At reader request for a place called the "New Covenant Church of God" and articles about it from an apparent member, Christopher Warren. It was the further address info that reminded me: B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh Box 120, S-671 23 ARVIKA, Sweden. I had dealt with these people once before, on the idea that the Holy Spirit is female. Now I've been asked to take a closer look, so we'll see what we can gather from some more of their online literature.
Ever hear of an ancient group called the Montanists? We mentioned them ages ago in our canon article as some folks who figured that prophecy and revelation was still on the go in the second and third century. So we find it quite appropos to label these folks the Modern Montantists, based on this sort of statement they make:
REVELATION IS NEVER COMPLETE. IT IS GEARED TO OUR CAPACITY AND CONCERN. AND IT ALWAYS PROMISES MORE THAN IT GIVES.
Now the problem with this is the same one we have covered where Mormons are concerned -- unless they offer us a Deut. 18-testable "revelation," there's no control element here. And there's no way to tell "revelation" from a self-delusion, especially as Warren describes his own experience:
There are so many ways. I have heard a loud booming voice which has made me shake in my bones, and I have heard a gentle, kind whisper. I have been physically hit by angels, and felt a warm hand on my brow. I have heard words repeated over and over in my head until I nearly went nuts, and I have heard a single word because that was enough. I believe He does all of this with our permission, however -- some people might not like being slapped physically by an unseen power -- it might give them a heart-attack, but the Lord knows He can do what He wants with me because I have said so.
Sometimes He nags years before the actual time when I need to do something. Once I was told to go to a certain place. I had no idea why then. Only decades later did I find out. But the thought was planted so that when I needed it again it was it was close to my conscience.
Ideas like this are the sort of things that cause apostasy (just check for the parallel in Dan Barker's biography) and is exactly why Deut. 18 exists. But what else does this group offer?
Well, we also have an idea we last saw from heretical preterist Stephen Smith:
Unlike the group which calls itself "British Israel" which believes that Great Britain is Israel, it is our belief that Britain, along with every nation, contains Israelite blood. When Abraham was promised that his seed would bless every nation of the earth, the meaning was literal - that his descendants would interbreed with the gentiles and thus bless them. Those genes are to be found in every race today which is why every race is accepting the Messiah! Recent studies have shown, for example, that genes peculiar to the Tribe of Levi have been found in some black African tribes. And it is well known that the Ethiopians contain much Israelite blood from Judah, which is probably why it was the only African nation never to be colonised by Ephraimitish Britain (though briefly occupied by Italy). The Blood of Israel is everywhere, and God has literally fulfilled His prophecy to Abraham.
As we noted in reply to Smith, this thesis isn't much good because of its inability to be falsified. Genetic tests on converts from ages past are far from possible. Sociologists and anthropologists might have as much patience with it as with Anglo-Israelism or with Mormon claims that denizens of Native America were descended from Jews. And we may well imagine NCCG offering similar rationales to what these folks do when the DNA and the other evidence (linguistics, archaeology, etc.) doesn't seem to want to cooperate.
Warren will no doubt stay safely away from genetic evidence that does not agree with his position, or else rationalize it away. That said, there is a simpler solution in Paul's observation (Romans) that "Israel" refers also to those who follow Abraham's faith -- if it were a matter of blood, then Romans becomes mere comedy in context.
A reader added this note, re "only African nation":
As a history reader, this kind of thing is always a red flag to me....I'm sure you're aware that Colonial Africa had roughly as much French territory as British, with Italy, Belgium, Portugal, and Spain taking the leftovers (Germany as well, but the German colonies were split between the Allies after WWI). As well, the little coutry of Liberia, founded with US help as a nation for freed slaves, was never a European colony at all. To say that Ethiopia was the "only African nation never to be colonised by ... Britain" is just waving a huge banner stating "WE'RE HISTORICALLY ILLITERATE" over themselves. And we're only talking the 1960s here (in fact, the Portuguese colonies weren't liberated until the 80s), not ANE timeframes.
