Three Bible passages describe three central themes of Victor Paul Wierwille's ministry, and to some degree describe his followers as well.
Acts 20:30, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-14 give insights into Wierwille's motives and actions.
Acts 20:30-31 reads, "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!"
Wierwille began his ministry life as the pastor of a small church in Ohio, as one "from your own number." But he soon resigned, separated himself from the Church at large and sought to get people to follow him as his own disciples. He drew them away from the Church after himself.
Wierwille said that one event launched the growth of The Way Incorporated (later "The Way International") which he founded. He read an article from Christian Life Magazine "about a group of young hippie Christians doing missionary work in Haight Ashbury" He went there to "explore" and found a Baptist minister who sent him to a Christian house called "The Living Room" and then to a house called "The House of Acts," where he found Steve Heefner, Jim Doop and Ted Wise already witnessing all day long, already with semi-organized ministries which had names, already with considerable followings. VP wasn't satisfied that they were already following Jesus Christ-- he wanted them to follow VP Wierwille, too. He tried to recruit the whole House of Acts to come to his Ohio farm for summer school to hear him. Some responded, and started using Wierwille's class as part of their ministry. But within two years, they realized that Wierwille was out to control their ministries, and get financial support from them, so they all escaped from his clutches.
Wierwille's "Power for Abundant Living" class was disguised as description of keys to Biblical research which students could use to read the Bible for themselves. Actually, the class was designed to persuade students that Wierwille alone understood the Bible, in contrast to all of Christianity which was blinded by tradition. Instead of using typical Bible passages to illustrate common principles of understanding Scripture (such as examining the context of a verse), he used passages he twisted to say something different from others' teachings. For example, he tried to convince students that four men were crucified with Jesus Christ, that Enoch didn't visually see anyone die even though he himself died, and so forth. Wierwille tried to use the class to get people to say, "Wow, no one can teach the Bible like Dr. Wierwille, so I better not listen to anyone except him."
Wierwille selfishly used "The Word" as a tool to promote himself rather than Jesus Christ.
Wierwille constantly tried to promote himself as the One Teacher everyone should listen to. He claimed that God spoke aloud to him and told him "to teach the Word as it had not been known since the first century (TWLIL). He claimed that God sent a blizzard to Tulsa in December 12, 1951, which stopped all trains, buses and planes from moving and thereby trapped him in the city. (Tulsa records show no precipitation that week at all, and a daytime temperature of 57 degrees, showing his lie.) He allowed his followers to think that he was the greatest since the Apostle Paul and had followers stand when he entered any room as they played "Hail to the Chief."
Wierwille promoted himself because he wanted to draw away disciples after himself, just as the Apostle Paul had predicted would happen.
The Apostle Paul also warned believers not to follow those who wanted to hear strange, bizarre or peculiar teachings. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 reads:
"the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
Although Wierwille often asserted that he threw all his theological books in the city dump, "put aside men's writings" and "used the Bible alone as my handbook as well as my textbook," he actually showed a history of hopping from one author to another and latching on to anything he thought was different, unusual or even bizarre.
The authors themselves varied widely-- an Indian bishop, an Anglican theologian from the turn of the century, a wandering Nestorian (Iranian) speaker who kept an office at the Unity School of Christianity (a Christian Science-like sect), a positive thinker, a spiritist (medium), a Pentecostal evangelist, a man who denied the Holocaust, Christian Scientist, a Methodist who spent time in a Hindu religious community, a liberal Protestant theologian, a leader of the "name-it-and-claim-it" ("Word-Faith") movement and so forth. About the only thing missing was a balanced Christian teacher who had reputable training in Biblical languages and background.
Wierwille's itching ears prompted him to latch on to all kinds of peculiar ideas, including: people should physically inhale holy spirit; the Jewish holocaust of World War 2 was a myth; the Bible was originally written in Aramaic, not in Hebrew and Greek; "believing" has nothing to do with God because both Christians and non-Christians can do it equally well; all the warfare imagery in the New Testament is actually athletic imagery; four men were crucified with Christ; New Testament times actually start in the middle of the book of Acts, so the Gospels should be in the Old Testament; only seven epistles by Paul are meant for the church today; Christians should not practice water baptism; believing, prosperity and tithing all operate under immutable laws; that adultery is acceptable for leaders under any circumstances; "Christ" that indwells believers is not Jesus Christ, but their own new human spirits; and so forth.
If Wierwille had lived past age 68, no doubt he would have added many more "new" and peculiar teachings, and expected his followers to accept them just because he "discovered" them. In fact, Craig Martindale who took Wierwille's place as President of TWI inherited Wierwille's "itching ears" and has added more "new light," such as insisting that the Bible forbids his followers from having any debt of any kind.
Wierwille had to come up with different and even peculiar teachings. He had to show himself to be different from everybody else in order to draw disciples to himself
The apostle warned against all who preach a different Jesus and spirit. 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 13-14 reads:
"I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different Gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough....For such (teachers) are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading themselves as apostles of Christ."
Wierwille's itching ears weren't satisfied with just adding peculiar teachings which are at odds with the Bible. He wanted to change the core of the Christian faith, too. So he soon started teaching "another spirit" and "another Jesus," probably based on the Iranian speaker's ideas. He tried to look completely different from Christianity by publishing a book Jesus Christ is Not God and greatly downplaying Jesus' life, teachings, Lordship and presence in Christian's lives. To do this, he tapped his tool of "literal translations according to usage" to rewrite large sections of Scripture (especially John 1 and Matthew 28). When this didn't work well, he fell back on his speculation that the original Bible texts "must have read"differently than the Bible texts we use today.
He also reduced the Holy Spirit to a human spirit (which he usually referred to in impersonal terms, such as "inherent spiritual power" and "spiritual abilities"). He claimed that humans are only body and soul, and are missing their spirits until they receive them when they are born again. Even the Gospel got short shrift as he replaced the good news with more and more spiritual "laws" to follow and manifestations to "operate" through one's own abilities, believing and thought control.
Many of the key thrusts of Wierwille's work and life are reflections of these three passages from the New testament. These three are closely interrelated, because to gain a following it is important to appear to be different in some way. Wierwille's itching ears gave him the desire to grasp for the unusual teachings that made him unusual, not the least of which were his teachings regarding a different Jesus and different spirit.
God included these warnings in the Bible to keep us from being harmed. The wisest course is to not be led astray by such men, and to return to a pure devotion to Jesus Christ.
Dr. John Juedes, 1999
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