Monday, January 04, 2010

Why I Don't Roll Charismatic (The Third Installment)

This post can be added to a series on the Charismatic or Renewal movement that has been upon my mind somewhat more in recent months than in the past. This time I have in my mind prophetic utterances themselves from individuals within this movement. Specifically, the specific utterances that have been palpably wrong in what they specifically have predicted. According to Deuteronomy, such false utterances in the name of God warrant capital punishment (Deut 18:20).

This insuperably high view of the integrity of prophecy does not dissuade most within the ranks of the Charismatic movement from making painfully cavalier utterances in the name of God. This is because those within the movement make the distinction between being a "prophet" and "operating in the prophetic". This distinction really acts as a shield when the utterer of an erroneous prophecy can simply say "Well, I was speaking prophetically, we are right most of the time but sometimes we miss hear God."

This distinction is right up there with the Romanists distinction between "idol-latria" and "idol-dulia" the latter is what praying to statues and Mary fall under and thus are not in violation of the 2nd commandment's prohibitions. Once you have dissected one error it becomes easier to spot imitations of its kind.

The distinction between the office of "prophet" and "moving in the prophetic", the latter being what everyone today claims to be doing, as it grants immunity when they are wrong, is often said to have come about under the New Covenant. In the Old Testament the prophet was expected to be right all the time, but in the New...well not so much.

Logically, I have a hard time stomaching this, as those who labored under types and shadows would be held to a higher standard than those who have the Substance, namely Christ. Furthermore, scripturally, I see no scriptural reference to this downgrade in veracity of prophetic utterances. Somehow we are to accept that after Christ to whom all of the OT pointed, whose coming was the apex of history and the noon day shining, after His advent prophecy now became more fuzzy and amorphous.

This pseudo distinction between one being a "prophet" and one "operating in the prophetic" has caused much damage and served to grant immunity to all the bogus utterances made by the big dogs in the Charismatic movement. This is the ad hoc rescue invoked every time some one made an utterance a tad specific and the prediction has failed to become reality.

This is why it is safer to give the vague prophecies that have the skeletal structure of a pile of jello as well as being of like nourishment.

To give an example and to show that I do not cherry pick, as vague utterances is the rule rather than the exception, I pull the following excerpt from today's edition of "The Elijah List" (one of the most popular prophetic sites on the web) The is supposed to be a prophecy about what is in store in 2010 (emphasis his):

"During this earthly journey toward our eternal abode, we have more "spiritual set-backs" from Believers forfeiting inherent rights to the enemy than from the devil's cunning devices. However, there are three main components the Lord told me we will overcome in the year 2010:

• We must possess and abide in a land we have conquered.
• We must occupy our land by "title deed" ownership rights.
• We must realize our identity in God to rout our enemy.

Remember, God resides and inhabits eternity, not earthly existence. God IS SPIRIT! We are becoming His promised Word, and must grow more even daily as God reorders our vision of being eternally minded. "

2010 Will Be a Year of "Extreme Breakout"

... So, let us make a 2010 New Year's Resolution that: 2010 is the year to breakout of the 'naturally minded' wilderness.

We furthermore make a new resolution that: We are being repositioned into the vision of perpetuating our eternal purpose spiritually.
-(John Mark Pool)

Prophecy that was neither vague nor failed to come to pass were what distinguished the prophets of the LORD from the pagans. Or in modern terms, what is the difference between an utterance like that above and what you would get from calling Wanda at a 1-900 number? Sloppy biblical allusions, are the only difference I can pinpoint. The above was the most specific I saw in this particular prediction, that is why I quoted it, as well as the fact that the author himself had these sections in bold. This is the 2010 prediction from John Mark Pool.

All that this prediction amounts to in less spiritualized words is, "Things are gonna be good in 2010 for the church." What a gutsy prediction!

As I said, this is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to prophetic utterances in the Charismatic movement, a pretty bland and forgettable prediction slathered in spiritual sounding frosting.

Furthermore, the theology behind these kinds of utterances are radically man centered, Luther would categorize them as "Theology of glory" meaning it is elevating man and man centered conquests, but that is a post in itself.

