Archive | Charismatic

Do Charismatics Deny Sola Scriptura Due to their View of Prophecy?


While I am not a charismatic, I am around them all the time. In fact, I think that I have more charismatics that work for me than non-charismatics. It’s quite a bit of fun. While I ban the “power of the Spirit” being manifest in speaking in tongues during work hours at the Credo House, I certainly don’t ban the power of the Spirit in anyone’s personal life. Everyone is free to believe whatever they are led to believe in this area here at Credo. We are very open and encouraging of this type of diversity. It has only gotten weird a couple of times. (Maybe I will write about that someday!)

I often tell people that I am the most want-to-be-charismatic non-charismatic they will ever meet. I long for the gifts of the Spirit to be manifested in such a way. To see people healed of serious ailments would be a taste of heaven. But more than anything else, I desire prophecy. I want to hear from God in such a way. I want God to speak directly to my situations. I would love to experience this type of communion with God. It would be so encouraging.

The other day (not at Credo), I had someone chase me down and prophesy over me. I was so excited when they approached. I think it was a husband/wife team. They said that when they saw me, they had a vision from God. It was a vision of me writing checks. “We saw you writing check after check.” I almost thought they had it right (considering how many bills I have to pay!), but they were talking about something else. They saw me giving money all the time to people in need. They talked about how generous I was. Now, as much as I would like to make such a claim, I certainly don’t have anything that would stand out in that area. Normally, my only version of giving significantly is taking a pay cut so Credo can move forward! Then they said that they saw the nations all around me in the form of various people groups, especially those with different languages, I was influencing. Again, they did not have the right person. Yes, this ministry is international, but their description of the type of influence I was having was much different. In the end, I was very deflated. Whatever visions they had of my identity, they either had the wrong person or the wrong spirit talking to them. It was not God talking to me.

As this encounter ended, I found myself attempting to assess my thinking about such things. I was kind to them and, right to wrong, I did not rain on their prophecy by saying they were incorrect in their visions. I just thanked them for their kindness and went my way. But I wondered about their “prophetic” gift and about my view of prophecy in general. In essence, I began to relate this, once again, to my Protestant heritage. Here are some of my thoughts: If charismatics have prophets who can directly speak God’s word, doesn’t this deny the Protestant principle sola Scriptura? If the Bible is the only infallible source of revelation, there cannot be prophets who speak on behalf of God, since their prophecy would also be infallible. If the Bible alone is the ultimate source of revelation, how can there be people today who receive “words from the Lord” which would be, by definition, another ultimate source. After all, God’s word is God’s word. One cannot be truly prophetic, and thus, contingently God’s word, while the other is the true standard. That would make the former simply a matter of opinion. It is either God’s prophetic word, whether written or spoken, or it is not.

Therefore, it is my contention that Charismatics are not truly Protestant as they deny one of the two central doctrines of the Protestant movement, sola Scriptura (the other being sola fide). In fact, they have fallen into the same trap that the old Papists have in the past. They have an authority alongside the Bible that is equal to the Scripture in the Christian life. Continue Reading →

A Theology of Acquiescence

acquiescenceOne of my best friends and I agree we’re going to work out together at the gym. We get all excited about the possibilities related to this new strategic partnership. First, we’ll be able to hang out together on a consistent basis. We are both married with kids so it is increasingly more difficult to have consistent “guy time.”

Second, since we are both believers in Jesus we will be able to sharpen each other spiritually as we talk about the Lord in between reps. We will also have opportunities to minister together as we are able to share the hope within us to the other gym rats.

Third, our wives will give us that look as we turn into lean mean fighting machines. Enough said on that point.

Fourth, our children will be happier as we have more energy for them. Our energetic healthy bodies will engage our kids instead of handing them an iPad and sending them away.

