Open Letter to Chuck Swindoll and Stonebriar Church on Phillips, Craig & Dean

Post image for Open Letter to Chuck Swindoll and Stonebriar Church on Phillips, Craig & Dean

Dear Elders of Stonebriar Community Church,

Grace to you and peace in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray all is well with you.

In October 2009, Pastor Swindoll wrote, “We never seek a fight, but we dare not remain silent when the claims of Christ come under assault.”[1] This line is from the article No Time to Remain Silent – an appropriate title since that time is now upon us.

Pastor Swindoll writes that Christians “must fight for the truths of the faith.”[2] He warns we must maintain balance between always fighting and being unaware of the battle around us. He then notes the “common areas that come under attack: the Bible, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, and the means of salvation.”[3]

I write with a heavy heart taking heed of Pastor Swindoll’s warnings with concerns over the doctrine of the Trinity. I know Pastor Swindoll wrote a book on the Trinity, Growing Deep in the Christian Life: The Trinity (B&H, 1997), and I’m sure each of you, his fellow elders, are just as grounded and concerned with the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Clarity on the Trinity is vital.

Therefore, please hear my case concerning your Phillips, Craig and Dean Concert scheduled for Friday, April 5, 2013.[4] For years, the truth of where Phillips, Craig and Dean (PC&D) stand concerning the doctrine of the Trinity has remained unclear and questionable.

My hope is to get a clear, explicit statement from PC&D of their position on the Trinity. I will show the lack of clarity of each group member’s belief statements on the Trinity. I will also show, without question, that the father of one of the group members, whom planted his son’s church, is explicitly anti-Trinitarian.

I note that there is no confusion where Stonebriar stands in regards to the Trinity. Your statement of faith gives an explicit Trinitarian position (much like mine as a Southern Baptist).

“We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections, and worthy of precisely the same homage, confidence, and obedience. (Genesis 1:2, 27; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; John 1:1,14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:4-6)”[5]

The difficultly is getting a clear position on the Trinity from PC&D. For example, your above statement clearly shows that while God is one, each member of the Trinity exists simultaneously, eternally, and individually as a person.

Oneness Doctrine

Many apologetic books and websites could be cited to explain non-Trinitarian, Oneness views of God. However, to save time it may be more prudent to simply quote the largest Oneness denomination – United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).

“There is one God, who has revealed Himself as our Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is God manifested in flesh. He is both God and man. (See Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; I Timothy 3:16.)”[6]

Note the word “revealed” and the absence of any statement about or allusions to persons or personhood. The UPCI explains what this brief statement means on their site under “Our Doctrinal Foundation”.

“God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity), in the Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action).  (See Deuteronomy 32:6 and Isaiah 63:16; Luke 1:35 and Galatians 4:4; Genesis 1:2 and Acts 1:8.) The one God existed as Father, Word, and Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent. However, the Bible does not teach that there are three distinct centers of consciousness in the Godhead or that Jesus is one of three divine persons.”[7]

The above UPCI statements (and the rest of the document) are very similar to what Trinitarians believe, however, it is clear that they are not Trinitarian. While UPCI position statements are clear, PC&D’s are not which adds to the difficulty of knowing exactly where they stand on the Trinity. PC&D belief statements on the doctrine of God are brief which some Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians may accept on the surface. This lack of clarity on such an important doctrine is a cause for concern. However, Charisma Magazine published an article in 1996, which may be found cached online stating PC&D are Oneness.

“The contemporary Christian recording group Phillips, Craig and Dean is composed of three Oneness ministers.”[8]

Let’s briefly consider each member of PC&D’s statement of faith.

Dan Dean

Dean is the pastor of Heartland Church. The following is all that is given on their website on their doctrine of God.

“We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things.  He exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He is totally loving and completely holy. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10, 11; Matthew 28:19, Luke 3:22).”[9]

The problem is not that this statement is not explicitly non-Trinitarian, but that it is not explicitly Trinitarian. Why not be more clear and explicit?

Shawn Craig

Craig pastors Crosspoint Church. Crosspoint’s website lists the following on their doctrine of God.

“We believe in one God revealed as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19; John 1:14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:4-6)”[10]

Much like Dan Dean’s church’s position, this statement is not explicitly Trinitarian and it is similar to the UPCI Oneness statement above. As I understand it, Crosspoint does have a bit of history with a Oneness denomination with its founder, Bishop Roy Gerald. Again, why the lack of clarity?

