I read a poster advertising that Dr Cho Yonggi will be speaking at a mass rally in the indoor stadium from April 19–21, 2000. Can you tell us something about him?

Dr Paul (David) Cho Yonggi is the senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea, which is no doubt the largest professedly Christian church in the world, with over 730,000 members. Apparently converted from Buddhism in his teens, Cho started his church in 1958 with about 5 members. According to him, he was called to preach by Jesus Christ, who appeared to him personally dressed as a fireman (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, s.v. "Cho, Paul Yonggi" by Dwight J. Wilson). In any case, the congregation grew rapidly, and soon, he became a much sought-after speaker. In 1976, Cho founded the Church Growth International (CGI) as a forum for promoting his principles of church growth. Participants in CGI seminars numbered 6.8 million. Cho was conferred honorary doctorates by the Bethany Bible College (California); California Graduate School of Theology; Oral Roberts University (Oklahoma); and Regent University (Virginia). He also has an active television, radio and newspaper ministry; and has authored over a hundred books.

Many will no doubt flock to hear him when he comes to Singapore. They will return testifying of how much they have been blessed by this man of prayer, whose sermons are well supported by Scriptures and who loves the Lord Jesus Christ so much that His name is constantly on his lips. Someone who prays so fervently, knows the Scripture so well, loves the Lord, and is so greatly used of God cannot be very wrong. To criticise him would surely be to touch the Lord’s anointed out of a spirit of jealousy and pride.

But is this man really used of God as it appears? Does he faithfully expound the Scriptures? Does he pray as we are taught in the Scriptures? I am afraid not, and I hope to show it very briefly according to the admonition of the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:17–18:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

The cornerstone and distinguishing mark of Cho’s theology is no doubt the doctrine of "The Fourth Dimension," which is explained in his book bearing the same title and published in two volumes by Bridge-Logos Publishers (New Jersey), 1979 [reprinted 1999] and 1983. Essentially, this doctrine teaches that man can not only interact in three-dimensional space but, since there is a spiritual realm and man has a soul, he can also manipulate what happens in the spiritual or fourth dimension. And since, according to Cho, whatever happens in three-dimensional space has its genesis, and is influenced by forces, in the fourth dimension, Christians who learn to manipulate the fourth dimension can create any desired objects or circumstance in three-dimensional space. This manipulation is accomplished by prayer, positive thinking, visualisation and dreams (see vol. 1, pp. 25–29).

According to Cho, he first learned this principle when as poor young minister he begun praying for a desk, a chair and a bicycle. The prayer was not answered for several months, until one day, he asked the "Spirit": "Where is my desk, chair and bicycle?" The "Spirit" answered:

Yes, that is the trouble with you, and with all my children. They beg me, demanding every kind of request, but they ask in such vague terms that I can’t answer. Don’t you know that there are dozens of kinds of desks, chairs and bicycles? But you’ve simply asked me for a desk, chair and bicycle. You never ordered a specific desk, chair or bicycle? (vo1. 1, p. 4).

From then on, Cho "ordered these things in such articulate terms that God could not make a mistake in delivering them" (ibid., pp. 4–5). After several weeks (or month or years?) of "incubation," he finally had his Filipino Mahogany desk, American bicycle and roller tipped chair.

This same principle was later applied to praying for $5 million dollars for his church building and also for 50,000 members. They all incubated in him until they became reality (ibid., pp. 17–18)!

What is the "theological basis" of his experience? Let’s hear it in his own words: 

  • There are three spiritual forces in the earth. The spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the spirit of Satan…. All three spirits are in the realm of the fourth dimension, so naturally spirits can hover over the material third dimension and exercise creative powers (vol. 2, p. 38).
  • God spoke to my heart, "… the third dimension includes and controls the second dimension, so the fourth includes and controls the third dimension, producing a creation of order and beauty" (vol. 1, p. 28).
  • The only way to carry out dominion over this third dimension material world is through your imagination, your visions and dreams (vol. 1, p. 42).
  • Through visualisation and dreaming you can incubate your future and hatch the results (vol. 1, p. 32).
  • We should always try to visualise the end result as we pray. In that way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can incubate that which we want God to do for us…. If you have not visualise clearly in your heart exactly what you hope for, it cannot become a reality to you… (vol. 2, pp. 25, 26, 28).
  • So men, by exploring their spiritual sphere of the fourth dimension through the development of concentrated visions and dreams in their imagination, can brood over and incubate the third dimension, influencing and changing it. This is what the Holy Spirit taught me (vol. 1, p. 28).
If all these sound occultic or New Age, they are! Cho frankly admits it! And he claims that it was the Holy Spirit who instructed him to make use of the occult power:

The Holy Spirit said, "My son, man still does not realise the spiritual power that I have given him." "Yes," I said, realising what God was referring to…. False prophets had power in the realm of the spirit because they had come to realise their potential (vol. 2, p. 38).

