(Another Installment of my autobiographical series of life’s lessons on the Narrow Road)
When a Christian leader turns into a predator, abusing the sheep, we cannot turn a blind eye. God gives them room to repent and when they continue to harden their hearts, they are no longer useful to the Master. They lose their lampstand, so to speak, and the departure of the Holy Spirit becomes tangible. It’s hard to be a witness to the downfall of a person you once held in high esteem.
The late Dr. Walter Martin[i] was famous for saying: “You can know a wolf by its diet; wolves eat sheep.”
But, you might ask, Isn’t being able to quote Scripture like a pro an indication of a teacher’s calling from God? Not really. Even the devil knows Scripture and twists it to his own ends. Consider his conversation with Jesus on what is known as the Mount of Temptation. And the Bible says, “even demons believe and shudder.”
Rather, the fruit of the Spirit must accompany a called and gifted teacher of the Word of God. Here’s how the Apostle Paul identifies good fruit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” – Gal 5:22-23a
We will use those characteristics to test the ministry of Moriel and its leader/founder James Jacob Prasch.
The Early Days
When I met Mr. Prasch back in 1997 at an Ex-Catholics for Christ conference held at Grace Community Church pastored by Dr. John MacArthur, I was instantly impressed with his defense of the Gospel against the false dogmas of Rome. I too was a former cradle Catholic and it was exciting to meet like-minded Christians. He made a good first impression. I was there covering the story for Christianity Today magazine at the request of The Berean Call, headed by the late Dave Hunt.
After that meeting, I began listening to Mr. Prasch’s teaching tapes and shared them enthusiastically with my husband Bill and others. At my suggestion, Bill agreed to invite him to be a guest speaker at Calvary Chapel Lehigh Valley, a church my husband was planting an hour north of Philadelphia. (CCLV is still going strong under the leadership of Pastor Alan Disbrow.)
Mr. Prasch impressed most of the congregation, although there were some that complained privately to Bill that they found him to be a bit too harsh. No problem, Mr. Prasch already warned us that he was a native New Yorker, and that’s just the way he culturally comes across.
But from that point on in our association, several other red flags popped up from time to time that gave me pause. I excused them away due to his teaching that gave me a better understanding of the Old Testament and how it fits in with the New Testament. Many pastor/teachers avoid digging too deeply and I hungered for more of the Word.
So I didn’t hesitate to promote him to other Calvary Chapels whenever he would be visiting our area. I spoke on his behalf to Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge in New Jersey and also Pastor Bob Guaglione of Calvary Chapel Delaware County. Both agreed to host him but Pastor Bob would only do so under the condition that I attend the service.
Due to bad weather, I arrived about ten minutes before show time. Upon entering the lobby Jacob and his sidekick David Lister were setting up their resource table. Crowds were ushering in. Bob motioned me into his office with a look of consternation. He gasped, what took you so long? I thought you weren’t coming. He continued, what did you get me into? These guys look like a couple of shady used car salesmen. I assured him that Jacob was a sound Bible expositor and he replied that he would hold me personally responsible if any disaster ensued.
Much to Bob’s relief, Jacob delivered an animated inspiring word. Bob thought he just dodged a bullet, and asked Jacob to preach the very same message in the later morning service that was about to begin. Jacob had an entirely different message on tap. But Bob didn’t want to take any more chances. By popular demand Jacob was invited back several more times. I’m not sure what closed the door to that, but it didn’t take long.
That was my first red flag – pastors are protective over their flocks.
When Mr. Prasch was invited again to speak at our church, he and David arrived the day before and dropped in at my house. I don’t recall where Bill and the children were, but I think that was the time we were going to tape a video using the church facilities on the Proliferation of False Prophets. I was to interview Prasch and David was manning the camera.
I was in the kitchen preparing lunch, David was in the Living Room, and Jacob had gone out for a walk. He wanted to follow the old railroad tracks across the street. He said he had a passion for old trains. When he got back he told us that he had tripped and torn his pants at the seam. That was the only ones he had with him and asked me if I could sew them. It was awkward, but what could I do? Of course. So I told him to wait right there and went into my bedroom to grab a pair of my husband’s gym shorts and took them to Mr. Prasch and told him he could change into them in the bathroom. He just responded by saying that’s not necessary and dropped his drawers right in front of me, handing me his torn garment. I was totally shocked. David responded in shock and yelled at him. I dutifully returned to my room and mustered up my domestic wherewithal and I’m not sure if I matched up the color of the thread quite right.