I could go on and on dreaming up all the benefits resulting from me and my buddy working out together. But this is just an illustration so let’s not get carried away. So my buddy and I now start talking about the details of our workouts. We’ll definitely hit the weights. Bench Press. Lat Pulldowns. Curls. Yes, we are both getting excited. We both enjoy running so we’ll spend some time every week doing laps on the indoor track. That’ll be great.

Then my buddy opens his mouth and says the worst thing, “Oh, I love swimming. We gotta spend some time busting out laps at the pool.” Dang. He had no idea but I hate swimming. I know how to swim. I like to swim outside on a hot summer day but not laps at a gym. That’s not my thing. Here we were so excited to work out together. We agreed on pretty much everything but now he wants to swim and that’s not my thing.

How do we move forward? This is just one part of our workout strategy. He loves to swim and would like to make it part of our plan. I want to leave it out. What if I offered a solution saying, “Let’s compromise, let’s not swim.” Would that really be a compromise? Of course not, I’d be getting my way. It wouldn’t be a gracious move. The situation is of a nature where I automatically win and get my way if any solution involves us not swimming.
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Let this Strange Firestorm be a Lesson

Controversy is like a social hemorrhoid that will flare up on a regular basis & need to be cooled and soothed (I almost used the term strange anal fire but I thought better of it).  Some controversies are uglier than others. The worst kind of ugly controversy is the kind that might have been avoided because it wasn’t entirely necessary. Usually the culprit is misunderstanding, failure to define terms, or generally sloppy reactionism. When the internet was set ablaze with the anointing flame of controversy last week over the “Strange Fire” Conference in So-Cal, I had to wonder if this had the makings of one of those misunderstandings and failures to make responsible distinctions.

And in large measure I fear that this was just the case. As the smoke from the temple clears, I think there is a lesson to learn from this. The controversy was not just a quiet charismatic-cessationist stare-down. It was at times noisy and contentious. Names were dropped, reputations put on the line, and personal feelings bruised. Unfortunately there will likely remain some rifts between prominent persons and between prominent churches over the affair. And it may have been avoidable.

The biblical and theological debate about the gifts aside, wisdom demands something from us when it comes to a big public cyber-spat like this one. In this case I humbly submit that discernment requires distinctions. Some distinctions were not made that should have been made. Going forward, here are three things that must be clarified and made distinct on this subject.


1. The meaning of “charismatic”

Quick word association: I say “charismatic” you say …

Maybe you think of Robert Tilton with eyes shut tightly and hand raised, asking viewers who need a financial miracle to place their hands on their TV screens. Is that what we mean by that word? For some people it’s anyone who ever lifted a hand during worship. Maybe it’s belief in Holy Spirit baptism (aka “Second Blessing”). Or is it merely non-cessationism?

One thing is for sure, you’d better make clear the meaning you have in mind, and if you’re debating someone about it, you’d better agree between the two of you what precisely you both mean when you use the term. It has been painfully obvious to me in the brief eruption of attention on this issue that people are using the term differently. Some of them mean merely those whose theological position is not cessationism. Others seem to mean Todd Bentley, Kenneth Copeland, and people spending hours “Holy Ghost glued” to the floor.

Often usage determines meaning, and common or shared usage of a word can alter how we perceive it. Since this word is biblical, it seems most appropriate to recapture, as best we can, its early etymology as at least a starting place for defining it properly. As first year Greek students learn and as footnotes in your Bible may tell you, the word is essentially the word “grace” (“charis”) used in such a way (charisma or charismata) as to denote gracious acts or gifts. The specific use of the word to describe spiritual gifts (mostly in I Cor. 12 and Eph. 4) – and particularly the more extraordinary and supernatural gifts, like miracles, healings, tongues, prophetic words – is responsible for it being used to describe Christians who emphasize those kinds of supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

So far so good, but this still doesn’t help me know whether or not I should use the word only to describe those who believe that the supernatural gifts did not cease (as opposed to “cessationists” who believe that those gifts were for the messianic and apostolic eras and not normative for the church all-time), or whether I should use the word to include things like the prosperity movement, the strange semi-Eastern doctrines about how your words create spiritual realities (the so-called “Word of Faith” movement), and the outlandish “outpourings” that have people spending hours gyrating, fainting, laughing then growling, freezing and seizing.

