Pastor Dale’s Response to Articles Labeling Circle Maker as a Heresy and as Witchcraft
In a blog from a website beginningandend.com, the unidentified author of an article accuses Mark Batterson in his book, Circle Maker of bringing witchcraft into the church. He makes a number of slanderous statements in the article and does not give any opportunity for Mark or others to give the other side of the accusations. The website identifies itself with the views of fundamentalist Baptists. They reject Pentecostal denominations and charismatic churches like ours and view Rick Warren as a false teacher. They slam whole groups of orthodox Christians who don’t believe in their interpretations of some doctrines. The Assemblies of God denomination of which Mark Batterson is affiliated is one of the denominations they reject. Even though the AOG denomination wholly embraces the fundamental doctrines of the faith as agreed upon by most evangelicals, including those who adhere to the doctrinal statements of groups like the National Association of Evangelicals.
What is troubling about such articles is that rather than assume a pastor and a teaching is innocent until proven guilty, they rush to judgment putting labels and their interpretations of something said. This would never be accepted in a court of law but it is a tool used by many who attack other Christian leaders.
Mark Batterson is a Godly Gospel Preaching Pastor, who is in good standing with his denomination, the Assemblies of God. He preaches the cross of Jesus and leads people to salvation through Jesus Christ. He is orthodox in his doctrine and believes fully in the inerrancy of God’s Word.
The following are a list of statements the author makes and why I believe they are false and unfair attacks.
1. In this article the author says that Mark “Doesn’t even mention Jesus or the gospel.” Yet, Jesus is all through the book. Anyone who listens to Mark knows he continually lifts up Jesus and the gospel.
2. The focus of his attack is on the fact that Mark uses the story of Honi, the Circle Maker to illustrate praying bold prayers of faith. The argument is because this is not in the Bible it makes this teaching false. The author says that the “entire book is based on a non-biblical source.” The fact that he uses an illustration from history does not mean the book is not based on the Bible.
The book is completely based on the Bible. It is full of Scripture. Every point is backed up by Scripture. He uses this story to illustrate a kind of prayer clearly practiced and taught in the Bible. We see a great example when Elijah prayed for rain, when Israel walked around Jericho, and when Jesus again and again taught that when we pray, we are to do it in faith, expecting God to move.
3. The author claims that Jesus did not give us any example of praying boldly. I think calling out to Lazarus to “come forth” would certainly contradict that.
4. One of the most slanderous things the author says is that the book doesn’t teach us to pray God’s will. He claims that the book teaches us to “pray for whatever we want in life with no regard for God.” This couldn’t be a more blatant false accusation. Over and over Mark talks about searching out God’s will and that it is all about God getting what He wants. He refers to prayers being answered when “God’s Sovereign will becomes our sanctified wish.”
5. To make his point, the author just lumps Mark Batterson and the book in with the “prosperity false gospel.” The assumption is that it is all about a “me centered” approach, praying to get my personal appetites filled. I don’t believe there is any basis for that accusation. In almost every case the examples that are given are about furthering the gospel. He doesn’t talk getting personal material wealth and prosperity.
6. I believe the author cruelly links the book to witchcraft. Anyone who knows Mark’s ministry would know how ridiculous it is to claim that anything he teaches or practices would condone witchcraft. The proof he gives to link the book to witchcraft is two-fold. First that witches make magic circles to conduct their ceremonies in casting spells. Secondly, that a witchcraft book quotes the story of Honi, the Circle Maker. I would propose that this is an argument based on nothing. The fact that Satanists or other religions do certain things that are similar to what Christians do doesn’t mean Christians believe in Satanism. Satan is a counterfeiter. Certainly, the Jewish Talmud in which the story of the Circle Maker was quoted wasn’t advocating witchcraft.
There is a very clear guide in how we should discern and test things. This article violates several principles.
One is that any person accused of false teaching or any other sin is to be confronted personally and privately and so the investigation is fair and godly. If a person is sinning or refusing to repent, only after a thorough process is he to be publicly exposed.
Secondly, when the Bible talks about testing false prophets, it mentions that we are to look at the fruit. We are to examine the life of the person. Mark Batterson’s fruit is clearly good fruit.
In discerning error both sides of an issue should be heard. The teaching should be tested by Scripture. If it is a matter that is not in contradiction to the specific fundamental doctrines of the faith, it is to be left to individual churches to test and guide in how it aligns. Christian denominations have different views on many peripheral issues in which we can agree to disagree without condemning and labeling the other as heretics.
In my view, the teaching of this book leads us to the very core of Biblical teaching on prayer. It stirs a hunger for prayer. It calls us to true obedience to God’s Word. It exalts Jesus. It empowers us to grow in faith and reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It does not lead us to want to be involved in witchcraft or be greedy and selfish. I have seen just the opposite fruit in my life and the congregation. The teaching of this book has helped me more than ever to want to crush Satan’s strongholds and lift Jesus Christ high as our Lord and King.