nar_cover_courtesy_publisherGeivett, R. Douglas, and Holly Pivec. A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. Wooster, OH: Weaver Book Company, 2014. 254 + xvii pages. ISBN 978-1-941337-03-5.

In my reviews, I generally try to avoid hyperbolic statements like, “every Christian should read this book.” In the case of R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec’s A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement, that statement could be merited. Some dangerous and heretical claims are gaining traction in the Christian community, particularly in Pentecostal and Charismatic (hereafter, P-C) circles, and A New Apostolic Reformation? provides detailed description of the movement promoting these claims (what it teaches, who leads it, what organizations promote it) and offers sound biblical responses to them, maintaining throughout a charitable and moderate tone.

The general approach of the text is straightforward. After relating key historical and biographical information about the movement (showing its significant size and influence), Geivett and Pivec set forth its most problematic teachings and the justifications NAR’s leaders offer for those teachings, contrast NAR teachings with the views of more traditional or mainstream P-C believers (using the Assemblies of God denomination as their example), and offer Bible-based criticisms of the NAR teachings. They are careful not to enter into the debate over “cessationism, the view that the miraculous gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are no longer active in the church,” holding that “Whether the miraculous gifts are ongoing or not has no bearing on the arguments of our book” (xiv) and believing that “NAR deviates from classical Pentecostal and charismatic teachings” (xiv). This strategy of carefully distinguishing between NAR and non-NAR (“classical”) segments of the P-C community makes A New Apostolic Reformation? suitable reading for both persons within that community, which has so far been most susceptible to NAR’s influence and so is most in need of the book’s warnings, and those without, whether full cessationists-in-principle, who find P-C claims both incredible and unbiblical, or mere cessationists-in-practice, who’ve just never yet seen any P-C claim they thought sufficiently justified to merit their assent. (In case you’re curious, I’d identify myself as a cessationist-in-practice with strong leanings toward cessationism-in-principle.)

The main text may be divided into four sections. The first section, comprising chapters one through three (“What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?” [1-8]; “Massive Size and Growing Political Influence” [9-18]; and “Mainstreaming the New Apostolic Reformation” [19-29]), provides a general overview of NAR and an introduction to its history, leading figures, and so on. The second section, spanning chapters four through nine (“NAR Apostles: The Generals” [30-44]; “NAR Apostles: A Closer Look” [45-55]; “Apostles in the Bible: The Twelve and Paul” [56-66]; “Apostles in the Bible: The Other Apostles and False Apostles” [67-76]; “NAR Apostles Compared to the Bible’s Apostles” [77-84]; and “Testing NAR Apostles” [85-95]), examines and refutes NAR’s teaching that an authoritative office of apostle, falling short of the authority of the Twelve and Paul only in its ostensible lack of freedom to add to the canon of Scripture, has been restored to the church in our day. The third section, including chapters ten through fourteen (“NAR Prophets: The Secret Intelligence Agents” [96-104]; “NAR Prophets: A Closer Look” [105-118]; “Prophets in the Bible” (119-127); “NAR Prophets Compared to the Bible’s Prophets” [128-137]; and “Testing NAR Prophets” [138-149]), discusses (and shows in error) NAR’s teaching that the contemporary church is also seeing the restoration of an office of prophet with the same authority to speak new revelation to all believers (and to nations, etc.) as that held by the most august Old Testament prophets. The fourth and final section, made up of chapters fifteen through nineteen (“Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare” [150-165]; “A Biblical Analysis of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare” [166-172]; “Unifying the Forces through Apostolic Unity” [173-180]; “A Miracle-Working Army: NAR Teaching on Miracles” [181-193]; and “A Biblical Analysis of a NAR Miracle-Working Army” [194-202]), looks at and shows biblically unsound various NAR practices and related beliefs (practices and beliefs NAR’s “prophets” and “apostles” have “revealed” in their authoritative fashion), such as “spiritual mapping” (as construed by NAR) and the casting out of “territorial spirits.” Additional materials include a preface by coauthor Pivec on behalf of both writers (xiii-xvi) and a brief conclusion (203-4); three appendices concerning, respectively, “The Great Chain of Prophets” (205-8), “Todd Bentley’s Commissioning and Apostolic Decrees” (209-11), and “Prominent NAR Networks” (212-17); as well as a lengthy bibliography (219-236) and indexes by persons’ names (237-40), by subject (241-9), and by scriptures cited (250-4).

