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The Circle Maker – Take heed that no man deceive you – Part II

Because we are living at the end of the last days as foretold by Christ to His disciples, Christians must be especially vigilant to guard against false teachers and prophets. To guard against such, Christians must follow the example of the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-13. The Bereans were described as noble and honorable men and women who closely examined what they were taught in the light of the truth of God’s Word. We have attempted to follow the Berean’s example in this two part series in which we are examining the teachings of Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker. In Part I we found significant evidence that The Circle Maker has mixed the Word of God with fables, false doctrines, and false teaching. Part II will conclude our examination of The Circle Maker.

Misinterpreting the Bible

Batterson attempts to include in God’s promises for the church (which makes them eligible for circling) certain descriptive verses that teach as opposed to prescriptive verses that command us.[1] One example exposes Batterson’s error.

The legend of Honi the circle maker was like a revelation of the power of prayer…I started to circle everything and everyone in prayer. It gave me a new vocabulary, a new imagery, a new methodology…I drew particular inspiration from the march around Jericho when God delivered on a four-hundred-year-old promise by providing the first victory in the Promised Land. While the story doesn’t explicitly mention the people taking up positions of prayer, I have no doubt the Israelites were praying as they circled the city…The image of the Israelites circling Jericho for seven days is a moving picture of what drawing prayer circles looks like. It’s also the backdrop for this book.

It not only reveals the way God performed this particular miracle; it also establishes a pattern to follow. It challenges us to confidently circle the promises God has given to us…[2]

Batterson attempts to link Honi, circle making, and the march around Jericho, all of which is supposed to establish a pattern to follow by circling the promises of God. In other words, Batterson appropriates the biblical account of victory at Jericho as a pattern to follow which is circling the promises of God. Although the Battle of Jericho teaches subsequent generations, it does not command that similar actions are to be taken. The lesson taught is descriptive and teaches us that the Israelites succeeded in battle because of their belief in God and obedience to His Word. It is not a prescriptive pattern that Christians must literally follow by marching around property they claim for God or themselves, drawing circles in the sand, or circling promises in His Word. Batterson has misrepresented the meaning of scripture and twisted it to teach his false circle making theology to the millions who read his book.

There is much in the Old Testament that is both descriptive and prescriptive at the same time. One example is 2 Chronicles 7:14, sometimes called the revival verse. The back story is that God is speaking to Solomon who had built the First Temple in Jerusalem as a monument to God and as a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. God is responding to Solomon’s prayer of consecration of the Temple.

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14. KJV]

Notice that these words are not only a conditional promise to Israel but a command to “His people,” and that means His people then and all of His people called by His name down to the present day. 2 Chronicles 7:14 teaches His people that He is always faithful and just, but the verse also commands His people to humility, prayer, to seek His presence, and to turn from their wicked ways. The verse is both descriptive and prescriptive.

The mechanical god

In Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, I wrote a chapter titled “The Mechanical God” in which I examined the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel.

During the 1950s, certain ministers began to emphasize in their preaching and teaching that health, prosperity, and happiness were available to all Christians. This became known as the positive confession movement (sometimes called the prosperity gospel) and was birthed by Kenneth Hagin in his book How to write your own ticket with God.[3] This book became the foundation for the teachings and practices of the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel which spread into many evangelical churches in the last half of the twentieth century and now dominates a large segment of evangelicalism in America. The fundamental elements of this movement are found in Hagin’s book.

…you can receive anything in the present tense, such as salvation, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing for your body, spiritual victory, or finances. Anything the Bible promises you now, you can receive now by taking these four steps…

Step 1: Say it…In my vision, Jesus said, “Positive or negative, it is up to the individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive.”…

Step 2: Do it…Jesus dictated to me during my vision. “Your action defeats you or puts you over. According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving.”…

Step 3: Receive it…It is like plugging into an electrical outlet. If we can learn to plug into this supernatural power, we can put it to work for us, and we can be healed…

Step 4: Tell it…Jesus said to me, “Tell it so others may believe.”…

…You said if anybody anywhere would take these four steps, they would receive from you anything they wanted.[4] [emphasis in original]

Several statements in Batterson’s book, and especially the first three chapters, are uncomfortably close if not identical to certain aspects of the philosophies of Hagin and the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel. The following quotes are just a few examples from The Circle Maker that show striking similarities between circle making prayers and the positive confession movement.

