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An Open Letter Review of Bob and Gretchen Passantino's book "Witch Hunt"


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Of Definitions and Discernment

An Open Letter Review of

Bob and Gretchen Passantino's "Witch Hunt"

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

Note: This review was originally sent to the Passantinos as a private letter in 1991. They have never responded.

This article is provided as a service to the members of the AR-talk mailing list, and provided under these terms.

Let me begin by saying that overall I do like your book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to deepen their thinking on the matter of doctrinal discernment. In fact, I list your book in the Recommended Reading section at the end of my book Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal Discernment (whereas there are other books on the subject that I deliberately do not recommend). [See article]

I am especially appreciative of chapters 2, 3, and 6, of which I have almost no criticisms to make, and chapters 8-9, of which I have nothing to say except that they were wonderful. I am in general agreement with the spirit and intent of all of the other chapters, despite the specific criticisms I will make of them. In this letter my remarks will focus on what I perceive to be problems in your book; but please understand that, from my perspective at least, these are imbedded in an otherwise very good book.

Defining Witch Hunting

One significant concern I have raised before about your book concerns the title Witch Hunt. I suggested that it could be seen as a play on the name of Dave Hunt. This is not implausible. After all, you devote about 30 pages of the book explicitly to Hunt (much more implicitly) and cite him 49 times in the notes (far more than any other writer). All of the people whose "witch hunting" approach you criticize at any length (Cumbey, Lindsey, the Bobgans, Marrs, Decker) have been strongly influenced by Dave Hunt.

As I recall, you told me that this play on words had not occurred to you or at least was not your intention. I take you at your word. I simply thought you might want to reflect on the possibility that some advocates of Hunt's approach might take offense.

More significant is the matter of the meanings you attach to the term witch hunt. I say "meanings" because I find more than one in your book.

One way in which you define witch hunting is as faulty technique in discernment. For instance, you write, "Due to faulty methods and techniques (what we call 'witch hunting') many people - including brothers and sisters in Christ - have been hurt" (10). Here it seems that witch hunting is simply the making of any sort of mistakes in discernment. In this sense it is easy to understand when you say that witch hunting "has been practiced by us, our colleagues and friends" (13). "Probably all of us who participate in biblical discernment have a few areas where we slip unwittingly into witch hunting" (30). A more formal definition along this same line appears on page 43 (originally in italics): "Witch hunting is using logic, Scripture, and/or evidence in the wrong ways in a futile effort to identify heresy and protect oneself or others from false belief." Again, apparently any error in reasoning, biblical interpretation, or factual analysis, committed in the practice of trying to identify heresy, is witch hunting.

In defining witch hunting as making mistakes in doctrinal discernment, the most you can say about someone like a Dave Hunt or a Constance Cumbey is that they "seem to make a habit of witch hunting" (30). The implication is that the difference between a Gretchen Passantino and a Constance Cumbey is a matter of degree, not of kind: both fall into witch hunting, but Gretchen rarely and Constance much more frequently.

Now, in the very next sentence after the definition on page 43, you write, "Witch hunting is a dangerous practice." Here witch hunting is treated as a practice, one that is dangerous. It seems to be more than a mistake - it is a certain approach or way of doing doctrinal discernment that is dangerous. Similarly, on page 10 you refer to the growth of "a new evangelical industry - witch hunting." This sounds as if witch hunting were a kind of approach to discernment that is systemically problematical. On page 17 you draw a broad contrast between "witch hunting" and "biblical discernment." Chapter 3 refers to "Witch Hunters" and chapters 7-9 warns that "They're" slandering, damaging, and attacking Christians. All of this implies that some people are witch hunters and others are not. To go back to my illustration, Gretchen may make mistakes, but she's not a witch hunter, whereas Constance most certainly is one. Gretchen may occasionally and inadvertently make similar mistakes to ones made by Constance, but Gretchen does not practice witch hunting, while Constance does.

Matters come to a head on page 27. Here you make the following statement: "Witch hunting occurs when Christians, desiring to preserve truth, do not finish their work carefully and instead (1) misunderstand or misuse Scripture; (2) argue illogically; (3) misrepresent others; or (4) by their actions assume that the end (preserving truth) justifies the means (unfair accusations)." This statement seems problematical to me; let me explain why.