The first section (1-29), as noted, provides an overview of the NAR movement’s history, names some of its prominent leaders and affiliated organizations, and relates some of its history. This sections answers the question, “What is NAR and why should I care?” or, alternatively, “Why should I bother reading this book?” NAR, “also sometimes called the apostolic-prophetic movement” (1), claims, in common with various earlier groups (such as “the Irvingites of the 1830s…the Apostolic Church of the early 1900s….the African Independent Churches movement, which began around 1900….[and] the post-World War II Latter Rain movement” [3-4; paragraph break removed]) to “restore the offices of apostle and prophet” (3). (Throughout the text, Douglas and Pivec emphasize that NAR holds to the present-day restoration of “offices,” meaning authoritative and “formal” governing offices, of apostle and prophet. They contrast this with P-C belief in the ongoing existence of apostolic and prophetic “ministry functions” not tied to formal offices. Persons who reject P-C claims altogether, of course, typically see even the “ministry functions” as no longer extant in their original form.) Today’s NAR began, this section relates, with a resurgence of Latter-Rain-movement-like belief in present-day prophets and apostles in the 1980s, a resurgence in which the so-called “Kansas City Prophets” (Bob Jones, Paul Cain, and John Paul Jackson) played a leading role, helped along by then-pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship, Mike Bickle, who would later found the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and who has become quite influential. Some noteworthy NAR leaders the section identifies include Bickle (as noted), C. Peter Wagner (whose status as a “church growth expert” probably makes him the NAR leader best known by those of us outside NAR), Bill Johnson, Lou Engle, Bill Hamon, Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs, Ché Ahn, and Jack Deere. Some noteworthy NAR organization include (as noted) IHOP, The Call, Bethel Church (in Redding, California; pastored by Bill Johnson), Harvest International Ministry, Generals International, and Destiny Image Publishers. An additional publisher, though not officially NAR, that has helped promote NAR is Charisma House, one learns in this section. One also learns that, in addition to gaining credibility by association with various non-NAR leaders and organization dedicated to “socially conservative” action in the realms of politics, society, and culture (persons and organization of the “Christian Right”), NAR has gained credibility by having its books endorsed by leaders considered “mainstream,” such as Jack Hayford (who has also spoken an NAR conferences), and published by mainstream publishers, such as Thomas Nelson and Bethany House. Readers of this section will be left with no doubt that NAR, unlike any “fringe” movements that preceded it, is large and influential and, if it be in error (as Geivett and Pivec show that it is), very dangerous to Christ’s church. (The final appendix, “Prominent NAR Networks” [212-17], adds to the persons and organizations identified in this section.)

Geivett and Pivec’s demonstration of NAR’s dangerous divergence from orthodox Christian doctrine begins in earnest in the second section (30-95), which deals with NAR’s teachings concerning restoration of the office of apostle. Central to this section is detailed discussion of just what the Bible teaches about “apostles” and how this teaching contradicts NAR’s claims; logical critique of the internal coherence of NAR’s claims also plays a role. The New Testament, Geivett and Pivec show, uses “apostle” in more than one sense. Holders of the authoritative office of apostle, which is what most of us think of when we hear the word “apostle,” are what Scripture calls “apostles of Christ.” These are apostles “of the formal kind—including the Twelve, Paul, probably James, and all the other apostles to whom Christ appeared following his resurrection” (77). Apostles of this sort served a foundational role in the church and do not exist today, this section demonstrates, contrary to NAR’s claims. A second sort of “apostles,” persons whom Scripture calls “apostles of the churches,” do not hold formal governing offices or authority; rather, they are apostles “of the functional kind” (78). That is, they are persons gifted to serve certain ministry functions, such as those of church planters and missionaries. In the P-C context, “apostles” of this type may be expected to perform “signs and wonders” (work miracles as part of their outreach to previously unreached populations); outside the P-C context, no “signs and wonders” are expected (except such as might result from from the faithful prayer of any true believer seeking to do God’s will). Such “apostles of the churches,” who carry none of the special authority NAR grants to those it labels “apostles,” are the only sorts of apostles whose ongoing existence can be supported from Scripture, Geivett and Pivec show. (The section notes how some scholars provide more detailed breakdowns of types of “apostles,” but the basic two-type division is the most evident and important. Essentially a title for “persons sent,” the characteristic distinguishing types of apostles is by whom they are sent, either by Christ through direct in-person appointment, or by Christ’s human representatives in the churches.) The section also includes correction of NAR’s erroneous use of Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, and 1 Corinthians 12:28 to support belief in present-day “apostles of Christ.”

