Updated November 26, 2007 (first published March 12, 2001) by David Cloud - Some of the most ungracious e-mails I have received in the past couple of years have come from supporters of Chuck Swindoll. Following are a couple of samples from this year:
"I am absolutely amazed at your pharisaical views and dogmatism that chokes out the very life that God desires to overflow from the lives of those you are attempting to minister with. How laughable your writings are to my carnal mind, how absolutely sickening they must be to Father. ... Quite honestly if you check your heart you will find a tremendous amount of jealousy which keeps you very busy promoting your own small ideas, taking puck shots at tremendous men of God who will see things you only dream about. Repent and do something worthwhile with your lives."
"You know what? You need your ass kicked 'Brother Cloud.' What in **** (and it is from ****) is wrong with you? What do the Scriptures tell you about the kind of **** you dished out about Chuck Swindoll? If they are not against us (the sake of Christ) then they are for us, just because they don't part their hair on the same side you do leave them alone. You're going the wrong way, God allows U-Turns. Jealousy has a lot of faces." [I removed this Swindoll supporter's vulgarisms.]
"Like you Brother Cloud I once was a legalistic, Christian who simply went through my life doing my joyless duties. I thought that my 'duties' were impressing God and that he couldn't fulfill his plan in life without me. ... If someone doesn't exactly line up with your way of thinking then they are apostate. I'm sorry Brother Cloud, but you didn't write the book on Christian living. Jesus Christ did."
"He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.
Obviously, this site is one of a perfect human being. Jesus came
to seek and save the lost, not defame, cast down, and destroy.
If you see a brother in a fault correct him, not crucify."
I wonder if Swindoll knows the unscriptural influence he is having on people with his "grace not fundamentalism" slant?
Chuck Swindoll was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary for about 10 years beginning in 1993. Prior to that he was the senior pastor of First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California, for 24 years. Because of his books and recorded messages, Swindoll is an extremely influential New Evangelical leader and nationally syndicated radio personality.
In typical New Evangelical fashion, he recommends and uncritically quotes from the books of a wide variety of false teachers. Swindoll devoted an entire edition of his Insights for Living publication (April 1988) to uncritical promotion of the German neo-orthodox Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Swindoll calls Bonhoeffer "a saint bound for heaven"; but this "saint" promoted the "de-mythologizing" and questioning of Scripture. Cornelius Van Til documented Bonhoeffer's dangerous theology in The Great Debate Today. Swindoll has also uncritically praised the Roman Catholic Mother Teresa who taught that Hindus and Buddhists can go to heaven by their own faith. In his book The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Swindoll quotes Robert Schuller with no qualification, in spite of the fact that Schuller preaches a false gospel of self-esteem.
Chuck Swindoll is an ecumenist who has spoken at Promise Keepers conferences and other forums that bring together Protestants, Baptists, Catholics, Charismatics, etc. In November 1996, he spoke at apostate Baylor University, which is home to many modernists who question and openly deny the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures. At the July 1994 Promise Keepers conference in Boulder, Colorado, Swindoll entered the stadium on a motorcycle to the blaring strains of the rebellious rock song "Born to Be Wild."
In his book Grace Awakening, Swindoll teaches that fundamentalists who strive for doctrinal and moral purity are legalists who need to learn grace. He claims that it is legalistic to make prohibitions against immoral movies, dancing, etc. Actually Swindoll redefines grace as a form of license. Biblical grace teaches us "to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts" and calls upon us to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). To live in such a manner requires constant judgment and the most extreme caution pertaining to all forms of entertainment, etc. We are to love not the world neither the things that are in the world. That is a VERY narrow walk. Calvary Contender editor Jerry Huffman observes that Swindoll's book leaves "the impression that rules or restrictions upon the believer steal from him the exuberance and joy of the Christian life and relegate him to a morbid and dreary existence."
In Grace Awaking, Swindoll says, ""I'm not a charismatic. However, I don't feel it's my calling to shoot great volleys of theological artillery at my charismatic brothers and sisters. My encouragement for you today is that each one of us pursue what unites us with others rather than the few things that separate us. ... There was a time in my life when I had answers to questions no one was asking. I had a position that life was so rigid I would fight for every jot and tittle. I mean, I couldn't list enough things that I'd die for. The older I get, the shorter that list gets, frankly. ... More than ever we need grace-awakened ministers who free rather than bind"" (Grace Awakening, pp. 188, 189, 233).
