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A NEW REFORMATION? THE FAULTY GOSPEL OF ...

Written by: Gudel, Joseph P.    Posted on: 04/24/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

The Christian BBS - (604)478-2789 - 24 Hrs - 8,N,1 - C/O Dave Geauvreau, Voice (604)478-0254, 3053 Metchosin Rd. Victoria, B.C., Canada - V9B 4Y9  ======================================================================== This article was put on The Christian BBS by permission from Christian Research Institute-Canada, and was taken from:

              "Forward" Now Called "Christian Research Journal"               Volume 8  Number 1  Spring 1985

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Note: If you want to reproduce this article you must get in contact with this organization and get permission as I have done.  I do not hold to the copywriting of Christian literature but it is the law and the Christian attitude should be one of complying to the laws of the land as much as is within our power to do so without comprising the Word of God. If you do write to them be sure to mention where you got their info from as I am sure that they would like to know that they are reaching people through this board.  Permission to reprint was obtained through the Calgary branch.

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                              A NEW REFORMATION? 

                  THE FAULTY GOSPEL OF ROBERT SCHULLER

                          By Joseph P. Gudel

            Taken From The Magazine - "FORWARD" Spring 1985

      `Why would any Christian write an  article  criticizing  Dr. Schuller?  Isn't  this being negative?  Isn't this being unloving?'   These and similar questions are raised automatically by many people whenever  one  Christian criticizes  another  Christian;  especially  when the one criticized is as notable and well-liked as Dr. Robert Schuller.      I believe the first question  raised  above  will  be  answered  as  we examine  the  content  of  Dr. Schuller's theology.  To test or  criticize someone whose teachings are aberrational is not being  negative;  in  fact the  Bible  commands  us  to  do this.  When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, he told them to "test all things; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).      The question still remains: "Is this unloving?" The most unloving thing that we could do would be to close our eyes and turn our backs  as  untold numbers  of  people are being led astray by false teaching.  To critique a Christian who has erred from the truth is the most loving thing  we  could do  for  him.  The  Apostle  James wrote:  "My brethren,  if any among you strays from the truth,  and one turns him back,  let him know that he  who turns  a  sinner  from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). 

                        DR. SCHULLER'S THEOLOGY

    Dr. Schuller  has stated  many  times  throughout  his  many  years  of ministry  that  his one goal,  his main desire,  is to reach the masses of unchurched people.  When he and his wife first arrived in California, they wondered how they could build a church from scratch. 

    "Who would come to our church?...Looking at some statistics,  it was very plain that half the people in the U.S. had no religious affiliation.  Our answer  then  came  quickly and clearly.  The unchurched thousands - this was our opportunity.  We would have to impress and win  the  people  who, for one reason or another,  had never before been interested in organized religion." [1]

    So Dr. Schuller  believes that his calling is that of a missionary.     "My ministry has, for over thirty years, been a mission to the unbelievers." [2]  And as we are about to see, he does not believe that the way to reach them is by proclaiming the gospel.      How does Dr. Schuller believe we can reach the nonbelievers most effectively?  The most important thing is to find out what they  want!      He did  this  for  several years at the beginning of his California ministry.  And what did he discover?  He found out that nonbelievers wanted  to  have their  emotional  needs met:  they did not want to hear about the Bible or about their need for forgiveness of sins and salvation. 

    "As a missionary, I find the hope of respectful contact is based on  a `human-need' approach rather than a theological attack....The non- churched who have no vital belief in a relationship with God  will spurn, reject, or simply ignore the theologian, church spokesperson, preacher, or missionary who approaches with Bible in hand, theology on the brain and the lips, and expects nonreligious persons to suspend their doubts and swallow the theocentric assertions as fact." [3]

