Winter 1994 Edition - Part One
NOT PEACE, BUT A SWORD!
"DO not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (Matt 10:34-38)
Division is a word we are going to be hearing more and more. Some would have us believe that all division in the Church is a work of the devil. Is this true? Others expect division, but for the wrong reasons. Confusion reigns! The Toronto "renewal" has already caused much division. People are lining up for and against in an unprecedented way. No other dispute in recent Church history has had this effect - so what is happening?
LINE IN THE SANDGod is undertaking a work of separation! The lines are now being drawn, and every Christian - charismatic or not; pre-millennial or not; awake or asleep; mature or newly-born - every Christian is being challenged by the Holy Spirit to step to one or other side of the line.
On both sides of the line, there is equal conviction. Each group claims to have God's blessing and to be in His will. Each group points to the other side as deceivers and persecutors of the true Church. Examining the claims and counter-claims will only lead to confusion; but as we shall see, there are reliable guidelines for making a decision.
However, understanding the present situation is not easy. Especially so when thinking and analysing are firmly discouraged. Rodney Howard Browne prays for his followers "Step over, step over, into the realm of the supernatural; step out of the realm of reason" as if the two are mutually exclusive.
At the Toronto Airport, this sort of prophecy is heard: "I shall SHOUT from Zion, saith God. I shall roar with victory! You will plunder the camp of the enemy! I am coming! I am a man of war! ...Do not allow your ears, do not allow your hearts to be turned to those that would say unto you "Be reasonable! Be rational! This is not logical." I say unto you, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. Allow Me, allow Me to speak, allow Me, allow Me to move through you!"
Logic is presented as being in conflict with the will of God, and the written Word is seen as a hindrance rather than a help. What is left? The feel-good factor! But trusting in feelings and experiences, instead of the commands of God, is an error as old as the Garden of Eden.
PROOF TEXTS GALORESome leaders insist that they ARE being Bereans and searching the scriptures. What they come up with, however, is not a coherent biblical strategy nor a fully-rounded theology, but isolated texts that refer to animal noises and other physical manifestations. As if that is all there is to the Toronto phenomenon!
Toronto apologists have one string to their bow: "prove the manifestations are genuine and all is well." That is a very shallow and short-sighted view. Like a magician using sleight-of-hand, satan is focusing our attention on the noise and the razzmatazz, while behind his back he tinkers with the beliefs of the Church. If we are not careful, the experience itself will get all our attention while we lose sight of its ultimate intention. Don't forget that history has an agenda. God has his plan; Satan also has a plot and is busily working towards a definite end.
THE PLANHere is the plan in a nutshell:
The goal of the new churches for years now has been, briefly, to convert the greater portion of the world's population and thus establish the kingdom on earth before the return of Christ. Nothing has been changed by this spiritual outpouring. On the contrary, the empowerment now coming on churches is seen as central to the accomplishment of this goal!
Here are two statements made at a meeting at the Airport Vineyard on 14th October 1994:
Already the talk is of the "next move". Supposedly, there is to be a time of repentance, holiness and greater unity in all the churches, leading to the long-awaited global revival. Sounds good? So did the idea of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in God's Garden of Eden!
REBELLIOUS CHRISTIANSThe problem for those who believe that only an undivided, harmonious and perfectly synchronised World Church can accomplish the task of world evangelism is simply this: not every Christian is willing to go along with the Plan!
The thorn in their side is a pesky little band of rebellious Christians. They will insist on examining new revelations and prophecies by the Word of God. They keep saying that the salvation of the nations will not occur until the Lord Jesus returns. They go on believing in the Rapture and the Millennium, and see something called the Great Tribulation in scripture instead of harmony, victory and reconstruction. Despite every onslaught against these teachings, and the insistence of Leaders that Christians adopt a "new paradigm"; certain individuals persist in the above "heresies".
So a new move in the churches is planned. Adding to the guilt already sown in some hearts, there is to be a campaign of soul-baring and confession in order to weed out the undecided. This is no time to prevaricate! The weak will go to the wall! Any who remain in affected churches are about to be rounded on and told to confess their doubts, or come under the judgement of God.
Notice the subtle about-turn of doctrine as exemplified in this "prophecy":
See how questions are discouraged and made to sound unchristian. The call is to accept both good and BAD in this revival, without question.
Truth (objective biblical doctrine) is seen as opposed to "love" - and this is a new kind of love that ignores error in the name of unity.
