Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 1

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ShatteredIf you read last Thursday’s post (“Burned“), then you know all about the latest piece of bad news coming out of the Lakeland “revival.” By now, I’m sure the news has proliferated throughout charismatic ranks like the plague. Only time will reveal the extent of the damage.

This much I know: Change must come to the charismatic movement. This post and ones to follow are about the changes I believe must take place.

Before I get into that, though, my only legitimate credentials for speaking on this issue come from my degree in Christian Education and nearly 25 years in the charismatic movement. I’m not even a fan of the term charismatic;  I don’t believe it means anything. I wish I didn’t have to use it to describe any one group within the Church, but it exists as a distinctive, so I have to use it.

I came to the belief in the continuing charisma, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, through the Lutheran Church. While that may seem odd, many people fail to realize that the modern charismatic movement really got its boost through mainline churches, especially those of the Episcopal/Anglican stream. Yes, liturgical churches. My spiritual mentor in this was the manager of a Lutheran camp. To this day, I have never met a man more filled with the Spirit of God than he is. Trying to explain how this man could pray for people and they would be healed, or how he knew things about people that no one else could know, or that he spoke in tongues, or that he could call to the animals and they would come to him—none of it fit in my existing worldview. So in my mind I sought ways to explain him .

I experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as it is often called, on a weekend at that camp while serving as a chaperone for my church’s youth group. That night is as clear as crystal; I still find it amazing after all these years.

So I didn’t come to the movement through the Pentecostal/Assemblies of God/Third Wave channels. I tend to identify most with the school of charismatic thought typified by such godly men as Andrew Murray, R. A. Torrey, Leonard Ravenhill, and A. W. Tozer, none of whom were found within the denominations that exemplify the charismatic movement as it stands. That said, I am a member of an independent Pentecostal today but largely because of the quality of the people in that church more than anything else. My theology still largely rests on a Lutheran understanding, with boosts from my sojourns in Presbyterian, Methodist, Evangelical Free, non-denominational, and Vineyard churches or camps. For this reason, I believe I am a little bit more removed from what constitutes the contemporary charismatic movement.

If you want to read what I’ve written in the past on the topic of charismatic issues, please check out the “Charismatic” category listing in the right sidebar or click on the link.

With that background in place, I write this post because I have been profoundly grieved by the train wreck that is the contemporary charismatic movement. What grieves me is that the meltdown within the movement threatens to burn even the legitimate people, the ones that haven’t succumbed to the rank carelessness and non-existent discernment that have been the hallmark of the majority of the movement for the last twenty years or so.

To that end, I offer the following solutions:

Problem: In our rush to regain a proper pneumatology, today’s charismatics abandoned a proper Christology.

Solution: We need to get the focus back on Jesus.

The love relationship that is the Trinity consists of three persons united as one Creator God, wholly bound up in each other, but with unique roles. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He dwells within believers and empowers them to do the work of the Father. It is good that charismatics have nudged the modern Church to look at the Holy Spirit anew. For too long He was the forgotten member of the Trinity. Even today, I believe most Christians in the West have a deficient pneumatology, though the churches born out of the Azusa Street revival have worked hard to overcome that lack.

But the Holy Spirit will A-L-W-A-Y-S point back to Jesus. Jesus Himself makes it clear in John 15 and 16 that the Spirit comes to glorify the Son. The focus is on Jesus.

Yet I would suspect that in too many charismatic churches today, the word spirit is spoken ten times as often as the name of Jesus. That’s a travesty, and it comes out of the shrunken, deficient Christology that afflicts many charismatic churches.

How can it be that so many charismatics can go on and on about the Spirit, the power, the anointing, but can’t put together a decent, sharable testimony about the person of Jesus? Lee Grady, in his forensic analysis of Lakeland, states that a prominent charismatic evangelist is convinced that many charismatics will follow the antichrist one day. The sheep hear Christ’s voice and know the voice because they know the speaker. Yet too many charismatics, in their overemphasis on the knowing the Spirit, have instead fallen prey to not knowing Jesus Christ except on the most superficial level. To me, that calls into question how well they actually know the Spirit, especially since the Spirit always points to Jesus. You can’t know one and NOT know the other.

