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Accusers of the Brethren (Part One)

Debra Bouey examines unjust accusations against those who stand for biblical truth.


This article was originally written and published before the current revival. It would likely have lain dormant and largely unnoticed since that time had it not been resurrected by one of the chief proponents of the movement at Brownsville Assembly of God [hereafter referred to as "BAG"] in the Pensacola, Florida, area.

Dr. Michael L. Brown, BAG's apologist and theologian took great issue with the original article, first writing me a four page email critiquing it and then subsequently referencing it in chapter three of his recently-released book, Let No One Deceive You: Confronting Critics of Revival and in his video tape sermon entitled Five Fatal Flaws. Brown has occasionally offered to forward his original email critique of the article to others online in ReaperNet live chat sessions.[1]

Brown's broad-spread criticism of my original article, although he fails, both in his book and on the video tape sermon, to tell his readers/hearers where they may locate the article to read and evaluate it for themselves, brought considerable attention to bear on the old article. Thereafter, a large number of individuals began to inquire as to where they might obtain a copy.[2] In light of the feedback I received with the renewed interest in the original article, in tandem with what has taken place in the three years or so since it was originally written, it was determined that the old article should be updated and republished. This updated version maintains the core and substance of the original article, while incorporating considerable additional related information which has surfaced in the elapsed time since the original was written.

Accusers of the Brethren or Good Bereans?

Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? [Galatians 4:16]


It does indeed appear that anyone who wishes to discuss the current movement has become, at best, a "Pharisee", and, at worst, the enemy. Since the advent of "holy laughter" at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship [formerly Toronto Airport Vineyard] in early 1994, as well as at the revival, so-called, at BAG since Father's Day in 1995, there have been numerous disparaging allegations leveled at anyone who calls into question Biblically any of the peculiar practices presently taking place within the movement. Those perceived to be a "critics" of these movements have been referred to as ignorant, foolish, God mockers, tragic, sad, pitiful, gossips, poor blind guides, pathetic, slanderers of the Holy Spirit, judgmental, prideful and a whole host of other scurrilous terms as well. "Critics" have also been on the receiving end of more than a few imprecatory "prophecies", wherein they are threatened with God's forthcoming wrath and destruction if they continue to oppose the movement.

Criticizing the Critics

Let us examine some of the examples of the name-calling and attacks which have been directed at any and all perceived "critics", which practice seems to have reached an all-time high lately.

The following is an excerpt by Vineyard pastor James Ryle, disseminated subsequent to his appearance on John Loeffler's Denver radio show "Steel on Steel":[3]

"There is today a group of people who promote themselves as biblical purist, the faithful remnant who alone preach the Word and who evidently posses the power to judge and criticize anyone who is not like them. This is nothing new, as any student of scripture can attest. It was in fact this very kind of people who crucified Jesus Christ. They are scribes and Pharisees, religious and angry, attacking and persecuting anyone who dares to differ from their exclusive views. Here is where the plot thickens. These watchdogs of doctrinal purity - who themselves ironically violate scripture by their ungodly attitudes their mean spirited commentary and their deceitful reporting have now turned their swords against the Vineyard and it's leaders, why? Since there is no truth to their accusations one must ask then why do they accuse? What motivates them to tear down another church. The answer is pride, jealousy, fear, hatred or ignorance. Take your pick. You can be sure one of these factors is at the heart of this present contention."

Pastor Ryle provides no specifics, gives no documented cases, but merely makes a broad assertion and in so doing makes a few harsh judgments about others himself, specifically:

He likens us to those who crucified Jesus Christ; and calls us:

  1. Scribes and Pharisees
  2. Religious and angry
  3. Attacking and persecuting
  4. In violation of Scripture
  5. Possessed of ungodly attitudes
  6. Issuers of mean spirited commentary
  7. Liars ("deceitful reporting")
  8. Accusers of the brethren
  9. Motivated to tear down churches
  10. Proud, jealous, fearful Ignorant

All of which begs the question: who is judging and accusing whom here? I believe it will be evident to the objective eye who is attempting to evaluate these teachings in light of Scripture in a non-personal manner and who has gone on the offensive with personal attacks. There is quite a difference between assailing the doctrines and theology someone espouses and attacking the person. While we are constrained in Jude, in the love of God, to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all time delivered to the saints, there is a difference between contending for the faith and contending against others. The latter is inappropriate and we ought not engage in it.

The pattern itself is quite common and well established. Here is but another example of it by Vineyard pastor Carl Tuttle:[4]

"Okay, what about those who are opposed to this? Well folks, there's always been opposition to the work and ministry of God, you know. They opposed the prophets, they opposed the apostles and they've opposed all those that have followed behind them. Now, who has opposed it?'s been the religious community. The religious community always gets it back up when God moves, and always starts clicking the tongue and wagging the finger, you know?...Now if you want to read more about this, read Hebrews, Chapter Eleven. There's always opposition to a move of God. There's always opposition to a move of God, and we just don't want to be those who oppose it."

