THE PREACHER WHO DOESN’T
TELL IT LIKE IT IS
THE TRUTH TWISTING AND TALL TALES OF JOYCE MEYER
by Paul R. Belli and G. Richard Fisher
Joyce Meyer has finally arrived into the top echelons of the Charismatic “Big League.” Her image has appeared next to many of the “Who’s Who” of Charismatic icons again and again in the pages of Charisma magazine.
Last November, she made it to the cover of the sensationalistic publication. Charisma promised on the cover “Straight Talk From Joyce Meyer,” and titled the inside cover story of the St. Louis-based Meyer, “The Preacher Who Tells It Like It Is.” Her book sales are soaring as well, but does Joyce Meyer really tell it like it is? That is — like it really is?
Meyer’s visibility these days has brought her such popularity that even some of the Charismatic superstars have been writing articles for her ministry’s monthly magazine, Life in the Word.
On occasion, the favor is reciprocated as Kenneth Copeland’s magazine, The Believer’s Voice of Victory, has featured some of her articles. Yes, she has definitely arrived in the “Top Ten.” However, for an already undiscerning Church, this is not a good thing when you consider that she mirrors the teachings of her unhealthy associations.
NOT A SINNER
For years, Charisma magazine has left a lot to be desired. Double standards, subjective journalism, mysticism, attacks upon historic and orthodox Christianity, and little regard for hermeneutics appear with frequency in the magazine. The issue featuring Meyer was no exception.
Take, for example, the magazine’s slamming of those who have evaluated her theology:
“Joyce is not the subject of intense controversy, but she has faced her critics. Various cult-watchers have attacked her, including one who lambasted her on St. Louis radio and challenged her to a debate (which she refused).”1
The “attack” to which Charisma alluded was the Dec. 7, 1995 edition of Issues, Etc. (KFUO 850 AM in St. Louis). The program was hosted by Lutheran Pastor Don Matzat and the featured guests for the show were none other than the authors of this article.2 Evidently, the magazine or Meyer herself surmises that a systematic and biblical analysis of her teaching (with primary documentation from her tapes and writings) constitutes an “attack” or assault of some kind. Paul commended Bereans, while the magazine castigates them.
Matzat, himself involved in the Charismatic movement from 1971-1986, observed:
“Regarding the challenge, as I remember it, was nothing more than an open invitation to Joyce to respond to our comments. Joyce did not avail herself of the opportunity to respond on the air.”3
Like others in the Word-Faith camp who are uneducated, untrained and unskilled in doctrine and systematic theology, Meyer is none too eager to openly discuss the Christian faith with one who has worked hard to rightly divide the Word of Truth. However, following the initial radio broadcast, Matzat did have the opportunity to dialogue with Meyer and her husband, Dave. Matzat, a friend of Dave’s family, recalled the meeting:
“We had a very nice chat. I told them exactly what I just said here. I said, ‘You were distorting the doctrine of justification.’ I said, ‘What your doctrine will lead to is what Ken Copeland teaches, that Jesus had to be born again in hell. Because He’s simply a man dying for our sins.’ She did not reject what Ken Copeland teaches. She simply told me, ‘I am not going to change what I teach.’”4
Meyer’s concept of sinless perfection is the most disturbing element to Matzat. Meyer has claimed,
“Now whether you like it or not, whether you want to admit it or not, whether you want to operate on it or not, you are made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Most people who go to denominational churches never ever hear that! They never hear it! Never! All I was ever taught to say was, ‘I, 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 were [sic] and if I still was, then Jesus died in vain. Amen?”5
Meyer may be able to say she is not poor and not miserable. First John 1:8, however, would preclude the rest of her comments about not being a sinner. Paul thought himself to be the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). As Christians we are, after all, saved sinners.
Meyer’s comments point out the real issue: Just who is lambasting whom? Meyer’s declaration clearly lambastes the theology of the Reformers, including, most notably, Lutherans and Calvinists.
As noted in our previous Journal article, Meyer no longer distributes the above tape with her perfectionistic ideas.6 A staff member from her ministry told PFO that the message is obsolete. What is not clear is what part of or if the entire message is obsolete. One of its major themes on the tape is the “born again Jesus” gospel. Yet it can be shown that Meyer still distributes material promoting this heretical gospel, which certainly suggests that she does not see it as entirely obsolete (at least for the time being).
