The Enemy of My Enemy

Back in the early 1990s, hardly anyone outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area had heard of Ole (pronounced “OH-lee”) Anthony or the Trinity Foundation. The organization and its leader suddenly burst on the national consciousness by providing the ABC-TV network’s Primetime Live show with evidence that eventually brought down the ministry of televangelist Robert Tilton.

Any biblically-conscious, spiritually-discerning Christian who had ever watched Tilton’s maniacal pursuit of money in the name of Jesus realized that a major religious shyster had been given his comeuppance. He’d been living an incredibly lavish lifestyle, taking money from people who could ill-afford to part with it under the pretense that if they “sowed” their “seeds of faith” God would repay them many fold. And just in case you doubted whether God would make good, Tilton would regularly burst out in ecstatic tongues right on camera so that you could see that he was obviously filled with the Spirit.

Tilton was the head of an expanding empire that eventually fell to a small band of somewhat eccentric followers of a slightly-more-than-eccentric leader—to a bunch of nobodies who had crawled through garbage dumpsters to get the goods on him.

They lived communally. They spent much of their time in Bible studies and listening to their leader’s sermons, but when they weren’t doing that, they were demolishing multi-million-dollar spiritual scam artists. Anthony and his followers soon found themselves elevated to folk-hero status among those involved in evangelical counter-cult ministry. His newfound fame seemed well-deserved.

Eventually Michael Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties and the well-known Christian satire magazine, The Wittenburg Door, decided that the latter would be better off if it were published by Anthony and his gang. He sold the publication to the Trinity Foundation for $1.

Anthony now took control of an evangelical icon. He had hit the big time. He was part of the “in crowd.”

But what did we really know about him? As it turns out, not much, actually.

Résumé inflation

He certainly had a strong, if off-beat charisma. On the other hand, when he visited the national conference of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) after achieving national stardom, some people there thought he came off as a little arrogant, and perhaps more than a tad condescending and judgmental.

But then, who wouldn’t be arrogant with the kind of background Anthony claimed to have? A former heroine junkie and car thief who became a top-secret, clandestine operative for the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. Proficient in several foreign languages. Witness to, and near-victim of a nuclear bomb test. A recipient of two presidential citations. An alumnus of the University of Arizona, Southern Methodist, and Harvard. That’s pretty heady stuff. And to think he gave it all up to follow Jesus!

Except that it now appears that none of that stuff ever happened; at least not in any way that closely resembles the way Ole told it. (See the August 3, 2006 Dallas Observer article, “The Man and the Myth,” by Glenna Whitley.)

Fifteen years

That’s about how long Ole & Co. were both media darlings and heroes for those who spend much of their time battling cults and religious charlatans. Fifteen years, give or take. If we knew as much about him then as we know now, we probably wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about him. And yet, when the reality began to bubble to the surface, there were those among us who would rather kill the messenger than deal with the message.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an old proverb that is usually reserved for the area of foreign policy. The history of international diplomacy is filled with strange-bedfellow alliances of nations whose leaders would not normally cross a street to shake each other’s hand, but have on occasion even pledged their children in matrimony to each other, or entered into non-aggression pacts and the like (think Hitler and Stalin). But even those nations who sacrifice principle for political expediency do not tend to do so at the expense of political discernment. They know with whom they are dealing, most of the time, at least (Neville Chamberlain’s lack of discernment about Hitler being a notable exception that proves the general rule). If only that were always the case with evangelical Christians.

Legend has it that in a discussion in 1939 about the ruthless Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García (father of that other ruthless Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who found himself on the wrong end of a bazooka while exiled in Paraguay in 1980), Franklin D. Roosevelt said (if I may paraphrase slightly), “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.!” because, of course, he was anti-Communist.

If someone is strongly opposed to the same things we are strongly opposed to, it can create an instant bond that bypasses reason and critical thinking. This can even happen with those of us involved in ministries that are devoted to promoting discernment among Christians. And if the Christians in question do not take the time to really get to know others with whom they have bonded over a common opposition, it can even go on for, say, fifteen years, give or take.

The lid blows off

I Can’t Hear God Anymore, by Wendy J. DuncanIn 2006 Wendy J. Duncan published her book, I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult, about the years she spent in the Trinity Foundation. It is a searing account of spiritual manipulation, bizarre practices, and doctrinal aberrations, and it caught the evangelical counter-cult community off-guard.

