July 9, 2020

Reflecting on 50 Years of Charismatic Faith

By Chaplain Mike

I’d like to have us discuss an interesting article in Christianity Today by David Neff. It is called, “Ardor and Order,” and it’s a reflection upon the impact of the charismatic movement on the mainline and evangelical churches over the past fifty years.

I encourage you to read it before submitting comments here. (Click the link above)

After testifying of his own encounters with charismatic faith, Neff ponders what has become of this movement:

Some analysts say the mainline charismatic renewal fizzled. It is more accurate to describe it the way Jesus pictured the kingdom of God: like yeast that spreads through bread dough. You can hardly identify it as a movement anymore, but it has changed the way most churches worship. Repetitive choruses and raised hands are now common. Except in pockets of hardcore resistance, the fact that a fellow Christian may praise God in a private prayer language hardly elevates an eyebrow.

Pentecostalism and the charismatic renewal have jointly given believers what historian Chris Armstrong calls Pentecostalism’s chief contribution to Christianity: an awareness of “a deep well of living water from which everything else flow[s] … the personal, relational presence of the living God.”

Neff’s article is quite limited—for example, he does not tackle the subject of how Pentecostal and charismatic faith is growing exponentially around the world, particularly in Africa and Central/South America. Instead, he pulls back to reflect on one simple theological observation from his own experience and reflection:

...the exoteric and the esoteric need each other. It reminds me of Charlie Hummel’s 1978 book, Fire in the Fireplace. The metaphor speaks common sense: fire outside the fireplace is dangerous; a fireplace without fire is useless.

I concur. We need both external forms and personal vitality for faith to be robust and well-balanced.

For discussion:

  • How do you respond to Neff’s reflections?
  • What has been your personal experience with charismatic faith?
  • What contributions has this movement made to the church? What drawbacks do you associate with it?
  • What is the future for charismatic faith in the church?


  1. ■How do you respond to Neff’s reflections?

    “American Baptists and Roman Catholics in our community were sharing Communion—even serving Communion at each other’s churches—until the Catholic bishop put a stop to it.”

    That part made me, quite literally, gasp. I’m not at all surprised the bishop put a stop to it; that’s what bishops are supposed to do. I’d love a bit more information – what kind of difference does he mean by serving and sharing Communion? Does that mean that Catholics were distributing Baptist grape juice in Baptist churches and Baptists were holding the paten in Catholic churches? (I admit, I have no idea what the position would be on a non-Catholic acting as an acolyte, but I have a creeping suspicion he means Extrarordinary Minister of the Eucharist here).

    Even more so the “sharing Communion” – concelebration? come one, come all to the altar to receive? I do wibble about that, precisely because I have such a high view of the importance of the Eucharist and its centrality in the life and experience of the Church.

    â– What has been your personal experience with charismatic faith?

    That reaction above is probably why I would be, in Mr. Neff’s terms, one of the “exoteric” church types. And probably why, back in the late 70s when the Charismatic movement was taking off round here and the nuns were hosting the group, I never joined (though my mother was involved). Though to be fair to the Charismatics, I have also successfully evaded efforts to get me to join the Children of Mary, the Legion of Mary, the Carmelite Third Order, and the Girl Guides (not necessarily in that order). 🙂

    â– What contributions has this movement made to the church? What drawbacks do you associate with it?

    The movement sort of gradually fizzled out in Ireland as far as I can tell; though on the other hand, I don’t think we ever reached the kind of heights of spiritual experience that the Pentecostal movement seems to generate. There were examples of glossolalia and prophetic interpretation, but no ‘slain in the Spirit’ or Toronto-Blessing style experiences that I’m aware of. YMMV on whether these are proofs of the Spirit moving which we lacked, or excesses that we successfully dodged.

    â– What is the future for charismatic faith in the church?

    So – the Charismatic movement within the Irish Catholic Church – a good idea, and I wish we could get it off the ground again, but the trend in Ireland for the past thirty years is one of drifting away from anything smacking of the old sodalities, confraternities and popular devotions, anything that seems organised by the institutional church – or, not to put all the blame on the structure for being at fault, anything that requires personal spiritual development by putting in effort in what are perceived as strange or excessive ways. People are quite happy to turn up at shrines for alleged Marian apparitions (we’ve got one round here at the grotto outside Mount Melleray, and even that’s fallen away from the glory days of the 80s and bus-loads of pilgrims coming down from Northern Ireland to visit) and the best the Church can do there is encourage the good fruit and keep a lid on the tendency to veer off into folk religion.

  2. Thank you for the post, Mike.

    In general, I like Neff’s basic comparison of the exoteric with the esoteric and the recognition of a needed balance.

    In my personal experience, Christians who worship charismatically are very vibrant in their willingness to service and to form community. Their passion for the concept of family and helping others has always impressed me. Also, the zeal and charisma of Christians has served to draw into church young people who normally avoided church like the plague and older people who have avoided the church most of their life. I also admire their passionate defense of the scripture’s sacredness as opposed to the sterile scientific dissection that I see in more liberal theologies.

    There is one caveat that I hold with the charismatic faith. I remained convinced that much of the esoteric enthusiasm and exoteric traits pecular to much of pentecostal worship (tongues, special annointing, etc) are not a manifestation of the Spirit, but rather emotional zeal for special spiritual events. Of course, I am not in a place to tell God how to manifest His spirit. I simply am a practical person and fall on the inevitable question: if the miraculous acts happening within church, such as tongues and annointings, are genuine, then why does the same spiritual presence allow Christians to heal the sick on the street or in the hospital? It seems to me that healing an ill person is of much more value than supposedly praying in an “angelic” tongue.

    I have yet to understand its spread in third world nations. God may be moving and I’m just to intellectual to see it.

    • Fob James says

      An excellent point, MW. Some of us who first experienced charismatic gifts in the early 1970’s, are asking a variation of your question. But first, Neff has it wrong in the CT article in calling speaking in tongues a “mystical” experience. It is actually a physical experience, occasionally even involving the Holy Spirit taking physical control of a person’s mouth, with a torrent of language pouring out Usually the speaker moves his own mouth, though. It is also a “spiritual” experience, most often involving, in private settings, a language or utterances not known to anyone. For 100 years speaking in tongues has increased and become normative among millions of believers around the world. This continues.

      The question we have been asking ourselves lately is why, during these 100 years, have we not also seen the “mighty works,” the creative miracles that confront the world undisputedly with the reality of the resurrection of the Lord. At least here in the West. Maybe there have been some mighty works in some places, and perhaps many lesser healings (see Jesus’ subdued ministry in Nazareth in the gospels, for instance), but we simply have not seen the creative miracles of biblical proportions. Yet.

      • During the period of time that I attended a Vineyard church, they talked a lot about paradigm or worldview, and that Western Chrstians did not see as many miracles as say, African Christians. The reason given for this was that Western believers were trained in a rationalistic mindset, where if something miraculous did occur (e.g., a chronic illness going away) we were more likely to attribute it to natural causes or medical intervention than the power of prayer.

    • I agree with your caveat. After many years of pondering the charismatic/pentecostal movement I remain convinced that their practice of tongues and other “sign gifts” is highly suspect theologically. That does not make them heretics, just misguided…like all of us are to some degree.

  3. Kelby Carlson says

    I speak as one who has little familiarity with the charismatic movement other than, recently, a cousin who has started dabbling with “deliverence” and other strange phenomena. There is much of it that I believe is probably a good thing, but I wish I knew more about it. There are times when I wonder–what kind of a Christian am I if I haven’t been “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, and how would i even know if it happened? This may be unwelcome, but I’d love solicitations of recommended books that would introduce me to the charismatic faith. (And I’m looking for pro-charismatic books, I’ve seen my share of the ciritical ones.)

    • One of the best books on glossolalia is still TONGUE SPEAKING by Morton Kelsey, even though it was written in 1964. Another good book would be THEY SPEAK WITH OTHER TONGUES by John Sherrill.

      DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL SPIRITS: A Practical Manual, by Francis MacNutt is a good book on the subject by one who has been in the movement for decades.

      J. Rodman Williams wrote a 3-volume (now in 1 volume) Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective called RENEWAL THEOLOGY. It’s not overly technical and it’s pretty comprehensive per its title.

      Craig Keener has a great book called GIFT AND GIVER: The Holy Spirit for Today. Keener is charismatic as well as a highly-respected NT academic scholar and author.

