April 9, 2015

The Trinity, The Assembly, and Sweet Potatoes

by Lyndon Unger

It seems like everyone and their dog is hearing “the voice of God” these days.

“Hearing the voice of God” used to be the mark of a prophet of God, but over the last century or so, it’s slowly become the mark of a “mature believer.”   These days, “conservative” folk (like Beth Moore or Francis Chan) regularly suggest that God speaks to them…not in audible voices, but definitely in some sort of propositional statements (ultimately the audible/inaudible distinction is meaningless).   The issue of “hearing the voice of God” is probably the most significant infiltration of bad Charismatic theology into non-Charismatic circles.  It’s a train hauling insanity and heresy that is steaming through Evangelicalism and it seems like there’s no stopping it.

Part of the danger of “God told me” train is that it’s seemingly immune to both Scripture and logic.  As illustration of that, I recently was doing some historical research into the foundation of Assemblies of God.  In 1906-1915, the “God told me” train was chugging like mad all over North America.  It was quite revealing to see how quickly the “God told me” train derailed when everyone and their dog was getting divine revelations.


In 1906, the Asuza street revival happened and Pentecostalism (at the time known as the Apostolic Faith movement) spread the “Baptism of the Ghost as exclusively evidenced by tongues-speaking” idea (among other ideas) throughout North America like wildfire.  For the record, I’m well aware that Asuza was preceded by an outbreak of tongues in 1901 in Topkea, KS.  There were also outbreaks of tongues every 5-10 years all the way back to 1830 (actually, long before 1830), so tongues wasn’t what was new.  The idea that tongues was the exclusive mark of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what set the Topeka “outpouring” apart, and Asuza is what popularized that new idea.
By 1914, there were hundreds of Baptist, Methodist, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Congregational, etc. churches who had accepted this new “Apostolic Faith” and broken off from their denominations. 300 pastors and missionaries from these various churches/organizations (including several followers of John Alexander Dowie, aka “Elijah the Restorer.”  Here’s the nicest summary of his life I could find.  This one not so nice.) met together at Hot Springs, Arkansas in April, 1914, and banded together to form the Assemblies of God. (I just cannot resist mentioning something else. At that meeting in 1914, the closing address was by Bishop C.H. Mason, founder of the Church of God in Christ; America’s first and largest Pentecostal denomination.  He preached a sermon from Acts chapter 2, verses 16-21 [pg. 8] which was revealed to him by God speaking to him through a sweet potato.  You read that right.)
Fries Voice
In the summer of 1913, at a camp meeting at Arroyo Seco, CA, a man named John Scheppe had a personal revelation about the power of the name of “Jesus”, which led many folks to study the name more carefully.  A Canadian named R. E. McAlister preached Acts 2:38 and taught that the apostles never baptized in the common Trinitarian formula of the day, but rather baptized in Jesus name only, since “Father”, “Son”, and “Spirit” were all names for Jesus (thus making sense of Matthew 28:19…apparently).  Several people at the camp were convinced.  They promptly rejected the Trinity and were re-baptized into Jesus name only.  Shortly after the meeting at Arroyo Seco, a prominent Los Angeles pastor named Frank Ewert converted to this “Jesus only” teaching.  Along with Ewert, Charles Parham‘s former field superintendent, Howard A. Goss embraced the “Jesus only” teaching as well.  Thousands of others embraced it too; people were simply following the “new revelation” and didn’t want to miss this “new work” of the Spirit.
Then, at the Elton, LA, Bible Conference in Dec. 1915, the “new revelation” of the Arroyo Seco camp meeting was spread by David Lee Floyd, Charles A. Smith and Howard A. Goss.  Many of the leaders of the Assemblies of God were at this conference, and all but one (George Harrison of Hornbeck Assemblies of God) of them publicly denied the Trinity and embraced the “Oneness” teaching delivered at Elton.  Many of the attendees found motivation to accept this “Oneness” teaching since E.N. Bell, editor of the denominational magazine Word & Witness and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, had already accepted this “Oneness” teaching and had been re-baptized.
After all, it was a new teaching from the Lord.  Who wants to miss that?
The atmosphere of the early Pentecostal movement was one of expectation; expectation of new moves of God, new revelations, etc.  The first generation of Pentecostals thought they were living in the last days and were also experiencing the complete fulfillment of the various prophecies of Joel 2.  So at the Elton Conference, the new teaching was embraced and 56 people were publicly baptized into the name of Jesus only — the public mark of receiving this new teaching (which they wrongly thought was the restoration of the true faith of the apostles).
