James Robison is embracing charismatics—to the chagrin of many fellow Southern Baptists.

Southern Baptist evangelist James Robison has some new friends, including highly visible charismatics Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, and Kenneth Copeland. Robison, who says he was released from demonic oppression two years ago, is shedding his reputation as a fundamentalist.

Evangelists within his denomination are distressed with his new theology. They contend that he has erred in his biblical interpretations on divine healing and warfare with demons. They also say he has become too critical of denominations and local churches. His influence on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was the subject of a 4-page article in the Baptist Standard, the journal of Southern Baptists in Texas.

A Fort Worth crusade evangelist and television preacher, Robison is no newcomer to controversy. He was at the forefront of the “Religious Right” movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980. During Robison’s fundamentalist days, he was known for his fiery denunciations of homosexuality, women’s liberation, evolution, and secular humanism.

The emphasis of his message has changed. Robison now talks about demons, supernatural healing, and “doing the works of Jesus.” Such changes led evangelist Freddie Gage to leave Robison’s ministry earlier this year. Gage charges that Robison is now part of a “cult.”

“All these men said I was God’s prophet until I say something that they don’t agree with,” Robison says. “Then I’m not a prophet—I’m a cultist.”

The charge of cultism stems from Robison’s association with Milton Green, a former Tennessee carpet cleaner turned Bible teacher. Robison credits Green for facilitating his deliverance from demonic oppression. In an Alabama motel room, Green asked to pray for Robison. The evangelist says Green rebuked several evil spirits. Two days later, Robison says, he was free from “a clawlike feeling that had often blocked my thoughts.”

Robison and Green have since conducted seminars in Texas and in several southeastern states. For three days, from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., they review a multitude of Scripture verses, many related to divine healing and spiritual warfare. There has been no emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit or on speaking in tongues. Robison says he believes tongues is a valid spiritual gift, but adds, “I don’t have that gift.”

The seminars have become sore spots for a number of Southern Baptist leaders, including SBC president Jimmy Draper. Draper is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Euless, where Robison is a member.

Article continues below

Draper says Robison and Green engage in too much allegorizing of Scripture. He mentions as an example their belief that demons attacking the church today are symbolized in the Old Testament by Babylonians and any nations attacking Israel from the north. With such an approach to Scripture, he says, “a person can make it mean anything he wants it to.”

Draper and others also criticize the teaching by Robison and Green that demons are the cause of most diseases and other human problems. Manley Beasley, a revivalist who addressed Robison’s annual Bible conference in previous years, has asked a lawyer to document the death of a sugar diabetes patient who went without medication after Green proclaimed healing in Oklahoma City.

“I believe it [the seminar controversy] has set back revival among Southern Baptists by 20 years,” Beasley says. “The revival movement has lost its credibility” because Robison and Green have espoused “truth out of balance, which is error.”

Robison says his ministry is not intended to hurt any denomination, but to promote Christian unity. “If Baptists won’t receive the fullness of God’s work—or any group won’t receive it—then their structures are going to collapse.”

Many Southern Baptist pastors—including W. A. Criswell of Dallas’s First Baptist Church and Bailey Smith, immediate past president of the SBC—have canceled Robison’s speaking engagements in their churches. They are concerned about such frequent statements by Robison as, “The church has lived in darkness for centuries,” and “One of the darkest places you’ll find on this earth has got a steeple on top of it.”

His new allies are supportive of his change in direction. “He is totally committed to bringing the body of Christ together, according to the prayer that Jesus prayed,” says Jim Bakker, host of the “PTL Club.” “I have a hard time believing that true Christians could criticize a man for preaching the love of God.”

Robison has apologized to Bakker, Oral Roberts, and other charismatic leaders for the animosity he once showed toward them. His gestures opened up new opportunities, including speaking engagements at Oral Roberts University. Ben Kinchlow, cohost of the “700 Club,” a telecast Robison once vowed never to visit, interviewed him on the show in December.

