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E. W. Kenyon
1867 - 1948

Was E.W. Kenyon a heretic? by: Joe McIntyre

This "name-calling" is a big problem in the Body of Christ. Clouds of suspicion have been placed on valid ministries because of being labeled by other ministries.

Like a crazed dog that has clamped onto someone's leg, this word can be very difficult to shake off once it has been applied to a man, a teaching or a ministry. No one wants to expose themselves to heretical teachings or sit under a ministry that is yoked with the suspicion of heresy. While I was writing my book about E.W. Kenyon (E.W. Kenyon and His Message of Faith: The True Story, Creation House, 1997) I was seized by the fact that many Christians readily use this word to describe other Christians with whom they disagree.

Kenyon has been called many things unjustly, heretic being just one of them. So I was sensitive to this issue. As if to bring it home to me how easy it is to sling mud on our brothers, two friends of mine in the ministry used the term heretic to describe someone else with whom they disagreed during my conversations with them. I was grieved to hear them use the term because what they were upset by was not heresy. It was a perspective on a doctrine with which they strongly disagreed. Having had to investigate the meaning of heresy for my book, I knew they were using an inappropriate term that certainly misrepresented their brothers in Christ. 

This "name-calling" is a big problem in the Body of Christ. Clouds of suspicion have been placed on valid ministries because of being labeled by other ministries. And so much of this labeling is inaccurate and misleading. I found it heartbreaking to see the lack of integrity in supposedly scholarly Christian authors when it came to accurately representing the teachings and beliefs of those with whom they disagreed. The apostle Paul left room for disagreement among brethren on non-essentials (Rom 14), but demanded charity be the rule governing disagreements.

Some critics have seemingly "won" their arguments at the high cost of their own integrity. With the goal of saving the Church from error, they have misrepresented their brethren. They have sought to remove error by committing another error. These misguided ministries have violated the commandment of God that says, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex.20:16). To inaccurately present the views of your opponent is to bear false witness against him. It is to violate the commandment of God in order to "win" your argument. This practice of "apologetics" by Bible-believing Christians reveals less ethical integrity than the unsaved scholarly world. 

Godly, scholarly debate can result in "iron sharpening iron." It can bring balance to extremes and broaden our understanding of God's Truth. But in order for this debate to be godly, we must take great care to represent our opponent's view with integrity. Otherwise, as so often is the case, we merely set up a "straw man" and then blow him over. No valid end is accomplished by this folly. Actually, much damage is done.

In reading Kenyon's critics, I was deeply grieved that men who purported themselves to be scholars (or at least scholarly) should so misrepresent Kenyon's positions on the various doctrines they attacked. If Kenyon believed what they claimed he did, he himself would have opposed his teachings! The problem is acerbated by the fact that these "truth defending" books are carefully footnoted, which give them a veneer of scholarly respectability. Yet, their content is an exercise in bearing false witness and "straw man" bashing. 

The late Greg Bahsen, a Ph.D in philosophy who dedicated his life to defending the Faith, wrote about this same issue:

It is difficult enough for us to gain a hearing in the unbelieving world because of its hostility to the Lord Jesus Christ and its preconception of the lowly intelligence of His followers. The difficulty is magnified many times over when believers offer public, obvious evidence of their inability to treat each other's opinions with careful accuracy. Our "scholarship" is justly ridiculed by those who have been educated in institutions which have no commitment to Christ or His Word, but who have the ethical integrity to demand as a prerequisite to acceptable scholarship that a student represent his opponent fairly before proceeding to criticize or refute him.

I expose some of this "heresy hunting" as practiced by Christian "scholars" as charitably as possible in my book on Kenyon. But I merely scratched the surface of the inaccuracies and misrepresentations. And these books have often been best sellers. I would not want to answer to God for the caricature of truth contained in some of these books. It makes me think of how Jesus was perceived and portrayed by the Pharisees. When they sought to condemn Him they quoted His words in the worst possible light. They judged not only His words, but also read into His words motivations that were totally inaccurate and condemning. 

To quote someone out of context is to misrepresent what he or she teaches. Anyone can be shown to be a heretic by stringing together their statements without regard for the point they were making. This is done regularly on a national radio broadcast. I'm sure it grieves the Father's heart. Yet no one calls these ministries to accountability. 

The book of Proverbs reveals that God hates those who bear false witness and sow discord among brethren. It is quite possible to disagree and debate differing views without bearing false witness or sowing discord. Our testimony demands that we learn to do this. The world is watching how we treat our own. The view isn't too great at the moment. Let's pray things change.