Neil Anderson’s Approach to the Spiritual Life -- By: David G. Moore

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:609 (Jan 1996)
Article: Neil Anderson’s Approach to the Spiritual Life
Author: David G. Moore

Neil Anderson’s Approach to the Spiritual Life

David G. Moore

Robert A. Pyne

[David G. Moore is Pastor of Adult Education, Grace Covenant Church, Austin, Texas, and Robert A. Pyne is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.]

Through his popular writing and conference ministry, Neil Anderson, president of Freedom in Christ Ministries, has helped many believers gain a sense of confidence and an increased measure of consistency in the spiritual life. He and others who provide instruction in “spiritual warfare” and “victorious living” have found a warm welcome among evangelicals longing for clear answers and a solid emphasis on biblical truth.

While many individuals seem to have benefited from Anderson’s work, some aspects of his teachings may ultimately bring harm even to those who are presently being helped. This article describes those potential problems while offering some suggestions for dialogue. Many other teachers have held and do hold positions similar to Anderson’s, but he is highlighted here because of his present popularity and because of the need to limit the field of inquiry. In other words Anderson is not the source of these ideas, but he is a prominent and popular exponent of them.

Anderson’s Understanding of Sin

The Saint’s Core Identity

Anderson’s anthropology focuses on the believer’s “core identity,” which he says is so transformed in conversion that the “real you” should be described not as a sinner but as a saint. Believers are “saints who occasionally sin” rather than “sinners saved by grace.”1 He writes, “Nowhere are believers referred to

as sinners, not even as sinners saved by grace. If a true Christian accepts himself as a sinner, then his core identity is sin.”2

What is this “core identity?” It seems to be something stronger than self-image, as Anderson contends that the believer’s core identity has been changed “from sinner to saint” as a fact that now needs only to be appropriated through faith.3 At the same time the statement quoted above suggests that it varies with one’s self-perception. Anderson applies it elsewhere to respond to an “identity crisis,” or the inability to know how to view oneself. Theologians often speak of a person’s “nature” as his or her genuine essence, and this term seems ambiguous.4 Anderson has substituted an even more ambiguous phrase when he speaks of...

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