Destiny Churches must be treated as a cult of Christianity; Heresy taught by Brian Tamaki

Destiny Church‘s self-styled bishop Brian Tamaki has appalled the Christian community by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, an essential fundamental tenet of Christian faith, writes opinion columnist Garth George in the New Zealand Herald:

A comprehensive dossier compiled by Mark Vrankovich, founding director of the Auckland-based international organisation Cultwatch, reveals that Mr Tamaki dropped this inexplicable heresy on his congregation in sermons beginning in May last year.

Cultwatch, a para-church organisation made up of people from different Christian denominations, says:

Brian Tamaki has turned his Destiny Church into a cult by denying an essential of the Christian faith, saying the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not occur – for Christians this is a really big deal. In 2004 on national TV Cultwatch designated Destiny Church as an “emerging mind control cult”. By denying an essential of the Christian faith Cultwatch is reluctantly forced to classify Destiny Church as a cult. Read this article to review Brian Tamaki’s 2010 preaching that moved Destiny Church out of the orthodox Christian sphere.

As reported and documented in the article, Brian Tamaki’s views have indeed turned Destiny Church into, theologically, a cult of Christianity.

Tamaki has fired back in the media, claiming that he has never denied Jesus’ resurrection.

Cultwatch Director Mark Vrankovich rejects Tamaki’s response and updated his article with the following statement:

Due to the significant reaction from Christians triggered by this Cultwatch article, Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki is recanting his May 2010 statements on the resurrection. However, he has not changed his other unorthodox view (detailed below). Read this article, it remains as first published, except for the addition of a new section at the end detailing the reaction it has caused.

Under the header “Reaction to this Article” Vrankovich explains:

The shockwaves this article caused as Christians listened to Brian’s statements about the flesh Jesus not coming out of the tomb, and his idea that we are all God, have been massive. Most Christians thought Brian was orthodox, but that changed as they listened to Brian’s own words. The pressure became so intense that Brian Tamaki was forced to backpedal on his statements about the resurrection. (However he has not yet changed his views about the human spirit actually being God’s Spirit.)

Brian Tamaki has claimed that actually, despite not mentioning it in his May 2010 sermon, all he was talking about regarding the resurrection was the fact that Jesus’ post resurrection body was improved from his pre resurrection body, the same issue we detailed in this article’s footnotes[1]. That was all, and that he was just taken out of context.

But if that were true, why did Brian say he had been preparing his followers for a year to receive this “revelation”? Why would that be needed if it was an orthodox teaching? Also why would Brian tell his followers that Theologians would have “great difficulty” with this new revelation, and pastors and vicars would “curl” at this teaching? That also would not be required if his teaching was orthodox.

Christians listening to Brian’s own words agreed on mass that Brian was teaching that only the Spirit of Jesus came out of the tomb, and not the flesh or physical Jesus. Christians understood what Brian was saying. And so did those Christians with Masters of Divinity and Doctorates in Theology, Bible School lecturers and those like us who do Christian apologetics. Even media people like Garth George of the NZ Herald and the staff at News Talk 1ZB understood what Brian was saying. These people, like we did, listened to Brian’s May 2010 statements in context and came to the same understanding found in this article. (Remember we have always provided the full context of Brian’s statements in the Resources section below.)

Garth George, who describes himself as a “Christian layman,” says

Destiny doesn’t surprise me. In my view, it is a natural progression for an organisation in which the leader is seen as infallible to develop a theology of its own.

And Mr Tamaki really needed something to bolster his position. In October 2003 at a Destiny Church conference, Mr Tamaki received cheers and a standing ovation when he told the gathering: “I predict, in the next five years by the time we hit our tenth anniversary, and I don’t say this lightly, but we will be ruling the nation.”

He went on: “… I feel very strongly in my heart that the word of the Lord came to me very strong … that this will actually be the first nation historically in the world to be under the governance of God.”

That time has long passed. All that needs to be said is that the Destiny Party received a handful of votes in the 2008 election.

Then, in late 2009, came his declaration that he was the church’s “spiritual father” and the binding of male members of the church to him as “spiritual sons” by a “covenant oath”. The section entitled “Protocols towards our spiritual father” took 1300 words to describe in cringe-making detail how the “spiritual sons” should behave towards their “spiritual father”.

“Bishop is the tangible expression of God”, it said. “Bishop carries our vision and our anointing for the future and hope of our families and offspring …” The covenant became a national story. Much of the reaction verged on contempt for the self-glorifying message which claimed that Mr Tamaki is God’s special and unique representative on Earth.

So, in my opinion, it is natural that after a failed prophesy of political power, and within a few months of chaining his followers to him, Mr Tamaki would feel the need to announce an astounding revelation in order to prove all that he has claimed for himself – and keep the money flowing in.

Elsewhere in his sermons Mr Tamaki insists, in effect, that we are all God.

“They are many Christs of the one Christ, so they are all portions of Christ, because Christ is in them and we are in Him.”

I can only conclude that Mr Tamaki has become so persuaded that he is the messianic voice of God that he has become irrational.

Says Mr Vrankovich: “Destiny Church needs to be treated the same way Christians treat other cults.”

And I agree that when Destiny Church and its leaders claim to speak for Christians, then Christians need to point out that Brian Tamaki no longer represents Christianity in this country.

Read: Brian Tamaki’s Destiny Church is Now a Cult, at Cultwatch.

On Cults

The term ‘cult’ can be defined sociologically and/or theologicaly.

Sociological definitions of the term ‘cult’ “include consideration of such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, [and] conformity patterns (including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate).” (Ron Enroth)

Theological definitions of the term ‘cult’ make note of the reasons why a particular group’s beliefs and/or practices are considered unorthodox – that is, in conflict with the body of essential teachings of the movement the group compares itself to.

A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible. (Alan Gomes)

In our view Destiny Church is theologically a cult of Christianity. Sociologically it has cult-like elements as well.

Cult FAQ

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 17, 2011.
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