New Apostles or Old Heresy? An Orthodox Perspective on the New Apostolic Reformation

 

New "Apostle" Cindy Jacob
New “Apostle” Cindy Jacob

I was recently asked to help organize a memorial service for a mutual friend.  When I was told that the “Apostle Johnson” would be doing the service, I didn’t know quite what to make of it.  I knew of the Apostle Paul who traveled around the Roman Empire planting churches and writing authoritative epistles that churches were obligated to follow.  The Apostle Peter was the fisherman who made the famous confession: “Thou art the Christ” and later founded the Church in Rome.  Was this modern day “apostle” like the original Apostles?  Can there be such a thing as a modern day Apostle?

Protestantism is known for its incredible variety of churches, doctrines, and worship styles.  It can be divided into several streams: (1) mainstream churches that have some connection with historic Christianity, (2) Evangelicalism which emphasizes the Bible and being born again, (3) Pentecostalism which emphasizes the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and signs and wonders, and (4) more recently, the New Apostolic Reformation.

C. Peter Wagner, a retired Fuller Seminary professor, wrote extensively about this new movement.  He coined the name “New Apostolic Reformation” to describe a trend taking place among African Independent churches, the house church movement in China, and Pentecostal churches in Latin America.  He sees all this as part of the ongoing development of new wineskins in church history.  “Every time Jesus began building His Church in a new way throughout history, He provided new wineskins.”

Pentecostalism began in the early 1900s teaching the restoration of healing gifts, miracles, and the gift of tongues.  This created controversy among Protestants who believed that these gifts ceased with the passing of the original Apostles.  Also, where traditional Protestants put the emphasis on the Bible, Pentecostals place emphasis on the Holy Spirit.  More recently, there emerged a new teaching that God is restoring the lost offices of church governance, namely the office of prophet and apostle.

The claim for the restoration of the offices of prophet and apostle is significant.  The office of pastor and teacher is based upon the careful study of the Bible.  There is a certain amount of equality and accountability with the Bible teacher.  If one disagrees with the teacher, both sides can study together what the Bible passage says.  But how does one respond to: “The Lord told me to do this” or “Thus says the Lord….”?  Unless one can claim a similar direct link to the Holy Spirit, how can one challenge this?  One runs the risk of defying the direct will of God or worse yet submitting to spiritual deception.  The risk in the restoration of the governing ministries is that church authority affects doctrine, worship, and ultimately our relationship with God.

Professor Wagner noticed that many of the New Apostolic Reformation churches are experiencing rapid growth.  They have lively worship services full of dedicated members and are engaged in a wide array of ministries.  Wagner views this new trend positively.  He believes that church history is a story of constant change in which God uses different wineskins (church structures) for different time periods.  He notes that where traditional churches are stuck in the past, these new churches are future oriented.  But in his description and analysis of the New Apostolic Reformation churches he neglected to say how these churches maintain moral accountability and how they would be able to maintain right doctrine and not go veering off into heresy.  What safeguards are in place to ensure that these new churches would not end up becoming bizarre cults under the thrall of an out of control leader?

 

Apostolic Tradition

The New Apostolic Reformation movement is essentially an off shoot of the Protestant Reformation and as such is based upon the errors of Protestantism.  Protestantism teaches that all we need for being a Christian is the Bible alone.  This teaching is erroneous.  There are passages that teach the divine inspiration of Scripture, the divine authority of Scripture, and inerrancy of Scripture, but nowhere does the Bible teach “the Bible alone.”  Another problem with the Protestant doctrine of “the Bible alone” is the question of how we understand and interpret the Bible.  Many times the “Bible alone” has resulted in churches and fellowships being built around the personal interpretation of a pastor.  So long as the minister up on stage has a Bible in his hand and swears that the Bible is the word of God then it is assumed that what he is teaching must be theologically sound even if it sounds new and different.

The Orthodox Church takes a more biblical approach.  It follows Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.  (II Thessalonians 2:15)

Here we see two kinds of traditions: oral and written; both are important to the Christian faith.  Like the Thessalonians we are called to hold on to and take our stand on the apostolic tradition in both forms.  C. Peter Wagner says nothing about apostolic tradition.  For him tradition and being traditional means being stuck in the past.  It seems that Wagner is more concerned about moving on, moving ahead to something new.  But this is not what we find in the Apostle Paul.

In the last days of his life Paul wrote to Timothy several letters.  Timothy was his student, assistant, and his successor in ministry.  In II Timothy 1:13-14 Paul wrote:

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  (NKJV)

Paul is intent that his message be passed intact on to future generations.  We see this in II Timothy 2:2:

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  (NKJV)

It is important that we understand what is going on here.  We are not reading about a typical ordination to the pastorate of a local church.  What Paul has in mind here is something akin to the continuing of the apostolic ministry.  This special ministry involves the planting of new churches and the supervision of a network of local churches.  Here Paul is laying the biblical basis for the office of the bishop.