The cure for this is simple: More Christ-centered preaching and teaching.

Which leads me into the next set of problems…

Problems: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility.

Solution: Get the cross back into the picture.

Nothing bothers me more than charismatics who have no sense of what it means to die to self. I think the main failure of the modern charismatic movement hinges on this point. I believe a majority of charismatics want everything that Christ bought for them on the cross, but none of the cross’s death. The problem is that one has to die at the cross before one can tastes of its glories. There can be no end-run around dying to self.

But what else explains the mad rush for the limelight that practically defines the movement today? The dog and pony shows. The million dollar preacher boys (and girls). The Brylcreem prophets. What else explains the need for people to hop a jet and fly to the other side of the world so they can “get me some o’ dat!” at the latest “revival” to crop up?

Self, pure and simple. The contemporary charismatic scene is filled with an enormous two-letter word nearly everywhere one looks: ME.

The only answer to that insanity is the cross. If you’re preaching Jesus like I said above, you can’t get around the cross.

Problem: The movement is awash in Old Testament rituals or theology that were fulfilled in Jesus.

Solution: Get back to the New Testament and its New Covenant.

Somewhere, the charismatic movement fell in love with the Old Testament. That would have been great—since many Christians don’t understand the Old Testament at all—except that charismatics went nuts trying to recreate Israel at the time of David rather than living out a genuine New Testament Church. Remember, as the Lord Himself said, “Something greater than the temple is here.” Christ’s Kingdom more than trumps David’s. The Lord outshines Moses.

Why the fascination with Old Testament worship patterns? Why the need to brew up batches of anointing oil using herbs mentioned in Old Testament recipes? The shofar-blowing. The Jericho marches. Joel’s Army. And what about the abject legalism everywhere you look? I swear, some of the bizarre rituals charismatics cook up look more like witchcraft than anything of God.

Folks, the answer to so much of what some people are trying to recreate out of the Old Testament is Jesus. If anything, trying to recreate the Old Testament today shows a profound lack of understanding of the finished work of Christ. I guess that’s to be expected, though, when the Christology of much of the movement is so lacking.

There’s no need for charismatic practices today that look like something that came a thousand years before the Savior. That’s not going to work. We need to define ourselves according to a New Testament model, not the Old Testament model that was intended to point to the Christ—the Christ we already have, the one indwelling us by the Spirit, a reality the Old Covenent could never provide.

Problems: Discernment of any kind is sorely lacking at all levels within the movement. Many charismatic teachers craft entire theologies from disconnected or lone passages of Scripture.

Solution: Build a holistic worldview by teaching the Bible from cover to cover, not from topic to topic.

The legacy of 20th century Christianity in the West can be summed up nicely: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” We simply are not getting sound biblical teaching. I cringe every time I see the latest biblical literacy figures from George Barna. Needless to say, J. Vernon McGee must be doing his best gyroscope imitation in that casket of his.

Charismatics are no worse than most other Western Christians in this regard, though. However, charismatic teachers seem much more likely than non-charismatic teachers to build elaborate theologies based on an out-of-context passage of Scripture that they then ply as “new revelation.” And their pupils suck it all up. The result? Well, have we looked around lately?

Having been around the denominational block, I can say without hesitation that many charismatics have a poor grasp of the breadth of Scripture because their teachers tend to teach the Bible topically rather than from book to book. For that reason, the students of charismatic teachers may never see the wider picture. No one has given them the view that unites biblical truth from Genesis to Revelation. Because of this lack of scope,  when discernment issues arise, charismatics may have little or no basis from which to make godly decisions about truth claims. They end up falling for lies that would never get past someone who has even a cursory overview understanding of the Bible.