First, I am unsure whether this is intended as a formal definition. It doesn't read exactly like one. You seem to be specifying four ways in which witch hunting can occur, or four types of witch hunting. The problem is that the sentence structure seems to suggest that each of the four errors listed is in and of itself a type of witch hunting. (That is, the sentence reads, "Witch hunting occurs when Christians... [1], [2], [3], or [4]," implying that any of these four by itself is witch hunting.) This seems problematical; surely not all misunderstandings of Scripture (1) or logical errors (2) are examples of witch hunting. Moreover, justifying unfair accusations as serving the preservation of truth (4) would seem to be a particular mode of misrepresentation of others (3).

Second, I think you should not have said that witch hunting is committed by Christians "desiring to preserve truth." Here you seem to contradict your own stated position that witch hunting might be committed by some people deliberately and deceitfully, although you do not seek to make such judgments (15-16). What you evidently meant to say was that witch hunting can be committed even by Christians desiring to preserve the truth.

Here's how I would define what, by the various things you have said about it and by the majority of your examples, you seem to mean by witch hunting. Witch hunting is abusing reason or Scripture or both in the practice of identifying heresy in such a way that if followed consistently the innocent would be falsely charged along with the guilty.

In offering this definition, I am trying to restate what I think you meant to say in all of the above-cited descriptions of witch hunting. But I am a little uncomfortable with this use of the term. I would prefer to limit the term to the indiscriminate accusation of heresy that actually accuses falsely the innocent as well as the guilty. As you use the term, witch hunting refers to any practice of identifying heresy that even potentially might result in a false accusation against orthodox Christians.

For example, I can agree when you say that "often the innocent as well as the guilty are caught by witch hunting tactics." However, I don't think witch hunting is the best term to use to refer to the fact that "the guilty are often caught by the wrong methods, thus allowing them an 'out'" (14).

Now, in our previous conversations you argued, as I recall, that you had the right to use the term witch hunt in the way that you did as long as you clearly defined in the book what you meant. I have explained already why I think you were less than clear in defining the term. But beyond that, I agree with the statement you cited on pages 93-94 from the Cornerstone response to Hunt's reply to your review. The substance of that statement is that an author should not use nonstandard definitions as these are likely to be confusing and even misleading to people when used outside the immediate context of the author's book. This seems especially important with emotionally loaded terms such as sorcery and witch hunting. Now, it seems to me that using the term witch hunting to refer to any errors in reasoning or biblical interpretation that might be made the basis for falsely condemning the innocent, even if they are not so applied, is a nonstandard use of the term.

More could perhaps be said about this matter, but I must leave it at this point. Let me just summarize quickly. (1) I don't think you were very clear in defining what you meant by "witch hunting"; I have suggested a more precise formulation tailored to your use of the term. (2) I don't think your use of the term is narrow enough; it seems to attach the emotionally charged label of witch hunting to any mistakes in reasoning, whereas I have urged that it be limited to the actual practice of making false accusations indiscriminately.

In what follows, I am assuming your understanding of the term witch hunting, not mine.

Chapter 2: Questions about Certain Examples

Three quick questions about this chapter, which overall is very good. (1) The story labeled "Battle Casualty" (20-21) doesn't seem to be an example of "witch hunting" (23). How was John "sabotaged by witch hunting" (23)? (2) The story about Geisler is a wonderful illustration of an apologist developing a more biblical position over time (34-35). But it seems to have little or nothing to do with the supposed point, which is that collaboration with more mature believers can help neophyte apologists avoid witch hunting. Have I missed something? (3) I gather that the ex-cultist mentioned on page 54 is Deborah Davis, the daughter of Moses David Berg. Do you mean to imply that her book The Children of God was an example of unwitting witch hunting?

Chapter 3: One Comment and Two Criticisms

Overall this chapter is also quite good. I do have one comment and two criticisms. First, the comment. Regarding icons, Protestants have, I believe, traditionally argued that the third aspect of the Eastern Orthodox use of icons mentioned by Coniaris (66) comes dangerously close to idolatry. After all, even in paganism idols were generally regarded as material vehicles of supernatural powers; pagans rarely believed in the literal divinity of the idol-statues themselves. Of course, your point (that we should avoid undiscerning rejections of other Christian traditions whose expressions differ from ours) is still valid. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist witch hunter will not appreciate your example at all, and even more classically Protestant scholars as J. I. Packer would object (cf. his Knowing God [IVP]).

