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About the Author
R. Douglas Geivett is professor of philosophy in Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He is the author of Evil and the Evidence for God, and coeditor of four books: Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology; In Defense of Miracles; Faith, Film and Philosophy; and Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life.
Read an Excerpt
Frequently, I (Holly) am asked, “What spurred your interest in researching the New Apostolic Reformation movement?"
In 2003, while working as the “University Editor” at Biola University, I was managing editor of Biola Magazine. In that capacity, I would receive correspondence from the magazine’s readers. One day, a particular e-mail message piqued my interest.
The message was from a former Biola student. She was concerned about a new religious movement of alleged apostles and prophets that had become influential in her city. She contacted the university hoping to find someone with a book responding to this movement’s teachings.
Since I had not heard of the movement she described, I could not have imagined then that—more than a decade later—I would be writing that book, along with my coauthor, Dr. Doug Geivett.
But my launch into researching the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) began that day with a Google search. I wanted to see if I could find any information about the movement she described.
Was I surprised. My simple search yielded webpage after webpage of information, including large organizations founded by apostles and prophets, NAR churches, conferences, and countless books.
It was obvious that NAR was large and influential. How had I had never heard of it?
After my initial foraging, I began to see signs of its influence all around me—signs I had previously overlooked because I didn’t have a framework for noticing or interpreting them. I realized I had friends who attended NAR churches. I discovered that prayer rallies held in stadiums in my city were sponsored by NAR organizations. And I recognized books on store shelves that were written by NAR apostles and prophets.
Though I hadn’t encountered NAR—in my conservative evangelical circles—clearly many people had.
Today, it is hard for me to fathom a time when I knew nothing about this movement. Hardly a day passes when I don’t see its influence around me—whether driving by a NAR church or spotting a NAR book at a friend’s house. And that is not taking into account the correspondence I receive from readers of my blog, from all over the world, sharing their own experiences with this movement.
Doug and I write this book with two major goals in mind: first, to give people an idea of the sheer size and reach of NAR; and, second, to systematize its key teachings and practices and evaluate them on the basis of Scripture and careful reasoning. Our other book, titled God’s Super Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, is a basic introduction to NAR. In addition to being brief and non-technical, it also contains stories of individuals’ personal experiences with this movement and practical advice for responding to its teachings.
Most of our research focuses on the views of NAR leaders from the United States because U.S. apostles and prophets have produced a vast literature. These leaders also exert great influence worldwide through their apostolic networks. An evaluation of their teachings, which can be documented on the basis of their writings, is a natural place to begin.
We endeavored to evaluate NAR teachings by using the best sources—that is, the literature produced by the movement’s most influential and widely recognized leaders. Whenever possible, we’ve used books to document key NAR teachings. However, due to NAR leaders’ use of the Internet to disseminate their teachings, we’ve also found it necessary to cite from websites and blogs.
We wish to warn readers about a possible confusion: Some critics have linked NAR with mainstream Pentecostalism and charismatics. We do not do this. In fact, it’s our contention that NAR deviates from classical Pentecostal and charismatic teachings. This movement has emerged out of independent charismatic churches and thus has gained a foothold in many of those churches in varying degrees. But we do not argue for cessationism, the view that the “miraculous gifts” listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are no longer active in the church. Whether the miraculous gifts are ongoing has no bearing on the arguments of our book.
To assist us in our goal of presenting a fair and balanced treatment of NAR, we developed the following set of criteria. We have used these criteria to filter our claims and moderate the tone of our book.
1. We assume that leading NAR figures are believers and genuine disciples of Jesus, and that their intention is to do the will of God in their lives and in the world.
2. We believe the Bible sets forth guidelines for church governance and cultural engagement.
3. We acknowledge that the Scriptures are not specific about all details concerning church governance and cultural engagement. Thus, there is room for divergent expressions of the church's presence in the world.
4. However, we think that certain broad parameters, revealed in Scripture and practiced in the historical orthodox church, set limits on the kind of flexibility and creativity that are permissible.
5. In our judgment, NAR perspective crosses these boundaries, and it does so in part because of flawed theology rooted in a flawed understanding of Scripture.
6. It is natural and proper for believers to publish their respective positions and air out their disagreements.
7. Critical analysis of any theological perspective must be charitable and gracious, even if resolute and confident. As with any other Christian activity done for the sake of Christ and his church, the work of critical assessment should exhibit the full range of moral and intellectual virtues, insofar as this is possible for manifestly fallible believers. We do not generally insist on a particular theological perspective among several that have been historically and broadly considered viable. For example, we evaluate the eschatological theology of NAR, noting its contribution to what is unique about the NAR perspective; but we do not insist on a particular option among the chief alternatives prominent in the history of the orthodox Christian faith and to a reasonable degree defensible from Scripture. This point can best be captured, perhaps, by noting that our book is not “confessional” in the sense of advocating for a particular confessional stance among long-standing alternatives. But our effort to resist undue advocacy does not preclude exposition of and argument for specific theological claims.