Moreover, when one examines the now obsolete tape, divine intervention and direct revelation are stated as the source of her message:
“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really. That’s why you’ve got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I’m telling you. I’ve got to just trust God that He’s putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine.”7
Having foolishly appealed to divine revelation and God’s impartation for the message, she now, in essence, has made God culpable for an obsolete message. Thus, one must ask, why does she continue to rely upon revelation knowledge when it produces obsolete messages and indicts God as the author of heresy? And how can the average listener discern which part of Meyer’s materials are biblical truth and which are destined for the trash heap of obsolescence? The caution of Zechariah 13:4-5 regarding false prophets who change their mind and their message bears consideration here.
JESUS IN HELL?
The Charisma article indicates that another of Meyer’s critics, apologist Hank Hanegraaff, cited her booklet, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make.8 Hanegraaff faulted Meyer for teaching that Jesus was born again in hell. Meyer responded by stating that she does not believe and has never taught that particular doctrine.
Whether Hanegraaff ever used the exact words, “Jesus was born again in hell” or if the Charisma writer simply put those words in the Southern California apologist’s mouth in an attempt to build a “straw man” is not clear. What is clear, however, in spite of Meyer’s denials, is that in the fourth chapter of her booklet, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, she:
• Teaches a born again Jesus.9
• Teaches that hell, not the cross, is where salvation was purchased.10
She not only delineates and defines the heresy but she blatantly defends it.
While Meyer may deny now that she has ever taught that “Jesus was born again in hell,” she has not renounced the teaching nor denounced those who teach it. Were she to do so, she most likely would neither have her picture in or on Charisma magazine again, nor would she be invited to speak with the heretics who do believe and teach it: her mentors and friends.
Based on the content of her book, turning to Christ would be the most impotent decision one would ever make. By placing faith in “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4) as put forth in her booklet, a new “believer” would not be entitled to the new covenant purchased with Jesus Christ’s blood. Rather, the Jesus that Meyer proclaims, is a Jesus whose blood paid for nothing because his “blood was made of no effect,” being “treated as an unholy thing” (Hebrews 10:29), because according to this teaching, Jesus’ payment was actually made by suffering in hell. This teaching makes the “It is finished” of John 19:30 a lie. First Corinthians 15:3 is very clear: “Jesus was crucified and died for our sins,” not suffered in hell for our sins.
Thus, Meyer refuses to debate and will not “comment directly on such opposition.” Is it any wonder that her husband remarked, “We let God respond” and “That’s not our position, to try and come back and straighten them out”?
As noted above, neither Meyer nor her husband has the necessary theological training to defend her indefensible teachings. The only reason the Meyers can say that it’s not their “position” to respond and “straighten” us out is that they fail to grasp the basics of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics. As a result, it’s not that they won’t respond, it’s because they cannot respond. “Let[ting] God respond” is merely subterfuge. Strange how first-class, super-Christians, who would have us believe they are tapping into divine revelation, can do all things in Christ, except successfully defend their damnable doctrines of demons.
As we read earlier, the Apostle Paul’s attitude was not to just let God respond, but to get into the trenches and do what God called him to do, namely to “cut the ground from under those who proclaim” another gospel.
Even worse, their response gives this issue the sense of unimportance. Much to do about nothing! If it were, we would truly be wasting their time. Yet, those in apologetics ministries are keenly aware that this is an essential issue. Corrupting the Gospel produces heretical and damnable doctrine. Hence, we take heed to the Scripture’s admonition to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). We should not, and cannot, do otherwise.
Stealing others’ errors is directly addressed by the Prophet Jeremiah: “Therefore, declares the Lord, I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams, declares the Lord. They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:30, 32).
In her booklet, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, the first subchapter heading is, WHAT HAPPENED ON THE CROSS? This heading is strikingly similar to the title of Kenneth Copeland’s 1984 notorious sermon tape, What Happened From The Cross To The Throne. As earlier noted, Meyer also has a tape with the title, From the Cross to the Throne. Not only are these titles similar, they each go into great detail about the subject of what happened on, and more significantly, beyond the cross of Christ. And they each go well beyond Scripture to teach the heretical “born again Jesus” gospel.
