Personal Freedom Outreach The Quarterly Journal


Aren't They Really Just Chasing After the Wind?

by G. Richard Fisher

"I'm afraid that we have satiated our hunger for Him by reading old love letters from Him to the churches in the Epistles of the New Testament," writes Tommy Tenney in the opening pages of his best–seller, The God Chasers.1

Some books catch on. Marketing and promotion, a catchy title, sensational claims, overblown promises and a slick cover can all contribute to success. For example, Good Morning, Holy Spirit, Benny Hinn's first book for Thomas Nelson Publishers, was a phenomenal best–seller. Hinn has not been able to repeat the success with any of his subsequent volumes.

However, a decade later, Tommy Tenney is having success of his own. His books, including The God Chasers, The God Catchers, God's Dream Team, God's Favorite House and others have captured the Charismatic population. Appearances at the Brownsville Revival and on the cover of Charisma magazine have added to his exposure. He has become a very marketable commodity. Because of his success, Tenney has hired 15 people to assist him and receives up to 500 invitations a month to speak.2

Tenney doesn't stop with books, either. One can buy a God Chaser hat ($17.99), a God Chaser shirt (from $16.99 to $18.99) and even a God Chaser license plate holder ($6.99). He's even got the younger generation covered. For $99.99, there's The Young God Chasers, a 13–week curriculum containing stories, lessons and songs for children ages 5–11. For teenagers there is Extreme God Chasers.

Tenney was brought up in a white clapboard house at 114 Slack Street in West Monroe, La.3 He does not claim any formal higher education. His biographical sketch says:

"The youngest voice of three generations of ministry, Tommy was born in 1956 and began preaching at age 16. He has spent almost 10 years pastoring and more than 17 years in mobile ministry, traveling to more than 30 nations and most states. Tommy is a well–known revivalist and has been used to both spark and fuel the fires of revival. He has experienced the miraculous, but more importantly, he knows the value of intimacy with and humility before God."4

People around West Monroe really like Tommy Tenney. One person from the local Assembly of God church told PFO: "Tommy Tenney is a wonderful man. He's a humble man. He's been back a few times and he brings all churches together."5

The goal of this article is not to pass judgment on Tenney's character, ecumenical prowess or humility, but rather to see if his teachings stand up under the scrutiny of the Scriptures.


Tenney's books are in a genre that is wildly popular with Charismatics. It could be called the "carrot and stick" genre. The new prophets and apostles hold out the carrot of an imminent and virtually present miracle period that they seem to know about by divine revelations, prophesies and discernment of omens. The stick is veiled or open threats of blaspheming the Spirit or some plague or curse on the house of any critics.

This outbreak of the divine Presence is "just around the corner" or "just over the next hill." It is about to arrive, break forth, burst on the scene, all with creative miracles and mass revival.

More importantly, we can make it happen. It is the "new thing" or the "day of visitation" as the prophet assures the followers that if they will heed his words (that is, "seed" their money with him and buy his books and tapes), he will take them there. It sounds suspiciously like promises of the Second Coming and bodily resurrection but they say it will all precede those events in one miracle or glory blast. The above is a generalization but it captures the various nuances of the new prophetic claims.


We were promised the new glory period in the Latter Rain Movement of the 1940s and again in the Charismatic/Ecumenical Movement of the 1960s. It was promised by the Vineyard Movement and John Wimber. John Arnott declared its nearness when he "baptized" the outbreak of animal noises in his Toronto church. It has been promised through the laughing "revival" of Rodney Howard Browne and then later by Brownsville's "Pensacola Outpouring," but it has not shown up yet. It was proclaimed in the brief run of plastic gold glitter and alleged dental miracles of the late Ruth Ward Heflin. It is always being promised by Benny Hinn, who claims that Kathryn Kuhlman promised it.

In this new age of "just ahead" miracles, all things will be possible. The dead will be raised, limbs will grow, the supernatural will be natural. It will be heaven on earth. It is not the Second Coming of Jesus, or the resurrection to glorified bodies, or the removal of the curse – it is just a promise from the new gnostics who are in the know with claimed new revelations and demon–corralling techniques. "Trust me" is their byword.

The new prophets and apostles have created a new Zeitgeist for their followers. A Zeitgeist, as explained by author Uwe Seimon Netto, "serves as a beacon in the vagueness and uncertainty of modern society; it serves modern society with a point of reference, albeit finite and fickle; it gives individuals who are afloat in that sea of instability the 'correct' position on which to orient themselves – for the time being."6 Since the Bible is no longer seen as all that relevant and as new revelations are advanced, this new Zeitgeist (foundational view or paradigm) makes people ripe for error and easy to mislead. Sound judgment is surrendered to emotions and manifestations.

In this vein, Tenney promises:

"Another wave of God's presence is about to hit the shore of the church and the nations. It has happened before in differing times and seasons. I've carefully studied the history of revival in America and around the world, but another wave is coming that is going to be different – if we cooperate."7


One thing that the success of the Tenney books illustrates is that the Charismatic propensity for seeking emotional experiences and spiritual highs leaves one empty and disappointed but primed for another round of seeking even more thrills. God chasing feeds that never–ending up and down cycle. It can produce as well as perpetuate it.

Matthew Klam observes:

"The more aggressively you search for the most profound experience of your life, the more rigid, narrowing, dispiriting and routine it becomes."8

Apparently, as a professing Charismatic Christian, Tenney became totally dispirited and dissatisfied with Christianity, the Bible, being Spirit–filled, preaching, praying and going to church – really sick of it all. He describes for readers his plight:

"The gnawing vacuum of emptiness in the midst of my accomplishments just got worse. I was in a frustrating funk, a divine depression of destiny. ... 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. ... There had to be more. I was desperate for a God encounter (of the closest kind)."9

So it was not a serious, sober searching of God's Word that launched Tenney into his search, but discontent, desperation and depression.

