March 1, 2013

They Claim to Speak for God (Part 1)

T. A. McMahonBy T. A. McMahon
The Berean Call

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A very large part of Christendom in the United States is enamored with those who claim to speak for God. If you think that’s an overstatement, simply tune into some of the programing on Trinity Broadcasting Network or some of the other cable religious networks. What you will see are churches filled with thousands of Christians hanging on to every word of a man or a woman who is declaring what God has just revealed to him or her. The content ranges from the mundane to the bizarre. To some observers who are fairly well versed in the Scriptures, what they are hearing and seeing is laughable. But that's a tragic reaction by some who are forgetting that many of those being led astray by the so-called new prophets and apostles are their brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Agenda and Methodologies Contrary to the Word of God

Most North American believers are wonderfully and prayerfully sympathetic to the plight of fellow Christians who are undergoing terrible persecutions for their faith in foreign lands, yet too few have a real concern for fellow believers here in the West who are being spiritually seduced and whose biblical faith is being critically undermined. The tendency is to write off most false preachers and teachers as religious kooks and to think no more about their captive audience. All true believers, whether or not they have been led into false teaching, make up the body of Christ. When one part of the body is seduced and suffers, it affects the entire body (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).

Not only is such a cavalier attitude wrong biblically, but it is extremely shortsighted and therefore blinds a person to the seductions and ultimate deceptions that are involved. In this series of articles we want to present a wider view of what's involved with those who "claim to speak for God," demonstrating that it's far more than a few delusional zealots but rather a host of men and women, ministries, and movements that have an agenda and methodologies, all of which are contrary to the Word of God. In that endeavor, they have captured the hearts and minds of multitudes of Christians, mostly those among the Pentecostals and Charismatics, as well as staggering numbers of young adults, many from conservative evangelical backgrounds.

Wandering Stars

Dave Hunt and I have addressed this subject in bits and pieces in our books and in many articles in The Berean Call newsletters, but we haven’t communicated in a comprehensive way the extent of the spiritually destructive teachings and practices involved in this movement nor the scope of this development and its agenda. Now, however, there is a book available that covers the topic more extensively than anything yet in print. Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets, authored by Keith Gibson, not only explains the methods of this movement from beginning to end, but it also exposes its satanically inspired contribution to the progressive development of the kingdom and religion of the Antichrist. Gibson's observations need to be heeded:

"The majority of the church has not taken seriously the claims of the modern apostles and prophets [that they are] introducing a new paradigm into the Body of Christ. These claims are far more than idle boasts. Indeed the paradigm shifts have already begun in many segments of Christianity. To say that the movement has grown rapidly would be a gross understatement" (p. 10).

Rhema and Logos

The root fallacy of the movement is the view of how one receives communication from God. Most if not all of the leaders subscribe to the teaching that the Greek terms rhema and logos found in the Bible describe different ways of hearing from God. This has been a fundamental teaching among historic religious movements such as The Latter Rain, Manifest Sons of God, and the prosperity-and-healing-promoting Word/Faith teachers. They conclude that logos refers to the written word and rhema refers to the spoken word. Although the Bible uses the terms interchangeably, making no distinction, in practice this false teaching elevates what (supposedly) God has spoken to them as equal to or above what is written in the Scriptures. It goes far beyond someone stating that he "believes" that the Lord has impressed something upon his heart. Gibson comments:

"It is far different to claim an impression than it is to loudly pronounce, 'Thus saith the Lord.' The former is the hesitant expression of a thought, something that may or may not be completely true. The latter is a claim to divine revelation that by definition cannot contain anything but truth and which carries divine authority and must be obeyed."

Whether implied or declared, Gibson adds,

"The words 'Thus saith the Lord' change everything. A higher level of authority is being claimed. One should be extremely careful before one puts words in the mouth of God" (p. 8).

Dire Consequences

Many do not realize the dire consequences of being seduced by the "hearing from God" teachings. First of all, they completely undermine the objective nature of the Scriptures. In other words, when the Word of God is mixed with what some believe they've heard from God, it is difficult to objectively determine what is truly from God. That fundamentally destroys the value of the Bible in the lives of those who buy into the so-called new prophets of God. God’s written word is no longer relied upon as a determiner of truth, especially regarding the new doctrines presented, which those who are "hearing from God" promote in abundance. Unfortunately, that's fine with such false teachers because their "new thing that God is doing" cannot then be challenged by the "old written words" found in Scripture.

Gibson notes with great concern:

"No doctrine is under more regular assault from within the prophetic community than the doctrines relating to the Scriptures" (pp. 67-68).

He adds,

"Today’s prophets, and consequently their followers as well, are consistently sloppy in their approach to Scripture, frequently ignoring context, history, and grammar. They can even be seen redefining words when necessary to force verses to fit their preconceived ideas. The intent of the author of the text is rarely considered. The Bible is left to mean whatever the prophets say it means today" (p. 71).

The "Prophetic Hermeneutic"

If conservative evangelicals think that this drift away from God’s Word is a problem unique to Charismatics, they need to consider their own churches. Is discipleship a significant part of your fellowship? How about apologetics? In your Bible studies, are you actually studying books of the Bible or books by contemporary authors? Is the term hermeneutics a foreign word to most members of your fellowship? If that's the case, you also have something to be very concerned about.

In Wandering Stars, Keith Gibson underscores the critical necessity of hermeneutics for every believer.

