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Is the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ movement a cult?

July 5th, 2013 | 17 Comments | Posted in Miscellaneous

Background: The other day someone posted an interesting question at Yahoo! Answers: “Is the New Apostolic Reformation a cult?” I think this question goes right to the heart of some important issues. Here is the answer I wrote.

First, here is the full question.

Is the New Apostolic Reformation a cult?

I may be wrong but what I hear is they want to install a theocracy and claim some of their leaders are apostles of the same level as Jesus’ original 12 apostles. Are they a reputable branch or Christianity or a cult one should steer clear of?
And here is how I answered.

The quick answer is that the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement is probably not a cult; nevertheless it is a dangerous, unbiblical movement and people should steer clear of it. Let me explain.

Many of the teachings of the NAR movement are aberrant and some– such as the “Manifest Sons of God” teaching that is promoted by some influentual NAR leaders–may even qualify as being truly heretical.

There are a couple of distinctions that should be made for clarity.

First, there are two main ways to define the word cult: (1) in sociological terms, and (2) in theological terms. In sociological terms, a cult is a group of people whose leaders exert undue control over their lives and who are involved in practices that may seem odd to the mainstream of society. This is the way the mainstream media generally uses the word cult.

If this is the way one is using the word cult, then some people may think that the NAR movement qualifies as a cult—though many others would disagree. But I don’t think the sociological definition of the word cult is particularly helpful since it is extremely subjective.

I think the theological definition of a cult is more helpful. In theological terms, a cult is a group that claims to be part of a specific religion, such as Christianity, yet that group denies essential teachings of that religion. For example, Mormons are classified as a cult of Christianity because they claim to be Christians, yet they deny many teachings that are considered to be essential (or non-negotiable) to Christianity, including the belief that there is only one God, the Trinity (Mormons say they believe in the Trinity, but have redefined it), and that forgiveness of sins is by grace alone without works.

The second important distinction to understand is the difference between teachings that are “heretical” and teachings that are “aberrant.” A heretical teaching is one that denies an essential teaching of Christianity. For example, the teaching that Jesus started out as a human being and then became divine is heretical because it denies his eternal status as the Second Person of the Godhead–which is an essential teaching in Christianity. Thus, those who hold to heretical beliefs are considered to be outside of Christianity.

But an “aberrant” teaching may not qualify as heretical, yet the teaching is seriously erroneous and, thus, is viewed as dangerous to the person who accepts the aberrant teaching. Many NAR teachings qualify as aberrant because they may not be outright heretical, yet they still deviate significantly from the teachings of mainstream, orthodox Christianity. Examples of NAR teachings that are aberrant are the teachings that all churches must submit to the authority of NAR apostles and accept the new truths being revealed by NAR prophets.

In addition to the aberrant teachings promoted by NAR leaders, there are some teachings–not held by everyone participating in the movement–that may even qualify as heretical, such as the “Manifest Sons of God” teaching, which appears to deify human beings.

Yes, you heard correctly: NAR leaders do teach that the NAR apostles have the same functions as the original Twelve apostles. And they also teach that NAR apostles will do even more spectacular miracles than the original apostles and even Jesus himself.

The ultimate goal of the NAR movement is to get all Christians to submit to the leadership of their apostles and prophets so they can lead the church in setting up God’s physical kingdom on earth through a combination of political means and displays of mighty miracles. The movement is “dominionist” because its goal—stated throughout its literature—is to take dominion of all the nations—that is, sociopolitical control. They refer to their dominionist agenda as the “Seven Mountain Mandate.”

The bottom line: Even if the NAR movement does not qualify as a full-fledged cult according to the theological or sociological definitions of the word, its teachings do not represent mainstream, orthodox Christianity.

— By Holly Pivec
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17 Responses to “Is the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ movement a cult?”

  1. ali Says:

    Totally agree with your assessment of the NAR. Have been watching them for about 3 years. And Mormonism – appears obvious they are a cult. 

    Perhaps opening a can of worms, but you mentioned the NAR and Mormonism as cults – would you include the Roman Catholic Church in this list as well.??. Their teachings seem to line up in many areas with your description of a cult.[no, I am not a member of the RCC]

  2. Holly Says:

    Hello Ali,

    Just a clarification: I did not say that the New Apostolic Reformation is a cult. (I just made some edits to my post to make sure it reads clearly.) I argued that many of its teachings are aberrant and that some of those teachings promoted by certain NAR leaders–which are not accepted by everyone participating in the movement–may even be heretical. But we must be careful not to classify an entire movement as a cult if it does clearly meet the criteria of denying core doctrines of the faith. That being said, aberrant doctrines–such as those promoted in the NAR movement–are dangerous and should be viewed with great concern.