After a serious struggle regarding this “new issue,” which almost entirely assimilated the Assemblies of God in a year, a few men faced it straight on.
On Oct. 1-7, 1916, in the fourth general council of the Assemblies of God, there was fierce debate about the “new issue”.  Eventually, the Bible won out against the “divinely-revealed” heresy of the “prophets,” and the Assemblies of God adopted a statement of beliefs that was prepared (mostly) by D. W. Kerr, an ex-Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor. The statement was thoroughly Trinitarian, and the momentum to accept the Trinitarian statement was magnified when E.N. Bell and others publicly confessed their error in accepting a “Jesus only” message and renounced their “Jesus only” baptisms.  Apparently, as many folks studied the Scripture (and church history), they realized that this “new teaching” was neither “new” nor in the Bible at all…and it seemed really strange for God to be promoting something so overtly against the teaching of Scripture.
Not all were convinced though.  Of the 585 members in the Assemblies of God in 1916, 156 gave the new “revelation” preeminence above Scripture, left the Assemblies of God, and started a new Oneness Pentecostal denomination.
It is absolutely frightening to see how these early Pentecostal pioneers were essentially defenseless against blazing heresy until they, in a moment of sanity, abandoned (at least in practice) their belief in modern prophetic revelation.  Remember that this was in the days before people believed in fallible revelation  (that’s a development of Charismatic/Pentecostal theology from the late 1970s).  Either God had revealed this “Oneness” teaching or he hadn’t, but almost everyone immediately adopted the teaching because they had little to no defense against it.  Like today, nobody wanted to quench the Spirit or risk missing what he was doing in someone else’s backyard.
The leadership of the Assemblies of God weren’t stupid people either.  Many of them were trained in the Scriptures and many of them had been in ministry for several years (since most of them came out of other church traditions into Pentecostalism). Once God started “speaking,” things went south really fast.  The Assemblies of God was basically a Oneness Pentecostal organization for around a year and a bit.  I praise the Lord that they finally renounced the heresy of that cursed Canadian.
Our look at history doesn’t prove that the idea is unbiblical, but only illustrates the practical dangers and inherent theological instability of thinking that God still delivers propositional revelation. If God “speaks” to both of us, what do you do when God tells me something that openly and directly contradicts what he tells you?  By what standard do we judge between “words from the Lord?”  We can appeal to Scripture, but if we have to twist Scripture to support our position on contemporary prophecy anyway, we’re at a really bad starting point to evaluate anything else objectively.  In other words, if someone suggests that John 10:27 (“my sheep hear my voice”) teaches that Christians should get propositional revelation from God as part of their Christian experience (especially through sweet potatoes), they’ve already abandoned any reasonable interpretation of the text of John 10 and have, in practice, thrown hermeneutics out the window.
If John 10:27 doesn’t mean what it says (and I’m not talking about a simple, surface reading of the text, but rather a careful exegesis of the text), then there’s no real reason to assume that any other text does either.  What’s worse is that if God can authoritatively tell a person that “this verse means [insert bizarre idea],” then any biblical correction of heresy is quite difficult.  A person cannot be bound to Scripture if the meaning of Scripture is no longer tied to the words found in Scripture.  If there’s some sort of “Holy Ghost decoder ring” to the Bible, the Bible can have any meaning. And to say the Bible can mean anything is to say the Bible means nothing.
Of course every Charismatic/Pentecostal is wildly inconsistent at this point, and that’s a good thing.  The reason that many hang on to orthodoxy (in other areas) is in spite of the hermeneutics they use to arrive at their distinctively Charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs.  I rarely encounter Pentecostals and Charismatics applying the “Holy Ghost decoder ring” to ideas like the deity of Christ…though that’s not always true.
I agree with the early leaders of the Assemblies of God who had to deny that God had prophetically revealed the Oneness teaching to R.E. McAlister, and did so because the revelation given to McAlister contradicted the biblical teaching on the Trinity.  I just suspect that if the same hermeneutics and exegesis that supported the biblical teaching on the Trinity would have been applied to the biblical teaching on prophets and prophecy, the “new issue” would never have found support in the first place…and the Assemblies of God would currently have a noticeably different statement of faith.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Mark Kendrick

    Amen. Good stuff. Thank you so much for sharing brother.