While Meyer apparently borrowed her content from Copeland, Copeland in turn presumably adopted the title from E.W. Kenyon’s book by the same name, as well as the same heretical theme. Both Copeland’s and Kenyon’s works have become “classics” within the Charismatic camp. In the 1980s, faith healer Benny Hinn also taught the same heresy with the “revelation knowledge” tactic as its source. He has since disavowed the teaching. Others committed to the teaching include: Kenneth Hagin, Fred Price, Charles Capps, Paul and Jan Crouch and John Jacobs (of The Power Team).
In summary (with few variations), the “born again Jesus” gospel teaches that Jesus died two deaths, one physically upon the cross and the other spiritually in hell. His Spirit literally became sin on the cross, taking on the very nature of Satan, thereby being stripped of His Deity. He was ushered into hell where He was tortured for three days and nights by Satan and his demons, was reborn or “born again” in hell, reclaiming His Deity and finally rising bodily from the dead.
The amount of fanciful “revelation knowledge” necessary to contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, in order to teach the “born again Jesus” gospel, is nothing short of amazing. Meyer, like her predecessors, offers the same “you’ve got to get it by revelation” diversion.
This doctrine removes the clear teaching of Scripture that the atonement took place upon the cross and places the event in hell. It is just one more example how Satan strives to take our focus from the cross.
Although Meyer puts great value upon the “job” Jesus did, she misplaces where He did it. When challenged about the unbiblical concept of this teaching, Charismatics will often respond that it doesn’t matter where He atoned for our sins. Strangely, Latter-day Saints offer the same rationale because their version of Jesus Christ atoned for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Atonement in hell contradicts the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
A JOB HELL DONE?
As mentioned above, Meyer’s booklet focuses primarily upon the “born again Jesus” gospel. This small volume is still being sold to the public. And the teaching is not confined to just this one booklet. Consider these statements on her tape, From the Cross to the Throne:
“And you’ve got to really glean some things out of the Word of God to really get hold of what He [Jesus] did for you during those three days.”
“Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ And He meant the Old Covenant. The job He had to do was just getting started. He really did the job the three days and nights that He was in hell. That’s where the job was done” (emphasis added).
“He was pronounced guilty on the cross but He paid the price in hell.”
“All the hosts of hell was [sic] upon Him. Upon Him. They got on Him. They got Him down in the floor and got on Him. And they were laughing and mocking.”
“Sunday morning, here comes the Son. Sunday morning, God gets Himself together. Ho, hoooo. Justice has been met, somehow the thing’s been taken care of. And ol’ God gets His voice together and He hollers out three words and they go roaring through the universe and entering the gates of hell. He said, ‘It is enough! It is enough!” (emphasis in the original).
Can she prove that God actually said, “It is enough! It is enough!”? Can she provide chapter and verse for such a declaration? No! Only through the guise of “revelation knowledge” can such information be provided. Yet, tragically, it is Kenyon, Copeland and others within the Word-Faith camp who are her source for such knowledge. God plainly warns us:
“‘Yes,’ declares the Lord, ‘I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, “The Lord declares”’” (Jeremiah 23:31).
He also warns:
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
Many able expositors have addressed the weakness of the Jesus-in-hell idea. Former CRI researcher Brian Onken points out something that Meyer misses entirely:
“Jesus appears to be conscious of the end of His redemptive suffering. Furthermore it seems evident that His conscious fellowship with God the Father was restored because of His subsequent self-committal: ‘Father, into thy hands I commit My spirit’ (Luke 23:46).”11
Ephesians 1:7 is clear: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Pastor Michael Moriarity emphatically affirms: “As Christians, we affirm that our salvation is based solely on Christ’s atoning work on the cross.”12 Moriarity’s book has a 22-page appendix dealing with the whole issue of where Jesus atoned for sin.
WHAT IS REAL PROOF?
