Gamaliel vs The Bereans

As the days pass the number of bloggers talking about Todd Bentley (and the associated spin offs from Lakeland) continues to grow and as predicted the camps are becoming increasingly polarised.

  • Peter Kirk remains steadfastly pro
  • Dave Warnock on the other hand is now adamantly against. It’s worth following his series of posts and watching the various YouTube videos to see why.
  • The Rev J Neil Adams is also unconvinced after a visit to Dudley
  • *update* Henry Neufeld offers some sage advice

Anway, Peter in his post after discussing the current widening rift in the Anglican communion, applies the ‘Gamaliel principle’ to what is happening in Lakeland. For some reason, that I’ve not quite worked out I get sent the Church of England newspaper each week, and in this last week there was an interesting letter from a Rev John Cheeseman of East Sussex, about this principle applied to Lakeland. I couldn’t find it online so here it is:

“I notice from your columns that John Coles of New Wine is advocating the Gamaliel principle as a means of assessing the so-called ‘Revival’ meetings, led by the Canadian Todd Bentley. May I humbly suggest that this principle is an entirely fallacious means of discerning whether a religious movement is from God. It is mentioned in Acts 5:38-39, “If this plan or undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”

The problem with this is that in the short-term evil sometimes triumphs, whereas the cause of God apparently fails. You can see this in our Lord’s ministry, when we are told that ‘many drew back and no longer walked with him’ (John 6:66), and by the time of the crucifixion the disciples forsook him and fled.

Indeed, if you follow the Gamaliel principle to its logical conclusion, you would have to say that religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and modern movements such as Mormonism are all inspired by God, because they are still gaining adherents. The criteria for discerning spiritual authenticity is clearly not whether something fails or survives over time. Truth has never been decided by the counting of heads.

Far better is the example of the Bereans, about whom we read: ‘they examined the scriptures every day to see if these things were true.’ (Acts 17:11). Surely this is the yardstick for spiritual discernment. Are these things affirmed or condemned by the Bible? Judged by this principle, it would seem that the spectacle of people falling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter and other ‘Toronto style’ antics is a far cry from the Holy Spirit of ‘self-control’, which according to Galatians 5:23, is an indication of genuine spirituality.

In summary, the Berean principle, rather than the Gamaliel principle, is the route to follow, when assessing the authenticity of a claim to revival.”

So, while I’m not sure that I’d agree with the good Revd on all his application in the final paragraph, I think he’s broadly got a point. We can’t tell if something is ‘of God’ by its success, or even by the presence of the supernatural including miracles (eg Mt 24:24, although I’m not saying TB is a false prophet), and they may even be genuine miracles but instead on the basis of truth. I’m still open to God using the events in Lakeland, but I’m still hoping for a revival of greater substance, integrity and truth as well as power.

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2 Thoughts to “Gamaliel vs The Bereans”

  1. Blue, with a hint of amber

    That is a cracking letter.

    And what exactly is “spiritual success” for us to judge in 2008?

    Is it souls saved, bodies healed, pounds in the bank or hours on prime time God TV?

  2. Peter Kirk

    Phil, thanks for this. You will find interesting comments on the Gamaliel and Berean principles in the comments on the post of mine you linked to. I think Daron Medway is a CEN reader! See also this new post which suggests other means of discernment.

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