Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is the International House of Prayer truly Sola Scriptura?

Over and over again, faculty and staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC) state that they hold scripture up to its highest standard. The Statement of Faith on IHOP-KC's website states: "The Bible is the final authority for all we believe and for how we are to live" (source). Another section of the website likewise states:
We deny that subjective prophetic experiences are equal to the inspired Word of God. In other words, all personal prophecy must uphold and honor the Scripture. [source]
Mike Bickle stated at Session 8 of the 2013 Prayer and Prophetic Conference that IHOP-KC doesn't "honor a dream or vision that doesn't honor the written word of God" (source). In his book on the prophetic movement, Mike Bickle likewise writes:
We value seeing ministry of the gifts of the Holy Spirit operate in relation to the written Word of God. This is a nonnegotiable aspect of the IHOP Missions Base quest to grow in the prophetic. [pg. 4, Prophetic]
The question we must ask, however, is if this is true. It is one thing to say you hold scripture up to a high standard, and another to actually follow this statement in application. For example, Roman Catholics might argue that they honor the word of God, but this is only in accordance with the teachings of their church. If a doctrine taught by their church is either completely absent from scripture, or is actually contradicted by scripture, then the authority of the church gets the upper hand over and against scripture.

The question must thus be asked: upon what does IHOP-KC base not only its existence, but the vast majority of its theology? As I demonstrated in a previous post, everything that IHOP-KC does and believes is based on personal revelation. IHOP-KC exists because Mike Bickle claims that God spoke to him in Cairo in 1982, and instructed him about what he was going to do with Christianity in the coming generation. IHOP-KC's vision of the end times - which fuels the theology, actions and purpose of the prayer room - comes from a direct revelation from God. Even the acronym "IHOP" is claimed by Bickle and others to have come directly from God.

Even more alarming is that interpretation of scripture is read not from an understanding of its original context, but rather through the lens of the personal revelation given. One big example of this, which I've given before, was Bickle's handling of Acts 2, where he cut up verses in half, ignored the larger context, and applied it to what IHOP-KC was doing. Another example, and one very telling, is found in a presentation given by Mike Bickle regarding the founding of IHOP-KC:
Sixteen years go by, it is now January 1999. Again, we have got more detail on the notes here. A man came to me on Sunday morning, on January 24, 1999, and he gave me Haggai 1:2. Let’s read it:

“This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’” It says: these people say in their heart that the time has not yet come that the house of the Lord should be built.

He looked at me, and he said, “Don’t say in your heart, from Haggai 1:2, do not say . . .” He opened the Bible, pointed, and he said, “Don’t say it is not time to build this twenty-four-hour house of prayer.”

I said, “Well, I don’t think it is time.”

He said, “Yes, but you are not supposed to say that.”

I said, “Well, it doesn’t really work that way, though I appreciate your sincerity.” I was thinking of just the immense amount of work, labor, and I decided to say no. “In the future for sure, we are going to do it.” We had a sign on the wall for most of the sixteen years that said “24-hour prayer in the spirit of the tabernacle of David.” We had it on the wall, and everybody saw it for years and years. He said, “It is time to build it.”

I said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Then, I got on the airplane that day and went to Colorado Springs, and there was a prophetic conference. On Wednesday in Colorado Springs, a man named Kingsley Fletcher came to me. I did not know him. I had heard of him, but had never met him. He came up to me, and I was with a group of guys talking. He points his finger at me, and he is smiling at me as if he knows something I do not know. I know that he is prophetic, and I am smiling, as he is smiling. He closed his eyes; he says, “Do not say in your heart it is not time to build the house of the Lord, Haggai 1:2.”
Let's pause here a moment: has anyone in Christian history, up until this moment, interpreted Haggai 1:2 as referencing the founding of the International House of Prayer? On the contrary, Haggai is speaking of the reconstruction of the Second Temple - any one who simply reads the book of Haggai would understand that. Avoiding any complicated discussion on the original Hebrew, systematic theology, etc., let's simply read the previous verse:
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest [Haggai 1:1]
Was the International House of Prayer founded in the second year of Darius [Hystaspis] the king, in the sixth month (Elul, roughly our July or August), on the first day of the month? Is Mike Bickle the prophet Haggai? Did he speak these words to Zerubbabel and Joshua? Did Mike Bickle speak to ancient Jews (the "these people" of verse 2)? If we answered no to any of these questions, then this verse is not about the International House of Prayer and its founding. Some might contend that the apostles often found dual fulfillment in ancient prophecies - however, the apostles had been granted the special ability by Christ to see him in the scriptures (Lk 24:44-47). Therefore, if we are attempting to grant Mike Bickle and his associates this ability, we are putting them on equals with the apostles, and granting them the same ability. The fact is, Bickle abused God's word, and distorted its context to substantiate the supposed revelation. He interpreted God's word not from the immediate context or how scripture itself interpreted it, but how his so-called "prophetic" experiences interpreted it.

Contrary to Bickle's earlier quoted assurances, all this is not "upholding and honoring" scripture, but twisting scripture to suit the "subjective prophetic experiences" which you claim were given to you by God. In other words, you're placing something else as a higher authority than scripture. When one says "scripture defines scripture," what they mean is that the ultimate meaning of God's word is understood by how God, the author of Holy Writ, explains it himself. Any time you give someone other than God that authority - whether it's a church, a single person, or personal experiences - then you are superseding God's authority, and raising an authority higher than His word.

From all this, we can see that, as a matter of fact, IHOP-KC's final authority is not scripture, and they do not uphold the historical doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Bickle, Mike. Growing in the Prophetic. Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2008.