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Thousands of Christians gathered at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Nov. 1, to fast and pray in support of Proposition 8 — which would ban same-sex marriage.
“The Call” received support from prominent evangelical leaders like Dr. James Dobson (who spoke at the event) and from many Southern California churches — even though its list of organizers reads like a “Who’s Who” of the apostolic-prophetic movement. Well-known “apostles” and “prophets” behind the event include founder Lou Engle, C. Peter Wagner, Che Ahn, Rick Joyner, Bill Hamon, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Dutch Sheets and more. See the national board and advisory board.
What’s the problem with this? The apostolic-prophetic movement promotes modern-day “apostles” and “prophets” who claim to wield unlimited authority and give new doctrinal revelation in addition to Scripture. It’s teachings have historically been considered outside orthodox Christianity.
Why would mainstream evangelicals like Dr. Dobson, Michael W. Smith (Christian musician) and Steve Douglas (president of Campus Crusade) partner with this fringe movement? (See other prominent evangelicals here.) My guess — and hope — is that they aren’t aware of the organizers’ teachings. But in their zest to support marriage and family values, their participation gives the movement greater visibility and credibility in mainstream evangelicalism.
As a result, many Christians who never heard of Lou Engle or Cindy Jacobs or Dutch Sheets before are going to want to learn more about them, buy their books and attend their churches. Then they’re going to start being exposed to dangerous apostolic-prophetic teachings.
A long time ago, in a Roman land far away, there was an apostle named Paul from the city of Tarsus. Paul was sent to proclaim Jesus’ gospel to the Gentiles. And Paul was very protective of that gospel.
He got angry when anyone changed the content of the gospel. He even wrote a letter to the churches in Galatia, warning them: “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
Another time, Paul scolded the church in Corinth for putting up with so-called apostles who were teaching a different gospel:
For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. … For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
What was the gospel Paul preached? He stated it in clear terms to the church in Corinth, so there’d be no confusion:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you … by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word I preached to you … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.
Paul’s gospel was that Jesus came to save sinners.
The ‘Apostle’ C. Peter Wagner
Not so long ago, in a place not so far away — the city of Colorado Springs, Colo. — there is another “apostle” named C. Peter Wagner.
Wagner claims he, too, is sent by Jesus. Yet, Wagner’s gospel sounds very different than the one preached by the Apostle Paul. One day last January, Wagner shared his gospel with Christians at a conference in Denton, Texas:
“Jesus came to save that which was lost — literally the dominion that Adam gave up in the Garden of Eden is now being restored.”
And what was the dominion Wagner preached? He stated it in clear terms to the conference attendees, so there’d be no confusion:
Dominion has to do with control, dominion has to do with rulership, dominion has to do with authority and subduing — and it relates to society. … In other words, it’s talking about transforming society. Watch him here.
Wagner’s gospel is that Jesus came to give Christians dominion.
So, whose version of the gospel is right?
I just finished reading C. Peter Wagner’s new book, Apostles Today (Regal Books), and plan to comment on it in upcoming posts. In this book, like Wagner’s past books, he argues that modern “apostles” have an extraordinary amount of authority that Christians must submit to — or else be outside of God’s will.
Though I will address this teaching more in a future post, the reason I mention it now is because I recently saw a discussion board where people were praising the New Apostolic Reformation. Someone had posted a statement from my blog where I said that this movement promotes apostles with unquestioned authority and prophets who give new doctrinal revelation not found in Scripture. Someone responded and said my statement was untrue. Yet, my statement is true, and I will continue to show — from Wagner’s own writings and from other leaders in the movement — what they teach about modern “apostles” and “prophets.”
In this post, I want to briefly point out leaders of some well-known ministries who are members of Wagner’s “International Coalition of Apostles.” Many Christians may be surprised to learn of these leaders’ affiliation with Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. Their participation shows the movement’s growing influence in the church. Some notable members include:
Notable ICA Members
• Chris Hayward, president of “Cleansing Stream Ministries,” based in Van Nuys, Calif.
