Chapter 7 Signs and Wonders
According to many evangelical leaders, we are looking at a “new wave” sweeping America. "The first wave was the Pentecostal Movement, the second, the Charismatics, and now the Third Wave is joining them. The Third Wave being, of course, those mainstream evangelicals, now aware of the possibility of the power of God, but not wanting to identify with Pentecostalism." (C. Peter Wagner, as quoted in The Trojan Horse, p. 244) “While its proponents claim old-fashioned Pentecostalism as its heritage, the doctrine of the Vineyard movement’s Third Wave theology, as well as that of their up-and-coming stepchild, Promise Keepers, represents far more. It is a doctrine of extra-biblical extremism that focuses on seeking sensually-oriented experiences and utterances directly from Almighty God. Most often, the "prophet" names the individual these utterances are directed to and he sees visions in which personal appearances by Jesus and other well-known Bible characters are not uncommon. Outlandish and unbelievable extremes, practices and conduct, all in the name of the moving of the Holy Spirit, have sprung from the aforementioned, humble, early practices of Promise Keepers’ mother church.”
“Third Wave Vineyard tacticians, as well as Promise Keepers’ public relations departments have perfected invasive techniques in order to reach into otherwise biblically balanced denominations and infiltrate them with this doctrinal "leaven" by refocusing their spiritually naive victims on the propaganda calling for unity, harmony and the church’s need for "real men." This is a well-planned, strategically designed conspiracy to doctrinally invade those of extremely dissimilar theological positions. Their hope is that these target groups will swallow the hook of "Doctrine is no big deal. Let’s just love Jesus and unite for Christ." Their plan is to bring to bear on all groups—Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, Protestant and non-Protestant—the teaching and extra-biblical philosophy that enslaves, excites and drives them with an evangelistic fervor. Thus an influx of Vineyard-type speakers and Third Wave-influenced ministers and materials has been invading otherwise conservative Bible-based churches on the false and deceptive premise of Promise Keepers.” (Phil Arms, op.cit., p.245-246, emphasis added)
So let’s examine this Third-Wave Movement
which encompasses the Vineyards, the Promise Keepers, the Toronto Blessing
(which was a Vineyard) and now the Pensacola Revival in a mainline Assemblies of
God. Again, there is so much information on this, I will try and present the
general picture but it is worth several books of information. Again, these are
not just my ideas, and I am not the only person who is concerned. There are
many books, many ministries and even many web sites dedicated to helping
Christians see the deception that is already falling over our eyes. Luke 11:29
tells us that a wicked generation seeks a sign and II Thess 2:9 warns that in
the last days will there will be many signs and false wonders. So how did this
Origins of the Signs and Wonders Movement
The modern origins of this movement go back to Essek William Kenyon who began the 20th Century as a vigorous rural evangelist and founded Bethel Bible Institute and was superintendent from 1900 to 1923. In 1923, he left Bethel and moved west where he frequently ministered with Aimee Simple McPherson in her Angeles Temple. McConnell thoroughly documents Kenyon’s strong connection to Emerson College and its universalist teachings, Christian Science, New Thought and other metaphysical cults (D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, Chapter 3) which he integrated into a Christian teaching he called, “spiritual science.” According to Kenyon, the ability of Christian Science to apply supernatural means to the healing needs of the masses was the reason for the serious rates of attrition in the denominational churches” and therefore the growth of the independent charismatics. (ibid., p.47) He is without a doubt the father of the “faith” movement - Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, William Branham, Benni Hinn and all the other “faith teachers” find their roots in him. In fact, Hagin has often been accused of plagiarizing Kenyon almost word for word. (see McConnell’s book or Hank Hannegraf’s Christianity in Crisis)
Out of Kenyon came the Word-Faith movement, the Latter Rain Movement and the New Charismatic ecumenism. They base unity on love, not love and truth. Again books have been written on their faulty doctrines, faulty Christology and practices. Branham didn’t believe in the Trinity. Many Word-Faith teachers believe we are “little gods” and that Jesus had to be “born again.” There are many problems with their teachings but I will focus only on two rather dangerous doctrines that have come out of and are a part of all of these movements today: Revelation Knowledge and the Manifest Sons of God Doctrine.
Revelation knowledge is the idea that God is continuing to reveal things to us through such media as “words of knowledge”, dreams and intuition. This revelation knowledge is considered to be equal to Biblical Revelation. When anyone in this day and age can speak, “thus saith the Lord” as if he were speaking directly from God and with the same accuracy and authority, is the day we are really in trouble. And that day has come! Just walk into a one of today’s Third Wave Charismatic Churches and you can see for yourself. I could point you to a dozen books full of false prophecy such as Rick Joyner’s book the Harvest. I could show you web sites full of their false prophecy.
James Ryle is Bill McCartny’s Vineyard pastor and founder of Promise Keepers. His revelations come through dreams: "There have been many occasions in my own life when the Lord has given significant insight to me through a dream or vision. These prophetic dreams deal sometimes with the church, with a nation or with leaders in the church. At other times the revelation is focused on a more personal level" (James Ryle, Hippo in the Garden, p. 125). His book is full of examples of how he is led by dreams. Is this Scriptural? Whether you have a dream, or an intuition or some other “word” from God - this is extra-Biblical and unfounded. Some carry it so far that our words create reality. Our words create health and wealth. You hear this every day on “Christian” television.
It may seem absurd, but be careful because people are being subtly controlled as they go forward at the end of a service and someone gives them a “word of knowledge.” One of the Kansas City Prophets was running around giving “words of knowledge” to people only to be later disciplined by the Vineyards for being a pedophile and homosexual. How accurate were his pronouncements? How can anyone sort out the thousands of impressions, thoughts and pictures that come to mind from one put there by Satan or God? People are being turned away from the objective Word of God to their subjective feelings or worse yet, to some else’s subjective “rhema” or “word” from God. Inner impressions are not a form of revelation or authoritative. Yet every week gullible saints treat these “prophecies” as if they were directly from God. Saints are being manipulated and lives are literally being ruined by perhaps well meaning “prophets.”
The other area I would like to comment on is the “Manifest Sons of God.” This came out of the Latter Rain teachings of William Branham. They contend that there will be a group of overcomers who will demonstrate signs and wonders and other supernatural powers in the last days. The name of the doctrine has changed over the years and depending on the group using it. It is variously referred to as the New Breed, and more recently Joel’s Army by the Vineyard’s and Kansas City prophets. Various prophets speak of an upcoming civil war between Christians (Rick Joyner, John Wember, John Arnott, James Ryle and many others). You can read about it yourself on their own internet sites ( e.g. Joyner’s at http://www.eaglestar.org/calltoarms/srod1997.htm). This will be a war to get rid of (i.e. send off to glory a little early) the naysayers, those dragging their feet “opposing the move of God.”
What They Say About the Opposition
James Ryle wrote to John Lowffler following his appearance on his 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 possess 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 the 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 they why do they accuse? What motivates them to tear down another church? The answer is pride, jealousy, fear, hatred or ignorance.” So any who would dare to oppose them, are opposing God. “The religious community always gets it back up when God moves, and always starts clicking the tongue and wagging the finger...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.” (Carl Tuttle, Anaheim Vineyard, transcript clip from tape #00363 as reported in Deception in the Church Newsletter internet site) For more on the opposition, please see the book by Pensacola Revival evangelist Steve Hill titled the God Mockers (or view it on the internet at http://www.reapernet.com/di/new_product/god_mo_1.html).
As we said earlier in this book, the Scripture encourages believers to question, “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 world with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11) We have a problem when there is no more room for honest debate - which even the great Apostle Paul encouraged over his own teachings. I agree, we do not want to oppose a true move of God, but we do want to examine it and see if it holds up to Scripture. This is not heresy hunting, being negative or unloving, but smart considering the coming deception. Please don’t take my word for it, but study, pray, read the word, check out my sources and come to your own conclusions. But if you dare to be bold and speak against the apostate juggernaut coming down, expect it to role over you without mercy.
They think anyone opposing them is the enemy and should and will eventually be eliminated. In Rick Joyner’s recent book, The Shepherds Rod 1997, he says, “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.” Just one more quote from Steve Hill from Brownsville Assembly of God (source of the Pensacola Revival), “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.”
(Steve Hill, God Mockers)
I would hope we do not fit that description - that we will always be open to the Lord. There may be a certain amount of truth in accusing some Christians of being stuck in tradition and not open to new revelation. But let us hope that any new revelation is clearly scriptural. As to whether we should judge or not, please note the following verses:
· The spiritual man makes judgments about all things (I Cor 2:15)
Do you not know that saints will judge
the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not
competent to judge trivial cases? (I Cor. 6:2)
· I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say ( I Cor 10:15)
· Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1)
In order to better understand the dilemma, let’s examine what this Third Wave Movement is all about.
