Monday, November 21, 2011

Part 3: Kingdom Now Theology & The New Apostolic Reformation

original print by Laurie Cooper
As discussed in Part 1: Dominionism: A Primer on Mixing Christian Theology & American Politics; there are definite differences between Dominionist Theologies and lumping them together is incorrect and leads to confusion. In Part 2: Christian Reconstructionism: The Template for Modern American Theocracy I outlined the Christian Reconstructionist movement and quickly discussed how this has influenced the Religious Right in America. This includes the New Apostolic Reformation. There are different theological and political beliefs in both camps and they are both, perhaps unsurprisingly, not too fond of the other.


The more recent line of dominionist theology called Kingdom Now Theology is growing fast and relevant to the recent news cycle regarding the American political scene. Most of the 2012 GOP Presidential candidates that are under the Dominionist tent fall into this category. These include Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and perhaps surprisingly to some, Newt Gingrich. Herman Cain, while very much a conservative Christian, doesn’t appear to be influenced by this theology. Rick “Frothy Mixture” Santorum is Ultra-Catholic so technically he is not in this line of theological thought since it is decidedly Protestant (and they consider the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon controlled by SATAN!), however, it is not impossible for Catholics to be involved in charismatic movements nor would Santorum disagree with many of their beliefs and goals. Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, as Mormons, are out since Mormonism is considered a cult by the majority of Kingdom Now adherents. Ron Paul is not a part of this movement, but I still think he has far right Conservative Christian tendencies which don’t always square with personal liberty. Frankly, I think Ron Paul is a closeted Reconstructionist.


So, what is Kingdom Now Theology?


Kingdom Now Theology is a set of religious concepts that evolved out of Pentecostalism/Neo-Pentecostalism and the Latter Rain Movement of the mid-20th century. It’s core belief is that Satan has been in control the Earth since the Fall of Man and that God is waiting for the Church (followers of Christ) to be powerful enough to help God defeat Satan and restore Paradise on Earth. The three core beliefs are:


  1. Satan gained control of the Earth from God after the Fall of Adam and Eve.
  2. Jesus did not fully defeat Satan on the cross. It is up to “The Church” to rise up as an instrument of God and finish the job by defeating Satan here on Earth.
  3. Only when Heaven has been established on Earth via the Church’s control of government and secular institutions will Jesus return.


In the interest of fairness I should note that many Christians, even including Evangelicals and other Pentecostals, find these beliefs heretical. Not that I have a concern about heresies and theological Jenga games, but I want to point out that these beliefs are very much not universal or sometimes even tolerated in conservative circles. Not that I care, but as someone with an interest in Christian theology...I have to agree. The theology simply doesn't make sense since it means a) Jesus didn’t defeat Satan on the cross and is therefore less important, and b) God cannot be seen as omnipotent if “He” cannot defeat Satan whenever “He” chooses. I’m just saying it’s pretty inconsistent. I love it!


As this line of Dominion Theology was heavily influenced by Pentecostalism it shares many of their “charismatic” traits. In Pentecostalism, and now among various Christian sects, the term “charismatic” refers to being “filled with” or “baptized in” the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit manifests itself in humans by speaking in tongues (glossolalia!), the translation of said speaking in tongues, faith healing, prophecy, laying of hands, etc. They also practice what is known as Spiritual Warfare; which is a type of exorcism of demonic spirits via prayer. They don’t call it that, but that is exactly what it is. I’ll discuss that more below. There are certain buzzwords one might hear that give away this practice such as “prayer warrior.” This was famously brought to mainstream attention when Thomas Muthee prayed over Sarah Palin in her church for witchcraft protection. This is where a shield of protection is believed to be placed around a believer from those who wish evil upon them.  


Another major component of Kingdom Now Theology is the Fivefold Ministry. This is a belief that the five offices of the Church are to be reinstated in order to continue the work of the Twelve Apostles. It is based on  Ephesians 4:11 which states “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.” These five groups of leaders of the Church correspond to apostles as messengers, prophets with the gift of Divine prophecy, evangelists as “converters,” pastors as shepherds, and teachers as...well...teachers. All this is carried out via divine, charismatic gifts. The most prominent and quickly growing movement to have evolved from Latter Rain and the Kingdom Now Theology is the New Apostolic Reformation.


The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)    


C. Peter Wagner is the de facto “founder” and the one who “named” the New Apostolic Reformation movement (the power to “name” something or someone has significance since that was Adam’s original task). Wagner is highly influential in the various Pentecostal movements of which this movement was born. The New Apostolic Reformation, also known as the NAR, borrows heavily from Kingdom Now Theology in that it holds most if not all of the beliefs in that theology, but it is highly influenced by the Fivefold Ministry. The NAR, as the name implies, relies heavily on its apostles and prophets (i.e. “change agents”) to restore and guide the church to create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.