    • I would recommend the web site of Sam Storms at enjoyinggod.com. he is very sane and balanced, taught at Wheaton for a number of years, and brings both scholarship and a life of pastoral care to the topic. Let me know what ya think. Also, “Naturally Supernatural” (forget the author , here) is very good.

    • Nine O’Clock in the Morning, mentioned in the CT article, is a good read.

  4. Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    My mother had come of age in the Charismatic Catholic scene in the 70’s, so there was a bit of the Charismatic movement that always was a part of the way my family practiced the faith. When we left the RCC (I was in 6th, grade, I think), it was for a Charismatic non-denom megachurch. When we moved to Texas from California, our next church was a little Baptist place that had believed the gifts of the spirit died with the Apostles, so that was a huge culture shock. Our next churches all had been influenced by the Charismatic movement, but weren’t real wild about it.

    My “Christian Mysticism” doesn’t really look like that of the Charismatics. I don’t really have a problem with their way, but it’s just not who I am. I like that it introduced some good stuff to the rest of the Church, especially praise choruses and some of the other stuff Neff identified. I especially like it when the traditional and the Charismatic exist side-by-side in any given congregation, creating more of a “blended” worship style.

    That said, I think there has been some times when the fire has jumped out of the fireplace (to use Neff’s metaphor). Toronto and Pensacola come to mind. Some of what I saw from folks and churches that had been influenced by T&P was irresponsible and dangerous if not borderline heresy. I’m reminded, for example, of when the son of one of the big-wigs in my former denomination tragically died in a house fire. Some nitwit at their church believed they received a message from God that if the church held a prayer vigil, God would raise the boy from the dead. They did so, but He didn’t. The emotional and psychological fallout was heartbreaking.

    Also, in international missions it seems like a lot of the spread of Charismatic Christianity has been hand-in-hand with the Prosperity Gospel charlatans. That heresy is not a good partner for the Charismatic movement.

  5. Responding to one of Neff’s observations:

    But it is likewise true that when the exoteric fails to acknowledge “the life of individual transformation,” it becomes “a system of law” and “an instrument of social control.”

    Quite to the contrary, it can be exactly this “life of individual transformation” that becomes it’s own system of law and an instrument of social control. The answer to dead orthodoxy is live orthodoxy, not wild hetrodoxy.

    he does not tackle the subject of how Pentecostal and charismatic faith is growing exponentially around the world, particularly in Africa and Central/South America

    Having experienced some of this, I’m not as sanguine as I once was. It seems that a lot of the time the sort of faith that has spread is syncretic and stripped of the power of grace. It either adopts to the existing religions (which in Central/South America include Marian devotion), or to popular notions of self improvement.

    I grew up in churches that were charismatic – and I think that a lot of times what they leave behind are people who are just burnt out, this is one of the reasons why so many children of charismatics either become agnostic or go off to try and find their own new source of excitement.

  6. Fair or not, but one of the reasons I left my last church was because it merged with a charismatic church. The weekly altar calls, girl moaning and speaking in tongues next to me, and other stuff that came with it I found distracting. There were other things I wasn’t happy about for sure, but this was very outside my comfort level.

    Ironically, my wife grew up in a church that was influenced by the charismatic movement and even she was uncomfortable with the changes and was totally on board with leaving.

    Besides my comfort levels, I do have theological objections as well. I’m not looking for a debate here, so I’ll leave it at that.

  7. I think that many modern-day evangelical churches have appropriated certain aspects of the charismatic movement, such as praise choruses, hand clapping, and raised hands in worship. But the actual practice of the sign gifts they leave strictly alone. This even seems to be the case in churches that believe in the sign gifts, my own included. We affirm belief in them, but we never ever practice them. I think a lot of that has to do with not wanting to confuse outsiders or upset church members who may not hold to the same view.

    • Sign gifts?

      • What I mean is, my church (and I suspect others) embrace charismatic-style worship, but not necessairily the charismatic gifts themselves (speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, and so forth). Our leadership has declared belief in these gifts, but in all the years I have been in this church, I have never once seen these gifts exercised. I think there is a fear of driving away visitors (and even members) who may not hold to the leadership’s beliefs concerning the charismatic “sign” gifts.

  8. Clay Knick says

    I think David is spot on, particularly with mainline churches and the CM. They simply took what was best and incorporated it into their respective churches. Hummel is correct and that ’78 book was updated some years later. In the UMC there continues to be a renewal agency that meets once a year in various places with a charismatic emphasis. Also, Walk to Emmaus has a charismatic flavor to it.

    I was deeply involved in the CM during college. Attended a score of meetings, gatherings, prayer meetings, etc. Theological school & good (better) theology tempered some of it for the better; I had become uncomfortable with some aspects of it. Hummel’s books was a help plus a number of others.

  9. I like reqading Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur. Though I do not agree with the cessation of the gifts entirely and the book focusses on mnay fruit loops in the movement it does shoe the central problem to the issue;

    That the CM has a low view of Scripture.

    • My problem with Charismatic Chaos and The Charismatics (one is the earlier edition of the other) was that MacArthur at times selectively used quotes out of context to create straw-men examples of those he was criticizing, which he was then able to huff and puff and blow down.

      I don’t have either book, but I remember reading through them and some of the things he quoted of persons whose theology and beliefs and practices I knew, because I was familiar with them, and noted instances of what I call dishonest misrepresentation by MacArthur.


    • Not a big MacArthur fan, but I have shared some of his concerns about the charismatic movement over the years. Problem is not simply a low view of Scripture but an overall gnosticism that is anti-intellectual through and through and keen on direct intimacy with God apart from any external means (with the possible exception of music—their only real “sacrament”).

      • Because they believe that God can miraculously restore a chopped off finger without medical intervention? Is that what you mean by the “gnosticism” of the charismatic movement? I generally agree with John MacArthur on many things. I also agree with him regarding the excesses of the modern charismatic movement and their anti-intellectualism but I don’t think it is fair to call their beliefs “gnostic” (like you have). Btw, I still consider Pentecostal/Charismatic evangelicals my brothers and sisters in Christ (as long as they don’t depart from the fundamentals of the faith) despite some of their quirky views. That I cannot say for many people in mainline liberal churches which you happen to be a part of.

        • Gnosticism is not just a problem in the more charismatically-minded churches, but they have definite tendencies in that direction—emphasis on higher planes of spiritual experience, spiritual knowledge and special intimacy with God available to those who discover the “secret,” emphasis on direct encounter with God rather than a relationship mediated through Word and sacrament, anti-intellectualism, anti-institutionalism, anti-authority, emphasis on perfection leading to legalism on the one hand or libertarianism on the other hand. It often boils down to “me and Jesus” in a special, one of a kind relationship. That’s very gnostic. I recommend some of Michael Horton’s writings on the subject.

          • BTW, I agree that many are our brothers and sisters in Christ. That does not mean I agree with their theology and practice, or think that it is always helpful to the church.

          • BTW, I agree that many are our brothers and sisters in Christ. That does not mean I agree with their theology and practice, or think that it is always helpful to the church.

            Theology – what a person believes about God, Jesus, salvation, etc.
            Practice – what a person does with respect to God, Jesus, salvation, etc.

            So, what then makes these people your brothers and sisters in Christ, if what they think and do is contrary to what you believe/confess that Christians should think and do?

            Or is being a brother/sister in Christ separate and separatable from what a person thinks and does? Is it a matter of who/what they ARE apart from what they think and do?


          • I would re-phrase what Chaplain Mike said into “does not mean I agree with all of their theology and practice, …”, and for me those bits I don’t agree with tend to be the bits that define them as Charismatics.

            But those bits are not essentials, and thus they are brothers and sisters in Christ.

          • Charismatic definitely have more of an opportunity to trail off into a Gnostic type belief, but anytime you have people who learn not from the Word and grounded instructors you will have this tendency. Isn’t the lack of Biblical knowledge one of the biggest problems with the Church though.

            Is a direct encounter with God a bad thing?

      • Mark, Christians in the Charismatic traditions are our brothers and sisters and many of my closet friends are charismatics and love every one of them.

        I believe that when the word gnosticism is used in relation to charismatics, it is the idea that there is a secret spiritual knowledge that only certain Christians hold and is only manifested with special events like speaking in the “tongues of angels.” Also, I noticed that the eschatology of many of my charismatic friends holds that our material world is totally corrupt and than only a spiritual union with God through spiritual means is of any value.

