March 23, 2017

October 23, 2013


Questioning Charismaticism

Long time readers of Stand Firm will not be surprised at my critical stance toward Charismatic thought and practice. For several years I’ve posted articles highlighting some of the abuses and excesses of the movement but I don’t think the abuses and excesses arise from nowhere. I think they are endemic to a theological perspective that elevates subjective experience and emphasizes ongoing revelation through “prophecy” tongues and words of knowledge. 

That, in fact, was the argument put forward last week by John Macarthur, RC Sproul, Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, Joni Erikson-Tada - big names in the evangelical world - and others who participated in a conference called Strange Fire, a name recalling the blasphemous and fateful liturgical innovations of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron in Leviticus 10.

The conference has met with strong reaction, both negative and positive. Few are neutral. Part of the negative reaction no doubt has to do with “tone”. The conference was combative and confrontational and that, I believe, has deafened many people to the substance of the presentations. Leading the way, as you might expect, was Pastor John Macarthur himself.

I don’t say that as a criticism. One of the things I admire most about Macarthur is his pugilistic courage. In an age ruled by concern police, tone nannies, and insensitivity victims,  Macarthur’s style is a good corrective and, dare I say it, refreshingly manly.  He doesn’t pull any punches.

At one point, after having suggested (and not without evidence) that world-wide the vast majority of Charismatics (90%) identify themselves with the prosperity gospel, Macarthur said most Charismatics are not Christian brothers. If the statistics he cited are correct, well then so is he. The prosperity gospel presents Jesus as a means to some other desired end. And a Jesus who is a means to some other end is not the true Jesus. But, of course, his words were taken out of context and reported in such a way as to give the impression that he “condemned all charismatics to hell”. He didn’t do that. He and the other speakers made clear distinctions between orthodox Christian charismatics and the prosperity gospel/word of faith charlatans.

But mishearing and misunderstanding is inevitable given the volatility of the subject matter. One cannot critique charismatic theology without being heard to deny the profound personal experiences of many others.

In any case the purpose of this article is not to defend Strange Fire - others have done that well - or to argue for Cessationism - there are far better advocates out there. My purpose is here is to merely lay out what I see as the four flaws of charismatic thought and practice. I think it is important to have this discussion as Anglicans especially in light of the “Three Streams” ideal that seems to hold sway in the Anglican Church in North America. I tend to agree with Gillis Harp that the ideal is theologically flawed and inconsistent with classical Anglicanism but on a far more practical level I realize that whether Three Streams “works” on the philosophical level or not, here we are, charismatics, evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, in the same church so we might as well start identifying some of the elephants in the common room.

And Charismaticism is a big elephant. I don’t know if there are any studies out there but if I were forced to guess, I would say that the Charismatic “stream” is presently the majority report in the ACNA because it is the one stream that easily that bleeds over into the other two. Anglo-Catholicism and evangelicalism clash on a number of fundamental levels. While you can easily find high church evangelicals, an Anglo-Catholic evangelical is an oxymoron. It’s nearly impossible to fit the two theologies together without losing some of the essentials that belong to one or the other. But one can be a Charismatic evangelical or a Charismatic Anglo Catholic without too much cognitive dissonance. And I think the majority of Anglicans take one of those two options.

But there are a number of Anglicans in North America, perhaps only a small minority, and I count myself as one of them, who are increasingly wary of Charismatic thought and practice. You hear them mumble under their breath every once in a while after the bishop speaks in tongues or dances at the altar, but they are quickly shushed. “You’re quenching the Spirit” they’re told.

I don’t think that shushing response will serve us well in the long run. If we row merrily down the confluent three streams as if we are all of one mind about these things we might well look back one day to find fewer people at the oars than we once imagined. So why not put our disagreements on the table so that we all understand one another better and that way we might avoid presuming and assuming and stepping on various toes.

Well, after that long introduction, my four points below will probably seem anticlimactic. Let me begin with three caveats:

1. I am not a completely convinced cessationist. The New Testament does not explicitly tell us that the gifts are no more, so I won’t shout where the bible is silent. But for the reasons expressed below, I think there is cause enough to approach Charismatic claims with healthy and thorough skepticism.

2. Cessationism is widely misunderstood. Few cessationists would say that God no longer heals, guides, or works miraculously on earth. Nor would I. The question is not “does God perform miracles?” It is not: “Does God really respond to prayer?” Of course he does. The question is: how does he do those things?

3. I love, respect and hold in honor the many Anglican leaders and friends who are persuaded and practicing Charismatics. I do not for one moment question their personal experiences, honesty, integrity, or faith. The questions I raise have to do with the labels we put on these experiences not their validity as experiences. 

So, caveats out of the way, here are the four aspects of Charismaticism, I find most troubling:

1. Charismaticism leads adherents to look for “words” from God outside the bible, rather than in the bible and this undermines biblical sufficiency. Scripture is not enough. There must be another word, a more applicable word, a word to me here and now (as if the bible is unable to perform that function). This not only results in biblical ignorance but also in a pronounced inability to exercise Christian wisdom.

Let me flesh this out using two hypothetical scenarios. Imagine I’m trying to decide whether to attend college in San Diego or Washington DC.

Scenario #1: In prayer I get the sense that God wants me to go to San Diego. There is nothing in scripture that would prohibit this decision, so I “follow the Spirt” and go.

Scenario # 2:  I both devote myself to studying scripture to understand God’s purposes in the world. And in the course of study I realize that God has called his people to be witnesses and evangelists. I know the faith, I know scripture, God has given me a gift for communication. How can I use these gifts to further his purposes in making this decision about college? Investigating the two schools, I realize that the one in DC is situated in a primarily Jewish neighborhood and most of the students are not Christians. Most of the professors are not Christians. There is a good but struggling church in the area. The school in San Diego is a solid Christian University, in a Christian neighborhood, with good churches all around. Knowing God’s purposes as revealed in scripture, and knowing what he has equipped me to do, I go to the school in DC.

Now which was the “Spirit led” decision?

In my experience, the Charismatics I know would feel far more comfortable following scenario #1, being “sensitive to the Spirit” and consider scenario #2 far too rationalistic, ‘leaning on one’s own understanding.”

But think about it, my focus in scenario one is entirely internal: what is God saying to my heart? Scripture enters into the equation as a kind of minimal truth check but not as a conditioning and shaping agent.

In scenario #2 scripture shapes, conditions and directs the decision. I am forced to think through both options in light of what the bible tells me about God and his purposes apart from what I might feel in my heart.

Scenario #2, I suggest, produces biblical wisdom rather than a reliance on experience or emotions or voices that, truth be told, may or may not be from God.

Moreover, scenario #2 isn’t cold rationalism. The Holy Spirit guides through scripture, by drawing us to the word for wisdom and discernment rather than away from it through ecstatic experience. The dichotomy often drawn between “Spirit led” and “well-reasoned” is a false one.

2. There seems to be no objective measure available to test the the vast majority of claimed prophetic utterances. The argument that prophecy continues is often (not always) made alongside a assertion that the classic tests for prophets (The accuracy test found in Deuteronomy 18 for example) no longer apply in the New Testament era. God still speaks through prophets, interpreters of tongues and people with the gift of knowledge today, but he no longer superintends the expression of what he reveals. So “accuracy” is no longer an applicable standard. This, if I am reading him correctly, is Dr. Wayne Grudem’s argument explaining why we still have prophets and prophecies and yet he canon remains closed.

Moreover, since the Apostles through whom Jesus has promised to continue teaching (John 16:12-14) are no longer with us to guarantee and confirm divine truth as they were in the days of the New Testament prophets (like Agabus’ Acts 11:28, 21:10) there is no longer any way to confirm or deny, objectively, the validity of a “word”

So, if Charismaticism is true, God speaks through tongues, words of knowledge, and prophecy, to guide the church but does not give the church an objective measure for determining whether in fact he is speaking.

The charismatic will say: “scripture is the objective test”

Yes, but while that will certainly work when measuring a prophecy that is in actual conflict with scripture, a good number of “words from the Lord” constitute something like scenario #1 above. God is telling me to go to college in San Diego. Or, possibly, God has told me to tell you to go to college in San Diego. Or even, God has told me to tell the pastor that the entire congregation must move to San Diego. How do you measure that? One can move to San Diego without violating biblical commands. And yet is this truly from God?

“Well” Charismatics will say, “the community (or individual) must “exercise discernment.”

But the problem is that there is no objective measure by which to discern. So even the community discernment becomes an exercise in corporate subjectivity.

In the end, if Charismatic thought is true God gives his word to prophets, interpreters/speakers of tongues, and those who receive words of knowledge, and Christians are left to either trust that the person claiming to speak a word from God is really doing so…or not. But we’re given nothing beyond feelings or senses or intuitions to tell us to go one way or the other.

I think this turns God into the author of confusion and opens the church to the potential for massive massive error.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that God does not give intuitions or senses or experiences. I’ve felt God calling me to do things before and I think that is a normative experience for most Christians. But I would not presume to say on the basis of these experiences and intuitions that I am a prophet or that I have gotten “words of knowledge”. I do not think we can rightly call these things “revelations” or “words” in the sense of the New Testament gifts or Old Testament prophecies precisely because there is now (unlike then) no way to measure them.

3. It seems a number of the manifestations that Charismatics claim to experience are no different than those you might find in the Malian village where my wife Anne grew up: speaking in “tongues”, receiving words from a spirit, etc. These ecstatic experiences seem fairly universal in pagan cultic practice. Charismatics argue that the pagan practices are demonic counterfeits of the true gifts. That may well be true, but how do we know that? Given the absence of objective measures in #2 above how do we know whether these gifts are the gifts we find in the New Testament? Many would argue, for example, and I would agree, that the New Testament gift of tongues was the miraculous ability to speak in other languages, real intelligible languages, open to real objective interpretation…not mere the incoherent speech predominant today. Are there really two different types of tongues?

Now, again, don’t misunderstand. If you speak privately with the Lord in “groans too deep for words”, if, in other words, you have a private prayer language, wonderful. There is nothing at all wrong with that. My question is whether or not this is really “tongues” in the New Testament sense of the word.

4. Finally, Charismaticism breeds a type of Christianity that looks to experiences to determine whether or not something is “of the Lord”. Granted this is rather anecdotal, but in my experience, the people most likely to say: I just don’t “feel” the Spirit here (after, mind you, hearing God’s word and receiving the Sacrament) are Charismatic in background and have been trained to discern the presence of God by the emotional response they subjectively experience during worship. The Spirit of God is present every time the people of God gather in the name of Jesus Christ but it seems that for many charismatics, unless there is some “manifestation” that produces a subjective experience of the Spirit, then worship is “dead”. This need for experience is. I think, what produces the most outrageous excesses of the movement, driving many leaders to open worship up to all kinds of disorder - laughter, slayings, ecstatic dancing, etc - in the name of being “Spirit led”.

There are other aspects of the Charismatic movement that concern me, but the four points above represent the primary ones. We left the Episcopal Church because we could no longer participate in a church whose leaders claimed the Holy Spirit’s authentication for their errors. Thankfully, Charismatics retain what revisionists discard, the supreme measure and authority of scripture. For that reason this remains an in-house discussion among brothers. My fear, however, is that the experiential, subjective foundation of Charismatic theology produces in individuals and congregations a slow drift away from the solid bedrock of the Holy Scriptures into an untethered feelings-based spiritual journey to nowhere.


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87 comments

Please explain why an Anglo-Catholic evangelical is an oxymoron.  In making that comment you must have in mind objective features of each that are incompatible with each other, and I would like to see what you think those distinguishing features are.
thanks

[1] Posted by aacswfl1 on 10-23-2013 at 11:49 AM · [top]

sola fide, sola scriptura, solus Christus, the nature of the Eucharist, the nature of apostolic succession, the validity of the sacraments offered by churches not in succession, the definition of “Church”...just to name a few.

