Erwin McManus's False Teachings
By Ron Foster
Part 1: Ditching Discipleship for the Doctrines of Demons
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons" – 1 Tim 4:1
"My goal is to destroy Christianity" – Erwin McManus.
Erwin McManus has made it crystal clear that he hates Christianity. This is very well documented. He has said, "The greatest enemy of the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity," and "My goals is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ." Now before you argue that I am taking his words out of context, understand that I am fully aware of forms of "Christianity" that every true Christian should hate, forms that aren't Christian at all. There are many who claim to be Christians but show no evidence of Christ being their Lord. And there are many churches that do the same. We should hate that kind of "Christianity," which isn't really Christianity at all.
But that's not the kind of Christianity Erwin McManus is talking about. No, he's talking about biblical Christianity. He's talking about the Christianity of the Gospels, the Christianity of the Apostles, the Christianity that triumphed in the Reformation when certain godly men stood up for truth against Roman Catholic heresy. When Erwin says he wants to destroy Christianity, he is speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ that exalts God's glory in justification by faith alone to the glory of God alone. Simply put, Erwin wants to destroy Truth. Now, let's see how.
"Teaching Doctrine Isn't Biblical"
Erwin doesn't believe in teaching doctrine. This year at the Southern Baptist Convention General Meeting, he said:
The practice of opening up the Bible and preaching verse-by-verse every Sunday and teaching doctrines that those who come already believe, and somehow think that that will transform society, you can't find it in [the Bible]."
Teaching doctrine isn't biblical? Well, what about Titus 1:9: "He [an overseer] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it"? What about Titus 2:1: "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine"? In these verses, the Greek noun didache/e can be translated as "doctrine" or "teaching," (see 2 Tim 4:2-3: "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (didachee). For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching (didaskalias: a form of didache). So Erwin stands opposed to the Bible itself in saying that teaching doctrine is not biblical.
Erwin is right in line with many Emerging leaders who want to create a new generation of Christians who are divorced from doctrine. Erwin said in a Willow Creek video clip, "Christians love to get more and more information about God so they can know more and more without having to actually do anything about it." That's his take on discipleship. He's saying that conversion inherently brings all the "information" you need to know about doctrine, and all God is calling for now is action. By the way, that word "information" Erwin is throwing around is his substitute word for biblical knowledge. (We'll come back to that in a minute.)
"Don't Disciple Believers, Only Unbelievers"
Erwin said in an interview with The Baptist Standard, "My job isn't to feed the Christians, so they can feed the sheep. My job is to make them hungry so they can feed themselves." But didn't Jesus command His undershepherds, beginning with Peter, to "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17)? Isn't that the model for all pastors (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Tim 4:11-16; 2 Tim 4:1-2; Titus 2:1)? In an interview on the Drew Marshall Show, Erwin conveniently excused himself from this high responsibility as a pastor by saying he doesn't consider himself a pastor. Why then does his own website say that he, "serves as the lead pastor…of Mosaic?" Maybe because Erwin really does know the role and responsibilities of a pastor, he just doesn't want to obey?
Erwin goes on to say, "The church isn't here for us. We are the church and we're here for the world." Yes, that is a very well-known mantra at Mosaic, one I'm sure Erwin is very proud of. It's so altruistic. But is it biblical? Well, it is, partially. And that pretty much sums up the entire Emergent movement – biblical, partially. Yes, we are the Church and we are here for the world. But the Church is also here for us, or rather, we the Church are here for one other. The early believers "devoted themselves to the Apostles teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42) Galatians 6:10 says, "Let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith." Paul did command acts of kindness toward unbelievers here, but he placed special emphasis on doing good to other believers. Jesus Himself said that it is by our mutual Christian love for one another that the world will know we belong to Him (John 13:35).
So Erwin doesn't disciple believers. He says that according to Scripture, discipleship was never meant to be focused on believers but unbelievers. And he uses the Great Commission to support this position: "make disciples of all nations," i.e. unbelievers.
What Does the Bible Say About Discipleship?
