Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho and the Chameleon Gospel
By Mark W. Bassett
We are in a time of global communication, and the merging of many cultures. Perhaps metropolitan cultures of this time could be likened to Corinth of old, where the crossroads of the world weave together the ideas of every nation. Whereas Corinth overlooked the Agean, Mediterranean and Asian peoples, and inherited their philosophical merchandise, the modern Corinth entertains the peoples of all the world.
This modern Corinth is reflected strangely in the recent appearance of numerous diverse doctrines in Christendom.
The recent growth of pseudo-christian ideologies is remarkable in contrast to the limited cults and sects which were the natural result of the 16th Century reformation, and the final liberation of religious thought in the political haven of the new world. Denominational organization resulted in 20-30 truly distinct denominations each of which was stable for at least eight to ten decades. Minor administrative variations, altered interpretations of key scriptures, and the characteristic slide from zeal toward institutionalism did little to radically altar basic the concepts of Protestantism. Even the quandary caused by the Vatican II council and the subsequent “charismatic” movement, did little to effect the basic expressions of the clerics.
Basic ideologies and doctrines were not easily effected by the phenomenon of religious experience. After all, Christendom at large viewed, with minor differences, the same scriptures. The greatest commonly recorded conflict until a decade or more ago, was that of Modernism vs Conservativism. This battle, though fought between religious affiliates, could be seen as little more than the classic argument between objectivity and subjectivity. Fundamentalism of this day is objectionable to the intellectual tradition of creative thinking.
History tells several stories, but one of the least told is that of the Pentecostal outpouring that came to this new world like clockwork at the waking hour of this century. To this day the official statements of major denominations go to lengths to stress that any Pentecostal-ish phenomenon within their ranks originated with what they call the “second wave renewal of the early seventies. The Vaticans recognition of internal renewal movements provided for the eventual maturity of ecumenical spearheads using the anti-doctrinal, phenomenalistic interests of spiritually inclined individuals such as Dennis Bennet, David DePluess (Mr Pentecost), Kathryn Kuhlman. Combined with regular meetings sponsored by the WCC, and recognized by the Vatican, a interoperable attitude developed where this idea of distinctness from the Pentecostal Movement was kneaded into a permanent form and adopted as a truism.
In a separate arena, beginning in the 1950s, another force began to arise. Modern Evangelicalism which is largely the child of Protestant growth movements. One should not be confused that Evangelicalism is any
less intellectual in origin than other religious trends. It would surprise evangelicals to see pragmatism, and subjectivism as the roots of their movement. The making of the gospel to be ‘palatable’ to the masses, and providing an expression which is engineered to be compatible with the needs of society is not a first. The World Emperor Constantine had ordered such a task as he chaired the council of Nicea. Commercial
publications such as Christianity Today record the progress made along this front. Here we will find Billy Graham applauding Norman Peale with “I dont know anyone who has done more for the Kingdom of God than Norman.” Emil Brunner contributes a definition of the evangelical roots with his statement “The orthodox doctrine of verbal inspiration has finally been destroyed”.
This movement by principle brought the horrendous paraphrase “The Living Bible” to the forefront, and
engineered an attitude which discouraged asking for credentials, and embraced the “feelings” of a christian well above the authoritative position of the exacting inspired script of the Bible. If the Living Bible’s text were correctly laid down, which it is not, the chilling encouragement to uncritically accept an individuals careless and unsupervised handling of the Word of God should raise a eyebrow concerning this movement. Recognize the background presence of many highly intelligent theologians and the absolute lack of a holiness movement among the evangelicals. Foremost in this review is the fact that the evangelical movement represents itself as distinct from its ancestry, and progressive, but no concrete discussion of doctrine can be heard above the repetition of the definitions of “orthodoxy”.
A generation downstream from these mid 20th century stirrings, an odd thing began to manifest. Numerous individuals with genuine or pseudo-Pentecostal backgrounds began to be accepted among the ranks of the evangelicals. However, these individuals have never been associated with the early 20th century revival. Into that I am declaring to be a completely rootless religious movement come the following individuals:Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, Zig Ziglar, Kenneth Copeland, Buddy Harrison (Hagin’s son-in-law), Don Gossett, Richard Price, Earl Paulk, Pat Robertson … and the list goes on, and on. Oral Roberts joined the group, as well as James Robeson. Everyone should know someone on this list. So few people understand that so called “christian artists” often represent these individuals in one sense or another, and I am therefore obligated to add the names of numerous “praise and worship” specialists, or musicians.
