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Friday, June 13, 2014 | Comments (11)

Conrad Mbewe was one of the keynote speakers at last year’s Strange Fire conference. He delivered two powerful messages about the corruption in African charismatic churches (you can listen to his sermons here and here).

Among his many talents, Conrad is a gifted writer, and he maintains a blog called A Letter from Kabwata. In his most recent article, he explains how the charismatic church breeds spiritual corruption—how the seeds of the spiritual abuse that’s wreaking havoc throughout Africa and around the world are fundamental elements in the core teaching of the charismatic movement.

Click here to read “Charismatic Teaching Is Breeding Spiritual Havoc.”

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Emilio Ramos  |  Friday, June 13, 2014at 4:24 PM

Having seen the abuse for my self first hand, it is really tragic that anyone would see the presence of Word of Faith Charismania as a victory for Christ.

#2  Posted by David Taggart  |  Friday, June 13, 2014at 4:28 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#3  Posted by John Deckert  |  Monday, June 16, 2014at 8:52 PM

It was just in the past year that I found out that the "word of faith/prosperity gospel" even existed in Africa. I heard a preacher mock the prosperity gospel saying it would only sell in the U.S., never in Africa. I agreed with him. Boy were we both wrong. The prosperity gospel appeals to the depraved heart. And depraved hearts exist every where. If you type "demon possession" in YouTube you will see countless videos of charismatic pastors using alleged demon possessed people as entertainment /shock value. This is what the charismatic celebrities are engaging in. This sort of deception in the name of Christ Jesus grieves our God very much.

#4  Posted by Doug Murray  |  Wednesday, June 18, 2014at 9:21 PM

I followed with interest the Strange Fire talks. I’m interacting with a number of Charismatics on the topic.

I am a cessationist of Reformed Baptist stripe and holding to the closed Apostolic/Prophetic canon and the full sufficiency of scripture. This means that there is no more gift of prophecy, gift of tongues or miraculous sign gifts/miracle-workers (although allowing that God can sovereignly perform miracles today if he chooses).

I have 2 questions.

On the standard, mainstream dispensationalist view, there is prophecy and the miraculous during the Tribulation, both the false (2 Thess 2) sent by God as a strong delusion and the genuine as in the 2 prophets in Rev 11.

1. How can this view of Dispensationalism be consistent with the closure of the prophetic canon and be consistent with the NT nature of prophecy (i.e. infallible, inerrant, etc.)? This would be one of the arguments that could be put forward by the Continuationist.

2. A common Continuationist argument is: “Does not the presence of counterfeit gifts imply that the genuine is also in existence?” So we have the more literal interpretation of the 2 prophets in Rev 11 (the difficult passage) being supported indirectly by the clear straightforward passage in 2 Thess 2. And the fact that there is the counterfeit (lots of it) today implies that there is actually (maybe rare) the genuine. Often quoted is 1 Cor 1:7 :” so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” together with 1 Cor 13 and “the perfect” referring to the 2nd coming event.

As a non-Dispensationalist, I know how the 2 prophets of Revelation 11 is variously interpreted as symbolic, but have not as yet been convinced that any of the alternatives to a more literal interpretation are correct.

Eager to hear the scholarly responses to the above, including answers to Question 1 above from a dispensationalist. Would it be possible for John MacArthur to respond to this?

Kind regards,

Doug Murray

#5  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Monday, June 23, 2014at 3:22 PM

Excellent questions by Doug, and I too would be interested to hear a solid response, particularly to Doug's Question 1.

#6  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, June 23, 2014at 3:58 PM

Hello Doug,

Thank you for your thoughtful questions.

Disclaimer: I won't claim my response is "scholarly," and I can't speak from the "standard, mainstream dispensationalist" view. But I will attempt to offer a biblical response. :)

1. This question rises out of a misunderstanding of Cessationism. It's like saying, "How can Jesus say anything infallible in the Millennial Kingdom (or if you prefer, the Eternal State) if prophecy has ceased?" Put simply, the two prophets in Revelation 11 can speak infallible, inerrant prophecy because that's what God causes them to do. Period. Their prophesying is not an expression of the charismatic gifts given to the early church any more than fire-breathing is a spiritual gift. Rather this a unique ministry at a unique time for which they are appointed.

