Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two Books on the "New Apostolic Reformation"

Book Review: “A New Apostolic Reformation?” by R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, and “God’s Super Apostles” by R. Douglas Geivert and Holly Pivec.
A team of trained Alpine skiers scaled Mt. Everest in an effort to rout the throne of a demon thought to have territorial control over a large swath of planet earth, and another group climbed the hill famous for the “Hollywood” sign in southern California while reciting a “divorce decree” intended to separate another demon named Baal from control over the entertainment industry. While these stories may tempt the reader to simply dismiss those involved as cranks, doing so would be a mistake. As documented in these important works, the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a worldwide movement with the support of churches and organizations with as many as 3 million people in the United States. Churches should be aware of the teachings and dangers of this movement.

These two books published at about the same time by the same authors provide an outstanding overview of the scope, teachings, and influence of this movement. A New Apostolic Reformation? contains more detail and is intended for more theologically advanced readers, while God's Super Apostles provides information and insight for lay readers wanting a primer on this movement. Geivett teaches philosophy at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology; Pivec is a journalist and blogger whose impressive investigative research on this subject is discussed on her blog.

Central to the NAR is the notion that churches and Christians must submit to the authority of modern day apostles and prophets if they are to be included in God’s plans for the expansion of His kingdom. These apostles, self-described as generals, and prophets, said to convey new truth to the church, claim to have full authority comparable to those holding these offices during biblical times – and more. Indeed, their offices constitute governing authority that demands submission. That fact, together with the spiritual gifts and insights that they are said to have the ability to convey, creates an authoritarian environment that appears cult like in nature.

While the NAR movement places tremendous emphasis on spiritual warfare against demonic forces and the use of gifts of healing, the authors emphasize that their work on this movement does not reflect opposition to mainstream charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Indeed, mainstream charismatics and Pentecostals have expressed concern about, and outright opposition to, NAR practices and beliefs. The NAR movement is much more radical than those in its insistence on obedience to its apostles and prophets and its claim that church unity involves not unity around common doctrines, but unity around the modern apostles themselves. Doctrinal deviations from mainstream charismatic and Pentecostal practices are too numerous to outline in a brief review, but they include the odd activities surrounding the naming of demons as a prerequisite for defeating them and the insistence that what most charismatics regard as the divine “gift” of healing can be taught to anybody that wants to practice it.

In the more detailed New Apostolic Reformation, after some introductory chapters looking at the growing influence of the movement, the book works its way through a series of NAR beliefs, carefully outlining the views expressed in written works by key NAR leaders before examining those beliefs in light of appropriate scriptural teaching. Geivert and Pivec take care to note that every individual teaching is not universally held thoughout the movement. Indeed, they bring an impressive level of nuance into their discussion of the movement and its leaders.  Some of the issues discussed include NAR claims related to the authority of apostles and prophets as modern governing authorities requiring submission by pastors and Christians who desire God’s favor, the nature of spiritual warfare, the nature of Christian unity, and the nature of miracles. On each subject, the authors find the NAR to be biblically lacking.

While TheNew Apostolic Reformation? is more thorough than the other work, it is quite readable and should be accessible for most Christian readers. The authors write briskly and crisply. This is an important subject for pastors, lay leaders, and parents to understand, and this book provides a worthy examination of the subject.

In God's Super Apostles, for each key belief or practice common to NAR, the authors describe the teaching and outline how leaders in the NAR justify it biblically. They then look at the actual biblical texts to evaluate the claims of the movement. In each case, they reasonably find that the NAR is making claims lacking in biblical support.

Several individuals and organizations are mentioned as key players in the movement, including C. Peter Wagner (formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary and now associated with Global Spheres), Cindy Jacobs (Generals International), Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer), and Bill Hamon (Christian International Ministries Network). Many readers will be disappointed in the participation of Wagner, who, in fact, is among the key founders of NAR. A few decades ago while at Fuller, Wagner was a key leader in the church growth movement, writing a number of books that were key to the early development of church growth thinking. His later participation in the Vineyard movement, with an emphasis on signs and wonders as a method for church growth is widely known. Now deeply engaged in NAR, he seems to have gone completely off the rails.

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