Friday, October 31, 2014

"Charismatic Bullying from the Pulpit" by Steven Kozar

    The following is a real devotional email sent by the pastor of a large charismatic church to his congregation. This pastor had recently been confronted by a few of his church members who didn't like his "Signs and Wonders/Rick Joyner/Bill Johnson/IHOP" teachings and asked that he only use the Bible and stop referencing those other teachers and teachings. He was never asked to adopt a cessationist position; just to hold more closely to Scripture alone. Several weeks after he had the meeting with those people, he wrote this devotional message and then preached a sermon based on it. I think this is a good example of what happens when a pastor wants to divert attention away from a valid theological discussion and continue teaching his version of "Signs and Wonders" Christianity. The original article is in bold; I will make comments in parenthesis throughout the article. -S. Kozar 

                       A Personal Relationship
          "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." John 5: 39 
(This verse is the "set-up" for the rest of the article; it's supposed to make Christians who demand adherence to the Bible look like Pharisees, but it's taken completely out of context. These Pharisees were unwilling to recognize that the Messiah had come-it was Jesus! The Scriptures pointed directly to Jesus and they were guilty of not going to Him. Jesus was not saying that you should come to Him instead of the Scriptures, He was saying that they should have found him in the Scriptures.)

       I believe many things about my wife, Jane (not real name). Some are just facts, like her birthday, her place of birth, her parents' names, and her general history which anyone who is interested could easily learn.  Other things require more personal involvement like knowing her character and her heart's desires.  My current beliefs about her are numerous, but my relationship isn't with my beliefs about Jane, it's with her.  She's a person.  Because of this reality, my beliefs are always growing and deepening as we walk together. (This line of thinking utilizes the Bill Johnson method of telling stories instead of teaching from the Bible; this way you can make any point about anything. The implication here seems to be that the Bible is not enough-it's just a bunch of facts and figures about God. We can't really know God through the Bible-we need a "relationship" with Him; which appears to be shorthand for "a subjective experience of God.")

          But what if I no longer lived with my wife?  Wouldn't my belief system become static?  I would still believe things, but they wouldn't deepen or grow because of a lack of present experience with her.  In the text above, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees because their relationship isn't with God Himself; it's only with their beliefs about Him. (God was rebuking the Pharisees because their relationship was only with their beliefs about God? What?? No, that's totally wrong! Their beliefs were wrong-they didn't believe in Jesus! This is not hard to understand. This is totally mishandling God's Word.)

          There Is a great danger in evangelical Christianity today of making our beliefs about God an idol that takes the place of an actual relationship with Christ. (Where do we hear about this idol in the Bible?) How can I tell if I'm in danger of this idol? Here are five symptoms:

1.     We become unteachable. We no longer believe what we read in the Bible; we only read what we already believe. (Yes, we should want people to accurately and faithfully understand God's word-not read into it whatever they want-this is very true. But how does this pastor define "unteachable?" It could be referring to anyone that disagrees with him; hmmm...)

2.     We become divisive with Christians that don't believe exactly what we believe about God and Christ.  We're experts and everyone else needs to listen to us to get it right. (This point is very important for what it doesn't say; it fails to mention that some people want a teaching to line up with Scripture. These people aren't commended for being good Bereans, they're condemned for being "experts" who want everyone to listen to them. Maybe they really just want everyone to listen to the Bible?)

3.    We become suspicious of any fresh moving of the Holy Spirit that doesn't fit into our box of who we think God is and how He should act. (Just as in the previous point, this fails to mention that people might be suspicious of a "fresh move of the Holy Spirit" not because it doesn't "fit into our box," but because it appears false and/or doesn't line up with Scripture. This pastor believes that subjective experiences are good and acceptable, but an objective evaluation of an experience compared against Scripture is to be avoided. No wonder so many people leave Charismatic churches confused and hurt.)

4.     We find ourselves bored with worship because our hearts actually love what we believe about God more than we love God Himself. (This point is just too weird to analyse very much. Somehow, this pastor can see into the hearts and minds of people and discover that they love their beliefs so much that they become bored with worship... insert creepy 50's Sci-fi music here.)

5.     We realize we're no longer growing. We're no longer amazed by God or ever surprised by anything He does. We're sure we're doctrinally "right", but if we're dead, we can't be right because Jesus came to give life. (Let me see if I understand this; I need to be surprised or amazed by something God does in the present tense to prove that I'm growing? And if I'm sure I'm doctrinally "right" that proves that I'm dead. I would think that Jesus coming to earth as a virgin-born baby, living an amazing life full of teachings and miracles, giving His life on the cross as a penalty for our sins, rising from the dead on the third day, etc. etc. are all good enough things to embrace, celebrate and remember for all of our days, aren't they? Is it not enough to be surprised and amazed by what He's already done? Do we really need something "new" to validate our faith?  Does "growing" mean that we should adopt new and different beliefs every time the latest "prophet" has a "word for us?" The clear implication here is that just studying God's Word isn't enough to get "God's Word;"  we need extra-biblical revelation through some kind of subjective experience. Is it any wonder that Christians are biblically and theologically ignorant? If you put Post-Modern Subjectivity and Hyper-Charismatic Anti-Theology into a blender this kind of nonsense is what comes out...)

