Thursday, February 7, 2013

A primer on Continuationist Theology and History

   When dealing with the nature of continuationist theology, it is important that we realize that we are not dealing a single, unified movement within Christendom. While “Charismatic” may be used to denote anyone and everyone who affirms the continuation of the miraculous spiritual gifts of the New Testament, within the confines of such an umbrella, one will find a plethora of conflicting views and opinions, that the obvious question is “Where do I start?”   
   Without acknowledging the differences and similarities between the following streams of continuationist theology, one risks stereotyping, misinformation and the unnecessary appeals to strawman fallacies.

1. Pentecostalism

   Pentecostalism as a movement does not have a single founder per se, but rather is the outhrowth of several ministries that arose within the Wesleyen Holiness movement of the late 19th century and early 20th. The Holiness preachers were known for their bold evangelistic ministries, calls to piety and the need for sanctified living.
   Many nonetheless attribute the “dawn” of Pentecostalism to the ministry of William Seymour and the Asuza Street Revival which began in Los Angeles during 1906, though similar revivals were also occurring simultaneously in Wales under Evan Roberts; in Britain with the Salvation Army under General William Booth, and also the missionary movements spreading throughout south-east asia.
   Born in 1870, William Seymour was born into an African-American slave family in Louisiana. As a young man, he became a student at a newly formed Bible College based in Houston, Texas in 1905 under the direction of Charles Parnham, a prominent Wesleyan-Holiness minister. Although Seymour was granted admission into Parnham’s college, the practice of racial segregation at that time (of which Parnham was an unabashed endorser) prohibited Seymour from sitting in on lectures and classes with his fellow students. At best, all Seymour could do was sit outside the classroom and eavesdrop.[iii]  
   After completing his studies, Seymour moved to Los Angeles, California to begin ministry as an evangelist. Basing his ministry in a small chapel located on Azusa Street, Seymour begun to conduct revival meetings. It was in these meetings that congregants who were deep in prayer started to voice unintelligible utterances. It was Seymour’s belief that these utterances were in fact the glossia, or Tongues, that came upon the believers during the feast of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts.
   These Tongues, Seymour taught, was the outward evidence of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” – subsequent to regeneration, the Holy Spirit empowers a believer with the Spiritual Gifts necessary for ministry and witness. Soon, testimonies of these Tongues, as well as prophecies and miraculous healings were filling the headlines of American news media.[iv]

   The concept of a “Second Blessing” of the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion was by no means a new idea. Drawing from the teachings of John Wesley, the Holiness preachers taught that there was available for believers an empowering grace for the purpose of Total Sanctification, after which a believer was free to fulfill their calling to ministry. Consider the following testimony from R.A. Torrey regarding his experiences with evangelist D.L. Moody:

The seventh thing that was the secret of why God used D. L. Moody was that he had a very definite enduement with power from on High, a very clear and definite baptism with the Holy Ghost. Moody knew he had "the baptism with the Holy Ghost"; he had no doubt about it. In his early days he was a great hustler; he had a tremendous desire to do something, but he had no real power. He worked very largely in the energy of the flesh.
      But there were two humble Free Methodist women who used to come over to his meetings in the Y.M.C.A. One was "Auntie Cook" and the other, Mrs. Snow. (I think her name was not Snow at that time.) These two women would come to Mr. Moody at the close of his meetings and say: "We are praying for you." Finally, Mr. Moody became somewhat nettled and said to them one night: "Why are you praying for me? Why don't you pray for the unsaved?" They replied: "We are praying that you may get the power." Mr. Moody did not know what that meant, but he got to thinking about it, and then went to these women and said: "I wish you would tell me what you mean"; and they told him about the definite baptism with the Holy Ghost. Then he asked that he might pray with them and not they merely pray for him.
       Auntie Cook once told me of the intense fervor with which Mr. Moody prayed on that occasion. She told me in words that I scarcely dare repeat, though I have never forgotten them. And he not only prayed with them, but he also prayed alone.  
      Not long after, one day on his way to England, he was walking up Wall Street in New York; (Mr. Moody very seldom told this and I almost hesitate to tell it) and in the midst of the bustle and hurry of that city his prayer was answered; the power of God fell upon him as he walked up the street and he had to hurry off to the house of a friend and ask that he might have a room by himself, and in that room he stayed alone for hours; and the Holy Ghost came upon him, filling his soul with such joy that at last he had to ask God to withhold His hand, lest he die on the spot from very joy. He went out from that place with the power of the Holy Ghost upon him, and when he got to London (partly through the prayers of a bedridden saint in Mr. Lessey's church), the power of God wrought through him mightily in North London, and hundreds were added to the churches; and that was what led to his being invited over to the wonderful campaign that followed in later years.
      Time and again Mr. Moody would come to me and say: "Torrey, I want you to preach on the baptism with the Holy Ghost." I do not know how many times he asked me to speak on that subject. Once, when I had been invited to preach in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York (invited at Mr. Moody's suggestion; had it not been for his suggestion the invitation would never have been extended to me), just before I started for New York, Mr. Moody drove up to my house and said: "Torrey, they want you to preach at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. It is a great big church, cost a million dollars to build it." Then he continued: "Torrey, I just want to ask one thing of you. I want to tell you what to preach about. You will preach that sermon of yours on 'Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God' and your sermon on 'The Baptism With the Holy Ghost.'"
     Time and again, when a call came to me to go off to some church, he would come up to me and say: "Now, Torrey, be sure and preach on the baptism with the Holy Ghost." I do not know how many times he said that to me. Once I asked him: "Mr. Moody, don't you think I have any sermons but those two: 'Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God' and 'The Baptism With the Holy Ghost'?" "Never mind that," he replied, "you give them those two sermons.”
      Once he had some teachers at Northfield -- fine men, all of them, but they did not believe in a definite baptism with the Holy Ghost for the individual. They believed that every child of God was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and they did not believe in any special baptism with the Holy Ghost for the individual. Mr. Moody came to me and said: "Torrey, will you come up to my house after the meeting tonight and I will get those men to come, and I want you to talk this thing out with them."
      Of course, I very readily consented, and Mr. Moody and I talked for a long time, but they did not altogether see eye to eye with us. And when they went, Mr. Moody signaled me to remain for a few moments. Mr. Moody sat there with his chin on his breast, as he so often sat when he was in deep thought; then he looked up and said: "Oh, why will they split hairs? Why don't they see that this is just the one thing that they themselves need? They are good teachers, they are wonderful teachers, and I am so glad to have them here; but why will they not see that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is just the one touch that they themselves need?"
     I shall never forget the eighth of July, 1894, to my dying day. It was the closing day of the Northfield Students' Conference -- the gathering of the students from the eastern colleges. Mr. Moody had asked me to preach on Saturday night and Sunday morning on the baptism with the Holy Ghost. On Saturday night I had spoken about, "The Baptism With the Holy Ghost: What It Is; What It Does; the Need of It and the Possibility of It." On Sunday morning I spoke on "The Baptism With the Holy Spirit: How to Get It." It was just exactly twelve o'clock when I finished my morning sermon, and I took out my watch and said: "Mr. Moody has invited us all to go up to the mountain at three o'clock this afternoon to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. It is three hours to three o'clock. Some of you cannot wait three hours. You do not need to wait. Go to your rooms; go out into the woods; go to your tent; go anywhere where you can get alone with God and have this matter out with Him."
      At three o’clock, we all gathered in front of Mr. Moody's mother's house (she was then still living), and then began to pass down the lane, through the gate, up on the mountainside. There were four hundred and fifty-six of us in all; I know the number because Paul Moody counted us as we passed through the gate.
     After a while Mr. Moody said: "I don't think we need to go any further; let us sit down here." We sat down on stumps and logs and on the ground. Mr. Moody said: "Have any of you students anything to say?" I think about seventy-five of them arose, one after the other, and said: "Mr. Moody, I could not wait till three o'clock; I have been alone with God since the morning service, and I believe I have a right to say that I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit."
     When these testimonies were over, Mr. Moody said: "Young men, I can't see any reason why we shouldn't kneel down here right now and ask God that the Holy Ghost may fall upon us just as definitely as He fell upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost. Let us pray." And we did pray, there on the mountainside. As we had gone up the mountainside heavy clouds had been gathering, and just as we began to pray, those clouds broke and the raindrops began to fall through the overhanging pines. But there was another cloud that had been gathering over Northfield for ten days, a cloud big with the mercy and grace and power of God; and as we began to pray, our prayers seemed to pierce that cloud and the Holy Ghost fell upon us. Men and women, that is what we all need: the Baptism with the Holy Ghost.

