Theology Book Review

Counterfeit Kingdom: The Dangers of New Revelation, New Prophets, and New Age Practices in the Church

by Holly Pivec and R. Douglas Geivett
Reviewed date: 2023 Mar 1
257 pages
cover art

I was skeptical of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), so I went and got a book from the two foremost critics of the NAR, and by golly, it turns out I was right.

I have a few complaints about Counterfeit Kingdom, some minor and one that I think is substantial. First, the minor complaints: it is short and very basic. It's an introductory book for a popular audience. I was hoping for a more detailed look at NAR theology and doctrine. For that, I think I need to read Geivett and Pivec's 2014 book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.

Second, the chapter on NAR music was lacking because they couldn't quote the song lyrics. This is due to strong copyright claims on music lyrics, they explain, so it's understandable. But that makes the music chapter less helpful than it could have been.

Third, the book talks mostly about Bethel Church in Redding, California, their "apostle" Bill Johnson and their "prophet" Kris Vallotton. It does mention other churches and other NAR leaders, but it's not a stretch to say this book is a specific refutation of Bethel, Bill Johnson, and Kris Vallotton. A broader view might have been nice.

Those are minor quibbles. My more substantial complaint is that the book details the spiritually abusive practices that happen at Bethel and other NAR churches, but does not explain that these spiritually abusive practices are not unique to NAR. I've read about spiritual abuse, and these same patterns of behavior play out in churches from every doctrinal and theological framework. The particular beliefs of a group don't make a difference: the patterns of abuse are constant from one controlling church to the next. Fundamentalist, evangelical, charismatic, cessationist, complementarian, egalitarian, Reformed, whatever. Now, I happen to think certain theologies and certain church governance structures can make a church more susceptible to being taken over by spiritually abusive leadership, but the particular patterns of behavior and how that plays out tend to be the same.

On the plus side, the book spent a lot of time discussing the signs of the NAR worldview. E.g., the unique terminology they use, the unique spiritual practices they have, etc. This is helpful for people who are trying to identify signs of NAR influence coming into their churches and institutions. If we don't recognize the particular signs of NAR influence we may not recognize when NAR thought infiltrates our previously orthodox Christian spaces.

To be fair-minded, I will be reading Dr. Randy Clark's August 2022 paper defending NAR against the criticisms of Pivec and Geivett. Clark is responding to their 2014 book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement, so I will read that first and then read Clark's paper. This Counterfeit Kingdom book (November 2022) comes after Clark's paper.

Archive | Search