Warren's take on this, though, takes him further afield than even Smith, with this sort of conspiracy-mongering:
The counterfeit Judahites - the Talmudic Jews - have been involved in one way or another in practically every political and economic conspiracy throughout history. Satan has used these people to whip up hatred against the true Judahites and Israelites generally. Notwithstanding this diabolical scheme, God still loves Talmudic Jews, even if He hates their Talmud, as He loves all people, and the true remnant of Judah amongst them will gradually come to promenance [sic].
Things are not what they seem. Lies are layered upon lies sandwiched between the occasional layer of truth. The deception - the global ripening in iniquity - is now almost complete. Satan has managed to get Israelites to hate themselves and their God! Who have all the principal wars been fought against in the last century? The two World Wars were essentially Israelite Civil Wars, repeating the old animosity of Ephraim for Judah. Britain/USA against Germany - all Israelite nations - killing one another. Satan has relished these things. And He has tried to get the USA/Britain to fight Russia, another nation full of Israelite blood. Though they appear different in terms of appearance and culture, that is only because of intermarrying with gentile nations, and apostacy from the truth.
I don't think this needs any rebuttal, as it contains no real arguments.
We close with a look at a list of differences that Warren offers between NCCG and mainstream Christianity. Some we have seen already (the Holy Spirit matter); now for others.
First, NCCG shares Mormon views of premortal life:
New Covenant theology teaches that everyone pre-existed this world as spirit beings which are being incarnated one by one to live but one life here. (This means that we reject the doctrine of multiple physical rebirths, or reincarnation). Evangelical Christians, for the most part, say that we are created de novo both as spirits as well as physical beings. Thus the circumstances we find ourselves in have nothing to do with any pre-mortal condition but are entirely the result of God's will in helping us work out our salvation. Obviously the two viewpoints necessarily mean that we view life's purpose a little bit differently. Whilst we both agree that we are down here to work out our salvation, New Covenant Christians maintain that we have been doing it for a lot longer. For us there are three stages in growth and progression: the pre-mortal life, this life, and heaven.
So likewise do they stump for "eternal marriage" and even polygamy. Of course, as we have noted in The Mormon Defenders Ch. 3, pre-existence can't be gleaned from any Biblical text and emerges in Judaism only via Hellenistic corruption.
Then we have their take on the Trinity, which offers a series of explanations that frankly make no sense:
We have no objections to the Trinity doctrines as an exercise in speculative theology but to make it a test of faith we object to strongly. It had no part of the New Testament Church, or the Church of the Sub-Apostolic Fathers; Christianity did perfectly well without it then and can do without it today. That the Christians of the third century onwards felt a need for a concise statement to preclude heresy is understandable but its results were, in our view, even more disasterous that the dissention and schisms that took place in early Christian history because people were not agreed. Trinitarianism, alas, is too closely connected with the politicised version of Christianity that supplanted the genuine spirit-directed original which it replaced, plunging Europe into the Dark Ages of oppression and spiritual darkness.
For want of a better term, New Covenant Christians presently call them- selves "Proto-Trinitarians", a name we may well replace with some- thing else in the future because of its associations with Trinitarianism. In using it, however, we are merely acknowledging that it is a possible, if somewhat dubious, scriptural interpretation. That we may drop the term for something else is more than likely in the future
While NCCG is deciding, be sure and check here for a corrective of that "speculative theology" claim. (And by the way, serious historians no longer use the term "Dark Ages" as that period was far from as "dark" as has been claimed.)
Then, on the canon:
Our claim to continuing to being Bible-believing Christians, inspite of having an open canon, lies chiefly in the fact that we regard the Bible as primary canon and everything else as secondary. We also insist that any secondary scriptures harmonies, or be legitimate expansions of, the truth already found in the Bible. In this alone we distance ourselves completely from Mormons and others who (a) claim that other scriptures have equality with the Bible (and sometime greater -- the Mormons place the "Book of Mormon" higher than the Bible), and (b) who teach doctrines which are completely disjunctive with the Bible, contradicting its teachings in important areas of revealed truth (such as the Godhead -- Mormons maintain there are three Gods in the face of the Shema which teaches that there is only one).
In principle this has some value, for we have noted similar points in our own article on the canon. Truth is truth whether inside a canon or not. Nevertheless, it is clear from their stance on revelation that NCCG doesn't have any sort of respectable discernment apparatus in place. The good news at least is that Warren admits that they don't look to add to the "primary" canon they use any time soon.
