King's Evangelical Divinity School

8 May 2011

Peas in a Pod?

Tonight a UK television channel aired a reality show following a popular medium who featured at one of the main entertainment venues in Margate (in fact, not too far from me). The similar methodology employed by Psychic Sally and several well-known televangelists was quite uncanny, including: the celebrity status of the medium/televangelist, the inevitable build up of expectations among attendees before the show, the announcement during the show of a name/illness/situation and asking the person affected to come forward (have you noticed how the relevant divine/spiritual authority never seems to provide the person on the stage with the full set of details, requiring them instead to go through a process of Twenty Questions?), providing further insight into that person's situation once they have come forward, and then - having had their their divine/magical credentials confirmed - offering advice/words of wisdom/solutions to seal the contract.

Unfortunately (and rather sadly), there are other ways in which such people are reminiscent of here-today-(not always)-gone-tomorrow televangelists, namely: the business nature of the contract, exploiting the genuine grief, suffering and/or expectations of the individuals seeking solace or help, the disproportionate impact of charletanry on the most vulnerable, granting of false hope, and the thoroughly business nature of the whole episode. Sadly, people like tonight's popular medium and her televangelist counterparts have existed for years. As the Preacher notes, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecc 1:9).

19 comments:

Steve Kneale said...

Did you catch Derren Brown's recent programme on faith healers? I wonder what you made of that?

Calvin L. Smith said...

I did. It was a bit of an eye opener, quite useful. it all seems to fit a pattern doesn't it, how these faith healers work. That said, I think Brown has a less-than-charitable view of Christianity and thus an agenda, and it was interesting how others on the show insisted that some of the issues to be approached differently.

Steve Kneale said...

Yes, I was particularly interested by those who used to be involved in faith healing - some former 'faith healers' - and have since withdrawn from it but remain avowedly Christian. Sadly, they were reduced to very small bit parts. I think their insights would have been particularly useful and interesting.

I think you're right about Derren Brown's agenda (as I understand, he used to identify as a born-again Evangelical). To be fair, I think he was quite careful not to denigrate Christian belief but was very keen to specifically expose what he saw as bogus faith healing. Incidentally, I think it was his desire to not attack genuine belief that led to the end of the programme and it's final speech being particularly weak and fizzling out somewhat.

Andrew Sibley said...

Calvin - without wishing to be accused of going off topic again, I think there is a growing question mark about why some Christian Zionist groups wish to undermine all modern revivals. Commentators at http://www.moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php for instance seem to have a problem with everything from Alpha, to Toronto to Pensecola etc. I accept there are issues to be addressed, for instance false prosperity teaching or the human attempt to start 'strange revival fires' (Lev 10) not commissioned or started by God, but I would not want to condemn everything. The healing of Delia Knox at the Bay of the Holy SPirit Revival for instance seems geniune.

I have heard other speakers from PWMI who are willing to criticise Rick Warren and Nicky Gumbel on the basis that God 'doesn't work that way anymore' or they are secret members of the New World Order - surely we can do better than this.

It seems to me that part of this is driven by their eschatology, but why don't some CZs explain their beliefs in this regard more openly? One is left reading between the lines to work out what is the reason for undermining all revivals. I may be wrong (they may just be old fashioned cessationists), but it seems that many CZs are giving up on the church and thinking God is now going to work through a revived nation state of Israel instead. I do infact pray for genuine revival amongst the Jewish people as well as amongst Gentiles. I was brought up in the PBs with their dispensationalist holy-huddle-faithful-remnant mentality, and if it wasn't for my experience of the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic movement I don't know where I would be today Christian-wise. Remember JN Darby's legacy to Christendom was the Exclusive Brethren who cut themselves off from everyone. In other words, we do have to be discerning, but shouldn't reject everything out of hand or we'll destroy our faith, love and hope.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Andrew, at first glance it did really look like you were off topic... unless, that is, you're suggesting there is some kind of theological a link Christian support for Israel and rejection of various movements/events/people as heresy?

Presuming this is the point you're making, I disagree. For example, Hank Hanegraaf has made a living exposing the weird and wacky in the Church, yet he's taken a strong anti-CZ line. Meanwhile, Wendy and Rory Alec (God TV) are hyper CZs yet their programmes include all manner of eyebrow-raising people and teachings (which ironically makes my job so much more difficult... many people who theologically reject supercessionism also don't want to be associated with such people).

These are just two examples. There are many others. The fact is, weird stuff - sometimes bordering on heterodoxy - which is promoted by some televangelists and other high-profile individuals in the Church is frequently exposed and their views/exegesis challenged across the Church by CZs and non-Czs alike. So I'm not convinced this is only a CZ fixation.

Steve Kneale said...

Andrew, surely your experience of the Brethren assemblies tells you no such link between support for Israel and a rejection of the charismatic interpretation of 'the gifts' exists? I too was brought up in the Brethren on Merseyside. Gospel Halls tended to take a very pro-Israel position based firmly in their premillenial eschatology yet they take a generally cessationist, or at the very least thoroughly non-charismatic, interpretation of 'the gifts'.