Characteristics of the Third Wave
John Wember, who recently passed away, as head of the Vineyard movement has clearly led the Third Wave. He felt that the modern church was too rational and materialistic and therefore not open to the real power of God and that Christians need to have a new faith in the supernatural. But did signs and wonders spur growth in the early church? Historically, signs and wonders done by Jesus didn’t produce faith. At first, it helped his popularity but the crowds quickly left. “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matt. 12:39) Power evangelism through signs and wonders is clearly missing the point. “Signs have no inherent power to convert sinners to faith. This ought to be evident from the effects of Jesus’ ministry, in which the powers of the age to come were regularly displayed in connection with a perfect life and an infallible declaration of the truth, and still his own people clearly rejected him.” (Stan Fowler, Signs and Wonders Today, as quoted in Eric Wright, Strange Fire, Evangelical Press, Durnham, England, p.250)
The churches affected by the “Toronto Blessing” and the “Pensacola Outpouring” are affected by strange phenomena: shaking, jerking, uncontrollable laughter, barking, roaring, crying, acting as if drunk, and so forth. It should be noted that the Vineyard fellowship separated from the Toronto Vineyard. However, the Assemblies of God have endorsed the “Pensacola Revival” which has a different flavor than “Toronto Blessing”. Nevertheless, these phenomena can be seen in Vineyards and Assemblies across the nation. Activity which a few years ago would be questioned as possible demonic activity, is now embraced as the move of the Holy Spirit. We are told there is a lot of good fruit because of these experiences. However, is it because of it or in spite of it? I also regularly review e-mails from people who have been hurt terribly by these experiences.
Alan Morrison writes ‘After having counseled many hundreds of people who have been affected by this psycho religious experience...within the churches which propagate the “Toronto Experience” we find a great many traits which characterize cults: 1) extra-biblical revelation, 2) a false basis for salvation, 3) arrogant personal claims of the leaders, 4) doctrinal double-talk, 5) defective Christology, 6) defective pneumatology, 7) unjustified scriptural proof-texting; vicious and threatening denunciation of those who disagree 9) syncretistic practices and associations.’ (Letter in Evangelical Times as quoted in Strange Fire by Eric E. Wright, p.47). Wright further notes that miracles are not normative in life or in the Old and New Testaments, “Repeated dependence on miracles calls into question the infinite wisdom of God, and devalues his intimate involvement in all the affairs of life and history. (ibid., p. 244)
They treat the Holy Spirit as if it were a commodity that could be dished out, dispensed or caught by someone passing by. Both Hannegraf in his book, Counterfeit Revival and Wright in Strange Fire, make similar observations. Wright sees seven negative features in Toronto and the Vineyards:
1. “Lack of spontaneity;
2. Physical phenomena that correspond almost exactly with the results of hypnotism
3. Dependence on people coming to the meetings with an expectation of what will happen;
4. Dependence upon suggestive techniques to generate openness to what happens
Dependence upon a powerfully charged atmosphere
produced in a carefully choreographed
and lengthy meeting;
6. Similarities to what takes place in brainwashing;
7. Treatment of the Holy Spirit as a commodity to be dispensed by supposedly ‘anointed’ men.
He continues, “In my opinion, the movement does not manifest the marks of a Holy Spirit revival. it reflects more a powerful appeal to the psychological urges of mankind dressed in a communications package that speaks to the desires and needs of modern man. It speaks to mankind’s deep longing for community and desire to escape from the drudgery and troubles of life. It engages the emotions rather than the intellect. It uses upbeat music, stories that entertain and a relaxed atmosphere, all wrapped up in a very exciting programme. The present movement also reflects the development in the Vineyard of a theology of signs and wonders that generates intense expectation and excitement. (ibid., p. 221) Later, Wright, a Canadian pastor who personally attended the Toronto Vineyard numerous times wonders how they “fail to see that hypnotists and practitioners of alien religions routinely perform healings similar to those performed in Vineyard circles.” (ibid., p.238)
Finally, I quote from a letter written by Al Dager to Steve Hill of Brownsville Assembly of God. Dager writes, “How could the elect come close to being deceived, Steve? The only answer is that the great deception in the last days would come in the name of Jesus with power. The only reason the very elect will not be deceived is that they will possess the discernment and the humility to recognize the subtle distinctions between the true work of God and the counterfeit. The difference will not be recognizable to the nominal Christian or to those who seek experience over truth. (Special Report, Pensacola Revival or Reveling by Albert James Dager, p. 35, emphasis ours)
So much more can be and has been written on this subject. I have merely touched the tip of the iceberg. I am not the only one. There are many, many more concerned. I hope you will read the entire text of those books cited here. What this represents is a paradigm shift in evangelical Christianity:
Doctrine and teaching are held in contempt.
People are told to check their minds at the door.
Don’t pray. Just be open.
· People are told to be open to the new revelation and new experiences - to refuse is to resist God
· Oneness is more important that truth.
· Or truth is redefined narrowly to meet their own narrow objectives.
· Absolutes are divisive and narrow... group consensus is better.
· Experience validates itself as true.
Continue to Chapter 8
The Church Growth Movement