The saga continues . . .
My previous post included my first e-mail that I sent to Hillsong church. I sent it to their salvation e-mail hotline, firstname.lastname@example.org, which you would think would be 911 for lost souls on the brink of hell. Well, it turns out that my first mail, was responded to very promptly with an "out of office auto-reply". The lights were on but no one was home! I was given another e-mail address to try so I sent it there. This time I didn't get an out of office auto-reply, instead I got several days of silence.
Finally, after several days, Pastor Robert Fergusson wrote an e-mail to me. If you don't know who he is then let me explain it this way - If Brian Houston were Captain Kirk then Robert Fergusson would be Spock . . . I'm sure that analogy is somehow flawed but I think you get the point. It would seem that my unanswered e-mail had been busy working it's way up the chain of command and had finally reached the appropriate level of spin doctoring expertise.
I will only quote a portion Fergusson's e-mail:
The material contained in this email may be confidential, and may also be the subject of copyright and/or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, any use, disclosure or copying of this document is prohibited. If you have received this document in error, please advise the sender and delete the document.
This email communication does not create or vary any contractual relationship between Hillsong and you. Internet communications are not secure and accordingly Hillsong does not accept any legal liability for the contents of this message.
Please note that neither Hillsong nor the sender accepts any responsibility for viruses and it is your responsibility to scan the email and any attachments.
If only they were as detailed and meticulous about the Gospel of Jesus Christ! What I can say is that Pastor Robert was polite and diplomatic. He assured me of Hillsong's committment to truth and said that their gospel presentation did contain repentance because the words "change" and "forgive" were used (can someone please tell me where I missed that definition in the Bible?). Furthermore, I can say that Fergusson did not have a single word to say about Hillsong's editing of Scripture - the case in point being 2 Chronicles 7:14. I guess they didn't deem that to be of major importance. Clearly, they hold to a different heirarchy of importance than Scripture does!
What follows is my second attempt at discussing their version of the gospel and their willingness to selectively edit Bible verses (much akin to using liquid wite-out as a highlighter pen).
Dear Robert, I am honored that you would take the time to write to me. I do know of you as an author and seem to recall that you are from the UK. I hope I'm right about that.
I am from Australia (though I now live in Denmark) and my background is in the AOG movement. I am aware that Hillsong cops it's share of criticism - much of which is unfounded. I know that most of the controversy swirls around money and the use of it. Conspiracy theories abound as much as the wild imaginations of their originators. I realize that you probably get asked many "loaded questions" with an agenda bent on discrediting the Hillsong church. I would hope that you would not categorize me among these people but would biblically consider the objections I raise. They pertain to the purity of the Christian Gospel of which I preach both in the pulpit and on the street. And my questions have no grounding in personal credibility but in the authority of Scripture - which the Hillsong website professes: "We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives". So please, regardless of what you think of my personal credibility, I ask that you give my words merit on the basis of their alignment to Holy Scripture.
I must be clear from the outset that I am very critical of the gospel proclaimed by Hillsong that I have been exposed to in both print and audio form. In my travels I have spoken with members of Hillsong church which has only served to increase my concerns about the gospel that is preached there. Also, a good friend of mine, while filming a reformation documentary in London, bumped into and interviewed some leaders from Hillsong London in which they were unable to clearly articulate the Christian Gospel - this again was more fuel on the fire in prompting me to write. I believe that God made His Gospel knowable for a wretch like me and it is a subject/discussion that does not require top level theologians to discuss at the basic level. I have just completed a series on my blog which you are welcome to critique entitled "The Anatomy of the Gospel". Based on Scripture and, to a lesser extent, church history I have asserted that all Gospel proclamations must include:
1. Who God is - His Holiness (Romans 1:18-20)
2. Who man is - sin must be clearly defined in order to show us our sinfulness (Romans 3:10-23)
3. Judgment - heaven and hell - God must judge because He is good, loving, and righteous and we are not (Rev 20:12-15)
4. What Christ has done - the cross and the resurrection - that Christ died to endure God's wrath in the place of sinners and credit sinners with His righteousness - He rose from the dead confirming that He is God and made satisfactory payment for our sins. (Rom 3:24-26)
5. How man must respond - repentance from sin and faith towards Christ (Acts 20:2-21)
Now I could have targetted any one of those five points as the presentation in the CD liner notes was sadly lacking on all five. But I zeroed in on repentance as it is clearly affirmed by Hillsong's own doctrine statement.
I should apologize for a typo in my original mail concerning 2 Chronicles 7:14. I will correct it here as it pertains to my assertion that the necessity of repentance is being both denied and avoided in the thousands (maybe millions) of CDs distributed to the general public under the Hillsong banner. Here is how my mail should have read:
I noticed on the back cover of the CD liner notes a quotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
By checking in my Bible I found this verse to be incomplete and is missing the words in bold letters:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Can you explain to me why you deleted the line from that verse that speaks specifically about repentance? I hope you agree that it is very serious indeed to add to or delete information from sacred Scripture.
Robert, there is no excuse for taking a scalpel to Scripture like this. It is bad enough when people quote verses out of context. How much worse to delete words out of a verse and print it as if that is what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says. The text does not even contain a ... to show that the verse has been abbreviated. I don't blame you for this and realize that you cannot possibly know everything that goes on in a ministry as large as Hillsong. But neither can I see how you could possibly defend this as a professing Christian preacher.
And there is no way that the words "change" and "forgive" (as found in the CD liner notes "prayer") remotely resemble repentance from sin in their context. Please read it again remembering that the faith statement says that people "must repent of sin" in order to receive forgiveness. Repentance is never mentioned and neither is sin. Robert, please take this seriously as a steward of the Gospel. If people must repent of their sin in order to receive forgiveness but the CDs that are sold say nothing that remotely resembles that they are giving false assurance. Please, I beg you, listen to your conscience. Please change your literature to reflect this truth and make sure that your preaching is consistent with this.
The Gospel is not about happiness but righteousness. People must come to Christ seeing their unrighteousness and need for righteousness found only in Christ's atoning sacrifice. A failure to talk about sin and the need to repent from that sin is short changing the glorious Gospel at its foundational level.
Fergusson wrote back again, and I'll talk about that in my next post on Friday. Suffice to say it reminds me a lot of Bill Clinton and the marijuhana he smoked but never inhaled!
The effects of this false gospel, that Hillsong propogates, are becoming far reaching. What follows here is a tragic video from Hillsong showing how to innoculate children to the true Gospel . . .
Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1
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