Well, it took a while, but I finally figured it out. Back in my teen years my family got involved with a local charismatic church that felt pretty mainstream. But in the mid-1990s it started to get weird as many in the church—including the leaders—began to imbibe strange new teachings and practices. At the time, it appeared exciting (novelty usually does!) but it was only few years before the kids were all grown up and had left the church to move on in various directions.
But being a part of the craziness is a part of my testimony. It never really leaves you. I believe God was providentially guiding my spiritual experiences during those formative years so I might be helpful to others who have questions about the most recent wave of charismatic belief and practice. The insiders tend to call the place where we’re at now the “Fourth Wave” of the Holy Spirit. It’s all (supposedly) about a God-ordained reestablishment of the offices of apostle and prophet in these last days before Christ’s second coming. They say God is orchestrating a new Apostolic Movement to usher in the conquering, overcoming, glorious kingdom of God.
Outsiders and people like me see things quite differently. For dissenters, the movement has been named “Independent Network Charismatic” or more commonly the “New Apostolic Reformation” (aka: NAR). And in recent years it has become a worldwide movement that is much bigger and more influential than most people (even Christians!) can imagine. Unfortunately there is a dearth of print resources examining and criticizing NAR doctrine, teachers, and practices from an evangelical and biblical perspective. This is why Doug Geivett’s and Holly Pivec’s book A New Apostolic Reformation? (ANAR) is so important. There are a wealth of electronic apologetic resources out there, but sometimes it takes an old fashioned book to make the kind of splash necessary to gain attention. ANAR has helped me tremendously by putting the pieces together to complete the puzzle that was my confusing and painful experience in the charismatic movement.
The authors write with “just the facts, ma’am” prose that is not particularly exciting, but they have done their homework! And when it comes to learning about NAR, it turns out the facts are of supreme importance because NAR it just not on the radar of many Christians. But it should be because no doubt most Christians have come into contact or even been unwittingly influenced by NAR teaching. That’s why ANAR is useful to the average Christian: the book is both an introduction and quite comprehensive in scope. After reading it, you’ll understand:
- What NAR IS
- Its size and influence
- How the movement has gone mainstream in the evangelical subculture
- How the movement’s apostles compare to biblical apostles
- How the movement’s prophets compare to biblical prophets
- How to test NAR apostles and prophets
- Their conception and practice of strategic spiritual warfare compared to biblical spiritual warfare
- Their concept of “apostolic unity” compared to biblical unity
- The movement’s views and teachings on miracles compared to biblical miracles
ANAR also includes a chapter in the appendix on the most prominent NAR networks—information that allows Christians to discern whether local churches are NAR friendly or have gone so far as to sign on as a part of the movement.
One of the facts I was surprised to learn is NAR’s massive size and influence in not only American but across the world. Some content providers on Christian/Religious TV stations such as Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) and God TV are NAR big shots. Churches like IHOP (International House of Prayer) in Kansas City and HRock (flagship of Harvest International Ministry) are movers and shakers in non-denominational evangelical political power centers. Even in my small town, the churches most involved with the annual National Day of Prayer events seem to be heavily influenced by the NAR movement. But that is just stateside. While NAR network hubs exist mainly inside the United States, they also branch into Africa, South America, western Asia, and other corners of the world. The NAR is truly a global phenomenon. For example, what Christian has not heard claims that many African countries are now large-majority Christian? What is usually left unsaid is that many of the Christians and churches in Africa are affiliated (more or less) with NAR. If the church in America has been accurately described as a mile wide and an inch deep, it would be hard to get your feet wet in the shallow Christianity that NAR in Africa fosters. Truly there is a faithful and influential gospel presence in much of Africa, but the unbiblical religious zeal and fervor of NAR on the continent can overwhelm the quieter, institutional, and entrenched church.
In a sense ANAR is a book written for two kinds of people. One, for those curious and uninitiated about NAR. These folks will find the descriptive chapters more useful. The authors give excellent summaries of what is going on in the world of NAR. The second kind of person who will profit from the book is the one somewhat familiar with NAR, has a feeling there is something not quite right about it but can’t put his finger on it, and needs some help in analyzing NAR through the lens of the Bible. These people will find the response chapters are the most useful, where the authors weigh NAR doctrine and practice with biblical and theological scales.
In terms of authorial perspective, I really appreciate who wrote ANAR. Personally, I am no longer a continuationist as refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What I call “soft cessationism” is where I land on the issue. If a cessationist like me wrote a book critiquing NAR, I imagine he would have a difficult time focusing on NAR to the exclusion of standard charismatic and Pentecostal theology. And if I wrote such an exposé, my readers would certainly pick up on my bias. Not so when reading Geivett and Pivec (at least in their ANAR writing). The authors appear to be normal, run-of-the-mill continuationists who nevertheless are able to critique the excesses of NAR without feeling the need to address the charismatic soil from which NAR grew. How is this helpful? They cannot be so easily dismissed by NAR proponents because the critique is friendly fire. It’s been said that NAR is charismatic theology on steroids. According to this analogy, the authors are able to limit their focus to the drug and its effects rather than examining the user. Even though “examining the user” (the charismatic/Pentecostal root) is an important exercise, it would be distracting and counterproductive when NAR in particular is in view. And how is this not-so-helpful? Some of the apologetic reasoning takes for granted certain biblical interpretations as true that are debatable outside of the charismatic world.
So what’s the takeaway? If you or your church encounter a man or woman who claims God is reestablishing the offices of prophet and apostle, then RUN AWAY! Because when the excitement of NAR novelties wears off (and it almost always does), piled high in the wake of spiritual destruction are people who have been spiritually abused, lied to, manipulated, swindled, and abandoned. The apostle Paul (the capital “A” apostle in the Bible) warned of “super-apostles” in his day (2 Cor 11). They are nothing but trouble for the church and for Christians. If you are a pastor or church leader, then your job is to lovingly confront. If you are not in a position to confront, then RUN AWAY! Many a young believer’s faith has not survived an extended encounter with NAR influences. It’s no easy feat to introduce such a vast topic in just over 200 pages. Geivett and Pivec have given the church a great gift.
Weaver Book Company’s official page on the book (includes about section, endorsements, table of contents, etc)
Read chapters 1 & 2 of the book
The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything, by John MacArthur
Spirit of Error: A biblical response to the modern prophets and apostles movement (website)
Apologetics 315 interview with author Doug Geivett:
Pirate Christian Radio interview with author Holly Pivec:
What is the New Apostolic Reformation? (Interview with author Holly Pivec):
Apologetics Index on NAR research resources
Academic Dissertation (54 pages): A critique of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement’s claim that the lost office of ‘apostle’ has been fully restored and should be acknowledged by today’s Church, by Nick Williamson
The Six Hallmarks of a NAR church, by Amy Spreeman
The New Apostolic Reformation and the Theology of Prosperity: The “Kingdom of God” as a Hermeneutical Key, by Martin Ocaña of the Lausanne Movement
Challies.com (review of “God’s Super Apostles” which is an abbreviated book by the same authors)
Michael Wilson (writer, author, blogger, pastor, and former NAR adherent)