I also think that too many people are sucked into going “by the spirit” instead of by the word of God. The Spirit never contradicts the Scriptures, though. Therefore, the Scriptures are ALWAYS the prime source by which decisions about truth claims must be made. Yet the carnage out there tells the real story.

That “charismatic theologian” is practically an oxymoron compared with some other streams of Christianity should shame us. It also explains our shortcomings well.

If the movement doesn’t start teaching the Bible holistically, it’s people are doomed to fall prey to the antichrist, just as that prominent charismatic said. The hope is this: It’s an end game that is completely avoidable.

Those are my comments for today. What are yours? Tell me what you think. I’ll tell you more of what I think in posts to come.

***

Posts in the “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup series:

52 thoughts on “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Florida Revival / Lakeland Outpouring (4) « Rich Johnson
  2. Chris E

    Hi Dan –

    Do you notice how all of those four problems ultimate come down to issues around the person and work of Jesus (addressing your four points in turn):

    – Ignoring the significance of Jesus.
    – Misunderstanding the work of Jesus.
    – Confusion over the uniqueness of Jesus in redemptive history.
    – Spiritual deafness to the voice of Jesus (“My sheep know my voice”).


    chris

  3. Dan, I was with you until “teaching the Bible cover to cover” if you mean that we need stay forever in Numbers and Leviticus.

    In Ephesians 3, Paul says that he’s written his letters so that we may know his own intelligence into the mystery of Christ. As Jesus said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, all of the prophets, the psalms and the law spoke about him (in reality there are no disconnected scriptures).

    In Bible school, one of my teachers taught that we, as the Church, should concentrate on Paul’s letters. They contain the Pauline Revelation, are centered on redemption, and were written to the Church. That one bit of advice has served me well.

    • Peter,

      Everyone needs at least a single pass teaching through the Scriptures to understand the nature of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. A preacher could give a couple messages on Leviticus and Numbers, noting the foreshadowing of Christ in those books (and other similar topics), then move on. Too many people have no grasp of the overarching nature of the Gospel message in the OT—or even the NT.

      I also agree that our focus afterwards should be on greater unpacking of the NT, although I tend to focus on the Gospels and Acts more than I do the Epistles. But that’s my personal preference. Your advice is sound, too.

      • David Capener

        Dan,

        Great post, really insightful. I thought that your comments were excellent and as a ‘reformed charasmatic’ have given me food for thought indeed!

        I also agree that there needs to be a recapturing of the grand story of the bible. Unless we understand the sweep of redemptive history how will we ever fully understand the need for salvation. How can we preach Revelation without first preaching Genesis. How can we preach the cross without first preaching Leviticus. How can we preach Romans (the reformed charasmatics favorite) without preaching Exodus.

        After all where do we first find Jesus in the bible – Right there at the begining in Genesis!

        A grasp of the story is so so important. Otherwise reading the bible becomes like trying to read a novel without understanding the plot. The story makes no sense, the characters dont fit in and the ending seems confusing.

        The Mission of God by Christopher Wright shook my perspective on this. Also The ways of our God by Charles Scobie hammers the message home in amazing detail.

        Thanks again

        David

        • David,

          So few people can put the whole story together. I’m fairly well taught, yet this is something I’m not perfectly adept at, either! If the knowledgeable people struggle, how much more the barely Scripturally literate. This is a real problem. It explains why very few Christians have a completely Christian worldview.

    • Jonathan Hurshman

      As believers, I think we are called to understand and live in the whole story of God’s work, not just Paul’s epistles. I think it’s dangerous for us to think that we can ignore any part of God’s word.