To this long list of individuals who are associated with the late twentieth century’s departure from objectivities and reason, I will add the subject of this article, Dr Paul Yonggi Cho. Cho is noted as the
author of the biography Dream Your Way to Success, and best-sellers including Solving Lifes Problems, Successful Home Cell Groups, Suffering … Why Me ? ,The Fourth Dimension, and The Fourth Dimension Volume 2.
He is known internationally as the pastor of the worlds largest christian congregation, numbering over 500,000 in Seoul, Korea. It is because of the size of his congregation and the techniques that he has
written on involving Cell Groups and Faith that he is known to us in the USA. Dr Cho has preached in numerous US Pentecostal Churches, including a number of Oneness Churches. The phenomenal size of his congregation is of great interest to men who desire to accomplish a great work, whether for the cause of the gospel, or for their own name’s sake. The Cell Group ministry has been successfully employed in the United Pentecostal Church, particularly in urban situations where a single Mother Church serves many surrounding areas. Cell Ministry is clearly akin to the fellowships which occurred in the early Church and the picture painted in Acts 2:42-47 in realized in the modern day, in cell ministry. Dr Cho did not invent, not discover cell ministry. I am not sure that it can be proven that he gave the idea this name, but it is presently associated with the name Cho, probably because of the attendance figures of his “church”. In fact his books are always sold under the label, “pastor of the largest church in the world”.
In his writing Dr Cho emphasizes the following thoughts:
1. The power of visualization as an expression of faith and accomplishing the end of faith
2. Effective prayer through specific expression
3. Inherent power in dreams and visions
4. Power of the Holy Spirit in personal activity
Central to all of Cho’s writing is the concept of the equivalence of faith and imagination. He often stresses that the power of the human mind is used to obtain by faith, those things which are desired by the
individual. He refers to the dreams of Abraham and Jacob as evidence that God purposes to produce realities through visualization. One must believe that it is attractive to some ministers as Cho describes how he “gestated” a vision of a church growth rate of 1000, then 5000 per month.
Cho illustrates his points with Bible references, which appear to be chosen to support his expressions. For example, the principle of confession (from Rom 10:9, and Mark 11:23-24) is described as the creative power behind the obtaining of a husband for a woman whom he counseled. This support is added as he describes how she was required to identify the race, profession, hobbies and so on of the husband she
desired. She was instructed to review the list daily as the ‘vision of faith’ incubated.
Akin to the subjectivists and charismatics of the above paragraphs, Cho identifies the domain of activity which escapes the domain of understanding as that of the “Holy Spirit”. Somehow, in this domain, all
things are possible, being no longer restrained by the mental operation. How similar his “Forth Dimension” [which is what Cho calls the domain of operation of man involved with the “Holy Spirit”] is to the element of change which allowed the radical departure from doctrine of the recent decades. In contrast consider the Pentecostal revival where doctrine was solidified, and indeed the Apostolic gospel gained uniform understanding among numerous unbridled preachers now equipped with “a sure word of
prophecy” and the printed scriptures, perhaps for the first time ever together ! Very shortly large organizations formed based on Bible doctrine pertaining to the Apostolic message of salvation, whereas
formerly, issues had involved ritual, hiearchy, or observances. We can not be deluded ! God’s movement in this era is not to dilute doctrine, and understanding but to make the truth of God’s word and the plan of
salvation available and understandable to everyone.
Cho’s encouragement in the realm of visualization is nothing short of witchcraft, even though spattered with scripture and popular references to the Holy Spirit. Cho explains that, through a series of communications with God he came to understand that the power wielded by sorcerers, and magicians is available to them because of innate power of the human spirit operating in his “4th dimension”. He acknowledges that the spiritual power of which he speaks is not associated with salvation, but since Christians are related to the Creator, their power is therefore greater than that of the magicians. Of course he refers to Moses, Janes and Jambres, and again the ability of Abraham to visualize himself becoming “many nations”.
