What is the New Apostolic Reformation?
Question: "What is the New Apostolic Reformation?"
Answer: The New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, is a loose collection of non-denominational and independent churches rallying around a particular set of biblical interpretations. The New Apostolic Reformation approaches church leadership and biblical interpretation differently from mainstream Protestant denominations. Of particular distinction are the role and power of spiritual leaders, a literalist approach to spiritual warfare, and an overt interest in cultural and political control. Unfortunately, this has led to some unscriptural approaches to faith and spirituality.
Growth in the New Apostolic Reformation is driven primarily through small groups and church planting, often completely independent of a parent congregation. The movement is not centrally controlled, and many of its followers will not self-identify as part of it or even recognize the name. All the same, thousands of churches and millions of believers adhere to the teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation. Popular teachers associated with the New Apostolic Reformation include C. Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, and Kim Clement.
The New Apostolic Reformation teaches that God’s intended form of church governance is apostles and prophets, holding leadership over evangelists, pastors, and teachers. However, this has not been the case for the vast majority of Christian history. So, according to the New Apostolic Reformation, God began to restore prophets and apostles over the last thirty to forty years. Only now, as the church is properly guided by the appropriate spiritual leaders, can it fulfill its commission. This commission is seen as more than spiritual, as it includes cultural and political control.
In the New Apostolic Reformation, apostles are seen as the highest of all spiritual leaders, being specially empowered by God. True maturity and unity, per the New Apostolic Reformation, is only found in those who submit to the leadership of their apostles. According to this teaching, as the church unifies behind the apostles, these leaders will develop greater and greater supernatural powers. Eventually, this will include the ability to perform mass healings and suspend the laws of physics. These signs are meant to encourage a massive wave of converts to Christianity. These apostles are also destined to be recipients of a great wealth transfer (in the end times), which will enable the church to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
Prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation are almost as important as apostles. These people have been empowered to receive “new” revelations from God that will aid the church in establishing dominion. According to the New Apostolic Reformation, only prophets, and occasionally apostles, can obtain new revelations. Evangelists, pastors, and teachers cannot. The prophets’ new revelations are crucial to overcoming the world, and the success of the church depends on the apostles following through on the information prophets provide. Most of their prophecies are extremely vague and easy to re-interpret, and the New Apostolic Reformation is willing to modify them, since they set no standard of infallibility for themselves.
According to New Apostolic thinking, mankind lost its dominion over earth as part of the fall of Adam. So Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross not only resolved our sin debt, but it empowered mankind—specifically, Christians—to retake control of the earth. The New Apostolic Reformation sees seven areas in which believers are supposedly empowered and expected to dominate: government, arts, finances, education, religion, family, and media. Of these, the New Apostolic Reformation sees government as the most important because of its ability to influence all of the other facets of life. As a result, the New Apostolic Reformation overtly encourages Christian control over politics, culture, and business. In some ways, this is nothing unusual, as people should be expected to vote and lobby according to their convictions. The New Apostolic Reformation, however, is often accused of pushing for outright theocracy.
Spiritual warfare, according to the New Apostolic Reformation, is meant to resolve worldly concerns. For example, economic troubles or health problems in a particular city are seen as the result of a demonic spirit’s influence. Prayer, research into the specific name of that demon, and other spiritual disciplines are then applied in an effort to combat this presence. This is necessary not only for the health of the region, but also because the church cannot take “dominion” over that area until the demonic control has been lifted.
Biblically, there are major problems with the New Apostolic Reformation. Claiming that Christians have access to certain spiritual gifts is one thing, but their distinctive approach to the role of apostles and prophets is a stretch from what is found in the Bible. More to the point, the office of apostle requires traits which are impossible today. For example, true apostles must be personal eyewitnesses of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7–8), specifically designated as apostles by Jesus (Galatians 1:1; Acts 1:2; Luke 6:13), and already verified by miraculous signs (Matthew 10:1; 2 Corinthians 12:2; Acts 5:12).
The idea of new revelations from God, especially those that come in the form of vague, easily reinterpreted mysteries, runs counter to the idea of a faith delivered “once for all” to mankind (Jude 1:3). The fact that New Apostolic Reformation prophecies frequently turn out to be false suggests a false spirit behind those predictions (Deuteronomy 18:22).
The same holds true for miracles: the ideological father of the movement, C. Peter Wagner, decreed the end of European Mad Cow disease in 2001—and the disease is still being diagnosed and treated some fourteen years later. The tendency of the New Apostolic Reformation to treat spiritual warfare as a type of Christianized voodoo is not only unbiblical, but dangerous.
Likewise, the emphasis on an earthly kingdom contradicts Jesus’ own declaration that the Kingdom of God was spiritual, not political (John 18:36). It places an unhealthy emphasis on political and worldly approval, rather than Christlike influence.
Though it uses the word new, the New Apostolic Reformation is actually a reworking of a very common, very old approach. Since the beginning of Christianity, various groups have claimed to have a “new revelation” from God to correct all of the errors of the present world. These movements contend that “real” spirituality or maturity or truth is found only by those who listen to their leadership. Some of these sects, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, endure and become religions in their own right. Others fade away.
Much of what the New Apostolic Reformation teaches has at least some basis in Scripture, albeit carried much further than the Bible intends. That, however, still makes those doctrines unbiblical, and Christians should flatly reject the New Apostolic Reformation’s teachings and those who choose to be associated with it.
Recommended Resource: A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement by Geivett & Pivec
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