I didn’t actually intend to review this book. It showed up at my door and a brief glance turned into a quick skim turned into a full read turned into a review. As a committed reader always looking for something new and interesting, I just love it when that happens.
There is a new religious movement alive today that is gaining momentum and claiming followers. Like so many movements before it, it began in the United States and has since spread around the world. I have seen many manifestations of it right here in Canada. It is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and it is the subject of God’s Super-Apostles, where it receives some well-deserved scrutiny.
The New Apostolic Reformation is a movement that is set on returning apostles and prophets to the church. Its adherents believe “that God always intended for apostles and prophets to govern the church, not only the early church, but the church during each generation. Yet their rightful place of rule has been neglected by Christians for centuries,” replaced, in most cases, by pastors and elders. This movement is apostolic because it restores apostles and prophets to the church, and it is a reformation because its leaders hold that, like the Protestant Reformation before it, it will transform the church.
NAR is associated with well-known leaders like C. Peter Wagner, Rich Joyner, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, and Cindy Jacobs, and organizations such as The International House of Prayer, The Call, GOD TV, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Charisma magazine. You may know you have encountered it when you hear buzzwords like activation, dominionism, generational curse, prayerwalking, soaking, or spiritual mapping. There are currently something like 3 million people in America who are actively associated with NAR, and hundreds of thousands or even millions more who would be loosely associated or who have been influenced by its teachings and teachers. It is, in short, a powerful and growing movement.
In God’s Super-Apostles R. Douglas Gievett, professor of philosophy in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, and Holly Pivec, a researcher and journalist, combine forces to examine and respond to the NAR movement. Modeling their work after the Bereans of Acts 17, they look at this new movement and then simply turn to God’s Word to see if it can be supported by the Bible. And, not surprisingly, they find that many of the movement’s boldest and most distinct claims are not only missing from Scripture, but completely opposed to it.
They first look to the NAR teaching about apostles, then go to the New Testament examples and descriptions of Apostles, and compare the two. NAR’s beliefs and leadership do not hold up well under such examination. The authors do the same with prophets, and again find that NAR offers something very different from what the Bible holds out. Then they look at some of NAR’s distinct teachings about spiritual warfare and the promise (which often becomes a threat) of apostolic unity. They close with an examination of miracles and miracle workers, disputing NAR’s understanding of miracles and casting doubt on the many of the claims of miracles.
This book may draw some comparisons to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, but even while it reaches many of the same conclusions, it is a very different work in that it focuses far less on individual manifestations of the movement’s flaws and foibles, and more on a framework meant to understand and interpret it. It may be tempting to immediately write off the authors as people who have a deeper agenda than exposing the worst of the movement, but they anticipate and answer this:
Some readers may suspect that the authors are anti-charismatic. They may expect us to argue that the miraculous gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12—including the gifts of prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues—are no longer active in the church today. This is not our objective. Many Christians around the world, including charismatics and classic Pentecostals, believe that the miraculous gifts are still active, and we do not dispute their belief. We’ve tried to show that NAR teachings do not represent the views of most charismatics or classic Pentecostals, but are, rather, entirely different.
If I have a concern with the book it is its logical and methodical style. Of course I found this very helpful, but I am not sure how many of NAR’s adherents will be convinced. You have heard it said that you cannot reason someone out of an irrational position and, sadly, many people who are swept up in NAR may be almost immune to the kind of reason the authors bring to bear here. They have been trained to look past the Bible to signs and wonders and prophecies; many have tacitly or even outright denied that the Bible is their norming norm, their sole final authority. Yet the authors have done the right thing and simply held up NAR to the light of Scripture; it is my hope that many people within the movement will read the book and at least consider it.
God’s Super-Apostles is a clear and winsome work that provides just the right depth of examination, and that comes to clear and biblical conclusions. It is worth reading whether you wish to better understand NAR or if you wish to evaluate its claims.