A plea against quoting Scholars or ‘Church Fathers’

This is adapted from a letter I wrote to an unnamed pastor regarding quoting Church Fathers or other scholars or authors with no warning to the flock. (Please readers, talk to your pastor in love and humility. Don’t murmur and complain, bring your concerns to them in love and let the Lord work. In the reverse, please do not be shocked if some do not take it well).

I hope it will be o.k. to share a little of my history for a moment in love and concern.

When I was almost 4 years old, my younger brother died a tragic death. I was alone a lot, but not really considering I had already believed in Jesus. I was brought up in a sound Bible church, so I talked to Him quite a bit. I had a lot of Bible learning early for which I am so grateful. My parents went to the Church of the Open Door when they got married. My dad’s pastor growing up was Talbot, and then they were under J. Vernon McGee. My mom was raised a Methodist, and had a lot of torture in her early life because of the teachings that you could lose your salvation.

In my early teens I went to a Christian High School, where I was introduced to both Reformed and Arminian thinking. I knew then it wasn’t matching up with what the Bible said, although I didn’t know all the tenets of either. I just didn’t believe you could lose your salvation. I knew the Bible said all our trespasses were forgiven at the cross. I also believed if I didn’t confess a sin and died, I wouldn’t be lost (contrary to what some were saying).

I found the reformed teaching very cold, stiff and hard in some cases. Demanding some things I knew I was not capable of. A couple who believed these ways were popular there, so I wasn’t well liked by some of them. If not for some of my athletic capabilities (and my academics were good too), I don’t believe they would have likely kept me for so long.

Fast forward into my entrance into college at 16. The reason I bring up my age, is I started early due to the tragedy of the loss of my brother I believe (along with my late December birthday). I was not ‘invited back’ unless I came to a conference with my parents. We did, but the reasons were vague and didn’t make much sense. I believe to this day, the rejection were mainly for my stance against some of their teachings. So, I chose instead to quit to go to a public school and graduated a year early.

I began floundering when I entered college, I was too young to figure out this big world (for me at the time), and especially stumbling with the wisdom of men vs. the wisdom of God. I’ll skip some of my life, except to say I spent it in ‘Christian’ teachers and books, what a waste.

I loved the Bible at one time, but some dear pastors I loved and respected, also loved men in error and frequently quoted them (with no warning at all).

Most don’t seem to find a problem with it, but what do people like me do? We want to learn, and if our dear respected pastor quotes these men, then we should know them too.

I’d like to share some of the men my pastors shared that led me down a precarious path to load-ship* and other errors.

This list is not all inclusive. Spurgeon (awful Turn or Burn sermon along with Calvinism), Augustine (father of Calvinism and Catholicism really), Luther (antisemite among other things), Calvin (terribly murderous tyrant), A.W. Pink (hugely legalistic and very hyper Calvinist), John MacArthur (current popular Calvinist) Brennan Manning (ex-Catholic priest into a lot of emergent, contemplative and mystical teaching), Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life, social gospel, mystical, contemplative, new-age etc,), Thomas Merton (mystical), Henri Nouwen (mystical), James Dobson (Focus on the family psychologist, false gospel of turn from sins, counting cost etc.), Billy Graham, John Bunyan, Bonhoeffer etc. (Anyone that would like to know some of the problems I may have with any particular person, please ask).

        *My definition for lordship is load-ship is for the loads they bind on people too heavy to bear.

Church History and Church Fathers

In the ‘church history’ I learned, I wasn’t feeling what others were feeling as they raved over these men. I felt it must just be me somehow, maybe because I was lacking spiritually or too judgmental. So I began to delve more and more into it, intent on studying and learning it. I remember having my huge Church History book with me out on the patio of a restaurant and thinking I was really learning something very important.