An important part of this section concerns the danger NAR’s belief in a present-day apostolic office poses to Scripture’s authority. (The same dangers arise from NAR’s belief in a present-day prophetic office, the subject of the book’s next section.) It is here that NAR’s professed views fail to cohere with the real implications of those views. The official NAR position is that “present-day apostles cannot add new revelation to the canon of Scripture”; however, they “can receive new revelation that supplements Scripture so long as it doesn’t contradict it” (49). (I note that one only need supplement what is not itself sufficient. Any claim to present-day revelation, even if it does not assert the far-reaching authority of NAR revelation, implicitly denies that Scripture is sufficient in itself, that the believer who studies Scripture is thereby “throughly furnished unto all good works” [2 Timothy 3:17]. Since Geivett and Pivec adopt a moderate stance that allows for at least some present-day revelation, they do not make this argument.) One way NAR leaders have attempted to show their apostles’ revelations do not usurp Scripture is to identify their authority as limited to a certain sphere (a church or network of churches, say). Such leaders as C. Peter Wagner, however, fail to stick to this idea, claiming that there are at least some present-day apostles whose revelations apply to the whole church. “The existence of such [what Wagner calls] broadband apostles undermines Wagner’s claim that apostles cannot write new Scripture…,” Geivett and Pivec write. “In claiming to give new revelation that is binding on all Christians, are they not claiming, in effect, that their revelation should be treated on a par with Scripture, even if their words aren’t physically appended to a Bible?” (84)

The second appendix, “Todd Bentley’s Commissioning and Apostolic Decrees” (209-211), adds to this section’s refutation by showing NAR’s belief in the ability of present-day apostles to make “decrees” with God’s own authority, (in the words of C. Peter Wagner) “not asking God to do something” but “declaring with the authority of God, that such-and-such a thing that we know to be the will of God will happen” (209). This appendix shows Wagner making such a decree, then having events thereafter transpire quite opposite to the decree he supposedly uttered with God’s own authority. In more traditional parlance, I note, Wagner’s false decree while claiming God’s authority would be called “tak[ing] the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 5:11).

In the next section (96-149), Geivett and Pivec analyze and refute NAR’s teaching about present-day “prophets.” This section opposes NAR’s claim that there exists a present-day church office of “prophet of God” while leaving open the possibility that more standard P-C belief in non-office-holding “prophetically gifted individuals” might be valid (128). The authors are careful to avoid the cessationist-continuationist debate, writing, “Can people today have the gift of prophecy? Cessationists say no, if the gift includes continued provision of revelation, either for the church or individuals….But continuationist say yes, that people today can be prophetically gifted in the sense of receiving new revelation from God. And they don’t believe that the exercise of their gift threatens the authority of Scripture” (Ibid.). While they grant this question is “fascinating,” Geivett and Pivec note, “we will not attempt to answer it in this book because it is beyond the immediate scope of our topic” (Ibid.). Though they indeed do “not attempt to answer” the question, they do (perhaps inadvertently) reveal some bias in favor of the continuationist view, stating that “While there is a scriptural basis for an ongoing gift of prophecy, there is no basis for a present-day office of prophet that governs the church or prophets who prophesy to nations or give new truths” (137; 138 has similar wording), rather than using more neutral wording like, “While those who believe in an ongoing gift of prophecy can plausibly claim scriptural support, those who believe in a present-day office of prophet…cannot.” (One can guess from my prior parenthetical on the sufficiency of Scripture that I fall into the cessationist camp here. Even if the “new revelation” one claims to receive only provides practical guidance to some individual in a specific life situation, it still seems to me that by providing such “revelation” one is saying that Scripture by itself is not sufficient to “throughly furnish” that individual for “all good works.” I would allow reference to current-day pronouncement as “prophetic” whenever they accurately set forth the meaning of already-written Scripture or rightly apply Scripture to contemporary circumstances, but the “gift of prophecy” here would obviously be quite different from any “new revelation” variety.)

