Friday, November 26, 2010

Pragmatic Peter

This is Where Pure Pragmatism Will Take You

By Dr. Orrel Steinkamp*

“So the goal that God has now placed on the agenda of the Body of Christ in the last few years, much more than we can find in the past, is, the goal is transforming our society. Seeing the values of the kingdom of God, that’s why Jesus taught us to pray… the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’…. And part of that prayer is, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’…. It’s not just words we’re speaking. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ So transforming our society, understanding the kingdom, and transforming our society is, number one."
- C. Peter Wagner[1]

C. Peter Wagner, the current presiding elder of the International Coalition of Apostles and leading Dominionist activist has traveled a great distance from the days when he was teaching missiology at Fuller Seminary and making waves at Billy Graham's International Church Conference in Lausanne. Over these past few years he is now found promoting some of the most bizarre Dominionist teachings known to man. What could cause him to move so quickly from Church Growth missiology to endorsing, for example, Robert Heidler's communications with the planets by way of Jewish shofars?[2]

There is a simple answer. It is that pure pragmatism is the basis of his truth. Wagner announced this world view long ago. He states:

"...We ought to see clearly that the end justifies the means. What else could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at. It is for that reason a good method. If on the other hand my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it."

Wagner's long winding road was fueled by his total dependence on pragmatism as a world view. Well do I remember in the '70s as a missionary in Vietnam the force of Donald McGavran's church growth and contextualization teaching. We should have known better but we accepted it totally. If we could find a way to make converts of whole people groups why slug it out from one convert to another isolating these converts to the wider culture?

It was McGavran, who was Wagner's "mentor" at Fuller, who first wrote about church growth principles. He was the founding Dean of Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission in 1965 in Pasadena. He had served as a missionary in India 1923-1957. McGavran promoted "people movement" evangelism, and this was the essence of his church growth teaching. He promoted sociological factors to accomplish church growth. "A change of religion involves a community change."[4] The primary focus became not to save individuals but for people groups to make a group decision. In all of this we can see some seeds that may have led pragmatic G. Peter to move toward cultural change and Dominion teaching.

Pragmatism is addicting when it appears to not only work, but to work fast. For Wagner, church growth principles appeared to work and work fast. Pragmatism demands that theology and biblical interpretation be adapted and tweaked to undergird the push for pragmatic results. Biblical theology must then become the handmaiden of what appears to work best. This is just the case for Wagner. He has been willing to align his handling of biblical texts and even theological stances to what he perceives to work. He has been willing for example to allow Bill Hamon, perhaps the only living inheritor of Latter Rain eschatology, to set the agenda for a new eschatology of Apostolic Dominion.

If "open theism" will pragmatically advance Wagner's Latter Rain dominion eschatology then he is more than willing to just embrace it.[5] Wagner adopted the Word Faith teaching about Adam forfeiting God's dominion in the garden so that the church's mission becomes that of reclaiming dominion for God. If this teaching will energize Dominionists in the drive for Dominionism then Wagner appears ready to utilize the most crass eisegesis and misinterpretation of the Bible. Wagner is willing to co-opt "the cultural mandate" of Reconstruction theology because it will buttress his pragmatic promotion of Dominion teaching. All this can be found in Wagner's book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World.[6]

An illustration of this flight from responsible biblical interpretation is found in Wagner's 15 minute teaching of "Dominionism" at a key event called "The 2008 Starting of the Year Right," sponsored by Chuck Pierce. Here Wagner refers to Luke 19:10, and asserts that when Luke writes "the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost " it actually refers to God's dominion which was lost by Adam in the garden. He claims that it is dominion that was lost in the garden. He then goes on to refer to a sermon by Dutch Sheets in which Sheets taught there is a "contrast between pastoral ministry and apostolic ministry." Wagner admits this verse could refer to Jesus' death on the cross so that we could to heaven. But his new apostolic ministry "takes this verse to refer to the dominion Adam lost in the garden." Wagner asserts this, no matter how strange it seems, and expects his listeners to agree with him. This is an example of ripping a verse out of context and twisting it to mean something that isn't even exegetically a possibility. In context this "seeking of that which was lost" can only refer to the salvation that came to the house of Zacchaeus.

Wagner's sell-out to abject pragmatic considerations causes him to become an embarrassment to even novice biblical interpreters.

The Truth:

To understand more of how these teachings have come into the church via a false gospel of pragmatism, see the latest Discernment Newsletter article just posted online, titled "What Is Dominionism?"[7]

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" (Galatians 1:6)

C. Peter Wagner, “Arise Prophetic Conference,” Gateway Church, San Jose, CA, 10-10-2004, transcript posted at
2. "The 2008 Starting of the Year Right" NAR conference.
3. C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, 1976, pg. 137.
4. Perspectives Reader, p. B-137-140. See Herescope post:
5. See Wagner, Dominionism, p. 80.
6. Published by Chosen Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2008.

* Dr. Orrel Steinkamp's Plumbline newsletters are posted on the website Deception in the Church. To view his most recent newsletter, see: