Book Review of The Godchasers by Tommy TenneyTommy Tenney is a third generation United Pentecostal minister who bills himself and his growing following as a "God Chaser." He is the author of a best-selling book entitled THE GODCHASERS. He has also served as a pastor for ten years and has spent another 17 years as a "revivalist." According to the blurb on the back cover of his recent book, he has been used to both "Spark and fuel the fires of revival." It also states that although, "He has experienced the miraculous...more importantly he knows the value of intimacy with and humility before God."
The book, THE GODCHASERS, 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 experience based religion, a la Toronto and Pensacola. In the chapter entitled "The Day I Almost Caught Him," (Him referring to God) Tenney describes a service he held 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 just His hand," a loud thunderclap sounded and split the pulpit into two pieces!!! From there, the usual "river" manifestations exploded across the sanctuary, slayings in the Spirit, profuse cryings, and even the bodies of businessmen stacked up like cordwood!!
"Businessmen tore their ties off, and they were literally stacked on top of one another, in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard."
By his own confession, Tenney had been up to that point merely 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."
Tenney echoes an earlier prophecy of the late John Wimber by saying, "God is coming back to repossess His church." But his premise is that the only thing that hinders God from "repossessing His church," is the lack of spiritual hunger, which Tenney and others seem to interpret as a hunger for the "manifested presence" of God. Thus the book THE GOD CHASERS, is aimed at those who are,
"...[T]ired 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, comes down to the predictable assertion that too many of us have been "Camped out on some dusty truth known to everyone."
There's the problem, "Dusty Truth!" But, of course Tenney would lead us and guide us into his alternative to "Dusty Truth," what he calls 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 study God's trail, His truths, 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." (From the introduction)
Tenney's call for an abandonment of "past Truth" in favor of his more relevant "Present truth" is far from original. He is only the latest in a long line of teachers who have tapped into the discontentment that many have in this entertainment age, subtly denigrating the sound teaching of the Word of God, in order to promote the latest expression of experienced based religion. As the children of Israel tired of manna, in their day, the modern children of God "Will not endure sound doctrine" either. Tenney, like many others these days, is adept at ridiculing teaching and Bible study, as though they were as irrelevant as a game of "Trivial Pursuit."
"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)
So much for those Christians, off into "Dusty Truth," enamored by God's tracks, but what about the New Agers and occultists? Tenney is sure that they have the purest of motives,
"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)
Of course these pure hearted seekers are only hindered by one obstacle, in their search for God, the church! (I always thought that it was the fact that "there is none that seeks after God," that rather than seeking God, witches and occultists and those who seek fortune tellers were in rebellion to God).
"They're 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 has been somewhat less than the book has 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 the one forcing people who are earnestly searching for God out into the bars and clubs? What ever happened to, "They knew God but would not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful...therefore they are without excuse?" Not so according to Tenney, these goodhearted witches and occultists actually came to church but found nothing, therefore they have had no choice but to go into the occult! This kind of accusation will always find a ready audience in our modern "seeker sensitive" world, discontented and casting about for any scapegoat for their sense of restlessness. The church is at fault!!!!!
Between the various personal experiences recounted by Tenney and his attempts at whetting the spiritual appetites which the book calls for, glimpses of the author's theology can be seen. As we have already seen, Tenney holds to a curious view of the Word of God as being "God's Tracks," "where God's been," and "Past Truth." Interesting, but not enough for the GOD Chasers. Tenney further denigrates the Word of God and those who would insist on measuring all things by it, in a very unusual and creative way, He calls the scripture "Old Love Letters," at the same time, paying some homage to them, yet at the same time rendering their present application irrelevant.
"I'm afraid 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)
Tenney generously concedes that the scriptures are "good, holy and necessary," but...(and there is a world of meaning in that "but") by designating scripture to the status of "Old Love Letters," he renders them inadequate for present intimacy with God! Picture Paul relegating scripture to the status of "Old Love Letters!!" Jesus never contrasted "intimacy and power" with God as opposed to scripture, He equated them! "Do ye not err? Not knowing the scripture or the power of God?" Knowing and loving scripture is the only way to begin to have intimacy with God, not the obstacle to it! Of course there could be a problem of people being "hearers of the Word and doers of it," but the answer is not to compare scripture to "Old Love Letters" or worse yet, to relegate scriptural knowledge to "being able to win a Bible Trivia game." What is Tenney promoting? Perhaps the answer to this can be found in the oft cited nugget of Charismatic wisdom,
"A man with experience is never at the mercy of a man with only an argument...If we can lead people into the manifest presence of God, all false theological houses of cards will tumble down." (Page 20)
This saying, or some variation of it, is basically the underlying assumption of the entire "River" revival, that experience supersedes "doctrine," and that the Word alone is insufficient for relationship with God.