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-23-2013 at 12:04 PM · [top]

Matt Kennedy,

linking 90% of Charismatics with the prosperity gospel is dubious at best. It’s a nice round number though. Most Charismatics I know including myself have been critical of the prosperity gospel.  http://sanjoaquinsoundings.blogspot.com/2011/02/theology-of-joseph-prince-distortion-of.html 

“Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, as well as other Christian denominations. These leaders maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

[3] Posted by Fr. Dale on 10-23-2013 at 01:42 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Dale, did you see those Pew stats? If they are true then prosperity thinking primary for about 90%. That is not to say that there are not responsible leaders in the movement who condemn the prosperity gospel. Macarthur certainly recognized that.

[4] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-23-2013 at 01:44 PM · [top]

Matt+
I don’t trust the stats.

[5] Posted by Fr. Dale on 10-23-2013 at 02:54 PM · [top]

Great post, Fr. Matt. One thing I have noted in studying this a little is that charismatic theology often addresses something evangelicals tend to ignore - the Holy Spirit - but at the expense of something evangelicals emphasize heavily - the Son. I actually wrote my thesis on this issue, and trying to find journal articles by evangelicals dealing with the Holy Spirit was nearly impossible. Almost all of the writings I found were by charismatics along the lines of Pinnock, et al.

I think, as evangelicals, we do need to give more attention to the Third Person of the Trinity. However, the excesses of the Charismatic movement usually seems to grow from a weak Christology, and an overemphasis in pneumatology.

Tom

[6] Posted by Tom S. on 10-23-2013 at 03:08 PM · [top]

What stats? The linked article refers to 17% of Christians - not charismatics -who identify with the prosperity gospel. Another 60+ percent believe that God wants us to be prosperous. Again, that’s Christians in general.

Did I miss a link?

[7] Posted by Words Matter on 10-23-2013 at 05:29 PM · [top]

#7. Words Matter,
That’s why I don’t trust John Macarthur’s stats. “On the African continent, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2006 in which individuals were asked whether God would “grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith” and whether “religious faith was ‘very important to economic success’” (Phiri & Maxwell 2007). Roughly 9 out of 10 participants from Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya said yes.” There is nothing even related to this statement linking Charismatics with the prosperity gospel.
Actually the prosperity gospel is more related to the “Word of faith” movement than Charismatics.

[8] Posted by Fr. Dale on 10-23-2013 at 05:54 PM · [top]

hi Fr. Dale, the problem is that Charismatics often boast that there are 500,000,000 “Charismatics” but the Pew study shows that of those who are being counted in this number, a huge majority are classified as prosperity gospel believers. Whether these numbers are accurate or not, I don’t know. The larger and, I think, more important point is that the Charismatic movement and the prosperity gospel share the same theological moorings. Once you believe God is still speaking definitively, then there is no way you can falsify the claim by any so called “prophet” that God told me to tell you to give this wonderful and glorious ministry your money.

[9] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-23-2013 at 07:17 PM · [top]

Once you believe God is still speaking definitively, then there is no way you can falsify the claim by any so called “prophet” that God told me to tell you to give this wonderful and glorious ministry your money.

Sure there is. The truth is that prosperity gospel preachers do not base their theology on prophetic claims. They base their theology on a particular interpretation of Scripture. Because they resort to Scripture to buttress their beliefs, those beliefs can be challenged by a right understanding of Scripture.

[10] Posted by ltwin on 10-23-2013 at 08:31 PM · [top]

Fr. Dale -

Say “poll” to me, and I immediately wonder about the sampling methodology and the questions asked. That’s from a source I tend to trust.  Whereas I am generally trusting of the Pew Forum, at this point I’m hearing it third hand.

Perusing the Pew Forum files, I found no connection of the prosperity gospel specifically to pentecostals. There is a claim that:

In most countries, more than half of Christians believe in the prosperity gospel – that God will grant wealth and good health to people who have enough faith.

That would be African countries and is from this:

http://www.pewforum.org/2010/04/15/executive-summary-islam-and-christianity-in-sub-saharan-africa/

Another of their files made the point that in a continent of povery and limited health resources, it’s understandable that people should respond well to an understanding that God cares about their well-being.  The properity gospel is bad theology, of course, but all heresy is based on a truth.

[11] Posted by Words Matter on 10-23-2013 at 08:32 PM · [top]

Hi Ilwin,

I certainly agree that the prosperity preachers base their claims on bad biblical interpretation…but I think that is yet another similarity with charismaticism. Moreover if you don’t think prosperity/word of faith preachers base their appeals on the concept of ongoing prophetic authority as well, you’ve not listened to too many of them.

[12] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-23-2013 at 08:36 PM · [top]

I should add, Matt, that though there are preachers who claim a divine imperative to donate to their ministries, these divine “instructions” are not the basis of their theology. The foundation of their theology is a faulty and unorthodox reading of Scripture.

Even charismatics of the Word of Faith variety (and I was raised in a Pentecostal church that taught Word of Faith teachings) are taught the biblical commands to “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” and “do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:20-21). The problem, of course, is that many people don’t do this. They don’t really know their Bible apart from the preaching of their pastors. They don’t exercise good judgment or responsibility for determining the credibility of the people they give money too.

[13] Posted by ltwin on 10-23-2013 at 08:48 PM · [top]

Excellent post, Fr. Matt.  I share your concerns about Charismaticism and am very concerned about it’s prevelence in much of the ACNA.  I still have the mental image of the “post-Eucharistic Joy” video from a recent ACNA bishop’s consecration service.  Deeply disturbing.

[14] Posted by evan miller on 10-24-2013 at 08:49 AM · [top]

And what, exactly, is wrong with expressing “post-Eucharistic joy” following a bishop’s consecration?  Isn’t this something that one should be happy about?  Where in the service does it say that one shouldn’t express joy?  Yes, perhaps it shouldn’t be a “happy-clappy” joy, but smiles and congratulations…...and why not?  Or should there be NO smiles, but glum looks?

[15] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-24-2013 at 09:55 AM · [top]

Regarding the contention that 90% of charismatics identify with the prosperity gospel:: Either the charismatics I know aren’t a representative sample, or the contention is flawed.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but it seems to me that support for the prosperity gospel in this country began to evaporate following the televangelist scandals of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Granted there’s still some support for the prosperity gospel in the U.S. today; otherwise Joel Osteen wouldn’t be listed among the church’s best-selling authors. However, contending that 90% of charismatics embrace such teaching is a stretch.

[16] Posted by the virginian on 10-24-2013 at 11:49 AM · [top]

Thanks for the detailed exposition, Fr Kennedy.  Judging by the comments, it has been thought-provoking.

Part of the problem is that “charismatic” is such a broad term that many people will say they are that, who hold quite different theologies from each other.  All will rise to the defence of being “charismatic” even when they may mean quite different things by it.

Hence why the detail in this article is so necessary.  Some of the sub-issues like authority of scripture and prosperity gospel are matters of deep concern on their own.

[17] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 04:51 PM · [top]

I agree that there is plenty of heresy among charismatics and this discussion could be a much needed correction to that. However, macarthur’s approach would condemn even great men like spurgeon who notes in his autobiography his use of the gift of supernatural prophecy without compromising one inch on the absolute authority of scripture.     

As per the second comment on the thread, I’m sure we can agree that it is very possible to believe in the continued blessing of apostolic succession through an unbroken chain of laying on of hands without denying at all the validity of the ministry and sacraments of those lacking tactile succession.

[18] Posted by William on 10-24-2013 at 06:57 PM · [top]

Good point William.  Re your second paragraph, the early Church Fathers saw Apostolic Succession as a mean of guaranteeing the accurate transmission of scripture, not as a prerequisite for a valid church:

“To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith.” [Tertullian, the Prescription against Heretics, Chap 32]

[19] Posted by MichaelA on 10-25-2013 at 03:05 AM · [top]

Further to my #19, for Tertullian its almost like the new churches are being “grafted in” to those which are of directly apostolic origin, because of their adherence to apostolic doctrine.  Whereas those who reject or pervert apostolic doctrine are themselves to be rejected.

[20] Posted by MichaelA on 10-25-2013 at 03:07 AM · [top]

I also question the 90% figure.  I suspect it is a matter of not putting the questions in the survey well, and of misinterpreting the data that flow from the questions.

I also think that something else is in play - the reality that many of us do not seek to be logically consistent across our stated beliefs.  A person may be evangelical in his views on who Christ is, what he has done for us, and how we appropriate his work to our own lives, but at the same time believing that God will bring prosperity as we trust him - partially because we want material relief so badly, and partially because we have not matured sufficiently to know that all the wealth that we need is in knowing Jesus himself.

[21] Posted by AnglicanXn on 10-25-2013 at 08:08 AM · [top]

In the Pew Forum’s 10-country Spirit and Power survey, subjects were asked the following questions:

For each one, please tell me if you completely agree with it, mostly agree with it, mostly disagree with it or completely disagree with it. The first one is (insert item). Do you completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree?
f. God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.
g. God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith.

In the US, 46% of ALL Christians agreed that “God grants believers prosperity” while 56% agreed that “God grants believers health.” For Pentecostals, it was 66% and 68%, but for Charismatics it was 59% and 71%. For other Christians, it was 43% and 52%.

What’s interesting is that in other parts of the word, the figures for “other Christians” are even higher.

In the Philippines, for example, “other Christians” agreed God grants believers prosperity (85%) and health (95%).

So, you can say that either Pentecostals/charismatics prosperity theology is having huge effects even beyond Pentecostal/ charismatic communities or that prosperity theology just is more honest about what most Christians believe anyway. Or both.

[22] Posted by ltwin on 10-25-2013 at 09:24 AM · [top]

Oops. Meant to link to the survey:


http://www.pewforum.org/2006/10/05/spirit-and-power/

He is the link to the pdf version:

http://www.pewforum.org/files/2006/10/pentecostals-08.pdf

The “Health and Wealth” is discussed on page 30.

[23] Posted by ltwin on 10-25-2013 at 09:26 AM · [top]

Either way, it is a false gospel.

[24] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-25-2013 at 09:27 AM · [top]

My point is that while people may love to point out Pentecostals/charismatics as convenient and visible scapegoats, i.e. “its their fault” that so many people believe this garbage, I think it may be necessary for other Christian traditions to confront the possibility that it might not be “just a charismatic problem.” It may be more systemic throughout the Christian world.

[25] Posted by ltwin on 10-25-2013 at 09:35 AM · [top]

For example, Norman Vincent Peale, a Methodist minister, wrote The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952. At that time, prosperity theology as we know it today was still in its formative stages within the Pentecostal camp. Word of Faith teachings on “positive confession” would only emerge much later.

[26] Posted by ltwin on 10-25-2013 at 09:39 AM · [top]

The problem is that the name it/claim it principle is something that came out of charismaticism. It has certainly spread to other traditions.

[27] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-25-2013 at 09:40 AM · [top]

As I understand it, the power of positive thinking was successful in Charismatic circles because it simply cohered with a train of thought that had left the station far earlier…that faith is a kind of force that can be employed to do the “greater works” that “Jesus promised”

[28] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-25-2013 at 09:45 AM · [top]

Positive thinking/positive confession was being preached in an early form among the healing revivals in Pentecostal circumstances, but it was primarily focused toward healing. We don’t really see full blown prosperity theology until the 1960s and Word of Faith doesn’t really fully emerge until the 1970s.

I think it was the Word of Faith people who popularized the idea that faith is a force. They believe that God himself has faith, which is incoherent. Earlier, people like Oral Roberts simply focused on the blessings that would flow out of obedience to God, “seed-faith,” and “blessing pacts, covenants, or partnerships” with successful ministries.

It’s a subtle but important difference.

