Experientialism and false prophecy for the Scriptures
Third, she must reject experientialism and false prophecy for the Scriptures. This is not to deny the subjective experience of the living God and the biblical exercise of the charismata. But it is to discern between this and absolutizing subjective experience above him and, thus, false dependence on prophets and prophecy. And this must also include absolutizing experiential phenomena. These are particularly the sins of the charismatic stream of the church. Having refused a corrective word during the 1960s-80s through what became known as the Shepherding movement (Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter, Charles Simpson et al.), in broad brushstrokes, the renewal has now gone to seed and been trodden underfoot of men—by imposters and the immature who prophesy from their own spirit.
And so, “Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” (Ezek 13:3). This has been dramatically exposed in the recent US election and demands accountability and repentance. Tellingly, Pat Robertson, founder of CBN, who was instrumental in the rejection of the corrective word through Bob Mumford and Ern Baxter in the 1970s-80s, has been one of the more strident voices “prophesying” a Trump second-term victory. Too many out of their own spirits have falsely prophesied an outcome that has not transpired. Whether the electoral outcome is fraudulent or not, for the moment, is beside the point.
Peter’s words must be heeded:
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19–21
These words of Peter are bookended by his own supernatural experience as an eyewitness of the majesty and the problem of false prophets and teachers. What Peter claims here is momentous. He is saying that the prophetic word of Scripture is even more sure than his own experience of the Lord at the Mount of Transfiguration. The ministry and life of the incarnate Son of God, as sure as that is, is made even more sure by the Scriptures. This is a weighty claim that must be taken to heart by the renewal stream. Our subjective experience of God must yield to the authority of Scripture—to sound theology and doctrine.
In a time of judgment upon God’s people Isaiah commands them not to fear “conspiracy” but rather to fear the LORD. They are to return from the occult prognosticators to “the law and the testimony”:
For the LORD spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.”
Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait on the LORD, who hides His face from the house of Jacob; and I will hope in Him. Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Isaiah 8:11–20 NKJV
What some call conspiracy, God calls judgment. So, in the face of the Assyrian onslaught the battle-cry of God’s people ought to be—“To the law and to the testimony!” Not—”To the soothsayers and diviners!”
Rather, they are to “Bind up the testimony” and “Seal the law among his disciples.” God’s Law is the touchstone of the prophetic. Every true prophet of God will call the people of God back to the law of the covenant. This is why Paul, in a prophetic spirit, declares that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). This means that the entire corpus of Scripture, especially the laws and ordinances of the OT, are for us today. Not as a means of justification, as the Judaizers, but rather sanctification—as a charter for life (Lev 18:5). Not only for the individual Christian but also for society. This is the Reformer’s traditional “second use of the law”. And it must logically include the judicial and civil law as the application of the Ten Commandments, which are merely the summary statement of the entire Law.
Like Moses, Jesus also provides a summary statement. When asked as to the greatest commandment he renews the Law by rehearsing the shema of Deuteronomy 6:
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The entire Law of God is encompassed in this renewal. And so, the NT people of God, as “a royal priesthood and holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9), can now make known the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10):
See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
The charismatic church must, therefore, repent of its unbiblical reliance on prophets and prophecy (whether false or otherwise) and return to biblical expository preaching. Not to mention the personality cults, the idolatry of phenomenon, and monetizing of the gospel, that is dominant in that stream. Furthermore, she must teach and apply the biblical disciplines for the exercise of the charismata as taught by Paul. This must include the excommunication of false prophets and teachers (Ex 22:18; Lev 19:26, 31; 20:27; Dt 13:1-5; 17:7, 12; 18:10-14, 20-22; Jer. 2:8; 14:14, 15; Zech. 13:3; 1 Cor 5:9-13; 12:10; 14:29; 1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:11; 5:20; 6:2-10, 20; 2 Tim 2:16; 3:1-9; 4:1-5, 14; Tit 1:9-14; 2:15; 2 Pet 2; 1 Jn 4:1).
Part 1: Partisan politics for the politics of the Kingdom
Part 2: The myth of neutrality for a cultural gospel
Part 3: Experientialism and false prophecy for the Scriptures
Part 4: Tribalism and sectarianism for apostolic unity
Part 5: Eschatologies of defeat for Christ’s victory in history