Most people know that Christian acting and music personalities can become idols, but do they consider the more imminent danger in pastors and theologians? Billy Graham, John Piper, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), and R. C. Sproul are popular in mainstream Christian circles today. Although not as beautiful as those we watch in theaters and listen to on iPods, their words have the spiritual power to change the way we think, feel, and act. If we’re not careful, in our minds these people can become like the Roman Catholic Pope – infallible. This is idolatry.
C. S. Lewis (Anglican) is considered one of the greatest modern theologians, but he’s not infallible. Sadly, too many Lewis fans treat him as such. I think they’d argue with the Bible when it contradicts him. Lewis was a flawed, ordinary person like the rest of us and theology was mostly a head trip for him. I doubt the authenticity of his conversion, or at least the depth of his Christian life. The theological writings of people like William Tyndale (1494-1536), Andrew Murray (1828-1917), and Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) are much sounder and deeper.
Billy Graham (American Baptist), age 95 and retired, recently preached his final sermon. He’s worked as an international evangelist since the 1949 Los Angeles crusade. Yet in a 1997 interview with Robert Schuller and 2005 interview with Larry King, Graham said that he didn’t believe Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven.
I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven. (Schuller)
Graham also said that he had “great friends” among Mormons and Roman Catholics; both groups are heretical. Graham even considered Pope John Paul II “the leader, spiritual and moral, of our generation.” Last year, he and his son Franklin Graham publicly endorsed the Mormon Mitt Romney for U.S. President. This is heresy and Graham is guilty of apostasy! I follow John Piper (Reformed Baptist) and R. C. Sproul (Reformed) online and I like many of their sermons, but I don’t agree with everything they say. At least they haven’t committed heresy like Graham.
Other pastors whom I despise also have a vast following. Some are possibly demon-possessed heretics and false prophets who should be exposed – A. A. Allen (1911-1970), John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), Rick Warren, and Paula White. [This is a short list.] Mainstream pastors who publicly endorse these people show a lack of discernment; they also place their congregations in spiritual danger.
St. Augustine (354-430), Martin Luther (1483-1546), John Calvin (1509-1564), Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), John Stott (1921-2011), and others are theological giants. Their Christian writings are excellent. However, like Graham, Lewis, Piper, and Sproul, we must take what these people say with a grain of salt. A Christian commentary or sermon is one person’s opinion and is not divinely inspired. If it doesn’t agree with the Bible, it must be discarded. Are we willing to do this with the writings of Christians we admire? If not, we’re idolaters. If we refuse sound doctrine and hold onto the works of heretics, then we’re only scratching “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NKJV).
The apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He also said, “Who then is Paul and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?” (3:5) Following one pastor or theologian, both at the expense of another and of Jesus Christ, is carnal (3:4). The only one who matters is God, who “gives the increase” (3:7). Those who plant the seed of the Word and water it will receive their reward (3:8). However, Jesus Christ alone is the foundation (3:11). If we lay any other, we have become idolaters.