by Mike R. Taylor


The book The God Chasers[TGC] was published in February 1999 by Destiny Image of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.1 The author is Tommy Tenney, an annual speaker at Dave Markee's church, Follys End, in Croydon, southern England. Tenney has raised a number of issues as a serious challenge to the Church of today, many of which are valid. The radical solution to the Church's malaise which he proposes is examined in this survey. The issues Tenney raises are rightly disturbing to those who are willing to think seriously about the real state of today's Church, particularly in the USA and UK.

One problem area in the Evangelical Church concerns our attitude to the Bible, which is the written Word of God. In our experience-oriented culture, there is always the danger of people seeking spiritual experiences almost apart from the Bible and then pulling out Biblical texts to try to justify their experiences. There is a lack of testing things by the Word; people prefer to judge by other criteria, such as their reason, or their gut feelings, or whether it is in line with the way they perceive the purposes of God in what they see as the End-time generation. For this reason some people, particularly those frightened of fanaticism, treat the written text as if it has nothing to contribute to our daily life in God apart from the bare written text. This Word-only approach to the Christian life seems to provide an answer for the time-being, but, in the long-term, Christians who want to know God intimately find it barren and frustrating. In this way, pressure builds up within and some believers, once thought to be so "sound", suddenly "break out" and join strange Christian groups or give their support to strange emphases within Church circles.

Our meditation on the text of God's Word should always be combined with a positive seeking of God in the Word. It is not enough just to read the Bible each day. Our reading should be combined with a spiritual intensity which seeks God's presence and voice in His written Word. Of course, the devil can try to apply the Word to us to bring under his control, so we always need to test everything that comes to us with power by praying, "Lord, if this is of You, I accept it. But if it is from the devil, I reject it in Jesus' name". It should not be forgotten that devil quoted the Bible to Jesus Himself and he replied by wielding the Word. God the Father empowered Him to use a particular part of the Bible to oppose the satanic lie.

Another issue is the presence of God in our Christian gatherings. Often Christians do assume that God is present in their gatherings simply because of Jesus' words that He would be among us. But what is overlooked is that He said, "in My name".

Christians holding a meeting is not the same thing as gathering in His name. When we gather, it should be with the awareness that we are, on that occasion, gathering in or with His authority. Then we should ensure that we come with a right attitude: not just to meet with each other, but to meet with Him.

This means that we are expecting Him to be present in way He would not be present if we are meeting with unbelievers. There should be different feeling to the meeting, a sense or awareness of His presence. But this sense of His presence should resonate with what we know of God already in our spirits, if we have been truly born again and the Spirit of God lives in us. This has nothing to do with shakings or jerks or other bizarre phenomena.

Then again, to what extent should we expect God to "redefine the Church"? Naturally, it all depends what is meant. Certainly if it means that we should reconsider the way we do things and not just keep up traditions as if they have acquired some intrinsic sanctity by virtue of having been done that way for generations, then it is true that rediscovering the Biblical definition of the Church is necessary. The Lord should be the One who directs us in all we do.

Furthermore, it is understandable that He may not wish us to continue forever in some of our traditions. However, this does not justify the attempt to impose manmade structures on to the Church 'in the name of God'. Much of what is touted today as "redefining the Church" is merely a sales-pitch for the agenda of a group of people who want to be accepted as "apostles" and "prophets" by the Church as a whole.

The agenda of pastors signing cross-denominational covenants, and submitting to the control of super-apostles has to be promoted by threatening people that, if they do not go along with it, they may miss what God is doing today.

Whereas there are good Biblical grounds for decisively rejecting the claims of these men who claim today to be "apostles" and "prophets". The whole issue of reconsidering the way we "are church" or "do church" is important, but it is something that should be examined independently by each local congregation before the Lord. Another key issue raised is that of brokenness before God. Our obligation to walk the way of the cross is a teaching which is largely lacking in modern Evangelical and Charismatic circles.

However, it is a fact that the cross is God's remedy for self-righteousness, and even for self-consciousness, self-will and self-determination. Everything we are and have must be placed on the altar before God for Him to resurrect as He chooses. Our real enemy is sin and those legitimate aspects of us tainted by sin need cleansing, not destruction. Our understanding of what needs to be dealt with in our lives is usually distorted, which is why there can confusion and why teaching on the cross must be applied by the Holy Spirit and not enforced by the will of our human mentors. Warped teaching in this area can be highly destructive to our spiritual lives.

It is as if a surgeon in the course of his operation removed some healthy organs from our physical bodies. There is no teaching in the Bible, rightly-understood, which encourages us to desire the destruction or setting aside of natural aspects of ourselves in order to penetrate the spirit-world.

Tenney raises all these issues for debate, and rightly so. However, the real question before us is whether Tenney's verdict on these issues really is God's verdict on these issues. Accordingly, his proposed solutions will now be examined.


Tommy Tenney referred in The God Chasers to his father as "a national leader in a Pentecostal denomination in America",[TGC29] although the identity of this denomination was not disclosed in that book. Tommy Tenney's father, the Rev. Tom F. Tenney, is in fact the District Superintendent of the Louisiana District United Pentecostal Church [UPC], a position he has held since 1978. He is based in Tioga, Louisiana, and is regarded by the UPC International [UPCI] as "progressive and visionary".2 T.F. Tenney is married to Mrs Thetus Tenney, a much-traveled international speaker and Coordinator of the World Network of Prayer, an international prayer service sponsored by the UPCI.3

The UPC is the largest denomination of Oneness Pentecostals in the world. Altogether there are an estimated 17 000 000 Oneness Pentecostals worldwide and about 2 100 000 of them in the USA. They are divided into many denominations and splinter groups, the largest being the UPC, which in 1997 had grown to around 700 000 members in the USA. Five years earlier, in 1992, the membership figures for the largest Oneness Pentecostal denominations were as follows:

United Pentecostal Church International (400 000)
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (200 000)
Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ (100 000)
United Church of Jesus Christ (100 000)
Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith (45 000)
Pentecostal Churches of Apostolic Faith (25 000)4

Oneness Pentecostals sometimes call themselves "Apostolic" to distinguish themselves from trinitarian Pentecostals.

Oneness Pentecostals accept the Deity of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture. But they reject the doctrine of the Trinity and insist that people should be immersed in water "in the name of Jesus" and not "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." T.F. Tenney (senior) himself insists that Oneness doctrine does not contradict the Bible.5

Other problems with Oneness Pentecostalism are legalism, elitism, and judgmentalism towards orthodox Christians. Oneness groups tend to regard people who have not been immersed "in Jesus' name" as unsaved and the UPC itself goes as far as to insist that people who have been immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must be reimmersed "in the name of Jesus", because otherwise they will remain unsaved. This encourages UPC members to think that their admittance into heaven is decided by their own performance rather than by simple faith in Christ's atonement.

Oneness Pentecostals, including the UPC, insist that the reception of the Holy Spirit must be accompanied by speaking in tongues. As a result, many of them maintain that Christians who do not speak in tongues are not even saved.

Hardline Oneness adherents believe that they are into higher truth because of their superior doctrine and strict holiness standards. The UPC official holiness code presents to its members a long list of 'dos-and-don'ts'. They are urged not to watch television or go to cinemas, or sports events. Women are instructed not to wear makeup, jewelry, trousers, or short hairstyles. Indeed, members of hardline UPC churches are taught that Christians who are not UPC members are hellbound because they watch television or wear jewelry.

The overall effect is that UPC members believe that they are saved by their works rather than by grace alone. One pastor, interviewed for Charisma & Christian Life Magazine, who wished to remain anonymous, said:

"I was taught in the UPC that we were the body of Christ - that we had the whole gospel and everyone else just had a part. No one actually came out and said that other Christians aren't going to heaven, but that attitude was implied."6

Many prominent leaders have broken ranks with the UPC over the years. In 1976 Pastor C.G. "Jabo" Green of Houston, Texas, was elected to lead a network of dissident UPC leaders who wanted more grace and less sectarianism. This organization represents about 430 US ministers.7 However, most pastors in this network still hold to the Oneness position on the Godhead, although they do not require new members to be reimmersed "in Jesus' name" or expect conformity to a set of holiness standards. Neither do they teach that trinitarian Believers are unsaved.8


Tommy F. Tenney was born in 1956 and began preaching when he was 16. He spent almost 10 years pastoring in the UPC until he became an itinerant UPC evangelist in the early 1980s and continued in that role until he left the UPC in 1992. His departure was made difficult because of his father's prominence in the UPC. With commendable integrity, Tenney (junior) said:

"Many UPC pastors preach against television, but they have their TVs at their homes on the lake. I can't live like that."9

He added that, when he left the UPC, his eyes were opened to "how big the body of Christ really is."9

There is no indication that Tenney (junior) has renounced the Oneness error. Indeed, whatever his personal beliefs in regard to the Godhead, it is evident that he does not see Oneness as error as he and his father, who is still a UPC official, have coauthored a book entitled Secret Sources of Power.10 It would be difficult to coauthor a book on a spiritual topic with someone who was deemed to be in serious error, yet this book is advertised on The God Chasers website, along with other books by Tommy Tenney.11 Furthermore, T.F. Tenney's support for his son's present ministry and The God Chasers book is printed within the book itself:

"This book points you in the right direction. I commend my son, Tommy, and this book that matches the times."[TGCviii]

Either Tenney himself still holds to the Oneness error or else, unlike orthodox Christians, he considers it an issue of only secondary importance.

Significantly, he also claimed to have received a genuine experience of the Holy Spirit within the UPC:

I am a fourth generation Spirit-filled Christian, three generations deep into ministry ...[TGC2]

However, unlike many Oneness Pentecostals, Tenney claimed to accept justification by faith:

I am not implying that we are saved by our works. Salvation is a work of grace alone through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.[TGC33]

Around the time he left the UPC, Tenney was dissatisfied with his religion. He testified:

"I am a fourth generation Spirit-filled Christian, three generations deep into ministry, but I must be honest with you: I was sick of church."[TGC2]

This attitude persisted for some time after his departure from the UPC. Bishop Joseph L. Garlington, Sr, pastor of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh (CCOP), Pennsylvania, testified:

"I first met Tommy Tenney four years ago [c1994] at a pastor's conference in Beaumont, Texas. He was hungry for God - I recognized the look. It was the same one I had before going to Toronto a few months earlier. We prayed together, and didn't see each other for about two years."[TGCix]

After this two-year break, they met up again:

"When I saw him again, he had found God in a very profound way - so much so that just listening to him appealed to something so deeply imbedded in our spirits that we were almost instantly in the presence of One whom this man had been 'chasing.'"[TGCix]

What changed things for Tenney was a series of dramatic events on Sunday October 20, 1996, at Christian Tabernacle, Houston, Texas, where Richard Heard is Senior Pastor. Tenney wrote:

My life changed forever on the October weekend in Houston, Texas, when God's presence invaded the atmosphere like a thunderbolt and split the podium at the Sunday service.[TGC83] Tenney had been invited to take the service. After a tremendous buildup of a spiritual presence within the building during a time of worship, Heard asked him if he was ready to speak to the people and Tenney replied:

"Pastor, I'm just about half-afraid to step up there, because I sense that God is about to do something." [TGC6]

As Heard himself went to the platform "he appeared visibly shaky"[TGC6]. Tenney walked to the back of the auditorium and stood by the sound booth to see what would happen. Heard first read 2 Chronicles 7:14 and then said:

"The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him. We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face."[TGC7]

Tenney reported what followed in these words:

"In that instant, I heard what sounded like a thunderclap echo through the building, and the pastor was literally picked up and thrown backward about ten feet … . When he went backward, the pulpit fell forward. The beautiful flower arrangement positioned in front of it fell to the ground, but by the time the pulpit hit the ground, it was already in two pieces. It had split into two pieces almost as if lightning had hit it! At that instance the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room." [TGC7]

Tenney reported that it was 2½ hours before Heard could get up again. While in this cataleptic state, the only sign of life was the trembling of his hand.

