Friday, February 26, 2010

NT Wright - Confusing Answers to Simple Questions

At the end of my last post I spoke about good preachers/teachers and how they are crystal clear when it comes to fundamental truths of the Christian faith. I also spoke about NT Wright's expertise in cutting a short story long. NT Wright has become somewhat of a modern day evangelical hero, but can he give a straight answer to a straight question . . .

Like is there a hell?

I thought a yes would have sufficed!

How about whether homosexual behavior is sinful?

Yes we should have a debate, if by debate he means something like this:

What does the Bible say about homosexual behavior?

Leviticus 20:13 says it is an abomination.

Abomination is bad isn't it?

Ok lets move on to the next subject on the agenda!

How about an easy question like is evolution compatible with Christianity? (Hint - the answer begins with "n" and ends with "o").

Maybe NT Wright thinks his beard is a transitional form!

I guess that's enough fog for one day. I would encourage any layman to feed on teachers who are explicitly clear about things that the Bible is explicitly clear about. Someone like John Macarthur . . .

And when you have a bunch of confused liberal theologians talking to Larry King, you can always count on John Macarthur to clear up the fog . . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why NT Wright Is Wrong

NT Wright, the Bishop of Durham, enjoys tremendous popularity among "thinking Christians". He is even getting a foothold in the secular bookstores, as evidenced by finding his latest book on display at the front of a Barnes and Noble store I recently visited. This has prompted me to write a post about him as he has not been previously discussed on this blog.

It is true that Wright's landmark book "The Resurrection of the Son of God" is widely recognized as an outstanding defense of Christ's bodily resurrection. Getting the resurrection right seems to have opened a lot of people's receptivity to Wright's subsequent books where he discusses the cross, justification, and penal substitutionary atonement (Wright even endorsed Steve Chalkes book in which Chalke described the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as "cosmic child abuse"). Many reformed theologians have been greatly disturbed by the theology that NT Wright's subsequent works have revealed. It may well be that Wright's scholarly defense of the resurrection turns out to be a scholarly trojan horse concealing destructive heresies.

At the heart of Wright's many troubling ideas lies his view of the doctrine of justification, particularly the component of imputed righteousness. Over and over again, Wright attacks the classic Reformed and biblical doctrine that the righteousness of Christ is imputed, or reckoned, to the sinner's account, and it is on the ground of Christ's righteousness alone that we obtain our righteous standing before God. Wright says:

If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom . . . If we leave the notion of 'righteousness' as a law-court metaphor only, as so many have done in the past, this gives the impression of a legal transaction, a cold piece of business, almost a trick of thought performed by a God who is logical and correct but hardly one we would want to worship (p98 What St Paul Really Said).

Phil Johnson responded to these exact comments in a sermon by saying "Well, I, for one, am quite happy to worship a God who justifies the ungodly and who is both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus."

John Macarthur has this to say about the importance of getting imputation right:

The cornerstone of justification is the reckoning of righteousness to the believer's account. This is the truth that sets Christian doctrine apart from every form of false religion. We call it "imputed righteousness". Apart from it salvation is utterly impossible (p197 The Gospel According to Jesus).

Here is an excerpt from an interview RC Sproul had with Michael Horton discussing the theology of N.T. Wright.

[Q] Considering Bishop N.T. Wright’s doctrine of justification, do you believe he is teaching another gospel?

[A] J.I. Packer has a great line: Tom Wright foregrounds what the Bible backgrounds, and backgrounds what the Bible foregrounds–but Wright does more than that; he denies a crucial component of justification, namely imputation. So, in answer to your question, yes–in denying imputation, Wright is preaching another gospel.

There’s a kind of fundamentalist approach to Scripture that Tom Wright seems to want to confront. And while he does a wonderful job of highlighting the fact that justification in Paul’s writings is understood within a broader redemptive-historical framework, something not all presentations and defenses of justification do, he is not confronting historic Reformed theology. Reformed theology always has understood justification within a broader redemptive-historical framework. If he were to read the Reformers and more recent Reformed writers, such as Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos, he would clearly see that justification is placed in its proper context with the believer’s union with Christ and within the whole history of redemption. Reformed writers speak of Paul’s treatment of justification being inseparable from the inclusion of the Gentiles. Then, when you read Tom Wright he makes it seem as if he’s the first person who saw these emphases of Paul, and that everyone else before him sort of taught the four spiritual laws. It’s an incredibly na├»ve view.

I know Tom Wright–not well, but we had a few conversations in my Oxford days; we’ve gone back and forth about these issues, and he simply doesn’t know historical theology. He’ll actually admit that when you catch him at a few points; he’ll say something along the lines of “well this really isn’t my area of expertise.” Well, if your thesis is that the Reformation fundamentally misunderstood Paul, it better be your area of expertise to at least know what the Reformers said–and he doesn’t. So, Wright creates a straw man. And the people who are swayed by him, who are enamored of him, are also in many cases ignorant of what the Reformers actually taught, what Reformed theology has taught on these matters. And let me offer an impassioned plea to folks: There are Reformed presentations of the doctrine of justification that include some of the very salient points that Tom Wright has raised and incorporated, without denying the very crucial component of imputation as Tom Wright does. Without imputation, justification isn’t good news. When he says that the Gospel is “Jesus is Lord,” I reply, there are many passages that tell me “Jesus is Lord” isn’t good news. There are many passages that tell me “Jesus is Lord” means to a whole lot of people “the great Avenger on the white horse with a sword in His hand, bringing the last judgment.” “Jesus is Lord” means that He will be your judge. On Mars Hill in Athens, Paul said there is a judgment coming, a last judgment coming, and God has given proof of this to everyone by raising Jesus from the dead. So Jesus is Lord is not necessarily good news. Only when God assures me that I am in Christ by grace alone through faith alone and kept by grace is the announcement “Jesus is Lord” good news rather than the worst possible news (online source).