Church government in the early church was episcopal — under the rule of the bishop, the successor to the apostles.  It was not congregational – where each local church was autonomous.  Nor was it presbyterian – where a local network of churches would come together to decide matters of faith and practice.  It was episcopal because this was the practice of the apostles and the early church.  Doctrine was not decided on by the local churches; it was received through a chain of apostolic tradition.  This way the Christians were assured that what they believed was the true teaching of Christ.

As the early church spread across the vast Roman Empire it remained unified in doctrine, worship, and leadership.  Irenaeus of Lyons, who lived in the second century, wrote:

Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house.  She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth.

One could not be a Christian apart from belonging to the Church.  In the early Church there was no such thing as an independent Christian.  Nor was there such a thing as a Protestant Christian who relied solely on the Bible for guidance in faith and practice.  This high view of the Church is rooted in Scripture.  Paul wrote:

…I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.  (II Timothy 3:15, NKJV)

For the past two thousand years the Orthodox Church has faithfully guarded the Apostolic Tradition that Paul passed on to Timothy.  For this reason the Orthodox Church today looks very much like the early church described in the historical records.  But when Evangelicals and Protestants study the early church they find themselves looking at a church so unlike theirs.

 

The Fall of the Church Theory

One fundamental premise for Protestantism is the belief that somewhere along the way the early Church left the apostolic teachings and became corrupt and worldly.  This is known as the fall of the church theory.  The problem with this theory is that no one has been able to pin point the time and place of this crucial transition.  No serious church historian teaches the fall of the church.  This view is largely held by those with limited theological education.

The early church shared a common faith for the first millennium.  Then in 1054 the Church of Rome broke off ties with the Churches of the East.  This break came to be known as the Great Schism.  Following that tragic event, the Roman Church began to evolve in ways while the Eastern Churches remained unchanged.  As the Roman Church moved further and further away from its historical roots, doctrinal innovations began to emerge that would trigger the Protestant Reformation.  Where Orthodoxy was deeply troubled by the innovations of the Roman Catholic Church, it was even more disturbed by Protestant innovations.  Despite the Protestant claims to be a reformed church and much like the early church, Orthodoxy would have none of that.  It has charitably labeled Protestants heterodox or more bluntly heretical.

Protestantism is based upon an ongoing quest for the true church.  There is the belief that the church must continually undergo reformation.  C. Peter Wagner understood church history to be very fluid and evolving, that God builds his in different ways using different kinds of wineskins for each period.  He sees the New Apostolic Reformation as the latest stage of church development.  But for the Orthodox there are features of the New Apostolic Reformation that resembles the old heresies that the Orthodox Church combated in her early days.

 

An Old Heresy?

One of the earliest heresies was the heresy of Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believed that physical matter was inferior to the spirit realm.  They did not outright reject the church or the bishops but believed that they possessed a secret superior knowledge (gnosis).  They believed that because the bishops’ teaching authority rested on the institutional authority it was inferior to theirs which was based on divine illumination by the Holy Spirit and by a secret esoteric theology.

One must be careful when comparing the New Apostolic Reformation movement with ancient Gnostic heresy.  From what I’ve read in C. Peter Wagner many of the New Apostolic Reformation church leaders have not gone to the extreme of denying the Incarnation.  But it appears to me that Gnostic ideas do influence the way they understand the church, church authority, worship, and doctrine.

One of the basic Gnostic beliefs is a dualism that makes the physical and institutional inferior to the spiritual.  This is especially evident in the way Protestants and the New Apostolic Reformation movement view the capital “C” Church.  Orthodoxy believes that the one true Church is a visible Church evidenced by the local church gathered around the Eucharist, the confession of the Creed, and the office of the bishop.  Protestants and the New Apostolic Reformation followers believe that all these are non-essential externals.  They believe that the capital “C” Church is the invisible church.  For them the outward form does not matter as much as the inward faith in Christ.

The New Apostolic Reformation churches claim to have restored the ministries of the prophets and apostles.  But it seems that their new apostles come out of nowhere.  They make no claim to being part of a historic chain of succession.  They claim to be apostles because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit and because of this anointing they have authority over churches.  However, it must be kept in mind that even in Paul’s time there was the danger of false apostles (see II Corinthians 10-12).  In the early Church one could not just say, ‘The Lord has called me to be an apostle.’  The apostolic ministry was a foundational ministry; it was based upon having been in Jesus’ company, hearing him teach, and being a witness to the risen Christ.  None of the new apostles can make this claim as Jesus’ earthly life and ministry took place two thousand years ago.