I also got out the Institutes of Christianity and poured over it. I was surely too dumb to learn any of this ‘higher’ thinking, (and was told in later years it was because I was reprobate), but one thing I could see clearly — Calvin adored Augustine. To my recollection he quotes him almost 900 times. So I then delved into the Bishop of Hippo (or Augustin) and learned about Manichaeism, and then his subsequent switch from free will to no free will. I ran across his ‘conversion’ testimony early, and was dismayed he said he heard a girl or boy’s voice chanting in French saying ‘take up and read’ (3 times). This didn’t sound right, and even more, it wasn’t the Biblical gospel that he was converted by. No mention of Christ dying for his sin, or Christ’s resurrection from the dead, but about Augustin putting off the lusts of the flesh and putting on Christ. (A good thing for believers to do once they have been born again by believing the gospel). He felt God spoke to him because he had been told Antony had also been converted by reading, “Go and sell all you have and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven”… Augustine read the passage in Romans 13:13-14, an admonition to the believers that had no message of the gospel in it. I don’t know whether Augustine was saved, nor would I judge that. I do know he was a Roman Catholic Bishop who is the father of both Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. I know I don’t need to tell most of you about that.

Why do I share these things with you?

By the time I was in my mid 30’s I had acquired an impressive library. Some were beautiful leather bound commentaries, some old, and beautiful. Wall to wall books that I could access from my wonderful huge bookshelf — and yet then came the first ‘storm’. We had moved, and I had my third baby (a newborn), and we had not yet put up the books. They were in the sunken living room some in boxes, some I had gotten out and stacked in a row by theme, author, etc. Perfect, for the flood (which came from the broken kitchen pipe) soaked them and destroyed basically hundreds of books.

Over time in the next decade I acquired more error which most didn’t survive in the microburst of 2006 (I’m a slow learner). I did keep some as ‘false reference books’ because I was to learn people don’t accept when you say one of their beloved anointed said something. They generally will say, ‘you are not quoting him correctly’ or ‘where did he say that’? (Even though you referenced the book and page number). Even pictures of the page doesn’t suffice for those who adore their prophets.

Wasted days and Wasted nights

I know I just quoted a Country Western song. But my life was full of what I feel was so much time wasted time — knowledge of these men in ‘church’ history. I’m not saying someone cannot study them in school, but it should be with much caution and understanding of the error of their teachings. We have to take heed to the doctrine, it will save us from much heartache (1 Tim 4:16). I hope I’ve forgotten more than I ever learned from any of them.

But the error in their teachings lingered on in my life. My 8th baby was coming in 2002, and after delivery, I spoke to a nurse friend about my concern for the spots on my husband’s spots face and his persistent coughing. After seeing a doctor shortly thereafter, he was told to go home and get his affairs in order, he had no time to live. He was my best friend in the whole world, never had a friend like that in my lifetime besides Jesus, but Jesus was no longer someone I knew very well. But I did know plenty of these men’s suppositions about Him (probably why I had no fellowship with Him). Fortunately my husband had taught me of the unconditional love of Christ (seen in Eph 5), and I was able to seek His face again in trust by praying simply (and in great sorrow and exhaustion), “Lord help me”. Also, “Lord help me to want to even WANT to do the right thing”. I knew two things were needed, time with the Lord hearing His Word (Lk 10:38-42), so I determined to try (with His help) to pray for more things and read the Word each day even if just a little bit.

The Lord gave my husband 7 plus more years, and I feel like I got the other part of the Hezekiah years as I suffered in losing such a big part of me, I thought I would not be able to recover. By the time my husband went to be with the Lord, I had been revived and strengthened by His Word, because I had stopped reading the books, and started delving back into His Word again which heightened my appetite for truth. If we do not read His Word I believe we become like anorexics and have no appetite for it. We have to feed ourselves a little bit with the right attitude (with God’s approval in mind – 2 Tim 2:15), praying and asking for His help.