How are we to respond to allegations that someone we thought was a member of our team is actually playing for the opposing side? For the most part there was no response. To Wendy Duncan and her husband Doug (who had also been a member of the Trinity Foundation), it initially seemed that the book was greeted with a resounding silence from the Christian counter-cult community. But I can tell you how some people involved in counter-cult ministry eventually responded: they called on Ole and his followers to get “the real story.” They didn’t call Wendy or Doug. Nor did they call people who could vouch for Wendy Duncan or her husband.

Messages were soon being passed on an apologetics discussion list to which I subscribe to the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Duncan were unstable individuals who were not to be trusted. Those passing these messages had nothing but the word of Wendy’s enemies to back up their statements. I responded to one such message on August 4, 2006, as follows:

…in my opinion, until someone does some genuine investigative writing on the charges that are now being published, it’s too early to form a real conclusion, and we are morally obligated to consider the allegations an open issue. I know how difficult and time-consuming real investigative reporting is, but I firmly believe that our integrity flies right out the window if we cut our favorite people all kinds slack while tightening nooses around the necks of our adversaries.

I realized, however, that investigating a religious group in another part of the country would be a tall order. I figured the truth would have to come out over time, as events played out. After all, who has the time or finances to devote to a little commune in Dallas? Christian counter-cult ministries aren’t exactly bursting with such resources. Fortunately, however, others are.

Little did I know that the day before I emailed those comments, the Dallas Observer had published an investigative piece on Ole Anthony by Glenna Whitley, the main article coming out on August 3 titled “The Cult of Ole.” (Ms. Whitley produced a follow-up article on November 22, 2007 titled “Turning the Tables on Trinity Foundation.”) In my opinion the information in these articles is even more devastating that what Mrs. Duncan wrote.

Among the most damaging allegations to surface were to the effect that Anthony and his followers may have been less than successful in keeping the second greatest commandment, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, as it built its case against Tilton for Primetime Live.

Ultimately Tilton would win all the lawsuits filed by his “victims.” Sad stories, yes, but not actionable in court. Despite federal agents crawling all over his operations, Tilton was never charged with a crime. Few media outlets that carried stories about Tilton reported anything when the investigations were dropped.

And few covered what would be revealed about Primetime Live in the next few years. Reams of documents released in discovery, raw ABC footage and depositions would show that producers had edited interviews out of context, distorted facts and omitted information favorable to Tilton. …

Holloway [a former member of the Trinity Foundation] was stunned to discover that Anthony and the producers had mixed the trash from various dumpsters. “It was on videotape,” says Holloway, “Ole and the producers literally playing with the evidence on B-roll.” That made Holloway—who’d testified repeatedly about the accuracy of their evidence log—a potential perjurer.

[The Cult of Ole, page 8 of the Web version.]

It’s understandable that the secular media would not want to give positive publicity to a spiritual snake oil salesman, and by this time Ole himself had found a comfortable spot for himself as a public religious commentator of sorts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Anthony had become a voice for the masses who were fed up with watching religious hucksters raiding little old ladies’ piggy banks (not to mention their retirement funds), and it was not going to be easy to tarnish his image as an edgy-but-trustworthy spokesman for their disgust. And why not? The guy is handsome, charming, and he “tells it like it is!” Right?

But what if the cure is worse than the disease, and the doctor is as sick as (or sicker than) the patient? And if the fruit is bad, what does that say about the root? Didn’t Jesus say something about how it is a key indicator of some major problems with the tree that produced it?

In the field of counter-cult apologetics, we tend to emphasize doctrinal issues over practical concerns, and it is often a good idea to keep those two things separate in order to avoid useless controversies over peripheral issues. But questionable practices are frequently symptoms of false doctrines. If a church practices a morbidly-introspective form of penitential confession, there is a good chance that it has a false doctrine of salvation, or at least the assurance of salvation. If a group requires complete uniformity on every jot and tittle of teaching among all its members under pain of excommunication, then at the very least it has a defective doctrine of the church.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and for cults and other spiritually-tyrannical groups the flame that always burns at their cores is ultimately a false view of Scripture itself. They place either their interpretations of the Bible or their extra-biblical teachings above the Bible or on a par with it. Begin peeling away the layers of their creeds and rhetoric and it shouldn’t take long to find something that sabotages the authority of God’s word. The only question concerning the Trinity Foundation since 2006 has been how long it would take for its core to be exposed.

The other shoe drops

Since 2006, events have continued to play out with the Trinity Foundation. A March 23, 2008 Wittenburg Door article by John Bloom, a close associate of Ole Anthony’s, demonstrates just how far from biblical orthodoxy Anthony & Co. have strayed. The article, titled, “Putting Women in Their Place,” begins with the subject of Hebrew professor Sheri Klouda’s lawsuit against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. In the following paragraphs I will essentially repeat, with some modifications, comments I left on the web page for Bloom’s article—comments to which Bloom has not replied.

The essential significance of the case of Sheri Klouda would have been much better served if Bloom would have confined himself to the ethical issues involved, because if Klouda’s side of the story is correct, then we should all have serious concerns about how she was treated by the seminary. But by venturing into hotly-contested areas of biblical studies with comments that demonstrate both woefully-inadequate scholarship and reckless disregard for the canon of Scripture, Bloom has diverted attention away from a proper concern for ethics in evangelical institutions of higher education and onto his own—and by extension his editor’s and publisher’s—questionable commitment to both biblical authority and historical honesty. This is because in his article, Bloom takes a dangerous step beyond directly disputing the traditional understanding of the Apostle Paul’s teaching regarding the role of women in the church.

Now there are two ways you can challenge the traditional Christian understanding of this subject. One way is to challenge the interpretation that has been traditionally held. The other way is to challenge the authority of the text of Scripture itself. The first way can at least potentially be done in a way that preserves its proponent’s Christian orthodoxy. The latter way cannot. Unfortunately, Bloom has chosen the latter route.

Regarding 1 Timothy, Bloom wrote:

This is not the voice of God, as in Leviticus. This is the voice of a man called ‘Paul’ by the writer, but we don’t really know who it is. Scholars are 100 percent agreed—even the male scholars—that it’s not Paul who wrote this, because the letter has been dated no earlier than the year 120. Therefore, even though it’s written to Timothy, it can’t be the same Timothy who traveled with Paul, for he, too, is dead by 120.

Anyone who has seriously studied the issue of the date and authorship of 1 Timothy knows this to be a false statement. Scholars have never been 100 percent agreed that Paul did not write it. (As someone with an M.A. in Biblical Studies I scratch my head and ask: “When are biblical scholars ever 100 percent agreed on anything?” Bloom’s statement is positively absurd!) In fact, it has only been relatively-recent (in the context of church history) liberal scholarship that has contested that Paul wrote any of the epistles that bear his name, in keeping with its low view of Scripture. In his monumental New Testament Introduction, Donald Guthrie not only defended the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, but cited numerous scholarly heavyweights from recent generations who also defended it (viz., Wohlenberg, Lock, Meinertz, Thörnell, Schlatter, Spicq, Jeremias, and Simpson, of whom Schlatter, Jeremias, and to some extent Spicq are perhaps the most well known to the American scholarly community). I don’t usually recommend Wikipedia as an authoritative resource (although I do recommend it as a place to start looking for links to authoritative sources), but all Bloom needed to do in order to see the ridiculous nature of his position on this point was to consult its article on 1 Timothy, adding laziness as a researcher to the charges of theological callousness.

Bloom then wrote:

In the first collection of Paul’s letters, in the year 200, these so-called ‘pastoral epistles’ (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus) are nowhere to be found, and their relevance, not to mention their authenticity, is still being debated throughout the 3rd century.

It is these comments that most significantly call into question Bloom’s integrity as a researcher and writer, as well as his honesty as a journalist. If there was any debate about the authenticity of any of the Pastoral Epistles, including 1 Timothy, in the early church, knowledge of this debate has apparently eluded every biblical scholar on the planet except for the privy counsel of John Bloom. In his New International Greek Testament Commentary on The Pastoral Epistles, George W. Knight III writes, “The P[astoral] E[pistles] were known and regarded as Pauline in the early church” (page 13). In fact, as Knight points out, the only people known to reject the Pastorals were “the heretics Marcion, Basilides, and Tatian” (ibid.).

Bloom also stupendously fails to inform his readers that “first collection of Paul’s letters,” which seems to be a reference to the Chester Beatty papyrus codex of Paul’s epistles, is missing seven leaves which most believe were sufficient to accommodate the Pastoral Epistles. Others speculate that since the codex is also missing Philemon that it was intended as a collection of epistles that Paul wrote to churches rather than individuals. In either case, Bloom has blatantly misrepresented the facts.

Bloom further wrote:

Thirty-six percent of the words in them appear nowhere else in the letters of Paul, and more than half of those words appear nowhere else in the New Testament. (For example, this is the only place you find eusebeia, the Greek and Roman word for “proper religious behavior” toward the gods, instead of what Paul would have undoubtedly used—faith.) So this letter is obviously written for a particular purpose, and it’s intended to preclude women from teaching the Bible in a particular situation, and later on—at least two centuries later—it’s finally approved by the church fathers as scripture.

It seems that in his exhaustive search for evidence against the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, Bloom overlooked the fact that 2 Peter uses the word eusebeia three times (2 Peter 1:6-7; 3:11). But then again, if his view of 2 Peter is also in accord with that of radical liberal scholarship, as is the case with his view of the Pastorals, then perhaps he doesn’t consider 2 Peter part of the New Testament, since liberals have traditionally reject the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter.

In making his bold assertions about the distinct vocabulary employed in 1 Timothy, Bloom is apparently unaware of the fact that this particular brand of linguistic scholarship—counting the number of unique words in a document and basing decisions about authorship upon that information—has fallen into disrepute in recent years, not only in biblical studies, but in literary criticism in general. Some time ago one researcher subjected Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to a computer analysis of its vocabulary and style and concluded that it was the product of 16 different authors! It is understandably difficult for real scholars to take this kind of stuff seriously. Nevertheless, Christians in the academy have been forced to deal with these kinds of challenges, and they have met them repeatedly over 1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and other works in the New Testament canon. The responses by Guthrie (pages 616-617; 1970 edition), and Knight (pages 38-45) are excellent examples. As Guthrie has noted, differences in vocabulary between Pastorals and the rest of Paul’s epistles would have been even more obvious to the original Greek-speaking readers of the New Testament than they are to us today, and yet we have no record of any ancient reader even noticing them, let alone citing them as a basis for rejecting their authenticity. Why not?

A call to repentance

John Bloom has sinned against Christ and His church by denying the authority of God’s word. It has been the uniform consensus throughout the history of orthodox Christianity that the Pastoral Epistles are part of Scripture. In seeking to establish the authority of his own teaching, Bloom has denied the authority of the Holy Spirit speaking through His word. Ole Anthony has sinned against Christ and His church by publishing this denial with his own editorial approval.

I personally do not see how Christians who know them or communicate with them can do anything but call them into account for these sins and call them to repentance. Until such repentance occurs, I don’t see how any fellowship with the Trinity Foundation, John Bloom, or Ole Anthony, is possible for an obedient follower of Christ.

And once they repent of this sin, they need to deal biblically with the charges that have been brought against them by Wendy Duncan and the Dallas Observer.


Comments

The Enemy of My Enemy — 14 Comments

  1. This is a very good piece by Ron Henzel, and he raises several excellent points.

    When Wendy was first considering becoming involved with Trinity Foundation, she did her due diligence and checked with three different apologetics ministries. They all told her that, while perhaps a bit eccentric, they did not think that Trinity was cultic. One of the main purposes Wendy and I had in publishing her book was to inform the apologetics community, so that if anyone else checked on Trinity before becoming involved they would at least be warned that there was significant controversy about the group.

    When we did publish the book, the apologetics community responded with a deafening round of silence. There were some exceptions, but for the most part this was something that the apologetics ministries did not want to believe. In fact, it was not something they even wanted to deal with. Wendy and I are pleased that this seems to be changing. Our thanks and appreciation go to Ron Henzel and Don Veinot for the integrity they show by their willingness to engage this issue.

  2. I thank God for Wendy’s book and for the courage that He gave her to write it. As an ex-cultist myself, I would place her book right along side Ron Enroth’s “Churches That Abuse” and “Recovering From Churches That Abuse”. It’s that good.

    I was absolutely appalled and angered by the way just one couple, William and Jackie Alnor, acted as cult-apologists for Anthony and T.F.I. and, at the same time, openly made statements about the Duncans that questioned their integrity and character.

    This defense/attack response by the Alnors is totally contrarian to the way other ex-cultists have been treated by the counter-cult community.