Tenney caught the ire of one apologetic ministry for his views of "overshadowing" and its cultic parallels. The critique found on the organization's web site evaluates a message that Tenney delivered on Dec. 7, 1997, to a congregation at Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, Md.:

"[Tommy Tenney] said we are in the year of Jubilee, and that God isn't going to let a generation go by without letting them see his glory at least once. Hence the outpouring of his Spirit at this time. He said that when Gabriel was giving Mary the news about the birth of the Christ, he had no words to describe it – he just said 'some...*thing* is going to come.' ... And that's what he (Tommy) believes is happening right now. ... some *thing* is going to come. ... That God wants to draw us under his wings ... so he can 'overshadow' us."10

The article goes on to discuss Luke 1:35 and the overshadowing of Mary to conceive and bring forth Jesus and criticizes Tenney's implications:

"In this instance, therefore, the overshadowing refers to an act of spiritual marriage and union (consummation) where Christians and the Glory merge so closely that Tommy Tenney's 'something' is born of their union."11

Another very troubling teaching by Tenney is his muddled and garbled view of who – or what – God is. He says of God:

"The phrase, 'omnipresence of God,' refers to the fact that He is everywhere all the time. 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!"12

Here Tenney is confusing the Creator with the creation. Scripture does speak to the "omnipresence of God," but that means everything is in God's presence, not God is present in everything. There is a major difference – the distinction between Creator and creation – which Tenney fails to teach.

Consider what Norman Geisler says about the heresy of pantheism:

"Pantheism means all ('pan') is God ('theism'). It is the worldview held by most Hindus, many Buddhists, and other New Age religions. It is also the worldview of Christian Science, Unity, and Scientology. According to pantheism, God 'is all in all.' God pervades all things, contains all things, subsumes all things, and is found within all things. Nothing exists apart from God, and all things are in some way identified with God. The world is God, and God is the world. But more precisely, in pantheism all is God, and God is all."13

Additionally, William Evans says of the omnipresence of God:

"By the omnipresence of God is meant that God is everywhere present. This attribute is closely connected with the omniscience and omnipotence of God, for if God is everywhere present He is everywhere active and possesses full knowledge of all that transpires in every place. This does not mean that God is everywhere present in a bodily sense, nor even in the same sense; for there is a sense in which He may be in heaven, His dwelling place, in which He cannot be said to be elsewhere. We must guard against the pantheistic idea which claims that God is everything, while maintaining the Scriptural doctrine that He is everywhere present in all things. ... God is everywhere and in every place; His center is everywhere; His circumference nowhere. But this presence is a spiritual and not a material presence; yet it is a real presence."14

We could just chalk Tenney's pantheism up to imprecision or lack of Bible training, but remember: here is a man who claims he has chased God and been caught by Him.


Tenney's views and writings have also met the disapproval of other apologetic and counter–cult organizations for other reasons. Paramount among the concerns is Tenney's Oneness Pentecostal (United Pentecostal Church) background. Bob Liichow of Inner–City Christian Discernment Ministry explains:

"Several months ago Truth Matters dealt with the UPC and its derivatives, a.k.a. 'Oneness' Pentecostals. We proved that the UPC is a bible–based cult. Without going into great detail suffice it to say that the UPC believes in salvation by works, that one can loose [sic] their salvation, that one must be baptized by immersion in Jesus' name only and speak in other tongues in order to be 'fully saved.'"15

The so–called Jesus Only group has a neo–modalistic interpretation of the Trinity, reducing Jesus to an actor who played three parts. They speak of the persons of the Trinity as "manifestations." The group was born in 1913 at a camp meeting in California when one John G. Schaefe claimed a new revelation. The ancient Sabellians16 taught that only God the Father was the one true God.

Regarding Sabellianism, Charles Hodge stated that, "The same person is at once Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."17

In a new twist from ancient Sabellianism, Schaefe insisted that Jesus was the one and only true God, thereby denying the real personhood and distinct personality of Father and Holy Spirit.

Concerning the history of Jesus Only modalism today, Robert Morey writes:

"In order to justify this new 'revelation,' it was not long before R.E. McAlister, John Schaefe, Frank Ewart, Glen Cook, and many others came to the conclusion that Jesus was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These events soon developed into a 'Jesus Only' or 'Oneness Pentecostal' movement. A great deal of controversy was created, until the Oneness people were cast out of the Assemblies of God."18

Walter Bjorck and James Bjornstad penetrate the serious errors of the Oneness Movement and point up:

"The most serious weakness in the modalistic system of the 'Jesus Only' movement is their failure to recognize the subject–object relationship among the members of the Godhead. All reality in the realm of personality is based upon this commonly accepted fact. For if there is no object in a given conversation, then there is no meaningful dialogue. One is merely talking to oneself!"19

Though Tenney is said by some to have left the UPC, Liichow observes that "Mr. Tenney has not publicly recanted his former UPC beliefs."20 By his own account, Tenney left the UPC because he "'couldn't enforce some of the views' of the UPC – including rules that to this day forbid pastors in the group from owning televisions."21

While Tenney insists "I am not 'Jesus only,'" he subscribes to a vague modalism, which sounds very close to Sabellianism. Tenney told Charisma editor Lee Grady: "I believe God revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."22 Sabellius would be happy with such an explanation.23


Tenney's church connections (or lack thereof) and obviously incorrect view of the Godhead are serious and are the beginning of the problem. He has a less–than–orthodox view of the Scriptures as well. In Tenney's insistence on a mystical principle of immediate, personal, direct revelations to every person, he seriously denigrates the Bible. Tenney may commit in principle to the inerrancy of Scripture but in reality does not believe in the total sufficiency of Scripture for life and practice:

