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Should we be concerned about the ‘ecumenicalism’ in Promise Keepers?

The Promise Keepers continue to get mixed reviews, but mostly because many who are concerned with sound biblical theology and the proper role and authority of the church do find problems while still wanting to applaud the overall objectives of Promise Keepers. I’ll give you a few excerpts from various things I have read:

From an article written by Kerry Ptacek, “Revivalism Versus Reviving the Power of Godliness.”

The Promise Keepers movement that seeks to restore the commitment of Christian men to their wives and children takes these men away from their families to put them through a program of emotion-charged, yet superficial, preaching, praise music, small group discussions, and group prayer, led by persons selected not by the church but para-church group staff. The men return to their families charged up, but soon need to go away to another Promise Keepers conference. Indeed, discussions on the Christian radio indicate that you must have gone to several of these rallies to show that you are a real Promise Keeper. So it is that this supposed effort to bring men back to their families has become yet one more event which takes them away, for several weekends a year for the most “committed.” Yet this is exactly what you must do in the revivalist model which has risen to dominate the church since the days of Charles Grandison Finney.

From an article called, “Example of Parachurch Paradigm of Extrabiblical Authority” by Dr. John Murphy comes the following:

They need to familiarize themselves with the historical, creedal statements made by these men (referring to the reformers, etc.). There, they will indeed find the answers they so need to hear. There, they will find solid food for their souls which, when digested and eaten with their brethren within the walls of their own local church, will begin to produce the long-lasting effects only transformation from within, by His power, can produce [Phil. 2:13 w/ Rom 12:2]. That’s the real transformation! The answer, then, for these men is this: Men, your needs are real. If you aren’t growing in the areas of biblical sexuality within your church, don’t seek answers outside the means established by God. Rather, seeks out a church that is carrying on the spirit of Reformation within its walls. Place yourself under the authority of those shepherds and begin to thrive as a Man, a Father, Husband, Provider and Son—as a child of the living God! It is only by “rooting” ourselves by the stream of living waters that we will bear fruit in season [Psalm 1]. Christ is that stream and His Body is the local church where each “member” is fed and nurtured by an ordained shepherd so that he may then minister to other members in their need. That is the picture in Scripture. Parachurch organizations are outside the walls of Jerusalem, outside the camp where, vigor and excitement notwithstanding, the “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie” live and fester [Rev. 22:15].

A pastor friend of mine summarized his thoughts on Promise Keepers as follows:

I believe the PK contains a classic baby/bath water question. I want to be sure that I keep the baby while disposing of the bath water in the appropriate manner. As I see it the Baby is (1) emphasis on godly men being faithful to their calling in Christ, (2) stated beliefs in Scripture as completely true, (3) Stated intention to support local churches and pastors, (4) encouragement of men to recognize and reject sin, (5) encouragement of men to live morally upright lives, (6) encouragement of men to live exemplary lives for the Lord and to be evangelistic.

As I see it the Bath Water includes (1) Heavy influence of “Charismatic” doctrine that emphasizes emotionalism over biblical study and obedience. (2) lack of strong theological thinkers as leaders in the PK movement, (3) lack of emphasis on biblical truth, e.g., prayer life is held higher than solid growth in the Word. He had much more to say, but this gives something of the gist. Many of my friends, while sympathetic to their overall goals, have serious doubts because of the ecumenical leanings and the way the organization has tended to ignore certain solid biblical teaching in favor of the ‘Rah Rah’ kind of meeting.

Regardless, the final thing I will share is a statement made by Dallas Seminary several years ago. I assume they still hold to this position. This material was taken from an article entitled, “A Connection Extra, Topics of Interest to Dallas Theological Seminary Alumni,” December 1995 entitled “What About Dallas Theological Seminary and the Promise Keepers?”

For the past several years the ministry of Promise Keepers has experienced rapid numerical growth and broad public attention. Its outreach has spiritually impacted the lives of many men, causing some to call it a “revival-like movement.” A few others, however, are expressing concerns and voicing criticisms. Although Dallas Seminary has no official ties to Promise Keepers, some of our faculty and alumni have participated in their public meetings. One of our distinguished professors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, also serves on the Promise Keepers board. In light of the questions raised by a few of our alumni and friends, the Seminary wishes to respond as follows:

1. Dallas Seminary understands that Promise Keepers operates under a broader theological umbrella than most churches and parachurch ministries. There is a general misperception about Promise Keepers. Too often judgments are made on limited and fragmented information by people who are not directly involved with that ministry. Ministries that are being used of God to encourage men to become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to live godly lives, to be devoted to their wives and families, and to be active in their local churches deserve thoughtful consideration. No one can deny the benefits of those goals. To assist each other in accomplishing such wholesome objectives, groups that differ theologically can agree to stand together on crucial issues. For example, Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants can unite in opposition to such evils as abortion on demand and pornography. Furthermore, noncharismatics and charismatics can unite in support of the basic biblical values of sexual morality, personal integrity, and family fidelity. Promise Keepers has made a commitment to focus on significant personal, social, and moral issues that are accepted by a broad spectrum of individuals, denominations, and other Christian groups. Since Promise Keepers is not an ecclesiastical body, participation does not imply support for ecumenical union. We can join with others in support of basic moral issues without violating our theological convictions.

2. Dallas Seminary’s mission differs from that of Promise Keepers—but it is not in opposition to their stated objectives. Although the Seminary supports the overall program of Promise Keepers, this does not mean that we are in complete agreement theologically with some participants. We believe, however, we can support the objectives of Promise Keepers without compromising our theological position or biblical distinctives. For this reason some of our faculty and alumni continue to be involved with this organization in order to reach our world for Christ and add discernment to the agenda of Promise Keepers, all the while providing theological stability. Mature Christian leaders with solid biblical training can bring needed substance and guidance to this young and dynamic ministry.

3. Dallas Seminary applauds Promise Keepers’ commitment to vital personal, moral, and social issues. The moral fabric of modern society is unraveling. At the core of the problem, among other causes, is the lack of continued godly masculine leadership both in the home and the workplace. Promise Keepers began, in part, to encourage men to assume the responsibilities intended for them by God. Promise Keepers focuses on a man’s commitment to Jesus Christ, personal integrity, the family, the church, and racial harmony. We at Dallas Seminary believe these are God-honoring objectives rarely acknowledged in the world and, therefore, worthy of our pursuit and support.

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