Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda:
the Fall of Reason in the Church

Chapter Eleven
Out of Context:
Does Kenneth Copeland Really Believe Jesus is Not God?

One of the most grievous propaganda tactics is the sin of the out-of-context quotation. When you quote someone out of context, you can make words they said mean something they never meant at all. People can use such statements to cruelly misrepresent what a person really believes.

Politicians use out-of-context quotes all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians also resort to such tactics to make their points. One group of Christians has been especially targeted for destruction using this device. That group is the so-called Faith Movement.

In my book Heresy Hunters I devoted a chapter to demonstrating that the Faith Teachers had been treated unfairly by the Heresy Hunters. In that chapter I surveyed the major teachings of the Faith Teachers which were under attack. I then showed ways in which the Heresy Hunters had misunderstood and misrepresented them.

I am not suggesting that everything taught by the so-called Faith Teachers is right. I am not what you might consider a part of the Faith Movement per se. However, I am a Pentecostal minister and certainly believe that God does respond to the exercised faith of His people. (If that is not true then much of Jesus’ teaching is misleading, for He continually exhorted his followers to extend their faith in ways such as healing the sick.)

Not everyone, of course, agrees with my conclusions in this matter, but many do. I received hundreds of comments similar to this one from a pastor in Utah:

Thank you for being obedient to the Holy Spirit in producing this book! I believe it contains a very important message for the Body of Christ today. I could not help but feel that you put into words for me the uneasy feeling I have had in my spirit as I have observed the "Truth Wars." While I have been uncomfortable with the style and the message of some of the so-called "faith teachers," I have also felt uncomfortable with the sarcastic personal attacks against them by the "heresy hunters." You have done a masterful job of addressing this explosive issue with fairness, compassion, and honesty.

Hank Hanegraaff devotes his book Christianity in Crisis to the task of proving that the Faith Teachers are heretics. At the top of his list of heretical Faith Teachers is Kenneth Copeland. Of him, Hanegraaff has said:

This guy does not belong as a teacher in the Church. He is a false teacher. The worst of all false teachers, and we’ve been dealing with the cults for thirty years…he is fooling millions of people and doing so at quite a profitable rate.

The Faith Teachers, Hanegraaff says, are epitomized by Copeland and his mentor Kenneth Hagin. They include others like Benny Hinn, Fred Price, Charles Capps, Jerry Savelle, John Avanzini, Robert Tilton, and Marilyn Hickey. According to Hanegraaff these ministers "Mock traditional Christianity" and "completely trash the atonement of Jesus Christ upon the cross."

Hanegraaff’s organization, CRI, says each of these people (named above) can:

Rightly be considered a cult leader…their teachings (can be) regarded as cultic, (and)…their ardent followers (can be) categorized as cultists.

In the Christian Research Journal (Winter 1993) Hank Hanegraaff castigated some of these leaders in the Faith Movement by name:

•John Avanzini–John Avanzini is billed by his Faith peers as a recognized authority on biblical economics. The truth, however, is that Avanzini is an authority on perverting Scripture as a means to picking the pockets of the poor. He has honed his craft into such an art form that when Faith teachers need money, they inevitably call on "Brother John." Armed with a bag full of Bible-twisting tricks, he tells the unsuspecting that "A greater than a lottery has come. His name is Jesus!"…When it comes to fleecing God’s people, few can match the effectiveness of John Avanzini. There is an exception, however; his name is Robert Tilton.

•Robert Tilton–Robert Tilton hit the big time as a fisher of funds by developing a religious infomercial called Success-N-Life…It now appears that Tilton’s ill-gotten gains may dwindle rapidly amid reports of scandal and a variety of lawsuits. (Here Hanegraaff repeats ABC PrimeTime Live charges that the prayer request letters Tilton promises to pray over end up in dumpsters instead.)

•Marilyn Hickey–Marilyn Hickey, much like Tilton, employs a broad range of tactics to manipulate followers into sending her money…For the most part, Hickey’s tricks and teachings are recycled from other prosperity peddlers like Tilton, Hagin, and Copeland.

•Charles Capps–Capps not only preaches the blasphemous, he also preaches the ridiculous.