              POSSIBILITY THINKING VS. NEGATIVE THINKING

    Since  Dr. Schuller  will  not  preach the gospel from the pulpit,  nor teach from the Bible, what then is the message he propagates?  Los Angeles Times staff writer Bella Stumbo,  after an  extended  interview  with  Dr.  Schuller,  wrote:  "In short, Robert Schuller believes that God placed him on this Earth to preach possibility thinking." [4]  Anyone who is familiar with Dr. Schuller's writing or who  has listened to him speak will realize that this is not an exaggeration.      Throughout his ministry Dr. Schuller has  been outspoken in warning his listeners about the dangers of negative thinking.  He asks his audience to consider "that dirty ten-letter-word  `impossible.'  When  uttered  aloud, this  word  is  devastating  in  its effect.  Thinking stops.  Progress is halted." [5]  Elsewhere he states: "Whatever you do, never verbalize a negative emotion." [6]     The gospel that he wants to share with his unchurched audience is  that they can do anything that they want to,  that everything is possible for a "possibility thinker"

    There is no problem or situation that cannot be solved. [7]

    ...success awaits the man who will "never say never." [8]

    ...this is what I think our ministry is all about.  Helping people realize they can become more than they ever thought they could be! [9]

    To underscore just how vitally important this message is, Dr. Schuller once wrote: "I believe in positive thinking.  It is almost as important as the resurrection of Jesus Christ." [10]  In addition,  the titles to some of his books are revealing" Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking,  You Can Become the Person You Want to Be, It's Possible, and Become a Possibility Thinker Now. 

                          THE GOSPEL OF SUCCESS

    Closely  connected  with  his emphasis on "possibility thinking" is his teaching concerning success.  Dr. Schuller  believes that God wants us  to succeed in whatever we do.      "God's  will  for  you  is  clear....God  wants  you  to succeed.  He has promised to "crown your efforts with success!" (Prov. 3:6). [11]  Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, mines of ore that have never been discovered, and is waiting to make millionaires out of simple farm boys?  Take Christ as your Partner and give Him a chance to work the miracle He promised:     "I am come that you might have life - and have it more abundantly." [12]      If you fail, you do so because you choose to fail! [13]     Although in  recent  years  Dr. Schuller  has  somewhat  tempered  this teaching, it is still one of his major tenets. 

                    SELF-ESTEEM: A NEW REFORMATION

    The  prime  focus  of  Dr. Schuller's  ministry  today  concerns  the self-esteem of the individual.  This was reflected in most of his  earlier books,  but  was  never specifically formulated until 1982,  when he wrote SELF-ESTEEM:  THE NEW REFORMATION.  Dr. Schuller  believes that  virtually every  problem a person has,  every ill that plagues society,  all sin and evil in  the  world,  is  a  result  of  people  having  low  self-esteem.  Therefore, our greatest need is to have our self-esteem increased.     "Self-esteem  then,  or  "pride  in  being  a human being," is the single greatest need facing the  human  race  today. [14]  I  strongly  suggest  that self-love  is  the  ultimate will of man - that what you really want more than anything else in the world is the awareness that you  are  a  worthy person. [15]  Do  not  fear  pride:  the  easiest job God has is to humble us.  God's almost impossible task is to keep us believing every hour of  every day how great we are as his sons and daughters on planet earth." [16]     According to Schuller, in order to reach the multitudes of nonbelievers today, a new reformation is needed, a reformation based on building up their self-esteem.  This reformation must be  anthropocentric, that is, man-centered, not theocentric, or God- centered.  Indeed, Dr. Schuller believes that classical theology seriously errs in insisting that  all theology be centered around God instead of around man. [17]

                                THE BIBLE

    One might legitimately ask why Dr. Schuller believes classical theology errs so gravely.  His answer:  Luther and Calvin were listening to the wrong person!  He asks the following rhetorical question:     "Luther and Calvin,  we know,  looked to the Book of Romans in the  Bible for their primary inspiration.  Were they, unknowingly, possessed more by the spirit of St. Paul than by the Spirit of Jesus Christ?  Are we not on safer grounds if we look to our Lord's words to launch our reformation?" [18]     The  implication  is  that  what  Jesus  said  in the gospels overrides everything else in the Bible.  For Schuller then,  some parts of the Bible (i.e.,  what  Jesus  said  as recorded in the gospels) have more authority than other areas of the Bible.  In other parts  of  SELF- ESTEEM:  THE  NEW REFORMATION, Dr. Schuller is more explicit.      "But  can  anything  be  above  the  Scriptures?  Yes,  the  Eternal  Word transcends the written Word.  Christ is the Word made  flesh.  Christ  is the  Lord  over  the  Scriptures;  the  Scriptures  are  not  Lord  over Christ...The Bible must not compete with the Lord for the seat of  glory.      We  are  "saved  by the blood," not "by the Book." We believe in the holy Trinity, not a holy Quadrangle. [19]     Christ must be, at all times, Lord over the Scriptures." [20]