And in that experience in my life, I was ever more so aware of the damage and harm that could come from people quoting men. My old pastor moved on to be President of Phoenix Seminary, I took some classes from him, but his compromise had become evident over time. Last class I took was his seminary class on Revelation. Last time I saw him on the picture of a Scottsdale magazine something to do with Yoga and I just shook my head sadly. Wayne Grudem was also an elder at my church back then. I didn’t know why I couldn’t stand to listen to him, I tried, I really did. I decided to do his tapes, to stop, to start, to look at context, and yet my ears were stopped, I just could not… I know why now.

The “Ragamuffin Gospel” didn’t turn too many pages before I quit reading it. It was telling me nothing but nonsense. All I desired then was a closeness to God, yet Brennan Manning didn’t quite seem to have it right at all. Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton was worth only kindling, if that. I felt in my reading His Word the Lord really touched me (so many times), but especially with Proverbs 22:17-21 one day. It assured me that as I applied my heart to His knowledge, He would teach even me — Even me. Because of all those other men in error I couldn’t hear or understand, I thought I was someone who just could not learn. But as I got into more of the strong meat of His Word, I could discern more between what was good and evil (Heb 5:12-14) and be saved from my faith being made shipwreck once again. I was learning truth, and that truth was setting me free.

I want to share from the depths about my deep wounding from these teachers, I don’t know how to express what loss it caused for me. I lost so many years — out of fellowship with my Savior, my own gospel rendered ineffective. I had to un-teach my children (seven were still at home when my husband died). I had to apologize to friends for my legalism in lordship I learned from each and every one of these false teachers. I also lost friends because of my move into truth. I pray for them, but I thank God for His Word (John 17:17; Ps 119:25-28; Eph 5:26; 1 Thess 2:13; 1 Thess 5:21; Acts 17:11).

I don’t know one Calvinist or Arminian who is not deeply rooted in the error of Loadship (yes I meant load). I started in the mid 2000’s speaking against the doctrine of some of these men (while my husband was still alive). But only as I felt the Lord had brought them across my path, because of some of the really terrible things that were said to me, I told the Lord I didn’t think I could bear it. I sometimes am sure that as some hear my story they feel I must somehow have earned the names:




Whores of grace..

I didn’t have the Spirit in me…

One ‘ministry’ called ‘Path of Truth’ said God had supposedly struck my husband dead because he didn’t have the Spirit (that ‘ministry’ also said God struck my dad with a stroke and mom with cancer after they stalked me on FB). Why did they say these things? I just wrote a couple sentences to them. I let them know I had done some research on the Mess-AGE ‘bible’ and would be happy to share my findings of some of the Occult Language in it such as ‘light-seed’, the ‘god of green hope’, ‘as above so below’ etc. For that, they said those things in front of other women. No fear, no shame, no love.

A whole fellowship of women snubbed me, would not even answer me, because I objected to some of Spurgeon’s teachings. I could go on, but the only reason I tell you this, is that I has told Him I didn’t think I was the right person to speak against error. I was too sensitive and didn’t like conflict one bit. I didn’t like being despised either. I am what people used to call Julie McCoy (love boat cruise director). I loved for people to love each other, and loved to hold up the underdog. But as I saw the canker of error, I couldn’t bear not to speak. I saw the hurts and damage done not only to me but to others I loved. How could I not earnestly contend for the faith once delivered? I know I am no one, and definitely the least of many, but how can I bear with those who corrupt minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor 11:3-4)

I don’t judge the salvation of these men, I do not know what they believed at one time. I don’t dare judge them to be unsaved, and I surely don’t dare judge them to BE saved. I also don’t call them brother, when I do not and never have heard a clear gospel from them, but conversely a gospel of faith + works (even as some falsely claim faith alone). I do know that I might be making a young one stumble if I quote them, as I did just that. Mine was a big stumble into fear and doubt and great sorrow. I thank God when my feet were slipping, His mercy held me up.  

Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Augustine

Why didn’t these Shepherd’s warn me that Wesley taught that you could lose your salvation? That Wesley wasn’t even sure he was saved at all at age 63 (letters of Wesley to his brother)? Why didn’t they warn me of Calvin and his murderous nature? Not just Servetus either. Expulsion of families from their homes — for missing church or denying infant baptism? Babies hands chopped off? Bernard Cottret (French Biographer) somewhat admired Calvin yet told of the many murders Calvin was complicit in. His council held his ‘Institutes of Christianity’ to be equal to the Bible. What heresy. Why didn’t my beloved pastors tell of Luther’s hatred for the Jews? Of his book ‘On the Jews and their lies’, why didn’t they warn me that the Nazi’s love to use as their handbook? That his 95 theses weren’t ‘quite’ what people painted them to be. It wasn’t some foundation for Christianity as I read them myself one by one. Why did these men point me to these people by quoting them instead of warning me of some severe doctrinal error?

When I asked pastors and teachers, some were just downright dismissive. Others were patronizing at first, and talked about ‘more mature believers’ understanding nobody is perfect. Others were downright mean. Some might simply thank me and not address it at all with me. One of the last asked me to leave the church if I didn’t like it. By then the pastor had claimed being a neo-Calvinist, had brought in all sorts of Purpose Driven programs, and now the church is joining hands in a partnership with Willow Creek church (Bill Hybels). Sick at heart over all the responses from bad to apathetic.

So dear Pastor, please, don’t quote men like these without warning they are not men to read, adore or to follow their teaching. At the very least, let them know of the areas of error. Please read Jeremiah 23 about suggesting these men even speak the oracles of God. Please don’t lay hands on these men suddenly. Please, I beg you in all sincerity, doesn’t the Bible have everything you need to feed your flock with (John 21:15-17)? Is it not enough? I shared all this in the hopes you will prayerfully rethink that for the many who have been made to stumble by these men.

In Christ’s love. Holly

(Please prove all things – 1 Thess 5:21, even and especially what I write).

Part 2 or a Response Article seen here

18 Responses to “A plea against quoting Scholars or ‘Church Fathers’

  • Jeffrey Barouch
    4 years ago

    I’ve just barely started skimming your article; always very well written….but how interesting that your parents attended Church of the Open Door, whose pastor was J Vernon McGee, a Dispensational teacher! That’s getting off to good start!

    • Jeffrey, my dad used to get into trouble with Talbot when he was pastor there. When they moved to AZ, the pastor was (I believe) and asst. pastor to J. Vernon McGee. So that church started small and was a sound Bible church for a long time. I don’t agree with all McGee said in latter years hearing a few things I wish he’d said differently, but I remember as a very little girl, my parents also had Bible study at the house where they had a reel to reel recorder (or something like that, it was big). We were already sent to bed, but when the socializing stopped and everyone sat down in the living room, I’d sneak out in my pajamas on the floor and listen to him drawl. One of his sayings was, ‘Now this is where the rubber meets the road’. I remember one man who attended, his name was Sam, he always sat in the only place that could see me laying on the carpeting in the hallway. He never told my parents, he would have his hand on the side of the chair where he’d do a little wave to me with his fingers and a wink sometimes. Now that was Grace <3

  • jasonc65
    4 years ago

    Fake pastors, through the centuries

    • Jason, I only wish some of the current pastors could see the problem and want to do something about it.

  • Stephen Whiting
    4 years ago

    Thank you, Holly. I am blessed beyond words that our Lord brought you into my life. I was laboring under so many untruths before you ‘came along’, and I’m supremely grateful that you opened my eyes and heart to so much correction and truth. I’m older than you, and pray our Lord maintains our friendship thru my elder years. Bless you, friend, and if our Lord ever allows me another journey out west, I dearly hope to visit you in person. I love you so much for helping me find/see the Truth. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. Bless you in Christ, dear lady, you and yours forever.