2. No, the existence of a counterfeit does not imply the current existence of the genuine. Why? Because the counterfeit is simply mimicking the genuine from the past. Someone could make a modern counterfeit of Roman gold coins without them being in circulation. There simply is no necessary implication to draw from modern counterfeit prophecy—except, perhaps, that they are so void of the truth once for all delivered to the saints, they just have to make stuff up. If you haven't read them, I'd direct you to the number of articles and blog posts on modern prophecy.

Hope that helps.

#7  Posted by Doug Murray  |  Tuesday, June 24, 2014at 1:29 AM

Thanks Gabriel,

I agree with your answer to the 2nd question, and it also had occurred to me. As far using 1 Cor 1:7 to support Continuationism is concerned, it is easy to reply that this statement is true of all gifts that are actually still in existence, which was all of them when Paul wrote the words, but which are now those that remain after the revelatory ones have gone. I.e. one cannot come behind in a gift that is no longer extant.

You also wrote

<<<

1. This question rises out of a misunderstanding of Cessationism. It's like saying, "How can Jesus say anything infallible in the Millennial Kingdom (or if you prefer, the Eternal State) if prophecy has ceased?" Put simply, the two prophets in Revelation 11 can speak infallible, inerrant prophecy because that's what God causes them to do. Period. Their prophesying is not an expression of the charismatic gifts given to the early church any more than fire-breathing is a spiritual gift. Rather this a unique ministry at a unique time for which they are appointed.

>>>

I would respectfully challenge this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Cessationism says that revelatory gifts were tied to the existence of the Apostles and that these gifts and the Apostles cannot be separated from the concept of the open/closed Apostolic-prophetic canon. Revelation, Apostles and canonical authority are all inseparably linked together. Prophecy by its very nature and definition carries with it canonical authority and that which we have today in the prophetic word is the subset that God in his goodness has preserved for us.

So if the canon is closed, prophecy must have ceased. Unless future prophecy is redefined and takes on a new meaning foreign to the rest of NT and OT – and we don’t want to go there. Distinguishing between prophecy, prophesying, gifts of prophecy and prophets, as you seem to imply, is surely trying to make distinctions without a difference if we look at the lists in Rom 12; 1 Cor 12-14; Eph 4.

(Note: I do accept that God can work miracles today as he sovereignly chooses, the gift of miracles having ceased and in that sense there being no miracle-workers today. But I do have great difficulty in saying a similar thing in relation to prophecy. In my mind a miracle is not necessarily inseparably linked to canonical authority whereas prophecy is.)

I am sure that EVERYTHING changes when God Himself appears!! The warning not to add to the book of Revelation hardly applies to the Lord himself.

#8  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, June 26, 2014at 3:50 PM

Hello Doug, I apologize for taking so long to respond. It's been busy!

I think the way I would explain it is that the sign gifts given to the church did indeed have a particular purpose. However I would not include "canonical authority" if what you mean is "prophetic utterances must be included in Scripture." In the blog series "The Myth of Modern Prophecy," John MacArthur argues for the view that biblical prophecy is always inerrant and infallible. But that does not mean it is always included in Scripture.

In the Old Testament and in Acts we read of there being prophets, without knowing what they prophesied. My conclusion is that God can make someone a prophet, give them the ability to speak His words inerrantly and infallibly, without it being included in the canon. Whether that gift is part of the collection given to the church is more a historical matter, not essential to the gift itself.

I'll put it this way: the Old Testament believers had no concept of "spiritual gifts" as the early church had, but they understood that some men were prophets and miracle workers by divine appointment. Only a portion of what some of the prophets said was included in the cannon. In the same way, the two witnesses in Revelation are prophets and miracle workers whose words will not be added to Scripture, but will be authoritative nonetheless.

I hope you agree with that, because otherwise what you'd be saying is that the only prophetic utterances ever to occur appear in Scripture. And if you say that, then I need to ask whether everything Jesus said was prophetic (He was a prophet), or not. Because we know for certain that Jesus said volumes more than what is recorded (John 21:25).

#9  Posted by Doug Murray  |  Friday, June 27, 2014at 1:04 AM

Thanks Gabriel.

I think we agree on the inerrancy and infallibility of all true prophecy. However, I do detect a difference in the definition of Canon (and herein lies the problem), when you said:

<<<

Only a portion of what some of the prophets said was included in the cannon. In the same way, the two witnesses in Revelation are prophets and miracle workers whose words will not be added to Scripture, but will be authoritative nonetheless.