God is still looking for circle makers. And the timeless truth secreted within this ancient legend is as true now as it was then: Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.[5] [emphasis in original]

There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayers, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams. That is who He is. That is what He does. And the bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory.[6] [emphasis in original]

God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers…Prayers are prophecies. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people.[7] [emphasis in original]

Sure, you can apply some of the principles you learn in The Circle Maker, and they may help you get what you want, but getting what you want isn’t the goal; the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles, and dreams He wants for you.[8]

You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That’s the goal.[9]

If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for is the antithesis of faith, isn’t it? Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers, and well-defined prayers result in a well-lived life.[10]

Don’t just read the Bible. Start circling the promises. Don’t just make a wish. Write down a list of God-glorifying life goals. Don’t just pray. Keep a prayer journal. Define your dream. Claim your promise. Spell your miracle.[11]

These pronouncements are filled with false doctrine; irrational and illogical statements; presumptions as to knowing God’s mind, motives, and personality apart from what is revealed in the scriptures; and much more.

Witchcraft

Paul warned about the invasion of witchcraft in the church in the latter days. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” [1 Timothy 4:1. KJV]

Solitary Witch by Silver Ravenwolf is one of the most popular witchcraft books ever written. She wrote that circlecasting is a well-known and ancient practice in witchcraft and Wicca to cast spells and connect with the demonic realm by the drawing of a “magick circle.” It is an occult method of prayer which is mimicked in the practices of The Circle Maker.[12]

Like Batterson, Ravenwolf also lays claim to the story of Honi “which gives us important clues as to how magick works and why, 2,000 years later, we continue to use the magick circle.” Ravenwolf is not sure if Honi was just an old magician or part of the priesthood. She explains the appearance of the old magician’s story in Jewish literature. Ravenwolf argues that the story of Honi’s miracle was too dangerous to be left outside the current Jewish religious structures of the day. Therefore, Jewish religious leaders incorporated Honi’s story through many successive renderings until it became a part of the oral traditions of the Jewish rabbis.[13]
______

In an article written in the Huffington Post shortly after publication of The Circle Maker, Batterson claimed that his prayer circle methodology was “a New Way to Pray.” But he assures us that, “…while the prayer theology in the book is as ancient as Scripture itself, I do offer readers a new methodology. Drawing prayer circles. There is nothing magical about it. It’s just a practical mechanism to help people pray with more focus, more faith.”[14] This is an astounding admission! Batterson explicitly states that his prayer theology is as old as the scripture itself. The undeniable implication is that Batterson’s prayer theology is separate from scripture. Although Batterson’s prayer theology may be as old as scripture, he also reiterates that his circle making methodology of prayer is new.

The Seduction of Christianity was published in 1985 by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon. The authors stated that it is absolutely necessary for teachings about theological practices and experiences to be judged in light of what the Bible says.

If there is not clear teaching in the Bible to support a practice, it should not be adopted by the church today, regardless of how beautiful and seemingly miraculous the experiences are that it produces. Unfortunately, to an alarming degree, the Scriptures are no longer looked upon as the full and sufficient guide given by the Holy Spirit for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).”[15] [emphasis in original]

The church does not need some ancient theology separate from God’s Word nor some new methodology to make it better. The inerrant Word of God is sufficient. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” [Proverbs 30:6. KJV]
______

Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of they coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. [Matthew 24:3b, 4-5, 11. KJV]

As the end of the age approaches false teachers and preachers will be very common within the church, and their false teachings and will be widely practiced and deceive many who claim to follow Christ. Donald Stamps in his commentary on false teachers states that, “There are a number of ‘Christian’ writers, missionaries, pastors, evangelists, teachers, musicians, and other church leaders and workers who are not what they claim or appear to be.” They can fool even godly people because they appear to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, present messages based on high moral and spiritual standards, and have a concern for the spiritually lost.[16]

