Phil Wickham is a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artist with Charismatic leanings and a large following. In 2007, he released the album Cannons, which contained - among other songs - a song entitled "Desire". This song was co-written by Wickham and another CCM writer named Pete Kipley. Upon reading the lyrics, I found certain claims in those song to be especially problematic.
I'm running through the gates of love as fast as I can
An ambiguous beginning from a shallow song that tries to compensate for its shallowness by being unclear.
I can wait to see You, I'm a desperate man
You made the light and sent it down
This is an especially concerning line. If we are to determine what is meant here, we must discern what Wickham means by "light". Is he referring to Jesus? If so, this song is promoting the heresy of Arianism. Jesus was not created; He is eternal. To claim otherwise is unchristian.
To show us who You are
If this is referring to Jesus, then is also problematic. It appears to put forward the theory that Jesus was sent down primarily to show us who God is. However, in actuality, Jesus came to Earth for the purpose of living a perfect life and dying on the cross for the salvation of His people.
Now it's bursting out my heart
My desire is burning like a million stars
This line seems odd. He appears to be singing about His own desire for God and how great it is. It seems self-glorifying.
And I'll keep reaching out, reaching out for You
My desire is burning with the fire you sparked
And I'll keep reaching out, reaching out for You
This whole verse seems to be very man-centered. He's so focused on what he is doing that he only once mentions what God has done.
I'd be nothing without you, yeah I would die
If I didn't have Your hand, if I couldn't look into Your eyes
There are two major problems with this line. Firstly, it seems to be very romantic in nature. "Look into your eyes"? That's something you say to your girlfriend or wife. Secondly, we can't physically look into Jesus's eyes. He is ascended into Heaven and at the right hand of the Father. No one on Earth can look into His eyes.
Jesus, if Your love's the fuel
Then I'm the desperate flame
That's screaming out Your name
This is glory rising over a new horizon
I see Your love, I feel Your smile
You're in my heart and I will run with all I have to You
This verse is overall just unclear and difficult to make sense of. It is so vague that no message can be conveyed and nothing is actually really being said.
Of the entire song, the first verse is the most problematic. The song is mostly so vague and shallow that I would already advise against singing it. However, that first verse seems to promote some dangerous views about Jesus, especially concerning His eternality. In one of the few lines with any theological depth, Wickham appears to claim that Jesus was a created being. Whether this is what Wickham intends or not, this is most certainly what the song is purveying. Overall, whatever is more substantive is alarming. I would say that the rest of it needs to have more substance, but I fear that then those lyrics would also be concerning and problematic.
Pope John Paul II's letter entitled On the Most Holy Rosary is exactly what you would expect from a Roman Catholic Pope on the Rosary. He proclaims the importance of the Rosary and contemplative prayer. He then speaks of Mary's role in the Rosary, and how she is supernaturally connected to this prayer in their view. Since it is written by a (now) historical pope, it holds significance in Catholic revelation both as a part of tradition and as a part of the Magisterium. Some may even confess that the official Catholic view would look at this book as being on par with Scripture, which would make it Deuterocanonical.
One of my first criticisms of this book is its promotion of Contemplative Prayer (the type of prayer that the Rosary is), a practice that replaces petitioning and praising God with pure mysticism. It claims, "The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth." (p. 21) Later, the books reveals its mysticism in a way that is almost gnostic by saying, "[The Rosary] offer's the 'secret' which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ." (p. 33) On page 40, he notes that the Rosary presupposes the mystic practice of lectio davina (another form of Contemplative Prayer). However, for this entire mystic theological system concerning the Rosary, not once does he ever provide a Scripture that tells us to pray the Rosary, practice contemplative prayer, or engage in lectio davina. This is because these practices actually contradict the way we are told to pray. According to 1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV), "I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." Contemplative Prayer would contradict this by claiming we need to empty our minds in order to "open our awareness to God" (Read more here). Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 6, and it does not in any way resemble Contemplative Prayer.