        Mike, correct me if I am wrong, please.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I believe that when the word gnosticism is used in relation to charismatics, it is the idea that there is a secret spiritual knowledge that only certain Christians hold and is only manifested with special events like speaking in the “tongues of angels.”

          Also, I noticed that the eschatology of many of my charismatic friends holds that our material world is totally corrupt and than only a spiritual union with God through spiritual means is of any value.

          I ain’t Chaplain Mike, but from what I’ve observed you’re right on both counts.

          The first is the textbook definition of Gnosticism, the Secret Knowledge that We and Only We Know That Makes Us More Spiritual Than Thou.

          The second is the Christianized version of Platonic Dualism that JMJ/Christian Monist often writes about. Short pop-culture version: “It’s All Gonna Burn.”

      • Absolutely, wonderfull said and spot on. As a Vineyard member for many years, I thoroughly agree: we love our bible, but apporoach many other aids to faith with much suspicion. The word “tradition” usually has the adjective “dead” in front of it; ironic since EVERYONE has some kind of tradition…… and I’m very weary of going to the well of loud contemporary worship music as if it is the only well of worship water….. we flirt with gnosticism often….while (sometimes) disparaging the higher, more liturgical traditions for…..gnosticism: hmmmmm.

        • My replly was to Chap. Mike’s post above, BTW. I need to do more intro’s 🙂

      • Kenny Johnson says

        Anti-intellectualism certainly appeared to be a problem with the church that merged with the church I left. The pastor of that church, who took over pastoring the new merged church did not have formal theological training (no M.Div, etc). He also didn’t appear to have an appreciation for reading.

        • as an aside: one does not have to follow the other……A.W. Tozer had no formal trainging either…… no problem with using the rational/intellectual there….

        • Anti-intellectual is not the same as anti-education. A man can lack formal education and training, but be a very intellectual Christian. The anti-intellectual is a rejection of the thinking process between reading scripture and applying it to life. Most people I have experienced with an anti-intellectual mindset approach scripture from a “read it and do it” mentality, regardless of the sticky problems that causes (Matthew 5:29-30, anyone?). And they do indeed received formal education and training.

          On a similar vein, many charismatic Christians tend to scourge the human aspects out of scripture and focus purely on the label of “God’s word,” as if the human factors no longer exist (God said as opposed to Paul wrote). That is also an aspect of anti-intellectual traditions.

          • ….if I hear ONE more person tell me, “It’s not what I say, it’s what GAWD SAYS…… as if we all were not operating with some kind of filter…..

            OK….switching to de-caff……..but make it a double.

          • Quixotequest says

            [i] On a similar vein, many charismatic Christians tend to scourge the human aspects out of scripture and focus purely on the label of “God’s word,” as if the human factors no longer exist (God said as opposed to Paul wrote). That is also an aspect of anti-intellectual traditions. [/i]

            Yeah, a pet peeve of mine, too. Once you start talking about the writer, his audience, the style of writing — history, poetry, prophetic prose, etc. — and, especially any challenging details, I despair at that mix of scorn and fear see can see flash in the eyes. It’s a fear that we somehow lesson God and our devotional commitment to the trustworthiness of the Bible because we use any of those other tools.

            In the “Precepts For Life” Bible studies in which my wife and I participate the materials aren’t grossly anti-intellectual, but there is a subtle, and potentially virulent strain of anti-intellectualism therein because of the emphasis on “Inductive” reading. It proffers the “truest” reading and application is one that comes devotionally and “blank slate” to just deal with what’s on the surface in the text. There’s some value in that. But the truth is that true “Inductivity” is impossible. We all come to the Bible with traditions and expectations that aid and color even what we see on “the surface.”

      • Clay Knick says

        Spot on Chap. Mike. I’m with you.

      • “A low view of scripture”?!? — This may be true of the whole CM or some of the parts that get the most media attention, but that is farthest thing from what most charismatics I know believe, In practice, their lives are marked by very typical, evangelical fervor for daily Bible reading and study and their churches preach that the Bible is the primary authority. We were in the Twin Cities, MN area during / following the charismatic renewal in the 70s and 80s, in a large Lutheran church and a couple small ones, and there were home Bible studies taking place all over. Some churches I have attended put the Bible above everything else in their official tenets of faith, even, while still being charismatic.

        Really, I can hardly wrap my mind around using this phrase to describe almost all of the people I have known most closely and for the longest lengths of time in my life. Unless we are calling this view of Scripture “low” merely because the Bible here has a little more “competition,” what with the greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s active role in daily life than many outside the CM ascribe to him. In other words, the Bible : HS : other (church tradition, etc.) ratio shifts from, for example 70:5:25 to 40:40:20, without necessarily devaluing the Bible.

        “Anti-intellectual” — Now I would agree with that, sadly, although the CM has no corner on that market!

  10. It’s not for me, but when I’ve visited a charismatic church I’ve been glad for the regulars. they have a service that they enjoy, and that is a good thing. They are susceptible to certain kinds of error, but so are we all.

    I’d just question one part of Neff’s article:

    You can hardly identify it as a movement anymore, but it has changed the way most churches worship. Repetitive choruses and raised hands are now common.

    Is this true? I have supposed that repetitive choruses and raised hands made their way into contemporary evangelicalism from Eastern mysticism.

    Eastern meditation aims to transcend the here and now and get in touch with something that is remote. That is what evangelical worshippers are doing when they close their eyes to the room and reach out with their hands. Pentecostals, by contrast, are sure the spirit is there in the room with them. They are filled with something — not reaching out to try and touch it.

    • When I was a new Christian in the days of the “Jesus Movement,” I met for a time with some charismatics who had come out of some pretty heavy drug use. In those meetings, when they “got the Spirit” their eyes actually got bloodshot, as if they were high. Just like the old Cheech and Chong bit, they were “high on Jesus.” I never could connect with or trust their experiences as a guide. It looked too much to me like replacing one psycho-chemical dependency for another.

    • If you look at the origin of most of the repetitive choruses they do come from groups and churches that grew out of the CM — Vineyards, Hillsong, etc. And it is still highly amusing to me that they are sung in churches here in German-speaking Europe which are radically opposed to the sign gifts, with most of them having no idea that Mercy is the Vineyard music publishing arm. I also think it is over-interpreting closed eyes and raised hands to associate them with Eastern mysticism, especially the way you do it: the more an Evangelical church is opposed to the CM, the less likely you are to find raised arms. The “orans” position (prayer with arms spread wide and raised) is more common in the liturgical churches of any tradition, and pre-dates the influence of Eastern mysticism on Western Christianity by centuries.

      To get back to Neff: I am not sure either that the CM is no longer identifiable as a movement — I think some groups are still clearly of that persuasion, in Europe even more so than in the US; some magazines and websites likewise, not to mention TV and radio stations/networks.

      What does get blurred here in Europe is the distinction between Charismatics and Pentecostals; what I also notice over here is growing opposition to Health&Wealth from the saner charismatic and pentecostal groups.

      I have always been intrigued that some aspects of non-charismatic Evangelical piety I encountered early on in my life as an Evangelical would make a lot more sense if one embraced the sign gifts and the charismatic paradigm in general; for example the whole notion of discovering the “center of the will of God” for my life at any given time remains highly subjective and uncertain until one embraces the idea of visions and impressions from the Holy Spirit.

      Personally I feel comfortable in any situation that feels genuine. I love liturgical worship when the leader and fellow worshippers are people for whom being a Christian is a matter of personal discipleship and Jesus-following; I love non-charismatic Evangelical worship if fellow-worshippers are not more focussed on legalism than God’s grace; and I love charismatic worship as long as the leader is not trying to manipulate and whip up an emotional response but allows everyone to respond to the Spirit’s work in their own hearts.

  11. Lukas db says

    I grew up in a solemn church. Black suits and Psalters (no hymns in church, extrabiblical and all), organ playing measures at a beat a second, stately hour-long sermon.

    So it wasn’t until college that I had any contact with real charismatics. Or even those influenced by them. It was a bit of a shock. The sheer emotional content on display was bewildering; there seemed to me to be little though among them, just emotion. They seemed to hold sacred things I found easily explicable as altered states of consciousness, or altered body chemistry.

    But I thought. I could think about their position, even if I couldn’t feel it. Wasn’t my own repulsion to such things itself an emotional response, born of contact with the unfamiliar? And why was thought better than emotion, anyway? Emotions are good things. They are powerful. They can be godly. Did not God create our bodies? Could He not work through them as much as through our intellect – itself so prone to error? I think differently about things like emotion and instinct now. They are part of us, even as they are part of Christ.