      I find the “five-act” hermeneutic helpful (this is from N. T. Wright):
      Imagine a literary scholar discovering a manuscript play from the 1600s. It’s brilliant, and looks like it’s from Shakespeare, but it’s incomplete. The first through fourth acts are complete, but the fifth act only has two scenes at the beginning and one at the end, with an unknown number of scenes missing from the middle. How could one put on such a play? Well, by deeply understanding Acts 1 through 4 and the fragments of Act 5, and finding a way to proceed from Act 5, Scene 2 to Act 5, Scene X, that is faithful to the extant materials, and makes sense within the whole story.

      This is the situation the church finds itself in. The first act is Creation. The second act is Fall. The third act is Israel. The fourth act is Jesus. The first few scenes of Act 5 are the early church, as recorded in the Epistles and Acts, and the last scene is Revelation 21-22. So Act 3 (Israel) is not where we are, but we still need to understand it deeply to see how we should live in Act 5, because it’s still the same story.

      • Jonathan,

        I appreciate the comment, but I believe that you’ve taken my statement out of context.

        When one dives into Paul’s epistles, he sees that Paul goes back through the Old Testament and brings forth the revelation that Paul says “has been hidden throughout the generations.” When I say that we should concentrate on Paul’s epistles, that includes the idea of the revelation of Jesus Christ all throughout the Old Testament, i.e., Jesus’s words to the disciples that “all the psalms, prophets, and the law spoke about me.”

        One example is the book of Hebrews and the Day of Atonement. The writer (whom I believe is Paul) writes of the Day of Atonement and shows that it was a type and shadow of Jesus as High Priest.

        Wright is right in that redemption is a story, but the meaning of the story is rightly found in Paul’s revelation of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and how that was accomplished through Jesus’s work.

        • Jonathan Hurshman

          No quibble here.

          I just know that a lot of Christians act (and preach) as if the only Scripture we really need are Romans and Galatians. The rest of the epistles are nice, but not really necessary. The Gospels and Acts are mainly there to provide illustrative material, as are (some of) the narrative parts of the Old Testament. And the huge swaths of other Scripture are treated as useless.

          And I would say that, for many Christians, it seems to be a small step from “the Day of Atonement is fulfilled in Christ” to “the Day of Atonement per se is not really that important.” (I’m not attributing this sentiment to you.)

  4. Paul

    Dan,
    Another great post. Coming from a more “traditional”, “non-charasmatic” background let me say this. First, you are right on target! Second, these are not the issues of the charismaticsm they are the issues of the Church; especially here in North America. We as the Body and as individual Christ followers have done the same. We are a self-centered poeople, we don’t focus on or follow Jesus, we thrive on rituals, and discernment (which can almost be a dirty word in a traditional church) is not only lacking, it is avoided.
    When a leader in the Body will not simply wipe a spill from an airline armrest because it is “not my job” we have gone off a cliff. The problem lies with what we think is leadership. Which circles back around to the not focusing on Jesus thing.
    I have personally been reading through Corinthians and sometimes I wonder if there have really been any changes in the Church in 2000 years. Yet I watch in wonder and amazment as people live lives of honor and service to the Father. All I can hope to do is live the call to die given by Jesus and pass it to those around me, letting God sort out the rest.
    In the meantime, I’ll grab another steak from the fridge to put on the Church’s black eye…

    • Paul,

      Our lack of understanding that our leaders are also our sin-afflicted fellow travelers has created this problem. It affects all denominations. It creates these celebrity pastors and sets everyone up for a fall. I wrote about this in my post “The Pastor: Not One of Us.”

  5. Brian

    Just last night I heard a pastor from Peru use Joel 3:10 out of context, where it says, “Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!'” He used it to encourage people working at the lower-ranking jobs (roofer, cook in a restaurant) to dream of one day being the entrepreneur who owns the business.

    There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of a better job and economic situation for you and your family, but you can’t get that from this scripture’s context, which is God judging the nations.

  6. Lincoln

    Someone posed a good question to me the other day, wondering if the premise behind the charismatic movement was not of God to begin with, then why would Satan focus so much energy on attacking it?