    • Lyndon Unger

      You’re welcome! I’m glad if it was enlightening in some way!

  • Robert Sakovich

    Biblical teaching on prophets and prophecy? Who needs that when you have Grudem, Piper, and a whole host of others teaching us the watered down version of those terms? (end sarcasm) Nothing like a faulty appeal to authority to cause problems in this day and age.
    Thanks for the history lesson, Lyndon.

    • fab4mattmarklukejohn

      Robert, I don’t get your point. You agree with Lyndon’s rejection of Pentecostal excesses, and you disagree with Reformed teachers about prophets and prophecy. Would you explain what you mean? (No sarcasm here.)

      • Robert Sakovich

        Grudem and Piper believe that the gift of prophecy since the NT times is different and that prophets and prophecy since that time are fallible, but still hold the same name.

        • fab4mattmarklukejohn

          So (still speaking straight), do you think that prophets and prophecy are truly revelation? That is, if we have a prophet, that he/she will speak accurately from God? Savonarola, before the Reformation, prophesied about world events and they came to pass, and people killed him as they would a true prophet. Of course, he was in the Catholic Church, and wasn’t reforming the doctrine, just calling people to repentance.

          • Robert Sakovich

            I’d say his declaration that Florence would be the new Jerusalem causes some problems. Again, a prophet must be 100% accurate according to Biblical terms.

          • rdrift1879

            Some local town is always the New Jerusalem. Standard ecstatic error they can’t resist.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Glad it was enjoyable and possibly informative.

  • wiseopinion

    I appreciate articles like this and seek out this type of
    information from trusted people, pastors, sites, etc. The Cripplegate is one of my trusted sites
    that I read every morning.

    For almost ten years, I have been trying to gently warn my
    dear sisters and brothers in Christ about the dangers found in the beliefs and
    teachings of people like Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Tony Compolo, Rick Warren, and
    Bill Hybills, Ann Voskamp and Sarah Young and originations like Women of

    Included in my warnings: Prayer circles, stations, walks, along with contemplative
    spirituality, prayer, disciplines and Eastern style meditation. Books about going to heaven, the many new paraphrases
    of the Bible (total fiction in some cases, balderdash and irreverent), movies
    from people like Mel Gibson and Roma Downey and I could go on and on.

    While trying to warn and always pointing to Scripture, it
    seems I’ve grown three heads, with no heart and no understanding that God can
    still speak to us. One even suggested
    that I could be a modern day Pharisee because, after all, they did not
    recognize Christ when He was right in front of them. One gentle soul found the book Heaven is
    for Real and said it spoke to him like “no other book”. Made an indelible impression on him. After listening to his oohing and aweing of
    the “heaven” this five year old supposedly visited, I asked him, “Have you read
    all that the Bible says about Heaven?”…”Well, I’m sure not all, but most” he
    said. I asked him, “Did you feel the
    same thrill when you read the Scriptures about Heaven?” “Oh, no” he said “I now have a complete
    understanding of heaven like never before!”

    This is such a burden for me. I love these people, they are part of my
    spiritual family. I am not only burdened,
    but alarmed at the speed and depth this “new” spirituality, this “new” way of
    seeing Christ and Scripture, this “new” way to connect and now “new”
    revelations that often contradict Scripture and yet they say it is all from
    God. How can that be? The lack of Biblical knowledge and
    discernment is astonishing.

    Lyndon, you said “After all, it was a new teaching from
    the Lord. Who wants
    to miss that?”
    That is what I am hearing more and more, even from seasoned
    believers. I have lost some precious friends
    because I have warned about their “beloved” Beth Moore and will not endorse
    Women of Faith or the devotional Jesus Calling.
    How did I become the enemy?