It would be accurate to say that I have omitted a number of “good principles” which Cho writes on his trail to distributing his doctrines. I have, and I have also omitted considerable of what I consider to be objectionable. My point is to show the relationship of Cho and his American counterparts Capps, Tilton, Hagin and others to the present time. Given his history and the events of the last decade one might
imagine that Cho could have been instrumental in developing considerably more American interest in the doctrines of EW Kenyon, and the Unity School of Christianity than the American “Word of Faith” movement. My greatest interest is to point out the following matters:
* If history is any indicator, Cho’s “success” in S. Korea may well be due more to his willingness to preach what his congregation wants to hear and steer a course between truths, rather than any “4th dimensional” power. The Bernard’s UPC pioneer missionaries to Korea were called heretics and greatly withstood by the Yoiddo Full Gospel Church. His negative attitude toward the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ was
so severe that he publicly denounced the Bernard’s and their churches. In doing so he proclaimed that the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues was inessential, which contradicted his
own teaching to “parts” of his own church. When confronted his doctrine changed again. Under pressure he did issue an apology but refused to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, when Bro Bernard suggested that he would be able to call him Brother, if Cho were to do so. In observing the Yoiddo church, we might simply be seeing the great spiritual vulnerability of the Korean people, following the horrors of the Korean conflict.*
It should be known that the great majority of Cho’s church is not Pentecostal at all, but the services are conducted in the liturgical style of the native KPC (Korean Presbyterian Church). His representation
of his spiritual orientation is very probably known by his to be a required ticket into the very chaotic and charismatic theater of American religion. The timing of his introduction in the USA concurred with a great increase in activity of the “Word of Faith” movement, whose activities are pinned to doctrinal errors which Cho demonstrates. It is further understood that ancestor worship continues among many “Christians” who have put seemingly exchanged interests, without abandoning spiritualistic practices.
* Oneness Apostolics should understand that Cho is a Trinitarian, and is opposed to the use of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, exclusively, in baptism. His concept of the the sign evidence of th Holy Ghost is
typically charismatic in that he indicates it is a “prayer language”, and another gift of the Spirit, failing to distinguish between the tongues mentioned in 1 Cor 12:30 and the Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Mark 16:16 personal experience of Pentecost. Typically, and certainly in Cho’s case this understanding attends the error of “two baptisms” where it is believed that mental ascent is what is required to receive the Spirit needed for salvation (by Romans 8:9), and a separated “charismatic” baptism occurs for power, and gifts … etc. It is very surprising that Cho made inroads into the UPC and other organizations as deeply as he has. There are certainly reasons for this, which I will take up briefly, below.
* Cho’s concept of faith is completely incompatible with the Biblical mandate of calling on the Lord, and meeting him in obedience. Those who are short on obedience might be inclined to desire the cheap substitute of visualization. Indeed a pang of guilt might very well be satisfied in the advent of Cho’s “new revelations”.
I wonder if pride cannot be at the root of our willingness to accept the teachings of an individual like Cho, as it often turns up when we backtrack from an error. I believe that the heartfelt desire for revival which is common to the good Pentecostals of this generation, is tainted by two things.
First, men perceive their limited success in ministry as a shortcoming in technique, or as a failure to believe. Acting on the first, but professing the second and driven by the ambition for success, men turn
from the simple gospel, and the daily walk of faith to “spiritual technology” and numerical games which promise large attendance. Again, there is no shame in hard work, but when doctrine is traded for a promise of a church of 500,000 something is clearly amiss. Men have begun to believe that their names will appear alongside the Lord’s when the churchbuilding records are unfurled. What the pure unadulterated Word of God was unable to do, men are now asking the power of the imagination to accomplish. As Cho and fellow heretics declare, “Have faith in your faith”.
Second, the vision of revival and the call for humility has been taken up by the devil. He admonishes the people of the name not to be offended by the errors and the habits of the world’s religions. In that many
people have an unbridled desire to win the acceptance of the worldly religions, though of course with the justification of having ‘access to a witness’, time and weariness make gradual incursions into the strength
of doctrine and standard of separation maintained by Pentecostals. Those who championed the faith of the apostles now hope to see some interest in the doctrine on the part of fellow churchmen. There should be no
forgetting that men and women are won by the conviction of the Holy Ghost alone, in the place of their need, and through the faithful and patient witness of those who are “ready to give account of the hope that
lies in them”