Deafening Silence

September 27, 2006

Three days ago, I asked readers for a biblical defense of the apostolic-prophetic movement. My question was:

“Where, in the Bible, is there any concept of an end-times army of Christians — led by apostles (with great authority) and prophets (with new revelation) — that will subdue God’s enemies and establish His kingdom on earth?”

I haven’t received one response — despite the number of hits this blog receives — and despite the number of comments some of the other posts have received, including comments from supporters of this movement.

I find this silence telling. I believe it lends support to my original contention — that there isn’t a biblical basis for this movement.

However, since I haven’t received any biblical defenses, I will state the one I’ve most often heard from people in this movement. Many advocates will cite Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”

The idea is that all doctrines don’t have to be found in Scripture — many of them are continuing to be revealed through modern prophets. So, they use Amos 3:7 to argue that prophets will continue to receive new doctrinal revelation from God, such as the teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement. New doctrinal revelation is sometimes called “present truths,” while the Bible is placed in a category of “past truths.”

Advocates claim that the revelation of this movement’s teachings has come from “prophets” around the world, including Bill Hamon, Rick Joyner and Chuck Pierce. The fact that so many of these “prophets” have allegedly received similar revelations about this movement simultaneously — and independently of one another — is seen as evidence that it is a “new move” of God in the end times.

Yet, this application of Amos 3:7 ignores its context. The book of Amos contains God’s announcement — through the prophet Amos — that He is going to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel because of the people’s unfaithfulness to Him. Read Amos 3 here. In Amos 3:7, God is saying that He won’t bring judgment on a people without first warning them (through His prophets). Given this context, it is quite a stretch to use this verse to support the teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement and its “prophets.”

The idea that the church needs new doctrinal revelation from modern “prophets” contradicts the historic Christian belief that the canon of Scripture is closed — meaning that no new authoritative doctrines can be given.

This isn’t to deny that there is a New Testament gift of prophecy that Christians can have today. But Christians with such a gift cannot give new doctrinal revelation. Furthermore, the existence of modern “prophets” — in the sense of those who have the gift of prophecy — does not prove that the “prophets” of the apostolic-prophetic movement are genuine. Like all prophets in the Bible, their prophecies must be tested for their faithfulness to Scripture and for their accuracy (i.e., do their predictions come to pass?). I have already pointed out that “prophets” in this movement teach doctrines that have no biblical basis (including the movement’s key teachings). In future posts, I plan to discuss their repeated false prophecies and their many prophecies that cannot be shown to be true or false (because they are worded so vaguely that they can be interpreted to mean almost anything).

Based on the Bible?

September 25, 2006

Bible As I’ve researched the apostolic-prophetic movement, I’ve been constantly amazed at the lack of biblical support for its teachings.

Where, in the Bible, is there any concept of an end-times army of Christians — led by apostles (with great authority) and prophets (with new revelation) — that will subdue God’s enemies and establish His kingdom on earth?

I’m seriously asking this question. Please, tell me where.

If it’s not there, then what is this movement all about?

An Army of Christians … Or Locusts?

September 23, 2006

Locust A key teaching of the apostolic-prophetic movement is that God is raising up an end-times army of Christians, led by apostles and prophets, to establish His kingdom on earth. This army is called “Joel’s Army.” Todd Bentley’s “Fresh Fire Ministries,” for example, promotes this teaching, and his Web site records many prophecies given about this army. Read them here.

Many advocates of this fast-growing movement teach that the current generation of children will be the last generation of the church — and will have a pivotal role in this army. This doctrine is what’s behind “Jesus Camp” — a documentary about Becky Fischer’s children’s camp, which, as I pointed out in an earlier post, is connected to the apostolic-prophetic movement. Visit the documentary’s Web site here.

The main biblical support for such an army is Joel 2, where God sends a great army, described as locusts, to punish his wayward people of Israel. But then God destroys the army and restores Israel. Read Joel 2 here.