These false teachers will gain great influence in the church during the last days, and those who are faithful to Christ and the truth and standards of God’s Word will be in the minority. We know that the church age is in its very last days spoken of by Christ because of the great prevalence of false teachers in the church. As Christ told His disciples to “take heed,” so too must the modern-day church discern, test, and expose false teachers and false prophets. Stamps gives direction in this matter. This church should use discernment in their examination and testing of a teacher’s and prophet’s character, motives, fruit of their lives and message, reliance on God’s Word, and integrity. Even with such discernment and testing, there will still be false teachers and prophets who escape detection by the faithful until God exposes their true natures.[17]

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] “The Circle Maker Heresy – Witchcraft in the Church,” Beginning and End, September 12, 2012, updated September 24, 2015. http://beginningandend.com/the-circle-maker-heresy-witchcraft-in-the-church/ (accessed August 22, 2017).
[2] Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011, 2016), pp. 22-23.
[3] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2011), p. 117.
[4]Kenneth E. Hagin, How To Write Your Own Ticket With God, Kindle Cloud Reader, (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1979).
[5] Batterson, The Circle Maker, p. 15.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., pp. 15-16.
[8] Ibid., p. 16.
[9] Ibid., p. 24.
[10] Ibid., p. 25.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Silver Ravenwolf, Solitary Witch, (St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003), p. 6.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Mark Batterson, “‘The Circle Maker’ – A New Way to Pray,” Huffington Post, March 24, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-batterson/a-new-way-to-pray-circle-maker_b_1349526.html
(accessed August 23, 2017).
[15] Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1985, p. 179.
[16] Donald C. Stamps, “False Teachers,” The Full Life Study Bible, King James Version, ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990),p. 1807.
[17] Ibid., p. 1808.

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Comment (1)

  1. Paul Bruce

    Culture Warrior, I love you and your passion for truth. I THANK YOU for your commitment to prayer, your desire to see revival in our churches and in our nation, and your courageous exposure of many errant teachings and false doctrines. The “Culture Warrior” blog or weekly newsletter has been and continues to be bold, informative, challenging, and encouraging.

    However, your recent articles indicate your understanding of Mark Batterson’s “The Circle Maker” is very different from my understanding of the same book.

    I read and studied the book several years ago, and I do not think it teaches or proclaims “false theology.” The author states very clearly in Chapter 2, at the very beginning of the book, and I quote, “Drawing prayer circles isn’t some magic trick to get what you want from God. God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish. If it’s not, you won’t be drawing prayer circles; you’ll end up walking in circles. Drawing prayer circles starts with discerning what God wants, what God wills. And until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply.”

    To me, that does not seem to be part of the “occasional fine print” of later chapters; IT IS the very foundation of the book, and I don’t think it should be called “false theology.” It feels to me like you have chosen to ignore the “foundation” and focus on the small things instead.

    I agree that the image of “prayer circles” that Batterson talks about is not from scripture, but focused praying is certainly scriptural. And it may be true that some readers have tried to make it a “formula” or “false theology”, but I do not think Batterson intended for it to be treated that way. Your comparing it to witchcraft, is, in my opinion, inappropriate; and may be as “off” as the guy that says drums shouldn’t be used in the church because they are used in “voodoo”. God created praying, prayers, and circles, and circles can be holy if God is in them.
    Your comparison of Hagin’s “prosperty gospel” and Batterson’s writings is also very, very weak. There is a HUGE difference between Hagin’s “anybody, anywhere ……. would receive anything they wanted” and Batterson’s “sure, you can apply some of the principles you learn in The Circle Maker, and they may help get what you want, but getting what you want isn’t the goal; the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles and dreams He wants for you.”
    I have not followed or read many of Batterson’s writings after The Circle Maker, and he may have espoused “false theology” and false teachings since then; you are much more well-read than I am in these matters. I knew people years ago that were so caught up in casting out demons that it seemed like they were looking for a “demon” somewhere behind everyone’s problem, and your criticism of Batterson and The Circle Maker makes me feel kind of the same way.

    Again, dear Culture Warrior, I love you and pray for you regularly. You are literally “on the front lines” of many spiritual battles. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to enable you to boldly proclaim truth in such a way that unnecessary divisions in our Lord’s Body are avoided. Please don’t fail to look for Jesus and His character in all of His children, and strive to balance the importance of “truth” with the very clear scriptural importance of unity and the scriptural instruction to avoid division in the Lord’s Body whenever possible.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Paul Bruce

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