Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 8, 1970
NUMBER 22, PAGE 2b-3,5b-6

Tested By Their Teaching: Oral Roberts

[Number 2]

James D. Bales

In evaluating the claims of those who assert that they have miraculous gifts of the Spirit, it is important to do at least two things. (a) Study what the Bible teaches concerning the nature, the purposes, the characteristics, and the duration of miraculous gifts. (b) See how their claims work out in their practice. Do they actually do what they claim to do and what the apostles and prophets did in the Bible? (c) Evaluate them by their teaching. Even if someone worked a sign, but then teaches contrary to the Bible, we must reject it as being from God. In this article we continue to test Oral Roberts by his teaching. Keep in mind also that Pat Boone, who is the most prominent among us to go into the tongues movement, believes that Oral Roberts has been baptized in the Spirit and that Roberts has some of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. This does not mean that Pat agrees with everything which Roberts teaches, for he does not. However, if Roberts has any of the gifts, or all of them at one time or another as he claims, his teaching should be in harmony with the New Testament.

What does Oral Roberts think is meant by serpents in Mark 16:17? He cites Lk. 10:19 to prove that it meant enemies. (The New Testament With Personal Commentary By Oral Roberts, Tulsa: Oklahoma, 1969, pp. 646-647) However, there is no evidence that it meant figurative serpents any more than drinking any deadly thing meant accidentally drinking in some false doctrine. Paul was not hurt by a viper. (Acts 28:3-6).

Anthony A. Hoekema wrote: "As we examine the Greek text of Mark 16:18, however, we find that, through the statement about drinking poison is put in a conditional form (if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them'), the statement about taking up serpents is not put in a conditional form, but is in the future indicative: `they shall take up serpents,' as is the statement about tongues: 'they shall speak with new tongues,' . . . If the speaking with new tongues is to be taken as a sign which confirms believers in their faith, why must we not further conclude that taking up serpents is also to function as such a sign? There is as much reason for accepting the one sign as the other, since in both cases the Greek verb is in the future indicative.. ." If we should have the sign of tongues, why not the sign of taking up serpents? (What About Tongues Speaking?, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmands, 1966, pp. 55-56)

Does Roberts believe he can lay hands on the sick and they will recover? (Mk. 16:18). "I know that I have a command of God to lay my hands upon the people, and God uses my hands. I look on them, not as endowed with any special virtue or power, but as an extension of the hands of Christ. When I touch someone I try to envision my hands as an extension of the hands of Christ. I see Him touching you. And when He touches you, you are made whole — in soul, mind and body!" (ibid., p. 648) If Mk. 16:17 applies to him, and if his hands are extensions of the hands of Christ, and if you are healed when Christ touches you, why does Roberts have so many failures? Jesus said: "they shall recover." (Mk. 16:18). The author received a letter in July 1970 from a cripple who told him of a spastic who wnet through Roberts' healing line and is still a spastic. If, in effect, Roberts' hands are an extension of the hands of Christ, there is special virtue or power in them. He should know this, if he knows that God gave him a command to lay on hands and if God uses his hands.

What is Roberts' view of the function of tongues? . . . speaking in tongues has a fourfold function in the believer's life and witness. He speaks in tongues first, as a part of his private devotions to God; second, for his personal edification and release; third, to edify the Body of Christ; fourth, as a sign to unbelievers." (646-647) Why is the private devotion, which Paul minimized, so prominent in his movement, and the function of tongues as a sign wherein a language is spoken so rarely even claimed? Why does Pat Boone insist that his tongues should not be such a concern to others but is a matter of his private devotions? Oral Roberts recognizes they were to function to edify the church and as a sign to unbelievers, but he believes the main purpose is for the individual to edify himself ("The Baptism With the Holy Spirit," p. 3)

Does Oral Roberts think that he has actually spoken a foreign language by inspiration? First, if he claims tongues he must do so, since the apostles' spoke languages, and tongues were for signs to unbelievers. Second, he claims that on one occasion he spoke some words of Hebrew chants. He and a converted Jew, who did not yet believe in tongues, studied the subject for several hours, joined hands and prayed together. "While praying, the Holy Spirit welled up in me and I began to pray in tongues. Later the professor told a friend of mine who was also present that he had recognized some words of Hebrew chants with which he had been familiar while growing up in the synagogue. Like an arrow, the reality of speaking in tongues entered his heart and he became eager to receive the Holy Spirit." (756-757). Why are such occasions so rare? Roberts indicates that tongues as human languages constitute the sign unto unbelievers, so why does it not function more often in this capacity? Why were only some words recognizable? Since the entire message was not intelligible either to this man, or the other person who was with them, why was the gift used when no interpreter was present? (I Cor. 14:5, 16-19, 27-28). Had Roberts up to this time ever heard any Hebrew chants? If he had, some of these phrases could have stayed with him and have been recalled when in a state of emotional excitement. Or it could have been that in all the sounds which Roberts uttered some of them seemed to be like what the converted Jew recalled hearing as a child. How correct his recollection was, we do not know. Why it should have been only some words, is more than strange if this was actually a language in which Roberts was speaking. If Roberts has the gift of tongues, he ought to have a lot of cases which are far better than this one. If this is his best example, or one of his best, how strange that he should think he has the gift of tongues — one of whose function is to be a sign to unbelievers.

