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Why I Am/Not A Charismatic

08/02/2011

I’ve been enjoying the series posted on Parchment & Pen Blog (via The Credo House) on “Why I Am/Not A Charismatic” between Sam Storms and C. Michael Patton. I’ve been reading both of these guys for several years now, and respect both of their opinions. And yet they come down on two sides of the fence on this topic, hence the ongoing discussion and not a debate between the two friends. For the record, Sam Storms is a charismatic, and C. Michael Patton is not a Charismatic.

The series has been a little slow (according to some) at first, since the defining of terms is necessary, but by now they have been defining terms for several weeks. Perhaps that is necessary. A lot of confusion can be corrected by defining terms.

Here’s a link to one of the most recent blog posts (by Sam Storm).

Here’s a link to one of the most recent podcasts.

Like I said, I’ve been enjoying this series. Both men are good friends, so it’s a discussion before it’s a debate, although they have promised to throw some punches later on in good fun. There is no sense of superiority coming from either; no intellectual condemning the charismatic, no charismatic mourning the intellectual. In fact, both men are intellectuals, and both vehemently argue that all Christians, whether charismatic or not, should put the Bible first and be very knowledgeable in it, as well as theology, doctrine, the “vain philosophies of man”, Church history, and much more. In fact, the charismatic would argue those things should be put in front of any emotional or spiritual work of the Holy Spirit, something which I can only say amen too and wish those charismatics I know would acknowledge as well.

I appreciate them taking the time to tease out all the various positions believers can fall on to regarding the charismatic. This chart by C. Michael Patton is especially helpful:

Charismatic chart by C. Michael Patton

Charismatic chart by C. Michael Patton

I think that chart is fairly accurate and represents a good spectrum. Personally, I’ve been exposed in person to more of the mid far right, with extreme far right influences continuously creeping in and infrequently reproved. I’ve also been exposed to the soft left side of the spectrum; I’ve never been around any hard line cessasionist people, as many will acknowledge God answers prayers, heals people, etc. I have never been part of a body of believers that didn’t believe God still performed miracles today; I have been a part of a body of believers that not only expected but demanded and altered worldviews and opinions and circumstances to see miracles constantly.

So where do I fit on this spectrum, after all the experiences in my life? Well, I tend to side with C. Michael Patton in the discussions while at the same time wishing I had more friends like Sam Storms. As I posted on Twitter after blitzing through two or three of the podcasts:

I admire charismatics who are not anti-intellectual, know their bible, know their theology, know church history, etc. So where are they?

I seriously don’t think I know any, at all. Plenty who would say they are, but none who truly are. There is always that smirk about “the vain philosophies of man” or “theology is mental masturbation” or “I’m better at interpreting the Bible just by myself and the Holy Spirit than a group of men in a room somewhere even if each has the Holy Spirit in equal measure.” I can’t respect any of that nonsense. Theology at that point is just like throwing pearls before swine. Whole churches, in an embrace of the charismatic, have voluntarily chosen to drink nothing but milk the rest of their lives instead of reaching for the meat of the word of God.

I look at this recent mess happening with CJ Mahaney, for instance, and can’t but come to the conclusion that part of the problem there is the fact he and Sovereign Grace Ministries is charismatic. That means there will always be a prophet or an apostle who has to lead and set the tone for the ministry, which will then inevitably lead to problems, abuses, and eventually legalism and death. It’s an entirely unbiblical model. Even the apostles had joint rule, and when they had disagreements, it wasn’t other apostles who judged, it was the congregation. The charismatic tends to screw things up.

Even historically the same can be said. Many charismatics, and I’m ashamed to say even myself at one point, would always point out how the gifts had been evidence in the church for all its history, not just the early centuries. But that’s almost a complete deception, since those gifts were evident but almost always with heretic, occultic groups whom the church kicked out! Sure, it’s easy to point and say “so and so was healing and prophesying”, but it’s another thing to look at the whole picture and see the aberrant theology and wanton destruction left behind in that person’s wake. Hardly honoring to God. Chew the meat and spit out the bones? What meat?

In fact, that’s a central charge I level against charismatics. Why is it easier to be a charismatic if you ignore theology, doctrine, church history, and the Bible? Why does “Holy Spirit/gifts/miracles/tongues/prophecy” trump “Bible/theology/history/doctrine/rationalism/soundness of mind”? It seems to be the mark of dead religion to demand something new and exciting and wonderful and powerful. And I don’t think it was Bible study that led to that dead religion.

So where do I fall? Probably somewhere left of center. I won’t dare expect anything miraculous of God, but I will always be mindful of his promises in their proper context, and mindful of the power he can display. And I expect him to work in the lives and hearts of men and women. Miracles are by definition rare. The Bible is quite clear that tongues is not a gift for everyone. The apostles were appointed special power to perform special signs and wonders for a specific time and place for a specific purpose. The canon is closed, and cannot be added to it, therefore there is no prophecy of upcoming events and circumstances that is binding to all true disciples of God. There is no substandard and normal Christianity differenciated by a second work of grace. God still speaks today through his word and the world around us. God does supernaturally give people dreams and impressions. God does not cause gold to appear in people’s mouths. God does not require prayer missionaries anymore than he requires people to be baptized for the dead. There hasn’t been any latter rain outpouring of God’s spirit. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the agenda for the church was established early on in Christianity and will not change until Christ returns.

And if any gift or work of the Spirit does not point toward the finished work of Jesus Christ…and only the finished work of Jesus Christ…it’s not a gift or work of the Holy Spirit.

Remember: the end result is Jesus, not the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not a means to an end. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.

If you disagree, keep it to yourself until Jesus calls you out on it. It will take someone smarter and greater than yourself to correct me. Here I stand; I can do no other; so help me God.

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