Like many people, I have seen both the good and the utterly bizarre under this umbrella of “charismatic.” I have attended churches and have known ministers (even in my own family) who are charismatic by identification, of whom I would never say the sorts of things I say about certain televangelists. I’ve met old-school Southern Baptists overseas serving as missionaries who, though they were raised in a non-charismatic church setting, are convinced of supernatural spiritual activity based upon years of experience.

Then again, I’ve attended a charismatic service where the so-called preacher reads one verse from Isaiah (31:4 in case you need an idea for Sunday) about how God speaks as a “roaring lion” and then proceeds to lead the congregation in 45 minutes of “roaring in the Spirit.” A simplistic approach won’t do. There are charismatic Roman Catholics whose language and church life bears little resemblance to what you would find at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church (as it used to be called). When debates on cessationism broke out in the seminary classes I attended long ago, the mostly Southern Baptist students were very much split on the issue.

It may well be that we cannot presume to know what another person hears in the word “charismatic”, which means that we have to make the minimal effort of finding out and negotiating a definition that we can all understand. Even if I and an opponent agree to define the word differently, each of us will at least know what the other person is meaning when he or she uses the word.

2. “Charismatic” vs. the Prosperity and/or Word-Faith & Otherwise Whack-job Televangelists

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What Does it Mean to Be Charismatic?

Many within evangelical circles seem to have failed to recognize how influential and growing the charismatic movement is these days among the most theologically astute. By “theologically astute,” I mean that this new breed of charismatics is thoroughly evangelical, orthodox, and Christ-centered. They hold Scripture as the final authority and do not allow the controversial gifts such as tongues, healings, and prophecy to steal their focus. When these gifts are practiced, they are done so with order and intentionality – or not at all.  I call this the “fourth wave” of charismatics and not only are these charismatics biblically and theologically driven, a large portion of them are Reformed Calvinists. Agree with them or not, all one has to do is look at the Acts 29 Network – a transdenominational, church-planting network – and see what an impact they are having.

Though I am not charismatic, I am excited about the popularity of this “fourth wave.” Why? Because they have brought so much balance. They have caused many of us (who formerly wrote off all charismatics as Christianity’s “nut jobs”) to seriously consider, for the first time, the continuationist theology and biblical exegesis that provide the backbone to the movement. Credit pastors like John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Sam Storms, along with scholars such as J.P. Moreland, Craig Keener, Wayne Grudem, and D.A. Carson for so much of this. And, like it or not, most of these men are far more well-known and popular than the fading “cessationists” (non-charismatics) who went before them (Chuck Swindoll, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Hank Hanegraaff, etc.), especially among the younger generation of evangelicals. It is hard to ignore such a growing movement within evangelicalism. It seems now that just about every scholar I talk to is either a continuationist or a wannabe continuationist. Hardly ever do I connect with those who find the old-line cessationists’ arguments persuasive anymore (just in the last few months I have talked to Gary Habermas, Craig Blomberg, Mike Licona, and Paul Copan, who all shared the same thoughts). And Dan Wallace, while not a continuationist, has not been silent about his beliefs that cessationists’ arguments can and have led to bad places. Things have indeed changed.

Nevertheless, it is still difficult to know who is and who is not a charismatic due to the fact that most of us don’t know what the term means. We use words like cessationism, continuationism, and charismatic. When I associate the term “charismatic” with Christians, six primary things come to mind. Any or all of these could be present in my thinking:

1. Unusual attention given to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer

2. The tendency to seek and expect miraculous healings

3. The tendency to seek and expect direct prophetic communication from God (dreams, visions, experiences, personal encounters, etc.)

