DOCTRINAL AMBIGUITY OF A WANDERING
THE CHANGING VIEWS
OF JOYCE MEYER
by G. Richard Fisher and Paul R. Belli
Christians have come to presume that teachers and authors who profess to speak and write out of a calling from the Holy Spirit will present a message that is doctrinally sound and consistent from sermon to sermon and book to book. However, anyone who has watched the Christian Charismatic scene over the past several years knows that such a presumption is dangerous and often will fail to be borne out.
Joyce Meyer, a rising star on the Charismatic horizon with a weekly program on cable TV and the Trinity Broadcasting Network and a new book, The Word, The Name, The Blood, is the latest example.
The dust jacket of her latest book highlights her prominence and promises big things:
“Joyce Meyer is the author of the best-sellers, Beauty for Ashes, The Root of Rejection and Battlefield of The Mind, and has taught on emotional healing and related subjects in meetings all over the country. Her ‘Life in The Word’ radio broadcast is aired on 200 stations nationwide. Her thirty-minute ‘Life in The Word With Joyce Meyer’ television program is broadcast throughout the United States and Canada. She also travels extensively conducting Life in The Word conferences, as well as speaking in local churches.”
Such prominence might suggest that Meyer has a firm grip on what she believes. However, by her own admission, her teachings are evolving. A review of her weekly program and tapes reveals that her preaching style, though folksy-sounding, is strident, authoritarian, and aggressive. There is no uncertainty in her pulpit manners, just a tone of knowing it all. An excerpt from one of her tapes goes as follows:
“You know something? I liked myself before I had started studying on this because that’s something God had just worked in me the last seven years. And I didn’t start out liking myself. I didn’t like myself at all. But I’m telling you after I’ve studied this message, I’m so excited about me that I hardly know what to do.”
Still, her current book reveals a startlingly different attitude:
“Several years ago I found myself completely worn out from trying to fight the devil. I learned many ‘methods’ of spiritual warfare; however, they did not seem to be working ... I had fallen into the trap that many Christians fall into. I had the right teaching, but the wrong order ... I was feverishly applying methods I had learned — like fasting and prayer ... rebuking and resisting evil spirits ... empty formulas which wear us out and produce no results except maybe a sore throat” (The Word, The Name, The Blood, pp. 28, 32, 33).
Such uncertainty by the teacher can only foster uncertainty in any discerning student or would-be student.
Meyer can be classified as a Word-Faith teacher and as such has shown an inclination to waffle on major doctrines. In her 1991 booklet, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, an evangelistic work aimed at nonbelievers, she resounds the Word-Faith view of Christ’s atonement:
“During that time He entered hell, where you and I deserved to go (legally) because of our sin. He paid the price there ... no plan was too extreme ... Jesus paid on the cross and in hell” (pg. 35, underlining in the original).
“God rose up from His throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God, ‘Let Him go.’ Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus ... He was resurrected from the dead — the first born-again man” (pg. 36, underlining in the original).
“His spirit went to hell because that is where we deserved to go. Remember in the very beginning of this, I said, ‘When you die, only your body dies. The rest of you, your soul and spirit, goes either to heaven or hell’” (ibid.).
“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell” (ibid.).
“Jesus went to hell for you” (pg. 38, underlining in the original).
All of the above citations are from her chapter entitled, “What Should You Believe?”. The first subheading in this chapter is “What Happened on the Cross?”. Those familiar with Word-Faith vernacular will recall Kenneth Copeland’s 1984 tape, “What Happened From the Cross to the Throne.” Copeland apparently borrowed the title and theme from E.W. Kenyon’s book by the same name.
Meyer teaches the classic “Born-Again Jesus” gospel that has been taught by Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Fred Price, John Jacobs, Charles Capps, Benny Hinn and Jan Crouch, to name a few. It’s usually presented under the guise of “revelation knowledge,” given by the Holy Spirit and grounded in Scripture. However, this gospel does not stand up under biblical scrutiny.
