I’ve been looking through a wonderful book in my library on the charismatic and healing revivals of the post WW2 years for information on the New Order of the Latter Rain [NOLR] movement.
The NOLR crops up in most of churchwatchcentral’s articles as being the precursor of everything to do with the origins of their version of the New Apostolic Restoration [NAR]. They are pushing the notion that NOLR are the source of everything charismatic, continuationist and NAR.
The book is titled ‘All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America’ by David Edwin Harrell Jr, and is still available on Amazon.
No mention of NOLR
The astonishing thing is that, whilst mention is made in the preface of latter rain teaching in Pentecostal churches dating back to the Azusa Street revival, and the historical roots of the healing movements are given, including the revivals of the 1920s, plus all of the major healing revivalists of the mid twentieth century are featured, no mention is made of the NOLR. Nothing. Zilch.
This doesn’t mean that NOLR didn’t exist, nor that they didn’t have a part to play in a Canadian revival in the late 1940s, nor that they didn’t stir some kind of interest in some ministers in the 1950/60s, but it does rather say that they were not as influential, when it comes to anything to do with charismatic movements, as churchwatchcentral likes to make out.
In fact, churchwatchcentral’s entire premise hinges on their allegations that NOLR somehow influenced C Peter Wagner, the charismatic movement, and churchwatchcentral’s imaginary version of the NAR.
C Peter Wagner, in His book ‘Churchquake’, which tracks the progress of the phenomenon he calls the New Apostolic Reformation, only mentions the Latter Rain movement once directly, when discussing the role of the Assemblies of God [AOG] US in 1949 of speaking out against the Latter Rain movement.
Importantly, Wagner’s point is that, at the time, The AOG in the US was becoming rather stodgy, had left much of its early spiritual enthusiasm and energetic evangelism, had been reduced to a shadow of its formerly vibrant self, and was in danger of becoming a monument that was once a movement. It was from this perspective that their leadership condemned the NOLR revivalists.
In becoming more conventional as a denomination, Wagner says, the AOG US had lost their verve and now rebuked a similar movement for showing the same former excitement and hunger for the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.
At the same time, though, it’s very significant that the AOG US at the time saw no difference between what NOLR essentially taught and the origins of AOG theology. They declared that ‘NOLR gives us nothing that is new’. Elim theologian and historian J L Miller writes in Pneuma Review:
The General Council of the Assemblies of God recognised that the NOLR “in reality gives us nothing that is new.” Essentially, every doctrine that the NOLR freshly emphasized is found in the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement of either Topeka or Azusa. Personal prophecy, the laying on of hands, and apostle-like authority were a regular occurrence in the Pentecostal Movement but now they are combined in such a way as to give the uninitiated the impression that such gifts were only given through the elite leaders of the NOLR movement.
The main controversy with NOLR was with their teaching on what they called the Manifest Sons of God, which was, according to researchers, never fully formed, and was later sidelined as the emphasis was on other aspects of their teaching and methodology. However, the doctrine, whilst effectively abandoned by some adherents, has become a major focal point for most polemicists, who tend to write from a cessationist, anti-charismatic perspective rather than from a detached, historical point of view.
Apart from this and their reliance on elders alone for the spiritual gifts, their doctrine is fairly conventional Pentecostal teaching and theology, with a stronger emphasis on the second coming of Christ for His Bride, the Church.
The presbytery speaks
As suggested above, one noted aspect of the movement was its reliance on prophetic utterances from the presbytery, their leaders and elders. Myrtle Beale, who was one of their main teachers, gives an indication of where they stood on this.
Who is qualified to prophesy in the realm of direction?
Personal direction is not the usual realm of the New Testament gift of prophecy. God only entrusts this to the overseers of the flock. These overseers are serving in union with Christ who is the Head of the Church; they are extensions of His ministry to His Body. He is the one to call and to equip; He is also the one to promote and send forth.
In the New Testament, we find overseers gathering in groups for the purpose of laying on hands and prophesying in order to establish people in their ministries. No one pastor or elder attempted to take this upon himself without others to assist. This is for two important reasons: (1) all prophecy must be judged, and (2) since we each prophesy in part, the plurality of ministers insures us a fuller picture.
We call this group of assembled elders―whether from one local church or several, as in a convention―the presbytery. This is because the Greek word for elder is presbuteros. In other words, the Bible does not give license to every believer to prophesy over others in the realm of direction. This is a restricted ministry, reserved for the hands of experienced and proven elders. (1Tim 4:14).
So, rather than encouraging the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit amongst the congregation, NOLR teaching confines it to their leadership. This is not reflective of Pentecostal or charismatic practices. The gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are held to be for the members of the congregation, not just for those in leadership.
The NOLR is, then, more of a splinter group that formed around a brief revival in the late 1940s that began in a Bible School in Saskatchewan, but has, for the most part, conventional Pentecostal doctrine apart from the administration of the gifts of the Spirit and the controversial doctrine of the Manifest Sons of God, which was never really a fully formed teaching, more of an unfinished adaptation of scripture in Revelation 12.
That it is not mentioned in Harrell’s very comprehensive book is quite telling. Harrell was writing from an historically neutral point of view rather than being either supportive or critical of the healing revivals that led to the charismatic movements, so if there had been any importance to the NOLR, in relation to the development of these movements, it would have at least had a mention.
The other point is that NOLR was fundamentally a Pentecostal movement. It did influence some well-known ministers of the time, including some in Elim, and one or two in the AOG US, who were ostracised for their connection with NOLR, but it was definitely not the main source behind the charismatic movements of the 1970s and beyond.
The teaching on the latter rain prophecies in scripture were present in Pentecostal circles before the NOLR revivals. That they adopted it as their emphasis is not an indication that the doctrine was initiated by their leaders, but that they adapted it to their own purposes and theology.
The claims by churchwatchcentral that NOLR were the source of the charismatic movements and, subsequently, the NAR, is, at best, fanciful.
They’ve been pushing this rewrite of history for some time now, but, because they approach these issues with a biased, negative perspective, they have presented a bogus view of how the charismatic movements came to be, of how C P Wagner’s notion of the New Apostolic Reformation has been formed, and how it continues to develop as a spiritual phenomenon.
Their links between various movements are spurious also, with just about every successful charismatic, evangelical or Pentecostal movement on earth today being mashed into their Fake NAR conspiracy theory.
Important movements and key figures are always mentioned in historical accounts. That neither Harrell nor Wagner pays much attention to the NOLR or their leaders tells its own story, especially when measured up against churchwatchcentral’s whimsical accounts, which are more hysterical than historical.