    Had people quit turning a blind eye to Anthony’s glaring unBiblical behaviour and beliefs years ago, the Duncan’s book might not have left some wiping egg off their face, and resorting to cult-apologizing on behalf of Anthony and T.F.I. and an ad hominem attack upon the Duncans.

    The time is way past due for accountability and self-policing within the ranks of the apologetics/counter-cult community. Individuals like Jon Trott, John Morehead, Hank Hanegraaff, Rich Abanes and now, the Alnors, only serve to discredit this arm of the Church.

    Kudos to Wendy for writing a book that not only exposed another cult and its leader, but also exposed two more opportunists.

    And thanks Ron, for taking the time to defend the Duncans.

  3. Wow. Even by the standards of the hate mail we sometimes get at The Wittenburg Door, accusing me of “sinning against Christ and his church” seems a little much. As to the “100 percent agreed” sentence in my article, I should have used the term used by Howard Clark Kee of Boston University, that scholarship is “nearly unanimous” in rejecting the attribution to Paul. I’m not challenging the fact that the letters are canonical, I’m just saying that they’re not Paul’s. To quote Kee in his summary of current scholarship in The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, “Someone who tried to pass off such works today would be called a forger, but antiquity provides many examples of intellectual enthusiasts who wrote in a great master’s name.” The most extensive dating of the various letters has been carried out by the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas. The director of that Institute, L. Michael White, is equally certain from the scientific evidence when he writes: “Some have argued that [the Pastoral Epistles] were written by a member of Paul’s circle and close to Paul’s own time, but the weight of evidence from their language and glimpses of their internal situation points to a much later date, perhaps in the 120s to 140s. A date as late as the 170s has been proposed, but it is not widely accepted.” I think we can discuss these matters without getting nasty and talking about denying the authority of the Holy Spirit, don’t you?

  4. John,

    The Pastoral Epistles claim to be written by the Apostle Paul. You’re saying they are not. Therefore you are attributing falsehood to three books of the New Testament. Now, you can claim that the falsehood was somehow not intended as deceptive, but at the end of the day you’re still left with a falsehood in Scripture.

    You cannot simultaneously hold to a doctrine of the verbal inspiration of Scripture while claiming that the sender’s name in the salutations of three of its epistles are false. So perhaps a question is in order here: do you hold to the doctrine of Scripture’s verbal inspiration?

    To accept the word of an obviously liberal scholar on what constitutes the overall consensus of specialists on the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is more than a little naïve. Liberal scholars are notorious for ignoring the writings of conservative evangelicals, and I can easily demonstrate from the vast scholarly output of the latter that Kee’s statement is ridiculous. The consensus of liberal scholars may be in near unanimous agreement with him; the consensus of those who actually believe the Bible is verbally inspired (the number of whom is far greater than Kee may imagine, and today may even be the majority of scholars, or nearly) is far from it.

    And as long as you’re quoting Kee, why don’t you also mention the fact that in the same context from which you quote him he also denies that the book of Daniel was written by Daniel? And why don’t you use the word Kee himself uses to describe such pseudonymous writings: “pseudepigrapha” (Greek for “false writings”). And why omit the fact that in that same paragraph in which he argues against Paul’s authorship of the Pastorals he exegetes Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 as indicating that he claimed to practice some zany form of astral projection? Kee wrote, “Paul had stated openly during his lifetime that he could project his spirit from one place to another” (page 573). Since you consider Kee’s scholarship decisive, do you also believe that Paul claimed to practice psychic phenomena? I personally think Christians should exercise a bit more critical judgment in the sources they consult for the study of Scripture.

    As a small aside here: it is not correct to claim that the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins has carried out the “most extensive dating of the various letters,” as if such an ambiguous claim has much meaning in the constantly-changing specialization of New Testament higher criticism (which is the disciplinary heading under which questions of the authorship and dating of New Testament books fall, as set forth in works of New Testament “introduction”). It is equally fallacious to refer to “scientific evidence” on this topic (other than actual manuscript evidence, which has no bearing on questions of authorship, and is only occasionally helpful in matters of dating [e.g., John’s Gospel]). Anyone acquainted with the vast and ever-growing body of literature in this field would find your claims here singularly unimpressive, if not downright embarrassing.

    As for your implication that you are not “denying the authority of the Holy Spirit”: you most certainly are denying the authority of 1 Timothy. Referring to a passage in that very epistle you wrote: “This is not the voice of God… This is the voice of a man called ‘Paul’ by the writer, but we don’t really know who it is.” You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you’re upholding the authority of Scripture as long as you get to decide which Scriptures are authoritative and which one’s aren’t; and yet that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    So when you say, “I’m not challenging the fact that the letters are canonical,” one has to wonder what “canonical” means to you? The early church publicly excluded from the canon any book from the New Testament that they did not believe to be the authentic product of an apostle, or directly authorized by an apostle (e.g., Mark’s Gospel). So you obviously have different criteria for canonicity than was held by the early church.

    Whatever “canonical” means to you, it obviously doesn’t mean that it contains the words of God. To the historic Christian church, however, it has always meant that those Scriptures called “canonical” constitute the rule of faith and practice for the entire church. Instead of choosing an alternative interpretation of some controversial verses in 1 Timothy, you deny that they are the words of God, and are only willing to grant that they are the words of someone writing a “rule book” in Paul’s name to deal with second-century church “housekeeping” issues, and are not binding for today.

    If we allow you to use the word “canonical” with whatever elasticity suits your personal preference, then I suppose we should not complain when it results in you denying the authority of those parts of Scripture you dislike. But if we use the word “canonical” in the way in which Christians have always meant it, then I believe we must conclude that you are committing the sin of heresy.

    Is it “nasty” to point this out? Is it hateful to hold Christians accountable for doctrinal error that directly challenges the authority of Scripture? Is that written somewhere in the Trinity Foundation rule book?

    Ron Henzel, M.A. (Biblical Studies, Wheaton College)

  5. I take total exception to the lying statements above posted by Mark Scheiderer above. Not only have we the Alnors not defended the Trinity Foundation, we have spent time engaging both the Duncans and the folks at the Trinity Foundation. Much of this has been behind the scenes, as both the Duncans and the TFI know. Since when have I ever endorsed some of the practices at the TFI International? I have simply challenged all sides in this matter to keep talking and to work for restoration. I do not see this happening. How many people have taken the time to talk directly, as the scriptures demand, to both sides in a dispute?

    We have exposed Scheiderer for who he is in previous forums — a liar. Write me personally for more details at william.alnor@csueastbay.edu. He publicly claimed, even after we corrected him on the matter in great detail, that Jackie had recanted something she did not recant at all.

    Has Mark Scheiderer ever visited the Trinity Foundation? Has he ever sought out their point of view? Never. Yet there have been apologists who have and they know the case is not so simple, right on down to the definition of what a cult is.

    I have sought out all points of view in this case, and I esteem all parties in the case. At the recent EMNR conference I spent a nice time of fellowship with the Duncans. Yet, Scheiderer has a track record of recklessness, and I can document that he posted some knowingly and utterly false materials on the Rick Ross site. The scriptures teach us to be fair and above reproach.

    I want to know who Mark Scheiderer is accountable to.

    William M. Alnor, Ph.D.

  6. John,

    I thought your quotation from L. Michael White sounded familiar. It turns out that it’s from page 426 of his recent book, From Jesus to Christianity, which on its dust jacket claims to reveal “How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith.” According to White, the Christian faith is not truth that was decisively revealed early in the first century by Christ and proclaimed through his apostles, but something that developed incrementally over approximately 120 or more years. This is hardly a work to which believers might turn to get a biblical portrayal of Christian origins!

    Why are you so reticent to disclose the nature of your sources? Could it be that you know that many of your readers will realize that you have a habit of picking those that are biased against the inspiration of Scripture, not to mention the historicity of much of the New Testament?

    White’s conclusions are the direct result of his non-Christian presuppositions, rather than supposedly pure, objective scholarship. He advises his readers that the authorship of Matthew, Mark, and John is “unknown,” while the authorship of Luke and Acts is “uncertain.” He also denies that Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, that James wrote James, that Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter, that John wrote his epistles, and that Jude wrote Jude. Are you now going to be consistent and deny that those books contain the words of God?

    He works hard to ascribe as late a date as possible to the books of the New Testament, since that would make it impossible to credit them to their traditional authors. On the other hand, he generously asserts that the spurious Gospel of Thomas contains material from as early as A.D. 60-70, and may have been complete before the end of the first century (citing the Gnostic advocate Elaine Pagels as one of his references)!

