The New Apostolic Reformation – Part One: Why Talk About it at All?

I have been praying for months about blogging on this topic. I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours researching and studying. I have read NAR materials written by their own prophets and apostles. I have also studied other theologian’s opinions on this movement. All of this has been done in an effort to make sure that my motives are pure, and that this is an informative series, with as little bias as possible.

Even with all that said, I am also prepared for the potential backlash that this series may bring. People often don’t like to entertain the idea that some of their favorite preachers and musicians could belong to a movement that has concerning theological issues. However, anytime a movement’s teachers persist in wrong teaching about Jesus, and other vital aspects of Christianity, they are false teachers, and the movement should raise red flags. It should prompt us to explore and study what is being taught in order to discern how much influence we should allow these teachers to have in our lives.

This is NOT to say that all people who are involved in the NAR movement are unsaved. I  know personally, many who are unconcerned about the teachings and influence of the NAR. I know a few who are, or have been, personally involved in their programs. I have no doubt that these people truly love God and desire to follow Him. I also want to make it clear that I’m NOT saying all NAR leaders are evil or are even intentionally out to deceive. It is not my job to judge their hearts, but it is my responsibility to weigh what they teach against what the Word of God teaches. Unfortunately, the sincerity of individuals within the movement does not mean that the movement is valid or that its teachings are correct.

Another challenge to writing about this topic is that there are some people who take the idea of false teaching too far. By this I mean that some individuals are willing to apply strong labels to people who merely differ from their biblical interpretation on secondary theological issues. So, before we can actually discuss the importance of dealing with false teaching we should spend a moment or two distinguishing essential from non-essential doctrine.

Essential doctrines are those teachings which are key to the Christian faith.[1] These doctrines include who God is, who Jesus is, as well as the nature of man and the lengths to which God went to save mankind.[2] Non-essential doctrines then, are the teachings that don’t involve the nature of God and salvation. For instance, mode of baptism, women in ministry, what it means to be “spirit-baptized,” the end times and spiritual warfare are all secondary issues.[3] This is not to say that non-essential doctrines are not important. Of course they are! We can, however, disagree on the biblical understanding of these secondary issues with the full confidence that those believers who differ from us, as long as they hold to the essentials, are still truly saved. Furthermore, since Godly, Scripture-studying Christians can disagree on these non-essential issues, we should be careful not to question the other side’s love for God or desire to accurately handle Scripture by throwing rhetorical stones at fellow believers who have different doctrinal standpoints on secondary issues. Perhaps Rupertus Meldenius, a Lutheran Theologian, said it best: “In essentials we have unity. In non-essentials we have liberty. In all our beliefs we show charity.”[4]

Furthermore, we should be careful not to hold secular organizations to Christian standards. For instance, Starbucks, Amazon and Disney all give money to social and political agendas that could easily be classified as unchristian. However, that doesn’t mean that to be a Christian I have to forgo using those businesses. Or that if a Christian does abstain from shopping in these organizations, he or she is somehow spiritually superior. These issues are matters for our individual conscience, but matters of conscience and dealing with false teaching in the church are two separate matters.

Finally, in order to fully address the issue, we must mention the idea of unity. There seems to be a mindset in certain Christian circles today that unity is more important than dealing with false teaching. Perhaps on a leadership level this is because pastors fear losing members, especially tithing ones, if they caution against the ministries of popular figures and influential churches. On the lay level, the call for blind unity seems to betray a misunderstanding that unity can be achieved without truth. Proponents for ‘unity above all else,’ often turn to Scriptures like Ephesians 4:3-6 or Colossians 3:12-15 in order to maintain that peace and harmony are what the church needs most. Using these Scriptures as a defense to elevate unity over the Scriptural mandate to guard doctrinal truth, is to misinterpret and misapply them. Of course we are called to live humbly, striving for peace with others. Of course we should bear with one another and forgive one another in gentleness and kindness. However, the call of these verses is not to have Christian unity despite our beliefs, but rather it is because we are unified in the truth of the Gospel message that we strive for these other aspects of the Christian life. Christianity welcomes all who would come and surrender, but it is not all inclusive. Jesus taught certain truths that caused many disciples to desert him, and he didn’t change his message or chase them down and tell them it was okay for them to keep believing whatever made them feel good (John 6).

One of the greatest dangers of accepting this wrong view of unity, is that it blames those who are taking a stand against false teaching for causing divisions in the church.

In the book of Romans Paul writes: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (16:17-18, NIV).

Division, as it relates to teaching, is introduced by false teachers, not by those opposing the incorrect teaching. Think about it, if fighting for right understanding and pointing out error was divisive, then the Apostle Paul’s whole ministry was about tearing down the church, not building it up. If protecting sound doctrine in the church is legalistic then the redeemed Paul was the biggest Pharisee (and hypocrite) in the early church. Obviously, this is not the case. Paul labored for sound doctrine in the early church because he understood that unity among believers is founded on the truth.

So, it is with all this in mind that we turn our attention more specifically to what the NAR is, what it teaches, and to what degree its teaching and influence should be allowed in the Church.

 

[1] Geisler, N. L. (2007). Essential Doctrine Made Easy [Brochure]. Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing.
[2] Geisler, 2007.
[3] Lewis, Kevin. Personal notes from Essential Christian Doctrine Lectures. Biola University; La Mirada, CA, 2013.
[4] Geisler, 2007.

2 comments on “The New Apostolic Reformation – Part One: Why Talk About it at All?

  1. Thank you, Sara, for posting these two articles. In my own small way I am trying to warn as many brothers and sisters as I have access to. Just as Jesus spoke it, so many of the Elect are being deceived by this false movement.

    • Hi Gerry,

      I am saddened by it as well, but the more we share the truth in love I’m hoping people’s eyes will be opened. I’m glad you found the articles helpful.

      Best,
      Sara

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