Did the apostles believe this way? Did they ever "split pulpits?" Did they constantly contrast Truth and intimacy? Peter had the ultimate sensual religious encounter, He saw the transfigured Jesus!!! But rather than contrast his experience on the Holy mountain with those who are still "stuck in some dusty truth," Peter commended us to the "more sure Word of Prophecy, which you would do well to take heed unto." Peter never held a laughing revival, nor did Paul ever refer to himself as God's bartender. James never saw the need to put loaves of bread on the altar so that it could soak up the anointing.
Nor did the apostles ever conduct the kind of spiritual warfare Tenney and others proclaim in the name of "Taking their cities for God,"
"I am after cities...Once while preaching at a conference...in Portland, Oregon, I heard him [Frank Dimazio] mention something that caught my attention. He said that a number of pastors in the Portland area had united together to drive some stakes in the ground at strategic places around the perimeter of their region and the city and at every major intersection. The process took them hours because they also prayed over those stakes, as they were physical symbols marking a spiritual declaration and demarcation line. I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit so I said, "Frank, if you'll provide the stakes, then I'll go to the cities I feel called to and help the pastors stake out that territory for God." (Page 102-103)
Is this another Toronto or Pensacola? I think Tenney and I would probably disagree. I would say that this "intimacy" that is being sought is of the same nature as that "presence" that pilgrimages to Toronto and Pensacola has sought encounters with. Tenney seems to allude to these earlier revivals on page 21, as being somewhat less than what he is promoting,
"People don't sense God's presence at our gatherings because it is just not there sufficiently to 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've been inoculated by a crumb of God's presence, then when 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 really didn't work for me". The problem was that God was there all right, 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)
Tenney may well have made a point without realizing it. He acknowledges that the experienced based revivals of our day, in which sensual encounters with "the presence," tends eventually towards a "been there done that" attitude, as repeated mystical experiences lead into a kind of spiritual "Law of Diminishing Returns." But the answer, according to Tenney, is more of "IT." Toronto and Pensacola were only crumbs, there's more of it in a purer form. Rodney Howard Browne held forth to those who were weary of "dead religion" a fresh touch of God, a drink on the "new wine." Toronto came along and offered those same people an opportunity to "soak in" the manifested anointing of God. Pensacola, which in spite of denials to the contrary, is directly descended from the Toronto Blessing, (Steve Hill, bringing "IT" back with him from Holy Trinity Brompton Church, the Toronto Church of England)offered a purer touch revival than Toronto, giving more emphasis on repentance. But to Tenney, these were just crumbs, what does he offer? More of God? These are all the same claims, the same clichés, the same criticisms of doctrine, and even in many cases the same denigrations of the Word. I predict that as in the other "waves," this also will leave many emptier even than they were before. Unfortunately this will only open them up to the next excursion into mystical experienced based religion.
Orthodox Christianity has held that true Hunger for God is valid and can be validly met through seeking Him, fasting, prayer, a renewal of obedience to Him a going back to wherever it was that we left Him. Signs and wonders are not God nor do they satisfy. Even fantastic signs such as splitting pulpits, slaying whole crowds in the spirit, businessmen laying around like cordwood, none of this necessarily has anything to do with truly hungering for God.
Finally, is the GODCHASERS really about the kind of hunger for God that perhaps Tozer wrote of, or Spurgeon, Wesley, Nee and the other giants of the Faith of days gone by? You be the judge. But lest there be any doubt that some other kind of hunger is at work here, consider that the last page of this Destiny Image book is an advertising page featuring the full line of GODCHASERS products, The GODCHASER hat is available for a mere $17.99 and the God chaser shirt is available in four sizes for a mere $16.99, and for those who truly want to attest to this new hunger, the GODCHASERS license plate is available for a mere $6.99!!!!!