4. Unusual attention given to the presence of demonic activity in the world

5. Very  expressive worship

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit Continue Reading →

Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice


It is awfully hard to write a blog expressing disagreement. I particularly have trouble when it comes to naming names. I am not saying it is necessarily wrong, I am just saying I don’t do it well. I would rather keep things generic. On top of all this, it is really hard to write criticism about someone whom I respect so much. John MacArthur, the pastor, teacher, author, and Christian spokesman, is a man of God who has brought so much growth in my life in so many ways. He is an incredible Bible teacher who has changed many people’s lives for the better.

(Of course, when something starts this way, nothing before the “but” really matters, does it?)

But . . .

In his “Strange Fire” conference (that starts today), book (upcoming), and ensuing promotions, John MacArthur has, I believe, acted very irresponsibly and is doing incredible damage to the body of Christ.

It is no secret that John MacArthur pushes the polemic line and causes many of us to be uncomfortable. This is just who he is and I don’t really expect him to change. But this conference is an excessively eristic and unnecessarily divisive crusade against charismatics. And, to be frank, it is even over the top for him.

Now, let me make sure you know: I have not seen the conference or read his book. But I have been reading reviews of the book and viewing the promotional videos, created by John MacArthur, for this anti-charismatic campaign. You can see some of the videos here. It is quite the production. And this is not some passing slip of the tongue that may be excused (as is sometimes the case). This is a full-blown, all-out war he has declared.

Please understand that I am not charismatic. I have often expressed myself as the most “wannabe charismatic” non-charismatic you will ever meet. As well, I used to be as anti-charismatic as anyone you would ever meet. Frankly, charismatics made me angry. I attributed all that went on in charismatic circles to the work of Satan. I called, pleaded, and prayed that charismatics would “convert” to cessationism. And my arguments were, at least to me, persuasive.

However, I changed. God put way too many flies in my ointment for me to remain in this excessively polemic position. I suppose the first fly was “what’s his name” that sat next to me in undergrad. He was a charismatic. Worse than that, he spoke in tongues. I practically had a demon next to me! However, all semester long I observed this guy. I came to realize that though he knew everything I knew, he was still charismatic. What gave? I thought the right answers dispatched would bring home the booty of change. But he remained charismatic and continued to speak in tongues (though not in front of me). On top of this, he seemed to love the same Jesus I loved. On top of that, he seemed to follow the Lord better than me. I came to realize he was a better, more devoted Christian than I was. How could that be, if he had a demon? He was the first fly and this fly worked me over. Continue Reading →

What is the Gift of Tongues?

Of all the gifts of the Spirit, I think the gift of tongues is the gift that I am most distanced from. I don’t mean this solely from a personal standpoint (as I have never spoken in tongues), but also from a biblical standpoint. Every time I do more research into this issue, I end up with even less certainty about it. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who spoke in tongues. Often, during worship services or youth gatherings, I would hear them exercise their gift. However, most of the people I knew only did so in private. Once or twice I remember hearing it during a sermon. Every time I got the chance I would ask them what they believed tongues to be. I received lots of varied answers. Sometimes, it was prophetic utterances of God meant to guide the church (so long as it can be interpreted correctly). Other times, it was simply praise to God spoken in a language that was not understood by other hearers. Many would say that it was the language of angels. But most of my acquaintances who spoke in tongues said it was an unintelligible, private prayer language (with these, of course, I never heard them exercise their gift).

The gift of tongues first appears in the pages of Scripture in Acts 2 (Mark 16:17 does not qualify due to the probability that it is a late, spurious addition). Here are the four definite places where the gift of tongues is mentioned: Acts 2:1-13; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-7; and 1 Corinthians 12-14.

I find that this must be placed in two categories: ontology and teleology (just to use some big words and sound like I know what I am talking about!). Ontology deals with the nature of tongues, asking What is the gift of tongues? Teleology deals with the purpose of tongues, asking Why did God give it? or What is its occasion?