Texe Marrs

My first criticism of chapter 3 has to do with your critique of Texe Marrs (p. 69). Even before I checked the reference I could tell there was a problem. From the title of Marrs's chapter, "Apostasy: Takeover of the Christian Church," which you cited, and from the quotation, I surmised that what Marrs was trying to document at this point was not so much the apostasy of the PCUSA as its takeover. Note his emphasis on the leadership taking the denomination in a direction contrary to the opinion of rank-and-file Presbyterians: ". . . its activist hierarchy has seized control . . . ." Anyone reading your book would be right to wonder if you had not misrepresented Marrs.

When I checked the reference, I found matters worse still. In Dark Secrets of the New Age (Crossway, 1987), page 220, I find no evidence that the paragraph you cited was "the 'proof'" (Witch Hunt, p. 69, emphasis added) of the PCUSA's apostasy. Instead, what I find is that this is one of two paragraphs on the PCUSA under a subheading of "Politicization of the Church" (p. 219). Marrs's point seems quite clear: the PCUSA is being taken over by a leadership dedicated to politicizing the denomination. The purpose of this politicization, according to Marrs, is "to neutralize its influence" (p. 219), and the result is that the denomination is taken in a heretical direction. In short, Marrs does not claim that pacifism is heresy; this seems to be a misreading on your part.

Dave Hunt and Eschatology

My second criticism concerns your argument about Dave Hunt's eschatological dogmatism. I share your understanding that Hunt is guilty of imposing his own brand of dispensationalism as a standard of orthodoxy. However, the quotation on page 72 (from Beyond Seduction, p. 250) does not seem to document that point at all. From this quote, all we can see is that Hunt strongly disagrees with the eschatological viewpoint that the church will be the agency through which God's kingdom is realized in history. You needed to come up with a better example from his writings.

Chapters 4-5: Focus on Fallacies

Structural Problems

The distinction between "errors in thinking and the misuse of logic" (83) corresponding to chapters 4 and 5 eludes me. Moreover, the title of chapter 4, "Fallible 'Facts,'" seems inaccurate, since chapter 4 deals with fallacies in reasoning, not errors of fact (i.e., it deals with invalidity of arguments, not incorrectness of premises).

It is strange that you have two separate discussions critiquing the use of buzz-words in discerning heresy or New Age thinking (pp. 102-104; pp. 125-33). In particular, part of the section "Do 'New Age' Words Prove Heresy?" (125-26) along with parts of the following sections (126-33) seem oddly repetitive of the latter part of the section "Condemnation by Vocabulary or Quote" (102-4). Also, three separate times you criticize Cumbey's word count of the phrase "New Age" in Tom Sine's book (103, 126, 132). Surely someone sympathetic to Cumbey would conclude that you were milking this criticism a bit much.

Finally, what is the difference between "similar does not prove same" (111-13) and "false analogy" (117-20)? As far as I can tell they are identical errors in reasoning.

Guilt by Association

The quotation from the anonymous critic of Dr. Carter (p. 89) does not seem to be a clear example of guilt by association. First, at least in the quote given, the critic does not draw the conclusion you allege he did - that "Carter must be an atheist and/or an occultist - or at least overwhelmingly influenced by such thinking!" (90). Second, the critic's point is not merely that Carter or other Christian psychologists associate with Freud or Jung, but that they are manifestly influenced in relevant ways by these men's godless thinking. I agree that the critic does not, in the quote, prove his point, but I don't believe that this is guilt by association. It would be better classified as an example of the genetic fallacy (certain principles originated from or were learned from atheists or occultists, therefore proving that the ideas are anti-Christian). Of course, I agree with your conclusion in the last paragraph of this section.

On Definitions and Descriptions

I think that you have mixed together a discussion of overly broad definitions with one of overly vague and misleading descriptions (90-91). Paragraphs 2-3 on page 91 have to do with descriptions, not definitions. Regarding paragraph 4, I would say that Mormons employ a nonstandard definition of "virgin birth," though not overly broad or vague. So here I agree with your point, but I think it needs to be explained more precisely. The LDS use of the term "miraculous" perhaps needed to be documented. If they do use the term this way, the problem is vague use of language, not overly broad definition. Regarding paragraph 5, failure to define an important term is not the same as giving an overly broad or vague definition.

