Earlier today, in suggesting one of the links on the lower right column of this blog, a website was recommended to me suggesting similarities between the two organizations. The organization that I named was the magazine Modern Reformation. This magazine is the doctrinal hard copy of the White Horse Inn radio show. The organization compared to these is the New Apostolic Reformation on a site that is called Global Spheres. Here are the links:
If you are familiar with WHI and MR, I apologize in advance. The stated goals of these two organizations is:
We believe that each generation must rediscover and apply the gospel to their own time. We long to see a second reformation – a modern Reformation take hold of our churches and return them to the God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-wrought places of worship they should be…. So, we’re putting our time and resources to work toward one, helping Christians “know what they believe and why they believe it.”
It is important to understand that their discussion is all about doctrine, all about the Gospel. The theme is that you do not even attempt to answer questions about the world until we have the Gospel straight. We’ll see how this works in a bit.
The stated goal of GS and the NAR is:
NAR has no official statements of theology or ecclesiology, although a large number of us do happen to agree upon many somewhat radical conclusions. Most of us have long track records of service within traditional Christianity, and we have needed to go through paradigm shifts to get where we are now. Keep in mind that one of the affects of every paradigm shift is that some people get pulled out of their comfort zones. One of the reasons for opposition to some of the more radical ideas of NAR is that certain people have decided not to change and they are upset with those who have chosen to change.
So, while one group seeks to return to Christ-centered, Bible-centered, confessional (or creedal) historic Christianity, the other group is seeking to leave this mold. Let’s look at some specific planks of the NAR and evaluate them in terms of the historic Reformed traditions that are represented by WHI and MR.
Apostolic governance. This conversation is in terms of modern alignment of prophets with apostles. The first thing for the Reformed mind to grasp is that these terms are not restricted in Pentecostal minds to the Biblical period. Even when we will accept that prophecy in terms of using prophetic voice in teaching and instructing is a modern exercise, we would never presume to use the term “Apostle” outside of its Biblical context or timeframe. This whole concept is a non-category to the Reformed mind. While most Pentecostals will assume incorrectly that the reformed are all cessationists, believing that all gifts of the spirit ceased at the death of the last apostle, our understanding of the gifts of the spirit are still very much “confined” by scripture. The understanding of the gifts of the spirit in the Reformed mind is that they are rooted in the John 14 and 16 passages as exemplified by the sermons in Acts. In other words, the Holy Spirit was sent to testify to the truth of the Scriptures concerning Jesus Christ. No more and no less. The Pentecostal mind, for reasons that I personally do not understand, does not feel that this is sufficient understanding of these gifts. This position is further fleshed out in the next few concepts.
The office of prophet. The Reformed will note quickly that it is always Old Testament scripture that refer to the office of prophet. (Yes, there are 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, but that is really not the scope of this post.) We will go on to state in a matter of fact manner that the purpose of those OT prophets was to testify to the coming messiah. We will point to Matthew 3 and say that John the Baptist was the last of the OT prophets; because we had no need of prophets in that sense once Jesus began His earthly ministry. But the Pentecostal will point to those same OT promises out of redemptive historical context and say look at these verses! Here are the examples quoted by Dr. Wagner:
Surely God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7) Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper. (2 Chronicles 20:20)
Note for ESV users, the word prosper is translated succeed for us, thus you can see immediately where that difference leads. Yes, this is the style of Biblical interpretation that leads to the prosperity “gospel.” On another day, we can do proper Biblical exegesis of these two passages, but that is not the purpose of this post.
Dominionism. Here we have another non-category for Reformed believers. This word is best translated into our categories as a sort of theology of Glory. As most of us are amillennial in our eschatology, we need to keep touch with the premillennial dispensationalism that remains the mainstay of Pentecostal theology. This term is a gradual conversion of the world to Christianity, or the granting of dominion over the earth as it is in heaven. This is a far cry from our understanding of the Great Commission that we hold completely satisfies the requirements prior to the second coming of Christ. By dominionism, these Pentecostals hold that conversion of at least a majority of the earth to Christianity is necessary to induce the Second Coming, or create the necessary conditions for the Second Coming. We will not be discussing raptures or raptors or rafters in this post.
A theocracy. This is putting the cards on the table. Here is where we finally can look at tangible differences that both sides understand. The Reformed position is that the only Biblical theocracy on the planet past, present and future was First Temple Israel. The Pentecostal, dispensational system insists that a vital part of dominionism is a Christian theocracy. That we Reformed not only see this as unnecessary, but disagree on its Biblical foundation, is to see into the heart of the gulf between the groups. The two kingdom motif is a category distinction that does not exist in the Pentecostal world. It would take a careful exegesis of several parables to teach the doctrine of two kingdoms, again beyond the scope of this post, so I will defer to past and future posts on this topic.
Extra-biblical revelation. While both groups hold that the Holy Spirit is very active in the world today, because the Pentecostals overlook the normal “relatively mundane” gifts of the Holy Spirit, they assume incorrectly that the Reformed do not have a robust doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the work of the Holy Spirit becomes one of extra-biblical revelation. This is not seen as directly affronting John 14 and 16. This is seen through an interpretation of those passages that hangs upon this part of one verse.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)
From this half of one verse out of context, we get all of this extra-biblical revelation. Read Dr. Wagner’s defense of this topic. The violence that he does to the authority of scripture is the typical liberal working over. The irony that a group that holds to the supposedly more enlightened view of the Holy Spirit has such a narrow view of inspiration when it comes to the Canon. Arguing over the inclusion of the Apocrypha when it doesn’t support any of their arguments seems remarkable!
Supernatural signs and wonders. Rather than spend any more energy on this topic, I’ll give it the same of course treatment that Dr. Wagner does. Once we get to this part of the discussion, our world views, our Biblical views, our eschatology, our theology are so far apart, that I agree with him that this is an of course moment. For the record, most Reformed to not doubt supernatural signs and wonders in the least. They occurred all through the Bible. They always occurred in reference with bringing Glory to God and bringing light to the story of redemptive history at that point in revelation. Our current point in the redemptive historical timeline we call the interadvental period. Therefore, supernatural signs and wonders, when they begin to occur, should warn us that the Second Coming is truly at hand.
The last segment of Dr. Wagner’s perspective is called Relational Structures. This is such a noncategory for the Reformed, I will defer any explanation for now. I would like, instead to turn to the Reformed Confessions.
Here is the last link I will supply for this post. It also exists at the bottom of the right column. At this website, all of the historic Protestant confessions and catechisms can be found. This is a valuable resource. My Pentecostal friends, in order to understand this Reformed group with whom you so often disagree, it might be helpful to study your own history. Eventually, you will run into one of these documents. On this blog, I have a completed review of the 39 Articles and about ¾ of a review of the Heidelberg Catechism. In order to have a discussion with someone who differs from your opinion, it is first important to understand their opinion. Ignorance of these documents and their importance in the development of Protestant churches in the last 500 years is really inexcusable. These documents are in the background of any conversation that you have with a Reformed Protestant on doctrine.
The WHI and MR have these confessions in mind when they give their mission statement that I quoted at the outset. When you read them, you will begin to understand what we mean by the authority of scripture.
– Ogre –