YIELD OR DIE
Most disturbing is the implication that dissenters are actually outside the faith, and doomed to die! God is supposedly threatening people who do not yield to the power, with the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah - total annihilation! The way Jesus applied this was to people who rejected Him as Saviour and Messiah. (Matt 10:14-15)
Are we now to suppose that rejecting the Toronto Phenomenon is akin to rejecting God, and will lead to death? Reading the last paragraph of the "prophecy" certainly gives that impression. People are urged to stand by their acceptance of Toronto as they would stand by their "confession of faith" in the Lord Jesus. The two are becoming linked in people's minds. THIS IS A HIGHLY DANGEROUS DEVELOPMENT!
Toronto is rapidly becoming a test of loyalty and doctrinal orthodoxy. Kenneth Copeland, for instance, has suggested that those who resist God's move could fall over and die! "One of these days, you may just be talking to someone, asking them how things went at church last Sunday, and they may say, Oh it was great! The glory of God was so strong it healed ten cripples, opened the ears of thirty deaf people, cured seven cases of cancer and killed Brother Bigmouth and Sister Strife" ("Voice of Victory" Oct 94)
Christians have a vital choice to make, Copeland says:
What is this sin that puts Christians in danger of death? It is resisting the move of God! Those who unite one with another in revival power can "have a wonderful time" Copeland tells us. After telling the story of Ananias and Sapphira Copeland says that the Christians in that meeting "were having such a glorious time that even when Ananias dropped dead right there in front of the preacher, they just went right on worshipping."
The sin of Ananias, in fact, was not lack of submission to his elders or quenching the Spirit, but "lying to the Holy Spirit" - see Acts 5:2-6
Not much sign of a Toronto-style meetings in progress there! However, Copeland nonetheless teaches from this passage that those who resist the last-days outpouring are in mortal danger. The message seems plain. Yield or die!
This sort of teaching about judgement upon opponents has been building up for some time. It was prominent in the prophecies and teachings of the Kansas City Prophets; probably because of their connection to the Manifest Sons doctrines which taught that denominational Christianity was Babylon, and that only the perfected saints of the New Order would emerge in the endtimes as the Chosen of God, while Babylon suffered defeat and death during the Tribulation to come.
However, any doctrine that brings a certain elite group into prominence as World Saviours, will inevitably have to tackle the problem of dissenters.
BIGOTRYAny man-made solution to the world's problems fosters bigotry, then violence. Even though we tend to applaud the beliefs of the Puritans, we cannot forget that Cromwell slaughtered thousands in his religious war. Nor should we forget that Calvin promoted the death penalty for the slightest infringement of his Protestant dogma. Between the years of 1531 and 1546, fifty-eight people were executed at Calvin's "model Christian Community" at Geneva. Although we understand that the struggle in Ireland is about more than religion, can we approve of murder in the defence of the faith? Is there any justification today for a holy war, or is there a cause so noble that we would take up arms in its defence? These are questions we may soon need to answer, particularly if we experience some world-shaking event that requires a radical response from the Church.
THE SIN OF DISSENTLeaders are keen to ready the Church for its endtimes mission. They are calling for unity, holiness and submission to God. It sounds good. But what does it actually mean? And who will be on the receiving end of this sort of preaching?
There will be some genuine repentance, I have no doubt. But we are likely to see a re-definition of repentance and holiness, and those who refuse to accept the revival will be portrayed as the sinners.
We already see a hardness creeping in. Treatment of Toronto dissenters has not reflected the gentleness of Christ, despite official guidelines exhorting love and humility. The reason for this anomaly is baffling, if we are in the midst of true revival as they claim, for the work of the Holy Spirit should lead to a change in the nature of those touched by His power. His fruit ought to be demonstrated: love, kindness, patience, goodness and self-control. Instead, many of those who get the "blessing" turn into aggressive, arrogant and self-obsessed individuals who can tolerate no opposition. There is something awry here!
The "love" that is being talked about as the greatest fruit of Toronto is not, when it comes down to it, gentleness and forbearance towards other church members, and especially not towards opponents! It seems primarily to be a feeling of passion for God; an ecstatic state almost, devoid of moral content. This happy condition is doubtless enjoyable for the participant, but if it does not lead to Christ-like love being shown to others, then where is the lasting fruit?
