The Fatal Flaws of the Renewal – Part 1

Thus far, I’ve posted the notes from my first lecture at the Last Days Bible Conference, generally covering the history of the Renewal Movement.  Those notes were broken up into Part 1 and Part 2, and now I’ll post the notes from my second lecture.

When I was originally asked for the titles of my lectures, I had some tentative titles in mind but I hadn’t done most of my research.  I had originally entitled my second lecture “The Heresies and Heterodoxies of the Charismatic Movement,” but as my research progressed, I realized that I needed to change the direction of the lecture.  As I was working, I realized three things:

1.  Listing out all the various bad and downright heretical ideas within the broader Renewal Movement would lead to a list of 40+ ideas, which would have made a 45 minute talk totally unbearable.  That’s 1 minute per idea with 5 minutes combined for introduction and conclusion. Talk about an overload.

2.  A long list of bad and downright heretical ideas wouldn’t really serve anyone well since I wouldn’t have any reasonable amount of time to explain why the ideas were bad or heretical.  It would have just been a list of “here’s a bunch of ideas that are heretical…for reasons that time won’t permit me to explain.”

3.  Many of the ideas would likely never be encountered by many people in the Renewal Movement, let alone people outside of it.  Sure, everyone encounters the concept of “hearing the voice of God” in some manifestation, but there’s not a whole lot of people outside of very specific circles that encounter the concept of the Abishai anointing or the concept of a salt covenant.


So, I changed my lecture to deal with more foundational problems with the Renewal Movement.  I dealt with five “fatal flaws” and organized them with the acronym K.N.I.F.E.  If you were at the conference, I said that I would be providing citations for all the points…but as I’ve been working through my notes and editing (they were in point form with lots of acronyms and improper English, and needed to be turned into proper sentences), I realized that footnoting every point would take several hours per post.  I have included a few citations for some quotes, but much is left without citation (especially in the previous history post).  If there is any specific question, I’ll look up any specific reference that’s requested.  That being said, I’ve included a few hyperlinks to content that I didn’t pull out of books (and remembered to write down).  Editing, formatting, linking and adding pictures to these notes has taken around six hours per post, so I hope those who were expecting 100+ footnotes per post will grant me some slack.

Now, here’s the first half of my notes:

Five Fatal Flaws of the Renewal

1.  Knotted (twisted) Hermeneutics

Almost every Renewal author I read handles the Bible in one of three equally errant ways:

a. Interpretation via concordance.

i. The practice of suggesting that multiple verses are talking about the same thing or related because of common English words, which is equally wrong.

ii.  This often manifests in preaching where people string together passages on the basis of word association.  The passages aren’t talking about the same thing, but they’re connected on the shallow basis of a common English term.

– Jack Hayford (The Beauty of Spiritual Language, 44) writes about the practice of lifting up hands in corporate worship and says:

“Looking into the Bible, support for the uplifting of hands in worshipful praise was profuse. Beginning with Abraham (Gen. 14:22) to David (Ps. 63:1-4) to Paul (1 Tim. 2:8), the Word of God encourages this most natural and appropriate expression of laudation.”

– He just strings three verses together that contain the idea of lifting hands and concludes that Christians should do this in a church service.

That's Jack Hayford, the guy officiating Benny Hinn's remarriage to his ex-wife after Hinn cheated on her [with Paula White] and blamed his infidelity on her 15-year prescription drug habit...

That’s Jack Hayford, the guy officiating Benny Hinn’s remarriage to his ex-wife after Hinn cheated on her [with Paula White] and blamed his infidelity on her 15-year prescription drug habit

 b. Interpretation via the Spirit.

i. The practice of having the Spirit unveil completely nonsense interpretations of scripture.

ii.  This is often portrayed as something “prophetic” and a mark of spirituality.

– Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church, had read Revelation 19:10 and couldn’t figure out what it meant. He figured it out and writes:

“It was particularly this last sentence—the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy—that had just exploded in my heart, and I knew it had powerful implications extending far beyond the context of John’s encounter.

