By Brannon S. Howse
In Religious Trojan Horse, I provide a detailed critique of the movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation, but for the purposes of this discussion, I’ll focus on the movement’s growing—and disturbing—influence in the larger Christian community. Founded by church growth guru C. Peter Wagner in 1993, NAR claims to have installed some 400 to 500 prophets and apostles into ministry. Many of these “apostles” attempt to raise people from the dead, and their “prophets” prophesy. Yet by their own admission, many of them get their prophecies wrong and all have failed to actually bring anyone back to life.
Wagner endorsed a 2005 book by James Rutz called Megashift. Wagner says this about the book:
[quote] Megashift is an upbeat, optimistic, faith-filled look at what God is doing today, and what He will be doing tomorrow and around the world. You cannot afford to miss this book. [end quote]
Megashift claims that millions of people do miracles today and that God has brought hundreds of people back from the dead over the past 15 or 20 years. It’s not surprising that Wagner would promote such a narrative, but what is surprising is that the book has received strong support beyond the NAR constituency. Joe Farah, the founder of worldnetdaily.com, recommended on his website: “If you read one Christian book this year, make it Megashift.”
Farah is not only head of Worldnet Daily, that many evangelicals and conservative Christians rely on for news, he has also been a featured speaker for events sponsored by Discernment Ministries. I fear it is a sign of the times that such people have become so undiscerning.
Even the long-time evangelical mainstay Christianity Today seems to lack the ability to fully sort this out. The May 2012 cover features Heidi Baker, a missionary in Mozambique who claims that scores of people there have been raised from the dead. She has also supposedly healed deaf children and seen food multiplied supernaturally—all of which is affirmed in the CT article.
The New Apostolic Reformation and related Word of Faith teachers are working hard to make sure their vision for signs and wonders takes hold in the younger generation as well. Bethel Church in Redding, California offers its School of Prophecy to train young people in signs and wonders, including raising the dead. One of the school’s videos teaches:
[quote] The miraculous should just be a common, everyday thing in life. Because if Jesus said to follow Him, and to do the things He did, a lot of people look at that as like it’s just—you know, like just to try to not do bad things, and to pray, and to do that. It seems like it’s almost ignored that Jesus did miracles all the time, and He healed the sick, and He raised the dead. And then if He said to follow Me, it would probably be what He was saying is also to do the same miracles that He did and to walk in the same way He did, and it should just be a common thing in our life, even though it’s not seen that way by most Christians. [end quote]
This is the Word of Faith’s take on the “greater things” we’re supposedly told by Jesus to do. But, again, the context of John 14:12 reveals a different story. Here’s what Jesus says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Jesus is talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains that He will leave, and the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—will come and that the disciples will do great works. Jesus is speaking to men who will become His apostles, not to us. The Holy Spirit led these apostles to write the New Testament portion of the Word of God. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, these same men fulfilled the Great Commission, and in doing so, they preached to far more people and saw more people come to true salvation than Jesus did while He was on earth. Jesus had traveled in only a small area, while the disciples preached in other continents.
In Your Dreams—Not
Unfortunately, the “greater works” myths afoot these days extend beyond healings and raising people from the dead. On his Southern View Chapel website, Pastor Gary Gilley reprints an excellent 2008 article by Richard Fisher entitled “Don’t You Believe It.” The article outlines a torrent of spurious claims made by “Christians” in recent decades:
[quote] Some will remember John Todd who toured churches, telling of his key role in the illuminati organization, which he said wanted to take over the world. Others will recall Mel Tari’s fake Indonesian revival. Mike Warnke fooled the public for years with his story of being a satanic high priest. The story of Crying Wind, the poor Indian girl from a Kickapoo reservation turned out to be all fiction. Moody Press was flummoxed as Crying Wind was revealed to be hot air. Rebecca Brown was exposed as a deluded drug addict who lost her medical license. Her bogus battles with Satan were all produced by her wild imagination and drug usage. Lauren Stratford claimed to have been a breeder for satanic baby sacrifices. She was exposed as a habitual liar and pathological attention-seeker. Later, she changed her image and claimed to be a Jewish survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. [end quote]
And of more recent phenomena, he explains:
[quote] ...some years ago when a Charismatic ministry in Israel headed by Gerald Derstine was hoodwinked by Muslim Arab villagers in Israel. The attention and perks were too much for the villagers to resist and so they fabricated tales of appearances by Jesus, complete with miracles. It all turned out to be nonsense. David Sisler reported in the Sept. 16, 1995, Augusta Chronicle:
For seven years Derstine inspired his followers with sensational accounts of miracles, mass conversions and subsequent martyrdoms among Arab Muslims in Israel and the West Bank. Supporters contributed almost $3 million last year alone, including $500,000 for the “First Church of the Martyrs,” a structure which would give shelter to the widows and children of some 35 new believers violently killed for leaving Islam. Derstine’s regional ministry leader now acknowledges that there were no martyrs and no sincere Muslim converts associated with the ministry. The reports were all fabricated. In one pamphlet published by Gospel Crusade, Mohammed Rawidan, the ministry’s first “convert” claimed that the body of a martyred infant turned into dust in his hands, and then into a large white bird, which flew to heaven. A copy of the infant’s death certificate showed she had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and was buried. In the light of these and other revelations, Gospel Crusade suspended two top officials and withdrew from circulation literature, videotapes and the religious best-seller, “Fire Over Israel.” Evangelical leaders in Israel repeatedly warned Derstine that the reports were false, but Derstine said he published the reports “without any inkling it was (all) a lie.” [end quote]
The Richard Fisher article shared by Gilley presents further insight into the questionable reports:
[quote] Snopes.com is a web site devoted to tracking internet claims and myths. Snopes looked into “Buried Treasures,” a story coming from Egypt where a Muslim man supposedly killed his wife and buried her. The report adds that he also buried alive his infant baby and 8-year-old daughter in the grave. Then, as the story goes, they were compacted under perhaps a ton of sand. Two weeks later another family member died. When they opened the family grave to bury him, they found the little girls under the sand alive. When the 8-year-old was asked how she survived for two weeks under the sand, she said, “A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister.”
The story goes on to say that the little girl was interviewed on Egyptian television, and the Muslim woman news anchor acknowledged that this truly was Jesus and that He was indeed crucified—a fact that most Muslims deny. We are left to believe that she made this statement and suffered no repercussions. The broadcast supposedly aired in 2004, but no one reports seeing it. The story has surfaced as “Murder Miracle in Egypt,” “News from Egypt,” and “Miracle in Egypt” during the past three years.
Rich Buhler operates a Christian web site on which he monitors e-hoaxes and validates any that can be authenticated. On his web site (truthorfiction.com), Buhler labels the “Miracle in Egypt?” story an “eRumor.” He says that some versions say the story was reported in an Egyptian newspaper. However, no one can produce the paper. Buhler adds, “There is no substantiation for this story. We have not found any evidence of a Muslim man who killed his wife and buried his children alive with her. It has all the evidence of being a fabricated story.” [end quote]
The article then draws this conclusion:
[quote] There is a pattern here, and it’s that every time a Muslim miracle story is checked out, it turns out to be a hoax. [end quote]
We rejoice that Muslims in these days are coming to Christ, and while God can move among them in any way He sovereignly chooses, clearly we should be skeptical of people claiming signs and wonders, raising the dead, and appearances of angels. Any account that claims an extra-biblical revelation of the Gospel that brings someone to Christ is false. True conversion happens only when someone grasps the truth of Christ as revealed uniquely through the written Word of God, acknowledges his or her need for repentance, and accepts Christ as Savior and Lord. The idea that angels appear to people, preach the Gospel, bring the person directly to salvation simply is not biblical. It goes against Paul’s teaching in Romans 10:14, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” The preacher, he says, must be sent because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (10:17). Many of these stories do not fit what the Bible tells us is the path to conversion.
Numerous Pennies for Their Thoughts
Although purveyors of raise-the-dead teachings and other versions of signs and wonders claim a leading from God, I believe the bottom-line motivation for many of them is far less honorable. By promoting their non-biblical agendas, these people sell a lot of books, tickets to their conferences, and DVDs of their teachings. Many get paid large sums of money to spread their stories to gullible audiences. They have succumbed to the lure of money and fame from having a following of their own.
The Bible warns us to be careful of fables people make up to lead believers astray. In Acts 20:29-30, for instance, we are cautioned that men will rise from within, “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” We’re also warned elsewhere to beware of false prophets and apostles.
People who claim to raise the dead (or try to) are clearly false apostles and false prophets, the very kind Jesus warned would increase as a sign of His second coming. So be on guard, and do not fall for teachings in which Scripture is taken out of context to convince you of something that is unbiblical.
Copyright 2016 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.