                          SIN AND MAN'S NATURE

    For Dr. Schuller sin, a subject he does not like to discuss, has a  definition very different from the one most Christians give.  "I am convinced that the deepest of all human needs is salvation from sin and hell....We come now to the problem of semantics.  What do I  mean by sin?  Answer:  Any  human condition or act that robs God of glory by stripping one of his children of their right to divine dignity.  I could offer another complementing answer, "Sin is that deep lack of trust that separates me from God and leaves me with  a sense of shame and unworthiness."  I can offer still another answer: "Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another  human being of his or her self- esteem." [21]  Any  analysis of `sin' or `evil'...that fails to see the lack of self-dignity as the core of the problem will prove to be too shallow. [22] Classical Reformed Theology declares that we are conceived and born rebellious sinners.      But that answer is too shallow.  It ignores the tough question:  Why should love-needing persons resist,  rebel  against, and  reject beautiful love?  The answer?  We are born non-trusting.  Deep down we feel we are not good enough to approach a holy God. [23]     By implication then,  man is basically  good according to Dr. Schuller.  His  only problem is that he was born with a disability:  this disability, or original sin, is a low self-esteem or lack of trust. [24]     "If only we could love ourselves enough to dare approach  God....But we feel too unworthy.  So one layer of negative  behavior is laid upon another until we emerge as rebellious sinners.  But our rebellion is a reaction, not our nature.  By nature we are fearful, not bad.      Original sin is not a mean streak;  it is a non-trusting inclination....do not say that  the central core of the human soul is wickedness.  If this were so, then  truly,  the  human  being  is  totally  depraved.  But  positive Christianity does not hold to human depravity, but to human inability." [25]     Dr. Schuller  does  not  believe  or  teach  that  we  are  ultimately responsible  for  our  sins.  He  attempts  to distinguish between what he calls "Adam's Sin" and "Original Sin."  Adam, created sinless, knew better. Only he deserved a sermon on sin,  because he alone  had  a  choice.  Adam "...made a choice, he chose.  He knew better.  His children, however, were born with a disadvantage.  They didn't have that choice." [26]     Because we are basically fearful,  but not bad,  and because we need to have our self-esteem lifted,  Jesus never criticized people or called them sinners,  according to Dr. Schuller.  Instead,  he  always tried to uplift them.      "He never did call them `sinners.'  He saw great possibilities in each of these men.  How He tried to give them the sense of self-worth and dignity that  they deserved!  After all,  they were human beings,  descendants of God. [27]  Christ always tried to give man's self-image a boost.  When he  met immoral  people  He  never them sinners.  Never! [28]  He believed in the dignity of the individual.  So He never called a person a sinner.  He always saw the individual as a saint." [29]     So Dr. Schuller believes  that if Jesus never  called  people  sinners, then he won't either. 

                              MAN AND GLORY

    The  end  result  that  Dr. Schuller  hopes  to  accomplish  is to show everyone that they are all children of God because they are  all  made  in His image. "The Father-hood of God is built into our subconscious," [30] all we really  need  is  enough self-esteem to accept this fact.  But it does not stop there.  Because "we were created to be princes  and  princesses," [31] we have  an  innate  "thirst for glory." Dr. Schuller  believes that "what we need is a theology of salvation that begins and ends with a recognition of every person's hunger for glory." [32]  Dr. Schuller believes that "what we need is a theology of salvation that begins and ends with a recognition of every person's hunger for glory." [33]     "The  Christian  faith  and  life  is  a gospel designed to glorify human beings for the greater glory of God." [34]  The final goal is that "we can pray,  `Our Father in heaven,  honorable is our name.'" [35]