Note several things Mr. Tuttle apparently expects the hearers to take as a "given", a foregone conclusion:

1. This is a work of God.

2. Any opposition stems from that old nemesis and whipping post, the "religious community." Therefore, when anyone attempts to call into question teachings and/or manifestations which are Scripturally incongruent, they're suffering persecution from the "religious community" on par with the OT prophets and NT apostles just like Hebrews 11.

3. This is a move of God, therefore, we don't want to oppose it.

Note further what Mr. Tuttle never teaches on the audio tape:

1. Be a Berean [Acts 17:10-11]:

"And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so."

2. The sufficiency Scripture-in fact, Scripture is never used except in reference to the faith hall of fame, Hebrews 11, and then only to equate their perceived "persecution" with that of dear saints who have long since preceded us.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

"And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."[2 Peter 1:19-21]

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."[Hebrews 4:12]

At Toronto, William DeArteaga made the following comments:

"Phariseeism is the heresy of orthodoxy which is basically correct ideas...ironically, the core problem with the Pharisee is that he cannot recognize the present work of the Holy Spirit....Well, for [John] Calvin, since all spiritual phenomena and powers stopped with the apostles, there is not a category of possibly true from the Holy Spirit, it's all, it has to be of the flesh or of the devil. So if you have spiritual phenomena-you see, that's a non-discerning theology....We all now associate the Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards and his great books on the Awakening. So, really, Jonathan Edwards developed the Protestant theology of discernment as far as I can see...his theology is probably the best that there has ever come around. So, that's one incident where the Pharisees stopped revival....And every revival has a predominant theologian, you know. Historians say, well in this revival, Charles Finney was the predominant figure here and theologian of that revival, etc., etc. And the Lord has already chosen the predominant theologian of this revival. It's not me! It's Jonathan Edwards. And every book on revival out there, including my book does central chapters on what did Jonathan Edwards say about revival. We're commentators on Jonathan Edwards. That's really true."[5]

As we can see, DeArteaga defines "Pharisees" as those who "cannot recognize the present work of the Holy Spirit." Which is to say, those who do not agree with DeArteaga about just what Biblically constitutes a great move of the Holy Spirit in these present times are labeled "Pharisees" by him. So, yet again, we see those who have grave Scriptural concerns about the movement called "Pharisees." Perhaps DeArteaga and others hurling the label "Pharisees" at those with whom they disagree do not realize that to call one a Pharisee is to call one a hypocrite, plain and simple. Or worse, perhaps they do and that is precisely what they mean to call us: hypocrites. For that is what evoked our Lord's righteous indignation with the Pharisees, the fact that they were hypocrites:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Matthew 23:27-28]

There is more than just the "Pharisee" label to take issue with in the particular DeArteaga sermon cited above. The most glaring inconsistency is the fact that he neglects to inform his hearers that Jonathan Edwards was both an avowed Calvinist and cessationist himself. Pretty astonishing considering the fact that DeArteaga is supposed to be a well-versed church historian. With that in view, let's have a look at DeArteaga's circular illogic:

  1. Calvinism equals Phariseeism which equals the heresy of orthodoxy, which is basically correct ideas.
  2. Calvin had a "non-discerning theology" because he was a cessationist.
  3. Jonathan Edwards developed the "Protestant theology of discernment."
  4. Jonathan Edwards' "theology", bearing in mind now, Edwards' own Calvinist and cessationist theology, "is probably the best that there has ever come around."

Therefore, because John Calvin was a cessationist, that made him a Pharisee, guilty of the "heresy of orthodoxy", which is "basically correct ideas." More importantly, because Jonathan Edwards indisputably demonstrates in his writings both that he was a cessationist and a Calvinist, William DeArteaga has just inadvertently called the cessationist beliefs of the historical figure he and Toronto point to as the cornerstone of their movement-"the predominant theologian of this revival"- heretical. But I certainly do agree with DeArteaga insomuch as the theology of Jonathan Edwards is concerned in that it is "the best that there has ever come around", although I daresay DeArteaga and I would disagree as to the context of the use of that. I would to God the Body of Christ today would thoroughly, whole-heartedly embrace and rediscover the Biblical, Christ-centered theology of Jonathan Edwards.

Rick Joyner and Bob Jones indulge themselves in the mix through alleged visions, dreams and various other extra-Biblical revelations. Joyner claims:

[Joyner's interpretation of verse 5 in Psalm 97, which Psalm he claims God "gave" him as the Psalm for this year, 1997] "The hills or mountains announced in this verse represent the human opposition that now withstands the working of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the world. This is a prophetic indication that the Lord's manifest presence shall come to destroy the human opposition that has withstood the working of His Spirit among His people. This human opposition in times past have attempted to withstand the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in the church as well as the true revelation of the government of God with Apostolic authority. This year will begin to unfold the destruction of this opposition."[6]

Joyner's visionary co-author of the "Shepherd's Rod 1997", from which these citations are taken, also directs some alleged Divine revelation at opposers of the movement as well:

"Vultures and foxes will devour those who do not move with the Holy Spirit this year....Those who do not properly respond to the Holy Spirit will be like a carcass in the desert, prey for predators....The foxes are a symbol for delusion....Those who do not receive the love of the truth that will be brought to the church by the inspired teachers are going to be marked by this strong delusion and confusion."