republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
Enlarged December 8, 2016 (first published September 4, 1998)
Max Lucado [pictured] is one of the most prominent and influential evangelical leaders on the scene today. His positive-oriented books and sermons are sold in most Christian bookstores, including the Southern Baptist LifeWay stores. He is a popular speaker at a wide range of conferences, including Promise Keepers, National Religious Broadcasters, and National Association of Evangelicals.
BAPTISM NECESSARY FOR SALVATION
Lucado is pastor of the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas. In June 1997, I talked with Lucado on the phone as well as with Elder Doyle Jennings of the Oak Hills Church. Both stated that they believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, but they do not believe in “baptismal regeneration.”
Thus we see that they have added baptism to the grace of Christ for salvation. This is standard Church of Christ error, and it is a very serious matter for it constitutes a false gospel.
Lucado has never renounced Church of Christ heresy and has maintained a close relationship with Pepperdine University and Abeline Christian University, both staunch Church of Christ institutions. A Pepperdine spokesman told Dennis Costella, editor of Foundation magazine, that Lucado has been featured seven times at Pepperdine lectureships (Foundation, March-April 2000). Costella was in a unique position to judge these things because he grew up in the Church of Christ and graduated from Pepperdine before repenting of Church of Christ heresies.
ETERNAL SECURITY NOT AN ISSUE
Elder Jennings said he does not accept the doctrine of eternal security, while Lucado said this doctrine is not an issue in the church and elders and people are free to accept it or reject it. This is very telling since a proper understanding of salvation results in eternal security for the believer. Those who believe a born again child of God can lose his salvation simply do not understand the gospel.
Consider the following biblical truths about salvation. These could be greatly enlarged.
1. Salvation cannot be lost because it is a free gift of God’s grace that cannot be mixed with works (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:3-8; Rom. 3:19-24; 4:4-6; 11:6). A gift means I receive something I do not earn; it refers to something that it absolutely free and unmerited. How can a gift be taken away? If it can be taken away, it ceases to be a gift!
2. Salvation cannot be lost because it is by imputation and substitution (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 9:10; Rom. 4:5). Salvation is an exchange. Christ takes the believing sinner’s place in condemnation, and the believer takes Christ’s place in righteousness. Christ imparts to the sinner something he does not have and does not deserve (righteousness). That is the meaning of the term “justification.” It means that the believing sinner is declared righteous on the basis of Christ’s atonement. How can such a thing be lost?
3. Salvation cannot be lost because it is an eternally new position in Christ. See Ephesians 1-3. The phrase “in Christ” is used 25 times. The theme of those chapters is the believer’s position in Christ. In contrast, Ephesians 4-6 describe the believer’s walk in this world. The term “walk” is used nine times in those chapters. This teaches us the important truth that salvation is a matter of position and practice, relationship and fellowship, union and communion, standing and state. The believer’s position and relationship with Christ is eternally secure the moment he is born again into God’s family, whereas his practice and fellowship change according to how he lives. The believer is a child of God forever though he might not be walking in sweet fellowship every day of his earthly sojourn. See Eph. 4:1, 30; 5:1, 3, 8, where this teaching is described.
4. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the teaching of election. Election does not destroy human responsibility (2 Th. 2:10-13; also compare Acts 13:46 with Acts 13:48). But divine election does promise security for the believer (Rom. 8:28-39). Predestination is not God choosing only some to be saved; it is God choosing the destiny of those who are saved (Rom. 8:29). Election guarantees glorification (Rom. 8:30) and promises that there will be no condemnation (Rom. 8:31-34; 1 Pet. 1:2-5).
5. Salvation cannot be lost because of the value of Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:24-25). The term “redeemed” refers to the price that was paid for our salvation. It describes the purchase of a slave and the setting free of that redeemed slave to serve the new loving Master. The term “propitiation” also refers to the price of salvation. It refers to the satisfaction of a debt or the price that is paid for the slave. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says we are bought with a price. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says the price was the blood of Christ, which is precious, meaning valuable. Romans 5:20 teaches that the price paid is much greater than the debt. If I can lose my salvation, it means that the price paid for it was not sufficient, that I must add something to it and if I do not add my part, I will be lost. Such a teaching greatly devalues the blood of Christ.
The doctrine of eternal security is the natural result of a right understanding of the gospel of salvation.
