The Charismatic Christian!
by Pastor MacLaren
"Are you a Charismatic Christian?" Perhaps we all would wish that we were more dynamic and attractive people, but what we are discussing here is not whether you have a winning personality but whether you have experienced the "charisma" of the Spirit. Have you received the Spirit of God in such a way that you have received the gifts of prophesy and speaking in tongues? Those who are members of the Charismatic movement in the broader Christian church believe that we need a fresh revelation of the Spirit given to the church with the plenitude of his spiritual gifts poured out if we wish to live a more powerful, productive Christian life. In this way we will return to our spiritual beginnings and once more be "New Testament" Christians?
Pentecostalism had its beginnings in the Azuza Street revival in Los Angeles back in the early 1900's. It has since grown to become a world-wide phenomena with over 700 denominations and 500 million adherents. It seeks to recreate the early Christian church witness with its explosive growth by stressing the need for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. This Spirit baptism is subsequent to one's conversion and enables the believer to live a powerfully new and deeply spiritual Christian life.
Over the years I have met Pentecostal believers and talked with them about their experiences. I've had occasion as well to observe their worship services. You may see their television ministries on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) or the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) with Pat Robertson.
In my view the contemporary charismatic/pentecostal movement has little to do with a return to "New Testament" Christianity, but is more a reflection of the spirit of our postmodern age. It is a false, self-deceptive mysticism that leads away from the core teachings of Scripture on the death and resurrection of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit. It tends to abandon the clear revelation of God's all-sufficient word in favor of a present, ecstatic experience with immediate guidance by the Spirit. It confuses a tongues speaking prayer language with the inward groaning of the Spirit that accompanies true Christian prayer but is not identified with it. The Spirit's intercession for the saints is coincident but separate from the inward groaning of the believer in our present troubles (Romans 8:26-27). It elevates religious experience and feelings over the "renewed mind" of Romans 12:2, and gives the believer a false sense of spirituality, worship, and godliness (cf. Colossians 2:18-19).
In the New Testament, the gift of tongues was not given indiscriminately to all believers, but only to a few (see 1 Corinthians 12:27-31). Charismatics say that you are not living a truly Spirit-filled life if you are not speaking in tongues, but in the New Testament most believers did not speak in tongues. In fact, on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit baptized the church and the apostles spoke in tongues, there is no mention of the 3,000 converts on that day speaking in tongues! The 120 initial disciples speak in tongues (Acts 1:15, 2:1-4), the 3,000 converts do not (Acts 2:37-42). Indeed, the converts continued their faith in very ordinary ways, in prayer, fellowship, worship, and instruction.
The Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian wants a return to New Testament Christianity, but in a multitude of ways he or she denies the same. New Testament Christianity ("NTC") under the Apostle Paul appointed men to serve as pastors and teachers, but denied the same office to women. Many Pentecostal churches will have women as pastors or husband and wife pastoral teams. NTC under the Apostle Paul downplayed the significance of speaking in tongues by comparison with the exercise of love and the gift of coherent prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:30-13:1; 14:6-19), but the Pentecostal places its emphasis on speaking in tongues. NTC allowed two or three believers to speak in tongues during a worship service, but only if there was an interpreter, and only one at a time. The Pentecostal experience often includes groups of believers speaking in tongues at the same time, with no one to interpret what is said.
The Pentecostal experience is more attuned to the spirit of the age than the Spirit of Christ. The modern age is "feeling" oriented and postmodern. It values self-expression and self-authentication over any external, objective authority. Rational, binary thinking and moral absolutes are often dismissed in favor of an unquestioned mystical experience and religious ecstasy. A fundamental conflict between the closing of divine revelation (the canon of Scripture, cf. Rev. 22:18-19) and continuing revelation through tongues, visions and prophecies is not recognized. In short, the Pentecostal Christian does not sufficiently grasp the wonderful blessing of God's written word. The Scriptures as illumined by the Spirit are all that we need for guidance in faith and life. Why abandon the clear and coherent for the confusing and confounding?