Volume One, Issue Seven
Salutations in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
This will be my last newsletter until August, 1998. We are going on a short furlough and I will not have time to generate newsletters during that time. Remember that all the articles in this newsletter are available on my web page, plus many more that will be included in future issues.
THE “DISCERNMENT WEB RING”
“Deception In The Church” web site is now the web master for the “Discernment Web Ring”. This is a neat device that helps in research. It links similar web sites doing apologetics on “Third Wave” issues in a circular fashion. No need to hunt for links or use bookmarks. This web ring will take you to all the important sites simply by clicking on the “Next” link. Our criteria is strict and you will only find sites of the highest quality on this web ring. I have found web rings useful in other areas and believe it will be a helpful tool to keep you informed on what is going on in the battle for discernment and “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”.
If you wish to be included on this newsletter mailing, or if you wish to unsubscribe any time after this debut issue, please write an e-mail to us at:
Please visit our web site for the most up-to-date stories on what is happening in the “counterfeit revival”, “Third Wave”, “Word-Faith” and similar movements and the effect they are having on the body of Christ at:
We offer apologetics on our award-winning web site from all over the world and many denominational backgrounds. We feature hundreds of articles under subject headings such as General Apologetics - Holy Spirit, General Apologetics - Third Wave, Third Wave Doctrines, Quotes From Third Wave Leaders, Word-Faith Movement, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, John Wimber & The Vineyard, Toronto “Blessing”, Pensacola “Outpouring”, False Prophets, Teachers & Healers, Revivalism, The Catholic Connection, Jubilee 2000, End Times Apostacy, Demonization, and Rightly Handling The Word Of Truth.
We also offer links to related books, publications, other web sites, video, audio, radio and TV programs, and other useful links to help you defend your faith against false teachers.
We recommend a new book by Inner City Discernment Ministries compiled by Rev. Robert Liichow called “The Two Roots Of Revival”. This Pentecostal pastor, who was heavily involved in Word-Faith and Third Wave churches, exposes the roots of the current counterfeit revival movement. Although this book was rushed to print with some errors and is somewhat unevenly written, it is a good resource of information on the background of the current Third Wave “revivals”. The book costs $12., postage paid. Their ad says: “The book is over 250 pages of FULLY documented proof of: (1) the occult origins of the current manifestations deceiving hundreds of thousands of charismatic Christians (2) a detailed Biblical refutation of each of these manifestations. This book is an excellent companion volume to Hank’s Counterfeit Revival. The Two Roots of Revival goes into detail about several areas that no other author has included in their books (to date) on this latest form of charismatic excess.”
The article this month is by Debra Bouey from The Christian Conscience Magazine called “Accusers of the Brethren”. Debra is one of the people who is working on compiling the complete works of Jonathan Edwards on CD-ROM, so she is somewhat of an authority on the subject of Edwards, who is mentioned in Appendix I of this article. This article was written some years ago and just recently updated to include new material coming out of Brownsville A/G of Pensacola, FL.
Operating a web page dealing with deception in the church, I receive a lot of e-mail. Much of it is from people writing to me thanking me for the help the articles have been, giving testimony after testimony of the Lord delivering them from the clutches of apostasy. There is, of course, a smaller percentage of respondents who do not like what they read on my web pages. It is from that group that I receive a lot of name calling with very little interest in discussing the issues from a Biblical perspective. When I answer their email, almost without exception, I get back more unsubstantiated verbal abuse, using terms like “heresy hunter”, “Pharisee”, and other words I cannot even reprint here. My policy in such cases is to put an end my discussion with them until such a time as they are willing to discuss the doctrinal issues raised by the teaching and practices of this movement. How quickly they forget Paul who urged his listeners to check out everything he taught with the Scriptures.
Ac 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
1 Cor. 10:15 “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”
Attached in HTML format to this letter is the article and appendices detailing just what the leaders of the Toronto “Blessing” and the Brownsville “Revival” are saying about those who disagree with the false doctrines, false prophesy and false anointing they promote. Judge for yourself whether these self-proclaimed modern “apostles” measure up to the likes of Peter and Paul. Test their words to see if the Spirit of truth is the author of them. Compare their accusations with Scripture to see if they are truly following the Word of God. If not, then we are told by Paul:
2 Thes. 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.”
Titus 3:10-11 “An heretical man after a first and second admonition have done with, knowing that such a one is perverted, and sins, being self-condemned.”
I’m sorry for the long download. This article turned out to be longer than I thought it was. I hope you will find it useful.
In His hands,
Accusers of The Brethren - Update
This article was originally written and published over three years ago. It would likely have lain dormant and largely unnoticed since that time had it not been resurrected by one of the chief proponents of the movement at Brownsville Assembly of God [hereafter referred to as “BAG”] in the Pensacola, Florida, area. Dr. Michael L. Brown, BAG’s apologist and theologian took great issue with the original article, first writing me a four page email critiquing it and then subsequently referencing it in chapter three of his recently-released book, Let No One Deceive You: Confronting Critics of Revival and in his video tape sermon entitled Five Fatal Flaws. Brown has occasionally offered to forward his original email critique of the article to others online in ReaperNet live chat sessions.
Brown’s broad-spread criticism of my original article, although he fails, both in his book and on the video tape sermon, to tell his readers/hearers where they may locate the article to read and evaluate it for themselves, brought considerable attention to bear on the old article. Thereafter, a large number of individuals began to inquire as to where they might obtain a copy. In light of the feedback I received with the renewed interest in the original article, in tandem with what has taken place in the three years or so since it was originally written, it was determined that the old article should be updated and republished. This updated version maintains the core and substance of the original article, while incorporating considerable additional related information which has surfaced in the elapsed time since the original was written.
Accusers of the Brethren or Good Bereans?
Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? [Galatians 4:16]
It does indeed appear that anyone who wishes to discuss the current movement has become, at best, a “Pharisee”, and, at worst, the enemy. Since the advent of “holy laughter” at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship [formerly Toronto Airport Vineyard] in early 1994, as well as at the revival, so-called, at BAG since Father’s Day in 1995, there have been numerous disparaging allegations leveled at anyone who calls into question Biblically any of the peculiar practices presently taking place within the movement. Those perceived to be a “critics” of these movements have been referred to as ignorant, foolish, God mockers, tragic, sad, pitiful, gossips, poor blind guides, pathetic, slanderers of the Holy Spirit, judgmental, prideful and a whole host of other scurrilous terms as well. “Critics” have also been on the receiving end of more than a few imprecatory “prophecies”, wherein they are threatened with God’s forthcoming wrath and destruction if they continue to oppose the movement.
Criticizing the Critics
Let us examine some of the examples of the name-calling and attacks which have been directed at any and all perceived “critics”, which practice seems to have reached an all-time high lately.
The following is an excerpt by Vineyard pastor James Ryle, disseminated subsequent to his appearance on John Loeffler’s Denver radio show “Steel on Steel”:
“There is today a group of people who promote themselves as biblical purist, the faithful remnant who alone preach the Word and who evidently posses the power to judge and criticize anyone who is not like them. This is nothing new, as any student of scripture can attest. It was in fact this very kind of people who crucified Jesus Christ. They are scribes and Pharisees, religious and angry, attacking and persecuting anyone who dares to differ from their exclusive views. Here is where the plot thickens. These watchdogs of doctrinal purity - who themselves ironically violate scripture by their ungodly attitudes their mean spirited commentary and their deceitful reporting have now turned their swords against the Vineyard and it’s leaders, why? Since there is no truth to their accusations one must ask then why do they accuse? What motivates them to tear down another church. The answer is pride, jealousy, fear, hatred or ignorance. Take your pick. You can be sure one of these factors is at the heart of this present contention.”
Pastor Ryle provides no specifics, gives no documented cases, but merely makes a broad assertion and in so doing makes a few harsh judgments about others himself, specifically:
He likens us to those who crucified Jesus Christ; and calls us:
1. Scribes and Pharisees
2. Religious and angry
3. Attacking and persecuting
4. In violation of Scripture
5. Possessed of ungodly attitudes
6. Issuers of mean spirited commentary
7. Liars (“deceitful reporting”)
8. Accusers of the brethren
9. Motivated to tear down churches
10. Proud, jealous, fearful Ignorant
All of which begs the question: who is judging and accusing whom here? I believe it will be evident to the objective eye who is attempting to evaluate these teachings in light of Scripture in a non-personal manner and who has gone on the offensive with personal attacks. There is quite a difference between assailing the doctrines and theology someone espouses and attacking the person. While we are constrained in Jude, in the love of God, to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all time delivered to the saints, there is a difference between contending for the faith and contending against others. The latter is inappropriate and we ought not engage in it.
The pattern itself is quite common and well established. Here is but another example of it by Vineyard pastor Carl Tuttle:
“Okay, what about those who are opposed to this? Well folks, there’s always been opposition to the work and ministry of God, you know. They opposed the prophets, they opposed the apostles and they’ve opposed all those that have followed behind them. Now, who has opposed it? Frankly...it’s been the religious community. The religious community always gets it back up when God moves, and always starts clicking the tongue and wagging the finger, you know?...Now if you want to read more about this, read Hebrews, Chapter Eleven. There’s always opposition to a move of God. There’s always opposition to a move of God, and we just don’t want to be those who oppose it.”
Note several things Mr. Tuttle apparently expects the hearers to take as a “given”, a foregone conclusion:
1. This is a work of God.
2. Any opposition stems from that old nemesis and whipping post, the “religious community.” Therefore, when anyone attempts to call into question teachings and/or manifestations which are Scripturally incongruent, they’re suffering persecution from the “religious community” on par with the OT prophets and NT apostles just like Hebrews 11.
3. This is a move of God, therefore, we don’t want to oppose it.
Note further what Mr. Tuttle never teaches on the audio tape:
1. Be a Berean [Acts 17:10-11]:
“And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”
2. The sufficiency Scripture-in fact, Scripture is never used except in reference to the faith hall of fame, Hebrews 11, and then only to equate their perceived “persecution” with that of dear saints who have long since preceded us.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
“And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” [2 Peter 1:19-21]
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12]
At Toronto, William DeArteaga made the following comments:
“Phariseeism is the heresy of orthodoxy which is basically correct ideas...ironically, the core problem with the Pharisee is that he cannot recognize the present work of the Holy Spirit....Well, for [John] Calvin, since all spiritual phenomena and powers stopped with the apostles, there is not a category of possibly true from the Holy Spirit, it’s all, it has to be of the flesh or of the devil. So if you have spiritual phenomena-you see, that’s a non-discerning theology....We all now associate the Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards and his great books on the Awakening. So, really, Jonathan Edwards developed the Protestant theology of discernment as far as I can see...his theology is probably the best that there has ever come around. So, that’s one incident where the Pharisees stopped revival....And every revival has a predominant theologian, you know. Historians say, well in this revival, Charles Finney was the predominant figure here and theologian of that revival, etc., etc. And the Lord has already chosen the predominant theologian of this revival. It’s not me! It’s Jonathan Edwards. And every book on revival out there, including my book does central chapters on what did Jonathan Edwards say about revival. We’re commentators on Jonathan Edwards. That’s really true.”
As we can see, DeArteaga defines “Pharisees” as those who “cannot recognize the present work of the Holy Spirit.” Which is to say, those who do not agree with DeArteaga about just what Biblically constitutes a great move of the Holy Spirit in these present times are labeled “Pharisees” by him. So, yet again, we see those who have grave Scriptural concerns about the movement called “Pharisees.” Perhaps DeArteaga and others hurling the label “Pharisees” at those with whom they disagree do not realize that to call one a Pharisee is to call one a hypocrite, plain and simple. Or worse, perhaps they do and that is precisely what they mean to call us: hypocrites. For that is what evoked our Lord’s righteous indignation with the Pharisees, the fact that they were hypocrites:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Matthew 23:27-28]
There is more than just the “Pharisee” label to take issue with in the particular DeArteaga sermon cited above. The most glaring inconsistency is the fact that he neglects to inform his hearers that Jonathan Edwards was both an avowed Calvinist and cessationist himself. Pretty astonishing considering the fact that DeArteaga is supposed to be a well-versed church historian. With that in view, let’s have a look at DeArteaga’s circular illogic:
1. Calvinism equals Phariseeism which equals the heresy of orthodoxy, which is basically correct ideas.
2. Calvin had a “non-discerning theology” because he was a cessationist.
3. Jonathan Edwards developed the “Protestant theology of discernment.”
4. Jonathan Edwards’ “theology”, bearing in mind now, Edwards’ own Calvinist and cessationist theology, “is probably the best that there has ever come around.”