When my husband came home, I told him what happened. He wasn’t as forgiving as I was. I agreed with him that Jacob’s behavior was disrespectful to the extreme. He was not invited back to our church.
That was red flag number 2.
However, to digress a bit. The reason I was helping Moriel at that time (circa 1999) in matters of ministry is that Bill had abandoned the work God called us together to do. For ten years we had been doing cult apologetics under the 501c3 ministry, Eastern Christian Outreach. We were publishing our quarterly magazine, The Christian Sentinel, that had a subscription list of 5,000 (before the web). I co-wrote several books with him (he noted that on the acknowledgment page, but my name didn’t make it to the covers.) We had a team of volunteers who went witnessing together with Gospel tracts at various events – particularly put on by Mormons and JWs. We also sponsored large conferences. Bill was teaching a cults class at the local Bible college and also at our home church, Calvary Chapel Philadelphia. But one of his friend’s urged him to start this church planting idea which I opposed. (That friend became “Assistant Pastor”.) I knew it would end the work to which we were called and commissioned. He ignored mine and his assistant’s pleas. He closed up our office and his assistant went into a depression and eventually committed suicide. I tried to be a pastor’s wife – not my calling. I began doing a women’s prison outreach at that time. The inmates were more enthusiastic about my teaching than the women at our little church. I was told they didn’t open their mouths in our studies because they thought they would look stupid. I wasn’t adept at focusing on a woman’s place in the home.
So for the next ten years Moriel became one avenue for using my gifts as I continued my own research and writing without Bill’s participation. He put most of his efforts into his pursuit of advanced degrees and his work as a college professor.
And that leads me to the third red flag –
A couple who attended CCLV from its inception were very impressed with Mr. Prasch when he was a guest speaker. After Bill turned the church over to the new pastor who was sent from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, they did not take to the new guy. So they became volunteers for Moriel. The wife – we’ll call her Mira – became obsessed with his teaching on the Midrash, a form of Jewish allegory interpretation that Prasch majored on.
Along with another couple who followed Moriel, they started an online chatroom. I don’t even recall all the details – I was not a part of that. But she was a good writer and also helped with Moriel’s publications and with the resource table at conferences.
Mira had already felt very let down by what she saw as Bill abandoning the church. Then when the chatroom got a bit cantankerous over debatable topics, Prasch pulled the plug on it. Mira saw that chatroom as her personal ministry and she was again devastated.
Soon thereafter, I received a call from a member of her family who was desperately trying to contact Prasch. I was informed that she was throwing in the towel on the faith altogether. So I contacted him and told him what was going on and asked him to talk with her. He dismissed it and said he couldn’t be bothered. She currently identifies as a Druid and has joined in with those who attack Christianity in the most repulsive way imaginable.
The Rapture Wars
At that time, between the year 2000 and circa 2011, Mr. Prasch was a featured speaker in very large conferences in all the English speaking countries. Popular itinerant bible teacher David Hocking held regular prophecy conferences mainly in Calvary Chapels all over America. Hocking also was featured regularly in Canada at the Red River conferences that attracted large crowds. He was very impressed with JJPs teaching skills and would make certain to put JJP on the roster of speakers. Although Hocking was a dogmatic teacher of the Pretrib rapture while JJP was what he then labeled pre-wrath, JJP agreed not to go into that topic at these events. They agreed to disagree agreeably, Until . . .
I would assist Moriel at their resource table at many of these venues. Jacob’s cassette tapes – and later CDs & DVDs—would sell like hot cakes. He was accumulating quite a loyal fan base.
But then in 2011, JJP self published his book, Shadows of the Beast. That did not go well with his Pretrib friends who had given him such a large platform. It labeled the belief in the imminency of the Lord’s return as heresy and any who taught it as being false teachers. JJP soon felt the pain of the reaction. The doors to the biggest conferences slammed shut on him. He tried for a while to smooth things over but the damage was done. He couldn’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. One of his closest friends, Philip Powell [ii] tired of arguing with JJP, shared his exasperation in a mass email sent out on October 4, 2013.
“Dear brothers and sisters:
My strong advice is that you don’t read into my email what I have NOT written…
I agree that personal matters should not colour our investigation into possible error and/or heresy and that of course also means we must be impartial. There are NO EXCEPTIONS. Let us impartially examine MIDRASH and the appeal to non canonical books to establish something that is NOT clear in scripture. Let us not depart from Sola Scriptura. Let us NOT denigrate, demean or deride those who disagree with our position. JP recently wrote in a newsletter to his people in Israel, Elon and Hadas Moreh:
We are living in highly dangerous and volatile times and the LORD is not going to snatch us away at any moment a la J.N. Darby’s demonic delusion, (There is only one Second coming and that is on the other side of the Great Tribulation… .
