Don Matzat

General Teachings/Activities

-  Until October of 1998, Lutheran pastor Don Matzat (LCMS) was the host of "Issues, Etc.," a daily three-hour radio talk show originating via satellite on the Missouri Synod's St. Louis Jubilee Network. An LCMS pastor for over 25 years, Matzat left Messiah Lutheran in St. Louis in 1991 to give full-time effort to the daily program. (It is now heard on approximately 100 radio stations nationwide, but is hosted by Todd Wilken, also a former LCMS pastor.) Matzat left to accept a position at WORD-FM in Pittsburgh, but still hosts the Sunday evening "Issues, Etc." edition, a three-hour nationally broadcast program. His guests include a Who's Who in neo-evangelicalism

-  Matzat, like standard LCMS teaching, believes that even infant baptism saves [the false gospel of baptismal regeneration]: "I have on numerous occasions discussed if not debated the subject of infant Baptism with callers on my daily radio program. The scenario is always the same. The opponent of infant Baptism is put off by the fact that we teach and confess that an infant can become a believing Christian by God's grace through Baptism. ... " In a 2004 article posted to the Issues, Etc. website, Matzat reaffirms the false doctrine that baptism saves: "In Romans 6, the power of baptism ... is the answer to the sins that plague Christians."

-  Matzat is best known as the author of the 1990 book, Christ-Esteem, which is an attempt to answer the current teachings of self-esteem brought into the church by humanistic psychology. In actuality, Matzat teaches some of the very concepts of humanistic psychology he claims to oppose, only dressed-up in Christian garb. We, therefore, contend that Don Matzat is a "religious humanist," and believe the information in this report establishes that contention.

-  One should, thereby, not be fooled by Matzat's alternative to self-esteem -- Christ-Esteem. It's the same old humanism papered over with lots of "God talk," a substitution of the word "self" with the name of Christ, and then called the "Christian" view of self. There is no better example of this form of disguised humanism than the chapter Matzat wrote in the 1992 Michael Horton-edited book, Power Religion ("A Better Way: Christ Is My Worth," pp. 245-261).

Terminology such as "Christ is my worth" is typical of this substitutionary process. But rather than emphasizing the teachings of the Josh McDowell's of the world (that "I have inherent worth, and that's why Christ died for me"), Matzat usually doesn't begin the "worth-talk" until salvation, as if Christ zaps His children with value at that moment. It is still religious humanism, and it's still a psychological integrationist position. (See pp. 258-261 of Power Religion for Matzat's own words that his "better way" is to integrate the Bible with psychology, that Christianity is not at odds with the "science" of psychology, and that psychology can help with "deep emotional" problems.): (All emphases below are added.)

(a) "... every person possesses dignity and value as an image-bearer of God" (p. 248). [We don't find this anywhere in the Bible].

(b) "The State of California correctly recognized the problem [of low self-esteem], but did not understand it deeply enough to provide a sufficient solution" (p. 248). [The California study has been thoroughly discredited. Besides, the Bible tells us that high self-esteem is man's problem, not low self-esteem.]

(c) "Before the doctrine of self-esteem became a buzzword and point of controversy among Christians, the necessity for self-confidence and a positive self-image in the arena of normal, daily human activity was taken for granted [Taken for granted by the world, not by God as revealed in His Word!] ... It has never been considered inappropriate for Christians, any more than for non-Christians, to encourage their children or boost their self-esteem in this way" (p. 248).

(d) "On one side are those who argue that any inculcation of a positive self-image is idolatry, whereas others insist that this is the gospel. Rather, we ought to argue that positive thinking on the purely human level is an altogether different matter than positive evaluations of our moral worth before God" (p. 249). [No, it's still pride!]

(e) "... psychology is a science ... psychology can collect observable data, but it cannot offer any insight into the ultimate questions" (p. 250). [A group of 10-year olds can collect observable data, but that does not constitute science -- the greatest philosophers of science in the world confirm that psychology is not science.]

(f) "... we feel compelled to affirm the basic human value of individuals. ... We feel uneasy giving unequivocal support to the idea of self-esteem (even before man), but we cannot believe 'worm theology' any longer, so we steer a middle course. What I am suggesting is that we resist that temptation, [but still] affirming the full dignity, self-worth, and grandeur of humans as created in the image of God, encouraging our children in their self-image, and at the same time pointing out the fact that before God, because of our sinfulness, we are worthy only of condemnation apart from Christ's worth" (p. 252). [This is religious humanistic psychobabble.]