Dave Hunt and Sorcery

The matter of Dave Hunt's definition of sorcery is one on which we have disagreed before. Let me see if I can make myself clear. First, it is puzzling that right after stating that authors should be sure to "define terms which we use differently than do most people," you criticize Hunt for doing just that in The Seduction of Christianity (92). The discussion on pages 93-94, particularly the lengthy quotation from the reply by Cornerstone to Hunt's reply to your review, seems to have as its main point that an author should not use nonstandard definitions as these are likely to be confusing and even misleading to people when used outside the immediate context of the author's book. And, as I have already indicated, as a general rule I agree (especially with emotionally loaded terms such as sorcery). That is why it is puzzling to me that this would be your main point immediately after encouraging authors to "define terms which we use differently than do most people."

Second, I think your criticism of Hunt's "definition" is unsuccessful. As much as I disagree with Dave Hunt on many things, I think your criticism of his definition of sorcery does not stand up. To show that his definition is overly broad, you give two examples of its logical extension to activities that obviously should not be termed sorcery (God's influence on the world by his mind, and Christians' use of their minds in praying to change things in the material world). Let me explain why I think your argument is unsound.

(a) As far as I can see Dave Hunt was correct in his reply to Cornerstone when he claimed that he had not offered a definition of sorcery. No doubt this astonishes you, but please let me explain. Understand that I think Hunt's explanation in his reply was imprecise (forgiveable given his lack of formal philosophical education), but what I perceive him to mean was essentially correct.

Hunt did not give what most precisely should be called a formal definition. That is, he did not offer a definition of the form "sorcery is X" or "all X is sorcery." Rather, he offered an informal "definition" of sorcery that combined a brief description - "any attempt to manipulate reality (internal, external, past, present, or future) by various mind-over-matter techniques" - with a suggestion of a list of examples - "that run the gamut from alchemy and astrology to positive/possibility thinking" (Seduction, 12, cited in Witch Hunt, 92). When Hunt says "various mind-over-matter techniques," this clearly qualifies the "any attempt to manipulate reality" to a circumscribed set of "techniques" and not to any and all activities that might conceivably be described as "mind over matter." In other words, if Hunt had said that sorcery is any attempt to change reality by any use of one's mind over against the material world, that would have been a formal definition, and one possibly susceptible to your criticism. Hunt, however, said something a bit different.

Furthermore, the reference to a list "from alchemy and astrology to positive/possibility thinking" is obviously meant to further circumscribe or delimit the range of activities to which Hunt wants to attach the label sorcery. It is not a formal definition Hunt offers, but a suggestive description with a few examples given to clarify what he is concerned to expose as sorcery.

(b) The examples you gave to discredit Hunt's "definition" fail to make your case. For one thing, they are obviously to be excluded from Hunt's suggestive list; no Christian reader (the intended readers of both Hunt's books and your Witch Hunt) would think to put God's providential or miraculous interaction with his creation in the same category as alchemy. For another, they do not fit Hunt's description. When Hunt says "any attempt to manipulate reality," he clearly means to speak only of such attempts by human beings. He does not need to say so, since this should be obvious enough from the context (both from the general context of the book and from the specific examples he gives in the immediate context). This makes the example of God's "mental" activities in the world irrelevant. Furthermore, "various mind-over-matter techniques" is obviously meant to refer to human minds, and not to include the divine Mind.

As for prayer, this is not a "mind-over-matter technique" at all. In Christian prayer, our minds do not "manipulate reality" (Hunt's words); they might be thought of that way in the mind sciences and in positive confession, but not in orthodox Christianity. In orthodox thinking, prayer is a petition to God asking him to change reality. That does not at all correspond to what Hunt clearly means by "mind-over-matter techniques," as I am sure you already understand. In this regard your description of prayer as Christians "using their minds to participate in God's intervention in the world" (92) seems somewhat misleading. It sounds as if you have described prayer in a manner designed to make it seem more like mind-over-matter than it really is (both in your theology and in mine).