Does Roberts believe that speaking in tongues is evidence that one has been baptized in the Spirit? "The moment you are baptized with the Holy Spirit, He begins to praise and magnify God through you in a heavenly language. Speaking in tongues is evidence that the Holy Spirit has come in and is perhaps the most revolutionary experience that can happen to a Christian." (755) If this is true, tongues are for all but Paul said they were not for all (I Cor. 12:10, 29-30). Furthermore, each individual should have them for the fourfold purpose which Roberts mentioned. He is also saying that if one has not received the tongues, he has not been baptized in the Spirit. If, as some maintain, the birth of the Spirit of John 3:5 is baptism in the Spirit, those who have not received the gift of tongues have not been born again, and are not yet Christians. However, Roberts does not believe that the birth of the Spirit in John 3:5 is baptism in the Holy Spirit (Letter from Oral Roberts, August 5, 1970).

Does Roberts believe that each person who is baptized in the Spirit will get all of the gifts? He believes that when "you receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, four things will happen in your life: (1) You will speak in tongues; you will be given a new level of communication with cod. You will be able to speak to God not only in your own language, but in the languages created by the Holy Spirit inside you; (2) you will have continuous use of this new level of speaking to God in tongues for the rest of your life, and through it you may edify yourself daily; (3) you will receive power to witness of Jesus Christ; and (4) you will have a release into the charisma, or the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit." (745).

"The gifts are given in times of crisis. . . Rather than say that we have one gift or another gift, we need to recognize that we have the Giver of gifts, the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us. Then, whenever we come against a need, we can expect the Holy Spirit to operate a gift through us to meet that particular need or crisis. I believe the nine gifts of the Spirit are included in and are part of the river of living water which Jesus promised would flow through us after we have received the Holy Spirit. These gifts could be termed 'tools for crisis times.' " (746).

First, if the gift of tongues is permanent, it should be used daily for its fourfold purpose. Or at least, whenever there is a need. Roberts should have many cases where he has spoken in a human language by inspiration. Second, Paul said both the gifts and the Spirit were given to them (I Cor. 12:4-11). Third, Paul clearly taught that not everyone had all the gifts (I Cor. 12:4-11, 29-30). Roberts is taught by a different "spirit" in these matters than was Paul. Paul spoke of persons having different gifts, and not of one person having the different gifts on different occasions or crises. Fourth, if these are tools for crisis times, then every crisis should find one or more of these gifts functioning. Is it not strange that Roberts does not face more crisis wherein there is a need for the gift of languages?

Christians in the first century who had miraculous gifts used these gifts to reveal and confirm the word of God (Mk. 16:17-18, 20; Heb. 2:3-4). The Spirit would not work through Oral Roberts today and confirm doctrines which are contrary to what the Spirit has already revealed in the Bible. We must continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42), and not in Oral Roberts' doctrine.

Does Oral Roberts think he can tell you exactly how to be healed? He is so confident that he has written an article entitled: "Exactly How You May Receive Your Healing." He tells of one man whom he says was cured: "Bob picked up my book, "Exactly How You May Receive Your Healing. . . Through Faith." And the message entitled Exactly How You May Receive Your Healing was the key to Bob's divine, instantaneous deliverance. It can be yours too.

"The guarantee of healing for body and mind is everywhere evident in the Word of God." (p. 6). There are six steps. First, "Know that God wants to heal you." Second, "You must want God to heal you." Third, "Approach God for healing through faith." "More than prayer, more than desire, more than hope is needed. You must have faith that God will actually heal you." (p. 7). Fourth, "Use a point of contact to make your believing a single act of faith." "A point of contact is anything you do whereby you release your faith, letting it go instantly to God for a specific desire or a specific answer to your prayer." It may be the laying on of hands. "My touch was her point of contact for the release of her faith, which instantly went to God and brought her the desired healing." (p. 8). "Through your point of contact you also set the time. It is necessary to set the time, for the time you set is the point of expectation. You must expect a miracle if you want one to occur." (pp. 8-9). Fifth, "How to receive help through my (Oral Roberts') prayers." When Roberts reaches out his hands toward the audience at the close of his TV programs, "touch your own body as your point of contact and accept my prayer as if it were for you exclusively." Literature can be the point of contact. "Remember, as I write these sermons, magazines, and books I pray to God to heal you as you read; believe God will heal you at this moment." His answer to your personal letters is also "my point of contact. When the recipient reads the letter it becomes his point of contact." (p. 9). Sixth, "Give the glory to God."

Since Roberts knows exactly how it is done, he must think his prayer for such knowledge has been answered. "For 23 years I have prayed that God would give me both the knowledge and the simplicity to reveal to the people exactly how they may receive their healing."

"This is God's hour to heal you and make you 'every whit whole.' This is your hour of release your faith in Him." (Oral Roberts, "Exactly How You May Receive Your Healing," Abundant Life, August 1970, p. 9).

Of course, to explain his numerous failures, Roberts can always say they did not exactly apply this exact formula. In striking contrast with this, there is no case where the apostles or prophets, or others who had gifts, in the New Testament ever failed after the coming of the Spirit. The only failure was during the personal ministry, and then Christ blamed it on the disciples and not on the one on whom they failed. (Matt. 27:19-20).

The author leaves Mr. Roberts' motives to God's discernment, but the evidence does not justify us in believing that he has been baptized in the Holy Spirit, or in miraculously led by the Spirit, or that New Testament miracles take place in connection with his ministry, if Pat Boone had miraculous gifts of the Spirit, as he thinks he has, he would know these things also concerning Roberts.

— Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas