Tom welcomes back Kurt Goedelman as they continue their discussion, focusing on What in the World Is Happening in the Church?
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. It’s great to have you along. In today’s program, Tom continues his visit with Kurt Goedelman. Kurt is the founder of the ministry Personal Freedom Outreach. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today and--well, this is part two of my visit with Kurt Goedelman. He’s the founder of Personal Freedom Outreach, a ministry that addresses the teachings of cults, aberrational Christian groups, and, of late--well, actually, within probably from about the ‘80s on--there have been issues that have come into the evangelical church that they didn’t get from the Bible. These were things that were kind of generated out of cults, and many unwittingly have bought into some of these things, which Personal Freedom Outreach addresses, which we address here at The Berean Call. So, in that way, we have really some parallel things going on with regard to ministering to the body of Christ. As Isaiah said, “To the law and the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it’s because there is no light in them.” Well, we want to shine the light of Scripture, the Word of God, in everything. We want people to be Bereans; obviously that’s the title of the ministry here, and we talked last week about the title Personal Freedom Outreach and what that means. It’s a matter of addressing these things not only to cults but to the church and to…encouraging them to get back to the Word of God and its truth. Kurt, again, thank you for joining us again with Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Kurt: Tom, again, it’s my honor and privilege to be here with you and your audience.
Tom: Now, last week, just to pick up somewhat where we left off, talking about cults in particular, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others--we mentioned Christian Science--but, you know, you mentioned as we closed the program last week…you were talking about Mormonism. But I’m shocked--well, I shouldn’t be shocked in particular about somebody like Jimmy Carter, who’s already given the okay that, “Oh, Mormons are okay. They’re doing some things that…” he considers them to be Christians. But now, of late, we have George Wood, who’s the superintendent of the Assemblies of God saying that--well, he’s basically validating Mormonism. I mean, how can that be, Kurt?
Kurt: Well, I tell you, I’m not at all surprised by the statements affirming Mormonism by men like Jimmy Carter and George Wood, although I do have to say that I’m a bit more surprised by Wood than I am Carter, and why am I not surprised? Well, because of the Latter Day Saints’ image. They’ve really worked hard at it, and they’ve been successful. You know, Tom, if you or I would go into a Christian church and we’d ask, “How many people think that Jim Jones and the People’s Temple and David Koresh and the Branch of Davidians or Marshall Applewhite with Heaven’s Gate or the Moonies or scientology, how many people think that they are cults?” You know, you’d almost have a unanimous verdict. But then if you said, “Well, what about Jehovah’s Witnesses or Unitarian Universalists or Christian Scientists?” Well, some of those hands would go down, and then if you said, “Well, what about Mormons?” you’d have even less hands that would be raised, and that’s because the Latter Day Saint Church has really been tremendously successful in shedding its cult image, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by this metamorphoses of the Mormon church, because Jesus Christ said that there would be that transformation, and that transformation was something to beware of. In Matthew:7:15, He said to “beware false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing.” What He meant by that was these false prophets are going to come in sheep’s clothing, they’re going to look like Christians, they’re going to act like Christians, and they’re going to sound like Christians.
And unfortunately, the Mormon Church has taken liberties in the Christian world that would not be afforded in the business or secular world. Let me give you an example of that: suppose that tomorrow I would put out on the market a soft drink, and I would put this soft drink in a red can with a white swirl with the letters Coca-Cola on it. Well, it wouldn’t be very long before there’d be a knock at my door and it wouldn’t be the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons, it would be representatives from the Coca-Cola business, because there are trademarks, there are copyrights, and there are patents, and we can’t steal those from another entity. But the church, the Christian church, doesn’t have that liberty. You know, you’ve got the Mormons that have taken God the Father, and they’ve removed from the biblical definition of Him. They take Jesus Christ of the Bible and they redefine Him. They take the Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit and break them into two separate entities. They’ve taken salvation and they’ve given them radical new definitions and terms, and we think back then…you know, how have the Mormons shed that cult image?...well…and overcome this redefinition of terms? Well, during the past few decades, they’ve really spent millions of dollars in an effort to appear as just the church down the street, just another Christian church down the street.
In the early origins of Mormonism, they were very forthright that they were the one, true church, and now today I think they’ve kind of adopted a kinder, a gentler representation of itself. You talk to Mormon missionaries, and they’ll say, “Oh, yeah, we all have some form of truth. You know, the Methodists may be like a 40-watt light bulb and the Baptists may be like a 60-watt light bulb, and the Mormons may be like a 100-watt light bulb.” And so they just kind of claim, you know, “Everybody’s got a little bit of light, everybody’s got a little bit of truth, we just have a little bit more.”