The Orthodox Church rests upon a chain of Apostolic Tradition received by the bishops from their predecessors.  Apostolic succession in Orthodoxy is not done in secret.  One of the clergy is selected and elevated to the office of the bishop.  The elevation of the priest to the office of bishop is a public event.  Irenaeus of Lyons wrote:

The tradition of the apostles, made clear in all the world, can be clearly seen in every church by those who wish to behold the truth.  We can enumerate those who were established by the apostles as bishops in the churches, and their successors down to our time, none of whom taught or thought of anything like their [the Gnostics] mad ideas (AH 3.3.1, Richardson 1970:371).

A modern person can laugh at the idea that the Orthodox Church keeps a list of bishops that goes back to the original Apostles, but why are they laughing?  Is it because they find the idea of lists and institutional order inferior to the exciting new apostle they just heard at a mass rally?  A rally full of lively music and stirring preaching may be emotionally fulfilling but is this the truth?  Truth is not based on feelings but on fact.

There is a crisis of truth in contemporary Protestantism.  For many Christians a church or teaching is true because: ‘I can feel it inside me’ or ‘I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me’ or ‘I felt convicted by the Spirit.’  Orthodox Truth is based upon the historicity of the Incarnation.  The Orthodox Church is committed to keeping the Apostolic Tradition without change until the Second Coming of Christ.

So, if an Orthodox Christian were to meet one of the so-called new apostles, his response would be: (1) that there is only one holy catholic and apostolic church and that church is the Orthodox Church, (2) his bishop is a true successor to the original Apostles, and (3) unless one is in communion with the Orthodox Church one is outside the true Church.  Outside of this chain of apostolic succession there can be no apostolic ministry.  The original Apostles laid the foundations in the first century and the Orthodox Church has been faithfully building on that foundation for the past two millennia.  What the so-called New Apostles are attempting to do is to create another church, not return to the original church.  Because these so-called new apostles are false those who follow their teachings are susceptible to heresy and spiritual deception.

 

Another Old Heresy?

Another early heresy was the Montanist heresy.  This group was also known as the “New Prophecy.”   Montanus, a convert to Christianity in the second century, believed that he was a prophet of God.  He taught that the Second Coming was about to happen and that this was signaled by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The Montanist movement practiced speaking in tongues and prophetic utterances.  In response to the growing formalization of the church Montanus and his followers sought to emphasize the spiritual aspects of Christianity.  They believed that they were the elite ‘spiritual’ Christians and would be part of the New Jerusalem.  Where the orthodox bishops interpreted Scripture based upon a tradition received from the Apostles, the Montanists relied on prophetic utterances from the Holy Spirit believing that these cleared up ambiguities in Scripture.  Thus, the Montanist prophets presented a teaching authority independent of the bishops.  It also threatened to move the early Church from a teaching authority based on apostolic tradition to one based on prophetic utterances and visions.

 

An Eastern Orthodox Response

It appears that the New Apostolic Reformation movement encourages new prophetic teachings independent of the historic Church.  Having no anchor in the history and tradition of the Church, they are at risk of drifting into false teachings.  Another weakness is that more emphasis is given to self-fulfillment than to holy living and denying the passions of the flesh.  One of the biggest draw of the New Apostolic Reformation church services is that they are packed with people, lively praise music, and stirring Bible teachings.  People leave these services on a spiritual high.  But is that the purpose of Christian worship?  Where is the call to repentance and holy living?

The preaching of the forgiveness of sins detached from the call to repentance and to holy living is a serious distortion of the Good News of Christ.  At the heart of the Gospel and Christian discipleship is the Cross.  Jesus said:

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  (Matthew 16:24-25, NKJV)

True Christianity is about truth; it is not about what makes me feel good.  True Christianity is also about Christ dying on the Cross and our dying with him.  Only in dying with Christ will we become sharers in his resurrection.  The kingdom of God is based upon the true teachings of Christ.  It is open to investigation and study.  The Orthodox Church has a historic link that goes back to the original Apostles.  This is something that neither the Protestants, the Evangelicals, the Pentecostals, nor the New Apostolic Reformation can claim.  In response to the Gnostic heretics, Irenaeus presented the true Gnosis (Knowledge) that is in Christianity:

This is true Gnosis: the teaching of the apostles, and the ancient institution of the church, spread throughout the entire world, and the distinctive mark of the body of Christ in accordance with the succession of bishops, to whom the apostles entrusted each local church, and the unfeigned preservation, coming down to us, of the scriptures, with a complete collection allowing for neither addition nor subtraction, a reading without falsification and, in conformity with the scriptures, so interpretation that is legitimate, careful, without danger of blasphemy (AH 4.33.8, Grant 1997:161).  