Therefore, because John Calvin was a cessationist, that made him a Pharisee, guilty of the “heresy of orthodoxy”, which is “basically correct ideas.” More importantly, because Jonathan Edwards indisputably demonstrates in his writings both that he was a cessationist and a Calvinist, William DeArteaga has just inadvertently called the cessationist beliefs of the historical figure he and Toronto point to as the cornerstone of their movement-”the predominant theologian of this revival”-heretical. But I certainly do agree with DeArteaga insomuch as the theology of Jonathan Edwards is concerned in that it is “the best that there has ever come around”, although I daresay DeArteaga and I would disagree as to the context of the use of that. I would to God the Body of Christ today would thoroughly, whole-heartedly embrace and rediscover the Biblical, Christ-centered theology of Jonathan Edwards. See the Appendix I of this article for an extensive, in-depth discussion of the writings of Jonathan Edwards and the allegations regarding Edwards made by the proponents and leadership of this present movement.
Rick Joyner and Bob Jones indulge themselves in the mix through alleged visions, dreams and various other extra-Biblical revelations. Joyner claims:
[Joyner’s interpretation of verse 5 in Psalm 97, which Psalm he claims God “gave” him as the Psalm for this year, 1997] “The hills or mountains announced in this verse represent the human opposition that now withstands the working of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the world. This is a prophetic indication that the Lord’s manifest presence shall come to destroy the human opposition that has withstood the working of His Spirit among His people. This human opposition in times past have attempted to withstand the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in the church as well as the true revelation of the government of God with Apostolic authority. This year will begin to unfold the destruction of this opposition.”
Joyner’s visionary co-author of the “Shepherd’s Rod 1997", from which these citations are taken, also directs some alleged Divine revelation at opposers of the movement as well:
“Vultures and foxes will devour those who do
not move with the Holy Spirit this year....Those who do not properly respond
to the Holy Spirit will be like a carcass in the desert, prey for predators....The
foxes are a symbol for delusion....Those who do not receive the love of
the truth that will be brought to the church by the inspired teachers are
going to be marked by this strong delusion and confusion.”
Of course, it’s Jones and Joyner who determine, during the course of this peculiar document, in just what manner the Holy Spirit is allegedly going to move and who is or isn’t receiving their brand of “the love of the truth.” Those who don’t agree with them are allegedly to be “marked” by “strong delusion and confusion.” This is yet another of many “prophetic” threats of God’s impending wrath directed toward anyone who opposes them.
Don Nori of Destiny Image writes:
“It is amazing that when a portal is finally discovered, a portal that opens eternity in an enormous flood of God’s true Presence...men are quick to condemn, criticize, and accuse. It is even more amazing that most criticism comes from folks who have never experienced revival in the settings that they are repudiating....Finally, jealousy is the intruder in the heart that keeps many criticizing revival.”
The use of Nori’s strange term “portal” in reference to “God’s true Presence” aside for the moment, we see that he believes it is impossible to fairly evaluate a movement without having “experienced” it personally. I have never personally “experienced” arsenic, but I understand that arsenic, ingested in sufficient quantities, will kill me. Therefore, I do not need to “experience” arsenic firsthand to understand its inherent danger. I have never been to Salt Lake City to “experience” Mormonism firsthand either, but I do understand that the foundational tenets of Mormonism are grievously flawed and erroneous to the point of being “another gospel” which bears no resemblance to the Gospel truth of Scripture. Nori simply makes a faulty argument when he chastises “critics” for opposing the movement because they haven’t “experienced” it for themselves. Furthermore, he presumptuously informs us those who do take Scriptural issue with the movement are motivated by jealousy.
These kinds of unwarranted, flawed arguments are becoming all too frequent today, as we see from yet another Don Nori quote:
“The New York Times, the standard in the secular American media, recently published a front-page story proclaiming that the revival at Brownsville and other places is just what America needs. Now, since The New York Times sets the standard for the secular press, no other secular media will oppose this point of view. They may take different angles and talk about the revival from slightly different perspectives, but all will report the same basic fact: The revival is good for America. It seems that the secular media is more willing to see God do the miraculous than our religious brethren. Could it be that these brethren reject fruit-proof because there is no confirming fruit-proof in their own ministries? I wonder.”
Has the Body of Christ sunk to having the secular media validate or invalidate the things of God? Are we so anxious to validate a movement by any means that we think it’s a good thing when the secular media endorses it and thinks its “good for America”? Does this make sense in light of the fact that the unbelieving, natural mind is not even able to comprehend spiritual things, the things of God, and that our Lord said during His incarnation that the unbelieving world would hate His people just as it had hated Him?
Nori implies that critics reject the movement at BAG out of jealousy because, as he alleges, “there is no confirming fruit-proof in their own ministries.” Denigrating allegations such as this are all too common today and go hand in hand with contentions such as BAG’s Dr. Michael L. Brown’s comment that some critics are “ministry nobodies” in their own “home cities and countries.” The condescension and deprecation inherent in such statements is regrettably all too evident.
“Something is seriously wrong here. Jesus said that we will know His disciples by their fruit (see Jn. 15:8; Mt. 7:16,20)-not by their family lineage, their proficiency in reading Hebrew or Greek, or their ability to recite the Scriptures. Fruit-proof is the criteria by which the activity of God is to be judged.... Fruit-proof still stands as the litmus test by which we are to judge the authenticity of God’s moving on earth. Yet many still try to disprove these things by ‘searching the Scriptures’ to see if they match their pre-set theology or their narrow understanding of how God is to work. Jesus did not argue with John’s disciples. He simply said, ‘Go tell John what you have seen and heard.’
“Who are we then, to so judge the fruit of God’s moving in our midst that we miss the life contained in His presence and power? Jesus’ final words to John were, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Lk. 7:23). We stumble when we try to fit the move of God into our old traditions and expectations. This was the response of the scribes and Pharisees, who attempted to use the Scriptures to prove that Jesus wasn’t the Christ. In His reply, Jesus pointed them beyond the letter of the Scriptures to Himself as its fulfillment: ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life’ (Jn. 5:39-40). God is doing the same thing today....
“Life is not as complicated as some people would try to make it. It becomes complex only when we try to deny the moving of God in the earth because it doesn’t match our presumptions of what God can and cannot do and of how He will and will not act. The true measuring stick of God’s presence is fruit-proof that matches the fruit of His Spirit. If the fruit you see and hear matches the fruit of God’s life, then run to embrace it. If it doesn’t, then beware lest you fall into the folly of those who deny the presence and the power of the living God.”
“Fruit-proof is the criteria by which the activity of God is to be judged...Fruit-proof still stands as the litmus test by which we are to judge the authenticity of God’s moving on earth.”??? I’ll say something is “seriously wrong here”, indeed, terribly wrong. Nori has coined the phrase, “fruit-proof”, which is nothing more than the appalling subrogation of Scripture with experience. It certainly appears Nori is advocating the rejection of Scripture as the absolute, final authority against which all matters of faith and practice are to be measured. Nori himself has supplanted the written Word of God with experientialism, simultaneously equating those who refuse to do likewise with the Scribes and Pharisees, while also accusing them [the “critics”] of denying the presence and power of God.
However, perhaps the most direct, specific, ignoble threat incident occurred when, on April 6, 1997, BAG pastor John Kilpatrick issued an alleged imprecatory prophecy, claiming the Holy Spirit would bring Christian Research Institute [CRI] and its president, Hank Hanegraaff, down within 90 days. Seventy-two days later, Kilpatrick apologized to CRI and Hanegraaff for the incident, admitting that he had spoken not in God’s stead, directly on God’s behalf but, rather, out of the anger of his own heart. Even though Kilpatrick did apologize later, this gives us some idea of just how far some of these leaders have a proclivity to go in striking out at outspoken critics of the movement. And I’d say issuing imprecatory, false “God’s gonna get you” type “prophecies” against those with whom one strongly disagrees is going very far indeed.
Steve Hill, current BAG evangelist, even went so far as to call anyone who resists the BAG movement a “God mocker.” In fact, Hill has written a book entitled “The God Mockers.” I urge you to obtain chapter one of the book (see endnote) and to thoroughly read and carefully evaluate it for yourself. All of the following quotes have been taken from throughout that particular chapter:
“Anytime you analyze something and quickly come to the conclusion that it can’t be God, be careful. You are not mocking that person you’re dealing with Almighty God”....”The Scriptures picture mockers as those who oppose God”....”God mockers...don’t realize that they aren’t just mocking a person they are mocking the living Christ in that person! That is a dangerous place to live, and an even more dangerous place to die. What do you think when people say they’ve been set free from bondage? Do you say, ‘I wonder how long that will last?’ These comments mock the power of the Blood and the cross! You might as well look up at Jesus and taunt Him with the words, ‘It will never last.’ God mockers scoff and hold in contempt everything they ‘don’t approve of’. The second mark of a God mocker is a fear of confrontation and change. They are so stuck in religious tradition that they are closed to new revelation....How anyone can come into a revival meeting in Brownsville and fail to feel Jesus is beyond me! I can’t imagine it.”
“Your rejection of the Spirit’s work makes a mockery of the things of God. Right now across America, groups of pastors and church denominational leaders are openly mocking the move of God across the nation! If you haven’t noticed, God mockers tend to hang out with other God mockers. They not only hang out with their own kind, but they will even feed on one another like spiritual carnivores. Once they find a likely body for prey, they will happily gather in circles like buzzards to eat it. These God mockers are writing ‘position papers’ about external physical manifestations while totally ignoring the deeper work of God that is saving hundreds of thousands of souls and permanently changing lives. They pompously declare, ‘Well, that isn’t God,’ and sign declarations of mockery for ‘distribution to the brethren’ for their ‘education’ (the Bible calls this sowing discord), while many of their church congregations continue to dwindle year after year.”
“God mockers have much to fear. God will recall every curse uttered against His revival. He will replay every blasphemy whispered...He will remember every word spoken against the weary pastors...To your shock and dismay, He will say in that day, ‘You were mocking Me! Yes, it was Me all along”....”God mockers have disturbed and confused this country”....”We normally never give the time of day to critics or accusers....The Bible says, ‘Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm’ (Ps. 105:15). That is a deadly warning to every God mocker on this planet”....”Be careful, God mocker. Do you know who you are messing with?....You are messing with God Almighty. When He moves, you had better back off.”
We see Hill directs a number of allegations at those who oppose the movement at BAG:
1. We are mocking Almighty God.
2. We are opposing God.
3. We are mocking the blood and power of the Cross.
4. We are taunting Christ.
5. We fear confrontation and change.
6. We are stuck in religious tradition.
7. Those who have attended BAG and still come away with Scriptural concerns in opposition to it have failed to “feel” Jesus. (What does it mean, I wonder, to “feel Jesus”?)
8. We reject the Spirit’s work.
9. We make a mockery of the things of God.
10. We hang out with other “God mockers” and feed on one another like spiritual carnivores.
11. We happily gather like a bunch of buzzards moving in for the kill.
12. We ignore the deeper work of God.
13. We sign “declarations of mockery” and disseminate them amongst the brethren, sowing strife and discord all along the way.
14. Our own congregations are dwindling away.
15. We have much to fear.
16. The movement at BAG is [according to Hill] God’s revival and we are cursing it.
17. We are blasphemers.
18. We are disturbing and confusing the entire country.
19. We are “touching” the “Lord’s anointed.” (I want to know who said these men are the “Lord’s anointed”? Moreover, the verse to which Hill alludes dealt with David’s not literally killing Saul when he had the opportunity and has nothing whatsoever to do with leaders in the context in which Hill is attempting to apply it. It is simply a proof-text, and one which has been frequently used by those who “criticize the critics”, obviously intended to manipulate, intimidate, instill fear of God’s forthcoming wrath and retribution and coerce those who have grave Biblical concerns about the movement at BAG into silence.)