[29] Posted by ltwin on 10-25-2013 at 10:04 AM · [top]

I’ve commented before on one your anti-charismatic pieces that I wish you would spend some time with some genuine scripture based, Anglo-Catholic, Anglican based Christians who are also charismatic.  This article presents a view that is very warped and very much in contradiction to every charismatic person I have personally known.  I do not consider myself especially charismatic, but have known many people who were through my church and parents, who are and who are also extremely well versed in scripture and test, discern, and judge as best as they can every word of prophecy that they, or any other person they know, claim to have received.

I don’t really understand the tendency or need that I hear in the article to squash the work of the Spirit over Scripture.  That does not need to be done.  The work of the Spirit is very documented in Scripture and the criticism and/or refusal to acknowledge the work of the Spirit is possibly even a dangerous thing to do, especially when it’s done from what I am seeing as a very limited knowledge of the charismatic “movement.”

I know I may sound so, but I honestly don’t want to criticize you, but the view of charismatics presented in this article is very biased and uninformed. 

God’s Peace to you and us all as we grow and seek in this world of ours.

[30] Posted by ADaniel on 10-25-2013 at 03:04 PM · [top]

I have seen folks lose faith after buying into some absolutely ridiculous prophecies that failed to deliver ....  as real as these spiritual gifts can be, they are open to abuse.

[31] Posted by elanor on 10-25-2013 at 05:53 PM · [top]

Hi ADaniel,

“I’ve commented before on one your anti-charismatic pieces that I wish you would spend some time with some genuine scripture based, Anglo-Catholic, Anglican based Christians who are also charismatic. “

I have.

“This article presents a view that is very warped and very much in contradiction to every charismatic person I have personally known.”

That is a fairly striking criticism…so what is “warped” about the article?

“I do not consider myself especially charismatic, but have known many people who were through my church and parents, who are and who are also extremely well versed in scripture and test, discern, and judge as best as they can every word of prophecy that they, or any other person they know, claim to have received.”

So what does that have to do with the argument I have presented above?

“I don’t really understand the tendency or need that I hear in the article to squash the work of the Spirit over Scripture.”

Where do you hear this? What work of the Spirit “over” scripture are you talking about?

” That does not need to be done.”

What does “not need to be done”?

“The work of the Spirit is very documented in Scripture and the criticism and/or refusal to acknowledge the work of the Spirit is possibly even a dangerous thing to do, especially when it’s done from what I am seeing as a very limited knowledge of the charismatic “movement.”

Yes, refusal to acknowledge the work of the Spirit is certainly dangerous. So what makes you think I refuse to acknowledge the work of the Spirit?

“I know I may sound so, but I honestly don’t want to criticize you, but the view of charismatics presented in this article is very biased and uninformed.”

What view do you think is presented?

“God’s Peace to you and us all as we grow and seek in this world of ours.”

And to you

[32] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-26-2013 at 01:56 PM · [top]

I think that one of the greatest failings of the Episcopal Church and other denominations that purport to be “apostolic” is the squandering of the apostolic opportunity presented in confirmation.  In my view, the confirmand should be taught to expect an infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the Bishop’s laying on of hands, accompanied by those members of the congregation who wish to also lay hands on the teen, should be performed with that goal in mind.  Though not the only opportunity, I think it is the best opportunity for teenagers to experience the power of the Trinity, to put on the mind of Christ, and to be vested with supernatural power from the Holy Spirit, to resist the onslaught of unprecedented worldly temptation, agnosticism, and belligerent atheism, before they leave their parents’ home.

Mark Adams Brown
San Angelo, Texas
October 26, 2013

[33] Posted by MarkABrown on 10-26-2013 at 03:22 PM · [top]

The problem I have with John MacArthur and even the thoughts in this post is that arguments made against the charismatic movement are often drawn from extreme abuses in the charismatic movement, and often from the prosperity gospel group.  I am NOT in the prosperity group.  When I was in seminary, John MacArthur spoke in chapel.  He spoke twice.  The first talk was fantastic teaching from God’s Word.  The second talk was how to get rid of charismatics in your church and then listed all the wrongs in the charismatic church, referencing bizarre extremes that any sane, biblical, orthodox christian could discern as wrong.  Once again, lumping all charismatics in the same pile.  I am very glad to know that he now makes a distinction between orthodox Christian charismatics and the prosperity gospel/word of faith charlatans.  That was not the case in the 80s.

I was once part of a group within the charismatic church, and left for good reasons.  However, that does not mean that the filling, gifts, and moving of the Holy Spirit equals abuse.  I am sad that this article and others “seem” to lump all charismatic practice into one group.  It is absolutely false and wrong!  I think points 1, 2 and 3 are not accurate criticisms of biblical, orthodox christians and churches that would consider themselves charismatic.  Even though I witnessed firsthand point 4, and much of the reason why I left the charismatic church, worship being considered dead because it didn’t have “pre-defined” manifestations, I still wouldn’t want to say that this is necessarily true of all in the charismatic stream.  I despise extreme comments, and writing off a movement because of extremes.  I am now a proud Anglican, and I certainly wouldn’t want someone to try to prove Anglicanism wrong because of extremes in its practice, or even history.

[34] Posted by Fr. Scott on 10-28-2013 at 11:46 AM · [top]

“Regarding the contention that 90% of charismatics identify with the prosperity gospel:: Either the charismatics I know aren’t a representative sample, or the contention is flawed.”


I’m kinda curious as to whether charismatics within Anglican churches are representative of the broader charismatic movement.

[35] Posted by AndrewA on 10-28-2013 at 04:26 PM · [top]

Thanks, Matt for giving opportunity to dialogue about your concerns. And thanks for sharing your insights, Fr. Scott #34.  Many of you know Christian Healing Ministry. It is interdenominational and headed by Francis and Judith MacNutt who are Catholic and I believe a good example of balance in the Renewal Movement. Along, with Dennis Bennett and Leanne Payne (ECUSA at that time), I consider, CHM Schools of Healing prayer and conferences as my major mentors.

What you probably DON’T know is that several years ago, Pope Benedict XVI told Francis MacNutt that he believes CHM’s campus in Jacksonville FL is going to be for this continent as The Lourdes is for Europe. I posit that this papal connection is confirmation of that balance.

Certainly there have been excesses in the movement but I, personally, have not experienced them. The manifestations (tongues, etc.) I’ve seen have been orderly and, I believe, genuine… the healings, while often very dramatic (miraculous sometimes) not “dramatized” or “staged.”  Several have been personal healings.

Asking the Lord for a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit (which essentially means to me to have greater expectation of interaction with Him already living in me) in May 1975 in the company of about 8,000 launched a nearly 40-year walk with the Lord that has been a blessing beyond belief. (Rita Bennett laid hands on me and offered that prayer.) I received Christ at 9 years of age and am now 76.

Since 1975, I have studied widely from publications of many denominations:  ERM, Acts 29, Lutheran Renewal, RIM (LCMS). Theology Matters (PCUSA) and Presbyterian Renewal, Aldersgate (Methodist Renewal), Derek Prince ministries and more. As part of my daily devotions I use In Touch by Dr. Charles Stanley (Baptist) and Come to the Waters by James Montgomery Boice (Presbyterian.)

I post that bit of my background as a kind of springboard for the responses to comments on this thread that I may offer in the coming days. I plan to start, in a separate post yet tonight, with the Vatican office for Charismatic Renewal in Rome (ICCRS) as an example of balance. In ensuing days…the Lord enabling…I will share perspective from leaders of various other persuasions.

For days I have been in prayer concerning replying to your posts. It has been confirmed five separate times in the context of “chance” appearance of the same Scripture from three different sources that I am to go ahead. May the Lord guide me in my sharing.

[36] Posted by merlenacushing on 10-28-2013 at 10:22 PM · [top]

If God grants prosperity and health to those who have enough faith, what about the early (and later) martyrs who were killed for their faith?  I’m thinking about faithful Christians in Russia and Romania under Communism particularly.  They certainly did not have long life, health or wealth, yet they were willing to die for their faith in Jesus Christ!  I think this gives the ultimate lie to the ‘word of faith’ stuff.  Oh yes, Christians in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.  Let us remember them in our prayers and our alms when possible.

James Morgan

[37] Posted by rdrjames on 10-28-2013 at 11:26 PM · [top]

Amen, James Morgan.

[38] Posted by MichaelA on 10-29-2013 at 03:37 AM · [top]

Some of you may agree with me that it is encouraging to know Pope Benedict XVI expressed gratitude to the Catholic charismatic renewal for helping to bring back the charisms and sent Vatican leaders (many cardinals) to the US on different occasions to learn from Christian Healing Ministries leaders –some of whom are Protestant. See below for portions from Dr. MacNutt’s Gentle Revolution. (My next post may include some observations from A Biblical Look At “Optional Extras” by Dr. Theodore Jungkuntz of LCMS.) 
 
In April of 2007, the Vatican office for Charismatic Renewal in Rome (ICCRS) co-sponsored with Christian Healing Ministries an international leader’s conference for Catholics attended by 460 international leaders from 42 countries. In October 2008, another conference was held with CHM again responsible for the content of all the talks during the six days. In spite of the worldwide financial crisis, 320 participants came from 37 countries.

Regarding that second congress, Francis wrote in his article in The Healing Line (Jan/Feb 2009), A Gentle Revolution: “… [ For] those of you who are Protestants, this conference should also be an encouragement, because now Catholic Church leaders are openly encouraging the baptism in the Spirit and healing prayer, which gives an official approval that contributes to a general acceptance among all Christians of genuine spiritual renewal.

In those who came and took part, we again witnessed extraordinary life-changing healings and, occasionally, deliverance…”

Immediately following the Conference, in Assisi, Italy at the international Catholic conference for charismatic communities, the leaders were surprised by an unexpected visit by Pope Benedict XVI, who gave them a private audience in which he encouraged them to develop the wise use of charisms in the Church. “He also thanked the Catholic charismatic renewal for helping to bring back the charisms in the heart of the body of Christ” (quote by Oreste Pesare, director of the international Catholic renewal office in Rome.)

Christian Healing Ministries holds an annual Southern California Renewal Conference where they instruct several thousand Catholics concerning the fullness of the Spirit.

[39] Posted by merlenacushing on 10-29-2013 at 10:17 AM · [top]

I am signing on just for this post. It is healthy to examine and question something you do not understand. However, there are some real issues which should be discussed. Any serious critic of the movement should have read: A New Pentecost by Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, Annointed by the Spirit by Bishop John Howe, Healing by Francis MacNutt, and The Century of the Holy Spirit by Vinson Synan. I doubt if any attitudes will change but hopefully future discussion such as these will be more on point. My guess is that personal opinions will prevail.

[40] Posted by Pb on 10-29-2013 at 12:26 PM · [top]

Hi Pb, I’ve read Howe’s book and McNutt’s on healing and also his book on spiritual warfare. I’ve read Bennett’s work too. I’ve not read the Cardinal’s. On a more serious level, I read Grudem’s and Fee’s work as well. I used to be a continuationist.

[41] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-29-2013 at 12:41 PM · [top]

I did post a favorable review of Bishop Howe’s book when it came out.  It doesn’t solve the debate here but I think he offers some helpful directions through some of it.

[42] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 10-29-2013 at 12:50 PM · [top]

Having been brought up in the Reformed tradition, I’ve long had a strong suspicion for any teaching, preaching, or doctrine that isn’t grounded in a sound reading of Holy Scripture.  That said, a major turning point in my faith was when I made my Cursillo retreat ten years ago, and had my eyes and heart opened more to the working of the Holy Spirit. 

I think that the third Person of the Trinity often ends up getting paid lip service in the Church, whether by Evangelicals, high church ACs, or whoever; perhaps that’s a natural modern/postmodern reaction to that Person of the Trinity that is the most mysterious, and seems to act in ways that rational people find disconcerting if not frankly uncomfortable. 