Meyer says “that the changed lives are proof enough,” that she’s “anointed by God to do what I’m doing.”13 As is the Charismatic tendency, this is a subjective posture. Every cult and aberrational sect on the face of the Earth appeals to “changed lives” as a means of validating their claims that they represent God. Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others all validate that they are “anointed by God” to do what they’re doing by virtue of “changed lives.” As such, her logic is as flawed as cult logic. Meyer needs something more concrete on which to base her claims. Remember, Christianity is based on facts, not feelings. Holy Ghost “goose bumps,” liver quivers or even subjective short-term change are not the confirmation of the Christian faith.
Objectively speaking, her literature and tapes are “proof enough” that she is not anointed! Listening to her twists, turns and changes could only lead one to conclude that God is confused. Meyer’s appeal to have God’s blessing upon her ministry is questionable when one considers that God does not empower the vanguards of the Church to teach false and heretical doctrine.
Sadly, when careful exegetes of God’s Word challenge her theology, she resorts to calling them “religious people” (pg. 55) who only criticize her for not being as well-educated as they are and then appeals to her “anointing” as proof that she is free to ignore them.
While Meyer claims, “It’s important to me to have character and integrity,”14 she lacks those qualities when she uses red herrings such as the above in order to evade any and every critic regardless of their status. Criticism directed to her does not stem from her lack of education, it rather stems from her heretical teachings. She not only lacks a sound understanding of Scripture, she lacks integrity and a teachable spirit, the very things she boasts about.
Why does PFO make the charge of “unteachable”? When she met with Matzat to discuss the issues that were brought up on the radio broadcast, she told him that she was not going to change what she taught. This certainly emphasizes that she is not willing to learn sound doctrine or repent of the heretical teaching she promoted. The book of Proverbs is replete with admonitions that a wise man is teachable. Meyer, apparently prefers to hold onto teachings scraped from the garbage cans of the Word-Faith movement.
On the radio broadcast, Matzat spent a great deal of time in his introduction of the program covering the issue of discernment and how it’s not a matter of dealing with the person or getting personal. He took great pains to explain this, “You don’t deal with the individual, rather you deal with the concepts.” Matzat made the truth as palatable as possible. It’s one thing to be confused or unclear on an essential Christian doctrine such as the Gospel, but it’s an entirely different matter when one adamantly refuses to acknowledge the truth when confronted with it.
Meyer told Charisma that she has been radically changed from being “angry, rebellious and hateful toward men” and “mean, ornery, sarcastic, sharp, hard, bitter and full of resentment.”15 She even admitted to have trouble submitting to her own pastor, “Acknowledging that their strong-willed personalities clashed regularly.”16 The Lord has worked in her life, she says, and the result is “an absolute, all-out, total miracle.”17 While there may have been a change in her life, the transformation falls short of being a “miracle.”
Consider this example:
“And from here on, it probably wouldn’t do you one bit of good to try and follow me. So if you’re taking notes, you can write down the Scriptures. Cause very frankly, I’m not going to have time to wait on you.”18
Her words are not exactly what one could label a servant’s heart or a demonstration of patience, nor much of a Christian display of love. Consider, also, these comments:
“Don’t talk to anybody, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t go get a drink of water, don’t move — just listen. Amen? I believe it’s that important.”19
When listening to her sermon tape in its entirety, there is ample evidence that she possess an aura of haughtiness. For emphasis, she speaks just short of yelling through the entire tape. There is no doubt in her mind that what she is teaching is gospel truth. Unfortunately, if you first listen to Kenneth Copeland’s version of this damnable teaching, it is obvious that Meyer simply heisted not only his title, but his teaching as well. Plagiarizing someone else’s material is bad enough, but plagiarizing heresy is even more regrettable. And then naming God as the source is blasphemous.
While she may have mellowed with time, there doesn’t seem to be a radical difference between the old and the new Joyce Meyer. The Charisma spin attempts to soften her personality, but in fact demonstrates her continued arrogance and combative spirit.
BAD THEOLOGY FOR GOOD
Meyer says that her exodus from the Lutheran church was because her “charismatic beliefs fueled conflict with their congregation.”20 While she expresses gratitude to the Lutheran Church for her doctrinal foundation,21 she quickly traded sound teaching for the writings of mystics and heretics.
