movements of the Spirit, or of
     the bowel?

Faith Movements and Schools Of Thought

thumbnail sketches - history and impact

SpiritHome > Theology > Spiritual Movements

Movements fizzle. Are there offspring movements to carry it forward?

Movements... well... Move...

You may hear about these movements from time to time, living on the fringe of Christianity. None of them ever seem to go away, and each one influences the others at many different point on many different subjects through many different people.

Latter Rain Movement

"Latter Rain" was originally a name used for what happened at Azusa Street. But starting in 1947, the title was used to describe the spirit-outbreak at North Brattleford SK by Canadian teacher George Hawtin, who believed that the church as a whole and even the Pentecostalist movement had lost much of its original fire. He was soon joined by already-established teachers and preachers such as George Warnock and William Branham. It spread mostly in Assemblies of God circles, despite the A/G's official opposition. It was full of End-Times fervor, believing that the Spirit was letting loose all of its powers because the end was very near (without predicting a date). Eventually, the Order began to claim that the power to transmit spiritual gifts had been given by the Spirit to certain authorized human beings, who thus became a new apostolic lineage. This struck most A/G pastors as being heretical, both because some of the church movement's leadership had declared these powers for themselves as an elite, and because the gifts of the Spirit were understood by most of the early A/G to be sent out freely by the Spirit rather than a person. While Latter Rain was far from the first to develop a dominion theology, it is where the current forms and language for such thinking were born.
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Salvation-Healing Movement

This refers to the work of William Branham, who had been given what by most accounts was a spectacular personal ministry of healing, and the work of several successors, such as Gordon Lindsay and Oral Roberts. Branham and those who followed in his footsteps saw themselves to be great, thus taking the real attention off of Christ and onto themselves, their healings, and their empires. Branham also had a truckload of doctrinal quirks, which became more important to him as he got older. He held that those who were baptized under the name of the Trinity had to be rebaptized into Jesus' name alone. He saw himself as the angel mentioned in Revelation 3:14. He believed that, in God's power, a spiritual elite (who held to the teachings Branham was teaching) would come to rule, and mercilessly purge evil from the earth. He had these Dominion beliefs in common with the New Order and Word of Faith.
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Shepherding Movement

Led by Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter, Don Basham, Derek Prince, and Charles Simpson, they formed a tight-knit leadership group which held each other accountable. There were others revolving around them ('shepherds') who had the task of holding others responsible for their beliefs and behavior, using the model of the five pastors' own pact. The shepherds soon started to govern an ever-wider part of those they were shepherding, and did it in very direct and sometimes crude ways. The shepherded were to pay close attention to their shepherds, since the shepherds were people whose walk with God was such that God would even speak personal words to you through them. (The teachings of Chinese Christian writer Watchman Nee also had elements of this.) A structure like the Shepherding movement had virtually begs to be abused, and indeed abuse became rampant, as many of the sub-shepherds set themselves up as authorities over each detail of the followers' lives, and the followers were led not to think or act for themselves. Their approach was strongest among non-denominational churches, but they had some influence on Lutheran and Catholic charismatics. Shepherding ideas found a ready audience in those who studied the Chinese writer Watchman Nee.

This movement had New Wine magazine as its mouthpiece. Its influence was strongest in the 1970s, but came under heavy attack by many evangelicals, and then most publicly by Pat Robertson. The "Fort Lauderdale 5" had officially broken up by 1986 due to differences in approach, and their influence was mostly gone by 1990. Most of them have altered their positions somewhat, even renouncing several of their most core beliefs about the way the church is to be structured. But the ideas behind the Shepherding movement are still out there being practiced by some house and cell churches.
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The Word - Faith Movement

Kenneth Copeland, Ken Hagin, Ulf Ekman, and others are from this movement, which is a cross-breed of Pentecostalism with the New Thought movement which gave birth to Unity School and Christian Science. Their spiritual forefather was E.W. Kenyon. Their approach to the Bible is to use the literal words and fasten them onto a framework of thinking which is very different from their biblical context -- not quite a bible code, more like the words are having an out-of-Bible experience. Their approach to prayer and to repentance puts the burden of actual fulfillment onto the person and not God. Pray with confident power, they say. Ask, and you will get, if you ask without any doubt.

They have a special teaching on what they called rhema : when a believer says something with a totally confident faith, it will happen; if it does not happen, well, it's proof of the presence of sinful doubt. It's based on the idea that there's a difference between the Greek words for 'word', logos and rhema . To them, logos is God's written word, rhema is God's spoken word. Then, the claim is made that our words can share in the same force as God's words that created the world (Genesis 1). We can name it, and then claim it as ours. In fact, they treat words almost magically, as if the right words, trusted fully, are like pop-top cans of spiritual power. However, in the real Scripture and in Greek in general, there is very little difference between rhema and logos . In the Bible, the power of God's word wasn't in the words, but solely in the divine Speaker of those words. God can use our words powerfully at times, but it's a different sort of power, given by God solely for God's purposes, and has nothing at all to do with what we want or think we need or what we can 'name and claim'. The way Word of Faith preachers do it, so-called 'prayer' becomes just a fancy name for clicking a 'gimme button'.

The origin of the 'magic spell' comes from the same kind of trust in a word-borne power. The word 'spell' itself is just an ancient way of saying 'word' or 'phrase' -- hence 'spelling' and 'gospel'. A 'magic spell', when stripped of the hokus-pocus hokum, is a set of words spoken ('cast' like a fishing net) over someone/something to exercise power over it. The same can be said of the 'power prayers' of the Word of Faith Movement. This teaching crept into charismatic circles through the leading figure of the Toronto Blessing, Rodney Howard-Browne. People want to believe it because of the false sense of empowerment it gives. But God uses other means to empower us, and gives us the power to be servants rather than power brokers.