20. We are messing with God.
21. We better back off.
I want to especially focus at some length on two critical points Hill raises in the chapter:
1. “They [the God Mockers/critics] are so stuck in religious tradition that they are closed to new revelation.”
What does this mean? The Apostle Paul himself, under Divine inspiration, tells us that we are not to go beyond what is written in God’s Word and John reinforces it in his second Epistle as well:
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. [1 Corinthians 4:6]
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. [Deuteronomy 29:29]
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. [2 John 1:9]
We may be absolutely certain we have found the “teaching of Christ” nowhere but in Scripture. After all, if we do not acknowledge and concede an unchanging, infallible record of the teachings of Christ, to which we are to neither add anything nor take anything from, by which we as Christians are to live, how are we to know with reassurance and certainty what those teachings are and that we are abiding in them?
Addressing the issue, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, adjunct professor at Chafer Theological Seminary and founder and co-director of Ariel Ministries, which ministers to Jewish people across the globe, writes:
“The thing you find Scripture emphasizing is that the final authority must be the Scriptures, the written Word of God, and not anyone’s experience. Certainly, the Apostles could have related many of their experiences with Jesus in trying to defend their preaching about Jesus. One thing the Book of Acts keeps reemphasizing is that Paul, Silas and the others always made their final authority the Word of God and not their own experiences, as incredible as those experiences were by God’s grace.”
Dr. Fruchtenbaum continues:
“The Bible itself gives us a major admonition by which we must judge all that claims to be of the Lord: the written Word of God....it should be emphasized [referring to 1 Corinthians 4:6] that Paul says this to a church that had a strong tendency to move towards the sensational and the experiential. Chapters 12-14 make it clear that the Corinthian Church was by far the most Pentecostal/Charismatic of any church we have in the New Testament. They certainly emphasized the gifts of the Spirit in a way we do not read about in the other epistles to other churches. The focus on the experiential showed that they were not spiritual but carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3). Paul must especially admonish a church of this nature ‘not to go beyond the things which are written.’ That which is written, of course, is the Holy Scriptures. For any new manifestation or phenomenon, they must go back and test it by the Word of God....something that goes beyond that which is written...must be rejected out of hand.
“One does not need to take a plane trip...to ‘experience’ whether or not something is of God. It is sufficient to know that it is not in Scripture: they have gone beyond that which is written and, therefore, it is already evidence that these things are not of God. And what happens to those who go beyond that which is written? Paul declares that they become ‘puffed up for the one against the other.’ They develop a spiritual pride that is evident when they go around claiming to have a greater measure of the Holy Spirit than other believers. As a result, they divide all believers into two categories: those who have ‘it,’ and those who do not. I guess I am one who does not have ‘it.’ [referring to the Toronto movement] For that, I am glad, because the ‘it’ is not found in Scripture. After observing and talking with so many who claim to have ‘it,’ I have not been provoked to jealousy to desire it in any way. I am quite content with the spirituality described in Scripture-striving to attain it, using the Word and nothing else.
.”..Paul, then, issues a warning that as time goes on there will be more and more false teachers, who are truly imposters and will go around deceiving others, many of whom will be deceived themselves (2 Tim. 3:13). They may well believe that they are ‘God’s anointed’ and keep repeating it to their critics, but the fact remains that they have become deceived themselves and, therefore, proceed to deceive others as well.
“So what is it that will protect Timothy from
being deceived by false teachers? Paul answers that question in 3:14-17.
He encourages Timothy to continue in what he has learned (3:14) and he
has been trained from childhood in ‘the sacred writings’ (3:15). Notice
that we see the same emphasis found in 1 Corinthians 4:6 here: the written
Word of God, ‘the sacred writings’. There will be two things that will
keep Timothy from being deceived: his knowledge of the sacred writings,
and his continuing to ‘abide’ in the sacred writings.”
The second notable point Hill raises is:
2. “God mockers have much to fear. God will recall every curse uttered against His revival. He will replay every blasphemy whispered....”
Here we see the clear implication that those who speak against the movement at BAG are blasphemers. This ominous threat of either having committed, or being in danger of committing, the unpardonable sin-blasphemy-has been all too frequently leveled at critics as well. Another interesting case in point, BAG’s Michael Brown writes:
“Blasphemy of the Spirit. It is a terrifying sin, a horrible sin, a sin of disastrous consequences. It is the only sin specifically described in the Bible as unforgivable. Just the thought of it is enough to send spiritual chills down your spine.
“What makes this sin so severe? Listen to Jesus:
“‘I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ He said this because they were saying, He has an evil spirit.’ (Mark 3:28-31)
“To blaspheme the Spirit is to knowingly attribute Jesus’ work done in the power of the Holy Spirit to the devil. It is the ultimate offense. And it is something from which we must flee. Why tamper with a sin which can lead to eternal judgment? There is nothing more dangerous than the blasphemy of the Spirit. Jesus could not have stated it more plainly, and we dare not take His words lightly, especially in the day and age in which we live. When revival fire is falling, when the Holy Spirit is moving in power, we do well to examine this portion of the Word afresh. And while it is true that there is debate among Bible scholars as to the exact nature of the sin of blaspheming the Spirit, there is no debate as to its eternal consequences!
“But first I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not saying for a moment that the Christian brothers and sisters who attack the current outpouring are guilty of blaspheming the Spirit. I am not saying that those believers who attribute the whole revival to the devil are guilty of this sin. I do not even entertain such a thought for a moment.”
If Brown does not want to instill the fear in critics of the BAG movement that they may be in danger of committing the unpardonable sin-blaspheming the Holy Spirit-by continuing to speak out in opposition to the movement, why does he proceed to spend the opening three paragraphs of the chapter “Scorning the Sacred” discussing that very thing before he states that he is in no way claiming critics are guilty of it? If Brown doesn’t believe, as he alleges, critics are guilty of blasphemy, then why bring it up in the first place? More to the point, if Brown doesn’t believe critics are in danger of committing the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit, why does he also write in the same chapter:
“Are you totally and absolutely sure that you are right in attacking the current revival? Are you willing to wager your SALVATION on the fact that you are correct? If not, how in the world can you dare risk the possibility that your zeal is misguided and that you are opposing God Himself? Is there no holy fear in you, no sense of the greatness of the Lord, no awe of His might works, no recognition that it is far better to tread carefully in your public judgments - lest you revile the very One you claim to represent - than to speak rashly about matters in which you are not, in fact, expert?”
I can see no other reason for Brown even raising the point of blasphemy other than the fact that, while he doesn’t out and out claim, as Hill appears to have done, that critics are blaspheming, he means to forcefully imply and hint that if we haven’t already, we are in grave danger of doing so if we continue to oppose the BAG movement. Which seems highly contradictory to me with his protestations to the contrary that he doesn’t believe we are guilty of blasphemy and that he hasn’t even entertained so much as a thought of such for even a moment. Brown claims one thing, but his own words seem to bespeak quite another, do they not?
In recent months Brown has been one of the most prolific “criticizers of the critics, although he, like Steve Hill, claims to scarcely pay any attention to us at all. Implausibly, for two men who make such a claim, they both wrote books wherein those they believe to be opposed to the BAG movement are repeatedly addressed.
Dr. Brown (RevivalNow@msn.com): [Tue, Sep 16, 09:17PM EDT]
Adele — don’t get frustrated when and if critics are referred to. Remember, Jesus addressed His “critics” too — and we only do so for the edification of the Body and for the clarifying of truth. But if we responded to 1% of what the critics said, let alone 10%, we’d spend all our time talking about them instead of reaching the lost and backslidden. That’s why they receive only slight attention from us.
Let us review some of Brown’s allegations about critics and see if he pays “only slight attention” to us.
“Of course-how pathetic!-the critics continue to raise their voices and attack those things of which they are ignorant. But what would revival be like without the critics? (That’s similar to asking what the Gospels would be like without the Pharisees.) When God starts moving, everyone falls into place: The hungry press forward and are filled: the lost are drawn in and the backsliders drawn home: the laborers are raised up and thrust out: and the critics criticize! What else could we expect? Birds fly, fish swim, liars lie, and critics criticize. Actually, we ought to pity those who cannot recognize the glorious fruit....They reject the Spirit because they don’t like the style. Pity their souls (think of having a ministry of criticism!) and pray for those whom they mislead. We don’t want anyone to be left out. A few months ago the Lord said to me that soon it will be an embarrassment to be associated with the critics. Day by day, the truth of that word is becoming clearer and clearer. I would hate to find myself standing in the path of a divine tidal wave, shaking my skeptical fist and shouting, ‘That’s not God!’ Heaven help the critics.”
Brown covers considerable ground in just this one citation alone by alleging:
1. Critics are pathetic and ignorant, which presumptuously assumes those who have Biblical concerns about BAG haven’t taken the time to educate themselves thoroughly about what is being taught and condoned there and prayerfully weighed it in the balance of Scripture.
2. The critics are likened to the Pharisees, which is a universal allegation with all those who “criticize the critics.” He places us on par with the Pharisees and the accusations they leveled at the incarnate Christ in the Gospels. Which is to say, he is implying that we are persecuting those involved in the BAG movement in a manner equivalent to that which the Pharisees did Christ in the Gospels.
3. Critics are rather pitiful, having ministries of “criticism”, or so Brown presumes.
4. It’s an embarrassment to be associated with us, the “critics”, or it soon will be.
5. “We don’t want anyone to be left out.” Here’s the ever-present threat that if one doesn’t go along with BAG, one is going to find oneself “left out” of whatever supposed “new thing” God is doing today. After all, human nature being what it is, nobody wants to get “left out”, right?
As I noted above, Brown wrote an entire book to address “critics” of BAG. Even the title, “Let No One Deceive You: Confronting the Critics of Revival” is somewhat misleading in that those I know, myself included, are not opposed to genuine, Godly revival, far from it. Brown and his colleagues at BAG just don’t seem to get it: opposition to the un-Biblical manifestations and practices at BAG does not constitute our being critical of revival which is Scriptural and genuine. But BAG leadership and proponents have taken the tact that to be opposed to their movement is to be opposed to revival period. It is an erroneous presumption.
Brown claims his chapter “Scorning the Sacred” was written because:
“You see, it is possible to scorn the sacred and despise the divine until the Lord Himself raises His voice in rebuke. I fear that some critics are nearing that place of danger, and this chapter is written to warn them and help pull them back.”
I find it rather peculiar that while Brown expresses considerable concern about the plight of critics-quite frequently pointing out that we are in grave danger of God’s wrath and judgment-conversely, he seems to have no such concerns for himself whatsoever as he proceeds to level various and sundry derogatory allegations at us. Although Brown claims at the outset of the book in his preface that “this book is not vindictive”, it is obvious as one reads it there are many supercilious, pejorative terms used to describe us, most of which are clearly attacking and personal in nature. Consequently, I have a difficult time believing that particular chapter, if not the whole book as well, was written for any other reason than to attempt to intimidate us into silence by instilling fear of God’s wrath and retribution, while concurrently endeavoring to suppress any inclination to seriously evaluate the movement by those who presently endorse it.
That notwithstanding, as I stated regarding the Hill chapter, I urge you, wherever at all possible, to obtain at least a copy of the preface and first two chapters (see end note 21), if not the book itself, to carefully read and review it for yourself as well. Unless otherwise noted, I am going to primarily limit myself to dealing with Brown’s Preface and Chapters 1 and 2 in the citations below. Browns writes:
“Just the issue of holy living might disqualify many contemporary critics”!
“If we don’t claim to be the holy heroes of the hour, the mini-saviors of the moment, the enlightened leaders of the Critical Intelligentsia Association (CIA), the elite members of the Faultfinding Brotherhood International (FBI), if we are quick to hear and slow to speak, recognizing that God is raising up a large and varied army, the Lord can keep us safe from delusion.”
“What is one of the roots of spiritual deception? Pride. I have special revelation; I am right; I know. And this reveals one of the strongholds of this destructive, critical spirit: Truth doesn’t matter. Evidence doesn’t count. I have an opinion! That’s what really matters. After all, I am a critic....How dare you question me?...This kind of attitude is all too common among many of the contemporary critics of revival.”
“Yes, all too often, the real issue is not truth, facts, and evidence, but rather the critic’s opinion....It is frequently self-anointed, generally self-appointed, and virtually always right. How can the critic possibly see clearly?”
