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Archive for the ‘Strange Fire’ Category

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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On the last day of the year for 2014 I thought I share the top five posts on Veritas Domain that was written during 2014.

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5. 

Happy New Years!

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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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C Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy

Charles Peter Wagner is probably best known as one of the leaders of the Church Growth movement that was a former professor of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary up until 2001.  He has also founded Global Harvest Ministries and Wagner Leadership Institute.  Wagner himself was a missionary in Bolivia from 1956 to 1971.

Wagner has an essay that appeared in an anthology on the Worldwide Christian Movement that I want to look at more closely:

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.

What Wagner pushes forth in his essay is for Evangelicals to have a “fresh look” with incorporating “supernatural power” with missions.  Wagner states this in the conclusion of his essay:

I feel that one of the callings that God has given me is to be an encouragement to traditional Evangeical non-Pentecostal and non-Charismatic institutions so that they will begin to take a new look at mission power–ministering supernaturally as we encounter the enemy” (Wagner, 582).

And also in the middle of his essay:

I believe that we Evangelicals need a fresh look a supernatural power, a fresh awareness of worldview and a fresh examination of the theology of the Kingdom” (Wagner, 579).

By “supernatural power” Wagner has in mind the ministry of supernaturally healing the sick and casting out demons.  Wagner does admit in the essay that

We are still at the beginning stages of this, and we are not yet satisfied with the way we are doing the job, but we are trusting God to continue to teach us so that we can in turn teach others” (Wagner, 582).

The anthology does not say when Wagner wrote the essay but if the last few years is any indication with his institute providing leadership and training for the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, it isn’t heading in the right direction.  The following are my concern for Wagner’s “cutting edge” of missions strategy:

1.) First off, concerning the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, I don’t have the time or space to rehearse the theological problems and heresies spewing out from this group but my friend Lyndon Unger has done a good job describing it in his Primer on the NAR.  If NAR is the fruit of Wagner’s more mature stage of the “supernatural” that he talks about in his essay, we shouldn’t seek to merge it with missions since it is bad even for those within the church.  Why export it overseas?

2.) Second, it seems that Wagner’s cutting edge approach towards missions suffer from the problem of theological integrity.  Wagner is essentially a Charistmatic but doesn’t seem to own up to it.  Note what he says:

The third wave involves those of us–and I include myself–who, for one reason or another, do not personally wish to identify with either the Pentecostals or the Charismatics.  We love, respect and admire our friends in those movements, and we pray God’s blessing on them in all their work.  We recognize that currently they represent the most rapidly growing segment of the Body of Christ worldwide.  We have learned a great deal from them and desire to learn more  But our style is slightly different.  We minister in very similar ways, but explain what we do in alternate theological terminology” (Wagner, 579).

From the above, does Wagner distance himself from the Pentecostals and Charismatics over actual theological content?  Wagner says the difference is not of essence but of “style,” which incidentally “is slightly different.”  He even said “We minister in very similar ways.”  The other difference between him and Pentecostals and Charismatics is an “alternate theological terminology.”  I think his alternative terminology is much ado about nothing: We can have an alternative terminology for “horse” in Chinese (“ma”) but that doesn’t make it not a horse in essence.  He is a Charismatic and ought to own up to it.  Will God bless a strategy that does not uphold integrity?

3.) Third, the cutting edge of missions as described in Wagner’s essay has the spirit that sees doctrine as irrelevant in general and Reformed theology in particular.  Wagner agreeably quotes Richard De Ridder of Calvin Theological Seminary taking a swipe of Calvinism as being irrelevant for modern missionaries, saying

One thing deeply impressed me: how irrelevant so much of traditional Reformed Theology was to these people and their situation, and how seldom this theology spoke to their real needs.  The question that concern Satan, demons, angels, charms, etc., are not of great concern, nor do they receive much attention in the West

When the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ were preached to these people, they often respond with the question, ‘What’s the issue?’  Missionaries and pastors were scratching where they didn’t itch” (Wagner, 580).

Now one does not have to be Reformed to see the problem with this attitude.  First off, the professor dismisses “traditional Reformed Theology” as not address the concerns that arise from “Satan, demons, angels, charms;” but historically it was Reformed Theology that liberated Medieval Europe from the shackles of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  It also rescued people from the shackles of superstitions.  This liberation of Reformation Europe was possible because once you have a Sovereign God who controls all things, with authority over all things including “Satan, demons, angels, charms” there is no need to be overly occupied with fear of them.  Also Reformed Theology is heavily Christ-Centered and a Christ-Centered Theology include the truth that Christ is the Creator and controller over everything including the forces of darkness:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

