apostles, authority of the believer, Bethel Church, calvinism, christianity, church governance, divine healing, evangelism, faith, false doctrines, God's anointing, God's will, God's Word, heresies, heresy, Jesus Christ, judging others, miracles, NAR, New Age teaching, New Apostolic Reformation, occult practices, prayer, prophets, R. Douglas Geivett, spiritual authority, spiritual deception, spiritual discernment, spiritual warfare, theology
The New Apostolic Reformation (hereafter “NAR”) is a current movement within the charismatic community and is quite controversial. The volume of hostility towards those who teach and adhere to the principles espoused by this group is astonishing. The primary visible expression of the NAR within the US is Bethel Church in Redding, California.
Entire groups on social media are devoted to debunking the NAR and refuting its teachings. The degree of vitriol exhibited within these groups defies description. Regardless of the NAR’s merits — or lack thereof! — most of the comments in such groups are made by Internet trolls exhibiting huge amounts of spiritual angst coupled with a cursory level of scriptural literacy. In other words, they tend to be heavy on hysterical hyperbole and light on biblical scholarship!
My only direct contact with the NAR as been through a book written back in the mid-1990s by one of their leaders, a book which has profoundly impacted my life for the better. Who I am as both as a Christ-follower and a minister today are a direct consequence of this book’s influence at a critical juncture of my life.
This book notwithstanding, I’ve felt my ignorance of what the NAR actually stands for — rather than what others had accused them of — and whether it all measured up to Scripture was too profound to allow intelligent comment on my part publicly. As a result, I have remained silent.
All this changed recently when a Christian apologetics group I belong to on Facebook posted a YouTube video wherein a South African Christian educator was discussing the NAR with an author named R. Douglas Geivett who has written one or more books on the topic. In that video, a calm, rational discussion on the NAR actually took place, which was impressive in and of itself. Out of curiosity, I watched it all the way through. I was impressed with — and thankful for! — Brother Geivett’s refraining from tarring all charismatics and Pentecostals with the same brush, a distinction which is rarely made in the aforementioned groups devoted to refuting the NAR.
One of the other group members asked me to weigh in on what was said in the video because I’m known to be a charismatic minister. I felt led of the Spirit to repeat those comments in this article for your benefit.
The video is available for your viewing pleasure below. If the embed link does not work for you for whatever reason, you can view it here.
I do have to say if you don’t watch the video, my comments which follow will seem disjointed.
Here are my comments addressing points Geivett makes in the order they are discussed in the video. As you will see, for the most part I agree with him.
- In my opinion, apostles are missionaries who go around evangelizing and planting churches. We just don’t call them apostles anymore. Prophets indeed speak into the Body of Christ, but are subject to God’s Word and to one another (1 Corinthians 12-14). Neither are eligible to expand upon the existing canon of Scripture.
- I totally disagree with the idea that the NAR or any other movement can be a “new reformation.” IMHO, the original Protestant Reformation is still in progress. My writings are replete with this assertion, for example here.
- Neither do I agree with the NAR’s precept that the Church should be governed only by prophets and apostles. Ephesians 4:11 quickly puts paid to that silliness. Apostles and prophets have no greater or lesser standing within the Body of Christ as pastors, teachers, and evangelists enjoy. I believe the ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 are intended by God to mature the Body of Christ as stated there, not govern the Church. Point-of-fact: the only Scriptural form of Church governance is elder-based. though this is a matter upon which many disagree.
- I personally do not agree with Geivett’s artificial distinction between those who have the gift of apostleship and those who have the office. No such distinction exists in Scripture. In other words, if you have the gift, you have the office. That being said, if you have that gift/office, there will be no need to go around promoting yourself and announcing it to anyone who will listen — that gift “will make room for itself,” onlookers will recognize it when they see it, and render the appropriate honor.
- I totally disagree with the NAR concept that the spiritual authority we wield on this Earth is reserved to apostles and/or prophets alone. Every born-from-above Christ-follower has such authority. Furthermore, it is erroneous for someone to assume God cannot do anything in this earth apart from the prayers of the saints because God is indeed sovereign. However, I do think God will not do much of anything apart from our prayers because He has sovereignly limited Himself to honoring both our free will as well as His Word.
- The charismatic gifts are indeed alive and well in the Body of Christ. It’s nice to hear Geivett make the distinction between the NAR vs. the Charismatic Movement and classic Pentecostalism. I get so tired of the charismatic-bashing found in most groups labelling themselves as being “against heresies.”
- I concur that people seeking apostles/prophets for “words” instead of personal interaction with the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is spiritually unhealthy. It is indeed cultic and actually negates a key doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, specifically the priesthood of the believer. I totally agree with Geivett this is absolutely unscriptural.
This “seeking words” schtick is actually a modern rehash of an old faction which arose during the Charismatic Renewal 40 or so years ago, specifically the Shepherding Movement which thankfully died the death back in the day, but tragically not without hurting hundreds of believers beforehand.
Their faulty assumption was very Calvinistic in that it vastly over-emphasized Christianity’s essential doctrine of the depravity of man while minimizing our transformation resulting from the New Birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our physical bodies. This resulted in the false narrative that we — as believers, mind you, not unrepentant sinners — remain hopelessly in rebellion against the Most High, therefore need “shepherds” to keep a tight reign over our fleshly nature to keep us from straying into sin.
While their intentions were honorable, the results of basing church governance and practice upon such a faulty foundation was predictably cultish in practice. The Holy Spirit is more than capable to talking to His sheep, thank you very much, and keeping them in line as well as protecting them from error — assuming someone’s listening, that is! Baaaa!
As the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun!”