(g) "We do not lose our identity when we become Christians. Although we have become 'new creations' in Christ, we are nevertheless still the same people in terms of personality and physical, emotional, and psychological characteristics. It is not the obliteration of personal identity to which the gospel calls us but to the realization that our worth and merit before God come to us from outside, not from within, as a gift, a charitable donation" (p. 258). [Where in the Bible does Matzat get this concept of "worth-zapping" at salvation?]

(h) "The secular doctrine of self-esteem is a feeble alternative to the truth of justification" (p. 259). [How about the so-called "Christian" doctrine of self-esteem taught by Matzat in Christ-Esteem? -- it's equally feeble.]

(i) "In Christ we are already seated in heavenly places. In Him we have a solid, weighty, and positive identity that constantly raises our minds from the passing assurances and positive platitudes of this world to the heavens where we hear the promise of One who has issued us with these 'new papers.'" (p. 259). [Again, this is false concept of value being imputed at salvation.]

(j) "That does not mean, however, that Christianity is at odds with psychology as a social science any more than it is at odds with physics. [False analogy.] It is when psychology dons the theologian's gown or the pastor's robe that it becomes a rival. When it usurps the authority reserved for revelation ... makes itself into a rival religion" (p. 259). [Because psychology as "social science" claims to have the answers to who man is, how he should live, and how he can change, it has already "donned" the theologian's gown; psychology is a false religious system!]

(k) "... emotional problems related to multiple personalities or a severe depressive condition" (p. 260). ["Multiple personality" theory is, at best, confused and controversial -- apparently, Matzat hasn't read the research -- see The Harvard Mental Health Letter of 9/93.]

(l) "Therefore, a Christian need not feel guilty about seeing a psychologist about a sleeping disorder ... psychologists transgress their competence when they address issues such as guilt and forgiveness" (p. 260). [But this is exactly what they do when they address the causes and remedies of the so-called physical "disorder"! -- the "counsel" of a non-psychiatric medical doctor would suffice.]

(m) "... biblical revelation must have the final say in relation to the Christian's use of psychology. ... psychological insights must always be scrutinized by Scripture before they are allowed to pass into Christian use, especially when that science [psychology is not science!] touches on so many issues addressed by Scripture" (p. 260). [This is the old "psychology is okay if screened through Scripture"/"All Truth is God's Truth" routine, and is apparently the same reasoning used by Matzat as he supposedly "scrutinized by Scripture" Victor Frankl's "insights" from logotherapy (see Christ-Esteem critique). Is Matzat ignorant of the fact that psychology is a false religious system? Would Matzat be willing to use Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, etc. "insights" as long as they were "scrutinized by Scripture"?]

(n) "The fact that psychology, as a social science, is committed to producing good, moral, and responsible people[!] does not make it an enemy of Christianity, but ... the fact that I am a miserable sinner before God whose only ethical worth and acceptance is the gift of someone else (viz., Christ) does not mean that I cannot maintain a sense of self-confidence and self-worth in my work, in my relationships, and in society. ... we do have the worth and value of Christ assigned to us" (p. 260). [A classic example of the religious humanism being passed-off by psychological integrationists today.]

(o) "Thus, the 'better way' is to steer a middle course between those, on the one hand, who would reject psychology altogether as a legitimate discipline [but it's a false religious system!] in the kingdom of nature, and those, on the other hand, who would give psychology a partnership in the kingdom of grace" (p. 261). [i.e., according to Matzat, "the better way" is to integrate!!]

-  Don Matzat says of Gary Collins' pro-psychology arguments in Can You Trust Psychology?:

"Collins falls into the same trap that ensnares many who look to psychology as a means for changing lives and developing character. Accepting the form of Scripture as being the correct description of the quality of the Christian life, they ignore the substance or supernatural material of Christianity which is the life of Christ himself. Viewing Christian growth as being the positive development of the human personality into 'Christlikeness,' they feel justified to borrow from the techniques of psychology to accomplish that end. So they boast, 'we can help produce Christian people!' While they acknowledge the 'what' of Christian living, they ignore the 'how.' They therefore end up with what St. Paul calls 'the form of godliness,' and for all practical purpose, deny the power that produces it" (6/20/88, Christian News, "The Great Psychology Debate," p. 6). (Emphasis added.)

Does not Matzat do the very same thing of which he (rightly) accuses Collins? His infatuation with Frankl's logotherapy (see review of Christ-Esteem), his teachings on the humanistic concept of self-esteem, and his clear statements on the value of psychological integration is proof of this -- Don Matzat is a psychological integrationist and a religious humanist.

-  In Matzat's 1996 book published by Harvest House, The Lord Told Me, I Think, he demonstrates that he has not entirely left his charismatic roots. (Years ago, Matzat wrote an article for a Lutheran charismatic newsletter that supported the "doctrine" of speaking in tongues. He also writes about the charismatic movement fondly, describing the great financial success he had as a wandering tongue-speaker on the road.) Rather than the book taking aim at the foibles of the tongue-speakers, he has produced a book that actually supports charismatic peculiar and erroneous ways of thinking (i.e., that speaking in tongues is proof that the Holy Spirit is really at work); rather than being critical of the "inner Word" of charismatics, he is actually offering to serve as coach of the "inner Word," based on his own true life adventures. Here are four examples; Matzat writes in the typical style of charismatics who tune in to the Spirit, through their dreams and impulses, to take care of their problems: (Excerpted and/or adapted from the 7/8/96, Christian News, pp. 8-9; and from the 7/99, Think On These Things, review by Gary Gilley.)

(a) The book takes almost as mystical a view of God's leading as any Charismatic one would; Matzat just leaves out tongues and some of the extreme claims of revelations. Matzat takes the tired and misguided position that God gives personal leading and direction through circumstances, advice, hunches, feelings, prophetic words, visions, dreams, etc. (e.g., pp. 22-23, 69, 112, 119-128). 

(b) Over and over Matzat makes the unfounded claim that Scripture gives "clear commands and promises about being led by the Spirit" in personal decision making, and actually teaches us how to be led by Him (e.g. pp. 19, 24, 59, 113, 142, 149, 152). Scripture teaches no such thing. Yet every passage used by Matzat to prove his point is taken out of context. Matzat teaches: "For us to use subjective feelings to help discern the leading of the Holy Spirit is neither strange nor mystical" (p. 142). (But the Holy Spirit doesn't work though feelings, because feelings are not "a means of Grace." Satan is the one who works through our feelings and emotions.)

(c) Throughout the book, Matzat demonstrates the errors of those who take a more extreme position than he does: Kenneth Hagan (p. 33), Rodney Howard-Browne (p. 34), Benny Hinn (pp. 37-38). But their assertions are only different by degree from those of Matzat, not in essence. Matzat does not believe that Scripture is able to sit in judgment upon many of our experiences (pp. 52-56). He states, "When we evaluate our inner experience, we are always in the dimension of uncertainty. ... For this reason, when we declare the leading of the Spirit in our lives, we should say, 'The Lord told me, I think'" (p. 56, compare to pp. 60 & 69). Of what possible value is such nebulous, questionable leading? Matzat claims, without Scriptural support, that the early Christians trained their minds to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit, with the implication that we can do the same -- but of course he does not tell us how because the Bible never mentions this subject (pp. 59, 79, 177).

(d) Matzat tells of an episode (p. 124) in which his church's bookstore went $1,500 in debt from ordering too much stock. At a Bible study 50 miles away, a man said, "I had a dream last night that you were having financial problems and that I helped you out. I believe that could be the Holy Spirit. Here is a check [for $1,500]." Matzat concluded, "I believe that it was the Holy Spirit -- the Divine Director of the Body of Christ" (p. 125). The sad effect of such stories is to encourage people to trust in their dreams rather than in the Word of God.

-  Matzat believes that the Moslem's god is not a false god: "Because the Jew, the Turk, the Papist ... distort the knowledge of God does not mean that they have false gods. ... It is contrary to teach that those who do not believe the Gospel do not believe in the true God ... The Muslim God is also the true God." (Source: Matzat paper in response to the LCMS controversy over ADP Benke's participation in a prayer service with Moslem clergy in Yankee Stadium.)

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 1/2005