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Why I am Not Charismatic (Part 1)

I used to walk through Christian book stores and choose my books based on whether or not the author was a charismatic. I would pick up a commentary and turn immediately to 1 Cor. 12 (the section on spiritual gifts). If the author believed that the spiritual gifts were for today, I would put it back on the shelf in disbelief that the store would carry such misleading material. If they did not believe that the gifts were for today—if the author was a “cessationist”—I would consider purchasing the book.

Such was the time when I believed that all those who believed that all charismatics were practicing a different Christianity, at best, or demon possessed, at worst.

I am not a charismatic, and I have my reasons, but I do not feel the same way today as I used to. Let me first define the terms and set up the field of play.

The word “charismatic” can be used in many ways. It is taken from the word “charisma.” Websters Dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader).” Many would say that Barack Obama has charisma in such a way. Charisma is taken from the Greek charisma which means “gift.” Its root, charis, means “grace.”

In Christianity, “charismatic” refers to those who believe that certain “spiritual gifts” such as tongues, prophecy, and gifts of healings, are normative for the church. In the Scriptures, we are told that God gives certain gifts to everyone in the body of Christ. Representative gift lists are mentioned in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, 1 Pet. 4, and Eph. 4. Some of these gifts seem to be natural extensions of the recipients personality (leadership, teaching, encouragement) while others distinguish themselves by their extra-ordinary nature. A charismatic is one who believes that God still gifts people in the church with the extra-ordinary or supernatural gifts and that these gifts are normative in the body of Christ for the extension of God’s message, glory, and grace.

Charismatic is not a denomination, but a trans-denominational theological stance or tradition which can find representation in any denomination or tradition, including Evangelicalism. In fact, I think that the charismatic position (or some variation thereof) is the fastest growing tradition within Evangelicalism. 

A cessationist (taken from “cease”), one the other hand, is one who believes that the extra-ordinary gifts ceased in the first century, either at the completion of the New Testament or at the death of the last Apostle. Cessationists believe that the supernatural gifts such as tongues, prophecy, and healings were “sign gifts” that were given for the establishment of the church and then passed away due to a fulfillment of their purpose. They served as a supernatural “sign” from God that the Gospel message being proclaimed was unique and authoritative. Since the Gospel message has been proclaimed and established in the New Testament, cessationists believe that these type of gifts ceased due to an exhaustion of purpose. Therefore, with regards to the “gifts of the Spirit,” there are “permanent gifts” and there are “temporary gifts.”

What would a post be without a chart?


If you can see this (!), you will notice that certain “sign gifts” are revelatory while others are confirmatory. The revelatory gifts are those that reveal God’s message in some way. They are prophetic in nature. Not everyone would agree which gifts belong in this category. Some would not place “word of wisdom” or “word of knowledge” here and one’s placement of tongues will depend on how it is defined (prayer language? prophetic revelation in another language? Gospel proclamation in another language?). Either way, the catergory describes those gifts which involve a supernatural revelation from God. The “confirmatory gifts” are those which confirm or provide evidence for the revelatory gifts. In other words, someone cannot just claim to be speaking prophetically on behalf of God. Their message must be confirmed by some undeniable act of extraordinary power. Otherwise, anyone could claim to speak on behalf of God.

Of course the gift of healings have a benevolent purpose as the benefits of such gifts effect people in a wonderful way, but, according to most cessationists (and even some charismatics), the result that a person is healed is the secondary purpose. The primary purpose is the legitimize the message of the healer.

A very important points need to be made. (If you don’t get this, don’t ever bother engaging in this conversation.) Whether one is a charismatic or a cessationist, all Christians believe in God’s supernatural intervention. Only a deist would claim that God has a “hand-off” approach to history and our lives. It is not that the cessationist does not believe in healings or miracles, it is that they don’t believe in the gifts of healing, miracles, etc. being given to a certain people. Both charismatics and cessationists (should) pray for God’s supernatural intervention, can believe in stories of healings, and can expect God to direct their lives through some sort of divine guidance. In other words, just because someone prayed for healing and believes it happended, this does not make one a charismatic (properly speaking).

However, there does seem to be a higher level of expectation for divine intervention among charismatics than from cessationists. I am not saying whether this is good or bad. Expectation of the power of God can both motivate a Christian’s life or be a cause for great disillusionment. More on that later.

I will continue by giving some arguments for the Charismatic position and then we will see where this series goes.

Merry Christmas friends.

207 Responses to “Why I am Not Charismatic (Part 1)”

  1. Well, you definitely piqued my interest with this post. I started my undergrad career at Oral Roberts University and am finishing it at Criswell College, so I’ve gotten both sides of this debate for the past 4 and a half years.
    I would say I am a cessationist, but mainly out of the fear I have of some charismatics treating God like a soda machine because they have that “higher level of expectation” that God will do something.
    I’ve seen many times where someone in a charismatic church (ie. Church on the Move, Tulsa) has had something bad happen to them and a lot of church members then make them feel like they didn’t have enough belief in God or else weren’t planting a big enough seed (ie. Seed-Faith).
    It’s that increased expectation that turns me off a lot now. I worry about those who do have that expectation only to have their prayer (seemingly) go unanswered, while they continue to expect a miracle. What happens to their faith when that miracle that they expect doesn’t come?