Those who harbour doubts about the renewal are accused of stubbornness and Pharisaical legalism; those who test the spirits are called blasphemers of the Holy Spirit; those who put questions to their elders are accused of "rebellion".
SUBMISSIONWhat is being demanded broadly falls into two categories, unthinking acceptance of spiritual power; and blanket acceptance of other Christians, regardless of doctrine.
The first attitude rejects the possibility of spiritual deception - which is plainly unscriptural. The Bible commands us to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1Thes 5:21) The second rejects the possibility of sin and falsehood - which is equally unscriptural. The Bible commands us to "withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (II Th 3:6)
Firstly, spiritual submission is to the will and Word of God. This is now being re-defined. The suggestion is that truly obedient Christians must perform any act "for God" no matter how foolish, meaningless or disruptive. Repentance is commanded for any who have not passed this ultimate test of submission!
It is sadly all too easy to browbeat sincere Christians into this kind of tomfoolery. It is mature Christians, who have a genuine desire to obey and serve God, who are the ones most pressured by the devil to jump through hoops to prove their submission to voices and impressions. Centuries of experience has convinced the devil that he can more easily steer Christians off course by an excess of obedience than by the lack of it.
FALSE UNITYSecondly, there is the pressure for unity; but it is a union only of those who accept the doctrines and practises of the new move. Copeland hints that disunity causes judgement and death in the Body and hinders the revival outpouring of power. He says that "repentance is mandatory for anyone who wants to be in on the move of God" and illustrates this with the story of Pentecost. According to Copeland, the Spirit was unable to descend on the assembled company in the Upper Room until they repented of their lack of unity - they had disagreements amongst themselves, but "somehow in that upper room, they dropped their differences...and they were all right with one another. What was the result? God Almighty came on the scene and the glory was poured out". Copeland says God wants to pour out an even greater pentecostal power - "we are about to hit the spiritual gusher that all generations have longed to see!"
"What does this mean for you and me" he asks. "If we'll get sin out of our lives and get right with our brothers and sisters, then in this day of glory God will work wonders through us. We won't have to worry about the glory killing us when it hits our flesh." Those leaders who will not allow the phenomena to break out in their churches are of the "old order" and they will be swept aside, it is said, removed from their places and left behind. That was the thinking behind Rick Joyner's "The Harvest" prophecy in which he predicted a new move of the Spirit.
In the section entitled "Remove the Barriers and Facades that Separate us from the Lord and Each other", he writes of those who continue in "individual truths or works" apart from the one united Body of the endtimes. They will "perish from the ministry with such demonstration that a pure and holy fear of the Lord will sweep the Body of Christ. This will help the Church to move into true spiritual worship and a unity that is based on worship".
Today, six years after he wrote those words, we do see a new "unity based on worship", at Toronto meetings; will his words come true for ministers who still insist on unity based on Truth?
In a widely circulated prophecy, Marc Dupont, assistant pastor at the Airport Vineyard, said he sensed "extreme danger for leaders who continue to resist the Holy Spirit." God is supposed to have promised an increase in evangelism, intercession and power, and at the same time "the refiner's fire is going to increase, particularly with the current leadership". There will be a sharp division between the "obedient" and the "sinful" and the latter will "leave the ministry or bring judgement on themselves and their churches."
Speaking of the flow of living water spreading out from Toronto, Dupont says that any rocks which resist the Spirit "will be broken down into dust" and says "there will not be any true unity among churches until they begin to respond to the prophetic call of the Father".
DIVISION IS NEEDED
If repentance means no longer holding to the Word of God; if holiness means being willing to quack like a duck for Jesus; if unity means letting false teachings go unchecked - then repentance, holiness and unity are NOT as good as they sound.
We need to understand that not all division is a work of the devil. Jesus knew that the truth would always divide people: "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." (Luke 12:51)
The Apostle Paul said division highlighted the difference between the true Church and the false teachers:
He certainly did not preach tolerance towards heresy, nor did he stay in fellowship with false teachers, much less repent of his resistance to their teachings!
MAKE A STANDWithout a clear stand being taken by those who are prepared to defend biblical truth, evil advances unhindered - a situation that benefits nobody but the devil, and owes more to cultic behaviour than Christianity. Indeed. fascinating comparisons can be made with this present move and the activities of a cult:
Firstly, the attraction of emotional release, bonds of friendship, a common cause, powerful spiritual experiences and the thrill of finding something "that works". As a commitment is made to attend meetings, the pressure to become part of the group mounts up unbearably. Individualism is severely censured. Participants are taught to be suspicious of anyone who would dissuade them - it is suggested that all outside the movement are "ignorant" and "deluded".
