Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Justin Peters: an American Cessationist Teaching “Apologetics” to Brazilian Pentecostals


Justin Peters: an American Cessationist Teaching “Apologetics” to Brazilian Pentecostals

By Julio Severo
A guest speaker of VINACC (a Brazilian conference of evangelicals), an American evangelical made headlines by blasting preachers of the Prosperity Gospel as “false prophets.”
Justin Peters
Justin Peters gave his apologetics lecture at an Assemblies of God church in Campina Grande, Brazil in February 16, 2015. VINACC held in this church its Second International Apologetics Meeting of Paraiba.
In the event, Peters said, “Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Myles Munroe, Joyce Meyer and others are, all of them, false prophets. What they teach is not the Gospel preached by our Lord Jesus Christ, but a teaching with no Bible basis.”
Yet, his criticism did not stopped at the “false prophets.” He also taught, in the name of Christian apologetics, about the gift of tongues and “how God does not speak to us” through prophecies and revelations.
In the Doctrinal Statement of his website, Peters says “the miraculous gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, divine revelation and physical healing” were gifts only to Jesus’ Apostles. He also says that these “gifts are no longer in operation today… and they are, therefore, unnecessary.”
Unnecessary? Power evangelism was an essential and vital component of the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Supernatural gifts are tools of Jesus for spreading his Gospel. These gifts have been vital for effective evangelism in Brazil, to equip Christians to confront dark forces and deliver people from Satan’s claws.
If they were extremely necessary for Jesus and his disciples, why would they be unnecessary today? Have the dark forces died away?
To treat the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as “unnecessary” has never been a part of the true Gospel. Cessationism (the heretical doctrine that says the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased 2,000 years ago and that they are no longer available today) has never been a part of the ministry of Jesus and his Apostles.
If Peters taught such “apologetics” in an Assemblies of God church in Brazil, surely he offended many Brazilians! Pentecostals, neo-Pentecostals and charismatics comprise most of Brazilian evangelicals.
I have no hard time with criticism at abuses by Calvinist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and charismatic preachers. But to label Pentecostals as “false prophets” or “heretical preachers” just because the critic’s main motivation is cessationism is hypocrisy. To teach against the Holy Spirit is a heresy.
Justin Peters eventually showed in Brazil that Myles Munroe, Kenneth Copeland and believers in prophecies, tongues and revelations are all headed to Hell. Apparently, the motivation for his opposition to Pentecostalism and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit for today is his love for his petty human religious doctrines that limit God and his power and actions — disguised as love for “truth.”
This kind of “apologetics” — deserving a fair title of false apologetics — would have caused trouble in the churches of Apostle Paul, who saw a lot of abuse of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church of Corinth, but his answer was not to ban them or to preach cessationism. His answer was to correct the abuses. Never did he condemn, criticize or lambaste these gifts. Never did he discourage his people from seeking more supernatural gifts.
Unsurprisingly, the false apologetics of Peters caused confusion among Brazilians. And his ministry gave a public report of what happened:
“At the end of his session, to give a preview at the next session Justin spoke about the abuse of tongues and how God does and does not speak to us. Apparently that rattled some cages so to speak. Some folks apparently confronted the organizers and convinced them to require Justin to adjust/modify his message as to not mention tongues and the abuse of tongues, under the premise that speaking on such things would offend many. Of course Justin explained that he cannot, in good conscience and before God, adjust his message or water it down to suit the proclivities of an audience. In reality the only thing which can help folks get out from under false doctrine is not placating, but speaking the truth in love. Justin told them this and they forbad him from speaking the rest of his seminar… shame on the organizers for having so little apparent backbone. Of course I am sure that ardent sheep among the organizers did strive to not allow compromise to happen. Alas it did. This is another reason why we ought not, as believers, to yoke with reprobates. Better to have a small conference holding to the truth than a huge gathering which compromises truth. Those under false doctrine will not bend easily because false doctrine is a spiritual battle.”
“False doctrine”: to believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit for today.
“Speaking the truth in love”: to teach cessationism.
The VINACC public was not upset because Justin preached against Benny Hinn and others. In fact, they were there to hear him attack these preachers. They got upset because he wanted also to attack their personal experiences with God.
There are many Calvinists apologetics experts in Brazil who love cessationism. With the same passion, they love to lambast Pentecostals, charismatics and neo-Pentecostals. At the same time, often they hide their true motivation. At least in this, Peters is more honest than Brazilian Calvinists. In fact, I have an e-book (“Theology of Liberation versus Theology of Prosperity”) exposing their duplicity.
Because Peters is an American and does not know that Brazilian evangelicalism is essentially Pentecostal, he was unable or unwilling to conceal his motivation for blasting Prosperity Theology preachers.
For his human theology, Christians who speak in tongues, hear God’s voice and have spiritual prophecies and revelations are as “false Christians” as all the other preachers condemned by him.
I disagree with Peters’ theology. In my view, his cessationism is a heresy. Yet, I applaud his sincerity and honesty. In this respect, anti-Pentecostal Calvinist critics in Brazil have a lot to learn from him.
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