Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: God's Super-Apostles

In their book God's Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec give a brief introduction to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), (Kindle location 153).  They also make the disclaimer that they are not anti-charismatic; their objective is not to argue against the miraculous gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12--including the gifts of prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues--being active in churches today (Kindle location 129).

Geivett and Pivec state that the main function of the NAR apostle is to govern the church.  They list the major duties and characteristics of a NAR apostle, which includes receiving revelation directly from God and from prophets and performing signs and wonders (Kindle location 420).  Yet, the authors argue that the governing office of apostle was temporary and the NAR leaders do not meet the biblical requirements of an apostle found in the New Testament (Kindle location 882).  

The NAR apostles claim that they receive direct revelation from God, but this new revelation does not contradict Scripture; it is only supplemental (Kindle location 831).  The authors contend that the contradiction test is too weak and propose their own criteria: new revelation (1) cannot be completely new, (2) should be anticipated by what is already revealed, and (3) should expand upon existing revelation (Kindle locations 841, 850).  Since the "new truths taught by todays' apostles and prophets do not meet these criteria", then according to the authors, it is safe to ignore their claims (Kindle location 862).  It's important to note that Geivett and Pivec do not give biblical references for their new revelation criteria.  The Bible says that God spoke last to us by his Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).  The canon of Scripture is closed and adding to the Bible is strictly prohibited, (Rev. 22:18).  There is no new revelation, but there is "inward illumination of the Spirit of God...for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word," (1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. 1, para. 6).

Concerning signs and wonders of a NAR apostle, Geivett and Pivec note that the performance of a miracles is not seen as a requirement by everyone in the NAR movement (Kindle location 802).  Nevertheless, the authors point out that "the miraculous signs performed by the Twelve and Paul were not easy to miss...No one was expected to settle for taking the apostles of Christ merely at their word," (Kindle location 813). This argument is logical; God bore witness to the apostles of the New Testament with signs and wonders (Heb. 2:4); therefore, this same witness should be applied to the self-proclaimed "apostles" of today.

Unfortunately, to appease the charismatic reader, the authors state:  "Notice, we're not arguing against gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:9) that may be used to cure backaches or emotional pain.  Healings of these types of conditions certainly would bless those who experience them, even though they may not be as dramatic as healings of paralysis or blindness.  Nor are we arguing that miracles of other types do not occur.  Our point is simply that a miracle must be astonishing--as were those of the original apostles--if we are to be convinced that a modern-day apostle is among us," (Kindle location 813).  This disclaimer weakens their earlier argument because the definition of a "dramatic healing" is highly subjective.  By not taking a definitive stand on healing, they leave the door open for false teachers to remain in the Christian church.

Geivett and Pivec also denounce NAR prophets because they go too far by speaking not only words that strengthen, encourage, and comfort Christians, but also prophecies that include the revelation of spiritual gifts and guidance for major life decisions (Kindle location 1252).  Again, the authors are trying to allow for the operation of the spiritual gift of prophecy in the modern-day church.  To do this, they walk a fine line by saying that spiritual gifts of healing and prophecy may still be valid in today's church on a small, individual scale; but these gifts cannot be used in a powerful, overbearing way by an oligarchy of "super-Christians."  However, there's no biblical support for this distinction, nor are there biblical guidelines to discern when a Christian has crossed the line into heresy.  The NAR movement is a cult of Christianity.  Movements like this start with Christians who claim that they hear God's audible voice, get a special word or vision from God, go to heaven, see Jesus, etc.  The Bible is either the Word of God to be obeyed or it will be manipulated by the mouth of man.

The authors' purpose of identifying the false teachings of the NAR movement is commendable.  God's Super-Apostles contains good information for identifying those in the NAR movement, so I recommend it for the curious Christian.  However, Geivett and Pivec only argue against the extreme position of this movement which makes their arguments subjective; and therefore, they will not deter anyone from joining the NAR movement, nor will they convince anyone to leave.  The authors' moderate stance allows the pastors and prophets in today's charismatic or Pentecostal churches to become the NAR leaders of the future.  If you let the camel's nose under the tent, eventually the whole camel will be inside.  

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.