In an interview with NPR, Wagner spoke about a wide range of topics involving the New Apostolic Reformation.* Integral to the NAR movement is the belief in modern apostles and prophets with divine powers where God has chosen specific people with the gift of prophecy. Wagner explains that God does nothing without revealing his plans to His prophets first (which is pretty convenient for the prophet). God speaks to them and through them to provide guidance.


Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servant the prophets. (Amos 3:7 NASB).


God is guiding the people or the Church via the prophets. These prophecies are “known in part, prophecy in part.” A Prophet “speaks in language that different people interpret differently.” They must be judged and discerned to be true. The entire NAR movement cannot be judged by a single prophet’s words or statements because they may not be true. This seems...convenient. It’s a great way to distance themselves from prophecies that are obviously false or to insulate them from public scrutiny. The apostles, meanwhile, have a larger spiritual authority as individuals than anyone since the original Twelve Apostles.


The NAR operates differently than other Pentecostals and Dominion theologies because they subscribe to “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare.” In the NPR interview, C. Peter Wagner plainly states that demons inhabit and influence people all over the Earth. I am not exaggerating. This is a literal—not allegorical—belief that demons are actively sent by Satan to interfere in the lives and affairs of people. They are among us and they are here to do evil. Living, breathing demons are everywhere and demon-casting is serious business.


“This is a society of a large number, a couple hundred, of Christian ministers who are in the ministry of deliverance. Their seven-day-a-week occupation is casting demons out of people. And they have professional expertise in this...”


C. Peter Wagner plainly stated that he and his wife have conducted, and continue to conduct, “exorcisms.” He is quick to state that they are different than Catholic exorcisms (because that would be crazy!). They believe people become “demonized”, not “possessed.” It is more like the demon and human become one, but the human still has control and is simply influenced. My guess is that this “influence over possession” belief evolved in order preserve the concept of free will and sin. If you are possessed by a demon you have no control. Whatever heinous act you commit isn’t really your fault. Demons influencing people, however, allows for the preservation of free will, sin and potential absolution provided you are born again. This is important. It isn’t some moot point about what some “crazy Christians” believe that can be easily dismissed. They believe demons inhabit people and actively work for Satan against God. These “demonized” people are everywhere. They are in the government (both parties), in schools, at your work, and even in the church.


The NAR has rejected the typical Pentecostal End Times scenario and does not believe in The Rapture. This branch of Dominion Theology influenced by the Latter Rain and Kingdom Now theologies describes a post-millennial End Times where the believers stay on Earth to fight and prepare for the return of Christ.  They believe there is a demonic move towards a “One World” religion where all the religions come together with the claim that all paths lead to God. This religious pluralism and tolerance is a set up by the Anti-Christ to usurp this One World conglomerate religion. Hence all the other religions (including moderate, liberal and progressive Christian denominations) are heresies filled with Satan’s demons. This is why they need to take dominion of the Earth in order to purge it and prepare for Heaven on Earth. It isn’t too hard to see that this creates a different mindset for religious-politico activism. This creates an imperative for activism in their collective mindset. They must prepare the Earth for Christ’s return.  


For example, Mr. Wagner was very earnest in his statement that as Americans, the NAR "honors" every religion; however other religions are considered to not be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are a part of the Kingdom of Darkness (and therefore Satanic and infected with demons). It should be noted that converts to Christianity were previously infected and had the demons of their old religions cast out. Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation want to convert people to Jesus Christ, not kick them out of America. This actually fits with their eschatological goals of requiring a certain number of people to be converted to Christianity in order bring about the return of Christ. To Mr. Wagner’s credit he says not all NAR want mosques banned. He plainly states that religious intolerance is not patriotic or pluralistic; which is something Americans should stand for. Although, this is to be taken with a grain of salt. Even light research into his past words and the other major players in the NAR one can see disdain, fear, and disgust with other religions. While they don’t wish to eradicate the adherents of other religions they wish to convert them. especially the Jews as is common with those who wish to bring the End Times to fruition.


Israel, of course, is a large part of these End Times and the Kingdom of Heaven. C. Peter Wagner stated that Jews are People of God that lost their way. They need to be brought back into the fold, if you will. Some versions of this narrative require a certain number of people and/or Jews to convert to Christianity in order for Jesus to return. The NAR has a close relationship with Messianic Judaism, of which the group “Jews for Jesus” belong. The groups that fall under Messianic Judaism are people who accept Christ as the Messiah, but retain their Jewish culture, heritage and identity. The NAR sees them as integral in their work to convert as many Jews as possible since it is generally believed that the Messianic Jews have a better chance of converting Jews in Israel and elsewhere than an American Christian Evangelist.


So how does one drive the demons out of whole communities, cities and nations in order to save them? “Spiritual mapping” is a large scale version of the Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and a large part of the NAR battle against demons to bring Heaven to Earth. It is not just evangelizing individuals, but going into entire communities and cities to drive out demons from these specific geographical areas in order to convert the the people. It should be noted that these larger, non-individual demons; particularly city-wide demons are higher up on the hierarchy (of demons…   O_o). They aren’t as easy to drive out as the smaller, individual demons (of course). As mentioned above in Wagner’s quote regarding the casting out of demons, there are specialists within the NAR movement that can weaken and bind demons. Something to keep in mind, just in case you need one.