    When I look at the movement today I tend to believe the ratio of how many charismatics are authentic compared to those who are not is similar to how many of the Hebrews made it into the Promised Land (e.g. for every 3 million charismatics out there, only 2 are the real deal).

  7. First let me commend you on a great turn of phrase: “The Brylcream prophets” (although it should be spelled Brylcreem). You’ve given TBN the means to cure to its constant financial crisis should they be insightful (should I say, prophetic?) enough to spot it– a lucrative sponsorship deal with Combe Inc. for product placement.

    Secondly, do you think the line “… the need for people to hop a jet and fly to the other side of the world so they can “get me some o’ dat! at the latest “revival to crop up?” would be better stated if crap were exchanged for crop?

    Seriously Dan, do you honestly don’t think strong, biblical teaching will make a whiff of difference among the charismaniacs? 2 Tim 4:3-4, I think, points out the real problem. Even if they were taught good doctrine, they’d only close their ears and chase after the next heretic who taught them something more flesh-tickly. I’ve had a TBN watching, conference attending, demon spitting charismaniac scream at me, after repeatedly taking them to the word to understand biblical practice, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I know what I experienced!”

    When people’s authority is their own notions, their own wishes, and their own experiences what place will the word have in their lives? Incidentally, this not just a charismatic problem, but any and every stripe of Christian who has adopted church marketing to “grow the church” rather than relying on the power of truth to set people free.

    • SLW,

      I wish I could take credit for the “Brylcreem prophets” line, but my hazy memory ascribes it to Steve Taylor of “Who Wants to Be a Clone” fame.

      No comment on your second statement. 😉

      As for me, I’m hoping for a purge. I’m hoping that people either wise up after Lakeland and get of the slop or they just go all the way and secede from Christianity, which they’ve practically already done in some cases. I’m hoping God humbles more of these self-appointed leaders. It’s His honor that is at stake and He will share it with no one.

  8. bob pinto

    Given your background and experiences deeply qualifies you to give commentary. Fine post.

    There is far too much broadbrushing of the charismata. Right now anti-charismatics are going, ” Aha,aha” delighting in the self destruction. The fact is, there is a deep offense of the culture of charismatic behavior of any kind.

    But NO ONE will explain these causes and effects. They readily blame the devil. Okay, fine, what is the basis of saying it is satanic? What is the authority for saying that? Have they seen demonic pocession or exorcised in Jesus’ name? How does one explain if the movement results in missions and repentance which also contains tongues and falling down?

    If it isn’t Satan then why is God anointing people who self-destruct? Why does He give grace for those to preach who later fall from Grace in non-charismatic circles?

    My only hypothesis is the “hasty laying on of hands”. Apparently there are truly anointed people passing the gift. Does it matter that it is strange and makes it seems as though God is messing up? Does Isaac’s mistaken blessing to Jacob mean any sort of precedence?

    Speaking of precidence, Peter’s use of the verses from Joel really don’t deal with the specifics of tongues in the Upper Room. These people had to think for themselves. Your blog post has often mentioned red flag tests which IMO are quite valid. But the fact that “this has never been done before” seems to be the reason we regard such things as not of God.

    I have listened to the church leader who hosted Todd and to Todd himself. The pastor spoke with love and scriptural levelheadedness. When I listened to Todd,though, he went for over a half hour or longer talking endlessly about the miracles themselves, And nothing much else!

    I saw a blog comment by a coverted Hindu who said gurus in India could do the same thing Todd did. He further lamented the absence of preaching.

    Your holistic approach I feel is a must. I believe in the strange gifts of the Spirit because I’ve experienced them and I will not discuss with scoffers. I can truly say the desire for these gifts are very powerful and can overshadow what God truly wants to do in us.

    • Bob,

      I have an answer to your question of “If it isn’t God and it isn’t the Devil, then who is it?” if you hold on for the next post. I’d already written that answer earlier this morning, so your comment is timely.

