Overcoming disappointment with the church—part three

Reader questions Robert Schuller's orthodoxy

This month we continue reading and, as appropriate, commenting on the mail received in response to our forum on overcoming disappointment with the church.

Dear "Theophilus":

I read your article "Thoughts on How To Choose A Church" (Jan. Times). You asked for reader comments so I am sending mine.

You said that if you were living in Garden Grove you would join the Crystal Cathedral. You also said that you deplored their "civil religion."

Wouldn't one of your criteria for joining a church (preferably one which is true to the Bible and affirms the historic tenets of faith like the Trinity and the deity of Jesus) be what they are preaching? Robert Schuller has published many books that give his views on the Bible.

Those books show that Dr. Schuller does not affirm key parts of the Christian belief. Most of his books are readily available in bookstores so it should be easy to see what he believes.

Schuller's view of hell does not match up to the Christian position. He states, in Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Word Books, Waco, Tex., 1982, p. 14, "And what is `heIl'? It is the 1oss of pride that naturally follows separation from God—the ultimate and unfailing source of our soul's self-respect." He continues on pp. 14-15 by saying, "A person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem." The Bible presents a radically different picture of hell in Revelation 19:20 and 20:10-15 as well as in Matthew 25:41-46.

Schuller's view of Jesus is also at odds with the Bible. His view of Jesus is in The Be-Happy Attitudes (Bantam Books, New York, 1987, p. 225). He states: "If you want to find happiness—real, deep, forever happiness+then wrap up your lessons on the Be-Happy Attitudes by learning more about this man who wrote them and lived them: Jesus Christ. I have referred to him as the greatest possibility thinker who ever lived."

The Bible speaks of Him as fully God (John 1:1, 14, 8:58-59) as prophesized by the Old Testament Micah 5:2). Schuller's reduction of Him to someone in line with his views does not match what the Bible says about Him.

Schuller also has a distorted view of sin. His comment in the Self-Esteem book says, "`Our Father' is a call to be a family—and it is an invitation to find our pride in belonging to God's family. Would he tell us what miserable sinners we are? I think not." His subsequent comment on p. 157 of the same book only adds to the unbiblical view.

Verses like Mark 2:17 and John 8:7, 2 (and many others) show that Schuller has a wrong view of sin. Finally, Schuller has advocated a New Age technique called "visualization" where a person's mental pictures control his destiny through seeing one the way one wants to be. You (not God) control everything by your mental powers. His comments in his book, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!, (Bantam 1984), p. 224 states, "Set new goals. Believe you can reach them. Visualize defeat and you will be defeated.Visualize ultimate success, and you will achieve it. What you see is what you'11 be."

Job 38-41 shows how great God is and how man can never do anything like God did. Schuller's advocacy of visualization is not in line with what the Bible teaches.

If you want to go to a big church, it should be one of your criteria to read as much as possible of what the head paster writes.

Fortunately, Schuller has published many books, so finding his views and comparing them to the Bible is not dif˙icult. If he has other means of communicating his views, seeing him on television or listening to him on radio first would be highly recommended.

This should give you a good idea of his view on the central tenets of the Christian faith. If the gospel is not being properly preached, all the externals really don't matter.

I hope this letter gives you one perspective about finding a church. I hope to hear from you after you are through reading this letter.

—John Richards

Reply: I have read many of Schuller's books, and though I'm sometimes uncomfortable with some of his affirmations, his books are basically psychology, not theology, as he has often explained.

I believe heresy must be defined in terms of what a person denies of the basic tenets of Christianity, more than what affirmations he adds to the basics. Schuller's church affirms all the historic creeds and teaches justification by faith, personal spiritual regeneration, the divinity of Christ, and the Trinity.


Published March 1994.

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© 1994, 1995 Jon Kennedy