Thought, quiet reflection and study of opposing opinions are banned, while frenetic activity, over excitement and late nights are encouraged. Teachings are introduced as indisputable, and any who resist them are singled out as "troublemakers". The group are encouraged to persecute these individuals until they yield.
On the other hand, those who adopt the teachings are encouraged to feel they are on a higher spiritual plane than ordinary folk. This makes them feel special and important to the Plan. Then comes regular soul-baring, when open confession of doubt is encouraged. This has a two-fold benefit to the cult. It allows the Leaders to identify those who are still wavering, while at the same time filling the initiates with the dread of being excluded or rejected (or even of being punished).
It is either stated explicitly or hinted that any further rebellion will result in "bad things happening" either to the dissenters or the cult as a whole, for which the dissenter - naturally - feels himself responsible.
Only after this indoctrination process has taken its toll on the mind and beliefs of the new member, will the more bizarre inner core teachings be presented. By then, the member is too weary, shell-shocked, cowed and submissive to reject them.
While many will feel that their churches bear no resemblance to a cult, there are others (especially Toronto victims) who will readily identify with the above description.
BELIEF IS THE KEYThe purpose of any cult is to propagate new teachings. It is not primarily about ACTIONS, but BELIEFS. So, we ought to be very disturbed about a spiritual outpouring coming from the Vineyard churches - with their blasé acceptance of the Kansas City Prophets - and even more so when we learn that the two men who began it were Benny Hinn and Rodney Howard Browne. We ought to be alarmed that the majority of churches where Toronto is being accepted have a foundation of doctrinal error!
Although this is not the ONLY test, because God can use men and churches despite a certain amount of doctrinal error, the question must be asked - why has the Manifest Presence of God (if that is what it is) not reproved the errors and brought repentance of false doctrines? Instead, the very reverse is happening!
This newsletter has been speaking out for some six years against Ecumenism, Revivalism, New-Age Mysticism, Revelation Knowledge, Restoration, Replacement Theology, Spiritual Warfare, Latter Rain, Post-Millennialism, Word-of-Faith, Kingdom-Dominion teachings - and on and on. The latest developments have not come as any surprise! They were inevitable! The only surprise is that so few Christians were willing to make a stand before now.
God has been calling out for ten years to any who would listen: "Take heed!" He has raised up watchmen all around the world who have been preaching the same message of separation from error. This he did in his mercy, not wanting any to be caught unawares. But some slumbered on.
Today, many are saying - how do I know if this is of God? Simple! Can God contradict His own Word? After spending so many arduous years exposing false teaching, would He now pour out his Holy Spirit on those same false teachings and endorse them with power to be preached? Is he going to anoint the mouths of those who preach error? Absolutely not - it is unthinkable.
On the other hand, since a counterfeit church system has to arise, and since the Bible predicts false teachers and false christs arising with miracle-working power such that, if possible, even the very elect could be deceived, isn't it a fair assumption that it would happen through a counterfeit revival very like the present one?
CLUES FROM EDWARDSLet's apply a further test. Few can have failed to notice the use of Jonathan Edward's material in this new move, and the links being made with the Great Awakening of 1740. However, Edwards was very cautious about unusual manifestations. His book "The Religious Affections" lists twelve things that are "no certain signs that religious affections are truly gracious, or that they are not". These include physical manifestations, love, joy, zeal, praise, confidence, fluency, and fervour. His list of proofs for truly godly and gracious manifestations stresses that the source and object of them must be God Himself; that they must lead to moral excellence, humility, a change of nature, gentleness and love towards others, unselfishness and a life that is in accord with the commands of scripture.
In another book, he listed five positive fruits of a true revival:
We have already seen how truth and Christ-like love have become casualties in this new move. To take the other three points one by one:
1. JESUS LIFTED UP?
There is much TALK of Jesus but in reality "this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me" (Isa 29:13)
It is the Spirit, in isolation, who is given the attention, even though the Word tells us that he does not come in his own name. It is the Spirit who is being called upon, invoked and even commanded to "come". Some even give the Spirit a will of His own outside the written Word of God, because "The Spirit is sovereign and can do as He wills". At the same time, Jesus is reduced to one of the boys; a bar-room companion who wants to toy around, guffaw and make risqué jokes with his pals. One man said he had a vision of Jesus coming to him with a huge grin on his face; this made the man laugh until he dropped. (For what purpose?).
