A Tiny Indicator Of Charismatic Influence…

This post has been updated, expanded and re-posted here.  Just fyi.

Aftermath

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So in the StrangeFire aftermath, one of the complaints that has been lodged at the conference and the whole cessationist case is that we always grab the “low hanging fruit” on the fringe of the movement as some sort of normative representation of the movement as a whole.  We’re told that we grab absurd examples and try to pass them off as some sort of example of the mainstream.  The level-headed folks are the obvious mainstream representatives, and the entranced glossolalaholics and Fletch-clone healers are the fringe, right?

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This argument has always made me puzzled since it’s so horribly obvious to me that the theologically absurd charismatic church of 20,000 obviously has far more influence in the movement and “on the street” than the theologically restrained charismatic church of 2,000 (and that’s being generous since the theologically absurd churches aren’t just bigger, but far more numerous).

So, I thought to myself, how can I give some sort of objective measure of influence? How can we say who is mainstream and who is fringe? Then I had an idea. Its not a great idea, but an idea none the less. I’m going to look at online presence in  the form of Twitter reach (as measured by followers) as a general indicator of just how many people are paying attention to whom. Continue reading

Quick Thoughts: Matt Chandler on the Gift of Prophecy

Thinking-Man

People all over the place are tossing out what they consider “knockout” arguments against Cessationism.

knockout

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I’ve read a few of them, and I’m…erm…unconvinced.

Here’s an example:

I missed this when I was doing research before on Matt Chandler for my Outreach top 50 Churches.

Here’s Matt Chandler giving an example of prophecy:

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So what do you think?

First, Did Ezekiel ever get 3 ideas and then run across the country-side trying to find out what God was *trying* to say?

Did Isaiah?  Samuel?  Anyone prophet in the scripture, ever?

Now before you jump the gun and bring up some of the occurrences where something like that happened, ask yourself if those events are ever referred to as “prophecy”?

– An example of something sorta similar was Joseph’s dreams in Genesis 37.  He had a couple of strange pictures in his mind that didn’t make sense until many years later, but Joseph is never referred to as a prophet and his dreams are never referred to as “prophecy”.

–  Another example of something sorta similar is the dreams of Pharaoh (Gen. 41) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2 & 4).  The prophecy wasn’t the dreams but the interpretation of the dreams (and any OT text used to understand the NT gift of prophecy undermines the whole continuationist idea that there’s a lack of continuity between the OT office of prophet and the NT gift of prophecy).

– I could go on and on, but this is a future post in and of itself (and will come…in a few weeks as my schedule clears up a tad).

This whole issue assumes a broad definition of “prophecy” that isn’t in the Bible, and I’ll try to address this at some point.  I’m currently compiling a list of some of the foundational issues that need to be addressed, and this is one of the big ones.

Secondly, are the only options for explaining these occurrences that they’re either acts of true prophecy or demonic misleading?

How about this option:

It is a work of God’s providential orchestration of lives and minds, but it’s not prophecy.

I know, that’s possibly a little hard to swallow.

It is God, but it’s not prophecy.

Here’s one more thought for you all:

Almost all of these “knockout” punch arguments that are making their rounds fail on the basis that they broadly assume the definition of the gifts in question on the basis of weak exegetical support without accurately deriving them from scripture.  (Big claims that I should back up with a few hundred pages of research, but this is a blog and I have many other things that demand my time.  If anyone wants to start a $100,000 kickstarter project for me to quit my job and start writing books on this stuff, I’ll gladly comply and start pumping out books…)

Most of the “spiritual gifts” books and tests that I have read all simply assume the definitions of the gifts that they’re discussing and don’t exegetically establish them.

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That’s where Matt Chandler is wrong in giving his illustration of “prophecy” in his life: his error lies in his interpretation of his experience.

I don’t argue with his experience; I basically take it at face value and praise the Lord with him, but I don’t have to take his interpretation of his experience as authoritative.  The Bible interprets my experience and tells me what happened, not the other way around.

Just some late night thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Those stairs would definitely get me into shape!” Unger

A Charismatic Primer Part 10 – The Outreach Top 50 (#41-45)

Time for the tenth installment in this series.  So far, we’ve looked at the New Apostolic Reformation, the Outreach Top 50 #1-5, the Outreach Top 50 #6-10, the Outreach Top 50 #11-15, the Outreach Top 50 #16-20, the Outreach Top 50 #21-25, the the Outreach Top 50 #26-30, the Outreach Top 50 #31-35, and the Outreach Top 50 #36-40. We’ll now look at the Outreach Top 50 #41-45, which includes several churches of interest.