• Jane Hansen, president of “Aglow International,” based in Edmonds, Wash.
• Dick Eastman, international president of “Every Home for Christ,” based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
• Hal H. Sacks, founder and president of “BridgeBuilders International Leadership Network” in Phoenix, Ariz.
• Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, and Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications (publisher of seven Christian magazines, including Charisma).
Cleansing Stream Ministries
Cleansing Stream Ministries has “deliverance ministry teams” in over 2,500 U.S. churches and over 500 churches in other countries. Many of these churches wouldn’t consider themselves part of the New Apostolic Reformation or even know about this movement. Upcoming retreats led by Cleansing Stream are scheduled at many churches, including “New Life Church” in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Ted Haggard’s former church) and “The Church on the Way” in Van Nuys, Calif. (the church Jack Hayford founded). See the full list of Cleansing Stream retreats here.
One of Cleansing Stream’s books that they use with their teaching materials is written by “prophet” Chuck Pierce, and Cleansing Stream links to Wagner’s Web site from theirs. When one understands that Cleansing Stream president, Chris Hayward, is a member of Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles, the reason for the organization’s promotion of New Apostolic leaders becomes clear. Apparently, Hayward has bought into Wagner’s movement. Unfortunately, through Cleansing Stream many people will be unwittingly introduced to New Apostolic teachings.
‘Aglow International’ and Others
The same goes with Aglow International. Its international advisors include prominent “apostles” and “prophets” like Che Ahn, Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs and Wagner. See the full list here. And Charisma magazine regularly features favorable articles on modern “apostles” and “prophets” (like Wagner and Pierce), which is no surprise given both the editor and publisher’s memberships in the International Coalition of Apostles. Many Christians also would probably be surprised to learn of the involvement in the movement by Dick Eastman (Every Home for Christ).
Of course, many Christians have probably been saved or otherwise blessed through their involvement with these ministries and have no knowledge of the leaders’ involvement with the New Apostolic Reformation. My point in mentioning their membership in the International Coalition of Apostles is not to pick on them or disparage their entire ministries. It’s to show how this movement is expanding its reach — and to show the importance of informing more Christians about this movement so they won’t be misled into its aberrant teachings.
As I was reading through old comments on my blog, I saw that one poster said I took the most extreme examples of error on the fringes of the apostolic-prophetic movement and unfairly applied them to the whole movement. I want to respond to this charge.
First, I want to be clear that the apostolic-prophetic movement is a huge, worldwide movement made up of many different people and strands of thought. I don’t believe that all Christians who are part of this movement are equally in error.
I define the apostolic-prophetic movement as a charismatic Christian movement that is seeking to restore apostles and prophets in the church. Historically, Protestant Christians have believed that apostles and prophets who give new doctrinal revelation have ceased and that the Bible is our sole source of doctrine.
While the apostolic-prophetic movement is seeking to restore apostles and prophets to the church, not all people in this movement view modern “apostles” and “prophets” in the same way. Many believe that “apostles” are simply gifted, visionary leaders who have a strong, evangelistic calling to a specific geographical region or people group (like church planters) and that “prophets” simply have the New Testament gift of prophecy. My blog isn’t critiquing people who define “apostles” and “prophets” in this way (though I do think the terms can create confusion when not clarified).
But others in the apostolic-prophetic movement believe that “apostles” and “prophets” are giving new doctrinal revelation to the church (new teachings not found in the Bible) and that all Christians must submit to the “apostles” and “prophets” — in fact, the whole world must submit to them. A well-known supporter of these teachings is C. Peter Wagner (pictured here). He calls the apostolic-prophetic movement the “New Apostolic Reformation.” I may also start using this term to clarify which part of the movement my blog is critiquing — the part that shares Wagner’s unorthodox views of apostles and prophets.