The two pieces of the pulpit are now proudly displayed in the church. Apparently it was made of hi-tech acrylic plastic said by engineers to be able to withstand tens of thousands of pounds pressure per square inch.[TGC16]12

There is clearly a problem with manifestations of this kind. This can be seen by comparison with miraculous healings. When someone is healed miraculously, anyone, Christian or not, can connect it to the grace of God. A healing genuinely from God clearly reflects His kindness and concern for suffering humanity. In this way, the miracle has a message. It is the same with any true miracle of deliverance. All of them reflect the grace of God in a comprehensible way. This is always true of such works of God, whether miraculous or otherwise.

However, sometimes God administers punishment to people in this life in judgment against their sin. This is actually more common than is generally acknowledged in modern Christian circles. In some cases, this is done in a miraculous way to produce maximum shock and fear in the observers. In the Book of Acts, there are clear examples of this. One case involved Ananias and Sapphira who sold a field and gave a portion of the proceeds to the apostles for distribution among poor believers. Their sin was that they pretended that the sum they were presenting was actually the full amount which they had received for the sale of the land. The Holy Spirit showed Peter what was going on and he rebuked both husband and wife for lying to the Holy Spirit. They died on the spot (Acts 5:1-11).

Another case is that of Herod giving a speech, when his audience said that they had heard the voice of God and not a man. Because Herod failed to give the glory to God at that point, he was instantly eaten by worms and he died on the spot (Acts 12:20-23). Tenney often refers to Uzzah who tried to steady the ark of God while it was being transported on an oxcart to Jerusalem. As soon as Uzzah touched the ark, God struck him so that he died on the spot (2 Samuel 6:6-7). There are many other Biblical examples.

However, the message of all these interventions is very clear: God was displeased with some thing the people involved did and acted in judgment against them. They all carry their own message and no one is any doubt as to their meaning and purpose.

But what is to be made of this strange phenomenon: the splitting of a pulpit? I would like to suggest that any unbiased reader told of the incident and without reading the spin put on it in The God Chasers would come up with only two options.

At first sight, the incident sounds like an act of God's judgment: a loud bang, the pastor being thrown 8-9 feet backwards and landing on the floor, a virtually unbreakable pulpit being split by a jagged break and falling forward, the flower display being scattered…

If this is from God, it certainly looks like judgment. People would normally ask whether the pastor had displeased God in some way and whether God was about to cast off that church.

However, the message of this incident in not so clear-cut. Why is this? First, the pastor was unharmed, being perfectly well afterwards. If God had been judging him of some sin, it would have to be really serious to warrant such a dramatic judgment and it is likely that he would have died on the spot, just as in the examples we have seen already.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that that the pastor had been involved in serious sin of the kind which would warrant a public judgment of so dramatic a nature.

Then again the pastor himself claimed that a number of apparently beneficial miraculous events occurred on the days following this strange phenomenon. And perhaps most importantly, there was no prophetic warning of coming judgment or prophetic explanation in terms of judgment immediately after the event to warn other people that if they engage in similar sins, they would be likewise wiped out. So, although to any normal observer, the scenario looked like an outpouring of God's judgment, there are anomalies which seem to contradict this possibility.

The second possibility is a poltergeist-type phenomenon. "Poltergeist" is the German for a "noisy" or "boisterous" spirit or "ghost". It is the term used to denote spirits, or demons, which enter homes or other buildings to cause observable chaos. While the spirits remain invisible, they cause visible phenomena, such as objects floating around in the air and push objects off shelves to the ground. Although these phenomena are frightening, people are seldom hurt and objects seldom damaged. However, permanent damage does sometimes occur.

If the phenomena at Houston were not an action of God's judgment (which they clearly were not), then it would seem that it must have been the activity of deceiving spirits.

Tenney would clearly not agree with either of these and suggested, instead, a third possibility:

"I'll never forget telling my friend, the pastor, 'You know, God could have killed you.' I wasn't laughing when I said it. It was as if God had said, "I'm here and I want you to respect My presence."[TGC83]

God repossessed His church for a period of time and He wouldn't allow anything to happen that He hadn't specifically ordained for that service.[TGC 83]

The implication of this is that God did not possess His church before, or even after, these phenomena for any significant length of time. Did God otherwise disown that church at other times? What Tenney seems to be getting at is that God is not sufficiently present in church meetings in general. This is illustrated by a statement which Tenney made to Charisma reporter James Rutz in Houston. Tenney told him that he believed God had zapped the podium in two "as a symbolic slap in the face for the tight human control of the church across America."13

There is no denying that a hallmark of many churches in the USA is tight human control. Americans are very good at organizing and this can easily dominate church-life.

So when an unusually strong spiritual presence took over, it seemed obvious to Tenney that God was, as it were, 'repossessing' the church as if He had disowned it before. But this conjunction of human control and wild phenomena does not prove the truth of Tenney's interpretation. In reality, Tenney's attempted explanation is confused and highlights a general tendency throughout The God Chasers to attribute to God phenomena which actually have the marks of some source other than Himself. Indeed, what Tenney actually does is to take as normative phenomena which he had encountered either in the course of his Oneness Pentecostal background or in some other meetings he attended since, and then attribute these to God. In one case, he actually superimposed a phenomenon on to his reading of Scripture.

He stated that "Moses kept the veil over his face after the shine of 'glory dust' faded."[TGC20] In fact nowhere does the Bible ever speak of "glory dust", although this is a phenomenon which certain more extreme Pentecostal groups claim from time to time. The Bible just says that the skin of Moses face shone. It would seem that Moses' skin became charged with the glory of God and functioned as a kind reflector for the glory.

But there is no evidence that any shining physical-type substance was attached to the surface of his skin. The use of the phrase "glory dust", although seemingly no more than a detail in Tenney's book, is actually very revealing and serves to illustrate a thread running through his entire approach to spiritual phenomena.

Tenney's discernment is seriously brought into question by his embracing the 1951 Argentinian 'revival' described by Dr R. Edward Miller in his books Thy God Reigneth and Cry for Me, Argentina. [TGC 52-53, 147]

On June 4, 1951, a Latter Rain style 'revival' in Argentina was heralded by a supposed 'angelic' presence. It was reported by Dr R. Edward Miller in his book Thy God Reigneth.14 Apparently, on that day (June 4, 1951), Alexander, a Polish teenager attending the Bible Institute in City Bell, a small town near Buenos Aires, had felt the heavens with its stars to be pressing down on him causing him to cry out. The stars seemed to change into great orbs of fire, becoming ever brighter.

Then in their intense light a greater light appeared. A Being from the heavenly world drew near until it enfolded him.15

Trying to escape this "Visitor", Alexander fled to the Institute. However, "the Heavenly Visitor entered with him."16

The following day, the "Heavenly Visitor" stood by Alexander, who was transported in spirit to far away countries and began to make journeys over the face of the earth, looking down, seeing many cities and knowing the name of each of them. Beginning in Argentina, he began to 'travel' over foreign countries, apparently naming cities which "the Lord promised to visit before the end comes".17 Although barely educated, he was enabled to reel off the names in the native languages of the inhabitants of each city.18

The next morning, the "Visitor manifested Himself and stood by the side of Alexander. He could not be seen in human form, but manifested Himself so markedly that we all knew that He had come. In spirit He was seen by Alexander who talked to Him."19 The "Angel" then began to speak in a language unknown to Alexander, who repeated all the words.

Then another lad, Celsio, a local and even less educated than Alexander, was given the meaning of the statements in Spanish. Every time he tried to repeat these, he had a choking sensation and could get no words out. However, he was able to write out the words.20

One student felt that the manifestations were demonic: "This is of the Devil and must be stopped!" 21 However, when he saw the messages, he changed his mind and concluded: "I know Celsio and his lack of education and literary ability. Only God could cause him to write in a style like this." 22

Although the sample of the writing provided would certainly seem to indicate that the writings came from a spiritual source, they do resemble spiritistic productions more than anything originating from the Holy Spirit. 23 The following thoughts on Dr Miller and the Peniel Revival teaching by Char Stucki who was strongly influenced by him at a crucial stage in her spiritual life will be of interest. Stucki wrote:

My husband and I met Ed Miller in 1963 at the Peniel Bible Institute in Mar del Plata. We lived in Argentina for the next three years and worked in affiliation with the Argentine Bible Assemblies, which he founded. The last year, we lived at the Institute and were in close contact on a daily basis with him, sitting under his teaching in day time classes and nightly meetings.

I have to acknowledge that I was personally "bowled over" and "awed" by the mystique of this man. I venerated him deeply as a person of intimate acquaintance with God. I believed that he had "penetrated" into a place in God far beyond the average run of the mill Christian, and having a very mystical bent myself, I wanted to discover the secrets of the Kingdom that he seemed to have discovered. I would often weep when he spoke about God, and then be alternately frustrated because his "gnosis" seemed to be so far beyond mine and so out-of-reach.

It took many years to unravel the knot that the Peniel teaching that was perpetrated by Bro. Miller and his sons produced within me.

The name of their ministry, Peniel, perhaps best summarizes the focus of their teaching. Peniel was the place where Jacob, alone, wrestled with the angel of God and his thigh was finally disjointed and he declared, "I have seen God face to face and my soul is delivered." Brother Miller himself claimed to have had such an "experience of God" years before in Mendoza, which he wrote about in his book, Thy God Reigneth, now published as The Flaming Flame. After an intense period of seeking God in prayer and fasting, God revealed Himself to him, and he heard things that were "unspeakable to utter". Things that he said that he could never tell anyone, not even his wife. Secrets, hidden things, mysteries of God that could not be shared.

Looking back on those years when my young, yearning heart longed to also be one of the "enlightened ones", I realize that this was nothing less than mysticism, a christianized version of gnosticism, in which there are those with a higher knowledge of spiritual things, people who have met the conditions, have pressed through into deeper spiritual realms and acquired an understanding that only comes to those who "strive to enter" and "battle through all of the opposition" into that heavenly dimension where God manifests and reveals himself.

Besides this mystical knowledge of God that he possessed, and which others who were willing to belong to God's inner circle could also possess, there was a strong emphasis on "holiness unto the Lord". The church which Edward Miller founded in Atlanta, Georgia bears that writing on its pulpit.

Brother Miller believed and taught that a Peniel-type encounter with God would also produce holiness of life and that a believer who had seen God face to face would manifest godliness of life and be a person of prayer, devotion, service, worship, separation from the world, etc. He believed that a genuine revival would bring believers into that kind of a life-style. He was passionate about urging people to "experience the manifest Presence of God" where they would have a face to face meeting with God that would result in a changed life. Who could argue with a goal like that, especially when as a minister, one is surrounded by people who often seem indifferent to God, or who struggle with sins in the flesh, or who manifest other carnal behaviors and attitudes?

I cannot argue with the desire for genuine godliness or the fruit of the Spirit to be borne in the life of a believer. My contention is not as such with the "what" as it is with the "how" of the Christian life as it was taught at Peniel. (Though I would be careful to say that prayer, devotion, worship, separation from the world, etc., characterized the Pharisees and that all that glitters is not gold.)

Romans 10 speaks of the people of God who had a "zeal for God but not according to knowledge." A people who "being ignorant of God's righteousness went about to establish their own." A people of whom Isaiah said, "they seek Me day by day, and desire knowledge of My ways. As a nation that has done right, and not forsaking the judgment of their God, they ask Me about judgments of righteousness; they desire to draw near to God."
What was the problem? The problem according to Romans 10 is that they "sought righteousness, but not by faith." They sought a righteousness that one had to "ascend into heaven to bring down." Or alternately, to "descend into hell to bring up."

One of the major emphases in the Peniel teaching was that two pronged mysticism. We were taught that "high praise" would bring the manifest presence of God into a meeting. That when the level of desire and intensity reached a certain point, God would descend and "manifest Himself" and then people could experience Him. On the other hand, we were taught that God could only reveal Himself to a broken and contrite people, so other meetings would be a "descent" into agonizing prayer and weeping and repentance over sins, and when the contrition and repentance was 'deep enough', God would also respond. The focus was always on the subjective conditions that God required from the soul in order for Him to accomplish His inward work. I NEVER heard the objective proclamation of the Gospel facts which are to be believed and received in simple child-like faith, or again as Romans 10 says, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we proclaim)". It took many, many years before the mental garbage and clutter could be swept out of my mind, and my heart could begin to rest in the finished work of Christ, the righteousness that has been given to every believer, that does not depend on my fickle feelings or subjective experiences, or some inner work that the Spirit does "in me", but rather is a righteousness that is "in Christ", forever settled in heaven - the righteousness that is based on believing the Truth of Christ and Him crucified, not upon my "experience." And that it is as true of the weakest believer as it is of the most "mature" one. (Whatever that means.)

This teaching was carried to its extreme, but probably logical, conclusion several years ago in Atlanta when Brother Miller was still pastoring there. I am hesitant to write about it, because I was not personally present, and only have the stories of a number of very disillusioned people who were there. The church experienced a 'move of God' which originally began in Holland. What characterized this 'revival' was that people began to have terrifying experiences of hell and judgment and their lostness. These were people, many of whom had been believers for many years. I am told that they would literally at times, feel the flames of hell, feel themselves hanging over a pit ready to fall in, would "see" scenes of the Crucifixion, would feel their guilt for having killed the Son of God. They would lie prostrate and scream and wail and weep, sometimes for hours, in agony. And then, for the fortunate ones, relief would come and they believed that they had been truly "converted" or "born again".

This became the standard for an authentic conversion, and those who did not pass through an experience of this nature believed that God had by-passed them and that they were not really saved. I have personally talked to at least eight people who were not among those who had this experience, and one who did, and they are all totally disillusioned and have been unable to recover from the damage that this wreaked upon their faith.

There are so many ramifications to all of this, and I personally have spent years re-discovering the truth of the Gospel which I lost during those Argentina-seeking-for-revival years. The essence of it all, however, boils down to this:

The Gospel makes our starting point what religious zeal makes the destination. The believer who does not understand the Gospel of God's grace is constantly striving to 'arrive' at some higher level of spirituality. Always trying to find a way to fix his sinful flesh. To become more devoted or godly. The Gospel justifies the ungodly and sanctifies the sinner and makes him "in Christ" as righteous and holy as he will ever be, because his righteousness is not in his flesh, but in the Man Christ Jesus. The Gospel freely gives a man who believes a perfect standing in the presence of God. And now, because we are justified, we are sanctified, we are cleansed, we are free, we can walk in love and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. It is a life of rest and peace, not constant striving to "become." It is a life of quiet "abiding in Christ", not trying to get "into Christ".

It is a life of believing, not achieving or trying to meet conditions of intense prayer, warfare, break-throughs to reach a God who is afar off. It is a life of being identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, not a life of agonizing for that mystical moment when God sees that I have met the conditions and comes and "visits" me. 24

It is significant that Tenney commends both this Argentinian 'revival' and the Hebrides Awakening of 1949-1953. The Hebrides work was clearly a work of the Holy Spirit and, despite the extraordinary phenomena accompanying it, few orthodox Evangelicals would have any difficulty accepting it as a work of God. Nothing in it contradicted the Bible or what might be termed 'received Evangelical wisdom'!

This is quite different from the sheer alienness of the Argentinian 'revival' which requires a fundamental paradigm-shift among orthodox Christians before they would be able to accept it. However, this seems to be no problem for Tenney in his present phase as he lumps the true and the false together without hesitation. Someone whose discernment is as confused as this is simply not qualified to deliver a trustworthy interpretation of spiritual phenomena which he encounters. It is worth noting also that many of these churches in which unprecedented phenomena of this kind occur are those which have already embraced the kind of spirituality associated with the contemporary "River Revival".

Failure in discernment is not necessarily a reflection on a person's character. He may be a true Christian brother. He may be the most gracious, humble Believer in the history of the Church, but if his discernment is confused by exposure to wrong teaching and acceptance of deceiving spirits, he cannot be trusted in this matter. In this area, uncomfortable facts must be faced. Only then can we help our confused brothers and sisters.

In the case of Tenney, he was brought up in a Pentecostal tradition which is clearly flawed in many areas, enshrining both first-rank error and failure in discerning the source of spiritual phenomena. UPC churches are noted for the great exuberance of their services and for working up emotions. They believe that all members should "speak in tongues". In Biblical teaching, "the gift of languages" is something which God gives to people in His sovereignty as and when it is needed. It is not something which people can imitate and use whenever they choose. Therefore, in any denomination, sect or cult, which encourages every member to "get the gift" in order to attain a particular level of spirituality or a particular anointing for ministry, it is clear that the majority will find themselves experiencing a manifestation which does not originate with the Holy Spirit.

A book published by the UPC and widely read in Oneness circles is J.T. Pugh's How to Receive the Holy Ghost. Pugh encourages a person to adopt the right psychological attitude when seeking to receive the Holy Spirit. The seeker must "condition himself in much the same manner" as a "person being instructed in the process of diving into water" in that he must "[yield] himself over to an element and influence he is not well acquainted with".25 Then he suggests that the seeker try repeating a word or phrase over and over again as part of the his effort to loose himself from "the fleshly process of thought".26 This is to help him "suspend himself in the state of willingness and yielding".27

He further suggests that the seeker should "deliberately … move away from our own language" and "go backward to the babblings of a baby".28 Pugh admits that such babblings may not initially be Spirit-inspired, but if the seeker "continues in the state of spiritual suspension and yielding" to the place when he comes to "a psychic zero," he will be filled with the Spirit.29 According to Pugh, this "cannot fail".30 So much for the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Believer!

Yet even in trinitarian circles, where people would be expected to know better, most "tongues" are a psychological phenomenon which anyone, even a non-Christian, can learn to do, provided he or she becomes sufficiently disinhibited. There are also demonic counterfeits of "tongues" or "languages", which occur less often. It is a sad fact that some demonic counterfeits are actually authentic languages, whereas most Pentecostal "tongues" are no more than gibberish.

A person brought up in the Oneness tradition, which is blatant and utterly unapologetic about such psychological manipulation, yet still calling both his forbears and himself "Spirit-filled", clearly accepts all such manifestations as true products of the Holy Spirit. But unless such a person repents of all counterfeits which he has experienced or accepted, he will remain undiscerning in such matters. His discernment will always be compromised until he stands in clear judgment against past false experiences


Tenney rightly distinguishes between God's "omnipresence" and His "manifest presence".

God is everywhere; there is no place where God is not. But sometimes, for some special purpose, God makes His presence felt by Believers. Yet the way in which this is experienced may vary. Tenney does not go into the details of this and so the reader is left thinking that there are only two modes of God's presence.

It is true that God sometimes makes His presence felt by an entire group of believers so that they can all say in total agreement that "God is present" or "God was present". They do not mean that God is or was not present at other times, but only that God's presence was manifested on that occasion in so obvious a way that no one could deny it.

The relationship between God's sovereignty and the spiritual state of the people in the gathering is not easy to fathom. It seems to vary from time to time. Additionally, the vehicle for the presence of God can vary. It can be related to the desire of the people, or it can be the result of an anointed ministry. Or it can be entirely owing to the sovereignty of God: He wants to move in that way for some purpose known only to Himself and does so before anyone can even search his or her heart. There are, however, other modes of God's presence. Individuals in meetings can testify as to how they felt God's presence, when others do not.

The reasons for this also vary. It can be to do with the spiritual discernment of individuals or it can be that God has something particular to indicate to certain people, if only to encourage them. Then there are times when an individual is targeted by God in a meeting which everyone else agrees clearly lacked a universal sense of God's presence. As such variations can occur within the same fellowships from week to week, it seems to me unhelpful to reduce God's presence to two modes, as Tenney does. Of course, we should observe how God is working and seek to get as right with Him as we can be so that we are not a personal hindrance to the work of God.

Of course, it is good for us to pray that God will be present in as obvious a way as possible. But none of these things can guarantee God's obvious presence, although there is often a positive relationship between the two. This is not to suggest that Tenney himself is unaware of any of this. His teaching is clearly put in a simple way as possible to make a strong point. Unfortunately, it does convey a misleading impression by simply focusing on these two modes of God's presence.


What does Tenney himself really mean by "God's manifest presence"? Throughout The God Chasers, Tenney refers to God's "manifest" or "manifested" presence. As this is such a key concept, it is worth asking what he actually means by it. To put it another way, what does Tenney think of as the evidences of "God's manifest presence"?

Actually it is not entirely clear what Tenney means, partly because he is trying to put into words something which he has felt - whether spiritually, psychologically or physically. In his description of the pulpit-splitting incident, he uses a number of ways to describe his feelings at the time:

"the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was "thick." You could barely breathe." [TGC5]

"Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn't sing or play any longer." [TGC5]

"this time in Houston, even after there was all of God that I thought was available in the building, more of His presence literally packed itself into the room. … . God was there; of that there was no doubt. But more of Him kept coming in the place until, as in Isaiah, it literally filled the building. At times the air was so rarefied that it became almost unbreathable. Oxygen came in short gasps, seemingly." [TGC6]

In general, Tenney's view of God's "manifest presence" is very phenomena-oriented. It is as though God is not present unless strange things are seen to be going on. Tenney himself is not unaware of dangers in that approach and even issued a warning:

"Many of the great saints in historic denominations and churches know that God doesn't always have to manifest Himself in things seen by the eye of the flesh. They would solemnly warn all of us, "Don't come in here looking for sensationalism. Come looking for God and you will find Him."' [TGC6]
At first, this sounds good, almost a relief in the context of Tenney's writing. But when the small print, as it were is read, we notice that he says "God doesn't always have to manifest Himself" in this way. In other words, although there are times when God does not do it that way, it is the exception. Therefore, according to Tenney, it is in fact usual for God to manifest Himself in terms of visible or tangible phenomena.

Despite all Tenney's disclaimers, when he speaks of God's "manifest presence", he is using that term to denote a power which almost always comes with the baggage of strange phenomena. This is made only too plain in a later statement:

"I must warn you that God's glory, His manifest presence, can literally split local church bodies like the "split" body of Uzzah." [TGC93]

Then he recommends that "Many a godly pastor should approach his congregation with kindness and diplomacy" to warn them.[TGC93] What should such a pastor say? According to Tenney, he should say this:

"If you're not serious about seeking God's face, then you might want to find another place. If you're uncomfortable about waiting on the presence of God and experiencing the weightiness of God's glory; if you are uncomfortable with the strange and unusual manifestations that sometimes accompany His coming, then you need to find someplace less hungry to stay. We've had church our way long enough." [TGC93]
Indeed, as most of Tenney's descriptions of this "manifest presence" involve visible phenomena, the most extreme example being that of pulpit-splitting, it is impossible to escape from the impression that he is using the term "manifest presence" as a way of marketing what he thinks should be the norm for all of us most of the time. Clearly something is seriously wrong with Tenney's approach. It may, therefore, be helpful to outline two of its distinctive features.