It is worth noting that many false teachers survive on the basis of their lack of clarity. We tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when they speak in a foggy and unclear manner. NT Wright has become (unwittingly perhaps) the Mr Miyagi of the emergent movement for this reason. Wright communicates a different gospel in a way that is obscure enough not to be pinned down outside of orthodoxy. He is the master of answering questions by cutting a short story long and burying the initial question in the process. With this in mind, I have found a good rule of thumb when choosing our feeding grounds for Christian teaching. Sound biblical teachers are aways explicitly clear about the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Choose feeding grounds that communicate the Gospel faithfully, accurately, and clearly.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Breath Of Fresh Air In The LA Smog

Some of you may be aware that I am currently visiting Southern California with my family. When people refer to the pollution in LA they normally refer to the smog haze that hovers like a blanket over the city. But sometimes I think of the theological pollution that emmanates from Southern California (think Orange County) and hovers over mega-church suburbia like a therapeutic blanket of self-esteem and sensuality.

However, many of my personal friends and Christian brothers (and sisters) live in the greater Los Angeles area and are responsible for a lot of theologically fresh air too. Wonderful ministries like Way of the Master, John Macarthur's preaching ministry Grace To You, and Joni Eareckson Tada are based in Los Angeles. These are ministries at the forefront of rightfully furthering the Gospel around the world. It has also been refreshing to find some outstanding local churches as well, including Grace Community Church pastored by John Macarthur, where I will be attending the next Shepherds' Conference.

But during this visit I have kept hearing people I respect, raving about the church that has the giant cross erected beside the 91 freeway as you head east from LA. My wife and I couldn't help ourselves, so yesterday we went to check out Kindred Community Church. We were overjoyed to attend a local church that is another true biblical breath of fresh air. Pastor Philip De Courcy originates from the Catholic/Protestant battleground otherwise known as Ireland. He is a shepherd who loves the flock enough to preach the less palatable parts of Scripture and warn them of the perils of sin. A pastor who labors in the word and preaches through it verse by verse - not pet subject after pet subject!

I often find myself compelled to write and warn of the many subtle evils that pervade modern evangelical Christianity. And when I see something good, something that puts Christ on display in the form of a healthy local church, I am compelled to write about that also.

There is also a postscript to this story that I later found out. Kindred Community Church has a very short history, but it is one that paints a glowing picture of the Sovereignty of God . . .

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Every Christian Needs To Know About The Crusades (Part 2)

Continued from Wednesday by Dr. Peter Hammond . . .

A Reaction to Jihad

The crusaders were reacting to five centuries of relentless Islamic Jihad. The Middle East was the birthplace of the Christian Church. It was the Christians who had been conquered and oppressed by the Seljuk Turks. Many of the towns in the Middle East welcomed the crusaders as liberators.

Far from the crusaders being the aggressors, it was the Muslim armies which had spread Islam from Saudi Arabia across the whole of Christian North Africa into Spain and even France. Muslim armies sacked and slaughtered their way across some of the greatest Christian cities in the world, including Alexandria, Carthage, Antioch and Constantinople. These Muslim invaders destroyed over 3,200 Christian churches just in the first 100 years of Islam.

Against All Odds

When we think about the Middle Ages, we inevitably view Europe in the light of what it became rather than what it was. The fact is that the superpower of the Medieval world was Islam, not Christendom. The crusades were a battle against all odds with impossibly long lines of supply and cripplingly inadequate logistics. It was a David against Goliath enterprise from the beginning. The chances of success for the first crusade were highly improbable. They had no leader, no chain of command, no supply lines and no detailed strategy. The first crusade consisted simply of thousands of dedicated warriors marching deep into enemy territory, thousands of kilometres from home. Many of them died of starvation, disease and wounds. It was a rough campaign that always was on the brink of disaster. Yet by 1098, the Crusaders had liberated Nicea and Antioch, and in July 1099 they re-conquered Jerusalem.

Professor Madden, the author of A Concise History of the Crusades, has observed: “From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our Medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the names of political ideologies…Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the crusades, it might have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam’s rivals, into extinction.” But for the crusades Europe would have probably fallen to Islam and the USA and South Africa would never have come into existence.

Logistics and Economics

As the Christian History Institute has pointed out, the characterising of crusaders as only in it for the plunder and the loot betrays an ignorance of both geography and history. The vast majority of the crusaders were impoverished and financially ruined by the crusades. Crusaders, through great sacrifice and personal expense, left their homes and families to travel 3000km across treacherous and inhospitable terrain – and the shortest crusade lasted 4 years. Considering that only 10% of the crusaders had horses, and 90% were foot soldiers, the sheer fact of logistics is that the crusaders could not possibly have carried back enough loot to have made up for the loss of earnings and high expenses involved with these long crusades. Many crusaders lost their homes and farms to finance their involvement in the crusades.

There’s More to Life than Money

Perhaps self-seeking materialistic agnostics in the 21st Century cannot understand that some people could be motivated by something other than personal financial enrichment, but the fact is that many people make sacrifices for their religious convictions, and in order to help others. In the case of the crusaders, the historical record makes clear that amongst the motivations that led tens of thousands of volunteers to reclaim the Holy Land was a sense of Christian duty to help their fellow Christians in the East whose lands had been invaded and churches desecrated by Muslim armies, and a desire to secure access to the Holy Lands for pilgrims.

There was also a desire to fight for the honour of their Lord Jesus Christ, Whose churches had been destroyed and Whose Deity had been denied by the Mohammadan aggressors. In other words, to the crusaders this was a defensive war to reclaim Christian lands from Muslim invaders.

We may not share their convictions, or agree with their methods, but we ought to evaluate them in the light of the realities of the 11th and 12th centuries, and not anachronistically project our standards and politics back upon them.

