This post is a quote from the appendix of a book I am currently reading, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century authored by Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 (published by Thomas Nelson).
Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff, before his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017, was the president of the Christian Research Institute, an apologetic ministry founded by one of the brightest Evangelical minds in the 20th century, Dr. Martin Walter. For decades, Mr Hank was the anchor of “The Bible Answer Man.”
The first edition of Christianity in Crisis was published in 1993. It systematically unmasked the Word-Faith movement – a movement which threatens to undermine the foundations of the faith delivered to the saints.
The book was a bestseller and it won the Medallion Book Award for excellence in evangelical Christian literature. The new volume has been “augmented with a ‘Cast of Characters’ section that provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest and most prolific stars in the faith galaxy—virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls” (from the Introduction).
The following is an excerpt from Appendix A: Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism?
“During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to not judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of “God’s anointed” preachers and evangelists?
Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”
Some of these teachers even add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Consider what prominent Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message Why All Are Not Healed (#01-4001):
“There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for . . . Several people that I know had criticized and called that Faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ’em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.
In addition to certain Faith teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “fivefold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”).
The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded by their followers as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority—sort of a heavenly carte blanche. To dispute any of their teachings or practices is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.
Advocates of such unquestionable authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings and practices of church leaders.
First, it needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Samuel 12:3,5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lamentations 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line descended from David (Psalms 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to especially mighty prophets and teachers.
While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15–22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Genesis 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.
Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any self-proclaimed man or woman of God.
Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”—that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets.
Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet will possess that credential (Revelation 13:13–15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Titus 1:7–9; 2:7–8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–4).
If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching, we might also be rejecting God.
Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then every single Christian must be considered anointed as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament:
“You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Thus no believer can justifiably claim any sort of special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.
With this in mind, it is significant that the apostle John does not use this term with reference to inspired or dynamic preaching or teaching, but to the ability and responsibility of each believer to discern between true and false teachers (vv. 18–24). Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical evaluation—especially influential leaders.
According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.
Teachers and other leaders of the Christian community should be extremely careful to not mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time and effort to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be holding and preaching to the masses.
And if the criticisms are unfounded or unbiblical, they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture, which tells them to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25).
There is, of course, another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Hebrews 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Ephesians 4:11–16).
At the same time, believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of even the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).
Not only is the Bible useful for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). In fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and those responsible for them (Acts 20:26–28; cf. Ezekiel 33:7–9; 34:1–10).”
[Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2009, pp. 382-386]