    Although it is produced by a scholar, From Jesus to Christianity is not a scholarly work on New Testament introduction within the field of higher criticism. It does not examine all sides of questions of date and authorship, evaluating each argument before it provides a judgment, as Guthrie’s work does. It is a popular-level work that constitutes a hybrid of introductory and survey material, explicitly designed to sell a portrait of Christian origins that directly contradicts the one presented to us in the New Testament.

    White claims that the Gospels contradict each other (page 105), and he says that if we take “the traditional account of the origins of the [Christian] movement” as found in the book of Acts literally, we will only “create a myth of beginnings that never actually existed” (his emphasis, page 117).

    It is one thing for an unbelieving scholar to hold these views; it is quite another thing for a professing believer to hold them. Throughout the course of church history there has only been one word to describe them: “heresy.”

  7. One unintended, but welcome consequence of Wendy’s book was that it again raised the question of accountability within the ranks of the apologetics ministries. To state the question succinctly: The apologetics ministries monitor apostacy within the church, but who monitors the apologetics ministries?
    What amazes me is that when one publically presents info – in my case with the Alnors I have only stated info that they themselves have told me, which has in turn been verified by others – on a small number of individuals, the reaction by those being exposed is the ad hominem attack, being called a liar, being questioned about my accountability to others – with absolute demands that I state who my pastor is – etc. In a way, the reaction is very similar to the way cults and cult leaders react when a spotlight is shown on them.
    Ron raises some great points at the outset of his article. Politics may make stange bedfellows, but there is no room within the ranks of the apologists for even one stange bedfellow.
    It’s time to not just be book-smart and yet, people-dumb. We must be scutinizing of those who scrutinize.

  8. Ron:

    I used those two particular sources because they have no doctrinal position whatsoever. Those are just scholars who look at the historical evidence and try to settle issues like dating, attribution, etc. I used them BECAUSE they have no ax to grind theologically. I have no idea what Kee or White believe, what church they go to, etc. You seem to be implying that I’m hiding something. One book is published by HarperSanFrancisco and the other by Cambridge University Press–I don’t think either press has any doctrinal views that would indicate bias. I went and fished out the quotes because, in your original post, you implied I was making stuff up. I’m not a scholar myself, so I rely on the research of scholars.

    I think the impasse here is over our conflicting views of word and Word. I believe that scripture is words about the Word. If you consider that heretical, then I don’t see how we can travel much further down the road of disputing scripture. That’s one of those points where one of us would have to completely change, and that, of course, is not going to happen, especially if you’re saying that we shouldn’t pay any attention to historical and textual research. Your calling me a heretic, me calling you a heretic, that’s going to lead where? Not to anything good.

    John

  9. John,

    You wrote:

    I used those two particular sources because they have no doctrinal position whatsoever. Those are just scholars who look at the historical evidence and try to settle issues like dating, attribution, etc. I used them BECAUSE they have no ax to grind theologically.

    Based on these comments, your naïveté is as astounding as your orthodoxy is dubious. I have provided you with ample evidence that Kee and White not only deny the stated authorship of perhaps most of the Bible (i.e., the authorship that the Bible claims for itself in its own text), but also that White denies that the church developed as portrayed in the book of Acts and that Kee attributes bizarre features to Paul’s teachings, and you claim these men have no ax to grind theologically?

    You don’t seem to get it. You cannot deny a single proposition that is affirmed by Scripture and simultaneously believe that it is verbally inspired. These men look at the first word in each of the three Pastorals—“Paul”—and they flatly deny that it is true. They contradict the proposition at the beginning of each epistle: that Paul is its author. Therefore they deny the verbal inspiration of Scripture.

    The denial of verbal inspiration is a doctrinal position. The teaching that the Bible has errors in it is an ax to grind. It is not the result of unbiased examination of the historical evidence; it is the product of a set of presuppositions about Scripture—specifically, that they are merely human writings. And you are openly and deliberately using the fruit of their presuppositions to deny authority to the text of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles.

    You might have figured out that your sources have a woefully anti-biblical bias if you had consulted any of the counter-arguments presented by Guthrie, Knight, or any of a host of conservative evangelical scholars who have done extensive work on this issue. You might have realized that you were not presenting the final word on the subject if you had read scholars who have equal or greater academic credentials than Kee and White, who have presented the arguments for both positions in greater depth, and who have drawn opposite conclusions from them. The works of such scholars are so widely available that it appears you did not even look for them. The fact that you have limited yourself to liberal sources speaks volumes about your own bias, not to mention spiritual discernment.

