Pastors and elders have difficult jobs. Biblically, they have two primary tasks. We find one in Acts 20. It is the shepherd’s role of protector:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,(Acts 20:28-31a)
The shepherds are to pay attention to themselves and the flock — to guard against false teachers from the outside and those who rise from within. This theme carries through the pastoral epistles as well. Notice not only are Pastors to protect those under their care but are to carefully consider and test what they are exposed to, using the scriptures as their plumb line to keep themselves from falling into falsehood. Yes, Christians, including pastors, can fall into error. Maybe more so now than ever before, with all the falsehood being thrown at all of us from every direction.
Second, they are to feed the flock by regularly, diligently and faithfully teaching the word of God to equip them to stand up to falsehood and to reach others with the truth. It’s a tall order. For the faithful shepherds trying to carry out their due diligence, the task is complicated by the many falsehoods their people are exposed to in their daily lives, where the pastor or an elder is not. Many people have their worldview and beliefs largely shaped though a sort of osmosis. It seeps into their thinking unfiltered, through various forms of media, such as television, books, the internet, and the opinions of people that they meet. Consequently, the danger of deception lurks around the corner for those who lack the discernment tools to sort out the true from the false, or perhaps the true from what may be made to sound true. Like an AIDS infection, heretical ideas can be injected into the bloodstream of the church before the pastor and elders realize there is a problem. Sadly, quite a bit of misinformation comes through the seemingly reliable sources of Christian media, book publishers, and magazines, both print and online.
There is a trust relationship that exists between pastors, their flock and evangelical media. It is assumed by shepherds and the congregation that what is put out by evangelical publishers and journalists has been fully vetted to ensure the material is biblically sound in the essential doctrines of the faith. But are they?
Last week I (Don) attended the Evangelical Press Association 2023 convention in Lancaster, PA. The workshop I presented is online, “The Troubling Trend of False Teaching in the Church. I had been in conversations with the current Executive Director of the EPA, Lamar Keener, about the Enneagram and other false teachings that seem to be ignored or even promoted within the church through Evangelical publishers and press. He suggested I attend and present a workshop to express my concerns to the Evangelical journalists at the convention. I was ambiguous about it at first. Is there anything I could tell them that they wouldn’t already know? Surely these men and women, being theologically Evangelical, would already be aware of the steady stream of false teaching that has invaded or is currently invading the church? In addition, it would require yet another long trip in a spring season that was already full of trips. Yet, a question that has guided us since the founding of MCOI surfaced in our considerations. It is simply, “If we don’t have the integrity to address false teaching within the church, don’t we give up the right to address false teaching outside of the church?” The decision was made.
Addressing the current crop of popular false teachings would be easy enough, but I wanted to better understand the Evangelical journalists I’d be addressing. I posed four questions to an evangelical journalist I hold in high regard, Tom Gilson at The Stream. The four questions were, I thought, pretty straightforward and basic:
- What is the role of journalism?
- What qualifies as journalistic integrity?
- Should Evangelical journalists understand the essential doctrines of the faith?
- If the answer to three is yes, in stories, book reviews, and publication product promotions, should they alert their readers to heresies invading the church? In other words, is there an obligation to assist churches, or should they leave them to fend for themselves?
In response to question three, Tom wrote:
Every journalist should be competent. They should know what they’re talking about, and they should be aware of potential biases affecting how they report, and if there are issues on which they’re willing to take a truth stand, saying, “This isn’t bias, this is truth,” they should be able to articulate and defend that position.
That’s true for every journalist. For evangelicals, that means they should understand the essential doctrines of the faith. If they are not taking a truth stand, they’re not so evangelical after all, are they?
That much is true no matter what their reporting “beat” may be, but if they are writing for an evangelical publication, representing evangelicalism itself in any way, then the stakes rise even higher. They’d better know the biblical teaching they represent, or they might find themselves in the position of being false teachers. Nothing else gets as much NT condemnation as false teaching or false teachers. I wouldn’t want to be in that position, that’s for sure.1All of the questions and Tom’s responses are available in the workshop handout and is available online at: Notes for “The Troubling Trend of False Teaching in the Church”
All his answers were helpful, but this one clarified our concerns. While I was at the conference, EPA2023, I reminded myself of the limitation of finite human beings. There are a great many issues going on in the world and in the church. As a result, like the shepherds, well-intentioned evangelical journalists may be unaware of or inadvertently miss some very important issues. Unless someone raises the alarm, they may not even realize there is a problem. Whatever the reasons, there are very few alarms going off warning of trendy new false teachings or newly introduced “spiritual tools” which are being promoted by Christian publishers and/or well-known evangelical celebrities.