Randy Phillips

Life Austin, pastored by Randy Phillips, lists the Apostles Creed as their statement of faith.[11] However, their former statement of faith may also be found in cache form from April 5, 2010 which may contain the most explicit non-Trinitarian statement among all PC&D members.

“( I John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 1 Tim 3:16) We believe in one God who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority. We believe in the Father who is God Himself, Creator of the universe. {Gen 1:1; John 1:1} We believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”[12]

The key word is “manifestation” which relays the idea that God manifests Himself in different forms or modes for His roles as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Theologically, a manifestation would be opposed to God existing eternally in three separate persons. The Apostles Creed is a very broad statement that does not identify God as three persons. Even Mormons can affirm the Apostles Creed.

Why the change in doctrinal statement from just a few years ago? And why the continued anti-Trinitarian relationship noted below?

Further Considerations

Life Austin was originally started as Promiseand West, a plant of Promiseland Church which is pastored by Randy Phillips’ parents, Kenneth and Wanda Phillips. Promiseland offers the most straight forward belief statement about the Trinity. They are explicitly anti-Trinitarian as stated in their Enquirer’s Handbook (easily accessed online) as follows.

“In the year A.D. 180, Tertullian began using the term “trinity” from which was born the Catholic doctrine of three Gods, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. The Roman Emperor Constantine in the year A.D. 325 incorporated the “doctrine of the trinity” into the Catholic Church where it has remained ever since, and most Protestant churches have accepted this doctrine without thorough examination. The “trinity”, however, generates confusion and is not in total harmony with the Scriptures. To say that there are three separate persons who somehow comprise “one God” is like trying to connect opposing sides of two magnets. When you add 1+1+1, it must equal three; and there cannot, under any circumstances, be more than one God.

One of the primary sources of confusion in this matter is related to the word “persons.” The doctrine of the trinity states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three “persons” who make up one God. In actuality, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three manifestations of one God. This word manifestation means “to appear”, and it is quite scriptural. The Bible tells us that, “God was manifest in the flesh . . .” (I Timothy 3:16). In other words, God appeared in the flesh (as a son).”[13]

Note the rejection of the word “persons” in favor of “manifestations” and their explanation. Also, note that Randy Phillips’ father recently preached at their dedication service on February 3, 2013[14] and Randy was ordained by Promiseland.

 “Randy began full-time ministry in 1985 as Business Administrator of his father’s church PromiseLand Central. After becoming an ordained minister in 1989, he served their as Associate Pastor for the next 16 years.”[15]

Randy Phillips was a minister at his father’s church until 2005. For clarity’s sake, the current Enquirer’s Handbook lists a copyright of 2006. However, there is evidence this handbook was available at least as far back as 2002 while Randy was still on staff.[16] It would be difficult to argue that Randy Phillips is unaware of his father’s and of Promiseland’s anti-Trinitarian beliefs.

Of course, the fact that Randy’s admittedly anti-Trinitarian father filled his pulpit should concern any orthodox Christian church that might partner with him. Randy Phillips has the pastoral responsibility to teach sound doctrine and correct bad doctrine – to protect the sheep. If it turns out that Randy is now Trinitarian, then it is troublesome that he would have an anti-Trinitarian preach at his church. The real issue may be that he agrees with his father’s position and that of the church he served for 16 years.

Finally

I pray this letter finds you, the elders at Stonebriar, well and you seriously consider the evidence for concern over PC&D’s position on the Trinity. Several ministries and apologists over the years have attempted to get a clear, public statement from PC&D, but to no avail.

Maybe Stonebriar can finally get a clear statement from PC&D either affirming Trinitarianism or denying it. The request from the Christian community to know the beliefs of PC&D is not unreasonable given their popularity and influence. And it would be a shame for Stonebriar and the wonderful, long-time ministry of Charles Swindoll to be associated with folks who will not publicly admit doctrinal position on the Trinity.

My prayer is that PC&D be explicitly clear on their position on the Trinity whether for or against. If they explain they are truly Trinitarian, Stonebriar and the rest of us can embrace them in Christ. If they will publicly admit their position on the Trinity and remain elusive, I hope Stonebriar would practice separation and find this to be – no time to remain silent – as Pastor Swindoll wrote in the article quoted above.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Your brother with a heavy heart,

Mark Lamprecht

P.S. For the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ, this letter will be published on my site (hereiblog.com) as I find this is no time to remain silent, even if I must, as Pastor Swindoll wrote, “stand alone if necessary.”