What next? How about a little eschatology and church organization -- this is rooted in NCCG's absurd "blood of Israel" doctrine, so exposition is all that is needed as opposed to more refutation:
The blueprint for the Church of God in the last days now exists. It is called the Olive Branch. It contains not only spiritual truths but details on how the Church of God should organise as a theocracy. Since the Church cannot organise in Israel until Christ returns, the Lord has decreed that tiny colonies should be organised within existing countries where theocratic rule -- Israelite rule -- can occur. It is a fully appostolic Church and will, finally, have 12 apostles like the first apostles of old. God has already started calling them both within the New Covenant Church of God and outside in the disorganised remnant waiting to gather. In the end, they will gather to the New Covenant Church -- where they can see the Israelite theocracy -- Zion -- in action.
This in-gathering of the remnant, which started in the 1980s, will take two to three generations at the most, and may possibly be accomplished within one. The final result will be twelve self-sustaining firstborn coolonies where Zion is to be found and where God's Shekinah (presence/glory) is to be found. Each will be named after one of the 12 Tribes of Israel and will pass through the Great Tribulation unscathed, to then gather to the Holy Land where Christ will rule as King. These 12 colonies will then receive portions ofg land as decsribed by the prophet Ezekiel. They will contain Messianic Israelites from all the tribes plus gentile converts who will be adopted into the tribes. These will be the true Israel and therefore the true Church.
I'm guessing NCCG is still working on Colony #1; hopefully they won't select Guyana or Waco as temporary locales.
Then what? Well, how about salvation...and this time, things aren't so bad:
New Covenant Christians believe that they are legalistically saved as soon as they start trusting in Christ as Saviour and Lord (leader) much as a criminal is released from prison having received a pardon, irrespective of whether he was worthy or not. As sinners we are not worthy of God's pardon (forgiveness) and we receive this free gift the moment we are exercising faith in the Lord and claim His covering blood. Many evangelicals maintain that once you have obtained this forgiveness you are forever protected by the blood, no matter whether you apostatise or not. This we reject. A man may as easily leave the protective cover of Christ's atoning blood as he entered under it. Thus a man may lose his salvation. But to do this he must completely apostatise -- we remain under that cover even if we continue sinning so long as we are sincerely repenting and not exploiting grace.
Here at least NCCG is in line with the mainstream (and particularly, Arminianism). But as we go further, it's a little more odd:
Being forgiven is not, however, to be santified [sic]. Sanctification -- the inward trannsformation of our spirit by the Holy Spirit -- occurs only as long as we are true and faithful to the commandments and walking in holiness. Though a man may be pardoned for a crime and released from prison this does not automatically make him guiltless within. he has got to change his life. Similarly, Christians who have received the free pardon of Jesus Christ must work to pruify [sic]themselves. They cannot do it in their own strength (no man can) and rely on the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We are thus enabled, by God's Spirit, to be obedient. This obedience beings with it an inner cleansing making us purer and purere until we are perfect, like Christ. Not until we are fully sanctified may we say that we are fully saved.
Under a rubric of Semitic Totality this is backwards -- rather, sanctification and walking in holiness are congruent; one does not precede or depend upon the other. We do not "work" to purify ourselves; it is a natural result of what we truly believe. This is essentially Mormonism's covenental nomism.
And so it is for NCCG. The snakes haven't been delivered for handing yet, but I'd keep an eye on any Swedish herpetology suppliers just in case they get in an order.
I discovered in May 2008 a reply to the above on the NCCG, put out in November 2007, and you can tell that the cult's leadership is not pleased:
It is ironic that a Protestant ministry we otherwise have great respect for, and evenrecommend on our website, should produce such a distorted caricature of the New Covenant Church of God (NCCG), and resort to sarcasm, cynicism and mockery to win its readership. When a Christian turns to such methods he has lost before he has even started. It was for this reason that we did not bother to make a response to Holding's two essays   and it is only because they are being used by many now as a standard critique of our beliefs that we felt it was time to put some things straight.
