21 October 2014

The real problem with Pat Robertson

by Dan Phillips

I'll just admit it up front: from their articles, I have a hard time understanding what the RAANetwork is about. They have a statement of purpose, but, as I say, I'm focusing on the articles. Where are we going, I wonder, when I see pieces like this, and this, and this? Does that all bring us together in an Ephesians 2 and 4 way, lifting up what unites us in Christ through His work on the Cross?

But I follow them in Twitter, in part because I dearly want to see Biblical truths spread all over, including those areas where historically it has not been well-presented and well-known. For that reason, Monday my eye was caught by their tweets about Pat Robertson.
Well, yeah, yes he has. Absolutely. Welcome aboard. And:
Really? Now, that's not what I would have said. I don't think it really gets to the heart of it. But I went to read the article by Cornell Ngare, to see how he developed his thought. The more Christians who put the Bible to Robertson, the better. So I read.

For one thing, I — are you sitting down? — was a bit taken aback at how bare-knuckled it was. Deserved, appropriate... but just a bit surprising to me.

"Pat Robertson has been making ridiculous statements on global television for decades." OK, well yes; again, amen. Ngare points at Robertson's "record and reputation for being flippant, bigoted, and all other words that describe a serious lack of wisdom or discretion," and asks whether we really should "be wasting our breath and time reacting to his latest episode of verbal diarrhea?"

"Latest episode of verbal diarrhea"? Ouch; absolutely true, and needs to be said. You go, bro!

Then Ngare (again truly) observes that one would hope a 84-year old would be mellowing and maturing — more "nuanced"! — and yet Robertson "only seems to be getting worse." Indeed.

Then Ngare goes on about Robertson's regular practice of popping off answers and rants and musings on an array of topics without even an attempt at deriving them from Scripture.

So: true, true, true... but what does Pat Robertson's follies in this regard have to do with Reformed folks, or the RAANetwork's statement of purpose? Robertson isn't Reformed, makes no claim to being Reformed. I'm still puzzling that out.

However, that said, I must quickly add once again that I'm always glad to see a Christian brother warning about Robertson. I myself have a long, long record of doing just that, and far less gently than Cornell Ngare (to his credit, no doubt). Just see this, and this, and this, and this, for starters.

In the first of those, I get at what I am suggesting Ngare is missing, and where I think he's just a bit wide of the mark.

I think Pat Robertson would categorically reject Ngare's accusation. Robertson would say that he seeks God's wisdom constantly—and he gets it, directly, by God's personal revelations to him.

You see, Pat Robertson is a Charismatic. He is a man who has written generously that "Probably 95 per cent of all the guidance we need as Christians is found in the clearly understood principles of the Holy Bible." The other 5 per cent? Well, that's where you need Pat and the other Charismatic leaders who have a hot line to God.

Paul's question in Romans 4:3a seldom seems to be Robertson's first question, 2 Timothy 3:15-17 doesn't inform him much, and Deuteronomy 18:20 doesn't seem to sober him up to any measurable degree. The hard fact of a completed Canon is just a "and-then-that-happened" thing in the landscape of his thinking.

So why is Robertson's ranting reported? Why does he have an audience? Why is he a problem?

It's this progression which is as unpopular as it is irrefutable: without (A) Pentecostalism, (B) Charismaticism (however you shade those two), and most crucially (C) the Open-But-Clueless crowd of Reformed-and-other enablers, Robertson would be without a platform. He'd have no one to listen to him. Once he started popping off and saying things that can't be warranted by Scripture, Christians would turn away en masse, and he'd be talking to the mirror.

This is the consequence of not truly affirming and embracing and heralding a robust doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. This is the consequence of winking at the Charismatic movement. This is the consequence of Reformed folks like Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress and the others coming up with rationales to save face for Charismaticism's 100 years of straying and of failure-to-deliver.

Just take one example, only one: Robertson's internationally-famous record for false prophecies. Just take this one: here we see Pat Robertson and Michael Brown's BFF Benny Hinn, where Robertson says in so many words that God told him that Mitt Romney would win the Presidency.

Don't rush past that. There's no way to soften this. Sniggering, giggling Pat claims a word from God. Michael Brown's good buddy Hinn says "I trust God's voice." So both equate Pat's private revelation with the august voice of God, that voice which brought the universe into existence out of nothing.

Yet note again, Hinn says "I trust God's voice," and Robertson chuckles "Well, we'll see."

Words fail me. Almost.