    You wrote:

    I believe that scripture is words about the Word.

    What you fail to affirm here is more significant than what you affirm. You fail to affirm that Scripture consists of the words of God. You fail to agree with Paul, who wrote, “We use words taught to us by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13, NIV). Instead, you seem to affirm a view of inspiration akin to the Neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth, who held that Scripture is a “witness” to revelation, and not the revelation itself.

    What does it mean to say that “scripture is words about the Word?” Since you capitalize your second use of the word “Word,” I assume it’s a reference to the title of Jesus in John 1:1, in which case you’re affirming that Scripture is words about Jesus. I’ve got hundreds of books on my shelf that have words about Jesus in them, including some that deny the clear statements of Scripture. You haven’t explained why I should believe Scripture’s “words about Jesus” over the “words about Jesus” contained in those other books.

    If you consider that heretical, then I don’t see how we can travel much further down the road of disputing scripture.

    John, not only do I consider it heretical, but the entire conservative evangelical church considers it heretical! All those Christian counter-cult apologists who endorsed the Trinity Foundation for fifteen years or so—they consider it heretical, too. Any Christian who believes that the Bible is the word of God, and by that mean that it is verbally inspired, would declare your view heretical.

    So I guess what you’re saying is you can’t travel down the road of trying to properly interpret Scripture with the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians. Your Wittenburg Door article provides the church with a textbook case for how your view of the Bible allows people to wriggle out from under its authority by simply denying that its words are God’s words. The only remaining question is: to what extent is your doctrine of Scripture similar to Ole Anthony’s? If he holds to essentially the same view of the Bible that you do, it makes the call to repentance in the last three paragraphs of my blog post all the more urgent.

  10. Ron –

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few more comments on a point in your article that you and Bloom aren’t debating on.

    With regard to accountablity: When I was a subscriber (I’ve since voluntarily withdrawn) to the apologetics discussion list of which you wrote, I brought up the question of accountability within the apologetics community and named Hank H., Abanes and others. I was denied posting privileges for 6 weeks immediately after posting the question and absolutely NO discussion on the topic took place. (About a half dozen individuals wrote me privately and basically said I was saying what most were thinking.) It seems like this issue is the 800 pound gorilla on the sofa, the elephant in the living room and the pterydactyl (sp?) flying overhead all rolled into one that nobody wants to discuss.
    This topic MUST be dealt with, as individuals like Anthony, Hank H., Abanes and others only serve to cause people to turn a deaf ear to anything apologetic.
    Also, groups like TFI and JPUSA have done “apologetic” work in the past, yet are merely cults in disguise. It’s almost as if they think that the spotlight they shine on others will deflect attention away from themselves.
    We are NOT called by Scripture to dialogue with groups like JPUSA and TFI and attempt to bring about any form of reconciliation between those that have left the group and the group itself. We are told to expose them and warn others about them. They are NOT brethren in the faith simply because their enemies are our enemies. Dialogue with such groups is simply Satan’s ploy to distract Christians from fruitful activity in the Lord’s work for His Kingdom.

    Mark Scheiderer

  11. “The only remaining question is: to what extent is your doctrine of Scripture similar to Ole Anthony’s?”

    Are you kidding? John learned this doctrine at the foot of Ole. I’ll bet John will dispute this.

  12. I agree with the post above — but of course John Bloom never replied here because…John & Ole are narcissists and therefore immune to any challenge of their behavior or beliefs. They are always right, they are above reproach. Ole has said often Trinity’s doctrine is the only true doctrine of Christ.
    Both men are, I believe, truly looking for salvation — and continue to complicate the release that salvation would bring them by seeking attention for their ‘good deeds’.
    Within the Trinity Foundation, it is always ‘us against them’, ‘them’ being everyone who doesn’t support Trinity & its doctrine without question. Eventually, TF will fall apart & dissolve completely, as cults do when leaders die. Perhaps, we must pray, they will find salvation & the humility & peace that brings before they kick.

  13. Couldnt be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks again for sharing this free online

  14. Wow…you educated types are getting waaay over my head…I thought the Bible was wriiten by men as inspired by God …I just hope my curiosity and faith grows to be like the little boy in this scenario….

    The preacher had just finished expounding on a sermon in which he ended…god knows we are but dust…and the little boy asks his mother…
    “mommy…what is butt dust?”

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