One of the telltale problems with the Word of Faith approach is that it give people back the heavy burden of guilt that the gospel was sent to relieve, by turning something which is not sin into the 'sin' of weak belief. It feeds into the human tendency to blame the victim for the problem. Worse, it dumps the biggest burden onto tender Christians who are facing up to the struggle of daily living in faith, perhaps for the first time. It condemns them for struggling, even though a human being who honestly comes to grips with the Gospel can't help but struggle with it. When Jesus spoke on asking and receiving, He was speaking on self-amendment, the search for holiness, and treating people as you would have yourself treated -- changing yourself, and then whatever the Spirit gives you is given so you can give it away to others' benefit. Jesus didn't spend much time directly criticizing doubt. He spoke more about the power of the presence of a faith even when it's as small as a mustard seed, perhaps because He knew full well how small our faith is when compared to our doubts. The fulfillment of prayer is up to God alone, and God will answer the prayer in the way that best works for the Kingdom, not in a way that best backs up some human's spiritual brag. God not only will not sit still for being mocked, God will not be treated like a marionette ! God doesn't do it to you; don't do it to God.

Some Word of Faith teachers seem to think that in the end, we will be God's peers, and we are incarnations of the peer of God we are becoming. This counters the Bible. The Scriptural witness is that we will be God's colleagues, family, friends, and teammates, because God will give us a kind of close relationship and likeness of character that can be described as some sense of unity or being 'like unto' God. But there is at all times in the Scriptural account a difference between us and God; no oneness of being or substance or mind, no equality of being or kind or substance or mind. We are us, God is God, God is in charge, and God has no peers - period, forever. Furthermore, we are not an incarnation of anything. An incarnation is when a spirit goes material. We don't need to 'incarnate'. We are already material-spiritual beings - the body is a full, definitional part of who we are. It is God who 'incarnated' to be like us; we are already bodily beings. We do not exist as anything else. And in the world to come, Scripture says we will still have bodies -- of a transcendent sort, to be sure, but bodies nonetheless.
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*A Course In Miracles*

This has been making its way around in charismatic circles for quite some time. It's an as-told-to book which was written from what was shared by a college professor, Helen Schuchman, with the claim that the writings come from a special combination of her experiences with miracles and some visions in which the Lord revealed (a la John in Revelation ch. 1) the secrets of what God's miracles are and how we are to live in them.

On the one hand, some of the stuff regarding one's frame of mind is helpful and useful to a point. It shows signs of understanding some of what goes on where the supernatural makes things happen in the natural ('material') world. For those who think there is some good in New Age material, you'll usually do a lot worse than reading *A Course In Miracles*. On the other hand, there is a heavy dose of old-fashioned Gnosticism -- the idea that there is a special knowledge of things which, if you have it, gives you an edge with God. It is not really a Trinitarian book; it is more like a 1.5-arian book, focusing on the Son with an unspoken part of the Son which is what we would call the Spirit. She is strongly dualistic, yet couches the duality of material vs. spiritual things in the words of soft spirituality that disguise the sharp edge of her approach. (In fact, you have to cut through a jungle of mystical language to get at anything she means.) The book also has no real roots in Scripture or, ultimately, real life; it kind of floats over such things. It has the odd sort of denial of struggle also found in the Unity school of New-Thought. Its claim of authority, then, is rendered false by the different 'good news' it tells.

Betty Eadie

Much the same is true with the writings of former Mormon Betty Eadie in her books "Embraced By the Light" and "The Awakening Heart". The difference is that she is not a 'channel' of God or of the dead. She claims she went extensively 'beyond death' herself, and relates her own experiences there. It's not all stupid -- in a few places she actually put some hard thought into it. She gives soothing words of comfort in the face of death, but the words don't ring true, they merely sound nice. Her approach and her teachings lack the earthy substance that is typical of the way the God of the Bible works. And the message is about what a person does for themself and not of the grace given by God.
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Getting Stuck With Movements

The movements found on this page have the same basic attraction and the same basic problem. They deal with reality by declaring that we don't have to deal with reality. Our illnesses are not real, our bodies are low in value, and the less we care about material things, the more we become as a god. But you can't wish life's struggles away. And it is in the struggle of daily living that we grow in character and faith, and become more suited to the Kingdom of God. It is there where the lessons are learned, the actions are taken, the decisions are made. This is a world and a you who God creates and loves, which Christ came to live in, that the Spirit works in. You can choose a spiritual movement of belief for reasons of denial and pretense. But that's not where you'll find God. You'll find God in the trenches of life.

Redfield's religion is a novel idea.

Celestine Prophecy?

> You ought to read the Celestine Prophecy. It catches
> the vibe of what is coming.

Gosh, I hope not. James Redfield's *Celestine Prophecy* is a novel, a weird work of fiction that's no more spiritually revealing than Carlos Castaneda's drug fictions of the '60s-'70s. And just as bad a read; I tried to force myself to read it through, but it's so vapid I failed. All of existence, it seems, is transforming into higher and more brilliant states (or levels) of vibrations, and intelligent life will evolve into beings without bodies melded into the wholeness of all of the universe..... riiiight....suuure....

Redfield's a bit like the kid who hung onto belief in an invisible companion into his teen years. I look at him and wonder, 'has he really started to believe in this foggy stuff he made up?' (Not the novel-ness of it, which he knows is fiction, but the equally-fictional ideas underlying the story.) I wish I could say something positive about it. But I can't.

[[ P.S. : Since this letter, someone applied the same approach to the Bible that Redfield used on prophecy. That's really all the DaVinci Code is. Novel creations disguised as truth. At least that one's a much better novel.]]

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ver.: 15 March 2011.
Some spiritual movements. Copyright © 1995-2011 by Robert Longman.