Blog

The Rise of the Intellectual Charismatics

In times past, most serious theologians and biblical scholars could look to the modern Charismatic movement merely as the latest movement among folk Christianity that doesn’t take intellectual studies seriously. The sensationalistic tendencies of the movement could be easily written off knowing that soon this fad would end with disillusionment and an “I told you so” that followed.

Such is not the case any longer.

The answer to the question of whether one is a cessationist or a continuationist does separate the sheep and the goats like it once did. A cessationist is one who believes that the supernatural sign gifts of the Bible such as healing, tongues, and prophecy ceased at the end of the first century with the death of the last apostle. A continuationist (Charismatic) is one who believes that these gifts have continued throughout history and should be sought today by the church.

Cessationistism claimed most if not all respected scholarship for a time. With this claim came the ad populum comfort that their view was indeed correct. Since the nineties, however, there has been a rise in respected evangelical scholarship that no longer follows the traditional party-line of cessationism. Scholars such as Craig Keener, Sam Storms, John Piper, Jack Deere, and C.J. Mahaney, just to name a few, are continuationists. But the two that stand out more than any others in my opinion are Wayne Grudem and J.P. Moreland.

Wayne Grudem is a theology professor out of Phoenix Seminary. Grudem holds a BA from Harvard University, a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1999. His Systematic Theology is one of the best selling and most respected Systematic Theologies available. Even cessationists agree that Grudem’s theology is orthodox on just about everything he touches. He is a balanced scholar who knows the issues well and who’s beliefs would never provide the easy target that cessationists are traditionally so used to. More than this, Grudem Reformed in his theology! He is a charismatic Calvinist! Grudem believes that the miraculous sign gifts are still available and prevalent in the church today.

J.P. Moreland is a distinguished philosophy professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola. He hold a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Southern California. He is a first rate philosopher, theologian, and apologist. Moreland has written on many subject in his field and is respected by most leading philosophers today—Christian and secular. His intellectual abilities do not fit the bill of a Benny Hinn or a Pat Robertson to say the least. In fact, he has written one of the most compelling works of our generation concerning the need for Christians to reengage in the intellectual arena, criticizing the church for its inability to defend the faith reasonably. The book is called Love Your God with All Your Mind. If you were ever in a debate with an atheist or a philosophical naturalist, Moreland is the guy you want on your side. He, like Grudem, does not look like the stereotypical Charismatic. He is a recent convert to the Vineyard Movement, who believes that their are prophets who speak supernaturally on behalf of God today and that the gift of healing is not only available, but should be sought out.

With so many flies in the ointment what is a cessationist such as myself supposed to do? Continuationists are simply not supposed to be intellectuals! Yet they are, and they can defend their positions.

I believe the landscape is changing. There are now fewer hard cessationists who believe with absolute conviction that the supernatural sign gifts have ceased. You know that the battle lines are fading when C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur can share the same pulpit! Because of the stature of these respected scholars, many cessationists are beginning to scratch their heads wondering if they might be wrong. Some are one experience away from fully embracing a continuationist theology.

While I find many of the biblical and theological arguments of cessationism compelling, I would be the first to admit that the primary reason I remain a cessationist is because I have never experienced any miracles, signs, or wonders and I have never seen or heard of a legitimate prophet. If someone were to ask me if I believe that God is still speaking through prophets and giving the gift of healing, I would confess my tentative cessationist beliefs. I have never seen nor heard of a prophet or divine healer, but this does not mean that God is not or cannot work in such a way today.

While going through the recent depression and suicide of my sister, I was more than willing for a someone with the gift of healing to come to the rescue, representing God’s benevolent hand of mercy. Even though my theology was predisposed against it, I prayed for God to bring someone. With my mom’s aneurysm and stroke last year which took away part of her brain, I live in hope of God’s miraculous healing to rescue us from what was only previously a nightmare. I certainly am not against Him sending someone with this gift. Yet He has not and I have had to learn to trust in Him in spite of the difficulties that these situations have introduced.

While the Bible does not ever say that the supernatural sign gifts ceased or were going to cease (in fact, it may imply the opposite), history does seem to suggest it, and my experience, to the degree that it can be trusted, verifies it.

One thing that we need to keep in mind is the if God has not tied His own hands, our nice clean theological system cannot tie them for Him. If He moves in such a way, we better recognize this. At the same time, if He is not moving in such a way, we discredit Him by claiming He is doing something He is not. This can cause great damage to His character and disillusionment to those who seek such interventions. Both sides need to be very careful about this issue.