The evangelist says his new direction has not reduced his ministry’s finances. He reports a continuing budget of $1 million a month, much of it spent for producing and airing his half-hour weekly telecast on 110 stations and on the CBN and PTL networks. He also broadcasts a daily hour-long show in six markets.

Article continues below


Humanism Suffers From A Lack Of Young Leadership

Astronomer Carl Sagan is the only person most Americans can identify as a humanist celebrity. His name and face are familiar as a result of his 1980 “Cosmos” television series.

That poses a problem for organized humanism. Apart from Sagan, the movement’s leaders are known by only a handful of people. Sagan accepted the Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association in 1981, but he is reluctant to accept the role of spokesman for organized humanism.

If anyone wears the mantle of “Mr. Humanist,” it is Paul Kurtz, professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Last year he announced the establishment of the Academy of Humanism to call attention to living humanists. Thirty laureates were honored for devotion to free inquiry, commitment to a scientific outlook and the use of reason toward nature, and upholding humanistic ethical values.

Kurtz was asked recently who would be the top candidates for a contemporary “humanist hero.” He mentioned Sidney Hook, 81, professor emeritus of philosophy at New York University and part of the five-member secretariat of the Academy of Humanism. Asked to narrow the list to younger persons, Kurtz named several already tapped as academy laureates—author Isaac Asimov, 64; sociobiologist Edward 0. Wilson, 54, of Harvard University; Sagan, 45; and two scientists born in the 1940s, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and anthropologist Donald Johanson.

In April, the American Humanist Association honored Asimov as Humanist of the Year and gave Gould the 1984 Humanist Distinguished Service Award. Johanson was presented the latter award last year.

Maxine Negri, a retired psychologist from Los Angeles, acknowledges the need for younger humanist spokespersons. National vice-president of the American Humanist Association, she says scientist Linus Pauling would be a “humanist hero,” adding, “I’d like to see some younger ones, too.”

Kurtz says the lack of “charismatic leadership” is only one reason organized humanism is failing as a mass movement. In addition, he says, it lacks “an inspiring message of sufficient clarity and drama to command public attention.” He adds that the strategy of trying to become another religious organization rather than a broad-based educational movement has hurt humanism.

Article continues below

A small step in the educational direction was taken when the Humanist Institute was opened in New York to train leaders. The institute was formed last August by the North American Comittee for Humanism. However, at an organizational meeting, Kurtz declared that the movement had “collapsed and does not exist in North America.”



Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., has named Mark D. Taylor as president and chief executive officer. Taylor will take over responsibilities from his father, Kenneth N. Taylor, author of The Living Bible paraphrase and founder of Tyndale House. The younger Taylor has been with Tyndale since 1973. His father plans to promote the work of Living Bibles International, which has produced translations of The Living Bible in more than 100 languages.

William S. Barker, president of Covenant Seminary in Saint Louis, has been named editor and publisher of the Presbyterian Journal, an independent weekly published in Asheville, North Carolina. Barker succeeds the late G. Aiken Taylor, who resigned last year.

W. Ward Gasque has been elected president of the Canadian Evangelical Theological Society. Gasque, 44, is professor of New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Baptist theologian Clark Pinnock will serve as vice-president.

Jonathan Petersen, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, has joined United Press International (UPI) Radio in Washington, D.C., as religion news editor, UPI is competing with Forest Boyd, whose International Media Service reaches Christian radio stations through the Moody Broadcasting Satellite System, UPI formerly distributed Boyd’s newscasts, but he cancelled his contract when UPI insisted on exclusive distribution rights.

Former Reagan administration appointee Carl Horn lost his bid for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a Republican primary in North Carolina. Horn has served as legal counsel to Wheaton (Ill.) College and the Christian Legal Society. He formerly worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

James W. Clark, executive vice-president of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, has been elected president of the Protestant Church-Owned Publishers Association. The organization represents some 30 denominationally owned publishing houses. It provides training opportunities and encourages cooperative ventures among publishers.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.