                        SALVATION AND THE GOSPEL

    In concluding our examination of Dr. Schuller's  theology we  must  see what  he  has  to  say  about salvation and the gospel.  First of all,  he stresses that people will not respond to the gospel until  they  recognize that  they are worthy of God.  "The unsaved person cannot perceive himself as worthy of `divine grace' and hence rejects it." [36]     In fact,  Dr. Schuller  believes that the ultimate sin  is  in  feeling unworthy about yourself: "The most serious sin is the one that causes me to say,  `I am unworthy.  I may have no claim to  divine  sonship  if  you examine me at my worst.'" [37]     Dr. Schuller  believes,  then,  that  God  wants  to  build  up  man's self-esteem  and  restore  the  lost  glory  that is our inherent right as children of God, as people "created to be princes and princesses." [38]  "God's ultimate objective is to turn you and me into self-confident persons." [39]     In accord with this, Dr. Schuller believes that any proclamation of the gospel  that  puts  "a  person  down before it attempts to lift him up" is dangerous. [40]  He goes on to state that "you are  not  preaching  the  Gospel unless you make people happy, because the Gospel is good news." [41]     Finally, what is salvation in Schuller's opinion?  What does it mean to be "born again"?      "What  does  it mean to be saved?  It means to be permanently lifted from sin (psychological self-abuse with  all  of  its  consesquences  as  seen above)  and  shame  to  self-esteem  and  its  God-glorifying  human need-meeting,  constructive,  and  creative  consequences. [42] Salvation  is defined  as  rescue  from shame to glory. [43]  To be born again means that we must be  changed  from  a  negative  to  a  positive  self-image  -  from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust." [44]     And what is the real effect of being saved? "Glory restored is the real fruit of salvation." [45]

                          A BIBLICAL CRITIQUE

                          A FAULTY FOUNDATION

    A  building  is  only  as strong as its foundation,  and every argument stands or falls on its premise(s).  In Dr. Schuller's  case we can readily see that his entire ministry is based upon a defective  premise.  What  is it?  He  has  knowingly  based  and structured his theology on what people wanted to hear!  It began with him going from door to door,  asking people what  type  of church they would like to attend. [46]  It has continued to this day, albeit more sophisticatedly, with Dr. Schuller  hiring firms like the Gallup Poll to conduct surveys on such pertinent topics as self-esteem  of the American people. [47]  Instead of asking himself what the people needed, he asked  what  they wanted.      Sometimes these two are in agreement,  but more often they are not.  Instead of  listening  to  the  people,  or  even  to himself,  he should have asked God what the people needed and how he could help them obtain it!      Imagine someone like the prophet Jonah going to Nineveh and telling the people only the good things that they wanted to hear.  After all, he could have reasoned,  thay  would  never  listen  to  some  foreigner  preaching negative sermons.  Why,  none of the Ninevites even believed in the Jewish Scriptures.  The result of this type of  approach  would  have  meant  the destruction of Nineveh and all of its inhabitants.  A  theology  based  upon opinion polls rather than upon God's Word is a direct fulfillment of what the Apostle Paul warned against:

2 Tim. 4:3     For  the  time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,  but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears,  they will heap up for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires."

                          POSSIBILITY THINKING

    The teaching advanced by Dr. Schuller is  clear.  You can  be  whatever you want to be,  all you have to do is believe in yourself.  Any and every problem you encounter can be overcome,  just never quit.  "Set your  goal, define  your  role,  and  pay your toll." [48]  "What you can conceive, you can achieve." [49]  And above all, never verbalize a negative thought or admit that something is impossible.      As  we  have  seen,  the  teaching  of  "possibility  thinking"  is  a cornerstone of Dr. Schuller's  theology.  And in and of itself,  there  is nothing wrong with this.  After all,  there are many biblical verses which affirm this.  For example:

Luke 1:37     "For with God nothing will be impossible"