    Ever in our Lord,

    • Stephen, I appreciate that so much. You know it is many people who earnestly contended for the faith that opened my eyes to the things that weren’t lining up with Scripture. Those people patiently explained with Scripture why something was wrong. It was just different. They weren’t bullies, they weren’t condescending, they were examples to me. If you get the chance to come out West, I do hope you will visit. I have been so blessed to meet some people who I’ve become friends with who love the truth. Who would have ever imagined? And you are one of the ones who just wanted truth. It’s really more the one you are talking to vs. the one that is maybe sharing. Some want to know, some just won’t hear or even examine what has been said, and I just pray for them. God bless you Stephen. I don’t know if we’ll get elderly, or if we’ll be with the Lord soon. One way or another, we’ll see each other, Lord willing, this side of heaven.

  • Tim Bullard
    4 years ago

    I’m sorry. I was raised Baptist but became Greek Orthodox to get away from all that “being saved” nonsense.

    • Tim, thanks for commenting. So what does being Greek Orthodox do for you exactly? Not being sarcastic, I am just curious about how being Greek Orthodox will assure you of where you are going when you die (Heb 9:27)? Thanks Tim.

  • Well done! I see so much error on FB from people posting articles and quotes from false teachers. And they don’t realize the harm it does to those who lack discernment. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

    • Kathy, thank you! Good to see you again <3

      No, I don't think they realize the harm. They just love the quote or relate to it. I always think of what Jesus said about causing one of the little ones who believe in Him to stumble. People often equate that with just children. I think they better think long and hard about any who are young in the Lord that they lead into a dark period of error. Some just look at you as a trouble maker, others as just another malcontent. Some just think you are nitpicky or foolish. I pray just one pastor might take heed, or just one person might start 'proving all things'.

      This pastor I wrote, I had JUST mentioned him to my daughter and a couple of others in my women's Bible study. And within the day, one of the women told me that he had been quoting four of these men, Luther, Calvin, Augustine and Wesley. And someone else mentioned quoting Lord of the Rings although she didn't find the quote troubling, she did mention she hoped she was not going to hear more quoting, and just behind her another woman mentioned it.

      So I learn all the time to not lay hands on anyone suddenly. To 'prove all things' before I recommend anyone (1 Thess 5:21). I still think this young pastor has some good teaching, (although I will not recommend him again while he's quoting errant men), and I pray that he'll stick with the powerful Word and avoid these men who taught some pretty seriously heretical things. Love in Him.

  • Peter Murphy
    4 years ago

    Acts 8:26-40

    2 Peter 1:20,21

    • Thank you for the Scriptures Peter. I understand your point, and I’d like to add 1 Cor 4:6 as well

      And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

      The gist of the article is not that we do not have gifted teachers, or not that we cannot quote a sound man, but each one of the ones I named preached another gospel, another way to climb up, at least some point in their career, and will mislead little ones who believe in Him. There is a strict warning for that.

  • Didn’t Augustine later in life change his mind about Predestination, his early belief that God created some for heaven and the rest for hell?

    • Augustine changed his doctrine many times in his life. Blown about by various winds of doctrine.

  • Holly, do you know anything about a 4th century church father called Jerome? The name was familiar to me but I just started digging further. He might have been a contemporary of Augustine, and was insistent that faith was the gift of God in Ephesians 2:8. Apparently the Latin and Aramaic versions of the Bible were even translated that way explicitly, though it’s not in the original Greek. These days we have modern versions translating 1 John 3 as “keep on sinning” and some even have “repent of your sins,” but it seems that scripture tampering happened way back then too.

    • Hi DJ, yes, I’m familiar with Jerome, really minimally. I know he copied some things from other translators and was Catholic of course. I think there will always be enemies of the Word, but we are blessed to have so much available to us to contrast with other Scriptures and original languages as well as looking at context. We know in 1 John 3, the original word is to commit or do, it does not denote a continual action but literally a single action. The reason repent/repentance was distorted for so long was because of the Roman Catholic acts of penance, or being penitent, etc., words from out of the Latin were adapted in some of the translations unfortunately.

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