Now, I can imagine a few possible responses to my objections. You might argue (1) that even if I construe Hunt in this manner, he has worded himself in a manner susceptible to being understood as you have suggested. To this possible objection I would say that such a construal could only be regarded as a misunderstanding. My point is that you have made more of his "definition" than he was willing to allow, and he has even said so explicitly.

(2) You might argue that some of the items in his suggestive list of examples of sorcery should not be included. For example, you might argue that not all positive/possibility thinking belongs in that category. Such a point would contribute evidence to support your contention that Hunt's definition is too broad. Although I think this would be a significant point, it does not seem to invalidate Hunt's description in view of the fact that Hunt's attention is on "manipulative" positive-thinking "techniques" and not on all types of positive thinking.

Or you might argue that astrology, while possibly occultic, technically does not involve mind over matter but rather celestial over terrestrial (here I must confess my lack of scholarly study of astrology). This, I think, might be a correct objection, but if so, it would show not that Hunt's description of sorcery was incorrect but that he had failed to follow it consistently in this instance.

In any case, you did not make these points in Witch Hunt. I conclude, then, that you failed to substantiate your criticism that Hunt had defined sorcery in an excessively broad manner. You certainly did not show that it resulted in a "witch hunting" application of the term to "some who are actually friends" (93). Again, I can agree that Hunt often does attack friend and foe alike, and perhaps even using the label sorcery. My criticism is directed to your argumentation, not your conclusion.

Feynman on Science

Regarding the use of Feynman, I agree that Hunt and the Bobgans have committed an illegitimate appeal to authority. However, I think it is unfair to compare (a) the appeal to Feynman's expertise as a scientist in connection with whether something is a science to (b) an appeal to Feynman's general intelligence in connection with his opinion about philosophy or religion (96-99). Surely there is something plausible about thinking that a professional scientist would have a sense for what is or is not science, even if this sense is not formalized through the study of philosophy of science. On the other hand, there is nothing plausible about thinking that all scientists must have a correct view of philosophical or religious questions such as the existence of God and the meaning of life.

I think it is also fair to ask you this question: If an appeal to Feynman is illegitimate because he is not a philosopher of science (Witch Hunt, p. 97), would an appeal to a philosopher of science be legitimate? I ask you this because in The Seduction of Christianity, in the same context as Hunt's quotation from Feynman on psychoanalysis (p. 205), he cites a philosopher of science: "Karl Popper, who is considered by many to be the greatest living philosopher of science, has said . . ." (p. 206).

Cumbey and Contradiction

On page 109 you state, "Third, Cumbey asserts that she was able to understand The Plan because, using her training as an attorney, she took the plainest meaning available that fit the facts." Your endnote refers to Cumbey's Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, page 34. I found no such assertion there. Instead, I find Cumbey responding to a New Ager's claim that the Bible was to be interpreted esoterically as follows: "Sharing with her a rule of construction for lawyers that I felt to be just as applicable to Bible research, I told her that the plainest meaning fitting the facts should be the one to govern." This eliminates alleged contradiction number 3 on page 110.

Different Does Not Prove Unrelated

I agree that Hindu/New Age concepts of man as deity differ from the LDS concept of man as deity (53, 111). However, I have difficulty understanding what you are saying on page 111. Do you mean to deny that Satan promised Eve godhood? Furthermore, why could one not argue that New Age and LDS doctrines of deification, though different from one another, are variations on "the lie" of Satan to Eve in Genesis 3:5 (cf. Rom. 1:25)? Both Mormonism and the NAM make the same fundamental error of reducing deity to an aspect of the created order in which humans can potentially participate just as fully as any divine being that might already exist. Both hold this view over against the orthodox Creator-creature dichotomy.

It is also confusing to be told both that Hinduism and Mormonism are both polytheistic (81) and that Hinduism is pantheistic while Mormonism is polytheistic (111-12).

Again, I agree that Hunt and others often oversimplify the similarities among non-Christian systems of thought, but I wonder if you have overdrawn the differences. This point will become relevant in connection with the Casey Treat question (discussed later in this letter).