The claim of victimhood aside, the NCCG is losing on the ground of facts, and trying to plead mockery is a way of avoiding the arguments, not engaging them. They'll even resort to outright falsehood, however, such as:
As New Covenant Christians, we do not have a problem with orthodox Christians believing in the Trinity Doctrine. Even if we believe the later Trinitarian creeds to go far beyond what the Bible actually teaches, we do not believe that a Trinitarian will be damned.
This is generous of them, though I never said they did claim such a teaching. The lie is here:
And although Holding claims we teach the Ruach was created and is therefore a 'creature', that is totally erroneous - and in that (and in some other matters) he has misinterpreted and misrepresented our teachings. We have always taught - and will always continue to teach - that the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is eternal and uncreated, and pre-existed the Creation and all divine creative activity outside of itself.
Indeed? Then they might want to check this page on their own site:
Are New Covenant Christians feminists or New Age? Abolutely not. We are merely acknowledging what the Bible teaches. We absolutely reject feminism and New Age paganism. The purpose of feminism is antithetical to biblical Christianity and the New Age worships a female deity in place of the Father - and whilst they assert this is "Sophia" it is, in fact, a demon which goes under many names (e.g. "Maia"). We must also remember that in contradistintion to Yahshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), who was uncreated and has always been God, Sophia is a special creation.
Since it is clear that they use "creation" in the sense of absolute origin, and since they contrast the "uncreated" (and "always been God") Jesus with the Spirit as a "special creation," then it is abundantly clear that the Spirit is regarded as NOT uncreated, unlike Jesus.
From here, the article:
- Says much of how badly they're persecuted (not once touching our extended articles on the Trinity);
- Somehow gets the idea that they were being called "snakes" (no, they're being compared to people on this side of the pond who handle snakes, per the ending of Mark 16 in your KJV);
- Refers to how much they stick to Scripture (meaning, what they read out of it by decontextualization);
- Offers much irrelevancy about "closed canons" (which doesn't have anything to do with a word I said - had they bothered to check my article on the canon, as well as the OT canon, they would have seen that the process was much more complex than they realize, and that there was indeed a "methodology for canonization" already in place and so no need to lay one out in the Bible)
- Offers a claim that the comparison of NCCG to Montanists is a "red herring" because NCCG doesn't do all the things they do (though the point of comparison was clearly with respect to NCCG's belief in current revelation and not concerning anything else; thus the red herring charge is itself a red herring intended to encourage the NCCG flock into thinking of themselves as persecuted and mischaracterized. They could have spent a lot less time objecting to the comparison to Montanists had they read my article carefully.
An interesting comment is, "The thought of modern revelation terrifies the 'Bible-only' mindset of non-charismatics."
No, it doesn't: Number one, we're not "Bible only" here - we respect the Bible's original context, and it is that which cults like NCCG object to most, save where they cherry-pick what they want to hear.
As for modern revelation, I made it quite clear that if they have any, they need to subject it to the Deut. 18 test - we're still waiting for that. Do they have any?
What do you think? They say, "Holding is very anxious that all revelation conform to Deuteronomy 18's criteria and be tested." (I guess God was "anxious" of that too, since He put it there in the first place?) I am still waiting for something on the order of verification and will wait a while. The author compares himself to Paul -- whose experience WAS validated Deut. 18-style, by his doing of miracles and the fulfillment of the prophecy on his life to become the apostle to the Gentiles. So where's the NCCG author's validation?
They claim: "If he had spent time studying our website, he'd have found plenty. They're being fulfilled all the time." Unfortunately not one is named, much less are we shown any that are meaningfully ascribable to divine intervention (e.g., "The sun will come up tomorrow." won't work.)
Because they don't have an answer to it, their reply ignores the point that all of the "feminine gender" passages they take as references to the Spirit were used to refer to the male Jesus as incarnate Wisdom. Instead, attention is diverted by a claim that I supposedly mistook a quote of James Trimm for a quote of their own writer (I didn't), and then a wide diversion is taken into some discussion of how "an inbuilt fear of sexuality" has caused the defeminization of the Spirit, and a claim that "New Covenant Christians, too, are mostly interested in offices, functions and spiritual positioning," whatever that is supposed to mean.