The Lutheran church certainly did not teach her to supplement “Bible study with books such as Watchman Nee’s Spiritual Man, Brother Lawrence’s [The] Practice of the Presence of God and the writings of Madame Guyon.”22
Charisma writer, Ken Walker, describes Guyon as “a 17th century writer.” He fails to mention that Guyon was a French, Catholic mystic. PFO has covered the terrible errors of Guyon in its article, “The Mindless Mysticism Of Madam Guyon,” showing the confusion and occultism of this medieval mystic.23
Likewise, Brother Lawrence was a 17th century Catholic mystic, who claimed, “That perfect resignation to God was a sure way to heaven.”24 Lawrence, typical of mystics, failed to realize that Jesus is the sure and only way to Heaven (John 14:6).
Our Lord said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). Meyer, like others lacking discernment, gets her spiritual nourishment from bad trees. Yes, Charismatic beliefs do “fuel conflict” with Evangelical Christianity when their sources are unbiblical and non-Christian.
Speaking of bad theology, it’s unfortunate that Vinson Synan, dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University in Virginia, compares “Meyer to Baptist pastor Charles Stanley, saying she can hold a crowd’s interest without fiery rhetoric or sensational preaching.”25 That’s where the similarity ends. Stanley’s views are neither in a state of change, nor is his theology aberrant or heretical. Stanley and Meyer are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to obeying Paul’s command to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
In preparation for ministry, Meyer claims a divine call on her life, stating “she sensed the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You are going all over the place to teach My Word.’”26 While it is commendable for one to teach God’s Word, it is imperative that one obeys God’s admonition to: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). One cannot be said to be properly teaching God’s Word when they violate these commands.
Throughout Meyer’s rise into ministry, her mentors and the reservoirs from which she has developed her theology are hazardous-waste sites. From 17th century mystics to 20th century Word-Faith proponents, Meyer has fed on a harmful diet of unbiblical teaching.
While Meyer has been greatly influenced by the Word-Faith advocates, the “health” message they preach has not been realized in her own physical well-being. In her tape set, Overcoming Adversity, Meyer details her fight with breast cancer and the mastectomy that followed.27
On the back of the album cover she reveals,
“During a routine checkup in 1989, doctors discovered that I had breast cancer; and I was advised to have surgery immediately. Dave and I prayed and sought God about what to do. Our children, staff, pastor, and friends all prayed. For me, it would have been easier to say, ‘God will take care of me. I’m not having the surgery.’ However, it would have been a statement of the flesh — of presumption — not faith. At the time, I did not have the assurance that only God can give to take such a stand. I had the surgery. The cancer had not reached the lymph nodes, and I do not have cancer anymore!”
No matter how you view Meyer’s statement, it is confusing and inconsistent. And it demonstrates that the “faith” message does not work. Once again, God becomes culpable because He did not provide her with the assurance “to take such a stand.” Apparently, Meyer has to come up with a rationale as to why she went to a doctor and elected to have the surgery — which is a departure from Word-Faith’s “health” gospel message and, in fact, a negative confession.
However, the “wealth” message certainly seems to be fulfilled in her life and ministry. The Charisma article stated that approximately 600 radio and television stations, plus seven cable networks and seven satellite networks spanning the globe, carry her program. She adds 30,000 names to her mailing list each month and has sold nearly three million tapes and close to a million books last year.28 This being the case, how then does her ministry manage to grow at such a phenomenal rate? Does not this signify the Spirit’s involvement and blessing upon her work?
Pastor Matzat offers this sane and revealing observation:
“Here is the deception in all this: A person gains a following, they get a lot of money because they sell a lot of tapes, and think it’s the blessing of God, when all they are doing is telling sinners what sinners want to hear. What do sinners want to hear? I’m not a sinner! Of course, people flock to you for that and therefore, it’s not the blessing of God. It’s simply a deception.”
Matzat further warns:
“Joyce Meyer is the classic case of an individual who knows absolutely no theology, who has read a few books, picked up some ideas, takes some popular notions then teaches them. It’s these kinds of people who are dangerous in the Body of Christ because they know nothing. She has no grasp of historic systematic theology. Basically what she’s doing is, she’s going back to Rome with her understanding of sin. Because the Roman Catholic church teaches that we are no longer bearing the sinful nature. She has rejected the basic Reformational truth of justification. She’s a heretic!”29
BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Meyer maintains her “ministry is so important because we’re called to the believers. We’re to help believers mature, and grow up.”30 Yet, how can she fulfill such a noble “call” when she, herself, has no proper understanding of the doctrine of justification and promotes a different gospel? The Gospel is something every true believer should understand. Meyer’s confusion on such a vital tenet of the Christian faith emphasizes an immaturity on her part and an inability to help others. Rather, she is simply blindly leading the blind.
She credits the devil with stealing the knowledge of her salvation as a young believer.31 It would appear that Satan is still lying to her regarding the message of salvation because she has not renounced the “born again Jesus” gospel which she continues to tacitly support.
IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF HERESY
Latter-day Saints have imitation scriptures. Jehovah’s Witnesses have imitation prophecies. Many within the Word-Faith or Charismatic camps, like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have an imitation gospel. This type of imitation is deadly. There should be no doubt that Meyer truly fosters “another gospel.” Unbelievably, she sanctimoniously states on her tape:
“I might as well go and smack Him right in the face if I’m going to go around and feel guilty and condemned. Every time you feel guilty and condemned it’s just like slapping Him in the face and saying, ‘You didn’t do a good job. You didn’t do a complete job. I’m an old rotten this and I’m an old rotten that.’”32
Here Meyer’s “born again Jesus” gospel further takes on the elements of the “self-love, self-image, self-esteem” gospel. Her words bear further weight to Matzat’s charge that she is simply “telling sinners what sinners want to hear.” The Bible never focuses on man’s worth, but on God’s love. Man does need to experience the guilt and condemnation of his sin. It is only when man feels he is “an old rotten this” that the eminence of Christ’s sacrifice is realized. Therein, also, is the true working and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
PRACTICAL BUT DEADLY
While Meyer’s preaching may be folksy and down-to-earth, it isn’t biblical when it comes to the Gospel, the crux of Christianity. Most of those who hear or watch Meyer via radio and television, are probably unaware that she espouses heresy. Yet Peter warns us:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1, emphasis added).
In spite of this, many believe that she offers “good practical teaching.” People may enjoy her “folksy” preaching but do they, in the long term, really spiritually benefit from it? We cannot allow symbolism to win out over substance. Paul reminds us, “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6). Partaking of Meyer’s down-to-earth fare can be as deadly as one trying to eat rat poison and spit out the arsenic from it while nourishing on the cornmeal. It cannot be done. And no, the analogy of eating the chicken and spitting out the bones (of error) just doesn’t cut it when you consider that the average believer doesn’t have the discernment necessary to separate heresy from orthodoxy — babies and small children are incapable of performing such a task of bone-spitting. They choke on the bones.
Saying Joyce Meyer has practical teachings is on the same level as saying she’s a nice person. It doesn’t matter. If you have a nice Jehovah’s Witness or nice New Ager, the value of their message is not established on a congenial disposition but on their core doctrinal beliefs. False prophets, though sometimes nice or practical, are still deadly. So what if one is a nice heretic? So what if one is a practical false teacher? We benefit nothing from a nice and practical heretic.
The Body of Christ has so disparaged theology that even a rudimentary understanding of heresy is not in the language of the average believer. Practicality has become the sole standard for judging theology because all other standards are absent. Thus, practicality wins the day by default.
Others claim that Meyer espouses a positive faith message. Yet, faith is nothing more than trust, leaning on, clinging to, and relying upon God. What they’re saying, in effect, is that she puts out a positive Word-Faith message. But just how positive can a message be when you have a counterfeit gospel which Galatians 1:8-9 says causes one to be eternally condemned? Not very positive at all!
Consider, too, some of her practical teachings:
“Now, I don’t know what hell looks like but God gave me a few ideas. It’s hot, fire hot, but at the same time it’s cold and clammy. That’s kind of different, isn’t it. Fire hot, but cold and clammy.”33
Once again, Meyer appeals to God’s intervention in going beyond the Scriptures. Then there’s her concept that:
“Pain is a spirit. When it gets on your body, tell it to leave.”34
That would be practical advice if it worked. But it doesn’t.
