Seaborn Hall, Common Sense Spiritual Life, 9/21/19, updated 11/16/19
Full disclosure – We attend a church that has recently become a part of Rick Joyner’s Morningstar network. Regardless of what Morningstar may believe, we do not embrace – nor have we ever embraced – what is called ‘New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology’, especially the version spearheaded by Peter Wagner. We especially reject the use of titles and designations. However, we do believe in some of the same tenets as NAR (see the Wikipedia line here), though we might express them differently – and we also have some differences with NAR theology. NAR theology may or may not be what Morningstar Ministries embraces – we do not know.
As my bio shows, I have two theology degrees from conservative seminaries, have studied at the doctoral level and am academically published. I studied the Bible in its original languages for about a decade. I have taught Biblical Greek at the seminary level.
I have always and will always seek to think ‘outside of the box’, and seek to submit myself to Biblical truth in context – and to those who submit themselves to the same – under the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of who my acquaintances or friends are I will always seek to be objective, fair, and forthright in reporting. But, that certainly does not mean that I know the ‘truth’ or don’t miss things – almost everyone I know or have known does at times.
Sites like Berean Research and others (like Master’s Seminary or John MacArthur) who purport to comment on and analyze either Charismatic or Prophetic leaders or NAR theology critically may misrepresent them and oftentimes evaluate the misrepresentation based on their own rigid traditional thinking. For example, most of evangelicalism subscribes to either Dispensational or Progressive Dispensationalist thinking that already disallows the possibility of apostles and prophets in the present era. They will tell you that they do this based on Scripture and they will make specious arguments for their ‘truth.’ These debates have been waged elsewhere in other literature and will not be repeated here (but see our Resources page for some good books in this regard).
Though the criticism waged by most outside voices is specious (plausible, but wrong), there are some valid criticisms of Charismatics and the Prophetic Stream.
Paul Cain And The Prophetic
Almost no one in the ‘prophetic stream’ talks about or has talked about Paul Cain and what happened to the ‘Father of the modern day prophetic’ (And we will tread lightly, for obvious reasons, we hope). This is what Cain was called by those in the charismatic and prophetic ‘stream’ for years.
I have personal knowledge of Cain’s ministry, having heard him many times in person beginning in 1989, having received ministry from him, and having interacted hundreds of times with those who knew him intimately and personally. I met him on more than one occasion. I witnessed him give a prophetic word to one of my best friends – calling him out by name in a group of five thousand people – that was one of the most accurate, high level prophetic words I have ever heard.
I have always found it to be strange that Paul’s ‘fall’ was never spoken about since if the ‘Father’ of anything is compromised or in error it will always show up in the children. To me this is evidence that the prophetic stream has never been good at looking at itself or examining its own ‘narcissism’ or sins. R. Loren Sandford’s 2005 Purifying the Prophetic is one exception – but it was routinely ignored by almost everyone in the prophetic stream except John Paul Jackson, who endorsed it on the back cover.
I always felt strange around Cain – strange in the sense that I always picked up a dark spiritual struggle going on – but ignored it because so many ‘leaders’ and those that I knew or were friends with endorsed him. For years I actually thought the feeling that I had around him reflected a problem within me. There was much confusion and conflict that came in my life as a result.
While doing my doctoral work I taught a class in Beginning Greek and while leading exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14 I endorsed Paul before the class as an example of the gift of prophecy. Three days later he confessed to alcoholism and homosexuality. A firestorm erupted in the class as a result. My inability to discern what was really going on with Cain in time led to a kind of ‘judgment’ on me and those under me.
This does not mean that there was not some good fruit or accurate prophecies that came out of Paul Cain’s ministry, by the way. Or, that Paul should not be honored – he should be, in our opinion (a discourse for another time). Only that the lack of discernment as to the mixture and lack of purity that was apparently going on for years within prophetic leadership led to confusion and judgment within the larger Body of Christ. We offer this an an example of the Biblical truth we will now share.
