Tommy Tenney’s Book "The God Chasers" A Second Review
Editors Note: Bill Randles is the founding pastor of "Believers In Grace Fellowship" in Marion, Iowa.
Editors Note2: We believe that this book is so dangerous that a second review is in order. (click here to read the original Paw Creek Ministries review) Tommy Tenney is a "Jesus Only" minister that the Charisma magazine recently promoted in a big fashion. Anyone they promote certainly bears careful scrutiny. In Charisma’s review of Tenney, they ask him about his "Jesus Only" connections. He denied being a "Jesus Only." He said that hey believe in the manifestations or offices, but not three distinct persons. Charisma magazine editors are so oblivious to truth that they made no correction or sense that the answer was misleading.
One of the main departures in Tenney’s book is his promotion of the "Manifest Presence" of Jesus. That doctrine connects directly to the "Manifest Sons of God" deception that floods the present Charismatic confusion. To make a difference between the anointing of the Holy Ghost and the "manifest presence" of Jesus is utterly false and has no expression in the divine Scripture. They are laying a foundation for entrance into the "Manifest Sons of God" camp. This review by Bill Randles, author of three great books, is worth your time to read.
Tommy Tenney, a third generation United Pentecostal Church ("Jesus Only") minister, bills himself as a "God Chaser." Tenney is the author of the current best-selling book, The God Chasers, this after pastoring for ten years and being on the road as a "revivalist" for another seventeen years. According to the back cover of this "top ten best-selling book," he has been used to "spark and fuel the fires of revival." The blurb further states that although "He has experienced the miraculous…more importantly he knows the value of intimacy with and humility before God."
The book, The God Chasers, is a call to those who consider themselves to be hungry for the "manifested presence of God." It begins with a narrative, which should strike a chord with those who have been radicalized by the Toronto "Blessing" or the Pensacola "River." In the chapter entitled, "The Day I Almost Caught Him," Tenney describes a service in Houston, Texas, in which, upon the reading of II Chronicles 7:14 and an exhortation by the host pastor to seek God’s face rather than His hand, the service was electrified by a loud thunderclap which split the pulpit into two pieces! From there, the usual manifestations associated with the so-called ‘river revival’ exploded across the sanctuary.
Slaying in the spirit of masses of groaning people who were weeping, laughing, etc. and, as Tenney relates, "Businessmen tore their ties off and were literally stacked on top of one another in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard." Testimonies such as these take up a great share of the book. Tenney confesses that until recently he was a professional revivalist. "We’ve talked, preached, and taught about revival until the church is sick of hearing about it. That’s what I did for a living; I preached revivals-or so I thought. Then God broke out of His box and ruined everything when He showed up…"
In the book Tenney relates an earlier prophecy of the late John Wimber by saying that, "God is coming back to repossess the church." But His premise is that the only thing that hinders God from "repossessing His church" is the lack of hunger for His "manifested presence." Thus the book, The God Chasers, is aimed at those who are "tired of trying to pass out tracts, knock on doors, and make things happen . . . we’ve been trying to make things happen for a long time. Now, He wants to make it happen!" (Page 12).
Part of the problem, according to Tenney, is the predictable accusation against truth or ‘doctrine’ as it is contemptuously referred to these days. Tenney, like Wimber, Arnott, Kilpatrick, and countless other of his predecessors in innovative ‘revival,’ takes his aim at those who are "camped out on some dusty truth known to everyone…" Of course, Tenney will lead us out of these ‘dusty truths’, and guide us into a superior alternative, which is REVELATION.