Thirty years ago, LDS missionaries, they would emphasize when you say, “Well, are you Christian?” they’d say, “Well, no, we’re not Christian, we’re Mormons.” But you ask them that today, and they say, “Certainly we’re Christian. In fact, the name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” And in these past three decades, that emphasis has gone from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to, really, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They all offer their own Jesus video, and I think back just in a recent history of our nation, even though Mitt Romney wasn’t elected president, I think the LDS church still sees that campaign and his run for office as a victory for them, because it’s further engrafted Mormonism into the mainstream of not only our nation, but also the Christian church, and… really, during those past decades, there’s been highly skillful television and radio advertisements showing the Mormon people’s love for Jesus Christ and their commitment to family and other moral values, and that has really been successful in de-culting this group. And so many within evangelical Christianity, those who should know better, like Carter and Wood, they’ve now given deference to the Mormon Church.
Tom: Yeah. Let me add to that, Kurt. You know, I don’t know George Wood’s heart, but you can’t get around the fact that people recognize, especially evangelicals, recognize--well, they’ve been told it’s because they didn’t push Romney over the top that that’s why we have Obama. So, in other words, if he’s going to come around again, you’re going to see some emphasis, sadly, from people who should know better, as you mentioned, that--wait a minute, this hasn’t changed anything about Mormonism. Oh, yeah, well, obviously Obama can’t run again, but whoever’s out there, we want to be able to establish a Mormon, whether it be Romney or somebody else, to get them into office. So that’s a problem.
Kurt: Well, and too, just…I don’t want to get into a political discussion here with your listeners, and I know that’s not the intent, but I don’t know that Obama’s the problem. It’s the heart of the American people that is the problem. He was elected to office by the people. So we need a heart change, and when we get the heart change and we get our morals back and a proper focus…we’ve removed God from almost every aspect of our existence here in America, and so we’re suffering the repercussions of those decisions now.
Tom: Now, getting back to Personal Freedom Outreach, it’s a quarterly journal, for those that don’t know. The articles are just terrific, and as we’ve mentioned, they not only deal with cults, but I say more and more the emphasis is what’s going on within evangelical Christianity, what is influencing the church today, which brings me to this question: I know some of the writers of Personal Freedom Outreach, but how do you select--and, again, it’s not just written by one individual, well, every two months, but you have different writers, and you have had over the years--what’s the selection process, and would it be you or Keith, Keith Mars, who does your editing mainly? What’s the selection process in who you would have write?
Kurt: Well, the major portion of our material that’s featured in the Quarterly Journal really comes from the talents of our directors, men like Dick Fisher, Gary Gilley, Dave Tyler, and I guess you could say that a current exception would be Greg Sheryl, who’s written a number of articles for us but is not one of our directors. Greg’s been a long-time friend to PFO. He’s a careful researcher, and a writer that really fits into the style of PFO. He attended Dallas Seminary and studied under such men as Robert Lightner, Roy Zuck, Howard Hendricks, and others. He’s a licensed Southern Baptist minister, and we’ve always appreciated Greg’s methodical research and writing, and for people that get our journal and see one of his articles, they’ll see that his articles nearly always contain about a hundred endnotes for documentation, and he really loves to evaluate the issues prevalent today. For example, in the past year, he’s written an excellent exposé on William Branham, the late Pentecostal faith healer who denied the Trinity, but yet this guy Branham is esteemed by many within Pentecostalism, and more currently made an outstanding evaluation of Sarah Young and her mystical best-seller Jesus Calling.
Tom: Yeah. Now, that gives me another question to ask you, because people ask me from time to time, “Well, Tom, The Berean Call: how do you pick your subjects, what you address?” Now, I’ll give you our criteria, and you tell me how it relates to yours. Obviously, Kurt, our heads are spinning, I’m sure your head is, as we’ve seen things affect and impact the church, the coming about exponentially, basically. So, what we do is that we look for particular subjects, and you don’t have to look very far…
Tom: …that are influencing a great amount of people within the church or if it’s an opportunity to deal with something in which cultic ideas have impacted the church. Well, we want to see numbers there, because we can’t pick on everything.
Tom: However, we also look for something that is a great teaching opportunity, no matter how influential it is. It’s an opportunity to teach discernment to our readers if it’s through radio, our listeners, and so on. So it may not be as influential, but we see something within a book or within a teaching or an individual out there who gives us the opportunity to address certain issues and raise discernment on the part of our listeners. Now, that would be our MO. What about yours?
