Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Creative License"

Part 2: Dialog With Deception

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

A critical review of Lloyd Gardner’s book, Face to Face: A Dialogue with Jesus (Tollhouse, CA: Eliezer Call Ministries, 2009) 174 pages.

[To recap: Lloyd Gardner’s book claims to recount multiple in-the-body visitations the author had as a time traveler with Jesus at the future judgment seat of Christ.]

The Judgment Seat—No Fear!

Gardner’s equating the Mercy Seat (Leviticus 16:1-19) with the Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10) strains credulity; the former being the Old Testament place where sin was propitiated (Hebrew, kaphar, Greek, hilasmos) and the latter referring to a future event where service will be rewarded (Greek, bema). (Face to Face, 9) The only commonality they share is the English word “seat”! But that is where “creative license” can lead; mercy seat equals judgment seat. This equation is asserted despite the fact that on the Cross Jesus atoned for our sins one time (His blood no longer flows) while Israel observed the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) yearly. By Jesus’ death on the cross, the sins of believers were propitiated “once for all” (1 Peter 3:18; Compare 1 John 2:2; 4:10 and Leviticus 16:34.).

Gardner’s schmoozing experiences at the judgment seat with Jesus must also be questioned. Does the atmosphere surrounding his experience accord with Scripture? Though the author reveals experiencing introspective moments of regret, overall he describes his visitations with the Lord to have been “comfortable,” to have been non-threatening and non-judgmental. (Face to Face, 32) Can you imagine that? No judgment at the Judgment Seat! This is asserted despite the motivation Paul experienced at the prospect of it--“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God” (2 Corinthians 5:11, KJV)--and the apostle’s admission that he was running the course of his ministry so as not to be disqualified before it (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:8.). Peter also tells his readers to, “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth” (1 Peter 1:17).

The atmosphere of being in Jesus’ presence that Gardner describes also contradicts that of the prophet Isaiah who when he saw the Lord cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5, NASB). And who was the King Isaiah saw? John records that Isaiah saw Jesus, the pre-incarnate Son of God. As the beloved Apostle wrote: “These things Isaiah said, because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12:41). In the historical and literary context of John’s Gospel, the person designated by the pronouns “His” and “Him” can only be Jesus! Isaiah saw the King and became discomforted. Gardner saw Him and was comforted. Whose experience do you believe really represents encountering Jesus, Isaiah’s or Gardner’s?[21]

Creative License

The fact that Jesus supposedly gave Lloyd Gardner creative license is disturbing (Gardner: “Jesus gave me permission to use creative license in presenting these accounts of our conversations,” Face to Face, 6) Frankly, I find such a method of reporting to contradict the literary standards by which the New Testament documents were compiled. For example, in compiling his account of Jesus’ life and the early church (Luke-Acts), Luke begins: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us . . .” (Emphasis added, Luke 1:1-2, NASB).

The word “servants” (huperetes), translated “ministers” in other translations (KJV, NAB, NKJV, ASV), is a nautical word meaning “under or subordinate rower.”[22] As such, it connotes the picture of rowers who dipped and pulled their oars according to orders of the coxswain, the crewman who sits in the boat’s stern, steers the boat, and barks out the cadence for the rowers to coordinately dip and pull their oars. In war or in competition, it’s important that all the rowers row to the same cadence. There is no room for “creative license,” for rowers to follow the beat of their own drum.

“Creative license” however, suggests that the word serves the writer, when in authentic reporting, the opposite should be the case--the writer serves the word. Unlike the authors of the Gnostic or Apocryphal writings, the New Testament Apostles did not invoke “creative license” when recounting the miracles and message of Jesus. No. They were “under-rowers.” They served the Word. They didn’t make the Word serve them. So given his claim for having been given creative license, one must wonder how much of Gardner’s book is really a monolog, the record of a man’s musings within himself, and not a dialog, a record of authentic conversations with Jesus.

Short circuiting fellowship . . . from the bottom up

As the Holy Spirit brought Jesus’ words and wonders to their remembrance, the disciple-apostles recounted them exactly as they had witnessed them (See John 14:26.). To his little flock that was being besieged by false teachers, the Apostle John wrote:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life . . . what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3).