•Jerry Savelle–Savelle demonstrates a total lack of biblical acumen, as he blindly regurgitates every heresy in the faith movement.

•Morris Cerullo–Not only is Cerullo a master of make-believe, he is also a master of manipulation.

•Paul Crouch–…this voice is being used to promote teachings straight from the kingdom of the cults.

For Hanegraaff, "The Faith Movement was spawned by the unholy marriage of 19th century New Thought metaphysics with the flamboyance and abuses of post-World War II revivalism. It should therefore come as no surprise that its doctrine and practices are palpably unbiblical."

JESUS NOT GOD!

One of the most misrepresented targets of the Heresy Hunters is Kenneth Copeland. Hanegraaff claims Copeland and other Heresy Hunters teach that Jesus was not God. Unfortunately, Hanegraaff attempts to prove that by using a series of out-of-context quotations.

Over and over again Hanegraaff plays snippets on "the Bible Answer Man" that catch the Faith Teachers making what sounds like heretical statements–until you put their comments in context. The most blatant example of the dishonest use of such quotations appears in Hanegraaff’s book Christianity in Crisis. In Chapter twelve, "The Demotion of Christ," here is what he wrote:

Almost all cults and world religions compromise the deity of Christ, and the Faith movement is no exception…Astonishingly Copeland deifies man and demotes Jesus Christ. It is mind-boggling to hear Copeland assert:

What [why] does God have to pay the price for this thing? [The price of sin] He has to have a man that is like that first one. It’s got to be all man. He’s got to be all man. He cannot be a God and come storming in here with attributes and dignities that are not common to man. He can’t do that. It’s not legal.

…[Copeland] clearly divests Christ of every shred of deity.

If John 10:33 is not enough to convince Copeland that Jesus was indeed God in human flesh, how about John 5:18?…Or what about John 8:58…?

Well, if that is what Copeland said–and if it is what he meant to say–then I would have to agree with Hanegraaff. The problem is, that is not what he said–in context. It certainly is not what he meant. Anybody who wanted to understand what Copeland was saying would never have ripped the sentences out of context and totally misrepresented him. The following excerpt comes from the actual tape Hanegraaff quotes. It is what Copeland actually said in his tape "The Incarnation." (By the way, the title of the tape should have told Hanegraaff that he was misrepresenting Copeland). I have underlined the portion Hanegraaff quoted and I have italicized key portions which refute Hanegraaff’s argument:

So what does God have to have to pay the price for this thing? He has to have a man that is like that first one. It’s got to be a man, He’s got to be all man. He can’t be a God and come storming in here with attributes and dignities that are not common to man. He can’t do that, it’s not legal. You see, God had angels that could come storming in here. He’s got angels that are bigger than Satan, did you know that? Michael’s proved that on an occasion or so–and just stomp him good. The Spirit of God, is certainly–the Holy Spirit Himself–is certainly more capable than Satan. He’s the one that kicked him out of heaven in the first place. Why didn’t the Holy Ghost just come in here and just take over things and run this thing around? He’s not a man that He should do a man’s job.

There had to be a man, but it also had to be man as pure as that first one, and there wasn’t anybody left like that but God. Now somehow or another there’s got to be an incarnation, there’s got to be a man filled with God–there’s got to be a God-man come into the earth.

How we going to get Him in here? Well, there wasn’t but one way. And God had that way hidden until time to do it. His Word provided it. That way was to have that man born without the seed of a man in Him, He had to have the Blood of God in His veins. And He was born, conceived by the Holy Ghost in a virgin, and it worked.

And you hear Jesus say, "Son of Man," now here’s what I want you to get before we read our Scripture today: "Son of Man." The Hebrew words are Ben Adam. Son of Adam. Or, just like Adam.

See what He does? The great God of the universe, the greatness, the only spotless thing left that God has to get this job done with–the only sacrifice left–the only thing. God’s paying a precious price for this thing, it’s the only thing He has that can qualify and fulfill it.

And He steps from that position of universal hierarchy in the heavens down here into this footstool, if you please, and associates and identifies Himself with your race and mine. And calls Himself the son of Adam.