  2. That God is not an impersonal & cosmic ATM which dispenses gifts and power to those who know the right “PIN”, I agree (this is the pagan concept of invocation which does not apply to our Heavenly Father).
    That God continues to intervene/minister in our lives, even in miraculous ways, I agree. Yahweh is not an absentee Father!
    In order to decide if a special dispensation of “gifts” has been superceded by Apostolic attrition or by the completion of the Bible, I would like to know how those gifts actually operated in the early church.
    Paul encouraged all to persue the gift of prophecy, meaning that those who can rightly interpret and apply God’s word are more helpful to the Church than those who pray in a special language for their own edification. My point is that the “utilitarian” gifts, such as prophecy, are just as needed today as they were back then, regardless of how great a foundation the Church has in our modern times. And besides, the Gospel is yet to be established in many places, including within the USA, so those at the vanguard of evangelization ought to seek the confirmatory gifts if they are to be found.
    Even so, the Holy Spirit still indwells Christians and He still leads us into correct understanding.

  3. C. Barton: Paul encouraged all to persue (sic) the gift of prophecy, meaning that those who can rightly interpret and apply God’s word are more helpful to the Church than those who pray in a special language for their own edification.

    Are you equating “prophecy” with the interpretation and application of Scripture? Is this what Paul meant by it in his discussion of “prophecy” and its practice “when you assemble”?

  4. Yes, in part; as Michael distinguishes “word of knowledge” as separate, I would posit that our modern use of the term, “Gift of Prophecy” should at least include the Spirit-led interpretation of scripture in its application to present times and circumstances, as well as its application to the future.
    The common use of the word “prophecy” to denote divination or seeing into the future is, I believe, too restrictive in the Biblical context.
    P.S.: Thanks for the spell-check!

  5. Matt, I am right there with you. I was firmly entrenched in the Charismatic movement, wholeheartedly embracing the doctrine, including the validity of modern day apostles and prophets. In fact, I had planned on writing in the very near future about my “conversion” experience to embrace the reformed, soft-cessationist position I now hold.

    What you write is an unfortunate occurrence in many places. I think embracing all the gifts as being normative for today creates a “more” mentality that is associated with true spirituality, a desire for more of what God would say through prophets and apostles, more revival, more supernatural occurrences. It’s a mentality that seeks for God’s movement through external circumstances rather than the inward transformation that Christ came to bring. I will probably draw heat for saying this but its as if folks are being lied to from leaders within the movement when they are told it is their divine right to walk in health and prosperity when the NT makes no such claims.

    Interestingly, I had to read Surprised by the Voice of God for my Intro to Theology class and have to do a methods paper in response to his claims.

  6. I appreciate this post

  7. C. Barton:

    I don’t view Paul’s use or understanding of “prophecy” as denoting “divination or seeing into the future,” but rather a spontaneous Spirit-inspired utterance, which may play out like a Psalm, or be a hymn or a song, or be an encouraging or edifying or consoling word/message from the Lord/Spirit/God. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a prophecy of things to come, but it seems that a lot what the OT prophets wrote is along the lines of warning or exhortation or consolation without necessarily being “predictive.” Or so I think. The key is “Spirit-inspired” and perhaps also “spontaneous.” I.e., I don’t think methodical study-acquired exposition of Scripture was what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 12-14, though that doesn’t discount the value of the study of Scripture in making one receptive to a nudge from the Spirit to speak forth something It prompts.

    (And my use of “It” for the Spirit is not because I think the Spirit is simply a force, but because the Greek pneuma is neuter, and just because the Father and the Son are “Hes” doesn’t mean the Spirit, too, is automatically or should be assumed to be a “He” – but were I to use “She” for the Spirit, that, too, might be genderizing It too much.)

  8. It has been my observation that both sides of this argument about the gifts of the Spirit has been sifted and strained ad infinatum. I’ve heard many convincing arguments from the hard cessationist camp in recent days. My son who’s own conversion is a miracle of just becoming a new creature has given me many convincing arguments why charismatics are completely wrong about the Scriptures. I believe that the few arguments I’ve told him are not easily breached but he tries. What he seems to lack is the experience of an event that transformed my own life. I cannot discount and then disregard what I personally experienced and dramatically transformed my own personal walk with Jesus because of a John MacArthur argument. Although seemingly convincing when examined purely from a logical standpoint it seems unconvincing due to the content being apart from what is supernatural in nature. To explain the ” baptism of the H.S.” as it is called in charismatic circles is like telling the farmer who never has seen a giraffe. When the farmer sees the giraffe he simply says it doesn’t exist because he’s never seen one before. Hard cessationists will discount any experience and emotion from an argument because they claim they argue from a higher plain of Scripture. I suppose anyone can do that if one has a total understanding of Scripture so I must defer to such superior knowledge.

    One thing that stands out about the two camps is that the charismatics are more likely to pray boldly and get answers from God based on their faith despite their glaring ignorance of proper exegesis of Scripture. Somehow that seems to comfort me when my own feelings of inferiority around the Scriptural giants eek out. I especially enjoy the pontification from those that know nothing about a supernatural experience they speak about with such gravity!

    I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s opinion here I just thought it might be a different point of view worth throwing into the mix.
    From an evangelical that loves Scripture but has some knowledge from an experential level on the subject.

  9. So Mr. Patton, what do you think about Dr. J.P.Moreland and Dr. Sam Storms? Just curious because these guys are Charismatic.

  10. I would place myself in a soft-charismatic position (because someone has to be there).

    I regard all the gifts of the spirit as being available to believers (those who place their trust/loyalty in Christ) but I do have my doubts about labeling people as “prophets” or “apostles”. I would probably have more confidence if prophets in the modern church offered the same level of authority/detail as offered by first testament prophets. Apostles seem to have been chosen/sent by Jesus specifically which makes a modern apostleship seem rather difficult to substantiate.

  11. They are both awesome!

  12. What about total cessationism? There are at least a few folks out there who subscribe to the idea that there are no spiritual gifts, sign or otherwise, in operation today. I have always thought that position made more theological sense than what is traditionally called “cessationism.”