Hank Hanegraaff, in Christianity in Crisis (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), declares that Cho’s concept of fourth-dimension is "nothing short of occultism" and is a "departure from historic Christian theology and his entry into the world of the occult" (p. 353). He summarises this departure very well:

Cho is well aware that pagan religions harness this power. He claims that God told him that Buddhist and Yoga adherents work miracle cures because they, unlike their Christian counterparts, had more fully developed their fourth-dimensional powers. Referring to the Buddhist version of a "name-it-and-claim-it" cult called Soka Gakkai, Cho says that while they belong to Satan, their fourth-dimensional acumen has provided them with dominion over their bodies and circumstance. By "repeating phrases over and over again… these people are creating something" and performing "miracles," says Cho. "But if the devil could do these things, why should not the Church of Jesus Christ do all the more" (pp. 82–83, with reference to The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1, pp. 25–29, 1.48, 1.26).

Cho claims repeatedly that the doctrine of the fourth dimension is taught to him by the "Holy Spirit." If that is the case, it appears to me that that cannot be the same Spirit who said:

There shall not be found among you… that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God (Deut 18:10–13).

Cho may claim: "We harness the Holy Spirit’s power, not the power of Satan!", but where are we specifically taught in the Scriptures that we are to harness the power of the Holy Spirit by occultic methods? And did not the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write: "What concord hath Christ with Belial?… And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor 6:15–16)? Where in the Scriptures do we find the glorious and omnipotent Holy Spirit presented as some sort of a semi-divine Santa Claus who is unable to deliver one’s wishes unless the specifications are precise and complete? Did not the Lord say,

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt 6:32–34).

Somehow visualising and brooding over to incubate some material things yearned for does not agree with our Lord’s teaching.

It is not surprising therefore that in the doctrinal statement of the Yiodo Full Gospel Church (which must have been penned by Cho or his assistants), in which it is claimed that the church teaches a fivefold Gospel, the doctrine of substitutionary and propitiatory atonement of Christ is not mentioned at all. Instead we are told:

The reason Christ lived in such poverty while on this earth was so that we could live well and to remove us from the law of the curse [sic]. If we do not claim our rightful blessings as children of God, we are wasting the life of poverty which Christ led while on earth (under §4.2 "Redemption on the Cross and Blessing").

It seems to me that the closest the doctrinal statement got to the orthodox justification by grace through faith is the statement under §1.1, "The Way to Regeneration," in which it is asserted:

As was prophesied, Jesus Christ became the living sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. Salvation made available through the suffering and the death of Jesus on the cross has four meanings. First, the suffering and the death on the cross shows man the result of the sin of man (Isaiah 53:5). Second, it shows mankind the extent to which God loves the mankind (Romans 5:8). Third, it shows mankind the true value of each man (Matthew 16:26). Fourth, it shows mankind the cost of reconciliation (Isaiah 53:6).

I believe even Arminians would shy away from this universalistic and powerless concept of atonement. It is hard to believe that the "Jesus Christ" of Cho is the Son of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps this is why, the "Jesus" of Cho is helpless without man, and must be controlled by Cho’s visualisation technique:

You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth. If you speak about salvation, the saving Jesus appears. If you speak about divine healing, then you will have the healing Christ in your congregation. If you speak the miracle performing Jesus, then the presence of the miracle performing Jesus is released. He is bound by your lips and by your words. He is depending on you (The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1, pp. 64–65).

This is just a tip of the ice-berg of Cho’s heretical theology. I have no doubt that Cho’s gospel is "another gospel: which is not another" (Gal 1:6–7). Cho is a pseudo-Christian syncretistic health and wealth, "name-it-and-claim-it" advocate. Let Christians beware!