- Paul Yonggi Cho is the "pastor" of the world's largest Protestant church (Assemblies of God), the 850,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. (The 11/92 Charisma reports that, after a family spat, Paul Yonggi Cho changed his name to "David.") Cho's teachings are an idolatrous mix of a little Biblical teaching with a lot of occult healing, prophesying, visualization, sorcery, and pagan mind techniques. Cho teaches that Christians can get anything they want by calling upon the spirit world in the "fourth dimension" and envisioning (visualizing) their felt needs, no matter how crass and gross. Cho teaches that positive thinking, positive speaking, and positive visualization are the keys to success, and that anyone can literally "incubate" and give birth to physical reality by creating a vivid image in his or her mind and focusing upon it. David Cloud visited the Yoido Full Gospel Church in November of 2003, and filed this report:
"They claim that they have 850,000 members, but I believe that is a vast exaggeration. They have seven services on Sunday, and the auditorium seats about 14,000. It was full the two services I attended, but even so, that is not anything like 850,000 -- even adding the other places where they have services. It is a charismatic church and they have a lot of false doctrine, which is very sad, considering the vast number of people that they are leading astray. The pastor, David Yonggi Cho, is very popular around the world. He teaches that God promises healing and prosperity for every believer. In fact, he considers this as part of the gospel. The church's web site presents a 'five fold gospel' -- the gospel of regeneration, the gospel of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the gospel of divine healing, the gospel of blessing, and the gospel of the advent. The Yoido Church web site says, 'Full Gospel faith not only accepts the Gospel of salvation which Christ made complete as He was resurrected from the dead, but also believes in the release from physical illness and salvation for the cursed life.' By adding to the one true gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, [Cho] is preaching a false gospel. In 1 Cor. 15:1-4, Paul clearly stated the gospel that he preached, and it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins. Period. Paul warned that if someone adds to or changes this gospel, they are cursed of God (Galatians 1). These are fearful words. The Yoido Full Gospel Church's web site says that 279 of the 527 pastors are women. This is in direct disobedience to 1 Timothy 2."
- The 13th Annual Church Growth International Conference was held 9/28/92-10/6/92 at Cho's Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea (Korean AOG). (Cho is the head of Church Growth International [CGI].) The cost for the conference was $1,750 per person from the West Coast. The week-long schedule for the Church Growth Conference was one of unionistic "worship" with a veritable Babel of denominations. (Dr. C. Peter Wagner, the Donald McGavran Professor of Church Growth and Phrenology at Fuller Theological Seminary, was special guest speaker. Cho's connection with America is through Fuller Seminary and Dr. Wagner. Wagner is Cho's co-worker, fellow Pentecostalist, and one of the gurus of the American Church Growth Movement.) Besides Cho's various other false teachings concerning church growth (detailed later in this report), two other major flaws concern his teaching of church growth through organization. First, he neglects God's will by concentrating too much on mechanical organization. Second, he violates the Biblical role of women by appointing them to be leaders or pastors to teach and preach to men.
- In late 1990, Cho launched the 700,000 subscriber (total circulation of one million) Daily News in Seoul with a staff of 500 full-time reporters all over the world, and with a Korean staff of 800 full-time workers and 400-half-time workers. Cho claims he started the paper as an effort to further affect his nation with godly morals and lifestyles -- each issue includes four full pages of "Christian material" and 24 pages of secular information.
- Cho's involvements in the movements of positive thinking, prophesying and miracle healing, charismatic practice, prosperity theology, and world-wide evangelism have caused him to be held up as an example of "success" or "prosperity" today. Because he has achieved remarkable success in church growth, a large number of "Christian" leaders are recommending and using many of his books. But what Cho actually does is substitute Biblical, God-centered teachings with a worldly, man-centered system of prosperity gospel, positive confession, visualization, fourth dimension concept, and other dangerous ideas. His theology and methodology have deviated from the truths of the historic Christian faith.