I fully appreciate the concerns of many as to the tendency of charismatics to lean too much on the emotional experience as a guide, however I’d respectfully point out that I’ve seen that same focus on “feeling” elsewhere in the church, as well as in our larger society.  I think that’s an ongoing outworking of the divorce of faith and reason and privatization of faith over the past few hundred years.

I’d be interested in hearing what Matt and others think of Cursillo, given that (at least in my neck of the woods), it has traditionally had a Charismatic flavor to it.

[43] Posted by Joshua 24:15 on 10-31-2013 at 11:59 AM · [top]

I agree that Cursillo has more “hand-wavers” than most groups within the Episcopal Church—but then, Cursillo traditionally has actual *Christians* and there aren’t a whole lot of enclaves of *Christians* in TEC.

That being said, Cursillo was an integral part of my growth in faith and discipleship and represented a sea-change in my spiritual walk—one that has lasted down through the years. . . . and it would have remained such a part without any of the charismatic expressive parts to it!  ; > )

I think the distinctive of the weekend actually has more to do with the lay rector leading it.  So when I was the lay rector for Cursillo we had “plain vanilla” healing service, very lengthy Stations of the Cross [and I wrote the stations script too], and mostly church hymnody.  St. Patrick was the designated reminder for the week.

See!  Even Southern Formals can do Cursillo!  ; > )

The thing that made the greatest impact on my spiritual life was the recognition—finally and in spades—that God was engaged in my life personally and directly.  That was a stunning and marvelous revelation for me and it has made a huge difference spiritually.

BUT . . . that recognition did not come about through tongues, being slain in the Spirit, getting a second blessing, or prophetic words of knowledge.

[44] Posted by Sarah on 10-31-2013 at 03:06 PM · [top]

As an addendum, I don’t recommend people attend Cursillo unless I know who their lay rector and the three spiritual directors are.

It’s sad—but I don’t want people attending with leaders who don’t share the same faith or gospel.  That’s just where we are in TEC now, and it will only get worse.

[45] Posted by Sarah on 10-31-2013 at 03:08 PM · [top]

This is an excellent lecture from the Strange Fire conference that will clear up a lot of issues regarding charismaticism:

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-9/is-there-a-baby-in-the-charismatic-bathwater-phil-johnson

Remember a few years back when there was a post here about the aberrant practices of Todd Bentley kicking old women in the face? And that a certain charismatic poster here thought that post was an attack on charismaticism, and could not be brought to admit that Bentley was in the wrong or somehow off track? And we were all bewildered that this person could not even be brought to admit there were limits to what people could do in his movement and still be called Christian?

This podcast explains that this attitude is not just a one time occurrence, it is a systemic problem in the charismatic movement. No matter *what* anyone there does in the name of charismaticism, it must on principle be defended. For all the criticism against them, conservative Roman Catholics are far more diligent about criticizing their own than charismatics. There is literally nothing that a charasmatic could do that would lead another charismatic (no matter how conservative) to criticize them as being off base or heretical, since they might be “blaspheming” against the Holy Spirit. Listen to Phil Johnson’s talk and realize that this is a really disturbing self constructed mental prison that would be the envy of any totalitarian dictator.

[46] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 11-1-2013 at 01:35 PM · [top]

No matter *what* anyone there does in the name of charismaticism, it must on principle be defended. For all the criticism against them, conservative Roman Catholics are far more diligent about criticizing their own than charismatics. There is literally nothing that a charasmatic could do that would lead another charismatic (no matter how conservative) to criticize them as being off base or heretical, since they might be “blaspheming” against the Holy Spirit.

SpongJohn SquarePantheist,

The problem with what you wrote above is that your criticism of the Charismatic movement is so broad that it only takes one example to prove you wrong. Lee Grady, former editor of Charisma Magazine, is only one example of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians who have criticized people in the Renewalist Movements.

In 2010 in fact, he wrote an entire book about the problem he sees in the movements today called The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale: Rekindling the Power of God in an Age of Compromise. In chapter 1 of this book, Grady wrote:

. . . We must never fake God’s power in order to make others feel we are anointed. If we do that, we take something holy and make it common and trivial. And as a result, holy fire becomes something else—a “strange fire” that does not have the power to sanctify.

This very kind of strange fire is spreading today. In some charismatic churches, people take the stage and throw imaginary “fireballs of anointing” at each other, and then fall down, pretending to be slain by the globs of divine power. . . .

God help us! We have turned the holy fire of God into a circus sideshow—and naive Christians are buying this without realizing that such shenanigans are actually blasphemous.

Guess who quotes Grady in his book condemning “strange fire” in the Charismatic Movement? You guessed it, John MacArthur includes at least three paragraphs of Grady’s rebuke of his own movement on pages 202-203 of Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. (This can be readily verified by running a search in Google Books).

So to say that it is somehow impossible for Charismatic Christians to rebuke those within their own movement is utterly ridiculous. Even John MacArthur recognizes (however grudgingly) that there are Pentecostals and Charismatics who have spoken out against “charismania.”

[47] Posted by ltwin on 11-3-2013 at 03:50 AM · [top]

It truly saddens me that so many of those who commented here have experienced the negatives that may surface when emphasis is misplaced in revival/renewal gatherings. Aside from a visit to a Benny Hinn meeting, I have not seen that. Let us pray that we can be instrumental in embracing the authentic. 
 
Matt, you say the labels we put on these experiences can be problematic. True. One of the things that I have always cautioned friends about is labeling a ministry that the Lord has called you to - a gift.

I like the explanation given in the booklet put out by ERM years ago, A Life in the Holy Spirit – Some Questions and Answers written by Fr. Michael Harper. He poses:  48. How does one know the gifts one has received? “…[the] question implies a misunderstanding concerning these gifts. They are not permanent endowments, but momentary manifestations. It is true that one person may tend to manifest one gift more than the others, and so can be said to ‘have the gift’ (or better, the “ministry,” since it is the needy person who really receives ‘the gift.’) But generally speaking we should be alert at all times to manifest any of the gifts as we are prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit.”

Who would not agree with your point #1, Matt?  “The Holy Spirit guides through scripture, by drawing us to the word for wisdom and discernment rather than away from it through ecstatic experience.” However, is there any reason not to include revelation? It isn’t necessary that it be “ecstatic”, but is never-the-less often dramatic and confirmation should be expected. It seems to me it would fit your scenario #2 in conjunction with reasoning, although you seem to disparage revelation. Or maybe I misunderstand your premise. Neither I, nor my friends in renewal would consider scenario #2 “far too rationalistic.”

When I learned of Bp. Schofield’s recent passing, I was struck by the fact that I was at that time reading a featured article by him called The Renewal Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Tradition in an past issue of Trinity School for Ministry’s magazine, Mission and Ministry.

In the article, Bp. Schofield warns about “growing apostasy” and encourages “…[ seeking] guidance from the Lord and awaiting His revelation, too often the doctrine and practice of the faith is understood to be determined by majority rule. It is not only Anglo-Catholics or Charismatics, then, but every orthodox believer who faces an era of growing apostasy when revelation is scoffed at, holiness of life is unknown, and the Great Commission of Jesus to make disciples of all nations is portrayed as presumptuous and triumphalistic.”

I have long admired Bp. Schofield and consider him to be a stellar example of a very courageous, Christ-centered servant, who epitomized the strengths of Anglo-Catholic charismaticism. I certainly can’t picture him as embracing any anomaly. He was, by the way, a founding member of Episcopal Renewal Ministries (ERM.)

[48] Posted by merlenacushing on 11-5-2013 at 02:02 AM · [top]

Matt,
You wrote this in the original post: “Moreover, since the Apostles through whom Jesus has promised to continue teaching (John 16:12-14) are no longer with us to guarantee and confirm divine truth…there is no longer any way to confirm or deny, objectively, the validity of a ‘word’.”

Were the disciples the only ones Jesus intended the Holy Spirit to guide into “all truth.” Certainly, he is speaking to them in this passage, but are they the only ones to whom this applies? They are certainly not the only ones to whom the Holy Spirit is sent (Jn 16:7), so why are they the only ones who will be led by that Spirit into “all truth”?

[49] Posted by SeminarianPA on 11-5-2013 at 09:02 AM · [top]

Hi SeminarianPA, I do think that this promise is meant specifically for the Apostles…in fact it comes just before Jesus promises that the Spirit will call to their minds all that he has taught them…the promise undergirds the authority and veracity of their teaching and the NT itself.

Does it apply at all to the wider church…in the general sense that the Spirit does illumine our minds as we read and follow what the Apostles taught. But no, we are not given the promise that we will be able to preach, teach, or express “all truth” in the apostolic sense.

[50] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-5-2013 at 11:42 AM · [top]

Matt,
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions.

2 follow-up questions:

1) Who is included in the promise of Jesus, as you put it, “to preach, teach or express ‘all truth’ in the apostolic sense” in John 16? If we carefully limit this promise to only the Eleven, what about Paul?

2) How much of John 16 is only about the Apostles? Are we, non-Apostles, to understand verses like 16:24 as only applying to the Apostles or are they for us as well.

[51] Posted by SeminarianPA on 11-5-2013 at 01:02 PM · [top]

Hi Seminarian PA

Re: 1. Originally, the 11. This promise (along with the promise in Jn 16:12-15) provides the basis for our assertion that the apostles taught and wrote with divine authority and veracity. However, this divinely granted authority would apply to those works they oversee and approve as well as those leaders they affirm to be Christ-appointed apostles (Paul and James for example). This is why when identifying the books of hte NT, the first criterion for receiving books as canonical was the criterion of apostolicity.  Was it written during the lifetime of the apostles, does it bear the mark of apostolic witness, has it always been considered apostolic. Of course Paul’s calling as an apostle rests on more than Peter’s recognition of that calling (2 Pet 3:15) since he was appointed directly by Christ. But if there remains any doubt Peter’s inerrant declaration that Paul’s writings are, indeed, “scripture” should close the case. The same is true for the embrace of James by the appointed 12.

There is no sense that the office of apostle passed beyond the lifetimes of those to whom the promise was given. So when the apostles died, the canon was closed.

2) the promise in question was give explicitly and directly to the eleven. There are other NT texts with similar content that apply more broadly so we can certainly recognize that Jesus said similar things in a more general way…but that was one that was given to the 11 alone as the preceding verses (22 in particular) makes clear and thus, applies to us in a far more tangential and general way.

[52] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-5-2013 at 01:21 PM · [top]

Words of knowledge can be contrived.  They can also carry out the Lord’s will.

One Sunday I was sitting in church during the 10:30 service when a command, unrelated to anything happening at church, entered my mind:  “You need to pray for—-, for her fertility.”  I had not known such a need existed.

I contacted—-, who lives hundreds of miles away.  I reported my experience at church.  Soon thereafter, at my home church, another parishioner and I laid hands on—- in prayer. 

She and her husband are now proud parents.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Mark Adams Brown
San Angelo, Texas
November 6, 2013

[53] Posted by MarkABrown on 11-6-2013 at 11:33 PM · [top]

Thank you, Mark [53], for your testimony. Such incidents have happened to me many times and they have always been right on. There have been several times when I have had a word of knowledge and those have always been proven true, but I don’t announce that or try to take any credit unto myself whatsoever.

I have also had a few visions and one was of Jesus - but only the sense of the outline of his fully clothed body (in a white robe) - not a full face “view” so to speak, but His presence was palpable. I sat bolt upright in bed with such a jolt that my husband awakened and said “What is it?” I said, “I just saw Jesus and there was also a sign ...as in a road sign designating what direction to go.”

It is then that you seek the Lord’s face for revelation. He is faithful.