Complete avoidance of the cessationist-continuationist debate is an interesting strategy. While it may disappoint resolute cessationists, I’m inclined to judge it a wise approach given that P-C believers are currently most at risk of “conversion” to NAR, so that it is most important that A New Apostolic Reformation?’s warnings make it onto their reading lists. In addition to a Scripture-rich refutation of NAR’s erroneous viewpoint, this section also notes numerous inconsistencies in the NAR perspective. For instance, though NAR prophets are granted authority to give “thus saith the Lord” prophetic directives “to individuals regarding their personal lives,” NAR leaders invariably grant “that NAR prophets can err” (136). This inconsistency continues in NAR leaders’ appeal to Wayne Grudem’s P-C position on New Testament as opposed to Old Testament prophets. Grudem, the text notes, “agrees [with NAR leaders] that New Testament prophets are not expected to be one hundred percent accurate in their prophecies.” Unlike NAR leaders, however, who “teach that New Testament prophets have the same level of authority as Old Testament prophets and that they hold a formal governing office,” Grudem “maintains that New Testament prophets need not be one hundred percent accurate since they do not have the same level of authority as the Old Testament prophets and do not hold a formal governing office in the church” (139). NAR leaders, then, grant their “prophets” Old Testament prophetic authority without Old Testament prophetic accuracy. Making a persuasive case that NAR can’t have it both ways, Geivett and Pivec proceed to show how NAR “prophets” fail biblical tests for true prophets (138-47) and show why some alternative tests suggested by NAR leaders should not be used (148-9).

One alternative test, proposed by Bill Hamon, particularly caught my attention because it so well comports with the approach to the faith I’ve found exemplified in (some) P-C acquaintances. This “inner witness test” is, in Geivett and Pivec’s opinion, “frankly subjective and oddly spiritualistic,” at least as Hamon applies it (he makes it much easier for the “inner witness” to confirm prophecies true than to reject them as false) (149). While there doesn’t seem to me anything innately problematic in believing that the Holy Spirit witnesses to what are truly God’s words (and withholds or witnesses against what are not God’s words), so that (for example) true believers over time came to accept the canonical books of the Bible (and divinely-sanctioned readings therein) and to reject other books (and unsanctioned variant readings), human fallenness and fallibility mandates that such witness be subject to confirmation by the wider believing community (true Holy Spirit witness will persuade large numbers of believers over long periods) and (where possible) by external and public evidences. (I realize scholars prefer to emphasize the objective “tests of canonicity” as the basis for accepting certain books and rejecting others, but I think these tests served to confirm acceptance already achieved through the Spirit-guided consensus of common believers, not to bring about that acceptance in the first place. I also think that textual criticism went astray when it followed the lead of critical scholars and began rejecting readings long accepted by the Bible-believing consensus. While “Scripture never says to test prophecies by an inner witness” [148], I don’t think Hamon is entirely wrong to see the fact that the Holy Spirit “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” [Romans 8:16] as favoring the idea that the same Spirit “beareth witness” about other things, in particular affirming God’s words so that their divine origin is immediately evident to faithful hearers. Even if it is true that God’s Spirit witnesses to God’s words, however, this doesn’t necessarily support Hamon’s ideas about how the Spirit’s witness may be identified.) Hamon’s idea is a little different than the one that “doesn’t seem to me…innately problematic,” however. What Hamon supports is a test that is individual, subjective, and emotional to the point of being anti-intellectual. Hamon proposes an “inner witness” made up of subjectively interpreted “sensations.” Whereas false prophecies might prompt (in Hamon’s words) a “nervous, jumpy, or uneasy feeling, a deep, almost unintelligible sensation that something is not right,” true prophecies might prompt (also in Hamon’s words) “a deep, unexplainable peace and joy, a warm, loving feeling” or even “physical sensations that occur in the [to quote Hamon] ‘upper stomach or lower chest area’” (148).

Some might wish to grant that if the Holy Spirit were witnessing to one’s inner self in some way one might well expect this witness to manifest in the form of subtle inklings or positive or negative emotions, which might in turn cause physical symptoms like one’s “heart” (or perhaps “lower chest area”) being “strangely warmed” (to borrow often-quoted wording from one historical figure’s experience “witnessing” to his true conversion). That “Mormon[s] claim that God confirms the truth of the Mormon faith by giving people a burning sensation in their bosoms” (148) would make one doubt that such sensations should be trusted absent external confirmation, but one might still wish to allow that some such experiences could really originate with God’s Spirit. Hamon, however, proposes elevating emotion and sensation above rational thought. He wants to ensure that we who would test prophecies by the “inner witness” are (in Hamon’s own words) “more in tune with out spirit [which Hamon associates with emotions] than with our thoughts [which Hamon attributes to a “soul” separate from the “spirit”]” (148) because “Our head may [wrongly] say, ‘No’ while our heart [rightly] says ‘Go’” (149). (As an aside, I note that in Scripture “heart” includes “head”; the common heart-head distinction Hamon deploys, which treats “heart” as emotional and not intellectual, is unbiblical.) “By encouraging people to turn off their thoughts and to ignore their opinions,” Geivett and Pivec remark, “Hamon is repudiating their God-given ability to evaluate prophecies critically” (149). (I would prefer that Geivett and Pivec add “in light of Scripture” here, since some who reject the inspired content of Scripture do so on the basis of critical evaluation. It may, however, that the authors hold to the view that Scripture need only be accepted insofar as it passes humans’ critical tests; this view is not so uncommon among Christian scholars as simple Bible-believers might expect.) While the skeptical (scientistic secular) attitude, which holds that such experiences as perception of the Spirit’s “inner witness” must be interpreted naturalistically (or, if no plausible naturalistic interpretation presents itself, “passed over in silence” until advancing science makes sense of them), is unacceptably biased, the wild credulity found in some circles, such as NAR, must be eschewed. If humans have spiritual “senses,” they are no less worthy of presumptive trust than any other of our faculties; but all our faculties, including (and especially) our rational or intellectual faculty, must be used in concert, each correcting the deficiencies of the others, to learn truth. Geivett and Pivec rightly criticize NAR’s failure to correct errors of feeling and imagination with the intellect.

The first, and in my judgment best, appendix, “The Great Chain of Prophets” (205-208) adds to the case against NAR’s view of prophets. I like this appendix so much that I recommend reading it first. This appendix sets forth clearly the scriptural pattern, which invariably has the end of one period of “universally authoritative revelation” (207) preceded by a foretelling of the next period of such revelation. Thus, Malachi (4:5), last prophet of the Hebrew Bible, points to John the Baptist’s Elijah-like preparation for Jesus’s arrival as inaugurating the next such period, and between Malachi and John the Baptist no such such revelation comes. In like manner, the New Testament’s final book points to “two witnesses” presaging Jesus’s return (Rev. 11:506, 9-10) as inaugurating the next such period, meaning that with the completion of Scripture’s final book began a time like that between Malachi and John the Baptist, where “universally authoritative revelation has ceased.” So, “As we await the next great event on God’s revelatory calendar—the return of Christ—we do well if we give ourselves to the careful study of Scripture, and look not to so-called new truths from present-day prophets” (208).

The final section (150-202) shows that NAR strategies and practices, such as “confronting territorial spirits directly” (167) , and related teachings, such as that “the end-time church will perform miracles unprecedented in terms of their grandeur and frequency” (194), have “no biblical basis” (167). One noteworthy statement in the section points out, specifically in the context of Bickle’s interpretation of Luke 18:7-8 as mandating “24/7 prayer rooms,” how “NAR hermeneutics” typically “neglects context and ignores alternative, more plausible meanings” (199). What was evident in Hamon’s subjective test of prophetic utterance (the “inner witness” test) proves broadly typical of NAR’s approach to belief and practice: subjective individual judgment is given free reign; testing by reason in light of carefully studied Scripture (faith-based critical analysis) and testing against the Spirit-guided judgment of fellow believers over the course of time (respect for historical orthodoxy) are rejected in favor of trust in individual judgment treated as divinely authoritative (since it is the judgment of an individual who claims to be an “apostle” or “prophet”). This persuasive section merits close study, particularly by anyone who finds NAR appealing.

One especially remarkable aspect of NAR discussed in this section is NAR’s emphasis on a “unity” that deemphasizes doctrinal correctness in favor of broad permissiveness, provided one “submits” to so-called apostles and prophets in service of strategic objectives meant to forward “God’s” kingdom. As with other aspects of NAR, this one does not stand up to Geivett and Pivec’s critical analysis in light of Scripture. This particular aspect of NAR also raises in my mind at least one question that Geivett and Pivec do not discuss, but which (for me) would alone be sufficient to make me reject NAR. That question is: If God were indeed going to appoint apostles and prophets with the same authority to rule and speak on his behalf as the Old Testament prophets of God and New Testament apostles of Christ, wouldn’t the God who inspired Scripture use that opportunity to correct doctrinal errors among his children and bring all true believers into agreement on the correct interpretation of the entirety of his Book, to unity in knowledge and faith? Setting aside what one deems “secondary” or “non-essential” doctrines in order to pursue common “primary” or “essential” objectives is a pragmatic strategy made necessary by human fallenness and fallibility; it is certainly not the mark of persons speaking for the perfect and unerring God who must value very highly everything he chose to set down in Scripture. Persons appointed and directed by, and receiving fresh revelation from, God surely would not adopt the pragmatic permissiveness of profit-driven businessmen and power-driven politicians as NAR’s leaders have done. Clearly, it is this-wordly drive, not divine direction, that motivates NAR’s leadership. Geivett and Pivec do not go so far as to say this, of course, preferring to work from the assumption “that leading NAR figures are believers and genuine disciples of Jesus, and that their intention is to do the will of God in their lives and in the world” (xiv). Bible-believing readers will, I predict, find this assumption very difficult to credit once they’ve seen the sorts of claims “leading NAR figures” are making. One will search Scripture in vain for any example of false prophets or false apostles being identified as sincere or “genuine disciples,” after all.