- The following is a summary of Cho's teachings (from an abstract of a doctoral dissertation by Christian Wei). Some of the specifics will be expanded upon later in this report:
(a) There are two main erroneous areas in Cho's Bibliology: the extent of revelation and the method of interpretation. Cho subscribes to an impossible position -- the mutually exclusive view of the close of the canon and the view of the continuity of special revelation. In so doing, he undermines the authority and the sufficiency of God's Word. Cho's method of interpretation is so allegorical, arbitrary, and subjective that he virtually distorts Biblical truths and textual meanings.
(b) In the doctrine of God, Cho's man-centered philosophy causes him to deviate from the Biblical teaching in the areas of God's goodness, God's will, and God's sovereignty. When he insists that God's will for His children is prosperity and health, he disregards the clear Scriptural teaching regarding Christian suffering and contentment. Cho organizes his teaching around a man-centered theology when he asserts that God cannot do anything unless man cooperates with Him. Thus, he seriously undermines God's sovereign will, power, and position.
(c) The three major fallacies of Cho's Pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) lie in the work, baptism, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Cho's teaching of the work of the Holy Spirit is closely related to pantheism. By insisting that man can obtain and manipulate the power of the Holy Spirit, Cho, at best, repudiates the sovereignty of the Spirit and threatens His personality; at worst, he virtually dabbles in occultism. Cho believes that the sign of the Spirit baptism is speaking in tongues, and, thereby, he refuses to acknowledge that the evidence of such an experience lies in moral virtues, not miraculous proofs. Cho contends that God still grants His children miraculous and supernatural gifts. But since the Holy Spirit divides gifts as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11), Cho violates clear Scriptural teaching when he encourages his people to pursue such gifts.
(d) In Soteriology, Cho's teachings on the nature of the Gospel and the doctrine of faith have departed from the truth. He insists that the Gospel includes more than the forgiveness of sins. Cho's view on faith is rather radical since he believes that a "usable" faith will definitely experience miracles. For Cho, if there is no miracle, there is no faith.
(e) With respect to the doctrine of sin, Cho overlooks man's sin nature when he insists that man is able to attain his own unlimited potential, simply by exercising a positive attitude, which includes imagination and thinking. This concept ignores the Apostle Paul's teaching that emphasizes that even the believer cannot escape the conflict between his old sinful nature and new nature (Rom. 7:15-24). For Cho, human sin is substituted with human sovereignty.
(f) Cho's doctrine of angelology is based on his theory of the "fourth dimension," a concept which ultimately leads him into dualism and occultism. He believes that the evil fourth dimension is able to do what God does. Cho also confuses demonic influence with demonic possession, insisting that all unsaved persons are possessed or indwelt by demons. Cho also attributes all sins and sicknesses to the devil.
(g) Cho claims that if there is no visualization, there will be no church growth. He insists that every minister needs to have visualization, the process in a person's mind through which pictures in visions or dreams bring about miracles and powers. This method, however, is not only unbiblical, it is the most powerful occult technique known, having been practiced by shamans and witchdoctors for thousands of years. [First, its foundation is unbiblical because Cho misinterprets Bible verses to fit his peculiar theory. He also ignores God's warning regarding the dangers and deceitfulness of dreams and visions (Deut. 13:1-5; Jer. 23:25-32; 27:9-10). Second, it is an unsound practice since it relies on the human mind and is related to the occult. Hence, the Scripture condemns the practice. Third, it is biased because Cho relies on his own interpretation of Biblical examples and his personal experiences.]
(h) Divine healing is another method which Cho uses to generate church growth, claiming this is the most essential element. This is unbiblical for many reasons. First, it rests on a false premise. The Bible shows explicitly that healing or miracles do not necessarily bring a person to the saving knowledge of Christ (cf. Matt. 9:22-25,32-34; 11:20-24; Acts 4:5-22). Second, it fosters wrong motivation since it encourages the crowd to come to church with ulterior motives. Third, it obscures the true purpose of healing, which in the Bible authenticates the messiahship of Christ and the apostleship of apostles. Finally, Cho's concept conceals the true nature of healing since he confuses functional disorders with organic illnesses. Furthermore, contrary to the Biblical pattern, Cho fails to "heal" some (all?) who desire healing.
