Promise Keepers' Theology Needs Scrutiny

Article excerpt

Byline: Janet Hallman

From all appearances, last weekend's Promise Keepers gathering at Soldier Field delivered all the excitement its attendees had anticipated.

To be sure, the sight of 69,000 men packing out a stadium in blistering heat to hear how to improve their relationships with God, their families and people of other races was encouraging.

But for all the good messages Promise Keepers speakers delivered on family and race relations, some of their theological statements seemed confusing and, at times, even contradictory.

It's a hard subject to even bring up, because to raise questions about Promise Keepers on any level is, to many evangelicals, tantamount to the unforgivable sin. The important thing, many say, is that this is a group that is doing a lot of positive things for society. And how can you disagree with that?

Yet Promise Keepers has earned a powerful role among evangelicals as an almost untouchable spiritual authority. And that's all the more reason to evaluate closely what the organization says.

Case in point: Many of the speakers at the Chicago conference emphasized that only the power of God can reconcile people with one another, and men are powerless on their own.

But at a later press conference, Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney said, "The reason this nation has never been free of racial (division) is that Almighty God's hands have been tied." McCartney went on to say that God can't reconcile the races because "we won't let him."

Human responsibility is one thing. But is Promise Keepers really trying to promote the idea that man has the power to tie and untie the hands of God? If so, why the contradictory statements?

John Armstrong, an author and director of Reformation & Revival Ministries Inc. in Carol Stream, said he was disturbed that evangelist Luis Palau's opening message did not thoroughly expound the evangelical understanding of the gospel.

"I heard him say, 'Come back to God, whether you're Mormon or Jewish or Catholic' or what, and there was no clear explanation about the God to whom we are to come," he said.

Wayne Grudem, professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity International University in Deerfield, also said he disagreed theologically with some of the statements he heard.

In particular, he cited McCartney's explanation of John 13:1, where McCartney said that Jesus was "taking off skin color" by removing his outer garment. …