In my last article, we began to define doctrine, sound doctrine, and heresy. We determined from the Scriptures that the only way we as Christians are permitted to build doctrine is from the Word of God, and more specifically, from the witness of two or three verses. The intention of these articles is to scrutinize the doctrines of television preacher, Mark T. Barclay, to determine whether they are heresy or sound doctrine. If the doctrines of Mark T. Barclay can be proven to be heresy, then we can, with all humility and without a critical spirit, call him a heretic. However, if his doctrines are proven to be merely doctrinal differences and not heresy, then we must leave him and his ministry alone and obey the Scriptures that command us to, “know them that labor among you and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:12,13). Paul didn’t encourage us to love the Gospel Preacher because we agreed with all their doctrine, for doctrine is not even mentioned in the verse, rather, it is for their work’s sake that we love and esteem them.
So, What is Heresy?
So, what is heresy? According to the sum of the New Testament verses addressing the subject, heresy is a doctrine or system of teaching designed to deceive and lead people away from a holy life serving Jesus Christ. Heresy is designed to remove the love of God from a believer’s heart, callous their soul against sin, and turn them against truth by providing an easier standard. In short, any opinion or teaching that is repugnant to the doctrines of the Bible is heresy.
When does a mere doctrinal difference qualify to be labeled as a heresy? Doctrine can earn the label of heresy when it produces the following perverse fruit:
- Deception in the minds of believers (Matthew 24:4, 5, 11, 24)
- Lawlessness in the hearts of believers (Matthew 24:12)
- Remorselessness in the hearts of believers (Matthew 24:12)
- A perversion of the Gospel (Galatians 1:7)
- Bewitching the hearer out of the Gospel and back into spiritual slavery (Galatians 3:1)
- Causing people to depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1)
- Producing an attractive alternative Gospel to follow (2 Peter 2:2)
- Causing the Gospel to be slandered and mocked by others (2 Peter 2:2)
When Should We Use the Label “Heretic?”
In light of the previous article, we understand that doctrinal differences abound in the Body of Christ. Those that preach “tongues” has passed away, do so with the firmest of convictions to help train the saints. Those that preach “tongues” is for today, do so with the same fervor and passion, with the same motive—help the Body of Christ. Those that preach “Once saved always saved,” do so to encourage and comfort the saints of God. Likewise, those that preach, “Enduring to the end,” do so to warn and protect the same Body of Christ. In both cases, the doctrines are totally different, but the motivation and heart of the preacher is nearly the same—they want to help, protect, edify, and perfect the saints of God. So, with nearly totally opposite doctrines, why don’t they label each other heretics? Because the ministers holding the polarized views recognize that on the other side of their doctrine is a preacher who loves the Body of Christ just as much as they do. With this being said, it should be apparent that one of the condemning ingredients in heresy is motive. If a preacher’s motive is to pervert and hurt the Church, even their sound doctrine will be harmful when preached. It is, therefore, fair to label a preacher a heretic when their motive is to mislead and harm the Body of Christ with their teachings. No preacher has ever had perfect doctrine, but the preacher’s heart to help and mature the saints has always trumped the gaps they had in their doctrine.
Finally, with this previous groundwork laid, we can begin to judge Mark T. Barclay. In the remainder of this article, I intend to critically examine Barclay based on his own writings. I have taken five of Mark T. Barclay’s books and give a simple thematic evaluation for each of them. I will scrutinize each of his books for heresy by looking at the subject of each book, the number of verses used in each book (heretics hate to quote a lot of Bible), and the overall message each book strives to deliver. I will then compare the overall message or theme of each book to established orthodoxy to see whether or not Mark T. Barclay is aiming to deceive the Church (as previously discussed), or help the reader walk closer and therefore, holier, before Jesus Christ. In essence, I will ask the question: “Does this Mark T. Barclay book aim to pervert the reader or endeavor to perfect the saints?”
Beware of Seducing Spirits, Copyright 1995. Second Edition
Summary: This book, by the author’s own admonition, is not a book about demons, but rather, the harmful attitudes affecting believers. In this book, Mark T. Barclay evaluates infamous figures from the Bible, taking a chapter to dissect each person and the sinful attitudes that led to their downfall. Of particular interest are the quizzes at the end of each chapter that seem to be designed to help expose sin in the reader’s life, or at least reveal any similarities between the reader and the character previously covered.
