Saturday, June 22, 2024

How not to engage online if you really want to inform people

I recently had an interaction in a thread on Facebook within a private group. I'm not sure how to describe it—talking past each other, talking in circles, or close-mindedness and unwillingness to interact in good faith. I admit I probably didn't do the best in my interaction (I can tend to be pedantic, especially when people aren't precise enough with their definitions), but the way my interlocutor carried himself is a good example of how not to handle a discussion if you actually want to have your point be considered.

Original post:

If you believe in modern-day “Apostles”, the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation), or “Apostolic Networks”, you do not believe the Bible is finished being written! Prove me wrong. Kindly of course.

Commenter 1 on the main post:

I know people who operate in the apostolic and they do NOT believe the Bible isn't finished being written. They also do NOT go by "apostle". It's how they live and function in their gifting. Please do not be like John Lindell in how you are accusing people doing things they are NOT when you don't know them or have had conversations with those who believe in the apostolic gifting.

My reply to commentor 1:

Exactly. There are key differences between apostolic function in missions (establishing the church where it does not yet exist, see Dr. Alan Johnson’s work), African-American churches that have traditionally have had positions named “apostle” in their ecclesial organization, and people self-designating (or mutually-designating) as apostles as a form of self-promotion and seeking governing authority, which is when the use of the term becomes invalid and dangerous.

As to the claim of the OP, not all those named as Apostles in the NT (specifically the 12, but also others to whom the term was sometimes applied, such as Barnabas, Andronicus and Junia, etc.) wrote materials that ended up being canonized as Scripture.

Commentor 2 responding to Commentor 1 and myself:

Commentor1 Wow. You believe in Apostles and Prophets today? If you do... you are part of the NAR. Don't tell us these guys believe in sola scriptura or 'small a' apostle when they've demonstrated again and again their refusal to bend the knee to what the original Apostles wrote.

You have to pervert Paul's writings and ignore the other NT Apostles to believe in the extra-biblical "New Apostolic Paradigm" that apostles and prophets exist today. It's a teaching of restorationist cults. That's how dangerous this teaching is - and I am thankful that the AOG Pentecostal denom. were the first to condemn this.

And Brian Roden - stop with the semantics. There is a HUGE difference between a Pentecostal missionary (PM) and NAR Apostles. Pentecostal missionaries that were sent out by the church are nothing like Apostles like Bill Johnson or Che Ahn who are "spiritual fathers," that "raise up spiritual sons and daughters," to rally or "govern the church" or "move in supernatural signs and wonders."

As Paul said to the Corinthian church, "You put up with easily enough," while associating such men to servants of Satan. Lastly Roden, there were 72 other apostles that Jesus sent out. You can see the list of names of these Apostles. So by all means they could have written the scripture. But to argue for apostles by evoking Junia and Adronicus - laughable. Why go to obscure passages to argue something so plain.

Apostles and Prophets do NOT exist today whether in office or function. They are nothing but usurpers. I know - I was regarded as a seer/Prophet in this movement. I know better now because of what the scriptures actually teach on this issue. Please do a bible study on this topic.

My reply to commentor 2:

Where is that list of names of the 72 (or 70, as there is a textual variant there)? And Andronicus and Junia is not an “obscure” passage, but one quite well known in theological discussions about this topic.

You call it semantics, I call it precision in terminology.

Commentator 2's reply back to me:

Brian Roden google the 70. I did. I refuse to spoon feed only to have information be spat in my face.

And semantics again. You’re good at word politics. You know exactly what I’m saying. It’s a theological ambiguous discussion brought up by creeps who push their own agendas… usually to argue against the authority of scripture. Usually to promote women ordination and to usurp the authority of scripture, justifying exactly what you did there of ‘small a’ apostles.

You’re not going argue from the clear passages of scripture are you? Prove me wrong. Where is it explicitly taught that apostles and prophets exist today?

Please note how Peter and Jude write in the past tense of the apostolic teachings and writings of the apostles.


Now, I realize the original post (OP) was specifically relating to the issue of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and the inroads it is making into many traditional Pentecostal churches. While I definitely have problems with self-appointed (ore mutually-appointed) people who claim to be apostles or prophets as a position of authority in church governance, I also take issue when someone is overly broad in their characterization of those who believe the gifts of prophecy and apostolic function still exist in the church today. 