   William Seymour’s revival meetings at Azusa Street lasted from 1906-1910. During this time, Seymour attracted the criticism of the wider Body of Christ throughout the United States not just for his claims that the charismata were alive and active in Los Angeles, but for his other positions such as racial equality, progressive sanctification (as opposed to total as taught by the Holiness preachers), an egalitarian view of gender roles in ministry and a Pre-Millennial eschatology favoring a Pre-Tribulation view of the rapture. Some of Seymour’s critics dismissed the revival as nothing more than sheer emotionalism. Others went as far as to label the manifestations as nothing short of demonic counterfeits.

   The Azusa Street Revival in turn spawned several new movements and denominations including Foursquare, Church of God in Christ and The Assemblies of God. Today, the Assemblies of Go is one of the largest protestant denominations in the USA (The Southern Baptist Convention coming second).   

   The faith statement of the AOG General Assembly is quite detailed with regards to its doctrine, both in terms of primary essentials as well as secondary distinctives with many scripture proofs used to support each point.[vi] These statements are summarized in the Statement of Fundamental Truths”

1. The Bible is inspired by God and is "the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct".

2. There is only one true God who exists as a Trinity.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God and, as the second person of the Trinity, is God.

4. Man was created good by God but was separated from God through
original sin.

Salvation "is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ".

6. There are two
ordinances. Believer's baptism by immersion is a declaration to the world of the believer's faith in Christ.
Lord's Supper is a symbolic remembrance of Christ's suffering and death.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate and subsequent experience following conversion. Spirit baptism brings empowerment to live an overcoming Christian life and to be an effective witness.

Speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is "an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God". It occurs when the believer identifies with, and has faith in, Christ in his death and resurrection. It is understood to be a process in that it requires continual yielding to the Holy Spirit.

10. The
Church's mission is to seek and save all who are lost in sin; the Church is the Body of Christ and consists of all people who accept Christ, regardless of Christian denomination.

11. Divinely called and scripturally-ordained
ministers serve the Church.

Divine healing of the sick is provided for in the atonement.

13. The "imminent and blessed hope" of the Church is its
rapture preceding the bodily return of Christ to earth.

14. The rapture of the Church will be followed by the visible return of Christ and his reign on earth for a thousand years.

15. There will be a
final judgment and eternal damnation for the "wicked dead".

16. There will be future new
heavens and a new earth "wherein dwelleth righteousness".[vii]

Statements 1-6 are easily recognizable as consistent with orthodox, historic Christianity. Statements 7-9 and 12 deal with Pentecostal pneumatology while 13-16 are eschatological.

   Prominent Pentecostals include:
- Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947)
- Kevin Conner (1927-)
- David Wilkerson (1931-2011)
- Pat Boone (1934-)
- Jack Hayford (1934-)
- Chuck Norris (1940-)
- Dolly Parton (1946-)
- Wayne Cordeiro (1952-)
- Denzel Washington (1954-)
- Geoff Bullock (1955-)
- John Bevere (1959-)
- Darlene Zschech (1965-)
- Judah Smith (1978-)

2. The Charismatic Renewal

   The Azusa Street revival, as well as it’s sister movements in Wales, as well as the advent of the Salvation Army brought to the 20th Century Church a renewed enthusiasm, especially when much of the church was going down the proverbial drain.
   The practice of Literary and Higher Criticism in seminaries and universities throughout the world led the Bible to be seen by professing “Christian” scholars not as the infallible, inerrant and inspired Word of God, but rather as a human work to be reviewed, scrutinized and critiqued as one would any other writing. To the Liberals, Christianity was in dire need of rescue from it’s worst enemy and hindrance to progression: itself. The Liberals south to cleanse the Christian faith from “outdated”, “superstitious” beliefs such as the miraculous, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the literal 6-day creation, et al; in favor for a worldview consistent with the growing social trends and customs. To contend otherwise was tantamount to intellectual suicide.
   This was a complete antithesis of true evangelicalism, which was distinguished by

- The Need for conversion as a personal experience for the individual
- Active commitment to personal evangelism
- High regard for Biblical authority
- High regard for the Person and Work of Jesus Christ

   In spite of this, evangelicalism wasn’t planning on going down without a fight. A few committed ministers were committed to refuting the Liberals, and affirming the fundamentals of the Christian faith. In popular media, the term “Fundamentalist” is often used as a by-word to denote anyone who will utilize a religious label with the intent of harmful extremism; Fundamentalism as a movement however, was not about extremes per se, but rather, the affirmation of essentials.  