"The difference between the truth of God and revelation is very simple. Truth is where God has been. Revelation is where God is. Truth is God’s tracks. It is His trail, His path, but it leads to what? It leads to Him. Perhaps the masses of people are happy to know where God’s been, but true GOD CHASERS are not content to just study God’s trail, His truth;, they want to know Him. They want to know where He is and what He is doing right now . . . There is a vast difference between present Truth and past Truth. I am afraid that most of what the church has studied is past truth and very little of what we know is present Truth…" (Taken from the introduction.) The introduction alone should suffice to mark Tenney as being one of the many popular preachers of our day who are adept at subtly denigrating those, who are Bereans, i.e. those who seek only to look to "the Law and to the testimony" (Isaiah 8), as being dry, dead, ‘studying God’s footprints,’ and stuck in the past. But, Tenney, on the other hand, is alive and relevant. While others sit around studying God, He is ‘intimately and passionately involved’ with Him!!!
On the one hand, Christians who seek to truly know God through Scripture are subjected to ridicule, "It is simply not enough to know about God. We have churches filled with people who can win Bible trivia contests but who don’t know Him…." (Page 3) On the other hand, Tenney attributes the purest of motives to New Agers and occultists, "You can’t tell me they’re not hungry for God when they wear crystals around their necks, lay down hundreds of dollars a day to listen to Guru’s, and call psychics to the tune of billions of dollars a year." (Page 2)
As you can imagine the only thing stopping these ‘pure hearted seekers’ from arriving at their supposed goal is the church! (It couldn’t be that they are in rebellion against a Holy God and rather than seeking Him are running from Him as Psalm 14 and Romans 3 attest! That is ‘old Truth.’) "They are hungry to hear from something that’s beyond themselves, something they are not hearing in the church of today. The bottom line is that people are sick of the church because the church is somewhat less than what has been advertised!" (Page 3) "Naomi and her family have something in common with the people who leave or totally avoid churches today. They left "that" place and went somewhere else to find bread. I can tell you why people are flocking to the bars, the clubs, and the psychics by the millions. They are just trying to get by. They are just trying to survive because the church has failed them. They looked, or their parents and friends looked and reported, and the spiritual cupboard was bare." (Pages 19-20) The church is at fault for the millions in bars, clubs and at psychics. I thought that the wrath of God was revealed against those "who knew God, but would not glorify Him as God" and that "there is none who seek after God!" Not so, according to Tenney, the drunkards in bars and seekers after the occult gave God a chance at one time, but we blew it!!! This is a flawed but popular analysis. In fact, it would be especially popular with those who seek to justify their own rebellious lives.
Between the various personal experiences recounted in the book by Tenney and the attempt at whetting this intense spiritual hunger that the book calls for, glimpses of the author’s theology are revealed. Tenney, as we have already seen in part has a curious view of the Word of God. The Scriptures are not only considered "old Truth" "where God has been," which the masses are "happy to study," but they are also affectionately regarded as "old love letters." Once again, the implication is that the Scriptures are nice. He generously asserts that they have their place, but in reality, in comparison to "present Truth," and experience, they are relegated to a secondary importance.
"I’m afraid that we have satiated our hunger for Him by reading old love letters from Him to the churches in the Epistles of the New Testament. These are good, Holy, and necessary, but we never have intimacy with Him…" (Page 15). Jesus never set intimacy with God, nor the power of God over against the knowledge of Scripture as many modern "revivalists" do. On the contrary, He asserted that, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God!"
It is a dangerous and false dichotomy to set as opposites the study and understanding of the Word of God and the power and subjective experience of God. This is not to say that there aren’t cases of people who are "hearers of the Word, and not doers of it…" Neither Jesus, James, nor any of the apostles sought to correct the problem by denigrating the Word as being ‘old truth’, or even worse, "old love letters." What is it that Tenney is actually promoting? Perhaps, the answer to this can be found in the oft cited nugget of ‘charismatic wisdom’ "A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with only an argument . . . If we can lead people into the manifested presence of God, all false theological houses of cards will tumble down." (Page 20).