Kurt: And, you know, a lot of that really parallels us here at Personal Freedom Outreach. Just like you had mentioned last week, in those first few years we also focused mainly on the cultic, because it was a time when cults were growing in large numbers. You know, Moonies were inundating on street corners and airports; The Way International, they were on college campuses; Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons were repeatedly at your door; Armstrong--you know, you turn on the television set, and there would be Herbert Armstrong. And as our newsletter readership developed, we really began to receive inquiries about the aberrant teachings within the church, so we began to also research and examine those issues, things like the Health and Wealth gospel…and that’s where you and Dave were out on the front lines already with The Seduction of Christianity.
You know, also during that time, in the 1980s, there were those who were being set free from the various cult groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and they were establishing ministries specifically targeted to the groups they left, and so this allowed us the opportunity to refocus our attention into other matters, because these men and women were doing a fine job of providing research and resources on those mainline cults. And then I guess that kind of a turning point for us was in 1989 when we kind of added a new ingredient and that was investigative reporting. We had begun to receive a flood of inquiries about Rebecca Brown and her sidekick Elaine. Elaine claims to have been a prominent witch, and she was even married to Satan; she says Satan materialized a human body for the union. And her books were popular, and they were being published by Jack Chick, who was famous for those cartoon tracts. And really, Brown’s theology of demons and spiritual warfare were off the charts. You know, she saw a demon under every rock and said everyone that addressed her unbiblical doctrine and practice was secretly a Satanist or at least working in conjunction with them, and her background and the historical facts that she present in her books, they were very vague and very elusive, and so we tried to follow up, based on the requests that we received. We tried to follow up on the geographic and historical claims, but we kept running into dead ends.
And one day I was having a conversation with a fellow that was head of another apologetic ministry in the Chicago area, and he said, “Well, you know, if you start searching out Ruth Bailey, not Rebecca Brown, you might meet with some more success.” And so we took his advice and, man, the floodgates opened up for us. Rebecca Brown, whose real name was Ruth Bailey, was a medical doctor in rural Indiana, and her medical license had been stripped because of this bizarre behavior. And so myself and another PFO director visited the medical licensing board in Indiana and asked if we could see what information they had on Ruth Bailey, and they asked, “Well, what interest do you have? What’s your reason for this?” And so we explained to them, and they said, “Well, come back here,” and they took us back into a conference room, and they said, “Wait here.”
And several minutes later, they brought this massive file into us and set it down in front of us and said, “Here it is. If you need any more help, let us know.” And so we spent hours going through those documents, and they yielded affidavits, they yielded police reports, hospital reports, family contacts, on and on. And so we literally spent days in Indiana speaking to the police, family members, and other authorities, and so we let a publishing [company] know the results of our investigation in our newsletter publication, and actually, subsequently in a small booklet, Drugs, Demons, and Delusions, and then both Brown and Jack Chick argued that we were really witches and Satanists, and the materials that we cited, we made that all up; that was all fabricated, and the authorities that we talked to, the family members we talked to were all Satanists!
And then, really, from that a few years later, we began receiving inquiries about this charismatic pastor and this faith-healer by the name of Benny Hinn. And therein began a decade-long investigation that yielded numerous Journal articles, and eventually those were put into a full-size book, The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, and that book’s now in its tenth edition, and I’m sure the friends of The Berean Call are quite familiar with this. And really, the last three editions that we had published, Dave had written a foreword for us and appears in the last three editions.
Tom: And, Kurt, here’s the thing: people say, “Well, why do you do this?” You know, we’ve had people tell us, “Well, you don’t need to look at all that stuff; you just need to study the Word, because that’s what the treasury department does, and they teach their people to look at the real thing.” That’s not true.
Kurt: Yeah, no, exactly.
Tom: The Treasury Department, they want them to be able to discern the difference between the true and the false, and they have to look at the false. Now, look, we don’t want people to major in this, and this is why your ministry and ours to some degree, we’re doing the work for people out there so that they can--how would they know about Rebecca Brown, or how would they know about other people, and especially because they become influential. You know, with the media today, all you have to do is start your own blog site and all of a sudden you become an expert, because you’re out there. That’s not the case. The case has to be what are the facts about these individuals, what are they teaching doctrinally…Kurt, a great concern for me, especially as things are moving ahead exponentially in the apostasy toward the development of the religion of the Antichrist, which the Bible lays out very clearly--these are not some esoteric ideas or teachings--but in all of that, if people don’t have the Word of God, they don’t refer back to the Word of God and hold everything up to the light of Scripture--and we give them a start on that, because we do the research; we have the people to do that--but we want them into the Word, to not only evaluate these things that are coming into the church, but to evaluate those who are in your position, in my position…you know, they’ve got to be Bereans about us as well as anybody else.