Here are a few options concerning the “what” or ontology of tongues:

1. Human Language

2. Unintelligible or Ecstatic Utterance

3. Angelic Language

Here are a few options concerning the “why” or teleology of tongues:

1. Evangelism

2. Evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit

3. Private prayer language

4. Prophetic utterance

Now, of course, a chart!


I am going to use this chart to work through the options. Continue Reading →

Seeking a Miraculous Sign as Validation of the Prophetic

On my charismatic voyage, I have encouraged my readers time and time again to seek a sign as validation of prophetic claims. I don’t consider myself a cessationist in the strict sense. What I mean is that I don’t necessarily believe the Bible teaches that the controversial gifts such as tongues, prophecy, and healings ceased in the first century. Now, I would not call myself a “continuationist” (one who believes these gifts have definitely continued) or a “charismatic” (one who believes these gifts have continued, are normative, and is personally seeking them out), but I am not a cessationist. I suppose I could be called a “soft” continuationist. This means that while I believe that there is and has been some legitimate expression of these gifts in the church, I have never personally experienced these gifts and am highly skeptical of individuals who claim to possess them. Skeptical. That is a hard word to use in this context. But I don’t really know of a better word. Maybe “discerning,” but that sounds a little self-serving.

When it comes to the gift of prophecy, I am highly suspicious (another good word) when people claim such a gift. Oh wait . . . I need to get this out of the way: prophecy does not necessarily mean that a prediction of the future is on the table. In fact, it rarely means this in the Bible. Prophecy is simply speaking on behalf of God. No, it does not include preachers. Let me rephrase my early definition: prophecy is speaking directly on behalf of God. In the Bible this normally came through dreams, visions, or direct encounters. Heck, one time prophecy was produced through an ass. No, not that kind of ass . . . a donkey! (Numbers 22:28-30). Today, it is normally expressed this way: “God told me to tell you . . .” “This is what God is saying . . .” Or the most direct (in good ol’ King James English), “Thus sayeth the Lord . . .” But it does not have to be so direct. Prophecy can be claimed in less direct ways such as, “I think this is a message from the Lord for you . . .” Or, “This is what your dream may mean . . .” Here is a good example of a very indirect way to claim prophecy: the other day I was praying with a gentleman who came to me for prayer after a service I preached.  I laid my hand on him (a symbolic gesture that has no inherent power) and prayed. Immediately after we were done, he asked me if my chest hurt in a certain spot that he pointed to on his chest. It was as if he was asking me if I had heart problems. I told him the area did not hurt. He looked confused and asked again, “Are you sure it does not hurt right here?” pointing to the same spot. “Not at all,” I responded with confusion. “Why?” “Well,” he responded, “during our prayer, my chest started hurting right here. When you took your hand off, it stopped.” Now, most people like me would not have any prophetic thoughts about such a situation. The only alarm would be for the one who is actually having the chest pain, not the one who is touching him! But this gentleman, being schooled in more charismatic circles, seemed to think that his chest pain had some transcendent message tied to it. I suppose he thought God was telling him I had heart issues.

Another situation arose this morning when I arrived at the Credo House for work. Hanging on the door was a flier from “Christians Against Nike.” And yes, it was serious. The person behind this organization believes it is his God-given calling to take down Nike. Yes, Nike – the shoe maker. Why? Well, you can read most of it for yourself (, but the confirmation of his “calling” came when he asked God a series of questions and then pointed to the first word he saw in the Bible. Each time he took it as God’s direct message to him. This led him to the mission of taking down Nike. He has been blackballed from many churches in this area.

On and on I could go with anecdotes and illustrations. My point is that people often think God is talking to/through them. A lot of people do. And I am not necessarily saying he is not. Maybe he is speaking through some of them. Whether or not you are a charismatic or non-charismatic is not the issue. However, I will go out on a limb and say I don’t believe most of these stories. I will go further out on a limb and say I think that, for the most part, the bar is set way too low for God’s prophetic word in the church today and there is internal pressure to keep it low.