False Alternatives and False Analogies

Your discussion of the fallacy of false alternatives (pp. 113-17) seems fuzzy to me. Claiming that there is only one possible explanation for something is not the same mistake as claiming that there are only two possible explanations, outcomes, or views, one of which must be chosen. The examples on page 114 to the middle of page 115 relate to the first fallacy, while those from the bottom of page 115 to the top of page 117 relate to the second.

The case of the satanism-abuse problem is not an example of false analogy (pp. 117-18). Depending on the precise form of the argument, it may be classified either as hasty generalization (one satanist committed abuse, therefore abuse is prevalent in satanism) or false cause (an abuser was a satanist, therefore satanism was the cause of his abuse). But in no way can it be called false analogy.

You may be right about Korem and Kole, but if so, the quotation from Korem failed to show it even in his case (p. 119). I was left wondering if they might have meant merely that if they could duplicate a phenomenon then it need not be occultic. I think that this section is woefully short on documentation of their alleged error.

The story about the cowboy boots (p. 120) is a howler, but I wonder about it being an example of false analogy.

Chapter 6: You Could Be Overreacting

I wonder if your criticism of the Passport article on the Vineyard (p. 126) might not be knocking down a straw man. From the quotation it appears that the article is not citing the mere use of the terms "paradigm shifts" and "worldviews": note that Mr. Scott says that "John Wimber's teachings about 'paradigm shifts' and 'worldviews'" are what he questions, not merely Wimber's use of those words. Also, at least in the quote, Scott does not allege that we should consider the Vineyard "a part of the New Age Movement," as you imply (p. 126). I offer these observations without having read the Passport article, for what they are worth.

Chapter 7: Is Ignorance an Excuse?

Heresy or Ignorance?

I am afraid I think you are guilty of a type of the fallacy of a false dichotomy when you pose the dual alternatives of "heresy or ignorance" (147). It could be heresy and ignorance. After all, the apostle Peter warned about certain persons who were ignorant and unstable, and who distorted the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). It is difficult to imagine that Peter would deny the term heresy to their teachings. It is possible for a "theologically ignorant, ill-advised, untrained, or sloppy" teacher to be guilty of "actively promoting error" (147). Such descriptions would be applicable, for example, to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Was he any less a heretic because he was untrained theologically?

When you say, "heresy and ignorance are two different causes although both produce bad beliefs," you have just lost me. This same dichotomy between heresy and ignorance appears on page 51. Tracing back to pages 44-45 and reading forward pages 147-48, it seems what you are getting at is the difference between these two: (a) never having heard of the orthodox position and unwittingly taking a false position out of sheer ignorance, correctable once the truth is learned; (b) knowing the orthodox position but deliberately rejecting it. But this contrast, assuming it is applied in the context of professing Christians, is not between ignorance and heresy but between implicit (or unconfirmed) heresy and explicit (or confirmed) heresy. That is, if the belief in both cases is the same (say, that human beings are gods), then they are equally "heretical," that is, equally contrary to orthodox doctrine. If the two beliefs are not the same (or if the words used are the same but the meanings attached to them are different), then the contrast again is not between ignorance and heresy, nor is it between implicit and explicit heresy. Rather, it is between a nonheretical belief and a different, heretical one.

The Case of Casey Treat

Now we come to the matter of Casey Treat. This section appears in a chapter entitled "People They're Slandering." We must infer, then, that you are claiming that Dave Hunt slandered Casey Treat. The slanderous accusation is said to be the charge that Casey Treat taught the heresy that men are gods.

More precisely, we need to distinguish five questions, all of which you represent Dave Hunt as answering with a clear yes:

1. Did Treat teach that men were, in some unbiblical sense, "gods"?
2. Was Treat's teaching heresy?
3. Did Treat teach the same error as Mormonism?
4. Did Treat teach the same error as Hinduism?
5. Did Treat teach the same error as Satan's lie to Eve?

Your answer to the first question is clearly yes (p. 152). Your answer to the third, fourth, and fifth questions is in each case clearly no (p. 152 again). You do not answer the second question directly, but seem to imply a no answer to this one as well (pp. 147-48, 154-55).