    You asked a good question about Roman Catholicism. First, let me say that I am not an expert on Roman Catholicism. But I am very troubled by many of its teachings.

    One of my biggest concerns is the Roman Catholic view of salvation. According to my understanding, the Roman Catholic teaching on salvation is that people are saved by grace through faith, but not faith alone. In other words, faith must be combined with works. In contrast, Protestant Christians believe that salvation comes by grace, through faith alone, apart from works.

    And Roman Catholic doctrine includes many extra-biblical teachings that concern me, such as the veneration of Mary.

    That being said, Protestant theologians do not generally classify the Roman Catholic Church as a cult. This is because the Roman Catholic Church, in their view, holds to the essential doctrines of Christianity, including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith.

  3. Jane Says:

    I believe that Caryl Matrisciana in her YouTube video “Spiritual Warfare” suggests that the NAR may be the Apostate One-World church of the End Times.  Evidently the NAR comes from many of these Pentecostal Charismatic type ‘churches’ and works to infiltrate all the other churches and therefore can’t be identified as one specific ‘church’.    

    I have a friend who appears to like this NAR sort of thing.  I think she’s been so steeped in Charismania for so many years that the plain ole Bible is just boring to her.  And she actually wants to go into the Tribulation.  These Charismatics have been too drunk on thrills and excitement for far too long.  It doesn’t appear to cross her mind that she might be unhappy in the Tribulation.  I can’t imagine.  And I thank God that he’s planted my feet firmly on the ground.

  4. Holly Says:

    Jane,

    I do agree that the NAR movement will have a significant role in the rise of a false system of worship led by the False Prophet.

    Holly

  5. ali Says:

    thank you for the clarification.

  6. shawn Says:

    Holly,

     I have only discovered in the past 24hrs, that my church is part of this movement. It was from a post on facebook by a former member of our church. Everything that is described in the NAR teachings is of my churches “vision”. I actually thought they created this vision and was part of there ministry until yesterday when I read the this post in regards to this movement. Needless to say i am very distressed about this and now questioning whether I should continue attending the church. I find there is a heavy emphasis on tithing in the sermons, I mean like almost every sunday. This is kinda of a high profile ministry, our services are streamed live on the internet. The pastor has written many books and he is very wealthy, ironically the congregation isn’t but were encouraged to tithe, tithe and tithe again. The sermons are sometimes over our heads. I am an usher as well, however here is this odd authoritarian situation going on led by the “captain” of the usher team where only a select few are allowed to hand out the “sacrament” during communion, needless to say, I am not one of the chosen few, which to me is odd considering I am placed in a position od quasi-leadership and servitude. The pastor has his own “security” team and its difficult to even approach after church services. I have been attending this church for a year now and while this pastor is an incredible speaker, I am constantly questioning things….why is that??? anyways thanks for hearing me out, any insight into my dilemna would be appreciated.

    Shawn

  7. Holly Says:

    Hello Shawn.

    If your church embraces NAR teachings, then my advice to you is to leave and find another church that does not twist Scripture, but teaches it accurately. There are a lot of good churches out there (no perfect churches, but many very good ones); you shouldn’t have to go to an NAR church. I don’t know which church you attend or any specific details about the church, but from your questioning of things it sounds like you may have sensed some spiritually abusive control tactics in your church. Spiritually abusive control tactics are common in NAR churches. I always recommend the book Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free From Churches That Abuse for people who may have been in spiritually abusive, controlling churches. This book will help you find out if your church has been an unhealthy controlling environment and, if it has been, will help you identify and overcome any negative effects such an environment has had on your thinking and your walk with God. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions. It can be difficult to realize you have been part of this movement without even knowing it and to remove yourself from it. There are many other people who have been in your shoes and can give you encouragement along the way.

    Holly

  8. Dennis Says:

    Here’s a simple “what if!” Just what if, when all is said and done, and we ALL stand before God one day, what if all you heretic hunters that have built ministries for the purpose of defaming your brothers and sisters instead of loving unconditionally, what if you were wrong the whole time? There are multiple layers of revelation in Gods word and most of the time you cannot receive anything more than intellectual understanding if you’re always looking to expose others because faith, understanding, and revelation knowledge ONLY works through live, Gal. 5:6.

  9. Brenda Schley Says:

    keep up this good work ,Holly. We need to be aware what is being taught and what is going on. I see a whole bunch of people being so misled , and misleading others into this. They are wasting precious time, waiting for God t do something. Most won’t share their faith. They don’t have time. They also think they are more enlightened than other Christians, they are waiting for the big time healing and signs and wonders, and then people are going to see the light and be saved.

