In his newest blog commentary on echurch he says that the Church needs simple Simons to cure the Church. Cure the Church of what and to which Church is he actually referring? — the Roman Catholic Church, the Dutch Reformed Church, the “Gereformeerde Kerk,” the “Hervormde Kerk,” the Lutheran Church, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Episcopalian Church, the Charismatic Church, the Church of God, the Pentecostal Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Community Church, the Baptist Church, etc. etc. etc.? Or is he referring to one of the following churches in South Africa? (See list here). He seems to be leveling his criticism at all these churches and yet most of his censures are very shallow in the sense that he never criticizes them for their dogmatic errors but only for their program and power driven agendas as well as their strong affinity for propositional matters.
Joubert’s main concern is the hierarchical structures in the Church and the control they exert over their flocks. I am not implying that these authoritative structures are necessarily always in strict harmony with the Word of God. What I do say is that Stephan Joubert and his Emergent buddies should first remove the beam from their own eyes before they venture to remove the mote from the other churches’ eyes. Nonetheless, God who is a God of order appointed men in authority over the flock, not to lord it over anyone but to lovingly and loyally tend to the sheep and the lambs by giving them the right food and to contend for the faith whenever they are in danger of being lead astray by false apostles and teachers. Even Paul often called upon his divinely given apostolic authority to quash any unruliness and false teachings in the Church.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: (2 Corinthians 10:8) (Emphasis added)
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Titus 2:15)
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge [command] certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, (1Timothy 1:3)
The power Paul received from Jesus Christ as an apostle was not given to him to soften up or tone down the demands of the Gospel for holiness and the command to contend earnestly for the faith. Indeed divine power was given him to boldly preach the Gospel for the edification and building up of the church and not its destruction. And yet Stephan Joubert audaciously calls Paul’s divinely ordained power “entrapments of ugly power [that] loomed large in his vicinity.” False apostles and teachers were the exact opposite to what Paul was called to be — they were not appointed by God but were masquerading as appointees of Christ and as pillars of His Truth in the very same way Satan, their father, was masquerading as an angel of light (1 Corinthians 11:13-15). They were trying to tear down and to destroy the work Paul had been doing amongst the Corinthians, and yet Joubert audaciously honors them as “flamboyant preachers . . . who fared better than he (Paul).” What utter, utter nonsense!
Despite Paul’s emphatic claim to his apostolic authority, Stephan Joubert has found new ways of stripping him of his authority and to interpret his meekness and gentleness as cowardice, spinelessness and faintheartedness. Listen to Joubert’s eisegesis of 2 Corinthians 10 of which I have already quoted verse 8 above.
Well, it even took Paul a prayer or two to come to grips with God’s definition of power. Up ’til that point he was highly successful in his ministry. Undoubtedly the entrapments of ugly power loomed large in his vicinity. But then Paul had a quarrel with a church leader in Corinth. He left the city humiliated and his ego bruised (2 Cor. 2, 7). To add injury to insult flamboyant preachers came to Corinth who fared better than he at that stage. They were show stoppers (2 Cor. 10-13). Paul approached God three times in prayer to remove these afflictions as he tells us in 2 Corinthians 12.
Stephan Joubert assumes that Paul’s thorn in the flesh and therefore his afflictions were caused by the flamboyant preachers who fared much better than he at that stage. Once again, what utter utter nonsense! One of the things Paul had to contend with in his battle for the hearts and minds of his Corinthian brethren, was their inappropriate attraction to false apostles and teachers, Listen to his heartrending plea:
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
The Corinthians had been captivated by the false apostles who claimed to be the proxy of the Twelve Apostles of Christ and therefore superlative to Paul (Super Apostles) . As such they were the bearers and messengers of the true Gospel and not Paul. They boasted that they were the ones who had the right credentials. In dealing with the false assumption that credentials are the decisive litmus test for true apostleship, he reminded them in 2 Corinthians 3: 3 that they were his credentials in the form of a written message, not with ink, but in their hearts with the Spirit of the living God. These apostles also lay claim to fame by the many visions and extra biblical revelations they supposedly had. It is quite evident that Paul had no intention of making known his awesome experience he had when he was caught up into the third heaven but circumstances forced him to put these false apostles in their place. Listen to what he says:
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Having seen in many churches of our day how false apostles and teachers are puffed up by their alleged visions and revelations, here we encounter a true apostle of God who actually experienced visions and revelations in the third heaven but was given a thorn in the flesh lest he fall into the trap of self exaltation. So you see, Stephan, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, NOT because he was afflicted by flamboyant false apostles who allegedly had the right credentials and fared better than Paul at that stage. Once again, that’s just plain nonsense.