(i) Cho teaches that prayer will definitely alter the material world and lead to church growth, but he fails to realize that true prayer does not necessarily demand the changing of circumstances or the material world for man; rather, it requires the changing of the attitude of the believer and the submission of his will to God's will. Cho also twists the meaning of "praying in the Holy Spirit" when he insists that it refers to speaking in tongues. Rather, when Paul and Jude encourage believers to pray in the Holy Spirit, they are referring to the assistance, the influence, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26). It has nothing to do with speaking in tongues as Cho teaches.
- Cho tells us how he prayed for his needs: "I ordered these things in such articulate terms that God could not make a mistake in delivering them. Then I felt faith following up " Cho says that the Lord never welcomes vague prayers, and goes on to teach that the believer gets these specific requests supplied by visualizing them and then bringing them into existence by faith! Here is the point at which charismatic development leaves Christianity and crosses into the territory of paganism.
He teaches the need for a vivid mental picture coupled with a burning desire and a firm conviction that the goal is already accomplished. Cho calls this process: visualizing the goal, then incubating it into reality by strength of faith -- or would it be will-power? He teaches that believers may order up wealth and success; anything they want as long as it is moral. The key to getting these things is the art of fantasizing them, because God cannot bring them into being unless the individual incubates the image.
- Though Cho attempts to give some Biblical justification for his ideas, he tells us that he obtained them in the first place because God communicated them directly to him. He claims that God spoke to him describing the material world as belonging to the third dimension. God supposedly told Dr. Cho that because all human beings are spiritual beings (as well as physical beings) they have the fourth dimension in their hearts, and by developing the art of concentrating visions and dreams in their imaginations, they can influence and change the third dimension (material things) just as the Holy Spirit did when He brooded over the primeval earth. According to Cho, God told him that Buddhist and yoga adherents worked "miracle" cures because they explored and developed their human fourth-dimensional power, imagining mental pictures of health and willing them into their bodies. God told him that all human beings had the power to exercise legitimate dominion over the material world through this fourth-dimensional activity.
Cho's teaching is a system of mind over matter (or rather, imagination over matter). He frankly admits that it is a Christianized version of precisely the same methods practiced by Buddhists, exponents of yoga, and the followers of other pagan, mystical, and occult systems. The only difference is that their fourth-dimensional power receives co-operation from the devil, while that of Christians supposedly receives help from the Holy Spirit. He says that so long as we keep our minds from foolish and wrong ideas, we shall keep the canvas of our imagination clean for the Holy Spirit to paint on it the things we are to have. (Cho says that his massive church grew to its present size, and continues to grow, because he follows this principle of visualization. He first imagines his church growing to a certain figure, and he then visualizes all the faces and incubates the vision into reality.) Cho teaches that all Christians should aim to prosper in body, soul, and spirit, and their success and failure in this is due entirely to their success or failure in visualizing.
- Absolute confidence in ideas which spring into the mind as "desires" is a characteristic of Dr. Cho. Faith, according to this teaching, is not merely trusting that God will do those things which He has promised to do in His Word. Faith is redefined as having absolute trust in desires which come subjectively into one's mind, for these ideas or desires are assumed to be direct communications from God. We must, therefore, develop unshakeable confidence in them. If we take these ideas and imagine and incubate them into reality, then we are promised "miracles," and these should be our lifelong experience.
- Cho's focus is on the so-called "subconscious" mind. Possibility thinking, positive confession and affirmations, self-esteem messages, imaging, "inner healing," and visualization all branch from the family tree of reprogramming the invisible subconscious mind. True believing, Cho says, does not take place in the conscious mind but rather in the subconscious. Similarly, positive confession, affirmations, and visualization "create reality" for the subconscious mind. "Inner healing" works on the basis that healing takes place through reprogramming the subconscious mind with a "positive" experience. It substitutes for forgiveness of a "negative" experience. According to Cho, there is a three-step formula necessary to program the subconscious and get your "prayers" answered. Step 2 is "creative prayer" in order to spiritually "picturize until the picture comes to pass." Cho calls this spiritual picturizing "incubation: a law of faith." (Cho claims to have taught an "older spinster" to order her husband from God through visualizing her desires for a tall, skinny, musical, Caucasian school teacher.)