  13. My recollection of John MacArthur’s The Charismatics and Charismatic Chaos was that he proof-texted comments by those he was criticizing/critiquing, and used quotes sometimes out of context to make unfair criticisms.

    As for his comment/claim in his Study Bible (borrowed from Spiros Zodhiates, I believe), that “tongues” (plural) and “tongue” (singular) indicate two different things in 1 Corinthians 12-14 — one (I forget which) was a true language and hence acceptable, and the other was simply gibberish (which I believe MacArthur equated with modern-day tongues-speaking) — I recall finding a couple verses in the Greek of those passages that undermined MacArthur’s “formula,” and when I posed a question about its validity at B-Greek, the posters there rejected MacArthur’s attempted distinction.

    So … what books by cessationists do you believe make the best case for cessationism?

  14. I’m not charismatic myself, but am cautiously open if it is dealt with in the right way.
    The main reason I am open is not because of any personal ‘spiritual gift’ experience, but rather because I increasingly find the cessationist arguments to be quite poorly grounded.

    Usually you have to buy into a specific premise (typically either a dispensational understanding of the church and the book of Acts, or the assumption that the purpose of sign gifts was to fill a certain role until the canon was completed, which is just that, an assumption, not something you can show anywhere Biblically) and so, if you do not buy into these different premises then the whole cessationist thing kind of falls apart.

    Now, I usually think that the way I sign gifts are used and the movements that focus on them are not really following what the Bible teaches on the issue either, so I have a lot of suspicions about their validity as well. All in all, both sides need to acknowledge the issue is not as cut and dried as they might like to believe.

  15. I do believe God can work miracles, and I really want to believe that there are “healers” today.

    However, I recently read a ministry website of a college student who use to be at my church and has now deemed himself a Pastor. This is what his website says (i have removed the name/location of the church for privacy reasons):

    “Pastor “Joe” will be preaching at the Church of God in “Church town”. All are invited to attend, it will be in the main chapel at 7:30pm. Pastor “Joe” has asked everyone to invite a non believer and if you or someone you know is sick come expecting a miracle. ”

    Then:

    “UPDATE! This night was a fruitful night, Pastor “Joe”preached on “What it means to have faith of a mustard seed”.God truly manifested Himself there, some of the results are: a Jewish man received Jesus as his Messiah and many people were healed of different sickness’ including Cancer. God is Great. Pastor “Joe” was invited to come back and he will in the future.”

    The last sentence of the first paragraph really rubs me the wrong way. However, in a certain sense aren’t we suppose to be confident that God will do things? Perhaps its due to my lack of faith and experience with such things, but I just feel something is terribly wrong with this.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    Your brother in Christ,

    -Josh

  16. Michael – great post today. Like a few above, during my church shopping adventures, I tried to remain open and visited reasonable charismatic churches, just to see if perhaps my view (same as yours) could be wrong.

    Your statement:
    “However, there does seem to be a higher level of expectation for divine intervention among charismatics than from cessationists. Expectation of the power of God can both motivate a Christian’s life or be a cause for great disillusionment……..”
    ……….is right on.

    The positive I found in reasonable charismatic churches is that people genuinely want to commune and fellowship with God. Their hearts are softer to God sometimes. But I found their expectations were founded on their own desires to achieve this. I also found they are more easily misled.

    You said: “I am not saying this is good or bad.” Michael, reasonable charismatic churches are fairly harmless. The extremes are not. My guess is that a lot of people don’t have a clue how an organization like IHOP (International House of Prayer) is sucking in our college students right this very minute. Prayer? They do more than prayer… (It would take me a book to give you the history of this aberrant organization.) When you start getting into the field of prophets, visions, etc…..a lot of people get hurt because leaders with charisma easily influence believers who want so badly to believe God is tangible and can be touched.

    So I agree with you on everything you have said except this one point: There is danger in the extremist camps of the charismatic world.

  17. From The Balcony:

    Re: IHOP – I/we lived in Kansas City, MO, when the “Kansas City Prophets” affair was getting headlines, and used to attend both Kansas City Fellowship (Mike Bickle, pastor (IHOP founder) – formerly South Kansas City Fellowship, and later Metro Vineyard Fellowship, and then Metro Christian Fellowship) and Full Faith Church of Love (Ernie Gruen, pastor, who accused KCF and Bickle & Co. in writing and on tape of being a “charismatic heresy”).

    Both churches were charismatic/non-denominational.

    Those were interesting times….

  18. I grew up in a liberal leaning (LL) non-charismatic (NC) Baptist church, then began cafefully avoiding God in my late teens, until I surrendered my life in an AOG church at 23. The passion of the AOG folks, which was new to me, was awesome. Plus they acted as if the power of God was actually real – also a novel concept. I soon began thinking all NC churches had “a form of Godliness” but were “denying the power thereof.” That church really helped me rebuild the spiritual foundation that somehow was actually built at the LL Baptist church.

    Then I moved and began attending a different AOG church. Those people could be described as charismaniacs. Made me question my (mis)understanding of NC and C churches.

    Fast forward 20 years. Today, I am not a cessationist, partly because I’m not aware of any convincing scriptural support for that position. But I am also very wary of what has been done and taught in charismatic circles. I am on staff at an NC church and have attended NC churches ever since that second AOG church. But I still think most NC folks are missing something – that expectation that God is going to work in dramatic ways. There was a passion and a reality of God’s power in that first AOG church that I cannot deny, and I sill miss it.