First of all, you seem to have misrepresented Hunt regarding question 3. Nowhere in The Seduction of Christianity can I find Hunt equating Treat's doctrine of deification with that of Mormonism. Quite the contrary: In the very section you cited, Hunt states (commenting on Treat), "Today many Christians themselves believe not that they are going to become gods like the Mormons, but that they already are gods, like the Hindus, and just need to 'realize' it" (p. 84). Hunt compares Treat's doctrine to that of the Mormons, but he never equates the two.

On question 4, it is clear that Hunt does say that Treat's doctrine is "like [the doctrine of] the Hindus." However, he does not assert that it is precisely the same doctrine, or that Treat is teaching Hinduism. It seems you have overstated matters when you criticize him "for indicting Treat as an incipient Mormon or Hindu in his theology" (p. 153). Therefore, when you object that Treat's "'little gods' doctrine is not identical to Mormon or Hindu deification teachings" (p. 155, emphasis added), it seems that you have oversimplified Hunt's position.

Now, let me tell you how I answer these questions. I answer a clear yes to the first questions, a quite possibly to the second, a clear no to the third and fourth, and a not exactly to the fifth. In my opinion, the reasons given in your discussion for answering the second question with a no are not persuasive.

I have already explained why I think Treat's "inadequate training and theology" (p. 155) are irrelevant to the question of whether his doctrine was heretical. Now let's look at his defense.

(1) Treat "didn't mean anything heretical by his reference to Christians as gods" (p. 151). Of course not. Kenneth Copeland would say the same thing. The Mormons would say the same thing. This aspect of his defense, at least as you summarize it, does not advance the discussion at all.

(2) Treat took the word of Charles Capps that the Hebrew of "image" meant "exact duplicate" (p. 151). This hardly helps Treat's case. The fact that he got some of his language from someone else that he trusted makes his doctrine no less heretical. Taking a view from a heretic may not make a teacher more of a heretic, but it surely doesn't make him less of one!

(3) Treat's position was that men were exact duplicates of God, not that they were God Himself, the Father, or that they were evolving into God (pp. 151-52). Again, a Mormon could say exactly the same thing. Mormons don't believe that Christians are God the Father or that they are evolving into God. Hunt never claimed that Treat taught that men were becoming God.

(4) Treat teaches that men are nothing without God and that they need to be born again by coming to Jesus (p. 152). Again, Mormons agree, in the strongest possible terms. Nor does Hunt deny this aspect of Treat's teaching.

(5) Treat denies that man can evolve into godhood through good works, as Mormonism teaches (p. 152). First of all, many Mormons will indignantly deny holding that belief themselves. Second, none of the quotes you produced from Hunt show him accusing Treat of teaching that man can evolve into godhood through good works. Third, as I have already pointed out, Hunt never equated Treat's error with that of Mormonism, and actually noted one significant difference.

(6) Treat denies teaching the Satanic lie that man can become equal to God (p. 152). Again, at least some Mormons will also deny teaching that lie; they insist that LDS doctrine holds that man will always be subject to God and inferior to God, even in the state of exaltation to godhood. Furthermore, in reading Hunt's extended discussion of the meaning of the Satanic lie of godhood in the same chapter (Seduction, 85-90), I find no evidence that he took Genesis 3 to teach that Satan's lie was that men would become "equal to God."

I conclude that although Treat's defense is fairly effective in substantiating an answer of no to my last three questions, he has not adequately defended himself from the charge of heresy. Moreover, Hunt did not answer those questions with a yes, either, at least not in the way that you represented him as doing. My point is not that I have concluded with finality that Treat was guilty of heresy. Rather, I am claiming that you failed to show that Hunt's charge of heresy against Treat was false. Certainly I fail to see how you showed that Hunt was guilty of "slandering" Casey Treat.


I hope this letter has adequately explained why I am unable to give an unqualified endorsement to Witch Hunt. Despite my serious problems with chapters 4, 5, and 7, overall I do appreciate the approach you take in the book. Overall I am on your side and disagree with the approach taken by Hunt, Cumbey, Marrs, and others. For this reason, I do encourage people to read your book and learn from it. Unfortunately, there are enough significant problems in the middle chapters, from my perspective, to necessitate a qualified recommendation.

Sincerely in Christ,


Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

Note: The book "Witch Hunt" is out of print. Click here to have Amazon.com search for a copy. Within 1-2 weeks, you'll hear if a copy is available.

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