismatics, Third Wave/Signs and Wonders Movement folk etc.) believe that prophecy was fulfilled (at least in its first stage) in the Charismatic movement. What do you think? For myself, I think it was. Though, as someone who is also a Calvinist I do think there are some problematic teachings in most continuationist circles.

    5. JaredMithrandir, I'm not saying that the story/rumor of Wigglesworth prophesying a revival actually occurred. Maybe Wigglesworth didn't give such a prophecy. But since you live at this latter (rather than earlier) end of Pentecostal history, I was wondering whether you've heard of the story or not. If so, how that might have affected your views on the Charismatic movement since the story is associated with the late famous Pentecostal minister David du Plessis (who had been nicknamed "Mr Pentecost" by many during his lifetime).

    6. A bunch of liberal claptrap. The paucity of argument in your "study" is incredible, and you can't even be bothered to attempt to exegete 1 Tim 2, knowing that it totally wipes out your position. You make a few brief (and easily refuted) assertions about it, then move on to import other texts foreign to the context, make unargued assertions about prophecy and teaching and use a text that isn't even in the autographs (Mk 16:15). The quality of your arguments on your blog re: homosexuality is similarly dire. These things have already been claimed and refuted many times before.

      Have you even read anyone who disagrees with your position?

    7. *Sigh*. 1 Timothy is a letter about the conducting of church- starts with an admonition to silence false teachers, moves on to 1 Tim 2 about instructions about the conduct of meetings, 1 Tim 3 deals with leadership issues. 3:14-15 says: "Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." Teaching is what overseers do- 1 Tim 3:2. Women cannot be overseers because Paul does not permit them to teach men. The context is precisely that of teaching the assembled church. That the word "preach" does not appear is simply irrelevant and commits a word-concept fallacy.

      As for your dissertation, why should people do your homework for you? You obviously haven't read the other side of the argument's exponents or you would have at least addressed them.

    8. E.g.

      One text is sufficient. You can't just decanonise bits of God's Word whenever you feel like it to suit your argument. The Bible has a doctrine of gender roles which is more generally taught, through from Gen 1-2, expounded in 1 Cor 11, all the texts dealing with gender roles in marriage etc. etc. Not to mention that qualifications for elders/overseers always assume that they will be male (they must all be a "one-woman man".

  2. I find your lack of bias refreshing, Steve. It's really quite nice to see.

  3. If anyone is interested, I've collected most of Steve's recent posts on cessationism and continuationism in chronological order at the following blog:

    Steve Hays on Cessationism

  4. Doug Moo on 1 Timothy 2 and the role of women in the church:

  5. Or better still, Tim Bayly on the role of women in creation:

  6. There are some critiques of Joyce Meyer and the Word of Faith Movement from within milder Charismatic circles - Hank Hannegraaf and the CRI Journal just did another critique of Joyce Meyer recently - CRI Journal, volume 37, no. 2, 2014. (written by Bob Hunter - don't know much about him). Hank Hannegraaf, to me, practically, does not seem very Charismatic, (but emphasizes libertarian free-will against Calvinism), but, he was a member of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa (Pastor Chuck Smith) when in California, but the CRI moved to Charlotte, NC a few years ago. I don't know what kind of church he goes to now. I appreciate his critiques of the Word of Faith heresies and Counterfeit Revival stuff. Dan McConnell was also from within the Charismatic movement, as is Gordon Fee (a classic Pentecostal NT scholar), and they have written critiques of the Word of Faith movement.

    The appeal of Joyce Meyer is more than just being a female and ability to throw in humor in her messages (your "stand-up comedian" comment), though those are certainly aspects of her appeal. She is part of the Word of faith, movement, speaks at Joel Osteen's church and with other Word of Faith heretics, but she is different in that she actually does confront sin, self-pity, gossip, pride, jealousy, etc. - and one of her big appeals is that she speaks about her own testimony of being sexually abused by her father, and her victory and healing over that, and she has ministered to a lot of women in that capacity. Many people, especially women, who follow her follow her because of those issues mostly. She speaks of "enjoying life" and joy in the Holy Spirit a lot, and that has a big appeal for people coming from an Islamic background. She is big in the Middle East and N. Africa, being translated into Arabic and Farsi.

    I have watched her more, because I wanted to find out what her appeal is; (many Iranians are attracted to her and her teaching, and she is one of the main ones that is translated into Farsi and is beamed into Iran by satellite TV.) She reaches a lot of Middle Eastern women because she is strong and confident and shows what Christ can do for women who are oppressed. That seems to be her big appeal for Iranian women who come from oppressive Islamic background.

    She has taught word of faith heresies, etc. but when I point these out to Iranians, they say they have watched her for years and never heard those heresies. Maybe they avoid translating the bad heretical stuff.

    If she would only teach women, and stop presenting herself as "the pastor-teacher", and get under male leadership in a healthy local church, and repent of her word of faith heresies, and repent of the opulent and greedy life-style, emphasis on human efforts - God wants to bless you with money and victory emphasis, she could be a positive example, but those are BIG Ifs.

    I don't think Janet Mefford rebuking Mark Driscoll violates the complimentarian view. I also don't think having Joni E. Tada speak at Strange Fire violates it either. They are not being elders-pastors in authority in a local church, so it does not follow, IMO.

    1. Ken, always a pleasure to hear from you.

      Thanks for the background info, since you know far more about her than I.

      Frankly, I take sex abuse charges with a grain of salt (absent independent confirmation) inasmuch as this has become such a cliche.

      As far as charismatic women who project a strong image go, I used to listen to Bernice Gerard every so often when she came on TV. I'm not endorsing her, but she might be more reliable than Meyer.

      I think what Mefferd and Tada did is inconsistent with the complementarian-cum-authoritarian ecclesiology of MacArthurites like Frank Turk and Tony Miano. Also, having Tada speak at the Strange Fire Conference is frankly the kind of raw emotional appeal that they castigate charismatics for indulging in.

      Notice, I'm not saying *I* think what Mefferd and Tada did was wrong. I'm just questioning the consistency. There's this selective opportunism.

  7. Thanks, your points are well taken. IMO, personal testimony is valuable, as in John 9, the guy said, "I was blind, and now I see". Until other evidence is presented, I see no reason to question that; but I never thought about that before in this case; so your point is a good one, to take with a grain of salt.

    IMO, since Tada and Mefferd are not acting or performing the role of pastor-elder-local church authority, I don't see the contradiction. I am complemtarian also, and I don't believe women can be elders/pastors/oversees; but I don't see the problem with them sharing as they did. I think Tada's experience add's authority to the Biblical teaching on God's Sovereignty and suffering, and her book, When God Weeps, (with her pastor, Steve Estes, PCA), is one of the best books on God's Soveriegnty and Suffering, IMO. Emotions are good; Emotionalism is not good. Sometimes we Reformed folk are too extreme and down on all emotions. (me included)

    1. From what you've said, there's no reason a woman couldn't be the teaching pastor (preach all the sermons) so long as she's answerable to an all-male church board.

  8. No; I would not agree with that at all. But I can see the inconsistency, or exceptions. I don't think Mefferd was "teaching" - it was a public radio show. It could be argued that Joni Erickson Tada was "teaching", but it is was more of sharing her testimony of what God has done in her life. Maybe those exceptions are compatible with God raising up Deborah or Priscilla instructing Apollos without taking those examples and having them "teach or preach all the sermons" - no; I can't take it that far.

  9. Keep in mind that I never said I disprove of what Mefford and Tada did. I'm just raising the issue of consistency. I personally have no problem with what they did.

    I think the Pauline prohibitions are primarily about authority and secondaril about teaching.