The first is the idea that God, in manifesting His presence, normally focuses His presence on one particular spot in a meeting. Concerning the pulpit-splitting incident, he wrote:

I so sensed something was about to happen. [TGC6]

I knew God was going to do something; I just didn't know where. [TGC6]

It could happen behind me or to the side of me. I was so desperate to catch Him that I got up and publicly walked back to the sound booth as the pastor walked up to the pulpit to speak, so I could see whatever happened. I wasn't even sure it was going to happen on the platform, but I knew something was going to happen. "God, I want to be able to see whatever it is You are about to do. [TGC6-7]

The second is that God's manifest presence is usually accompanied by particular and predictable phenomena:

Never take God's holy presence for granted, and never assume that if no one is crying, shaking, manifesting odd movements, or prophesying away, then God isn't at work. [TGC96]

Although this statement appears balanced in that people should not rule out God's operation just because these manifestations are absent, nevertheless these manifestations are considered normative accompaniments of God's "manifest presence". Another statement is this:

We have long enjoyed the omnipresence of God, but now we are experiencing brief moments of visitation by His manifest presence. It causes every hair to stand up on end, and it makes demonic forces flee and run.[TGC47]

Does God's manifest presence really cause hair to stand up on end? It is interesting to compare this with the manifestation of a counterfeiting spirit to Eliphaz, one of Job's counselors:

Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. (Job 4:12-15)

It is also strange that Tenney speaks of our enjoyment of God's "omnipresence". Elsewhere he described God's "omnipresence" as referring to "the fact that He is present all the time." [TGC36] He illustrated this as follows:

He is that "particle" in the atomic nucleus that nuclear physicists cannot see and can only track. … . God is everywhere in everything. He is the composite of everything, both the glue that holds the pieces of the universe together and the pieces themselves! [TGC36]

Leaving aside the pantheistic tendency of the suggestion that God is Himself "the pieces" of the universe, it is difficult to see how anyone can enjoy God's presence in the nucleus of an atom. If Tenney is to be believed, the problem with Christians is that they have long enjoyed the "omnipresence" of God, but not His "manifest presence". This simply does not make sense.


Another tendency in Tenney's ministry is the suggestion that God's 'manifest presence' can be generated in some way by a particular intensity of worship. It is interesting that just before the pulpit-splitting incident, the initial build-up of the 'presence' in the auditorium was associated with worship:

As I walked to sit down in the front row that morning, the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was "thick." You could barely breathe. The musicians were clearly struggling to continue their ministry; their tears got in the way. Music became more difficult to play. Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn't sing or play any longer. The worship leader crumpled in sobs behind the keyboard.

If there was one good decision I made in life, it was made that day. I had never been this close to "catching" God, and I was not going to stop. So I spoke to my wife Jeannie. "You should go continue to lead us to Him." Jeannie has an anointing to lead people into the presence of God as a worshiper and intercessor. She quietly moved to the front and continued to facilitate the worship and ministry to the Lord. [TGC5]

This was taking place immediately before Richard Heard asked Tenney if he was ready to take the service.

Worship of a particular type obviously plays an important part in generating the kinds of spiritual experiences advocated by Tenney:

God is calling you to a new level of intimacy. If you dare to answer His call, the Lord will reveal a fresh part of His character. He will pull you so close that you will be breathing the very rarefied air of Heaven. The only way to the place David called "the secret place" is through the door of focused worship, when you lay aside every distraction and focus your body, soul, and spirit upon God. When His presence becomes so strong that you are oblivious to everyone and everything else around you, then healing can come in an encounter with God from which you will never "recover." Your heart will be as permanently disabled with love as Jacob's leg was with a limp! [TGC125]

It is difficult to imagine that a person could engage in such activity for long without finding him or herself in some state of altered consciousness.31 Naturally such states open a person wide to invasion by deceiving spirits which generate religious experiences. Would it be fair to dub them 'religious spirits'?

A down-to-earth comment by A.W. Tozer is pertinent here:

Some who can get all worked up over a song imagine that this is the Spirit, but this does not necessarily follow. 32 <

Although not concerning Tenney's ministry as such, the full text of a letter written by Yvette Hoffman from South Africa illustrates most clearly the issues involved with alternative understandings of God's 'manifest presence':

Dear Friend:

I write to you, as a concerned child of God and ex-member of ____________ Christian Church. Since leaving this church, God has revealed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ our Saviour to me. Among other things, He has exposed the true source of the so-called "anointing" or "outpouring of the 'holy spirit'" which is being experienced in many Charismatic churches. Although it seems to have its origins in the spiritual realm, I can assure you that is most definitely not the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

If, at this stage you are tempted to simply shred this letter, I implore you to at least read it through, before doing so. If however, thereafter you still feel inclined to do so, then be my guest. After all, it is not for me to convince or convict you in any way. That is the work of the Spirit of God. It is however, up to you to decide what you are going to do about that conviction. You can either choose to act upon it, or you can choose to simply ignore it.

In July 1995, after re-committing my life to the Lord, I experienced God's Miraculous Healing Power twice within a single week. In the first instance, God totally delivered me from a sexually immoral lifestyle and six days later He supernaturally healed me from smoking. As you could well imagine, these experiences had a dramatic influence on my life.

Within a period of six days, God turned my whole life upside down. I had heard that God touched the lives of people in similar ways in ____ Christian Church. But, I must admit at the time I wasn't really convinced that these 'manifestations' were from God. I just couldn't believe that God would heal people in such strange ways.

Then, to my utter amazement, I experienced not one, but two supernatural healings in the privacy of my home. I must admit, I began to think that which was being experienced in the ________ Christian Church must be from God. I began attending the Church's services on a regular basis, but to my dismay, I didn't experience the 'anointing' of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, I became extremely agitated when these 'manifestations of the spirit' were displayed during the services. Needless to say, I became somewhat concerned. When I spoke to my fellow members about this problem, I was told that is was an attack from the devil to prevent me from experiencing the presence of the Lord and that I should seriously pray about the situation. Thus began a period of serious spiritual warfare against this attack from Satan, but alas, still no manifestations.

I could not understand it. Why was God withholding His Spirit from me? What was I doing wrong? I prayed and prayed to God to Fill me with His Spirit - but in vain. I continually pressed in, but nothing happened. At one stage I actually began to doubt my salvation due to the fact that I wasn't experiencing any manifestations. I became so totally obsessed with the manifestations that I found myself concentrating solely on trying to induce a manifestation whenever I prayed or worshipped. It was only then that I finally managed to successfully induce a manifestation.

To my utter disgust, this so-called 'anointing' was a far cry from the wonderful life-changing experience which I had previously experienced when God had delivered me from an immoral lifestyle and smoking. I noticed that for some strange reason praying and reading my Bible suddenly became virtually impossible.

Furthermore, I became aware of the fact that I often felt tempted to fall back into sin in the areas where God had delivered me. I asked myself, "why is this happening?" I was confused. Then I blamed Satan for the fact that I was unable to effectively pray and read the Bible. As for falling back into past sins, I promptly found Scriptures with which to justify why God was supposedly allowing these things to happen, but in fact I used these merely to lull my own conscience. In the eyes of my Charismatic friend, I had made it! God was actively working in my life.

I most definitely couldn't allow anyone to know that which I had experienced as the "manifest presence of the Lord" wasn't everything it was made out to be. I couldn't risk being heard speaking out against the Holy Spirit - after all according to Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29, 30 - this is an unforgivable sin.

I certainly wasn't prepared to be guilty of that. And so, the masquerade began. I pretended to enjoy these experiences when in actual fact, every single time I allowed myself to experience the 'anointing', something deep inside my inner being would be pleading with me to put an end to the charade. I was bewildered by this predicament that I found myself in: . .Was I the only person who felt this way?. . Were there others who had the same problems? . . or. . Was Satan yet again attempting to stop me from receiving God's blessing? Yes, that had to be it. Satan had to be responsible for these doubts, as well as for the discomfort I was experiencing.

Of course, the only way I knew how to counter Satan's attacks was to engage in Spiritual Warfare. Once again I launched a serious battle against Satan. I earnestly prayed to God to: Remove anything and everything in my life that wasn't from Him, as far away from me, as the North is from the South and the East is from the West. If it wasn't from Him, I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I thought He would take away the doubts and the discomfort. Instead, when I prayed to God in this way, the most horrific thing happened.

God took this strange 'spirit' away from me. Yet, amazingly for the first time in many months, I was able to read my Bible without having to force myself to concentrate on what I was reading. Suddenly God's Word once again became a reality to me, as it had done when I gave my life to the Lord; I could once again actually understand what I was reading.

What's more, I noticed that my prayer life dramatically improved and that the temptations which hounded me before had disappeared. But, alas as far as the Charismatics are concerned, it is only when we experience what they define as the "presence" of the Lord (or the anointing or the outpouring of the 'spirit' as they call it) in our lives that we truly grow spiritually. In fact, according to their teachings, a so-called 'personal touch from God' is considered to be far more important than the Word preached from the pulpit.

What was I to do? I sincerely desired to become spiritually mature. So, I yet again sought the so-called anointing and before long I found myself caught up in an action reply of the previously described scenario, but with one small difference. As I had had previous experiences, I was now able to achieve the manifestations much easier than I had the first time round, but as I did, the battles against Satan re-commenced.

Surely something was wrong - But I was reassured by my friends that these incessant attacks were a sign that I was doing something right because Satan only attacks those who are making progress in God's kingdom. At first I fell for this explanation, I even thanked God for the attacks, but after a while I began to doubt whether it was true. I simply could not believe that what I was experiencing was God's will for His children.

I simply had to find the answers. Thus with much difficulty at first, I endeavored to seek answers to these and other questions I had in God's Word. (The Bible). The first subject I tackled was that of the Scriptures used to justify these so-called manifestations of the Spirit. It wasn't too long before I realized how totally misquoted, twisted and misinterpreted these were. Should you doubt this fact, read the following Scriptures - in context: Acts 2:15, 16 and Eph 5:18 (being drunk in the "spirit"); Amos 3:8 (prophets - roaring like lions); 1 Pet. 1:8 (uncontrollable laughter) and Acts 9:6 (shaking in the Spirit).

Don't just skim over them because you believe you know them. Read them carefully. Sincerely pray that God will reveal the content through His Holy Spirit. Should you still believe that they do justify the so-called manifestations, and that these are of God, then read the following Scriptures carefully: I Cor. 12:7-11 (Manifestations of the Spirit); Gal. 5:22-24 (Fruit of the Spirit); Romans 12:6-8 (Gifts of the Spirit). In fact, perhaps you should also study Luke 4:33 and Luke 9:42 (Demon spirits).

I also had believed that what I was taught was Biblical and it took some time for my to fully comprehend the truth. The reason for this is described clearly in Isaiah 5:9 and Matthew 13:13. Christians hear these Scriptures quoted so often, they actually no longer hear their true contents. They only hear what they are taught to hear.

Even when reading these Scriptures they do not see what they are reading. God has shown me that what is happening in many churches is that the truth is being traded for a Lie. The danger lies in the fact that when a lie is believed for long enough it becomes the truth to those being exposed to it. God helped me to see that what I perceived as being the Holy Spirit was actually a Deceiving Spirit. And what I perceived as being a Deceiving Spirit was in actual fact the Holy Spirit. Your friend in Christ,
Yvette Hoffman (Pretoria, South Africa)33

All of this highlights the fact that God's true presence, when authentically manifested in Christian meetings, always corresponds to what truly born-again Christians already know of His presence in their personal walk with Him. It is not some alien atmosphere or experience which seems out of character for God and which takes Christians wholly by surprise.


Tenney's concept of "chasing God" is dependent on his concept of "God's manifest presence". It is evident that "chasing God" cannot have any serious meaning for us if we already experience a sense of God's presence with us as we do His will and are seeking to serve people by word and deed wherever we go.

The back cover of The God Chasers says of Tenney,

"The magnificent obsession of his life is the pursuit of the manifest presence of God."

What is a "God chaser"? The clearest conception of this is brought out in one of Tenney's illustrations:

It's like playing chase with my daughter. Often as she arrives home from a day of school, we play this little game that countless fathers and children play around the world. When she comes and tries to catch me, even with my hulking frame, I really don't have to run. I just artfully dodge this way and then that, and she can't even touch me, because a six-year old can't catch an adult. But that's not really the purpose of the game, because a few minutes into it, she laughingly says, "Oh daddy," and it's at that moment that she captures my heart, if not my presence or body. And I turn and she's no longer chasing me, but I'm chasing her, and I catch her and we tumble in the grass with hugs ands kisses. The pursuer becomes the pursued. [TGC4-5]

He then tries to compare this to our relationship with God:

So can we catch Him? Not really, but we can catch His heart. David did. And if we catch His heart, then He turns and chases us. That's the beauty of being a God chaser. You're chasing the impossible, knowing it's possible. [TGC5]

It is as though God is always outside, shadowing us, and then teasing us by running away so that we just catch a glimpse of Him. Elsewhere he has said that when he plays hide-and-seek with his daughter, he always leaves enough of himself showing so that she can find him more easily. This, too, he compares with God.