"The coming revival is not going to be about sermons and information; it is going to be about worship and impartation."24

Concern over Tenney's disregard of Scripture has been expressed by pastor Bill Randles in his two–page review of The God Chasers:

"Between the various personal experiences recounted by Tenney and his attempts at whetting the spiritual appetite for which the book calls, glimpses of the author's theology can be seen. Tenney has a curious view of the Word of God as 'old love letters': 'I'm afraid that we have satiated our hunger for Him by reading old love letters from Him to the churches in the Epistles of the New Testament. These are good, holy, and necessary, but we never have intimacy with Him.' This is mere lip service given to God's Word, granting that it is still 'good, holy, and necessary,' while at the same time delegating it to the status of 'old love letters' – inadequate for the purpose of current intimacy with God. This is a subtle but effective denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. Jesus never contrasted the knowledge of Scripture with intimacy with God, but rather equated it: And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (Luke 4:4)"25

Nowhere in the Bible do we find Scripture referred to as an "old love letter." God's Word is held up as a lamp, a light, as being quick and powerful, as bread for the soul and meat for the spirit. It can comfort and illumine, guide and direct, instruct and reprove. It is not old and outdated but alive (Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 4:12). It is our source for good doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16). It is truth (John 17:17). Randles is right on target regarding Tenney's denigration of Scripture. Believers ought to decry such things. It seems that Tenney has been chasing and catching false doctrine and chasing serious error in regard to the Scriptures. Chasing experiences apart from the Scripture is really chasing mysticism and subjectivism.


Over a decade ago, Norman Geisler was on the cutting–edge when he wrote:

"A mystical maze has settled on our land. Fuzzy thinking is the order of the day. The Good Ship Evangelicalism is sailing without rational rudders in the hazy sea of subjectivity."26

Addressing the subject of mysticism, Arthur Johnson says:

"At a time when the entire world seems to be turning away from using rational understanding toward a reliance on mystical means as the basis for life, Christians seem unaware of the implications of this trend for the faith. Mysticism, if my understanding of the Bible and of history are [sic] correct, is both anti–Scriptural and a contradiction of the evangelical view that the Bible is the one and only ultimate criterion of truth about God and our relation to Him."27

Tenney, in his introduction to The God Chasers, amazingly puts heretic and mystic Madame Jeanne Guyon28 on the same level as Abraham, Moses and David. Incredible!

The kind of immediate revelations endorsed by Tenney under the rubric of God chasing have always been a problem in the Church and a means of deception and false doctrine as Arthur Clement observes:

"Church history records many individuals and groups who claimed personal, direct, inner revelation from the Holy Spirit, also referred to as an 'internal' word. Not infrequently, those who claimed to have such 'immediate' revelations from God also disclaimed the Holy Scriptures as the agency of the Holy Spirit. The teaching of the Euchites, or Mesalians, a sect of Mesopotamia and Syria in the fourth century, is an example of this false doctrine. The members sought to know God and to communicate with him through an internal light. They expected the operation of God's grace without an external means of grace. They considered Holy Scripture to be of only minor importance. Schools of mysticism have made similar claims from time to time."29

Charles Hodge has written extensively on mysticism and confronts his readers with the simple logic that a man has no real objective way to test his inner impulses and "revelations" to know if they are from the Spirit of God, his own heart or Satan as an angel of light. Hodge further reminds us that:

"Our Lord says of men, 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' The same rule of judgment applies to doctrines. Mysticism has always been productive of evil. It has led to the neglect or undervaluing of divine institutions, – of the Church, of the ministry, of the sacraments, of the Sabbath, and of the Scriptures."30

The words of Proverbs advise us: "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:5–6). Ephesians 6:17 reminds us that the Word of God is "the sword of the Spirit," so without it we are defenseless.

Tenney unashamedly keeps moving away from Scripture and calls for "open Heaven" encounters.31 He sets up a straw man, saying that somehow if we take the Bible too seriously, we may worship it:

"We all need to read and study God's Word daily, but we don't need to worship past revelation to the exclusion of all new revelation. ... I believe that God is constantly giving us new revelations of His Person. This is partly because our unchanging God is continually moving and working among His ever–changing people. The ungodly part comes in when people begin to say, 'Our paw print is the only track in the forest,' or 'Our revelation is the final revelation.'"32

Tenney frames his ideas around the illustration of being in a dark room. We may have some truth now but without the manifest presence of God and direct Divine encounters, we will never have enough light to see the way.33 This hardly says much about the light of Scripture.


Tenney's watchword and signature is "chasing God." Consider for a moment the implications.

First, that a real, deep and intimate experience of God cannot be found in the Scripture ("we will never have intimacy" with "old love letters") but that God is "out there" somewhere to be chased, caught or discovered by some formula in a Tenney book. And it only costs the price of a $12 book ($35 more if you buy the T–shirt and baseball cap). Sharing instruction from Scripture is one thing, but selling a formula for a sure–fire route to the manifest presence of God is another. When Simon the Sorcerer sought to buy intimacy with the Holy Spirit, Peter blasted him with "your money perish with you" (Acts 8:20). Selling solutions to intimacy with God has a strange and unsettling ring to it.