“The critic is often more influenced by what he thinks and discerns than by what the evidence, the clear and powerful evidence, says...no matter what Scriptural proof you provide, no matter what other proven leaders believe. As Judith Crist once remarked with reference to art and literary critics, To be a critic, you have to have maybe three percent education, five percent intelligence, two percent style, and ninety percent gall and egomania in equal parts. This applies to some spiritual critics too!”
“Careful, dear critic! Do you really want to know the truth, or have you merely painted yourself into a corner from which you cannot escape....If you really wanted to know the truth, you would go and find it out for yourself....”
“Once the critic has made up his mind, he seeks out confirmation to prove that his negative suspicions are true. In fact, he will give more credence to one negative report that agrees with his position than 1,000 that contradict and refute it....But that is the blinding deception of a critical spirit.”
“Yes, there is a cozy cocoon of criticism that feeds on itself and draws strength from its rumormongering. May God’s light penetrate this darkness, and His truth pierce these lies! This kind of junk repeating libelous falsehoods about our brothers and maligning faithful servants of the Lord is as far from constructive correction and godly rebuke as Death Valley is from the Arctic Circle. It not only misses the mark, but instead of shooting at the enemy’s target, it fires at its own side.” [Immediately following this paragraph in chapter 1, Brown asks the reader to consider some selective citations from John Wesley’s Journals. Please see Appendix II of this article for some additional quotes from John Wesley’s Journals and Letters which I believe you may find quite worthy of consideration as well.]
“How do you want to be remembered? On which side do you want to be? On the side of the critics...or on the side of those who are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom of God...?”
Brown makes quite a number of presumptions and predilections where critics of the BAG movement are concerned in just the Preface and first two chapters alone, specifically:
1. First and foremost, we are ignorant.
2. We are “enlightened leaders of the Critical Intelligentsia Association (CIA).”
3. We are “the elite members of the Faultfinding Brotherhood International (FBI).”
4. We are likely to be disqualified because we do not live holy personal lives.
5. We are frequently self-anointed and self-appointed.
6. We’re foolish.
7. We elevate traditions made of man over God’s Word.
8. We scorn the sacred things of God.
9. We liberally speak ill of those who have a particular, extraordinary “special favor and blessing” of God. (Depending on the clear intent, some might even be view Brown as walking a tightly-strung rope over a perilous pit called Gnosticism here with these kinds of statements.)
10. We are tragic, sad, pitiful gossips with biased opinions, spewing garbage and spreading baseless accusations, to whom nothing, absolutely nothing, not even the things of God, are sacred.
11. We are poor blind guides, deluded into believing we are heroes of the faith.
12. We hold our standards as critics higher than angelic majesties.
13. We’re 90% gall and egomania in equal parts.
14. We are rumormongers.
15. We are in darkness.
16. We spread lies.
17. We repeat libelous falsehoods about our brothers.
18. We malign faithful servants of the Lord.
19. We have no accurate understanding of what is really happening in God’s kingdom today.
20. We have very little of the presence of God in our own personal lives.
21. We are wagering our very salvation on our criticism of Brownsville.
22. We are quick to criticize and eager to be opinionated.
23. We are pathetic and foolish.
24. We are ignorant speakers.
25. We are ignorant slanderers of the Holy Spirit.
26. We have a pattern of acting in ignorance and unbelief. (Frankly, the book itself makes us out to be quite an ignorant lot overall, period...at least in Brown’s estimation anyway.)
27. We speak vilely.
28. We are crass judgmentalists.
29. We are prideful.
30. We fear man more than we rightly fear God.
31. We are foolish talkers.
32. We are criticizers of Christ.
33. We are scorners of the Holy Spirit.
34. We are mockers of God’s mercy.
35. We are vilifying God’s manifest presence.
36. We are kicking against the goads.
As you can see, that’s quite a list of invectives. Throughout the book, and particularly in these two chapters, Brown’s prevailing presumption is that those who oppose the BAG movement are ignorant of exactly what the movement entails and that we don’t know what we’re talking about when we voice critical concerns. Another common presumptive thread which runs throughout the book is the fact that Brown paints critics of the BAG movement as critics of revival in general, which simply isn’t true. He grants no latitude whatsoever to those who have carefully, prayerfully evaluated the BAG movement in the light of Scripture, with the collateral enlightenment of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and yet still do not believe it to be a viable move of God. We must agree with him and believe as he does, that BAG is a genuine God-sent revival, or else we’re foolish, pathetic, prideful, ignorant, self-anointed, self-appointed, libelous rumormongers and egomaniacs with a considerable amount of gall.
While Brown claims in the book that he and the other leaders at BAG are perfectly willing to accept constructive criticism and that they consider it carefully, it is patently obvious they are only willing to do so if the ultimate outcome is that the individuals raising the cautious concerns and criticism come around to embracing and endorsing the movement. He allows no place at all for those who, having thoroughly evaluated the movement, still do not believe it is of God, precisely because he writes the entire book from the presumption that BAG is a viable move of the Holy Spirit and that critics are wrong for refusing to accept that. Beyond offering the usual “fruit” as validation he does not offer any substantial, sound Scriptural underpinnings for the movement. One of my colleagues, Robert Hunter, put it quite succinctly and cogently when he wrote:
“Again, without proving his [Brown’s] point, he makes assumptions about those who examine and reject Brownsville. They issue bogus reports and mislead others. Dr. Brown’s techniques should be called what they are: brainwashing. He is conditioning his readers to dismiss all criticism without any consideration whatsoever....Throughout the [chapter], Dr. Brown speaks out of both sides of his mouth. A very strong feature of the Toronto Blessing was the ability of its leaders to say totally opposing things at the same time, and that has carried over to this movement as well....the critics are accused of ‘scorning’ testimonies, ‘ridiculing’ reports of parents, educators, and law-enforcement agents, and ‘mockingly’ rejecting the words of Christians. Dr. Brown says all of this without bothering to prove his point. Who is doing the stone-casting here? It appears that he is doing quite a bit of it himself!”
While throughout his book Brown has done a considerable amount of name-calling and made innumerable allegations insomuch as any and all “critics” of BAG are concerned, it is at the close of the book’s Appendix for which he has reserved perhaps his most direct, specific ominous threat. Brown writes:
“And now for a bit of history. On April 20, 1653, Oliver Cromwell dismissed the Rump Parliament with words that became famous in England, especially when they were repeated on May 7, 1940. It was then that L.S. Amery shouted these words at Neville Chamberlain from the back benches of the House of Commons, after which Chamberlain left in disgrace and Winston Churchill soon came into power. Cromwell said (and Amery repeated): ‘You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!’”
“Tragically, these words may find application yet again...On the other hand, the ‘jury’ is still out on Hank Hanegraaff. If his main focus continues to be the dissemination of destructive and divisive material such as Counterfeit Revival, then he will have outlived his usefulness. This, of course, would be a terrible shame....”
When he levels the threat at Hanegraaff, alleging that Hanegraaff “will have outlived his usefulness”, it is somewhat difficult to ascertain the exact context in which Brown means to apply it. There are one of two possibilities:
Brown means, at least in his own estimation, to allege that Hanegraaff has outlived his usefulness in CRI’s ministry and that, therefore, God will remove him from it; or
Brown means to imply that Hanegraaff has outlived his usefulness period and that, perhaps, God will take him home.
Either way, it is an apocalyptic, portentous threat directed specifically at Hank Hanegraaff. And it has likely been directed at him because, with CRI’s nationally-syndicated Bible Answerman [BAM] radio show, Hanegraaff has been by far the most visibly outspoken critic of BAG. Brown may fancy himself the equal of Cromwell and Amery in directing the statement, “You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”, at Hanegraaff, but that is a far, distant cry from making it so. Rather, it reeks moreso of what might be considered by many as nothing more than a childish lashing out at Hanegraaff because he has taken an outspoken position diametrically opposed to Brown and BAG. Therefore, instead of refuting Hanegraaff’s Bible Answerman contentions from the surety of Scripture if he can, Brown has taken the tact of issuing unwarranted threats and indulged himself in name-calling and the leveling of a whole host of other insubstantial allegations.
It seems all too fashionable in these present times for men to turn to issuing inauspicious, threatening comments such as this. This usually occurs with great frequency when they know their practices and teachings are not substantiated by the contextual, accumulative evidences of the written Word of God. Being confronted with this inescapable fact, there seems little else for them to do except appeal to God to rain fire down upon their opposers. One wonders if they ever reflect on just what manner of spirit it is which might be driving them to do so and why?
Does He not see my ways, and number all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hastened after deceit, Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity. [Job 31:4-6]
Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed. [1 Samuel 2:3]
A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern. [Proverbs 16:11]
Can I justify wicked scales and a bag of deceptive weights? [Micah 6:11]
The attempt to instill fear by insinuating that anyone who continues to oppose these movements is in danger of opposing a “move of God” in order to side-step genuine Scriptural concerns about aberrant practicies and teachings is becoming an all too common manipulative ploy. Any viable move of God will withstand careful Scriptural scrutiny of the highest order. Godly men generally welcome and even invite and encourage careful, intense Scriptural scrutiny and examination of the truths they profess to preach and teach. On the other hand, the proponents and leaders of Toronto and BAG attempt to manipulate, intimidate and frighten by telling their hearers, and putting their critics on notice, if they question the movement, they are ignorant God-mockers in danger of grieving, or even blaspheming, the Holy Spirit and are in jeopardy of missing out and being left behind by the Holy Spirit.
“But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” [John 3:21]
“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” [Ephesians 5:13]
What is the “light” which exposes and discerns these things? How are we to know what is and what is not a “move of God”? It is certainly not through experiential “fruit-proof.”
Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path. [Psalm 119:105]
“For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life,” [Proverbs 6:23]
“For with Thee is the fountain of life; In Thy light we see light.” [Psalm 36:9]
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]
That is the ageless magnificence of God’s Word-it is as applicable to your life as it is to mine and has been throughout the years to countless others as well. The Bible is infallible, objective truth which the indwelling Holy Spirit subjectively applies to the hearts and lives of individual believers. The written Word of God is living and active and everlasting and sufficient for reproof, correction, training in righteousness and for equipping God’s people for every good work.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to conclude anything other than the fact that, however much and emphatically it may be denied by leadership and followers of Toronto and BAG, we are faced with a movement which is asking us to deny the absolute sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is being displaced as the practical, authoritative absolute for God’s people by a capricious, fickle, experience-oriented faith. As Don Nori tells us, the “litmus test” for judging whether something is or isn’t of God is no longer the whole counsel of God’s Word, but, rather, “fruit-proof.”
Why have God’s people become so discontent and dissatisfied with their Christian faith that many have now reached the point of exchanging the absolute sufficiency of Scripture for experientialism? What more can God do for us that He has not already done through the plenary atonement on Calvary’s Cross? What more do we want or need which God has not freely given us?
I believe the answer to those questions is, simply, the “power”, whatever reasons may be given in justification thereof. It leads right back to the Garden: .”..and you shall be like God.” And I do not mean “power” in same sense that we must be endued with power from on high for effective ministry either. This goes far, far beyond that. Once a movement, any movement, slips the bounds of what is normative and revelatory in Scripture and goes after new revelation, no matter how much its proponents profess to venerate and revere the written Word of God, we inevitably see Scripture overthrown by experientialism.
It seems no different spiritually today than it was in the natural during the Hebrew nation’s wilderness wanderings. They wearied of the manna God provided daily to sustain them in their journey through the wilderness. They began to grumble and complain against God, bemoaning having ever left the bondage of Egypt. Unsatisfied and discontent with God’s provision, they cried out for something different than that which God had already prescribed for them. Today, I do not believe the great hue and cry for “More! More” means that these people really want “more” so much as it means what they really want is something different than that which God has already provided.
As we have seen, the type of experientialism (“fruit-proof”) Don Nori, and others, are advocating is the practice of omitting and ignoring the objective truth of God’s written Word when that objective truth contradicts their personal, subjective experience. As opposed to allowing the contextual, accumulative evidences of Scripture to interpret their experiences, Scripture is now to be interpreted through their subjective revelations and experiences. Evidenced by Nori’s attempted Scriptural exegesis, we can plainly see that this kind of experientialism inevitably leads to proof-texting and inferring and ascribing erroneous and ambiguous meanings to Scripture passages. Nori’s statements are a clear indication that where there is more and more emphasis placed on subjective experience, the authority, relevance and practical application of the objective truth of Scripture for God’s people today is contemporaneously de-emphasized.