Overall, then, A New Apostolic Reformation? is excellent and worthwhile, even essential, reading. I can’t claim to agree with or endorse everything in the book, however. For instance, since I believe that Scripture teaches particular atonement (Christ died for the sins of specific individuals who will be saved, not for all individuals regardless of whether they will ultimately be saved or not), I cannot endorse the authors’ reference to Christ’s “death for the sins of all humanity” (57-8). (Granted, one might speak of Christ dieing for “all humanity” in the sense that he died for elect individuals in “every tribe and nation,” for “all” in the sense of “all types”; still, this isn’t how “all humanity” will be understood by most readers.) Nor am I (yet) persuaded that the involvement of New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leaders in the “Christian Right” activity in which many of us Bible-believers are also involved (and which we think NAR leaders did not originate but are trying to hijack) makes locutions like “reclaiming the culture for Christ” and “fighting the culture war” dangerous “triumphalism” that “comes perilously close to spreading” NAR’s heretical doctrines (171). I’m not even sure I wish to grant advocates of NAR exclusive use of the term “dominionism” (150), since belief that the dominion mandate (Genesis 1:26, 28) calls those who would obey God to “take dominion” in a comprehensive way that entails much more than “evangelism and world missions” (150) is not limited (nor do I believe it originates with) advocates of NAR.

I’m also not entirely comfortable with Geivett and Pivec’s constrained description of Scripture’s perspicuity or clarity. While refuting professed “prophet-apostle” Bill Hamon’s (44) suggestion that Martin Luther’s reading of Ephesians 2:8-9 as teaching justification by faith alone owed to “prophetic illumination” of “a new, hitherto disguised sense” of the text, they write the following: “Protestants have emphasized the perspicuity of Scripture, the doctrine that, in matters concerning salvation, the teaching of Scripture is clear, plain for all to see, if they can but read the Bible for themselves” (134). Note the “in matters concerning salvation” proviso. Whether or not Protestants have typically emphasized that Scripture’s clarity is limited to “matters concerning salvation,” this understanding seems to me too restrictive. The entirety of Scripture, not just verses about salvation, is a communication (set of communications) from a perfectly truthful God who would neither lie nor intentionally mislead (the latter being a variety of lying) and who omnisciently foresees and sovereignly “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11) in the entire sweep of history, including the rise, ongoing development, and degeneration of the various societies and cultures into which he breathed this communication and through which he preserved and preserves it. Though this fact is seldom emphasized, God knew when he inspired Scripture into those cultures he prepared for the purpose (among other purposes he had for those cultures) what later cultures he planned for his Book to communicate into. This situation, it seems to me, calls for an understanding of Scripture’s perspicuity more comprehensive than one limited to the subject of salvation alone. How much more comprehensive may be open to debate, as may be what we mean by perspicuity or clarity (in many scriptures, including some about salvation, we probably don’t mean “easy” or “obvious”), but “salvation alone” seems too constrained.

These points are peripheral rather than central to A New Apostolic Reformation?’s refutation of NAR, however. Besides, my idiosyncrasies are such that were I to insist on perfect agreement with my beliefs before recommending a text, I would never be able to recommend any book unless I had written it myself (and had done so recently enough to have not changed my mind about anything). My disagreement with these few peripherals aside, A New Apostolic Reformation? is an outstanding book; it is well researched and cogently argued, with an orderly, easy-to-follow presentation (with summaries at the end of each chapter, concise recapitulation of key points at appropriate intervals, and so on). I commend it to you.

This review also appears, in abridged form, on Goodreads and, less nicely formatted, Amazon.