How to Bully the Bereans
It is amazing to observe the wordsmithing and spin that is being put forth to blunt the obviously distasteful and extra-biblical character of the manifestations related to the current “River of Revival” that continues to spill out from Toronto/Brownsville Assembly of God (hereafter BAG). Words are sliced and diced in a desperate attempt to legitimate the uncontrolled and spastic manifestations that are the unique feature of this movement without which it would die a quick and natural death. A combination of “fruit-proof” and intimidation is used to silence those who would offer words of caution and concern.
Don Nori (publisher of Destiny Image, the only purely Latter Rain publishing House) writes:
“It is amazing that when a portal is finally discovered, a portal that opens eternity in an enormous flood of God’s true presence … Men are quick to condemn, criticize and accuse” 1
Nori’s term “portal” in reference to God’s true presence suggests that He sees the current “move” as an opening that has been punched through into the heavens and now finally men can actually find God’s true presence. Nori apparently believes God has been waiting till now for men to “tunnel through” so that He can pour out the river of His real presence upon His people.
After citing a quote from the New York Times stating that Brownsville and similar places are good for America, Nori makes the following comment:
“It seems the secular media is more willing to see God do the miraculous than our religious brethren. Could it be that these brethren reject fruit-proof because there is no confirming fruit proof in their own ministries?” 2
The First Line Of Defense
In this quote Nori has just introduced us to the first line of defense for the bizarre physical manifestations that mark the “River of God" movement. References to sudden life changes within a general Christian setting called “fruit-proof” are enlisted to prove that bizarre manifestations are from God even though they have no reference point in Scripture. Most of us are well aware of what these manifestations are and I won’t describe them here. It is best to simply affirm that these uncontrollable paroxysms are beyond the boundaries of a biblical description of Christian spirituality. Many in the movement simply say this is a new movement of God which consequently needs no biblical validation and “fruit-proof” is all anyone should need.
This defense says simply “It must be God since it brought me closer to God” or “It made me love Jesus more”. Fruit-proof however as stated proves too much. The apparitions of Mary apparently bring people closer to God and Jesus as well and produce profound life changes that appear to be related to Christianity.
Fruit-proof actually carries some postmodern overtones. The old paradigm taught that if you have the right teaching you will experience God correctly, whereas the new paradigm teaches that if you have an experience that proves you have the right teaching. The inner logic goes something like this: uncontrollable physical manifestations are observed and appear supernatural. If you have any doubts Steve Hill will point to a convulsing child and authoritatively exclaim “this is God”. This then generates the desire to experience the manifestation lest they miss God. With desire and expectation the devotee enters the experiential mode. Proof of the validity of the experience is in the successful experience itself. (Some do not succeed and feel that God has for some reason rejected them). By this circular reasoning questions are effectively silenced. Because of the dramatic nature of the experiences it is not surprising that a fixation occurs and leads to a change of thinking and life style. Because these experiences are in a broadly Christian setting it is then assumed they must be Christian in nature and source.
What would be your response to the following description of revival?
“One crippled woman arose and walked, instantly healed. Another who had been in bed for four years with palsy was restored to health … A child who was suffering from brain fever and was given up to die by the physicians, was healed and after a few hours was playing about the floor … Others were baptized that day” 3
The fruit-proof in this account seems undeniable, but the evangelist in this meeting was one of the early pioneers of the Mormon Church, the same church that teaches that people can become gods just as God Himself became God and believers can and do procreate new gods eternally. I am not suggesting the Toronto/BAG enthusiasts teach any such thing but it does show that good fruit by itself does not demonstrate in and of itself the source of perceived miracles. Indeed Jesus did say that his disciples would be known by their fruit (see Jn. 15:8) but Jesus also prayed “sanctify them in truth, thy word is truth (Jn. 17:17)
The Second Line of Offence
Competitive sportsmen are well aware that the best defense is a good offence. Intimidate your opponent with an effective attack in order to neutralize the enemy’s advantage. Steve Hill and Michael Brown of BAG have learned not only the defense of fruit-proof but the attack of intimidation to silence those who ask them to explain biblically the bizarre manifestations which both occur regularly and are promoted as signs of a new and endtime anointing. Hill’s first offensive play from scrimmage is the “God Mocker”. In his book bearing that title he states:
“God Mockers scoff and hold in contempt everything they don’t approve of. The second mark of a God Mocker is a fear of confrontation and change. They are so stuck in religious tradition that they are closed to a new revelation … God Mockers have much to fear. God will recall every curse uttered against His revival. He will repay every blasphemy whispered … He will remember every word spoken against the weary pastors … God Mockers have disturbed and confused this country … We normally never give the time of day to critics and accusers … The bible says touch not God’s anointed, and do my prophets no harm (Ps. 105-15). That’s a deadly warning to every God Mocker on this planet … Be careful God Mocker! Do you know who you are messing with? … You are messing with God Almighty. When He moves, you had better back off.” 4
Michael Brown, not to be outdone by Hill’s God Mocker attack, pulls out of his playbook the well-used "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" ploy. Michael Brown writes:
“Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is a terrifying sin, a horrible sin, a sin of disastrous consequences. It is the only sin specifically described in the Bible as unforgivable. Just the thought of it is enough to send spiritual chills down your spine … Are you totally and absolutely sure that you are right in attacking the current revival? Are you willing to wage your salvation on the fact that you are correct? 5
But Brown after issuing this chilling warning rushes to say:
“But first I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not saying for a moment that the Christian brothers and sisters who attack the current outpouring are guilty of blaspheming the Spirit” 6
This is like crying fire in a theatre and then saying you didn’t mean it. He delivers the attack and then runs for cover knowing that the missile has already been fired. If Brown truly believed his critics were not in danger of the unpardonable sin, why even put it in print in the first place, unless of course you want to deliver the scare in the first place.