The Scriptures are not an end in themselves, they direct us into a personal relationship with the God who loves us and died for us.  We all know "in part" and the even the part we think we know is only a seed of all that is true about the transcendent, majestic, unchanging, and uncreated God of the universe.  I think we would all do well to examine our hearts and humble ourselves before Him every day acknowledging that the mystery of who He is in Himself goes far beyond our present beliefs about Him. (But does it go beyond God's Word??)  Getting to know Him is the greatest adventure of our lives and will last for all eternity! 
(After His resurrection, Jesus met two of His followers on the road to Emmaus and didn't reveal himself; He first asked them a series of questions to see what they knew and believed about Himself. When they said that they basically didn't know what was going on even though the empty tomb had been discovered and angels had said He was risen, Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself." Luke 24: 25-26. Why did Jesus do this? Didn't He know that "the Scriptures are not an end in themselves, they direct us into a personal relationship with God..." like this pastor claims? Jesus wasted all that time explaining the Scriptures when He should have been developing His personal relationship with them. They could have, I don't know, exchanged recipes or sung show tunes together-that would have been more personal.) 

     Here's what God's Word says: "Now He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sin would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:44-48  "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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"New Thing" Theology by Todd Wilken

New Thing Theology
by Todd Wilken

One of the strongest feelings you can get in life, one of the most rewarding feelings is the feeling of an “Aha! I finally understand.” —Penn Jillette

     I have listened to my pastor preach for over seven years. I can count on one hand the times he has given me one of those “aha!” moments. He is a great, faithful preacher. But he is mostly unoriginal. And, that’s just fine. He seldom delivers that new insight, that fresh understanding, that “aha!” moment. And, that’s just the way it should be. 
     There are few things more dangerous in the Church than a bored theologian. I call them New Thing Theologians. Be it a pastor, Bible teacher, seminary professor, author —bored theologians have the potential to do as much damage as bad theologians. I know. I have been one for the better part of 25 years. 
     My pastor’s preaching has cured me. For most of my pastoral career, I have lived for that “aha!” moment. The old, run-of-the-mill theology was fine, but it didn’t give me the theological buzz that I craved. I lived on the edge of boredom, always looking for something to stave it off. I tended toward the pastors, professors and authors who I thought could help me do so. 
     As a New Thing Theologian, I read the Bible always on the lookout for something I had never seen before. I preached, always trying to find the new spin on the old text. I taught Bible class, always exploring some new angle on an old passage. 
     Now, not every new thing I came up with was a bad idea. Some of them were good ideas. None of them were truly original. I eventually realized that most my new ideas were really the old ideas of better theologians than me. Some of these new insights and ideas were just interesting for the sake of being interesting, and new for the sake of being new. Looking back, I realize that I was aiming for freshness, not faithfulness. 
     Then, I started listening to my pastor preach. It was great preaching. It was consistently textual, consistently clear Law and Gospel, consistently centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners. I wasn’t bored with his preaching, but I was a little conflicted. Where were my precious “aha!” moments? One, maybe two times a year, he would give me one. But most of the time, there were no surprises to speak of. 
      What are the dangers of New Thing Theology? Where does boredom with old theology, old doctrines, old theological categories and expressions lead? 

"I always wanted to become famous. And, then it occurred to me that to become famous in theology means to present something new and different. But, if I present something new and different, after 2,000 years of Christian theology, it is bound to be heresy. And therefore, I have decided not to become famous." —T. A. Kantonen

     The most obvious form of New Thing Theology is, of course, heresy. “New and different” may be good thing when it comes to technology, business and advertising, but “new and different” can be a very bad thing when it comes to Christian teaching and practice. The heretic is all about the new and the different. 
     But, the heretic rarely presents his false teachings as new or different. The heretic almost always presents his new and different teachings straight from the Bible. “All heretics quote the Bible” is the old saying. And, that is usually true. But, already in the second century, the church father Irenaeus observed the heretic’s trick: The heretic presents his teaching “under a pretense of superior knowledge, … as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal than God.” 
     Of course, some heretics don’t even bother to cite the Bible, claiming new revelation altogether. Islam started this way, even though we consider it an old religion. Muhammed may have lived 1,400 years ago, but at the time his revelations were new, fresh and different. Islam, Mormonism, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society —these heresies are easy to spot today, but in their day, they were the newest thing around. And, the claim to new revelation continues today.

