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This is a guest post by Michael Coughlin who blogs at michaelcoughlin.net.

Receiving divine revelation has become so blasé that people who normally would affirm sola scriptura don’t even bat an eye when someone proposes to be hearing from God. Now I know a lot of people use various forms of language when describing their feelings or senses or intuitions, often ascribing revelatory meaning behind them unintentionally, but there are still many Christians today who believe God does, in fact, divinely reveal things to some folks apart from the Holy Scripture.

The following two anecdotes are opposite sides of the same coin which I hope will demonstrate the danger and seriousness of this kind of thinking and speaking, and show the illogic of at least some instances of people who claim spiritual gifts such as prophecy.

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Prosperity Gospel

It is a problem all around the world that the church faces.  The Prosperity Gospel.  The Word of Faith movement.  It’s in Africa.  It’s in Eastern Europe.  It’s in Asia.  It’s in the West and imported overseas.

It is not the Gospel and it feeds our flesh.

It’s from Satan himself because it’s a false gospel.

Jason Vicente spoke against the Word of Faith in this message:

HT

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I hope you catch the irony with the title of today’s post.Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

For a few months now I have been blogging about my concern with some of the disturbing trends with recent Christian missionary methodology.  One such concern I have is the fact that some seem to be against good reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in the case of C. Peter Wagner.  He is a former professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions (it has since been renamed the School of Intercultural Studies).  In a previous post I looked at some of the problem found in Wagner’s essay “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy.

One of the things that Wagner said that I didn’t get to unpack in my previous post is Wagner’s view that Jesus prefer a demonstration of miraculous power rather than a”carefully reasoned argument” which he sees as a sign of Western “secularizing influence.”  I quote Wagner in his own words:

One of the more disturbing things we are beginning to discover is that, in more cases than we would care to think, our missionary messsage in the Third World has been having a secularizing influence.  I first realized this when I read an article by my colleague, Paul G. Hiebert, called ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ in 1982.  He begins the article by citing the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus: ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20).  Hiebert emphasized that Jesus’ reply was not a carefully reasoned argument, but rather a demonstration of power in healing the sick and casting out of evil spirits” (Wagner, 581).

As one can see, Wagner came to his position through the writing of another professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission: Paul Hiebert.  The relevant quote that Wagner read is quoted below:

The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20 RSV).  Jesus answered, not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in curing the sick and casting out evil spirits.   This much is clear.  Yet when I once read the passage from my perspective as a missionary in India and sought to apply it to missions in my day, I felt a sense of uneasiness.  As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, but by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute” (Hiebert, 407).

Note how both Wagner and Hibert appealed to Luke 7:20.  Here is Luke 7:20-23 in context:

20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the[o]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [p]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, thepoor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [q]who does not take offense at Me.”

There are problems with what these two Professors of Fuller Seminary has to say against “reason:”

  1. Wagner’s and Hiebert’s position is self-refuting in that they are both against carefully reasoned argument, and yet they end up trying to present what they think is a carefully reasoned argument for their position when they invoke Luke 7:20.  On the one hand they don’t think carefully reasoned arguments are legitimate but they inevitably presuppose the endeavor is legitimate when they try to set forth their reason against carefully reasoned argument.
  2. Wagner believes “carefully reasoned argument” is an example of Western missionary’s secularizing influence upon the Third World.  But this does not logically follow.  Wagner commit the logical fallacy of slippery slope when he thinks that carefully reasoned argument is going to lead one to become secularized.  This is not the case and portray a misunderstanding of what reasoning is on the part of Wagner; if one’s premises is not secularized but Biblically informed and “sanctified” then one will not become secularized in their conclusion.  Again, Wagner’s concern does not logically follow.
  3. It is important to exegete Luke 7:20-23 accurately.  Nowhere in the passage does Jesus condemn “presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments” (to use Hiebert’s own words).
  4. In light of point 3, it must be pointed out that both Hiebert and Wagner commit the logical fallacy of a false dilemma when they present the option as either we accept Christ’s miracle as having evidential value or we accept rational arguments as having evidential value.  Why must a Christian accept either/or instead of both/and?
  5. We can agree with Hiebert and Wagner that Jesus’ purpose of performing miracles was to confirm the truth about the claims of Jesus Christ for as Hebrews 2:3-4 attests on the nature of signs, wonders and miracles: “how will we escape if we neglect so great asalvation?[d]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)  But notice Jesus expected the right extrapolation of what the miracles mean and this proper interpretation of what does the evidence mean is act of engaging in reasoning.
  6. Point 5 enjoy further support from the immediate context in Luke 7 if one examine verse 22.  What Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist is very significant since this is an echo of Isaiah 61:1 as presented in Luke 4:18.  Jesus description of what He is doing also should make His hearers think of Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6.  This heavy use of Isaiah’s terms and phrases indicate that Jesus wants John to think Biblically in interpreting the evidence of Jesus’ miracles.  He is making an argument!  He is not merely arguing from miracles alone but bringing in Scripture to show that His miracles fulfill Messianic Prophecies.
  7. The most ironic thing about Wagner’s complaint that missionaries who use carefully reasoned arguments are “secularizing Third World Nations” is that it is those who are like him who are secularizing Third World Nations and not the ones who believed in the Sanctified Use of reason and argumentation, etc.  Note how Wagner thinks the performance of miracles are sanctified for the Christian but reasoning is not.  This is the same paradigm that secularists adopt when they separate the domain of God and the miraculous from the domain of “reason.”  Contrary to his claim, it is the Christian who do employ sanctified reasoning that is consistent in rejecting the dualism of secular/sacred.

