e recently received another book by Chuck Smith, the erstwhile pastor/founder of theCalvary Chapel movement. Having seen Mr. Smith up close for many years (this writer was an avid aficionado of the church decades ago), and having written a book examining the teachings found in 6 prior Chuck Smith books (see the link below for details on the book Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel: Sound Doctrine Or Strong Delusion?), I found no surprises in a work entitled Calvary Chapel Distinctives.
The buzz word "Distinctives" is a rather slick, Madison Avenue style approach to the problem of perspectives, in that for a corporation to be competitive in today's religious supermarket, you need to have a gimmick, and Smith learned long ago to utilize the stereotypical bias of the counter-culture movement of the last 50 years to his benefit. The Calvary Chapel "movement," as it's identified by the cult that kidnapped Christianity (aka The Rapture Cult), was a movement of sorts, but it has long since matured into adenomination without the actual label "denomination" -- thus the very use of the word "Distinctives," utilized as a way to evade the perception of the "movement" as a denomination, is an intentional deception.
I first encountered the phrase "Distinctives" in a written rebuke I received some years back from one of Calvary Chapel's 1,000 plus pastors. However, history plainly shows prior "movements," in a religious context, were universally acknowledged as denominations when they became incorporated structures. The Millerite movement, built around the charismatic William Miller, became 7the Day Adventism (a denomination if there ever was one), Martin Luther generated the Lutheran church, John Wesley birthed the Wesleyan church, etc. Thus, with a tiny degree of caustic humour, and tongue firmly in cheek, we have dubbed Chuck Smith's monstrosity as the Smithereens.
At this juncture, I will interject the fact that Chuck Smith has a pastor's heart, is truly sincere, and has devoted himself tirelessly to what he believes to be the Gospel. Unfortunately, the same could be said for Harold Camping, the elderly fruitcake who just raked in millions via donations to spread the false prophecy of Christ's imminent return via the alleged "Rapture." The point is, it's not the sincerity or the pastoral devotion that is the problem here, it's the issue of the TRUE GOSPEL.
Having been down this road before, I already know most believers caught in the Rapture Cult instantly conclude we must hate Calvary Chapel, but those ensnared in the Antichrist movement of the cult (including all Smithereens) are notorious for their lack of accurate perceptions, to say nothing of their complete lack of Spiritual discernment. The fact is, we view Smith and the movement with the type of sadness one experiences when a beloved family member goes bad. It's sort of like having a parent (or honoured uncle, grandfather, etc) turn away from the LORD, and move into Gnosticism, or a Kabbalistic form of Christianity, all the while maintaining that God is showing them the way. Thus, we view Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel as casualties in the war with the wicked principalities and powers, and continue to hope and pray that God will jerk their collective chain, that they may move again in the direction of their first love.
The problem, of course, is the Rapture doctrine, which is the leaven that incrementally corrupted the tree of Calvary Chapel. Thus, even though Chuck is decidedly sincere in his pronouncements, someone needs to take him to task, so I proceed again in fear and trembling, with sword in hand.
One of the most glaring statements in the Distinctives work occurs as a kind of Freudian Slipin the book, and it's not surprising to find it in the chapter dedicated to the false doctrine of the Rapture. There, Chuck candidly provides us with a sad, but true statement:
"I believe that your view of the rapture will have a significant impact on the success of your ministry" (Distinctives, page 73).
What Chuck was trying to say is that God will bless your ministry as long as you are a Rapture proponent. The truth is, the one who is blessing that evil doctrine is the Spirit found in the children of disobedience -- and he, posing as God, is already sitting in the temple of God:
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the day of the LORD] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (II Thessalonians 2:3,4).
The temple in view is the body of the believers, as evidenced by the identical word repeatedly utilized to address the believers, in whom Christ dwells. The New Testament repeatedly tells us the collective believers comprise a Spiritual
"...building fitly framed together [which] groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21).
Thus, when the "falling away" (which is the Greek Apostasia, meaning to fall away from the truth) occurs, the body of Christ will inadvertently eject the Holy Ghost, and allow the Spirit of Antichrist to enter in, and they won't know the difference. This is the fate of Calvary Chapel.
Chuck Smith is a Rapture Cult teacher who is so deceived on the subject of the Rapture, that he has actually taught the falling away mentioned in the New Testament (the Greek word being associated with departing from the truth), is actually a reference to the Rapture itself! Thus, he tortures the text to make it confess to the idea the English usage of fallingactually means to depart into heaven. This is a compounded form of error, in that he is diminishing the efficacy of God's promise to preserve His Scriptures, in order to defend the false doctrine of the Rapture.
Most of us (even those who have zero understanding of the Greek) can recognize that falling down is a bad thing! To put it another way, how many of you expect to fall into heaven? The last time I looked, Jesus told us about another who fell:
"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven..." (Luke 10:18)
Incidentally, before leaving the subject of how Chuck Smith has categorically stated that a minister's perception/response to the Rapture doctrine has a direct correlation to the success (or lack thereof) enjoyed by one's ministry, I can wholeheartedly agree. However, God does not call people to success, God calls people to the truth found in Jesus Christ. The success found in any specific ministry is a corollary benefit. The emphasis on the success part, is how we arrive at an abomination such as the Purpose Driven Church -- a movement, which ironically, has detrimentally affected Calvary Chapel.
This addresses the idea that the Spirit of Antichrist seeks to subtly shift the emphasis to a relationship with some by product of, or corollary to, the truth -- rather than the truthHimself. This is, of course, the phenomena of the Dialectic, where our reception of the truthas an absolute, is dramatically impacted by our relationships. Jesus said He is the way, the TRUTH, and the life, and He also said
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law" (Matthew 10:34,35).
Although there are other factors present, it is largely because of these verses that I find myself in opposition to Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel, as well as the much larger diverse body of believers infected by the leaven found in the Rapture Cult.
Earlier I noted how the Spirit of Antichrist, there labeled as "the son of perdition," shall be seated in the body of Christ. That is the absolute truth. However, the relationship with the false doctrine of the Rapture Cult compels Chuck Smith (and every other Rapture Cult teacher/believer) to either choose the truth, continue the relationship with the lie of the Cult, or try to synthesize the two polarities.
This is the Dialectical formula of Thesis (truth), colliding with Antithesis (another "truth" -- read a relationship with another gospel), to produce the Synthesis (a redefined truth that has been modified to allow the relationship with the lie to continue). Revelation codifies the formula as Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm:
"I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15,16).
The fact that Chuck Smith looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon, is at least partially evidenced by his over usage of his opinion. This gets at the core of the falling away, because not only do we not need his opinion, we desperately need the Word of the LORDpresented as an absolute. Whenever pastors and teachers tell us "In my opinion, this verse means...." we are getting a Dialectical evaluation (an attempt at synthesis) in order to bridge the gap between the truth and the relationship the "facilitator" has with anything other than the truth.
Thus, we can choose between a relationship, such as the desire to have a successful ministry (which Chuck tells us requires we have a relationship with the Rapture doctrine), or we can sever the relationship in order to embrace the truth. This is what Jesus said when He told us He was sending a "sword" -- a word-picture which indicates that He (as the personification of truth) will sever relationships that are not in complete conformity to the truth. This is why there is a sharp, two-edged sword coming out of his metaphoric mouth:
"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations...." (Revelation 19:15).
Most Calvary Chapel Christians will tell you that God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever BELIEVETH in Him should have everlasting life -- and they will also tell you the operative word believe means to trust in, cling to, and rely upon Jesus Christ. I was repeatedly taught this very principle at Calvary Chapel, so it's a true statement. The fact that Chuck Smith puts forth his opinion, rather than the absolute truth, is related to the fact that he uses the phrase "I believe that...." 29 times in just one chapter of this book; and predictably, that is the chapter on the key to his "success," the pre-tribulation Rapture doctrine.
"I believe that your view of the Rapture will have a significant impact...." (Page 73)
"I believe it is God's intention that every church age be convinced they are the last generation" (Page 75).
"I firmly believe that the church will not go through the Great Tribulation... (Page 80)
"I believe there were seven actual churches [Revelation's 7].... (Page 81)
"I believe this [the white horse rider] is the revelation of the Antichrist.... (85)
"I believe this [Nebuchadnezzar's statue] is a type of the image that the Antichrist will build...and demand that everyone worship" (Page 94).