Cc: Heartland Church info@theheartlandchurch.com
Cc: LifeAustin Church: info@lifeaustin.com
Cc: Crosspoint Church: info@thecrosspoint.com
Cc: PCD Ministries info@phillipscraiganddean.com


[1] Charles Swindoll “No Time to Remain Silent,” Insight for Living Canada, http://www.insightforliving.ca/insights/february-2009/no-time-remain-silent.html (accessed March 18, 2013).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Phillips, Craig and Dean Concert,” Stonebriar Community Church, http://www.stonebriar.org/helping-others/missions-ministry/special-events/phillips-craig-and-dean-concert/ (accessed March 18, 2013).

[5] “Detailed Statement of Faith,” Stonebriar Community Church, http://www.stonebriar.org/about-us/beliefs/detailed-statement-of-faith/ (accessed March 18, 2013).

[6]“What We Believe,” United Pentecostal Church International, http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs (accessed March 18, 2013).

[7] “Our Doctrinal Foundation,” United Pentecostal Church International, http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs/83-beliefs/91-our-doctrinal-foundation (accessed March 18, 2013).

[8]J. Lee Grady, “The Other Pentecostals,” Charisma Magazine, http://web.archive.org/web/20000706213733/http://www.charismamag.com/june97/cu197123.htm (accessed March 18, 2013).

[9] “What We Believe,” HeartLand Church, http://www.theheartlandchurch.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70&Itemid=67 (accessed March 18, 2013).

[10] “Statements of Faith,” Crosspoint Church, http://www.thecrosspoint.com/images/images_C6167/STATEMENTS%20OF%20FAITH.pdf (accessed March 18, 2013).

[11] “What We Believe,” LifeAustin, http://www.lifeaustin.com/la/default/index.cfm/im-new/what-we-believe/ (accessed March 18, 2013).

[13] Enquirer’s Handbook, “Chapter 8 – One God in Christ – Three in One,” PromiseLand Church, http://www.promiselandchurch.net/index.php/resources/enquirers-handbook/187-chapter-8–one-god-in-christ?start=1 (accessed March 18, 2013).

[14] “Kenneth Phillips,” LifeAustin, http://www.lifeaustin.com/la/default/index.cfm/media/kenneth-phillips/ (accessed March 18, 2013).

[15]“Randy & Denise Phillips,” LifeAustin, http://www.lifeaustin.com/la/default/index.cfm/im-new/meet-our-staff/randy-denise-phillips/ (accessed March 18, 2013).

[16] Eric Nielsen, “Blurring the Dividing Line: The Legacy of Phillips, Craig and Dean,” Alpha & Omega Ministries, http://vintage.aomin.org/PCD.html (accessed March 18, 2013). (accessed March 18, 2013).

Tags: , , , , ; Categories: apologetics,Christianity,Church Issues,Gospel,heresy,theology
The above article was posted on March 18, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
© 2004-2013. All rights reserved.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reg Schofield March 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Well said and excellent documentation of the flaws with this group that has been given such a free pass within Evangelical Christian circles. Doctrine matters and proper theology must be held onto and defended or all the persecution of our those that went before us was in vain.

2 Mark March 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Thanks for the comment, Reg. I hope they do not get a pass this time.

3 Daviss Woodbury March 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm

A few years back, the Southern Baptist megachurch I grew up in and then served for three years as a staff member had PC&D scheduled to come for a concert. I contacted a current staff member and shared these same concerns. After speaking at length with the booking agency and PC&D’s manager, the church leadership cancelled the concert. For at least one church, the ambiguity was too hard to swallow. I pray that Stonebriar follows the same tack and the PC&D is held to account for their lack of clarity.

4 Mark March 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Daviss, praise God! I am glad to finally hear a positive outcome of the lack of clarity from PC&D on the Trinity.

5 Daviss Woodbury March 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm

If memory serves, their management kept going back to the Apostles’ Creed, which, as you mentioned, is not specific on the Trinity. When pressed regarding the Athanasian Creed, they had no response except to keep going back to the Apostles’ Creed. Thankfully, there is an established theologian on staff who is sensitive to nuance and detail, and who picked up on the issue and led the charge to distance from the singers.