Bibliography

Hiebert, Paul. 2009. “THe Flaw of the Excluded Middle.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 407-414.

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

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The Master's Seminary
John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference has definitely generated a lot of debate and discussion concerning the Charismatic movement.

It turns out that The Master’s Seminary, where John MacArthur presides over, has also done their annual Faculty Lecture Series also on the topic of “Strange Fire.”

Here are the videos!

 

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David_Yonggi_Cho_w_church_original

NOTE: We have written on the topic of “Strange Fire,” specifically the problems of Charismatic and Pentecostal Theology in the Asian context here on the blog in the past and will continue to do so from time to time in the future.

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho is the founding pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in the Assembly of God denomination and reputed as the world’s largest congregation.  There are concerns about his theology being biblical since he’s an advocate of Word of Faith teaching, among other things.

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho was recently on the news this month, having gotten himself in legal trouble and found guilty by the court.  A Gospel Herald news article writes,

According to reports, Cho was identified as an accomplice through committing breach of trust in 2002 by ordering the church to purchase his elder son Hee-jun’s stocks at four times the market price. The transaction resulted in the church’s loss of 13 billion won (US$12 million). Moreover, Cho was also found guilty of tax evasion of 3.5 billion won (US$3.3 million). In the same ruling, Cho’s elder son Hee-jun, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, was sentenced to three years in prison for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.

Over at Charisma News, there’s even a piece titled Setting the Record Straight on David Yonggi Cho by a friend of his ministry for forty years that provides some more context, making the point that Pastor Cho was misled by his “prodigal” son.  I think it’s worth reading to see this situation as charitable as possible.

But even in the most charitable reading of this news there are legitimate concern from a biblically driven point of view especially with his ecclesiology and understanding of church office:

1.) Church buying stocks?  I think the church’s shouldn’t have it’s business in stocks in the first place.  One can see how a church driven by a prosperity message would be tempted to live out their pastor’s teaching and moves the church and the pastor stepping towards the direction of this scandal.

2.) The Charisma News piece is out to defend Cho by admitting this:

Cho has three sons. The second and third sons are very productive and work in church-related ministries. His eldest son has been the prodigal. He has been married four times and has been involved in sexual scandals with national personalities. In addition, he has served prison time for investment scams and embezzlement. His scandalized life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church.

I think this open up a whole can of worm.  Don’t forget the qualification for an elder/pastor in 1 Timothy 3:4-5,

“4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),”

Biblically speaking, “Pastor” Cho isn’t qualified to be a pastor; or if he was qualified he has disqualified himself beforehand.  I imagine it’s very hard to remove a charismatic, “successful” pastor on pragmatic grounds no matter what theological stripes you come from, but it must be even more difficult among Charistmatic circles with their ecclesiological baggage of a man of God being “anointed,” having special insights, revelation, etc., that gives more immunity than it is healthy.

3.) The Charisma News piece also mentioned that this “prodigal” son approached the dad with his dad’s choice elders to sign the paper work that got him in the quagmire.  It’s important to avoid appearance of evil–and that means family business and church funds shouldn’t mix in the first place.

4.) One can’t help but to wonder about the role of prosperity Gospel in all this.  In Cho’s book, Prayer that Brings Revival, he wrote “The gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for the asking. Healing, deliverance,  prosperity, and blessing are all to be asked for” (75).  With an unbiblical understanding of church leadership coupled with a wealthy church, a bad ecclesiology, and a prosperity gospel, you’re ASKING for this scandal.