There are dozens more "I believe" type assertions in Distinctives, but if you take the classic definition of the word BELIEVE, and use the trust in, cling to, and rely upon phrase with every one of Chuck's statements, it becomes apparent he is trusting in the white horse being the Antichrist, he is clinging to the idea the Antichrist builds the image of the beast, and he is relying upon the church being removed before the Great Tribulation.
The only problem is, not one of the above statements is true, so with these statements (and dozens more) Chuck Smith BELIEVES in lies.
Not only do we find significant false doctrine presented in Calvary Chapel Distinctives, a careful analysis shows conflicting statements made within the work itself. For instance, on page 86, as he seek to defend the Rapture doctrine, he writes
"What is the source of the tribulation against the church? It's not God! Satan is the source of the tribulation" (Page 86).
Yet nine pages later, he opposes himself, and tells us that God is the source of the tribulation:
"When you realize that the source of the tribulation is God, it automatically precludes God's people being involved" (Page 95)
This is a classic manifestation of the double-minded man, and it runs throughout the house that Smith built. The singular truth is, in order for believers to find the truth, they must come to the cross without the Rapture Cult to guide them, for God reveals the truth to those who diligently seek Him. Ironically, most "Smithereens" will eventually notice troublingScriptures that show believers in tribulation, and some even ask their pastors about them; but the answers provided are always the same false doctrine.
I (and others I know) have seen this process so many times that the canned "Distinctives" response has earned the term "the Calvary Shuffle."
As Calvary Chapel is built on an Episcopos model (elders in support of an anointed leader), where the Pastor doubles as the prophet of the church, this is a top down doctrine which is dispensed by Chuck Smith. Thus, the responsibility lies squarely with Chuck Smith. This denominational leadership flows into the corporation via Chuck Smith, so it is certainly appropriate to examine Chuck's doctrinal staples, for they have now significantly impacted literally millions of believers.
In the book Distinctives, as in Chuck Smith's other prophecy books which I've previously analyzed, I find significant departures from the Word of God. For example, in Daniel, we see the Antichrist figure (there imaged as the little horn) making war with the saints. Thistruth has the potential of severing relationships which people have with the pre-tribulation Rapture belief, so Chuck simply redefines the saints as Jews, because he believes the Christians will all be in heaven when that occurs:
"The fact that he makes war on the saints and prevails against them means that they are theJewish saints…." (Page 92).
Yet the Scriptures flatly tell us there is no such thing as a "Jewish saint," for we all know the book of Romans says there is no Jew, nor Gentile in Christ Jesus (Romans 2:28).
A closer examination of this conflict between Chuck's belief, and the Word of God reveals much. It is the TRUTH that there is no Jew, and there is no Gentile in Jesus Christ. The Word of God declares it. However, because Chuck Smith has a RELATIONSHIP with the Rapture doctrine (which he trusts in, clings to, and relies upon), in order to sustain that relationship, he is compelled to try to "explain" the Word of God in a way that does not destroy the relationship he seeks to retain. Once again, Christ came to sever relationships with anything that is not the truth.
In another example, we know the absolute truth that Christ will gather together His electafter the tribulation:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken...And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29,30).
This verse obviously shows the elect are gathered unto the LORD "immediately after" the tribulational events, and it is a TRUE statement, because the Word of God is unambiguous and plainly declares it will occur in a post-tribulational setting. However, because Chuck Smith has a relationship with the Rapture doctrine (which he trusts in, clings to, and relies upon) that says the elect must be raptured before the tribulation, he is compelled to redefine the obvious meaning of the elect:
"In this passage, Jesus is speaking about his elect, the Jewish nation…" (Page 92).
Thus, in the process of facilitating between the simple Scriptural truth, and its inconsistency with the Rapture doctrine which he clings to, Chuck finds himself compelled into redefining who the "saints" are -- and by explaining how the "elect" are actually Jews who aren't Christians just yet, Chuck is now redefining who is saved, and who isn't saved -- rather critical issues. Yet it is these same Rapture Cultists, led by Chuck Smith, who continually tell us such things as timing aren't really important, and we shouldn't be dividedover supposed "non-essentials."
"I came to [divide] a man...against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law" (Matthew 10:35).
This is a foundational truth, and it is absolutely essential that we love the truth enough to be willing to sever any relationships which are not built around the truth. Once this is fully grasped, false statements found in any Spiritual context (even those from beloved figures such as Chuck Smith) can be revealed to be unscriptural, and the motive behind them is universally related to an effort to sustain a relationship with a person, place, or thing which is not in conformity to the truth. There is an enormous irony here, for one of Calvary Chapel's favorite slogans is to preach that JESUS is not about religion, he's about relationship.