I have also spent a lot of time in reformed baptist and independent free churches of various hues. Generally, like the Brethren, these churches take either a hardline cessationist or non-charismatic interpretation of 'the gifts'. However, often based in Amillenial eschatology, they rarely take a special view of Israel (although tend to stop short of absolute supercessionism i.e. many Jews will continue to be saved but no longer represent the special people they once did). I have also come across several charismatic churches, holding a typically charismatic view of the gifts, who take a similar stance on Israel to reformed Evangelicals.

For myself personally, I would take a non-charismatic view of 'the gifts' (although am by no means a cessationist) and would not take a particularly pro-Israel stance (but again would not call myself supercessionist).

I really don't understand where you have found such a link to exist? I have certainly never come across any hint of a relationship between one's view of Israel and interpretation of spiritual gifts.

Andrew Sibley said...

Calvin - I accept your point that the two do not follow by necessity (CZism and charismatic revival), and also wonder about all I occasionally see on God TV. But I blogged about one item on Moriel.org that seemed an attack on the whole of Elim and AoG. Although not from a pentecostal background I thought this way over the top and wonder why this is necessary. Moriel link

In response to Steve, it is in Darby's dispensationalism (dispensations of grace) that the gentile Church age spiritual grace period will end at the rapture and then an earthly dispensation of grace will return to a national State of Israel - I don't accept this at all.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Andrew, I do wonder if we have a crossed line here. Explain briefly again your main contention, as I want to comment on what you're saying rather than what I think you are saying. Thanks.

Dissenters said...

Calvin - I am wondering why some CZs wish to undermine belief in all modern revivals, and suggest it may be due to Darby's dispensationalist theology that wishes to get the church raptured and 'out of the way.' It encourages Christians to give up on the church. This is the type of holy huddle thinking I left behind many years ago, and don't wish to return. Although not all CZs are Derbyite dispensationalists, but many don't know what their favourite preachers actually believe on this matter. I also raised a question about conspiracy theories that may cause us to cast doubt on every ministry we don't like - I accept Revelations is highly conspiratorial, but we need to be careful not to get into a delusional state in trying to read demons into everything. I think that is what I am saying.
Andrew Sibley

Calvin L. Smith said...

Well, like I said many television ministries are both strongly CZ and popularise and supports any and all "revivals", whoever suspect.

Meanwhile, I think you're overall premise is wrong. Classical Pentecostalism was historically strongly dispensationalist, Zionist, but also thoroughly revivalist. Indeed, dispensationalism is what drove their revivalism, associating the Latter Rain and culmination of the age with the birth of their movement. Note, too, that with and shortly after Azusa there were many of the Charismatic excesses we think are new expressions today.

So I think your premise seems to be based on an experience of cessationist dispensationalism such as in the Brethren, when actually Pentecostal dispensationalism (which is Zionist) is strongly revivalist. Pentecostals may be divided on whether a particular event is a move of the Holy Spirit, but such a view has nothing to do with their Zionism.

Dissenters said...

Calvin - I accept your points above, but this perhaps suggests then that the people at Moriel are closer to the Brethren dispensationalist thinking in rejecting all modern revivals than the Pentecostals. Interestingly, Bryn Jones and other Restorationists broke with the CZ influence in the Latter Rain movement and some pentecostalism and rejected dispensationalism in favour of a belief in the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). (Although personally I can see that the restoration of all things may include a Jewish majority state in Palestine that is in submission to the Messiah (but I don't believe the present state is it)).
This perhaps requires some future discussion about where the Latter Rain movement, pentecostalism and Restorationism is going. Smith Wigglesworth's prophecy is of most interest concerning a Word and Spirit led end time revival.
Andrew Sibley

Steve Kneale said...

I agree with Calvin's comment but would add that many reformed Evangelicals - particularly hardline reformed churches like the Metropolitan Tabernacle - would hold no special view of Israel but have a deep seated suspicion of anything even bordering on charismatic. Such churches have a much stronger 'holy huddle' attitude than the Brethren and very often cast themselves as a group of Elijahs (1 Ki 19:13-14). They reject both Zionism and dispensationalism but remain highly suspicious of all things charismatic leading to a puritanical approach (to the point where they reject any music not played on an organ and take a very strict cessationist stance). The point is, suspicion of charismatic things is not unique to CZs (and as Calvin pointed out, does not necessarily go hand in hand with Zionism). I can think of many many examples of non-Zionist churches and individuals who virulently suspect anything even tinged with charismatic influence.

Calvin L. Smith said...

You seem to be fixated with Moriel, and I think you misrepresent them (in my opinion, they are thoroughly revivalist but reject many of the extremes of the Charismatic m't, as indeed do many Pentecostals/Charismatics).

But one group's stance is scant evidence for suggesting CZs are anti-revival. There is too much evidence of the CZ of classical Pentecostalism (with notable recent exceptions at a scholarly .level) which is also thoroughly revivalist - and yet divided on whether some revivals are genuine or spurious. BTW, restorationism is not classical Pentecostalism, so it doesn't fall into that category. Bryn Jones was influenced by working class/trade union internationalism, hence his support for the Palestinians.

