Rather than yet another "Last Week On Pyro" spot, I'll just refer you here, which in turn refers you everywhere else you need, and then I'll assume you know All That.
So on the original cover from the Assemblies of God, we see a listing of Islam, atheism, pluralism, annihilationism, Buddhism, Calvinism, and Eternal Security as "challenges to the Gospel."
even the apology points out, the AoG has formal statements that deal with many of these issues, with the exception of Limited Atonement.
Does that mean that the editors see the Assemblies of God as itself facing no real, internal "challenges" to the Gospel? As I pointed out, the AoG has played a role in bringing us Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Paul and Jan Crouch, and David (Paul) Yonggi Cho. Should not some of the doctrines promoted by any or all of these people have warranted a sign on the post, and a devoted article?
It is true that the AoG produced a position-paper titled "The Believer and Positive Confession." But that was in 1980. Has this false teaching gone away? Is it still a virulent presence among charismatics? Is it a challenge to the Gospel? Does it really come nowhere near an Assemblies of God church? The "Calvinist's" affirmation of the Biblical doctrine of God as a mighty and competent Savior is a challenge, but this isn't? Wouldn't it have made a good "us"-warning?
Beyond that, I do have a major concern of my own, an AoG position that I see as a challenge to the Gospel. But it is a fundamental AoG position, and for the AoG to recognize and address it would mean a major reformation to the denomination. That would be a wonderful thing, long-overdue to my mind; but I wouldn't expect it in a mere article in a denominational magazine.
It's an odd thing, too. Though this is a major position of the AoG, I find that many advocates are less than candid or honest about it. I have in the past simply directly quoted or paraphrased their own words, to be greeted by explosive reactions and denials from AoG promoters or devotees. It is as if they are profoundly embarrassed to the point of denial, yet not enough so actually to change as needed.
Here is the statement of the position, quoted in my probably-never-to-be-published book on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The quotation comes from page 19 of the AoG booklet, Assemblies of God: Who We Are and What We Believe (Gospel Publishing House: 1987 [rev. ed.]):
...the baptism in the Holy Spirit...is a special infusion of God’s power to better enable [sic] the believer...to live the full, faithful life God has promised and expects. The Scriptures... teach that every believer should earnestly seek and expect this Baptism [sic]. The first physical evidence is speaking in an unknown language (Acts 1:5; 2:4, 39; 5:32; 19:1-7).The booklet goes on to say, “This Baptism [sic] leads to a deeper reverence for God, a growing sensitivity in worship, and an intensified dedication to Christ’s work. It also opens the door for special ministering gifts of the Spirit (Acts 4:31-33; 1 Cor. 12; 13; and 14).”
Has the AoG renounced this booklet formally? Not to my knowledge. They do however seem to express the position just a bit more coyly. Thus:
All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry. ...This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. ...With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as: an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, ...a deepened reverence for God...an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work...and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lostWell now, I think we can all agree that those are wonderful Christian graces, can't we? In fact, they're not just wonderful, they're essential, wouldn't you agree?
So when I turn from the AoG's self-admitted fundamental teaching, and to the Word of God, what do I read?
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3)
"...you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (Col. 2:10)
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3)I could go on and on, but the contrast is stark. The AoG tells me that I, a born-again Gospel-believing Christian, lack essential equipment. I do not have all I need in Jesus Christ and through the Gospel. I am not fully equipped and fully empowered for service. The Father has not graciously given me all things that I need for life and godliness when He gave me Christ, I have not been blessed with every spiritual blessing (see the following verses), I have not been filled full in Christ, and I have not been granted all things essential for life and godliness. I am doomed to limp by, inadequately equipped, until I am upgraded to Christian 2.0.
And by the way, it is difficult not just to ponder a bit further. Since engaging in the post-1906 fake version of "tongues" is essential as a proof of this second (but essential) experience, we can say that everyone who has not done so has not been Spirit-baptized.
According to the AoG, then, every Christian after the apostles and prior to 1906 operated at less than full capacity. Somehow Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Owen, Machen, Warfield, Spurgeon and all the rest did what they did without that special enabling they need to really-really love God and serve Him. And given that, it is difficult not to ask what the entire pentecostal movement has produced since 1906 that shows how much better their experience equips them to serve God, over against Calvin and Whitefield and the rest, who had just Christ and just the Gospel and just the Spirit as given through the Gospel?
So we all know that it was a violent abuse of Gal. 3:26-28 to try to make it a feminist motto, authorizing our violation of other Scriptures in suggesting that women can be pastors. But doesn't it apply here? And doesn't Col. 3:11? Mightn't we, by application, legitimately add to the list of excluded divisions "haves and have-nots," or "regulars and premiums," or "normal and super-sized"?
Believe me, all this is only scratching the surface.
So how could we even suggest that this should be seen as a challenge to the Gospel? In that the gift of the Spirit is a fruit of Christ's work on the Cross (Jn. 16:7; Acts 2:33). It is an essential spiritual blessing of the Gospel. If I partake in the Gospel, I partake in all its blessings — including the full essential enabling ministry of the Spirit. There are not three categories in the NT: have-nots, have-Christ-but-that's-not-enough, and have-Christ-plus-high-octane-enabling.
I can believe that these implications are not intentional, and I know these conclusions will be denied, but I would just remind the reader that simply issuing a denial is of little objective evidentiary value. You just can't get around it. To the AoG, if you've trusted Christ and believed the Gospel, that's a great thing, it's a wonderful thing, it's an all-important thing...but it isn't everything you need.
Isn't that a challenge to the Gospel?