    But something still bothers me. It is not anything theological. Is this discussion about theology? Theological posts are long, and generally boring. At least mine are. I’ll stay away from that. What bothers me is the lack of propriety I so often see among charismatics. This may be something endemic to the college (most of the charismaticly inclined I knew were CRC) but consistently there was a desire and drive to drag the private and personal into the open and public. I have always found my relationship with God to be a very personal thing indeed; I almost never talk about it. Charismatics have meetings for the express purpose of talking about it. They expect that if they ask you about your relationship with God, you will tell them all. They expect you to pray, aloud, in great huddles of people. If you cry, so much the better. Many of them force themselves to cry, perhaps in order to inspire others. And if you meet a charismatic, and get to talking, they will act as though you are the closest of friends.

    No, random person. You are not my friend. ‘Friend’ to me means something precious, something that cannot be created in five minutes. Stop trying, and maybe – just maybe – we can become friends.

    But we never did. I wasn’t friends with any charismatics. Intimacy was something they wore like a jacket when you were present. They took it off when you left, and then you never heard from them again.

    I prefer to keep my intimacy intimate. I prefer to keep my emotions about God for God. I admire charisma. I do not admire Charismatics.

    • Interesting that you mention the subject of intimacy. That is also something I have experienced. There is this understanding that unity of the Spirit should instantly draw all brothers and sisters into a close, personal intimacy with one another. I have even be criticized over not having an intimate relationship with a particular Christian, even accused of hating that Christian. In truth, I and the brother just never connected as human beings even though we were friends and prayed for one another.

      This expectation of “microwavable” intimacy (in 30 seconds or less) is a little unreasonable. And I wonder if it runs the risk of provoking unwarranted and dangerous sexual tensions when two Christians are trying to be instantly intimate with each other as expected.

      Now in the defense of charismatic fellowship, they are, with some exceptions, very welcoming of people and I have always felt welcomed into their churches and homes without prior judgment.

      • “Microwave intimacy”…I like that. Bonhoeffer speaks of the unrealistic wish-dream many of us have when we think of Christian fellowship. Our ideas of what it should be are often more utopian than Biblical. I fear the same is true in our relationship with God.

        • Combine this thot with an over-empahasis on the “now” part of the Kingdom , stir well, and you have made the soil fertile for living by experiences and ‘zings”….. we just don’t want to wait for ANYTHING……and if our neighbor had this 3rd heaven experience last night….well…… needless to say, this approach will NOT mix well with doing the more mundane work of the Kingdom (see Matthew 25); not nearly enough “jazziness” there..

          Greg R

          • In seminary we called it “over-realized eschatology.” It is best exemplified by the church at Corinth, and is therefore also called “Corinthianism.”

        • to Chap Mike: this , from your post above, almost snuch by me:

          “anti-authority…..” yeah, that’s much bigger than many realize. I don’t think it’s just coincedence that many of the more visible charismatic places are not only autonamous, they seem to celebrate it: GOD is in control here, not man…….etc. and maybe HE is, but there is a curious push to throw what I’d call real accountability under the bus ; the kind of accountability that you get from some kind of hierarchy (how we wince at the “H” word); sometimes parading our non-denominationalism is a veneer for having one, or a few, strong personalities run the show . To say this is a formula for some kind of moral disaster is like saying the Royals could use a little pitching……..and hitting……and fielding…… oh, my, I’m stuck on the negative channel, ooooops

        • Interesting you should mention Bonhoeffer. He was a definite inspiration to me intellectually at a time when I found myself as a thinking Christian coming to terms with various unsettling theological issues and/or practices I encountered in Pentecostalism.

    • Very interesting post , and one which begs a question: is there something about the charismatic experience, or group of experiences that actually work AGAINST deep christian fellowship and community ?? By “fellowship” , I mean fellowship with other christians, not our vertical relationship with God . Does the “work” of community blend with the realm of “higher experiences ‘ ?? Just wondering……..

      • Lukas db says

        I think there is something about much of the Charismatic movement that can work against community. Charismatics may become “so heavenly-minded they’re of no earthly good,’ in a somewhat different way than ordinarily meant. “It’s all about Jesus, man,” they say; and sometimes they think that that focus exempts them from considering the physical, psychological, or emotional needs of those around them. They just do ‘what feels right,’ and think that spontaneity is a virtue; it is ‘working in the spirit.’

        The truth is, humans are territorial creatures. We have boundaries and habits and customs, and when these are violated we feel uncomfortable. This can be a good or a bad thing, but if you want to connect with people and really get to know them, their boundaries need to be respected. Our physical and instinctive sides are not something to be transcended. God himself did not attempt to; quite the contrary. He descended into them.

        It is true that charismatics often work hard to better their community. This leads to a strange situation, where everyone feels that they should feel grateful to the charismatic christians for their help, but instead feel a bit violated.

        • It is true that charismatics often work hard to better their community

          In my parents neighborhood, the charismatics often let their grass grow to knee-high length, as they run to the newest conference or worship-fest. They are renting out the houses to teens and twenty-somethngs and doing minimal maintenance (this is not always, but it is a persistent trend: when asked about it, Big Leader pretty much blew it off at a neighborhood meeting)

          I know that many charismatics do not, and never would, approve of such behavior, but I’m thinking that ,in general, the “over realized eschatology” gives folks a push to just not care that much about the physical……I mean C’Mon Man…….Jesus is comin’ back…….. and we need to be “watchmen on the gate……” or some such blah, blah,

          I think it IS possible to affirm a variety of gifts of the spirit and still affirm the incarnation, and the God ordained New Earth……. but it takes some work.

          • PS: the neighbors are still , generally in favor of the charismatic renters…..WHY ?? “well, they’re better than the drug dealers……..” So, there ya go..

          • I think it necessary to say that you are giving one small bit of anecdotal evidence here, which by no means proves that charismatic faith and practice leads to irresponsibility.

        • Lukas db says

          Yes. I should have said so myself.

          • true enough…..and generalizing from an anecdote is a fool’s errand most of the time; I’ll leave the saw grass alone and let that overgrown greenery sort itself out.

            I should have mentioned: they do run a pretty good coffee house

            Greg R

  12. Even as a Calvinist in the Baptist tradition I still believe that God works in supernatural ways (yes, that means I believe God can still suspend the laws of nature and do something that will blow the mantle off people’s brains). Though I am not a cessationist in the conventional way I am still cautious about the modern speaking in tongues. Having said that, I would rather go to an evangelical Pentecostal or Charismatic church with all its fuzzy wuzzy emotionalism than a mainline liberal church that preaches that the Bible is not inspired or authoritative or that unrepentant practicing homosexuals can still enter the Kingdom of God. At least the former is not a birth-child of modernism mixed in with a bit demonic activity.

    • Gnosticism is as condemnable as any other heresy, and this to me is the main concern with charismatic emphasis and practice.

      • I agree. Gnosticism is as condemnable as any other heresy. Trouble is, Mike, I just don’t see how your statement connects with the charismatic movement. I’d rather fellowship with a group of charismatic evangelicals than share the Supper with a bunch of mainline liberal reprobates who have given their hearts to modernism and Satan.

        • I guess I would rather be a part of a congregation that every week worships God through Word and sacrament, confessing our faith through the historic creeds, practicing a worship liturgy that has stood the test of time, hearing Scripture read from the OT, NT, and Gospels, praying the Lord’s Prayer, and emphasizing the grace of Christ that welcomes sinners.

          • Sounds like the charismatic Lutheran and even (for the most part) charismatic Catholic services I have attended…. I’m sorry that your charismatic exposure has been so problematic or skewed.

          • I don’t mean to put the whole movement under one umbrella.

          • Interesting, Mike, that many of the things that you value are things that Pentecostal and Charismatic church culture proclaims are “dead rituals”. It doesn’t have to be an official teaching, but it shows in various ways–I know about this because I attended a Pentecostal church (AG) for over 8 years. I remember meeting a lady at a local Pentecostal church (I met her there for a retail sales job) and talked a bit about music (I was admiring their musical equipment). When I mentioned hymns she was sure to tell me how dead hymns are.

            That being said, I have known several very smart Pentecostal friends or mentors over the years. I spent one semester at an AG Bible college in 1996 and met some very wise professors and students who helped me realize that not all Pentecostals fit the stereotypes. One of my favorite profs in the Philosophy Dept of a local secular college is a charismatic believer who even believes in the value of “ritual”.

