- Chuck Smith is best known to those outside of the state of California as the teacher on the nationwide radio program, "The Word for Today." The radio programs are edited messages from Smith's sermons at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, where he is the senior pastor. [The television version of The Word for Today (taped services from Calvary Chapel) is also seen nationwide on the blasphemous Trinity Broadcasting Network.] Calvary Chapel also operates a wholly-owned radio station (KWVE); a two-year Bible College (offering an Associate's Degree in Theology, and a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies) on a 47-acre campus in Murietta Hot Springs, California; a castle in Austria; and other properties. In addition, Calvary Chapel's related ministries include, Calvary Chapel Music, Calvary Chapel Satellite Network International, Calvary Chapel Conference Center, Calvary Chapel Christian Camp, Maranatha Christian Academy, and Calvary Chapel High School.
Born in 1927, Smith started Calvary Chapel in 1965 with only 25 people.
Smith's ministry grew out of the Christianized version of the hippie youth
movement of the 1960s and 1970s; he was a leader in the
"Jesus People Movement,"* a counter-cultural
movement which focused heavily on subjective religious experience. Smith reached
out to the hippies and spiritual "seekers" looking for enlightenment
in ways ranging from Buddhism to LSD. "Christianity" became an option
for some as Calvary Chapel welcomed these young people with long hair, jeans,
and bare feet into its worship services. By 1971, Smith was at the forefront of
the Jesus People Movement, baptizing hundreds in the Pacific Ocean and erecting
a giant circus tent that could hold 1,600 people for Sunday services (12/31/94, Rapid
City Journal, p. A7).
Six months from conception, Calvary Chapel's "membership" doubled. Today it has a reported membership of approximately 15,000 and has planted Calvary Chapels all over the globe. More than 850 churches (approximately 700 nationally and 165 more worldwide) have grown out of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, some of them with memberships of more than 5,000. Chuck Smith has been touted thusly: "This man, Chuck Smith and his church, Calvary Chapel, has had an amazing influence upon the Christian world." That being the case: What kind of message have they received (and do they receive) from Smith and Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa? We believe that the rest of this report clearly demonstrates that Chuck Smith is highly ecumenical, compromises with psychology, and is, at best, a fringe charismatic. [In addition. an excellent web site for a detailed analysis of the Calvary Chapel "issues," see Calvary Chapel Frequently Asked But Unanswered Questions Answered.]
I. A Subtle Diversion Away From Loving The Truth: It's doubtful that Chuck Smith or the pastors at Calvary Chapel would ever come right out and say they don't love the truth, but this is actually the message that they bring. Larry Taylor, an assisting pastor to Chuck Smith and an administrator of Calvary Chapel Bible College, wrote a booklet in 1994 entitled, Things I Learned From My Pastor: Biblical Principles of Ministry as Taught by Pastor Chuck Smith. This booklet is sold in the bookstore at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. In the introduction, Taylor states:
"The principles of ministry which follow are not at all original with me. In fact, 100% of what follows I was taught by my pastor, Chuck Smith ... Pastor Chuck has been my pastor for over twenty years. Many years ago, he took me, along with many other misplaced young men, under his wing, and taught us by example how to be shepherds of God's people. All that I've done is pull together what he taught us in one outline."
Under point "XIII. Be Balanced Theologically (see 1 Tim. 4:16. II Tim. 2:23-26)," Taylor says, "Pastor Chuck has always sought to avoid those issues which do nothing but divide the Body of Christ, and, as he once said, 'when Christ's Body is divided, pray tell, who bleeds?'" But avoiding controversial issues is not loving the truth. Jesus was very controversial and much division was created because of Him (Luke 12:51-53; John 7:40-43; 9:16; 10:15-21). Some may argue that what Larry Taylor and Chuck Smith mean is that they don't get involved in foolish controversies (like 2 Tim. 2:14, 23). But this is not what Smith means.
In Smith's 1994 book, Why Grace Changes Everything, Smith
relates a story of a couple of influential families at Calvary Chapel who bought
into the doctrine of the "Jesus Only" Pentecostals. (This cult teaches
that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely different terms for Jesus.)
Since Smith has "always detested arguing Scripture with people," he
"let them lay out their faulty positions without trying to tear them apart.
... I knew many Scriptures that would clarify the issue, but I didn't bother to
argue with these folks." (This in no way is what Paul was talking about in
2 Tim. 2:23-26; i.e., "correcting them"!) Smith had deceived these
families so badly by not correcting them, that they believed Smith actually
agreed with them, which encouraged them to go about confidently espousing their
false doctrine in the church (pp. 174-176). The point is this -- How can you
leave someone in false doctrine, as if what they believed was no serious matter,
and still claim to love the Truth?!