Mark 9:23     Jesus said to him, "If you can believe,  all things are possible to him who believes."     There  are several problems,  however,  with how Dr. Schuller  presents this.  First of all,  his emphasis is virtually indistinguishable from the same type of teachings given in secular circles (e.g., Dale Carnegie's HOW TO  WIN  FRIENDS  AND  INFLUENCE PEOPLE).  The only difference is the fact that the biblical promises of God's help apply only to  those  people  who have  a  living relationship with God;  that is,  people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  But Dr.  Schuller admits that  the main group of people he is trying to reach are non-Christians!  Therefore, his "possibility thinking" teachings from the Bible really would not apply to them.      Second,  in teaching that we can do anything that we can dream of,  Dr.  Schuller  totally ignores the fact that we do have limitations.  All of us are limited by our own natural abilities and by  outside  influences  over which we have no control.      A  final  flaw in this type of teaching is that there are times when we must say unpleasant things or "verbalize negative emotions."      According to Dr. Schuller,  the  Apostle  Peter  would  probably  be one of the world's greatest possibility thinkers.  Why?  Remember when Jesus  began  to  tell His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed  (cf.  Matt. 16:21)?  What  was  Peter's  reaction?  He took Jesus aside and lectured Him on the dangers of negative thinking. 

Matt. 16:22     Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him,  saying,  "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you!"     We all know the rest of the story.  Jesus rebuked Peter for not setting his "mind on  God's  interests,  but  man's."  Elsewhere,  Jesus  actually commands us, under certain conditions, to verbalize negative emotions. 

Luke 17:3     "Take  heed  to  yourselves.  If your brother sins against you,  rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him."     The danger of Dr. Schuller's  teaching  on  "possibility  thinking"  is that he only shows one side of the coin and thus distorts God's message. 

                          THE GOSPEL OF SUCCESS

    In attempting to marshal together biblical evidence to back his  claims that God wants us to succeed in whatever we do, Dr. Schuller has taken one verse  after another out of context.  For example:  "God's will for you is clear....God wants you to succeed.  He has promised to `crown your efforts with success!'" (Prov. 3:6). [50]     It is no accident that Dr. Schuller quotes Proverbs 3:6 from The Living Bible, which is a paraphrase, not a translation.  Proverbs 3:6,  according to  the  Hebrew Masoretic text,  reads:  "In all thy ways acknowledge Him.  And He will direct thy paths." [51]  The Hebrew word for "direct"  is  "yashar," meaning  "To  go  straight  or  direct  in  the  way"  or "to make (a way) straight." [52]  Thus God is promising to guide us as we walk with Him, not  to make us succeed in everything we do.      Many examples could be cited to show Dr. Schuller's frequent distortion of scriptural passages in order to justify his theological positions.  For instance, what does Dr. Schuller say Jesus really meant when He taught His disciples to pray for their "daily bread" (Matt. 6:11)?      "`Give  us our daily bread.' What does the word bread mean?  Bread refers to life's basic  needs.  God  doesn't  promise  that  we  will  have  the crust....What  is  the  crust  that  God  offers?  We call it possibility thinking. [53]  `Give us this day our daily bread.' God will give us  what  we need.  And what is that?  It is creative, inspiring, possibility-pregnant ideas." [54]     Dr. Schuller  is guilty of even more blatant distortion when he equates the  "rivers  of  living  water"  Jesus  referred  to  in  John 7:38  with self-esteem.      "And I can feel the self-esteem rising  all  around  me  and  within  me, `Rivers  of  living  water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me' (John 7:38, TLB).  I'll really feel good about myself." [55]     Did Jesus really equate "rivers of living  water"  with  "self- esteem"?  The  Apostle  John  (who  I think was in a better position to tell us what Jesus meant than Dr. Schuller is) tells us exactly what     Jesus was saying:

John 7:39     But  this  He spoke concerning the Spirit,  whom those believing in Him would receive;  for the Holy Spirit was not yet given,  because Jesus  was not yet glorified.      More examples could be cited showing how Dr. Schuller  takes verses out of context and/or distorts their meaning, but these will suffice.      One of the most lamentable aspects of Dr. Schuller's "Gospel of Success" is in the effect it can have on people who genuinely try  but fail.  For people like this I cannot think of anything more pernicious than to tell them that "if you fail, you do so because  you choose to fail." [56]  William  Kirk  Kilpatrick, associate  professor of educational psychology at Boston College, makes the following observation:     "If you lead people to believe that by the power of their mind  they  can become  rich  and change their life,  and if in fact that doesn't happen, not only are they going to feel frustration but also more guilt  for not having enough faith." [57]     Christians may oftentimes be successful in their earthly endeavors, but God has not promised this to us.  In fact, many of the greatest men and women of faith were total failures

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