Indeed, vast numbers of evangelical Christians have been taught to parrot this line. This may be boiled down in the following phrase:
"Christianity is not religion, it's a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
In one sense, this is not dissimilar to the slippery "Distinctives" approach, in order to avoid the label of denominationalism. Believers know that people are put off by "religion," so they use the "relationship" concept as a way of appealing to others. This is intrinsically deceptive, because at the end of the day, it is about religion. Your religion is the house you live in, and that "house" had better be built on the rock of the TRUTH of Jesus Christ.
This is where the dragon has our number. He knows that all true believers desire to follow Christ, so he tries to get us to focus on the way we follow and preach Christ, or the blessings we receive from following Christ, rather than Christ Himself. This is a very subtle difference but, over a period of time, we see how entire doctrinal systems can slowly move away from the absolute truth. Before you know it, their seminaries are graduating pastoral students who no longer believe the Bible, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, and so forth. It all becomes a question of degrees of fidelity to the truth.
After generations of Rapture Cult doctrine, it has become a "Christianized" parallel to the traditions the Jews trusted in, clung to, and relied upon when they rejected the TRUTH who was standing right in front of them. This parallel is much deeper than most realize, but the profound truth of Prophetic Parallels has already been covered in prior expositions.
Earlier, I noted how Chuck Smith has dozens of statements where he offers his Dialectical opinion, rather than asserting the Word of the LORD, and these relationship driven "Distinctives" are heavily focused on his chapter putting forth the pre-tribulation Rapture doctrine. The very last "I believe" is noteworthy, for Chuck writes:
"I believe it is so important that we proclaim this teaching of the Rapture and keep the people watching and hoping because, without that, what hope do we have in the world today?" (Page 99)
This question may be the most illustrative citation in the present critique, for it shows that Chuck Smith's "hope" is actually the Rapture "Distinctive," rather than the LORD Himself. To put it another way, with this disturbing statement, we see that Chuck Smith (and by extension, the entire body of believers in over 1,200 Calvary Chapels), sees the blessed hope of glory as the Rapture, instead of the person of Jesus Christ.
In sharp contrast to that belief, here is the truth. The Apostle Paul was the vessel who delivered it, and we find it in his epistle to the Christians who were at Colosse. This letter to the Colossians was addressed to the saints -- who Chuck Smith says were Jews -- again, seeking to defend his relationship with the Rapture Cult doctrine. However, the truth that threatens Chuck's relationship is the fact that the "saints" in the book of Colossians are Christians:
"To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:2).
Not only do the Scriptures in Colossians tell us four separate times that the saints are Christians, the Word of God clearly states that Christ Himself is the Blessed Hope, and obviously, there is no mention of any so-called Rapture in place of the hope of glory. In the following statement, Paul is telling the mostly Greek Christians that God has made a place for all men in Christ, and this mysterious move of salvation has now occurred in their very midst, for they have become the saints of God:
"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory" (Colossians 1:27).
When Chuck says the saints are Jews, and the elect are Jews, he means in the future, after the alleged Rapture; however, the elect and the saints are both repeatedly mentioned in the present tense throughout the New Testament, with a mention of each in Colossians:
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…" (Colossians 3:12).
Once again, in order to retain the relationship with the Rapture, Chuck Smith is forced to synthesize the Scriptural truth, which shows the saints and the elect are the Christians. Because of this gross departure from the TRUTH of God, the Calvary Chapel "movement" is no longer built on the rock of truth, and we all know what happens to houses built on sand. Worse yet, the wind and the rain of the tribulation are now at hand, so the "Come out of her" admonition in Revelation comes into immediate focus.
Although he probably does not even realize it, Chuck Smith has included the epitaph of what happened to Calvary Chapel in the Distinctives book:
"This is the mistake that the church has so frequently made. There's a time when God uses a particular kind of a program, but then that time passes. Unfortunately, it's become a tradition for people to try to keep it alive. They pump life support systems into it and attempt to keep it going. With God's help we learn to let things die a natural death instead of trying to keep things going by artificial means" (Page 140)
-- James Lloyd