The OP seems to lump anyone who believes in continuing apostolic function with the NAR and "apostolic networks," which in many cases seem to be more about positions and titles, and to whom you're connected, than about serving the kingdom and seeing the church mature. And it is simply not true that those who believe in the ongoing giftings of apostles and prophets (without buying into the whole "office" of apostle package) automatically believe there is ongoing divine revelation that adds to Scripture (an open canon). Thus my pushback against the OP in my initial reply to commentor 1. 

Commentor 2's first reply to Commentor 1 shows the human tendency to lump people into a group that has already been labeled as bad or dangerous, and proceed to dismiss them, rather than asking questions to understand better their claims and beliefs. "You believe XYZ? Then you're part of this group ABC and therefore part of the problem!" Notice that Commentor 1 talked about knowing people who work in apostolic giftings, but hold to a closed canon and do not use the title "apostle" for themselves. But Commentor 2 paints that as being the same as the NAR movement, without exhibiting any critical thinking.

When Commentor 2 then turns to address me, he writes as though I had equated missionaries exercising apostolic function with the NAR "Apostles." But I had clearly stated in my initial reply to Commentor 1 that there are key differences between apostolic missionaries, or people in administrative positions in historic denominations that use "apostle" for that position, and these self-designating NAR "Apostles." People get so focused on one issue, which is often a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed, and then proceed to see everything through the lens of that one issue, to the point that they cannot understand what someone else is actually saying. They see screws, nails, and thumbtacks as all the same thing to be hit with the single tool they have at their disposal.

Commentor 2 then makes a claim that the names of the 72 that Jesus sent out are readily available. Those names are not listed in the text of the New Testament, so I simply asked where they could be found. In his final reply to me, Commentor 2 says, "Google the 70. I did. I refuse to spoon feed only to have information be spat in my face." (I did not reply to this comment on the thread, but allow me to unleash my snarky side a bit here on my blog regarding what I want to say in response.) 

Dude, do you even understand Google and other search engines? Even locating the information you say you found within the first page of results depends a lot on how close my exact search words are to the ones you used. And even if that same article you read shows up in the first page of results, how am I guaranteed that I'm going to read the same one you did out of those results? Or that the one I happen to choose to read agrees with the one you read? If you really want people to be educated about a topic, you don't tell them to "Google it" or "Do your own research." You point them to the source that convinced you. (I'm all the time giving people links to books I have read, podcast interviews with authors, or online articles that deal with the issues under discussion. I rarely ever say, "Well, I heard/read this" without actually giving people a way to locate the information I am propounding.)

Secondly, I want academic sources, not a Wikipedia article. Now, if the Wiki article has cited references to academic work by reliable scholars, that forwarding link is valuable. But if what you read is just some person's opinion with no supporting evidence, then don't claim to have "researched" the matter.

Notice that Commentor 2 didn't actually respond to any of the points I made. He basically just ranted and accused me of playing semantic games, in spite of the fact that I stated I was aiming for precision. He accuses me of engaging in "word politics" while knowing exactly what he is saying. But if one reads what I wrote, then reads his replies, it's quite obvious that he is not making any attempt to understand what I am saying, because he accuses me of things that clearly contradict my own written words.

The closest he came to interacting with the facts presented was an accusation of being a "creep" pushing an agenda to "argue against the authority of Scripture" and promote women's ordination (he is obviously aware of the discussion about Junia in the complementarian/egalitarian debate). But, while denying the continuation of the gift of prophecy for today, he somehow thinks he can see into my heart and know my motives. So did God reveal to you extrabiblically the thoughts and intentions of my heart, or has the gift of prophecy ceased? You cannot have your cake and eat it too. And as Darrell Bock points out in his book Cultural Intelligence, one of the surest ways to shut down real conversation and understanding is to assume you know the other person's motives. 

Commentor 2 then says, "You’re not going argue from the clear passages of scripture are you? Prove me wrong. Where is it explicitly taught that apostles and prophets exist today?" He demands I produce a verse that explicitly teaches that prophets and apostles exist today. As for there being a passage that says outright, "All the ministry gifts present in the early church will continue until the Lord's return," he's correct that there isn't one. 