6 julie March 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

Sorry, but this really is not surprising. Like alot of high profile teachers and pastors today, Swindoll is all over the map. He might have a doctrinally sound statement of faith, but listen to him teach and his talk is laced with more psychology and secular study outcomes than careful,scriptural teaching. His books might be popular and his church full, but who does he quote in his books? For years he has been quoting mystic and contempletives, such as Henry Nouwen. On his church website, according to the library catalog, you can find these books in the church library: The crossing, by Jakes, Serita Ann; Woman, thou art loosed!: healing the wounds of the past. by Jakes, T. D.;The ten commandments of working in a hostile environment.by Jakes, T. D.; Not easily broken by Jakes, T. D

Want to know what Swindoll and the others really believe? Well, it depends….

7 James March 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

This is an excellent letter. Sad that supposed Evangelical pastors. PC&D will not answer when you ask them if they believe and teach the Historic Christian Trinity. A yes or no reply will do. Now you have 8 time Dove award winner, author of many well known Gospel songs, Joel Hemphill of the Hemphill’s denying and attacking the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Trinity. I remember singing one of Hemphill’s famous songs in Sunday school, “He’s Still Working On Me” Now he has BLASPHEMOUS materials on many anti-Deity of Christ sites, one here: http://www.21stcr.org Some of the authors here are professors at the Atlanta Bible College. This college has also duped many Evangelical Christians. Another pretty well known Gospel artist is Jerry Bennett. He’s another anti-Deity of Christ, anti-Trinitarian artist performing in Christian churches. He duped a Calvary Chapel a few years ago. He performed a concert there. It seems now as long as the check clears the bank, almost anything goes. Just turn on the Christian radio/TV. Not all, but many only care about the buck. There are many stations that air cults, anti-Trinitarians, and the like. One example: Ronald L. Dart’s program, Born To Win airs on many Christian stations, many on Crawford Broadcasting. Dart has now been cancelled from over twenty Christian radio stations, due to his unorthodox teachings. A former baptist, He spent many years with Herbert W Armstrong, and his son Garner Ted. Now that’s a red flag!. Why can’t Crawford do the same? Money? I wonder? If one is not sure of a Bible teacher or a ministry, perhaps the following excellent article will be an eye-opener.

http://www.fredsbibletalk.com/fb018.html

8 evidenceministries March 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

Mark,
There is more to this issue than you know. I personally talked to Randy Phillips earlier this year. Call me at my ministry number if you are interested.

9 Michael Patton March 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

“Swindoll is all over the map.” I imagine that betrays more of a maximalist attitude toward theology which is characteristic of fundamentalism, not evangelicalism. I am not sure which you believe you are, but I can assure you that Swindoll is not only completely orthodox, he is leading the charge actively disciplining other prominite Christian leaders around the world. I was a pastor on Staff with him at Stonebriar. I witnessed him call a very popular evangelical author and encourage h to change some wording in one of his books as it was leaning toward openness theology.

I can’t speak for this current issue, but I will defend Swindoll’s orthodoxy l day.

10 Mark March 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Michael, thanks for stopping by. Given you past association with Swindoll and Stonebriar, can you think of any reason why they would not publicly address this issue? Or even answer in an email instead of asking someone to call to chat about it on the phone?

Swindoll’s article I quoted pushes a very bold stand when confronting important doctrinal issues including the Trinity. It’s as if he’s teaching others to do what he and his fellow elders are not doing in this situation. It’s perplexing.

11 kevin Mahon April 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

Hi- did the concert happen? Did the church respond or Pastor Swindoll?

12 Mark April 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

Never got a response. I’m assuming the concert took place.

13 Phillip Ray Holmes April 15, 2013 at 12:48 am

Why are you so interested in Phillips, Craig, Deans doctrinal beliefs? Oh in case your interested in my theology i’m oneness because there is no such thing as a holy trinity!! The trinity was from the catholic church!!!! Council of Nicea circa 325 A. D.

14 Phillip Ray Holmes April 15, 2013 at 12:55 am

Which of your three god’s of your trinity do you serve?
Do you just ignore the other two?
You don’t really know whom you serve do you?

15 RobinCrosbyDaigle October 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Well, it seems like you all disregard explaining parts of your beliefs as well. Most trinitarians I have spoken with seem confused when asked to explain that belief. PC&D simply do not want to add to that confusion, but embrace all who want to worship God with their whole heart. Why pick on them when they are doing so much good encouraging the broken and down-trodden? Go fight a battle worth dying for and leave it in the hands of God as the scripture teaches us to do.

16 Mark Lamprecht October 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

RobinCrosbyDaigle Why did Pastor Swindoll write about defending the faith including the doctrine of the Trinity when he has such a large reach for the Kingdom?

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: