Does Heresy Matter? Part 1 Ted Dekker’s Cult of the Forgotten Way

What do you do when a well-known Christian writer comes out with blatantly false teaching? What if that well-known Christian writer is the “Stephen King” of Christian fiction? Well, the same thing the Apostles did on a fairly regular basis … the same thing that probably resulted in Paul writing that “Luke alone is with me” as he pleaded for others to come while he sat in a Roman prison awaiting execution. You call it out so others who might admire the famous writer don’t fall for his misguided “doctrine.”

My first exposure to Ted’s “meditations” was through a Facebook post with a video which you can watch here.

I’ve gone to his site for the study here, and found that a number of pastors are claiming this to be a “classic” and “jam-packed to the gills with Spiritual Truth.”

The image for this study shows two people walking toward a glowing doorway in a book spine. Ironically, the book spine belongs to the Holy Bible, suggesting that the Way is through the Bible. Unfortunately, Dekker is offering his book, audio studies, audio monologues, study guide, etc. as “The Path Of Yeshua For Power And Peace In This Life.”

I guess it’s more hip to say Yeshua than Jesus.

Because I’m a cynic, I’m also going to say that Dekker’s book is not the place to go for Jesus’ path for … anything. The Bible is.

But, maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps Dekker, a child of missionaries to Indonesia, is theologically sound, and his book really is packed to the gills (books have gills?) with spiritual truth.

Perhaps I’m getting the wrong message from his video on the site in which he talks about how he (and me, he assumes) is searching for his identity and meaning. He jumps the shark by saying that we “forget who we are” when we’re anxious, worried or angry.

Filling in the gaps of this video, I think he’s suggesting that we forget our identity in Christ when we experience anxiety or anger. He likens this then, to Superman.

I’m going to stop right there. Superman is DC comics, which earns him an automatic FAIL!

That’s the most absurd analogy I’ve ever heard to describe sanctification or our identity in Christ.

Okay, I’ll stay on course. He likens our walk to Superman who forgets he’s superman and thinks he’s only Clark Kent. Then, someone has to remind him that he’s superman, which enables him once more to go to the phone-booth, remove the “disguise” of Clark Kent and be the superhero he’s supposed to be.

That’s the most absurd analogy I’ve ever heard to describe sanctification or our identity in Christ.

It comes about as close as one can get to the “Christ Consciousness” idea of paganism. For the non-geeks out there, Superman was invented as an amalgam of Jesus and Moses. He was placed in a “basket” and sent “down the river” through space to save him from certain destruction … discovered by a childless couple on Earth and raised as their own … ultimately rising to show great signs and offer hope and salvation to the world.

So, to liken the Christian to Superman is … dangerous, at best.

It’s also theologically daft-or deceitful-to claim that “we” Christians “forget who we are.”

This whole “forget we can fly” nonsense is absurd.

The Christian knows that we can do NOTHING while Christ is the power of regeneration and the source of the fruit of the Spirit.

More on that later.

Dekker goes on to say that we need to “love ourselves,” then we can love others as ourselves. He talks of “personal discovery” and claims that this is the path of Jesus.

I saw others shared my initial reaction on his Facebook post, notion that the Bible NEVER tells us to “love ourselves.” Some noted that this whole “self discovery” concept aligns more closely to Eastern religion, than to Christianity.

Well, I wanted to know more about this before I concluded that this was flat-out paganism. So, I searched and found an excerpt in which Dekker purports to explain “what it really looks like to love as God loves.”

Excerpt from Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way posted at Vital.

If there is one elephant in the room among we who are united with Jesus and filled with the Spirit, it is that what we think and say we believe and what we actually experience are all too often two radically different realities. Ironically, we ourselves are often the last to see this disparity.

So, this “elephant” is that Christians are not living Christ-like lives. Their experience doesn’t match the expectations they proclaim.

I’m not so sure if that’s an elephant or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. James writes about this in his letter (found in the Bible, New Testament). John wrote his first epistle (1 John, also in the Bible, New Testament) about the difference between those who “have the Father” and those who do NOT.

Now, I believe that around 85% to 90% of what Ted is saying is fairly true. I think what he’s getting at with the “elephant” issue, is basically the struggle of sanctification. We have confessed our sinfulness to God, accepted Jesus as Lord and His sacrifice on our behalf. We believe by faith that His resurrection gives us new life, but yet we struggle with sinful habits, feel fear and uncertainty and doubt our faith.

This is all normal. Our flesh wars against the Spirit (Paul talks about this in Romans, at length. The Bible, New Testament).