Now, this clearly was a false prophecy. Can't we agree on that?  That, or (I speak as a fool) God was wrong. So, remind me: what are the consequences for delivering a false prophecy?
  1. In Israel, it would be death (Deuteronomy 18:20).
  2. In the church, surely it would be excommunication.
  3. In this day of Grudem and Poythress and other enablers of modern pop-offecy... nothing. No consequences.
I totally agree with Cornell Ngare that Robertson's a huge problem. But I don't think his wording of his analysis hits the ten-ring. Robertson's problem is the reason why he even has a platform: failure to give God's Word the place God gives it.

What Christ's church really needs is a revival-level, massive embrace, and living and systematic proclamation of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Dan Phillips's signature


Frank Turk said...

You would think that this post would get a lot of links, given that it's a clear example of TeamPyro demonstrating that we really do appreciate the good and helpful work of others.

You would think.

Rob said...

Grudem's continuationalism I'm familiar with, but Vern Poythress was a surprise - I must have missed that, so I'll jump back and read that other post. I thought Poythress was one of those Westminster stalwarts where the thought of anything charismatic was unheard of?

DJP said...

Regrettably, Poythress continues to be influential. I was chagrined to see John Frame allude approvingly to this very argument in his new Systematic Theology (132).

Tom Chantry said...

*galloping in on hobby horse*

...that's because all Poythress ever did was apply Framian epistemological confusion to the question of da gifts...

*galloping away again*

Tom Chantry said...

On a more positive note, right on, Amen, you are correct. Excommunication indeed! We must call fools "fools" if we are to have any credibility at all. I have only once prayed publicly from the pulpit for God to destroy a man's ministry, and that man was Pat Robertson.

All of which makes me (righteously) proud that it was Baptists who came up with this statement more than three centuries ago:

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
(1689 Confession, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1)

Mark Hanson said...


Except for the first line, up to "although", the London Baptists borrowed this from the Westminster Confession, written 42 years earlier.

Tom Chantry said...

And yet that opening statement is the crux of the whole. It is a clarifying statement which explains why the remainder of the statement is incompatible with Quakerism (the reason for its inclusion) or for that matter with Charismaticism, which is Quakerism reborn.

On the whole, I'd rather face the Charismatic movement armed with the fuller and more developed statement of the Baptist Confession.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"and most crucially (C) the Open-But-Clueless crowd of Reformed-and-other enablers, Robertson would be without a platform."

Although Grudem, Piper, Storms, Poythress, et al are Reform Charismatic enablers, Pat Robertson and the Pentecostals, Charismatics, Word-of-Faitherers, would still have an operational platform even without the Reform Charismatics providing theological cover.

DJP said...

Hunh. So I should have added some qualifier, to expand it. Something like... oh, I don't know... "and-other"?

Tom Chantry said...

Honestly, Dan, when are you going to start having TUAD proof your posts for you so you can avoid making these mistakes?


DJP said...

I'm so embarrassed for me.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Your snark is not helpful.

While the Reform Charismatics merit justified pushback, the Pentecostals and Charismatics and the Word-Faithers would still have their platform.

The Reform Charismatics are *not* most crucial to their platform.

DJP said...

Axioms #2 and #3 are always good to keep in mind. Just sayin'.


Frank Turk said...

Well, it seems to me that we're now talking about some kind of weird binary universe where the reformed Charismatics are either merely enablers or merely not enablers -- when in the real world they could be (for example) critics of charismania and discerning prophets against false prophecy and the lot -- in which case, the huge gap they now create for normal people to step into with all gullibility would be filled up with some solid rock sort of stuff like Bible and wisdom and orthodoxy.

Michael Coughlin said...

Amen. I think I'm going to ask my SS class this week what % of the Christian life the Bible is sufficient for and what percentage we still should be seeking some external sign and see what they say.

David Alves said...

This was very helpful & refreshing as a graduate of Robertson's charismatic reeducation camp...wondering which faculty members might benefit from this.

Virtually the whole faculty & staff could be divided into two groups: Charismatics of various levels of Biblical ignorance, errancy, and ghastly theology (which would include the more than a few who were higher critical or squishy on verbal inerrancy, as well as the near-everyone who accepted Catholics and Emerg*** as part of the Body), and then their equally-Biblically ignorant and theologically-ghastly but non charismatic enablers. No, not everyone on the faculty/staff was charismatic. But they at least didn't care.

Students were roughly comparable as to the two groups, though they had the added problems of youthful immaturity & tunnel vision.

The only good thing was that it was very rigorous academically, though it utilized very secular standards for doing so (which explains the higher criticism as well as the full-bore psychological integration in the counseling program).

I pray often for the school, faculty, and students, that the Lord would produce revival and great fruitfulness as His people surrender to the fullness of the Truth.