 

Conclusion: Broken Wineskins and Spiritual Drunkenness

Charismatic Worship
Charismatic Worship

The other problem is that of spiritual drunkenness.  Many people are drawn to the New Apostolic Reformation churches because they provide powerful worship experiences.  Oftentimes Pentecostals and charismatics describe worship in terms of getting high on God.  But there is a danger here of becoming dependent on spiritual highs.  What happens when one no longer gets a spiritual high in worship?  What happens when one enters into a spiritual desert?  In the story of the Prodigal Son the younger son left home and had a great time spending his inheritance money.  The good times lasted only so long then famine struck and he was reduced to extreme poverty.  When he hit rock bottom, he came to himself and realized that he needed to go back home.  Many people in the New Apostolic Reformation are having a great time right now and have no interest in Orthodoxy but when they get tired of the superficiality of charismatic worship or when they can’t get the spiritual highs like before the time may come for them to consider the Orthodox Church.

Orthodox Worship

Many charismatics won’t enjoy Orthodox liturgy the first time; this is much like an alcoholic drinking clean water after drinking from the bottle for a long time.  Unlike charismatic worship which emphasizes spiritual high, Orthodox worship emphasizes spiritual sobriety.  The soberness of Orthodox worship brings clarity and stillness of spirit that leads to spiritual wisdom and transformation.  “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Robert Arakaki

 

 

 

References

AH = Adversus Haeresis “Against the Heretics” by Irenaeus of Lyons.

Robert M. Grant, trans. 1997.  Irenaeus of Lyons.  London and New York: Routledge.

Wagner, C. Peter.  2009.  “C. Peter Wagner Explains the New Apostolic Reformation.”  Talk To Action: Reclaiming Citizenship History and Faith.  By Bruce Wilson.  http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/5/28/19033/8502  Visited 20 December 2011.

 

28 comments:

  1. Several years ago a friend who happens to be a Mormon gave me the book “The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration” to read. As I read the book I went to many of the sources the author cited and most were taken out of context and twisted to fit the authors thesis. It was the process of reading the early church fathers to check the authors citations which started me down the road to becoming Orthodox. Glory to God!

  2. Robert,

    Concerning the “common faith of the first millennium”: I’ve read somewhere in the Orthodox blogosphere (my apologies, but I cannot remember where) and remember from my Medieval Church History class that many consider the Carolingian controversies to be more important than the actual split of 1054. That is, Charlemagne and his theologians were behind the eventuality of the Great Schism. I’d love to hear your take on that. Obviously, the Church would have still had a common faith for 800 years.

    Russ

    1. Russ,

      Great point! Please keep in mind that whenever I refer to 1054 as the date of the Great Schism, I’m simplifying church history. I often do this for the sake of moving the discussion along. I think your professor has a point when he or she pointed to the Carolingian controversy as an important factor in the West-East divergence. My response is how does this tie in with North Africa’s (Augustine of Hippo) influence on Latin Theology which gave it a flavor and tone distinct from the Greek speaking East?

      However, these are academic issues. From the standpoint of an Orthodox Christian, I would note that the unity of the Faith between East and West continued unimpaired until the Bishop of Rome inserted the Filioque into the Nicene Creed shortly before 1054 and the Bishop of Rome broke from the Pentarchy (the five ancient patriarchates recognized by the Ecumenical Councils) shortly 1054.

      Robert

      1. Robert,

        Thanks for the clarification. I was actually talking to a fellow Church member today about the influence of Augustinianism on “alone-ism” (Scripture alone, Grace alone, etc.), especially how some folks seem to label any activity by the Christian as “Pelagianism.” Often it seems that faith and works are caught in a false dialectic.

        Russ

      2. 1: Robert- excellent and (as usual) a perceptive article, followed by great responses to Russ.

        2: Russ – great interaction and commentary on Latin history.

        Robert,

        Can I muddy the waters on the E-W Schism just a little further. And move the E-W divergence back even further? I refer, of course to Tertullian of Carthage – a place somewhat familiar to Augustine of Hippo.

        May I also refer to Pelagius in the context of the apparent “success” of Protestantism – as referred-to above.

        Tertullian:

        Tertullian illegitimately reinterpreted the Hebrew “tsadaq” in terms of the Latin “jus” (rendered in Greek as dikaiousune). Whilst the Greeks were affected by this nonsense, the effect was far greater in the Latin West.

        And so here we are talking about as fundamental matter as a divergence in soteriology. It was upon Tertullian’s “jus” that Augustine of Hippo built his divergent “forensic” concept of soteriology – a matter which divided the Romans from the Protestants at the Western “Reformation” (infused vs imparted).

        Since the East had a different soteriology, it did not have this as a fissiparous issue to generate schism.

        Pelagius:

        So far as I can ascertain, the Greek East had vaguely less of a problem with Pelagius than did the Latin West.

        What so worried the Papal Latin West about Pelagius was not (!) soteriology but clerical ecclesiology.

        If one can find one’s salvation directly with God, and independent of the Church’s official hierarchy – as Pelagius was asserting (on the basis of his inheritance from St Joseph of Arimathea) , then all clerical monopolies (such as with the serving of Liturgies and the dispensing of Sacraments – including especially the Eucharist) are destroyed forever.

        Both East and West in the Roman Church responded to Pelagius differently.