Secondly, by implication, God is not all that available to the average Christian who just serves God in his local church, walks in the Spirit and reads his Bible faithfully every day. There is something more to be chased. Tenney is an elitist teaching a two–tiered Christianity. Tenney says that true God chasers "are not interested in camping out on some dusty truth."34

Tenney not only downplays the Word of God but totally ignores the Holy Spirit and His worldwide ministry of conviction and illumination of the Word (John 16:8–15). Tenney casts God in the role of being somewhat unavailable or at least hiding:

"God is still hiding from the world because He cannot flow through the streets until the Church takes its place and begins to filter the glory."35

However, the Apostle Paul says just the opposite. Paul concludes that God is near and that deep experiences of Him are available in a relationship with Christ and a laying hold of Bible doctrine. Unfortunately, most Christians today are not familiar enough with their Bible to know that. Jay Adams perceptively addresses this very issue:

"It is because Christians want something more or something different, as we saw in the section on worldly influence, that they often go for false teachings. One of the major reasons that they hunger for more is because they have so little. Not that there is little in the Bible, but that there is so little of the Bible in them. They do not study the Scriptures in a serious fashion. The Spirit God gave you does not need to impart truth to you that He has already given to you in the Bible! He will enlighten you to the meaning and application of the Scriptures when you are willing to spend time prayerfully digging deeply into their meaning."36

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, is clear:

"But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way. 'Do not say in your heart, "who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or "who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)': But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith we preach). ... So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:6–9, 17).

Anders Nygren gives us the impact of Paul's words: "Through the incarnation and the resurrection Christ is near us; He is immediately with us."37

W.H. Griffith Thomas offers:

"Christ has neither to be brought down from heaven, not to be raised again from the dead; everything has been accomplished, and all that is left is to accept in trustful thankfulness. Faith has not to acquire or win a Savior, but to accept One Who has already accomplished the work of redemption. God's righteousness is not distant and difficult, but near and easy."38

Jeremiah "ate" the Word of God and reports: "Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16). Jesus expounded the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms to the Emmaus Road disciples and their "eyes were opened" and "they said to one another, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road and He opened to us the Scriptures?'" (Luke 24:31–32). Paul spoke of the "comfort of the Word" (Romans 15:4). Read through Psalm 119 and note the wonderful things the Word of God does for us and gives to us.

Christians should be greatly offended when they hear one such as Tenney speak of the Bible as "the moldy pages of what God has done."39


We need to ask three important questions:

  1. What does chasing God mean?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. How do you know if you have caught Him?

In response to the first inquiry, Tenney offers that, "If you want to recognize a real God chaser, think of a whooping, barking, tail–pounding dog trembling with excitement." Tenney also says they are "like bloodhounds on a trail" and further concludes it is one who is "arriving at the point of revelation where He presently exists."40

It does become increasingly unclear to really understand what God chasing is when Tenney defines and describes it in a number of different ways. One definition is: "By 'chasing God,' I am referring to our pursuit of Him as our chief aim and very reason for being – after salvation."41 It also seems to take a lot of intense effort on our part: "I sometimes think to myself, If I can just get my hands in the crack and pry it or pray it open, maybe the glory of God will come down tonight."42

So it is an out–of–control dog, a point of revelation and our pursuit of God. It's like prying open an elevator door. On the back cover of The God Chasers, we read another view: "A God chaser is a person whose passion for God's presence presses him to chase the impossible in hopes that the uncatchable might catch him."

Tenney comes at it in yet another way:

"The difference between the anointing of God and the glory of God is like the difference between the tiny blue spark of static electricity and the raw power of a 440–volt power line overhead or a lightning strike on your head! We are so busy rubbing our feet across the carpet of God's promises and giving one another tiny blue sparks of anointing that we don't realize God wants to jolt us with His 440–volt glory line from Heaven. The one will thrill you a little, but you get the feeling the other might kill you or change your life forever."43

One can't be sure if Tenney is certain what God chasing is or if he's just making it up as he goes along. He writes:

"The pursuit and 'capture' of God is a process. ... Some people take offense at my use of the term God Chaser, saying, 'You don't have to chase God.' I understand but I don't agree. ... You may be content just to be in God's house, but I want to be in His lap! I do agree that none of us can ever really catch Him. That much is obvious. ... Your worship essentially sets a 'lover's entrapment' for Him."44

So you can and you can't. You will and you won't. It is some kind of entrapment of God.

Then Tenney surprises and confuses us once again: "The 'catching' will come if you can ever get to that point of weary desperation where you just say, 'Oh, Daddy!'"45 And this: "It should be obvious that no one can really 'catch' God, but you can capture His heart. Once you do that, God allows you to pull Him into your dimension."46 The reader gets to the point of wondering whether Tenney has any idea what he is talking about.

Tenney's answer to the second and third inquiry amounts to getting to a point where one is out–of–control, willing to do anything, even experience altered states of consciousness and entertain poltergeistic activity and be thrown around like a rag doll. Prying open the elevator door, lightning bolts on the head and being hit with a power line is only the beginning.

Tenney elaborates as to what God chasing amounts to:

"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. Muffled sobs broke through the room."47

God in the above is reduced to an "it" that chokes people and causes them to hyperventilate. However, it gets worse as more incredible claims are put forth:

"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, effectively separating him from the pulpit. 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 instant the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room."48

Tenney claims that the high–tech acrylic pulpit was able to withstand tens of thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch,49 making the claimed destruction of it even more awesome. The oxygen–stealing, people–throwing, pulpit–smashing God seems to revel in out–of–control craziness as well:

"I've never seen such an altar call. It was pure pandemonium. People shoved one another out of the way. They wouldn't wait for the aisles to clear; they climbed over pews, businessmen tore their ties off, and they were literally stacked on top of one another, in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard. ... worship was rampant and uninhibited. Grown men were ballet dancing; little children were weeping in repentance."50

God chasers appear to be wild and crazy guys. Even the outsiders couldn't escape the spiritual cyclone that was engulfing the whole area:

"As people drove onto the parking lot, they sensed the presence of God so strongly that some began to weep uncontrollably. They just found themselves driving up onto the parking lot or into the grass not knowing what was going on. Some started to get out of their cars and barely managed to stagger across the parking lot. Some came inside the building only to fall on the floor just inside the doors. The hard–pressed ushers had to literally pull the helpless people away from the doors and stack them up along the walls of the hallways to clear the entrance."51

In light of the above, it is truly amazing to hear Tenney himself condemning people for being addicted to anointings and having "Uncontrolled Cravings for Cheap Spiritual Thrills," which he labels as "Spiritual Pornography."52

He then is so bold to say, as the Apostles in Acts 2 were accused of "being falling–down drunks," that "We need to see that happen in some of our services. I'd love to see God's anointing wreck us and wreck the church. I'd love to see people stagger out of the building just dripping with oil."53

Tenney constantly talks about intimacy but just as some people mistake many emotional relationships for intimacy or even sexual encounters for intimacy, he is mistaken in thinking that carnal emotions, fleshly manifestations, mindless ecstasy and altered states are intimacy with God.

The question now becomes, which God are we to chase? Is it the pantheistic God who is in every atom and every particle – both glue and pieces? Or is it the God who is an actor playing three roles or modes? Or is it the God who delights in knocking His people around and then stacking them like cordwood along the walls? Is it the God who makes His people staggering drunk acting like idiots? Is it the God who delights in being a house wrecker? What is it that people are catching?


Someone might ask, "Isn't chasing God the same as seeking Him? Are we not told to seek Him?" The answer is that they are not the same. The above description by Tenney makes that abundantly clear. Tenney certainly goes far beyond the Bible in his teachings.

We seek God because we know Him and have Him in our lives, not because we are trying to catch Him. Seeking Him in Scripture means to seek His blessing, among other things. The difference may elude some.

One of the Hebrew words for seek is baqas. It is used throughout the Old Testament about 220 times. It means to seek, search or consult. Seeking God's face in prayer does not mean trying to find Him but simply inquiring of and consulting Him. It also can mean to accomplish a plan or pursue such things as wisdom. W.E. Vine speaks of baqas and explains:

"Theologically, this verb can be used not only 'to seek' a location before the Lord (to stand before Him in the temple and seek to secure His blessing), but it may also be used of a state of mind: 'But if from thence thou shall seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him [daras] with all thy heart and with all thy soul' (Deut. 4:29)."54

The other Hebrew word daras, used 160 times, like baqas (and is often synonymous or parallel) means to seek, inquire, consult, ask, or require. It does not involve spiritual gymnastics, thrills, chills, emotional orgies or strange manifestations. Vine again says:

"This word is often used to describe the 'seeking of' the Lord in the sense of entering into covenental relationship with Him. The prophets often used daras as they called on the people to make an about–face in living and instead 'seek ye the Lord while he may be found...' (Isa. 55:6)."55

Thus Vine shows that seeking the Lord may also mean repentance and confession of sin.

So prayer, petition, intercession, calling on God for wisdom and grace, and especially repentance are all seen as "seeking God." This we can do because He is there for us and with us. Christ is in us as our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) and is our Emmanuel. God is with us. We are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9–10).

Even the panting or thirsting after God in Psalm 42:1 cannot be twisted to fit the Tenney mold. The context is clear that the Psalmist was longing for the house of God – God's sanctuary. The writer did not conclude, "Now let me fall on the floor and convulse uncontrollably as I chase God."

As Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch explain:

"The composer ... finds himself, against his will, at a great distance from the sanctuary on Zion, the resting–place of the divine presence and manifestation, surrounded by an ungodly people, who mock at him as one forsaken of God, and he comforts his sorrowful soul, looking longingly back upon that which it has lost, with the prospect of God's help which will soon appear. ... David's yearning after the house of God in Ps. xxiii., xxvi., lv., lxiii., finds its echo here. ... The spot where this God reveals Himself to him who seeks Him is the sanctuary on Zion."56

God has now revealed Himself and is tabernacled in Christ. The frenzied mayhem and pandemonium described by Tenney just does not fit the biblical picture. Tenney's activity sounds more like the desperate out–of–control prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:26–29).


The fanfare being generated by the popularity of Tenney's books, with their blatant misuse and denigration of Scripture, points up that the Church at large has imbibed a postmodern trend that developed in the 1960s called deconstructionism. The new prophets are marked by this. Deborah Lipstadt explains this emerging trend and its disregard for history and context:

"Various scholars began to argue that texts had no fixed meaning. The reader's interpretation, not the author's intention, determined meaning. ... it opened the doors of the academy, and of society at large, to an array of farfetched notions that could no longer be dismissed out of hand simply because they were absurd. ... it also fostered an atmosphere in which it became harder to say that an idea was beyond the pale of rational thought. ... This relativistic approach to the truth has permeated the arena of popular culture, where there is an increasing fascination with, and acceptance of, the irrational."57

Tenney can be commended for wanting to see cities repent as did Nineveh,58 but it is doubtful this will happen if people make fools of themselves and are out–of–control. What Tenney calls "old love letters" is the very thing that God wants to use to bring men to repentance. The Gospel is God's means of bringing men to faith. Paul calls it the "power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16–17, 10:17).

Having laid aside the "old love letters," Tenney thinks that God can be coaxed and coerced by our intensity and by ganging up:

"I believe that when the conglomerate prayers of God's people gather together and finally reach a crescendo of power, hunger, and intensity, it finally gets to be 'too much' for God to delay any longer. At that point He finally says, 'That's it. I won't wait any longer. It is time!'"59

So it appears it is a matter of just wearing God down. This, however, does not fit the model of Jonah and Nineveh in any respect. It was a reluctant Jonah and a Sovereign God in that event. God had to "coerce" Jonah, not the opposite.