However, my biggest problem is the blatant Mary-worship that stains the pages. The author attributes to her multiple worshipful titles, such as "Most Holy Mother" (p. 9), "Queen of the Angels and Saints" (p. 32), "Blessed Mother" (p. 33), and "Queen of Heaven" (p. 50). The book promotes the myth that calls Mary the mother of the Church based off of a twisting of John 19:26 (Where Jesus is actually telling John to take care of Mary). He advocates for proclaiming, "Hail Mary", a common Romanist phrase of Collyridian Mariolatry. Eventually, the Pope claims, "[T]he mysteries of Christ are also in some sense the mysteries of his Mother..." (p. 33; I usually don't nitpick capitalizing pronouns that refer to God, but couldn't help but note that "Mother" is capitalized when "his" isn't). He later adds, "To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother." (p. 35) The degree to which he seems to exalt Mary matches that of the level that he exalts Christ. She has essentially become a false goddess that passes down the Rosary. This is a direct violation of the First Commandment, which says, "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3, ESV) If you heap worship and praise onto someone, even going as far as to address a prayer to them, then you are making them out to be a god.
It is primarily because of the mystic and Mary-worshipping elements that I reject the Rosary. It is inherently anti-Christian, as it rejects the Biblical framework given for prayer and makes an idol out of Mary. By elevating Mary, this belief system also blasphemes God and runs entirely antithetical to the Gospel.
For a presentation of the true Gospel, please visit here.
In Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne lays out a strong case for his New Monastic views, which are primarily characterized by a strong emphasis on both pacifism and charity. Claiborne rightly recognizes that there is a major problem with the Church becoming too involved with Republican politics, yet he fails to realize that - in this book - he does the exact same thing with Left-Wing politics.
Throughout the book, Claiborne often draws from his influences. He cites people such as Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Soren Kierkegaard. One of his clearest and most cited influences is Mother Teresa. She has had many problems theologically (See this article by Tim Challies). This has clearly had an effect on Claiborne, particularly in his claims that the Holy Spirit dwells within everyone. This is known as the heresy of Panentheism. In the book, Claiborne said, "The reality that God's Spirit dwells in each of us began to sink in." (p. 79). Earlier in the book, he quotes Mother Teresa as saying, "In the poor we meet Jesus in his most distressing disguises." (p. 51). This connection between Christ and unbelievers is not warranted. There is no text of Scripture that insists God dwells within all people. In fact, the verses that do speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling within people exclusively speak of believers. Take 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 for example.
At a few points, Claiborne appeals to context in order to defend his views against objections raised by critics that use Bible verse. Though he does do this properly in some cases, he is not consistent in his desire for context. When advocating for his pacifism, Claiborne cites Matthew 5:38-39 in order to accomplish this. However, he appears to have no regard for the historical context of that passage. During that time, a slap on the cheek was not an attack, it was an insult (even modern idioms treat it as such). Jesus was not telling them not to defend themselves, but rather proclaimed that we should not repay insult for insult. In fact, Jesus advocated for being able to defend yourself in Luke 22:36 (ESV), when He said, "And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one." Though Claiborne vehemently denies the idea of a just war, God repeatedly commanded war in the Old Testament. One need only read it to determine this to be true.
The most troubling aspect of Claiborne's book, however, is his total confusion on what the Gospel is. In the introduction, Jim Wallis writes, "We desperately wanted to see our faith 'go public' and offer a prophetic vision with the power to change both our personal lives and political directions." (p. 13) On page 163, Claiborne claims, "Rebirth and redistribution [of wealth] are inextricable bound up in one another." Throughout the book, Claiborne appears to advocate for a sort of Social Gospel. He consistently blurs the line between law (or rather, his distorted view of it) and Gospel. He seems to think his distorted economic is essential to - if not synonymous with - the Gospel.
He twists Scripture for the sake of pacificsm and compromises the Gospel for the sake of advocating for Communist economics (he denies it, but his views are essentially Communist). Claiborne's gospel more closely resembles one in which Jesus died for world peace, economic equality, and the redistribution of wealth. Though he is right that the modern Church needs to have a greater emphasis on charity, his view on the very thing that unites the Church - the very Gospel that we would preach while being charitable - is wrong. Claiborne's gospel is not the Gospel we see in Scripture. Rather, it is a false gospel with no power to save.
For a presentation of the true Gospel, please visit here.
This magazine-like book, Amazing Prophecies, is a Seventh Day Adventist look at the books of Daniel and Revelation. Being Seventh Day Adventist, it puts forward the general beliefs of Adventism. It proclaims a Historicist view of the End Times, claiming that the majority of Bible prophecy is symbolically about Church History. Though I disagree with this approach (being a Futurist), this is not my biggest qualm with the book.
As Adventists, they believe in the prophetic significance of the day October 22nd, 1844. Known to the rest of the world as The Great Disappointment, this year was the year that a 1800s theologian and precursor to the Adventists named William Miller predicted that Jesus would return. When Jesus did not return and the world did not end, many of the "Millerites" (As Miller and his followers were called) were disappointed and began to leave the movement. Miller himself even professed repentance. However, some Millerites - including Ellen G. and James S. White - revised their beliefs to fit with the fact that Jesus did not return. To this day, the followers of Ellen G. White - the Seventh Day Adventists - continue to hold to the belief that God began to judge the Earth on that day. This cultic End Times view is mirrored in the book, where they claim, "The 2,300 years reaches from 457 B.C. to A.D. 1844, which is the starting date for the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary - the Day of Judgement. Since that time, the Judgment has been ongoing in heaven. When the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is finished, all the confessed sins of God's people will be eternally blotted out; Jesus will come agains to take us home; and Satan, sin, and sinners will be destroyed." (p. 21; note the use of the term "destroyed"). Their sect is built on the foundation of quicksand that is Date Setting, a dangerous eschatological practice that attempts to determine the date of Jesus's return even though we are explicitly told no one knows (Matthew 24:36). When the date passed, White and her colleagues were left to revise their beliefs to come up with a nonsensical view of Christ's return and the notion of final judgement.
If you look deeper into this notion of judgement, you will also find more troubling beliefs that come from the books Adventist roots - namely, the Works Righteousness doctrine of Investigative Judgement. On page 29 they note, "Every man's work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. The law of God, a reflection of Christ, is the standard by which the characters and lives of the men will be judged." This may be passible is this is used to set up how we don't measure up to it so we need Christ's righteous life and atoning death to be applied as a substitute to the account of those who will have faith. However, it appears that the book continues to put forward the view that Christ's death merely served to cause God to ignore our sins - and only those that we confess. The same page says, "Jesus did not excuse their sins, but declares their penitence and faith sufficient." In truth, neither human penitence nor human faith is sufficient, but rather the death of Christ by grace alone through faith alone. It isn't our penitence that is sufficient, but rather Christ's perfect life and vicarious death. The book continues, "On the Day of Atonement, those who had not confessed, repented, and overcome their sins were cut off from the congregation." (Emphasis added) The idea that a believer must confess every single sin and overcome each of them in order to achieve salvation would make it so that absolutely no one was saved. We needn't overcome our sins in order to be saved because Christ already took them upon Himself, died in our place, and rose from grave - eternally overcoming sin and death on our behalf. Doing good works and overcoming sin is not something we do in order to gain salvation, but rather something we do because we have already been given it. While this book rightly condemns the Pope as the Antichrist (p. 61), I must note, however, that you don't need their conspiracy theory numerology in order to determine that the title "Vicar of Christ" (which means replacement of Christ) is a blasphemous title. Moreso, all Seventh Day Adventists - including this book's authors - rightly condemn the Pope as Antichrist but neglect to see the fact that their acceptance of Investigative Judgement is a repackage version of his greatest heresy: that man is saved by his works.