Now Jesus did indeed command His Apostles to evangelize the nations, but He added, "teaching them to observe all I have commanded you." (By the way, the word "teaching" there is the Greek word didaskontes, the active participle form of, yes, you guessed it: didache.) The phrase "make disciples" in Jesus's command is actually an active verb that literally renders the phrase as "teach the nations." "Baptizing" and "teaching" are participles incorporated into that command to teach the nations, or "make disciples." In other words, making disciples is not merely making converts, but also baptizing and teaching them AFTER they become believers. Paul wrote, "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ" (Col 1:28) The word "mature" is the Greek word teleion, which is also used in James 1:4 to refer to being made "perfect" or "whole" (in that case through trials). Christian maturity does not automatically happen at rebirth. Therefore teaching and discipleship must continue on to Christian maturity. Paul labored to that end and Christian ministers are called to do the same.
So what is (biblical) discipleship all about? In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Abiding, or remaining in the word of Jesus is indicative of true discipleship. That word "abide, "in Greek, signifies ongoing action – "keep on abiding." Jesus was speaking to a group of Jews who believed Him but were not fully committed to Him. He was saying that it isn't enough to just believe. You have to remain in His word to be His disciples. As we continue to do this, we will come to know the truth.
Discipleship also calls for "intelligent worship." Now when I use the word "intelligent," I am not referring to human intellect but to revealed knowledge. The reason I use the word "intelligent" is to separate Christian worship from this notion of mystical worship that some are so fond of. Jesus tells the woman at the well, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24) and the psalmist tells us, "The sum of Your word is truth" (Ps. 119:160) Worshiping God requires knowing the truth He has revealed from His word.
Discipleship calls for loving one another in the body of Christ. I already addressed this previously in this article, but here are a few more references: Romans 12:10 says, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." 1 Th 3:12 says, "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you." Heb 13:1 says, "Let brotherly love continue." 1 Pet 3:8 says, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." 1 Pet 4:8 says, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." And 1 John 2:10 says, "Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling." And there are many, many more.
Discipleship calls for preserving and defending the faith, i.e. doctrinal truth. Paul reminds Timothy that the Church of Jesus Christ has the utmost responsibility and privilege to be the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15), and Jude likewise warns Christians in his epistle to "contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Being Christ's disciple is a high call to preserve and fight (contend) for that truth.
Discipleship calls for "intelligent evangelism." Again, the Great Commission commands us to make "teach the nations." Teach them what? Truth! As I said earlier, worshiping God requires knowing the truth He has revealed from His word. That is why evangelism is so crucial. Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Faith comes through hearing the word of Christ being proclaimed because Christ's word brings knowledge of the truth which leads to pure worship of God. God's ultimate end in all He does is the glorification of His great name, and only intelligent evangelism, proclamation based on knowledge of the truth He has revealed, can lead people into God-exalting worship.
Departing from Biblical Doctrine and Discipleship
Now here's my question. Why would Erwin McManus hold such an unbiblical position about discipleship when the Bible is clearly for Christian discipleship and/by doctrinal teaching? Let's answer that question by putting some pieces together.
- Erwin is against teaching doctrine.
- Erwin is against discipling Christians (including, I assume, even one-minute old Christians, brand new believers who just received Christ). "Doctrine is inherent in salvation, so "turn 'em loose."
Now, let's do some "math." According to Erwin:
Don't teach doctrine (if that looks redundant to you by now, I'm elated) + Don't disciple believers
= Don't obey the entire Great Commission = Don't follow Paul's example in Col 1:28 = Don't make biblical Christians (sound contradictory? That's because it is!)
Can't Erwin see that this equation spells disaster? Here's what I think. Discipleship of some sort is going to take place no matter what, right? Erwin knows that whoever leads a person to Christ does, in fact, disciple them. He can call it by another name – "investing in," "unleashing your God-given potential," etc. – but it's still discipleship. And the convenient thing about changing the terminology (from "discipling" to "investing," for instance) is that you don't have to do it the prescribed way (biblically prescribed, that is). But hear this. Some form of doctrine will be taught and learned. In a teacher-student, mentor-protégé relationship, there will be doctrinal instruction, no matter what you call it. It's inevitable. But it won't necessarily be biblical.