DOCTRINE NOT VERY IMPORTANT
In my phone conversation with Max Lucado and with Elder Jennings, I got the distinct impression that doctrine was not very important to them. After I hung up the phone from talking with Lucado, I wrote the following summary of my observations:
“Lucado said he represents a ‘movement of grace’ in the Churches of Christ, ‘a move away from legalism.’ I sense that we are seeing a movement away from the older rigid doctrinal positions of the various denominations by the younger men who have taken charge. I saw another example of this in a recent article in Charisma magazine about the United Pentecostal Church. It said some of the younger men are not satisfied with the past legalism and are willing to modify some of the finer points of their doctrinal position for the sake of ecumenism. Even the cults are joining in this movement, represented by the Worldwide Church of God. These new leaders are ecumenical and make no great issue of doctrine. Finer points of doctrine are meaningless. That is why something as important as eternal security is a non-issue with them. IT IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY MORE DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT THE HERESY OF HERETICAL CHURCHES. THE EASY-GOING, DOCTRINALLY-GENERIC CHURCH IS BECOMING THE NORM” (David Cloud, June 9, 1997).
Lucado holds an unscriptural view of Christian unity that is helping to break down the walls of separation between truth and error and that is preparing the way for the building of a one-world apostate “church.”
Lucado helped organize an ecumenical alliance of pastors in his hometown, which had grown to more than 100 some years back. The pastors were learning to “put away differences” in order to deepen personal relationships. The alliance includes women pastors, charismatics, and others. Cindy Daniel, for example, is co-pastor with her husband of Expect a Miracle Church. Newman Dollar, pastor of City View Christian Fellowship, who, with Lucado, was one of the founders of this ecumenical fellowship, told the San Antonio Express-News (Feb. 19, 2000) that he wants to see more pastors from Catholic churches participating.
Lucado was a signer of the deceptive “The Gift of Salvation” agreement between evangelicals and Catholics in November 1997. This declaration was also known as “Evangelicals and Catholics Together II.” We exposed the danger and error of this statement in the article “Evangelicals and Catholics Confusing the Gift of Salvation.” We observed that “The Gift of Salvation” is a bland and, in the ecumenical context, insufficient affirmation of the doctrine of biblical justification. In typical New Evangelical fashion, the evangelical authors and signers omitted many things that are necessary to properly delineate the true Bible Gospel from the false Roman Catholic one. For the most part, what they stated about justification is not inherently unscriptural; THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEM LIES IN WHAT THEY FAILED TO STATE. This, of course, is the root error of New Evangelicalism.
Lucado’s unscriptural view of unity was also evident when he spoke at the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. According to Promise Keeper leader Dale Schlafer, priests, bishops and pastors were present from every denomination in America. In fact, Promise Keepers had a Roman Catholic director for a couple of years, and Catholic priests have spoken at Promise Keepers events.
Lucado’s message at the Clergy Conference dealt with “Denominational Harmony: From Bondage to Freedom.” Lucado said, “I submit myself to the Word and there are core beliefs. However, for too long we have allowed our differences to divide us instead of our agreements to unite us.” He urged the men to subscribe to the premise, “In essentials unity--in non-essentials charity.”
The principle “in essentials unity--in non-essentials charity” is a smokescreen for disobedience to God’s Word. While not every teaching of Scripture is of equal importance, the Bible does not divide doctrine into essential and non-essential. Timothy’s job in Ephesus was to make certain that NO OTHER DOCTRINE be allowed (1 Timothy 1:3). There is no hint here that some portions of apostolic truth are “non-essential.” Paul labored to preach THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD (Acts 20:27). The man who strives to be faithful to every part of New Testament truth will find it impossible to be comfortable in an ecumenical environment. As one wise man observed, “You will have a limited fellowship, or you will have a limited message.”
Lucado had the 40,000 men shout the names of their denominations all together. The result was confusion, of course. Lucado then asked the crowd to state who was the Messiah. The ensuing response, “Jesus,” was heard plainly. The evident goal of this clever little exercise was to demonstrate the beauty and simplicity of ecumenical unity.
In Atlanta, Lucado claimed that “the sin of disunity causes people to go to hell!”
He then stated: “The step to unity is acceptance and no longer to speak evil of one another. WOULD IT NOT BE WONDERFUL NOT TO BE KNOWN AS EITHER PROTESTANT OR CATHOLIC? This is a God-sized dream and no one in our generation has ever seen the Church united.”
This is not a God-sized dream; it is the vision of the religious Harlot that John recorded in Revelation 17. Promise Keepers is confused about the church. The true church is not composed of all of the alleged Christian denominations. The focus on the New Testament Scriptures is upon the church as a local body of baptized believers organized according to the apostolic pattern for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). To define the “church” as the denominations of our day and to call for this hodgepodge of doctrinal and moral error “to stand together” is utter confusion. The denominations today are more akin to the Harlot of Revelation 17 than to the church of Jesus Christ.