So, how do the leaders of the apostolic-prophetic movement figure that this army of locusts is an army of Christians? True, the army is described as “God’s army” in verse 11 of the passage, but God often refers to pagan kings (like Nebuchadnezzar) and pagan nations (like the Assyrians and Babylonians) as His servants and His armies that He is raising up as instruments of His wrath against Israel (see Isaiah 10:5-7, 13:4 and Jeremiah 25:9, 43:10). But, like the army of locusts in Joel 2, these kings and their nations are, ultimately, judged and destroyed by God.

So, how can the leaders of the apostolic-prophetic movement continue basing one of their key teachings on Joel 2? I find it very odd that they identify themselves with this army that attacks God’s people and is destroyed by God.

Prominent Evangelicals Promote ‘Apostles’ and ‘Prophets’

September 21, 2006

The leaders of the apostolic-prophetic movement state openly that their teachings are those of the Latter Rain movement of the 1940s. Why, then, are these teachings — which were considered unorthodox back then — being embraced by so many, so openly, today?

C. Peter Wagner Proponents of the movement include C. Peter Wagner (pictured here), a former professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary for 28 years and author of books on spiritual warfare and gifts of the spirit. His books Churchquake! and Changing Church are popular sources that promote the movement, and Wagner is also the founder and “presiding apostle” of the “International Coalition of Apostles,” a network of over 330 “apostles.” ICA Members

Ted Haggard The ICA membership, at one time, included Ted Haggard (pictured here, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals), who worked closely with Wagner for some years, including creating the World Prayer Center together at Haggard’s church, where the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders was birthed (more on the ACPE later). Haggard also has endorsed many books promoting the movement, including Moving in the Apostolic (Regal Books, 1999) by John Eckhardt; Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement (Renew Books, 1996) by David Cannistraci; and The Future War of the Church (Regal Books, 2001) by Chuck D. Pierce and Rebecca Wagner Sytsema.

And fifty well-known charismatics held a symposium on the movement, January 6-7, 2004, in Orlando, Florida. Hosted by the magazine Ministries Today, the symposium was moderated by the magazine’s senior editorial adviser, Jack Hayford (president of the Foursquare Church). Other participants included Wagner, Haggard, Rick Joyner (a “prophet”), Reinhard Bonnke, Myles Munroe, Rod Parsley, and Joyce Meyer.

Jack Hayford Hayford (pictured here) also wrote the foreword to Understanding the Fivefold Ministry, a 2005 book that promotes the movement, featuring contributors like “prophetess” Cindy Jacobs (founder of the Generals of Intercession prayer and spiritual warfare ministry). While it is true that one can hold to the fivefold ministry doctrine without embracing the aberrant teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement, those aberrant teachings are taught by Wagner (who contributes a chapter to the book and whose books on the movement are recommended by the book for further reading) and Bill Hamon (whose books are also recommended by the book for further reading). As I pointed out in my last post, Wagner teaches that apostles have unquestioned authority, and Hamon teaches that prophets give the church new doctrinal revelation. I am surprised and disappointed that Hayford’s credibility is being used to support these teachers.

Also, Thomas Nelson — a leading evangelical publisher — released a book promoting the movement in 2001, The Restoration of the Apostles and Prophets by Héctor Torres.

These are examples of how the apostolic-prophetic movement is entering mainstream evangelicalism. The question is: Were the Latter Rain teachings unorthodox, as long believed? If so, then why are they being embraced now? What has changed?

Absolute Authority and Extra-Biblical Revelation

September 20, 2006

Apostles. Prophets and the Coming Moves of GodChurchquake!Some readers who commented on my last post rightfully pointed out that not all Christians who believe in modern apostles and prophets embrace the unorthodox teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement. As I start this blog, I want to be clear: my concern is not with Christians who believe that there are modern “apostles” in the sense of church planters, missionaries or effective Christians leaders who have a calling to a particular ministry or geographical region. Nor is my concern with Christians who believe that there are modern “prophets” in the sense of Christians with the New Testament gift of prophecy or Christians who God is using to alert the church to something. My concern is with Christians who teach that there are modern “apostles” with unquestioned authority and “prophets” with the ability to give new doctrinal revelation.