    I shouldn’t be surprised and
    your article confirmed that there isn’t anything new under the sun, just old
    stuff wrapped in a different package. Christ
    Himself warned of all of this.

    But my dilemma is this and I
    pray that I will get some responses to my question; how much of this leaven should
    one accept, tolerate or ignore when it has infiltrated one’s church, its leadership
    and much of the congregation?

    Thank you for your time….

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the kind words and the sobering question, Wise.

      A while ago, I posted something I wrote on false prophets and attempted to point out (albeit unsuccessfully) the difference between being wrong and being wicked. False teachers aren’t just wrong; they’re aggressive in consciously defending their error and are morally corrupt. People who are in error aren’t the same; they’ll put up resistance, but the Spirit working in their hearts will work changes in his time and they’ll have an actual passion for scripture accompanied by genuine fruits of the Spirit.

      People who read authors like Beth Moore (or Benny Hinn for that matter) may genuinely not know better. That’s probably the reality for most of their fans…and people (in general) tend to judge the world by the standard of themselves.

      What I mean is that people will always see themselves as “level headed”, so if you’re far to their right or left, you’re the one who’s excessive and goofy. Nobody sees THEMSELVES as excessive and goofy.

      Another way of saying that is to observe that people who judge humility always use themselves as the measure. If you don’t listen to them or agree with them, you’re always the one who’s “not humble”. They never see you as being humble and themselves as being the arrogant ones.

      So one of the things that’s important is the rephrase the debate into one where the word of God becomes the objective standard.

      That’s why Peter says what he does in 2 Peter. 1:16-21. What he was saying was true because it was taught in the scripture, not because he experienced things that any living Jew of his day would have traded their own mother to experience (i.e. *actually* meeting Moses and Elijah, or seeing the glorified Messiah).

      So what I’m suggesting is that the question isn’t one of percentages, but focus.

      As I grow older, I’m realizing just how bad the early churches were. People were bragging about having extra-marital relationships with family members. People were suing each other. People were confused about basic theology (like the deity of Christ or whether or not the end times had already occurred).

      Paul and Peter (and the rest) didn’t draw a line at percentages, but rather firmly pushed the people on towards learning what God thinks about something, accepting it, and conforming their lives to the truths that they were given.

      And as for some practical discussion tips, I tend to favor the Socratic approach of simply asking questions. Attempt to enter into their incoherent worldview and expose the incoherencies.

      For example, when your friend said “I now have a complete
      understanding of heaven like never before!”, I would then have asked him what he learned about Heaven.

      Namely what new information he learned.

      And whether or not that information was necessary for something other than warm fuzzies.

      And then whether he thought God was a liar or showed favoritism.

      Once he would have been confused, I would have explained that he’s suggesting that God delivered new information about Heaven from that book that isn’t in the Bible, and yet the Bible says that it teaches us everything we need for maturity (2 Tim. 3:17).

      And if he would have said that God wasn’t a liar and the Bible DOES teach us everything we need (but the stuff in the book is “icing on the cake”), then I’d ask him why God gave that icing to only the people who read that book…and brought him back to Romans 2:11.

      You could take the road of meticulously addressing every wrong idea in the book, but I’ve found that kinda interaction doesn’t last long.

      I’ve found it more helpful to take a systematic approach to nailing the necessity or nature of revelation, and then simply encouraging people to not get distracted from focusing on what God CERTAINLY has said by what God MIGHT have said.

      I’d also ask him what he has learned about Heaven in the Bible, and then go there and talk about whatever passage, explaining it further to him. A lot of confusion and disinterest in scripture (among believers) comes from hearing all the competing opinions about things and feeling overwhelmed, or not having a clue about how to make sense of scripture in the first place.

      It’s been my consistent experience that getting people to focus on the Bible will cause most of their other silly fascinations to simply fall away.

      • wiseopinion

        I am so thankful that you took the time to answer my question(s). Although I have always tried to apply much of what you have suggested, you have given me food for thought and given me a new (or should I say renewed) passion to and challenge for better ways to always bring ANY subject, debate, circumstance to the Living Word. I appreciate you taking the time and given me a “not so hurried and pact” answer.