God Is Doing a New Thing 
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I 
am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? —Isaiah 43:19-19

“God is doing a new thing” has become the Creed of many New Thing Theologians, from the charismatic televangelist to the liberal mainline protestant. This is another form of New Thing Theology. You name it, God is doing it. On the one hand God is bringing about new revivals, signs, miracles, anointings, moves-of-the-spirit. On the other hand, God is affirming new alternative lifestyles, sexual orientations, genders, and definitions of marriage. Depending on whom you ask, God is doing all these new things. 
      These New Thing Theologians have a “Bible plus” theology. The Bible is great, as far as it goes, but now God is doing something new. This is a very convenient claim. If God is doing something new, something not found in the Bible, something even contrary to what is in the Bible, then anything goes. Who is to say what God can do? Who is to say what God will do next? The New Thing Theologian, that’s who. 
       This kind of New Thing Theology, like heresy, is the enemy of Christian theology. But in a way, this version of New Thing Theology is even more dangerous than heresy. The heretic introduces a new teaching and usually stops there. The “God is doing a new thing” theologian doesn’t. He can’t, really. God’s ongoing revelation is never the final word on any doctrine or subject. It is always a rough draft, never the final version. It is always open to future changes and revisions. The most this kind of theologian can say is, “This is what God is saying to us today; this is what God is doing today; tomorrow it may change.” The heretic misinterprets the Bible; the “God is doing a new thing” theologian is rewriting it. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Death, Distraction and Pixie Dust" by Steven Kozar

     As I look back on my 35 or so years of being a Christian, I'm very thankful for the foundation that was laid in my teenage years. I read books by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Josh McDowell, Phillip Yancey and Francis Schaeffer; and I was encouraged by several godly men to build my faith on the reality of God's Word-not just my feelings. Jesus was a real historical person who really said and really did the things the Bible describes. I don't believe one can hold the position that the Bible is "just a bunch of stories that people made up" without being intellectually lazy-or worse (but that is a gigantic topic for another day).
     Today, I look around and see that the Bible describes the world we live in as it really is. The Bible describes man as constantly veering towards selfishness and it describes man as always wanting to rebel against God. We've got a million different ways to disobey our Creator and take control. The Bible does not portray man as basically good, and history bears this out with painful and horrendous emphasis (which is not to say that some people haven't done some very good things, some of the time). The Bible also describes man as all too willing to buy into Satan's original lie that we "surely will not die" and that if we disobey God we will "be like God." In other words, the Bible does not give us a fantasy land of unicorns and pixie dust, where "all of our dreams can come true"-no matter what false teachers (like Joel Olsteen, just to name one) would have us believe. We should be glad that the messy, sinful world we live in is very much like the messy, sinful world that the Bible describes. Why? Because Christianity is about God redeeming mankind-not creating religious fantasies to cover up the often nightmarish existence that we all share.
     This nightmarish existence that we all share is most difficult to grapple with in America; this is the Land of Distraction and the Home of the Shallow. It seems we will go to any length in order to prolong our delusions.
     Here's the greatest truth that we deny: We will all die.
     I don't even know the names of my great grandparents, let alone have any pictures of them. Each of us, with our thousands of personal photographs, mementos, and belongings will also be forgotten within a few generations (some of us will have our precious belongings liquidated while we're still drooling in a nursery home). Think about it: Completely Forgotten. I'm an artist, so there's a chance that my name will be remembered a little bit longer than most people, but still, I know that my earthly life will soon be over and forgotten.
     What's truly shameful, in my way of thinking, is how this sobering reality should lead us to God, but even in many churches this reality is avoided. We should be asking ourselves: How and why did I get here? What will happen when I die? What is the meaning of my life? Instead of confronting us (lovingly confronting us) with these difficult and sobering questions, many pastors are telling us how to "reach our destiny" and "find the hidden keys to our purpose" and so on. They tell us that "we are meant for greatness" and that God has "planted a dream inside us" yet, all the while they never allow us to contemplate the reality of our impending fate-death itself.
      The Christianity of the Bible confronts us with our sin, and reminds us of our death; it also confronts the sinful, deceptive and violent world we live in, and offers us redemption. Ephesians 1: 7-8 "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." -Steven Kozar

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Pentecostal in (General) Support of the Strange Fire Conference

VERY powerful article!! If only more Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors would face reality like this one:

A Pentecostal in (General) Support of the Strange Fire Conference | Question Tradition

Here's the five points of this article:
1. Any error John MacArthur espoused at the conference, and any recklessness he demonstrated, is far less than the errors and recklessness we see in much of the modern Charismatic movement.
2. Pentecostals and Charismatics are allergic to doctrinal distinction and discernment.
3. The false teachers have more influence than we think or admit.
4. We routinely ignore the regulative principle of worship.
5. We functionally ignore Sola Scriptura.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"False Teaching About False Teaching from Rick Joyner" by Steven Kozar

The New and Improved Christianity: Subjective Personal Experience Leads Us to Truth! Or: The "Make It Up As You Go" Christianity!