- When Paul mentions the apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2, he was referring to actual apostles and prophets who were his contemporaries in the faith. That being said, while I can see how the NAR interprets this to include their own “apostles” and “prophets,” I think it totally presumptuous. Essentially, to accept this concept implies an open canon of Scripture, which is a major theological no-no.
- Miracles are indeed available to all believers. The tragedy is so many of us are so totally captured by the corruption of Christian doctrine by Man’s Religion that we never think to pray for one.
- Faith in God’s Word concerning solutions to life problems can indeed be taught and developed, so a school dedicated to teaching one how to do so is not necessarily cultish/occultish on its face. The line between the occult and faith in the supernatural works of God has everything to do with their foundations. Occultic behavior is entirely dependent upon human effort and arcane rites involving incantations and spells. The supernatural works of God are based in the prayers of the saints, the promises found in God’s Word and our faith in those promises.
- I totally agree with Geivett concerning spiritual discernment. God’s Word is our ONLY yardstick, full stop, end of story. That being said, tragically most professing Christians are so scripturally illiterate and colossally ignorant of proper hermeneutics they cannot truly discern their way out of a wet paper bag.
- I also agree with Geivett that any Christian leader who feels threatened by direct questions is either a false shepherd at worst or a toxic one at best. In either case, no one should follow such. Such questioning is considered “touching God’s anointed” within Word of Faith circles and that harkens back to the aforementioned lie that rank-and-file believers cannot hear from God by themselves.
- There is absolutely nothing wrong with emotions. The problem comes when we allow our emotions to take precedence over God’s Word.
- The local church I attend is nowhere near the NAR doctrinally, but we sing many of Bethel’s songs. All those songs we sing are totally scriptural. I totally disagree with Geivett that singing their songs is an “entry-level drug” so to speak.
- Contrary to Geivett’s assertions on this matter, there are indeed satanic principalities who dominate specific geographic regions. This is completely borne out in Scripture (see the Book of Daniel). In Tulsa, Oklahoma, those spirits are apathy and religiosity. In Wichita, Kansas, it’s ministerial moral failures. San Francisco is dominated by spirits of homosexuality and licentiousness. I know this for a certainty because I have lived as a Christ-follower in all 3 places.
When people quote Paul in 2 Corinthians about our weapons not being fleshly, but mighty for the pulling down of strongholds, this is one area where that verse definitely applies. However, that verse also applies to personal strongholds within our souls caused by past emotional trauma and sin. IOW, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.
While I absolutely agree with Geivett that geography is not a factor in prayer, I do have to say walking around in an area where you are doing spiritual warfare can help you stay focused on the task at hand. I also completely agree we need to stay focussed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, rather than Satan and his hordes.
- The attachment of demonic spirits to objects used in occult practices is very real and is documented in the Book of Acts — possession of such items should be avoided at all costs. For example, in the American Southwest where I live, there are kachinas (dolls representing various Native American gods/spirits) and images of kokopellis everywhere. You’ll never catch me having any of them in my house. It would be like having a statue of Ashteroth, Molech, or Baal on the mantle. One of the things God repeatedly condemns throughout the Old Testament are locations where such idols were present and He consistently describes those who tore them down as “righteous.”
- I totally agree “soaking” is a crock of horse hockey. Soaking is defined as going to the grave of some mighty man or woman of God and laying/sitting on it to receive an impartation of that deceased person’s anointing for ministry.
While there is in fact a scriptural precedent for the bones of a prophet (Elisha) possessing a godly supernatural anointing long after his death (2 Kings 3:21), neither the dead soldier who touched those bones and came back to life nor his buddies who hastily threw him into that cave were deliberately seeking anything from those bones — they probably didn’t realize those bones were even there and they simply needed a handy hole to hastily chuck their deceased comrade into. As a result, this story cannot be used to justify the practice of soaking. Soaking is pure occultism and has absolutely no basis in Scripture, period.
An anointing for the miraculous does indeed exist, however. One of the mightiest missionary evangelists to ever walk this planet, the late T. L. Osborn, would stand up in front of hundreds of thousands of people at crusades in third-world countries and announce to the crowd how Jesus promised miracles of healing and deliverance from the demonic would follow the preaching of the Gospel. He went on to say that if people were not healed and delivered when they came forward for prayer, then he was preaching a false message and deserved to be disregarded. People would come forward and be healed and delivered by the thousands: the blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, the dumb spoke, the demonized were set free. And this happened time after time after time for decades until Brother Osborn graduated to his heavenly reward a few years back.
There are other such ministers too numerous to list here. While some of them were tragically flawed doctrinally and/or morally, all of them had the power of God flowing through them to perform miracles, thereby glorifying our Lord and Savior in order to win the lost.
All that being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the God’s anointing for evangelism/healings/miracles. The line where such seeking becomes carnal or not has everything to do with our personal motivation(s): do we want it because we hunger to see people come to Christ or are we wanting to aggrandize ourselves and become famous? If it’s the former, good on us and we just might receive it! If it’s the latter, all we are doing is wasting precious time and good air with such self-centered prayers. Only the Almighty knows in advance what we would do were we granted such a gift and, if we don’t receive it, He had excellent reasons for saying “no” to us. Selah!
My Personal Conclusions
While there are more than a few concepts and practices inherent to NAR teaching which are questionable at best and spiritually dangerous at worst, nothing I have heard about them thus far meets the criteria for being heretical.
As I have established elsewhere here on Miscellaneous Ramblings, a heresy is defined as a contradiction or negation of essential Christian doctrine, to wit those doctrines which define the very fabric of Christanity (you can read our Statement of Faith to discover what they are, if you don’t already know).
My assessment may change as I acquire more knowledge, but for now, that’s where I stand.
In conclusion, I cannot and will not endorse the NAR nor would I join an NAR church because of the many issues I have with their teachings, especially those smacking of New Age/occult activity.
Thanks for reading!