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Dr. Norman Geisler has weighed in on the Local Church issue by filing a Friend of the Court brief:
My name is Norman L. Geisler. I am the Dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary near Charlotte, NC. I am an author, co-author, or editor of over sixty books and some 200 articles on cults, apologetics, theology, and related topics. I have four earned degrees from accredited schools (B.A., Th.B., M.A., and Ph.D.).
I have been teaching on the college or graduate level for 47 years. I have written many articles for The Christian Research Journal published by the Christian Research Institute (CRI) whose president is Hank Hanegraaff. These including [sic] a two part series on "The Essentials of the Christian Faith," which sets forth doctrinal norms for determining which groups fall short of the claim to be Christian and can thus be appropriately labeled as unorthodoxy, heretical, or a cult.
I am aware that Hank Hanegraaff, President of CRI, has filed een Amicus Brief urging this Court to grant the Petition for Review filed by The Local Church, Living Stream Ministries, et al. in the above captioned case. To the contrary, I believe that it is critical that this Court deny that Petition. I state my reason for this position below.
In over fifty years of research on doctrinal matters, it is my professional opinion that
1) It is doctrinally appropriate to label some groups by the terms unorthodox, heretical, or a cult.
2) It is appropriate to use these labels of The Local Church.
My reasons for the first point are as follows: First it is a danger to our religious liberty for the Courts to engage in determining what is or is not orthodox theology.
Second it violates one's freedom of speech not to allow a group to define the limits of their own orthodoxy beliefs by distinguishing themselves from beliefs and groups that do not in their opinion meet the standards for orthodoxy.
Third, for the Court to forbid such freedom of religious expression in the Harvest House/Local Church case would have a chilling effect on freedom of religious expression for any group desiring to define the boundaries of its own beliefs.
My reasons in support of the second point are two-fold.
First, in every list of essential Christian Doctrine of which I am aware, including the doctrines used by CRI, the doctrine of the Trinity is an essential Christian Doctrine, and deviations from it are considered unorthodox, heretical, or cultic.
Second, after carefully reviewing the unretracted material published by The Local Church, I find numerous statements that are not in accord with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.
I have reviewed the Court of Appeals decision in the above captioned case. I believe that the reasoning of the Court of Appeals protects researchers, religious writers, apologetics scholars, and publishers from harassing litigation that could otherwise interject the secular courts into essentially theological disputers. In the events that this Court should see fit to grant the Petition for Review, and to consider the merits of this case, I intend to file an Amicus brief in support of the position of Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg, and John Weldon, and in opposition to The Local Church, Living Stream Ministries, et al.
- Source: Amicus Brief by Norman L. Geisler, Nov. 7, 2006. Format edited for clarity.
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