Tonight, I went to one of those pages, posted by a friend on Facebook. The article is intended to discredit Bethel Church, in Redding California.
I'm not going to copy and paste the article here because of space, but, I do want to note what the problems could be. You see, I keep going to these pages finding out what in the world is the beef these people have with this churches and other people they are criticizing.
First of all, I noted that there seems to be a assuredness that it is ok for us to call a church either false, false teachers, heretics, or non-believers. In the article I read tonight, the author said that he or she had prayed about this subject, and does not feel the need to contact Bethel because Bethel is not made up of true believers. Is this right to do? I think not.
Secondly, I notice that there is a foundational belief that is erroneous in these critical people, and that erroneous belief seems to be one of the things they spring out of in supposedly exposing the error of the church they are criticizing. The critical people do not believe there are apostles today, because apostles lived on during Jesus' time on earth and during the early church age. So, if a church such as Bethel is expressing the fruit of the gift to the church of apostleship somewhere, Bethel is in error, according to the critics. Anything that springs out of that action is considered heretical.
But what does the Bible say? In Ephesians 4:11-13, we read these words, penned by Paul to the Ephesian church, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." (ESV))
Here is a passage from 1 Corinthians 12. "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts." (ESV)
Are we going to argue with Scriptures? Are we going to reinterpret them? Just because someone doesn't have the spiritual gifts doesn't give that person the right to make Scripture out as if the gifts no longer exist.
Why do we have the spiritual gifts? The Bible is clear that they are for the edification of the body of Christ. What if a group of professing Christians is using the gifts in a wrong way? Does that invalidate the fact that God gives spiritual gifts today to those who are in the church? In no way does that mean that the spiritual gifts aren't real or genuine.
The Corinthian Church is a perfect example. Paul never said that they should stop using the gifts. Neither did Paul every insinuate that the Corinthians were false converts. He treated them like Christians who were astray. He rebuked them, not for using the spiritual gifts, but for using them in a selfish way. What the Corinthians did was not honoring to God, nor was it benefitting those who were in the church at Corinth. In fact, Paul encouraged them to continue to use the gifts, but he made sure that they used the gifts out of the basis of love (see 1 Corinthians 13).
Also, though there is the gift of apostleship taught by Paul, this gift is not the same thing as the Apostles in the New Testament who knew Jesus personally. There were 12 original Apostles, which had a specific calling and function during a specific time. This fact, in no way, violates the truth that God gives apostles to churches. The two are just not the same thing, although there are some similarities.
Thirdly, when I read these blogs from the critics, they take things out of context. Here is a quote from Vallotton, one of the chief leaders at Bethel. (Note: this is just one of many paragraphs where I see this taking out of context action.)
"We certainly have made our share of mistakes, both as a leadership team and those who follow us. And we have such a high value for freedom and risk that it has created a kind-of research and development culture where people are encouraged to take risks. I think this stems from the fact that we view ourselves much more as pioneers than settlers. Therefore, we celebrate creativity, revelation, invention and innovation above comfort, safety and security.” – Vallotton
Here is the author's response to Vallotton's quote:
"After reading over his comments, I did not laugh nor mock, but more than anything shed tears. It appears that Bethel desperately desires to “mainstream” their church but cannot synthesize Scripture with their ministry. Their words display a desire to be spiritual but it is quite apparent they have no systematic interpretation process for the Scriptures they attempt to use. Therefore, not only are the positions false, they are theologically immature."
Sorry but I don't see the connection, or maybe I just don't understand what this critic is saying in relation to Vallotton's quote. My guess is that Bethel uses 'creativity, revelation, invention, and innovation' and I guess, just maybe, Scripture does not allow for that?
The really big issue I struggle with when reading these critical blogs is that they take the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, and make it into something it is not. For example, if someone uses this gift, even if it is done correctly, these critics will say that it can't be from God because prophecy is adding to Scripture. This makes no sense at all. Yes, prophecy is a revelation gift. God still does reveal Himself to people. God is not silent. He is actively involved in the lives of those who are trusting in Him and they do hear His voice. I know this is uncomfortable for some people to hear because perhaps they do not hear from God and assume He doesn't speak to us today? I don't know, but one thing I see in common in all their criticisms is that they think that those who use the prophetically gifts are adding to Scripture. Scripture is the only revealed word of God and the canon is closed. But if prophecy is adding to Scripture, then there were a lot of people in the early church who were adding to Scripture, but what they received from God never got put into Scripture. (Think of Phillip's 4 daughters, the Corinthians, Timothy, to name a few). If God only gave prophetical words to make up what we have as the Bible today, then a lot of those prophetical words were never canonized.
Here is another quote from Vallotton. I get what he is saying. I will post the critics comment after the quote."A supernatural lifestyle is articulated, demonstrated and replicated by Jesus and the apostles, as well as everyday believers from the book of Matthew to the book of Revelation…Yet some Christians choose to live with less than Jesus paid for, and that is their prerogative…” – Vallotton
Critic's response-"Finally, the statement that, “Some Christians choose to live with less than Jesus paid for” is the quintessential line of a False Prophet. It assumes that there is, “Hierarchy” in faith and that some Christians receive the “In” on God’s blessing while other are “stuck out in the cold of their faithless existence.” It assumes that this leader with the “In” can help others get “In”. Peter explained that it is greed which drives such teaching (2 Peter 2:3, Jude 1:16). To state that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is more meaningful for one than another, based on earthly profit or benefit, is to diminish the very substitute itself. How dare any man say such a thing?"
Does this response make sense? Jesus died for our sins, and we are very grateful for that. When Jesus died, many things were accomplished. For example, Jesus disarmed the powers of darkness when He died. We can now have all the benefits that a son has, with God being our Father. It is not a matter of being 'in' or being higher up spiritually. But, I guess if you believe that God does not give anything else besides salvation, then that would make sense.
I have to believe that there are many who profess faith in Jesus Christ who have no idea how great and powerful God really is. They render themselves powerless and ensure that others who profess faith in Christ are rendered powerless as well. They act like Christian 'Deists' who believe God is really out there, but almost as if He is impersonal.
What is interesting is that these people believe God did wonders in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament as well. I'm sure they believe that God will do many wonders in the future and throughout eternity. But for now, we are living in the 'church age' and God has taken a vacation from being Himself, glorious in power and might. He no longer works in supernatural ways, nor does He perform wonders, at least not through His people today. Does this make sense?
Do churches like Bethel need correction? Absolutely. Any genuine church should be related to other churches. But do you see the problem here? Christian critics will not become related to churches like Bethel, for they do not consider churches like Bethel genuine churches. Bethel either is or isn't a church. If professing Christians decide whether someone is a true believer or not, based on their belief system concerning the use of spiritual gifts today, then we have missed the Gospel. We need to look at our own hearts and see what it is in us that is off. Then we can deal in a better, more effective way with Bethel and other churches that operate like they do.
I could go on and on with examples like this, but I would like to make my blogs a little shorter and more easy to read.
I think Driscoll was right on in his quote (when referring to those who are fans of 'Strange Fire'). He was talking about the 'New Trinity' that seems to be prevalent today. The New Trinity is made up of 'God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible'.
(I am not writing this blog in defense of Bethel. I am writing it in response to the fact that we as believers in Jesus Christ think we are helping the church by 'warning' or 'exposing' people who are evil. But the problem is, we are really just warning and exposing those who we fundamentally disagree with. This is not what the Bible tells us to do. This is not how we handle a situation like Bethel or any of the others who have been criticized recently.)