This is the popular New Evangelical position that refuses to deal plainly with theological error, that only a few "fundamentals of the faith" or "cardinal doctrines" are worthy of making an issue over (and the New Evangelical doesn't make much of an issue even of those). There is no support for this from Scripture. The Lord Jesus instructed the disciples to teach the new churches "to observe ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). There is no hint here that Christ would be pleased if His people pass over a large portion of New Testament instruction as "non-essential" and exalted unity over doctrine. Paul followed in his Master's footsteps, instructing Timothy to allow "NO other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). That is the narrowest possible view of doctrinal purity. Paul's program was to instruct his converts in "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) and to train faithful men in such a manner that they would impart "THE SAME" to the next generation (2 Tim. 2:2). Men like Swindoll and the popular New Evangelicals of our day who want to water the faith down to a few essentials for the sake of a broad unity could not be described as "faithful" by the New Testament definition. Paul also instructed Timothy about church matters, such as pastors and deacons and women's ministries and discipline (1 Tim. 2-5), and at the end of that instruction Timothy was exhorted to "keep this commandment WITHOUT SPOT, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 6:14). A "spot" is a small thing, so Paul was teaching Timothy to pay careful attention to every detail of Scripture. This is indeed the very "jot and tittle" rigidity that Swindoll has rejected in his own ministry.
Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote an excellent reply to Swindoll's book entitled Are Fundamentalists Legalists. [Order from Baptist World Mission, P.O. Box 1463, Decatur, AL 35602.]
In his book Demonism (Multnomah Press, 1981), Swindoll promoted the unscriptural idea that a child of God can be indwelt by a demon. He wrote: "Can a Christian Be Demonized? -- For a number of years I questioned this, but I am now convinced it can occur. If a 'ground of entrance' has been granted the power of darkness (such as trafficking in the occult, a continual unforgiving spirit, a habitual state of carnality, etc.,), the demon(s) sees this as a green light okay to proceed. Wicked forces are not discriminating with regard to which body they may inhabit. I have worked personally with troubled, anguished Christians for many years. On a few occasions I have assisted in the painful process of relieving them of demons. The alien, wicked spirit certainly cannot claim 'ownership' of the Christian. He is still a child of God. But while present in the body (perhaps in the region of the soul) the evil force can work havoc within the life, bringing the most extreme thoughts imaginable into his or her conscious awareness. Couldn't this explain how some believers can fall into such horrible sins?"
In light of this error, it is not surprising that Swindoll gave the highest recommendation to Neil Anderson's book Setting Your Church Free (Anderson and Charles Mylander, Regal Books, 1994). Swindoll's recommendation appeared on the book's dust-jacket as follows: "Neil Anderson is one of the most experienced and dependable authorities in America today when it comes to knowing what the Bible says about: the methods, goals and destiny of our adversary, the devil; what our super defense system is; how to make the correct diagnosis in order to find deliverance from demons; and how to implement a calm, practical, workable plan from Scripture that results in freedom and victory for the child of God."
While much of what Anderson teaches is scriptural and helpful, it is intermingled with some very dangerous errors. He teaches that believers do not possess a sin nature, that they can be demon possessed, that they should speak directly to the devil, that generational and demonic curses are real, that ritual prayers can be effective, that demonized believers must pursue a seven-step deliverance plan, etc. The refutation of these errors is not difficult, for the simple fact that the New Testament gives absolutely no support to such things. When the apostles address the problem of sin in the Christian life, which they do in most of their Epistles, they never raise the issue of such things as demonization or generational curses or multi-step deliverance plans. The reason that generational curses and such are not dealt with in the apostolic epistles is that they were dealt with once for all at Calvary and the believer is complete in Christ! It is that simple. When we see that a man is not teaching according to the Word of God the wise path is to avoid him (Rom. 16:17; Prov. 14:15), yet Dr. Swindoll recommends him.
Swindoll would have done better to have recommended the many Christ-honoring warnings that have been given about Neil Anderson, such as the one by the Christian Research Institute or the one by the late Miles Stanford, who observed: "These demonization ministries are Satan-centered, with Christ brought in to save the situation. If they were Christ-centered they would seek to minister the two aspects of the Christian life: death to sin (the old man, the law, the world, and Satan), and Christ as Life, with the Christian life hidden with Christ in God. Romans. 5-7 comes before Romans 8. All ascended life is predicated upon death. The believer is to be taught to count himself dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). Then, if there is to be any dealing with Cross-defeated Satan and his demons-all of whom are under the Sovereign Father's control at all times--it is simply to stand, and resist, upon the basis of his total defeat at Calvary" ("Neil T. Anderson: Setting Your Church Free -- Living Free in Christ," http://www.withchrist.org/MJS/neil_anderson2.htm).