I would, however, call upon fellow cessationists, especially hard cessationists, to consider continuationism from the “best of” and not create straw men by referring to the common abuses that are televised for all to see. Seek out the wisdom and scholarship of Grudem, Moreland, and the like before you dogmatize your beliefs. They represent the best of their belief and form what I believe to be the intellectual rise Charismatics.

With all this in mind, this blog could have just as well been titled “The Demise of Hard Cessationism.”

13 Responses to “The Rise of the Intellectual Charismatics”

  1. The landscape has surely changed. If Charismatics were guilty of anything it would be having “full hearts” and “empty heads.” If Cessationists were guilty of anything it would be lumping all Charismatic or “continuationists” into the same lump.

    Charismatics, and I am one, are not all of the same ilk, i.e., Benny Hinn. Many Charismatics were concerned that “character” was not governing gifts, but vice versa. Divisions were further caused when the “lumping” ruled out any significant dialogue between the two camps.

    The recognition that there are Charismatic scholars has been a long time coming. Assemblies have had scholars for some time. The Charismatic movement affected more traditional denominations and hence, Wayne Grudem.

    Christianity today called Jack Hayford the “Gold Standard” of Pentecostals, who were the first to speak in tongues and in many ways are the fastest growing group in many parts of the world, set the stage over one hundred years ago. Pentecostals have had many fine scholars. Perhaps the way forward is to continue this dialogue and learn from the overstating and pigeon-holing one another.

    I have learned from some of the best non-charismatic theologians who could not present an argument that would make me change my beliefs (or experience). I’ve also learned from those who are Charismatic and been enriched by their humility and knowledge of the Word.

    Perhaps we must learn this is a false dichotomy of choosing either or. Is there a third alternative, or a refining of beliefs, historically, biblically and theologically

  2. This is an odd set of “intellectual” charismatics that you have listed. They seem to be merely teh ones that a Westminster-style Reformed type might encounter. As a Pentecostal myself, the only one I would personally give any mind to is Keener. (I’ve never met anyone who cares for Grudems *Systematic Theology*.)

    If you want a more diverse picture of the intellectual side of modern Pentecostalism/charismatics, check out a few years’ worth of copies of *Pneuma*, or the *Journal of Pentecostal Theology*.

    Mind you–there are aspects to this “intellectual” side of Pentecostalism that I don’t like. E.g.,k Pentcostal scholars tend to be very trendy, probably because of their desire to have Pentecostalism taken more seriously in the academy.

    All I’m saying is that the landscape looks very different from within the movement.

  3. You are forgetting a leading NT Scholar, Gordon Fee whose work on 1 Corinthians is standard. Also, his work God’s Empowering Presence is a must read for a theology of the Holy Spirit in Paul (or his condensed version Paul, the Spirit and the People of God).

    I am with John – go with Keener over Grudem for serious pentecostal/charismatic scholarship or to see that pentecostal/charismatics can produce serious scholarship – case in point is Keeners massive two volume work on John, which Richard Bauckham thinks rivals if not exceeds Raymond Browns two volume AB commentary on John.

    Consider too Keener book Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today.

  4. You mean Pentecostal/Charismatics should be excluded from the realm of intellect and intelligencia…? Is this a new concept? LOL….you know I am being snarky here…but all my life I have never heard that we were even placed into the same category as thinkers…this is new and I need to get on the train before I miss out on the great intellectual awakening of the Charismatic…

    I can say this because as I said the other day….”me are one”. Why does it seem this is something strange? The appeal to Charismatic/Pentecostal has always been to include the poor, the “lower” class and the disenfranchised in some manner. You don’t have to be a genius to be Charismatic, but it seems in most churches that are viewed as more “qualified” you almost do have to be an intellectual giant to be able to speak or do anything aside from being a janitor. I would prefer to be in a church that threw intellectualism out the door and simply worshipped God. But that’s just me.

    If anyone from any of the greatest theology universities were to just go and sit for half an hour and ask any one of the people I know from the small, ignored churches about how they love God, they would be surprised to find that these people really do have a genuine love. I prefer to use my mind to study as much as I can but never would I want to think I could ever learn so much there is no more for me to learn. I think it is ok to believe Charismatics and Pentecostals can be as intelligent as any one else.

  5. Hi there,
    I just bumped into your website. I don’t remember exactly how I got there. Not 10 minutes ago I wrote the message below to a friend. You said you are still a cessationist because you haven’t experienced certain things. Isn’t this criteria of experience the one that so many have proudly decried through the years as illegitimate? (“You can’t go by experience,” “They are too much into experience.”)
    Here’s the message I wrote to a Facebook friend whose husband is sick: I pray you will touch our beloved Wayne with your divine hand and heal his body for your glory and all of the _____ joy. Thank you for your amazing love for your servant. Amen! My daughter Hannah went to Disneyland this week with friends. They prayed for a person to be healed, and she was. They prayed for a medical doctor’s son, a star basketball player with a shoulder injury, out for the season. He was healed. He started texting friends (all 8th graders from a secular charter school). Curious, they started coming from all over the park. They were utterly amazed to see what God was doing and to experience His touch on their lives. My daughter had about 30 of them excitedly praying en masse to receive Jesus Christ. It’s all on video. It was like a NT revival story — “and there was great joy in that city.” This demonstrates that God WANTS to send revival and “waits to be gracious.” Is He saying, “Hey, I’m no cessationist”?

  6. #2. I really must apologize to you. I completely missed the paragraph about your mom. I have been physically healed of some things — one time instantly — but not of others. My daughter is used in healing ministry yet suffers with migraines, for one thing. There are many mysteries related to suffering, and there are definitely no pat answers. We shouldn’t try to force God into a mold, nor in a box. He is God, and His ways are definitely higher. I humbly hope you will accept my apology for missing the paragraph about your family. I know how difficult this can be. We do know that He will work it for good and even for some higher glory. Keep hoping, keep believing, keep seeking. His promises are eternal, and He’s got amazing discoveries ahead. Many blessings to you and to your loved ones!
    In Christ’s love,
    Cheryl

  7. I know I am being too simplistic but I would really like to see someone who has been blind or have some type of serious physical impairment to be healed instantly. Better yet, see a modern prophet raise someone from the dead. If the gifts of Acts continue then these should be expected.

  8. Alfonso Alvarez January 25, 2010 at 6:17 am

    A Charismatic Calvinist! Now there’s an oxymoron if you want one.

    But then again, who would have thought that cessationists would ever take a second look at the power of the Kingdom back in the 1980’s?

    The miracles of the Kingdom were documented to be continuing well into the 4th century, long after the last apostle died. And they continue to this day, specially to those whose worldview has not foreclosed on the possibilities of them happening.

    Remember, even the Lord Yeshua had a partial healing experience with the blind man who could only see shadows.

  9. I appreciate your care in this post and your honesty. I am a continuationist and have experienced a little of the miraculous. I have come to the conclusion that the gifts are still for today because I don’t have a reason from Scripture to believe otherwise. It seems to me that Scripture would have taken great care to prepare believers for the transition rather than leave us to infer it from personal experience and church history. But the sign gifts certainly don’t seem a fraction as normative as some of our more charismatic brothers claim.

    But, I will mention this. Brother, it is far more miraculous for you to endure through the struggles that you have than for a man to jump out of a wheelchair or for the dead to rise. Your experience of sustaining grace in the midst of intense suffering ranks pretty high as a sign-gift to me. I would rather see that kind of miracle than a thousand physical healings.

    May our God in Christ show you the riches of His love and mercy.

    1 Cor. 2:2,
    Clint

  10. Call me *simple* but I don’t understand the need for discussion of divisions and categories when all I’ve ever wanted and all I desire is to know Jesus.

    I know I’m oversimplifying things, but it just confuses me…this: intellectual pursuit for correct ideas and perceptions. Perhaps I’m misled in my understanding of what matters. Then again, perhaps not.

  11. As a Charismatic Protestant who converted to Charismatic Catholicism, I find it harder and harder to understand cessassionists. People have been having visions, dreams experienced healings, etc for the entire 2000 years of Christianity’s existence… in the Roman Catholic Church, the various Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Protestantism.

    Read St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul” and St. Teresa of Avila’s “The Interior Castle”. They were Christian mystics (don’t be thrown off by that term!!!) and the movement they were a part of predated Charismaticism by around 400 years. Not to mention the countless others who came before them…

    pax tecum,

    tim

  12. Michael — I realize this is an old post, but I just found it due to my current interest in J.P. Moreland.

    You wrote here:

    [QUOTE]
    I would, however, call upon fellow cessationists, especially hard cessationists, to consider continuationism from the “best of” and not create straw men by referring to the common abuses that are televised for all to see.
    [/QUOTE]

    It seems to me that this approach overlooks that the vast majority of so-called “charismatics” are nothing like the so-called “best-of,” and the so-called “best-of” do nothing (really less than nothing as they endorse the others often) to bring the majority to someplace better.

    Why should the cessationist overlook the vast ocean of abuses and the lack of any moderating from more-moderate influences? isn’t that actually the main point of contention between the two sides?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Overbevisende karismatik | Apologetik.dk - April 15, 2009

    […] til reformationens doktriner er forbi. C. Michael Patton fra Reclaimingthemind har skrevet en genial artikel om det. Selv er han en blød cessationist og mener altså at Åndens gaver ophørte med den sidste apostels […]

Leave a Reply