Archive | Charts

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 →

The Anatomy of Belief (3): Belief Without Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

I remember being out one night with a friend in Arizona. I was 20-years-old. My friend and I were about the craziest guys in town, with little good reputation to boot. Yet, this guy was worse than me. He had a death wish and swore he would not live past 24. But I loved him very much. This particular night, we were bar hopping, looking for trouble. As was typical for me in those days, I would get drunk and start to talk about Jesus. For better or worse, I was ready to lay it on this guy. This night was his night to get saved if I had anything to say about it. The Holy Spirit would have to work through my slur; we’ll just say I was speaking in tongues. Either way, I was not going to stop until this guy was in the kingdom.

To make a long story short, the guy started the night as an atheist, he ended the night having “believed” in Christ. Now, don’t get too excited, for that is not the direction that this story really goes. Let me make a long story just a bit longer. Here is how it all turned out. After many hours of discussion, I kept telling him, “All you have to do is believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead.” He said, “Michael, I don’t get it. So your saying that all I have to do is believe that Christ died for my sins and I will be saved?” “That is it,” I responded. “So,” he continued, “I don’t have to stop drinking or living the way I do?” “No,” I said, “It is not about that. It is just about belief. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” I could tell that he was a bit confused about this way of believing that I was attempting to get him to commit to. It felt like I was trying to get him to sign on the dotted line. “Fine!” he finally responded with an exhausted laugh, “I believe. Now I’m going to heaven. Can we quit talking about it now” “Yep,” I responded with relief, “You are good.”

What you can probably see is that there was no conviction, but a lot of concession. He just wanted to get me off his back. But at the same time, I think this minimalistic idea of belief, was attractive to him. He was able to “believe” without really believing.

Over the years, nothing changed with this guy, but I wanted to hold on to the idea that he really had an encounter with true Christian belief that day. I simply hoped that it “took.” But years later, when we talked about Christ again, there was no conviction and no concession. It had all vanished.

So far we have talked about the three aspects of faith that must be present:

1. Content: Knowledge

2. Conviction: Persuasion

3. Consent: Trust

My friend’s “faith” is what content and a bit of concession look like without conviction. True faith cannot be present without some degree of real conviction.

Cultural Christian Faith

Notice that there is sufficient content to produce a Christian faith (it raises above the yellow). Notice as well that the consent is present to some degree. However, the big faith meter (representing true faith) is still at zero. Why? Because there is no conviction whatsoever. This type of person is a Christian of convenience.  Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (2): Belief Without Content

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

A bit over a decade ago, Evangelical pollster and sociologist George Barna concluded, based on numerous surveys, that nearly 40% of the individuals sitting in the pews in Evangelical Churches do not have enough content even to be saved. Christian Smith, the director of the National Study of Youth and Religion and associate chair of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coined the label “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” to describe the religion of America’s youth in his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. This means that the God that today’s youth is accepting is very different than the God of the Bible. In her fascinating book Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean, associate professor of Princeton Theological Seminary, talks about the faith of America’s youth. In it she says that while 75% of today’s youth claim the name “Christian,” only 8% take their faith seriously. In a chapter provocatively entitled “Mormon Envy” she argues that Mormons are doing a much better job of passing on the content of their faith to their kids. Most Evangelicals, she argues, are more content to hope that the content of their faith will sooner or later be assumed by their children. But this is not happening.

I remember a Peanuts cartoon where Linus is waiting for the Great Pumpkin who is dreadfully late. I think it was Lucy who attempts to comfort him with the words “It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”

As well, I recall an AT&T commercial a few years ago where people are standing in lines in downtown New York City holding up signs that said, “I believe.” The scene then goes to a sky rise apartment where a banner is dropped out of a window that says, “I believe.” Then a plane flies by with a banner, “I believe.” Finally, there is a police officer sitting on his horse in the middle of the street with a sign, “I believe.” Then the AT&T logo came on the screen and the commercial was over. I thought to myself, “You believe what?” When I was in Washington DC a few months ago, I saw over the window of Macy’s their new slogan: “Believe.” Believe what?

We live in a culture that loves to talk about faith, belief, and spirituality. But the one common element that we often find is that this belief is going to the prom stag. It is not accompanied by any content.  More often than not, there is nothing to believe in or to believe that. It is just that people believe. No object necessary. It is a virtue to be a “believer” so long as you don’t know what you believe. In fact, if you accompany your belief with an object, your “faith” will quickly become the subject of ridicule and scorn. This is especially the case if the content of your belief necessarily excludes other options. Many think it is best these days to just believe.

We call this postmodernism.

We also live in a time where the basic content of the Christian faith is not being passed on accurately. It is being screened through a filter of political correctness, therapeutic necessity, and seeker sensitivity. It seems we are taking a que from Burger King telling people to “have it your way.” Have God your way!

We call this American individualism and commerce.

With regard to the Christian faith, a content-less faith is not possible. When the Reformers talked about faith, they understood that faith must include substance. One’s faith can only grow to the degree that substantial and definite content is present. Both a lack of content and accuracy can cause one’s faith to be seriously troubled.

Postmodern Faith

Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (1)

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

The motto here at the Credo House is, “Helping people to believe more accurately and more deeply today than they did yesterday.” I love this motto. It expresses what I aspire to be and how I want to be used.

However, belief is a very complex animal. I think that most of us find this to be the case later in our walk with God. As life’s challenges surface, we begin to open our spiritual chest looking for answers to our wayward thoughts and feelings and find that we are unsure of exactly where the problem lies. The belief that came so easily before starts slipping away. Often it does not necessarily slip away, but changes and nuances itself—kind of like a metamorphosis. Either way, we find that belief is not as black and white as we once thought.

While there is a complexity to belief, there is also a simplicity to it as well. Belief in Christ is so simple that Jesus himself said a child can exercise it (Mark 10:15). There is a “matter-of-factness” that the Bible presents when it comes to belief. Sometimes it seems that one either has it or they don’t.

Getting caught up in its complexities can cause us to throw our hands up in the air and say “What is it worth? I will just wait to see how it all turns out in the end.” But this would amount to making a preliminary decision which the Bible does not support.  In fact, it would be the very antynomy of what it means to believe as a Christian. While faith can be very complex, there are some biblical foundations that are laid that stabilize our understanding and keep us from becoming too discouraged.

In this series, I am going to use this chart that I call the “Belief-O-Meter” to attempt to explain what faith is all about. For many of you, this will serve only to confuse you. I understand this and am willing to take this risk of confusing you for the sake of future stability. For others, I hope that this will ground your thinking and help you to evaluate where in the anatomy of belief your problems might lie.

The Belief-O-Meter

Continue Reading →

Two New Charts

1. The Elect

In Romans 9:6-13 Paul makes that argument to those who believe that God’s promises to Christians might fail just as the seemed to fail with Israel that it is only the elect that are “children of promise.” Not all of Israel is true Israel.

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2. The intermediate state compared to the resurrected state.

2 Cor. 5:4 “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

The idea here is that our primary hope is in the resurrection. Only at that time will be be complete, the way God created us to be.

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