Among Pentecostals, there is a lot of questions about what is happening in the Philippines. There is a “signs, wonders and miracles” emphasis without much theological barriers. What do we make of it? To our benefit, Lora Angeline Embudo Timenia has helped us by writing Third Wave Pentecostalism: Understanding Toronto Blessing Revivalism.
This is something happening among mainly charismatics that believe in the gifts of the Spirit today but do not believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) is a second work of grace. None of the leaders in this experience in the Philippines consider themselves Pentecostals. This is important because it means I am, likeLora Angeline Embudo Timenia, on the outside looking in.
It is also work stating that I have met many of the leaders from time to time when living in the Philippines and even attended Church So Blessed a few times when I was in Quezon City.
The foundation of this experience is from the Toronto Blessing blessing that started in a Vineyard church in Canada in January 1994. Some would say the impartation from those meetings made it to the Philippines. Others would say it was copied. More on that later.
The doctrinal values of the revivalism in the Philippines has to be considered Post-Millennialism with a strong dose of Kingdom Now. Conversion is not a strong emphasis on the churches but “Christianizing culture” is something that you will hear very often. This is why the churches, especially charismatic ones, got in bed with Rodrigo Duterte. Some of them even supported the mass murdering of young men.
At the core of this belief is that we are to take dominion over society. It is really just Calvinistic Christian Reconstructionism from the 1920’s that was popular when missionaries came to the Philippines. Much of it remains in the hearts of the religious leaders in the nation.
The problem with this thinking is that having dominion takes importance over bold proclamation of the gospel. Revival comes from changing the public view of God’s law; not being be born again and changed by the inner working of the Spirit.
The emphasis, theologically speaking is “bringing heaven to earth,” not “going into all the world and preach the gospel.” In some cases, churches in the Philippines believe that we are to increase heaven in our midst daily in our communities.
The problem with this view is it desires to have the end result of revival without progressing through the journey of societal transformation. it starts with a personal renewal of faith and in the church with the quickening of believers that spreads to society. Without the congregational transformation; the result is political, not spiritual.
In the Philippines, politics is a deadly game. Many people hijack the message of Christianity for political gain. The message of Kingdom Now became that of a political nature as a result.
It is with this in mind that we take an honest look at the revivalism in the Philippines currently.
There is some non-normative things that seem to be connected to the ministry of Ruth Ward-Heflin and the Latter Rain movement of 1948. Things like gemstones, gold dust, orbs, oil, hair growth and miracle money are normal claims in these circles. This is not new. There has several movements over the last 70 years making these claims. However, this is the emphasis in the current claims of revival in the Philippines.
This is different that the Great Philippine Revival of the 1950’s that saw, just in the Assemblies of God an increase of thousands of believers into faith in Christ. The value was on healing and deliverance; not the prosperity message that is what this current wave of teaching really is.
It is common to hear stories of angelic visitations, rain drops indoors, and manna appearing in these churches. Much of the claims are based on prophetic stories and odd testimonies of history, namely those of A.A. Allen. They use John 14:12 to explain away the extra-biblical.
Most of what is talked about is an imports from American churches such as Bethel Redding and the River in Tampa (Rodney Howard-Browne). It is more focused on coping what is popular in America as the reproduction of America culture is preferred in the Philippines on many levels in society.
Almost all the churches that have a strong emphasis on these manifestations are connected to some apostolic model and have a very strong calling to impartation. This is a double edged sword.
I have to come to the same conviction that Lora Angeline Embudo Timenia did in her book. It is interesting but it is not the vision of the Church. It is not evangelistic in nature and the missiology of these churches are odd at best. Without the proclamation factor in place, miracles are just for entertainment value for believers. The worth watches Netflix and Christian watch miracle services.
This is problematic but it is an overflow of the problems with the eschatology of the churches and namely the national church’s worldview of how they should impact society. They do not place high value on evangelism, not cultural engagement.
What we are left is a very humanistic message based in the soul of the man that manifest in the way of emotions that is used for justify the secularism present in the churches. Holiness is not of importance. There is also the concern of tribal magic being “redeemed” in the Filipino context.
In general, the Charismatic movement in the Philippines has these challenges. Part of this is people have not truly given up their animistic beliefs that are a form of false religion that looks much like what these revivalists are claiming is the Holy Spirit.
Miracles are normal for the preaching of the gospel. Anytime we try and built doctrine for them outside of evangelism, the road to weird teaching that is not found on Christ has began!
Peter Vandever is a Pentecostal Evangelist to the nations and a prophetic voice to the American Pentecostal movement. He is currently based in Kansas City, Missouri.