  9. Ron

    Dan-
    Powerful post! Please keep it coming. And to the rest of us reading: let’s really keep Dan and his family in prayer while he addresses this issue. At the risk of sounding too “charismatic”, there really is warfare involved in what he’s doing. Peace to you, bro’!

    Ron

    • Ron,

      In truth, I’ve not been feeling well the last couple days. Not to mention the other medical issues going on here. Talk to me, too, about what happened to our trees.

      It’s just been a tough year. Thanks for your prayers.

  10. Ron

    Bob,
    Regarding your question: “If it isn’t God and it isn’t the Devil, then who is it? I’ve had people ask me this questions before and I always tell them not to underestimate the power of the soul. I’m not trying to sound “new age-ie” or anything like that, but there really is some evidence that the human soul is capable of bringing about some pretty incredible, strange, and unexplainable phenomena under certain conditions. I believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, but I believe that there are time when this work of the soul comes into play in these environments.

      • Bob,

        I was not aware of those resources online. Thanks! That site has a great deal of Andrew Murray, and if I had my way, the charismatic movement today would take cues from men like Murray, humble, gentle, yet powerful men of God.

    • Matt

      In addition to soulish sources, it seems from Matthew 7 that there is the very real possibility that people can work miracles, drive out demons and prophesy in Jesus’ name and yet ultimately be rejected by him at the judgment because they did not know him or truly do his Father’s will.

      I also think about Romans 11:29 where it mentions that the gifts and call of God are irrevocable–this might suggest that there is a possibility that someone gifted and called by God who eventually strays from sound doctrine or true holiness can work miracles even by the Spirit of God. This is why miracles are never a test of fruit, but character, holiness, humility, and overall Christlikeness are.

      I wonder if in situations like Lakeland there is a mix, some is from God due to his grace gifts and the faith of true seekers, some is soulish, some is demonic. From a spiritual warfare standpoint, it would seem like Satan’s strategy is to draw those who are operating in legitimate Holy Spirit power and gifts into soulish and ultimately demonic power, thus discrediting the true ministry of the Spirit. He can only do this by exploiting the sin and character weaknesses of God’s servants as their pride, lust or greed gives him permission.

      I think that this may be a good description of what has happened to the charismatic movement, which many feel started out so promising but now seems to have gone to seed.

  11. I agree with you decision on what should be done now, Christians need to be followers of Christ.

    I noticed that you said that you believe in charasmatic beliefs because of a) witnessing a Lutheran minister exercize gifts, b) experienced a spiritual encounter at a camp that you label “Being baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

    The problem I see here is the same problem I think the Bentley-ites had: taking theological stances based on personal experiences. We know from the Bible that the devil can counterfeit spiritual experiences, and we know from the Bible that false prophets and teachers can sometimes work signs and wonders.

    If you cannot tell I am not pentacostal, nor charasmatic. I am not a cessationist either. I just believe that the only reason you should believe in a doctrine is because of careful study of the Bible.

    • Ben,

      One of the most thrilling calls within the Bible is for others to “come and see….” If you take the experiential out of the Bible, what do you have left?

      If I am taking theological stances, they come straight from the Bible. The Book of Acts is a good starting point. It is the early Church experiencing the leading of God by the Holy Spirit. If that’s not experiential, then I don’t know what is.

      If I am at fault here, then all Christians are at fault for experiencing a truth they do not know through encounters with other Christians and wanting to know more. Let me add that the man I discussed was also the one who helped lead me to Christ because he laid out the Gospel in a way that I had not heard before. Suddenly, it all came together. Should I toss out my conversion because I experienced the Gospel through a man telling me about it in a way that I had not encountered before?

      Hardly.

      Personal experience is not the measure. The Scriptures are the measure. But this does not mean that we can’t work backward from something we’ve seen and find it the truth of it in the Scriptures. If I had not been baptized and I saw someone baptized in water by immersion, would it be wrong of me to go to the Bible and see what it says about what I just witnessed? And what then if what I find there convicts me and I decide I must be baptized myself?

      Honestly, we live in a material world and have senses for a reason. Trying to witness to someone who has no capability to hear, taste, feel, see, or smell would be quite a challenge!

      • It is perfectly natural to use experience to inspire searching the scriptures, but we have an enemy who is renound for deception. The devil can fake experience. We need the Holy Spirit mainly to convict us and to help us interpret the scriptures.

        • Ben,

          The pneumatology you outline here misses too much. I understand your point, but you’re skirting the tough issue here by eliminating portions of what the Holy Spirit provides.

          What about providing specific, extra-biblical guidance (such as exemplified in Acts 13:2)? What about empowerment for ministry? Both are experiential. Those are two crucial functions of the Holy Spirit, but you left them out. Problem is, they are the ones we are talking about here.

          Some sects within Christianity skirt those two functions on purpose because they are much harder to police than the others. But that guts the role of the Holy Spirit. We can’t look the other way, though, and ignore these major functions of the Holy Spirit!

          In our effort to keep the devils out, we can’t cast aside legitimate functions of the Holy Spirit because the Enemy counterfeits genuine Holy Spirit-given gifts. Yet this is what some Christians do. From your reply, it sure seems as if that’s what you are advocating.

          • Before the scripture was available, God annointed the prophesies through the High preistly prayers of Jesus in John 17. This is why the apostles could write scripture.

            Notice in the Acts 13:2 that Saul (Paul), and Barnabus were being sent. God had already chosen Paul and Barnabas to be apostles, they were just being sent by the teachers and prophets in Antioch whom God had also designated.

            There are not apostles today. If there were, then we would have people writing infalible scripture today, since Jesus enabled this in John 17.

            I believe that there is a place for fallible prophesy today because the Bible does not specifically say that prophesies have ceased (depending on your interpretation of 1 Cor 13:8-13). It just leads me not to trust prophesies today.

            • Ben,

              I’m not sure the Bible says that only apostles can write Scripture. Nor did all the apostles write Scripture. Therefore, the link is tenuous, at best, to say that there are no more apostles because the canon is closed (and vice versa).

              Why is it not just as likely that God inspired the writing of Scripture and now no longer does? Just because the writing is closed does not mean that God has ceased to speak or that apostles have vanished.

              I believe that apostles may still exist on the frontiers of the Gospel where the name of Jesus has not been heard before and the Church needs to be established for the first time. But as for all these self-appointed apostles, I say, “Bah, humbug.”

          • Matt

            Regarding this comment on the apostolic ministry for today, much of America strikes me as a frontier area deeply in need of the establishment of the church–we do not strike me as a “Christian nation,” in spite of all our marketed religion. I wonder though if what this stream of the church currently thinks are apostles and what the Lord has (and had) in mind are two different things.

            One picture of an apostle that seems modeled by current charismatic leadership is “the guy on top, who does miracles, who has lots of translocal influence…well, I guess he’s an apostle.”

            Another picture that I think may be more compelling (and biblical?) is that of a no-name catalyst of simple churches and church networks at a grass roots level, who happens to work miracles and influence the people in those networks they’ve established, who also has tons of wisdom and a godly, gospel-saturated life and character.

            To Dan’s point, the developing world (China, Mozambique, India, to name a few) is rife with these folks, all to the good. I would make a pitch that America is desperately in need of a similar army of nobodies…that would be a revival that I could get behind, I think.

  12. Pingback: The need to redress the balance in Charismatic Churches | Byrnesys Blabberings
  13. Pingback: Blog Highlight: Cerulean Sanctum on the “Charismatic Crackup” « Musings of a Wannabe Muser
  14. Dee

    I simply love your blog!!! This one in particular is very deep in my heart! I couldn’t agree more.. I just wander what churches are out there that can imitate the healthy balance? I since leaving have realised that not only was the church lost in discernment but spiritually abusive in many areas.. so I guess I have to get over my trust issues. But I am refreshed by reading you blog! Well done Dan, Keep on blogging.