I’ve talked about Wagner in past posts, so I won’t go into much detail on him now other than to say that he’s a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, he’s written many books on the New Apostolic Reformation, and he leads several influential organizations of “apostles” and “prophets” — including the “International Coalition of Apostles” (ICA’s Web site) and the “Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders” (see the ACPE’s “Word of the Lord for 2007”). Some of the well-known “apostles” and “prophets” in these organizations include Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, John Kelly, Dutch Sheets and Steve Shultz (founder of Elijah Rain magazine and the “Elijah List,” a Web site that e-mails prophecies daily to more than 130,000 subscribers). These people are becoming very influential in the U.S. charismatic movement and are regularly featured in Charisma magazine. See the current issue (pictured here), which has Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets shown on the cover.
My blog focuses mostly on Wagner’s circle of “apostles” and “prophets.” I realize that some people in the apostolic-prophetic movement are concerned about Wagner’s teachings and oppose them. But his teachings aren’t on the outer fringes of the movement — as the poster on my blog claimed. They represent a prominent and growing force within the movement.
This is my third post examining Rick Joyner’s teachings in his popular book The Final Quest, which records a series of visions Joyner claims God gave him. In this post, I will look at a conversation Joyner — who claims to be a modern “apostle” and “prophet” — records between himself and the apostle Paul during a trip Joyner claims to have taken to heaven. The conversation should raise several red flags, which I will point out below.
But, first, I need to point out that Christians should view conversations with dead people with suspicion since the Bible forbids “necromancy” (the practice of communicating with dead people). Deuteronomy 18:10-11 and Isaiah 8:19-20 So, the very premise of Joyner’s book — which records his conversations with several dead Christians — should raise a legitimate question of whether he is guilty of practicing necromancy or not. That issue aside, I will now raise other concerns about the specific content of the conversation Joyner claims he had with the apostle Paul.
I’ll start with some background. Joyner says he is walking through heaven when he runs into Paul seated on a throne. Joyner tells Paul that he is honored to meet him. But Paul tells Joyner that the honor is his since Joyner is one of the soldiers in the “last battle” (the last-days battle between God and Satan). Then Paul confesses to Joyner that he didn’t accomplish all God wanted him to do during his time on earth, saying, “I fell short of all that I was called to do” (see pages 131-133 of Joyner’s book). Paul then adds:
“By the grace of God I was able to finish my course, but I still did not walk in all that I was called to do. I fell short of the highest purposes that I could have walked in. … I had been given so much to understand, and I walked in so little of it” (page 132).
Red Flag 1: Joyner claims Paul confessed that he failed to complete his apostolic ministry.
I think Joyner is really going out on a limb to say that the apostle Paul confessed that he had fallen short of God’s call on his life. The Bible — including Paul’s own writings — gives no indication of this. Quite the opposite, at the end of his ministry Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Since the Bible gives no indication that Paul fell short, apparently Joyner expects us to take his word on this — based only on his alleged conversation with Paul.
Red Flag 2: Joyner twists Paul’s words.
Joyner also says that Paul claimed — at the end of his life — to be “the greatest of sinners” (pages 132-133).
Paul did, of course, call himself the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15, but he wasn’t referring to his present status at the end of his life. If one reads that verse in context, it’s clear that Paul was referring to the time before he was saved, when he was guilty of persecuting Christians and blaspheming Christ. Read the context here: 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Yet, Joyner claims that Paul was speaking about the present, not past. Joyner says:
“I was being honest when I wrote near the end of my life that I was the greatest of sinners. I was not saying that I had been the greatest of sinners, but that I was the greatest of sinners then” (page 132).
I don’t understand why Joyner would twist Paul’s words like this — whether he does it intentionally or whether Joyner really doesn’t know how to read the Bible in context.
Red Flag 3: Joyner claims Paul confessed to being prideful.
