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Henry I. Lederle: The Third Wave: New Independent Charismatic Churches, Part 2

Reconstructionist advocacy starts with the regeneration of individuals, who are then restored to fulfilling God’s purposes and remade in God’s image, receiving His cultural mandate and dominion over the earth. In the political and economic realm, this vision is worked out along clear, free-market principles—limited government, decentralization, and a strong focus on private enterprise and individual rights.

Dominion theology is unswervingly committed to postmillennial eschatology. The Church is seen as the instrument of God, aggressively reoccupying the world in the name of Christ. The kingdom is already established and is advancing. The Second Coming of Christ does not break into world history suddenly in an apocalyptic fashion but only after the Church has fulfilled the Great Commission and established global dominion.

Gradually Dominion thinking also started to influence a number of leaders in the Independent Charismatic movement. This aggressive and encompassing vision for the transformation, not only of the Church but of all of society, proved to be attractive to them. Originally Classical Pentecostalism had aligned itself to anti-cultural tendencies, withdrawing from secular society. Premillennialist and dispensational views with a pretribulation rapture of believers tended to discourage any active involvement in societal and, especially, political matters. Later initiatives, however, such as the Moral Majority of Jerry Falwell and the Christian Coalition associated with Pat Robertson, decisively changed the attitude of many evangelical Christians towards involvement in the public sphere and political life. Rushdoony’s influence even reached the Reagan White House.

Bishop Paulk caused a stir in Pentecostal circles when he defected from the traditional cause of premillennial eschatology, denied the doctrine of the rapture, and questioned the relevance of the nation of Israel to biblical prophecy. He taught that the Church is the spiritual Israel and has replaced the Jews, and that current events in the Middle East have no bearing on prophetic fulfillment. The fact that an imminent return of Christ is not expected is reflected in the title of his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until… Christ must remain until the restoration of all things—a reference to Acts 3:12. The Church needs to accept its responsibility first to attain unity and maturity as the bride of Christ. The doctrine of the rapture is also reinterpreted: the new hope of the church is achieving victory in this world. Paulk maintains that his “Kingdom Now” principles transcend traditional millennial categories, but there is an unmistakable postmillennial slant to his teaching. God is effecting restoration through His Church, and we now have to assume the dominion that was lost in the Garden of Eden. It needs to be noted that Bishop Paulk’s church is well integrated racially and heavily involved in outreach to the African-American community in Atlanta.

The vision of cosmic societal restoration has had a broader impact among Charismatics than the sphere of Bishop Paulk. Bob Mumford, one of the “Fort Lauderdale five” of the Restoration movement, was also attracted to it and gradually incorporated dominion perspectives into his public teaching. At the same time, these ideals also influenced people very critical of the Discipleship movement, such as Pat Robertson. The university he founded in Virginia Beach changed its name from CBN University to Regent University, thereby reflecting the idea of Christ’s regency over the world. Dominion thinking, in a more general and balanced sense than the rigid theonomist views of Christian reconstructionists, pervades the whole University as it seeks to train Christian graduate students in a variety of disciplines such as law, education, global leadership, psychology, divinity, and government. The ongoing influence of this perspective can be seen in initiatives such as the legal advocacy of the American Center for Law and Justice (Jay Sekulow) and the Republican presidential primary race in 1988 of Pat Robertson—although unsuccessful, he surprised many by winning the Iowa caucuses.

Maranatha Ministries, under the leadership of Bob Weiner, had also propagated a postmillennial vision of societal transformation to thousands of college students before it disbanded in 1989.

An intriguing aspect of the whole Independent Charismatic movement is the fact that influence from the “Latter Rain” movement keeps reappearing. Although this brief revival was snuffed out by vehement opposition by Classical Pentecostals, its seminal ideas seemed to go underground and resurface time and again. The Latter Rain has also come to be known by other names such as Sonship, Manifested Sons of God, or the Body of Christ. Leaders such as Bill Britton and Sam Fife continued to propagate their ideas through publications and meetings in Lubbock, Texas. Their major teaching of the restoration of the five-fold ministry was viewed as a threat to the authority of denominational leaders and local pastors. Another key concept of the New Order of the Latter Rain that resurfaced in the whole Third Wave was a high view of prophecy, sometimes including predictive and personal prophecy—the ongoing revelation of truth to apostles and prophets. Some critics attacked Paulk for his concept of revelation, which was viewed as equating revelation gained through contemporary prophecy with the Bible. Paulk denied this and affirmed a closed canon.

Personal prophecy also occurred in the Latter Rain circles. Bruce Barron’s study Heaven on Earth: The Social & Political Agendas of Dominion Theology notes that George Hawton of North Battleford supposedly rejected the concept of the imminence of Christ, teaching that Christ could only return after the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21; p. 76). It was said that Earl Paulk taught the very same thing. Barron declares that Paulk “mainstreamed” Latter Rain ideas, presenting them in a more respectable form (p. 78). Bishop John Meares, who founded the ICCC, also represented a clear link to the Latter Rain through Bethesda Temple in Detroit, which was a leading Latter Rain church.

While Paulk reshaped traditional premillennialism into a postmillennial vision with a societal involvement, the “Christ against culture” stance (as expressed in H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic Christ and Culture), or otherworldliness of early Pentecostalism, has been retained by Bill Hamon, who, for a time, was also a Bishop of the ICCC and who authored The Eternal Church (p. 76). It presents a very negative view of church history reminiscent of Restorationism.

Since Bishop Paulk, who died in 2009, had been sidelined due to accusations of immoral conduct going back several decades, this grouping and its teachings have unfortunately lost influence in the public arena and in Independent Charismatic circles.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Henry I. Lederle, D.Th. (University of South Africa) and M.A. (University of Orange Free State), is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He is the author of Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of Spirit-Baptism in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Hendrickson, 1988), Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Word & Spirit Press, 2010), and several collections of essays, articles and reviews.

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