According to Ralph Colas’s eyewitness report of the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference, “LUCADO THEN PLEAD THAT EVERY CLERGYMAN WHO HAD EVER SPOKEN AGAINST ANOTHER GROUP OR DENOMINATION, FIND A MEMBER OF THAT GROUP AND APOLOGIZE. Contemporary Christian singer Steve Green then belted out repeatedly ‘Let the Walls Come Down.’ The 40,000 ministers shouted, whistled, clapped, and cheered as they worked to a higher and higher pitch of emotion” (An Eyewitness Report on the 1996 Clergy Conference for Men, Atlanta, Georgia, February 13-15, 1996).
We are to apologize for warning people of false gospels and false baptisms and false spirits and false Christs and false sacraments and false mediators and false views of the church and false views of Scripture? We are to apologize for warning of sin and worldliness and compromise? I have spoken against many Christian groups and denominations, because God commands me to preach the truth AND to expose error (2 Timothy 4:1-6). I refuse to apologize for striving to obey God. By God’s grace I am going to keep on exposing error until the Lord takes me to Glory. And by God’s grace I am going to name names and be specific about the error and the sin so that those who have an ear will be able to heed the warning.
In his book In the Grip of Grace, Lucado thanks God for the Pentecostals, Anglicans, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.
Lucado is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He would have God’s people ignore false teaching for the sake of unity, and that is nowhere taught in Scripture. We are to mark and avoid false teachers (Rom. 16:17) and avoid those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). We are to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and it is impossible to earnestly contend for sound doctrine and to strive for ecumenical unity at the same time. Paul didn’t seek unity with heretics; he reproved them sharply (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:35-36; Gal. 5:7-10; Col 2:8).
Lucado gave his support to contemplative prayer with the publication of Cure for the Common Life. In this dangerous book he promotes the Buddhist-Catholic monk Thomas Merton who taught panentheism and universalism.
Merton was “a strong builder of bridges between East and West” (Twentieth-Century Mystics, p. 39). The Yoga Journal made the following observation:
“Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta [Hinduism] many years prior to his Asian journey. MERTON WAS ABLE TO UNCOVER THE STREAM WHERE THE WISDOM OF EAST AND WEST MERGE AND FLOW TOGETHER, BEYOND DOGMA, IN THE DEPTHS OF INNER EXPERIENCE. ... Merton embraced the spiritual philosophies of the East and integrated this wisdom into [his] own life through direct practice” (Yoga Journal, Jan.-Feb. 1999, quoted from the Lighthouse Trails web site).
Merton was a student of Zen master D.T. Suzuki and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The titles of Merton’s books include Zen and the Birds of the Appetite and Mystics and the Zen Masters. Merton said: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can” (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969, http://www.gratefulness.org/readings/dsr_merton_recol2.htm).
Merton adopted the heresy that within every man is a pure spark of divine illumination and that men can know God through a variety of paths:
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody. I have no program for saying this. It is only given, but the gate of heaven is everywhere” (Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton, 2007, DVD).
Merton said that monks of all religions are “brothers” and are “already one.” At an interfaith meeting in Calcutta, India, in 1968, sponsored by the Temple of Understanding, Merton said:
“I came with the notion of perhaps saying something for monks and to monks of all religions because I am supposed to be a monk. ... My dear brothers, WE ARE ALREADY ONE. BUT WE IMAGINE THAT WE ARE NOT. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are” (“Thomas Merton’s View of Monasticism,” a talk delivered at Calcutta, October 1968, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, appendix III, p. 308).
Merton used the terms God, Krishna, and Tao interchangeably.
In 2009 I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where Merton lived and where he is buried. Many books were on display that promote interfaith unity. These include Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scriptures), Buddhists Talk about Jesus and Christians Talk about Buddha, Meeting Islam: A Guide for Christians, and Jesus in the World’s Faiths.
For Lucado to quote Merton and to refer to him in a positive way is inexcusable and is evidence that he has made a total commitment to contemplative mysticism, regardless of what lame excuses he might make.
Lucado also quotes New Age mystic Martin Buber’s The Way of Man. Lucado promotes Buber’s New Age heresy that every man has a “divine spark.” He further quotes Catholic “saint” Thomas Aquinas, Eugene Peterson, and Richard Foster, the most prominent popularizer of Catholic mysticism today.
Lucado tries to package Catholic contemplative mysticism as an innocent and Scriptural evangelical practice. He even says it is not “mystical,” but this is false as we have proven in our free eBook Evangelicals and Contemplative Mysticism.
May God help us have the courage in these evil hours to honor and obey Him rather than man, to refuse to follow the crowd that refuses to follow the Bible.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).