Lesson 4: The New Apostolic Reformation

New Apostolic ReformationThis is probably the most extreme form of Christian nationalism. Like all the others, it assumes the church is under attack, and it calls for much more aggressive reaction. Christians must take over every area of society by replacing those presently in control with true believers. In fact, it claims this is necessary to pave the way for the Second Coming of Christ.

The group also fosters extreme American Exceptionalism. It regards these true believers as the real Americans. God supposedly founded the US as a Christian nation and now calls for a Great Reawakening to restore what is being lost. Any criticism of the American past, such as an analysis of racism, is regarded as heresy.

I had trouble understanding from where this excessiveness came until I discovered that this kind of Christian Nationalism is a new development in the Pentecostal movement. I got to know this group very well back in the late 1960s when the Lutheran Church asked me to study the charismatic movement taking place at the time. Remembering my experiences in many of their prayer services gave me insight into what is going on in the New Apostolic Reformation.

People often confuse Evangelicals and Pentecostals. The former are Fundamentalists who think God communicates with them through the literal interpretation of the Bible. The latter believes the divine does that through direct contact with individuals. Although this charismatic Christianity is often associated with tongue-speaking, its prophets also relay messages supposedly received from God.

I was very comfortable participating in their prayer groups which were quite compassionate. The gentle paranoia that permeated the meetings was quite tolerable and even sort of appropriate as the groups served as a healthy place for people who felt unappreciated in the rest of society.

Most of the divine messages ministered to this need. They were beautiful poetry assuring God’s presence. I grew uneasy when they turned to predictions of Christ’s second coming. These usually began with “I am not a scholar, but God told me…” and then went on to lay out some outlandish program. I came away thinking the speakers were using God to justify their personal agendas and allowing no opposition. Who can argue with God? At the same time, I felt there was no harm as the messages focused on personal spiritual life.

The New Apostles greatly exacerbate this paranoia when they base their movement on Christians being persecuted. That makes me uncomfortable as I see no organized effort to destroy Christianity in the United States. It is true that many people have given up on the church, sometimes because of the words and actions of this group, but that is as far as it gets. And I certainly have no idea what a cosmic war between God and Satan means in the 21st century.

My discomfort turns to fear when reading the messages these New Apostles report receiving from God. God supposedly instructs Christians to engage in political battles rather than spiritual exercises. Words about waging in war to kill specific people creates a troubling climate especially when they claim that violence might be needed to restore Christ’s rule.

These New Apostles certainly seem to be using God to push their personal agendas. I cannot help hearing their calls for a more masculine Christianity as a defense of white male supremacy. And again, there is no room for discussion when the message is described as coming straight from God.

I think we are witnessing a persistent weakness in charismatic faith that Paul addressed in I Corinthians 12- 14. The beloved 13th chapter asserts even though we speak in the tongues of men and of angels, it doesn’t matter unless we speak in love. If these New Apostles do not speak in love, there is no way we should take their messages as coming from God.

This New Apostolic Reformation certainly does not represent all Pentecostal churches. Nonetheless, its prophets have greatly influenced recent public conversation. I think this exposes another limitation in charismatic faith. Anyone can claim God has spoken to them and take advantage of the gullible. Of course, politicians are ready to use this for their special interests.

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