In another 1994 booklet by Larry Taylor entitled, The Ministry of An Assisting Pastor: (Or, More Things I Learned From My Pastor), Taylor defines gossip "as saying anything negative, whether true or not, to anyone about the pastor or about the ministry" (section "7. Never Gossip"). He teaches that you should quit the church and be quiet rather than "ever say anything negative about the pastor or the ministry to anyone, even after you've quit. In a situation where something in the church is so completely wrong that the sheep in the body are in spiritual danger, then say nothing to anybody, resign, and move on." (Emphasis added.) This sounds like the teaching of a hireling (John 10:12), not a lover of the truth. (This booklet is also sold in Calvary Chapel's bookstore.)
II. Chuck Smith Is Ecumenical: In his 1993 book, Answers For Today, Smith says the following:
"Paul points out that some say, 'I'm of Paul,' while others say, 'I'm of Apollos.' He asked, 'Isn't that carnal?' But what's the difference between saying that or saying, 'I'm a Baptist,' 'I'm a Presbyterian,' 'I'm a Methodist,' 'I'm a Catholic'? I have found that the more spiritual a person becomes, the less denominational he is. We should realize that we're all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren't any real divisions in the Body. We're all one. What a glorious day when we discover that God loves the Baptists! -- And the Presbyterians, and the Methodists, and the Catholics. We're all His and we all belong to Him. We see the whole Body of Christ, and we begin to strive together rather than striving against one another" (p. 157). (Emphasis added.)
If anything should be clear, it is that Roman
Catholicism is a false religious system and is in NO WAY part of the Body of
Christ. Yet Chuck Smith views Catholicism as merely another Christian
III. Smith Denies the Power of Godliness (2 Tim. 3:5): This is exemplified via his teaching on a "carnal Christian." In his 1993 book, Answers For Today, he denies the power of godliness (i.e., the power of a changed life that comes through faith in Christ -- 2 Cor. 5:17):
"The carnal Christian, however, has enough of the Lord to be saved, but not enough of the Lord to rest in that salvation. He has enough of Christ to be miserable in the world, but too much of the world to be happy in Christ" [p. 148]. ... The 'carnal Christian' is the man who has been awakened by the Spirit of God to his need of Jesus Christ and has received Jesus Christ into his life as his Saviour -- but he has never submitted his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus, he is one who believes in Jesus Christ as his Saviour but is still ruled by his flesh" (p. 154).
To begin with, Smith's definition of a "carnal Christian" as a
person who is "saved" is seriously flawed. Such a person "ruled
by his flesh" is not saved (Rom. 10:9-10; 6:5-7; 8:5-6,13; 1 Jn
2:4). In 1 Cor. 3:1-3, Paul is rebuking and correcting the Corinthians and is in
no way saying they could continue on in this "carnal" state and still
IV. False Teaching On Suicide: In Answers For Today, Smith is asked, "Is a person who commits suicide totally lost for eternity?" Smith answers, "Definitely not! I believe that a person who is driven to the point of committing suicide no longer has full responsibility for the things he's doing. Driven to a point of such mental extremes, he isn't necessarily responsible for the action of taking his own life" (pp. 88-89). That is precisely what psychology teaches! -- Not the Word of God! The very fact that a person is suicidal (and ready and willing to murder himself) proves him to be reprobate, in rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23) against God, and still at odds with Him (Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 5:19-21). At the very least, if one is talking about premeditated suicide, there is no way such a person knows God! He is a murderer (1 Jn. 3:15)!
Chuck Smith disciple Larry Taylor wrote a 1994 booklet entitled Suicide And The Church. In section "V. Suicide In The Bible," he states, "So then, we see that a born again Christian could commit suicide, and if he did, he would go to heaven." Taylor then tells the story of his own teenage son's 1986 suicide (section "VII. A Personal Word of Testimony"). His son had been deeply involved in Dungeons and Dragons and was listening regularly to hard rock music. Yet Taylor claims this was a Christian home his son grew up in, and that it was the fault of Dungeons and Dragons that led to his son's death, not his son's rebellion and lost condition that led him to Dungeons and Dragons. The truth is too hard to face, so men lie to themselves, just as Romans 1:18 and John 3:20 say they do.