The following is an exact quote of three paragraphs from page 232 of "A Prophetic Vision for the 21st Century" by Rick Joyner (with my comments in parenthesis):
     False prophets and false prophecies are founded on deception. The most effective guise of the enemy is to come as "an angel of light" or "a messenger of truth." Just because a prophecy has some truth in it does not make it genuine. Unfortunately, Satan knows the Bible better than most Christians. He is so clever at perverting its message, he even tried it on Jesus, who is the Word Himself. Just knowing Scripture, and being able to bludgeon others into submission with it, does not make one a true messenger. We must ask if someone is "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV). (Outside of his bizarre "bludgeoning" reference, this is a very straight-forward and orthodox Christian paragraph.)
     Who will know if the Word is being rightly divided? The One who wrote the Book. (Only God knows? Notice what Joyner leaves out? The ability of believers to rightly divide the Word based on the Word itself!) Doesn't that leave a lot of room for subjectivity? Yes, it does, and that is dangerous, but it is far more dangerous not to allow for subjectivity in the discernment of truth. Subjectivity is essential. (This is not a parody piece-he actually wrote this, and it gets worse...) The Lord must become our personal Savior, our personal Lord, and truth must be personal if we are really going to know it. (Notice that no Bible references are given to back up these claims about needing a personal Lord and Savior. I believe Jesus IS Lord. Period... regardless of my personal feelings or experience. And exactly when do we know for sure that truth has become personal? Isn't truth, by it's very definition, self-existing?) For this reason the Bible was meant to be relatively subjective in its interpretation. This was not to promote private interpretations, but to require each of us to be seekers of the Lord and His truth ourselves. (This is "double speak" of the most extreme order.) We will not keep from being deceived just because we know someone who knows the Bible. Every one of us must know the Spirit of Truth. (Again, what is he leaving out? Knowing the Bible in order to avoid deception!) 
     Scholars have devised many systems of hermeneutics to remove subjectivity from biblical interpretation. (Joyner knows the motives behind every Bible scholar who has ever lived?) Many of these are excellent guidelines, but regardless of how good our hermeneutics, we will be subject increasingly to deception in the coming times if we do not know and follow the Spirit of Truth. We must recognize that some hermeneutic principles are an attempt to remove our need for the Holy Spirit, regardless of how much the developers give lip service to needing Him. (It's amazing how Joyner knows when theologians are merely giving lip service!) Many of those who react the most to what they perceive to be people's tendency toward "private interpretations" are really reacting to the ability of people to see things differently from the way they do. (Notice how Joyner can't come right out and call private interpretations what they really are: private interpretations. This is why there is so much chaos, confusion and defection in the "hyper-charismatic" church: everyone is just making it up as they go. Folks, PLEASE stay away from this man's teaching-and all the other "Super Apostles" like him! -Steven Kozar)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"The New Apostolic Reformation End Times Scripture" by Steven Kozar

New and Improved Scripture (that fits the New Apostolic Reformation)

His disciples asked Him, "Tell us, what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered them and said, "See to it that no one deceives you with Bible verses about this, that and the other thing-who can understand all that doctrine, anyway? Just buy all the books, CDs and DVDs from the Apostles, Prophets and Pastors. You will know them by their catch phrases, advertising campaigns and highly publicized conferences. Do they have gigantic churches, TV shows and best-selling books? Then you can trust them. Do they live in ostentatious mansions and fly in private jets, having derived all of their riches from the sheep they pretend to help? Then do whatever they say and continue giving them your money. Remember that time I went into the temple and drove out the money changers with a whip? Well, in the last days that gets reversed; you will pay the new money changers to tickle your ears, whilst ignoring the preaching of the Gospel. I know I originally said, 'It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves;' but in the last days I will raise up a group of new and better apostles who will get filthy rich even as they proclaim false teachings. They will make many errors with their "fortune-telling" style of prophesying, and their lives will often be a moral train wreck, but as long as they do it in my name, it's all good!" His disciples then asked Him, "what if they talk about doing many great miracles, but produce very few results? And what if they talk more about themselves than about You? And what if they mishandle the Holy Scriptures by constantly taking verses out of context? And what if..." Jesus interrupted them and said, "Hello? Didn't you hear Me the first time?? As long as they do these things in My name it's all good! Let's just be positive; remember, your words have creative power, so try and speak good things into existence. In fact, I think I felt a shift in the atmosphere as I said that. Did you guys feel that?!" At this the disciples marveled, because it didn't sound like any of His other teachings.