Joyner claims Paul told him that, as an apostle, he started off being prideful, but grew humble (page 133). Joyner says Paul pointed to his own New Testament writings as evidence of this transition from pride to humility — saying that, at the start of Paul’s ministry, he claimed to be equal to the most eminent apostles, then Paul claimed that he was the least of the apostles, then he claimed to be the least of the saints and then, finally, he claimed to be the greatest of sinners.
But Joyner quotes these four verses out of context. When Paul said he was equal to the most eminent apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:5, he was defending himself against false apostles who were challenging his apostleship. When Paul said he was the least of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:9, he was saying that, apart from God’s grace, he didn’t deserve to be an apostle because of his former role persecuting Christians. When Paul said he was the least of the saints in Ephesians 3:8, he was again acknowledging his former life of persecuting Christians. And when he said he was the greatest of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15, he was referring also to the time before he was saved. Each of these statements was referring to different things. So, Joyner’s claim that Paul was admitting to pride — based on these verses — is off-base.
Not only does Joyner quote these verses out of context, but he also has his biblical timeline wrong. 2 Corinthians was written after 1 Corinthians, which means Paul said he was the least of the apostles before he said he was equal to the eminent apostles — not after — disproving Joyner’s claim that these verses indicate a progression in Paul’s humility.
Red Flag 4: Joyner claims Paul told him that Paul’s teachings aren’t part of the church’s foundation.
Joyner says Paul told him that many Christians are distorting Paul’s letters in the New Testament by misusing his teachings as part of the doctrinal foundation of the church. Only the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) can be used as the doctrinal foundation, according to Joyner, because the Gospels are based directly on the teachings of Christ. Joyner quotes Paul saying, “His [Jesus’] words are the foundation. I have only built upon them by elaborating on His words. The greatest wisdom, and the most powerful truths, are His words, not mine” (page 134).
In Joyner’s vision, Paul does admit that his words are Scripture and are true. But he downplays their authority below that of the Gospels. This is bizarre to me, as Joyner seems to be suggesting that the parts of the Bible written by Paul are less important or authoritative than the Gospels. Yet, there is no biblical basis for this. Paul’s teachings are Scripture, so they are equal to all the Bible’s other teachings. I don’t know why Joyner would want to downplay Paul’s teachings as he does.
Red Flag 5: Joyner claims Paul equates his New Testament writings with Joyner’s writing.
Toward the close of Joyner’s conversation with Paul, Paul tells Joyner, “Even in this conversation I can only confirm what I have already written, but you still have much writing to do” (page 135). First, I want to point out that Paul does much more in Joyner’s vision than simply confirm what Paul already wrote in Scripture. Paul tells Joyner many things outside of Scripture. So this statement isn’t true. Second, Paul seems to equate his New Testament writings with Joyner’s writing of The Final Quest. So, in effect, Paul is putting Joyner’s book on the level of Scripture.
I believe all these red flags should cause Christians to question Joyner’s claim to be a “prophet” and “apostle.”
In my last post, I began a critique of Rick Joyner’s book, The Final Quest. Although this book has been out for over a decade, it’s still very popular and is continuing to bring people into the apostolic-prophetic movement. Also, many of the book’s erroneous teachings are taught in apostolic-prophetic churches.
In the introduction to The Final Quest, Joyner (pictured here) claims that modern prophetic revelations — like the vision contained in his book — can’t be used to establish doctrine (teaching). He says, “We have the Scriptures for that.” The two purposes of modern revelation, according to Joyner, are to reveal God’s will about certain matters and to illuminate doctrine that is taught in the Bible.
Yet — despite what Joyner says — his book contains many doctrines not found in Scripture or that contradict Scripture. In this post, I will look at a few examples of each.
