Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Modern apostles"

Is belief in modern apostles a fringe position within the charismatic movement, or a mainstream position? In his debate with Waldron, Michael Brown affirmed the continuance of lower-case apostles–although he didn't define what he meant by that. From what I can tell, Brown is a representative voice in contemporary charismatic circles, although no one man speaks for such a huge movement. But how does his position compare with other academically-inclined charismatics?
Sam Storms defends modern apostles:
Jon Ruthven defends modern apostles in Appendix II of the second edition of his monograph On the Cessation of the Charismata.
And Craig Keener defends modern apostles in Gift and Giver, 128ff. 
This, of course, raises some issues. Even if charismatics can stem the charge that modern apostles entail an open canon, you still have the question of apostolic authority. Do charismatics think modern apostles have the same authority as Peter, Paul, or John? If not, why not?
In his debate, Brown suggested that apostles have less authority than OT prophets, for, unlike OT Jews, all Christians have the gift of the Spirit, all Christians are potential prophets. Hence, it's a collegial relationship. 
However, I think it's abundantly clear from how Paul and John deal with their opponents that they don't think ordinary Christians are in any position to sit in judgment of apostolic teaching. Perhaps Brown will have more to say in his forthcoming book, but his explanation in the debate was unsatisfactory.
For his part, Storms says:
One reason people balk at the mention of modern apostles is based on their erroneous belief that NT apostleship entailed an absolute authority that required unquestioning obedience. But see Galatians 2:11-21 for a clear counter-example. Whereas no apostle ever made a mistake when writing Scripture, they did not live continuously under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in such a way that all their opinions and/or actions were infallible.

But that's a precarious argument. To begin with, there's a difference between teaching and action. Since the apostles were not impeccable, we know that their personal behavior might be an unreliable guide. That doesn't mean their teaching is unreliable. It's because we have the right standards that our behavior can be substandard. And, as sinners, living below our God-given standards is inevitable to one degree or another.
Moreover, it's not as if Peter was trying to set an example in this situation. He suffered a loss of nerve, which inadvertently sent the wrong signal. His action in that case was never meant to be exemplary. He wasn't attempting to be a role-model in that respect. 
Rather, because of his upbringing, he was reflexively uncomfortable in mixed company. The purity codes were ingrained by cultural conditioning. He had to overcome his deep-seated religious inhibitions. An integrated setting made him very self-conscious. That's an emotional reaction, not a doctoral position. 
Even assuming that charismatics don't think modern apostles can speak for the universal church, what do they think a Christian should do if a "living apostle" tells an individual to do or not do something? 


  1. "Even assuming that charismatics don't think modern apostles can speak for the universal church, what do they think a Christian should do if a "living apostle" tells an individual to do or not do something?"

    Suppose a "living apostle" told you Steve (or Annoyed Pinoy or Defective Bit) to do or not do something (and this "living apostle" was not in the leadership structure of your particular church), what would you do?

    1. Since I don't believe in modern apostles, I'd tell him he's deluded.

      But given your parenthetical, If someone in the leadership structure of your particular church told you to do or not do something, what would TUAD do?

    2. This is not a cop out, but it would greatly depend on what he told me to do.

    3. ...or Annoyed Pinoy
      ↑↑↑↑ Briefly stated, I don't believe there are "Apostles of Christ" (upper-case "A") around any longer, but I do believe that "apostles of the Church/churches" (lower-case "a") do. I believe that Prima Scriptura was in operation even during the times when God was still giving inspired infallible universally binding revelation and that all further alleged revelations (in whatever form, e.g. verbal, oral, written, visionary, oneiric [i.e. via dreams] etc.) were to be tested by the then received and recognized (by the majority of the covenant community of YHWH) canon of Scripture (even if the canon wasn't complete). So, for example, immediately after the death of Moses and Joshua, all further alleged revelations had to be tested by the Scriptures, which at that time only consisted of the Torah (the Nevi'im and the Ketuvim were not yet written, much less recognized as canonical). Obviously, Sola Scriptura could not have applied before inspired revelation ceased being given by God. Otherwise, if Paul taught it in one of his books, he could never again given an inspired verbal sermon or prophecy again. However, the OT Prophets and NT Apostles operated by Prima Scriptura. They were to be rejected if they contradicted Scripture. My tentative views are fleshed out in my comments on the following blogs HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE).

      I've heard good things from John Bevere's book, "Thus Saith the Lord?" on discernment, but I haven't read the book myself.

      I've read about half of Jack Deere's book, "The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy" and I agreed with much of what he said about the nature of NT prophecy, it's interpretation, application and the use of discernment.

      I think Roger Sapp's views on modern apostles gives too high of view of apostles, yet I wholehearted agree with his views on how to avoid apostolic abuse. So, I recommend some of his materials like:

      The Apostolic Ten Commandments (PDF) by Roger Sapp

      Spiritual Authority and Submission by Roger Sapp where he discusses the use and abuse of spiritual authority in light of what Christ and His apostles taught (MP3). I agree with over 85% of what Sapp says in this talk. I highly recommend it.

    4. The link to Sapp's audio is broken on the website. HERE'S THE CORRECT LINK TO:

      Spiritual Authority and Submission

      Above, I said I agree with over 85%. I think it might be between 80% and 90%.

  2. Didn't Dr. Waldron affirm such a thing modern apostles in his stated categories of "apostles of the Church" which he contrasted with "apostles of Christ?

    1. Yes, both of them distinguish between lower-case and upper-case apostles, and both affirm the continuation of the former, so that introduces an equivocation into the dispute.

      Ironically, if that makes Brown a partial cessationist, that makes Waldron a partial continuationist, in which case Waldron is caught in the horns of his own dilemma.

    2. Agreed, sadly it is par for the course as "canon" was also being equivocated in the debate as well iirc between canon-authority and canon-rule. (Though I am not sure Dr. Brown has a good grasp on that either).

    3. Oops (canon-list and canon-rule/authority). I think both were guilty of that, likely unknowingly.