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More about the Promise Keepers

March 1998

I would like to offer a personal comment and some additional pertinent information concerning Promise Keepers (PK). The interest of my men and the support of my Session for PK has dropped radically in the last three years for some of the very reasons that your article mentioned. We no longer support PK as a church, although some individuals still participate. The reasons for this are fourfold.

First of all, what passes for PK theology is a nebulous blend of mainly charismatic and Arminian positions, the sole criterion for acceptance being that ‘you love Jesus’. At the 1994 Promise Keepers ‘Seize The Moment’ conference in Portland, Oregon, Bill McCartney (founder and head of PK) declared: ‘Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Pentecostal. Do you love Jesus; are you born of the Spirit of God? Hear me: Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Catholic. Do you love Jesus; are you born of the Spirit of God?’ Similar protestations of ‘love for Jesus’ are made by many cults, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses among them. Doctrine is not important for PK, and it permits the entry of groups that are outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

Secondly, as PK has admitted in print, its ‘theology is dynamic’, meaning that it is changed at will, or as needs be, to catch the current wind. This dynamic or evolutionary theology is starkly seen in PK’s change in its ‘commitment to justification by faith’, made to accommodate Roman Catholicism. The 20 July (1997) edition of Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic weekly, published an article entitled ‘Making New Catholic Men: Promise Keepers’ “gospel for guys”’. The article revealed that PK had changed its statement of faith to remove the words ‘through faith alone’.

What PK’s statement of faith said originally:

‘We believe that man was created in the image of God but, because of sin, was alienated from God. That alienation can be removed only by accepting, through faith alone, God’s gift of salvation, which was made possible by Christ’s death.’

What PK’s statement of faith now says:

‘We believe that man was created in the image of God but, because of sin, was alienated from God. Only through faith, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, which was made possible by His death and resurrection, can that alienation be removed’ (emphasis added in both statements). They specifically replaced ‘through faith alone’ by ‘Only through faith, trusting in Christ alone’.

The new PK statement of faith was authored by Catholic theologians at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, who are the leading advocates of having the Virgin Mary proclaimed by the pope ‘Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate for the People of God’. Do ‘by faith alone’ and ‘only through faith’ mean the same thing?

They do not. The argument advanced by the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, et al) was that justification results from faith alone. The RC Church’s response was that justification was a lifelong process that occurred ‘only through faith’ (articulated in the Canons and Anathema, Session 6 of the Council of Trent).

Lastly, PK speakers articulate a false view of God’s sovereignty. In a 1995 PK conference in Dallas, Bill McCartney said: ‘Are you guys in touch with the fact that heaven waits on Earth? How many of you know that almighty God’s will is perfect? However, every single one of us has a free will, every single one of us can make our own choices. Do you understand what that does to God? He has to wait on us. If He didn’t wait on us then he would be mandating His will and we would not have a free will.’ Even extreme Arminians are appalled at this statement.

It is for these reasons that I am not a ‘Promise Keeper’ and was heartened to see you alert.