In spite of Tenney's disclaimer,60 his disrespect of Scripture shows through repeatedly. He says of the New Testament believers:

"They didn't even have the Old Testament Scriptures because those expensive scrolls were locked up in synagogues. The only Scriptures they 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 pore over dusty love letters that were written long ago. They had God's love notes freshly written on their hearts."61

Nothing could be more misleading or further from the truth. George Mackie corrects the Tenney distortion in his Bible Manners and Customs:

"Children are sent to school almost in infancy, and remained till the twelfth or thirteenth year. ... The school among the Jews is called 'the house of the book' – that is the Bible, especially the Pentateuch. In the reading of the Bible and the Jewish Prayer–book a knowledge of manuscript Hebrew writing is also taught."62

So Jewish children had biblical instruction all through the week at school, in the synagogue on the Sabbath and from parents at home during the off hours. On the feast days, biblical history was drilled into their minds. They took seriously Psalm 1:2 and delighted in and meditated upon God's Word. They had Scriptures on their door post (in a mezuzah) and at other times wore it on their forehead and arms (in their phylacteries).63

Alfred Edersheim says:

"The familiarity from earliest childhood with the Scriptures in the Hebrew original also explains how at the age of twelve Jesus could be found 'in the Temple; sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.'"64

The early Church in Jerusalem was composed of virtually all Jewish believers who were steeped in the Old Testament, as can be seen in the recorded messages of Peter and Paul in the Book of Acts. Paul reminded Timothy: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14–15).

New Testament believers continued in the Apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42) and were very familiar with the writings of Peter and Paul (2 Peter 3:15–16). They did not rely on faulty memories but had deep respect and high regard for what Tenney calls dusty love letters. In Acts 17, the Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (v. 11).

Gentile believers had the Old Testament in a Greek version called the Septuagint, so Tenney is totally wrong in suggesting they did not. Paul relied heavily on that translation as he preached in Gentile cities.

David exclaimed: "For you have magnified your word above all Your name" (Psalm 138:2). We cannot make a false dichotomy between God and His Word as if they are opposed to one another. Love for God is love for His Word. Intimacy with God is intimacy with His Word. Obedience to God is obedience to His Word. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). When two people are in love, they relish reading one another's correspondence.


Tenney also endorses spiritual staking, which is described as going around the perimeters of a city and hammering literal stakes into the ground. Somehow, this drives out demons and wins the city.65 This staking of cities, according to Tenney, is "bold acts of outright aggression without apology or hesitation. We're telling the devil, 'We have declared this before God, and now we are telling you, "We will take the city!"'"66 This all came to Tenney through a "stirring of the Lord" in California.67 He realized that during the Gold Rush, men would stake a claim. So, by deduction, this was God's Word to Tenney for the new staking procedure. Since that time there have been no major cities won for Christ.

Tenney suggests a new form of evangelism called "presence evangelism."68 This is yet another mystical happening where one is so saturated with the "residue of God" that it "creates a divine radiation zone of the manifest presence of God, so much so that it affects those around you."69

Through this residue of God we will be doing even more than Jesus was able to do. Tenney claims, "He wants to finish what He was unable to start in Nazareth when He said, 'This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears' (Lk. 4:21b)."70 People around you will be profoundly revolutionized by the residue, "we won't have to beg people to come to the Lord in repentance. They will run to the altar when His glory breaks their bondage (and they can't come any other way!),"71 Tenney maintains.

Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20), which is evangelism, is still the biblical way to reach others.


Like many other hyper–Charismatic teachers and leaders, Tenney finds signs and direction in all kinds of mundane things. A weatherman in California triggered a prophetic message in Tenney:

"As I prepared for the meeting that night, I listened to the local news and heard the weatherman in Los Angeles say something that struck a prophetic nerve in me. He said, 'This is not the last storm. Actually, they are stacking up out in the Pacific like waves, one against another.' Then he added, 'They're just going to keep coming,' and explained that the source of those waves of rain was El Niño. El Niño in Spanish means 'the babe' and is used to refer to the babe of Bethlehem! That weatherman didn't realize that he was prophesying, but he was talking about the 'Christ child,' the Source of all the waves of glory about to sweep over the planet."72

Tenney works his imagination overtime on omens. Richard Kennedy defines them:

"Signs which are believed to signal good or bad events to come. The practices of magic and divination rely heavily on the interpretation of omens."73


Tenney tries to make the Scripture say things it does not say or teach. Using Exodus 33:17–18, 20, Tenney insists, "Dead Men See His Face – The secret path to His presence."74

When God said: "You cannot see my face; for no man can see me and live," He was speaking of His pure essence and being. Tenney, on the other hand, sets forth an elaborate narrative of Moses and his quest to see God's glory:

"We need to look closely at the 1,500–year pursuit of God's glory by the ancient patriarch, Moses. As we noted earlier in Chapter 4, when Moses told God, 'Show me Your glory,' the Lord said, 'You can't, Moses. Only dead men can see My face.' ... That God–birthed prayer from Moses' heart was an eternal thing that knew no limits in time. It didn't die the day Moses took his last breath on earth; it continued to echo through the throne room of God until the moment that prayer was granted."75

When, according to Tenney, was Moses' prayer finally answered? At the Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28–34). Tenney's outlandish tale continues:

"In that moment [at the Transfiguration], it is as if He said, 'Okay now, Michael, Gabriel (the two archangels), go get Moses. It is time for him to see My glory now.' In the halls of Heaven they dusted off Jacob's ladder and extended it to the earth and Moses walked down to a place where he'd never been before – the promised land of his people. ... On this day, 1,500 years after his death, after the unforgettable prayer of Moses had echoed in God's ears unceasingly day after day, Moses 'the dead man walking' saw the glory of God unveiled."76

All this angelic activity is a figment of Tenney's fertile mind. Moreover, Tenney misses on two points here. Moses did not see the "face of God" or the pure essence of God but a brief appearance of a glorified Christ in His coming kingdom.

