TV’s Spiritual Outlaws

The Agony of Deceit, edited by Michael Horton (Moody, 284 pp.; $12.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Bruce Barron, Ph.D. candidate in religion at the University of Pittsburgh and author of The Health and Wealth Gospel (InterVarsity).

“While we were looking for air-conditioned dog-houses, the real scandal, the scandal of eternal weight, went uncontested,” writes Michael Horton, editor of The Agony of Deceit. The “real scandal” Horton has in mind is the doctrinal heresies he and his fellow contributors—including such prominent evangelicals as R. C. Sproul, C. Everett Koop, and the late Walter Martin—accuse American televangelists of promulgating.

Agony is not the first book to press such charges, but it has become the most publicized one since its unveiling at the National Religious Broadcasters convention earlier this year. While several of the chapters venture into other topics (the best of which is Ken Curtis’s essay on how Christians could relate more effectively to the world of secular television), the book returns repeatedly to its central theme that some of America’s most popular preachers have violated essential tenets of orthodoxy.

Kenneth Copeland, who has compounded his dubious statements on the deification of believers by refusing to talk to critics, is the most frequently cited culprit. But Robert Schuller, Earl Paulk, Kenneth Hagin, and Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network are also targeted. Sproul finds Jimmy Swaggart’s view of the Trinity heretical, and Horton sees serious deficiencies in Pat Robertson’s doctrine of sin.

The book’s greatest plus is its ability to focus on essential doctrinal points. Although the authors ...

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