    • BeenThereDoneThat

      Dear Wiseopinion, I feel like I am reading
      myself about 7 years ago. I won’t take time to share my story, but
      I walked out of Charismatic/Pentecostalism in my heart after having walked in about 14 years before that. I wanted so much for it to be true. My departure happened when the Emergent Church (now Progressive Christianity-and that is a contradiction of terms) also came into my church. I began researching and discovering disturbing things. I also began to read the Bible in context because I started memorizing whole books. Pieces started coming together.

      I started to speak out. Yes, you do have three heads. You are a strange creation. It’s one of the burdens we bear when we begin to really discern using the Scripture. I also check into Cripplegate daily and find such good stuff here.

      At this point in my life, I cannot completely leave the movement. But I know God had allowed me to walk this path for a reason. I have repented much over my error and pray that my voicing opposition will somehow make my repentance fruitful in a more recognizable way.

      I agree with Lyndon about asking questions. It take a lot of practice; I wish I could do that better. But keep reading…keep researching…you will discover your own questions that will be a natural flow from you. I was with a leadership couple last year who is deeply involved with the Randy Clark/Bill Johnson crowd. I made a bold statement to the effect that I am refocusing my life more and more on Jesus Himself. When we say that the Holy Spirit has moved in a meeting, then the meeting’s attention should be on Jesus, and on the preaching of the Word (which has become practically
      nonexistent in those settings. What little bit is grossly twisted as Lyndon
      linked to at the end of his piece)–not (supposed) manifestations. The husband agreed cautiously, but the wife gave the old line, “Yes, but when people are touched by the manifestations they love Jesus more. So really in the long run it is about Jesus!) UGH! I sure wanted to ask, “Which Jesus?” but my circumstance did not allow me. I am thankful that I planted a seed. I know that is why I am still in this place.

      The fault is with the pastors who have muddied the water for the sheep (Eze. 34). But sheep are responsible, too. Be gentle with sheep and bold with the pastors, but honor them. We are ultimately all sheep. I pray that the Lord will give you more opportunities to grow in your discernment. It is not a welcome ministry—for so they persecuted the prophets also.

      May God bless you richly.

      • wiseopinion

        Dear one, thank you for your kind words, for sharing your own personal story and for the gentle reminder to continue to be kind while sharing truth. About a year ago I was ready to throw in the towel and just sit in the pew, be quiet and look pretty, nodding my head at all the right times and just letting go of this great burden I have. But, I found it so difficult and one morning while praying and reading Jeremiah 20:7-9…it was so profound, like someone smacked me awake out of the slumber of apathy (and despair). Actually all of chapter 20 is worth reading…but verse 9 really spoke to me. O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived;You have overcome me and prevailed.
        I have become a laughingstock all day long;
        Everyone mocks me.
        8 For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
        I proclaim violence and destruction,
        Because for me the word of the Lord has [b]resulted
        In reproach and derision all day long.
        9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him
        Or speak anymore in His name,”
        Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
        Shut up in my bones;
        And I am weary of holding it in,
        And I cannot endure it. Blessings to you and to all who are struggling in these times of deception…

        • BeenThereDoneThat

          Ha! Wiseopinion! You did it again! LOL! Yes, exactly. I have often had those feelings. “Just let it go and love people and enjoy this life. Stop making waves. Everyone is just trying to love the Lord in his own way, after all.” Excellent Scripture. Thank you for sharing.

  • Tavis Bohlinger

    God told me to say that this was an excellent article (yes, the first part of this sentence is sarcasm). Well written and great metaphor of a “train hauling insanity and heresy.” Well done!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Travis!

  • dv1556

    Perhaps this is a bad decision since it seems neither the place nor medium for such a discussion. However, there a several questions I’d like to pose. First of all, I do come from a classic pentecostal background. There’s my bias. I am however very much inclined to the reformed perspective and while I eschew the classic pentecostal hermeneutic I am still in agreement with the continuationist viewpoint.