Charismatics many times will make their case by saying, “Jesus went to hell. Doesn’t it say so somewhere in the book of Acts?”
While it is true that Jesus went to hell (Ephesians 4:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18), attention should be focused on what He did or didn’t do there. Meyer and her kind teach that Jesus went there to pay for our sins, it’s the same kind of payment — or better — that He made on the cross.
The reader is asked to recall Meyer’s repeated declarations: “He paid the price there ... Jesus paid on the cross and in hell ... Jesus took your place in hell ... Jesus went to hell for you.”
Every cult and pseudo-Christian sect disparages the cross. An enemy of the cross is one who even suggests that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient for salvation. Anyone who disparages the cross is teaching another gospel. The destiny of such teachers is destruction (Philippians 3:19). Based upon Christ’s atonement for their sins, Christians are not going to hell. Therefore, no enemy of the cross can be a brother in Christ.
A pastor at whose church Meyer was to speak told her about serious concerns he had about her booklet. As a result, she has revised parts of it. Meyer’s organization labeled the revised booklet “Second Printing - May 1993” but did not mention the key theological revisions, which were limited to Chapter Four, where the previously cited passages are found. Nevertheless, the revisions leave much of the “Born-Again Jesus” doctrine intact. Apparently she has neither tried to disavow or recall the first edition nor has she made any mention of the revisions in the second printing.
Her now-unavailable tape, “What Happened from the Cross to The Throne?” continued to teach the “Born-Again Jesus” doctrine and is a close, if not identical, copy of the Kenyon/Copeland theme and title.
In it she stated that at age 36, she received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and sometime later felt a flipping and a turning in her stomach. This, she said, led to an understanding of her justification and a deeper revelation of Jesus’ spirit death in hell, where He became sin and was tormented by demons. She also states that when “God yelled down through the universe, ‘That’s enough. Let Him loose,’” Jesus was able to rise. She admits this understanding does not come from the Bible, saying it came from our spirit man. Most likely it came from the likes of Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin.
Meyer also declared on the tape that she no longer is a sinner:
“I’m going to tell you something folks, I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore. And the religious world thinks that’s heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I’m righteous and I can’t be righteous and be a sinner at the same time ... All I was ever taught to say was, ‘I’m a poor, miserable sinner.’ I am not poor, I am not miserable and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I was and if I still am then Jesus died in vain. Amen?”
The Apostle John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). It is Christ’s righteousness imparted to us, not ours, that makes us righteous.
Meyer further adopted the grammatical subterfuge of used by annihilationists in her exegesis of Luke 23:43:
“And in Luke 23:43, Jesus said unto him, ‘I say unto you today you shall be in paradise with me.’ There’s no punctuation in the original translations of the Bible. We have punctuated it and in this particular Scripture it was punctuated wrong. They put in there: ‘I say unto you comma today you shall be in paradise with me’ making it appear that the minute Jesus died on the cross He went straight to paradise. No, no no. He did not. The way it should read is: ‘I say unto you today comma. I’m telling you today. Today I’m telling you that you are going to be in paradise with me.’ But He didn’t say, ‘You’re going to be there today.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you this today’” (ibid.).
Thus Meyer has subscribed to the idea that modern Bible translations are wrong in quoting Christ: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Meyer’s reading makes way for the union to be some future event. However, there would have been no need for Christ to have said, “I say to you today,” since the dying man already knew it was today.
PFO wrote to Meyer and asked if the message and theology of the cassette were still valid. PFO director Kurt Goedelman received a call from a representative of Meyer’s ministry named Paula. Paula told PFO that the tape had been deleted from the ministry’s catalog.
PFO was told that because of Meyer’s progression in “revelation knowledge,” the message is obsolete and that her latest book is an accurate reflection of her current beliefs. Paula, however, was unable to confirm or deny if Meyer still subscribed to the gospel of the “Born-Again Jesus.”