Jihad Vs. The Gospel

The word “crusade” does not appear in the Bible, nor is it commanded in Christianity. However, Jihad is the sixth pillar of Islam and the second greatest command of Muhammad. It is not only commended, but commanded in the Quran.

The crusades ended many centuries ago, however Islamic Jihad is carried out to this day. Millions of Christians have been slaughtered throughout the centuries by Islamic militants – such as the 1.5 million Armenians murdered in Turkey in 1915. Christians have continued to be slaughtered by Islamic militants in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan and Nigeria to the present day.

Therefore, before Christians fall over themselves to apologise for the crusades, which ended over 700 years ago, it would be wise to first learn from reliable sources what the crusades were all about, and study the Islamic teachings and track record of Jihad over the last 14 centuries. Those who do not know their past have no future.

Dr. Peter Hammond has been a pioneer missionary to Muslims in Sudan. He is the author of Slavery, Terrorism and Islam – The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat.

Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Every Christian Needs To Know About The Crusades (Part 1)

The story of the Crusades is one that has seriously fallen foul of political correctness and historical revisionism. This is the first part of an article that Peter hammond wrote in an attempt to set the record straight concerning what really happened in the Crusades almost 1000 years ago. Is the church of Jesus Christ really to blame for atrocities against muslims? What follows is a worthwhile read when one considers the number of objections Christian evangelists experience based upon a wrong understanding of history. Dr. Hammond will take it from here:

Some claim that the Crusaders were “The starting point of hostility between Islam and the West.” disrupting “five centuries of peaceful coexistence".

What Preceded the Crusades?

However the Crusades only started after five centuries of Islamic Jihad had conquered and annihilated, or forcibly converted, over two thirds of what had formerly been the Christian world. Shortly after the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem, in 638, Christian pilgrims were harassed, massacred, and crucified.

Muslim governors extorted ransom money from Pilgrims, and ransacked churches. In the 8th Century the Muslim rulers banned all displays of the Cross in Jerusalem. They also increased the penalty tax (Jizya) on Christians and forbade Christians to engage in any religious instruction, even of their own children! In 772, the Calipha al Mansur ordered the hands of all Christians and Jews in Jerusalem to be branded.

In 923, a new wave of destruction of churches was launched by the Muslim rulers. In 937, Muslims went on a rampage in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday plundering the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection.

In 1004 the Calipha Al-Hakim unleashed a violent wave of church burning and destruction, confiscation of Christian property, and ferocious slaughter of both Christians and Jews. Over the next ten years, 30,000 churches were destroyed and vast numbers of believers were forcibly converted or killed.

In 1009, Al-Hakim ordered that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem be destroyed.

When the Seljuk Turks swept into Jerusalem in 1077 they murdered over three thousand people, including many Christians. It was at this point that the Christian Emperor of Byzantium, Alexius I, appealed for help to the Western churches.

Pope Urban II challenged the knights of Europe at the Council of Clermont in 1095: “The Turks and Arabs have attacked our brethren in the East. They have killed and captured many and have destroyed the churches. On this account I…persuade all people of whatever rank, foot soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians…”

Nowhere in the call for the launch of the Crusades was there talk about either conquest or conversion. They were merely to remove the Islamic invaders from the lands that had previously been Christian, to restore religious freedom to the Holy Lands.

Myths and Misconceptions

The myth that the Crusades were unprovoked, imperialist actions against the peaceful, indigenous Muslim population is simply not accurate.

Similarly, the characterization of the Crusaders as greedy for loot, only out for personal gain, is simply out of touch with reality. Those who participated in the Crusades saw it as an act of sacrifice rather than of profit. The Crusades were in fact prohibitively expensive. Many Crusaders had to sell their property to raise money for the long journey to the Holy Land and knew that their chances of returning alive were slight. Most who did manage to survive and return came back with nothing material to show for their efforts.

Similarly the modern myth that the Crusaders attempted to forcibly convert Muslims to Christianity is a politically motivated fantasy. Search as one might through the writings and records of the Crusaders, one will not find any mention of Crusaders seeking to convert the Saracens or the Turks. The Crusaders saw themselves as Pilgrims seeking to recapture and liberate Christian lands from vicious invaders.

The Myth of Saladin

The depiction of Saladin as merciful and magnanimous is a myth. When Saladin captured the crusaders at Hattim on 4 July 1187, he ordered the mass execution of all the Christians: “They should be beheaded in accordance with Quran 47:4 ‘When you meet the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike their necks’” Saladin’s secretary Imad reported, “With him were a whole band of scholars and Sufis and a certain number of devout men and aesthetics; each begged to be allowed to kill one of them and drew their swords and rolled back their sleeves. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais; the unbelievers showed black despair.”

In 1148, the Muslim Commander Nur ed–Din ordered the slaughter of every Christian in Aleppo.

In 1268, when Mamluk Sultan Baybars seized Antioch, he ensured that all the men were slaughtered, the women sold into slavery, the crosses in every church smashed, the Bibles torn and burned, the graves of Christians desecrated. Every monk, priest and deacon was dragged to the altar and had their throats slit. The Church of Saint Paul and the Cathedral of Saint Peter were destroyed.

On 29 May 1453, the greatest city in the world of that time, Constantinople, was conquered by the Jihadists. The Muslims “slew everyone that they met in the streets, men, women and children without discrimination. The blood ran in rivers down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the golden horn”. The Muslim soldiers even entered the Hagia Sophia, and slaughtered thousands of Christians worshipping in what was then the largest church in the world at that time.

A Clear and Present Danger

From the first century of Islam Muslim armies were invading Europe. Spain suffered under Islamic occupation for 8 centuries. In the 14th Century, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia fell to Muslim invasions.

In 1426 the Egyptian Mukluks conquered Cyprus. In 1395 the Muslims conquered Nicopolis on the Danube River. In 1444 the Muslim armies seized Varna in Hungary. In 1456 the Turks besieged Belgrade, and even tried to conquer Rome, but were thrown back. The Muslims first attempted to seize Vienna in 1529. As late as 11 September 1683 Muslim armies besieged Vienna, but were routed by 30,000 Polish cavalrymen led by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski III.

Were the Crusades a Failure?

The constant depiction of the Crusades as a failure is not justified by the historical record. The Crusades bought Europe time. The Crusades succeeded in seizing the initiative, throwing the Muslim invaders onto the defensive, for the first time after five centuries of attack. The Crusaders bought Europe time – centuries in fact.

At a critical time, the Crusades united a divided Europe, and threw the Muslim invaders back, bringing a peace and security to Europe that had not been known for centuries. As a result of the tremendous sacrifices of the Crusaders, Christian Europe experienced Spiritual Revival and Biblical Reformation which inspired a great resurgence of learning, scientific experimentation, technological advancement, and movements that led to greater prosperity and freedoms than had ever been known in all of history.

For a picture of what Europe might be like today had Islam succeeded in conquering it, one can look at the previously Christian civilisations of Egypt and what is today called Turkey. The Copts in Egypt now make up just 10% of the total Egyptian population, and are severely oppressed. What is today called Turkey was once the vibrant Christian Byzantine Empire, the economic and military superpower of its day. Today the Christian civilization which had flourished there for a thousand years has all but been extinguished. The population of the last Christian city in Asia, Smyrna, was massacred by the Turkish Army in 1922.

Go On To Part 2

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nelson Mandela - Hero Or Terrorist?

Dr. Peter Hammond is an heroic missionary based in South Africa. He is a rare blend of being combat trained, having an immense academic intellect, and fearlessness as an evangelist. As a man who has been tortured in the prisons of despotic communist dictators, he is not intimidated in the slightest by political correctness. And there is no greater darling of political correctness in his homeland than Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was the key player in the recently released movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, called "Invictus". Is this movie an accurate portrayal of history or the invention of politically correct revisionism?

Hammond contends that this is a politically correct work of fiction in his scorching movie review (see below). Hammond's review is a stunning and provocative read that is both Gospel centred and loaded with the inside historical story from a South African who has lived there for 50 years - so stunning that I had to post it:

INVICTUS IDOLATRY - A Film Review By Dr. Peter Hammond

This stirring new film on South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory includes serious distortions of history. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela, Invictus makes a major contribution towards the building up of the mythology of Nelson Mandela as a modern day idol.

Their Finest Hour

Invictus focuses on the New South Africa’s finest hour as the Springbok rugby team, led by Francois Pienaar, won the World Cup. It also focuses on President Nelson Mandela’s finest hour as he donned the Springbok rugby team’s green and gold jersey and cap and publicly associated with the Springbok’s triumph.

There is no doubt that this was probably Nelson Mandela’s most astute move to appear in public at the World Cup Finals in the Springbok uniform jersey and cap. One billion people were watching. This was, as Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in the film declared: “An opportunity!” Indeed any wise politician would seize the limelight and exploit such an opportunity to identify with his national team’s greatest moment of triumph.

In the context of the racially polarized New South Africa, this gesture was meaningful and it was appreciated. It particularly won Nelson Mandela much admiration and support from white South Africans to whom rugby was much more than their national sport. However, it was a political token amidst a much broader context of Marxist violence.

Racial Stereotypes

This beautifully crafted, stirring and inspiring film, Invictus, clearly has a political agenda. It has dangerous distortions of reality and a selective focus which portrays the whites in South Africa as narrow minded, disgruntled, racial bigots. In fact, all the white characters in Invictus are one or two dimensional, with no depth of character. Incredibly this even includes Matt Damon’s portrayal of Francois Pienaar, the South African rugby team captain. One never gets to see quite what makes him tick. His leadership seems completely inadequate to explain this spectacular triumph of the Springboks over the previously unbeatable Australian and New Zealand rugby teams.

A Political Hijack

Incredibly, Invictus boldly gives all the credit for the Springboks’ World Cup victory to President Nelson Mandela. This must be the first time in history that any head of state has been given the credit for a sport team’s achievements on the field. Does Queen Elizabeth II get the credit if England’s rugby team wins? Was US President Bush credited with American Olympic athlete’s achievements in Beijing?

An Astute Politician

It was undoubtedly a very wise and astute political move for Nelson Mandela to oppose his own party’s plans to abolish the Springbok green and gold uniform and symbols. Doubtless Nelson Mandela genuinely wanted the national team to win, not only for the desirable national unity it could inspire, but for the international prestige it could give to his government.

Ignoring the Context

However, the film maker should not have oversimplified the fascinating story by separating it from its real context of crime and violence after a brutal 30 year terrorist war waged by Nelson Mandela’s ANC.

Imaginative Idolatry

Time and again the film focuses on Mandela’s imprisonment on Robben Island, often with dream-like imaginative flashbacks of Nelson Mandela breaking rocks on Robben Island. The film even includes a pilgrimage to Mandela’s cell in the prison on Robben Island, but there is never any mention of why he was imprisoned.

The impression given is that he was imprisoned for opposing apartheid, but many people, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, vigorously opposed apartheid without ever being imprisoned.

The Unanswered Reason Why

The fact is that even Amnesty International refused to take on Nelson Mandela’s case because they asserted that he was no political prisoner but had committed numerous violent crimes and had had a fair trial and a reasonable sentence.

Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. He had pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns, which planted bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station. Many innocent people, including women and children, were killed by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists.

South African President P.W. Botha had, on a number of occasions, offered Nelson Mandela freedom from prison, if he would only renounce terrorist violence. This Mandela refused to do.

New Maths

In Invictus Mandela’s 26 years in jail, custody and prison becomes 30 years in the cell in Robben Island, even though prisoners on Robben Island were allowed to walk freely around the Island during the day and were only locked up at night. No mention was made of the very comfortable warden’s house at Victor Verster (five star) prison where Mandela spent his last years of confinement.

Inspiring Words

Invictus regularly portrays Nelson Mandela as a most gracious, kind and forgiving man. Many most commendable words are put in his mouth including “the past is past. We need your services. We can only succeed with your help… reconciliation starts here…. forgiveness liberates the soul….forgiveness is a powerful weapon.”

Did Only One Group Have Anything to Forgive?

Under Clint Eastwood’s directorship, Invictus dogmatically asserts that Nelson Mandela and the black people needed to forgive the whites. Never does the film portray how much the whites had to forgive people like Nelson Mandela and his ANC terrorists who were responsible for the murder of thousands of South Africans. There is no mention in Invictus of the three decades of vicious terrorist warfare, including the burning down of thousands of schools, hacking to death of thousands of innocent people in homes and in the streets, pouring gasoline over a thousand innocent victims setting them alight, in the brutal necklace murders, the car bombs in public streets, limpet mines in shopping centres, petrol bombs and grenades through windows at night and assassinations.

Nor were economic sanctions referred to − which cost millions of jobs; and the sports boycott which had prevented the Springboks from competing internationally for decades.

A Negotiated Settlement

At one point in the film, Morgan Freeman’s Mandela character reminds his secretary: “The whites still control the army, the police and the economy.” That was correct, which gives the lie to the picture portrayed in Invictus of grudging, unwilling, narrow minded white racist bigots.

The fact is that white South Africans, who had the political, military and economic power and who had defeated Mandela’s ANC terrorists consistently, willingly handed over the reigns of power after a negotiated settlement.

The Communist Connection

Invictus never mentions Nelson Mandela’s open support for brutal communist regimes such as Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Red China, Gadhaffi’s Libya, Saddam Hussein, Yasar Arafat and other dictators. During the very time covered by Invictus Mandela received Fidel Castro, the longest reigning dictator in the world, and gave him the highest award that South Africa could give and then had both Houses of Parliament gather to hear an address from the Cuban tyrant.

The Ugly Reality

During the very time covered by the movie many hundreds of white farmers, and their wives and children, were being brutally murdered, actually tortured to death, often by UmKhonto we Sizwe guerillas, many of whom were now part of the South African National Defence Force.

Double Standards

Although Invictus gives all glory for the Springbok Rugby World Cup win to Nelson Mandela, it does not attach any blame to him for the rising crime and plummeting economy. During one short visual in the film Mandela looks at a newspaper headline which speaks of the rising crime and plummeting rand. This reality deserved a little bit more attention. During 46 years of National Party apartheid rule over 18,000 people had been killed by rioters, terrorists, by the police and the army, on all sides, including terrorists, civilian victims, military casualties and police. A total of 18,000 dead during 46 years of conflict. However, in peacetime, under Nelson Mandela, an average of 20,000 to 25,000 people were murdered every year.

Fueling the Crime Wave

Yet to celebrate his birthdays, Mandela would regularly open the prison doors and set many criminals, including armed robbers, murderers and rapists, free. Some of whom were murdering and raping within 24 hours of being released.

Economic Deterioration

In the 1970s, even while facing terrorism, riots and engaged in a border war with the Cubans in Angola, the South African Rand was stronger than the US Dollar. However, after years of US sanctions, the South African Rand had fallen to R2 to the Dollar. Under Nelson Mandela even with no war, no sanctions, no riots, no conscription, and with massive international aid and investment, the Rand plummeted to R8 to the Dollar, and even R10 to the Dollar, then R12 and even to R14 to the Dollar for a time. But according to Invictus, no blame can be attached to Nelson Mandela for the economic deterioration and the sky-rocketing crime rate under his presidency. However, he should be given all the credit for what the Springbok rugby team achieved on the field!

Legalising Abortion and Pornography

Viewers of Invictus also need to be aware that the kind and thoughtful gentleman portrayed in Invictus was the prime mover of the legalisation of abortion, pornography, gambling and homosexuality in South Africa and of the introduction of sex education in public schools. Since Nelson Mandela forced through the legalisation of abortion, not even allowing ANC MPs a conscience vote, and signed it into Law, 1 February 1997, over 900,000 South African babies have been killed through abortion, officially, legally and with tax-payers money.

Censoring Christianity

Another disturbing aspect of Invictus is the editing out of the Christian Faith of key members of the Springbok rugby team. There were many consistent reports of a core of the Springbok rugby team being Bible-believing Christians who regularly met for prayer before the matches.

Yet that is never depicted. The film does give a very anaemic presentation of the Springbok team kneeling in prayer after their victory, but it is such a lame and limp “Thanks Lord for letting us win the game” that it just doesn’t ring true.

As Francois Pienaar declared in his BBC Sport interview in 1995: When the final whistle went “I fell right to my knees. I'm a Christian and wanted to say a quick prayer for being in such a wonderful event, not because of the winning. Then all of a sudden, the whole team was around me, which was a special moment.”

Slanderous Distortion

Despite Francois Pienaar’s testimony, Invictus incredibly portrays him as fornicating before the winning match and swearing during it. And although the Springbok rugby team gave all glory to the Lord Jesus Christ for their triumph, Clint Eastwood’s production of Invictus transfers that glory to Nelson Mandela and a humanist poem by English poet William Ernest Henley, which he quotes: “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul… I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” It is the title of that poem, Invictus, after which the film is named.

Selective Focus

Francois Pienaar also pointed out in his 1995 interview with BBC Sport that the game favourites for the World Cup Rugby had been Australia, whom the Springboks beat in the opening game. This landmark victory is down played in Invictus.

Oversimplifying a Complex Country

It is unfortunate that Invictus reinforces stereotypes of narrow minded, white racists and whitewashes Nelson Mandela and the Marxists in the ANC. South Africa is far more complex and interesting than this film suggests. To understand South African history we need to understand the African context and the reality of the Cold War, which was the backdrop to the conflict in which Nelson Mandela played such a key role.

A Paid Political Advertisement?

It would be interesting to know from where the funding came for this film. At times it seemed like a paid political advertisement for Nelson Mandela and the ANC. If all that the film depicts of Nelson Mandela encouraging the team is really true, then it is commendable. But surely any sport team’s victory is to the credit of the Manager, the Coach and the team members’ dedication, training, fitness and skill?

For more background information see: The Battle For South Africa; The Battle For the Mind in the News Media; True and False Guilt; The Cold War and The Iron Curtain; The Paganisation of South Africa; and Over a Million Reasons Why I Will Not be Voting ANC, available on

Dr. Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship
P O Box 74
Newlands 7725
Cape Town
South Africa


Friday, February 12, 2010

What If Hillsong Invited Paul Washer Instead Of TD Jakes?

With my previous post in mind, imagine Paul Washer preached this message at Hillsong's 2010 conference! After sifting through so much dreadful false teaching it is time for a breath of fresh air. This is long but oh so worth the listen. Please, even if you are an atheist, listen to a man who is not a hypocrite and truly cares about your eternal wellbeing! It is so great to know that there a still preachers out there who know the Gospel!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Screen Door On A Submarine - The Hillsong Faith Statement

Stop the press! Just when I thought I had finished with my series on the false gospel of Hillsong some intriguing videos were drawn to my attention. Many of you have been reading my series over the last few weeks where I have exposed Hillsong's shameful editing of Scripture. Equally shameful was the blatant contradiction between their faith statement and the gospel presented in their massively popular worship CDs. This contradiction was so bad that Hillsong's faith statement actually defines their gospel presentation as a false gospel. This is an extremely serious matter for people who publically represent stewardship of the Christian faith.

Robert Fergusson, who Brian Houston (their senior pastor) used to write their faith statement, actually engaged in some correspondence with me. He is one of the most prominent preacher/teachers at the Hillsong mothership in Sydney. Fergusson's e-mails ultimately revealed (click here to read the correspondance) that Hillsong's faith statement is as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike or a screen door on a submarine. It gives the cosmetic effect of orthodoxy all the while serving no practical purpose whatsoever (it is a lesson to all of us to make sure that our churches have orthodox creeds and that the teaching submits to those creeds).

Even though Fergusson ultimately decided to deal with my questions by ignoring them, one of the readers on this blog drew my attention to this intriguing video . . .

So, clearly, Fergusson outwardly professes that their faith or creedal statement should be the driving force behind the message they communicate. But his apologetic with the Anglican minister was amazing - listen to some of our other CDs! What a great way to answer a legitimate theological question - NOT! Furthermore, it was interesting to note that Fergusson stressed the importance of teaching the theology of the Trinity in their songs. Robert, if the Trinity is so important then why did you invite this guy as your main speaker?????

That's right, TD Jakes, the keynote speaker at this year's Hillsong conference doesn't even believe in the Trinity. He is what is known as a modalist, someone who denies the three distinct Persons of the Trinity by describing them as three manifestations. TD Jakes' modalist presentation of God is clearly not the God of Scripture and therefore an idol. Modalism is a heresy that was denounced in the fourth century AD by the Athanasian Creed ( and was punishable by death during the reformation. But in 2010 it qualifies you as a keynote speaker at a Hillsong conference!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Someone Who Gets The Gospel Right

Do you remember my series "The Anatomy Of The Gospel"? In it I laid out the five fundamental elements (or five pillars) of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

1. The Holiness of God
2. The depravity of man
3. The necessity of judgment
4. The work of Christ
5. The human response this demands

Over the last 2 weeks I have been giving an example of a false gospel courtesy of hillsong church who fail at this abysmally. Today I wanted to put an excellent Gospel presentation on display. Jeff Noblit is the pastor of Grace Life Church of the Shoals which is Paul Washer's home fellowship. He has a presentation called The Great Answer To The Great Question. I was so impressed I put it at the top of my website. Be blessed as you read through this and see if you can spot those five pillars (the Holiness of God, the depravity of man, the necessity of judgment, the work of Christ, and the human response this demands) as you read through:

The Great Answer To The Great Question

QUESTION: What is life all about?

ANSWER: Life is all about the glory of God!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.(GENESIS 1:1 NKJV™)
Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; let the Lord be glad in His works. (PSALM 104:31 NASB®)
May the whole earth be filled with His glory. (PSALM 72:19 NASB®)
The heavens declare the glory of God. (PSALM 19:1 NKJV™)

In a very special and unique way, God created man in His own image to bring Him glory.

God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (GENESIS 1:27 NKJV™)

Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him. (ISAIAH 43:7 NKJV™)
Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name. (I CHRONICLES 16:28-29 NKJV™)

Man loves only himself and is constantly disobedient.

For men will be lovers of self…rather than lovers of God. (II TIMOTHY 3:2,4 NASB®)

The Bible calls this lack of love and obedience SIN.

We sin and fail to glorify God in our actions.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. (ISAIAH 53:6 NKJV™)

Instead of loving and obeying God, man has followed the ways of this sinful world, Satan, and his own lusts.

…in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (EPHESIANS 2:2-3 NASB®)

Think of the ways we all fail to glorify God in our actions: Lying, stealing, gossiping, cheating, adultery, murder, etc. We glorify God when we love God and obey Him with all our heart.

In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. (NASB®, emphasis added)

We sin and fail to glorify God in our attitudes. God knows all of our thoughts and attitudes.

The Lord knows the thoughts of man. (PSALM 94:11 NKJV™)
Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. (PSALM 139:4 NASB®)
Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me.” (ISAIAH 29:13 NASB®)
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (MATTHEW 15:18-19 NKJV™)

Think of all the ways we fail to glorify God in our attitudes: Envy, jealousy, anger, lust, hatred, selfishness, etc. Man has miserably failed to love and obey God and bring Him the glory He deserves.

