Harvest House along with John Ankerberg and John Weldon, the authors of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, consistently claim that their standard of truth is “biblical Christianity.” However, in order to attack Living Stream Ministry and the local churches, they obscure our distinction between the biblical Christian faith and the organized system of Christianity.
The Unique Standard—The Bible
The unique standard for evaluating everything related to our Christian life is the Bible. Even the church is not above criticism. As Harvest House and its authors themselves espouse in quoting Walter M. Horton in their book Protestants & Catholics: Do They Now Agree?:
The fundamental protestant idea is that the Church is not above judgment, inerrant and “self-authenticating” as though she were God Himself; she is the servant of God’s Word, and must perpetually be judged by her degree of conformity to the Word.1
It is therefore fundamentally dishonest on the part of Harvest House to assail our biblically-based critique concerning the present state of Christendom with its many un-biblical teachings and practices. Our criticism is thoroughly based on the divine revelation in the Bible, a fact that Harvest House and its authors never acknowledge and consistently attempt to conceal. The quotes Harvest House uses to attack Living Stream Ministry and the local churches are carefully selected and excised to exclude their scriptural basis, thus obscuring the fact that what is actually being criticized is the deviation of today’s Christendom from the biblical revelation.
Organized Christianity’s Deviations
As we have stated elsewhere, our criticism of the organized system of Christianity runs along three primary lines:
- The replacement of the normal experience of Christ in the lives of the believers with so many substitutes, including unscriptural things such as philosophy and culture and including the misuse of many scriptural things, such as doctrine, gifts, knowledge, etc.
- The nullification of the proper function of every member of the Body of Christ in serving the Lord by the unscriptural clergy/laity system.
- The division of the one unique Body of Christ into so many denominations and free groups.
In contrast, what is revealed in the New Testament is:
- An unsearchably rich Christ (Eph. 3:8) living in (Gal. 2:20), growing in (Col. 2:19), transforming (2 Cor. 3:18), and being formed in (Gal. 4:19) the believers;
- A universal priesthood of believers in which all believers serve the Lord in mutuality (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rom. 12:4-5); and
- One universal Body of Christ encompassing all believers past, present, and future (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4) manifested practically as local churches city by city (Acts 8:1; 13:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11).
Christianity’s Deviations Acknowledged
It is hard to understand Harvest House’s objection to our criticism of the failures of Christianity when measured against this biblical standard. In fact, recently Harvest House published a book which echoed at least in part the same themes. In Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, James McCarthy wrote:
I fear that much of Christendom today, including many Protestant denominations, has gone the way of Judaism. It has become a religion of misguided people who think peace with God can be achieved through religious practices and moral living. In the so-called “Christian countries” of the world, relatively few people have any real knowledge of the Scriptures or can explain the gospel of Jesus Christ.2
Is this not a tragedy? If what McCarthy says is true, and we have no reason to doubt it, it means that most people in Christendom do not understand the basics of the Christian faith, much less are they growing properly in Christ. In the same book, McCarthy wrote:
According to Scripture, all true Christians are members of the same priesthood. It is a “holy” and “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5, 9). There is no clergy/laity distinction in the New Testament.3
Earlier in the same book, he also wrote:
Scripture refers to each group of Christians by the city or town in which it was located: “the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), “the church at Antioch” (Acts 13:1), “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2). We sometimes call these local churches to distinguish them from the church as a whole, or the universal church.4
Positively speaking, the history of the church has been a history of reactions against degradations, a history of the recovery of the precious truths concerning the life and practice of the believers as revealed in the Bible. Such a recovery has always involved a prophetic ministry that called believers back to the biblical standard. Martin Luther reacted against the replacement of justification by faith with a system of works. The Wesleys and George Whitefield reacted against limiting the preaching of the gospel to church sanctuaries and began to preach in public. The Plymouth Brethren reacted against the divisions in the Body of Christ, simply desiring to meet together as brothers in Christ. In each case, the reaction was a form of “protest” against the unbiblical teachings and practices that had entered the church and was met with great hostility by the religious establishment.
As believers we should seriously consider whether the current situation among us is pleasing and satisfying to our God. Is He pleased when we are occupied with gifts, forms, knowledge, and doctrines and neglect the living Person of His Son and His desire to live in us (Gal. 2:20), grow in us(Col. 2:19), transform us (2 Cor. 3:18), and be formed in us (Gal. 4:19)? Is He pleased when we abdicate our spiritual responsibility to serve Him, neglecting to preach the gospel, to shepherd other believers, and to teach the truth? Is He pleased when we care more for our petty preferences or doctrines instead of caring for the reality of the Body of Christ and the practice of the genuine oneness with other believers based on our common Christian faith? Who can dispute that believers generally need to be awakened to pursue Christ that they may gain Him and be gained by Him so that His desire in redeeming them can be realized? Is there no room in the church today for correction by the Word of God? Far from “defending the faith,” Harvest House and its authors, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, have done the Body of Christ a great disservice by attacking a ministry that is awakening believers to the unsearchable riches of their inheritance in Christ, to restore them to their proper function in God’s priesthood, and to recover the genuine oneness of the Body of Christ.
Harvest House, in promoting Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical on its Web site, states:
This book presents a unique collection of correspondence between two friends who have spent many hours discussing their faiths-one a Catholic priest, the other an evangelical minister. Their candid dialogue illustrates how we can talk about opposing beliefs without resorting to criticism that is mean-spirited, sensationalistic, or inaccurate….
The fresh insights bring clarity and respect to both sides of the ongoing dialogue between Catholics and evangelical Christians, and readers will benefit by being able to make their own informed conclusions about the differences.5 (view)
We would ask Harvest House: Why did you abandon these principles when you attacked Living Stream Ministry and the local churches. This evident double standard is all the more troubling if you consider “Harvest House’s Hypocrisy Concerning Our Criticism of Christianity.”
5Web page for Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical: From Debate to Dialogue on the Issues That Separate Us from the Harvest House Publishers corporate Web site. The link is to a PDF file generated from http://web.archive.org/web/20050222203032/http://www.harvesthousepubl.com/book.cfm?ProductID=6909893http://www.harvesthousepubl.com/book.cfm?ProductID=6909893 on 08/22/06. The original page is subject to change by Harvest House Publishers.