Yesterday morning as I awakened, I clearly heard, “...[the] gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” I realize that this statement in Romans 11:29 is specifically in the context of the Israelites, but I believe also that we may be included in the gifts and calling since we are “...[all] sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek,...[for] you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”

I am becoming concerned that in the coming months, we will be seeing more and more marginalization of Christians and perhaps even to the point of persecution in this country. There is ample evidence that there are multitudes of Muslims coming in through our borders as illegals…many from Mexico and the militant jihadists are rumbling - hundreds of thousands calling, “Death to America!” In case you haven’t heard, the demise of our country is their goal.

It has been documented that dreams and visions play a large role in the conversion of Muslims…especially in their own countries. From Dr. Charles Stanley’s, In Touch magazine (January 2010): “What may come as a surprise, though, is how common dreams and visions are—especially in cultures closed to evangelism. After surveying more than 600 Muslim-background believers, Mission Frontiers magazine (March, 2001) reported, “Though dreams may play an insignificant role in the conversion decisions of most Westerners, over one-fourth of those surveyed state quite emphatically that dreams and visions were key in drawing them to Christ and sustaining them through difficult times. See:“Visions of Jesus: A Not-So-Rare Phenomenon at http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content.aspx?topic=4374

Last spring, I had a clear vision while I was praying with a friend for healing in my hands. The vision was unrelated totally…it was of a particular former Muslim - who now loves our Lord and lives in our state. I believe that the Lord is calling me to somehow participate in his goal of helping educate our people of the very real threat.

That being said, this is part of the reason that I am convinced that to disallow the authentic manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit is to fall short of our own part in helping implement His mission.

Thank you all for your faithfulness to Him. SFIF has been a key to my survival in the years between 2004 and 2007, when we began to see a way forward and now have a mission parish!

Please be patient with me, friends, as I know the Lord is calling me to share more, but I want it to be what He indicates and when… to the best of my ability.

[54] Posted by merlenacushing on 11-7-2013 at 01:40 AM · [top]

I’m hearing lots of examples of people who have experienced discernment and other fruit of the Spirit’s activity in their lives.  But I’m not certain what those experiences have to do with Matt’s contention that the gifts of “prophecy” [as defined in Scripture], “tongues” [as defined in Scripture], and “healing” [as defined in Scripture] don’t appear to exist right here in the US.

What I hear is that when a Christian experiences discernment they are naming that “prophecy” or “words of knowledge”—wrapping a blanket of something that is specifically defined in Scripture around their simple acts of Christian discernment as led by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t hear Matt asserting—not at all—that people don’t experience profound discernment, that nobody ever is healed by a direct act of God, and that nobody can, without any training at all, suddenly speak in a foreign language when it’s needed.

What I hear him saying is that he doesn’t know anyone who has been specifically given the gifts of healing [as defined by Scripture], tongues [as defined by Scripture], or prophecy [as defined by Scripture].

And then I hear people announcing their experiences which they then name “healing”, “tongues”, and “prophecy.”  Can you see that stating those experiences does not address his contention at all?

[55] Posted by Sarah on 11-7-2013 at 07:06 AM · [top]

Thanks Sarah, saved me the time I would have spent writing a response…what you say above, I believe I said quite clearly in the article itself.

[56] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-7-2013 at 09:25 AM · [top]

I agree with Matt+ about problems with assertions by Dr. Grudhem about Deuteronomy 18 not applying to modern prophets/prophecy, and many other points Matt+ raises regarding common problems among charismatics.

However, I have to disagree with the apparent argument that all events that are reported by Christians are mere acts of wise discernment that must be differentiated from any “prophesy,” “words of knowledge,” etc. described in Scripture.

When discernment is “supernatural” or “supernaturally accurate” (i.e. discernment of something that was impossible to be discerned naturally, even by one who is filled with godly wisdom) then there has been a “prophetic” event from the standpoint of Scripture—either from the Lord or from the devil. I keep citing to Spurgeon—however, this is a good example from a trustworthy source. Even with great discernment it was impossible for him to look at a man he did not know and describe the detail a transaction which he knew nothing about. Clearly, based off the context and fruit of this supernatural or “prophetic” insight—it was from the Lord and not from the devil. Whether or not Spurgeon’s prophetic insights were a “gift” is another question…

Spurgeon’s autobiography:
“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, ‘Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul though him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.’”

God Bless,
W.A.Scott

[57] Posted by William on 11-7-2013 at 06:03 PM · [top]

Hi William—I noted your story earlier, and quite frankly I don’t see how Spurgeon staring out into an audience of thousands and saying that there is a shoemaker who keeps his shop open on Sundays and made but a fourpence profit out of it is “prophecy.”

Honestly—charlatans do that number *all the bloomin’ time* and they *often* strike it lucky.

Of course I’m not saying that Spurgeon was a charlatan.  But it’s pretty much a no-brainer that an audience of thousands of blue-collar people—Spurgeon’s audience—would include a shoemaker who kept his shop open on a Sunday.

He had but to estimate—using wise discernment—the shoemaker’s profit and there we are.

Again—I’m not saying that Spurgeon was a charlatan.  No doubt he was guided by the Holy Spirit to make that estimation of the profit.  But that doesn’t make his estimation of the profit a “prophecy” [as defined by Scripture] remotely, in my opinion.

[58] Posted by Sarah on 11-7-2013 at 09:16 PM · [top]

If Charles Spurgeon made a public statement that there was a person in his congregation who had certain attributes, not believing it to be true but intending to mislead people, then he is a fraud and all of his books should be thrown out of christian bookstores immediately. 

I personally do not entertain that idea for a moment.  Spurgeon was noted for his great integrity, as well as his devotion to his Lord.

[59] Posted by MichaelA on 11-7-2013 at 10:12 PM · [top]

Sarah,

Regarding your assertion that there is a distinction between the Biblically described NT “gifts” such as prophecy, and the experiences that modern Christians have with miraculous healings, particular insight, etc, I’m wondering if you could clarify for the group why the distinction is so important in your mind?

Personally, I agree with you and remain very uncomfortable with the insistence of charismatics on the “labeling” of my experiences under their required nomenclature.  I don’t feel that my experiences (I’ve seen healing, for instance, after prayer and anointing with oil) are any more or less legitimate because of how they are labeled or not.

However, I’ve not been able to clearly describe the full reason for my discomfort. Is it simply semantics? or desire for accuracy? I think that there is probably more to it than that for me and hope it might be helpful to hear your take.

[60] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 11-7-2013 at 10:19 PM · [top]

I don’t see how Spurgeon would not be dishonest or a charlatan at least in the reporting of the event if what you say is true. He notes here that he intentionally pointed to a particular man in the audience—and was not simply staring out into the audience. Further he says he told this particular man who he was and what he had done spontaneously as he felt led by the Spirit (as he notes after the portion I quoted here)—and not that he made some pre-calculated “wise” guess that someone in the audience might have had this happen to them.

Besides, supernatural prophetic occurrences far more spectacular than this are regularly reported by our brothers and sisters who are laying down their lives for Christ…and I’m sure both of us can agree that it would be unreasonable to deny the honesty of all these brothers and sisters or seek to find reasons why any such reports are not really prophetic.

[61] Posted by William on 11-7-2013 at 10:55 PM · [top]

Great post MichaelA—you’ve expressed my own concern far better and more succinctly than I did

[62] Posted by William on 11-7-2013 at 11:09 PM · [top]

RE: “If Charles Spurgeon made a public statement that there was a person in his congregation who had certain attributes, not believing it to be true but intending to mislead people . . . “

I totally agree—but as I said or implied no such thing, I can only think you bring it up merely to denounce it in grandiose trumpeting tones.  ; > )

RE: “. . . and what he had done spontaneously as he felt led by the Spirit . . . “

Yup—discernment, a very recognizable aspect of the Holy Spirit’s influence in a person’s life.  I frequently—as I’m confident most to all Christians do—feel inspired to say certain things that I believe are truthful, but in no way do I identify that—even the accurate attempts—as “prophecy.”

RE: “Besides, supernatural prophetic occurrences far more spectacular than this are regularly reported by our brothers and sisters . . . “

I completely agree—and that being the case I’m always amused when I see the dross in the US proclaimed as “prophecy” and “healing” when it bears no resemblance at all to that described in Scripture *OR* that described in various third-world countries.

RE; “I’m wondering if you could clarify for the group why the distinction is so important in your mind? . . . “

Hi Capn’ Jack . . . interesting question.  The reason why it’s so important is three-fold.

1) I value truthful description.  I’m not generally a “look at how clear the Bible is” about most things—but when I see, over and over and over again, the very clear descriptions and true stories told of a) prophecy, b) tongues, and c) healings, none of those things even remotely resembles the things proclaimed to be so here in the US.  So general honesty and integrity makes this important to me.

2) It seems to me that—thanks to insecurity from some charismatics—they feel the need to lard up their experiences—of a private prayer language, of experiencing the standard operating procedure of discernment, of watching the body do what bodies do, thanks be to God—with a rather self-serving identification that is false. 

You see . . . if a woman in a worship service cries out “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. . . . and if we are lukewarm as a parish the Lord will spew us out of His mouth . . . thus says the Lord” and everybody thinks “good grief, she just interrupted the confession and needs to be escorted out by the ushers” . . . nobody gives her a moment’s thought.

But if everybody thinks “wow—she just prophesied . . . wonder if she has more to say” and rushes up to her at the coffee hour to hear more of her interesting views—her identity and security has just been greatly inflated by the simple application of the words “the gift of prophecy” to her interrupting the service with three random quotes from Scripture strung together and re-named.

In other words, she’s been allowed to emote and to be mighty self-expressive, and to gain vast quantities of personal attention, based on the *label* that has been placed on her actions.

I think that’s absolutely deadly in so many ways I can’t even count them. 

3) I think that the mislabeling of what people experience—a private prayer language, discerning words, the gifts of a surgeon, the instinct of the clinical diagnostician who accurately pinpoints a disease—both a) perversely denigrates the glory and the majesty of our private prayer to our Lord, the guidance of the Holy Spirit within everyday Christians struggling to articulate the Gospel and offer wise counsel in difficult contexts within business, the academy, the arts, politics, the professions, the media, and the marvelous “force that through the green fuse drives the flower”—these are spectacular things without being falsely labelled—and b) serves to obscure the reality with which we are quite stuck here in the States.

I don’t know why we do not experience limbs being regrown and people being raised from the dead.  I don’t know why we don’t experience individuals being able to suddenly speak Mandarin with no training when in the presence of Chinese immigrants.  I don’t know why we don’t have Christians accurately predicting future events in detail that can be confirmed and examined.  [Just to be clear, there is a possibility that somewhere in the US there are limbs being regrown and people being raised from the dead and individuals being able to suddenly speak Mandarin with no training when in the presence of Chinese immigrants and Christians accurately predicting future events in detail that can be confirmed and examined.  I don’t know of such a place, but I am more than happy to grant that possibility.  Sadly, I think we all recognize that those are not the things being proclaimed and mislabeled in the charismatic movement here in the States.]

Perhaps we are not desperate enough.  Perhaps God has decided that this is not necessary or apt in our culture.  Perhaps any number of reasons.

But I do know that when we misappropriate the “sign gift” labels to place on our poltroonish efforts—or even place those labels on the wonderful sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit on our lives and acts—we disguise the great lack in our country.  Without looking wide-eyed in discomfiture at the nature of who we are as churches and Christians in the US, we can never repent and ask for mercy and transformation. 

I often point out the rhetorical and distracting “hand-waving” of revisionist activists in The Episcopal Church.  Their florid excesses are *meant* to be confusing and awe-inspiring to the naive and ignorant layperson, while they proceed on about their false faith.

But I consider *most* [please note that word] of the charismatic in this country to be very similar—flourishing hand-waving meant to distract themselves and others from the very very stark reality around us.