I submit to you that there is not a single movement which has departed the purity of the Gospel truth and ultimately moved into spiritless apostasy save they did it by elevating subjective revelations and personal experiences above the objective truth of Scripture. Why is that? Because once we remove the Divine standard by going beyond the bounds of what is clearly revelatory and normative in the written Word of God, we no longer have an accurate point of reference for discerning what is or isn’t of God. We then find ourselves wholly at the mercy of fallible mortals, whether ourselves and our own peculiar, subjective inferences and interpretations of Scripture or that of others, or a combination of both. After all, once the standard of the written Word of God is practically removed as the final authority in all matters of faith and practice and subjugated by experientialism and new revelation, who is to say that what each man or woman deems to be right in his or her own eyes isn’t? Without the touchstone of Scripture we have no absolute, inerrant frame of reference.
Paul did not call the Bereans denigrating, deprecating names for searching the Scriptures daily to see if what he preached was so. Instead, commending them he called them noble-minded. As I noted at the outset, name-calling and verbal attacks directed at anyone opposed to the movements at BAG and Toronto have reached an all-time high. We have been accused of being not Bereans but, rather, negative brethren, among a whole host of other invectives as well. I believe it is obvious in the citations noted herein just who is attacking, criticizing and judging whom. Do you not find it paradoxical that those who have expended so much time and effort threatening the critics with God’s impending wrath and retribution seem to have no such concerns in that regard for themselves when they relentlessly judge, attack and “criticize the critics”? Be that as it may, in the face of it, leave us continually pray as did Augustine, “Lord, deliver me from the lust of self-vindication.”
The certainty and objective truth of Scripture depends only upon God Himself and His very character for validation, whereas subjective experience and revelation which are not normative and revelatory in the Bible depend completely upon fallible man and his ability to accurately discern what is and is not of God. Are you willing to stake your eternal destiny on your ability, apart from Scripture, to accurately ascertain and discern what is or is not of God based on personal, subjective experiences and new revelation?
“To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” [Isaiah 8:20]
“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” [2 Peter 3:1-2]
“Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” [2 Timothy 1:13-14]
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:14-17]
1. ReaperNet (Destiny Image) hosts live weekly chats with Dr. Michael L. Brown and/or his assistant, Scott Volk, every Tuesday evening at 8pm EST. What has come to be referred to as the “critic’s corner”, where Brown and/or Volk answer questions submitted by “critics” of the BAG movement, begins at 9pm EST. Previous live chat transcripts may be downloaded from Web URL: http://chat.reapernet.com/index.html.
2. A copy of my original Accusers of the Brethren or Good Bereans? Article appears at Robert W. Hunter’s The Contenders Web site: http://web.idirect.com:80/~bhph95/. A “sister”, mirror-image of The Contenders Web site may also be accessed at: http://www.contenders.com/.
3. James Ryle wrote his tirade and subsequently faxed it to John Loeffler after the radio broadcast in February, 1995. Loeffler no longer hosts the old “Steel on Steel” radio show in the Denver area, but has moved on to host another radio show in another part of the country. Copy of Ryle fax on file.
4. Carl Tuttle, Anaheim Vineyard, transcript clip from tape #00363.
5. William DeArteaga, Toronto Airport Vineyard [now Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and, at this time, no longer a Vineyard affiliate church], October 13, 1994, audio tape transcript.
6. Rick Joyner and Bob Jones, “Shepherd’s Rod 1997.” It can be found at Internet Web URL: http://www.eaglestar.org/calltoarms/srod1997.htm
7. Destiny Image Prophetic Digest, “Portal in Pensacola” by Don Nori, Winter 1997. Original article may be viewed on the Internet at URL: http://www.reapernet.com/di/did/index.html. Or, a hard copy of the “Portal in Pensacola” issue may be ordered from Destiny Image, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310, 800-722-6774.
8. Don Nori, “The Plumb Line: Fruit-Proof”, Destiny Image Digest, Summer1997.
9. Dr. Michael L. Brown, “Let No One Deceive You: Confronting Critics of Revival”, Destiny Image’s Revival Press, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310, Preface.
11. In previous CC issues, in two separate articles, I have thoroughly discussed both the original Kilpatrick Hanegraaff/CRI false prophecy and Kilpatrick’s subsequent apology.
12. Steve Hill, “The Solemn Assembly”, March 1997, Springfield, Missouri, video tape transcript.
13. Except as otherwise specifically noted, all Hill quotations taken from Chapter One of his book “The God Mockers”, Destiny Image’s Revival Press, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310. Please note, if you do not have access to the entire book, you can download Chapter One at Destiny Image’s Internet Web URL: http://www.reapernet.com/di/new_product/god_mo_1.html. I encourage you to do so and to thoroughly read and evaluate the chapter for yourself if at all possible.
14. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Toronto Phenomenon”, part 2 of 2, Chafer Theological Journal, Chafer Theological Seminary, Fountain Valley, CA. Copies of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s two-part article may also be found at Chafer’s Internet Web URL: http://www.bible.org.
16. Dr. Michael L. Brown, “Let No One Deceive You”, pp. 13-14.
17. Ibid, pp. 19-20.
18. Dr. Michael L. Brown, ReaperNet live chat transcript, Tuesday, September 16, 1997, may be viewed at Internet Web URL: http://chat.reapernet.com/index.html.
19. Dr. Michael L. Brown, Destiny Image Prophetic Digest, “Testimonies Pour In”, Winter 1997. Original article may be viewed on the Internet at URL: www.reapernet.com/di/did/index.html. Or, a hard copy of the “Portal in Pensacola” issue may be ordered from Destiny Image, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310, 800-722-6774.
20. Dr. Michael L. Brown, “Let No One Deceive You”, p. 14.
21. Please note, if you do not have access to a copy of Brown’s book, “Let No One Deceive You”, you can obtain a copy of the Preface and Chapters 1 and 2 at Destiny Image’s Web URL: http://www.reapernet.com/di/.
22. Robert W. Hunter, “A Review of Scorning the Sacred: When Critics Enter the Danger Zone.” This review may be found at Hunter’s Web Site: http://web.idirect.com:80/~bhph95/.
This web site copy of the article and its appendixes are a more extensive version than that which has been edited for publication.
Except where otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, California.
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The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
In appealing to the writings of Jonathan Edwards as a means of validating or invalidating the Toronto and/or BAG movements, as many have proposed to do on both sides of the issue, in order to equitably and judiciously do so, we must consider Edwards’ theology on the whole. To do otherwise-to fail to carefully consider and honestly acknowledge his theological convictions-as has been all too frequently the case lately, is highly selective, “revisionary recall” of the historical works of Jonathan Edwards. What Edwards wrote regarding physical manifestations and “Religious Affections”, which are those Edwards writings most frequently cited by supporters of the two movements, must be studied from within the context of his theological frame of reference, which he clearly defined throughout his writings.
As I noted in the body of the article, early on after the movement first began at Toronto Airport Vineyard (now Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship), church historian William DeArteaga states:
“And every revival has a predominant theologian, you know. Historians say, well in this revival, Charles Finney was the predominant figure here and theologian of that revival, etc., etc. And the Lord has already chosen the predominant theologian of this revival. It’s not me! It’s Jonathan Edwards. And every book on revival out there, including my book does central chapters on what did Jonathan Edwards say about revival. We’re commentators on Jonathan Edwards. That’s really true.”
More recently regarding BAG, Mike Brown wrote:
“According to all Jonathan Edwards’ tests for whether or not the work is from God, the Pensacola outpouring is from God”.
Edwards and Cessationism
Both movements, Toronto and BAG, place emphasis on continuance of the extraordinary spiritual gifts and ultimate restoration of Apostolic and Prophetic offices as well. Did Jonathan Edwards believe extraordinary spiritual experiences were normative and routine among all of God’s people? Did Edwards believe the extraordinary spiritual gifts continued beyond the completed canon of Scripture? Edwards responds:
“2. Ordinary and extraordinary.-The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, &c., are called extraordinary, because they are such as are not given in the ordinary course of God’s providence. They are not bestowed in the way of God’s ordinary providential dealing with his children, but only on extraordinary occasions, as they were bestowed on the prophets and apostles to enable them to reveal the mind and will of God before the canon of Scripture was complete, and so on the primitive Church, in order to the founding and establishing of it in the world. But since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased. But the ordinary gifts of the Spirit are such as are continued to the Church of God throughout all ages; such gifts as are granted in conviction and conversion, and such as appertain to the building up of the saints in holiness and comfort.”
“The canon of Scripture being completed when the apostle John had written the book of Revelation, which he wrote not long before his death, these miraculous gifts were no longer continued in the church. For there was now completed an established written revelation of the mind and will of God wherein God had fully recorded a standing and all-sufficient rule for his church in all ages. And the Jewish church and nation being overthrown, and the Christian church and the last dispensation of the church of God being established, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were no longer needed, and therefore they ceased; for though they had been continued in the church for so many ages, yet then they failed, and God caused them to fail because there was no further occasion for them. And so was fulfilled the saying of the text, ‘Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” And now there seems to be an end to all such fruits [i.e. extraordinary gifts] of the Spirit as these, and we have no reason to expect them any more.”
Edwards and the Supremacy of Scripture
Regarding the practicality and supreme authority of Scripture in the believer’s life, while concurrently expressing his grave concerns about extra-Biblical “new revelations”, Edward wrote:
“One erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days, to guide his saints, at least some that are more eminent, by inspiration, or immediate revelation. They suppose he makes known to them what shall come to pass hereafter, or what it is his will that they should do, by impressions made upon their minds, either with or without texts of Scripture; whereby something is made known to them, that is not taught in the Scripture. By such a notion the devil has a great door opened for him; and if once this opinion should come to be fully yielded to, and established in the church of God, Satan would have opportunity thereby to set up himself as the guide and oracle of God’s people, and to have his word regarded as their infallible rule, and so to lead them where he would, and to introduce what he pleased, and soon to bring the Bible into neglect and contempt.”
“If God were now to speak from heaven to resolve our doubts concerning signs of godliness, and should give some particular sign, that by it all might know whether they were sincerely godly or not, with such emphatical expressions as these, the man that has such a qualification or mark, ‘that is the man that is a true saint, that is the very man, by this you may know, this is the thing by which it is manifest who are saints and who are sinners, such men as these are saints indeed;’ should not we look upon it as a thing beyond doubt, that this was given, as a special, and eminently distinguishing note of true godliness? But this is the very case with respect to the sign of grace I am speaking of; God has again and again uttered himself in his word in this very manner, concerning Christian practice, as John 14, ‘he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.’ Thus Christ in this place gives to the disciples, not so much to guide them in judging of others, as to apply to themselves for their own comfort after his departure, as appears by every word of the context. And by the way I would observe, that not only the emphasis with which Christ utters himself is remarkable, but also his so much insisting on, and repeating the matter, as he does in the context: verse 15, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ Verse 23, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words.’ And verse 24, ‘He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings.’ And in the next chapter over and over: verse 2, ‘Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit; he purgeth it.’ Verse 8. ‘Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.’ Verse 14, ‘Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.’ We have this mark laid down with the same emphasis again, John 8:31 ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.’ And again 1 John 2:3, ‘Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.’ And verse 5, ‘Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we, that we are in him’ And chapter 3:18, 19, ‘Let us love in deed, and in truth; hereby we know that we are of the truth.’ What is translated hereby would have been a little more emphatical if it had been rendered more literally from the original, by this we do know. - And how evidently is holy practice spoken of as the grand note of distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil, in verse 10, of the same chapter? ‘In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.’ Speaking of a holy, and a wicked practice, as may be seen in all the context; as verse 3, ‘Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure.’ Verses 6-10, ‘Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous: he that committeth sin is of the devil. - Whosoever is born of God sinneth not. - Whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God.’ So we have the like emphasis, 2 John 6: ‘This is love, that we walk after his commandments;’ that is (as we must understand it), this is the proper evidence of love. So 1 John 5:3, ‘This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.’”