The fact is that, although Paul was polemical in the preceding chapters (e.g. 2:17; 3:1, 7-18; 4:2-4; 5:12, 16; 6:14), he postponed his frontal attack with the false apostles and teachers until the very last four chapters of his second epistle to the church in Corinth. not because he cringed with injury, insult, humiliation and a bruised ego forcing him to flee the scene, but because he was meek and gentle. Paul was reluctant to take stern action but the serious situation with false apostles demanded it and he did not shrink from his duty to wield his authority. Christ was his model for this. His meekness (Matthew 11:29) was not a weakness but rather a strength of spirit that enabled Him to accept with fortitude the wrongs done to Him and yet to act with a forceful and powerful vengeance on behalf of others (John 2:15 and 16). Meekness exemplifies the inner strength that comes from loving others rather than self.
Let us now discern Joubert’s assertion that Paul left the city (Corinth) humiliated and his ego bruised and that flamboyant preachers who came to Corinth fared better than he at that stage. To substantiate his statement he refers to 2 Corinthians chapters 2 and 7. Paul’s main purpose in writing this letter to the church at Corinth was to counteract and refute insinuations about the authenticity of his apostleship, the propriety of his conduct and the sincerity of his commitment and loyalty to the Christians at Corinth. False apostles were deliberately polluting their minds, not only by sowing doubts about Paul’s alleged commitment to the church but also by introducing a false Gospel (Chapter 11 verses 4 and 13). This sounds familiar, doesn’t it, especially when you take into account Stephan Joubert’s unchurchly criticism of Paul and his so-called misunderstanding of God’s power whilst he (Stephan Joubert) has no qualms whatsoever to be in league with power-hungry individuals such as Brian McLaren who believes that we don’t have the Gospel right yet and need to change everything. Anyone who dares to even think of changing the unalterable, immutable and infallible Word of God to suit our post modern society is nothing else than a power hungry mogul. David G Benner, a clinical psychologist who appeared on the same platform with Johan Geyser, Stephan Joubert, Trevor Hudson and Ron Martoia at their annual Mosaïek Conference last year, apparently agrees with Brian McLaren when he says that Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code (biblical doctrines) for the new way of the spirit (experience).1
If you want some evidence of authoritarian power and its ugly entrapments looming larger than life in the halls, rooms and corridors of the Mosaïek Church in Fairlands Johannesburg, read here: (The Emergent-100%-Money-Back-Guaranteed-Church) how they used their authoritarian power to overrule the laws and the constitution of South Africa. And Joubert has the audacity to say that Paul was a power hungry apostle who needed to be humiliated before he could understand the real meaning of godly power. Authoritarian domination is often the modus operandi of false apostles and their own kingdom they serve (2 Corinthians 11:13-15); it was not the way of Christ (Luke 22:25-27) nor of those who are his genuine followers (1 Peter 5:3).
Let me say this with unfailing certainty: Paul did not leave Corinth a humiliated man with a bruised ego. However, I might just yet agree with Joubert on his assertion that flamboyant preachers fared better than he at that stage. He calls them “flamboyant preachers; I call them false apostles and teachers because that’s exactly what they were. False apostles and teachers have always fared better than the apostles of God if you believe that large numbers are a fare barometer for success. And yet huge numbers of people cannot be regarded as a fare barometer of success because the Bible teaches that most people are going to land up in hell. In fact, Paul says that the false apostles and teachers are going to be a “roaring success” in the end times because most people will gather unto themselves preachers and teachers who proclaim the things they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). Someone once said “True success is determined by the number of people who look up to you for guidance and the enchantment or heightening of their senses and their potential.” The emergent spirituality in particular is a religion for the senses and the experiential heightening or awakening of their potential (divinity) so that you and every other person may experience the fact that they have a divine spark in their innermost being. This is pure Gnosticism reawakened.