[63] Posted by Sarah on 11-8-2013 at 12:58 AM · [top]

Well, I’m sure MichaelA knew you were not calling Spurgeon a fraud, however if your positon is correct then I can’t see how Spurgeon was not being dishonest in the pulpit and/or in his reporting of events—but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this

Other than that, as I mentioned in another thread I don’t think we’re that far apart in many respects on the charismatic issue.

Because of my schedule this will probably be my last post for the time being. God bless

[64] Posted by William on 11-9-2013 at 08:16 AM · [top]

I could not understand the excesses of the charismatic/ pentecostal movement until I saw the flaming hand. What a disgusting way to distract people from themselves and others from the very, very stark reality around us. Now I know.

[65] Posted by Pb on 11-9-2013 at 09:22 AM · [top]

“I totally agree—but as I said or implied no such thing, I can only think you bring it up merely to denounce it in grandiose trumpeting tones.”

Not in the least; and you already knew that I don’t do that.

[66] Posted by MichaelA on 11-10-2013 at 07:36 AM · [top]

Lee Grady’s latest Fire In My Bones column features strong criticism of the prosperity gospel and what it’s doing to Africa.

http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/19113-5-ways-the-prosperity-gospel-is-hurting-africa

FYI, Grady is a charismatic who’s been a leading critic of charismatic excesses.

[67] Posted by the virginian on 11-13-2013 at 11:50 AM · [top]

A couple of comments.  1. It’s a logical fallacy to dismiss charismatics by simply linking them with the prosperity gospel.  A vast majority of Episcopalians are for gay marriage.  Does that mean that Sarah Hey is for gay marriage? Charismatic theology does not automatically include prosperity gospel teaching.  2.  Your college example with option #1 and #2 is not valid unless it is a real story.  It’s nothing more than a straw man.  You’ve set up a fictional situation in which the “spirit” leads in a direction that is contrary to scripture and reason.  Further, there might be other factors that the person does not know.  For example would the college in S.D. prepare the person for their work in a way that is better than the college in D.C. offering a longer lifetime of service?  Who knows? 

If the Holy Spirit is present in the church, why assume that He no longer speaks?  If the scriptures are catholic, and not limited to apply only to the first century, why did the Spirit inspire St. Paul’s attention to Spiritual gifts?  I believe the objective test of the Old Testament is a good one.  I don’t think the punishment should be exercised, but when someone says they are a prophet, but is quite frequently wrong, it might make me wonder if they are really a prophet. 

A lot of the questions you raise could be answered by a couple of books that are a bit older.  I recommend “These Are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose” by Howard Ervin, and “Fire in the Fireplace” by Charles Hummel.

[68] Posted by observer145 on 11-14-2013 at 02:55 PM · [top]

Sarah, I agree with your comment at [63].  Much of what is being held up as Biblical types of healing, prophecy, tongues, etc. is not so impressive.  I think a big part of why it is more common in certain parts of the world than it is in the US is that the signs are signs of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The problem in the US is that so few of us are really acting like Jesus is the King.  In the Sudan, where churches are meeting in bombed out ruins and ready to dive into craters for shelter at any moment, you get the sense that Jesus is their King.  So, it’s not so surprising that you hear of signs of the Kingdom coming from there.  Perhaps if we stopped trying to draw attention to ourselves, building our own egos, the signs of the Kingdom would come with the Kingdom.  Just a thought.

[69] Posted by observer145 on 11-14-2013 at 03:04 PM · [top]

Hi observer145

“1. It’s a logical fallacy to dismiss charismatics by simply linking them with the prosperity gospel. “

Right…which is why I did not do that.

“A vast majority of Episcopalians are for gay marriage.”

Yes.

“Does that mean that Sarah Hey is for gay marriage?”

No. So you have shown so far that the fallacious reasoning you describe above is, indeed, fallacious. I agree. Not at all sure what relevance this has to the actual article I wrote however. 

“Charismatic theology does not automatically include prosperity gospel teaching.”

True.

“2.  Your college example with option #1 and #2 is not valid unless it is a real story.”

Sure it is. And while it is not a real story, the story line is precisely like many such stories I’ve heard.

“It’s nothing more than a straw man.”

No it isn’t.

“You’ve set up a fictional situation in which the “spirit” leads in a direction that is contrary to scripture and reason.”

No, I’ve provided a hypothetical example of the way the “spirit” (glad you used scare quotes) actually Does lead many Charismatics to act contrary to reason (not necessarily scripture since the person in the hypothetical does not do that…read a bit more carefully next time)

“Further, there might be other factors that the person does not know.”

True.

“For example would the college in S.D. prepare the person for their work in a way that is better than the college in D.C. offering a longer lifetime of service?  Who knows?”

Right, which only goes to show the beauty of a hypothetical for making a point about the way charismatic theology could lead one (and in reality often does) to act in opposition to reason and wisdom when one feels the “spirit” is leading him to do so. 

“If the Holy Spirit is present in the church, why assume that He no longer speaks?”

Do you believe the Canon is closed?

“If the scriptures are catholic, and not limited to apply only to the first century, why did the Spirit inspire St. Paul’s attention to Spiritual gifts?”

Could you describe your understanding of so called “prophecy” and “tongues” and “words of knowledge” today? How does one know when God is speaking and if he is speaking? And if he is still speaking and you claim to be able to determine this, then why would one not move to a given location even if it seems unreasonable and unwise? Wouldn’t not doing so be disobedient? And why, if God is still speaking through prophesy, tongues, and words of knowledge, why shouldn’t we write what they say down and hold it to be on par with scripture?

” believe the objective test of the Old Testament is a good one.”

Good for you. Many charismatics, following Wayne Grudem, do not. 

“I don’t think the punishment should be exercised, but when someone says they are a prophet, but is quite frequently wrong, it might make me wonder if they are really a prophet.”

Glad to hear it. I don’t think the punishment should be exacted either. 

“A lot of the questions you raise could be answered by a couple of books that are a bit older.  I recommend “These Are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose” by Howard Ervin, and “Fire in the Fireplace” by Charles Hummel.”

I’ve not read the first. I have read the second. I found it quite badly argued.

[70] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-14-2013 at 03:37 PM · [top]

Hello Matt+

You said:
“And why, if God is still speaking through prophesy, tongues, and words of knowledge, why shouldn’t we write what they say down and hold it to be on par with scripture?”

I agree with a lot of what you have said in this and other posts. However, I have heard this particular argument and I question the reasoning of it. We know that the vast majority of prophesy that occurred in the New Testament era was not recorded (according to God’s Sovereign Will) in the pages of Scripture. Certainly, no prophesy from the Apostolic era (e.g. from the prophets in Corinth) would be accepted as worthy of being placed in Holy Writ if it was not held to have the Apostolic stamp of approval upon it.

Justin Martyr and Irenaeus note that genuine prophesy was continuing in the Church into their day long after the completion of the canon, however, neither of them would dare suggest adding such non-apostolic prophesy (no matter how genuine it might appear) to the final and “more sure word of prophecy” from the Apostles summed up and recorded perfectly and with finality in the New Testament.

This is not the Wayne Grudhem argument that Deuteronomy 18 no longer applies to prophesy. Rather, it is simply the acknowledgment of the Church Catholic from the first century onward that the truths revealed to the Apostles and recorded in Holy Writ hold a unique prophetic role in providing the final authoritative word of revelation to God’s people. 

Post-apostolic prophesy as reported by Irenaeus and others may bring forth truths according to what has already been spoken and recorded in the Apostolic words of the New Testament. (This is likewise the case with the extra-scriptural words in a sermon, which—to the extent these words are in accordance with the Words of Scripture—likewise commands the attention and submission of God’s people, particularly because the minister declares the Words of the Lord in Christ’s stead). However, the Church has never given post-apostolic prophesies a place among the authoritative “memoirs of the Apostles” and has rejected (until innovative errors like papal infallibility arose) any claim of substantive new doctrine being revealed through post-apostolic prophesy. 

There are many examples of post-apostolic prophesy from throughout Church history (including the reformation) that accord with the words of Deuternomy 18, but no one would ever think of adding them to the canon.

God Bless,
W.A.Scott

[71] Posted by William on 11-14-2013 at 10:32 PM · [top]

“...the truths revealed to the Apostles and recorded in Holy Writ hold a unique prophetic role in providing the final authoritative word of revelation to God’s people.”

Just to clarify, the church catholic holds that the Apostolic Revelation recorded in Scripture is not only the final word of revelation in authority but also substantively (i.e. there is no possibility of a post-apostolic revelation of “new doctrine” for no doctrine has any basis if it is not found in the Apostolic (and Old Testament) revelation recorded in Scripture).

[72] Posted by William on 11-14-2013 at 10:43 PM · [top]

Hi William,

1. That there was prophecy unrecorded in the OT and NT does not, I think, undermine the point that had it been written down there could be and would have been no objection to including it in the canon of God’s word.

2. You do indeed find some of the early fathers mentioning the continuation of the gifts but the testimony is not unanimous (see the Montanist controversy) and by Chrysostom’s day, they were widely recognized as having ceased: “This whole place is very obscure; but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?” Chrysostom, Homily XXIX on 1 Corinthians 12

Augustin recognizes the same, referring to the gift of Tongues, he writes: “These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away.” Sermon on 1st John (para 10)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170206.htm

3. In light of the above, to say that some fathers in the early church claim the gifts continued is not necessarily to demonstrate that they continued - any more than someone today suggesting that this or that person has given a prophecy means that he truly has. Absent some objective means to verify it as such, you are left with no way to tell. This, as I mentioned above, turns God into the author of confusion.


4. But, interestingly, you draw a line between prophecy during the apostolic days and those that occur afterwards. On what basis do you do that if you insist prophesy in the biblical sense continues?(see point 1)

[73] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-15-2013 at 09:35 AM · [top]

Father Kennedy:

In your view, is it still possible for Christians to cast out demonic spirits in Jesus’ name?  Has that power diminished over time ?

Thanks.

Mark Adams Brown
San Angelo, Texas
Nov. 16, 2013

[74] Posted by MarkABrown on 11-16-2013 at 08:52 PM · [top]

Reply to 1., and 4. The point I was making is that even in the Apostolic era it seems apparent that only the prophetic words of the Apostles and/or those prophetic words which received the stamp of approval from the Apostles were written down, collected, and preserved by the Church in the canon. There is no indication that the multitude of genuine non-Apostolic prophesies (e.g. in Corinth) that lacked such direct Apostolic approval were considered worthy of being written down, collected, and placed among the “more sure word of prophecy” preserved in God’s Word.
Consequently, given the treatment of the vast majority of prophesy in the NT era as lacking the Apostolic credentials necessary to be placed in Scripture it is little wonder that the post-Apostolic prophecy (such as that referenced by Irenaeus, Origen, etc.) was never considered worthy of being included in the canon.   
Also, while I’m not deriving what I’m saying here from Roman Catholic sources, I think that the “public vs. private prophesy” distinction described below sums up fairly well what I’m attempting to say in these posts regarding prophecy in the post-Apostolic era vs. the unique prophesy :
“The last prophetic work which the Church acknowledges as Divinely inspired is the Apocalypse. The prophetic spirit did not disappear with the Apostolic times, but the Church has not pronounced any work prophetic since then…The Church allows freedom in accepting or rejecting particular or private prophecies according to the evidence for or against them. We should be slow to admit and slow to reject them, and in either case treat them with respect when they come to us from trustworthy sources, and are in accordance with Catholic doctrine…” [Catholic Encyclopedia] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12473a.htm

(Note:  As a non-RC I believe that likely more often than not it is not the result of a lack of objective standard that many highly questionable visions, etc. are entertained as possible “private prophesy” in the RC (or in many non-RC charismatic churches for that matter—e.g. those who embrace the prosperity gospel). Rather, I believe the predominant cause is an objective standard of RC “Catholic doctrine” (and for many non-RC charismatic churches) that is not always the same as the objective standard preserved perfectly in Scripture and testified to by the ancient catholic church).