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strangefire

In light of the Strange Fire Conference, we just completed our mini series focused on the problem of Charismatic excess/Prosperity Gospel influence in Asia.  The following are the links not only from the past two weeks but also over the years on Veritas Domain.  Lord willing, if we were to write more on this topic we will put the links on here as well.

Foundational

Why will we focus our apologetics on Prosperity Gospel/Charistmatic Excess?

The Prosperity Gospel’s Functional Idol and its fruit

Kong Hee and City Harvest Church

Incorrect: Kong Hee say we love God because of what we can give him

Sun Ho the Pastor’s Wife or the Pastor’s Ho?

Jaeson Ma

Jaeson Ma’s New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) roots

Jaeson Ma: False Prophet about Los Angeles 2006?

Keeping ‘Prophets’ Accountable: Jaeson Ma on Korea Revival by 2021

Frequent Objections defending Jaeson Ma Answered

A Closer look at another defense of Jaeson Ma’s False Prophecy

Jaeson Ma: Epitome of the unbiblical Hipster and ‘Celebrity’ Pastor

Jaeson Ma’s New Song “Rise and Fall” is heretical  NEW!

  NEW!

Joseph Prince and New Creation Church

David Yonggi Cho Guitly and  Yoido Full Gospel Church

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho Guitly, another case of Strange Fire in Asia     NEW!

Related

October Links Related to Strange Fire and the Charismatic

Aftermath of Strange Fire    NEW!

Review of    NEW!

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Joseph Prince false teacher

We continue with our closer look at Joseph Prince’s arguments for his position that every Christians should speak in tongues.  For those who may not know, Joseph Prince is a Pentecostal preacher from Singapore, who’s popularity is felt not only in Asia but even here in the United States.

The video we have been examining is this particular clip from Joseph Prince’s channel:

Eight seconds into the video he tries to argue that it is biblical for Christians to ask other Christians whether they speak in tongues, implying that believers should speak in tongues:

One time the Apostle Paul passed by a group of people and he asked them, ‘Have you received the Holy Ghost?’  And the Bible says they were disciples, they were believers in Christ.  ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit?’ he asked them.  Now, today that is not the question we ask people after we see that they are saved.  We don’t asked them, ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit?’ because it is insulting to many “denominations” to suggest that, to ask the question ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit?’ is insulting.  Yet I think it is in Acts 16, or 19…and in Acts 19 when you look at it the Bible says that Paul passed by a certain region and then he found disciples.  The word there is disciples.  These are believers in Christ.  Christians.  And he asked them the question, ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?’  So they said, “We never heard of anything called the Holy Spirit.’  ‘So unto what baptism were you baptized?’ “John’s baptism.’  Well Jesus said what?  You will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.  And the Bible says that he prayed for them, laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit and the Bible says what was the evidence for those of you on the page?  They spoke with tongues and prophesied, right?  So we don’t want to compromise just because some denominations are of the persuasion that tongues has ceased alright, we don’t want to compromise because our standard is the Bible.  Can I get a good Amen?”

(0:08-1:35)

Joseph Prince is appealing to Acts 19.  Let’s take a closer look:

1.) Prince makes much out of the point that its to “disciples” (verse 1) that Paul asked his question “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  (verse 2).  Specifically though, these disciples were those of John the Baptist since they didn’t know about the Holy Spirit (verse 2) and only knew about John’s baptism (verse 3).  This observation should make us cautious in assuming these are regular New Testament Church era Christians.

2.) In light of the fact that they were John’s disciples who only knew up to the baptism of repentance and never even heard about the Holy Spirit, one must be sensitive to progressive revelation and how redemptive history unfolds.  This particular episode is unique in that as the church began and started from Acts 2 onward, there were a number of believers who were disciples before hearing about the Holy Spirit such as John’s Disciples.  Yet by God’s providence the Lord brought those like the Apostle Paul to fill them in about the Spirit.  We expect that as the book of Acts progress, with the church growing more and more, that the number of such disciples of John who didn’t know about the Spirit would decrease.  When we fast forward to today, there are not John’s disciples who haven’t heard of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, if one is sensitive to the context, Acts 19 is not a text to justify asking other Christians whether they have the Holy Spirit and implying that they should speak in tongues.

Don’t forget also how earlier in part two we established the biblical truth that baptism of the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as speaking in tongues, since one can be baptized by the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues.

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