Those of us who are familiar with the Toronto and Pensacola debacles have all heard that statement or some variation of it dozens of times. Experience has precedence over argument, especially since there is no Biblical argument for these purported excursions into the "presence of God." Did the apostles or even Jesus for that matter ever ‘split any pulpits?’ Did they have to constantly construct a contrast between revealed Truth and some vague ‘intimacy?’ Did Peter ever hold a "Laughing Revival" or did Paul have any altar calls for people to ‘belly up to the bar and take another drink of the Spirit?" Have we now a new level of ‘intimacy’ that the apostles or Jesus had not attained? Why didn’t James just put a loaf of bread on the altar while he had meetings so that it could soak in the anointing? Did any of the apostles ever receive the revelation to drive wooden stakes into the corners of Ephesus or Corinth so that they too could take the city for God? Tenney describes this "new Truth" on page 102. No wonder these people denigrate doctrine and study!
Is this another Toronto or Pensacola? On this I think Tenney and I would differ. He seems to imply that compared to what he is offering, Toronto and Pensacola were ‘crumbs’ of God! I believe on the other hand that at its heart, this current GOD CHASER movement offers nothing more than what the others have offered, a sensual, anti-doctrinal, experienced based movement, which is sure to generate some excitement for a time. Tenney says, "People don’t sense God’s presence at our gatherings because it’s not there to sufficiently register on our gauges . . . When people get just a little touch of God mixed with a lot of something that is not God, it inoculates them against the real thing. Once they have been inoculated by a crumb of God’s presence, then they say, ‘God is really here,’ they say, ‘No, I’ve been there, done that, I bought the T-shirt, and I didn’t find Him, it didn’t really work for me.’" "The problem was that God was there alright, but not enough of Him! There was no experience of meeting Him at the Damascus road. There was no undeniable, overwhelming sense of His manifested presence." (Page 21)
In a way, Tenney has a point, although he presents the wrong solution. The point he inadvertently makes is that all of this experience based perversion of Christianity only breeds a cynicism, a ‘been there, done that attitude.’ After swimming in the River of Life (Toronto), spiritual drunkenness (RHB), eating the Holy bread (Baltimore revival), shaking with the Lord and riding the white horse (Pensacola), and worshipping at the Golden altar (Pensacola), what is left? What next? Are you going to go back to ‘dead doctrine’? Toronto, Pensacola, Baltimore, Benny Hinn, John Arnott, and, now, Tenney all offer the same thing as an alternative to those who were weary of ‘dead doctrine,’ and waiting for the coming of the Lord. "You can experience Him now!!! Why wait? You can be intimate with the Lord of the universe right now!! Turn off your mind and go with the Spirit! Come Holy Spirit!!" Each was more ‘pure’ and ‘real’ than the last one! Pensacola was more pure than Toronto because repentance was stressed. But according to Tenney, God was there but not enough of Him! (Can God be quantified?) Unfortunately, Tenney offers no better solution than more experience, the problem being, of course, "There was no experience of meeting Him at the Damascus road. There was no undeniable, overwhelming sense of His manifested presence."
Orthodox Christianity acknowledges that spiritual hunger is there, but offers a different direction, simply seeking God. Humbling the soul, renewing the mind, prayer, a renewal of obedience, and an emphasis on the knowledge of God! (Hosea 4:1,6). Jeremiah castigates the children of Israel for two things. One, "they have forsaken Me the fountain of living water." Two, "they have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water." I am afraid that this fad-oriented spirituality is a symptom that we are in danger of the same things.
Finally, what is this hunger that Tenney is actually experiencing? Is it the kind of hunger for God that Tozer, Spurgeon, Wesley, and countless others of our forefathers wrote about in devotional literature in time past? It is impossible to judge any man’s motives or sincerity, but consider this, Tozer also wrote a book about hunger for God, which Tenney cites, but can you imagine Tozer closing his book the way Tenney closes his? On the last page of the book, The God Chasers, is an advertising page for the full line of GOD CHASER’S products. (Be careful, the name is probably copywrited.) The GOD CHASER hat is available for a mere $17.99, the GOD CHASER shirt is available in 4 sizes for a mere $16.99, and for those who want to tell the world of their hunger, a GOD CHASER license plate is a good buy, merely $6.99!