Doctrines Not Found in Scripture
• Christians will be assigned to various levels of heaven. The Christians who served the Lord wholeheartedly, and with the right motives, will dwell in a level closer to Christ’s throne and will enjoy more of His presence, according to Joyner. They also will have more glorious bodies than the less devoted Christians. Those who didn’t serve Christ wholeheartedly will be assigned to the “outer fringes” of heaven for all eternity — far from Christ’s throne and presence. But, first, they will endure a hell-like experience — which lasts for what seems like a lifetime — until they repent of their lack of devotion to Christ. Only then will they be allowed to enjoy the lowest level of heaven. (See chapter 4 of The Final Quest for this teaching.)
Although the Bible does teach that there will be rewards given out in heaven, it doesn’t teach that there are different levels or that some Christians will have more glorious spiritual bodies than others. It also doesn’t teach that some Christians will have to go through a hell-like experience. Instead, the Bible teaches that heaven will be a place of eternal joy and intimacy with Christ for all God’s people. And it teaches that there will be no mourning in heaven because Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).
• Last-days Christians must submit to modern-day prophets to have victory in the final battle (pages 58-59). They should be dependent on the prophets like children are dependent on their parents, according to Joyner (page 60).
Yet, the Bible doesn’t teach that Christians must submit to modern-day apostles and prophets. In fact, the apostle Paul warns the Galatian Christians about false teachers who want other Christians to seek after them (Galatians 4:17).
• Christians should frequently interact with angels (page 71).
But nowhere does the Bible teach that angelic encounters are to become common or sought after.
Doctrines That Contradict Scripture
• Joyner teaches that marriages will continue in heaven (page 103), though Jesus taught that there will be no marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:29-30).
• Joyner teaches that Christians — during their earthly lives — can eat the fruit of the Tree of Life that was in the Garden of Eden (pages 35, 41-43), though the Bible teaches that we can’t eat of the Tree of Life until we go to heaven (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). In fact, after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, God put angelic guards around it to block access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Yet, in Joyner’s vision, these angels allow Joyner to eat the tree’s fruit, which, according to Joyner, represents God’s love. Joyner said God told him:
This [fruit] is now your daily bread. It shall never be withheld from you. You may eat as much and as often as you like (page 35).
Seeking access to the Tree of Life — though forbidden by God until heaven — is a recurring doctrine in the apostolic-prophetic movement. I hope to address this teaching more in a future post.
• Joyner’s misinterprets the “parable of 10 virgins” in Matthew 25:1-13 (page 89-91). He says the five foolish virgins are Christians who wasted their lives by living for themselves rather than serving God. So, they are assigned to the lowest level of heaven. But, first, these foolish virgins must go to a place of outer darkness where they gnash their teeth, according to Joyner. (By implication, Joyner also teaches that the foolish virgins won’t be able to take part in the great wedding feast, since, in Matthew 25, the foolish virgins are barred from entering it.)
Yet — despite Joyner’s teaching — Matthew 25 makes it clear that the foolish virgins won’t make it to heaven at all. According to the passage, the five wise virgins are allowed into the wedding feast, and then the door is shut behind them (Matthew 25:10). The five foolish virgins will try to get in, but Jesus tells them, “I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12). So, these foolish virgins are people who don’t belong to Christ because they didn’t trust Him for their salvation.
All God’s people — since they’re all part of the bride of Christ — will take part in the wedding feast. No people in heaven will be left out of this festivity. Nor will any of God’s people “gnash their teeth in outer darkness” — as Joyner teaches — because this is a biblical description for hell. For more on this, see Hampton Keathley’s article, “The Outer Darkness: Heaven’s Suburb or Hell?”
I’m troubled that Joyner — someone who is considered an “apostle” and “prophet” — would be so careless with his handling of Scripture. The Bible warns that church teachers should be able to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The apostle Paul told Timothy — the leader of the church of Ephesus — to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul said these doctrines are based on “myths” and “mere speculation.” I think Paul’s command should be applied to many of Joyner’s doctrines.
There are other strange doctrines in Joyner’s Final Quest, which I plan to look at in future posts.