>>>

What do I understand by canonical authority? Everything that is revelation breathed out by God, his very words, so that even visions from him are said to be from his mouth (Jer 23) derive their authority from the source, God. As such they are God’s standard or “rule” (for this is what “canon” means) for life. A working definition of Canon is that famous text:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness …”

Now, true prophecy is God-breathed and his very words. At the time of utterance or writing down, it was the standard, rule or canon for life, that God gave at that time.

The Bible is the prophetic canon that God has in His wisdom preserved for us. But at the time of initial utterance or writing so was all other prophecy that we do not have today e.g. the prophecies of 4 daughters of Philip; the prophecies in the church at Corinth; the 2 missing letters that Paul wrote to Corinth; the identity of the “hindrance” in 2 Thess 2; all the words of Jesus, who was the Prophet par excellence, which we do not have recorded. These, at the time, in principle, carried full canonical authority.

That is what we mean by an ‘Open Canon’. It was expanding and shrinking until it was closed. Expanding, as God gave new revelation in the 1st century and shrinking, as prophecies were in God’s providence not written down and Apostolic letters were lost. Then the last Apostle, John, died and it was all over. The Canon was closed. No more additions, no more subtractions. That, I believe, is the what we mean by the Apostolic-prophetic canon.

This point I think was clearly made in the book by cessationist Sam Waldron: “To be Continued ….?” (This is an excellent little book IMHO).

Otherwise, one could say that:

“Prophecy does not imply canonicity (at time of utterance) and it follows that the fact that the canon has closed is not relevant to the question whether there can be prophecy today.”

This, I think, was what you were saying in your last post?? And it is just what mainstream Pentecostalism claims! If prophecy can occur sometime in the future – 2 prophets in Rev 11 and ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” Rev 20 – it can, in principle, happen today without compromising the fixed Canon, can it not?

(Please, I’m not being contentious for the sake being argumentative. I’m in dialogue with a number of Charismatic folk presently on this important issue.)

Eager to hear your response as appropriate!

God bless,

Doug

#10  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, July 02, 2014at 12:33 PM

Doug, I sincerely apologize for taking so long to respond. Honestly, I forgot.

The word canon simply means "rule" or "standard" (forgive me if you've said this earlier). When applied to theology, I'm only familiar with it being used technically as a synonym for Scripture—especially in discussing whether it is open or closed. So "the canon is closed" means that nothing can be taken from or added to Scripture (Revelation 22:18-19).

I'd be surprised if Sam Waldron would disagree. This is the view of Bruce Metzger articulated in his book The Canon of the New Testament. Bruce is a primary go-to expert for evangelical views on the canon and textual criticism.

Therefore, God can send an authoritative prophet to speak on His behalf because God hasn't sealed His lips, He's only sealed the Book.

Where this runs counter to charismatic theology is charismatics must allow for fallible prophecy and prophets. So I am not advocating the continuing of the prophetic gift, which would require allowance for error. I am simply saying that the two witnesses in Revelation can be prophets and speak prophetically (i.e. inerrantly) without adding to the page count of Scripture.

Does that clarify it at all?

#11  Posted by Doug Murray  |  Friday, July 04, 2014at 12:52 AM

Hi Gabriel

I see where you are coming from now. For you the Canon is a synonym for Scripture, what is written down as you say:

<<<

God hasn't sealed His lips, He's only sealed the Book

>>>

However, in my understanding, the canon extends beyond the writings to prophetic utterance as well. This was what I remember from Sam Waldron’s course and lectures on historical theology. I’m sure I’m not misrepresenting him as this is a quote from his book, “To be Continued ….?”, page 58, when discussing prophecy that was not recorded:

<<<

….Canonicity, it must be remembered, derives from the divine authority of a writing. If God gives a prophetic message to His people, it is necessarily part of the rule of canon of the people of God. The canon is the rule, standard or authority of God’s people….the principle of prophetic authority is not diminished if certain of their utterances or sayings are not preserved. Because whatever a prophet said as a prophet was authoritative, the utterance would have been authoritative and in that sense canonical had it been preserved.

>>>

So, in principle, Prophecy (written of spoken) = canonicity.

If that was true then, it is true now. And that is the reason prophecy (written and spoken) has ended: The canon is closed. This rules out the position of mainstream “Thus saith the Lord” Pentecostals, who claim infallibility.

That there is no such thing as fallible prophecy – an oxymoron - rules out Continuationists such as Grudem, Storms, Piper.

Makes sense?

Doug