41.  Southland Christian Church of Nicholasville, Kentucky – Pastored by Jon Weece.  Judging from their doctrinal statement and their FAQ page, these guys look like they’re practical cessationists.  They sound like they believe in modern prophecy, but appear to hold to Wayne Grudem’s dichotomy between office and gift of prophesy (which makes them practical cessationists).  Beyond that, here’s a sermon on spiritual gifts that further suggests that these guys take a really low-key, “open but cautious” position on the whole sign gifts/charismatic gifts issue that betrays them as practical cessationists (and seeing that Jon Weece preaches from The Message, I’m guessing these guys don’t exactly do original language exegesis…THE MESSAGE).

42.  Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center of Sayreville, New Jersey – Pastored by David T. Demola.  Unless the “World Outreach Center” didn’t give you a hint, these guys are a straight up prosperity gospel preaching church:

42a. Their doctrinal statement doesn’t exactly hide much.  They believe in the doctrine of subsequence (salvation and the baptism of the Spirit are entirely separate and distinct events), the doctrine of initial evidence (tongues is the outward evidence of the baptism of the Spirit), and that physical health and financial prosperity are provided in the atonement…I mean point #11 of their doctrinal statement is a whole doctrinal point on prosperity.  Subtlety and nuance are not ingredients in what these folks are cooking.  They have a separate Q & A page that explains some of their distinctives, like why they speak in tongues and prophesy in church, and they have a whole list of “what I have in Christ” that is a “name it and claim it” heresy checklist.

42b. Something interesting is that Demola apparently got his ThD from Golden State University, which looks like it doesn’t even have a department of religion and is “accredited” by some of the most bizarre sounding organizations I’ve ever heard of. Strange…but it’s not unheard of in charismatic circles for pastors to have highly questionable credentials from “schools” that accredit themselves or are under an “accrediting” body made up of several schools that embrace similar strains of false teaching (or have absolutely no doctrinal standards whatsoever).

42c.  Demola also runs Covenant Ministries International, which is an organization for creating “sons of Issachar” and is run by a team of apostles.  If you’ve been around Charismatic circles for any length of time, you’ll recognize how common obscure Old Testament language, like the phrase “sons of Issachar”, is in those circles.  One awesome example is in this famous video of Jessa Bentley.  At 2:47 she talks about “the sons of Ishcar” and then apparently gets hit with a tazer (but she probably stole that idea from someone else…).

42d. Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center has an in house school of ministry. which apparently offers a 1 year ministry prep degree for”effective service in the five-fold ministry”.  Again, the “five-fold ministry” language is familiar to those who have been around Charismatic circles for some time.

42e.  Faith also has a school of Christian counseling that, from the looks of things, is barely integrationist; more likely openly secular while adding in “Christianese nonsense”.  The school also offers a course in something called “Creation Therapy” (if you’re a Biblical Counselor, read at your own risk…I can only imagine what insanity is peddled in the classroom).  What exactly is the category for secular psychology combined with prosperity gospel?  I don’t know, but it’s something like this:

Gangsta Frankenstein

General Idea – Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center is a loud and proud prosperity gospel church.

43.  Abundant Living Faith Center of El Paso, Texas – Pastored by Charles Nieman.  Again, if this name doesn’t give it you a serious hint, these guys are also a serious prosperity preaching church:

43a.  Their doctrinal statement says, in no uncertain terms, that “Believers should be baptized in the Holy Spirit, speak with other tongues and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives”, that “It is God’s will that believers prosper and be in health”. and that “God heals through believers “laying hands on the sick in prayer according to Mark 16”.

That last one refers to Mark 16:17-18, and as anyone who knows anything about textual criticism knows, that passage (actually Mark 16:9-20)  is non-canonical (not actually part of the Bible) and nobody who knows about textual criticism really contests that.  Not only are these guys prosperity preachers, but they take doctrine from one of two sections in scripture that aren’t even part of the Scripture (though that’s not an uncommon mistake, and is all over the place).  Mistakes like that are a good demonstration of the difference between educated and uneducated pastors (and Nieman is definitely uneducated).  The last thing you want to do (especially as a church) is to trust God to keep a promise he’s never made; that’s a recipe for disappointment if I’ve ever seen it.  Having a dynamic personality, being a good public speaker and preaching Jesus are great…but Paul commanded Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).   If your pastor cannot rightly interpret the scriptures, or isn’t continually developing and improving their ability to handle the scripture, then the apostle Paul says that they should be ashamed of themselves.

Paul said it, not me.

43b.  Here’s their Church 101 page, where the pastor answers questions on various things.   The whole God is on your side video is interesting, and it’s telling how he explicitly commits the same error that he condemns others of (modeling God after what you want him to be), and it’s telling how he explicitly suggests that God is unconcerned with sin.  Also, it’s absolutely ironic how he totally downplays the law and yet, in the tithing video, tries to claim all the Old Testament teaching on tithing as being binding on the church (with the exception being that in the Old Testament the tithes were taken but in the New Testament they were received).  Also, I find it telling how the video on tithing is twice as long as any of the other videos (and I couldn’t help but notice that in his illustration regarding tithing, God is the wife and the Christians are the husband…but I won’t read into that too much…).  The Holy Spirit video is actually a video about praying in tongues (and he misquotes both his supporting texts regarding the apostles and his claim that every one of them prayed in tongues).  He defines tongues as “your own personal, spiritual, prayer language” and he claims that the purpose of tongues is basically for God and a person’s self edification in their personal relationship to God, and so that we can side-step our own confused desires and pray what God wants us to pray in a way that we don’t actually understand…which is okay because we don’t really need to know what we’re praying for since it’s God praying through us (which makes absolutely no sense).

43c.  The church offers the congregation a prosperity quick reference positive confession card for finances, so that members can always remember how to speak wealth into existence.  Also, with regards to positive confession, these guys are very open about their positive confession theology (and for those who don’t know, the simple idea behind “positive confession” is simply that your words have the power to create reality so if you speak positively about something, what you speak will become reality.  The opposite is also taught; if you speak negatively about something, what you speak will become reality.  It’s a very old idea that comes from Hinduism which has crept into the church over the last hundred+ years through some amazingly undiscerning people.)

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43d.  And if that’s not enough for you, look at who’s coming to their Thrive 2013 conference.  Jentezen Franklin (#24)?  Creflo Dollar? The Spanish ministries pastor at Lakewood (Church #1)?  Anyone who invites Creflo Dollar to headline a conference is going out of their way to say “we are a haven for false teachers!”  (Beyond that, one of those guys is a life coach, and I cannot stand life coaches.  “Life Coach” is a wanna-be pastor who doesn’t meet the biblical requirements for ministry, usually in their ability to teach doctrine and in their personal holiness, but confuses ministry with “helping people” (with highly unbiblical ideas and theology picked up from Oprah, spiritual development practices, bumper stickers, the “Chicken soup for the soul” books, and hundred+ year old New Thought heresy).  Life coaching is what a person lacking any shred of biblical discernment does who wants the “joys” of helping people but can’t live up to the high expectations of pastoral ministry.  Having a “life coach” at a conference to instruct pastors is like bringing a homeopath to speak at a neurosurgery conference.)

43e.  It’s not really a doctrinal point, but it’s is highly suspicious and appears to be a massive conflict of interest when your staff page reveals that your daughter is the HR director for the church and your son is the church accountant.

General Idea – Abundant Living Faith Center is another loud and proud prosperity church that thinks the narrow road has a stop along the way:

Prosperity

44.  Lutheran Church of Hope West of Des Moines, Iowa – Pastored by Mike Housholder.  This church is Evangelical Lutheran and actually says nothing on the website about spiritual gifts/charismatic issues.  They have a “health and wellness” page, but it’s definitely not prosperity gospel stuff.  This church apparently has far more concerns with the issues around homosexuality than spiritual gifts/charismatic issues.  I’d take an educated guess and say that this church was practical cessationists.

45. The Village Church of Flower Mound, Texas – Pastored by Matt Chandler.  This is another “reformed charismatic” church.  Chandler is on the more cautious spectrum of the Mark Driscoll side of things (probably most closely akin to many Calvary Chapel pastors), but he’s not nearly as tame as James MacDonald.  There’s almost nothing about the Village Church (or Matt Chandler) online, except for the following:

45a.  The Village Church has official positional papers written by Geoff Ashley (the apparent resident theologian) on what “charismatic” means, what they believe about spiritual gifts, what women can do at The Village Church (which includes prophesying), and Demons and deliverance (which is somewhat related to Charismatic issues).

45b.  Chandler is interviewed by Adrian Warnock here on being a reformed charismatic.

45c.  I’ve even gone through the whole sermon archives of The Village Church and haven’t found any Charismatic issues addressed except for some minor passing references in sermons like this one or this one or this one or this one.

General Idea – The Village Church is a church that claims to be ‘charismatic” but I’d argue is clearly a practical cessationist church.  Chandler, like Driscoll, simply has the experience of a cessationist and describes his cessationist experience in misapplied charismatic language.  The “tongues” he speaks in aren’t biblical tongues, and the “prophecy” he allows isn’t biblical prophecy.

So that’s the end of my exploration of #41-45.

Now all those people who were wondering about Chandler have the answers they were looking for…or not.  At least they have an answer.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Trying to describe his experience with properly applied biblical language” Unger