But let us now return to Paul and his alleged humiliation in Corinth. The question is: Why did Paul defer his visit to Corinth after he had already planned his itinerary? His original plan was to visit them twice: first from Ephesus to Corinth and then on to Macedonia. His love for them prompted him to visit them as often as he could. But he changed his plans which immediately gave the false apostles and teachers an opportunity to castigate him for his alleged vacillation. His indecisiveness, they concurred, was a sign not only of his unreliability as an apostle but also of the untrustworthiness of his message. Paul’s main concern for the moment was not to defend himself and his change of plans – that he would do in due course – but to first refute the accusation that his message was unreliable. His message, he said, was never one of yes and no. That would amount to a lie of which Satan is the father from the very beginning. No! says Paul, his message has always been yes and amen in the Lord, never a yes and a no. And so too his plans to visit them should not be seen as first a yes and then a no. His change of plans was neither a sign of vacillation nor did he make them in a worldly fashion. The main reason for the deferment of his visits was out of serious concern for his Corinthian brethren. Although he had great authority and power to employ very strict disciplinary actions (2 Corinthians 10:2-8; 1 Corinthians 5: 4 and 5; 1 Timothy 1:20) he was not so keen to wield it. He decided against it and preferred to write them a letter.
Several irregularities were rampant in the Corinthian Church which caused Paul much pain and spiritual discomfort and discontent. They can be summed up as follows:
- The contentions among themselves with regards to whose example they should follow — Paul’s, Apollos’, Cephas’ or Christ’s? (1 Corinthians, Chapter 1)
- They were carnal and immature in their discernment of the deep spiritual things of God (Chapter 2).
- Their carnality caused most of the dissensions in their church (Chapter 3).
- Their pride stood out like a sore toe compared to the humility and the authority (power) of the apostles (Chapter 4) .
- They tolerated some of the worst fornicators in their church (Chapter 5).
- They sought legal advice with unbelievers in stead of with the saints who are going to judge the world. (Chapter 6).
- They were ignorant of the work of the Spirit in the dissemination of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of tongues. (Chapter 12).
- They were in serious error with regard to the resurrection of the dead (Chapter 15).
- They began to lean heavily upon the teachings of false apostles rather than on the Gospel they received from Paul.
Paul patiently and lovingly dealt with all these problems, not in a spirit of lording it over his brethren at Corinth, but in meekness and gentleness although he had the authority to deal with them very harshly. The notion that he had to learn how to relinquish the entrapments of ugly power through the humiliating experience he had in Corinth, is just not true. Stephan Joubert is doing what he has been doing all along. He is superimposing his own ideas on to the Bible to achieve the Emergent Church’s agendas and that is, as David G Benner said, to abandon the old ways of the written code (biblical doctrines which have become power tools in the hands of the hierarchy) to embrace the new way of the spirit (experiential spirituality through the practice of contemplative prayer and other emergent disciplines). Brian McLaren who Stephan Jounert frequently quotes in his prizewinning book Jesus, a Radical Leap summed it up very well when he said:
The postmodern transition is well underway, but it’s still in process. The early deconstructive phase of the postmodern transition is evolving into a more constructive and creative phase, exemplified (for me) by thinkers and writers like Wendell Berry and Ken Wilber in the culture at large, plus a number of us writing specifically for the Christian community. (Of course, some folks are still fighting against the earliest phases, not realizing that the “battle lines” keep moving. But I shouldn’t use battle imagery, because I don’t see it that way.) For all the work we’ve done and all the progress we’ve made, we still have so far to go.
I’m worried that many of us think we’ve arrived: we’ve crossed the Jordan River and now we’re in the Promised Land. If we’ve made a crossing, it’s the Red Sea (or whatever), which does put Egypt behind us. But we’ve got a wide wilderness ahead of us, wilderness where our character will be tested and many of us will be tempted to go back to Egypt. We’re still quite a way from the Jordan River. We’ve made a beginning, but we’ve got a long way to go. And of course, once we get to the Jordan River, that’s an ending, but it’s also another beginning, you know? I just want to make sure we learn what we need to learn crossing the wilderness.
Stephan Joubert is clearly in the deconstructive business when he unashamedly misrepresents Paul’s dealings with the brethren at Corinth and uses him as an example of an ugly power driven mogul who had to learn humility the hard way whilst flamboyant false apostles and teachers were waving their victory flag. Instead of exposing the false apostles with whom Paul had to deal, Stephan Joubert attacks him by implying that the had a false sense of power. May God have mercy on their pitiful souls.
(1) David G. Benner, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 9