Both of these doctrines are being taught by leaders in the fast-growing apostolic-prophetic movement, including “prophets” who are featured on Becky Fischer’s “Kids in Ministry International” Web site that I linked to in my last post. (Remember, Fischer runs the children’s camp that the Jesus Camp documentary is based on.) Bill Hamon, for example — a prominent leader in the movement — argues in his book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God that modern apostles and prophets give the church new doctrinal revelation, saying: “He [the apostle Paul] also reveals that this anointing for divine revelation was not just given to the prophets of old but has now been equally given to Christ’s Holy Apostles and Prophets in His Church.”

Hamon devotes much of his book to arguing for the need for “new truths” and giving his own extra-biblical revelation, including the teaching that modern apostles and prophets are going to become so powerful that Christians who come into their presence with sin will be struck dead. Hamon also details prophecies about a coming “Saints Movement” and a “Kingdom Establishing Movement” — two movements he said that God revealed to Him must occur before Jesus can return to earth (movements involving a Christian army led by apostles and prophets).

C. Peter Wagner — another foremost leader in the movement, who coined the term “New Apostolic Reformation” — argues in his book Churchquake! that apostles’ authority cannot be questioned, even by the pastors or prophets under them.

Both Wagner and Hamon identify the apostolic-prophetic movement with the teachings of the Latter Rain movement of the 1940s, which was deemed heretical by most evangelicals. Doctrines the movements share include the teaching that God is raising up an end-times army, led by apostles and prophets — known as “Joel’s Army” or the “Manifest Sons of God” — that will overcome sin and sickness and subdue the earth with their supernatural powers.

These are some of the troubling and unbiblical teachings I plan to address in upcoming posts. I wouldn’t be so concerned about this movement if it wasn’t growing so quickly and becoming so influential. (I plan to show how the movement is moving into mainstream evangelicalism in my next post.) It’s my hope that this blog will raise awareness and discussion of these issues. I appreciate your thoughts and feedback. If I’m wrong about anything I say, please let me know. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s teachings or beliefs. Hopefully, we can help each other come to greater discernment and understanding on these issues.

‘Jesus Camp’: What Everybody’s Missed

September 15, 2006

Jesus Camp ImageThe media is buzzing about Jesus Camp, an independent, award-winning documentary about a Christian camp in North Dakota that is training children to become leaders in “God’s army.” View the trailer here. Scenes of children wearing military fatigues and discussing their conservative religious views have drawn criticism from many bloggers, who have compared the camp to a Christian version of the Islamic terrorist schools.

In contrast, some evangelicals have defended the children’s dedicated faith, saying their militant language is misinterpreted by non-Christians who don’t understand that their “battle” is spiritual, not physical. Other evangelicals have admitted they don’t know what to make of the camp — they feel obligated to defend their fellow Christians, but they sense that something about this particular camp is “off” — even scary.

In all the talk, I haven’t seen anybody mention this camp’s connection with the “apostolic-prophetic movement” (also known as the “New Apostolic Reformation”). This fast-growing movement has, strangely, gone unnoticed by many evangelicals, even though it has entered many charismatic churches (which are the fastest-growing churches in nearly every region of the world, according to church growth experts, like David B. Barrett).

Becky Fischer, the woman who runs this camp, is a proponent of this movement that believes that God is raising up an end-times army to establish His kingdom on earth, through governmental and societal structures. Proponents of this movement think this army will be led by modern-day apostles and prophets — with supernatural powers, unquestioned authority, and the ability to give new doctrinal revelation. All Christians and nations — and even demonic principalities — must submit to these apostles and prophets. They also teach that the current generation of children have a pivotal role in this army, since they are the last generation of the church.

Fischer’s “Kids in Ministry International” Web site features prophecies about children’s role in this end-times army. Read the prophecies here. See Bill Hamon’s prophecies, for example.

I have been researching this movement for the past three and a half years and believe it is opening the door to abusive leadership and heretical teachings. I will share more about my concerns in future posts, along with specific examples of troubling teachings and practices.

Many Christians who identify themselves with this movement don’t know about — or they disagree with — its militant and unbiblical teachings and practices. Nevertheless, the movement’s leaders — including some prominent evangelicals — are promoting them through books, conferences and media.

Hopefully, this documentary will, finally, draw attention to this movement.