That is what Romans 3:23 means when it says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NKJV ™)

It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. (HEBREWS 9:27 NKJV™)
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (REVELATION 20:11-12 NKJV™)

The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (MATTHEW 13:41-42 NASB®)
In glorifying God for His punishment of sinners, the people already in heaven cry, “Just and true are Your ways.” (REVELATION 15:3 NKJV™)

God is in every way superior to man; therefore, His punishment is greater!

God has glorified Himself through creation. God will glorify Himself through judgment. It is wonderful beyond compare that He has chosen to glorify Himself by saving hopeless, lost sinners!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (JOHN 3:16 NKJV™)

God has love beyond that of man. God has chosen to glorify Himself by saving us when we could not save ourselves. In saving us, He demonstrates the greatness of His love and forgiveness.

…that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (EPHESIANS 1:12 NKJV™)

God's glorious love was demonstrated when He punished and killed His Son Jesus in our place.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ROMANS 5:8 NKJV™)
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (ROMANS 8:32 NKJV™)
But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering… (ISAIAH 53:10 NASB®)
He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (ISAIAH 53:12 NKJV™)

Jesus, God’s Son, took our wrath and punishment through His death on the cross. Then God raised Him from the dead, and He lives forever. His resurrection proves that 100% of the punishment for sin was paid.

…who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (ROMANS 4:25 NKJV™)

God’s desire is to glorify Himself by saving us. A change of heart to turn from loving yourself and sin and to begin to love and obey God is called REPENTANCE. A new confidence in Christ to forgive all your sin and to be your new Lord (Boss) is called FAITH. REPENTANCE and FAITH are essential for salvation.

…how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (ACTS 20:20-21 NKJV™)

The Bible also calls faith BELIEF.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (JOHN 3:16 NKJV™)

If we repent of sin and have faith in Christ, we are saved.

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (II CORINTHIANS 6:2 NKJV™)

Do you feel deeply sorry and regretful for your sin and failure to glorify God? Do you truly believe Jesus died in your place, has taken your punishment, and will forgive you? Do you truly desire to begin obeying Him as the Lord (Boss) of your life?

Tell Him of your sin and disobedience. Tell Him of your deep sorrow for failing to glorify Him. Tell Him you now rely on Him through His death to forgive you and to save you from sin. Tell Him you now commit to stop loving sin and self and to start learning to love and obey Him.

Anchored in Truth™Ministries

For spiritual guidance, help, or more information, please contact us:
1915 Avalon Avenue | Muscle Shoals, AL 35661
256.381.7495 |

Friday, February 5, 2010

The False Gospel Of Hillsong (Part 6) - The Eleventh Commandment

A prominent theme in Brian Houston's teaching is "thou shalt not criticize", or as I call it, the eleventh commandment. Many bad teachers survive solely on the basis of this mantra. It is commonplace among the Word Faith and prosperity crowds.

Without a doubt we should be careful about our motivation and attitude when asking critical questions. But Scripture actually mandates the testing of all teaching commanding us to test all teaching (I John 4:1), expose the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), mark false teachers (Romans 16:17), and condemn any other gospel than the one found in Scripture (Galatians 1:8-9). John Macarthur had this to say about teaching that opposes any critique:

In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance. It will always say you are being divisive, you are being unloving, you are being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn't get scrutinized. So it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny—just let's embrace each other; let's love each other; let's put all that behind us. False doctrine cries the loudest about unity. Listen carefully when you hear the cry for unity, because it may be the cover of false doctrine encroaching. If ever we should follow 1 Thessalonians 5, and examine everything carefully, it's when somebody is crying unity, love, and acceptance (online source)

One of the real problems with trying to have productive discussion with people immersed in this kind of "theology" is that they mask their unrepentance in a four fold strategy - change the subject, ignore it, deny it, or question the motivation behind a question. For example, Brian Houston responded to criticism by Tim Costello about his prosperity theology by saying:

Costello, says Houston, "likes what we do generally" but has a problem with Hillsong's success. He, like those from some of the more traditional churches, is simply jealous of it, Houston tells me. "The irony is, Tim Costello is a pretty successful guy himself. The big difference between us is that I like to teach other people to be successful and not just enjoy the success myself."

Did you see it there? Rather than answer the criticism, Houston preferred to question Costello's motivation and then take a veiled swipe by portraying Costello as someone who is unlike him because he does not share his "success" - and all with a smiling face. It is an art form that few of us can exercise so skilfully.

We also saw Robert Fergusson deal with my question about Hillsong's willingness to alter Bible verses by ignoring it altogether. Well done Robert - a great way to display all those years of theological education! Furthermore, Fergusson's denial of any contradiction between Hillsong's faith statement (concerning repentance) and gospel presentation was behavior that any ostrich would be proud of. And from beneath the sand (where Fergusson's head was buried), he managed to slip in the good old subject change when he said:

It would also be ungracious for either of us to suggest that we believe the Bible, repentance or the gospel more than the other.

Encountering the four fold stragey of:

1. change the subject
2. ignore it
3. deny it
4. question the motivation behind a question

serves as a reminder as to why I have gone public with my attempts at engaging in a productive dialogue with Hillsong church. It is my hope that many readers, friends, and beneficiaries of God's glorious Gospel, would diligently pursue increasing public awareness of the drastic difference between the Gospel of God's redemptive work in Christ, and the gospel of man's invention. Only one of them can save us!

Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The False Gospel Of Hillsong (Part 5) - From The Horse's Mouth

Over recent days I have documented a lot of written information concerning Hillsong's "presentation of the Christian gospel". But for today I thought it would be worthwhile to hear it from the horse's mouth!