HOW IMPORTANT CAN A COMMA BE?
Meyer advocates teaching that would endear her to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and in doing so aids and encourages them. Consider her words:
“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.’”35
What Meyer attempts to do here, is explain away a key passage of Scripture which would disprove her belief that Jesus was ushered into the depths of hell, rather than going directly to paradise. Within Charismatic and Pentecostal circles, “spiritual death of Jesus” advocates are relatively alone in their desire to move the comma in Luke 23:43. However, in the cult realm, they are in good (or not so good) company. Strident annihilationists say virtually the same thing. Compare these comments found in a Watchtower magazine:
“In the King James Version the comma’s being placed before the word ‘today’ makes it appear that Jesus told the evildoer that he would be in Paradise that very same day. This would mean that Jesus would have to come into his Kingdom, and that Jesus, as well as the evildoer, would be in Paradise on that very day that he was speaking.”36
Additionally, the Jehovah’s Witness version of the Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, renders Luke 23:43 along the lines of Meyer’s scriptural interpretation:
“Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”
Like the Watchtower, Meyer has absolutely no scholarly foundation for such a belief. She reads into Scripture (eisegesis) whatever it takes in order to buttress her heretical doctrine. This, too, is not very practical.
Since there are no commas used in the Greek manuscripts, the punctuation in English must be determined by the context, as well as the other verses that speak of Jesus’ cross work and the afterlife. That is why all versions (except The New World Translation) have the comma after “you” and not “today” in Luke 23:43. The immediate and larger context demand that the comma be placed where it is, in virtually every modern version.
Dr. Randolph Yaeger, in his substantial work, The Renaissance New Testament, translates Luke 23:43: “Therefore He said to him, truly I am telling you, Today you will be with me in Paradise.”37
Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest renders Luke 23:43: “And He said to him, Assuredly I to you am saying, Today with me you shall be in paradise.”38
Former Jehovah’s Witness David Reed criticizes the Watchtower rationale of: “In keeping with the context, we omit the comma before ‘today.’” And perceptively observes: “However, what the JW translators should really say is that ‘in keeping with their doctrine,’ they move the comma.”39
Dr. Ron Rhodes further shows the inconsistency of the moved comma:
“It is helpful to observe how the phrase, ‘Truly I say to you’ is used elsewhere in Scripture. The phrase — which translates the Greek Words amen soi lego — occurs 74 times in the Gospels and is always used as an introductory expression. ... Now here’s the important point: In 73 out of the 74 times the phrase occurs in the Gospels, the New World Translation places a break — such as a comma — immediately after the phrase, ‘Truly I tell you.’ Luke 23:43 is the only occurrence of this phrase in which the New World Translation does not place a break after it. Why? ... this would go against Watchtower theology. Hence the relocated comma.”40
The bedrock theme of her ministry is presenting “before God intervened” illustrations of herself along with “after God intervened” illustrations, then giving advice on how her listeners, using the Word of God, can do the same thing in their lives. The Charisma article seems to award her the Christian world’s official poster girl for hurting women. Many women suffer from mental and sexual abuse and may benefit from the advice and counsel of someone who’s been there. This in itself is not a bad thing. But if Meyer wants to truly teach the Bible, rightly divide the Word of Truth and affect lives in a lasting way, she needs to get a theological education and a sound doctrinal foundation. Real results can only be gauged by time.
We must remember that her teaching style is not the only thing that draws large crowds — it is also her teachings. Are the teachings sound or only that which tickle itching ears? Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 loom prophetic and timely for our day.
PROBLEM OR SYMPTOM?
Joyce Meyer continues to have a huge impact upon women of every denomination. Yet, despite her false teaching, Meyer is really not the essence of the problem, only an evident symptom. The real problem lies within the leadership of the Body of Christ for not teaching, emphasizing, and reinforcing the essential doctrines of historic, orthodox Christianity and further exhibiting how sound teaching contrasts with the aberrant and heretical theology of the cults. Large portions of the Church’s leadership have been lazy. Few churches have counter-cult material available to their people. Yet this is a battle the Christian faces every day.