There is an emphasis in Tenney's teaching on God's supposed elusiveness, whereas there is a lack of emphasis on God's permanent indwelling presence in the believer. God is not trying to tease us into trailing Him through endless conferences and meetings into encountering His "manifest presence", as defined by Tenney.

On the contrary, if a person is a true Believer, he or she is already indwelt by the Holy Spirit. One of His works is to manifest the spiritual presence of Jesus to us on a continual basis. He does not plead with us to go this and that way, chasing God. Rather He encourages us to commune with God who indwells our spirits and to cultivate our relationship with Himself. Rather our constant prayer should be that we be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).


Inasmuch as people are encouraged to "chase God, in the hopes of encountering His "manifest presence", they are being encouraged to go where they think they can find Him:

That is where we must stand, calling for God to show us where He's going to break open the heavens over our cities. That is what I'm looking for. I just want to find out where He's going so I can position myself at the place where He is going to break open. There is an element of sovereignty in God's choice of places. … . Our part consists of wandering through the wilderness until we find that spot …[TGC55]

He also recommended that people pray what he terms a "prayer of the clay",[TGC101] which includes the following words:

"Come, Holy Spirit. If not now, when? If not us, who? And if not here, where? Just tell us, Lord, and we'll go; we will pursue Your presence because we want You, Lord. Your presence is what we are after and nothing else will do."[TGC102]

Later in the book, Tenney stated:

God has uncapped abundant standing pools of His presence that have brought life to millions of thirsty believers and unsaved people over the last few years. But they must travel to the well. There is forgotten power in pilgrimage.[TGC108]

This, combined with the Western consumerism, which has now gripped the church in a big way, is tantamount to an exhortation for people to neglect their local churches to attend meetings where they thing they might encounter God's "manifest presence".

So although Tenney's talk on one level sounds very spiritual, on another level it is actually very human-centred because it encourages people to seek God in the form which appeals to them: "I want this; I want that". This is reminiscent of Paul's warning to Timothy:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

There is a valid sense in which we should seek the Giver rather than the gifts He is so willing to give us. There is no doubt that when Tenney stresses this, his teaching has the air of great spirituality:

It is not enough to receive His gifts and walk in His anointing. I don't want more blessings; I want the Blesser. I don't want any more gifts; I want the Giver.[TGC54]

God chasers want God! Not even the "things of God" will satisfy someone who is a "man after God's own heart".[TGC54]

Most of the time when we get a visitation from God, our eyes are on the wrong thing. We want His spiritual "toys."[TGC54]

However, pursuit of spiritual experiences can be just another form of self-gratification. Most Christians like dramatic spiritual experiences and this is natural because God made us with a spiritual appetite. The problem is that, like the rest of us, our spirits are fallen. It is, therefore, essential that our spiritual desires be renewed, like anything else in our lives. We need to ensure that what we are pursuing is truly from God and also a part of God's agenda for our lives. The possibility of spiritual derailment is ever present and we often lack discernment where we need it most.


Tenney's 'pied-piper' call is encapsulated in these words:

All I can say is, I'm a God chaser. And so are a lot of those who have had God encounters. Why don't you come join the company of God chasers? [TGCxvii]

Tenney obviously greatly appreciates the writings of A.W. Tozer. It is such a shame that he did not take the following words more to heart before he set out on his 'pied-piper' mission:

We cannot help ourselves by going somewhere else or joining something new. Brother, you don't get help by going out somewhere and "joining" something. God is not looking for tags nor titles nor names! He is looking for people. He is looking for loving, humble, clean people, and if He can find such people, He is prepared to move in at once with great power. 34

The contrast could hardly be greater!


Tenney's approach tends to create a split between an elite group, known as "God chasers", and other professing Christians. He makes no attempt to clarify whether he regards nonGodchasers as merely nominal Christians or a kind of 'carnal Christian' category. In a review of his threefold audiotape album, he commented:

Most of the churches in American today dwell in an outer-court experience. [TGC153]

In this way, Christians are divided as to whether they 'dwell in the outer court' or in 'the sanctuary'. In fact those familiar with Endtime Sonship rhetoric will find this all-too-familiar, except that in Sonship teaching a threefold distinction is made between the 'outer court experience' of the Fundamentalists, the 'holy place' experience of the Pentecostals, and the 'Holy of holies' experience of the Endtime Sonship company.

Tenney makes many criticisms of churches and it is possible that a number of these criticisms are valid in the context of the highly-organized churches in the USA. It is arguable that UK churches never achieve God's purposes because they actually lack organization. Whereas many UK Christians seem to think that church-work will automatically produce results and muddle through accordingly, most US churches seem to suffer from over-organization.

It is true of many churches that the thinking of the members is often stuck in the past and, apart from a few pioneers, they seem ill-equipped to make an impact on the present generation. There is also the problem that youth culture is still becoming increasingly divorced from that of even quite young adults. It is to this constituency that Tenney is especially keen to appeal.

Tenney's criticism of existing churches are many and come from all directions. However, it is interesting to compare Tenney's criticism with the kind of criticisms made by A.W. Tozer, whom Tenney clearly admires and regards as one of his mentors. Whereas Tozer's criticisms are accurate and carefully measured, being based on an astute observation of human behaviour with all its strange foibles. By contrast, Tenney makes many sweeping statements which do not necessarily apply to all churches. But the way his criticisms are phrased gives the impression that all of them apply to all churches - except those whose leaders can be designated "God chasers".

But what is Tenney trying to set up as a positive alternative to existing churches? When we examine this, it is difficult to see what would in fact please him. He testified to being sick of church, and it seems he still is. The thought crosses the mind as to whether Tenney is actually out to sabotage local churches rather than to reform or renew them.

He seems to require that meetings be as chaotic as possible to allow God to take over the meetings. He implies that preaching generally gets in the way of God's ministry to the congregation rather than as an important method which God actually uses to convey His presence to people. But God does not need a totally unstructured meeting in order to break in, as can be seen from the meetings described in 1 Corinthians 14.

There is also a danger in the type of meetings conducted by Tenney, in which the preacher or leader says very little, but merely gives way to a spiritual power. It opens the possibility of the hearers surrendering to a power without actually ever hearing the true Gospel message or knowing the true identity of the power to which they are surrendering.

Obviously this is particularly dangerous when the spiritual power is alien. Indeed the preaching of the Gospel is a means of ensuring that people do come into contact with their Creator rather than with some deceiving spirit. Those who were present at the pulpit-splitting incidence seemed to demand baptism, but we are not told what the spiritual state of these people actually was. Had they been baptized before, as is often the case in American churches? Or were they complete unbelievers (unlikely in that part of the USA)? Unfortunately, Tenney does not give us enough information for us to know what was really going on. Perhaps a little more light is furnished by James Rutz' report:

Church leaders' commitment to giving the Holy Spirit full control over those meetings has produced as many as 30 to 40 salvations during a few services.35

At first glance, this does sound encouraging. However, as most American Pentecostal churches have a very low standard as to what conversion is and believe that born-again believers can lose their salvation anyway, this statistic is almost meaningless.


There are serious problems with Tenney's attitude to Scripture. He seems to be confused about the role of the Scriptures in the Christian life. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29) It is important to realize that these two, the Scriptures and the power of God, are not in opposition, but are handmaids that work collaboratively. They go hand-in-hand, or should do.

Unfortunately it is possible to know the Scriptures (at least on an intellectual level) and not to experience the power of God. A person can be very knowledgeable about the contents of the Bible, but not have experienced the new birth by the Spirit of God.

Then again it is possible to experience the power of God apart from Scripture. A person can be healed by the Lord and not even become a true believer. But the Scriptures themselves do bear witness to the power of God and this power always bears witness to the Scriptures. It is unlikely that Tenney is deliberately seeking to turn people away from the Bible. He is probably weary of the type of Fundamentalism which encourages memorization of Biblical texts, but goes no further. All of us who hunger for God can sympathize with this frustration.

But, unfortunately, Tenney has allowed his frustration to boil over into intemperate statements, some of which could be read as an actual denunciation of serious attention to Scripture.

God chasers are not interested in camping out on some dusty truth known to everyone. They are after the fresh presence of the Almighty. [TGCxv]

A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth; he must have present truth. God chasers don't want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; they're anxious to see what God is doing.

There is a vast difference between present truth and past truth. I'm afraid that most of what the Church has studied is past truth, and very little of what we know is present truth.[TGCxvi]

These statements will make only partial sense to anyone who does not fully understand where Tenney is coming from.

The image of camping out on some truth is straight Latter Rain rhetoric and is taken from the use of the Israelite's wilderness journey as a picture of the Christian life and the history of the Church throughout the church age.

The various campsites along the way are seen as picturing an entry into a new phase of God's truth. Latter Rain and Endtime Sonship advocates (such as Bill Britton and George Hawtin) used to refer to Fundamentalists as camping around the truth of justification by faith. Then they would say that Pentecostals accepted justification, but had moved into the further revelation of the baptism with the Spirit. Baptism with the Spirit might be pictured as the next campsite after justification.

Endtime Restorationism, as exemplified in the Latter Rain movement (1948-1953), adopted the dispensational teaching of the Scofield Reference Bible, but Pentecostalized it. According to Scofieldism human history can be seen as consisting of a number of dispensations or time-periods, in each of which God dealt with people according to a different set of laws or principles.

Each of these ages required a different 'Gospel' message to meet the conditions of its time. Scofield also divided the Church Age, which precedes the Kingdom Age, into seven phases typified by the seven churches in Revelation, taken in their canonical sequence.

Accordingly, the phase of the Church in the endtimes is the Laodicean age in which the Church descends into lukewarmness. Just as there is a need for a fresh message for each dispensation, so a new emphasis is required for each phase of the Church Age. This system suits the notion of Endtime Restorationism very well because it allows people to justify any novel emphasis they wish to present as being the message for the hour.

It also buttresses the Latter Rain idea of Present Truths which are specific to each dispensation of the church age. Endtime Restorationism teaches that the early church went into decline and so lost vitals truths until, in the Middle Ages, almost everything was lost. They go on to teach that these lost truths had to be restored progressively to the Church during the later phases of the church age. This is said to have begun with the restoration of justification by faith through Martin Luther.

Accordingly that was the truth for that time. Endtime Restorationists accept that people need to by justified, but they say there is more: Christians need to move on to accept the truth of the new birth and sanctification, as restored through John Wesley and the Methodist movement. But that is not good enough: Christians must move on further to accept the baptism with the Holy Spirit, preferably with speaking in tongues.

Each one of these restorations is described as a 'fresh move of God' and the accompanying doctrine is tagged present truth. There are many problems with this teaching.

One problem is that it is based entirely on what has happened in Britain and the USA, and even then it does not take into account the whole picture. Another problem is that it makes recovery of truth into a dispensational issue as opposed to a matter of obedience to the Word of God according to which

Christians should, as much as they can, be governed by the Bible in their churchlife. If the matter is made into a dispensational issue, it implies that Christians in one era cannot access truths to be revealed at a later time.

Only when God sovereignly opens the door can Christians walk in. This use of the term present truth (in contrast to past truth) is a misuse of that phrase found in the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible:

Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know [them], and be established in the present truth. (2 Peter 1:12)

In its true Biblical context, the phrase has a meaning entirely different from that assigned to it by Latter Rain dispensationalists. A clearer rendering is this:

For this reason, I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you already have.36

The original phrase is th paroush alhqeia, which means literally the truth alongside. This could be rendered the truth which is accompanying you. In other words, it is the truth which you now have. It has nothing whatever to do with the notion that there is a series of dispensations, each requiring a fresh truth specific to itself.

It can easily be seen that the Latter Rain teaching of present truths is very useful to those trying to introduce novel emphases into the Church. If anyone raises an objection, it can be fended off deftly by such rejoinders as: It's what the Spirit is saying to the Church in this day, or: It's the way God is working today.