Dekker, however, spins this into “we forget who we are!”

I’m sorry, but I’ve never forgotten who I am. I have wrestled with the reality of the unseen, but I’ve known where the lines were drawn. I know that on one side are the promises of God, while the other holds the passing pleasures of the flesh.

Using Dekker’s “logic,” I suppose the unfaithful husband has just forgotten he was married. He needs to remind himself every day, or he’ll get lost and have an affair!

I suppose this is meant to appeal to all the so-called seekers out there. They just want to know who they are and have a sense of meaning.

You know what I think about that? I think it’s demeaning to people. It’s like talking really loudly in English, hoping the Italian will suddenly understand you. They won’t. They’ll just think you’re an idiot.

I do want to give Dekker the benefit of the doubt. He is, after all, a fellow missionary kid.

So, I read as much as I could about this study beyond the little teaser trailer about self-discovery and loving ourselves.

In the article linked above, I also found this quote:

The evidence of our lives does not match our rhetoric. Have we forgotten the teaching of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13)? He made it plain: the singular evidence shown by those who know the Father is this: Love. To love as Christ loves, submitting to each other without judgment. Surely, to show an extravagant kind of love not possible without the filling of the Spirit.

He rightly notes that our love is the true evidence of knowing the Father. Because we cannot love with the love of Christ unless His Spirit is abiding in us and allowed to flow through us and change us be eliminating the works of the flesh.

So, this is good. Except Dekker adds “without judgment.”

That isn’t found in 1 Corinthians 13. He added that. Of course, he might mean the part of boasting. It’s true that we are to submit ourselves to each other … but where does “without judgment” come in? Frankly, that doesn’t even make sense.

Then, Dekker goes on to sort of re-write Scripture with his own twist:

We show the evidence of profound words to our children, and speak the tongues of angels, yet we rise up in anger at our brother and so are found as guilty as any (1 Cor. 13:1).

Here’s what the verse actually says:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

I don’t see the part about being “found guilty as any.”

We give all of our possessions to the poor and surrender our bodies to be burned and have faith to move mountains and heal disease, calling him Lord, and yet these profit us nothing if the evidence of His Spirit called love, does not rule our hearts (1 Cor. 13:2. Matt. 7:22-23).

Here’s Corinthians:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Cor. 13:2

Here’s the Matthew passage:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt. 7:22-23

See, he takes some parts of the one passage, then misinterprets the Matthew passage. I don’t think the Lord will say to any Christian “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” That verse is to point out false converts!

These false converts CAN NOT wake up to who they really are. Well, actually they could … and it would be to their benefit. They could wake up in the pig trough, at the very end of the works of their flesh and repent, returning to the Father.

But that’s not Dekker’s message. He’s saying we just need to “wake up to who we already are” and the person we’ve just “forgotten” about.

He goes on to talk about this:

Perhaps only because we have forgotten who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us. Perhaps because we are trying to become complete, when we already are complete in Him, clothed in Him, the righteousness of God, He in us and we in Him. Perhaps because we have forgotten that we already died with Him, and were raised with Him and are seated in heavenly realms now, as we read these words (Gal. 2:20).

Let’s take a look at Galatians:

 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

As you can see, Dekker is right about Christ being in us, but only if we’ve been crucified with Him. The first part of his “perhaps” theology is that we’ve been “trying to become complete.”

Maybe the Galatian quote is on purpose. After all, the letter to the Galatians is written to those who have started to move away from grace and toward works for their justification in God’s eyes. Paul wrote the letter to warn them away from that path and back toward seeing their righteousness ONLY in the completed work of Christ on their behalf.

But he couches it in a strange way:

If only we could see ourselves as the Father sees us and so be who we already are. If only we could remove the planks of offense that have blocked true vision (Matt. 7:5).

This whole “planks of offense” is not in the Matthew passage. The verse is about when we seek to correct others when we’re doing the same thing. Like a dishonest man upbraiding another lier, or a thief lecturing a robber. The “planks of offense” sounds more like what Rob Bell refers to in his book Love Wins as being our “ignorance.” We don’t realize we’re saved because we haven’t cleared our vision of the ignorance of God’s love.

Basically, it’s a misleading to say “if only we could see ourselves as the Father sees us and so be who we already are.”

Being fully justified by the work of Christ, the Father looks down at me and sees Christ, not me. I need to be fully aware of my flesh and the need to allow the Great Physician to operate on my life, removing the things that are barring the doors of  my life from the blessed influence of Christ’s Spirit.