So if Erwin isn't teaching Christian doctrine to his new converts, what exactly is he teaching? Based on what I've seen and heard at Mosaic, he is teaching his own mixed up, half truth/half lie, humanistic doctrine. Jesus said, "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:9). Satan is not idle when the truth is suppressed. He fills the vacuum with his own perverted teachings (1 Tim 4:1)
Erwin has the sense to know that Christians (unfortunately fewer and fewer) have the discernment to know biblical truth from man-centered fiction. Perhaps that's why he doesn't like Christians. See, if Erwin can make his own converts from people of unchurched backgrounds, people who have never even opened a Bible or heard a sermon, then he can make "disciples" out of them however he wants. It reminds me of Jesus's words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:15: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." That's Erwin, making converts to himself. He rebukes the Church for its lack of evangelistic zeal (see, that part's true), but then he goes and makes converts to his own distortion of the gospel, which isn't the Gospel at all.
"Discipleship is All About Standardization – It's Christian 'Cloning'"
In Erwin's Catalyst Video Talk, a video clip promoting the Catalyst Conference this coming October, Erwin said there are five words he would like to share that reflect and describe where the Church needs to go to be a genuine, authentic spiritual community. The first word was "Uniqueness." He said,
There has to be a shift from standardization to uniqueness. The Church of Jesus Christ is known in the western world as being the advocate and defender, the protector of standardization… Discipleship is all about standardization…you have to do things exactly a certain way…and so a follower of Jesus Christ is a disciplined person…and so what you have to do to come to Jesus Christ is you've got to become like everyone else who was ever a Christian before. We all know that's what Jesus died for (laughter). He died to clone us all (laughter). But people without God have a spiritual instinct. See I think a lot of us who are in Christ lose our instinct for what's real and authentic, but people without Christ, they smell it. They've been conned so many times. And what happens in when we try to standardize people, when we create discipleship cloning systems where we try to make everyone the same, people without God go, "You know I'm not sure I really want that." But the Church of Jesus Christ, if she's going to be going to be relevant and effective and actually create the future that needs to be created, needs to become a place where people around the world go, "Do you want to discover your uniqueness? Do you want to be seen for the person you really are? Do you want to find out the unique fingerprint of God on your soul, you need to go anywhere Jesus is because that's where uniqueness is valued and discovered and unleashed.
First of all, let me say I would be honored if someone were to say to me, "Hey, you're nothing but a clone of Christ." Do you know where the term "Christian" came from? It was a derogatory insult thrown at the church of Antioch (Acts 11:26). These Antioch disciples of Christ all started to look and act the same way, apparently like Christ, in their character and actions, in their love for each other and for unbelievers, so the people around them started calling them "Little Christs" or "Christians." And the name stuck.
See, Erwin is trying to put an image in our minds of the most grotesque thing we can think of – a clone, an automaton, a mindless, go-through-the-motions robot. Then he links that image with Christian discipleship. His purpose is clear – to make discipleship appalling to us.
More Biblical Insight into True Discipleship
The Apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:3-10:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us tohis own glory and excellence,4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualitiesare yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
What Erwin calls "information" the Bible calls knowledge. And what is the purpose of this knowledge? It is one of the building blocks of the Christian faith that leads toward effectiveness and fruitfulness in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again knowledge! Those without these qualities, knowledge included, are considered nearsighted to the point of blindness because they do not remember that God is the one who cleansed their sins. Peter says that if we do practice these qualities, we will never fall. Wow! What high praise for godly knowledge!
Now check this out. The word "knowledge" in verse 5 is the basic word for knowledge. It is used in the New Testament to refer to knowledge of truth and doctrine. But notice the word "knowledge" in verse 8. That's a different Greek word. It means discernment. So here's how you put them together. Growing in these qualities the Apostle Peter mentions, including knowledge of truth and doctrine, leads to effectiveness and fruitfulness in discernment of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, growing in the knowledge of biblical truth leads to increasing discernment in distinguishing between the real Jesus Christ and counterfeit Christs, or antichrists.