Now get ahold of that. Boy, that’s real. God didn’t have to do that, but He did. Do you know why? Because He’s in love with you, that’s why.

Clearly what Copeland is not denying the deity of Christ at all. In context, Copeland is talking about the humanity of Christ and who it is not displaced by his deity. he is saying that the perfect sacrifice must be of the pterfect man, fully man, but also fully God–the God-man jesus! he section Hanegraaff quotes from copeland’s tape "The Incarnation," is unqusetionably orthodox. It is no more legitimate to rip Copeland’s statements out of context than it would be to rip the extensive discourses on the humanity of Christ from the writings of the early Church Fathers

 

Copeland Statements His Critics Never Quote

If we want to know what Kenneth Copeland thinks about the deity of Christ, we need to quote statements he makes which would make us believe he does think Jesus is God–that is if we want to be fair. I have taken the time to listen to as many of his tapes on this subject as I can. My daughter, Erin, has gone to the trouble to transcribe more than a dozen of his key sermons in their entirety onto computer disk. Here are some statements his critics totally ignore:

•He was made to be sin, for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God. He wasn’t any less man. If anything he is more man than any man that ever walked. Not half man, half God–All man, all God. Praise the Lord!

•There had to be a man. He had to be all man. He couldn’t be just part man, that’s not legal. He had to be all God. He couldn’t be just part God, ‘cause that wouldn’t work.

Now God, through the shed blood, or the sacrifice that was put on the altar of the cross remitted the sin of the world. He destroyed Satan’s ability and He destroyed his authority over mankind by pouring out his own blood.

•The Prince of Heaven–God Almighty–gave up his divine health in order for you–in order to take your sickness and bear your sins and diseases in his own body on the cross.

•When was Jesus born of God? It was not when he was born in Bethlehem, that’s just when he took upon himself the flesh of man. He’d always been the Son of God. Always, forever. Always been one with God forever.

Worldly Wisdom

One of the biggest problems with out-of-context quotations is that they can be used in an attempt to "prove" almost anything. Unscrupulous commentators resort to out-of-context remarks because they want to win arguments, when winning is more important than arriving at truth. We are all aware of the secular news media’s penchant for misquoting public figures.

In a recent example, a reporter quoted US Senator Dan Coats (Rep. Ind.) as saying that (then) Vice-President Dan Quayle was "not representative of his generation." The reporter made it sound as if Senator Coats were disparaging the Vice President when–in context– the Senator was actually commending the Vice President. He was saying that Dan Quayle was not representative of his generation in that he had never been a radical hippie: "Dan Quayle," the Senator said, "did not occupy a college administration building, burn the flag, join the drug culture or protest at the 1968 Democratic Convention." In a letter to the Washington Post, Coats went on to ask, "How is it possible to get from my own words and intention to this sweeping, negative conclusion? Search me."

GOD–The BIGGEST FAILURE OF ALL TIME!

In Christianity in Crisis Hanegraaff also suggest that Copeland believes "God is the biggest failure of all time." It is true that Copeland uttered those words, but a rational person would ask "What does he mean by them?" Words are symbols which represent thoughts. Our job is to take a man’s words and figure out what he meant by them–not to try to trap him into translating his words into a meaning he did not place on them.

Hanegraaff suggests Copeland’s words mean he has no respect for God and deems Him to be a failure. If Copeland believes that, he is not a Christian, let alone a minister of the gospel!

Of course, that is not what he means! When you go to those words in context, it immediately becomes clear what he is saying. He is addressing the fact that people get down on themselves because of their personal failures. So he reminds us that God Himself is a "failure" in the sense that He "failed" when–in Copeland’s words–"He lost His top-ranking, most anointed angel; the first man He ever created; the first woman He ever created; the whole earth and all the fullness therein; a third of the angels, at least–that’s a big loss, man." He made that statement on a "Praise-a-Thon" program on Trinity Broadcasting Network in April, 1988.