[Continued]

[75] Posted by William on 11-17-2013 at 07:03 PM · [top]

[Sorry Matt+, I forgot to say hello in the last post]
Reply to last part of 3. I agree that there is a great deal of difficulty in determining what is and isn’t genuine prophecy. However, I believe this has been an issue from the earliest days of the Church (as indicated by the admonition of 1 Thess. 5:20, 21). Fortunately the Scripture provides a number of direct tests of the prophetic including (among other passages) Deuteronomy 13 and 18, Romans 12:3, 1 John 4:1-5, and—as just noted—1 Thess 5:20, 21 “Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good” (i.e. a “slow to admit and slow to reject”, etc. approach). Of course, this needful testing of all alleged prophecy (or any teaching for that matter) is summed up nicely in the Berean test (Acts 17:10) “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

No doubt, properly applying these Scriptural commands regarding the proper testing of prophecy or any teaching requires great Scripture based wisdom—much as other commands of Scripture such as “answer a fool according to his folly…answer not a fool according to his folly.” Thankfully, we have the perfect objective standard of God’s Word (including the NT—and not just the OT as the Bereans), and as an additional help-meet in understanding and applying the perfect objective standard (in prophecy and other things) we have 2000 years of accumulated Scripture grounded wisdom from our many brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
Of course, the objective standard is still a dead letter in this and other matters if we are not drawing near to God and walking in close communion with Him so that His Spirit may quicken the written Word and apply it fully to our heart and minds. Finally, seeking the aid of others we know who walk in close fellowship with the Lord may also be necessary in discerning what is true and what is false. 

As to your last statement on God not being the author of confusion—I’m sure we can both agree that it is sin that brings confusion, and sin can bring this confusion not only through false prophesy but also through false interpretations of Scriptures and anything else good that God has given us. The Roman Catholics in the time of the Reformation likewise argued that people shouldn’t have their own bible in their own tongue because everyone would then have their own interpretation and thus confusion would abound where comparative uniformity or unity once reigned. Of course, they were right in a sense, as there was a proliferation of new and contradictory doctrines that arose out of the blessing of the common people receiving greater access to the Scripture in their own tongue. However, despite this, almost everyone (Roman Catholic and Protestant alike) would acknowledge that greater access to the Scriptures is an incredible blessing for the Church.

(Note: I’m not saying that the belief that prophecy can still occur (when it’s God’s Will) is even comparable to the great importance of the reformers’ belief that God’s people should have greater access to the Scripture—but I do believe there are some parallels in the arguments used against both).

[76] Posted by William on 11-17-2013 at 07:06 PM · [top]

Reply to 2. and the first part of 3. The testimony we have from the second century and third century fathers (including during the Montanist controversy) appears to be essentially unanimous regarding the continuation of the gifts (although by the third century it is noted by Origin that the continuing prophetic and other miraculous gifts were occurring with less frequency than that experienced in earlier times).

Regarding Montanism, while Montanus and the two women who “prophesied” with him were condemned because among other things they prophesied in a way that was contrary to the way the catholic prophets from the time of the Apostles unto that time prophesied (“…prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.” Church History of Eusebius, Book V, Chp 16 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250105.htm) They were not condemned on the basis of any cessationist position held by the Church. As noted above, the fathers of the second and third century were not cessationist—and far from denying the continuation of prophecy, the opponents of Montanism (e.g. Irenaeus and others) explicitly affirm that it was present in the Church catholic of their day. In fact, one of the points on which the followers of Montanus were discredited was their failure to continue to produce prophets—whereas the opponents of the Montanists noted that the Apostles thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming:
“4. And again after a little he says: For if after Quadratus and Ammia in Philadelphia, as they assert, the women with Montanus received the prophetic gift, let them show who among them received it from Montanus and the women. For the apostle thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming. But they cannot show it, though this is the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla.” (Church History of Eusebius Book V Chp 17 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250105.htm )

It is only in the fourth and fifth century that views that sound closer to a full cessationist position are found among some fathers, reflecting the great diminishment (and perhaps even absence) of prophetic gifts in at least many areas of the Church at this time. However, this was certainly not a unanimous position—for instance, in the later part of the fifth century St. Patrick in his Confessions (considered a genuine work of St. Patrick) reports unapologetically regarding various prophesies he received, including the famous vision calling him to minister to the Irish. 

Further, while Augustine’s own position was fully cessationist initially, he later abandoned this position as he witnessed miracles occur, and even affirmed the continuing presence of supernatural prophetic words into his own day (e.g. recounting how a godly woman with breast cancer was healed after carefully following the instructions she received in a dream (City of God, Book 22, Chapter 8)).

[Note: Your quote of Augustine references speaking in tongues. This is certainly related to the question of the continuation of prophesy (since it is simply prophecy in a different language). That said, it is even a more difficult and controversial issue (if that is possible) than the question of whether anything truly prophetic still occurs—so I’ll leave that particular discussion for another time. That said, I certainly agree with the position of Augustine on the special temporary role of the gifts in confirming the message of the Apostles to the Church during the first century (as signs had also accompanied substantive new revelations of doctrine in the Old Testament era, without being strictly limited to times of great divine revelation). Whether the great diminishing of these signs (at least in some parts of the Church) within a few centuries of the Apostolic period was simply God’s Will regardless of the Church’s continued faithfulness or whether it was on account of the Church’s failings or a combination of both is another important question, but one I simply can’t answer]. 

Therefore, the sum of my reply to pt. 2 and the beginning of pt. 3 is that it’s possible that the apparent unanimous affirmation of the second and third century fathers of continuing prophecy in their day is all erroneous (whereas there is no indication that even the Church fathers of the fourth century who spoke at times in a cessationist manner regarding their own time would ever allege that this was the case). Further, it is possible to deny that the accuracy of the testimony a vast host of believers throughout Church history (including the many visions, etc that are reported by brothers and sisters who have left all for the sake of Christ). However, I find all of this extremely unlikely, and therefore I cannot agree with the modern cessationist position that alleges that genuine prophesy must have ended as soon as the Scriptures were complete and/or the last Apostle died. 

God Bless,
W.A.Scott

p.s. After that mouth-full it might be quite a while before I have time to participate in a significant way on this thread, but thanks for the discussion.

[77] Posted by William on 11-17-2013 at 07:12 PM · [top]

Another very interesting post, Matt+.  While I have enjoyed reading the discussion, I went back and re-read Matt’s original post and he makes some very good points.  Let’s not forget Matt’s purpose:

My purpose is here is to merely lay out what I see as the four flaws of charismatic thought and practice. I think it is important to have this discussion as Anglicans especially in light of the “Three Streams” ideal that seems to hold sway in the Anglican Church in North America.

That Matt has done very well. IF this is ignored, it will fester among various groups i ACNA and may promote the break up. Anglicans are so splintered in today’s world that instead of hurtling comments of misunderstanding at each other,  perhaps we should try to be better informed? Which leads to something that I have been thinking about for awhile.

I agree that the Holy Spirit is often seen in two completely opposite ways: 1) as the *favorite person* of the Trinity (for those who believe whatever and however the Spirit leads me is the way to go- this is the “leading by the Spirit”/heresy I have seen too often in TEC) or the most misunderstood person of the Trinity (I place myself in this group). Soooooooooooo in trying to understanding the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, I have been looking for an author who can explain the person, work, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in an authentic and informed Anglican manner. Anyone have any authors/books to recommend to me to combat my ignorance????

[78] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-20-2013 at 11:51 AM · [top]

Will HTB receive a “word” from the Lord that enables them to reconcile themselves as evangelicals to the coming adjustments with the CofE concerning homosexual marriage and ordination?

[79] Posted by Aybido on 11-26-2013 at 01:24 PM · [top]

It’s been a long while since I posted here, but I really want to address the points raised by Matt+.

For the record I will state that I consider myself charismatic in that I believe the “gifts” have not ceased. I have had both good experiences and bad in churches where the gifts were used, but I as I left the Episcopal/Anglican church, finding a charismatic church was not a priority. Why? I find the focus on the Word to be the living experience of God, how he speaks and the yardstick of truth and the Holy Spirit does not contradict the Word. The gifts are desirable but should not primary in the life of the Church.

First, I have never known charismatics to look for revelation outside of Scripture, although I have known some to accept knowledge not found it Scripture or tradition. This has proven both good and bad, and I don’t think this is limited to charismatics and would argue it is found in mainline churches such as the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican streams. How do we know if a prophesy or teaching is congruent with Scripture? We test it (Job 12:11, 1 Timothy 1:3-11). Secondly tradition and the Word also helps us understand when and how to embrace the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a list of gifts and 1 Corinthians 14 shows us when and how they benefit the body when exercised properly. Third, the gifts are fully discernible (14:9) and serve and orderly function in the life of the Church (14:26-33, Acts 11:27-30). The later verse is an excellent demonstration of external, non-Scripture knowledge in the NT where the gift of prophesy serves to warn of coming famine, moving the Church in Antioch to help the Church in Judea.

Now, my criticism. Often charismatics emphasize the gifts as the predominant worship experience. Second, the gifts seem to be chaotic - not ordered in use, limited, and interpretation not present whenever tongues occur. Often I find the interpretation to have little to do with benefiting up the body. Some activities such as moaning, howling, crawling on the floor (remember the Toronto movement) are non-Biblical expressions and should be considered disorderly and non-deifying.

Instead of questioning charismaticism, I’d rather see the focus helping believers to see how the Spirit operates in benefit to the Church, God’s work, and the order believers should expect to experience.

Merry Christmas,
Festivus

[80] Posted by Festivus on 12-24-2013 at 11:20 AM · [top]

A little bit of rank hearsay here—I just recently was in conversation with a PCA minister and he discussed a few of the many supernatural events that he had witnessed or experienced in missionary work (including supernatural healing, prophetic visions, etc.). He noted that he was doubtful of the reality of such things at first but soon was unable to deny it, and even found himself having to go to charismatic brothers and sisters at times to seek some explanation of what he witnessed. Unsurprisingly, he noted that while he had experienced supernatural events even in some outreach he had taken part in in America, he said he found it to be far more common in the third world countries.  God Bless and happy New Year. W.A.Scott

[81] Posted by William on 12-29-2013 at 08:48 AM · [top]

p.s. Of course, the reason I mention this particular discussion is that the PCA (for those unfamiliar with it) tends to be a bastion of cessationism—so I found it fascinating to run into a PCA minister who openly acknowledged the reality of such things [and it sounded like he could write a book just describing the many supernatural things he had experienced on the mission-field].

[82] Posted by William on 12-29-2013 at 08:57 AM · [top]

I’ve been lurking on Stand Frim for a long time and have greatly appreciated the efforts of those here who attampt to “speak the Truth” into the events unfolding in the Episcopal church and other denominations.  I was raised in the Episcopal church, most of which were undercover charismatic.  I have seen the majority of these bodies “do the right thing” at great cost in order to follow the word of God.  I appreciate and thank you for your efforts and sacrifice.

That being said, I am dismayed by the attacks on charismatic Christians in this thread and others.  What’s going on in charismatic churches is no different than what happened in Acts.  I would have to say that Acts seems like a pretty good model for the Church.  It was far more effective that most of what is practiced today.

Sadly, there is no objective measurement for the supernatural manifestation of God any more than He has given us an “objective” measurement of His existence.  I think it may be misguided to expect that.  He’s God.
 
I was always taught that any “word” needed to be confirmed by a number of factors, the most important being scripture.  It’s content should also be submitted to the discerning elders of the church before being presented to the congregation.  Even given these checks, we sometimes get it wrong.  The same thing happens in non-charismatic churches where leadership makes mistakes and hurt people.  People are human and are subject to mistakes.  You’d think God could find better help than that grin.