I think attempts to portray CZ as generally anti-revivalist just don't hold water. There are too many Pentecostals in both camps - too much scholarly work exploring both phenomena - to make that leap.

Dissenters said...

Calvin - you obviously missed the place where I said I agreed with you about CZism and revivalism. But have I been unfair to Moriel? Moriel Danny writes this at this link
http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/church-issues/end-times/revival-in-the-last-days#more-7399

"Yes, there is always a faithful remnant. But just as it was in Jeremiah’s time it appears to be getting much, much smaller, and the number of church-goers who are breaking their new covenant relationship with God on every conceivable level in the character of their Old Testament counterparts is actually becoming normative."

This sounds much more like the type of 'Holy Huddle' CZ dispensationalism I left behind than a true respect for the Pentecostal / charismatic movement. I accept there are serious issues to be dealt with in terms of false healing claims, greedy prosperity teaching etc, but let us deal with them as issues, and not reject all modern revivals or undermine the whole of ELIM and AoG as Moriel appear to be doing.

Jacob Prasch also has a new book out 'Shadows of the Beast: How the identity of the coming anti Christ will be revealed to the faithful church' I fear this type of thinking that I have heard from more than one source is engendering a distrustful whispering campaign that will potentially divide Christians, and historically it has been typical of cessationist thinking.

One problem from this conspiratorial thinking is that conspiracy theories can be highly anti-semitic, i.e. www.rense.com that sometimes posts items that blame the Jews for all modern problems. If CZs wish to engage in this sort of conspiratorial writing they may find that it opens a Pandora's box.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Andrew, so we now agree there is no link automatic between CZ and criticism of Charismatic extremes, or that all CZs are cessationist, yes? Just want to clear that up.

Concerning Moriel, you'll need to take it up with them (I don't know Danny). Surprised to see you associate Prasch with cessationism, though. He's thoroughly Pentecostal (and indeed he tends to link cessationism with supercessionism, which directly challenges your earlier thesis).

Leaving CZ, dispensationalism and Moriel aside, surely, though, you're not saying we shouldn't be aware of and challenge heterodoxy or erroneous teaching in the Church? The NT is full of examples of it. Granted, we shouldn't constantly be reactive (2 Tim 3:16-17 details both the proactive and reactive nature of Scripture), which is unedifying, but so is ignoring error.

Dissenters said...

Calvin - yes, on your first question. And on your second question let me also refer you to my previous comments.

I "accept there are serious issues to be dealt with in terms of false healing claims, greedy prosperity teaching etc, but let us deal with them as issues..."

Calvin L. Smith said...

Andrew, so we now agree there is no link automatic between CZ and criticism of Charismatic extremes, or that all CZs are cessationist, yes? Just want to clear that up.

Concerning Moriel, you'll need to take it up with them (I don't know Danny). Surprised to see you associate Prasch with cessationism, though. He's thoroughly Pentecostal (and indeed he tends to link cessationism with supercessionism, which directly challenges your earlier thesis).

Leaving CZ, dispensationalism and Moriel aside, surely, though, you're not saying we shouldn't be aware of and challenge heterodoxy or erroneous teaching in the Church? The NT is full of examples of it. Granted, we shouldn't constantly be reactive (2 Tim 3:16-17 details both the proactive and reactive nature of Scripture), which is unedifying, but so is ignoring error.

Posted 12 May 2011 12.15 pm GMT

Calvin L. Smith said...

(NB recreated after Blogger's loss of data on 11 - 12 May)

Dissenters has left a new comment on your post "Peas in a Pod?":

Calvin - yes, on your first question. And on your second question let me also refer you to my previous comments.

I "accept there are serious issues to be dealt with in terms of false healing claims, greedy prosperity teaching etc, but let us deal with them as issues..."

Posted by Dissenters to Calvin L. Smith at 12 May 2011 14:34:00 GMT+01:00

anastasis said...

I'm afraid I'm rather late to this party - hope everyone hasn't gone home...

There is definitely no link between christian zionism and being critical of the pentecostal/charismatic movements. By the latter I would refer to both the discernment approach (eg Moriel) and the cessationist position.

Two examples that haven't been mentioned:

Stephen Sizer, very anti-CZ but also a conservative evangelical cessationist who was very critical of the Toronto Blessing.

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem - I think this was started by pentecostals and most of their leaders are pentecostals.

It is also worth noting that the ICEJ specifically rejects dispensationalism. This is a good example of the fact that not all CZs (or pentecostals) are dispensationalists.

Moriel actually has a very small following, which is primarily drawn from indepedent brethren-style fellowships. They're not really a mainstream group. You can't really tell this from their website.

Finally, as someone who has been part of the pentecostal and charismatic worlds for 20+ years, I can sadly say that these movements are full of heresy and corruption. The same is true of the modern revivals that they have produced - Toronto, Pensacola, Lakeland, and now Mobile. As has been observed by Calvin and exposed by Derren Brown, they are simply based on mind tricks and other forms of manipulation.