Obviously, the failures here were Lucifer, Adam, Eve, and the demon angels–not God. Copeland is saying that God has suffered disappointment and can understand our human condition. It is ludicrous to try to suggest from the text that Copeland sees some flaw in God in all this. That is absolutely not what he was saying. When Hanegraaff plays that game, he is being supremely biased and he undermines truth–the very thing an apologist should be striving to exalt.

Copeland in saying "God is the greatest failure of all time" is being ironic. He is using a rhetorical device to communicate something about the heart of God for his creatures. This is a preaching technique pastors have used throughout the ages. To suggest that Copeland is attacking the character or nature of God is as backwards as saying he doesn’t think Jesus is God.

But Hanegraaff, in his determination to throw the Faith Teachers out of the Church not only claims they believe Jesus is not God and that God is a failure, he also says the Faith Teachers believe men can become gods.

LITTLE GODS OR LITTLE FRAUDS

Hanegraaff, on his daily radio show "The Bible Answer Man," has repeatedly asserted that Word/Faith teachers believe men can become gods. An entire section (four chapters) of his book, Christianity in Crisis, is entitled "Little Gods or Little Frauds." Its chapters include: 1) Deification of man; 2) Demotion of God; 3) Deification of Satan; and 4) Demotion of Christ.

He has stated plainly that the Faith Teachers subscribe to a theology similar to that of Mormons, who believe men can become gods:

What I have just discussed with regard to "little gods" is only the tip of the insidious iceberg…but if you are going to welcome (the Faith Teachers) into the Church, please don’t be two-faced–welcome the Mormons, the Moonies, and the metaphysical practitioners.

However, in Heresy Hunters I refer to an article in the Christian Research Institute’s own magazine, the CRI Journal, which suggests the opposite. Dr. Gordon Lewis, wrote an article in the Journal entitled, "Are Mormons Christians?" While he does not defend the Faith Teachers per se, he says they do not teach the deification of man as Mormons do.

In his article he responded to a Mormon scholar who attempted to demonstrate that Eastern Orthodoxy, the Word Faith Teachers, and C. S. Lewis all taught the Mormon concept that men may become gods.

But Dr. Lewis showed that it is impossible to understand an individual’s position on complex issues simply by repeating a line of his overall teaching out of context. He demonstrated that those three entities do not teach Mormon-like theology. He says when Christian writers speak of becoming like God, they mean becoming like Him in some respects. That does not mean they think men can become like God in essence.

Dr. Lewis points out that Eastern Orthodoxy, Word Faith Teachers, and C. S. Lewis do believe man is radically changed by redemption, but he says they do not have a view of God similar to Mormonism (i.e., "As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.") He says Eastern Orthodoxy indeed emphasizes that the redeemed man undergoes changes which renew him in the image and likeness of God, but he continues, "There is a difference between being like God in some respects …and being God by nature."

He makes the point that the late Christian author, C. S. Lewis, can be made to appear to teach that men evolve to godhood. All we have to do is quote him out of context. Gordon Lewis writes:

Did C. S. Lewis support an LDS concept of deification? In The Weight of Glory, the imaginative writer uses figurative language to express the radical changes in believers from the dullest and most uninteresting persons in this life to "gods" and "goddesses" in glory. He must be understood metaphorically in view of his general defense of theism. Similarly, when in Mere Christianity he says we turn permanently into new little Christs sharing God’s power, joy, knowledge, and eternity, he is speaking in terms of our likeness to God being renewed. And in The Screwtape Letters his claim that God intends to fill heaven with "little replicas of himself" refers to replicas in certain qualities, not to becoming literal gods.

Gordon Lewis also quotes C. S. Lewis in the following, very telling, way:

The command, "Be ye perfect," is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He [God] is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said [in the Bible] that we were "gods" and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him–for we can prevent Him, if we choose–He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine

It is hardly necessary to point out that virtually no Evangelical scholar thinks C. S. Lewis was unorthodox on the subject of God’s nature. But his statements–taken out of context–could be used to make him appear cultish. That is why it is essential not only to quote a man’s words, but to understand and report what he means by those words.

I quoted from Dr. Lewis’ article in my book Heresy Hunters, and send a manuscript to him. I asked him to tell me what he thought of my work. He replied:

I am sorry I was unable to respond more quickly…I have also had some other writing deadlines which have been met and was impressed as I looked through your work.