In 1990, Swindoll promoted the corrupt Living Bible, saying: "The Living Bible is like a stream of sparkling water wandering across life's arid landscape: intriguing, refreshing, nourishing, comforting. My thirsty soul is often satisfied by this invigorating wellspring" (Charisma, December 1990). This is a very misleading recommendation. Actually, the Living Bible is crude, inaccurate, and promotes false doctrine. In 1 Kings 18:27 the Living Bible says, "Perhaps he is talking to someone or else is out sitting on the toilet." A footnote in the Living Bible at Zechariah 13:6, which refers to the wounds on Christ's hands, claims that the passage is not Messianic. A footnote in Genesis 1 says "evening and morning" could be translated "a period of time," which is an error and a capitulation to the false doctrine of theistic evolution. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says our sins were poured into Christ, which is a false doctrine. A footnote at 1 Peter 2:2 says an alternative translation is, "Eat God's Word-read it, think about it-and grow strong in the Lord and be saved." This was the actual reading in the text in early editions of the Living Bible, until it was transferred to a footnote. 1 Peter 3:21 says, "in being baptized we are turning to God and asking him to cleanse our hearts from sin." This is false doctrine, because in being baptized properly and scripturally the candidate is not turning to God and asking for forgiveness, but is merely showing forth publicly the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
In an interview with Christianity Today for October 25, 1993, Swindoll made the following statement:
"I don't believe we would view the Charismatics as enemies. ... if you've read my newest book Flying Closer to the Flame, you'd probably think it sounds like a softening of my position on the Holy Spirit. I think the school [Dallas Seminary] without knowing it has probably operated from a standpoint of fear. ... There's wider room for interpretation than we may have followed."
Swindoll said the school had been operating from a position of fear in its rejection of the Charismatic movement, as if that were a bad thing, but it is not wrong to fear and avoid heresy and demonic delusion! There should be no room for the Charismatic interpretations of Scripture!
Dallas Seminary was a perfect fit for Swindoll. The Seminary's National Pastor's Conference in 1992 featured Chuck Colson, one of the fathers of the dangerous Evangelicals & Catholics Together venture. Ecumenist Leighton Ford was the Dallas Seminary commencement speaker in May 1997. Dallas Seminary entertained modernist Bruce Metzger in 1992. In the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Metzger claims that the Pentateuch is a mixture of myth and legend that gradually evolved over a period of hundreds of years, that Job is a "folktale," that Jonah is a "popular legend," that the biblical account of a worldwide flood is merely a "heightened version of local inundations," etc.
Dallas Seminary professor Daniel Wallace supports the redaction approach to the four Gospels, which teaches that the Gospels were not written by direct inspiration of God but by copying and modifying material from secondary sources. Wallace's report entitled "The Synoptic Problem" is an uncritical rehashing of Robert Stein's book "The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction." Wallace says, "Indeed, I have found Stein's book so helpful a synthesis of the issues involved, that to some degree our comments here will be merely a distillation of his work." Wallace says, "It is quite impossible to hold that the three synoptic gospels were completely independent from each other. In the least, they had to have shared a common oral tradition. But the vast bulk of NT scholars today would argue for much more than that" (page 1). This approach to the Gospels, now parroted by scholars claiming to be "evangelical," was devised by unbelieving modernists who deny the infallible inspiration of Holy Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the disciples into all truth and remind them of past events concerning Himself (Jn. 14:26; 16:13-15). It would have been humanly impossible for the Apostles to have recalled the exact words of Christ's sermons, the various conversations, and the details of the various events infallibly, but the Apostles were not dependent upon their own fallible memories in the recording of the Gospel accounts. They were not dependent upon their own thinking to select which material to present and how to present it. They wrote by direct inspiration of God. They did not copy from one another. They did not need secondary materials, and there is no certain evidence whatsoever that they used any such materials. Redaction theology is based purely on surmises, and it is an exercise in vanity at best. The Holy Spirit guided each Gospel writer to portray Christ in a special way via the manner in which the material is presented.
That Dallas Seminary has not disciplined Wallace is indisputable proof of its apostasy. (See "Dallas Professor Denies Biblical Inspiration," April 7, 2000, at the Way of Life web site or in the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library.)
The most frightful part of this is that many fundamental Baptist college and seminary professors are going to Dallas Seminary to obtain their educational credentials. Wallace has also written a Greek textbook which is used in many second year Greek classes at fundamental Baptist schools.
It was the refusal to separate from modernism in education that helped destroy the New Evangelicals 40 years ago, and it will do the same to today's fundamentalists if they continue down the same path.