        The East affirmed certain elements of Pelagian soteriology as legitimate within the doctrine of Theosis and Divine-human synergy. And so the threat to clericalism within Pelagianism was virtually sidelined.

        The West focussed mainly on the threat to clericalism and the loss of clerical monopolies – thus laying the foundation for the centralising Erastianism of the Carolingian era.

        Under the pretext and superficial war-cry of “unsound” soteriology (which elements of Pelagianism most certainly were), Germanic Trier (the HQ of Latin opposition to Pelagius) not only attacked British soteriology (Pelagius was the Welsh Morgan), but laid the political-ecclesial foundation for the “Drang nach Osten” of the Roman missionaries into Slav territory evangelised by SS Cyril & Methodius.

        [Had Pelagian ecclesiology succeded, neither branches of the Roman Church: Eastern or Western (pace Romanides), would have been able to (1) use access to the Eucharist as a pawn in Clergy-Lay “power-politics” relations {those clergy trying this on would have been sidelined as having NO laity to which they could supply the Eucharist}, and (2) use compulsory attendance at the Confessional (again as a “political” tool in Clergy-Lay “power-politics” relations ) as a prerequisite for access to the Eucharist.]

        It is on this issue (of Roman Sacramental “power-politics”) that given the Protestants (such as these New Apostolic Movements) most plausibility in their attack against Roman (E&W) Sacramental ecclesiology – as evidenced in this newfangled Protestant innovation so rightly critiqued by Robert.

        Rome has, de-facto, dropped most of these “power politics” through Canon-Law laziness (by not enforcing what laws are on its books) and has, de-facto, neutralised this Protestant charge.

        If it enforced the clericalism attacked by Pelagius (as it could well do, enforcing its Code of Canon Law if it had the nerve to do so), less than 1 in 10,000 (possibly less than 1 in 100,000) would keep going to a Roman Catholic Church. And the Roman Church would collapse on this issue alone inside 12 months.

        Orthodoxy can only rebut this Protestant challenge by applying the contemporary Roman practice (by formal Church Council resolutions & not the lazy way of Rome) of (1) providing less that 0.001% challenge to Eucharistic Access by the Faithful; and (2) decoupling attendance at the Confessional as *the* prerequisite for receiving the Eucharist.

        I trust that this little excursus has broadened the scope of the exercise beyond a pure mechanical “apostolic succession” discussion into the field of praxis as well.

        And so, Robert, whilst acknowledging your good response to Russ, when did the “Great Schism” really take place? Was it not, therefore, a series of little steps dating back even to before Constantine, rather than a huge leap (as in the 1054 date)?!

        1. John,

          1.) I could be wrong, but I always thought Saint Augustine advocated infused Righteousness in regards to the issue of Justification? Also, where did Tertullian and Saint Augustine teach a “forensic” concept of Justification? Did Tertullian or Saint Augustine totally abandon a therapeutic understanding of soteriology? If not then why start with Tertullian? Especially when both East and West make use of him? We would acknowledge that since he(Tertullian) was a lawyer that he made use of legal terms to describe things, which was forever there after cemented in the western tradition. But like I said, since both East and West make use of him, why start with him? The Christian East didn’t have Saint Augustine’s writings for many centuries and he was one of thee key influential figures in the christian west, and so why not start with him?

          2.) We(EO) may not follow Tertullian on everything, but we also follow Tertullians thought on many issues. The same is true with us and Saint Cyprian. Well, even more so with Saint Cyprian. And so it’s not like we don’t follow the thought of western christian writers, we do. We just don’t follow Saint Augustine as much as the west does. Also, the west, with Tertullian and Saint Augustine included also believed in a form of Theosis. And so both East and West believed in that.

          3.) Our(EO) understanding of death, corruption, and pre-fall / post-fall man and the necessity of grace is different from that of Pelagianism. If anything, you should look at the monks in southern Gaul, as well as to Saint Jerome, and Saint Vincent of Lerins for they were alot closer to the Christian East in thought than both Pelagius and Saint Augustine.

          Regardless of how early the seeds of the divergence began, both East and West made it work for centuries. Yes, both East and West were in and out of communion many times before the 9th century and yes both East and West weren’t 100%ly fully out of communion in 1054A.D. too. For Rome was still in communion with the other Patriarchs. It took a little more time for Rome to schism with them as well. This is one of the reasons why the sack of Constantinople during the time of the Crusades was seen as a serious blow to re-union. Another serious blow were the Northern Crusades in northern Europe.

          1. Jnorm (& possibly others),

            Thanks for a good response. I suspected that it would eventually flush out a “unity of the Imperial Church” line of logic. However . . .

            We still have two major problems to face: the Imperial Roman Church never fully or successfully responded to either (1) Marcion, or (2) Montanus.

            The first was taking Paul’s “independence-from-synagogue” line of teaching to its logical conclusion.