  19. Very interesting balanced approach to the subject Michael.
    I would say that I hold to the cessationists viewpoint here, as you described it. There is some trouble with denying God’s intervention in the world today. he tongues issues is always most prevalent to me, because of the Greek definition of what the term describes. Anytime I hear mutterings of gibberish I’m often turned off and feel pity for the individual for convincing themselves that they are actually muttering something intelligible.
    On the other hand I would never put past God to cause another to speak in a foreign language and communicate the gospel more clearly than the English language could convey. As long as the interpretation is valid and God is glorified I’d claim miraculous status for such an event.
    The biggest issue with Charismatics, at least the ones I know personally, is that they want to claim something [some special gift] that God has given only to them. I once had a person claiming to be a Prophetess in one of my studies. She claimed this because she sensed people’s heart [albeit a feat that almost all women have] and was able to speak a word from God to them that made them see clearer. By word of God I mean Scripture, of course. I’m not sure she ever saw that having the Holy Spirit imbibe you with a gift of Prophecy [in the truest sense of the word] does not necessarily make you a Prophet [as seer].
    Many Christian writers are fraught with warnings of Christians falling for such ideas that, while having gifts given to them, that they do not fall into the lies of satan that the gifts are to glorify themselves. This is most discerting today in most of the TV evangelists that are making amockery of God on the airwaves.
    Probably the best example of where the gifts come from and who is responsible for them is found in the book of Acts, when Peter seizes the moment to show the multitudes that the very Christ whom they sentenced to death on the cross, was the one responsible for all the miracles they were witnessing at that time. I think we all could re-visit that chapter and take note of Peter’s own discretion for pointing to Christ when gifts are shown.

    Great post!

  20. I am a soft-cessationist myself. When it comes to adding new scripture (Revelation) to the Bible my view could change more towards a hard-cessationist view.

    When it concerns spiritual gifts (I don’t have any) or healing, then I am a soft-cessationist. I couldn’t rule these things out entirely because I have seen and witnessed healings, but most of my experiences have been through prayer, not so much the laying of hands.

  21. If spiritual warfare has not ceased, why would charismatic giftings cease?

    Wouldn’t that be like leaving Satan and his demons unchallenged to freely wreak havok while disarming all God’s children of making some pretty interesting counter-moves? Is there a passage that deliniates a point in history where all God’s children are fully unarmed of any gifting?

  22. It’s not just J.P. Moreland and Sam Storms, there’s also CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace. There’s also New Frontiers with Terry Virgo based in the U.K. There’s also what is known as Grace Chuches. And also Mark Driscoll and Acts 29.

    From the testimonies I have read of people who use to be Charismatics but have turned to the Cessationists position it seems like most of them were in the “TBN” kind of charismatic churches where preaching and teaching was kind of shallow and where every sunday felt like a Pep Rally with no substance. For those who use to be in those kinds of churches what are your thoughts on such movements such as CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace or even Mark Driscoll and Acts 29? I wouldn’t even consider the health and wealth stuff charismatic. I think it’s just bad. As an evangelical charismatic or continuationist I loathe ‘charismaniac’ churches.

    Dave Z , I agree with your observation about ‘NC’ churches. If you miss charismatic churches why not plant a church? What about joining Acts 29 or Sovereign Grace? I personally love Sovereign Grace. They are both biblically strong as well as refreshingly charismatic. They are serious about both.

  23. Have y’all ever read Craig Keener’s recounting how he once listed for a skeptical teacher the nonrational experiences and healings, etc., that he had experienced or witnessed, which left the teacher with either having to reexamine his cessationist/rationalistic/Bultmannian/non-miraculous position, or call Keener a liar? I think it’s in his book Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today and/or his book 3 Crucial Questions About the Holy Spirit?

  24. This is Great! Thanks for this post!
    I have feelings about both sides of this debate. As it has been said that such gifts are not “normative” today, yet God can and does work miracles.
    Everyone is given different gifts in the service of the Kingdom – but we need to take careful consideration that we are not overly vain about what serves a higher purpose. All gifts are God-given. Yet, in these particular gifts of ‘Signs and Wonder’ we should see these as miracles, plain and simple. That is the danger within the Charismatic Movement that needs to be recognized. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus that we should expect such Apostolic gifts to accrue on our behalf due to our force of faith.

  25. To Learning, regarding a church plant:

    If I wasn’t fully convinced that I am serving exactly where God wants me to serve, I might. but who knows, perhaps he’ll lead that way someday.

  26. Matt,

    I would say I am a charismatic but mainly out of the fear I have of some cessationist treating God like a cheap soda machine because they have that “lower level of expectation” that God will do nothing. — Just kidding sorry, but I just had too. I hope you have a sense of humor. But I do believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still here for the church, and have not ceased.

    Matt & Lisa, I am sorry that you two have had an unfortunate experiences with the Charismatic movement.

    Lisa, I so disagree with this statement “It’s a mentality that seeks for God’s movement through external circumstances rather than the inward transformation that Christ came to bring” I know that is your experience and I am not saying that is not occurring, but that has not been my experience at all. I would say just the opposite has been my experience, that we are looking for that inward transformation. I just preached on this last night.

    I acknowledge that the health and wealth, name it and claim have done as disservice to the body of Christ, and given charismatics a bad reputation.

    It is sad to read the response of some of the folks here. I say that because one simply sees some extreme form of the Charismatic movement, and that is the whole basis on how we formulate our opinion? Is that fair? Is that the right approach? Sure those who participate in extreme measures deserve the criticism that they get. But is that reason enough to say the Charismatic movement is wrong? Or only seeking God through external circumstances? I am sorry but a blanket statement like that about charismatics just really bothers me.