    I am all too familiar with the problems described above. But what continues to challenge me is that I’ve encountered and know simple, fairly uneducated Christians, (mostly in Eastern Europe) that lack both access to and capacity for the kind of theological sophistication necessary for a proper hermeneutic. Yet these people acted on their simplistic reading of scripture and their beliefs were confirmed by observable reality. Furthermore, they didn’t devolve into the some of the heresies described above. We can argue all we like about proper exegesis and the like but can we simply dismiss all claims of prophetic revelation, even when testable and observable reality corresponds to it? What do you do with someone that claimed that God has spoke to them, describes a revelation and then demonstrates the external reality that corresponds to it? What do you do when this continues for years? I realize that all these things exist in other pagan religions and can be the product of the occult. Yet much of what I have seen and experienced occurred in a Christian context as a result of individuals reading scripture and furthermore it lead to observable sanctification. Can all this be dismissed as misinformed and poor exegesis and hermeneutics? Interested as to some thoughts on this. Thank you for the post.

    • Fred

      My first question is why does those alleged real prophecies happen in far away eastern Europe where they are unverifiable from the rest of the body of Christ, but here in the US, the same thing is hooey and even blasphemous? If the gifts are given to the whole body of Christ, one would think there would be Pentecostals in rural Arkansas who have sustained, over many years, prophetic revelation that corresponds to external, observable reality. But what we typically get is nonsense.

      Moreover, why are such things not happening among various non-Pentecostal groups, say for example, OPC or Bible-community style churches like GCC? Am I to assume that in order for the Spirit to be poured out I must first welcome the idea of prophecies and tongues AND then God will move? Doesn’t say that in Scripture.

      • dv1556

        These are valid questions that I cannot offer definitive answers to. Here are my thoughts. First, the alleged lack of experience you point out does not negate the possibility or even probability of the event occurring. Furthermore I pointed out Eastern Europe since it’s the only context that I am capable of verifying personally. In principle distance has no bearing on an event being verifiable nor does it make it any less likely to be true. I would add that there are occurrences that I am aware of within the United States though admittedly with less frequency and the majority of what I have seen and heard is of dubious nature.

        What I’m essentially asking is the following; if what is proposed as revelation is shown to consistently correspond to observable reality but my theology does not allow for it, what is to be done? I realize that a hermeneutic exclusively based on experience is an improper technique but what happens when my hermeneutic defies what is observable?

    • Lyndon Unger

      Okay. We should get something out of the way up front.

      As a Christian, I believe in the supernatural. I serve a God who lives and works and exhibits his power regularly…but as a Christian who holds to the historical grammatical truth of scripture, I also believe that God acts in accord with what he’s revealed about his own activity.

      Ignoring the standard “people in a far off place that I don’t know and cannot actually give specifics about” nature of this comment (which is a droning theme when this comes up), I’m not opposed to people having examples of providence regularly exhibited in their lives.

      People have dynamic and “in real life” relationships with God, and young/misinformed believers will often describe the dynamic and “in real life” aspects with wrong terminology.

      You don’t give specifics, so I’ll lay out two hypothetical scenarios.

      1. A person thinks that God wants them to go to the hospital. They go to the hospital, see someone they know who isn’t feeling well (twisted ankle, chest pains, whatever), get a chance to pray for them, and they get miraculously healed (the symptoms they’re experiencing disappear immediately). After all is said and done, they think that a) they’re a prophet, and b) they healed someone.

      Neither a) nor b) are true.

      I would look at that and say suggest that thought the experience actually occurred, the description is simply incorrect.

      I’d describe it as a person being providentially influenced (via divine direction of emotion, conscience, whatever) towards and course of action that God certainly intended for them, and God answering prayer for healing.

      Since they didn’t get propositional revelation, but rather felt some sort of internal compulsion, they’re simply not a prophet.

      Since they didn’t receive power to heal from God, power which they can dispense at will, they didn’t “heal” someone in the same manner as Jesus and the apostles.

      Their experience is real, but their charismatic description of it is categorically wrong.

      I’m guessing that scenario #1 would deal with 99.9% of your examples.