“Why cannot we be contented with the divine oracles, that holy, pure word of God, which we have in such abundance and clearness, now since the canon of Scripture is completed? Why should we desire to have any thing added to them by impulses from above? Why should we not rest in that standing rule that God has given to his church, which the apostles teaches us, is surer than a voice from heaven? And why should we desire to make the Scripture speak more to us than it does?”
“They who leave the sure word of prophecy-which God has given us as a light shining in a dark place-to follow such impressions and impulses, leave the guidance of the polar star to follow a Jack with a lantern. No wonder therefore that sometimes they are led into woeful extravagances.”
Edwards, Arminianism and the Sovereignty of God
I point out the following because it is germane to the issue at hand insomuch as Edwards and Arminianism are concerned.
During a recent ReaperNet live chat session when Professor James White, author and Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, asked Mike Brown if the preaching at BAG was Arminian in orientation, Brown responded that it was, albeit “with more emphasis on God’s sovereignty”. In the same conversation, Brown also told White, “I’m convinced that [it] is only the Pentecostal view that is true to sola scriptura”.
Jonathan Edwards was severely critical of Arminianism. When he moved to Stockbridge, a tiny frontier settlement, he looked forward to writing an extensive multi-volume series addressing the pervasive Arminian controversy of the day. While he did manage to write several superlative treatises during that time-Original Sin, History of Redemption, Nature of True Virtue and his magnificent work on the Will, among others-he consequently very reluctantly accepted the call to assume the Presidency of Princeton, which threatened to derail his preparatory work for the multi-volume series he had hoped to devote the rest of his life to writing. It would not be long hence that he would die at age 55. Regarding Arminianism, Edwards writes:
“The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another. However, if they will call this a contradiction of wills, we know that there is such a thing; so that it is the greatest absurdity to dispute about it. We and they know it was God’s secret will, that Abraham should not sacrifice his son Isaac; but yet his command was, that he should do it. We know that God willed, that Pharaoh’s heart should be hardened; and yet that the hardness of his heart was sin. We know that God willed the Egyptians should hate God’s people; Psa. 105:25, “He turned their heart to hate his people, and deal subtlely with his servants.” We know that it was God’s will, that Absalom should lie with David’s wives; 2 Sam.12:11, “Thus saith the Lord, I will raise up this evil against thee, out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour; and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” We know that God willed that Jeroboam and the ten tribes should rebel. The same may be said of the plunder of the Babylonians; and other instances might be given. The Scripture plainly tells us, that God wills to harden some men, Rom. 9:18.”
“Contingency, as it is holden by some, is at the same time contradicted by themselves, if they hold foreknowledge. This is all that follows from an absolute, unconditional, irreversible decree, that it is impossible but that the things decreed should be. The same exactly follows from foreknowledge, that it is absolutely impossible but that the thing certainly foreknown should precisely come to pass...The foreknowledge of God will necessarily infer a decree: for God could not foreknow that things would be, unless he had decreed they should be; and that because things would not be future, unless he had decreed they should be”.
“About this time began the great noise, in this part of the country, about Arminianism, which seemed to appear with a very threatening aspect upon the interest of religion here. The friends of vital piety trembled for fear of the issue; but it seemed, contrary to their fear, strongly to be overruled for the promoting of religion. Many who looked on themselves as in a Christless condition, seemed to be awakened by it, with fear that God was about to withdraw from the land, and that we should be given up to heterodoxy and corrupt principles; and that then their opportunity for obtaining salvation would be past. Many who were brought a little to doubt about the truth of the doctrines they had hitherto been taught, seemed to have a kind of trembling fear with their doubts, lest they should be led into by-paths, to their eternal undoing; and they seemed, with much concern and engagedness of mind, to inquire what was indeed the way in which they must come to be accepted with God. There were some things said publicly on that occasion, concerning justification by faith alone”.
One of Edwards’ greatest passions, if not the primary passion of his entire life, was to see the absolute, utter supremacy and sovereignty of God realized in every area of life, insomuch as it is possible for a mere fallible mortal to reach such a comprehension in this present life. Nowhere did he write with more certitude and theological conviction and persuasion than concerning God’s absolute sovereignty. This great passion is reflected in his writings on God’s complete sovereignty in Divine Election and Limited Atonement, both of which are doctrines considerably at odds with the Arminian theological viewpoint. On this subject, taking the text of Romans 9:18, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he will he hardeneth.”, Edwards writes:
“The apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, expresses his great concern and sorrow of heart for the nation of the Jews, who were rejected of God. This leads him to observe the difference which God made by election between some of the Jews and others, and between the bulk of that people and the Christian Gentiles. In speaking of this he enters into a more minute discussion of the sovereignty of God in electing some to eternal life, and rejecting others, than is found in any other part of the Bible; in the course of which he quotes several passages from the Old Testament, confirming and illustrating this doctrine. In the ninth verse he refers us to what God said to Abraham, showing his election of Isaac before Ishmael - “For this is the word of promise; At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son:” then to what God had said to Rebecca, showing his election of Jacob before Esau; “The elder shall serve the younger:” in the thirteenth verse, to a passage from Malachi, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated:” in the fifteenth verse, to what God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion:” and the verse preceding the text, to what God says to Pharaoh, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” In what the apostle says in the text, he seems to have respect especially to the two last-cited passages: to what God said to Moses in the fifteenth verse, and to what he said to Pharaoh in the verse immediately preceding. God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” To this the apostle refers in the former part of the text. And we know how often it is said of Pharaoh, that God hardened his heart. And to this the apostle seems to have respect in the latter part of the text; “and whom he will he hardeneth.” We may observe in the text,
“1. God’s different dealing with men. He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening. So the apostle said, that he was unto some “a savour of death unto death.” So God is represented as sending Isaiah on this errand, to make the hearts of the people fat, and to make their ears heavy, and to shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isa. 6:10. Isaiah’s preaching was, in itself, of a contrary tendency, to make them better. But their abuse of it rendered it an occasion of their hardening. As God is here said to harden men, so he is said to put a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. 2 Chron. 18:22. That is, he suffered a lying spirit to enter into them. And thus he is said to have bid Shimei curse David. 2 Sam. 16:10. Not that he properly commanded him; for it is contrary to God’s commands. God expressly forbids cursing the ruler of the people. Exod. 22:28. But he suffered corruption at that time so to work in Shimei, and ordered that occasion of stirring it up, as a manifestation of his displeasure against David.
“2. The foundation of his different dealing with mankind; viz. his sovereign will and pleasure. “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” This does not imply, merely, that God never shows mercy or denies it against his will, or that he is always willing to do it when he does it. A willing subject or servant, when he obeys his lord’s commands, may never do any thing against his will, nothing but what he can do cheerfully and with delight; and yet he cannot be said to do what he wills in the sense of the text. But the expression implies that it is God’s mere will and sovereign pleasure, which supremely orders this affair. It is the divine will without restraint, or constraint, or obligation.
“Doctrine. God exercises his sovereignty in the eternal salvation of men.
“He not only is sovereign, and has a sovereign right to dispose and order in that affair; and he not only might proceed in a sovereign way, if he would, and nobody could charge him with exceeding his right; but he actually does so; he exercises the right which he has.”
There is considerably more detail to this sermon, it is actually quite lengthy, but I believe the point is well taken in Edwards’ opening preface, so I will forego citing further. I would, however, heartily encourage you to avail yourselves of the entire text of not only this particular sermon, but other of Edwards’ writings as well.
Edwards and the Demise of the Great Awakening
The leadership and proponents of both Toronto and BAG have often been adamant in claiming that the Great Awakening was shut down by the opposition of its critics and nay-sayers grieving the Holy Spirit. I would like to cite some of the primary reasons Edwards himself expressed concerning what he believed caused the Great Awakening to wane. Just as the writings of Edwards have frequently been abused and misused in misguided attempts to validate these present movements today, so too, have Toronto and BAG erroneously alleged that the Great Awakening’s demise was hastened by its critics, when, in fact, we can see in the citations below Edwards had other reasons clearly in mind when he wrote. Edwards was there in the midst of it at the time, and of course, subsequent to its demise and, therefore, well-positioned and qualified to make such an assessment. Here is his own perspective:
“It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ, all along hitherto. It is by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivings of religion, that ever have been since the first founding of the Christian church. By this, he hurt the cause of Christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more than by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens. The apostles, in all their epistles, show themselves much more concerned at the former mischief, than the latter. By this, Satan prevailed against the reformation, began by Luther. Zwinglius, etc., to put a stop to its progress, and bring it into disgrace; ten times more, than by all those bloody, cruel, and before unheard of persecutions of the church of Rome. By this, principally, has he prevailed against revivals of religion, that have been in our nation since the reformation. By this he prevailed against New England, to quench the love and spoil the joy of her espousals, about a hundred years ago. And I think, I have had opportunity enough to see plainly that by this the devil has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New England, so happy and promising in its beginning. Here, most evidently has been the main advantage Satan has had against us; by this he has foiled us. It is by this means, that the daughter of Zion in this land now lies on the ground, in such piteous circumstances as we now behold her; with her garments rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in no wise able to arise, and this, so quickly after her late great joys and hopes: Lamentations 1:17, “Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries shall be roundabout him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.” I have seen the devil prevail the same way, against two great revivings of religion in this country. Satan goes on with mankind, as he began with them. He prevailed against our first parents, and cast them out of paradise, and suddenly brought all their happiness and glory to an end, by appearing to be a friend to their happy paradisaic state, and pretending to advance it to higher degrees. So the same cunning serpent, that beguiled Eve through his subtlety, by perverting us from the simplicity that is in Christ, hath suddenly prevailed to deprive us of that fair prospect, we had a little while ago, of a kind of paradisaic state of the church of God in New England.
“After religion has revived in the church of God, and enemies appear, people that are engaged to defend its cause, are commonly most exposed, where they are sensible of danger. While they are wholly intent upon the opposition that appears openly before them, to make head against that, and do neglect carefully to look all around them, the devil comes behind them, and gives a fatal stab unseen; and has opportunity to give a more home stroke, and wound the deeper, because he strikes at his leisure, and according to his pleasure, being obstructed by no guard or resistance.
“And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful. By this means, the devil gratifies himself, by bringing it to pass, that that should be offered to God, by multitudes, under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above all things abominable to him. By this means he deceives great multitudes about the state of their souls; making them think they are something, when they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them; and not only so, but establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are in God’s sight some of the vilest of hypocrites. By this means, he many ways damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and deforms it by corrupt mixtures, causes their religious affections woefully to degenerate, and sometimes, for a considerable time, to be like the manna that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the minds of others of the saints and brings them into great difficulties and temptation, and entangles them in a wilderness, out of which they can by no means extricate themselves. By this means, Satan mightily encourages the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and fills them with weapons, and makes strong their fortresses; when, at the same time, religion and the church of God lie exposed to them, as a city without walls. By this means, he brings it to pass, that men work wickedness under a notion of doing God service, and so sin without restraint, yea with earnest forwardness and zeal, any with all their might. By this means he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly to themselves, to do the work of enemies, by destroying religion in a far more effectual manner than open enemies can do, under a notion of advancing it. By this means the devil scatters the flock of Christ, and sets them one against another, and that with great heat of spirit, under a nation of zeal for God; and religion, by degrees degenerates into vain jangling; and during the strife, Satan leads both parties far out of the right way, driving each to great extremes, one on the right hand, and the other on the left, according as he finds they are most inclined, or most easily moved and swayed, till the right path in the middle is almost wholly neglected. And in the midst of this confusion, the devil has great opportunity to advance his own interest, and make it strong in ways innumerable, and get the government of all into his own hands and work his own will. And by what is seen of the terrible consequences of this counterfeit religion, when not distinguished from true religion, God’s people in general have their minds unhinged and unsettled in things of religion, and know not where to set their foot, or what to think or do; and many are brought into doubts, whether there be anything in religion; and heresy, and infidelity, and atheism greatly prevail.”
“You have heard great things from New England of late, which, I doubt not, have refreshed and rejoiced your hearts; and indeed, great and wonderful have the things been in which God has passed before us. But now we have not such joyful news to send you; the clouds have lately thickened, and our hemisphere is now much darkened with them. There is a great decay of the work of God amongst us, especially as to the awakening and converting influence of the Spirit of God; and the prejudices there are, in a great part of the country, are riveted and inveterate. The people are divided into two parties, those that favor the work and those that are against it, and the distinction has long been growing more and more visible, and the distance greater, till there is at length raised a wall between them up to heaven; so that one party is very much out of the reach of all influence of the other. This is very much owing to imprudent management in the friends of the work, and a corrupt mixture which Satan has found means to introduce, and our manifold sinful errors by which we have grieved and quenched the Spirit of God.