Let me say this as politely yet emphatically as I can. If someone were trying to preach a different gospel, a different "Christ," which would be no gospel at all since there is only one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – if someone were trying to do this, or if the devil were trying to do this through someone, what's one of the first things he's going to do to validate his false christ? He's going to do his best to eliminate spiritual discernment. And how's he going to do that? By putting away the knowledge of truth Now look at verse 9. That's a verse about sin and how when we don't practice these godly qualities, we lose sight of how sinful we were, of how great the Father's love for us was in putting forth Jesus as a propitiation for our many sins (Ro 3:25). Hear this. If a person belittles the absolutely catastrophic effects that sin had on him before Christ saved Him, or the dominating impact that sin still holds on those who are still without Christ, or the infinitely great price God has paid in the excruciating death of His Son to reconcile us to Himself by atoning for our sins, if a person does that, he is the kind of person Peter is describing in verse 9.
The Peculiar Absence of Sin from Erwin's "Discipleship"
Erwin McManus doesn't believe in sin, at least not in the biblical sense. The sinful nature that holds dominion over lost sinners is not even a consideration for Erwin. Jesus's death on the cross was meaningful only in the sense that it cleared the way for us to become fully human, to be able to achieve our full potential. Oh, I'm sure Erwin believes in some form of atonement, but its more of a "you're all in unless you opt out" atonement where Jesus's death was universally applied to everyone at the cross and now we just need to embrace and unleash its power – "believe, belong and become" all you can be! That's the gospel according to Erwin. Oh, it includes evangelism, of course, but Erwin has also redefined that to mean nothing more than helping people find the unique fingerprint of God on their souls, that fingerprint that reveals their true self and unleashes that self to make its unique contribution to the "Kingdom of God." That sounds a lot like Abraham Maslow to me:
Human nature is not nearly as bad as it has been thought to be. In fact it can be said that the possibilities of human nature have customarily been sold short…Since this inner nature is good or neutral rather than bad, it is best to bring it out and to encourage it rather than to suppress it. If it is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful, and happy.
Maslow is best known for his humanistic "Hierarchy of Needs," as well as for introducing, along with Carl Rogers, the idea of the Third Force in psychology – humanistic, existential psychology which stressed human freedom and potential. What is not as well known is that in his later years he introduced still another Fourth Force – transpersonal psychology. This Fourth Force was clearly occultic in nature, having to do transcendental meditation. It was in developing this Fourth Force that Maslow appended his pyramid which previously capped off with self-actualization by adding "transpersonal," i.e. self-realization. His work is held in high esteem by yoga masters, astrologers and other New Agers.
Erwin's "ministry" and "preaching" places a great deal of emphasis on the "self." Of course, he, like most Emergent types, uses Christian lingo to make his apostasy sound biblical Add a verse or two here and there, taken out of context (who's gonna know since there's no one being biblically discipled), and you've got a pretty cleverly disguised heresy masquerading around as authentic Christianity. But don't be deceived. Spirituality, yes. Authentic Christianity, no. It's New Age, humanistic, and demonic!
Erwin's "discipleship" program consists of a three-step process. First, he gets people as far away from sound doctrine, from discipleship, from knowledge of the Word of God, as he possibly can. That leaves them blank slates; empty containers ready to be filled. (Now who are the clones?) Second, he gets people to discover how they are unique and valuable "to God" (self-actualization). And third, he helps people to transcend themselves by letting God unleash them and their potential to "create the future" that God imagines (transpersonal/self-realization). First of all, without truth/doctrine, how can we know what God is imagining? Without objective truth, it's all subjective opinion and projected "reality." And second, is "imagining" an word we should be attributing to our sovereign God "who works all things according to the counsel of His will"(Eph 1:11), who "declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done" (Is 46:10)?
I say it again, don't be deceived. Erwin likes to mix a little truth in with every lie. But then, that's been going on since the Garden of Eden, hasn't it? Beware of this man's teachings. They tickle the ears, but deep down, they are poison.
I'll have more to say in my upcoming articles concerning Erwin's teachings and how they depart from sound doctrine. This little article serves as more of an introduction to Erwin's philosophy of discipleship and his distaste for biblical doctrine. So stay tuned.
Finally, I leave you with this warning from the books of Colossians:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spiritsof the world, and not according to Christ. (Col 2:6-8)
Distributed by www.worldviewweekend.com
 Mike Corley did a radio program entitled "Christianity 101" featuring Erwin's speech before the SBC. That program is no longer available at Mike Corley's link at Oneplace.com, but I've contacted Mike and he is working on sending me a link to that program. If it arrives, I will post it in my next article.