   Not only did [Charles] Darwin’s understanding of natural selection undermine God’s role in creation and providence, but new approaches to the study of ancient texts also raised doubts about the divine character of the Bible. If Darwin’s study of the various mechanisms of nature that might account for the variety of species seemed to make God unnecessary for the beginning and preservation of the natural world, so too did the examination of the Bible’s literary and historical qualities tend to play down the necessity of divine inspiration for the composition of Scripture. In both cases, the problems raised by evolutionary theory and by higher criticism, which emphasized the natural, or human, aspects of human and biblical origins, meant that the divine contribution either to creation or the inspiration of the Bible became marginal or even doubtful. Instead of God creating man and woman by divine fiat, and instead of the Holy Spirit inspiring the prophets and apostles to write the canonical texts, the new scholarship in biology and biblical studies taught that science could explain the uniqueness of man or the Bible on grounds that were observable or quantifiable — as any good science did.
   These intellectual challenges, aided and abetted by new academic institutions such as the research university and graduate programs that generated specialized scholarship, were important factors that would eventually pull Protestants into rival camps. On the one side, the modernists attempted to accommodate the new science so that the churches would not look like obstacles to progress and the advance of knowledge. The way modernists embraced the new ideas was to downplay the supernatural and miraculous aspects of Christianity as matters that were peripheral to the faith’s ethical and spiritual core. In effect, modernists attempted to naturalize Christianity so that it would not conflict with the new science and the social progress it appeared to beckon.
   On the other side, fundamentalists dug in their heels (rightly so) on the supernatural and miraculous character of Christianity and especially the person and work of Christ. Practically any list of the so‑called fundamentals, the list of essential doctrines from which fundamentalists took their name, featured the virgin birth, miraculous deeds, vicarious death, and resurrection of Christ, along with affirmations of the inerrancy of the Bible because of its divine authorship, as well as the miraculous nature of regeneration or the new birth.[viii]

   The Fundamentalist movement gave evangelicalism the necessary sustenance for orthodoxy to stay alive in such challenging times. It also saw the rise of new ministries such as the publication of Christianity Today under editor J.I. Packer and the thousands led to Christ via the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

   At first, the relationship between Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism was shaky at best. Maintaning the cessationist position of mainstream prostestantism from the past centuries, many within early 20th Century Fundamentalism saw the Pentecostals’ emphasis on the experiential, as well as the exercise of relevatory gifts such as tongues and prophecy as a compromise to the authority of Scripture. The Pentecostals on the other hand, while by no means disagreeing with the Fundamentalists’ passion to contend for the essential convictions of the Christian faith, felt that Fundamentalism was at risk of becoming dry and legalistic. 

   In spite of this conflict, there were nonetheless those from both evangelicalism and Pentecostalism who were asking the question as to whether the two movements were indeed mutually exclusive, or whether a middle ground could be achieved incorporating both he evangelicals’ commitment to affirming the essential convictions of biblical Christianity, while also allowing for the experiential elements of Pentecostalism, notably the return of the charismata

   Towards the sixties and seventies, such mergers did indeed arise; most notably in the form of The Calvary Chapel movement under Chuck Smith, and The Vineyard under John Wimber.

   At its beginning, Calvary Chapel operated as a cross-cultural missions organization that bridged the "generation gap" as it existed during the Vietnam War period. Calvary Chapel was a hub of the "Jesus People" phenomenon that existed at that time and was featured in Time Magazine for its success among "hippies" and young people; one of the most popularly known converts being musician Keith Green.
   Doctrinally, Calvary Chapel is Dispensational in eschatology, Arminian in view of salvation, while placing a strong emphasis in verse-by-verse expository preaching. In addition to Chuck Smith, prominent Calvary Chapel pastors include Chuck Missler and evangelist Greg Laurie.