V. A Hypocritical Stand Against Psychology: Chuck Smith is the editor of a booklet that Bob Hoekstra has written entitled, The Psychologizing of the Faith, that exposes the evils and false doctrine that has come into the church via psychology. This booklet is sold in the book store at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Although the Calvary Chapel book store has a disclaimer at the cash register which says that they can't fully endorse every book sold, it is absolute hypocrisy to endorse The Psychologizing of the Faith, and at the same time sell and promote (by selling) books written by pop psychologist Dr. James C. Dobson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye (four-temperament gurus), Charles Stanley, Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, Bill Bright, etc. In addition, in the 1994 booklet What Calvary Chapel Teaches: A Brief Explanation of the Doctrine of the Calvary Chapel Movement, by Larry Taylor, Calvary Chapel admits to approving of "mental health professionals" and says, "we thank God for them." (Taylor has a Ph.D. in psychologically-oriented counseling and has held previous private employment as a consultant to psychiatric hospitals and social service departments; he claims most of the booklet was written by Chuck Smith.)
Along the lines of hypocritically standing against the psychologizing of the faith while denying the power of godliness, Calvary Chapel sponsors "DISCIPLESHIP SUPPORT GROUPS" every Friday evening at 7:20 P.M. in Room MCA 202 (from a flyer distributed in the early-1990s by Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa). The flier describes who should attend these support group meetings:
"For ... (a) People Pleasers -- For those who painfully depend on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, value and identity; (b) Sexually Abused -- For women whose lives have been impacted by sexual abuse in some form; (c) Bereavement -- For those who have lost a spouse or other loved one, whether recently or in the past; (d) Separated/Divorced -- For those who have suffered the break-up of a marriage; (e) Men Impacted by Sexual Abuse -- For men who have been sexually abused or have a loved one who has been abused; and (f) Overeaters -- For those who compulsively eat."
This all follows the pattern of a psychological approach -- as does Calvary
Chapel's "Tuesday School of the Bible." Of the 34 course offerings
listed in a School of the Bible catalog, over a quarter are blatantly
psychologized, with such titles as: (a) Preparation for Marriage (using a book
written by pastor turned psychologist H. Norman Wright); (b) Choosing to Love
concepts); (c) The Step to Sobriety (codependency course using The
Serenity Bible for the text); (d) Children With Chemically Dependent
Parents (taught to 7 to 12 year-olds who have parents who are drunks or are on
drugs); and (e) Biblical Strategies For Recovery From Abuse (with a course
description that reads like a course on Inner
Smith teaches psychological concepts in many other places. For example, in his 1982 book Charisma vs. Charismania, Smith teaches Freud's concept of the superego as a picture of our ideal self (p. 47); that God prizes and values us (p. 63); that Maslow's concept of a hierarchy of needs is valid for Christians (pp. 99-100); that what the Bible calls sins are actually "overt escapes" (plus such psychological terminology as "I hate myself" and "a subconscious desire for punishment") (pp. 102-103); etc. More psychological concepts can be found in Smith's 1977/1980 booklet titled Family Relationships, wherein he speaks of the "ego" and "superego" (p. 9) (also found in his 1995 book, Why Grace Changes Everything, [pp. 32-33]); the "emotional spectrum" of women and men (p. 12); "emotional needs" and the "male ego" (pp. 32-33); and "psychological problems" (p. 54).
VI. Smith is a Charismatic: Though Smith cannot be classified as a hyper-charismatic (i.e., one who holds physical healing and/or demon deliverance services in open church), his theology is definitely charismatic. (Former Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa members also tell us that some of the more radical charismatic practices are allowed and even encouraged in home Bible studies and prayer groups. Yet, Smith himself has a very personable aspect, his speaking approach is low-key, and he is careful to avoid any untoward Charismatic characteristics.
"In exercising the ministry of pastor-teacher, I believe there are three spiritual gifts that operate, especially when we are teaching the word of God: prophecy, the word of knowledge ["the Lord told me"], and the word of wisdom [p. 19]. ... How is the gift of tongues to be used in the life of the believer? Tongues are exciting! It builds you up in your walk with God, and invigorates your relationship with Him" (p. 178).
In his 1982 book Charisma vs. Charismania, Smith teaches that the "abuse of tongues" (i.e., blurting out gibberish in a formal church service) makes one a "charismaniac," but speaking in tongues as a private prayer language is not only acceptable, but encouraged (p. 113) and to be an enjoyable "experience" (p. 110). Smith's experience-oriented theology probably comes from the fact that he is strongly Arminian (i.e., easy-believism/decisional regeneration), so strongly Arminian that he, in effect, has rendered meaningless the Biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty in salvation (Word for Today tape#1849 and Calvinism vs. Arminianism, by Larry Taylor).