  15. Dee

    When I walk into a church and they are preaching Jesus, I will be sooo grateful! but all the charismatic churches I have been to since I am trying to find a new one.. I walk in and they are either all praying in tongues or they are preaching blessings, finances and health wealth stuff. I get so irritated!

  16. Mike

    Thanks for the post, especially the reference to John 15 and 16. I’m going to talk that over with a charismatic pastor on Sunday; we’ll see what he says. He talks about the Holy Spirit a lot on Sundays, but it all has to do with claiming the authority of Christ to do things…he’s never dealt adequately with the idea of the Holy Spirit glorifying Christ. We’ll see how it goes.

  17. brenda

    I am very confused. I have returned to my faith and church after a 20 year hiatus. Went to what i now realize is a charismatic church. they speak in tongues and pray in their “prayer language.” I am not confomtable with this … how is it helping me to have you pray over me in a language i don’t understand? these are good people, with a love for god. i can feel the spirit in the church, but i just can’t get right with the tongues thing. and the slain in the spirit business.

    i won’t continue going but it’s hard, to leave the folks i’ve connected with, but it just doesn’t sit right with me.

    i don’t think the holy spirit is the author of anything confusing. you mean to tell me the Holy Spirit couldn’t connect with that young woman who fell over and hit her head in some other way, without her hitting her head? that defies reason. “Oh we should have had someone behind her.” so the holy spirit was depending on you to help clean up after him? it just doesn’t make sense.

    so, sigh, i guess i am going church hunting. i didn’t want to be close minded, but i have to find a place i feel more comfortable.

    i just can’t do it. AND, i guess I’m not done yet. i have good friends, who are leaving a church for the churches that are more accepting of this stuff like gold flints on the skin and healings and all that. Aren’t we perhaps missing the trees for the forest or somethign like this? I just don’t understand the attraction to this stuff. Sure, we are open to it, sure we pray for it. But I see a lifetime of work in front of me on issues like selfishness, impatience, lack of faith, being judgemental, etc. i don’t have time in my spiritual life to be looking for good flints. I guess it just seems so impractical.

    Sigh, it’s so sad tho, because I have this holiness hippy in me, i want everyone to agree. We don’t and we won’t.

    • Brenda,

      It seems that you have encountered charismania. That’s when genuine charismatic gifts are not properly handled and begin to become the ends rather than the means.

      It may well be that you are in a fine church that simply needs to reign in a few things, to keep the fire in the fireplace, so to speak. I would not give up so easily on your church. The hardest thing to find in any church is loving, caring fellowship. If you have that, you have a good basis for everything else. Don’t let a few people who get carried away force you out of a church.

      That said, if there is too much out of control, be comforted in knowing that not all charismatic/Pentecostal churches are this way. There are churches that DO keep the fire in the fireplace. No denomination is perfect, nor is every one representative of what the denomination believes and supports. Just as some charismatic churches are filled with charismania, there are Calvinist churches that are judgmental, Nazarene churches that are unfriendly, and Baptist churches that are self-righteous. If you recognize that, more of this will make sense.

      As far as life goes, the charismata don’t have to negate the other aspects of the faith or vice versa. We make too many things into an either/or. You CAN have a proper understanding and practice of the charismata along with helpful support in dealing with besetting sins and growth through sanctification. Too often we focus on only one aspect of the faith and make that into the be all and end all. That is a grave error that only diminishes what we can fully be in Chris. When we live out the whole Gospel, not just the parts that make us most comfortable, we find wholeness and fulfillment.

      I prayed for you just now. If you need to keep the dialog going, feel free to email me at the address in the top sidebar of the blog.

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