   The first Vineyard Church started when Kenn Gulliksen brought together two Bible studies, both meeting at the houses of singer/songwriters:
Larry Norman and Chuck Girard. In early 1975, thirteen groups met at the Beverley Hills Women's club.
In 1977,
John Wimber, an evangelical pastor and teacher on church growth, founded a Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda, California.
   In addition to emphasizing the operation of the charismata within the local church, Wimber also started to emphasize the need for “Power Evangelism”, that is, gospel presentation enriched with tangible signs and wonders which would point unbelievers to the reality of God. Wimber writes:

Modern humanists – those who embrace secularism, self-reliance, materialism and rationalism – no longer believe it is possible to arrive to arrive rationally at objective moral and spiritual truth. Ironically, there are are many rational inconsistancies in the way humanists think. For example, while believing in consistent, closed material universe that may be understood only by scientific enquiry, at the same time they hold relativistic assumptions about religion and morality. Beliving that “whatever you belive is okay for you” assumes a plurality of maral systems. In that regard most secularists hold to an internally inconsistent worlview
   This accounts for the current growth in many western societies of philosophies developed from aspects of Eastern and New Age thought, e.g, Transcendental Meditation. On the surfance, interest in these philosophies seems to contradict what one would expect from a humanistic worldview, but most modern humanists are not rigously rational. They frequently acknowledge there is a spiritual or moral world that lies outside the rational, which can only be known through personal experience. Even the most rationalistic, humanistic people seem to recognize intuitively that there is more to human existence than the material, the rational, the scientific. People everywhere – even Westerners conditioned to believe there is nothing beyond what scientists tell us – feel the need to reach out for something more, something beyond the rational, something spiritual. This gives rise to people getting involved in the New Age outside of Christianity, and in charismatic experiences within.

Wimber's teaching on healing and the ministry of the
Holy Spirit eventually led to conflict with Calvary Chapel. In a meeting with Calvary Chapel leaders, it was suggested that Wimber's church stop using the Calvary name and affiliate with Gulliksen's Vineyard movement. In 1982, Wimber's church changed its name to the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Gulliksen turned over the churches in under his oversight to Wimber, beginning his leadership of the Vineyard movement.
   Vineyard is not a denomination per se, hence many of it’s early leaders came from a diverse range of theological backgrounds including arminians and calvinists, dispensationalists and covenentors. Indeed, most of such leaders were actually pastors from conservative evangelical backgrounds.
   Vineyard also contributed greatly to Contemporary Christian Music. The older Pentecostal Churches were known for having choirs that sang an assortment of hymns and lively praise choruses. With Vineyard on the other hand, “Charismatic” quickly became a worship style in it’s own right.

   In addition to these new movements, the belief in the continuation of the spiritual gifts also began to cross into already existing denomination branches who previously would have been at odds with Pentecostalism over half a century earlier such as the Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists and even sectors of Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. The Charismatic Renewal marked a new ecumenicism in the Body of Christ.
   While many of the “Charismatics” looked upon Pentecostalism as a forerunning predecessor, not all necessarily agreed with Pentecostal doctrine such as William Seymour’s eschatology nor his belief in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a secondary experience subsequent to conversion. According to Sam Storms, a Reformed-Baptist who was one of John Wimber’s early students:

There are three fundamental elements in the classical view:
First, there is the doctrine of subsequence. Spirit-baptism is always subsequent to and therefore distinct from conversion. The time intervening between the two events may be momentary or conceivably years (nine years, for example, in the case of Paula).
Second, there is an emphasis on conditions. Depending on whom you read the conditions on which spirit-baptism is suspended may include repentance, confession, faith, prayers, waiting (“tarrying”), seeking, yielding, etc. The obvious danger here is in dividing the Christian life in such a way that salvation becomes a gift to the sinner whereas the fullness of the Spirit becomes a reward to the saint. But all is of grace. All comes with Christ.
Third, they emphasize the doctrine of initial evidence. The initial and physical evidence of having been baptized in the Spirit is speaking in tongues. If one has not spoken in tongues, one has not been baptized in the Spirit.[x]

Storms’ personal view on the subject however, is not that of classic Pentecostalism:

   The view that I will contend is that Spirit-baptism is a metaphor a metaphor that describes what happens when one becomes a Christian. However, this does not preclude multiple, subsequent experiences of the Spirit’s activity. After conversion of the Spirit may yet “come” with varying degrees of intensity, wherein the Christian is “pverwhelmed”, “empowered”, or in some sense  “endued”. This release of new power, this manifestation of the Spirit’s intimate presence, is most likely to be identified with what the New Testament calls the “filling” of the Spirit.
   Key to this interpretation is 1 Corinthians 12:3, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – Whether Jew or Greek, Slave or Free – and were given one Spirit to drink.” There are a number of reasons for understanding this text as descriptive of the conversion experience of all Christians.
1) If the text describes te experience of only some believers, those who lack this second blessing do not belong to the body of Christ.
2) The context of 1 Corinthians 12 militates against the doctrine of subsequence. The idea of a Spirit-Baptized elite would have plyed irectly into the hands of those who were causing division in Corinth. Paul emphasizes here the common experience of the Holy Spiritfor everyone, not what one group has that another does not (note the emphatic “we were all”).
3) Some insist that the preposition eis does not mean that Spirit-baptism incorporates one “into” the body of Christ. Rather, eis, means something like “with a view of beniffetting” or “for the sake of”; the idea being that Spirit-baptism prepares them for service/ministry to the body in which they had previously been placed by faith in Christ. Grammatically speaking, had this been Paul’s intent, he would have probably used another preposition that more clearly expresses the idea (e.g., heneka, “for the sake of”, or hyper with the genitive, “in behalf of, for the sake of”).

Pentecostal scholar Douglas Oss counters:

[Sam] Storms states that there is no imperative in the New Testament for believers to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Consider what Pentecostals say about the interpretation of Luke-Acts and Paul. First, the narrative genre expresses imperatives different than a letter. What is meant in Acts 1:6-8 when Jesus tells the disciples that the fulfillment of [John] the Baptist’s prophecy is looming on the horizon, and that they should wait in Jerusalem until they receive “power” (dunamis) when the holy Spirit comes upon them? And what theology is communicated through the fulfillment of this promise throughout the remainder of Acts? Is this not the narratological equivalent of an imperative? Remember Peter’s sermon, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord will call” (Acts 2:39). Second, Luke must be allowed to explain redemptive-historical fulfillment in his own terms without importing theology from Paul and unnaturally imposing it on Luke-Acts. Harmonization must come after divinely ordained diversities are understand, and Luke’s agenda emphasizes the Spirit’s charismatic power.
   To put an epistolary language test to a narrative is hermeneutically unsound.

While many use the term “neo-pentecostalism” synonymously with “Charismatic”, such is actually a misnomer given the differing views within the Charismatic Movement(s) itself.  

Notable figures in the Charismatic Renewal include:
- Chuck Smith (1927-)
- Carter Conlon
- Chuck Missler
- Phil Pringle
- John Wimber
- Greg Laurie
- Jim Cymbala

3. Word of Faith

   Within Christian media Word of Faith (aka “Prosperity Gospel”) is perhaps the most popularized form of Christianity, making it’s way into televangelism, books, and radio. While Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Renewal affirmed and contended for orthodox, historic Christianity, the Word of Faith movement stretches (and even denies) the core doctrines that serve as the foundation of such orthodoxy.

   Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to be financially prosperous, as well as have good health, good marriages and relationships, and to live generally prosperous lives.
   As the name "Word of Faith" implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than in whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. A favorite expression in the Word Faith movement is "positive confession." It refers to the Word Faith teaching that your words will create, they have creative power. They say, "What you say you create!" So if you believe it strongly enough to speak it, you'll create it. You will create your riches. You will create your health. You will get out of your wheel chair. It determines everything that happens to you they say. Your confessions, based upon your faith in faith, will bring things to pass, and God has to act because it is a law. “Speak faith to your wallet! Speak faith into your marriage! Speak faith into your mortgage! And let God bless you abundantly!” Faith, according to Word Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; it is not belief in revealed revelation in the Scripture. Faith is a formula by which you manipulate the universe, by which you manipulate things.
   Similarly, “negative confession” which puts too much focus and energy into thinks that are negative can only bring about the opposite of the wealth, health and prosperity, that is, poverty, sickness and hurt. In other words, you don't want to say the wrong words or pray the wrong prayers, because it might happen.

   Word of Faith teaches that God empowers his people (blesses them) to achieve the promises that are contained in the Bible. Because of this, suffering does not come from God, but rather, from Satan and/or one’s personal sin. Additionally, if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God is not able to do anything at all unless the person invites Him to.

   According to Baptist evangelist Justin Peters, The Word of Faith movement owes it’s existence not so much to Pentecostalism, but rather to metaphysical cults like Mary Baker-Eadie’s Christian Science and Phineas Quimby’s New Thought; these cults are known for their utilization of secular psychology, New Age teaching and the emphasis on self-realization. These cultic teachings, Peters claims, combined with Pseudo-Christian terminology, led to the birth of what we know as Word of Faith Movement.

Prominent members of the Word of Faith Movement include:
- Esseck W. Kenyon (1867-1948)
- Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003)
- Jimmy Swaggart (1935-)
- Kenneth Copeland (1936-)
- Joyce Meyer (1942-)
- Benny Hinn (1952-)
- Creflo Dollar (1962-)
- Joel Osteen (1963-)

4. The Third Wave (aka The New Apostolic Reformation)

C. Peter Wagner, former professor for Church Growth at Fuller seminary, identified three “Waves” that permeated the twentieth century
1st Wave – Pentecostalism via the Azusa Street Revival
2nd Wave – The Charismatic Renewal
3rd Wave – The New Apostolic Reformation

Whereas the Pentecostals emphasized the present-day operation of the miraculous spiritual gifts for the church’s edification, Wagner and other Third Wavers taught upon the church to reinstate the “5-fold ministry” offices for the church’s foundation.

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors[a] and teachers,[b] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
Ephesians 4:11-13

Leading Third Wavers will say that for the most of church history, the church’s leadership and identity has been determined (others will even say “Hijacked”) by the offices of Pastors and Teachers. Hence, if the church is to truly fulfill it’s mission, it must also allow and raise up those with the prophetic and apostolic gifts. Rather than leading a single local church, contemporary apostles can oversee several congregations, if not entire denominations and movements with the authority to begin new churches missionally, as well as appoint and commission church leadership.[xiii]
   C. Peter Wagner defines the gift of Apostleship as:

[The Gift of Apostle is] the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume and to exercise divinely imparted authority in order to establish the foundational government of an assigned sphere of ministry within the Church. An apostle hears from the Holy Spirit and sets things in order accordingly for the Church’s health, growth, maturity and outreach.[xiv]

   Another key feature of The Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation is it’s eschatology. While pentecostals such as the Assemblies of God churches have been known for teaching a Pre-millennial, Pre-Tribulation Rapture view of the end-times, Third Wavers by comparison adhere to a strong post-Millennialism.
   Kris Valloton from Bethel Church in Redding, California writes in his book Heavy Rain:

   The goal of my book is not to give you another chart to argue over or to enter into a theological debate on the various views of end-time prophecy. I simply want to challenge your thinking. I want you to be aware that, like it or not, your eschatological core values could be affecting your ministry, and more importantly, your legacy.
   We owe it to our children's children's children to have the courage to question old paradigms that could rob hope from the coming generations. Hope is the seedbed that faith grows in, and faith is what Jesus is looking for when He returns to the planet: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
   Bill Johnson says, "To think that things are going to get worse and worse in the last days takes no faith." What is more, desiring Jesus to return now relegates billions of people to hell. Peter understood this when he said, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). It's so important that we put on the mind of Christ and do not let our circumstances dictate our stances. Every time we react to the world's condition instead of responding in faith, we find ourselves under the circumstances. A lot of bad doctrine comes out of a sense of powerless Christianity. We tend to spiritualize our dysfunction, mask our fears and excuse our inability to see greater works happen through our lives.
   I am personally on an eschatological journey. I feel like Abram when he first met God. The Lord told him to leave his country and journey to a land He would show him (see Genesis 12:1). Abram didn't know where he was going; he just knew where he couldn't stay. I know I can't stay in the end-time theology that is stealing my children's future, instilling fear as a primary motivation for serving the Father and undermining the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.
   Even though I am not sure where I am going, I have decided to allow a few simple core values to determine my eschatological journey. First, I will not let mystical passages that have been debated for centuries undermine the clear commands, promises and prophecies we have from the Lord Himself, many of which I have already discussed at length in this book. Second, I will not embrace an end-time view that diminishes hope, promotes fear or re-arms the same devil that Jesus disarmed on the cross (see Colossians 2:13-15).
   The book of Revelation was written to be the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of the Antichrist (see Revelation 1:1). The book of Revelation was penned in a prophetic style common to the mystics and it is, therefore, prone to subjectivity. I won't allow its interpretation to promote powerless Christianity. The command that has been passed down from generation to generation with growing momentum is to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John 3:8). It remains true in every epoch season in life that when we submit to God.

This Eschatology, with it’s emphasis on seeing the church as rising in triumph during the latter days rather than undergo tribulation has caused those within the New Apostolic Reformation to take a pro-active stance on issues such as politics (by way of the so-called “Religious Right”) and social justice.

   This theology taught by the New Apostolic Movement, known as Dominionism, teaches that in order to see the Kingdom of God made manifest culminating in the return of Christ (note:  postmillennial eschatology), the church must make a leading upon all sectors of society, namely Arts/entertainment, education, science, politics, religion and business.

   Perhaps even more controversial is not so much the political and social agenda of the New Apostolic Reformation outside the church, but rather the manifestations that occur within:

Rodney Howard-Browne, a missionary born in South Africa, came with his family to Tampa Bay, Florida to plant a church and conduct revival meetings. A notable feature of these meetings was the phenomenon of “Holy Laughter” – during worship and prayer, congregants would find themselves overwhelmed with ecstatic joy, culminating in fits of uncontrollable laughter.
   Howard-Browne’s ministry caught the attention of Word of Faith Ministers such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland, as well as affiliates of the Vineyard Movement such as Randy Clark and John Arnott.
   In 1994 at their church just outside of Toronto Airport, Canada, Vineyard pastors John and Carol Arnott started their own revival meetings based on their own visits to meetings led by Rodney Howard-Browne and Randy Clark. Within months, what was a fledging church of one hundred and twenty congregants quickly grew to a thousand.
   In addition to “Holy Laughter”, the “Toronto Blessing”, as it came to be commonly known as, was also marked by other manifestations such as convulsions, animal noises and even effects often linked to physical drunkenness.

   The bizarre nature of the manifestations caused many to immediately question whether this was indeed a legitimate revival. The Vineyard Movement itself was left in a state of disarray; many felt that both the Toronto Blessing as well as the teachings of the Third Wave were compromising the movement’s evangelical foundations. Others received the phenomenon with open arms.

   Eventually, due to pressures arising from the spontaneous and at times uncontrollable nature of the spiritual climates brought about by the Toronto blessing, in 1996 John Wimber announced that Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship would no longer belong to the Vineyard Movement on the charge that the Toronto Blessing had brought into the churches an overemphasis on spiritual experience, as opposed to the clear teachings of the Scripture as God’s authoritative and inerrant Word.[xv]

Prominent Third Wavers include:
- C. Peter Wagner
- Che Ahn
- Cindy jacobs
- Mike Bickle
- Bill Johnson
- Dutch Sheets
- Lou Engle
- Sarah Palin

5. “Shades of Grey”

As we can see, Continuationism in the 20th Century has taken several forms. While “Charismatic” may be used to denote all continuationists’ who affirm the use and availability of the charismata today, it could be said that the internal differences at times far outweigh the commonalities.
   Even among differing continuationists, one will find pastors from one stream having one hand open to accept another, while at the same time using the opposite to keep the remaining different streams at bay.

   Hence, to praise or condemn continuationist theology overall just by looking at only one of the above streams will not provide a logical and objective assessment without having to resort to stereotypes and strawman fallacies. Any assessment of a Christian’s pneumatology must therefore be done at the level of the individual himself.


[iii]               There is controversy as to who really is the true founder of Pentecostalism – Seymour or Parnham. Many are inclined to disqualify Parnham ad hominim due to his endorsement of segregationism.

[v]                 R.A. Torrey. “Why God used D.L. Moody”.



[ix]                John Wimber. Power Evangelism. Hodder and Stoughton, 1985. Pg142.

[xi]                Wayne Grudem (ed.) Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? – 4 Views. Zondervan, 1996. Pg 177.

[xii]               Ibid. Pg236

[xiii]              Even among continuationist theologians, the gift of apostleship is subject to much controversy. Do I believe it can exist today? Short answer: yes. I am in agreement  with Samuel Storms as to what an Apostle today is and is not.

[xiv]              C. Peter Wagner. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. Regal, 2005. Pg192.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ben ..I just stumbled onto your blog. As to Justin Peters and the WOF connection to the metaphysical cults ..this is wrong. Its a falsehood that was first perpetuated by D.R. McConnell in his book Another Gospel. I'm short on time, so I will put a link here if you are truly seeking to be accurate.