Meyer, in her new book, writes, “Words are containers for power” (The Name, The Word, The Blood, pg. 37). Word-Faith teachers advocate that through speaking and positive affirmations we can create our own reality. They usually refer to Genesis 1 and show that God spoke the world into existence and extrapolate that we, too, can speak creative words and can speak reality into existence.
The fact that the premise breaks down because we are not God does not deter Meyer from saying, “Remember then, that the Word of God is both spirit and life, use wisdom and begin speaking life to your situation” (ibid., pg. 38).
When it comes to the “Name” of Jesus, Meyer admits that she used the “name” for many years without “results” (ibid., pg. 47). This suggests we can learn how to use the “name” to obtain results. What follows is a mix of truth and error. Some of what she says about praying in the name of Jesus and about His name being a term for His authority is proper. At various points she lapses and transfers all the authority of Jesus directly to the believer.
Christians pray in Jesus’ name and have access to heaven through Jesus but it is not true that we, just by use of that name, have “authority over demons, sickness, disease, lack and every form of misery” (ibid., pg. 70). It confuses the believer with Jesus and reduces His name to a magic word. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible reminds us, “The name here is His person and the belief in that name is not magical but it is an acceptance or receiving of His messianic person and mission and thereby acquiring the right to enter a new relationship with the heavenly Father, John 1:12” (Vol. IV, pg. 365).
The New Testament believers saw the name of Jesus as standing for all He is and all He accomplished. To believe in His name was to believe in Him and His messianic mission. To speak in His name was to speak with His authority but there is no hint of name magic in the New Testament.
If we presume to speak in the name of Jesus, we should be sure that we represent the name, character and attributes of that One or we surely take His name in vain. A police officer can speak “in the name of the law.” However he cannot command what the law forbids. Anything we say or do in the name of Jesus must be regulated by the commands and directives of Scripture.
In Scripture, blood usually stands for life poured out. Jesus Himself said, “The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Christ’s shed blood stands for all the merits secured by His death and the riches of His grace given because of His death and resurrection. We focus on Him and the great riches of our salvation, not the red fluid.
On the other hand, Meyer’s teaching on Christ’s blood and how to “use” it is essentially a repeat of her teaching on how to “use” Jesus’ name, along with a repeat of many of the same doctrinal errors. Though Meyer says some things that are right about the blood of Christ, she lapses into a magical use of the word “blood” much like the relic system and fetish worship of the Middle Ages. For example, she writes, “One of the ways we can honor the blood is by singing about it, talking about it, studying about it and meditating on it” (pg. 100).
Consider these further statements:
“I know the devil is afraid of the blood” (ibid., pg. 101).
“We must learn to ‘use’ the blood” (ibid., pg. 109).
“My husband and I stay in various hotels because of our travels in ministry. Quite frequently when unpacking and settling into a hotel room I will ‘plead’ the blood or ‘put’ the blood on the room, to cleanse or remove any wrong spirits that may be there from other guests. I do this by praying, by speaking the blood in my prayer” (ibid., pg. 111).
“We laid hands on the check and prayed. I went and got all of our checkbooks and my pocketbook and Dave got his wallet and we laid hands on them and put the blood on them, asking God to protect our money, to cause it to multiply and to see to it that Satan could not steal any of it from us” (ibid.).
“You need to start praying the blood over your children, your car, your home, your body” (ibid., emphasis in original).
“If you are sick in your body, plead the blood over your body. The life is in the blood; it can drive out the death of sickness” (ibid.).
First Peter 2:24 and Isaiah 53:5 speak of being saved by the “stripes” of Jesus, yet Meyer does not speak the stripes, which carry the same connotation of life being poured out.
Church hymnology is highly poetic and allegorical. It is understood as that whether we sing about “Beulah land,” “the name of Jesus,” or “power in the blood,” the lyrics bring theological truths of salvation and redemption into view. Hymns and even Bible passages that speak of being saved by the cross are not interpreted to say a hunk of wood has any power to save.