8. An implication is that our perspective is itself fallible, and probably mistaken at points. This is true despite our best efforts to interpret and apply the Scriptures accurately and wisely.
9. Critical assessment should resort chiefly to the Scriptures, held in common with NAR leaders to be the authoritative word of God.
10. We are not psychologists or sociologists, and we do not attempt to explain NAR in terms that require special expertise in sociology, or any other disciplines outside our own.
11. This means that our analysis is informed by our own disciplines in biblical studies, theology, Christian philosophy, and logic, as well as our experience in church ministries of preaching and discipleship, and in personal faith in Jesus.
12. We allow that Christian experience has a legitimate role in forming our theological understanding, biblical interpretation, and spiritual practice. Theological perspectives that do not lay such heavy stress on personal and corporate experience, as with the kind that is so pronounced within NAR, may and should nevertheless appeal in responsible fashion to the lessons of experience.
13. We consider it an important part of any Christian leader’s vocation to serve the church. A believer with the gifts of teaching and discernment is responsible for alerting the church to risky theology and practices that issue from it. But this must be done in an exemplary manner for the good of the whole body of Christ, including those with whom there is disagreement. Any assessment of another position must be even-handed and should not be needlessly sensationalist or provocative.
14. We are especially cautious about passing judgment on the character or intentions of those whose work we critique.
15. We emphasize that not all people affiliated with this movement hold to all the same beliefs. Because one leader in this movement promotes a particular teaching does not necessarily mean that all other leaders we have identified in this book also promote that particular teaching.
There’s a reason for being explicit and candid about these guidelines. They undergird our desire to establish and maintain a cordial spirit of theological reflection and ministerial practice. We write with calm assurance that knowledge of God’s truth is possible and that wisdom is attainable. An alarmist reaction to competing views is a disservice to the church. Dallas Willard says it well: “It is not knowledge, but nervous uncertainty, that makes people dogmatic, close-minded, and hostile—which spokespeople for Christ must never be.” We have no desire to be dogmatic or close-minded, much less hostile. Where we disagree with claims made by NAR leaders, we offer evidence that can be examined and tested by anyone who truly desires to know God’s truth and do God’s will. And we welcome the opportunity to consider evidence that we have erred in anything we have written.
We wish to express appreciation to the many individuals who helped us, in various ways, research, write, and produce this book. Several did contribute to our research for sure: Todd Johnson, Vinson Synan, Daniel Wallace, Patrick Johnstone, Gary Allen, Paul Carden, Rachel Tabachnick, Kevin Lewis, Clint Arnold, Robert Saucy, Alan Hultberg, Gary McIntosh, Kenneth Berding, Frank Chan, Doug Birdsall, Gerry Breshears, Anton Hein, and Jackie Alnor. Others read the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions: Paul Copan, James Spiegel, Karl Payne, Peter Everett, Doug Wubbena, and David Limbaugh. Ron Rhodes and Norman Geisler encouraged us to press on. Of course, their assistance in no way implies that they fully agree with our conclusions.
Table of Contents
1. What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?
2. Massive Size and Growing Political Influence
3. Mainstreaming the New Apostolic Reformation
4. NAR Apostles: The Generals
5. NAR Apostles: A Closer Look
6. Apostles in the Bible: The Twelve and Paul
7. Apostles in the Bible: The Other Apostles and False Apostles
8. NAR Apostles Compared to the Bible’s Apostles
9. Testing NAR Apostles
10. NAR Prophets: The Secret Intelligence Agents
11. NAR Prophets: A Closer Look
12. Prophets in the Bible
13. NAR Prophets Compared to the Bible’s Prophets
14. Testing NAR Prophets
15. Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare
16. A Biblical Analysis of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare
17. Unifying the Forces Through “Apostolic Unity”
18. A Miracle-Working Army
19. A Biblical Analysis of a NAR “Miracle-Working Army”
Appendix A: The Great Chain of Prophets
Appendix B: Todd Bentley’s Commissioning and “Apostolic Decrees”
Appendix C: Prominent NAR Networks
What People are Saying About This
“Leaders of apostolic networks hold a range of views, but some teachings of particular figures should be a matter of significant concern, not only to cessationists or even charismatics, but even to many who affirm or identify with apostolic movements in other ways, and to some of the figures’ fellow apostles. This critique invites all of us, wherever we stand on that spectrum, and whether we agree with every detail or criticism, to recognize and challenge these errors. Serious errors exposed here include Manifested Sons doctrine, dominionism, extrabiblical ‘inspired’ doctrines that exalt individuals, inappropriate fixation on esoteric information about evil spirits, and certain ‘apostles’ calling people out of other denominations or movements to submit to their ‘coverings.’”