Chuck Smith's charismatic leanings are also evident from the conferences in
which he participates or endorses; e.g., Bill Bright's Fasting & Prayer
Crusade founder Bill Bright fasted 40 days during the summer of 1994, during
which he claims to have received a "prophecy from God" that a mighty
revival is coming. He then issued a call for hundreds of liberals, charismatics,
and new-evangelicals to gather in Orlando 12/5/94-12/7/94 to fast and pray for
revival. An Invitation Committee made up of a hodgepodge of 72 liberals, new
evangelicals, and charismatics was formed. Included
were: Robert Schuller, Charles Colson, E.V. Hill, Jack Hayford, James
Dobson, W.A. Criswell, Charles Stanley, Paul Crouch, Luis Palau, Bill Gothard,
Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, and Larry Burkett. CCC's Bill Bright cites "a
great sense of urgency to link arms and unitedly call upon God for help in the
spirit of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20)." This ecumenical
"linking" is in the "spirit of Jehoshaphat" indeed, but the
Jehoshaphat of 2 Chr. 18 (instead of 2 Chr. 20) where he "linked" with
wicked King Ahab and incurred the wrath of God. (Reported in the 11/15/94,
[Another three-day "Fasting & Prayer" conference was held in 11/95
in Los Angeles; it attracted 3,500 "evangelicals" and charismatics.
The Invitation/Host Committee for this event included most of those listed
above, plus Dick Eastman, Chuck Smith, Bill McCartney (Promise Keepers),
Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Shirley Dobson, Paul Cedar (E-Free), Ted Engstrom (World
Vision), Joseph Stowell (Moody), and Joseph Aldrich (Multnomah). A third
conference was held 11/14/96-11/16/96 in St. Louis. New additions to the Host
Committee included Max Lucado, Henry Blackaby, Loren Cunningham (YWAM), Greg
Laurie, Dennis Rainey, Randy Phillips (Promise Keepers), Josh McDowell, D. James
Kennedy, Howard Hendricks, and Neil Anderson. (Conferences have been held every
year now, but there is an uncertain future with Bill Bright's August 2001
retirement from Campus Crusade.)]
VII. Worldly Evangelism: Perhaps a result of Smith's early days in the counter-cultural "Jesus People Movement,"* he seems to have a particular fondness for using the world's methods to aid in teaching and/or evangelism. For example, drama and soft-rock musicals have always been a staple in Calvary Chapel's youth ministries. However, "Christianizing" the things of the world in order to reach the lost seems to have gone considerably further at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. The 6/13/94 NIRR and the 11/16/94 Christian Century report that Calvary Chapel has begun a ministry at all-night "rave" parties. Rave is a dance movement from Europe in which teens take designer drugs, use virtual-reality devices, and dance (usually alone) away the night and early mornings hours to repetitive techno-pop dance music. Often, there is no lighting except for strobes and lasers.
The raves are usually held in abandoned warehouses or on Indian reservations. The youth members from Calvary Chapel dress like the ravers. The males wear leather jackets, T-shirts, parachute pants or shorts, and shoes similar to army boots. The females usually wear T-shirts, cutoff shorts, and the same style boots. Calvary outreach assistant Tracy Herman claims that the Calvary Chapel evangelists hand out "really hip tracts" at the raves, and the response to the gospel is "almost always positive." Even if that were true, is it not a sin for a church to expose its young people to such a wicked environment (1 Cor. 15:33)?
VIII. Smith "Ordained" a Man Who Admitted to Sexual Sin: Dr. David Hocking (born 1941) was best known as the host of the "Solid Rock Radio" ministry, which had been broadcast over 170 stations nationwide, and for many years was the host of the "BIOLA HOUR," a nationwide psychologically-oriented radio program affiliated with the liberal (apostate?) Biola University/Talbot Seminary/Rosemead School of Psychology institutions. He was also the senior pastor of the 6,000-member Calvary Church of Santa Ana, California, located just a few miles from Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. (Despite the "Calvary" in both names, these two churches are not affiliated in any way.) Hocking resigned from the pastorate and from Solid Rock Radio on 10/7/92 after confessing to "sexual sin" with a married woman in his congregation. Yet only three days later, Hocking stated that he wanted to return to the pulpit!