Most evangelical commentaries and scholars agree that the idea of Christ’s blood is the conveying of an expiatory offering, a propitiatory sacrifice (see Barnes Notes on The New Testament, pp. 572-573). Throughout Scripture Christ’s blood is equivalent to His death, His sacrifice, His redemption, His atonement for sin. The literal blood of Jesus that spattered on the Roman soldiers as they scourged His body and nailed His hands and feet did not magically save them.
Hebrews 9-10 clearly states that we are saved by Christ’s body, which is called His death and sacrifice. It is also true in those chapters that we are said to be saved by Christ’s blood, by Christ’s offering and by Christ’s flesh. All these words are roughly equivalent and point to the grand theme of atonement.
We do not make a fetish out of any of these words or use them in ritual incantation or in an empty, repetitive manner.
Meyer’s evolving, changing Word-Faith views are at best aberrant, confusing, misleading and unscriptural. Magic words, magic names and magic blood should be deplored and seen for what they are: superstition.
RESPONSE TO REVIEW
The fall 1994 issue of the Christian Sentinel, the newsletter of Eastern Christian Outreach, reviewed the doctrine and practice of Meyer based upon her series of speaking engagements in the Philadelphia area. Jackie Alnor reported that Meyer’s methodology during the visit to the city was patterned after the “laughing” spectacles of Rodney Howard-Browne.
In a cassette tape titled, “Like a Mighty Wind,” Meyer responded to the Sentinel’s criticism:
“It amazes me, and not only does it amaze me, it aggravates me. These people who think they’ve got a ministry of exposing what’s wrong with everybody else ... Man, I just got written up in a newspaper in Philadelphia ... they mention in this one article, they mention about 5 or 6 or 7 national ministries. I got my own column. Had my own little column in there, telling how I came to the city and I manipulated the people and I did this and that and something else. Oh garbage, garbage, garbage! Why is it that people think that it’s their call to go around and find out what’s wrong with everybody else and print it? Do you know when people were trying to stop Jesus, finally, some very wise man said, ‘Why don’t you just leave us alone? If it’s of God, you’re not gonna stop it. And if it’s not God, it won’t last too long anyway.’ Hallelujah! I mean, that’s just the way I feel about it.”
Meyer’s incorrect citation of a speech by the rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-40) is a typical Charismatic reply to evaluations directed toward extremes within the movement. Only months before, Charisma magazine editor Stephen Strang offered the same logic in an editorial about concerns over Rodney Howard-Browne (August 1994, pg. 102).
A recent article appearing in Banner Ministries’ Mainstream newsletter debunked the use of Gamaliel’s advice:
“[Gamaliel] concludes that a genuine work of God will succeed, but a religion of human origin will fail. Gamaliel’s logic is seriously flawed because he allows for only two possible sources or explanations for these religious movements — Human or Divine. But there is a third source of which he is ignorant, precisely because it had most likely inspired him to make this very deduction. The Scriptures warn of demonic or Satanic origin to much counterfeit religious belief and even miraculous phenomena. Using Gamaliel’s logic, we would have to conclude that religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and modern cults such as the Mormons, Baha’i and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are all inspired by God because they have not ‘failed’. Communist persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islamic intolerance of the Baha’i faith did not crush them ... Gamaliel therefore is not a model of godly wisdom that Christians should emulate. His counsel, both in terms of what he advised the Sanhedrin to do and believe, was seriously flawed and most likely inspired by Satan” (Spring 1995, pg. 10, emphasis in original).
Meyer’s citation of the passage also makes it sound as if Gamaliel had been a part of the early Church. Meyer says, “Finally, some very wise man said, ‘Why don’t you just leave us alone?” However, the clear Word of God states: “Therefore, in the present case, I advise you: Leave these men alone” (Acts 5:38).
Meyer’s writings and tapes continue to lack solid biblical exposition. Yet perhaps next month, next year, or the year after she will have again changed her teachings and be spreading different errors and “revelations.” Scripture is clear: We are to avoid those who are devoid of sound doctrine and are like wandering stars (Jude 12-13).