      2. A person clearly hears an audible voice that tells them to go to a specific hospital, at a specific time, to see a specific person (whom they’ve never met and whose name is revealed to them) who has a specific physical injury. They go to
      the hospital they’re told, at the time they’re told, see the person they’re told, who has the injury they’re told. They then lay hands on the injured person, and the injured person gets instantaneously healed (broken bones mend, blood stops flowing, wounds close with no scars, etc.). That person then stands up and runs around the hospital. The doctors check him out and are all amazed. Half the staff in the hospital converts to Christianity after examining the x-rays that are taken 90 minutes apart and reveal a demonstrable, quantifiable case of “spontaneous regeneration”. After all is said and done, the person who heard the voice thinks
      that a) they’re a prophet, and b) they healed someone.

      In this case, I’d say that you’re the first person since the apostles to provide this sort of example. I’d want names, dates, and access to medical records. Hard data, not testimonial evidence.

      I know of people who hear audible voices, and I know of events where a person was healed in a “spontaneous regeneration” sort of way, complete with x-rays taken around 2 hours apart that show two entirely different things (namely bones that were broken in several pieces in the first x-ray that were no longer broken in the second), but I’ve never seen, nor even heard of, an event that combines the two in the way that I wrote above.

      God can and does still do miracles. They’re not common, hence they’re miracles.

      The “biblical prophets” that are out there are all demonstrable frauds.

      I’m guessing you’re not talking about either of those, but rather something like scenario #1.

      Oh, and as for your question of “What do you do when this continues for years?”

      I know of several people who got accurate and innocuous revelations for years. They thought that they were prophets and learned to trust their revelations…and then one day the revelations weren’t innocuous anymore.


      • HC

        “person being providentially influenced (via divine direction of emotion, conscience, whatever) towards and course of action that God certainly intended for them, and God answering prayer for healing.”

        I guess this is your kind version of John 10:27? Jesus was dealing with the obtuseness of many hearers. The Jewish leaders do not believe, were obstnate in their unbelief, rejected the witness, deeds and words of Christ —-because they do not belong to the flock of Jesus- they have not been given to Jesus by the Father. It is not just that his own sheep do hear his voice, that he knows them, and that they follow him, but that those who are not his sheep do not hear his voice, that he does not know them, and that therefore they do not follow him. So the question is how do you know God has chosen you / His sheep. Your answer would be: I believed and I followed. Are you saying Jesus uses the word hear but means believe based on the three verbs of this verse are in the present tense denoting continuous action – hear- know-follow.

        I do like the “sweet potato” quote 10 – but I cant see the source of the quote.

      • dv1556

        I’m most certainly not referring to what you describe in situation #1, though I too have heard of those situations as well. Here is a modification of #2 that I can attest to:

        1) A person clearly hears an audible voice
        Some would describe it this way but since I haven’t experienced this myself I don’t know how to exactly define “audible” in this sense.

        2) that tells them to go to a specific hospital, at a specific time, to see a specific person (whom they’ve never met and whose name is revealed to them) who has a specific physical injury.

        Yes to all of the above with the exception that in most cases the two individuals know each other but the “prophet” may not be aware of the other’s specific condition. Time is also not usually described to be exact, it’s general (i.e. tomorrow, soon,)

        3) They go to the hospital they’re told, at the time they’re told, see the person they’re told, who has the injury they’re told. They then lay hands on the injured person, and the injured person gets instantaneously healed (broken bones mend, blood stops flowing, wounds close with no scars, etc.).

        Not always instantaneous but most certainly within a short period of time (i.e. week, a few days)

        4) That person then stands up and runs around the hospital. The doctors check him out and are all amazed. Half the staff in the hospital converts to Christianity after examining the x-rays that are taken 90 minutes apart and reveal a demonstrable, quantifiable case of “spontaneous regeneration”. After all is said and done, the person who heard the voice thinks
        that a) they’re a prophet, and b) they healed someone.

        I can’t necessarily say that I’ve heard or know of a situation where this happens exactly but of ones when the healing is confirmed medically, yes, I know and have heard from reliable witnesses of this.

        If you would like continue this conversation please let me know how I can contact you.

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  • Joseph Morrow

    I am confused at your mention of Francis Chan at the beginning of the article. I really appreciate his teaching from the Bible and I’ve never heard him make doctrinal statements because “God told him.” I guess my question is what do you mean by “propositional revelation”? Does it include following the Spirit’s lead (i.e., “Do not be afraid… for I have many in this city who are my people”)? Or is it restricted to doctrinal revelation?