To the credit of the elders at Calvary Church Santa Ana, Hocking was permanently expelled (i.e., "ex-communicated") after a dispute over his desired "restoration" after his "moral failure"; i.e., Hocking refused to accept the three-year restoration plan of the elders. (It should be noted that Hocking never admitted to committing adultery, but only "sexual sin, short of sexual intercourse" and to "fondling.") But, to the rescue came Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel. Smith pre-empted the discipline process of Calvary Santa Ana by immediately hiring Hocking as a Calvary Chapel pastor. Smith then declared, "If he [Hocking] doesn't resume his teaching, I'm afraid he'll be literally and totally destroyed." Thanks to Chuck Smith and the leadership at Calvary Chapel, a statement was made that, in effect, it's okay to "ordain" a man to teach and preach even though he had admitted to sexual immorality. (Reported in the March-April 1993, Bible For Today Newsreport; the 4/5/93, Christian News; and the 2/8/93 & 3/15/93, Calvary Contender.)
This then turned into a simple sheep-stealing
exercise, as Calvary Church
IX. Smith Soft On Promise Keepers: Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, Chuck Smith is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement.
Smith spoke at one of the Promise Keepers 1994 regional conferences, indicating his support for the concept and goals of PK. Since then, Smith has found it necessary to "clarify" his position towards PK. In a 4/5/95 letter "To all Calvary Chapel Pastors," Smith voiced concern about PK's "excessive costs for attendance and materials" and with "the psychological emphasis demonstrated in the use of the book [by Robert Hicks], The Masculine Journey ." Being aware of the blasphemous, psychosexual teachings in Hicks' book, one would think that Chuck Smith would strongly recommend that no Calvary Chapel pastor or church member attend a Promise Keepers function. Instead, Smith merely "discourage[s] men from attending Promise Keepers events" and "encourages the use of discernment as to your involvement with Promise Keepers."
* Note on the Jesus People Movement: The 9/93 issue of Charisma magazine had a section of articles discussing the legacy of the "Jesus People Movement" of the late 1960s. Some key words/phrases characterizing this movement were: Sexual revolution, acid generation, long hair, hippies, rock/folk music, rebellion, anti-war protest, peace, love, "Jesus freaks," flower children, communes, and coffeehouse ministries. Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel were prominently discussed. The "Jesus People Movement" helped fuel the wildfire spread of the Charismatic Movement along with its so-called Contemporary Christian Music. It gave vitality to such ecumenical/neo-evangelical organizations as Campus Crusade, Youth With A Mission, The Navigators, and Jews for Jesus. Cornerstone magazine (Jesus People USA) (indirectly) and Greg Laurie (an early Calvary Chapel convert) are also products of the Jesus People Movement. (Reported in the 9/15/93, Calvary Contender.)
A Jesus People Reunion concert was held at Anaheim's Arrowhead Pond on 4/24/99. The 4/25/99 Orange County Register reported that over 10,000 people gathered to celebrate the birth of the Jesus People Movement, a movement of hippies in the late '60s and early '70s who, under the leadership of Calvary Chapel's Chuck Smith, professed to come to Christ but continued to indulge in the music, dress, and commune-style living of the hippie generation. The article noted that scholars today "credit them with spearheading a casual style of worship that is the norm among many congregations worldwide." One reunion attendee told the Register, "Jesus resembled the flower children in many ways. He probably sported long hair. He hung out with the poor and the outcasts. He shook up the establishment. And if he understands English, he's grooving along with us right now." Chuck Smith spoke at the reunion and reminisced about the hippie years. The Register article noted, "More than anything else, music defined the hippie experience at Smith's sanctuary. Some of the top draws reunited Saturday afternoon." Those in attendance listened to several bands perform, including Mustard Seed Faith, Parable, and Love Song. (Reported in the May-June 1999, Foundation magazine.) [Back to Text]
* Note on Suicide: We hold that the Biblical position on suicide is that it is the sin of "Self-Murder," and by its very nature (versus "other-murder") cannot be repented of (unless one takes the Roman Catholic way of repenting in advance for the intentional commission of a future sin). Some will argue, however, that Samson's "suicide" (Judg. 16:28-30) is proof that a person who commits suicide can still be a believer. But in the true sense of the term, there are problems with classifying Samson's death as a "suicide." The verses in question read:
28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with [all his] might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that [were] therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than [they] which he slew in his life.
A typical suicide does not require God's special power and permission to commit. The only way Samson could "kill himself" is if God granted him the "strength" ("I pray thee, and strengthen me") and if He gave permission therein to die ("Let me die with the Philistines"). There is no other "suicide" like this anywhere else in the Bible.-- No strength, no "suicide." No permission, no "suicide." -- This is more a case of God killing Samson (in order to answer Samson's prayer to be "avenged of the Philistines"), than of Samson killing himself. If it is true that a person who commits suicide can still be a believer, the example of Samson cannot be used as a proof-text. [Back to Test]