If words mean anything then JP is consigning all of us who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture to being demonically deluded. That includes Tom McMahon, Paul Wilkinson, Andrew Robinson (copied in) et al. That is a huge smear on the many brothers and sisters who believe in a pre-tribulation “catching away” of the saints. It’s one thing to argue your case strongly. It’s quite another to denigrate and deride those of a contrary view and that is perilously close to acting like a Gnostic.
Apart from anything else can we allow this name calling to continue? As indicated in my email I propose to carry out an in depth investigation into all of this including a possible review of JP’s latest Shadows of the Beast which from a cursory reading is greatly lacking in documentation of what the author asserts. In one place he refers to the “Second Adam” whereas Paul calls Christ “the last Adam.” That to me is a vital doctrinal distinction and it has nothing at all to do with a personality clash or personal differences between JP and myself. This is not a slanging match – at least it is NOT on my part. It is a simple attempt to act as a “Berean” and to examine the scriptures to see if these things are so.
It is something that we have all advocated, so let us cool down and look at these things dispassionately and biblically. That is my intention and I go forward notwithstanding the veiled threats that have been issued against me. I do not possess a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. So help me God.”
And boy, did JJP ever come through on his threats against this humble man of God! I was copied in on the back-and-forth battle between these two men (as were many others in the CC and BCC columns) – which at this point I don’t feel free to quote from private emails – but it gave me a glimpse of a side of Jacob I had never seen before. He ripped that old man to shreds and fired away ad hominem potshots to the effect that the man was never called by God and was a total loser. And he did so while Powell was suffering from terminal cancer. JJP’s vile treatment of this minister and publisher of Christian Witness Ministries grieved me so much, I had to demand that he no longer copy me in on these emails that had me in tears. (Although I held onto each and every one of them – just in case.)
That ended their long friendship. After Mr. Prasch got bored with all the trashing of Philip Powell, he went on to other battles – especially against all those who teach a Pretrib rapture.
I was totally flabbergasted after Powell’s death to read a glowing obituary on Moriel’s website dated April 26, 2015, that reads in part:
“It is with a combination of sadness and joy that we learned Philip Powell, former General Secretary of the Australia Assemblies of God, went to be with The Lord early Sunday morning 26th of April following a battle with cancer.
Philip was pastor of a church in Brisbane Australia and directed CWM ministries in Australia, The UK, and New Zealand after leaving the Assemblies of God establishment due to its deviation into apostasy that included ecumenism, dominionism, the Toronto/ Pensacola delusion, psychologisation, and money oriented preaching – all of which Philip bravely and staunchly opposed, often at tremendous personal cost, in favor of a more scripture based and Christ centered expression of Pentecostalism… In the end, like the Hebrew prophets of scripture Philip was vindicated by The Lord
and by history.
… Now that he is in glory awaiting us with Jesus, whenever I recall the legacy of Philip Powell in the future – that one maxim will be repeated as summing his legacy up in just one sentence: “They Should Have Listened To Him”!
The opposition to Mr. Prasch’s open antagonism against all those teaching a Pretrib rapture continued to slam shut large venue opportunities for speaking invitations. In retaliation, Prasch took it a step further and published another book in 2015, called Harpazo, which ripped the biblical teaching of imminency even further. A huge tome with zero footnotes was mostly ignored, as he furthered his new teaching that he borrowed from Marv Rosenthal, and made it his own theology he renamed a couple of times – “Intra-Seal.” I once asked him if he could point to any systematic theology or seminaries that teach this, but he had none. It was his own pet theory, which he insists is unquestionable fact, while in the same breath attacking the pretrib position for being too recent to be true at a mere hundred years old or so.
To those of us who know Jacob Prasch well, we could see a visible change in his countenance as the bitterness over his demotion in the church took hold and exiled him to the fringe.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – I’m only getting started!
My Moriel Memories — Part IV
My Moriel Memories — Part V
[This article, along with other first person accounts you can find at christiansentinel.com, is a portion of my autobiography which is a work in progress to be expanded upon for the book. I praise the Lord for His provision in my retirement, allowing me to finish the course to which He has called me.]