What do you say when someone says, “I think I have a word from God for you”? What do you say when someone asks, “Are you having pain right here?” What is your process for establishing something as truly being from God? Often times we look only for good or encouraging news – “God told me that you are going to do great things for the Lord” or “Marry Natalie” or “start a church” – and hang our hat on that. But from what I have seen in the Scripture, good news is not necessarily a standard for messages from God (Jer 23:16-17; Acts 11:28).  But we like good news, so we are more likely to want to receive such. Before my sister died, my mother believed she got a “word from the Lord” (as she put it) that my sister was not going to die (she had been mentally sick for a while and had attempted suicide a couple of times). When I encouraged her to be skeptical about the “word” she received from God, she would have none of it. She wanted it to be true so badly that she hung onto it until the day my sister died. My mother remained bitter at the Lord until her aneurysm two years later, believing that he had let her down. Continue Reading →

My Experience with a Prophetic Vision Today or “How to Test Prophecy”

I just left the house of a wonderful Christian family who is experiencing some very odd stuff at their house. I would not necessarily call this “paranormal” and I don’t know if I am comfortable calling it “demonic.” They don’t know what to do with it either. There are too many details for me to share, but most of the “activity” centers around a nine-year-old boy. If I were to summarize this in modern evangelical or charismatic language and use assumptions from the same, I would say that this family is being harassed by a demon. If I were to put it in modern American language, I would say this house has a “spiritual entity” or a ghost. If I were to put it in modern liberal language, I would say that some people in this family need to be on medication. But these are all dangerous places to start.

Let me say first of all that the family does not read this blog. Regardless, I am going to keep most details somewhat obscure so as to create some opportunity for discussion without risking their privacy. Second, let me say this: I don’t know what is going on. There is some odd stuff such as shadows appearing out of the wall, footsteps when no one is home, angels appearing in times of trouble, and little men with black painted faces running into and through people (which is, believe it or not, a very common testimony). However, considering my recent blog post about my dream and the subject of prophecy, I do want to talk about a couple of specific things somewhat unrelated to the “entity” about which I was called. I want to talk about some of the prophetic things involved with this family.

Here is essentially what I believe about prophecy. A prophecy is the act of speaking on behalf of God. So far so good? Prophecy is not a prediction about the future. It is simply a claim to transcendent knowledge that could not be acquired by any means other than a connection to God. Any time someone claims to have a prophecy (whether encouraging or discouraging, through direct contact or through dreams, whether it is someone else or myself) I require two things:

1. Mark of Transcendence: Is it absolutely evident that this “prophecy” came from God?

In other words, does the person claiming to speak on behalf of God bring a sign or wonder with him? Does he or she do something that is miraculous? This could be raising the dead, parting the sea, or healing the blind. It could even be embedded in the prophecy itself. Though we have to be careful with this, due to the reality of obscurity, does the person predict something that comes true or does he or she know things about me that would require transcendent knowledge? Of course I have seen so much obscurity here that we have to be careful. To put this another way, telling me, “You are going through financial difficulty!” does not qualify, as with our country’s current economy, the “prophet” has a pretty good chance of getting this right! Neither does, “God wants you to take that new job,” or, “God knows your depression and he loves you.” These are not precise enough. It has to be something really specific. . . Think the David and Uriah situation here. And it cannot be a predictive prophecy like, “It is going to rain tomorrow.” Neither can it be, “In five years, you are going to have a child.” There is no reason for you to hang your hat on hope which cannot be verified for a long period of time. This is not God’s M.O. If there is going to be a far-in-the-future predictive prophecy, there will be a near predictive prophecy which will establish the testimony of the far one (Isaiah 9 is an awesome example). Continue Reading →