Imagine with me for a moment the Apostle Paul arriving in Berea and there he finds some that insist his message pass muster as found in Scripture. Imagine Paul, touting apostolic authority, lashing out against them, calling them God Mockers and in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit simply because they checked him out with the Holy Scripture. Paul was an inspired Spirit anointed Apostle (somewhat outranking current revivalists) but he never stooped to such crass spiritual intimidation tactics. Brown moves on to shame those who will not accept his views. He states:
“Of course – how pathetic! The critics continue to raise their voices and attack those things of which they are ignorant. But what would revival be like without the critics? (That’s similar to asking what the Gospels would be without the Pharisees.) … What would you expect? Birds fly, fish swim, liars lie, and critics criticize.” 7
Well, noble Bereans! Apparently Paul was wrong for commending you for your biblical faithfulness. You are really pathetic ignorant Pharisees.
These are only a sampling of Brown's invectives. He presumes that his critics are ignorant of exactly what the movement entails and don’t know what we are talking about. The truth is the critics are well informed and their reporting is hitting home. He further would have his readers assume that his critics are opposed to revival in general, which simply is not true. Even though Brown claims that BAG is willing to accept constructive criticism, it is obvious that BAG is willing to do so only if people embrace the movement as an authentic revival. If we question whether BAG is a heaven sent revival, Brown maintains we are foolish, pathetic, prideful, ignorant, self-appointed rumormongers.
The Final Line of Defense
If fruit-proof and intimidation will not silence the critics, then there is new revelation from God to endorse the current move. Steve Hill made this very plain:
“They (the Godmocking critics) are so stuck in religious tradition that they are closed to new revelation …” 8
What is this “new revelation” to which Hill appeals? He doesn’t exactly tell us, but somehow the “new revelation” to which he refers, must be for him a reason for accepting this new anointing as from God. While the promoters of this new move give lip service to the authority of scripture, this whole “New Anointing/River of God” is in the final analysis, based on new revelation beyond Scripture. For example, when suddenly Pastor Kilpatrick feels what he perceives to be the glory of God coming up his ankles and proclaims that this is the coming of God’s glory, this by definition becomes a new revelation. Either this revelation is true or false. We are left of agree or disagree with this new revelation with no assurance from scripture. If Kilpatrick’s revelation which he feels is the coming of God’s glory is really from God, then we are compelled to receive it. However, if it is not from God, we must reject it or risk deception. The Apostle Paul who endorsed the spiritual gifts at Corinth also warned them “Don’t go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) and suggested that those who go beyond what is written become “puffed up one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6). Consequently, those who go beyond what is written move into spiritual pride claiming an anointing which is not biblical and which some believers do not have. Thus believers are divided into those who have and those who do not, and those who have must impart it to those who do not have it.
Commonly, people make threatening statements when they feel unsure of themselves. Secure people often are not aroused by questions and don’t bother to answer their critics. But when you know you are on shaky ground (no pun intended) and your teaching and practice have no biblical support, there is the temptation to divert attention from this by appealing to God to rain down fire from heaven upon your questioners. Any legitimate “Move of God” will easily withstand careful biblical scrutiny. Secure and godly men welcome and invite any biblical concerns about their ministry and teaching. When the leaders of Toronto/BAG begin to intimidate and put on notice those who raise questions, calling them God Mockers and ignorant Pharisees, it only suggests the deep spiritual insecurities they apparently have. Paul did not call the Bereans names for searching the Scriptures daily to see if what he preached was so. Rather, he commended them by calling them “nobleminded” (Acts 17:11).
Is it not paradoxical that those who threaten today’s Bereans with God’s judgement and retribution seem to have no concern when they level deprecating invectives against those who do no agree with them?
Ultimately the truth of Scripture is based on the infallible character of the God of truth. Conversely, bizarre extra-biblical experiences and new revelations not even hinted at in Scripture, are based solely on fallible men and women. These extra-biblical altered states of consciousness and new revelations are at best questionable.
Are you willing to trade the sure word of Scripture for the sinking sands of potentially unreliable men? In the end, the validity of any spirituality is whether it’s source is from God rather than from man. God’s Word endorses itself for it is God’s infallible truth. It can hardly be stated better than the report of the Spiritual Life Committee in Minutes, Revised Constitution and Bylaws of the General Council of the Assemblies of God of 1993, which asserts:
“We believe that God’s Spirit never goes where His Word does not … We have been lambasted by elements of the electronic church and charismatic renewal as being backslidden and non Spirit led when we have not jumped on popular band wagons of the day loaded with the meringue of personality and spiritual excess rather than the plain meat of God’s Word. So be it!! If criticism is the price we must pay for asking the question: “What saith the Lord in His written Word?” - then let us wear that criticism gladly as a sign of fidelity to Christ.”
1 – Don Nori, “Portal in Pensacola” Destiny Image Prophetic Digest,
Shippensburg, PA, 1997
2– Don Nori, “The Plumbline: Fruit-Proof”, Destiny Image Digest, summer 1997
3 – Inez Smith Davis, The Story of the Church, Herald Publish House, Independence, MO, 1943, pp. 230-232
4 – Steve Hill, The God Mockers, Destiny Image’s Revival Press, P.O. Box 310, Shippenburg, PA, 1996, chapter one.
5 – Michael Brown, Let Not Man Deceive You, Destiny Image’s Prophetic Press, Shippenburg, PA, pp. 13-14
6 – Ibid, pp. 19-20
7 – Michael Brown, Destiny Image Prophetic Digest, “Testimonies Pour In”. Winter 1997
8 – Steve Hill, The God Mockers, Destiny Image’s revival Press, P.O. Box 3190, Shippenburg, PA, chapter one.