            The second was a reaction to the encroaching Pauline-clericalism that was subverting the Church from within, and of a reassertion of the legitimacy of the Charisms of the Spirit.

            We mus ALWAYS remember that Paul’s appeal to “tradition” was only to his own “tradition”, and not that of the Arimathean Jerusalem-Central – pace the near parting-of-the-ways at the Acts 15 Council. (And so we must be ultra-cautious in quoting Paul on “tradition” – we run the risk of being heretical in terms of the operating ecclesiology of Jerusalem-Central (& thus the British Church) – which was nowhere as bishop-centred; with the charism of bishop being totally separate from the charisms of both Teaching and Church Administration / Leadership!)

            Marcion was merely taking an exclusivist Pauline ecclesiology to its logical end-point – in repudiating anything the “parent” of Judaism (& hence Jerusalem-Central) had given to the Church.

            Montanus, whilst correctly identifying the Pauline errors inherent in Marcion, gave an equal-but-opposite heretical response.

            The failure of the “moderate Marcionite” faction to successfully deal with the issues related with the break with the synagogue led them to an increasingly “tradition”-based approach which led to (a) an unacceptable clericalism and (b) an illegitimate “pauline-centric” hermeneutic.

            Montanus was concerned by the obscene “tradition-based” approach by Marcion, which came at the expense of the operating Charisms of the Spirit – ironically spelt out by Paul himself.

            This only aggravated the problem in the “moderate Marcionites” who stressed even more heretically the importance of tactile descent (ie “apostolic succession) from “the 12” (but in fact the Pauline “traditions” in the name of the 12 – with Paul being touted as the true “12th”, rather than Matthias).

            This was at the expense of the Johannine-Arimathean “Tradition” from Jerusalem-Central which had its twin axis in both Israel and Britain.

            This “moderate Marcionite” faction was ultimately absorbed by Constantine as the Official Imperial Roman Church, and as they say in the movies, the rest is history.

            Robert has correctly identified problems in these “New Apostolic Movements”, as so named by Wagner as merely a revival of Montanism, but, unable to escape the Constantinian Imperial Roman Church phromena in terms of ecclesiology has fallen into Marcionite error of ultra-clericalism with an unacceptably high level of dependence on a bishop-centred, tactile “apostolic succession” and “apostolic tradition” as his response.

            It is here that the gentile “bloodline” approach of the British Isles (pace Joseph of Arimathea etc) has proven successful in avoiding the clericalism of the Roman Empire. On this note, we must observe that southern France was always closer to the British Isles than it was to the Pauline orbit. And the Imperial Roman Church has done a lot of spin in relation to Irenaeus and his alleged concord with Paul – if only to play politics posthumously with his writings.

            And this repudiation of the heretical Imperial Roman obsession with a Pauline version of”apostolic succession” and “tradition” – as evidenced in the success of these mostly British-originated “New Apostolic Movements” as well as their warming to Montanism – which is the real underlying issue, remains awaiting a competent response.

            Once again, Jnorm, thank you for taking the time to address my concerns.

  3. Great article and with pictures, too! I think, Robert, that you should do the same with all the articles you wrote in the past until now and they are not already posted here. I have already made a collection of them for myself and for offering them to others to read, but it would be great if they would be all here for everybody to refer to them. Thank you for your work!

      1. Thank you, David, but in the archive of this blog there are not all the materials written by Robert I found all over the Internet, on other sites. For instance, the article “Why orthodox worship is liturgical”, which I enjoyed very much, or one about Constantine the Great, cannot be found here and easily to be copied for offline usage. It would be great if all of them would be in one single place, like this blog. Anyone here, who would want me to send them to him, can write me at this address: email hidden; JavaScript is required I wish you all the best.

        1. Cristian, I’m glad you enjoyed my articles and that you are of the opinion I should post my other articles on this blog. What I can do is create a page for my other writings. For your information, I created two separate pages: “Archives-Topics” and “Reviews & Responses” to help you and other locate my writings. They appear on the header bar just under the picture banner. These listings are not computer generated. I will try to make sure that they will be comprehensive and accessible.

          Robert

          1. All right, so you found the solution: creating a new distinct page on this blog for your previous materials, which are not found here, like “Why orthodox worship is liturgical”. This is what you should do. thank you for the other archive/responses pages. They are helpful.