The class was shocked when I told them the story of false teacher Gwen Shamblin’s invasion of the churches. Her video program, at one point, had wormed itself into over 30,000 Churches across 60 denominations. Her first book, Rise Above, published by Thomas Nelson publishers, sold over 200,000 copies. We ourselves were not aware of Shamblin or her “diet program.” On August 22 and 23 of, 2000, we received between 25-30 e-mails and phone calls regarding Gwen Shamblin’s theology. Something Gwen had said caused these Christians individually to go online to look at Shamblin’s Statement of Faith and became alarmed by what they read. We contacted Gwen directly, and she quite openly denied the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Pastors and Elders who had let her into their churches had not checked her out before opening the church doors to her, possibly because she was a darling of secular and Christian media as a Bible-based weight loss expert. (We addressed this at length in Weighed Down with False Doctrine). Once we issued a press release concerning what we had learned, the news went viral, and within two weeks, Weigh Down Workshop went from sending out a thousand programs a week to churches returning a thousand programs a week. The journalists that were in my workshop were stunned. Many of them remembered that Shamblin had been in their churches. Why had no one checked? She had openly declared that the churches were “Egypt” whose pastors were false teachers, and her followers needed to leave “Egypt” and follow her. Sadly, many of them did leave their churches to join her new “Church,” Remnant Fellowship, in Tennessee. Gwen has died fairly recently, but many of her stolen sheep are still caught up in her works-based cult group.
This is just one example of a false teacher or teaching invading the Evangelical church and taking followers out with her. There are many. These days, it seems, the many false teachings are carried into a church where they make themselves at home. People do not necessarily leave these infected churches at all but become an integral part of the problem by sharing the false teachings with their friends there. True Christianity is supplanted, the truth subtly replaced with a false amalgam of truth and falsehood. And what, after all, is an amalgam of truth and falsehood? FALSEHOOD! And so it goes…
And what is going on with so-called Christian Publishers? They do have staff editing for grammar and spelling errors, but apparently, no one is editing with false or twisted teaching in mind. Christians believe that a Christian publisher would only publish books that were in line with Christian doctrine, but that is far from true. Yet they are trusted by both the Pastors and their flock. If they ever did really vet the books they published in the past, they certainly do not today.
MCOI and a handful of other ministries spend much time today refuting the very popular Enneagram with its occult origins and heretical theology. The reason we do this is because of the vast inroads the false teachings of the Enneagram are making in the churches.
Suffice it to say, the occult origins and anti-Christian teachings of the Enneagram books and authors can no longer be said to be unknown or obscure. The issues have been clearly pointed out to the main “Evangelical” publishers — who have then doubled down on their position and increased the book sales. Many of the authors of very popular Enneagram books are openly under the mentorship of Richard Rohr, a true heretic of the faith. The authors do not even bother to conceal their great affinity for people such as New Age psychic Helen Palmer, and they openly thank and quote the scores of other New Agers listed in Suzanne Stabile’s books, The Road Back to You and The Path Between Us, published by IVP.
Christopher Heuertz, whose book on the Enneagram was published by Zondervan, The Sacred Enneagram, included a Foreword by Richard Rohr. Many other heretics who influenced him were listed in his book. We might have assumed that his listing of those mentors might have tipped off Zondervan to a serious “problem” with the book, vis a vis long-held Christian doctrine. But no, like IVP, the heretical mentors were not a deal breaker at all!
Beth McCord, the author of a nine-volume Enneagram set for Thomas Nelson Publishers, listed five New Age mentors in addition to New Age psychic Helen Palmer on her website — until we pointed that out publicly. Strangely, these names vanished from her website overnight. She, too, was introduced to the Enneagram through the writings of Richard Rohr. We might have hoped that at least one investigative journalist would have wondered why Evangelical pastors and churches are carelessly trading sound biblical teaching for New Age occultism, but we know of none.
In 2020, Christianity Today requested a copy of our pre-publication book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret, for a review that never materialized.
We emailed an alert to Dr. Russell Moore was the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Church at the time. The subject line was “The Enneagram – An Open Plea to Russell Moore” on May 15, 2020.(Copy on file) We outline the issues, including direct quotes and links. There was no response. Russell Moore has moved on and is now the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today magazine, where he now promotes the Enneagram with the resources of Christianity Today.
This raises the question, “Do Russell Moore and Christianity Today understand the essential doctrines of the faith?” CT represents itself as an Evangelical publication. Tom Gilson points out that evangelical publications have a heavier responsibility to uphold the faith. We can’t really fathom why Christian publishers are so cavalier about aligning themselves with false teachers.
Dr. Rhenn Cherry’s book, Enneagram Theology: Is it Christian? was published in September 2021 and went largely unnoticed by the Evangelical press and media. Dr. Cherry does an outstanding job of demonstrating there is virtually no difference between the heretical theology of Richard Rohr and New Age occultists and the authors they mentored whose books are streaming into Evangelical churches.
At the conference, we were able to speak directly with Warren Cole Smith, President of Ministry Watch, and put copies of our book and Dr. Rhenn Cherry’s book, Enneagram Theology: Is it Christian? in his hands. We gave him an overview of the problems and issues at stake. He said he would read them, and we hope that he does.
In addition to giving the workshop, and meeting with journalists and high-profile leaders in the Evangelical Press, the presentation is online and will be available through the EPA to their membership.
Tom Gilson is correct:
Nothing else gets as much NT condemnation as false teaching or false teachers. I wouldn’t want to be in that position, that’s for sure.
Neither would we. At this point, every exposure of the Enneagram’s dark nature increases the culpability of Christians, especially Christian leaders, who stand idly by while false teaching flourishes in the churchΩ
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|↑1||All of the questions and Tom’s responses are available in the workshop handout and is available online at: Notes for “The Troubling Trend of False Teaching in the Church”|