  10. Gavin Glynn Says:

    Hi Holly

    it is obvious from your posts that you have big issues with what you term the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). I suppose I would be grouped with those you call the NAR, and who you obviously believe are in deep error and maybe heresy. By association, I must be in deep error or heresy.

    Can I humbly ask you a question? The bible says to judge by their fruit. What is the fruit of your words? Have your words increased the spread of the gospel? Do your word promote love? Has your words set people free? Do they change people’s lives for the better?

    You may rightly ask the same of me. My words (or least the words that Dad has given) have led me to spend two weeks every year ministering in Cambodia and Northern Thailand. I have seen the deaf and the blind healed. I have seen people recover from AIDS. I have seen the Kingdom of our God break forth in situations to numerous to mention. All of this was fuelled by the teaching of those you would call the NAR.

    Again, I ask humbly, to put aside your fear of the so-called NAR, and with Holy Spirit, consider the fruit in terms of worldwide ministry to the lost and broken.

    Bless you….

    Gavin Glynn 🙂

  11. CT Says:

    This is definitely a cult.  Teaching are close to Christian in some respects, but  have been involved with the highest leaders of this movement and trust me on this – CULT.  RUN – it is not what it seems

  12. dr v vadivelu Says:

    Hi,
    i am concerned about the infiltration of the NAR in South Africa.I am a South African Indian and belong to the Lutheran Church.Money from the USA finds itself in the hands of Pastors who frequently visit the USA and come back to South Africa with financial backing.They alone control the funding from USA. The church is loaded with business we believe in wealth prosperity.Congregants are offered material positions and this becomes very attractive to join this fast growing under the economic conditions that prevail.Close relatives of mine have joined this movement. I find it strange to hold conversation with them.their attitude is that the churches us belonged to taught us nothing.They are trying to convince more relatives to join as the prospects of wealth is far better.They want to prophesier on others. I am very concerned about the NAR church which i consider to have false teachings

    Regards 

    Rajin Vadivelu

  13. JO Roman Says:

    Gavin,

    I think the criticism is centered on the theological interpretatios of the movement and not on the fruit resulting from these ministries. GB.

  14. Paige Says:

    Gavin,
    This is a very late reply to your post so I hope you’re still around, but your argument using a logical fallacy to attack the writer of this article.  It is called the Ad Hominem argument in which the person proposing an argument and not the argument is attacked.  This is considered a very anti-intellectual strategy which you’ve only further qualified as illogical, by asserting you are right because of your assertion that you are a good person.

    Whether or not you are a good person is irrelevant, just as whether or nor Holly is a bad person is irrelevant.  The argument is about NAR’s teaching and whether or not they constitute a cult.

    What you have inadvertently done however is support the argument that NAR churches are dangerous, as you’ve done what NAR church members do prolifically, they attack the people who argue against them.  While this may not always be in the form that you’ve done here, it is always the response from people caught in these movements.  Why?  Because you’re made to feel as if you’re a part of the special elite, a position you only hold as long as you adhere to the doctrines you’re taught.  Of course, many of us believe that there is no division among Christians and that everyone is special which is why we don’t have to fight to keep our lofty place atop a mythical podium. 

    I suggest that you come down and embrace what has always been here for you.

  15. Jeff Says:

    My response to comments like the one Dennis has made is: unity without truth has nothing to do with love 1 Cor 13:6.

  16. Jeff Says:

    My AOG church just excommunicated me this week for not being fully submitted to the pastor’s vision and being critical. My crime was last week, I emailed the pastor about theological concerns I had from Bill Johnson’s book “God is Good”. The classes were being taught by a board member. No discussion just obey. 

    Here was what I sent:

    Pastor,
     
    Have you read “God is Good”? I must tell you that I am concerned about what appears to be Nestorianism on pp 168-169. Possible deification of the believer p. 56, Kingdom now/ dominionism with its postmillennialism pp. 54-55. Etc. The reason I say possible deification of the believer is that he makes the idea clearer in his book “When Heaven Invades Earth” p.29. 
     
    The Word of Faith theology, with it’s positive confession and declarations, must have the “little god” doctrine as its premise in order to speak things into existence Ex nihilo. See “God is Good” pp.212-213 for example. I suspect Bill Johnson is wiggling in his book to conceal that label but teach it still.
     
    What do you think?
     
    God Bless,
    Jeff 

  17. Holly Says:

    Jeff, I have the Kindle edition of When Heaven Invades Earth. Can you please point me to the chapter that teaches possible deification of the believer? I have yet to read Johnson’s newest book, but will do so soon.

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