In practice the combination of these ideas means that Latter Rain and Endtime Sonship adherents can advocate any bizarre happening or doctrine and then defend it by insisting that it is present truth. If the question is asked, Why has there been nothing like in church history?, an answer like this will be given: Well, it is present truth, a new move of God. It is what God is doing today. If it is asked, Why was there nothing like this in the early church?, the answer can always be given: Well, it is present truth, a new move of God.

The early church never properly moved into what God had for it and God is doing a new thing today. If it is asked, Why is there nothing like this in the New Testament?, the answer can always be given: This is present truth, a new move of God.

The Scriptures merely describe what God did in the early days of the Church. But God is doing a new thing today and taking today's Church way beyond what the early church entered into. In this way, the present is cut off from the past.

Divorcing the present from the past is particular easy to do in the context of youth culture, in which young people do not know the past and care even less about it. In this way people can easily be manipulated to follow any new fad. It is also a particular matter of concern when the Bible is relegated to the realm of past truth instead of being seen as eternally relevant.

The problem is not with the Scriptures, but with the inability of people to see the past in the present. Things that are happening today are not as new as people think they are.

For people to imagine that the past is so different makes it hard for them to learn lessons from the past. And if people fail to learn lessons from the past, they are almost inevitably doomed to repeat past mistakes.


In one paragraph, Tenney expresses an amazing lack of regard for the written Word of God:

We make a great deal out of reading the Word and that is important. But we need to remember that the early Church didn't have access to what we call the New Testament for many years. They didn't even have the Old Testament Scriptures because those expensive scrolls were locked up in synagogues. The only Scriptures that had were the verses from the law, the Psalms, and the prophets that had been passed down orally from grandfathers and grandmothers - and that only if they were Jewish believers. So what did they have? They walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasn't necessary for them to pour over dusty love letters that were written long ago. They had God's love notes freshly written on their hearts. [TGC74]

It is true that the New Testament was not available as an entire written document to the early Church as a written document. However, the New Testament is the doctrine of the apostles in written form. The Book of Acts makes it clear that the early Church put into operation the apostles' doctrine: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Then fear came upon every soul, and many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43) While the foundational apostles (the Twelve and Paul) were alive, there was not the same need for their teachings to be written down.

However, in preparation for their departure from this life, it was necessary for their teaching to be enshrined in written form for posterity. So the treasure of God's Word was taken from one treasure-chest (the foundational apostles) and put in another (the Bible). The New Testament Scriptures are nothing but the very same apostles' doctrine in written form.

The Church in the days of the foundational apostles did not despise the God's verbal communication and, in fact, had a far more accurate grasp of the verbal content of their faith than most professing Christians of today.

Secondly, Tenney's comments entirely overlook the reality of oral tradition among societies which value such tradition. Just a little contact with people from those cultures today reveals how easily they memorize vast chunks of written material. Many Muslims know the entire Qur'án by heart and, even in the USA despite our 'modern' culture, people have memorized the entire New Testament. Two examples of this are Bob Jones, Jr, (of Bob Jones University) and Dale Rhoton (of OM). Converted Gypsy men who are illiterate retain large tracts of the Bible in their memories from listening to exposition and from hearing their wives read the Bible aloud.

Unfortunately, Tenney's desire to make a point drives him to exaggerate the difference between living the Christian life under the teachings of the foundational apostles and living the Christian life under their teaching as found in the Bible.


What did Tenney mean by the moldy pages of what God has done?[TGCxvi] Could he actually be speaking of the Scriptures? This is a strange way to speak of the Bible, which is after all the very written Word of God, and not just any old book.

Elsewhere, Tenney uses expressions such as God's … old love letters to the churches [TGC1] and dusty love letters written long ago [TGC74] Again, he wrote of the Bible as God's tracks in contrast to His presence. [TGCxv]

Phrases like this would perhaps be acceptable if Tenney was intending to refer only to purely human accounts of God's past or of human attempts to explain God and His works. But in his attempt to talk up the pursuit of his concept of God's manifest presence, he simply goes too far in implying that Bible is merely a detached signpost to God. God is seen as 'somewhere out there' and 'this old book' is nothing more than a book of clues as to how to find Him out there.

In these ways, Tenney fails to distinguish between uninspired reports of what God has done in the past and Scripture itself. It is true that Tenney has sought to cover himself in one place by this disclaimer:

Let me hasten to add that my statements here are not meant to imply that I feel the Bible is unnecessary or irrelevant, or anything less than the anointed, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. My purpose here is to caution Christians against the practice of reading the Bible in a permanent state of past tense perspective. Look what God did back then with those people. Too bad He doesn't do that today with us. [TGC81]

This would be fine if it were Tenney's major emphasis, but it is only one single endnote buried in the entire book. As the sole disclaimer, it is hopelessly inadequate to moderate the other expressions which he has used. And even this disclaimer ends up with a statement that:

God's Word is a road map to something greater - the God of the Word. Sometimes I think we almost fall into idolatry when we tend to worship the Word of our God more than the God of the Word. [TGC81]

The most important problem with Tenney's emphasis, however, is what he does not say. He has never once attempted to communicate the simple fact that God's Word is actually a channel for the communication of His very essence. It is the primary vehicle through which God makes himself known to His disciples. There is a powerful blessing for those who actually seek God in His Word. It is instructive to contrast the words of Tenney with the words of Tozer, whom Tenney evidently rightly admires and, indeed, recommends to his own readers:

Again for the kind of fellowship we are talking about, seek to know Him in His Word.

Remember that the Spirit of God inspired the Word and He will be revealed in the Word. I really have no place in my sympathies for those Christians who neglect the Word or ignore the Word or get revelations apart from the Word. This is the Book of God after all …37

How different this is from Tenney's statement:

We make a great deal out of reading the word and that is important [TGC74]

It is more than just important. It is essential for spiritual survival, not to mention spiritual growth. Again, as Tozer wrote:

I want to preach the Word, love the Word and make the Word the most important element in my Christian life. 38

What could be a more natural statement from someone who actually discovers God in His word?


In another place, he seems to imply that it is more important to be guided by God's 'eye' than by Scripture:

Too often God's people can be guided only by the written Word or the prophetic word. The Bible says He wants us to move beyond that to a place marked by a greater degree of tenderness of heart toward Him and by a deeper maturity that allows Him to guide us with His eye (see Ps. 32:8-9). … . Do you still need to hear a thundering voice from behind the pulpit? A biting prophetic utterance to correct your ways? Or are you able to read the emotion of God on His face? Are you tenderhearted enough that His eye can guide you and convict your heart of sin? When He glances your way, are you quick to say, Oh, I can't do that. I can't go there, and I can't say that because it would displease my Father? [TGC37-38]

God is tired of screaming instructions at the Church; He wants to guide us with His eye. That means we have to be close enough to Him to see His face. He's tired of correcting us through public censure. We have sought His hands for too long. We want what He can do for us; we want His blessings, we want the chills and the thrills, we want the fishes and the loaves. Yet we shirk at the high commitment it takes to pursue His face. [TGC47]

It seems significant that Tenney seems here to place the written Word on the same level as the prophetic word. But in the first of these extracts, he refers to the word as preached. Presumably when he speaks of the written Word here, he actually means the Word as preached and not as found in the pages of the Bible. However, the question still arises as to why these things should be placed in opposition?

On some issues, we are indeed very sensitive because God has dealt with us in the past, but on other issues we may be still relatively hardened. Only God truly knows our hearts. We will never attain a higher spiritual level where God's Word finally gives way to some more direct form of guidance or relationship with God, unless it be in the new heavens and the new earth after the general resurrection and the last Judgment. It is through the Word, rightly received, that we do become tender.

And we then need our daily meal of the Word to keep us where we should be before God. For anyone to testify that they have gone beyond the Word of God would be a fruit of spiritual pride and a sign that he or she has wandered from the Path.


In yet another place, Tenney seems to place revelation and truth in opposition:

The difference between the truth of God and revelation is very simple. Truth is where God's been. Revelation is where God is. Truth is Gods tracks. It's His trail, His path, but it leads to what? It leads to Him. [TGCxvi]

This contrast is virtually meaningless. Why?

The term revelation is used in a range of senses in the New Testament, but basically it means something which has been revealed. The technical use of the term in Evangelical circles to refer only to the inspiration of Scripture has served to confuse the issue here.

The fact is that, generally speaking, the content of revelation is God's truth. Or it could be said that God's truth is the content of revelation.

Revelation refers simply to the mode which God uses to put His truth into our hands, our brains, and our spirits. The truth is the substance or content of that revelation.

A comparison might be made with fruit. I might have a juicy orange in my hand and that orange contains a lot of juice. If I eat the orange, I get the juice. Similarly if I receive a revelation, I get the truth that it contains.

To oppose the orange and the juice would be an unhelpful mind-game having no bearing on physical reality and serving only to confuse thirsty people. Likewise, to oppose revelation to truth has no bearing on spiritual reality and serves only to deflect hungry people from the true and permanent source of spiritual food.


Is the written Word of God just a signpost to God or an actual transmitter of God? Tenney's emphasis seems to imply that God does not actually communicate Himself through His Word. For him, the Word of God seems to be nothing more than an indication of how we are to find God outside of the Word. According to Tenney's writings, it is no more than a book of instructions or clues telling us how we can find God. If this is so, once we find God, there is little further use for the Word. It is certainly not daily bread. How can it be if indeed it is nothing more than past truth? But Jesus told us to live by the word of God:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (Luke 4:4)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4);

By contrast, Tenney states:

Perhaps the masses of people are happy to know where God's been, but true God chasers are not content just to study God's trail, His truths; they want to know Him. They want to know what He is and what He's doing right now. [TGCxvi]

God chasers don't want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; they're anxious to see what God is doing. [TGCxvi]

What does Tenney think God is doing right now? Is he speaking about seeking God in present places, in present movements, or in special Christian conventions and conferences? Or does he mean present prophecy? Or could it mean phenomena, dramatic signs and wonders, conversions or what? And if so, is this really knowing God?

The final questions we are left with are these: How do we compare Tenney's writings with Scripture? Will we prefer what Tenney says about God and Scripture to what Scripture itself says? Does Tenney really think that what he is saying is present truth and that Scripture is only past truth? As for me, I'll throw in my lot with Scripture which I know to be God's Word. I know God reveals Himself to me powerfully through His Word.

Although Tenney makes some good points in places, much of his writing conveys an emphasis quite different from God's written Word. We need to be watchful. Jesus says: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9) and: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27). It is, therefore, imperative that we listen to Him and not to people who claim to speak for Him, yet take us down some by-path and ultimately away from our Creator.

It is obvious that if He is the author of His Word and He is found in it, other voices claiming to speak for Him must agree with what He has written. If He is the Truth, as He says He is, there can be no contradiction. Not surprisingly, Tenney's slipshod attitude to Scripture opens the door to some strange emphases.


Tenney's attitude to Scripture results in a fast-and-loose approach to Biblical interpretation and application. He has a tendency to read into Scripture what is actually not there at all. The example of the so-called glory dust on Moses' face has already been noted. [TGC20]

Another example of this is his interpretation of the activities of the High Priest in visiting the Holy of holies in the Temple. Most of this is material which has invented himself and bearing little relationship to what we read in the Bible. An example of interpolation is the tying of a rope around the ankle of the High Priest before he enters the Holy of Holies in the Temple, [TGC57,58] when no such rope is mentioned anywhere in the Bible.

Other examples are the idea that the High Priest has to poke the censer under the veil before actually entering the Holy of Holies, [TGC58] and the idea that the smoke from the censer is to hide live flesh from God's view in the Holy of Holies. [TGC58-59] I believe …, says Tenney.[TGC58] I say, So what?

He gives a strange reason why the apostle John was given the revelation which we now have as the Book of Revelation. He wrote: It was only after John was a walking dead man abandoned on a desert island to die that he heard a voice ….[TGC62] I'm convinced …, says Tenney. [TGC62] I say, So what?

He thinks Jesus was delayed by Mary Magdalene as He was about to ascend from earth into heaven. [TGC134-36] He thinks that the angels Michael and Gabriel were both archangels, when the Bible nowhere accords the status of archangel to Gabriel. [TGC146] These ideas are stated not merely as possible interpretation; rather they are interposed into Scripture in such a way as to give them the feel of revealed interpretation, almost like the way the apostles used the Old Testament. Yet the result is that the teaching of Scripture is actually distorted or contradicted.

The outcome of Tenneys' approach to the Bible will result in people who follow him taking the Bible less seriously


Nowhere in The God Chasers does Tenney make clear the real basis on which we can approach God in safety. It may be that he thinks that all his readers will be Christians and that he is simply taking them deeper into God.

Even so, the Lord's people need constant reminders of the basis of their relationship with God. However, it can never be assumed that a book of this kind will not be read by unbelievers. Genuine believers may become enthused and think of this as a means of bringing people to Christ. Furthermore, who is to say what proportion of people in the professing church in the USA are actually born again?

The standards of conversion are so low, both in Fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles, that many of their adherents may in fact be only nominal 'Christians'. Our approach to God is based on the legal transaction which took place when Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha.

God wants a relationship with human beings. But all human beings (apart from Jesus) have sinned and so must be punished for their sin.

Their sin cuts them off from God. So in order to enter into a relationship with them, God must find a way of forgiving sin without compromising His own essential holiness. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ meets all the necessary conditions. Instead of presenting this in his book, Tenney talks about a process of transformation which confuses justification with sanctification, exactly as is done in the teachings of Dr R. Edward Miller referred to earlier. This is also a problem with Roman Catholic teaching. Tenney teaches that the only way you are going to go through that veil is through the death of your flesh. [TGC62] This death of flesh he equates with genuine repentance plus brokenness before God:

The death of genuine repentance and brokenness before God will allow Him to draw near to you.[TGC62]

It is death through repentance and brokenness that ushers in the presence of God and cause you to draw near to the Lord and yet live.[TGC64]

If we allow God to take us through the complete process of repentance and brokenness without hindering or quenching His Spirit, then when the kabod, the weighty presence of God, comes among us and upon us, then we will be able to carry it without fear because we will be walking in the purity of Jesus and our flesh will be dead, covered by the blood of the Lamb.[TGC98]

He also wrote:

He can only come close to you to the degree you are willing to die [TGC64]

The more of you that dies, the closer He can get. [TGC63]

So all you need to do is die if you really want to get into His presence. [TGC80]

Here he really has things all the wrong way around. Those who come close to God on the basis of Jesus' finished work on the Cross are led to put to death their remaining sin by the Spirit. The building of our relationship with God actually has two main parts: a foundation and a superstructure. Being justified by faith is actually the foundation of our relationship.

Without that, no progress in the Christian life can be made. However, we have to grow daily more like Christ. This process is not the foundation, but is the superstructure, which has to be built upon the foundation. The Bible calls this sanctification. Sanctification is the superstructure, whereas justification is the foundation.

The superstructure cannot bear the full weight of the building, whereas the foundation has to take the entire weight of everything built upon it. This is why we cannot start on the road to Christlikeness unless we have first been justified.

Once a person knows he has been justified, then he can start pursuing righteousness and putting to death the sin that remains in him. And as we pursue God's righteousness, we will often find Him drawing close to us in a special way.

Nevertheless, there are dry times when we are being tested as to whether we are sincere in our pursuit of God. But as long as we keep responding positively to God's dealings with us and obeying His instruction, we will make constant spiritual progress. As we do this, we will often experience intense intimacy with God.

But God's coming close bears little or no relationship to our own efforts to die. Rather God draws especially near to us to encourage us before we enter the next phase of God's dealing with us. Indeed, repentance is a response to God, not a work which we can undertake in order to attract Him to us. It is essential to remember that it is our sin which has to die, not our selves.

Our sin is put to death so that we can live in God's presence. But entry into consciousness of God's presence is through the blood of Jesus, not as a result of some special degree of repentance or brokenness. Furthermore, repentance is not a work which we can undertake in order to gain a special experience of God's presence. This notion of repentance as a work is implied by Tenney in these words:

This move of God taking place across the earth has often been marked by night after night of cleansing in repentance. [TGC98]

It is not repentance that effects the cleansing. Repentance is what happens when the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment. There is no fixed quota or level or depth of repentance which we have to accomplish in order to achieve cleansing or to acquire the presence of God. If that were so, our salvation, too, could be accomplished by the work of repentance, which it plainly cannot.


Tenney emphasizes a contrast between flesh and spirit:

It is true that all flesh must die in the presence of His glory, but it is also true that all that is of the Spirit lives forever in His glory. The eternal part of your being that really wants to live can live forever, but first there is something about your flesh that has to die.[TGC63]

And he speaks of the unending wrestling match between the flesh and the spirit which he thinks the reader is likely to be experiencing as a result of reading his book. [TGC63]

There seems to be some confusion in his mind between the use of the term flesh to denote humanity in its dependence upon God its Creator and the use of the term, as used particularly by the apostle Paul, to denote remaining sin.

Warfare between the flesh and the Spirit is referred to in this verse: For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17) The context of this is the work of the Holy Spirit in producing the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer.

The works of the flesh described are clearly sinful activities, not the activities of humans in their capacity as beings created in the image of God. Sin is an intruder in human life; sinfulness is an abnormal state and only temporary for true believers. In the light of this it is obvious that there will be conflict between the indwelling Holy Spirit, who restores the presence of God to our spirits, and the sin which remains in us until we leave our bodies at death or have them renewed at Christ's return, whichever is first.

The term flesh is frequently used by Paul to refer specifically to remaining sin. Special understanding of the work of the Spirit in dealing with remaining sin within us was given to Paul so that he could explain these things to the new Christians.

Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, he was guided to use this particular term flesh for remaining sin. If we fail to understand this when we read the Scriptures, we can end up in the most appalling confusion. To assume that the term flesh refers in these passages to humanity as such or to the old man is highly confusing and leads ultimately to the idea that the human body is inherently evil, as was taught by the Gnostics and certain Greek philosophers.

One day our flesh, in the sense of remaining sin, will be removed from us altogether, and, after the resurrection, we who are true believers will exist in bodies of redeemed, spiritualized flesh (in the sense of dependent human nature) able to stand in the presence of God.

If we are trusting in the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, then we can live in God's presence now and enter in freely. To suggest that something about our flesh has to die before the eternal part of our being can live forever detracts from the plain Biblical teaching and introduces an alien philosophy.

Tenney's references to the blood of Christ seem strange and contradictory:

It's time to lay everything aside and cover yourself in the blood.[TGC80]

Are we covered or do we cover ourselves? Elsewhere he wrote:

our flesh will be dead, covered by the blood of the Lamb.[TGC98]

The root of Tenney's thinking seems to be some idea that the flesh constitutes a veil, almost physical barrier, which hides the presence or glory of God from our sight. If only we can tear aside the flesh, it is supposed, we can penetrate the realm of spirit and see into the spirit-world. He tries to parallel our flesh with the veil which was designed to keep people out of the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple.

After speaking about the high priest entering the Temple veil on the Day of Atonement, he wrote to God seekers: The only way you are going to go through that veil is through the death of your flesh. [TGC62] Accordingly, Tenney wrote:

I don't know about you, my friend, but there's a driving passion in my heart that whispers to me that there's more than what I already know, more than what I already have. It makes me jealous of John, who wrote Revelation. It makes me envious of people who get glimpses out of this world in to that world and see things I only dream about. I know there's more. One reason I know there's more is because of those who have encountered the more and were never the same. God chasers! My prayer is, I want to see You like John saw You![TGC35]

Of course there is more than we currently know, more than we currently see and more than we currently experience. We all know that and this is nothing new.

But the barrier in our relationship with God is essentially sin. Many authentic unusual encounters with God given to God's people are related to their particular calling and ministry. No one saint has experiences equivalent to all those related in the Bible. It is right that we get to know God more intimately, and there are appropriate prayers for this in Ephesians and Colossians. But it is very dangerous to insist that we should covet one particular type of encounter with God. In that way, we are almost telling the devil how he can con us.

If the devil knows the precise specifications of a coveted experience, he can counterfeit it as easily as anything. So our intense desire for intimacy needs to be combined with a contentment for the perfect will of God to be done in our lives. Tenney is right to say that it is good for us to experience God more intimately, but he is wrong to channel our desires along particular lines, as he does. He is wrong to imply that we are not hungry for God unless we chase after God in the way set out in his challenges and exhortations.


Based on the anointings which Queen Esther had to endure before spending time with the king, Tenney teaches that the anointing is to enable God to like us:

The purpose of the anointing is not to make man like you, but to make the King like you. [TGC41]

This does not relate to anything in the Bible at all. The true purpose of an anointing from God is to enable us to represent God accurately. God does not want us to convey a wrong idea about His character and purposes. It is quite misleading to suggest that the anointing is to enable God to like us.

He also teaches that there is a contrast between anointing and glory:

Anointing empowers the flesh - you preach or sing better. Glory flattens flesh![TGC88]

A true anointing from God enables us to accomplish things supernaturally and also brings out gifts which we would have used if we had never been involved in Adam's fall. On the other hand, a true anointing from God actually inhibits the expression of behavior patterns which we have acquired as a result of our fallen condition. Another way of stating this is that if we try to operate in terms of such corrupt behavior patterns, God will either hide His anointing or remove it from us until we repent.

Any true anointing from God is a vehicle for the communication of His glory. If a claimed anointing is different, then it cannot be from God. Therefore, the idea of a two-stage doctrine involving a transition from an anointing to a manifestation of glory makes no sense in terms of true spiritual reality.

Outer court or inner court?

Tenney's approach to Scripture seems to reduce it to a mere signpost pointing to God's presence somewhere distant, it being our job to follow the clues as in a treasure-hunt. In reality the Bible is itself actually a conduit or conductor of the presence and power of God.

Another image would be that of the outer court of the Jerusalem Temple. The Bible, in Tenney's teaching, would be seen as simply the outer court, which we have to leave behind in order to enter the

Holy of Holies where God really dwells. However, the Scripture itself is the Holy of Holies in which God lives and is the place where the truly born-again believer constantly renews his encounter with God. Our need constantly to re-experience the joy of knowing God drives us back again and again to His written Word.


Inevitably the skeptical reader of Tenney's writings is concerned as to the long-term outcomes of the God Chasers movement. Perhaps a clue to this is provided by the following observations.


Tenney seems to have links with many of the people and centres associated with the River Revival, as it has come to be known.

  • Ché Ahn, Senior Pastor, Harvest Rock Church, Pasadena, California; [TGCix] ·
  • Frank Damazio, Pastor of City Bible Church, Portland, Oregon. He is linked with Bible Temple, Portland, where Dick Iverson is based; [TGC102-06,110] ·
  • Claudio Freidzon, Pastor, King of Kings Church, Buenos Aires, Argentina, whose church was a major centre for 'Toronto' phenomena in Argentina; [TGCvi] ·
  • Bishop Joseph L. Garlington, Sr, pastor of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh (CCOP), Pennsylvania, in addition to being worship leader and recording artist, who has visited John Arnott's Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) and been 'Toronto'd' there.[TGCix] As can been on the CCOP website, both Violet Kiteley and her son Pastor David Kiteley, both Latter Rain Endtime Restorationists, have given 'prophetic words' concerning CCOP and the worship center there. Interestingly, CCOP has a Trinitarian statement of faith. 39 ·
  • Ken Gott, Revival Now!, Sunderland, whose church has been a major centre for 'Toronto' phenomena in the UK; [TGCv] ·
  • Cindy Jacobs, Co-founder of Generals of Intercession, who has strong links with C. Peter Wagner; [TGCv] ·
  • Robert (Bob) Weiner, Founder of Weiner Ministries Int. and Maranatha Publications. [TGCvi-vii]

He is also a popular speaker at Brownsville Assembies of God Church, Pensacola, as can be seen on his video From the Anointing To the Glory.40 Then there is his obvious endorsement of John Wimber[TGC114] and Dr R. Edward Miller, as has been seen.