Charles Ryrie writes, "The transfiguration gave the three disciples a preview of Jesus' future exaltation and the coming kingdom. The Lord was seen in His body of glory."77

Secondly, Moses was not called there because of a prior prayer and there is nothing in the text to support Tenney's wild scenario. Greek scholar and exegete Randolph O. Yeager comments:

"Jesus Christ is the Righteousness of God incarnate in human flesh. Before He came He was foretold by both the law and the prophets. Moses, a representative of the law and Elias, a representative of the prophets, now appear with Him of Whom they witnessed in former days."78

The Transfiguration was a revelation of the glory of the Son of God and His kingdom, now confirming what the Law (signified by Moses) and the Prophets (signified by Elijah) had proclaimed centuries earlier.

When the Apostle Peter looks back to the Transfiguration (and he was there), he says nothing about the "face of God" but rather points to the Word of God. Peter states that after his preview encounter of the power and coming of the Lord and witnessing the power, majesty and glory of Christ (2 Peter 1:16–17), he still did not rely or want his hearers to rely on experiences. He forcefully states: "We have the prophetic word made more sure to which you do well to pay attention as a lamp shining in a dark place" (v. 19). Peter says we must opt for the Word over the experience.

In all of this, Tenney has no idea where his teaching leads:

"God is out to redefine the Church. He is sending His fire to burn away everything that isn't from Him anyway, so you have nothing to lose...but your flesh. ... 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. ... We can take the risk of something dying in us as we dare to draw close to His glory, or we can turn and run back to our traditions of men and the safety of religious legalism and man–operated church services. Seeker–friendly is fine; Spirit–friendly is fire!"79

Tenney has stacked the deck here. Apparently, if it is not his way, it must be "tradition" or "legalism" or "man–operated." In reality, there are options between these extremes.

Tenney says the Church "will look very different" but offers no definitive word on what or how. The truth is we have all that we need regarding how the Church should look in the definitive commands and structure for Church life as found throughout Paul's Epistles. To depart from that stated structure would be as serious as the Old Testament people constructing God's Tabernacle any way they pleased.

He also misses all that we have in our position in Christ. He has missed Paul's words, "But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul's words apply to all, not just some special spiritual elite called "God chasers." All we need to see and know about God has been given us in the Savior.

We are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and Paul further states, "For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Tenney is selling the Church short in his quest for Spirit–friendly fire!


If the Church continues to go down the road of distorted Bible interpretation, mysticism, esoteric experiences, neo–gnosticism and fleshly experiments, we know where it will all lead and how the Church will look. The Church will be turned from truth to fables (2 Timothy 4:4) and be led into more error and confusion. It will chase myths and weird revelations. It will look more and more cultic being driven by every wind of false doctrine. It will not look like Christ or Christianity but be a distorted image reflecting only the latest revelations of the new prophets and apostles or the latest "new truth" from its deceived leaders. We can know for sure what the Church will look like, because its growing deformity is already very obvious. What is being "birthed" by the new prophets is a deformed and grotesque offspring. God help us not to chase myths and human ideas about God but to "chase" after truth as revealed in God's unchanging Word of truth.

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, did not escape the judgment of God when they offered "strange fire" on the sacrificial altar (Leviticus 10:1–2). God had dictated a specific way and His words were to be followed and obeyed. The sons of Aaron did not conform to God's stated will and directives. Departure from the Word of God was disaster and death. They did not need "now–words"; they needed obedience to revealed truth. They ignored the "old paw prints" and were devoured by the roaring lion.

Remember, too, that Nadab and Abihu were "God–catchers" and had seen the glory of God, the sapphire stones, and heaven along with Moses and Aaron (Exodus 24:9–11). They chose to ignore God's Word and were judged with death. Ongoing obedience to God's stated Word is what was and is needed.

Adam Clarke observes:

"In the preceding chapter [Leviticus 9] we have seen how God intended that every part of his service should be conducted; and that every sacrifice might be acceptable to him, he sent his own fire as the emblem of his presence, and the means of consuming the sacrifice. – Here we find Aaron's sons neglecting the Divine ordinance, ... Every part of the religion of God is Divine. He alone knew what he designed by its rites and ceremonies, ... He therefore who altered any part of this representative system, who omitted or added any thing, assumed a prerogative which belonged to God alone, and was certainly guilty of a very high offense against the wisdom, justice, and righteousness of his Maker."80

What Tenney describes as "putting God in a box," God calls obedience. It should be pointed out that God put Himself on a box when His dwelt in the Holy of Holies on the Ark of the Covenant. God today dwells in Christ because He can put Himself wherever He chooses. Our task is to obey Him and live dedicated lives. God has chosen to live within us which should evoke our praise and gratitude.

Tenney may induce some people to seek God and that could be a good thing. However, if his teaching as a whole is followed, it could hurtle some into an endless seeking of emotional highs and ecstatic and bizarre experiences.

It should not go without notice that another of Tenney's books is called God's Dream Team. Dreams are not reality and some dreams turn to nightmares. Concocting any practices not prescribed or directed by God's Word and will is dangerous. "Chasing God," as Tenney outlines it, is "strange fire."

Consider the words of Jesus, "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

God invites us not to whip up human frenzies and strange fire but just to come to Him and come boldly to His throne of grace:

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need" (Hebrews 4:14–16).