    There is a valid move of the Spirit that is happening in churches, and in the lives of millions of people. Yes the gifts are manifesting. But any good theologically sound charismatic knows the difference. The charismatic Christians that I know don’t hold to any of the extremes that are mentioned here (at least the ones I associate with), and I bet I know a whole lot more of them then any of you here. They love God, and the only thing they are seeking is a relationship which the Logos, the Son of God who paid a high price that we should be so blessed to be able to commune with Him. All I want is to know Him, and to be transformed into His image. Most Charismatics that I know, that is all they want as well. As most non-Charismatics that I know.

    I think you all would benefit from reading Gordon Fee’s excellent work “God’s Empowering Presence – The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul” it’s published by Hendrickson. No one would argue that he is not a sound theologian, nor a Greek scholar. He makes a strong exegetical presentation.

    I could equally give you a number of reasons why I am not a Calvinist and how they have hurt me personally through out the years, and say that that this is why I am not a Calvinist. And say things like “all Calvinist care about is being right, even if they are wrong, and are not seeking an inward transformation that Christ came to bring.”

    But instead I take the high road, and realize that I may be wrong. And I appreciate their devotion to the scriptures. I realize that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are God’s adopted children, and like it or not we are family. I read this blog because I know for a fact that Michael is my brother in the Lord. I know for a fact that as this blog will continue to evolve he will give sound reasons why he has not fully embraced the charismata. And not some emotionally charged accusations. And I doubt he is deterred because of the extremes that have been done. He is just way to smart to allow the crazies to influnce his judgment.

    Michael, really looking forward to read the continuation of this blog.

  27. I’ll be interested to read this series. I’ve been working through these issues myself–in part because I’m a member of a somewhat-charismatic church, trying to exercise discernment. And a number of my own blog entries lately have been related to the subject. (I’m about to post something on tongues.)

    One comment: Your definition of “charismatic” can be a bit tricky.

    A charismatic is one who believes that God still gifts people in the church with the extra-ordinary or supernatural gifts and that these gifts are normative in the body of Christ for the extension of God’s message, glory, and grace. [bold added]

    That phrase “normative in the church” can be tricky. Depending on how you parse that, it might be a fair way to define charismatic… or it might not.

    It cannot mean, “Normative for every believer to practice”. (Some in the Pentecostal wing may believe that everyone should speak in tongues, but it’s not a dominant view in the entire charismatic world.)

    It can mean, “We should desire and pray for tongues, prophecies, healings, and miracles to be given in the church.” But that can be balanced by a healthy appreciation for God’s sovereignty in the distribution of gifts.

    But keep in mind: The way many charismatics define “gift of healing” or “gift of miracles”, it means something like, “God often responds to prayer for healing when this person prays.” But a cessationist can agree pretty closely with that idea. So… It becomes unclear what’s meant by, “normative in the church”.

  28. I appreciate the post, but I’m not convinced you’re justified in arbitrarily designating some gifts as supernatural/revelatory and others as (presumably) natural. That’s partly why I’m neither a cessationist nor a charismatic

  29. As my blog details, I was raised charismatic, but for the last decade have been slowly sliding away, first towards Michael’s current position but more recently more towards his old, more hard-line position.

    I mean that, while for many years I began to question many aspects of the charismatic/Pentecostal movement, I held out hope that something about the movement was right and that I, in my unique situation, had just not been privileged enough to see it. As I gradually grew more confident in cessationism, I simultaneously observed that the charismatic movement logically and seemingly inevitably proceeds toward error in its vision on how the church is supposed to operate.

    Now, I’m not going to say by any means that it’s the “doctrine of demons”, “another gospel”, or any such thing; keep in mind also that I am not painting all individuals who consider themselves charismatic to suffer these shortcomings. But my increasing conviction is that those who do not have a biblical rationale for questioning certain core aspects of charismatic teaching will not be able to argue with the movement that turns Christianity in practice into something almost unrecognizable. A significant segment of the charismatic movement views the church’s role as an altogether different animal than does the cessationist — and what’s worse, unlike “soft cessationists”, they do so with the full weight of biblical authority. Here’s a few examples.

    1) Physical healing is provided for in the atonement.
    They typically use Isaiah 53’s “by his stripes we are healed” to justify this. Even some charismatics wouldn’t agree, but among those who do agree, its implications are tremendous: although most adherents to this teaching are seldom pushed this far, if it’s true then every person “atoned for” (every Christian) should be healed. Those who aren’t healed…well, makes you question whether they were atoned for, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it? The larger implication is that divine healing, since it’s so rare, should be sought as a fruit of our atonement; no wonder, then, that it’s such a focus among most charismatics!

    2) Spiritual warfare is the backdrop upon which our lives are overlaid.
    Okay, this sounds dramatic. But it’s not far from the truth. Had a bad week? Satan’s been out to get you. Feeling depressed? You’re not depressed, you’re demon-oppressed. Holding a grudge? Rebuke that “spirit of unforgiveness”. Even conditions diagnosed by medical authorities such as bipolar disorder likely have a spiritual root that can be addressed in lieu of or (fortunately, but inconsistently) alongside medical treatment. The result is that we live in a world of magic that bears an uncommon resemblance to the beliefs of the superstitious populace in the late Middle Ages.

    But is it Scriptural? Sure! If you read the Gospels and Acts as depictions of status quo for the church, one can easily see why overt demonic activity and frequent angelic visits should be expected. Here again: without a Scriptural principle precluding this, it’s the cessationists who are inconsistent.

    3) The gospel proclaimed correctly will be accompanied by signs and wonders as confirmation.
    Here’s where we get real problems, and where my home church is making its bed to lie in. If signs and wonders accompany those who believe as we see in Acts and, as Paul and the author of Hebrews agreed, they existed to confirm divine authority and the truthfulness of the gospel, and if the Bible doesn’t explicitly nail down a date in which those things ended, and since (they argue) these things still happen today at charismatic revivals, then the clear testimony of Scripture seems to preclude any reading that denies the centrality of these events to our evangelism. Reading Acts or 1 Corinthians 12-14 as a textbook for the modern church’s experience would indict semi-charismatics as compromisers!

    There are great Scriptural reasons to believe that these three points are misunderstandings (many of which I have addressed on my blog). I just don’t think the middle ground between them and cessationism is very stable. I would certainly rather someone question parts of charismatic doctrine than to believe all of it, so I definitely would prefer the “soft” charismatic position over full-blown charismania. But if I haven’t stated it clearly enough before, let me say it again:

    The Christian life as defined strictly by pursuing personal holiness and engaging in efforts enabled by the Spirit, bearing witness to unbelievers by a sanctified life and words of testimony, depending wholly on the teachings of Scripture and the encouragement of believers to adequately instruct on all matters of “life and godliness” — all of this done with charisms à la carte…? How consistent is this with the biblical record? I think both the “hard” charismatics and the cessationists have a more cohesive argument from Scripture.

    A consistent charismatic view will see the Christian life as characterized by performing signs and wonders to convert the lost and act as enables of the atonement by healing believers; God communicates with His Church through prophetic messages, dreams, visions, and angelic visits — the first-century church did this stuff, so why shouldn’t we? Why would any Christian want to miss out on what God’s doing in order to maintain their dead tradition or their respectability?

    I hope I don’t sound too bombastic. This is painful stuff to me, as I stay “in the closet” about this stuff among many loved ones who are caught up in the “hard” charismatic view. More than anything else, I want to know on what grounds someone can be a part-way charismatic and consistently disavow the problematic beliefs I mentioned.

    ~RD

  30. Quick comment regarding comment #9 by Chris D.:

    So Mr. Patton, what do you think about Dr. J.P.Moreland and Dr. Sam Storms? Just curious because these guys are Charismatic.

    I’ve fairly certain I’ve heard Dr. Moreland explicitly state that he is not Charismatic. I believe it was during an interview about his Kingdom Triangle book, which I downloaded from his book website.

    I’m not sure about all the distinctions, but he calls himself a Third Wave person…

  31. Hey, EricW:
    I agree that your refinement of the definition speaks truly about how the Spirit can manifest. If by “spontaneous” you mean without human premeditation, then that is a primary basis for evidence, in that many of us have been moved in mind and spirit to share what the Holy Spirit is saying, doing, etc. This is experiential, yet it is confirmed by the Scriptures (Micah, Malachi, Isaiah, Gospel of John, etc.). As for the Mother/Father God, Jesus used the paternal pronouns, so there is weight to the argument in calling God our Father.
    Let us not forget that Jesus pronounced the “teleos” on the cross, and at the last supper Jesus declared the New Covenant in His blood.
    He is our perfection; not the Written Bible.

  32. C. Barton:

    I have no problem with calling God “Father,” nor did I infer otherwise; my comment was about genderizing the Holy Spirit as either a “He” or a “She.” I guess a case could be made that since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and God is a He (and in one instance the Spirit seems to be called the Spirit of Jesus, who is also a He), one could say that the Spirit is also a He. But no one in the New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as a “He,” and the instances in GJohn where a masculine pronoun is used to refer to the Holy Spirit can be shown to have, or likely have, the masculine paraklêtos as the antecedent, not the neuter pneuma. When Paul compares a man’s/person’s spirit with God’s Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2:11, he doesn’t genderize the human spirit as a “he” or a “she,” either.

  33. I appreciate the thoughtful input of the posters here. I believe the bottom line for all of us is simply this: God is sovereign and He has commanded that we love one another .
    I became a tongue-talking charismatic early in my Christian walk when I read David Wilkerson’s “The Cross and the Switchblade” and earnestly asked the Lord if the baptism described in that book was real. At the time, I did not know anyone else who spoke in tongues and it was not until some months later that I discovered a charismatic group practically under my nose and had my first contact with other “tongue-talkers”. (This was in downstate Illinois in the late ’70s). I had virtually no charismatic fellowship for the first 6 months following my experience even though I was actively involved in a denominational church. I knew that to tell my experience to the elders would likely brand me a nut case and having recently been saved from a life of public, heavy-duty sin I had no desire to reopen scrutiny of my sanity. I was so ignorant of the whole matter that I did not realize that the big AOG church a block down the street specialized in that sort of thing.

    In any case, I have no quarrel with non-charismatics although I would gently suggest that one might consider that if God has, in fact, imparted special gifts for His bride in a member of the body it might behoove that member to be submissive and obedient to His calling. Just a thought.

    Finally, with regard to the “word faith” teaching, it seems doubtful that such doctrine is, strictly speaking, a part of any biblical gospel, charismatic or not. It seems more fitting to categorize it as a species of what Paul referred to as “another gospel”. The reason is that “word faith” is founded in large part on presumption rather than faith. When spokesmen for that school can boast “I have faith in my faith” as a grounds for a relationship with the Creator, then we are no longer dealing with orthodox Christian faith but rather a gnostic counterfeit. We must pray that God will open their eyes to the incomprehensibly glorious fact of His great love and mercy.

  34. Having been a charismatic I can still speak in tongues, but later I left the Christian fold. I know others who can still speak in tongues yet who have left the fold.

  35. Tobias:

    It may depend on the precise definition that you give to “charismatic”, but “Third Wave” is typically seen as a part of the charismatic movement, not distinct from it.

    Basically, if “charismatic”==”continuationist”, then Third Wave are definitely charismatic.

    I believe the major difference is that Third Wave charismatics do not believe that “baptism of the Spirit” is separate from conversion.

    Sam Storms is also Third Wave. And if you call John Piper and Wayne Grudem charismatic–they believe in modern fallible prophecy and (I think) in the continued gift of tongues–then they would be Third Wave.

  36. C Michael Patton December 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I imagine anyone can speak in tongues the way you are talking about it Ed. The question that this begs would be are the tongues you speak in the same tongues that are represented in the NT and those who are following this pattern today.

    There are many non-Christian religions that speak in tongues, but would not be the “gift of tongues.”

    BTW: I can write in tongues.

  37. RD: I have a bit of a problem with your #3.

    If signs and wonders accompany those who believe as we see in Acts and, as Paul and the author of Hebrews agreed, they existed to confirm divine authority and the truthfulness of the gospel

    Charismatics don’t necessarily quite agree with both. I would correct that to:

    If signs and wonders may accompany those who believe as we see in Acts and, as Paul and the author of Hebrews agreed, they existed in part to confirm divine authority and the truthfulness of the gospel

    1.) A charismatic doesn’t have to read Acts as teaching that all those who believe will be accompanied by signs and wonders, or that all evangelism will include it. I know that some do see signs as central to evangelism, but I don’t know why you would say that a consistent charismatic must.
    2.) As far as I know, charismatics typically reject the idea that signs exist solely (or maybe even primarily) in order to attest.

  38. Kyrie, you said

    “If spiritual warfare has not ceased, why would charismatic giftings cease?

    Wouldn’t that be like leaving Satan and his demons unchallenged to freely wreak havok while disarming all God’s children of making some pretty interesting counter-moves? Is there a passage that deliniates a point in history where all God’s children are fully unarmed of any gifting?”

    Spiritual gifts are not for warfare, they are for service in the body of Christ (I Peter 4:10; I Cor 12; Romans 12:3-16). There is no place in the NT that indicates gifts are for spiritual warfare but we do have Eph 6:13-18 as the prescription for warfare, which is to stand and put on the full armor of God.

  39. I do understand giftings might not be for warfare per se. May I repose the question this way:

    If the demonic warefare “spiritual phenomenon” hasn’t ceased, why would one suppose the gifting “spiritual phenomenon” has ceased.

    It seems devoted saints would be refused access to an “ability” while the mean advesary keeps access to his “ability” in full distructive force.

  40. Good post. I look forward to more. Without trying to rehash previous posters I would like to share my “perspective”. As a missionary I always found it interesting that charismatics were attending language school with me and some even failed. Now I am aware that they wouldn’t ascribe the gift of tongues to learning a foreign language, but it was interesting that in churches on Sunday they would speak in tongues but a native speaker had to interpret waht god said into the Thai language. Secondly, I found it interesting when teaching people with no understanding at all of the Scriptures (I am a missionary in Thailand), not one person who was saved ever spontaneously started speaking in tongues as many charismatics would expect. To the best of my knowledge, the subject (either for or against) never came up while I was teaching them from a creation to Christ approach (which does emphasize miracles in the Old testament and the miracles of Christ). Does this “prove” anything? no not at all. Scripture is our final authority. but as a cessaionist it is exactly what I would expect to see. Lastly, I have never met a Thai Christian (either charismatic or otherwise) who spoke in tongues until the subject was introduced to them. Interesting…. keep up the good work.

  41. Kyrie, you are still insisting that gifts have to do with spiritual warfare and I am saying they do not. No doubt, we do have a very real enemy and Scripture tells us that he walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But if you have believed in Christ, the Spirit dwells within you and you are His. Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world. We are not taught anywhere in the NT to fight the enemy. We are told to resist him and to stand. The battle is the Lord’s

    Even if you do believe that all the sign gifts are for today, the purpose would be for edification of the body. In the early church, the gifts were for this purpose and so people would believe in Christ. The gifts point to Christ then and now.

  42. Eric
    I lived there during that era also :) Very, very interesting to say the least. The problem is, he has reinvented himself and tried to make his “ministry” look legit….so much so that he has partnered with many other ministries, the lateset of which is YWAM…..college kids need to have discernment where Bickle is concerned, I’m sure you would agree…..

  43. Michael Patton said “BTW: I can write in tongues.”

    BTW: I can interpret what you write in tongues ;-)

  44. Robert (#26),

    I guess my comment did lend to an interpretation that I am no longer a Charismatic because of experiences I encountered within the movement. Actually, experience had nothing to do with it, although after I moved away from it, I did reflect on the experiences in a serious way. My shift had everything to do with how I was reading my Bible. For years, I read the Bible in a very fragmentary way and did what so many people do and build a doctrinal normalcy out of the book of Acts and I Cor 14 that equated spirit-filled living with tongues and other sign gifts. It did seem reasonable that that is what we should be doing, and primarily because there were some significant distinctions concerning the New Covenant that I was not considering.

    Once I learned about reading in context and the correlation of Scripture in relationship to God’s overall redemptive plan for mankind, I began to see things a little differently with respect to the purpose and necessity of the gifts and what they actually were. I could go into a long diatribe about context and hermeneutics, but the main thrust is that I was actually misreading alot. I do not believe that apostles and prophets exist today or that in 21st century civiliation, we need God’s revelatory Word communicated to us via tongues, interpretations or prophecy. However, the gift of tongues might certainly be useful in remote parts of the world.

    I do agree that there are many scholarly and theologically sound folks out there that embrace the full continuation of gifts and do distinguish them from the extremes. But I can’t help but think that the extremes are really the logical next step for embracing a full continuation and the existence of modern day prophets and apostles.

    I appreciate your concern that cessationism could thrwart a full movement of God and perhaps hinder what He wants to do. But I contend that the Spirit of the living God indwelt within us ought to cause fresh and infectious revival on a daily basis. The key is not seeking after more of God through the sign gifts but allowing Him to have more of us. We yield to that and we oughta see God move in some pretty wonderous and magnificent ways.

  45. C Michael Patton December 12, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Lisa, may your tribe increase 100 fold. Not necessarily because of where you stand on this issue, but because your testimony is still filled with grace without the normal bitterness and disrespect that so often accompanies those who have left a movement. Thank you!

  46. Lisa, I really appreciate that. Thanks for taking the time to add some clarity to your remarks.

    I know that we disagree on scriptural grounds, but I must confess that my experience in the charismatic movement has been excellent. Of course one does not hear much about these because which theological jockey wants to discuss charismatics that are not extreme? It would be kind of boring? Do you think that Hank Hanegraaff would? Guys like him have done just as much harm to the Charismatic movement as have the extreme Charismatic looney tunes.

    I have been a charismatic for nearly 30 years, and I agree whole heartily with your statement “I contend that the Spirit of the living God indwelt within us ought to cause fresh and infectious revival on a daily basis. The key is not seeking after more of God through the sign gifts but allowing Him to have more of us. We yield to that and we ought to see God move in some pretty wondrous and magnificent ways.”

    I don’t believe that there are apostles today either, at least not any such as the twelve, plus Paul. I do think that a pastor can have apostolic ministry, but that is not the at all the same thing. As far as I understand prophecy it’s main purpose is to edify, build up the body of Christ.

    1 Thess 5:19-22 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful. TNIV

    That sounds like good advise to me. Honestly, I really appreciate your testimony, and as a second witness I also declare “may your tribe increase 100 fold” ;-)

  47. Hey Michael, look forward to your thoughts. (We miss you over at Theologica.) :)

    You stated – ‘In Christianity, “charismatic” refers to those who believe that certain “spiritual gifts” such as tongues, prophecy, and gifts of healings, are normative for the church.’

    Just to clarify, from my perspective, on the word ‘normative’. A more level-headed ‘charismatic’ believer would most likely not hold that every Christian should walk in the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Cor 12 in each and every moment. But, considering that there are a billion or more Christian in the earth today, it is normative that such things take place on a regular basis (on a daily basis) because the body of Christ is worldwide and filled with so many, many people indwelt and empowered by the Spirit. I just expect it in the advancing of God’s kingdom and the Spirit’s use of the billion or so saints spread across earth.

  48. From the Balcony:

    I had an experience of cognitive dissonance with my charismatic experiences when I realized that most “interpretations” of tongues were off-base. I.e., as I read the Scriptures, it became quite apparent to me one day from 1 Corinthians 12-14 that most “tongues” messages are, or are to be, prayers or praises to God, whereas “prophecies” are words from God to us. Yet the vast majority, if not almost every instance, of my experiences of someone “interpreting” a “tongues” message (whether the tongue-speaker or, more often, someone else who “received” the “interpretation”) was that the “interpretation” was from God to us – e.g., “My children, whom I have called by My name,” etc.; “The Lord would say to His people,” etc.; “Thus says the Lord who reigns on high,” etc., etc. This immediately called into question the legitimacy of the so-called “interpretation,” and hence the spiritual legitimacy of the “interpreter” (often one of the “leaders” of the church, at least in one church we were in).

    I even wrote Gordon Fee an email about this, because I think it was related to something I read in one of his books that caused me to relook at 1 Corinthians this way, and he responded something about how maybe God allows for our weaknesses and imperfections in this area. That didn’t really assure me.

  49. (continued) On the other hand, I have some friends whose integrity I do not question, whose lives and experiences validate the non-cessationist position. Plus, I find the cessationist argument to be weaker than the non-cessationist one from a Scriptural point of view, so even though my personal and church life is largely non-charismatic, in my theology I still lean that way, though not in its extreme forms. Interestingly, a survey last year or so written about in Christianity Today, I think, found that while many, many Christians consider themselves to be charismatic(s), they do not consider speaking in tongues, or believing that everyone should or can speak in tongues, a requirement to be charismatic. This is different from the charismatic Christianity I grew up with in the late 1970s and 1980s – e.g., The Holy Spirit and You (Bennett) and They Speak With Other Tongues (Sherrill), Face Up With A Miracle (Basham), as well as Derek Prince, etc.

  50. To clarify/expand:

    I was skimming through PAUL, THE SPIRIT, AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD by Gordon D. Fee (Hendrickson 1996), not in any particular order nor for any particular purpose. When I read these words [about speaking in tongues]: “It is speech directed basically toward God” (p. 169) I suddenly stopped. Not because this was a new revelation to me — I had always known that speaking in tongues was speaking in the spirit to God. I stopped suddenly because I had the thought: “If speaking in tongues is speech directed basically toward God, then an interpretation of a message in tongues should also consist of speech directed basically toward God.”… I later read (same book) this comment by Fee: “Prayer (and praise), therefore, seems the best way to view Paul’s understanding of glossolalia [speaking in tongues]. At no point in 1 Corinthians 14 does Paul suggest that tongues is speech directed toward people.” (p. 148) Fee endnotes these statements with the remark: “See further the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:5 in GOD’S EMPOWERING PRESENCE, where I argue that the interpretation of a tongue does not thereby turn it into human-directed speech, but interprets the mystery spoken to God referred to in 14:2.” (p. 151)

    I sent a copy of my comments and questions about tongues and interpretation to Gordon Fee and received a response that basically said that from being in many situations where the “interpretation” did speak very directly to the needs of the church, his opinion was that: a) we may be experiencing a combination of a message in tongues followed by a prophetic word, rather than an “interpretation”; b) God may be accommodating himself to our weaknesses at this point; c) the New Testament may not address this issue; or d) a little bit of all the above.

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