For the next few moments I meditated on this phrase, asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand what He meant. A few hours later, the answer walked right through my office door. One of the men in the church, whom I’ll call Jim, stopped by to share a testimony of how God had powerfully restored his marriage. After he finished the story he said, “Bill, you have my permission to tell this testimony to anyone you know who needs to hear it.”

This statement suddenly connected the dots for me. Testimony and prophecy had always been important elements of the Christian life, but in this moment I realized that this man was telling me that I could use his testimony to prophesy over people. (Prophecy either foretells the future or causes a change in the present. A testimony then becomes catalytic in its ability to bring about a change of atmosphere in the present, making room for a supernatural release.)”

Bill Johnson is the elderly gentleman in the glasses.  The grave is that of Smith Wigglesworth, early Pentecostal faith healer.  The second and fourth comments give you a hint for what's going on.

Bill Johnson is the elderly gentleman in the glasses. The grave is that of Smith Wigglesworth, early Pentecostal faith healer. The second and fourth comments give you a hint for what’s going on.

Bill Johnson is the elderly gentleman in the glasses.  The grave is that of Smith Wigglesworth, early Pentecostal faith healer.  The second and fourth comments give you a hint for what’s going on.

c. Interpretation via original language abuse.

i. The number of people in the Renewal who are competent in the original languages are few and far between, but the amount of people using Hebrew and Greek to pull rabbits out of a hat are far

ii. Hebrews 4:14 says “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

– Regarding this, Kenneth Hagin writes,

“The Greek term for “profession” means “saying the same things.” We need to say the same thing that Jesus says about our redemption, taking of our sins, and bearing our diseases.”

– In Hebrews 4:14, the word in the Greek is homologia, and it’s not even a verb.

– Now it’s true that the word is made up of homos (same) and logos (word), but Hagin’s error is two fold:

– It’s a noun, and it refers to the content of what someone professes, not the act of professing.

– He takes the verse to mean “let us relentlessly keep on saying bible verses out loud in order to gain whatever promises are in them, ” which is not even in the same area code as the historical/grammatical meaning of the passage.

– Kenneth Hagin is just blatantly wrong.

– His error is a foundational element in his whole book Exceedingly Growing Faith:  When you don’t find that God’s giving you whatever you think he’s promised you in whatever scripture you’re reading (and grossly misunderstanding), just keep on repeating those same scriptures aloud until God buckles and gives in.

iii. That same error pops up in almost every faith healing book I read.

Hagin has Mark 11:24, his "life verse" on his crypt...I've often wondered why he didn't just follow his own teaching and ask Jesus to not let him die?

Hagin has Mark 11:24, his “life verse” on his crypt…I’ve often wondered why he didn’t just follow his own teaching and ask Jesus to not let him die?

2. Novelty Obsession.

a. The entire Renewal movement started a restoration movement, focused on the fabulous “new” restoration of the Spirit that God was doing.

i.  On the second page of the very first issue of The Apostolic Faith, William Seymour explained why they named their movement “the Apostolic Faith Movement”:

 “The Apostolic Faith Movement stands for the restoration of the faith once delivered unto the saints…”

– The term “restoration” is quite significant.  That is a subtle way of insinuating that, before their movement, the “faith once delivered unto the saints” was lost and needed to be restored.

ii. This idea has been a component of the Renewal from the beginning and still is.  Speaking of the New Apostolic Reformation in his 1998 book New Apostolic Churches, on page 18 C. Peter Wagner explained why he calls it a “reformation”:

” I use ‘reformation’ because, as I have said, these new wineskins appear to be at least as radical as those of the Protestant Reformation almost 500 years ago.”

C. Peter Wagner: "I once cast out a demon this big..."

C. Peter Wagner: “I once cast out a demon this big…”

b.  There is a constant fascination with “new” things in Renewal circles:

 i. New Moves of God.

Every 2-5 years we have some big move of God”

– Right now it’s the Bay Revival.  The Bay Revival is already dwindling, since it started in 2010, but if there’s something new and equally large, I’m unaware of it as of right now. The guest speaker is Nathan Morris, a British evangelist, and the host church is Church of His Presence in Daphne, Alabama. It’s run by John Kilpatrick, who milked the Brownsville Assembly of God and left it in 2003, after running the church into the ground to the tune of millions of dollars.