There is a torn veil, there is an open heaven and an open Book. There is a throne of grace and there is a God who is available. Faith, trust, prayer, dependence keep us always in His Presence (Psalm 139). We have been "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). We do not have to chase what we already have.


1. Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers. Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image Publishers, 1998, pg. 15.
2. J. Lee Grady, "Who Is This 'God Chaser'?," Charisma, March 2000, pg. 55.
3. Tommy Tenney, God's Favorite House. Shippensburg, Pa.: Fresh Bread, Destiny Image Publishers, 1999, pg. 1.
4. The God Chasers, op. cit., back cover.
5. Phone conversation with author and former Assembly of God church (support) staff member, Jan. 30, 2001.
6. Uwe Seimon Netto, The Fabricated Luther. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995, pg. 140.
7. Tommy Tenney, The God Catchers. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, pp. 49–50.
8. Matthew Klam, "Experiencing Ecstasy," The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 21, 2001, pg. 42.
9. The God Chasers, op. cit., pp. 2–3.
10. Tricia Tillin, "The Doctrine of Demons, Part Two: The Overshadowing," Cross + Word web site, emphasis in original. Document available at:
11. Ibid., emphasis in original.
12. The God Chasers, op. cit., pg. 36.
13. Norman L. Geisler, Baker's Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999, pg. 580.
14. William Evans, Great Doctrines of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, pg. 33, italic in original.
15. Robert Liichow, "A Very Close Look At The 'God Chasers'," Truth Matters, Vol. 5, Issue 3, March 2000, pg. 1, underlining and bold in original.
16. See further, Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1910, Vol. 3, pp. 651–653.
17. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, Vol. 1, pg. 452.
18. Robert Morey, The Trinity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: World Publishing, 1996, pg. 515.
19. Walter Bjorck and James Bjornstad, "Jesus Only: A Neo–Modalistic Interpretation of the Trinity," Institute of Contemporary Christianity newsletter, January–March 1981, pg. 1.
20. "A Very Close Look At The 'God Chasers'," op. cit., pg. 1.
21. "Who Is This 'God Chaser'?," op. cit., pg. 55.
22. Ibid.
23. See further, Everett F. Harrison, editor, Baker's Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1973, "Sabellianism," pg. 465.
24. God's Favorite House, op. cit., pg. 128, italics in original.
25. Bill Randles, "The God Chasers – Beyond Toronto & Pensacola," Media Spotlight, Vol. 23, No. 3, pg. 11, italics in original.
26. Norman L. Geisler, foreword in Arthur Johnson, Faith Misguided – Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988, pg. 9.
27. Ibid., pg. 11.
28. The God Chasers, op. cit., Introduction. For information on Madame Guyon, see, G. Richard Fisher, "The Mindless Mysticism of Madame Guyon," The Quarterly Journal, January–March 1997, pp. 4, 12–15.
29. Arthur J. Clement, Pentecost or Pretense? Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1981, pp. 23–24.
30. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 1, pg. 103.
31. God's Favorite House, op. cit., pg. 40.
32. Ibid., pg. 39.
33. Ibid., pp. 63–64.
34. The God Chasers, op. cit., Introduction.
35. God's Favorite House, op. cit., pg. 149.
36. Jay Adams, Christian Living in the World. Woodruff, S.C.: Timeless Texts, 1998, pp. 83–84.
37. Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1949, pg. 381.
38. W.H. Griffith Thomas, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. Eerdmans Publishers, 1962, pg. 277.
39. The God Chasers, op. cit., Introduction.
40. Ibid.
41. Ibid., pg. 33, italics in original.
42. God's Favorite House, op. cit., pg. 147, italics and bold in original.
43. Ibid., pg. 101.
44. The God Catchers, op. cit., pp. 7–9.
45. Ibid., pg. 9.
46. Ibid., pg. 14.
47. The God Chasers, op. cit., pg. 6.
48. Ibid., pg. 7, italics in original.
49. Ibid., pg. 16.
50. Ibid., pg. 8.
51. Ibid., pg. 9.
52. God's Favorite House, op. cit., pg. 90.
53. Ibid., pg. 95.
54. W.E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, pg. 220.
55. Ibid., pg. 221.
56. Johann Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William Eerdmans Publishing, 1984, Vol. 5, pp. 53, 56.
57. Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust. New York: Free Press, Macmillan, 1993, pp. 18–19.
58. The God Chasers, op. cit., pg. 56.
59. Ibid., pg. 52.
60. Ibid., pg. 81.
61. Ibid., pg. 74, italics in original.
62. George Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, no date, pg. 154.
63. See further, Nathan Ausubel, The Book of Jewish Knowledge. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1964, pp. 290–291; 458–459.
64. Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972, pg. 119.
65. The God Chasers, op. cit., pp. 102–105.
66. Ibid., pg. 105.
67. Ibid., pg. 103.
68. Ibid., pg. 114.
69. Ibid., italics in original.
70. Ibid., pg. 115.
71. Ibid., pg. 116.
72. Ibid., pp. 109–110, italics in original.
73. Richard Kennedy, The International Dictionary of Religion. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1984, pg. 134, italics in original.
74. The God Chasers, op. cit. This is the title and subtitle of Chapter Four and is the premise set forth in the chapter.
75. Ibid., pp. 139, 144.
76. Ibid., pg. 146, italics in original.
77. Charles Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1976, note on Matthew 17:2, pg. 1475.
78. Randolph O. Yeager, The Renaissance New Testament. Bowling Green, Ky.: Renaissance Press, Inc., 1977, Vol. 2, pg. 574.
79. The God Chasers, op. cit., pp. 149–150, italics in original.
80. Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York: Abingdon Press, no date, Vol. 1., pg. 537, italics in original.


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