            Fortunately, there are a wide variety of Pentecostal or Charismatic folks out there. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed definite tendencies in bad theology and practice that seem to be fueled by an over-emphasis on various things.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Say “Hi!” to A.W.Pink when you get to where he is, Mark. “Only Me and Thee (and I’m not sure about you), No More, Amen.”

          You’ll only have so much time before you parse his theology, find it impure and Insufficiently Reformed, discover he too has “given his heart to Modernism and Satan”, and the anathemas begin.

          • OH HUG, thour art in rare form today……..what blend of coffee/tea/desert herb are you drinking ??? your A.W.Pink riff could make for a GREAT T-shirt…..I’ll wear it when I’m not wearing “All Fisherman are Liars, except me and you…..and sometimes I wonder about you……”

    • “. Having said that, I would rather go to an evangelical Pentecostal or Charismatic church with all its fuzzy wuzzy emotionalism than a mainline liberal church that preaches that the Bible is not inspired or authoritative …”
      I agree wholeheartedly. As one…who during the past 60 years or so….has been a part of a plethora of ‘denominations’….and visited far more….while I’m pragmatic enough to feel uncomfortable with the excesses…..I have an even greater revulsion for dead (or dead appearing) liturgical sameness. I’ve fluctuated between churches with a well-thought out ‘doctrine’…with whom I was in substantial agreement….but which was DEAD (ushers went aisle to aisle….checking pulses to make sure no one has ‘passed on’….LOL)…..to charismatic/Pentecostal churches….who….because of their very (as noted by others here) welcoming and accepting nature….harbored people who perhaps should have been medicated, at least….or even hospitalized.

      Right now…I’m taking a ‘sabbatical’ from ALL forms of ‘churchianity’….but…given the choice….I’d far rather go where their theology might be somewhat suspect…but where the Spirit of God was demonstratively active….rather than one where they have God so compartmentalized and ‘boxed in’ that all their ‘theological ducks’ line up….but with no discernible movement of the Spirit of God in their midst. (with all that rigidity…..there’s really nowhere for the Spirit to move….except down the street to that little, radical, storefront PENTECOSTAL fellowship!)


      • I’m sorry you’re forced to choose between those two very different alternatives, Walt. One might hope there would be something for you that had more balance.

        • Thanks….there’s nothing wrong with ‘stepping back’ for a while…catch one’s breath….enjoy the view…..and heal from all the darts and daggers you’ve pulled out of your back over the past year or two….LOL!

          Re”’balance’….well….this is CANADA…..no middle ground…it’s either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’…figuratively speaking.

          Actually….I ‘thought’ I’d found one….a church that is ‘reformed’ in theology….but ‘charismatic’ in practice. I went for a year or so….even managed to overlook the unfamiliar music (unlike SOME here….I LOVE the ‘praise and worship’ music….of Hillsong….Vineyard (Andy Parks was the worship leader at a Vineyard fellowship I attended till ’95) etc)….then, in the precursor to a pre-membership course….I found out that IF, after taking the course…I decided NOT to follow through with membership….I needed to be aware that I wouldn’t receive the same ‘attention’ as ‘real members’….they’d come first in terms of the ‘ministry’s’ service….AND….should I ever be so foolhardy as to venture into the minefield known as ‘marital bliss’ once more….they’d have to examine events in my life….from 26-41 years ago….to ADJUDICATE as to whether or not I COULD remarry.

          That did it for me….never went back…still have their binder of CD’s. (indoctrination)

          On the PLUS side….I have MUCH MORE time for riding my motorcycle with a local club on Sundays now…..wearing my long-sleeved T-shirt that reads….

          “I’d rather be riding my motorcycle
          And thinking about God

          Than sitting in church
          Thinking about my motorcycle!”

          (You wouldn’t believe what lengths people will go to….in church….to read it but try to pretend they’re NOT reading it)


  13. I attended a Foursquare church that was fairly orderly. I didn’t know what Foursquare was at the time and attended several months before I really saw anything “weird,” really, just that with which I had theological issues. It did force me to re-examine where I stood on issues. The church was very passionate about music and attracted and comforted a lot of divorcees and others who had been hurt.

    My main issues are that 1. they seemed to base theology on their experiences and not the other way around. 2. Maybe I’m just cynical, but it seemed like they interpreted singing the same chorus 10 times in a row as the working of the Spirit. (Reminds me of iMonk’s essays on worship leaders’ wacky theology) 3. Their view of the baptism of the Holy Spirit seemed to create a division within Christianity moreso than unite them.

    • Lukas db says

      On what can you base theology, except on experience? The gospels were based upon the experience of the apostles; all theology is based upon the theologian’s experience with God and His word, and with the work of other theologians. Do you mean that everyone in the Charismatic movement tends to make up their own theology as they go, based upon whatever ‘feels right’ to them at the time? I can certainly go along with that. Many of them do this, and I would agree that it’s a problem.

      • I think what most people mean when they accuse the CM of basing theology on experience is this:

        The Church has for 2000 years believed that while it is certainly true that Scripture records people’s experiences, it does so under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that Scripture is thus a reliable guide and standard for theology and practice.

        The problem many see with the CM is the perception that they do not necessarily subject their own experiences to that standard but rather re-interpret Scripture in light of their experience.

        No doubt we all do that to some extent, and I don’t really want to judge to what extent it is true of the CM, but that is what is generally meant when people say that.

    • Jared said:”My main issues are that 1. they seemed to base theology on their experiences and not the other way around.”

      Yeah….and don’t those whose view leans toward the cessationist end of the spectrum….tend to discount the ‘charismatic giftings of the Spirit’….because it doesn’t fit THEIR experiences?

      I’ve had people…both IN mainstream Christianity….and fringe groups (Christadelphians, for instance) swear that their ‘take/interpretation’ of Scripture absolutely prohibits….either spiritual gifts…..or…..the existence of demonic entities…..while I KNOW better….because I’ve lived them…..and known many others whom I trust who have experienced and witnessed the very things that were being denied by these….otherwise sincere….individuals.

      • Lukas db says

        Gifts of the Spirit are tricky that way; when genuine, they must be internal experiences. Their visible manifestations are not the point. But they are all that others see – this sort of seizure or stroke-like reaction. Someone, like myself, who has never in that way experienced God will find it difficult to see why such a thing is regarded as a holy gift rather than as a serious medical complaint.

  14. While I am highly critical regarding many aspects of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements, I still have to admit that I would probably not be a Christian without their influence. After rejecting the tightly denominational faith (Southern Baptist) of my youth, I gradually decended into agnosticism and then into total nihilism. I had effectively armed my intellect against any rational argument for God’s existence, and it was only through the supernatural experience of God’s presence and activity in my life that I was able to bridge the gap back across to faith. Some people I knew, including my sister and her husband, had just started a new charismatic community church — and, out of loneliness and a strange attraction to something they seemed to have inside them, I started hanging out with these people. And it didn’t take long before weird, inexplicable things started happening to me. Say what you will about the gift of tongues, but before I even believed in such things or really knew anything about them, I found myself retreating into a public restroom or some other private place so no-one could hear the streams of incomprehensible jibberish spewing out of my mouth. It was like pressure would build up inside me, and giving up control over my own tongue was the only way to release it. Admittedly, this was a period of intense inner struggle in my life, and sometimes I honestly feared I was going mad. But, once I finally surrendered to Christ and was baptised, the inner turmoil subsided — and since then I have been able to speak and pray in this language I never learned and don’t intellectually understand.
    I side with the Apostle Paul that spiritual gifts (including tongues) are real and available to believers through Christ — and, as Paul pointed out in his first letter to the Corinthian church, I believe these gifts can be abused, misused, or focused on too much. Paul defined tongues as the least of these gifts, and, in the absence of an interpreter, it should be kept to oneself. It’s main purpose, according to scripture, is self-edification — basically to recharge one’s own spiritual battery. And, in my own experience, it does exactly that.
    For all the abuses, emotionalism, and lack of sound scriptural teaching, I think the CM represents a genuine move of the Holy Spirit and a re-introduction of some important things that had long been absent from mainstream Christianity. As far as the future of the movement, I suspect it will continue to grow and spread in places like Africa, India, and China for a few decades — though it seems to have passed it’s peak and started to fade in North America and Europe. However, it may resurface from time to time whenever Western Christianity grows stale, emotionally numb, or overly cerebral.