Wagner comes off as a nice guy. He simply believes this stuff. To expand on that point, Wagner claims that taking “dominion” is not meant as a theocracy. He claims that the movement wants to work within existing branches of government and culture with as many “Kingdom-minded” people as possible to restore the Earth to Paradise as preparation for Jesus’ return. He says they do not want a theocractic state as might be seen in some Islamic countries (to be honest I do not think he didn’t meant this is some paranoid Islamophobic way). A couple of points about this. First, I don’t believe him when he says this. In 2004 Wagner stated that:


“These apostles in the workplace are the ones that are going to come into the picture and with them we’ll be open these gates...Because it takes a government to overthrow a government.”  —C. Peter Wager, Arise Prophetic Conference 2004


Now, they will likely claim that this is wordplay or a metaphor for the “offices of the Church” (the Church government) being so successful that everyone (or most everyone) converts to Christianity and therefore it’s not a violent or forced takeover. In doing a lot of research I frequently saw that rationalization and I may touch on it more in a future post dealing with the public denial of Dominionism even though it is very much out in the open. The fact is that C. Peter Wagner, as nice of a man as he seems, is only the “de facto” leader of the NAR. Many, if not most of the leading apostles and prophets within the movement, very much want a controlled Christian theocracy. Some of the highest profile Apostles/Change Agents such as Os Hillman, Lance Wallnau, Lou Engle and Cindy Jacobs rarely hold back on the dominion as takeover; with Engle even go so far as to talk about martyrdom. Second, the entire idea that the world is evil which requires the culture to be converted and that the government should be filled with “kingdom-minded” people to prepare for Christ’s return is theocratic. What are these people supposed to be doing in government? They aren’t there to be placeholders. They are there to steer the culture via the government towards their brand of Christianity by basing the government on Mosaic Biblical Law and Christianity. This is where you will hear a lot of various kinds of dominionists split hairs on whether something is a theocracy or not. They will say that they only wish to live as examples, or to change the hearts and minds of people to bring them to Christ. Remember in Part 1, I discussed theonomy vs. theocracy. They will claim the “soft stance” of theonomy, that their goal is to live as examples via God’s Divine Laws. However, as I explained, theonomy is like an internalization of, or the grassroots version of, a theocracy. I think the quote from Part 1 that stated “Politics and presidents can’t save us, only Jesus can. And when the Church serves her true King in obedience and action, the theocracy will come—not through elections, but through people—one heart at a time.” is a nice representation of this concept. Some of the Dominionists realize that a top down takeover is unlikely if not impossible. They want a theocracy, but it will come from the bottom up. This is why I have trepidation about small government politicians with anti-Federalist political philosophies. By neutering the Federal government and giving more power to States and local government there is no balance of power to ensure individual rights over establishing little theocracies everywhere (as discussed in Part 2). That would be just the start.


The NAR very much has a “Tea Party” mindset and have been influenced by Christian Reconstructionism. They desire small government, privatized schools, no social welfare programs and a laissez-faire capitalist economy. Why? Government, and any benefits it could provide (outside of security), is an infringement not on liberty or individual rights, but on the power of the Church. They want the Church to be the government, to be the educators, to be the media, to be the safety net. All the things that the Church used to do. Before the Enlightenment when Christianity ruled supreme.


“Kingdom solutions sometimes need stealth solutions so that the secular world can accept them.” —Os Hillman, President of Marketplace Leaders and a leader in the NAR


So how does the NAR attempt to manifest this Kingdom of Heaven on Earth in preparation for Christ’s return? As the above quote implies a need to infiltrate the secular world and if they have to resort to lies and tricks then so be it. They talk about the six kingdoms of secular culture that need to have Kingdom-minded people within to influence and control. These kingdoms are arts and entertainment, media, education, business, family and the the government. There is a seventh kingdom which is the Church or religion. These kingdoms are also known as spheres or mountains.


... I believe God was waiting for the biblical government of the Church to come into place under apostles and prophets.  But this happened in 2001, when, at least according to my estimates, the Second Apostolic Age began.  What more?  I now think that in order for us to be able to handle the wealth responsibly, we need to recognize, identify, affirm, and encourage the ministry of the apostles in the six non-Religion mountains.  They may or may not want to use the term `apostle' but they will function in Kingdom-based leadership roles characterized by supernaturally empowered wisdom and authority.  We have more work to do here. —C. Peter Wagner






*If you want to hear some truly irrational religious thinking please listen to the C. Peter Wagner interview on NPR. He goes on for nearly ten minutes on how Japan is cursed because the Japanese Emperor had sexual relations with the sun goddess who is actually a demon. At least just listen to the first ten minutes. You’ll be hooked.

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