Rather then being irrelevant, Reformed Theology’s Christology and doctrine of God is an antidote to the problems and questions of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  Secondly, who made “Satan, demons, angels, charms” the litmus test of a missionary strategy that is relevant?  I think the professor here confuses felt needs with real needs.  God knows what man’s real need is and has revealed it in His Word.  If Calvinism’s and Reformed Theology’s proposition is true that man is under wrath from God because of man’s sin, then the discussion about man, sin, God, Jesus and the Gospel is more crucial and relevant than the discussion of “Satan, demons, angels, charms” per se.  It is more “relevant” even though the unbeliever “feels” “Satan, demons, angels, charms” are more important.  Thirdly, I have reservation with the claim that people’s response to the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ is one of a question of ‘What’s the issue?’  The first point of Calvinism, Total Depravity, defines the issue: Sin.  A nonbeliever might not like the issue or disagree with the issue but surely if someone presents the five point of Calvinism correctly a nonbeliever will not say ‘What’s the issue?’  One has to wonder about how truly Reformed this professor from Calvin Theological Seminary is with his incompetence with Reformed Theology.

Conclusion

There will always be people coming forward saying this or that is the new cutting edge strategy for doing ministry, whether it’s missions, evangelism or growing members.  We must never forget to test them whether the method agrees with the Word of God and also whether it is logically sound and factually true.  I think a good example of a cutting edge strategy that suffer from all three defect is Wagner’s missions strategy.

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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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humpty_dumpty!

“Pastor” Jaeson Ma of the New Apostolic Reformation movement has released a new music video called “Rise and Fall.”  At core it’s a Pelagian gospel instead of a Biblical gospel.

To begin with note what is omitted in the video:  The Gospel of how Jesus Christ actually saves us from our sins through Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection.

Now I realize that not every Christian song must be a three point sermon.  I’m not imposing a harsh standard that he has to use theological terminology like “Extra calvinisticum,”  “Supralapsarian” and “Asiety.”

The criticism here is more than nit-picking on what Jaeson Ma omitted; I don’t want to conclude that Jaeson Ma’s new song is heretical based merely on an argument from silence since that would be fallacious. We must also see what is in the content of the actual song: What is it’s message?

We must ask what is every song’s message or “gospel.”  Every song does reflect a worldview; the question is, which one does it reflect, the Christian worldview or a non-Christian worldview?

But how can we discern a song’s worldview?  Ask yourself, what does the song say about

  1. Man–Is he basically good or sinful (as Romans 3:10, 3:23 teaches)?
  2. God–Is He all Love without Holiness or is He Holy, and a God of Love and Wrath?
  3. The Problem–Is man’s basic problem with sin or something else?
  4. The Solution–Is Jesus the Savior or something else has become our functional gods and saviors?

Note what Jaeson Ma says between 3:16-26:

I know I made some mistakes in my life, No matter what you do right, no matter what you do wrong, you got to know you’re just human.”

Just “mistakes?”  God has revealed in the Bible that we have more than just mistakes–we have serious sins against Him.  It’s not picking on word choice–note also after pointing out how “no matter what you do wrong,” Jaeson Ma wants to comfort his hearers with the fact that “you got to know you’re just human.”  Does the Bible ever give that as a solution for man’s wrong doing and sin–to just know we are humans?  Is knowing we are humans then make everything wrong okay?

What a terrible means of justification; it’s fall short of being Biblical.

Note what  else is in minute 3:16.  The back ground lyrics between 3:16-24 says

You can knock me down I’ll get up standing tall, we rise and fall.”

Sounds like Moralistic Therapeutic Theism to me with its emphasis on one’s own effort.  The whole song has that theme but it’s at minute 3:16 that the content clearly is antithetical to gospel both with what Jaeson Ma has to say and the background chorus.  Come to think of it, it’s ironic that Jaeson Ma’s 3:16 is contrary to John 3:16, since one presuppose sin (John 3:17) while Ma present Moralistic Therapeutic Theism assurance that we’re just human.

That is not the Biblical Gospel since the Bible shares that the Gospel is about Jesus Christ who died and rise for our sins when Adam and all mankind has fallen.

The most disturbing part of the song that brings the brightest clarity that Jaeson Ma is preaching the Gospel of Pelagianism is towards the end of the song between 3:35-42:

Hold on to Hope.  Know that inside of you, there’s something good, so rise up.”

Jaeson Ma’s message is contrary to the biblical understanding of man’s total depravity.  Note how his lyrics contradict Romans 3:1-12:

as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”

No doubt some might object that Jaeson Ma’s song can’t be heretical because it has a picture of Jesus.  Merely having a picture of Jesus doesn’t make one song Christian.  The question is whether or not the song is faithful to Jesus’ message.

In conclusion, Jaeson Ma’s Pelagian gospel attempt to rise, but it fall because of his lack of depth in understanding about the Fall.

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