Lighthouse Trails Research Journal VOL. 7 | NO. 5 - Page 16

Lighthouse Trails Research Journal 16 A BEREAN EXERCISE—CHRISTIAN MAGAZINES AND AN EXAMPLE OF LACKING DISCERNMENT BY T. A. MCMAHON staff member at The Berean Call handed me a couple of the latest magazine issues we received in order to review them. They were Christianity To- day (CT ) and Charisma Magazine (CM). We subscribe to them in order to keep up to date regarding teachings that are being disseminated throughout Christendom. In general, they are representative of seem- ingly diverse Christian theological posi- tions. CT was founded by Billy Graham and has been described as “a mainstream evangelical magazine.” Its beginnings were conservative, doctrinally, and Graham was considered an icon of fundamentalism. Not too long afterward, however, he began praising modernists (Christian liberals of that day) and involving them in his cru- sades. His later crusades included Roman Catholic priests and nuns as counselors who were to direct those Catholics who responded to Graham’s message back to their Catholic churches. Those seeds have produced the Christianity Today of our day. The magazine is unabashedly liberal and pro-Catholic, which underscores its ongoing disregard of biblical Christianity. Charisma Magazine has been described as “the main magazine of the charismatic movement.” Unlike CT, Charisma hasn’t grown from the seeds of doctrinal changes. Its errors of hyper-charismatic beliefs were in place from the beginning of its publish- ing in the mid-1970s. They proudly pro- claim, “We introduced many now-famous leaders to the charismatic community, from Benny Hinn to T.D. Jakes to Mike Bickle to Jonathan Cahn, and, in recent months, new up-and-comers.” 1 Critiques of their false teachings can be found throughout TBC’s archives. The objective of this article is to illustrate the critical need for biblical discernment when reading (or, for that matter, watching A Volume 7—No. 5 or listening to) anything that claims to be Christian. In the cases of CT and CM, there is rarely a monthly issue that doesn’t exhibit serious doctrinal errors and practices. The following is just one example from the May 2019 Christianity Today issue, which crossed my desk. In a future article, I will give an example from Charisma. In the May issue, one of Christian- ity Today’s feature articles is titled “Small Groups Anonymous,” subtitled, “Why the best church small groups might take their cues from the Twelve Steps [of Alcoholics Anonymous].” At first glance, the idea that “church small groups” should look to AA meetings for edification might seem a bit off track, but it’s much worse than that, as you will see. Furthermore, that concept is hardly new to Christianity Today, which has been an endorser of the psychological way of counseling for decades. Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-Steps programs actu- ally utilize a psycho-spiritual methodology. This means that it’s a mixture of two belief systems—psychotherapy and spiritism. The May CT article, “Small Groups Anonymous,” written by Kent Dunning- ton, a professor who teaches a class on addictions at Biola University, begins with, “I am not an alcoholic. Alcohol just doesn’t do it for me. But Alcoholics Anonymous does. I attended an AA group while writ- ing a book called Addiction and Virtue, and I’ve missed it ever since.” 2 Dunnington’s students at Biola are required to attend AA meetings. He notes CT’s support of his subject when he states that “This magazine, too, has featured an ongoing conversation about the spiritual power of AA.” 3 He’s confident in the AA approach: [G]enerally speaking—and amazingly—AA works. It has a theory of how people change and a set of practices designed to change real human beings. In this respect, AA has what the contemporary church, or at least a large portion of the contemporary evangelical church, seems to lack: a clear theory of personal transformation codified in practices and traditions that are easily accessible to those who would like to be transformed. 4 He reveals a higher regard for the false methods of men than for the full counsel of God given throughout the Scriptures. For example, he praises the anonymity of the Roman Catholic confessional as needful in the church: Roman Catholics, with their practice of private confession, have known this for a long time, as has AA. Anonymity provides a haven in which we may speak about the incoherence of our lives. For the same reason [that] we are more likely to tell our darkest secrets to a stranger on a plane than to our friends, AA is a place of greater honesty than the small group can probably ever be. 5 As I mentioned, CT’s affinity for AA and things psychological is not new. In July 22, 1991, CT’s then-senior writer Tim Stafford wrote the featured article, “The Hidden Gospel of the 12 Steps.” He declares: The 12 Steps are Christian . . . We ought to use them gladly. They belong to us originally. They are doing tremendous good.” 6 He further assures CT’s readers: The 12 Steps are a package of Christian practices, and nothing is compromised in using them. 7 Before I evaluate some of what Dunning- ton and Stafford have written, it might be Continues on next page SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019