Cho's theology begins with the subconscious mind. It ends with God and Cho switching roles. Cho describes the obedience of the Holy Spirit to his will: " I can go into the fourth dimension of the Holy Spirit, and I tell Him what is needed in my church in Korea, and He carries out the work" (The Fourth Dimension, p. 49). [Jesus' attitude was quite the opposite, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).] Cho has authored a rebellious gospel that is identical to the New Age gospel of men becoming co-creators with God.- Cho's visualization theology will serve anti-Christianity. Here is how he develops it: (All quotes from The Fourth Dimension, pp. 36-47.)
- Man's spirit is his subconscious mind which includes the imagination.
- The subconscious is in the spiritual fourth dimension.
- The fourth dimension (home of the spirit/subconscious) contains both good and evil, and controls, creates, and "incubates" the third dimension natural realm.
- Any man's spirit or subconscious, Christian or non-Christian, can be developed to control the natural world and "carry out dominion" upon their third dimension circumstances (e.g., "visualize a bike, get a bike").
- To accomplish this, the human spirit/subconscious must join up with the spirit of either the evil fourth dimension or the good fourth dimension. Thus, Buddhists possess the identical subconscious powers as Christians.
- "God then taught me," writes Cho, "that since we can link our spirit's fourth dimension to the fourth dimension of the Holy Father -- we can have all the more dominion over circumstances we can exercise great control and power over the third dimension."
- We "incubate" the subconscious through our imaginations and visualization. Thus, "only through a vision and a dream can you visualize and dream bigger churches."
- "The Holy Spirit comes to cooperate with us" to create through our imagination and visualization.
- The Holy Spirit then begins "to carry out dominion."
Cho justifies this theology by adding to Scripture. The Abrahamic Covenant was confirmed in Genesis 15:5: He took him outside and said, Look up at the heavens and count the stars -- if indeed you can count them. Then he said to him, So shall your offspring be. The Bible tells us (Genesis 15:6) Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Cho's version is quite different. Abram "was struck with emotion he saw all the stars changing into the faces of his descendants, and once again shouting, 'Father Abraham!' Those pictures came to his mind again and again, and became his own dreams and pictures. Those pictures immediately became part of his fourth dimension, in the language of spiritual visions and dreams. These visions and dreams carried dominion over his one-hundred year-old body, and it was soon transformed as if it were like a young body" (The Fourth Dimension, p. 48).
Simple trust in God (Genesis 15:6) has been altered to trust in visualization and the occult. Cho's mystical foundation is built upon the sands of Sigmund Freud's and Carl Jung's subconscious mind rather than the rock of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). The Word of God tells us man's imagination is vain (Rom. 1:21), turned against God (2 Cor. 10:15), evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21), and connected with evil and pride (Jer. 18:12; Luke 1:51). "Fourth Dimension theology," claiming the spirit is the subconscious and imagination, incorrectly concludes that the born again spirit means a born again imagination. Visualization and the "creative forces of the subconscious mind" must therefore be of God. Instead of Biblically renewing the conscious mind with the Word of God, Cho teaches that we are to reprogram the "subconscious" and thus create through affirmations and imaging.
- Jeremiah 23:16 says: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.'" Cho says: "The subconscious is your spirit you may wonder how we can incubate our subconscious the only way for us to incubate is through our imaginations, through our visions and our dreams visions and dreams are the language of the fourth dimension, and the Holy Spirit communicates through them. Only through a vision and a dream can you visualize and dream bigger churches (The Fourth Dimension, pp. 42-44).
The fruits of the "fourth dimension" seem to be "revealed secrets for answered prayer and church renewal." The roots, however, reveal a gospel linked to the occult. Cho's doctrine of creating through our imaginations is one more building block on the faulty foundation supporting positive confession and the power of the mind. Those who accept Cho's mind power "secrets" are enslaving themselves to Satan rather than submitting to the Holy Spirit. The "fourth dimension" claims to prepare believers to exercise dominion over the "third dimension" material world. Instead, it is actually preparing an apostate church to serve the false christ.
- New Age theology promotes the "collective unconscious," where all human beings possess a common psychic structure. It is through the subconscious mind that the "collective unconscious" of humanity creates good or evil. "Evil thought forms" should be replaced by positive thoughts which release "energy" to shape a new positive consciousness. It is up to us as individuals to visualize, focus, and direct this energy. We are told that sin in our hearts is not the problem, but is "incorrect thinking." We have unlimited potential in our minds to redirect "consciousness." Transformation into a New Age occurs when humanity collectively unifies in positive thought. Since the "fourth dimension" creates the third dimension material world, collective positive visualization can create a New Age of love, peace, and harmony.
Cho has a Christian version: "One of our greatest problems as humans is our self-image. We don't realize what a capable creation we are According to the Creator, man is only limited by his imagination. The imagination is that part of man's mind that creates the pictures which give context to his actions The great hindrance to man's potential is in his separation [from each other] As the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel separated man, so also the unity of languages at Pentecost brought man together." Cho explains that we now have been given the Holy Spirit, and thus limits to our imagination have been lifted. Thus, the unification of Christians' imaginations "leads to a great future of unlimited potential here in this world and in the world to come" (Cho, The Leap of Faith, pp. 15-17). [In Diakrisis (Summer, 1992 issue -- a scholarly journal published in London, England) was an article titled: "Socerous Apprentices, Testing the Spirits of a Church Bewitched." It is a thorough treatment of New Age thought invading the professing Christian Church. The Diakrisis article gives extensive examples of Cho's occult language and parallels in occult textbooks.]
- Occultists were the world's first and only scientists for thousands of years. To work their sorcery through the "laws of manifestation," occultists have always used three scientific techniques: positive thinking, positive speaking, and visualizing. Though all three are now accepted and used in the professing evangelical church, no one has promoted these occult teachings as successfully as Cho.
Of positive speaking (confession), Cho declares: "You can create the presence of Jesus with your mouth He is bound by your lips and by your words " As for visualization, the most powerful occult technique, Cho writes, "Through visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your future and hatch the results." In the foreword to Cho's best-known book, The Fourth Dimension, Robert Schuller writes of visualization, "Don't try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It's true. It works. It tried it. Thank you -- Paul Yonggi Cho -- for allowing the Holy Spirit to give this message to us and to the world." (Cho himself admits that his message of hope always exalts people and focuses solely on prosperity, health, and problem-free life. This teaching prompts the deceitful message of selfism, advocating the dangerous message of uplifting man through self-love/self-esteem/self-worth.)
- A trait of Korean Christianity is the tendency to see Christianity as a path to material prosperity. That tendency is a residue of shamanism, the native folk religion in Korea and other northeast Asian countries for centuries. In Shamanism, you ask the shaman (a sort of medicine man or woman) to intercede with the spirits to ensure your health or business success. There is in Korean shamanism a great spirit, above the other spirits, who couldn't be contacted by the shamans. That helped Christianity get off the ground, says David Susan, a Lutheran missionary, because "when the early Christian missionaries came and said, 'There's an almighty God who judges you at your death,' Koreans said, 'Ah, yes, we've heard of that god before.'" But in a sense, it made Christianity too easy for Koreans to accept. Many Korean professing Christians still consider the gods of shamanism and the God of Christianity kindred spirits.
The religious disposition of the Koreans is both harnessed and exploited by the "Christianity" of Paul Yonggi Cho in his blatant mix of sorcery, mind-over-matter, self-interest, Sinkyo, Japanese Buddhism, and Christianity. But to mix pagan ideas and practices with the pure religion of Christ is condemned in Scripture as the heinous sin of idolatry. It is a marriage of Christianity and the occult, and is forbidden by Paul's words: What communion hath light with darkness? And: What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?
What has built the largest church in the world? The answer is an idolatrous mixture of Biblical teaching and pagan mind-techniques. God is deprived of His sovereignty in the believer's affairs, and the authority of Scripture is replaced by the authority of supposedly direct messages from God and the produce of the imagination (Peter Masters, The Healing Epidemic, p. 35).