Moving to the more specific prophecies that fellows in the charismatic movement have uttered, as this is where the real blood in the water is. One of the most dastardly incidents that comes to my mind is when Bob Jones in 1997 predicted a massive earthquake in CA for the coming year, even going so far as to advise people to move away. Sadly, some listened to his ravings seriously.

This was all recorded in the 1997 predictions for 1998 at Morning Star Ministries. I have Bob Jonesthe damning tape. Since this obviously failed to come to pass, Morning Star in the newer releases of the tape have edited Jones' prediction to make it more bland. This tells you the pathology of these individuals, they will go around editing tapes to cover their tracks. (Bob Jones picture to the right)

Bob Jones it also must be mentioned admitted to having women undress in front of him in his van under the pretense of giving them "prophetic words" (article), he is a sex offender. Now, I would be the first to say that such people can be forgiven, and upon clear repentance should be admitted back into fellowship, BUT such a person should not occupy a pulpit again as he now fails to meet the requirements of leadership (see 1 Timothy ch.3 or Titus ch.1).

Yet, Mr. Jones continues on the Charismatic circuits like an aging rockstar who is constantly on "Fairwell Tour" thus worthy of double honor. It is entirely reprehensible on the part of the churches that allow Mr. Jones a platform to speak, as his conduct has thoroughly disqualified him from any place of leadership (not to mention his wild doctrine). This shows that the alleged "gift" these individuals possess is deemed as more valuable than the purity of the church and an upright life. This brings us to Todd Bentley.

Now, not to throw punches at a dead horse as I have written on Bentley's escapades here, I bring up the fact that he claimed that God gave him a vision and thus prompted him to marry his former wife whom he has recently divorced and committed adultery against. Here is the recounting of Todd's vision from God, which led to his marriage which he threw away for fleeting pleasures:

"“…the Lord had actually shown me an open vision of Shonnah [Todd's former wife]. It was my first open-eyed vision. I was in my living room and my fireplace opened up, kind of like a TV screen, and I saw us embracing in a wheat field that was ready for harvest. We were both weeping and I was wearing a tux and she was wearing a wedding dress. As the vision unfolded, her friend Roswetta (who was now my friend) was talking with me in the living room about Shonnah. I described the open vision to her as it happened.

The presence of the Lord fell and we both wept. Roswetta said, ‘I can’t see it but I can feel goose bumps.’ During this vision, I also received an anointing of creativity, poetry and writing. In fact, I even received a three-page prophetic poem that I read at our wedding. I still write prophetic poems for my wife to this day.”
(From Bentley's autobiography)

Now, I don't want to make much of this as it speaks for itself, I honestly doubt Bentley had any vision, he strikes me as your run of the mill charlatan. If you question that maybe this video where he talks about a tumor exploding during a healing will help you. My point is that I don't know how seriously people making these utterances actually take them themselves.

The Bentley story is simply tragic, as he really threw away his family for a young trophy wife.

Yet, like Bob Jones, Todd Bentley is on his way back into the Charismatic conference circuit and is being "restored" to ministry by Rick Joyner and others. See my post "Swallowing the Spirit Feathers and All" for more on this.

Just like politicians, nobody ever resigns, and the apologies are palpably lacking sincerity.

The flippancy in all of this prophetic business I see as a major part of the problem. Let me assert that I do not doubt that God can speak to individuals directly, I am not a full blown cessationist (although I am closer to their end of the spectrum with unbridled mysticism being on the opposite end). However, what troubles me is the cavalier manner in which individuals within the Charismatic movement talk about hearing from God.

It is just an every day thing to hear from God to many of these individuals, He speaks to me when I am sleeping, when I am brushing my teeth, driving my car, etc. I often have heard the phrases "I feel like God is saying..." or even more odious "I just got a download from heaven..." both of these display that casual attitude people have to hearing from God.

In scripture when individuals hear from God it is quite another matter, they are simply "undone" and stricken by an overwhelming sense of unworthiness (Isaiah 6 for example).

Not so with the modern charismatics, they blithely talk about trips to the third heaven as though they had taken a train to Deleware, no big deal. Whereas, Paul wouldn't even say it was himself who had had a vision of heaven (2 Cor 12:1) as he felt so unworthy to utter what he had seen.