  15. @Martha
    I’m from Ireland and I know of various communities that would identify with the Charismatic label. They vary to the degree with which they embrace it from mild to full on falling down and the stuff that makes a lot of mainline people wince. The African churches you find around the place these days would be fully into it.

    For me the main danger is that the signs associated with the charismatic become a mark of Christianity or a sign that a believer is more mature. Looking back on my teenage years there’s a lot that doesn’t sit well with me about the charismatic. Maybe I’ll even write a post on it some day

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      For me the main danger is that the signs associated with the charismatic become a mark of Christianity or a sign that a believer is more mature.

      i.e. a Game of Spiritual One-Upmanship.

  16. Dan Allison says

    The slander against “mainline liberal churches” is hardly worth responding to (sorry about the poor grammar). Doesn’t everyone know that the sign on the door means nothing these days, that you actually have to go into a church and meet the people to find out where they are? I’m in a PCUSA congregation that simply cannot see any benefit in “bolting” from the denomination — frankly we pay little attention to what the presbytery or national leaders are doing because we are too busy right here in our community. The truth is that the mainline denominations were the work of the Holy Spirfit for centuries and have tremendous riches to offer the body of Christ. Anyone who thinks these denominations are monolithic simply has no idea what he or she is talking about.

    The charismatics brought a lot of life and joy into the churches in the sixties, a good thing considering how “dead” most churches were in the black-and-white Eisenhower fifties. But today, despite all their talk of “discernment” and “maturity,” charismatics and Pentecostals are the first ones to run off chasing prosperity teachers, “Holy Ghost laughter” movements, and preachers with body tattoos who claim they’ve raised twenty-five people from the dead, sell $200.00 Bible, and sleep with the women who work on their staffs.

    • And don’t forget the “Holy Ghost Hokey-Pokey”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Or “You Spin Me Round Spin Me Round Round Jeesus Round Round” with all the worshippers whirling their dirty socks over their heads in P&W.

        (Only way to top that is if they’d have lit their socks on fire before whirling them Round Round Jeesus Round Round. Jamaican Street Concert — “MORE FIRE! MORE FIRE!”)

    • Rather than a comprehensive broad-brush slander against all “mainline liberal churches” and “liberal Christians,” I think the negative comments made in this thread about them have been qualified with relative pronouns – e.g., churches/persons “who” or “that” do/believe such-and-such. I.e., it’s those who are in mainline churches who do/believe such-and-such that are being criticized, not all members of such churches or all mainline/liberal churches without qualification. Likewise, I hope that those who are here pejoring (my participial form of the adjective) Charismatics are not slandering all who would call themselves or be called Charismatics by considering any and all of them to be simply bloodshot-eyed stoned on the Holy Ghost and not thinking Christians.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The charismatics brought a lot of life and joy into the churches in the sixties, a good thing considering how “dead” most churches were in the black-and-white Eisenhower fifties.

      As a child of “the black-and-white Eisenhower Fifties”, I’m obligated to remind everybody that The Fifties came after the Great Depression and World War Two. After twenty years of economic collapse and global war, it was natural to finally take a break. Add in the postwar prosperity of the only First World nation to come out of it not only intact but stronger (rebuilding most of the world), and It’s Miller Time. Even if its a forced Miller Time; after all the disruption of the 20th Century, you want to return to even a forced Normalcy.

      Like in Dickens’ preface to Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… in short, a time like any other.” Not a Godly Golden Age, Not a Perpetual Pleasantville or Eerie, Indiana.

      But today, despite all their talk of “discernment” and “maturity,” charismatics and Pentecostals are the first ones to run off chasing prosperity teachers, “Holy Ghost laughter” movements, and preachers with body tattoos who claim they’ve raised twenty-five people from the dead, sell $200.00 Bible, and sleep with the women who work on their staffs.

      And who channel personal pet Angels named Emma while making sure supplicants go down “Slainin the Spirit” by kicking them in the nutsack.

      Or Tokin-the-Ghost (or a stuffed toy lamb) in the Name of Jehovah-Juana.

  17. Justin V says

    “Except in pockets of hardcore resistance, the fact that a fellow Christian may praise God in a private prayer language hardly elevates an eyebrow.”

    Really? I think you can find raised eyebrows anywhere outside of a handful of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches if someone, specifically one with a microphone, decides to repeat the 7-10 syllables that constitute “tongues” in many circles, and I’m pretty non-cessationist in this regard.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the unfortunate results of the movement — a gift that was meant to edify the church has been turned into a individualistic “private prayer language” when this definition isn’t what Paul described. He and Acts described something far more robust.

    On the upside, there have been many good teachers (Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith) and musicians (Daniel Amos, 77s) associated with the movement. Many people have come to know God because of charismatic ministries, specifically those who have kept Christ and him crucified at the core of their message. Locally, The Vineyard Church seems to be moving in a way far removed from the Toronto/Pensacola/IHOP debacles of the past and present. It’s easy to find the influence of this movement in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the AMiA churches, Baptist churches, and Lutherans.

    Still, I’m with IMonk on some things — the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” teaching is quite flawed, the chasing of revivals produces burnout and being getting re-saved on a continual basis, and far too much is allowed out of fears of “quenching the Spirit,” no matter how nonsensical. Thankfully many of the leaders of church’s denominations have spoken against the Prosperity Gospel (which is not only a Charismatic concern, the philosophy behind it is everywhere in the US church) that has spread worldwide.

    I could go on for far too long, I knew people in the movement in the 90s who followed everything in the name of the Spirit, then crashed and burned. Then I met Pentecostals in college who were far more discerning and made me appreciate their perspectives.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think you can find raised eyebrows anywhere outside of a handful of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches if someone, specifically one with a microphone, decides to repeat the 7-10 syllables that constitute “tongues” in many circles, and I’m pretty non-cessationist in this regard.

      Don’t forget the occasional Hebrew word (like “YHVH” or “Shekinah”) dropped in between the 7-10 repeating syllables. (Kind of like “7-11 praise & worship music” — seven words repeated eleven times.) Very repetitive.

      And it’s peculiar rhythm. At best, the rising and falling of great waves breaking against a shore (like in those Charismatic Newman Center Masses I attended in the Eighties). At worst (according to one outsider), “Scat-singing in Hebrew”.

      (While writing the above, I remembered something about the tonguing in those Newman Center Masses. It did NOT disrupt the Mass, rather acted as a rising and falling counterpoint and complement, never lasting too long or drawing attention away from the Consecration. And nobody made you feel like a second-class sub-Christian because you didn’t join in. It wasn’t something required or mandatory, it was just THERE, coming and going without overwhelming.)

  18. textjunkie says

    Interesting set of experiences here in the comments! My parents became Christians as part of the Holy Roller movement of the early 70’s and I was raised that speaking in tongues (and praying for an interpretation), expecting miracles, seeing visions and waving your hands in the air was standard Sunday worship (and Wednesday evening worship too).

    It was only when the 90’s rolled around and I noticed how the same handful of women were always the ones being “moved by the Spirit”, how those regular Sunday prophecies never said anything that the clergy disagreed with, never raised any issues that there wasn’t already consensus on, and the healings and miracles somehow always, over my entire life, happened in Ethiopia or the backwaters of the Amazon but never in church on Sunday, that I started to question the structure of it. Add that to the incredible vitriol and lack of love that the charismatic churches showed within the Episcopal denomination to anyone who disagreed with them theologically over the past 20 years, and I had to write off their talk of having God’s loving presence specially in their life as just that–talk.

    I don’t doubt that God can act through these things, and that there is a mystic communion that can occur, but I question how much of it on any given Sunday is just emotional self-stimulation. These days, I have an instant distrust of any congregation that starts to head that way.

  19. SearchingAnglican says

    I have limited experiences of the Charismatic movement outside liturgical churches. In college, I experienced some of the the anti-intellectualism that a few of you have mentioned when I attended a retreat being facilitated by some charismatic group within the diocese…I remember being SHOCKED to see that in the Catholic church. But in my years as a marginally charismatic Catholic, that wasn’t the norm.

    A good friend of mine (and priest) left the RCC many years ago and now finds himself part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which has no ties to Canterbury, though many of the churches (so I’ve heard) use the Book of Common Prayer. The CEC stems from the convergence movement, which attempts to bring together the liturgical, charismatic and evangelical streams – holding (in theory) an equally a high view of each. I have found that to be the case in the church that my friend pastors and another I’ve visited. Welcoming, open, not pushy or dismissive if you don’t share in some of the spiritual gifts that they exhibit. My guess, from other commenters, is that this is more of the exception than the rule.