Number of Scripture References: over 190 verses directly quoted (I may have missed one or two).
Conclusion: If you get nothing out of the book alone, you at least succeed in reading over 190 Bible verses. But if one were to really delve into the subject matter, there is no doubt that Mark T. Barclay’s purpose behind this book is to perfect a Christian by exposing their sinful attitudes. This book is anti-sin, pro-holiness, and looks to keep the believer from hurting their life. A perfecting book, not a perverting book.
Preachers of Righteousness, Copyright 1994, Second Edition
Summary: This book both exposes the motives and tactics of dirty preachers while also teaching what a “righteous preacher” looks like. With chapter titles like, “Can’t Be Moved,” and, “Can’t Be Bought,” integrity is definitely one of the themes working here.
Number of Scripture References: 340 scriptures directly quoted with many more referenced.
Conclusion: This book is a clarion call for holiness and righteous living among God’s preachers. It does not back away nor apologize for its strict stance. Like many of Mark T. Barclay’s other books, it seems to address the heart and motivations of the believers and preachers. It would be hard to read this book and not walk away judging your own motives. This book is anti-sin, pro-holiness, and definitely intends to perfect the saints.
Enduring Hardness, Copyright 1994. Second Edition
Summary: According to the foreword, written by Mark T. Barclay’s wife, Vickie, this book is designed to share the “element of backbone to aid in strengthening the army of the Lord.” This book uses the Scriptures and personal testimonies to reinforce the age-old maxim, “Winners never quit.”
Number of Scripture References: 57 scriptures directly quoted with several more referenced. (At only 42 pages, this is the shortest book reviewed.)
Conclusion: A simple but encouraging book filled with scripture and testimonies designed to encourage the Christian to not give up in the face of adversity. This book is anti-sin, pro-holiness, and looks to keep the believer from hurting their life. Definitely designed to perfect the saints, not pervert them.
Sheep, Goats, and Wolves, Copyright 1985. Second Edition
Summary: This appears to be one of Mark T. Barclay’s oldest books. This book is an analysis of the three types of believers operating in the Church today: sheep, goats, or wolves. Another book with built-in quizzes designed to help the reader determine what type of believer they are: obedient sheep, agitated goat, or divisive wolf.
Number of Scripture References: 97 scriptures directly quoted, with scores more referenced for the reader to look up.
Conclusion: To be honest, I remember reading this book nearly 20 years ago. It was revolutionary to consider that not every person in church was there with the right motives. This book is anti-sin, pro-holiness, and promotes self-evaluation in light of the Scriptures. Because this book, by the author’s own admission, is designed to expose, “those who agitate and cause turmoil (goats), and those who are yet carnal causing division, strife and schism (wolves),” I must conclude that this book is designed to perfect the saints and not pervert them.
The Sin of Familiarity, Copyright 1989
Summary: This book addresses a sin Mark T. Barclay calls, “the sin of familiarity.” This sin is best explained as the disrespect that occurs when the newness wears off any relationship that was once defined by honor and decorum. The biblical characters Barclay uses as examples further drive the sinfulness of over familiarity home. The lives of Aaron, Miriam, Gehazi, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira aren’t exactly role-model worthy. Generally speaking, this is a book about how to be an honorable Christian.
Number of Scripture References: Only 12 scriptures are written out. Twenty-five scriptures are referenced for the reader to look up on their own.
Conclusion: In this fifth book of our small analysis, Mark T. Barclay again provokes the reader to live a holy and pure life by living honorably. This book, like the previous four books reviewed, is anti-sin, pro-holiness, and promotes self-evaluation in light of the Scriptures. This book works to expose sin and promote righteous living. I must conclude that this book seeks to perfect the saint and not pervert the reader.
In conclusion, to answer our article’s question, “Is Mark T. Barclay a heretic?” The answer is “No.” It is overtly clear from his own writings that his desire is to help Christians denounce sin and live clean through the preaching of the Bible. Though someone may not agree with all of Mark T. Barclay’s doctrines, to label him a heretic would only be a statement of theological ignorance or belligerence birthed out of boredom–or maybe both.