Sunday, October 24, 2010

A "Therapist in the Pulpit" Goes Bankrupt

While reading several different blog posts from my sidebar list today, I found one that shared the story about Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral ministry going bankrupt. Albert Mohler.com: Bankruptcy in the Cathedral.

Schuller's techniques of preaching a "prosperity gospel" rather than the true Gospel of redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary reminds me of Joel Osteen's "ministry." Any time that I have seen Osteen "preach," it has been that familiar prosperity gospel theme devised to make his audience feel better about themselves and "give them a lift." The trouble is, both Schuller and Osteen were not following the mandate of The Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples and all who would follow Him. Any church that doesn't make the truth contained in God's Word, the Bible, and the Cross of Christ central to their teaching, should be avoided!!

The following excerpt is very telling about Dr. Schuller's ministry techniques:


“Possibility Thinking” was Schuller’s central message. He told his fellow preachers not to worry about repeating themselves in sermons, insisting that every message (he did not like to call his messages “sermons”) must be about the development of a positive mental outlook.

Though ordained in the Reformed Church in America, Schuller minimized historic Christian orthodoxy and stressed instead the message of positive thinking. In his 1982 book, Self Esteem: The New Reformation, Schuller explicitly replaced the message of salvation from sin with a message of rescue from low self esteem. In his 2001 autobiography, My Journey, Schuller told of the massive influence of Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale on his thinking and theology. He told of his decision early in his ministry to replace theology with therapy. “I realized that every sermon I preached (whether formally from the pulpit or casually at a coffee shop) should be designed, not to ‘teach’ or ‘convert’ people, but rather to encourage them, to give them a lift. I decided to adopt the spirit, style, strategy, and substance of a ‘therapist’ in the pulpit.”

Dennis Voskuil, a professor of church history at Schuller’s alma mater, Western Theological Seminary, placed Schuller within the context of the New Thought movement. “Robert Schuller is indirectly related to a long line of popular religionists who have proclaimed the gospel of this-worldly well-being through positive thinking,” he wrote. “His lineage includes such disparate figures as Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, Ralph Waldo Trine, and Norman Vincent Peale. While there are many ideological branches on this family tree, all of its members have stressed a utilitarian message of self-help through some form of mind-conditioning.”

After detailing Schuller’s distinctive pilgrimage, Voskuil concluded: “By several standards, then, Schuller is an unconventional evangelical. But while he may be unusual, he is by no means unique, for he is merely one of the most prominent of a large and growing group of evangelicals who are promulgating the gospel of success.”

Those words were written almost thirty years ago. How does the “gospel of success” deal with bankruptcy? The filing of bankruptcy papers would be humbling enough for any ministry, but how does the very epicenter of “Possibility Thinking” deal with the stark reality of financial calamity?


Many years ago when I would occasionally see a small portion of Schuller's "Hour of Power" T.V. program, it always bothered me. Even though I didn't possess much Bible knowledge yet, each time I saw Schuller "preach" or read an excerpt from his books, I kept getting the distinct feeling that what he was teaching represented a definite skewing away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Mohler sums it up well at the end of his post:


In his 1986 book, Your Church Has a Fantastic Future, Schuller provided what he called “A Possibility Thinker’s Guide to a Successful Church.” The book is a manual for a ministry built on pure pragmatism, sensationalistic promotion, a therapeutic message, and a constant and incessant focus on thinking positively.

His message about money was simple: “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems,” he asserted.

In an odd and upside-down way, the news of bankruptcy at the Crystal Cathedral makes that point emphatically. The most significant problem at the Crystal Cathedral is not financial, but theological. The issue is not money, but this ministry’s message. The “gospel of success” is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, therapy is no substitute for theology, and “Possibility Thinking” is not the message of the Bible.

It turns out that Robert Schuller offers the best analysis of this crisis with his own words. “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems.” The theological crisis in Garden Grove is far more significant than the financial crisis.


Hat Tip:

Albert Mohler.com

7 comments:

GMpilot said...

Bankrupt??

After years of telling us that God wants his people to be rich? (Perhaps he does, but not a Rockefeller kind of rich, and not in this life.)

Was Schuller's church a member of the ECFA?

Does this mean that the Crystal Cathedral will stand beside the City of Faith Hospital as a monument to hubris?

Oh well. People who pray in glass houses...

Gary Baker said...

"People who pray in glass houses..."

Such as the secularists who push programs that have left the country thirteen trillion in debt...

stevex09 said...

I'm kind of wondering who has told anyone that God wants his people to be "rich"? No Christian is going to be morning the bankruptcy of the Chrystal Cathedral, as Christine so eloquently put, "Schuller's techniques of preaching a "prosperity gospel" rather than the true Gospel of redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross..."

The prosperity message along with the self-esteem message are nothing but a promotion of our own self interests. It seems that quite a few "pastors" have left their first love, (and what does the book of Revelation say about that?) and have replaced it with the love of the world.
Christine, if you want to see probably one of the worst, money grabbing, dispicable, perverters of the Gospel of Christ ... watch a clip of Robert Tilton some time. This guy vexed my soul by his shenanigans decades ago.

Christinewjc said...

GM - You are always so quick to jump on a bandwagon of Christian bashing when a pastor or preacher is called out for his/her mistakes. But you can never seem to ever give any credit to pastors/preachers who are doing a marvelous and Godly ministry. Why is that? Never mind, I think I know. It is the same reason that you can never admit any of the horrible lies, mistakes, and terrible policies that Obamafraud and his minions have inflicted upon the American people over the last 22 months. What a hypocrite you are!

Christinewjc said...

Good point, Gary. Secularists bow down at the feet of socialism/communism/Islamo-fascism and all of the programs and entitlements that their ideology represents. They worship at the thrones of the misguided politicians who have caused the misery of thirteen trillion dollars in debt!

Christinewjc said...

Hi Steve,

I was just reading a segment in Dr. Jeremiah's new book that discusses how the love of money is the root of all evil. He makes some excellent points and I may do a blog post about it soon. There is so much in that book that I would love to share here!

The following quote is an excellent observation made by you! It is certainly sad, but true:

"The prosperity message along with the self-esteem message are nothing but a promotion of our own self interests. It seems that quite a few "pastors" have left their first love, (and what does the book of Revelation say about that?) and have replaced it with the love of the world."

I think I have heard of Robert Tilton before. Is he the guy who not only does all of the terrible things you listed, but he is also known for cursing a lot during his so-called "sermons?" I may be thinking of someone else.

These are all reasons why we must be diligent about who we receive Christian messages and sermons from. If they are going against what is written in the Bible as truth, get away from them!

Christians can make mistakes. I have made many myself. But when someone bases an entire ministry on falsehood, deception, money-grubbing, and/or despicable perversions (especially perversion of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ), then such a person needs to either be immediately exposed and corrected. If they refuse to repent of their apostasy, then they should be abandoned in their heretical "ministry."

stevex09 said...

Hey Christine;
Your post has so many good points. You know, we're living in very dangerous times. The political winds are blowing towards globalism like never before. We have so called 'Christian' pastors refusing to preach the gospel of repentence. Nothing but wolves in sheep's clothing; nothing but frauds dragging their entire congregation to hell right along with them. This is why it's so important for us as individuals to read and study God's word ... to put on the whole armour of God; be wise as serpents but harmless as doves, looking for the eastern skies to split revealing the coming of our Lord.
Oh, Robert Tilton has been around for decades preaching the same "give to me in faith" message. This is somewhat funny. You can find some stuff on him on Youtube ... just type in "the farting preacher". Someone has recorded many of his messages and edited them, and put them on Youtube. I'm sure you'll recoginze him.