I was interested in your use of my material regarding whether Mormons are Christians as you responded to Hanegraaff in measure.

I trust that it will be possible for all the ministers to the cults to work together in spite of varied personalities and approaches. I hope that your book will contribute to that.

THE ESSENCE OF HERESY

Church Father, Hilary of Poitiers, said, "Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; and the guilt is that of the expositor." He meant that the original scripture was accurate and its meaning intact. Heresy occurs when someone comes along and assigns a sense to a Bible passage that God did not intend.

How shall we then view the practice of assigning erroneous meanings to an individual’s words? If we assign a meaning to someone’s words that he himself doesn’t assign, we are guilty of doing violence to his text. That is exactly what we do to people when we take their thoughts and words out of context and assign unwarranted meanings to them.

When the heresy hunters assign to the Word/Faith teaching the idea that Jesus is not God, they are doing violence to Word/Faith theology as I understand it. Of course, some Faith Teachers may not think Jesus is God, but, in my studied opinion, Kenneth Copeland is not one of them, nor is it the general teaching of the Word/Faith leadership.

It was very wrong for Hanegraaff to try to read an erroneous denial of Christ’s deity into Coplelan’s discussion of Christ’s humanity or by ignoring Copeland’s discusion of Christ’s deity in the very next passage of the "Incarnation" tape. Copeland’sregular teaching on this subject underscores the fact that he does teach that Jesus is fully God. Beyond that, he teaches the orthodox hypostatic union of Christ–that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

In Heresy Hunters, I defended the idea that the real essence of heresy is division. God is building His Church. What if He is building part of it within the Word/Faith Camp? And what if reckless Heresy Hunters attempt to destroy that part of God’s Church by excommunicating it as heretical. I argue that it may well constiture heresy–teaching which splits the Church, destroys its unity, and stumbles the lambs, causing them to be destroyed. If that is the fruit of the reckless activity of the Heresy Hunters, they themselves may be the real heretics.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

When a propaganda driven Inquisition occurs, no amount of protest or denial upon the rack will satisfy the Inquisitors. They will settle for nothing less than a full confession. No wonder some of the hounded ministers have given up trying to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Heresy Hunters.

Here, however, is where I must challenge the Faith Teachers’ reluctance to answer their critics. I understand why they do not do so. First, they consider it undignified and unproductive to wrangle with those who oppose them. Like Nehemiah, they do not want to "come down from the wall" to talk to the Sanballats. (Neh. 6:2-3)

Second, they believe they will only do more harm than good. That the very people they are trying to shield from the conflict–the lambs–will be harmed by the public controversy which will simply confuse people.

Third, they believe it is impossible to talk to the Heresy Hunters because they won’t listen. (On this point they are right.)

But their arguments should not be made for the benefit of Heresy Hunters, they should be made for those in the middle–the rational, godly people who have only heard one side of the story. It is for the sake of the greater Church that the Heresy Hunters must be engaged. Were they resort to half-truths, innuendo, flawed reasoning and outright lies, they must be challenged.

A good question is who watches the cult watchers? Pop-apologists have suddenly become powerful. It is unnecessary to remind ourselves that temptations accompany power. Everyone talks about "accountability" these days, but to whom are the pop-apologists accountable? They criticize the Faith Teachers because they often are independent of denominational supervision–yet so are many of the pop-apologists.

Pop-apologetics has become a big business for some. It is ironic that one of the most vocal opponents of the so-called opulent life styles of the Faith Teachers is someone who himself lives in one of the most expensive gated-communities in Southern California–in a three-quarter-of-a-million dollar home. Is sauce for the goose not sauce for the gander?

There are no easy answers here. The apostle Paul recognized that not every area of Christian conduct is specifically covered in Scripture. He said we need to be careful about judging another man’s servant. (Rom 14.4)

I have said it this way. In my opinion the Heresy Hunters make two mistakes. They play fast and loose with the truth (as in the out-of-context Copeland quote) and they tend to be reckless and vicious.

I suggest they could try to be honest and charitable.

That, at least, would be a good start.

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