One last point of conflict that this book has with orthodox Christianity is concerning Hell and Eternal Punishment. What happens to those who do not pass the good works test and are found to be wicked? The Adventists claim, "Sinners will be destroyed - not given an eternal life of torment." (p. 75) What does the Bible say happens to those who do not have faith? It that they will be given over into "eternal punishment." (Matthew 25:46, ESV) Revelation 20:10 (ESV) explains this as, "day and night forever and ever." The Word of God directly contradicts the Annihilationist view taken by this writing. Though they claim that "eternal" in Matthew 25:46 merely refers to how it will seem to those who are being punished, the same word is used to refer to the eternal life granted to believers. If we apply their logic consistently, eternal life is not given to the believer. They then reinterpret death in verses like Romans 6:23 to mean the absolute eradication of consciousness, neglecting to understand that it refers to the "Second Death". It is the result of coming to these texts with the goal of making them fit Annihilationist heresy.
This book directly contradicts the Gospel on multiple accounts. It assaults the return of Christ by basing itself on an 1800s failed theology about His return, denies the eternal punishment of the wicked who reject the God they know, and blasphemes Christ's accomplished work by adding human works to the Gospel.
For a presentation of the true Gospel, click here.
In a sad turn of events, a hunter named Theunis Botha was killed after he had been legally hunting elephants. This father of five was well known for his hunting leopards and lions. While he was hunting, he was sadly crushed under the weight of a downed elephant.
The wickedness of mankind was shown almost as soon as it hit the news. When posted to Yahoo News's Facebook page, it received (as of this article) over 1,000 laughing reactions and 637 love reactions. Meanwhile, only 53 reactors expressed sympathy. The top comment on this post said, "Next to a good goring in the bull ring there is nothing I like more than a big game hunting accident... I hope [he] wasn't killed instantly and had time to suffer." (This had 451 like, 46 loves, and 5 laughs at the time of this article). Care2.com reported, "Karma Strikes Again: Trophy Hunter Killed by Elephant". One commenter on Twitter said, "I hope Botha finds himself in Hell, being hunted by all the animals he killed." Regrettably, these disgusting comments were much easier to find than any comments that mourned his death or expressed sorrow over his loss.
For a moment, just ignore the fact that privatization actually helps animal populations because it motivates those who earn from them (locals) to stop poachers and prevent over-hunting. Let's act like legal, licensed hunting is just as bad as activists seem to think it is. How much more precious was Botha's life than that elephant? How much more valuable is the lmago Dei when compared to the life of an animal? Infinitely. Man is made in the image of God. We are separated from animals by our sentience and our sapience. Because man is created in the image of God (Imago Dei), the life of a human is infinitely more valuable than that of an animal. In fact, if you combined the value of every animal that has ever lived and ever will live, you will not even come close to the value of one human life.
This is made clear by reading Genesis 1, in which God tells Adam, "have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28, ESV). The Noahic covenant (which is still active) gave us permission to eat animals, saying, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." (Genesis 9:3, ESV). The general equity of Old Testament civil law also indicates that human life is more valuable than animal life. In Exodus 22:1 (ESV), we read, "If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." However, the civil law also states, "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:12, ESV). Finally, Jesus explicitly said, "You are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:31, ESV).
The world will revel in the death of a hunter yet mourn the death of the elephant that killed him. They will place more value on the eggs of a bird than on the growing life of an unborn human. Know this: it is done in wickedness and blindness. God's word shows that human life is more valuable than animal life, and this is not a truth that believers should soon forget.
Brandon C. Hines
Brandon is a young writer, theologian, and polemicist. He adheres to the 1689 London Baptist Confession and believes in Calvinism, Covenant Theology, Credobaptism, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the Essentials of the Christian Faith.