  4. Thanks for this, Robert. I was influenced strongly in my high school years by a Bible study leader who was from a mainstream Protestant Christian background, but became heavily involved in the charismatic movement after a college conversion experience. Through that influence, I became a member through my college years and beyond of the Assemblies of God denomination. Later he went to work for a small Bible College and came under the influence of a spiritual mentor who was teaching the “Word of Life” doctrine–known for “faith healing” and “name it, claim it” theology. I was never comfortable with that extreme and eventually returned to more mainstream Evangelicalism. He and his wife returned to their home town and started their own church, claiming a “prophetic” and “deliverance” ministry after I had moved away and was not living in the area. In the few brief observations I had of their ministry over a period of years after I graduated college, they became increasingly what I would describe as spiritually oppressed. Many of the relationships they had when their ministry was more mainstream Protestant started going sour and they tended to attract deeply wounded and marginalized people to their small flock. I often think of them now that I am Orthodox. I have not seen them for many years and a couple of years ago I Googled their names and found they are working in the public school system again (both of their background was in education). When I knew them, they were prime candidates for C. Peter Wagner’s sort of thinking, but as far as I know it led to a lot of relational brokenness for them, not to mention doctrinal eccentricities (even by Protestant standards, as you have noted) and spiritual delusion. They were both bright people with a heart for reaching out to the lost, wounded and marginalized and a real capacity for influencing others. I pray they have found a way back onto more solid spiritual ground in the decades that have passed since then. I often wish I could introduce them to the Orthodox tradition and to those Orthodox Elders, historic and contemporary, with genuine spiritual gifts. What a difference being anchored in the sobriety of the true apostolic Orthodox Christian tradition makes. It is the difference between real spiritual wholeness rooted firmly in Christ and spiritual delusion, marginalization and insanity. I will take spiritual reality grounded in union with Christ and His Church over a spiritual “high” any day.

    1. Thanks Karen. I appreciate your concern for your friends. There’s a deep hunger out there, and there are so many wounded struggling Christians. In Orthodoxy there is a deep healing power in the Church’s worship and spiritual wisdom. We need to reach out to these people and tell them, “Come and see!”

      Robert

  5. I appreciate this article and wish I had found it far before losing several years to a local ministry that used me up and eventually spit me out when I had questions they couldn’t answer.

    My primary concern was that I could not trust what heard taught and saw lived: that wealth is a primary expression the Kingdom of God. After all, does Holy Spirit need the title, money, houses, cars, and other physical expressions – or is it just a man’s ego that needs those things?

    1. Dear Todd,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Thank you for your positive feedback. I’m sorry for your negative ministry experience. I hope you have found a solid basis for spiritual growth in the Orthodox Church. May the grace and mercy of God richly bless you this year!

      Robert

    2. Dear Todd,

      I’m happy you found Robert’s blog and I’m sure you subscribed to it. I just want to make a remark to what you have said. I, myself, reached to believe that the actual problem of the NAR, and all the previous or contemporary movements of its kind or promoting similar teachings and worship practices, is that it tries to make the believer focus on achieving a kind of earthly happiness, not a heavenly/mystical one, even if it would be only when the NAR members worship together, charismatically, using the specific modern music. Wealth can be achieved in strong economically developed countries like the USA, but it cannot always be achieved in economically underdeveloped countries, so in those countries the leaders of the NAR “churches” emphasize anything else that could make feel good and happy their members or future members.

  6. Robert,
    I stumbled onto your blog a few weeks looking for some information of Orthodoxy from a Reformed perspective and vice versa. I have read several of your posts and appreciate your candor in explaining the differences between the two given your extensive experience with both.
    I have a questions regarding schism(s): In reading your blog and other orthodox sites why is there little mention of the Oriental Orthodox Church(s) and their place in this discussion on schism? From my limited understanding they rejected Nestorianism as well but do not follow the Hellenic And Latin tradition of the two natures of Christ, is that correct? Does the the EOC view them differently than the RCC or Protestant churches?
    Again I want to thank you Robert for providing a resource for those in the reformed camp,like myself, to know more about the EOC.

    Joshua Hale

    1. Dear Joshua,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! This blog focuses on the differences between Orthodoxy and the Reformed tradition mostly because this is what I’m most familiar with. I haven’t touched on the Oriental Orthodox churches mostly because of my limited knowledge. Given the public nature of the Internet, I believe the best policy is not to post anything unless I can stand by my research.

      I have had personal contacts with people in the Nestorian tradition and the Coptic tradition. The most important thing I learned is that what is presented in history books is quite different from the empirical reality of today. The Nestorian parish in Hawaii is a blend of traditional liturgy and charismatic worship. Their ties with the patriarchate in Baghdad is either broken or ‘semi-broken.’ From my conversations with their clergy, my impression is that they have lost much of their historical memory. One of their priests draws quite heavily on Greek Orthodox materials instead of the Nestorian literature — mostly because it’s not available. The Nestorians are more open to Protestantism and the charismatic renewal than the Eastern Orthodox. The Coptic Christians on the other hand are more traditional. When I visit the Coptic church near my house, I get a much stronger sense of a church rooted in tradition. They normally use the Liturgy of St. Basil, which the Eastern Orthodox use about a dozen times a year. A number of the Coptic clergy have attended Holy Cross Orthodox Seminary which tells me that the gap between the Coptic Christians and the Greek Orthodox is not as wide as before. Also, depending on the circumstances a Coptic Christian may receive Communion at an Orthodox parish. So is there a difference? ‘yes,’ but the schism is being healed. As to your questions about the official Church stance, my answer is that is better you ask the question to a priest or an Orthodox seminary professor. What I’ve given you is based on my personal experience.