For too long, the Church has avoided essential Christian doctrine. Because we don’t do our homework, we produce theologically weak Christians. As a result, members fall prey to cults which could ultimately lead them away from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Messages from the pulpit and from Sunday School teachers rarely focus on the essentials of our faith. If anything, they are quickly touched upon or referenced to, causing little understanding and lots of confusion in the process. “Doctrine divides” has been the hue and cry. Yes, doctrine does divide — that’s its very purpose. It divides us from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and from those, like Meyer, who promote a distorted view of Christ and His atonement.
With such a teaching vacuum created, this was bound to happen. Until the issue of how to properly handle the Word of Truth is dealt with by the Body of Christ, these problems are going to continue and false teachers, like Joyce Meyer, will continue to flourish.
Finally, Meyer herself needs to be rebuked, not applauded as “The Preacher Who Tells It Like It Is.” She plays with the truth and recreates and fabricates her past as far as what she taught. She fails to understand essential Christian teaching. Scripture, whether knowingly or unknowingly in her view, is insufficient, thereby requiring “revelation knowledge” to supplement it.
Likewise, her gospel is insufficient and needs to be supplemented with an atonement in hell. Is she really fit to be called a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Her endorsement by Charisma magazine ought to be evidence enough to disqualify her as an Evangelical minister.
Somehow, those who really, “tell it like it is” are looked down upon as overeducated, unanointed, critical, religious attackers. The bottom line is that as a result of not studying to show herself approved unto God, Meyer succumbs to heresies, promotes false teaching and does not tell it like it is — she tells it like it isn’t.
1. Ken Walker, “The Preacher Who Tells It Like It Is,” Charisma, November 1998, pg. 55.
2. The material presented on the broadcast derived from our initial article on Meyer, “The Doctrinal Ambiguity of a Wandering Star,” which appeared in The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1. pp. 5-8.
3. Personal interview with Don Matzat by M. Kurt Goedelman, December 20, 1998.
5. Joyce Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, cassette tape, sermon recorded at Life Christian Center in Saint Louis, Mo., no date, tape on file.
6. The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, op. cit., pg. 6.
7. Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, op. cit., emphasis in the original.
8. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 55.
9. Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make. Fenton, Mo.: Life In The Word, Inc./Joyce Meyer Ministries, August 1991 edition, pg. 36; (pg. 42 of the current edition).
10. Ibid., pp. 35-38, 41, 43; (pp. 41-44, 47, 49 of the current edition).
11. Brian Onken, “The Atonement of Christ and the ‘Faith’ Message,” Forward, Vol. 7, No. 1, pg. 14.
12. Michael Moriarity, The New Charismatics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, pg. 358.
13. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 55.
14. Ibid., pg. 51.
16. Ibid., pg. 53.
17. Ibid., pg. 51.
18. Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, op. cit., emphasis added.
20. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 53.
21. Ibid., pg. 54.
22. Ibid., pg. 53.
23. See further, G. Richard Fisher, “The Mindless Mysticism Of Madam Guyon,” The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 4, 12-15.
24. Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman), The Practice of the Presence of God. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1958, pg. 23. Lawrence’s words and letters were compiled into book form by M. Beaufort.
25. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 54, sidebar, Ken Walker, “A New Day For Women Preachers.”
26. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 53.
27. Joyce Meyer, Overcoming Adversity. Fenton, Mo.: Life In The Word, Inc./Joyce Meyer Ministries, no date, cassette tape #A62.
28. Charisma, op. cit., pg. 50.
29. Matzat personal interview, op. cit.
30. Charisma, op. cit., pp. 52-53.
31. Ibid., pg. 53.
32. Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, op. cit., emphasis in original.
36. The Watchtower, April 15, 1971, pg. 255.
37. Randolph O. Yaeger, The Renaissance New Testament. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Company, 1982, Vol. 8, pg. 432.
38. Kenneth Wuest, The New Testament - An Expanded Translation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, pg. 203.
39. David A. Reed, Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse By Verse. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1986, pg. 68, emphasis in original.
40. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1993, pg. 328.