As for being “chaotic”, so be it.  “Order” is a human thing.  I’m sure a lot of people viewed the work of Jesus and the apostles as “disorderly”.  I’m confused by God on a regular basis.  That’s because His ways are higher than my ways and his thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  I and not told to understand God, because that’s clearly impossible.  I am asked to obey.  God isn’t bound by our structure or preconceptions.  He does what he needs to, when he needs to.  That may not fit in with our schedule or tastes.  He doesn’t have to.  He’s God.

Jesus said that those whoever believes in him would do what he did and “greater things than these”.  I’ve been part of charismatic congregations for decades and I have seen great things done.  I’ve seen people reached that had not been reached by the “traditional” church.  I don’t ever recall the “gift” being glorified more than the “giver” and would be offended (probably horrified) I ever thought that was happening. 

I would ask that if you have doubts about this, go get some firsthand experience.
Don’t shy away the first time something makes you feel uncomfortable.  I believe God would love for most of us to stray from our comfort zones more than we do.

Blessings,

pneil

[83] Posted by pneil on 1-23-2014 at 11:37 AM · [top]

Hi pneil—thanks for commenting and reading here. 

You seem to be asserting your philosophy of church and the gifts—but that means that all that’s required is for those of us who stand on the other side to simply assert otherwise.

I’ll go through and do that with your comments, just for the record.

RE: “What’s going on in charismatic churches is no different than what happened in Acts.  I would have to say that Acts seems like a pretty good model for the Church.

That’s certainly what charismatics assert—but people like me assert otherwise. What I see purported to be or labelled as the “charismatic gifts” today are nothing at all like what I read about in Acts.  And I do mean—*nothing at all* alike.  I see no similarity, other than that certain charismatics name what *they* are doing with the same names that are used in Acts.

RE: “Sadly, there is no objective measurement for the supernatural manifestation of God any more than He has given us an “objective” measurement of His existence.”

Well, one objective measurement is when a “prophecy” directly contradicts the word of God.  That would be an objective measurement.

But the further lack of *other* objective measurement actually demonstrates our point. Given the lack of objective measurement when somebody says in purportedly prophetic utterance “As one given the gift of prophecy, the Lord is telling me that this church needs to step out in faith and build a new ministry center”—that is impossible to prove with any kind of certainty to be actually *true* and correct.  And therefore, calling it “prophecy” is an exercise in watering down the meaning of the word “prophecy.”

RE: “The same thing happens in non-charismatic churches where leadership makes mistakes and hurt people.”

Well—except that in non-charismatic churches *at least* such incompetence is not labelled “the gift of prophecy and therefore infallible.”  That’s the difference.  Everybody grants incompetence. But tacking on “prophecy” and “healing” and “tongues” to acts that demonstrate incompetence instead adds on a lie to the buffoonery.

RE: ““Order” is a human thing.”

I don’t know what this means.  Human beings are made in the image of God—and “order” is manifestly, a God-like thing.  His universe, His ways, His Word is unbelievably ordered.  So saying “order is a human thing” doesn’t mean much to me at all.

RE: “I would ask that if you have doubts about this, go get some firsthand experience.
Don’t shy away the first time something makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Finally—many of us have had firsthand experience. I have spent plenty of time in charismatic circles, I’ve been prayed over for the gift of tongues, and none of that has made me say “oh, these acts produced by these fellow Christians are clearly charismatic gifts.”  Quite the opposite.  I’m more than happy to grant that the Christians are performing acts—but not all that they are equivalent or congruent to the actual gifts clearly defined and described in Scripture.

[84] Posted by Sarah on 1-23-2014 at 01:36 PM · [top]

Sarah,

Thanks for your response.  I’m not really espousing a philosophy, I doubt that my Christian philosophy is much different that anyone elses here, other than my views on this.  I’m speaking based on my experience.  We obviously don’t have the same experience or see things the same, but I’ll try to respond to a few of your points.

On Acts: I guess I don’t know how to respond to “is not”.  The church in Acts had tongues, prophecy, healing, and obviously God given knowledge beyond the natural.  It empowered, directed, and emboldened them to pursue the work of Christ with a dedication never seen before.  Is what is happening today different that that?  You say it is.  My experience tells me it isn’t.

On objective measurement: If the church is letting someone blurt out “prophecy” that contradicts the Word without decernment or correction, there is a larger problem in the church that needs to be addressed.  If it contradicts the Word it is wrong, regardless of wether it is “prophecy”, “a new thing”, or anything else someone comes up with. 

On “Order is a human thing”: Looking back through the Old and New Testament I would hardly characterize God’s actions as orderly, at least by human standards.  In the OT God had people doing all kinds of wacky stuff.  Walk around the walls every day and blow the trumpets.  Is that orderly? The proof was in the results.

The blind were healed multiple times in the NT. Was it ever done the same way?  There wasn’t a formula for it.  I think most people tend to equate orderly and formulaic.

I believe that God is a God of order, but order on his scale belittles anything we are capable of understanding.  He’s God.  He’s a being that transcends time and space, knows our future and our past, and knows exactly what is in our heart at any given instant.

I’ve had event’s in my life that, on the surface, looked terrible.  The end result ended up being life changing for me in a very positive way.  I’ve seen multiple events that started at different times in different places converge to be an amazing answer to prayer. Is it random chaotic coincidence or Gods “order” working on a scale we can’t comprehend? He is infinitely creative and meets people where they need to be met.  I’m always a bit bemused when I see any group declaring, here’s our experience, you must do it this way because it’s what worked for us.  Their experience must have been positive, and it did work for them.  Other people have different personalities and different needs. I think God is creative enough to handle that. 

Someone mentioned laughter as being chaotic.  I was at a church where the worship leader had this gift, and yes, I’ll say it’s a gift.  I was very put off by it at first, having heard it characterized the same way it has been here. After workign with him a while I started to see that it was really just an expression of overwhelming joy.  I also recall that that church was the first place where I actually saw “joyful” worship.  Not reverence, or respect, although those elements were present, but true joy at the opportunity to worship a living God.  I had been in churches a long time and not seen that in a recognizable form.

Don’t like dancing? I’m not terribly comfortable with that one either, but David danced before the Lord and he was a man after Gods own heart.

I don’t think God’s actions fit the human ideal of “orderly”.  He is more often surprising, inexplicable (by our standards) and unexpected. 

Oh Firsthand experience: Is sounds like you have had negative experiences and I am sorry if that’s the case.  My experience has been different. People are people and they get it wrong sometimes.  They’re trying to hear God, and maybe they’re not quite there.  They need a little Grace. They’re trying to hear God and are actively pursuing a relationship with him.  I know that others here have had no firsthand experience with the charismatic church.  There are a lot of folks on both sides of this issue.  Be proactive.  Make up your own mind. 

Blessings,

pneil

[85] Posted by pneil on 1-23-2014 at 04:41 PM · [top]

Hi pneil, you wrote:

1. “The church in Acts had tongues, prophecy, healing, and obviously God given knowledge beyond the natural.  It empowered, directed, and emboldened them to pursue the work of Christ with a dedication never seen before.”

Ahem - “it”?  That indicates that you see the tongues, prophecy, healing and knowledge as being the things that empowered, directed and emboldened them.  I would call that a reversal of what the scriptures are actually teaching us.  Those things are not a cause, but an effect.

If you think that miracles are what makes people serve Christ with boldness, then you don’t understand what the work of Christ actually is.  Sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but that’s the truth.

And “pursuing the work of Christ with a dedication never seen before” - this is the very first day of the Church.  There wasn’t any “before”!

2. “Is what is happening today different that that?  You say it is.  My experience tells me it isn’t.”

How does your experience tell you that?  In other words, how many people have you seen stoned to death for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 7:54-60)?  Or flogged for the sake of the gospel (Acts 5:40)?  Or beheaded (Acts 12:2)?  Or imprisoned (Acts 12:4)?

If not, what basis do you have for saying that what is happening today is the same as what happened in the first Church?

I am not joking - the real power of God is shown in our faithfulness under persecution, rather than in working miracles (2 Cor 11:23-30).  If someone tells me about how many people speak in tongues at their church or how many prophets they have, or how many miracles were worked, I have to work hard not to yawn.  Whatever.  But when they talk about how the Lord has given them the power to witness boldly in the face of persecution - now THAT is powerful stuff.

3. “On objective measurement: If the church is letting someone blurt out “prophecy” that contradicts the Word without decernment or correction, there is a larger problem in the church that needs to be addressed.”

Good point.

4. “On “Order is a human thing”: Looking back through the Old and New Testament I would hardly characterize God’s actions as orderly, at least by human standards.  In the OT God had people doing all kinds of wacky stuff.  Walk around the walls every day and blow the trumpets.  Is that orderly?”

With respect, I suggest you need to “look back” through the scriptures with a great deal more care.  You might describe the fall of the wall of Jericho as “wacky” but that is not how the scripture describes it. Quite the opposite: the order was extreme (Joshua 6:10).

Sarah was correct to question your demeaning of order as being merely “a human thing”.  You do not appear to be familiar with the scriptural injunction in 1 Cor 14:33:

“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” [1 Cor 14:29-33]

There is no point playing fast and loose with scripture. 

5. “The proof was in the results.”

No, that’s exactly what the scriptures do NOT teach us.  Read Numbers 20:7-12.  Moses failed to realise that the end does not justify the means.  Even though the result was exactly the same as the last time he had struck a rock to bring water, he carried out the action differently to what God had told him, and this cost him the Promised Land.

6. “The blind were healed multiple times in the NT. Was it ever done the same way?  There wasn’t a formula for it.  I think most people tend to equate orderly and formulaic.”

What do different ways of healing blind people have to do with public worship?

7. “I’m always a bit bemused when I see any group declaring, here’s our experience, you must do it this way because it’s what worked for us.”

Who has suggested this?

8. “Someone mentioned laughter as being chaotic.  I was at a church where the worship leader had this gift, and yes, I’ll say it’s a gift.”

Why do you say it is a gift?  Nothing in your words that follow would give any scriptural warrant for so believing.

9. “I also recall that that church was the first place where I actually saw “joyful” worship.  Not reverence, or respect, although those elements were present, but true joy at the opportunity to worship a living God.  I had been in churches a long time and not seen that in a recognizable form.”

That may be because you lack discernment.  Sorry, but there is much joy in non-charismatic Christian worship everywhere.  If you can’t see it, the problem most likely lies in you.

10. “Don’t like dancing? I’m not terribly comfortable with that one either, but David danced before the Lord and he was a man after Gods own heart.”

That is very peculiar reasoning. David killed a man and took his wife - is that also to be approved because David was a man after God’s own heart? 

In any case, are you saying that because David danced before the Ark in 2 Samuel 6, that therefore we should have it in Christian worship services, under the New Covenant?  I am at a loss as to why, especially given that I can’t think of a single passage in the New Testament that says the early Church did it.  Should we bring back other things that are in the Old Testament too, e.g. sacrificing goats, and singing nothing but psalms?

11. “I don’t think God’s actions fit the human ideal of “orderly”.”

Sure. What about the Godly ideal of orderly - don’t you think we should give His values at least a passing thought?

12. “I know that others here have had no firsthand experience with the charismatic church.”

Yes, yes, I hear this all the time.  That’s like saying we can’t disagree with Islam or Mormonism until we have experienced it.  Its a non-argument.  But if you are serious about scripture, then let’s look at what it says, not just make up our own ideas.

[86] Posted by MichaelA on 2-3-2014 at 07:47 AM · [top]

MichaelA, I appreciate this excellent example of speaking the truth in love.  You have not given up trying to help folks like pneil.  This is convicting to me.  I hope your points will be considered carefully by many.

[87] Posted by Aybido on 2-3-2014 at 08:11 AM · [top]

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