2. PEOPLE LESS SELFISH? Any trawl of testimonies will prove that the emphasis is on what I felt, what I need and how the experience benefited ME. Trying to talk anyone out of going back to get more spiritual LSD is like trying to take away a child's favourite toy. Logic is not the issue - feelings, needs, sensual desires and the thrill of spiritual encounters is what drives this new-found zeal!
3. LOVE OF THE WORD? The Toronto Experience is not conveyed by sound Bible preaching, but by personal contact and the recounting of testimonies. There is little teaching, and what there is draws heavily on allegory and Old Testament symbolism. Some meetings depend almost entirely on anecdotes.
Wes Campbell, who was delighted to have found the power at Toronto said: "We just went to our church and I just started to preach this. I told them all the stories. I told them every story I could get. I said, fax me stories. You wouldn't believe it! ...I started just preaching stories, stories, stories, the glory of God, God touching people, and you wouldn't have believed it. These people began to rise up. In three to four weeks they had faith, and we had the greatest outpouring that we'd ever had in the history of our church, "in Phnom Penh, they just told stories of Toronto and the power of the Spirit began to sweep through that church.... in India, they just told stories of what was happening, Boom, the power of the Spirit was sweeping through there. They hadn't even read about this stuff, they just heard a story."
It seems that not one of Edward's five proofs applies to what is happening today. That should shock those who depend so much on him to validate it. Can a revival that has such a shaky foundation truly be of God?
Compare the translations of some familiar passages of scripture in two Bibles - the Authorised Version (King James) and "The Message":
JAMES VERSION: "Our Father who art in Heaven; Hallowed be thy
JAMES VERSION: "The Father is greater than I".
JAMES VERSION: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
There is no stemming the flood of new Bibles. Each one seems destined to push the boundaries ever further - inclusive language, political correctness, liberal thought and a lack of reverence for the literal truth of the original manuscripts appears now to dominate the scene.
Three new translations illustrate this trend, one of which - "The Message" by Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress) is the subject of this particular review.
The second edition of the Good News Bible (Bible Soc./Harper Collins) tidies up various inaccuracies of the first edition, but has made a change to inclusive language. This has meant changing "sons" to "children" and "brothers" to "brothers and sisters" or "people". The edges become blurred and the precise meaning of scripture is lost. For the word "brother" denotes a fellow Christian, whereas "people" or "any" could include unbelievers.
The New Century Version (Nelson Word) is advertised as a Youth Bible, and a "downmarket version of the Good News Bible". It expects even less of the reader than the Good News. Like the GNB, it is not a literal translation and is so loose as to be meaningless in parts. For example, where the King James renders Psalm 144:2 as "My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.", the NCV reads "...he helps me keep my people under control". The onus has therefore shifted from God to David!
The biggest threat, however, is posed by a paraphrase, the work of pastor and scholar Eugene Peterson. His book, "The Message" is about to be launched in this country, and could do untold damage. "The Message" is not an accurate translation of the Word of God, but a personal interpretation. The introduction explains that "the goal is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, rhythms, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak".
But should we rewrite the Bible to fit our own shallow and worldly communications? Should we reinterpret the holy Word to sound more like a TV advert or film script?
Today's culture needs to be challenged by scripture. "The Message" gets it the other way round. It conforms to secular standards in an attempt to be attractive to everyone. It re-educates readers to:
"THE MESSAGE" IMPLIES SIN DOES NOT SEPARATE FROM GOD
"THE MESSAGE" DISTORTS AND ADDS TO GOD'S WORD
"THE MESSAGE" ADDS ENVIRONMENTAL SIN
"THE MESSAGE" PROMOTES FALSE UNITY
Missing from these scriptures is the essential truth about man's fallen condition, and the need for God Himself to provide a unique remedy in the Cross. Peterson's lax attittude towards sin may reflect his respect for Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich, who said "sin need be no shame to man but can even be worthwhile". ("Spirit Quest", Christianity Today magazine, November 1993).
Eugene Peterson has written that he seeks "spirituality - a fusion of intimacy and transcendence", but his personal interpretation of the scripture attempts to reach that goal without encountering sin or judgement. Therefore this is a thoroughly flawed message.
Copyright (c) 1994 BANNER MINISTRIES