"Hermeneutics has been described as the art and science of biblical interpretation. In handling the Bible properly, one should consider such things as context, history, grammar, and the genre of the literature among other things. The goal of hermeneutics is to understand the passage according to the original intent of the author, as inspired by the Holy Spirit."

Simply stated,

"The Bible should be studied in its historical and grammatical context and with the normal understanding of the words used. The intent is to discover the meaning intended by the author of the particular passage…. It is essentially a belief that God meant the Bible to be understood by the normal believer within the community of faith. This is sometimes referred to as the 'plain sense' principle of interpretation" (p. 70).

Simplifying it further, it involves not much more than what happens when two people have a normal conversation. Both are aware of the context of what they are communicating, know enough grammar to converse in sentences, and understand the meaning of the words used. We all do this every day, so it's mystifying that most misunderstandings of Scripture stem from not following the simple rules of hermeneutics.

Following such "plain sense" rules would eliminate the "prophetic hermeneutic" (i.e., believing what a dynamic preacher says just because he claims to be a prophet) that has caught many believers in the web of blindly following those who claim to be speaking for God. Gibson has seen the damage this has done to many believers' trust in God’s Word. He writes,

"The impact of this 'prophetic hermeneutic' is serious indeed. In the first place, as has already been stated, this type of approach to Scripture causes the Bible to lose its ability to provide boundaries for doctrine and practice because the Bible simply has no objective meaning. The Scripture means whatever any particular prophetic teacher declares that the Spirit has told him it means today. This style of teaching also serves to remove any definite understanding of Scripture from the common man who realizes that he simply cannot see all the things in Scripture that these teachers are seeing. This makes the average church person dependent on these 'inspired teachers' in order to know what the Lord has said" (p. 78).

Once that happens, the individual is vulnerable to whatever such a teacher dishes out and whatever direction the teacher wants to lead him.

Gibson spells out the tragic consequences of which few of us are aware:

"Because these prophetic teachers do not approach God’s Word properly, they reach false conclusions. These false conclusions then support aberrant doctrines and unbiblical practices. These unbiblical practices and false doctrines undermine the historic truths of the church and distract Christians from the pure faith and the true work of the ministry" (p. 80).

Scripture is "Yesterday's Manna"

It isn't only ignorance of the Scriptures or mishandling them on the part of many of the leaders of the prophetic movement. Some seemingly distort them for their own purposes. Gibson quotes Wendy Alec, from her very popular book Journal of the Unknown Prophet. This is what she claims she has received from Jesus:

"For the Word alone is yesterday's manna and even they [prophetic teachers] have seen deep in their hearts that it is no longer enough to feed my people" (quoted in Wandering Stars, p. 86).

So the written Word of God is not only "no longer enough," but it's also "yesterday’s manna." Scripture tells us that leftover manna "bred worms and stank" (Exodus 16:20). Who would believe that Jesus, who is the living Word, the same yesterday, today, and forever, the One who said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), would have anything to do with such a blasphemous statement? Yet thousands accept it unquestioningly. We can’t judge Alec’s heart in this, but it is obvious that she has relegated the written Word at least to an inferior position in comparison to what she and others are supposedly hearing from God today. Again, tragically, this is infecting our brothers and sisters who are part of the body of Christ.

Doctrine Is Downgraded

The Scriptures give us a sober warning that I believe is most applicable to the day in which we live:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

Again, sound doctrine is simply the teachings of the Word of God, which every believer is to read, heed, and obey. Yet, according to these teachers, since biblical doctrine stands in the way of the "new things God is doing," it must be downgraded.

Gibson quotes prophetic movement leader Francis Frangipane:

"We have instructed the church in nearly everything but becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. We have filled the people with doctrines instead of Deity; we have given them manuals instead of Emmanuel" (p. 122).

Frangipane and his cohorts have in fact done none of that. Gibson notes:

"Frangipane seems oblivious to the fact that teaching people to become disciples of Jesus Christ would necessitate doctrinal instruction if for no other reason than because to teach them who Jesus is necessitates a doctrinal discussion. Additionally, how else is the church to follow the words of Christ given in the great commission and 'teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you' without instruction in doctrine?" (p. 114).

Gibson's response is stunning in its simplicity, yet what is even more amazing is that so many are not thinking through what they are accepting. He adds,

"It is simply neither possible nor profitable to attempt to bypass doctrinal instruction. Discipleship may certainly involve more than merely doctrinal instruction but it cannot involve less" (p. 114).

The leaders of the prophetic movement of necessity must make it "involve less." Rick Joyner, for example, declares:

"We must first understand that our unity is not based on doctrines. Such unity is superficial at best. Our unity can only be found in Jesus. To focus our attention on Him and learn to love and cover one another is far more important than agreeing on all doctrines. Having like doctrines is not a basis for unity...it is a basis for division!" (p. 115).

Although "doctrine divides" is the mantra of the new prophets and apostles, they are correct in a way with which they would not agree. Romans 16:17-18 sets the matter straight:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."

It is false doctrine, i.e., that which is "contrary to the doctrine" taught by the biblical apostles, that "cause[s] divisions."

Conclusion

Of necessity and hopefully for edification, this first article majored on the fundamental erroneous teachings of the New Apostles and Prophets movement, i.e., its own false doctrines. With that understanding, it should come as no surprise as to how bizarre their beliefs and practices could and have become. In the next part of this series, the Lord willing, we will glean (primarily from Wandering Stars) who the leaders are and what is involved in their global dominionist agenda.

 


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