The only point in my article that is actually addressed is here:
The best Holding can do to debunk the Ruach as being the personification of Wisdom is to point out that such things as the "spirit of fear" and the "spirit of bondage" aren't actual persons. Well, quite apart from the fact that Deity could never be represented in negative terms such as these anyway, Holding forgets that if he takes his thinking to its logical conclusion, he must ultimately deny the personhood of the Spirit and become a Jehovah's Witness or someone else who just views the Ruach as simply an 'impersonal force' or 'divine electricity' (of whatever grammatical gender).
Not at all. Aside from the fact that they left out the example of "spirit of meekness" (which refutes the irrelevant distraction to "negative terms"), the personhood of the Holy Spirit is found from verbs of action associated with it (they didn't check the rest of my site), which are never associated with the "seven spirits" of Revelation, which was the actual subject of my point, not the Holy Spirit.
Next up, the NCCG says: "We saw how Holding was willing to label us as Montanist but he is even more willing to imply we are anti-semite too."
Unfortunately they are not able to find the words "anti-Semite" in either article. I did allude to the practices of the Ku Klux Klan, but the reference was not to anti-Semitism per se, but to the conspiracy theories the KKK and like organizations have with reference to such things as calling the two World Wars "Israelite Civil Wars" - an absurdity in historical context. It is also falsely claimed that I "lump [them] in with British Israelites" - not at all. I consider the teaching of NCCG on this account MORE absurd than British Israelism.
Yet another diversion is inserted, on the subject of politics, addressing nothing of what I said is being addressed. Then it is said, "For some reason Holding is upset that I don't give Jewish claims carte blanche so he is more than prepared to associate us with white supremacist racists who hate Jews. Well we aren't white supremacists and we don't hate Jews."
Maybe not; but the NCCG does make up stories about Jews, as well as about everyone else; and they certainly have no actual defense of their proposition that there are genetic links between Israel and every other nation on earth. I did not say the NCCG were racists: I would prefer to say, on this account, that they are just plain misinformed.
Not surprisingly, though they claim the point by my reader re colonized African countries is false, no actual contrary data is presented; instead, some conspiracy is suggested that there was more in the "missing words" in the quote, "To say that Ethiopia was the 'only African nation never to be colonised by ... Britain'" which would have changed the picture. They obviously don't recognize a quote from their own site here; the only word left out is "Ephraimitish" which the reader disagrees with, and which makes no difference in context. (The author claims to be the author also of a book titled, "An Historical Atlas of Modern Europe and Africa: 1871-1978," but no such title appears in OCLC, or on Amazon Books, or on any website aside from the NCCG one.)
On the matter of the NT being written first in Hebrew, it is claimed that I am not "abreast of modern scholarship, or if he is, dismisses it because of either the 'majority' or 'time' factors (they just haven't been around long enough)." I am referred to the views of James Trimm; not one argument is actually presented, much less one that rebuts my own article, which was linked to. A link is offered to a PDF document, which originally came up with an error message when I wrote this reply but now features an item by Trimm which I do not feel inclined to read through; let the NCCG rather tell us what the point is.
Finally, re pre-existence, Jeremiah 1:5 is offered, but as I noted, this claim was one I refuted in my book on Mormonism, and far be it for NCCG to get a copy. They obviously do not have any understanding of the distinction between actual and ideal pre-existence; and their one argument for "actual" pre-existence is, "you can't have a relationship with your own thought." How they derive a "relationship" from Jer. 1:5 is not explained. A "relationship" is not required for God to have foreknowledge, or to ordain or set apart (sanctify) someone. It is also anachronistic; "relationships" were not experienced by ancient peoples in the modern sense.
Finally, on sanctification, we are presented with a speech that does not at all address the issue of Semitic Totality and how that reveals the connection between faith and works. Their own view is not defended in any way; it is merely explained again, and vague appeal is made to "many theologies of sanctification in the Protestant churches" as if diversity of views (even if it did exist) actually proved anything.
In conlusion: NCCG has done little to show that they deserve serious consideration. Their response includes claims that they believe what their site clearly says they do not; it contains almost no actual arguments, and no response to the detailed material linked to on this site.