“It can scarcely be conceived of what consequence it is, to the continuance and propagation of a revival of religion, that the utmost care be used to prevent error and disorder among those that appear to be the subjects of such a work; as also, that all imaginable care be taken by ministers in conducting souls under the work; and particularly that there be the greatest caution used in comforting and establishing persons, as being safe and past danger of hell. Many among us have been ready to think that all high raptures are divine; but experience plainly shews that it is not the degree of rapture and ecstasy (though it should be to the third heavens), but the nature and kind that must determine us in their favor. It would have been better for us, if all ministers here had taken care diligently to distinguish such joys and raised affections, as were attended with deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, solemnity of spirit, a trembling reverence towards God, tenderness of spirit, self-jealousy and fear, and great engagedness of heart after holiness of life, and a readiness to esteem others better than themselves; and that sort of humility that is not a noisy showy humility, but rather this which disposes to walk softly and speak trembling; and if we had encouraged no discoveries or joys but such as manifestly wrought this way, it would have been well for us.
“And I am persuaded we shall generally be sensible, before long, that we run too fast when we endeavor by our positive determinations to banish all fears of damnation from the minds of men, though they may be true saints, if they are not such as are eminently humble and mortified, and (what the Apostle calls) “rooted and grounded in love” [Eph. 3:17]. It seems to be running before the Spirit of God. God by his Spirit does not give assurance any other way, than by advancing these things in the soul: he does not wholly cast out fear, the legal principle, but by advancing and filling the soul full of love, the evangelical principle. When love is low in the true saint, they need the fear of hell to deter them from sin, and engage them to exactness in their walk, and stir them up to seek heaven; but when love is high, and the soul full of it, we don’t need fear. And therefore a wise God has so ordered it that love and fear should rise and fall like the scales of a balance: when one rises, the other falls, as there is need, or as light and darkness take place of each other in a room, as light decays, darkness comes in, and as light increases and fills the room, darkness is cast out; so love, or the spirit of adoption, casts out fear, the spirit of bondage. And experience convinces me, that even in the brightest and most promising appearances of new converts, it would have been better for us to have encouraged them only as it were conditionally, after the example of the Apostle, Heb. 3:6, “Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end”; and vs. 14, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” And after the example of Christ, Rev. 2:10, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” So Luke 21:34-36, and in many other places.
“’Tis probable that one reason why God has suffered us to err, is to teach us wisdom, by experience of the ill consequence of our errors....I hope, dear Sir, you’ll remember me in your prayers. Never was I so sensible in any measure how vain a creature man is; what a leaf driven of the wind, what dry stubble, what poor dust, a bubble, a shadow, a nothing, and more vain than nothing; and what a vain and vile helpless creature I am, and how much I need God’s help in everything, as of late. Dear Sir, don’t forget New England; and don’t forget your affectionate and obliged brother and servant, and unworthy fellow laborer.”
Context or Pretext?
In reading Michael Brown’s recently released book, in his Appendix I came across his discussion of Toronto’s Guy Chevreau’s use of Jonathan Edwards’ material in his book “Catch the Fire”. Of considerable interest is the part where Brown uses an Iain Murray citation regarding his [Murray’s] review of Chevreau’s book. Brown writes:
“As mentioned above, Guy Chevreau holds a Th.D. in Historical Theology...and in a recent review of his book, ‘Catch the Fire’, historian Iain Murray commended Chevreau for his lengthy treatment of Edwards’ writings. Though Murray felt that Chevreau’s emphasis on physical phenomenon throughout the book was not ‘consistent with what he rightly quotes from Edwards,’ he had this to say about Chevreau’s 70-page discussion of Edwards’ material itself:” [Brown cites Murray in the quote below]
“It must be said that the long treatment of the thought of Jonathan Edwards is, in our judgment, well and fairly done. No one could read that chapter without profit. It is clear also that the author, who writes with an appealing sincerity, has absorbed some of Edward’s main emphases and in particular the point that physical actions can never of themselves provide any proof of the power of the Holy Spirit: it is inward transformation, resulting in a closer communion with Christ and a greater knowledge of God, which alone has validity.”
Iain Murray has authored a number of fine books including an excellent biography of Jonathan Edwards and “Revivals and Revivalism”, among others as well. Being quite familiar with Iain, I was somewhat surprised at the Murray citation in Brown’s book in the context in which it was presented. Therefore, I went to the source-the Murray book review itself-and found my perplexity and concern regarding Brown’s use of the Murray citation quite justified. Let us look at the entire section of the Murray quote -the part which Michael Brown conveniently left out and did not cite [emphasis mine]:
“It must be said that the long treatment of the thought of Jonathan Edwards is, in our judgment, well and fairly done. No one could read that chapter without profit. It is also clear that the author, who writes with an appealing sincerity, has absorbed some of Edwards’ main emphasis and in particular the point that physical actions can never of themselves provide any proof of the power of the Holy Spirit: it is inward transformation, resulting in a closer communion with Christ and a greater knowledge of God, which alone has real validity. But while asserting this, Guy Chevreau contradicts it by constructing his book very largely around the physical phenomenon. We fail to see how this is consistent with what he quotes from Edwards. If physical phenomena, such as falling down, are not the vital thing, why should they be given such prominence? We can understand secular reporters giving all their attention to the merely outward, but this book appears to confirm that those most closely involved are themselves far too interested in the appearance of things.”
Iain does a little more than just say Chevreau’s use of the Edwards material is inconsistent-he out and out says Chevreau contradicts his own Edwards assertions. Murray is clearly stating that Chevreau’s use of the Edwards writings is both inconsistent and contradictory. Do you see how Brown’s highly selective citation, leaving out the balance of the Murray comments, is extremely misrepresentative of Iain’s learned opinion regarding Guy Chevreau’s use of the Jonathan Edwards material?
If I were so inclined, which I am not, I could use the Murray citation, in part, to make Chevreau’s use of the Edwards material look utterly erroneous. I could leave off Murray’s initial qualifying comments and equally as grossly misrepresent the Murray quote as Brown has done, only in reverse, by only quoting the latter part, starting with “Guy Chevreau contradicts it [his Edward quotes] by constructing his book very largely around the physical phenomenon. We fail to see how this is consistent with what he quotes from Edwards...”.
To do such a thing would be extremely misrepresentative of Iain’s review, equally as much so as is Brown’s only citing the first part of it in his book. What this tells us is that context is everything and, furthermore, that we ought to, insomuch as it is possible, check these things out for ourselves. Here we have a paragraph by Iain Murray which, if selectively quoted, could be used in two diametrically opposite ways. It is only in looking at the entire paragraph we see the clear intent and thrust of Murray’s comments.
In the Edwards excerpts I have cited here, as well as in a considerable number of other of his written works, he has told us exactly what his theological persuasions were as they relate to the present issue before us: Would Jonathan Edwards have considered himself, as William DeArteaga asserts “the predominant theologian of this [Toronto] revival”? Would Jonathan Edwards affirm Michael Brown’s declaration, “According to all Jonathan Edwards’ tests for whether or not the work is from God, the Pensacola outpouring is from God”? Given the theological convictions of Jonathan Edwards, do you really believe if he were here today he would sanction and ratify either of those proclamations?
A few more questions to consider (all of the Edwards quotes below are taken from material already cited in this Appendix):
1. Would Edwards, who was firmly persuaded the “extraordinary spiritual gifts” of the Spirit ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture, endorse two movements which emphasize the extraordinary spiritual gifts? More than simply that, would Edwards ever have endorsed two movements which teach that the extraordinary spiritual gifts are normative for all of God’s people, day in and day out?
“The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, &c., are called extraordinary, because they are such as are not given in the ordinary course of God’s providence. They are not bestowed in the way of God’s ordinary providential dealing with his children...The canon of Scripture being completed when the apostle John had written the book of Revelation...these miraculous gifts were no longer continued in the church...and we have no reason to expect them any more”.
2. Would Edwards have affirmed these two movements which both often rely heavily upon extra-Biblical revelation in the form of “words of knowledge” and “prophetic words”, dreams and/or visions?
“One erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days, to guide his saints, at least some that are more eminent, by inspiration, or immediate revelation...”.
3. Would Jonathan Edwards, an avowed Calvinist whose theological convictions were diametrically opposed to Arminianism have ever embraced and validated two movements whose leaders admit their teachings are Arminian in orientation?
“About this time began the great noise, in this part of the country, about Arminianism, which seemed to appear with a very threatening aspect upon the interest of religion here”.
Again, I ask you: Given the theological convictions of Jonathan Edwards, do you really believe if he were here today he would sanction and ratify either DeArteaga’s or Brown’s proclamations? Why, then, is it so important to appeal to Edwards in an attempt to obtain his post mortem “blessing”, if you will, on these movements? Because if it could viably be shown through his written legacy that Jonathan Edwards, the foremost pastor of the Great Awakening and one of the greatest, most admired theological thinkers America has ever known, would have endorsed and embraced Toronto and Brownsville, it would grant them a large measure of theological credibility.
How anyone can seriously engage themselves in the reading of the writings of Edwards and fail to take into account his theological convictions regarding Calvinism and cessationism, which permeate all of his work, simply escapes me. One wonders if those in the movements who have so blatantly misrepresented his work had any concern at all that those to whom their highly selective quotations of the material were directed would actually ever follow through and read his literature for themselves? I am inclined to believe this is quite likely so, particularly in light of the problems with the Iain Murray citation in Brown’s book, which I have noted above.
That notwithstanding, in his own words, Jonathan Edwards has shown us precisely why he would not endorse the statements made by either Brown or DeArteaga...and why he would not have embraced and condoned either Toronto or BAG. ————————————————————————————————————
1. DeArteaga, William, Toronto Airport Vineyard, audio tape transcript, 10/13/94, 9:15 AM session.
2. Brown, Dr. Michael, “God or Not”, Published in Destiny Image Prophetic Digest, “Portal in Pensacola” issue, Winter 1997, Original article may be viewed at URL: http://www.reapernet.com/di/did/index.html. Hard copies of the Digest may be ordered directly from Destiny Image, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310, 800-722-6774.
3. Edwards, Jonathan, excerpt from Sermon 2 in “Charity and Its Fruits”, entitled “Charity More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit”.
4. Edwards, Jonathan, “Charity and Its Fruits”, p. 104.
5. Edwards, Jonathan, “Some Thoughts”, p. 246.
6. Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, pp. 326-8.
7. Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts, p.404.
8. Jonathan Edwards, On Revival, p.14.
9. Brown, Dr. Michael, ReaperNet Live Chat transcript, August 5, 1997. Transcript may be viewed and/or downloaded at URL: http://chat.reapernet.com/index.html. Note: Professor White uses the handle “Orthopodeo” in the transcript.
10. Edwards, Jonathan, “Remarks on Important Theological Controversies”, p.525. [Note: The greatest part of these Remarks are original, and may be considered as a second volume of President Edwards’ Miscellaneous Observations.]
11. Edwards, Jonathan, “The Works of Jonathan Edwards”, 2 Vols., 2:527,532.
12. Edwards, Jonathan, Faithful Narrative, Section I, A General Introduction, pp. 7-8.
13. Jonathan Edwards, Sermon: God’s Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men, Northampton, Under “Charity and Its Fruits”
14. Edwards, Jonathan, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections”, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1982 reprint, pp. 6-8.
15. Edwards, Jonathan, Northampton, May 12, 1743, Letter To The Rev. James Robe Of Kilsyth, Scotland, Printed in “The Christian Monthly History”, ed. by James Robe, vol. 5, no. 5 (Edinburgh, Aug. 1745), pp. 126-31.
16. Iain Murray, “Book Reviews: Catch the Fire: The Toronto Blessing - an experience of renewal and revival.” by Guy Chevreau, cited in “Let No One Deceive You”, Michael Brown, Appendix, p. 249.
