The Gamaliel principle

Have you ever heard of the Gamaliel principle? It is based on the account in Acts about a Pharisee in Israel who warned the Sanhedrin to not kill the Apostles, but rather let their movement play itself out to see if it was of God. This is fine of course, until you see how it gets applied these days. Now, certain heretics and manipulators use this idea to mean that if someone’s church or ministry is growing, God is certainly behind it. How can you oppose the LDS Church or Benny Hinn, when he has big crowds or they are building new temples? Certainly their success means they are blessed by God, and therefore anything they may do wrong can be overlooked.

John Span addresses this kind of nonsense in this excellent article. He quotes Abraham Kuyper, among others, on the passage in Acts. Kuyper wrote:

Gamaliel’s advice is bad. It is not true that God destroys forthwith that which is not from him and crowns with success every endeavour of his believers. .. How is it that Gamaliel’s advice, so profoundly untrue, is repeated again and again in life? Could it not be just as well the other way around, that to have no success suggests virtue?… Oppressed, downtrodden, molested—can these not be signs that you are walking on the way of God?”

Generally speaking, if you hear someone throwing around this “principle”, it is a good sign to run away from his church/parachurch/ministry.

3 thoughts on “The Gamaliel principle”

  1. Harry Emerson Fosdick begins his sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” by referring to Gamaliel in order to argue that not believing in a literal virgin birth or Second Coming or in inerrancy should be options for Christians. So I’d say he proves your point.

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