To believe in Yeshua is to believe like Yeshua, and we can only believe like Yeshua when we awaken to the truth that we are already in Him and He is in us.

Here’s the problem: I agree that our identity needs to be in Christ, His life living through us, His willing sons and daughters. But if you’re “waking up” to this truth without repentance and mourning for your sin, without poverty of spirit and meekness, then you’re waking up to a false salvation.

It’s important to actually go deeper (not in a lake like in Dekker’s cute reference to his novel Black). We need to know what the evidence of true love IS.

To do that, we need to go to the epistle of 1 John (it’s in the Bible, New Testament. And, amazingly, all these books are available in one volume that you can even get free from pretty much every church and Christian organization. You don’t need to buy the book, the study guide, the audio clips, the mug, the hair gel …).

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

John defines God’s love by how we live. So, if someone is living a life in the “disguise” of worldliness, as Ted puts it, then they don’t “already have it.” In fact, John talks about this in what some might call dogmatic or judgmental terms:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4

And again:

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

The conclusion:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9

All of this is disturbing to me because it masquerades as “deep,” and “packed with spiritual truth,” but is actually shallow and, ultimately, misleading. He takes the “elephant” of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit, but leaps off from that conflict and creates this asinine comparison with Superman/Clark Kent.

He appears to ignore entirely the warnings from Jesus, Paul, John, Peter and James about those who live in the flesh rather than abiding in Christ. He assumes that people are born again, Spirit-filled, etc. and yet their lives are marked with patterns of sin. The Holy Scriptures do not give people that false assurance.

If your way of life appears that you have forgotten that you were purchased by Christ, then you may NOT BE SAVED! And it would be wrong for someone to try assuring you that you are.

What’s worse is that reviewers are lauding this study on Amazon saying they’ve read it through and are on their x number of times reading it!

As I tell my children about playing video games: I think there’s better use for their time!

I’m also leery of Christian celebrities as a whole. I like James MacDonald, but I’m also disturbed by some of the celebrity that surrounds him (not that he’s to blame for it). I think John McArthur is wonderfully insightful, but some might elevate him to a status of he-can-do-no-wrong (which I’m sure John would refute). The list goes on and on. John Piper, Max Lucado, etc.

A Christian who resonates with a large group will invariably become something of a celebrity. Paul addressed this when he corrected the Corinthians about saying “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos!” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

But it is the sign of a mature Christian to recognize that all these guys are mere men like the rest of us. We serve one Master, have one Rabbi, one Leader and that is Christ!

I’m all in favor of devotionals to supplement our Bible study … but it should only supplement.

And here is where I’ll wrap this nearly 3,000 word post up: Ted’s claims that his book is a “20 day cleans that will re-set your entire view of yourself, your world and your Father.” It claims that “the whole world longs for the Way of Yesuha. But for 2000 years we have gone astray and Forgotten that Way.”

The promo for this study says, “Awaken to a New Way of Being in this Life!”

What this tells me is that Ted Dekker is a cult leader. Seriously. He or his marketing folks are essentially saying that for 2,000 years everyone has been longing for Jesus’ way, and their wait and longing is finally over … Ted Dekker has written The Forgotten Way!

And it’s not available in stores … you can only get it through his we site for $$$.

So, are they handing out Kool Aid for everyone, too?

Do yourself a favor: Don’t give another cent to this false teacher. Go back to the Bible and read it. Pray to the Father of lights for insight. He will give you wisdom, as we know from James:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

The Bible is our source of life and the Way of Jesus. If anyone comes to us with a “new” gospel, or a different way, they’re wolves attempting to lead us astray.

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19 Comments

  1. Dekker’s encouragement to live and love like Jesus and his claim that we can do that because of who we are in Christ is a critical aspect of Christian faith. Also, recognition that we will fail some of the time and God still loves us is very important. So, his message is very good even if some interpretations of scripture are not perfect. I seldom read a book where some question doesn’t come up about interpretation. I prefer to see this book as a way to help people live a more victorious life in Christ Jesus, which seems to be Dekker’s objectve.

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    1. I agree that those aspects you pointed out are true, and good. But, deception isn’t about what someone gets right … it’s about what they get wrong, or twist. Dekker’s “spiritual cleanse” is not actually his work, from what I can see. It’s marketed as these “meditations” that he did for his kids, but in fact was co-written with Bill Vanderbrush. So, the premise of the book in the promotion is false. Dekker claims to have been given these words directly from God in an audible-but-not-audible voice in his head. He advocates letting go of all you “think you know,” in favor of feeling. And he promises an extravagant experience “in this life.”