Again, not so with the modern subscribers to the renewal movement, I had a wild eyed fellow come up to me, whom I didn't know at all really, and just state to me rather matter of factly out of the blue "Yeah, I've been to the third heaven..." I looked at this man and it dawned on me that either he was mad or it was I who was mad, I concluded that the former was the case as he brought this up to me, a total stranger, completely out of nowhere. Again, I don't think this fellow has been to the third heaven, he was either delusional or a liar, because had he been there he wouldn't be so flippant about it. I think he thought this would impress me, like a general showing off his medals of valour he earned for his "bravery" against the Iraqi rebels.

Any time we claim to be speaking on God's behalf it should be with fear and trembling, as we hold a message that is greater than ourselves. This is true when we step up to exposit scripture, we are to preach as dying men to a dying world. It should certainly be true if we have indeed been given a prophetic word from God.

I personally don't go about seeking words from God apart from studying His revealed word in the Scriptures. I figure if God wants to give me some sort of direct word He is more than capable of doing so, as He is not impotent but sovereign and ruling and reigning. One doesn't go to a Charismatic school and learn how to hear God's voice, as many do. Frankly, the idea on its face is blasphemous as it presents to us a rather impotent god who really needs our help, he would like to speak to us if only we will listen. If God has something to say directly to us He will not have any difficulty arresting our attention.

That's my view of direct words from God.

This is the third installment in the growing series of "Why I don't Roll Charismatic", it is in part a response to some of the claims made by a friend of friends on his blogs about getting a prophecy from God that CA will be destroyed in Sept of 2010 by a massive earthquake. You can read of this HERE. I will not address him personally, as he is not a public figure, nor do I want him to feel shamed. Although, he believes in his message enough to put it on paper and put them under people's windshield wipers. Do I think there will be an earthquake in Sept 2010? I don't know, could happen.

What I am concerned about is what if it doesn't happen? Was not Christ's name taken in vain by being attached to a false prophecy? Does this not give unbelievers who got these pamphlets grounds to mock? I think the answer is yes to both of these questions.

To conclude, I simply do not know why the Bible isn't good enough for people. It claims to have all we need (2 Tim 3:16-17). C.H. Spurgeon once said if we had a thousand lifetimes and they were dedicated to the study of God's word, we still would not have mined all of the gems that are contained in God's word. Why then do so many go about chasing fresh words when there is already a sure word?

"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:2)


shauna said...

Bob, i so agree with a lot of what you have to say, and appreciate so much your love for the truth. I also have similar concerns with the movement.
One thing i do urge you to remember is that these are people you are speaking about.
Don't forget that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up". I would encourage you to honestly seek some of these people out, and hash over your sincere concerns. Most of these leaders you speak of are just honest people who love God. I think we all need each other.

Bob said...

Shauna, thanks for your exhortation. When we disagree it is easy to forget that these indeed are people worthy of our honor and respect because if for no other reason they bear the image of God. It is easy to treat the person like a thing and much harder to treat them with the dignity they deserve, even if they are wrong.

However, I don't know how honest Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, and Todd Bentley are, as I said they edited Jones' 1997 prophecy about a massive earthquake in CA to occur the followin year. With the edit it made it seem like all Jones said is that there would be an earthquake...well there are minor eartquakes almost every week in CA so no big deal there.

Furthermore when Bentley is talking about a "Tumor exploding" I also have to wonder how honest this is considering there is no video and most of these meeting are recorded.

Don't get me wrong I do think there are honest folk in the movement, Bill Johnson for example although I disagree with a lot of his theology and teaching seems like an upright man to me.

To sum up my view on miracles,and charismatic gifts, I just want to see the real thing. I really do, I am open to that, I just want the real deal, not a bunch of music induced excitement or a near khundalini experience. I want to see the real thing, a real outpouring of God, where the gospel of Jesus Christ is exalted, sin is mortified, and a hunger for the word and prayer develop due to this outpouring. And yes healing and all the other stuff, but that stuff is secondary to a changed life, and a love of the risen Lord.

shauna said...

agreed. I think we all agree with that.....