Promise Keepers: A Militant Unity?
By Ed Tarkowski and Sarah Leslie
Promise Keepers, a rapidly growing ecumenical men's movement, may be the best tool for those holding the Manifest Sons of God doctrines to market their beliefs to the rest of the American church. These beliefs, which are foundational to the Laughing Phenomenon associated with Rodney Howard-Browne, are now entering mainstream churches of all denominations via Promise Keepers. The Manifest Sons of God believe that Christ cannot incarnate in a divided body; therefore, it's crucial that the Church be united. Another term for this is "Joel's Army". Promise Keepers has been likened to this army. An article in Jewel van der Merwe's Discernment newsletter states:
According to the O Timothy newsletter, "Promise Keepers is a men's movement started... by members of John Wimber's Vineyard Fellowship." Ryle, who has ministered with John Wimber and Paul Cain, is pastor of the Boulder Valley Vineyard and, in association with Boulder member Bill McCartney, founded Promise Keepers in 1990. Ryle is presently a member of the Board of Directors of Promise Keepers, a `non-denominational,' parachurch organization [whose stated goal] is to celebrate biblical manhood and motivate men toward Christlike masculinity." Vineyard head John Wimber has given his wholehearted approval to the Laughing Phenomenon.
Ryle isn't the only one to promise endtime warriors. During a Pastors' Meeting at the Airport Vineyard in Toronto, where the Laughing Phenomenon is ongoing, Rev. John Arnott said:
Promise Keepers has incorporated key doctrines of the Manifest Sons of God into their material. The February 1995 issue of Suitable Helpers, a newsletter for women participating in Promise Keepers expresses that believers can become Christ Incarnate: "Our Lord is calling out a great host of men ready and willing to become `Christs' in their homes: Promise Keepers. In grand, bold sweeps, God has mustered an army."
Noticing the potential political nature of this men's movement is none other than The New Age Journal, which ran an article favorable to Promise Keepers in its April 1995 edition. Writer Jeff Wagenheim noted the odd combination of New Age men'smovement ideology (Robert Bly's pantheism) combined with the political evangelicalism of Pat Robertson:
An historical precedent for a military-style political/religious movement such as Promise Keepers can be found in Germany during the 30's. According to author Richard Terrell in his provocative book, Resurrecting the Third Reich (Huntington House, 1994), orthodox Christianity was supplanted by the German Volkish faith:
Terrell describes the advent of this full-blown religion:
Is Promise Keepers creating a new "folk" religion? The large mass rallies, the exaltation of emotion over reason, the lack of doctrinal integrity, the taking of oaths (the 7 promises), the focus on fatherland and fatherhood, and the ecumenicalinclusion of aberrant esoteric doctrines bears a disconcerting similarity to an era which gave rise to one of the most dreadful armies inhistory. The infiltration of Manifest Sons of God doctrines into PromiseKeepers (via Vineyard) combined with New Age ideologies (via Robert Bly andRobert Hicks) appears to create a new American folk theology:pantheism, the idolatry of self, the belief in a divine mandate to take theland, the superiority of a group, a divine millenium, and the necessityof group hysteria.
While many in the church are jumping wholeheartedly into the Laughing Phenomenon and Promise Keepers, it behooves the rest of the Church to take a sober, steady look at the historical, theological and philosophical underpinnings of these popularmovements of our times.
[All emphases ours.] Reprinted from the April 1995 issue of Christian Conscience Magazine. This was originally a sidebar to an article by Ed Tarkowski in a six-part series called "The Laughing Phenomena" which explained the Manifest Sons of God cult's doctrine and its effect on the church today.