Before the Bay Revival was the Lakeland Revival with Todd Bentley, (which occurred in an Assemblies of God church), started in 2008 and was over five months, but not before 400,000 people from 100 countries had come out. That whole revival ended in Todd Bentley stepping down due to adultery and his alcoholism.

– Ironically, Todd Bentley spent his “recovery time” at Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Fellowship Church in Charlotte, NC. While Todd was there, the worship pastor Jason Hooper (of Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey fame) got in a drunk driving accident in Australia after slamming shots of scotch.  His blood alcohol limit was four times the legal limit, which is only made worse since the blood alcohol limit for international drivers in Australia is ZERO.

How’s that for a good friend to help you through rehab?

Before Lakeland, we had the simultaneous revivals at Brownsville Assemblies of God (“the quaking revival”) and the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church (“the barking revival”), from around 1995-2000.

– Before that, there was the “drunken revival” at Carpenter’s Home Church (an Assemblies of God church pastored by Karl Strader), started in 1993 and led by Rodney Howard-Browne (the “Holy Ghost bartender”).

– That “revival”, known for “getting drunk in the spirit” as well as “holy laughter”, was shut down prematurely when Strader’s son was sent to prison for 45 years on 238 felony counts of selling the securities without a license to 75 “investors”. It ended in the church falling into massive debt and ultimately selling their 10,000 seat building to pay off their debts…and that didn’t last too long either.

– Before that was the revival in Kansas City that was led by the “Kansas City Prophets”. The three main prophets there were Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, and Bob Jones. Bob Jones was disciplined out of the Vineyard Church because he used his prophetic office to get into young women’s pants. Paul Cain did the same thing, but with you men…and he was also an alcoholic. Mike Bickle washed his hands of everything and started IHOP when the dust had settled.

 – The list keeps on going back, but I imagine you’re seeing the same pattern than I’m seeing.

Things are not as they appear.

Ferrari Testarossa

 – You’d think that if there were legitimate prophets in these movements, someone would be able to see through the frauds in their midst…but the problem is that the prophets are the leaders and the prophets are the frauds.

 ii. New worship songs.

–  This is incredibly important since there is an idea in Renewal circles that the Holy Spirit is present in worship services, namely the musical part, in a way that is key to effective evangelism.

– It’s a way of getting unbelievers to experience the effects of the Holy Spirit prior to getting saved, and is the “bait on the hook” so to speak.

 – In his book Worship His Majesty (pg. 60), Jack Hayford writes of when he discovered this amazing idea:

 “I had also begun to see that since worship is for people, it could also be the key to evangelism. It followed that if God were to “move in” – if He truly wanted to be present in power and bless His people at worship services – then people would be drawn to Christ. The question was, would previously unyielded hearts sense the reality of His presence and open up to Him?

 The laboratory of pastoral experience has verified that they do indeed!

 We have found that worship is the pathway and the atmosphere for people – the saved and the unsaved alike – to discover

* their royal calling in Christ,
* their high destiny in life,
* their fullest personal worth and
* their deepest human fulfillment.”

– Just process that for a moment.

– The key to successful evangelism is music.

– Not the Holy Spirit, or the biblical gospel…but music.

– The presence of God is marked by music.

– Not the proclamation of the Gospel, or the teaching of the scripture, or holiness, or repentance, or any number of other things…but music.

– The key to softening sinful hearts is music.

– Not the grace of God, or the work of the Holy Spirit, or the verification of the proclamation of the Gospel when accompanied by love…but music.*



iii. New Spiritual Gifts.

– Peter Wagner has completely fabricated the “office of intercessor”, which is another name for a “prayer warrior”.

– I’d argue that the tongues, prophecy and healing are entire novel spiritual gifts too, at least when judged by the definitions of Scripture. I’ll prove that, as best I can in the time I have, in the next talk (or post).

c. That obsession with “new” leads to a frightful disconnection from history in Renewal circles.

i. The constant focus on what’s “new” also insulates people in the Renewal from paying any attention to their history.

ii. None of the ideas are new, as are none of the shocking practices either:

– Smith Wigglesworth was healing people via physical violence 80+ years before Todd Bentley, 70+ years before Heidi Baker and Rodney Howard Browne.

– People were “barking in the Spirit” centuries before that activity ever showed up at a Vineyard church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

– Charles Cullis was writing about “sowing and reaping” 7+ decades before Oral Roberts ever published a word on the idea.

iii. If people studied the history of their own revivals and realized that they were constantly being sold a bag of smoke by charlatans who were all clearly morally disqualified from being elders or deacons, they might be a little more reticent to jump on the bandwagons.


That’s as far as my notes went on the second point.

In the next post, I’ll point out three more “fatal flaws” in the Renewal Movement.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “the Evangelical Nigel Tufnel” Unger


8 thoughts on “The Fatal Flaws of the Renewal – Part 1

  1. Since you started your research, you’ve mentioned Bob Jones several times. Is this Bob Jones in any way connected to Bob Jones University or fundamentalism?

    Thanks for all this!

  2. Lyndon, I always appreciate your writings, wit, and woe-fully funny images! (Made that sentence sliiiiiightly awkward just cause I wanted that alliteration. 🙂 I stepped out of the Pentecostal movement a few years ago and doing so pretty much felt like someone took all the pieces I’d combined to make good theology, and threw them up in the air. Some pieces have since fallen and am more grounded. Many others I’m still waiting to come to earth. I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel this way (I think I saw a comment from you over at Team Pyro mentioning something kind of similar). The Lord has put good folks in my way (and helped me find good folks) to help me make sense of a lot.

    Anyway, all that is just to say that reading your work so far, and many others (including the Pyros, and MacArthur, et al) makes me wonder why these manifestations (Spirit-slain, tongues, prophecies, barking, etc) have such world-wide similitude and seem to follow a pattern to acquire them, namely the mystical “waiting on the Lord”. Why is it that this “waiting” precludes these things? I wonder what they’re “triggering” in the physical/spiritual realm? Why does it seem that the majority of the “God told me”‘s are way off….but a few seem to be right?

    I hope this isn’t too weird (the ‘net is full of those folks and I’m not trying to compete) but I’m not looking for an answer to those questions – I know you’re busy, and I want to see the other articles you’ve to post! I just needed a somewhat safe place to vent them, where others can understand where I’m coming from. 🙂

    • Matt, hope it’s OK to reply to your questions which were really directed towards Lyndon. Regarding “world-wide similitude” of charismatic manifestations, this extends far beyond christianity – you’ll also see similar things in many non-christian religions. The common factor is that the everyone’s brain is wired the same way, and hence the mind trickery and hypnotism used to produce these manifestations produces similar results. African natives drum themselves into a trance and believe they meet their ancestral spirits; charismatic christians sing themselves into a trance and believe they meet the Holy Spirit. Regarding “waiting”, I’m not totally familiar with this, but it could be creating expectation – and when people expect something to happen, it probably will happen. Mind tricks again. I would caution against a belief in the “spirit realm” – this is the charismatic worldview and I’m sure it is not a biblical concept. You need to shake off the idea that manifestations are spiritual or supernatural in origin – they’re simply natural phenomena. Regarding prophecies etc, If you fire at random some of your shots will hit the target. Also look up “cold reading” – it’s possible with practice to appear to have supernatural knowledge but it’s a fortune tellers trick. As an ex-charismatic I’m keen to help people like you. Post back if you need to know more about anything.

  3. Hi there, I am an 18 year old relatively new Christian looking to build his musical theology. Most sites I have examined have been totally unsatisfying. Those who believe all music is stylistically ammoral fail to adress many questions and concerns that one may have, and those who say that music is stylistically moral often have the most foolish and flawed reasoning. I’ve yet to find much real substantial websites that could help me with this, in fact I’ve only found one. I did however notice a comment on your “about me” page that intrigued me and lead me to think you may have some wise insight. Is there any way I can contact you and would you be willing to help me understand a few things? Thank you 🙂

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