But my counter-proposal to him would be to ask that he produce a verse that explicitly says these giftings will die out sometime before the eschaton. He cannot produce one, because there isn't won. I'm sure he might try to use 1 Cor 3:8: 

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (NIV)

That is a verse frequently used by cessationists. But even cessationist scholars such as Thomas Schreiner will tell you that is not a solid verse to use in support of cessationism. If one continues to read the passage, it talks about these things no longer being needed when completeness comes. And that completeness cannot be, as many cessationists claim, the completion of the writing of the canon of Scripture, because verse 12 talks about when we see "face to face." The logical inference here is that completeness comes when Christ returns and we are eternally in His presence, which then obviates the need for revelatory gifts such as tongues and prophecy.

Also, the passage beginning in Eph 4:11 that talks about the risen Jesus giving apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church goes on to say these are given "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ"(v. 13). I don't know about you, but I don't believe even any one local church has reached the whole measure of the fulness of Christ, which then of course means the universal Church has not reached that point either. So by implication, all of these ministry giftings are still expected to operate to build up the body of Christ. Is that the "explicit" proof Commentor 2 requested? No, but it is certainly a valid and reasonable deduction from the facts of the biblical text.

Finally, Commentor 2 urged me to "note how Peter and Jude write in the past tense of the apostolic teachings and writings of the apostles." He did not give Scripture references—again, if you're trying to convince someone of your position, provide them with what they need to find the data you are citing; don't force them to do the legwork to support your claim—but I will "do my own research" to try to see what his argument actually is.

If he's talking about 1 Pet 1:10-12, it seems clear there that Peter is talking about the Old Testament prophets whose writings were part of the Hebrew canon. If he is referring to 2 Pet 1:18-21, then it appears that here Peter is also talking about the prophetic writings in the Old Testament, which have now been made "more sure" because Peter and the other eyewitnesses to Christ's earthly ministry have seen their fulfillment (a prophecy is confirmed or made "more sure" when it comes to pass). As for his mention of the "writings of the apostles," I assume it is in reference to 2 Pet 3:15-16, where Peter mentions Paul and his epistles. In verse 15 he mentions that Paul "wrote" to the believers, but in verse 16 says that Paul "writes" the same way in all his letters. To me, that sounds as though when Peter is writing his second epistle, Paul is still alive, or Peter would have mentioned all of Paul's writing activity as being in the past tense. 

As for the epistle of Jude, he urges his readers to "remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold" (v. 17). Verse 14 also mentions that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, "prophesied." Now of course, Enoch will be spoken of in the past tense, having already been dead and gone for several millennia by Jude's day. As for what the apostles of the Lord "foretold," the thing they foretold was that there would be scoffers in the last days. This is specifically referring to what the earliest disciples, those personally commissioned by Jesus, said would happen. 

Just because Peter and Jude use the past tense in speaking about what the OT prophets wrote, and about what Paul wrote and the apostles foretold, that does not automatically mean the function of apostles and prophets is no more. But since Commentor 2 refuses to actually provide evidence and citations to support his claims, but seems to expect any honest person who simply reads the Bible to be as intelligent or spiritual as he is an come to the same conclusions he does, it makes it difficult to interact with an argument that is not actually fleshed out, but based more on assertions than on methodical explanation.

I think one of the traps cessationists fall into is the claim they make that "part of the function of apostles was to write Scripture," and therefore, to protect the integrity of the closed canon, there can therefore no longer be an apostolic gifting, or else the writings of those so gifted would need to be added to the Bible (Pentecostals have even been accused at times of putting blank pages in the back of their Bibles so they could write down any prophecies given in their meetings as additions to the text). While parts of the New Testament were written by apostles, not all of it was. Luke was not one of the Twelve, yet he wrote the largest amount of the New Testament by any single author. Mark also was not one of the Twelve, and he was likely the first one to write a Gospel account down. And we don't have any evidence of writings by Bartholomew, Andrew, or James the son of Zebedee (who was killed by Herod fairly early in the book of Acts). If part of what apostles did by definition was to write Scripture, why don't we have any books by these other Apostles who walked with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry?

So, in closing what has turned into a much longer essay than I ever envisioned, let me be perfectly clear. I believe in ongoing apostolic and prophetic giftings and functions in the body of Christ today. But at the same time, I stridently oppose the use of the titles "Apostle" and "Prophet" as though they were governing church offices under which all other ministry gifts must "align" if we want to see the church function as God intends (as proponents of the NAR use of the terms hold). 


Here are links to some of my previous articles on the gift of tongues and prophecy. I have also written about abuse of the gifts.


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