17. Iain Murray, “Book Reviews: Catch the Fire: The Toronto Blessing - an experience of renewel and revival.” by Guy Chevreau, The Banner of Truth, 378 (March 1995).
On Appealing to John Wesley
In his book, “Let No One Deceive You”, Michael Brown cites several of John Wesley’s Journal entries which dealt with occasions upon which some individuals instigated disputations with him. Using the Wesley quotes in his book as a springboard, Brown writes:
“There you have it. ‘Wesley, I’ve heard it from someone who heard it somewhere that you were always a little weird. Therefore regardless of the purity of your doctrine, regardless of the undeniable fruit, I’m going to hold my opinion.’ Blind guide!....Wesley violated the dead orthodoxy of the day, even though no one could genuinely point a finger at him, rumors were repeated and slander spread to discredit this holy man of God.
“Thank the Lord, over the course of time, the only ones discredited were the destructive critics....Most believers would be hard pressed to name the chief critic of the Great Awakening, or the leading opponents of the ministry of Charles Finney, or the main antagonist of the Welsh Revival. These names have faded into infamy while the names of those whom they ridiculed and reviled are now revered.
“How do you want to be remembered? On which side do you want to be? On the side of the critics, who freely air their opinions for the world to hear-even when confronted with truth-or on the side of those who are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom of God to the glory of the Son of God? On whose side do you want to be when the Lord stands to sort things out?
“If you want to be on the right side then, you had better be there now. Are you?”
Brown, having simply pronounced throughout his book that BAG is indisputably a great, Godly revival without ever establishing such a pronouncement as a fact, makes it clear that anyone who disagrees with him on that point is unquestionably a destructive, discredited “blind guide” on the wrong side of God. What’s more, though the context in which he presents the citations is controvertible and debatable, Brown is equating the present opposition to BAG with the resistance and opposition men like John Wesley and Dwight Moody encountered in their ministries. Ironically, the Moody citation Brown uses is one in which the Moody biographer from whom Brown quotes notes:
“Curious reports of Mr. Moody’s provincial tour went before him to Long. ‘The World’ said: ‘In many large English towns they (the evangelists) had the satisfaction of throwing females into convulsions, and have been lucky enough to consign several harmless idiots to neighboring lunatic asylums.’ Those who attended the meetings bore testimony that this element of violent excitement was totally absent from them.”
I fail to see the contextual appropriateness of this particular citation in that the claim that Moody’s services threw “females into convulsions” was patently false. However, bizarre manifestations have occurred repeatedly at BAG. One need only purchase some of the videos BAG sells to observe them for oneself. The “Honey, Where Are We From?” video has a great deal of palsy-like jerking and falling down on it. When a visiting pastor’s wife is asked by John Kilpatrick, BAG’s senior pastor, where she and her husband are from, she is in such a state that, drawing a blank, she looks out into the audience at her husband and inquires, “Honey, where are we from?” Then there is the video testimony of the Ward sisters, Alison and Elizabeth, where intense jerking, palsy-like manifestations, are at the forefront.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents at BAG occurred during one of the services when a young man was lying on the stage writhing on the floor simulating the birthing process. Steve Hill says this was intercession. Hill explained to the audience, “This is intercession in the deepest form right here. You can’t tell me God doesn’t love you, when He will stricken another young man who loves God with all his heart, cause him to fall to the ground and experience the moanings and groanings of birth pains. He’s giving birth to you, friend. He’s giving spiritual birth to you. He’s dying for you right now. He’s dying for you that you might have life.” In the situation with Moody, the allegations were erroneous and false, however, this is quite obviously not so where BAG is concerned.
As to John Wesley, Brown may be somewhat disappointed to learn that he “freely air[ed]” some very unflattering opinions in his Journals and Letters regarding external manifestations and strange behavior...and Christendom has been hearing them for centuries now as they stand recorded in print. Wesley made it clear he attached absolutely no weight to outward manifestations, nor did he place any particularly positive emphasis on them whatsoever. Wesley did, however, ascribe some very negative connotations to them. Though even in doing so, he was always driven by, and aspired to epitomize Divine love in word, deed and action. Based on what he records in his Journals in the following citations, it is quite likely if he were here today, he would be equally as inclined to view manifestations and other practices which have become normative in some churches today, including BAG, negatively. Therefore, Wesley seems an unlikely and inappropriate candidate for Brown to summon in support of his contentions regarding critics of BAG. Wesley might well have been as proportionately critical of some of the practices at BAG as those individuals Brown is chastising in his book. Wesley writes:
“It is chiefly among these enormous mountains that so many have been awakened, justified, and soon after perfected in love; but even while they are full of love, Satan strives to push many of them to extravagance. This appears in several instances: -
1. Frequently three or four, yea, ten or twelve, pray aloud all together.
2. Some of them, perhaps many, scream all together as loud as they possibly can.
3. Some of them use improper, yea, indecent, expressions in prayer.
4. Several drop down as dead; and are as stiff as a corpse; but in a while they start up, and cry, “Glory! glory!” perhaps twenty times together. Just so do the French Prophets, and very lately the Jumpers in Wales, bring the real work into contempt.”
“One general inlet to enthusiasm is, expecting the end without the means; the expecting knowledge, for instance, without searching the Scriptures, and consulting the children of God; the expecting spiritual strength without constant prayer, and steady watchfulness; the expecting any blessing without hearing the word of God at every opportunity.
“Some have been ignorant of this device of Satan. They have left off searching the Scriptures. They said, ‘God writes all the Scriptures on my heart. Therefore, I have no need to read it.’ Others thought they had not so much need of hearing, and so grew slack in attending the morning preaching. O take warning, you who are concerned herein! You have listened to the voice of a stranger. Fly back to Christ, and keep in the good old way, which was ‘once delivered to the saints;’ the way that even a Heathen bore testimony of: ‘That the Christians rose early every day to sing hymns to Christ as God.’
“The very desire of ‘growing in grace’ may sometimes be an inlet of enthusiasm. As it continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us unawares to seek something else new, beside new degrees of love to God and man. So it has led some to seek and fancy they had received gifts of a new kind, after a new heart, as,
1. The loving God with all our mind;
2. With all our soul;
3. With all our strength;
4. Oneness with God;
5. Oneness with Christ;
6. Having our life hid with Christ in God;
7. Being dead with Christ;
8. Rising with him;
9. The sitting with him in heavenly places;
10. The being taken up into his throne;
11. The being in the New Jerusalem;
12. The seeing the tabernacle of God come down among men;
13. The being dead to all works;
14. The not being liable to death, pain, or grief, or temptation.
“One ground of many of these mistakes is, the taking every fresh, strong application of any of these scriptures to the heart, to be a gift of a new kind; not knowing that several of these scriptures are not fulfilled yet; that most of the others are fulfilled when we are justified; the rest, the moment we are sanctified. It remains only to experience them in higher degrees. This is all we have to expect.
“Another ground of these, and a thousand mistakes, is, the not considering deeply, that love is the highest gift of God; humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions, revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love; and that all the gifts above-mentioned are either the same with, or infinitely inferior to, it.
“It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this, -’the heaven of heavens is love.’ There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, ‘Have you received this or that blessing?’ if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of the Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom.
“I say yet again, beware of enthusiasm. Such is, the imagining you have the gift of prophesying, or of discerning of spirits, which I do not believe one of you has; no, nor ever had yet. Beware of judging people to be either right or wrong by your own feelings. This is no scriptural way of judging. O keep close to ‘the law and to the testimony!’”
“What I have seen in London occasioned the first caution I gave you. George Bell, William Green, and many others, then full of love, were favored with extraordinary revelations and manifestations from God. But by this very thing Satan beguiled them from the simplicity that is in Christ. By insensible degrees they were led to value these extraordinary gifts more than the ordinary grace of God; and I could not convince them that a grain of humble love was better than all these gifts put together. This, my dear friend, was what made me fear for you. This makes me remind you again and again. Faith and hope are glorious gifts, and so is every ray of eternity let into the soul. But still these are but means: The end of all, and the greatest of all, is love. May the Lord just now pour it into your heart us he never has done before.”
“Fri. 9. - I was a little surprised at some, who were buffeted of Satan in an unusual manner, by such a spirit of laughter as they could in no wise resist, though it was pain and grief unto them. I could scarce have believed the account they gave me, had I not known the same thing ten or eleven years ago. Part of Sunday my brother and I then used to spend in walking in the meadows and singing psalms. But one day, just as we were beginning to sing, he burst out into a loud laughter. I asked him; if he was distracted; and began to be very angry, and presently after to laugh as loud as he. Nor could we possibly refrain, though we were ready to tear ourselves in pieces, but we were forced to go home without singing another line.
“Wed. 21. - In the evening, such a spirit of laughter was among us, that many were much offended. But the attention of all was fixed on poor L- -a S—, whom we all knew to be no dissembler. One so violently and variously torn of the evil one did I never see before. Sometimes she laughed till almost strangled; then broke out into cursing and blaspheming; then stamped and struggled with incredible strength, so that four or five could scarce hold her: Then cried out, “O eternity, eternity! O that I had no soul! O that I had never been born!” At last she faintly called on Christ to help her. And the violence of her pangs ceased.
“Most of our brethren and sisters were now fully convinced that those who were under this strange temptation could not help it. Only E—th B— and Anne H—n were of another mind; being still sure, any one might help laughing if she would. This they declared to many on Thursday; but on Friday, 23, God suffered Satan to teach them better. Both of them were suddenly seized in the same manner as the rest, and laughed whether they would or no, almost without ceasing. Thus they continued for two days, a spectacle to all; and were then, upon prayer made for them, delivered in a moment.”
“Mr. Evans now gave me an account from his own knowledge, of what has made a great noise in Wales: - “It is common in the congregations, attended by Mr. W. W., and one or two other Clergymen, after the preaching is over, for any one that has a mind, to give out a verse of an hymn. This they sing over and over with all their might, perhaps above thirty, yea, forty times. Meanwhile the bodies of two or three sometimes ten or twelve are violently agitated; and they leap up and down, in all manner of postures, frequently for hours together.” I think, there needs no great penetration to understand this. They are honest, upright men, who really feel the love of God in their hearts. But they have little experience, either of the ways of God, or the devices of Satan. So he serves himself of their simplicity, in order to wear them out, and to bring a discredit on the work of God.”
It is clear that Wesley was no supporter, nor vindicator, of physical manifestations and excesses. Moreover, he was certainly no champion of going off after “new revelation” beyond the bounds of Scripture. This man whom Brown says “violated the dead orthodoxy of the day”, would in all probability respond to Brown and BAG today as he did during his tenure here on earth:
“...keep in the good old way, which was ‘once delivered to the saints;’...I say yet again, beware of enthusiasm. Such is, the imagining you have the gift of prophesying, or of discerning of spirits, which I do not believe one of you has; no, nor ever had yet. Beware of judging people to be either right or wrong by your own feelings. This is no scriptural way of judging. O keep close to ‘the law and to the testimony!’”
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. [Jeremiah 6:16]
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. [Colossians 2:6-8]
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. [Isaiah 8:20]
I also believe if John Wesley were here with us today, he would make an impassioned plea for God’s people to remember...”the greatest of these is love”...
“It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this, -’the heaven of heavens is love.’ There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way.”
1. Dr. Michael L. Brown, “Let No One Deceive You: Confronting the Critics of Revival”, Destiny Image’s Revival Press, PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310, pp. 9-10. Brown citing John Wesley, footnotes for Chapter 1: 9. John Wesley, Journal, July 17, 1739; and 10. John Wesley, August 27, 1739; for “Roman Catholic” the original text had “Papist.”
2. Ibid, pp. 9-10.
3. William R. Moody, “The Life of Dwight L. Moody” (from the Sage Digital Library CD-ROM, Albany, OR: Sage Software), 198, cited in “Let No One Deceive You”, pp. 8-9.
4. Steve Hill, BAG sermon, audio tape transcript, audio tape on file.
5. John Wesley, Journals, Volume Four, p. 365, Sage Digital Library, PO Box 1926, Albany, OR 97321.
6. Ibid, Volume Eleven, pp. 502-504.
7. Ibid, Volume Three, Letter to Miss Bolton, December 5, 1772, p. 552.
8. Ibid, Volume One, pp. 304-305.
9. Ibid, Volume Three, p. 130.