A Phoenix preacher named Steven Anderson has managed to get himself into the national media spotlight by praying for Barack Obama’s death. One of his church members actually showed up at an Obama event carrying a weapon:
Regardless of what one thinks of Obama – and I don’t think very much of him – this type of talk is inexcusable. Didn’t we just go through eight years of leftwing extremists wishing for George Bush’s assassination or death, even making movies and video games about it? Ethics 101 — What’s wrong in one case is wrong in the other as well.
Phoenix pastor and debater James White has responded to Anderson, noting that Anderson is a King James Only advocate, someone who believes that the King James version of the Bible is inspired, not just the Bible per se:
A good historical overview of the King James Bible can be found on Wikipedia at:
As if anticipating KJV Onlyism, the KJV translators gave a fairer assessment of their own work: “[T]he very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession… contains the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”
Thus, from the scholars who gave us the KJV is the humble admission that even the poorest Protestant translations still contain the word of God. The fact is, the KJV was composed to be the standard text for the Church of England, to be read in Anglican churches. It reflects some of the ornate style and dignified language of the Jacobean period – the time of Shakespeare. Despite its literary and historical merits, it is not the be all and end all of Bible translations. Indeed, the old Geneva Bible was the translation that many of the English reformers used, not the KJV.
Anderson appears to be suffering from an inferiority complex. On his webpage, he says he “holds no college degree” but has “well over 100 chapters of the Bible committed to memory.” He apparently never got a ministerial degree, either, which may explain his hostility to Bible Colleges.
While it’s true that ministers don’t have to be elite philosopher kings in order to preach the gospel, there is no harm, and certainly much good, in getting an education before taking on ministerial duties. St. Paul “spent some days with the disciples at Damascus” before beginning his ministry (Acts 9:19), and Apollos temporarily halted his preaching ministry in order to learn theology from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26).
Anderson’s KJV Onlyism may be inspired by the fact that he doesn’t know Greek or Hebrew, which is usually a requisite for pastors. He gets upset when he hears preachers correcting the KJV by citing the original Greek. “They are correcting the perfect Bible,” he says.
Anderson argues that hell is a literal place of fire and brimstone and is now located at the center of the earth. He also believes Jesus descended into a literal fiery hell for three days. Aside from Anderson’s very peculiar versions of geology and Christology, he does not understand that “hell” in the Bible is a translation of three Greek words, each having a different meaning, cf., where “hades” means place of death. He also doesn’t understand that “Sheol” is the Hebrew term for place of death, and thinks the Spanish infierno is a better translation!
It’s true that some theologians believe hell is a literal place of fire and torment, but it’s also true that many others believe fire is symbolic for separation-from-God, a punishment that hurts the soul (with shame, guilt, regret) the way fire hurts the physical body.
His lack of understanding of simile and symbolism leads him to accuse Jack Schaap of blasphemy. It seems Schaap’s great sin was to describe the Christian’s relation to Jesus by way of a rather clumsy simile involving sexual relations within marriage. Now the basic concept of bridal theology can be found in both the Old and New Testaments, but its indelicate elaboration only starts with Ambrose and with mystical theologians of the Middle Ages.
Schaap was merely following in that rather creepy tradition of overdoing the marriage simile. Anderson is thus correct to oppose it, but I suspect his opposition has to do not so much with literary taste, as with a gnostic hatred of sex. Like a true gnostic, he would probably deny that the Song of Solomon has any sexual content in it.
In Anderson’s world, “normal” men are never tempted by homosexuality, which means once a man becomes a homosexual, he is beyond help. There is no preaching of the gospel to homosexuals in Anderson’s soteriology.
He is opposed to birth control, including the pill, which is, as he puts it, “the most heinous form of birth control.” Likely Anderson would regard condoms as the invention of the anti-Christ. As far as I see, neither the pill nor condoms actually take life, but rather prevent conception. In Anderson’s view, however, preventing conception is like the sinner refusing salvation, so he regards family planning as selfishness. Anderson’s proof-texting for these views is worthless, something he might have learned had he studied in seminary or graduated from a Bible College.
Anderson is undoubtedly a legalist. He is down on contemporary Christian music. I agree with him there, but he descends into legalism when he advises people not to listen to their CDs throughout the week but only sing hymns. He also says they should sing hymns from fifty years ago. He’s also down on women wearing pants, or girls wearing “tight blue jeans.” In addition, he says “there is really no way we can watch television.” I would say that television is often unwatchable, but it’s up to the individual whether he watches it or not, not meddling preachers. He opposes in vitro fertilization as well, regarding it as unnatural, and opposes male gynecologists since they have to look at nude women. I suppose Anderson, following his own logic, must also oppose male doctors since they often have to look at unclothed women (surgery, child-birth, etc).
It’s all very fine to criticize contemporary culture, which is certainly bad enough, but there is something worse — legalism. This is what happens when the standards of weak or immature Christians are imposed on other Christians or people in general. What Anderson wants to impose on himself is his business, but if Christians want to watch TV, or a DVD, or listen to radio, that is their business, not his.
Because Anderson rejects Calvinism, his theology is not a theology of grace, but of works. It’s no wonder his sermons and essays are so rambling and legalistic. Because Anderson is an Arminian rather than a Calvinist, it’s all about getting up enough will power to strive against sin, to follow legalistic rules and regulations, to view life through the prism of fear, sin, and wrath.
Because he’s a legalist, Anderson sees enemies and temptations all around him, but his greatest enemy appears to be Barack Obama, whom he says he hates. “If you want to know how I’d like to see Obama die, I’d like him to die of natural causes,” said Anderson. “I’d like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.”
Anderson would like to see Obama die of natural causes, to be sure, but if Obama were to be assassinated, I suspect Anderson would not dislike that particular outcome either. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson or one of his parishioners doesn’t turn out to be a doppelganger for John Wilkes Booth.
I think it’s pretty obvious this is not the religion of the gentle Savior. It is not a theology of grace. What Anderson’s theology represents is the theology of hate, the theology of the spiritual psychopath. From this all Christians should turn away.