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio toured Europe in 2007 visiting some major reformation landmarks while doing filming for the fourth season of The Way of the Master television series. While in London, he inadvertently bumped into leaders of Hillsong London who were also filming. Todd took the opportunity to grill them on their knowledge of the Christian Gospel. Check it out by clicking here

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, February 1, 2010

The False Gospel Of Hillsong (Part 4) - My Entire Correspondance With Hillsong

Today, I am going to post the entirity of my correspondance with Hillsong, or more specifically, Robert Fergusson. I realize that a lot of this has already been posted, but I thought it might be useful to have the entire dialogue and chronology laid out in a single post so the reader can get a clear picture, and also as a tool for others to pressure Hillsong (e-mail them at Forgive me if this is too long for you - if you don't want to read through the entire dialogue then you can scroll down to Fergusson's e-mails which are in italics.

For those of you who don't know who Robert Fergusson,here is his profile on the "Hillsong International Leadership College" website:

Robert Fergusson
Cert.IV AWT, PGCE, B.Sc (Hons)
Trainer and Advisor (Pastoral Leadership)

Robert Fergusson is one of the Senior Associate Pastors at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia where his primary responsibilities are preaching and teaching in the Bible College. Originally from England, Robert was a minister there for twelve years before he moved to Australia in 1990. He has travelled extensively and has a passion to teach practical life principals. Robert is married with three adult children.

From what I am told, Fergusson is perhaps the most popular and prominent preacher at Hillsong Sydney along with senior pastor Brian Houston. Someone who is recognized for biblical insight. In the light of the glowing endorsements of Fergusson's teaching/preaching you will have to arrive at your own conclusion after reading through this correspondence.

On Wednesday December 30th 2009 I wrote the following mail to Hillsong's address which is supposed to be for non-Christians with questions:

To whom it may concern,

I recently read through the CD liner notes of your "Hillsong Live - Mighty To Save" CD. In it I found an explanation on how to become a Christian.

Here is what it said:

"Our prayer is that you would discover the Author of Love . . . Jesus. His life and death represent the greatest gift of love the world will ever see . . . a gift for you. All you need to do is accept it . . . a brand new start to a life lived in relationship with God. Meeting God is as simple as praying a prayer . . . asking Jesus to meet you right where you are. If you are not sure that you know God, and that you are going to heaven, then make this your prayer today . . .

Dear Lord Jesus

I need You . . . I need Your grace to forgive me and I need your love to change me. Thank You for your amazing love. Thank You for giving me life and eternity. But above all, thank you for dying on the cross for me.

I accept You as my Lord and Saviour. Now I'm a Christian, which means You live in me.

I belong to You. I will live my life for You and I will love You forever . . . Amen."

Now I am concerned about several things lacking in this presentation including Who God is, defining what sin is, that we must all be judged, and why Christ needed to die on the cross. These all give me great cause for concern with the gospel you are proclaiming. But I want to zero in on one particular issue. On your website you have a statement of "what we believe" which says this:

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives. (

Can you please explain to me why repentance is never mentioned in the gospel presentation in the CD's you sell but your website says that "in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins"? Can you tell me which one is the correct?

Adding to this 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 print:

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.

I am very concerned about this. I'm sure you would agree that the stakes are high and it is imperative that we get the Gospel right. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. The Apostle Paul said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

I would appreciate your response as to where Hillsong church actually stands on repentance and that you would promptly ammend your website or the CD liner notes that you publish. I am writing to you first to give you opportunity to clarify your position before I discuss this publicly on my blog.

Cameron Buettel

Well Hillsong's 911 emergency hotline sent me an out of office auto reply with another e-mail address - So I resent the e-mail to that address but it seems that Bethany was not used to these sort of questions. Finally on Thursday 7th January 2010, 8 days later, Robert Fergusson responded. It would seem my letter had spent several days moving up their theological chain of command to answer my "difficult questions".

Hi Cameron,

Thank you for your recent email and your obvious concern for truth and the preaching of the gospel. I am responding on behalf of Hillsong church as one of the key preachers here.

Let me assure you that at Hillsong church we are as committed to the declaration of truth as you evidently are. As you have seen from our statement of faith our beliefs are those held by the Australian Christian Churches. All of our preaching and publications attempt to reflect those beliefs. For instance, in the example that you have chosen, although we didn’t use the word ‘repent’ on that occasion, we did use the words, ‘change’ and ‘forgive’. We felt that was appropriate at the time and I am sorry if you feel that is inadequate. Nonetheless, we do regularly review all our preaching and publications and have noted your helpful comments. May I suggest you visit our Hillsong church in London, which may allay some of your concerns.

We pray that God continues to bless you and your ministry,

Yours sincerely,

Robert Fergusson.

I wrote back on the following day (Friday the 8th of January 2010):

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 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 highlighted in bold:

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.

Cameron Buettel

Robert Fergusson replied again the same day (Friday 8th of January 2010):

Hi Cameron,

Thank you for your email and, once again, thank you for your observations. To be honest, I think it would be unprofitable for us to engage in a long debate on the nature of the gospel. It would also be ungracious for either of us to suggest that we believe the Bible, repentance or the gospel more than the other. We are both endeavoring, by the grace of God, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and we should pray for and support one another in that endeavor.

God bless,

Robert Fergusson.

I responded again on the same day (Friday 8th January 2010):

Now Robert, be reasonable. They are fair questions that I am asking. How can you even suggest that repentance from sin is discussed in the Gospel presentation found in the CD? I was hopeful you would address the issue - not pretend it doesn't exist! I am not suggesting I believe the Gospel more than you - I am saying that if you do believe the Gospel then you will put a stop to the false one being presented on behalf of Hillsong. Doesn't it concern you at all that Hillsong propogates information telling people to pray this prayer and then you are a child of God with no call to repentance from sin. No mention of the cross. No mention of our guilt. Please tell me this is of concern to you as a preacher of the Gospel?


So there you have it. What do you think about the theological guardians of the Hillsong empire?

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1