Why Has CS Featured The Bentley-Joyner Controversy On Our Site?
According to the New Testament, the lack of discernment and error in dispensing justice in the church or Body of Christ can cause leaders to bring judgment on those under them (James 2-3). According to James, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13 NAS95)
What this verse really means is that a leader who fails to exercise and display God’s justice over a congregation brings the whole congregation into judgment. Check the context for yourself, and be sure to read James in its literary and historical context many times before you impose some narrow, traditional meaning on the passage that does not exist – like concluding that the verse supports a ‘grace’, or even hyper-grace, theology. It does not. The ‘mercy’ spoken of in the verse is not ‘grace’ – it is a mercy that treats each person in the church equally and impartially and therefore leads to blessing and an escape from any judgment that might come from showing favoritism.
Judgment will be merciless to the leader (and congregation) who does not dispense justice in the Body of Christ correctly. That is, to the one who shows favoritism in any way, shape or form. If justice is dispensed, then – and only then – will God’s mercy prevail. That is what the verse really means. (Also see, Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment – It Doesn’t Mean What You Think).
It is in this context that we personally feel that the Bentley-Joyner controversy is of the utmost importance and it is one reason that we have featured the controversy on our site. How these issues are handled within the Body Of Christ matters. It matters to the leaders themselves and it matters to all of those who have placed themselves under a leader’s charge.
Idolatry in the church
Instead of showing impartiality, leaders have routinely shown favoritism to those who have money, give more, display more gifting or influence, and the like. The church leadership has bent to giving out premium seats at conferences, bestowing ‘titles,’ and honoring themselves.
Is it any surprise that the prophetic-charismatic stream is mocked in the same way as the Doc Holiday character in the movie Tombstone mocked Ringo’s gun twirling display by twirling his tin cup? (This is our favorite allegorical scene that depicts much of the last 30 years of the ‘prophetic’ which we would describe as no more than dueling tin cups in many respects – we couldn’t resist sharing it). Ironically, it was Paul Cain who prophesied about an anonymous, self-less generation that would reflect Jesus’ true character and works and reject fame and ‘titles.’ Obviously, that is not most of the generation of leaders over the last 30 years. There is an obvious lack of justice in the US government that may or may not be addressed and corrected in the future. But it began with a lack of impartiality and justice in the leadership of the church. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. And, when the salt becomes tasteless, it is useless and only good to be thrown away.
Unfortunately, the church body within the prophetic stream has responded to this failure of leadership with our own idolatry, usually in one of two responses. We have either rebelled and criticized and been forced to leave and go elsewhere outside of the movement, or we have silently submitted without question to a chronic system of abuse. What should our response have been? “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.” (Mal. 3:16 NAS95) We are all guilty for leaving and not speaking – or for staying and not speaking.
How Do We Then Live?
What failing to bend to the idolatry of leaders means on a practical level is that the average body of believers do not cave in to intimidation, threats or pressure and that as those in the larger Body we continue to ‘hold to the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4). This means that we speak the truth in a measured, loving way that refuses to be silenced – but that also refuses to label, attack, hate or rebel. Sarah might be the model here – she submitted to Abraham, but refused to be silent (1 Peter 3:6).
Unfortunately, this may mean that for a time – like Jesus – we are called to suffer ‘outside the camp.’ “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Heb. 13:13 NAS95) If it does, at least we know that we are in good company.
Though we respect all of the leaders seeking to bring sanity and understanding into the Bentley controversy, as noted elsewhere we continue for the present time to side with many of the comments expressed by Powell, Sandford, and Cantor. Some of them are elsewhere linked on this site. Holiness matters, especially in leadership – but most of all there can be no favoritism in discipline. We urge continued prayers for all involved in this controversy and welcome any feedback or comments on this post.
Also see, Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment – It Doesn’t Mean What You Think, Seaborn Hall, Common Sense Spiritual Life