Many today (especially in Charismatic and non-denomination circles) claim for themselves the title and ministry of apostle. Most I have met do not claim equivalency with the twelve disciples of the Lamb. Yet they seem to invariably claim for themselves rights, privileges, primacy of place, and “positional governmental authority in the church” to which others must yield. The phenomenon is sometimes couched in language of “spiritual covering.” What they espouse and claim for themselves as apostles has no biblical legitimacy.
For those who might be interested to listen, here’s an interview with Steve Wylie on his podcast. I talk a bit about the influence (mostly negative IMHO) of Augustine in the formation of western theologies, and the possibilities of legitimate perspectives other than his. If you are happy in your Evangelical Protestantism, don’t listen to this one. It will just upset you. If you have begun to ask questions about things not making sense for you any more, you might enjoy this, and the crazy humor in the beginning. Steve interviews me about my migration out of mainstream Protestantism and we morph into some critique of Augustinian theology.
Every year about this time, social media is saturated with naïve and manipulative Christian “blessings” and “predictions” like this: “In 2019 God is going to take you to new levels!”
That kind of language is not just associated with New Year promises, but it is also stock and trade language in many churches. Well it is 2019, and here is my prediction: God is not going to take you to new levels. Why? Because there is no such thing.
I have been a Charismatic believer for forty-two years. I was a weekly “worship leader” in Charismatic, “prophetic and apostolic” environments for thirty-five of those years. I get the picture as someone who has been on the inside for a very long time. I thoroughly understand the history, theology, values, beliefs, and practices behind Charismatic praise and worship expression. I also have had serious concerns and uneasiness about the theology and practice for a very long time.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
The events of the day of Pentecost are like a two-sided coin: that which is seen and experienced on earth is in response to heavenly activity. The heavenly action is rarely discussed when the topic of the Pentecostal outpouring comes up. So much focus has been placed on a specific manifestation (speaking in tongues) that the richness of our full inheritance in Christ is often overlooked. What precipitated the Pentecostal outpouring? What is it in essence”? What did the believers receive as a result? What did God receive? What does it mean to us today?
Philippians 2:6-11 is one of the most important and controversial verses in New Testament theology. It has crucial bearing on the manifestation of supernatural power through the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and spiritual gifts through the rest of us. Did Christ display power through inherent and independent deity to try to “prove something” about Himself? If so, His example has no bearing whatsoever on the believer as the Christian is not inherently divine. If so, He is an impossible model only for holiness, but not power. To me, this seems very arbitrary, and not the least problematic.
Because of centuries of debate both pre and post-Reformation, the belief that Jesus is “God in the flesh,” is nearly universally understood at least at a dogmatic level among anyone who claims adherence to two millennia worth of Christian doctrine. However, among that same company, the implications of the full humanity of Jesus are not nearly as well understood. Jesus is God is a convenient escape hatch: “Well, let’s be reasonable, I mean, after all, He was God and I am not, so the best I can do is try to be like Him in character.” Jesus–fully human and fully representative as the pattern human–closes that escape hatch, and our carnality would rather leave it open. The implications are too profound, too deep, and too challenging: Jesus is not just a moral example. He is the pattern for piety and power.
The belief in the present day continuation and manifestation of all the spiritual gifts is not now, nor ever has been a fringe issue. There is much at stake on what one believes on this topic. Critics try to portray belief in all the gifts of the spirit for all time as belonging to the kook fringe of Evangelicalism, a late development in theology of a small segment of the ekklesia. This is far from the truth. There is much that is foundational to the gospel at stake on this issue. If you removed one of the constituent elements from the ingredients of a cake, your end result would not be much of a cake, regardless of how excellent the remaining ingredients might be. Cake that is missing an ingredient is simply not cake, and not worth eating. Excise some of the spiritual gifts, as Cessationists try to do, and you are not left with anything accurately resembling cake.