    I think that within every tradition – or local church within a tradition, we tend to make idols of many things that are gifts to the church, to the exclusion of everything else. My sense is that this is the reason so many charismatic churches have erred. Taking something good, a gift from God, and making an idol of it.

  20. Clay Knick says

    There is some critique of the CM by Charismatics. One is Lee Grady. See his recent book, “The Holy Spirit is not for Sale.”

    • Unfortunately, Charisma Magazine is so in bed with the people/ministries it “critiques” (or at least that used to be the case when I quit reading the magazine a few years ago for some other valid reasons) that I take the things Lee Grady says/writes about this with a grain of salt in terms of whether or not anyone is really going to run with the ball he’s throwing.


    • He also wrote a book back in the mid-90s called “Whatever Happened to the Fire?” that addresses many of the same concerns being echoed here. I believe he also writes a monthly column for Charisma magazine.

  21. Anita Brickman says

    Hum–where to even start!
    I reluctantly married into the Assemblies church, having come from a Grace Brethern upbringing.
    College was Southern Baptist and our early married years UMC, before landing PCA and staying there, tho not in the same church.
    Needless to say, I almost feel as if I have seen it all!

    It would seem to me no particular “church” has a market on error—–each has it’s share.
    Each has it’s idolatries and that I believe becomes the root of any problem.
    When any idea or practice becomes “IT” the “proof” of our union with God thru our Lord Jesus Christ , I find myself uneasy and disturbed.
    The word says our “proof” is to be our Love—-something God IS and only HE can provide, the ONE thing no other than HE can exhibit in and thru us!
    Yet in so many circles, CW or other, this is the LAST thing we strive for!

    The CWs I know can be just as legalistic, works orientated and judging as any other Christian group, inspite of their “free” worship style and practice of the “gifts”!
    It is a terrible trap and bondage for us all when we substitute the one TRUE miracle—-a life surrendered to and changed by the Grace of God thru Jesus, for any other outward “signs”.
    The “sign” of prosperity, success and freedom from trials in our lives, is one I particularly struggle against.
    The idea that if we have “enough faith” that nothing difficult will befall us.
    This is so opposite of anything I find in the Word, or in the life of Jesus.
    So opposite of how God has worked in my life, using the trials and my human weakness and sin to bring me to Him.

    So in closing, I would say the one thing I take the most issue with in CW circles and the place where the most damage is done, would be the refusal to let God work as He wills in others lives, even in difficulty and weakness.
    Tho, of course CWs do not hold a corner on this market!

    • The “sign” of prosperity, success and freedom from trials in our lives, is one I particularly struggle against.

      you don’t need to struggle against it…..just double bag it (tightly) and leave it with your doggie poops at the curb; this works if trash day is tomorrow, otherwise the stink might get to ya

      • Anita Brickman says

        Oh YEAH—-lol——it does have quite a stink!!!!!
        I will remember your words when next I encounter this problem!

    • David Cornwell says

      Very good post. Every group or denomination has it’s one or two doctrines, style of worship, theology of sacrament, and on down the list that so often is defined as the essential or essentials. God must have been very confused giving so many groups their own definition of what it means to be a Christian or what it means to be the Church.

  22. Anita Brickman says

    NOT CW—–CMs——
    forgive my dyslexia——just one of those many “weaknesses” of which I speak! LOL

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Tip: The first time you use a term in your comment or post, spell it out completely. You can use abbreviations or initials from them on, but the first time through you should spell it out to avoid confusion as to what your acronym means.

      (I work in a Microsoft Shop. Whose documentation is written only in alphabet-soup acronyms that seem to be trying to exhaust all possible three-letter combinations. Twitch twitch twitch twitch twitch…)

      • HUG, I’ll have to break fellowship with you then, if you are a Microsoftie 🙂

        A true TUX follower …
        (and this is being written on the latest Ubuntu release 🙂

      • Anita Brickman says

        Thanks HUG (Headless Unicorn Guy)
        I will take note for the future!
        Always am interested to see your posts BTW (sorry , just had to )

  23. I wonder what Michael Spencer would think about this very strange thread….

    • I’d like to know what you think, and maybe even what you think Michael might think.

    • He would be disappointed in the slamming of both main-line and charismatic churches, and would not have permitted certain comments.

    • Fob James says

      Chaplain Mike, what about what Jesus thinks? I have just on impulse run a word-search on this whole thread to see who happens to mention “Jesus,” and in what spirit/tone He is mentioned. Seems like quite a few contributors use His name in mocking the group called “charismatics” — that you yourself link to “blood-shot” eyes or gnosticism. And the contributors on this thread mentioning “Jesus” with reverence or tenderness, seem to be among the group being mocked.

      • Fob James, the thread has been more negative than I anticipated. I’m sorry for that. I stand by my critique, but there have been some comments I’ve deleted and others I’ve tried to respond to, urging caution in the way we express things.

        I think there is much to criticize in the charismatic movement and its fruits, but at the same time I certainly do recognize its contributions. To start with, in my post I affirmed the article’s conclusion that it breathed fresh air into the church and reminded us all that our faith must have personal vitality. They did this through recovering a missing emphasis on the Holy Spirit, commending a spirit of childlike simplicity, helping the church appreciate the value of spontaneity, and modeling a bold public witness. Many of us came to Christ through that witness in one form or another.

        Thanks for participating, and for your comment.

  24. Theresa Simione says

    I have enjoyed reading this whole thread – not agreeing with all – but seeing I am not the only one who questions this stuff if quite satisfying – I am A/G (Assemly of God) since 1985 and raised Catholic – baptized in the Holy Spirit and since 1985 and questioning eversince – up down round and round – what is real what is not – agghhhh – reconciled my Catholic routes – glad for the Charasmatic movement – sad for all the Florida and Canada over the top stuff but still willing to believe God for healing – not sure about all this worship music changing – but trying not to judge too harshly – I find now that I am less legalistic and more unsure of what I theoligically believe – yet this I know Jesus loves me – how I work that wonderful thought out is between me & Him – but still I guess I would like an absolute theology – guess it won’t happen in this life…..

    • Theresa said:”still willing to believe God for healing – not sure about all this worship music changing – but trying not to judge too harshly – I find now that I am less legalistic and more unsure of what I theoligically believe – yet this I know Jesus loves me – how I work that wonderful thought out is between me & Him – but still I guess I would like an absolute theology – guess it won’t happen in this life….”

      Sounds like me…except I no longer long for an ‘absolute theology’.
      Books like “Messy Spirituality”, by Michael Yaconelli…..
      “Messy Christianity” by Mark Driscoll…..paint a REAL….rather than idealistic view….both of Christianity as we know it….and even as the 1st Century Church. It was MESSY!

      Mark has THIS to say…
      “Any church that is about safety, security, predictability, uniformity, order and simplicity are probably not doing the work of the Gospel. Does that mean that mistakes will be made? Yes. Because I am a theological Calvinist, I do not believe that perfection is possible, at all. That doesn’t mean I excuse sin, endorse sin, but it does mean that I . . . sin. And I’m not gonna live in such a way that my greatest fear is to commit a sin. My greatest fear is to live a passionless, fruitless existence. That’s my greatest fear, to hear Jesus say ‘not well done, unfaithful and not-so-good servant.'”

      There’s something in human nature….that WANTS some form of surety…some form of ‘absolutism’….but it’s an illusion.

      After a majority of my life’s ‘sand’ has slipped to the bottom of the hourglass…I’ve come to embrace that very uncertainty that I used to decry. Daniel Taylor wrote a little tome called…”The Myth of Certainty”…that certainly struck a chord with me.
      Just one exerpt reads….
      He quotes Karl Barth…”What are you doing, you man, with the word of God upon your lips? Upon what grounds do you assume the role of mediator between heaven and earth? Who has authorized you to take your place there and to generate religious feeling?”