Like Rick Joyner, Tenney believes that God is currently redefining the Church of Jesus Christ. In his instructions on how to seek God's presence, he stated:

You need to forget who's around you and abandon the normal protocol. God is in the business of re-defining what we call church anyway.[TGC64]

And again:

As God redefines the Church, it is highly likely that the Church that emerges from the cloud of His glory will look very different from what you and I think the Church should look like. This will happen because God is repossessing the Church and drawing it close to Him.[TGC150]

Very few would question the need for changes, but the notion of 'redefinition' seems to be linked to the River Revival and the suppose restoration of End-time Apostles and Prophets to the Church. The confidence that this will without doubt take place is based on the dubious assumption that the kinds of phenomena which have occurred at Toronto Airport Church and at Brownsville Assemblies of God Church, in Pensacola, Florida, are irrefutable descents of God's glory.


Tenney refers to past revivals as moves of God, so adopting terminology popular at the time of the Latter Rain Movement (1948-52) and still used today by its spiritual heirs:

A lot of hungry church leaders today are reading everything they can find about past moves of God.[TGC95]

Like other supporters of the present-day River Revival, he believes that God is currently doing a 'new thing' in the earth. This he refers to as a move of God. This stereotypic phrase occurs in a number of passages:

This move of God taking place across the earth has often been marked by night after night of cleansing in repentance.[TGC98]

That is exactly where the Church is at this crucial moment in time: We have reached the point in this move of God where we are trying to transport the glory back to where is belongs.[TGC93]

Tenney goes on to ask whether we are willing to pay the price to see this accomplished.[TGC93]

Tenney introduces the concept of religious spirits to discredit people who do not follow his pied-piper approach to God:

Religious spirits must preserve where He's been at the expense of where He is![TGC20]

It is certainly a serious problem for any local church if its members live in the past and are not seeking the Lord for themselves. There is little doubt that if most members of a church do that, that church will die. But this is not a ground for introducing the concept of religious spirits. This seems akin to a cult-like manipulation of people to shame them into conformity with the God chasers agenda.

It is easy to invent labels to 'demonize' one's ideological opponents. Identifying a particular group of people and then attributing their behavior to religious spirits is certainly an instance in which unwelcome human behavior is publicly discredited by being attributed directly to demonic spirits.


Because the analysis of Church problems in The God Chasers seems valid, people are beguiled into accepting the God Chasers paradigm as a way of achieving the intimacy with God that He wants. The God Chasers diverts attention from the believer's established relationship with the Lord and replaces it with a pied-piper search for God's Manifest Presence wherever it may appear. The God Chasers, perhaps unintentionally, replaces the believer's intimacy with God by a self-centered pursuit of spiritual experiences, encouraging believers to abandon their commitment to their local church. The God Chasers turns the Bible into a mere signpost to God's glory rather than a living conduit of God's glory. Believers are, therefore, encouraged to seek spiritual experiences outside of the Scripture instead of in and through the Scripture. The God Chasers discourages the stringent discernment of experiences according to Biblical criteria. The God Chasers encourages toleration of psychological methods to induce spiritual experiences. The God Chasers promotes a unity of people on the basis of experiences divorced from Scripture rather than on the basis of a shared Biblical faith and the new birth by the Holy Spirit which issues from obedience to the Gospel.

People who are seriously following God have deep longings to experience the closest possible intimacy with Him and to see His power at work. I certainly do.

Those who feel similarly will understand the meaning and purpose of Tommy Tenney's quest. However, the intensity of our desire for God must not render us mindless. This is one reason why God, who understands us perfectly, has ordained that intense spiritual experience be mediated by His written Word. This pursuit keeps both our minds and our spirits active. The Deceiver constantly seeks to exploit believers' longings after God by perverting them for his own purposes. It is certain that he has active agendas to this end in this generation. 41


1. The God Chasers: 'My soul follows hard after Thee' (Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, 1998).

2., p.1 - accessed 28/12/2000. He has also authored at least three books:

  • Secret Power Sources - (Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, 20/7/2000) - coauthored with his son, Tommy Tenney; ·
  • The Main Thing … Is To Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing (Pentecostal Publishing House, Hazelwood, MO, 10/1993); ·
  • Pentecost - What's That? - (Pentecostal Publishing House, Hazelwood, MO, 1991).

3. Ibid., pp.1-2. Thetus Tenney is a regular contributor to the magazine Spirit-Led Woman and a member of its advisory board. She has recently authored a book Prayer Takes Wings (Regal Books, Gospel Light Publications, Ventura, CA, 2/2000). Spirit-Led Woman is published by Strang Communications, a multi-media communications company which claims to be focused on spreading the name and fame of Jesus throughout the world through the mass media. The company was founded in 1975 by Stephen Strang, is based in Lake Mary, Florida, and publishes the following magazines: Charisma & Christian Life, Ministries Today, New Man, SpiritLed Woman, Christian Retailing, Inspirational Giftware and Vida Cristiana (in Spanish). Interestingly, the Strang Communications Statement of Faith includes this sentence: We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ( - accessed 2/1/2001)

4. Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity: Gregory A. Boyd (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992), p.228.

5. The Other Pentecostals: J. Lee Grady (from Charisma & Christian Life Magazine, 6/1997), see:, p.3 - accessed 28/12/2000.

6. Quot. in ibid., p.5.

7. Ibid., p.4.

8. Ibid., pp.4-5.

9. Quot. in ibid., p.4.

10. Secret Power Sources (Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, 20/7/2000). Perhaps significantly this book is commended by Gerald Coates.

11., p.4 - accessed 28/12/2000.

12. Another account of this incident is as follows:

The podium was split into two pieces that were flung toward the congregation in different directions, landing 6 or 7 feet apart. The base and top were unscathed, but the middle was severed. The congregation was stunned. Tenney gave several altar calls, and people kept coming forward - some falling in the Spirit before they reached the altar area. Fifteen and a half hours later, at midnight, the meeting ended. There was no earthly explanation for what the people had seen … . Later, the pulpit manufacturer was informed of the incident. The firm denied there was any way the material could ever split as it did - along a diagonal jagged line. If the podium had been subjected to extremely high pressure - more than 50,000 pounds per square inch, for example - it would have shattered into tiny splinters like glass, the manufacturers said. But they insisted the material would never split by natural means the way it did that Sunday morning at Christian Tabernacle. The two broken pieces were first kept in the church office. But a steady stream of curious people vying for a glimpse of the broken podium forced church officials to relocate the pieces back in the sanctuary. Houston Pastor Says God's Power Split His Pulpit in Half: The unusual display at Christian Tabernacle has caused a stir at the Pentecostal church: James H. Rutz, in: Charisma & Christian Life (Strang Communications, Lake Mary, FL, June 1997), see: - accessed 2/1/2001).

13. Quot. in ibid.

14. Thy God Reigneth: The story of Revival in Argentina: R. Edward Miller (World Missionary and Prayer Fellowship, Fontana, CA, 1964); Cry for Me Argentina. (Brentwood: Sharon Publications, 1988). World M.A.P. Fellowship is currently based in Burbank, California, run by Ralph Mahoney. It used to be a centre for distribution of tapes Latter Rain influenced ministries and still produces a monthly magazine World MAP Digest concerning the spread of Latter Rain style 'revival' in so-called Third World countries. Its board of reference includes such familiar names as: John Arnott, Frank Damazio, Jack Hayford, Marilyn Hickey, Dick Iverson, Freda Lindsay (wife of the late Gordon Lindsay), Bill McCartney, Bob Mumford, Pat Robertson, Carlton Spencer, Stephen Strang, Stephen Sumrall, and Robert (Bob) Weiner. This organization is one of C. Peter Wagner's contacts for anecdotes for use in his books to support his agenda.

15. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.8; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.11.

16. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.8; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.12.

17. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.9; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.13.

18. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.9; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.13.

19. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.10; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.13.

20. Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), pp.10-11; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), pp.13-14.

21. Quot. in: Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.11; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.14.

22. Quot. in: Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), p.11; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), p.14.

23. See: Thy God Reigneth (op. cit.), pp.44-56; Cry for Me, Argentina (op. cit.), pp.51-65.

24. Thoughts on R. Edward Miller and the Peniel Revival teaching: Char Stucki, in Discernment (Discernment Ministries, Lapeer, MI, March-April 1999), see: - accessed 2/1/2001. Punctuation has been corrected and grammar slightly clarified.

25. How to Receive the Holy Ghost: J.T. Pugh (Word Aflame Press, Hazelwood, MO, 1989), p.57. Word Aflame Press is a UPC imprint.

26. Ibid., p.58.

27. Ibid., pp.58-59.

28. Ibid., p.60.

29. Ibid., pp.59-60.

30. Ibid., p.60.

31. Although the popular name for these states is Altered States of Consciousness (ASCs), States of Altered Consciousness (SACs) is a more accurate description of what they are. The term SACs (or ASCs) is sometimes used in a broader sense to embrace certain temporary products of special operations of the Holy Spirit. However, these arise unsought. This is quite different from using techniques which are known to induce states of mental passivity which open people up to invasion by deceiving demonic spirits. Any intentional induction of SACs is, therefore, dangerous and will inevitably lead to occultic experiences. It is important to realize that occultic experiences can occur in Christian meetings and in the context of Christian ministry, if the appropriate conditions are present. It is no spiritual defence simply to 'use' the name of 'Jesus' or to resort to formulæ as a kind of protection. None of us is immune from deception in this area, which is why we walk carefully and listen to the criticisms of other brothers and sisters in Christ, not dismissing them out-of-hand merely because they seem 'less spiritual'.

32. The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 2: Ten Sermons on the ministry of the Holy Spirit: A.W. Tozer. Compiled by Gerald B. Smith. (Christian Publications, Harrisburg, PA, 1968), p.42; When He is Come: [When He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth:] A.W. Tozer (1968; Send the Light Books, Bromley, n.d.), pp.49-50.

33. A Letter from a Reader in South Africa: Yvette Hoffman (Discernment Ministries, Lapeer, MI), see: - accessed 2/1/2001.

34. The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 2: Ten Sermons on the ministry of the Holy Spirit: A.W. Tozer. (op. cit.), p.105; When He is Come: A.W. Tozer (op. cit.), p.123.

35. Houston Pastor Says God's Power Split His Pulpit in Half: The unusual display at Christian Tabernacle has caused a stir at the Pentecostal church: James H. Rutz, in: Charisma & Christian Life (op. cit.).

36. Complete Jewish Bible: An English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'rit Hadashah (New Testament). Translated by David H. Stern (Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD, 1998), p.1521.

37. The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 2: A.W. Tozer. (op. cit.), p.116 - my italics; When He is Come: A.W. Tozer (op. cit.), p.137 - my italics.

38. The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 2: A.W. Tozer. (op. cit.), p.116; When He is Come: A.W. Tozer (op. cit.), p.137-38.

39. - accessed 10/1/2001.

40. From the Anointing to the Glory (videogram), ( - accessed 28/12/2000).

41. After reading The God Chasers, I asked the Lord to show me what was going on. It is important that sincere believers test everything, including, of course, the conclusions which I share below.

My understanding as a result is that a concerted attack on the Evangelical church is under way by the kind of spirits that are behind some forms of Roman Catholic mysticism. This may facilitate the absorption of the most seemingly radical forms of Evangelicalism into Roman Catholicism. For example, people who are used to the presence of these spirits in their worship meetings will be taken by surprise when the atmosphere of certain Roman Catholic meetings seems strangely congenial and familiar. Their response will be amazement that they had been afraid of Roman Catholicism for so long. If we are allowed to worship God in the same way, they will think, why should we not thrown our lot in with Roman Catholicism? Capitulation to this 'authority' of the Pope may be made to appear a natural progression rather than a radical break with orthodox Christianity.