Throughout church history there have been many people whose names are commonly known but whose views on matters of faith weren’t.  John Knox for example, a reformer who was instrumental in the formation of the Presbyterian Church, advocated violent revolution against the Catholic Church and the monarchy and condoned the assassination of the archbishop of St. Andrews, Cardinal Beaton.

The following is a list of ministers and theologians who are considered to have been mightily used of God, along with some of their more shocking beliefs and foibles.  Keep these in mind the next time you hear somebody branding one of today’s ministers a heretic or a false teacher.  Sometimes I think God is much more lenient when it comes to bad theology than we are.

Augustine

  • Believed in baptismal regeneration, and that water baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins
  • Believed it was permissible to use force against heretics
  • Believed that the Eurcharist is necessary for salvation
  • Believed that giving alms is necessary for salvation
  • Had a Gnostic dualistic view of the world
  • Believed that Mary was a perpetual, sinless virgin
  • Believed in praying for the dead

 

Martin Luther

  • Condoned bigamy/polygamy, saying “I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture”
  • Called Jews “the devil’s children, damned to hell
  • Opposed the practice of the Anabaptists called “the sitter’s right” where all church members were free to participate in church meetings
  • Justified profanity, feuding, drinking, and name-calling
  • Had a hyper-grace view on sin, saying “No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.”
  • Believed that lying wasn’t always wrong.  “To lie in case of necessity, or for convenience, or in excuse, would not offend God, who is ready to take such lies on Himself.”
  • Rejected the divine inspiration of the books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation
  • Condoned the execution of heretics
  • Apparently rejected the concept of free will, saying “We do everything of necessity, and nothing by ‘free-will’; for the power of ‘free-will’ is nil”

 

John Calvin

  • Condoned the execution of unrepentant heretics
  • Believed that the Eucharist provides assurance of salvation
  • Believed that his church (Reformed) was the one true church offering salvation
  • Much like Luther, called his opponents terrible names
  • Also like Luther, was anti-semitic
  • Condoned execution for offenses like fornication, adultery, idolatry … etc.
  • Believed that God created some people for eternal damnation

 

Jonathan Edwards

  • Condoned owning slaves
  • Believed that the Pope was the Antichrist
  • Believed that the revival that was happening in his day was God’s final work on the earth
  • Believed that the bodily manifestations and fanatical behavior in his meetings were normative during a revival
  • Believed that mystical experiences were part of the Christian experience

 

John Wesley

  • Believed in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena
  • Believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary
  • Owned a static electricity machine, believing that people should be “electrified daily” for their health
  • Read books by adherents of “Quietism”, a mystic group promoting contemplative prayer
  • Approved of the teachings of Montanus who started a heretical movement in the early church

 

D. L. Moody

  • Promoted ecumenicism
  • Like Wesley, read books by Quietists
  • Believed that all Ten Commandments must be followed

 

Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Rejected the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus
  • Rejected the deity of Christ
  • Rejected the doctrine of the Trinity
  • Rejected the doctrine of the atonement
  • Rejected the bodily resurrection of Christ
  • Rejected the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ

 

Famous Preachers With Infamous Views

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