      Then he adds…
      “….Do I not more readily identify with the young Moses who said, “Why me Lord?” than with Isaiah’s “Here am I, send me!”?
      It’s not the prospect of failure that is frightening. What, God forbid, if one should succeed? Imagine a dozen people believing whatever you tell them to believe; imagine a thousand, ten thousand, a countless following. Howmany times in the wilderness did Moses wonder if that burning bush had just been desert heatstroke?
      Consider the television preacher and how fearfully he is made. I do not abuse him for being on television—it is the highest hill around. I do not complain that he asks for money–he has many barns to build. I allow him even his politics and prejudices (even as I wince when he makes them God’s)…because I have my politics and prejudices as well. But I do stand amazed at one thing. Where, someone tell me, did he get this brimming confidence? Not his confidence before men and women–the psychology of that I can understand–but this confidence before God?

      Did HE talk to a burning bush? Is he certain HIS sacrifice is not a stench in God’s nostrils? Why are there no signs of ashes on HIS head? Why does he seem unconcerned with such questions? Even “send me” Isaiah despaired of his unclean lips.”

      Unfortunately…..this attitude knows no denominational boundaries…..it can be found in charismatic/Pentecostal/Baptist/other fundamental churches….as well…..in their OWN twist on it…in the most ‘liberal’ of churches as well.


  25. Christopher Lake says

    Like many people here, it seems, I am uneasy about certain aspects of the charismatic movement (what I have seen of it, that is) and thankful for other aspects. I write this as one who, personally, has not been given (what are commonly called) the “sign gifts,” but also as one who is not entirely skeptical of their reality in other peoples’ lives.

    The more balanced charismatic evangelicals (non-Prosperity Gospel) are certainly excited and passionate about their faith in Jesus, and about sharing Him with others, and who cannot be thankful for those things? However, I am very unsettled about the anti-intellectualism, and in particular, the rigid unwillingness to think critically when evaluating certain charismatic phenomena, that I have seen in more than a few charismatic evangelicals.

    On the more positive side, and interestingly, from what I have seen, charismatic Catholics, as a group, are often more forthright about sharing their faith (in an evangelistic sense) and are also happier to share, at any given time, about what God is “doing” in their lives than are many non-charismatic Catholics. Obviously, this is somewhat of a generalization, but broadly speaking, I have not witnessed, nor heard of, many charismatic Catholics who are shy when it comes to speaking openly about their faith (as often seems to be the case with non-charismatic Catholics). I’m not sure *why* this is the case with charismatic Catholics, but I see it as a very positive development within the Church.

    On the more troubling side though, I have both seen and heard of so many instances, in both Protestantism and Catholicism, when tongues are spoken in church services, and there is rarely an interpretation given. According to St. Paul, isn’t there *always* supposed to be an interpretation, if tongues are spoken in a church service? If an interpretation *isn’t* given, should we not have a healthy suspicion about what, exactly, is happening?

  26. I am charismatic, so I will naturally have my slant in that direction. I have seen both people moved by God and those who want to fit in. Any group will have those that detract from the group, so it is rather unfair to judge a group based on them. But being human, that is what we tend to do. I attended both Baptist and Methodist churches as a child before I declared I was an atheist. I don’t blame the denominations for that. There were people there who wanted to belong to a group but who had not submitted to God.

    The problem that I see is that people don’t have a firm knowledge of the Bible. How do you know a false prophet? You hold what he says up to the word of God. Prosperity groups are not being solely funded by charismatic and non-denomination people. You have people who want a movement from God but are not finding it. Out of hope they reach for something that is promised only to be disappointed. The people spreading this false message should be held accountable, but what about the spiritual leaders in that person’s life? Should they not hold some responsibility for failing to teach those who are under their authority the Word of God?

    I had never heard about Jesus or salvation before I was 25. I remember singing Father Abraham and that Holy, Holy, Holy hymn but no message on salvation or forgiveness or grace. Did the people hold to tradition so much that they failed to think that people in attendance were not saved? Maybe. I hold no animosity towards them though. Now I study the word of God with a passion. I listen to different teachers, but I let the written word and the Holy Spirit by my guide. I have an active and direct relationship with God. I don’t want to be like Israel on Sinai. I do not want to rely solely on the written word with out the author as my teacher.

    I hold that the gifts are still active today. When you wonder why faith healings are not happening, look at third world countries. Faith healings happen there every day. In fact, the further you get away from man’s medical marvels the more you see the working of God. It is not to say that God does not work in the West or that modern medicine is bad. It is to say that when your dependency is on medicine more than God, you have a harder time trusting God for healing rather than blindly hoping for it.

  27. When you wonder why faith healings are not happening, look at third world countries. Faith healings happen there every day. In fact, the further you get away from man’s medical marvels the more you see the working of God. It is not to say that God does not work in the West or that modern medicine is bad. It is to say that when your dependency is on medicine more than God, you have a harder time trusting God for healing rather than blindly hoping for it.

    It would be nice to see a bit more documentation and incontestable proof for these genuine reported increased third-world (versus what happens here) faith healings. I’m not doubting it – a close friend was ministering with Benny Hinn in Africa a couple decades ago and really did see blind eyes opened. On the other hand, two members of our church recently saw their brother miraculously healed from a series of heart attacks through their prayers, so it happens here, too, even with dependence on medicine (his healing occurred while he was going to and later in the hospital such that it spooked the nurses and the staff chaplain hunted them down to find out who they were, because their brother’s miraculous healing caused him to, as he told them, “believe again”). But it’s been my experience over the decades that many of these claims for the mighty works of God that are reportedly happening “over there” tend to remain vague and unsupported or exaggerated.

  28. “Imagine dying and being grateful you’d gone to heaven, until one day (or one century) it dawned on you that your main mood was melancholy, although you were constantly convinced that happiness lay just around the next corner.” ~ Edmund White, “The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris”.

    I read this passage today and nigh immediately thought of “P/C” posts ChapMike put up. I’ve been P/C pretty much my entire “saved life.” I’m grateful I’m P/C. But I’ve had to come to terms lately with the realization “that [my] main mood was melancholy, although [I am] constantly convinced happiness lay just around the next corner.” Happiness = revival and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (as in, knowing I am being led by Him and hearing His voice). I’ve been taught by numerous P/C preachers that if I’ll just repent, pray, study, attend, and do more, that happiness lay, indeed, just around the next corner. Hang on! God will work it this year for you!

    • Michelle says

      This is what I’ve experienced in the P/C community as well. Something was always *going to* happen. Your finances *will* grow! Your marriage *will be* restored! etc. Sometimes these things arrived, sometimes they didn’t. But that didn’t stop the preacher from telling you every Sunday that these things were definitely in store for you *in the future*. It got emotionally exhausting after a couple of years, waiting for these things to happen that were promised, and wondering what I was doing wrong to stop them from coming.

      And it kind of took out the personal responsibility of it all as well, as in, if you just *believe* then your children will come back to the faith. Never mind that you were abusive to them their whole lives, and that’s why they left to begin with.

  29. * How do you respond to Neff’s reflections?

    For the most part, I don’t find much meat there. Both P/C churches and the non-P/C seem to be profoundly frustrated in many places. For the P/Cers, falsely guaranteed miracles don’t come. For the non-P/C, wrongly prayed-for nationalist domination doesn’t happen. In both is often to be found a profoundly missing focus upon the mission of God, upon the saving of souls from the consequences of sin through the presence, promotion, and presence of the Kingdom of God in this world.

    * What has been your personal experience with charismatic faith?

    Quite a bit. I was baptized in one, and the Lord maintains relationships between myself and a number of P/C persons and churches, as well as non-P/C.

    * What contributions has this movement made to the church?

    It is good that the churches in general have been reminded that miracles are likely, and that the Holy Spirit is a real Person and Presence who can and will work us for the good if we are willing.

    * What drawbacks do you associate with it?

    Mirror-image as well as identical drawbacks to the non-P/C. P/C-ers have personality cults; the non-P/C have nationalist cults. Both often contain eagerness to persecute sinners instead of befriending them in the name of the Lord. And whereas the P/Cers are often promoting Israeli nationalism in order to hasten the destruction of the Israeli nation, the non-P/Cers are often promoting Israeli nationalism in their devotion to their own favorite nation. And so it goes.

    * What is the future for charismatic faith in the church?

    Historically speaking, the behaviors summarized as P/C have waxed and waned in popularity many times over the last almost-double-kiloyear. Quite frankly, I suggest that this question frankly has very little eternal significance at all. Rather, I would like to ask: Please pray with me, all who read this, that the Lord Jesus would instruct the Holy Spirit to empower His very Words recorded in the New Testament, with fresh power, and new emphasis, in such a way that the Kingdom of God might become increasingly visible in the world to the unbeliever, in order that the unbeliever might be motivated more and more to partake and submit and be taken.