The reporting of the Apostles (In the opening five verses of John’s first letter, the pronoun “we” is apostolic.) was accurate to the extent that, so long as believers in the church accepted the accuracy and authenticity of the apostolic writings, they would have fellowship with the Apostles, with the Father, with His Son and with one another. To depart from the writings was to short circuit the entire interaction of the divine fellowship, bottom up.

So if the Lord did not give Luke and His disciple-apostles “creative license,” then why would he give it to Gardner? Given creative license, Gardner shows himself to be an over-rower dipping and pulling his oars to the cadence of his own creative consciousness. Should such “once-upon-a-time” reportage be believed? And might it be--and I only pose the question--that for reason of creative license, that for reason of playing footloose and fancy-free with the facts, the author might find himself out of fellowship with the very One he claims to have had conversations with? To march out of step with the Apostles is also to be out of fellowship with the Son and the Father (See 1 John 2:23-24.).

Is Gardner an apostle-prophet?

To substantiate his claim as to the authenticity of the truth he conveys in the book, Gardner alludes to Jesus’ promise to His disciple-apostles (Jesus “is with us through the Holy Spirit and He has promised that the Spirit will lead us into all truth,” Face to Face, 165). Jesus promised them:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you. (Emphasis added, John 16:13-15, NASB).

One can only note the incidence of the pronoun “you” in John 15:26-16:16. In continuity, “you” refers twenty-six (26) times to the original disciple-apostles. John understood that Jesus’ promise was not to or for believers today. If it had, then he might have employed the pronouns “they” or “them.” Milne confirms this observation: “This promise is made to the apostles as the assurance of a special future ministry of the Spirit, which will bring to completion the truth Jesus wants his disciples in every generation to know.”[23] The promise that they would be guided “into all truth” was from Jesus to His immediate group of disciple-apostles, a group that did not include Lloyd Gardner, or for that matter, Larry DeBruyn. Believers today enjoy the witness of the Spirit as He witnesses to Jesus Christ, authenticates the Word of God to their hearts, provides inner testimony as to their salvation and actualizes their spiritual union with Christ and with one another (John 15:26; Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 6:16, 19). But nowhere does Scripture say that Jesus gives believers new revelations.

By the end of the first century, the apostolic writings were complete. The faith has been “once delivered” (Jude 3). Jesus’ revelation to the church, therefore, is not now ongoing. On the point of these “face to face” dialogs, one must wonder whether they are a dialog, a record of real conversations with Jesus, or a monolog, a record of one man’s musings within himself, or more ominously, a record of a man communicating with other spiritual entities (1 Timothy 4:1). As in the first century, Christians today ought to be in submission to the writings of the Apostles in matters of faith and practice for as John served notice: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6, KJV). Only by the apostolic word can truth and error be discerned. Therefore, other revelatory voices and writings are neither necessary for nor relevant to the Christian faith (1 John 5:13).* As noted by Van der Merwe:

When a Voice, be it conscience, intuition or a subjective impression replaces the authority of the Scriptures and takes precedence over “God’s Word”, then it is cultic. Cults have always sought divine authority in man, while Christians seek divine authority in God’s Word.[24]

To Be Continued. . .

ENDNOTES (continued):
[21] When the realization dawned upon him as to whose presence he was in, Peter cried out to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).
[22] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986): 51.
[23] Emphasis added, Bruce Milne, The Message of John: Here is your King! (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993): 232.
[24] Van der Merwe, Strange Fire: the Rise of Gnosticism in the Church (Lafayette, IN: Discernment Ministries, 1995): 21. Available online:, 62.

[*Ed. Note: The belief that there are modern-day apostles who have visited the Lord and received a "new word" from God is a heresy that has been rapidly growing for the past several decades. C. Peter Wagner, who heads up the New Apostolic Reformation, endows his army of “apostles” with supernatural gifting to hear new revelation directly from God in his book Spheres of Authority: Apostles in Today’s Church (Wagner Publications, 2002), p. 24. He writes: “Apostles receive revelations from God, and consequently they are able to say ‘This is what the Spirit is saying to the churches right now.’ Making such a statement with credibility carries with it tremendous authority.”]

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the following books: UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality and Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose Driven Pastor, and Drumming Up Deception. All of these books can be ordered HERE.