    • wiseopinion

      You know, we tell our children not to run around with “bad company” because bad company corrupts, we are known by who we run around with, even though we may not be “bad” if those we run around with or endorse or promote are suspect it does hurt ones reputation….Francis Chan is one of those who has come along side some very disturbing and suspect folks….her e is one example…and maybe it is the only one…one has to do their own research… Chan went and spoke at the International House of Prayer, IHOP as it’s commonly called. It’s a place that has a reputation for cult-like behavior, uncontrollable charismatics, and where anyone can promote themselves to God’s PR person as long as they say, “God told me this ___, in a vision, just now.”

      IHOP is run by a man named Mike Bickle. Mike Bickle thinks Oprah is the harbinger of the AntiChrist and he also really, really doesn’t like gay people. In an interview once, he noted our departure into the “demonic realm” where the demons like to touch us. He said gay marriage is a missile rocketing straight from the pit of hell.

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  • MR

    Hey Lyndon, thanks for the great article. My question is this(and before I ask, let me assure you that I am in 100% agreement with you).

    At what point does someone’s belief in God speaking whether audibly/inaudible(or I guess charismatic tendencies) become a fellowship deal breaker? What do you do when someone believes this stuff, yet everything else in their life/beliefs would seem that they are truly regenerate?

    I know some that believe the “heaven is for real,” type stuff(which I was glad to hear that Lifeway is no longer selling…I wonder if they still carry belieber?) and wonder at what point do you push away from the table?

  • Robin Jordan

    Charismatics and Pentecostals are not the only group that has laid claim to special revelations from God. This is a problem that has beset the Christian Church since New Testament times. Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox have in the form of “Holy Tradition” made such claims from the early Middle Ages and even earlier. The sixteenth century Anabaptists made similar claims As J. I. Packer points out in Concise Theology, liberal Christians believe that God has revealed their particular interpretation of the Scriptures to them..

    • Lyndon Unger

      Sure. I’m definitely not suggesting that those in the Pentecostal (Renewal) stream exclusively claim special revelation. Special revelation claims have been made throughout history, and have a rather consistent history of producing some really bad fruit.

  • Anne Shirley

    Hi Lyndon, I would to say I enjoyed the article but cannot simply because I’m very troubled. Years ago; (not recently) I sat under Beth Moore’s teaching and learned much when she spoke. So it’s with a heavy heart I ask this, could you tell me any examples of when she said God spoke to her in the manner you’re referring to, what she and the context in which it was said? Could it possibly be that she had an unfortunate choice of words? Are you saying Beth Moore is a false teacher or in error?

    • Liz

      Anne – “years ago” Beth Moore didn’t claim to hear God speaking to her, if you google you can find many youtube video clips where Beth is teaching and claims God told her to teach this or that or do this and that. She consistently teaches from her personal revelations from God and throws in a Bible passage (twisted) to “bring it home”.

      It would be of benefit for you to research this for yourself. Beth has been sliding into mysticism for some time now.

      • Elizabeth

        Yes, if you have listened to her teaching on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, she encourages her audience to listen to voices, act upon them, and trust them. She makes a statement about lining it up with Scripture; but the bulk of that lesson is about listening to “feelings” and “words” from God and acting on them. Quite scary.

    • wiseopinion

      I have been warning about Beth Moore for several years. There is so much wrong but all dipped in the scriptures she chooses to fit her teaching to make it sound so “christian”. It is hard to talk of someone so beloved by so many as a wolf in sheeps clothing, but we must be discerning and wise. Hear is a site that gives much information. http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2014/07/all-beth-moore-critiques-here-in-one.html

      • Anne Shirley

        Thank you so much for the site information. As I had mentioned it has been awhile since I’ve sat under her teaching, but can still recall a couple comments I was puzzled by but thought perhaps her word choice was just unfortunate. Also a few years ago I did look into these claims only to discredit it as the source showed a lack of honesty. What this site shows appears to be true and my heart is truly grieved.

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  • Trent

    That sweet potato fries picture made me LOL!