      In closing, I would urge you and others in the Reformed tradition interested in this issue to: (1) read up on the early Christological controversies, and (2) visit the ancient traditions and compare them against yours. This can be a powerful history lesson!

      Robert

      1. Robert, thanks for the quick reply. My only experience with ancient liturgies is in the RCC, of which I was (nominally) a part of from birth till my mid teens. I’ll make it a point to attend an orthodox liturgy in the near future as there are several within an hour of my house.
        I’ve read some Wikipedia articles on the Christological controversies to gain some familiarity with them. I’m quite impressed with the exactness to which the councils explained the relationship of Christ’s humanity and divinity. Do you have any suggestions for solid online material concerning this?
        Again thanks for hosting this blog, it’s very informative and I appreciate the time and research you have put into it.

        Joshua

        1. Joshua,

          Thanks for your positive feedback! One Internet resource I can think of right now is Perry Robinson’s Energetic Procession. Another excellent site is the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This site can take you to the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

          I’m more old school and do a lot of my research from printed books like JND Kelly’s “Early Christian Doctrine” and Jaroslav Pelikan’s five volume “The Christian Tradition.” My only other advice is that you read a good introduction so you can get a good overview of the lay of the land. Timothy Ware’s “The Orthodox Church” contains a good concise overview of the issues. If you can find an Orthodox priest he should be able to talk to you about the theological issues and how it relates to our salvation in Christ.

          Robert

  7. Why can the apostle ministry not be active today?

    The term apostle should be seen as a ministry rather than as a biblical personality. Personality dies with the person. Surely if Jesus knew this why did he waste his time choosing them and training them?

    Ministry transcends death and time! Today we have Presidents, Kings, Queens, Emperors, Ministers, Ambassadors and Senators. There are many great and infamous personalities who carry these ministries. They die and another one is elected without batting an eyelid. It is accepted without reservation that the powers of this ministry then passes to the new personality. Why are we as Christians so foolhardy on this subject? The apostle ministry simply means ambassador or leader of a fleet. Why should the body of Christ be leaderless.

    1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

    Furthermore, if we have to reject the modern day apostle ministry I would like to suggest rejection of all ministries: Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Pastors, Evangelists, Elders and deacons! All of the above are just ministries serving to edify the body of Christ. In fact I have never read of a Pope or Cardinal in the bible – why should I accept them? In fact I don’t accept them as valid biblical ministries!

    Why is a church delusional or false the moment it acknowledges or utilizes the apostle ministry, but other churches who for thousands of years have employed heretical, un -biblical, evil and corrupt leaders are heralded as the authority on christianity? Something does not add up! Just because accepted norms have been around for a long time does not mean that is is the right thing. Please note that christians back in apostle Paul’s time did not accept him as apostle, but they accepted Apollos.

    1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

    2 Corinthians 1:1 [ Greeting ] Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:

    2 Corinthians 11:5 [ Paul and False Apostles ] For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles.

    2 Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

    2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

    Galatians 1:1 [ Greeting ] Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

    Galatians 1:11 [ Call to Apostleship ] But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

    So it seems that even Paul’s apostleship was contended by christians, He had to keep on defending his ministry. Today we are just as guilty!

    Don’t get me wrong: I do not punt the exclusivity of the apostle ministry to a certain church. I wish that all christian churches experience this ministry and not only through the bible. I want to challenge other churches to pray for this ministry to be dispensed by the Holy Spirit in their congregations.

    What could we lose by asking God for this gift? It clearly says in the bible that an apostle is commissioned by the will of God. God can only show us yes or no. If we don’t ask we cannot blame God for lack of certain facilities.

    The Holy Spirit is in control – why do we as members keep on trying to limit its activities and gifts by holding onto misconceptions. These misconceptions are spread by leaders of churches who fear losing their power to the apostle ministry!

    1. Zacadoom,

      The Orthodox Church believes that the apostolic ministry has never left the Church and as a matter of fact continues today through the office of the bishop. What the bishops teach are not man made doctrines but the Faith of the Apostles that has been handed down from generation to generation till this day. We also believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the early Church in the formation of the biblical canon (defining a list of inspired Scriptures to be read in church) and in the repudiation of heresies through the Ecumenical Councils. I like to think that Athanasius the Great had the anointing when he stood up for the full divinity of Jesus Christ against the Arian heresy. It is because these so-called new apostolic ministries advocate teachings and practices so different from the historic Christian Faith that we have grave reservations about them.

      I’m glad for my time with Pentecostal churches and the charismatic renewal but I have come to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church has the true anointing. Have you been to an Orthodox Liturgy? If you have not, come and see!

      Robert

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