Kurt: Absolutely. And, you know, to kind of pick up on what you’re saying there, we’re often asked, “Why bother picking the nits? So what if some people are off a couple points on doctrine? Nobody’s perfect. Why do you have to point out these things? These teachers you criticize are basically good, they’re getting people saved, there are bona fide miracles that are occurring.”
Well, we bother because we care about people’s lives. We bother because we’ve seen the devastation that unchecked false doctrine can bring into those lives. Our examination of the cults we’ve seen, certain trends that if left unexposed will really birth a full-blown cultic movement, and we bother because lives are at stake. And as you pointed out, people have become cliché-bound. They’re so gullible and they become easily subservient if someone says, “God told me,” “The Lord said,” or “The Lord spoke to me,” or, “the Lord impressed upon me…” After all, when somebody tells you that, who can argue with God? And so the church really finds itself drowning in a sea of subjectivism away from the safe moorings of the objective Word of God. “I feel” and “I sense” have come to replace, “It is written.”
Tom: Exactly. Now, Kurt, we’ve got about five minutes left in our program today. What’s your concern today? What do you see that you think the church is missing the mark here, they really need to get after this because of its influence? Is there one thing or are there a number of things? What about that?
Kurt: Well, it just…I tell you what, it’s just a variety of things. You know, we move from one fad to another within the Christian church. Twenty years ago, it was Promise Keepers. Everybody had to be--all the men had to be part of the Promise Keepers. And then after that, then it became the Prayer of Jabez, everybody got on the Jabez bandwagon where you pray this prayer for thirty days, and God is just going to unleash all the blessings of heaven. And then we move from Jabez into the Purpose Driven Life and the emergent church, and so it’s just…again, we go from one fad to another, and I think what we need to do is we must properly and correctly, biblically identify the problem.
If you go to a doctor and he misdiagnoses your illness, you’re not going to have much chance of remedying your situation. And we need to realize that we’re being conditioned by our culture and by television, we’ve lost the ability to blush. Everything and anything is just paraded before us in the media as permissible for our mental diet. You know, murder, homosexuality, immorality, abuse, perversion, nothing’s off limits, and sadly today, nothing seems like it shocks or grieves us, and our culture is becoming drunk and dulled, and, you know, we’re becoming really affected.
And I think back--entertainment really ruled and controlled the culture. If you look at and do some archaeological and historical research, you’ll see that King Herod, King Herod the Great, whenever he built up an area, one of the first things that he did was he would build a large theater, an amphitheater, because Herod realized that if you control the arts, you control the culture, and, boy, how true that is today here in America that has not changed in 2,000 years, that so many people today, Christians included, may kind of get their worldview from what’s being promulgated on the airwaves. And besides that, I mean, we’ve become a culture of hero-worshippers and celebrity seekers, evangelical and popular writers, they dictate what we should believe and do as Christians. They’re given total allegiance, and they’re followed like rock stars. I think back to the Corinthians who said, “We’re of Paul,” or “We’re of Apollos.” “We’re of Cephas.” Now today in the 21st century, “I’m of Beth Moore,” or “I’m of Joyce Meyer,” or, “I’m of Joel Osteen,” or “I’m of Benny Hinn.”
Tom: Yeah, you know, Kurt, what’s being spelled out here by you and things that I’ve been concerned about is people aren’t into the Bible anymore. Even if they’re in a really good church, and they’ve got a terrific pastor who just preaches the Word, teaches the Word, the problem can be in that that they’re just being spoon-fed; they’re not doing the work themselves. If you’re not getting into the Word of God, if you’re not into the Word of God and you’re just going by an individual and God has raised up some terrific teachers, I’m not denying that, but if that’s the dependence, then they’re depending on a man, and the lack of discernment is just rampant. And that’s what we’re seeing.
One last thing that I would mention, all of these things--you talking about the media and how that’s influencing people today--well, again, they’re not into the written Word. They’re not going that way, and…you know, we only have about a minute left here, Kurt, but I see a convergence of these things that--you know, we talked about starting out in the ‘70s and ‘80s and so on, and you had diverse groups with their own problems, but now I see them coming together, working together, agreeing with their agendas and so on, that’s overwhelming for the body of Christ.
Kurt: Absolutely. And Dick Fisher, in one of his articles, said that many Christians seem to have full-blown AIDS, and he defines that as an Acquired Immunity to Doctrinal Studies.
Tom: Right. Let’s back that up with Scripture: Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” And that’s where we are. Okay, brother, we’re out of time.
Kurt: All right!
Tom: This has been absolutely terrific; I know…
Kurt: It’s my pleasure to have been with you these past two weeks.
Tom: Well, Lord willing, we’re going to get this posted, put together, get it out there for people to be blessed by. So thanks again!
Kurt: Thank you for having me.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. ’m Gary Carmichael, thanks for tuning in, and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.