 The interview was on January 27, 2007. Drew Marshall said to Erwin, "You don't describe yourself as a pastor," to which Erwin responded, "No, I don't."
 There are some web interviews where Erwin has stated his dislike of Christians, but one particular quote from Erwin goes like this: "My wife tells me, 'You don't even like Christians. I say, 'and?"
 The Bible sees sin primarily as a violation of God's infinite holiness. Therefore sin must be punished with infinite severity. In Emerging Church philosophy however, sin can have multiple meanings such as interpersonal sins (against others), environmental sins (against nature), structural sins (homophobia, racism, etc.) and personal sins (defined as "actions harming oneself.") See Emerging Church, Liberal Theology, and Liberation Theology at www.wikipedia.org
 Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, 3rd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 1968, 1999), p. 5.
 While there are several websites that elaborate on this Fourth Force, they are New Age in nature and I cannot recommend them without prayerful discernment. That being said, there is a somewhat neutral website dealing with Maslow: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/maslow.html.
 No offense to my readers, but I am going to refrain from directing you to sites that are occult-oriented – New Age, yoga, astrology, etc. If you have discernment enough, you will find abundant research done on Maslow, Rogers, Jung and other psychologists' connection with the occult.
 In the Catalyst Video Talk, Erwin said, "If we as spiritual leaders are called to do anything, we are called to invest our lives in the community of faith to the body of Christ to the Church of Jesus Christ and begin to shape and create and unleash and nurture and develop and maximize what God imagines today that He commands for us to make a reality tomorrow."
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I believe its this kind of Christ follower on Christ follower attacks that make Jesus un-attractive to people who dont know Him, or His LOVE. I am a supporter of the message and teachings of Erwin Mcmanus because they are that of Christ.
|Posted On: 01/17/12 03:53:44 PM
||Age 0, CANADA
Foster is right
Foster's analysis is entirely true. I've attended Mosaic for 3 years. Erwin McManus is an apostate, and a dangerous one because he uses passionate reason to lead people away from the Biblical Christ. These posters above are an example of the cultish devotion McManus fosters.
Do you see Bill Hybels or Jim Cymbala or Rick Warren's congregants responding in this paranoid fashion?
|Posted On: 04/09/08 12:52:11 AM
||Age 31, CA
Re: Re: Erwin McManus’s False Teachings
I could not agree more. Almost all of you articles are personal rants against Mosaic and Erwin. I wonder if you really if you are interested in revealing th truth or just bashing McManus. Maybe try commenting on the principles without naming names. That will show you are sincere about the principles and not the person.
|Posted On: 09/03/07 10:06:48 PM
||Age 32, CA
Re: Re: Erwin McManus’s False Teachings
Yep, a friend would call that whole article "Adventures in Missing the Point"
|Posted On: 07/11/07 01:21:46 PM
||Age 33, FM
Re: Re: Erwin McManus’s False Teachings
You said, "McManus didn't say "doctrine," he said "doctrines." The difference is huge."
Please enlighten us all on this huge difference you are talking about.
You said the article went downhill from there? Because Foster did what? Went back to the Bible? I think his exposition of scripture is pretty good. Interesting you thought using it was downhill!- Lloyd
|Posted On: 07/09/07 05:05:09 PM
||Age 44, AL
James Robinson's got him on today's "Life Today" program.
|Posted On: 07/09/07 09:33:26 AM
||Age 20, NC
Re: Erwin McManus’s False Teachings
Your rants and personal vendetta against Erwin is getting very tiresome and comes off exactly as that - personal attacks against someone who has hurt you.// Obviously since you once worked for him, you must of had a falling out - and you may say it's all about doctrine - but the way you are so vicious in your attacks indicate there was a huge personal piece to the seperation. // I think you twist and manipulate his words over and over. // I would suggest you move on and try to do something productive with your gifts and zeal than to keep tearing Erwin down.
|Posted On: 07/06/07 11:33:31 AM
||Age 50, MN
Re: Erwin McManus’s False Teachings
Foster distorts McManus' words and draws the wrong conclusions. For starters, McManus didn't say "doctrine," he said "doctrines." The difference is huge. The article goes downhill from there.
|Posted On: 07/06/07 07:43:38 AM
||Age 51, MN