New Apostolic Church - 07/02/2004

I went to a funeral at a New Apostolic Church last week, some of what I hear didn't make sense to me. The talked about the soul going to heaven, but they never mentioned being saved or salvation. Which I know is the only way to be saved. The funeral was for the brother-in-law of a friend of mine. It was hard for me to concentrate on what was being said. However the Pastor said that what he had to say had come from home office and they had given him the word to say. This seem funny to me. However I look them up on the web after the funeral, their web site has a mission statement close to the church I attend. However on futher study they appear to be a cult. Could you clear this up of me? Are they a christian based church or a cult?

Thank you,
Jeri





CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:

Hi Jeri. Thanks for writing to us.  Until you wrote, I hadn't heard of the New Apostolic Church, so I went to their website to check them out.  At first blush, I noticed nothing rising to the level of heresy or unbiblical doctrines, but eventually I did. 
 
On a section entitled "Questions Regarding the New Apostolic Church", they give the history of this denomination.  One particular sentence made me lift an eyebrow somewhat: "On October 31, 1832 the first Apostle of the second sending, John Bate Cardale, was called by divine prophesy."  Now, the Bible teaches that prophesy IS one of the spiritual gifts.  However, when one makes the claim that a church's founding Apostle was called by divine prophecy, that is a strong statement.  As such, we should take a careful look at the "fruits" -- the beliefs and doctrines of this church.  I wasn't swayed by the fact that their founding prophet was called on Halloween, but I still felt it necessary to carefully assess the results of his calling.
 
One of the most alarming parts of NAC doctrines and practices is their "Service for the Departed."  As their website states, "In the Service for the Departed, the sacraments of the church are dispensed to living proxies for the blessing and benefit of the departed.  The faithful in the world wide congregations pray and intercede for these departed souls that they are able to find grace.  There is a great outpouring of compassion and invitation from the living in favor of the departed."  The NAC isn't unique in believing that something can be done for the souls of the dead.  The Mormons also perform a sacrament (baptism) by proxy for the dead.  Catholics believe that those in purgatory can be helped by the intercessory prayers of the living.  However, these beliefs are quite unbiblical.  The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) teaches us that there is a fixed gulf between heaven and hell: "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us" (v. 26).  To support this belief, the NAC relies on 1 Peter 3:19-20, which tells us that Jesus preached to those who were dead.  The NAC contends this demonstrates that the dead can be saved.  However, the dead mentioned in this verse are those who had died previous to Jesus' earthly ministry -- those who would have had no chance to accept salvation through Him. 
 
Another unbiblical doctrine of the NAC is that there are multiple levels in eternity, rather than simply heaven or hell.  Again, this is not unique to the NAC.  Mormons have "three degrees of glory" -- the Celestial Kingdom, Telestial Kingdom, and Terrestrial Kingdom.  The Catholics add the realm of purgatory to the list of possible future destinations.  According to the NAC website, "We believe that eternity is not simply divided between heaven and hell; that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.  Can mankind really be divided that simplistically?  Rather, eternity is comprised of many realms.  Souls enter those realms, upon their physical death, depending on the condition / development of their soul."  The scriptural support for this belief is incredibly lacking.  They refer to the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and simply state that Lazarus must not have been in heaven in this story (and completely ignoring the implications of this passage on their belief that the dead can be saved).  They also cling to the "many mansions" argument of John 14:2 -- the same argument the Mormons use to support three degrees of glory.  However, it is highly presumptuous to interpret the "many mansions" of John 14:2 as meaning many realms of different levels.
 
There are many beliefs on which I will disagree with other sincere Christians.  That does not make any of us cultists or unbelievers.  However, most of those issues are not clear and explicit in Scripture, and are therefore open to various interpretations.  However, some doctrines of the NAC are clearly unbiblical.  Consequently, I am dubious about John Bate Cardale's "divine calling,"  and would urge a cautious approach to this particular church.  I hope this answers your questions.  God bless.
 
In Christ,

Ben and Jennifer Rast
Contender Ministries