      Just like Joel Osteen will say things that are true, and he’ll properly interpret a passage, it’s the application that becomes problematic. Satan knows the Bible very well, too. In fact, he used it with his temptation of Christ.

      Everything about the supposed Bible study is leading people astray, and doing so for a huge profit for Dekker (who lives in a gated community in a country club in Texas).

      A stopped clock gets the time right 2x a day. So, don’t be surprised when a universalist is saying something that jives with proper theology.

      I’d also caution you in saying “I … see this book as a way to help people live a more victorious life in Christ Jesus…” Does that comport with truth? I see what you mean. I get a lot of help through various devotionals, etc. But, it is the Bible alone, with the working of the Holy Spirit that will give us a victorious life in Jesus Christ.

      I’d just challenge the assumption that Dekker’s objective is truly for the spiritual edification of Christ’s people on this basis: If that were true, why does it cost so much? Why such a huge marketing campaign using such crass marketing like “Are you ready to find out who you really are? Do you dare?” Come on, that’s as cheap as “Buy now before it’s too late, this offer is only good for a limited time!!” Dekker claims he is letting go of this world in favor of his identity with Christ, and yet he’s employing all the sales tactics of the world and he has yet to sell all his posessions to follow Christ.

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      1. I could write a response to these criticisms, but I’m not sure that would be productive. I don’t see anything heretical in Dekker’s writing. Nor do I see overt misquotations of scripture. I would encourage you to re-read The Forgotten Way with the idea that many people are being helped to see their life in Christ as one of love, peace and power. That’s exactly what Jesus told us we would experience; not without pain, but with the strength to endure whatever comes. Let’s all be one in Christ rather than divided. There’s more good in this book than controversial ideas. They’re not new ideas and they are supported by scripture if you look at the footnotes. And I don’t see a problem with the fact that Dekker makes money from his writing any more than I see a problem with any Christian author making money; or that a pastor earns a salary for leading a church.

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      2. Thanks for your input, Robert. I agree that a number of the things Dekker says are true. Our identity should be in Christ, we should rely on His strength to love as He loves, etc. That’s what makes the “Forgotten Way” so deceptive. I’ll also agree that the Lord uses the words of wicked men to accomplish His purpose. So, while Dekker might not be a Caiaphas, prophesying about killing Christ from a position of envy, he may be more like a Demas who loved the things of this world (2 Timothy 4:10), or a Diotrephes who likes to put himself first (3 John 1:9). Discernment is about separating the almost right from wrong. I carefully reviewed what Dekker had because I didn’t want to write against someone who was doing good, but had crass marketing. Unfortunately, his e-book just came out and said things that no humble servant of the Lord would say. Again, I appreciate your point. I agree that not everything Dekker says is eeevil. But, it’s in the application and the subtle turns of a verse where true heresy rears its head. It’s the quiet, “did God really say?” in which the devil works. Dekker’s site used to say that this “way” has been forgotten for 2000 years, implying that it is on par with Scripture. And, in fact, since he claims special revelation from God, it would be.

        I’m not trying to divide Christians. I’m trying to warn Christians from false teaching. This is no different than what Paul, Peter, John and Jude did in their epistles. We should be good Bereans who do not follow the teachings of men lightly, but search them out. I’d encourage you to do the same. If Dekker’s teaching is good, then he’d be referring people to the Bible. If he’s claiming that his “21 Day cleanse” is going to change people, he’s advocating a new gospel.

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      3. If listening to or reading discussions of scripture is heresy then we are all guilty. Dekker is structuring a study of scripture to help us understand its meaning. This study is based on the Bible as evidenced by the many references. So, I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. Even so, we are brothers in Christ.

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      4. Robert, you’re employing a “straw man” argument. I never said “listening to or reading discussions of scripture is heresy.” That’s a pretty easy thesis to disprove. In fact, you’ve joined me on my site to read a discussion of scripture. I’m honored that you stopped by, in fact. I’m also encouraged that you’re someone who appears to think these things through. I appreciate that you’ve given the time to consider the points I’ve made. Could we ask any more? But, to the issue, Dekker would be fine if he wrote a book with his interpretation of verses, or some impressions of what these verses meant to his personal walk with the Lord (and some of the content does relate to that, which I thought was good). Where it veers into heresy is when he claims it is “The” way, or that it has been “Forgotten” for 2000 years, yada, yada, yada. That’s absurd. That’s pure arrogance. It also descends to heresy when he claims to have been spoken to directly from God. While he claims to be teaching about love, he’s focusing on how “we feel” and what “we experience.” In Waking Up he brushes aside any question of sinful disobedience with this idea that he just woke up to realize that he was already accepted (true, if he repented and turned to the Lord). He effectively dismisses the issue of sinful behavior that would be an indication that someone never repented, never turned to the Lord, was never crucified with Him, never had their sinful self buried and never received the new life of the resurrection. He dismisses Paul’s warning to work out your salvation with fear and trembling Phil 2:12. I don’t believe a person who has repented can lose their salvation. Namely because God is the author and finisher of their faith. But, on our end, we need to be very concerned whether we are ‘in’ the faith or self-decieved. To use Dekker’s illustration, we may not be Superman. We may actually be Clark Kent. And, by the way, that is such a horrible illustration given that Superman was a character designed after Jesus Christ. It’s almost too obvious when coupled with Dekker’s statement that “you are the light,” that he’s advocating we are divine and we join in the presence of the Trinity in a dance. Really? Anyway, I hope this is helpful to you. Personally, I’ve found F.B. Meyer’s devotionals and books of great help in my spiritual growth. You might consider checking them out.

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      5. Have you? Have you sold everything and followed Christ? I dare say not. You are judging Ted through your own lens and self condemnation. Ted is right. What you believe about yourself you become. If you want to love your neighbors as yourself, then you must first love yourself otherwise you have only your self hatred to give others.

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      6. Sorry, but that’s pop psychology, not theology. I am discerning with judgment the way we are called to do. Each day we are to pick up our cross and follow Christ. We are not called to savor the things of this world. As to Ted’s wealth, that’s hardly the issue as compared to his satanic doctrine of “you are the light.”

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  2. Mr. Dekker is a millionaire author now making lots of money selling his Forgotten Way products to people craving an infusion of spirituality in their lives. In view of how much money and fame he now has, why is he not at least doing this at cost. Something stinks.

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    1. His marketing for the “Forgotten Way” is anything but forgotten. It plays on multiple cognitive biases as identified by sales experts. So, leaving doctrine out of this, there’s a lot of problems with Dekker’s method, as well as profiting off of the gospel (loose as it is here).

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  3. Thank you for your insights. This is what I suspected. I had the same thoughts about how we’ve all been so “lost” until his revelation of the forgotten way. I am interested to know the process he used for his revelations. I suspect he used contemplative meditation, same as Sarah Young in Jesus Calling. It’s so dangerous for Christians to be led by these supposed new insights. These are the same methods used by mefiums to hear from the other side, and against which we are warned in the Bible. There are a whole crop of these ‘prophets’ getting new interpretations of scripture…Sarah Bessy, Jen Hatmaker, Beth Moore, etc. Please dont be led astray by these false prophets looking to Eastern meditation/religious methods. Isaiah 2:6 tells us God had forsaken the house of Jacob because “they replenished from the east and are soothsayers like the Philistines”. The Israelites had turned away from the one true God and toward the practices of the east. These mystics i.e. teachers of today, get guidance from ‘familiar spirits’ which tell them that God is all love and that we should combine our beliefs together (all religions) without judgement. This is part of the coming one world religion. But there is a judgement coming. Its not for we Christians to condemn anyone to Hell but it is right to point out false teaching and methods to keep believers from falling for these false teachers. They are not using new methods. They are in fact quite ancient.

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  4. Just wanted to point out that Dekker IS referring to the “planks and specks” verses here:

    “If only we could see ourselves as the Father sees us and so be who we already are. If only we could remove the planks of offense that have blocked true vision (Matt. 7:5).”

    It looks like you reversed the numbers for the reference. If you look at his quote (above), he says “Matt. 7:5,” which IS the planks and specks verse. You quoted Matthew 5:7 below.

    “Here’s the reference for Matthew:

    ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7′”

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    1. Thanks, Mandy. Perhaps I had a moment of dislexia. 🙂 I tried to double-check the reference used on that Vital link, but it is no longer working. I amended the article since it doesn’t appear he had the reference wrong. But the term “planks of offense” is often used by the Word Faith movement and is also changing the context of that verse. It mirrors Rob Bell’s “ignorance” claim in his book Love Wins. Basically, we need to remove our ignorance of God’s love so we can experience the fact that we’re all okay. While Dekker doesn’t clearly seem to be a Universalist like Bell, he’s certainly taking verses out of context and then providing a “new” gospel that is essentially a New Age “awakening” versus the true Gospel of repentance and faith. Thanks for your feedback!

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