—Craig Keener, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
“The authors have taken up the Herculean task of providing a panoramic view of a little-known movement and subjecting it to a biblical critique. They contend that at the heart of the NAR is a move to usher in a new church government in which designated apostles lead in tandem with prophets to reform church structures. This in turn will impact the secular order as the kingdom of God is brought to earth through programs designed by the apostles and prophets, such as training in the ‘five-fold ministries’ and the ‘seven mountain mandate.’ Weaving together information from a wide array of primary sources published by various leaders, the authors provide a much-needed profile of the NAR, although admitting this general description is not a one size-fits-all. Much of their attention has been devoted to filtering select NAR beliefs through the prism of their biblical examination. The basic premises of apostolic church government (by those holding the offices of apostles and prophets) and empowered by ‘miracle-working power’ (believed to be ‘activated’ by the leaders) were judged to be in error. The authors’ detailed assessment provides a significant introduction to a global movement, offering food for reflection and a base from which to continue the pursuit of a better understanding of NAR’s growth and its impact on future Christianity.”
—Margaret M. Poloma, Professor of Sociology Emeritus, The University of Akron
“Geivett and Pivec have done the global church a great service in writing this book! While affirming the proper place of divinely wrought signs and wonders in addition to the gift of prophecy in our day, they expose a good deal of questionable practices and flawed theology found within the New Apostolic Reformation. The book is biblically sound—as well as thoughtful, even-handed, and charitable.”
—Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics,
Palm Beach Atlantic University
“A New Apostolic Reformation? is a well-written survey of the apostolic movements that have recently exploded around the world. It offers balanced biblical and historical insights that will be very helpful for scholars and laypersons alike. The authors draw very important distinctions between the teachings of the historic Pentecostal churches and the newer independent charismatic views of such leaders as C. Peter Wagner and others.”
—Vinson Synan, Dean Emeritus, Regent University School of Divinity
“This is a thorough study and objective view of the New Apostolic Reformation. It is a necessary read for both traditional Pentecostals and those participating in NAR. We have needed this material for a long time.”
—Gary R. Allen, Former Executive Editor, Enrichment Journal; General Council of the Assemblies of God
“This is an important book, a one-stop shop for an explanation and biblical assessment of the so-called New Apostolic Reformation. Anyone interested in this global movement, whether sympathetic or critical, should read it. With their careful elucidation of NAR views and even-handed critique, Geivett and Pivec have pushed the discussion forward at a high level. This book provides a much-needed service to the church!”
—James S. Spiegel, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Taylor University
“Every movement that claims to be of the Holy Spirit should welcome scrutiny. Geivett and Pivec are exemplary critics in their respectful tone and portrayal of those with whom they disagree. Advocates of the so-called new apostolic reformation are invited to reconsider if and how their beliefs and practices are aligned with Scripture even as those looking to better understand this global phenomenon more will come away much more informed and be ready to draw their own conclusions.”
—Amos Yong, Professor of Theology and Mission; Director of the Center for Missiological Research, Fuller Theological Seminary
“Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec have produced an eye-opening exposé of a rapidly growing phenomenon. The New Apostolic Reformation is increasing its numbers at an alarming rate, and is something that must be addressed by the church today. The authors have offered a carefully documented, balanced, and fair treatment of the NAR. Their penetrating analysis of the claims of NAR is biblically and logically powerful, and at times even brilliant. If you’re not yet familiar with this movement, you need to be—and you need to read this book!”
—Daniel B. Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
“The authors clearly, systematically describe the movement’s origins and outworkings, and they offer a thoughtful, balanced, and biblical counterpoint to its many errors and excesses. Their work is desperately needed and long overdue.”
—Paul Carden, Executive Director, The Centers for Apologetics Research (CFAR)
“Despite its remarkable claims, including new revelation, many Christians have not yet heard of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Christians need to know about this movement and its extreme claims. In their fair and eminently readable book Geivett and Pivec inform us all of the history, founders, beliefs, and goals of NAR. The authors make it clear that NAR is not to be confused with mainstream Pentecostals and charismatics. Rather, the NAR movement is a phenomenon of very distinctive characteristics. Geivett and Pivec expose the movement's dubious theological foundations and quirky understanding of Scripture, and warn of the harm to the church's witness it has caused and will likely continue to cause. All who care for the health of the church need to read this book.”
—Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Canada