December 2, 2020

Southern Baptists and Charismatics: What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

charissbc.jpgAre current fears of Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity among Southern Baptists reasonable or ridiculous?

I first bumped into the charismatic renewal movement in the early 1970’s. Episcopalian friends were going to a charismatic prayer meeting at a Catholic church. Curious, I began attending, observing, and eventually participating, right down to–briefly and insincerely–speaking in tongues.

Riding home after a meeting one evening, I told my friend that “charismatic Catholics are a lot like Baptists who just got excited during revival.” I was very serious. Big red Bibles. Shouting “Amen” and “Praise the Lord!” Animated testimonies of salvation, deliverance from sin and physical healing. A determination to “witness” about Jesus to other people. Confidence that God was at work, doing the same things he did in the book of Acts. Remove the tongues and the theology of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit and this exuberant, evangelical expression of faith felt almost just like what the revivalists and evangelists tried to stir up at our church twice a year.

That was before I’d ever heard of Pat Robertson, a Southern Baptist turned charismatic, or John Osteen, a Southern Baptist who began charismatic Lakewood Church. In 1973, James Robison turned our little town upside down with a city wide crusade. I had never heard such emotionally impacting preaching or seen such demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit.

In just a few years, Robison would become one of the most prominent charismatics in America. In Christianity Today, May 16, 1986, a prominent charismatic SBC pastor estimated that five percent of SBC congregations endorsed the charismatic movement. Today, over 600 SBC-affiliated churches participate in the “Fresh Oil” conferences that specifically target charismatic Southern Baptists.

Southern Baptist leaders have, until recently, given a broad and generous nod to movements in the convention that encouraged a strong emphasis on the contemporary power, work, gifts and movement of the Holy Spirit. Leaders as diverse as Billy Graham and Paige Patterson have written affirmingly of the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating through churches and in believers. Leaders such as Avery Willis and Henry Blackaby have been deeply influenced by a charismatic-style approach to the work of the Holy Spirit. Blackaby particularly appears to be very sympathetic to a kind of personal revelatory and empowering work of the Holy Spirit that sounds much more charismatic than the average Baptist church.

With a strong emphasis in the late 80’s on church renewal, discovery and use of spiritual gifts, and prayer for large-scale revival, many Southern Baptist leaders could have happily ministered in moderately charismatic circles with little tension. There was a “charismatic side” to the SBC, especially among those involved in missions.

The charismatic renewal’s influence in the contemporary worship movement obviously influenced Southern Baptists, and a denomination that once was antsy over hands in the air now has millions of members who worship in full-blown charismatic style. Prayer ministries in many churches are influenced by the ministries of charismatics involved in deliverance and Christian counseling with an emphasis on prayer.

At the heart of Southern Baptist experience was a kind of religion–“heart religion”–that was almost identical to much of what the charismatic movement practiced. Southern Baptists clearly had more in common with men like Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett and denominations like the Assemblies of God than with liberal Southern Baptists in the CBF. In most communities, charismatic and Pentecostal churches were full of former SBCers, who appreciated the revivalism of the SBC, but wanted it all the time. They found what they were looking for in charismatic circles.

In a review of Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism, edited by Edith L. Blumhofer, Russell P. Spittler, and Grant A. Wacker and published in The Journal of Southern Religion, reviewer Daniel Woods writes:

The unsettled portrait of the relationship of the Charismatic movement and the SBC which emerges from this collection will be of special interest to students of religion in the South. Despite the highly publicized involvement of Southern Baptists like Pat Robinson and James Robison in Charismatic ministry, Schenkel finds that SBC members have been far less likely than members of the ABC to participate in the movement, and their preachers have been far more likely to stand in opposition to the spirit-filled experience than their counterparts in the ABC. Also, Schenkel observes that anti-Charismatic rhetoric in the SBC seems to be especially colored by negative stereotypes of traditional Pentecostals. When combined with statistical and anecdotal tidbits presented by other contributors to this volume, the SBC begins to appear peculiarly resistant to Pentecostal-Charismatic encroachments. Yet Turner contends that a key component in the recent success of conservatives within the SBC has been their articulation of a Pentecostal “orientation toward life”–not so much an emphasis on “speaking in tongues and healing,” but rather “the belief that the divine is both present and active in the world today” (209). Furthermore, Turner points to the obvious influence of the Charismatic movement on many growing SBC congregations, where the openness of radial seating arrangements and the exuberant singing of “praise choruses” have shifted primary emphasis from the “rational instruction” of hymns and sermons to the “powerful experience” of worshipping a present God in the midst of a community of believers (220-221). The conclusions of Turner and Schenkel are not easily reconciled, and this tension highlights how little we now understand about “Pentecostal currents” in the most prominent southern denomination.

This openness to the charismatic movement, however, began to change as the SBC became more influenced by streams of evangelicalism far less enthusiastic about an ecumenism of spiritual experience, and far more interested in doctrinal distinctives and boundaries.

Many prominent SBC conservatives were revivalistic in style and seemed to have no particular axes to grind with the charismatic movement. Bailey Smith, Jerry Falwell and Jerry Vines represented a kind of revivalism that might be narrowly Baptist, but there is much in the emotional tone of the charismatic movement that these men would affirm. SBC evangelism conferences were “Holy Ghost filled” events. At the same time, more intellectual and reformed conservatives began to influence the SBC, some from within the convention (like Al Mohler) and some from without (John MacArthur.) A tension seemed to arise within the SBC, as some conservatives became more inclined toward a reformed evangelicalism and less inclined to be part of the larger evangelical family represented by Southern Baptist Billy Graham.

Because most ordinary Southern Baptist pastors were strongly dispensational by default, there was always a foundation on which to say “the gifts have ceased.” But those same SBC pastors knew the problems this created with many things that Baptists were emphasizing, particularly spiritual gifts as a basis of Christian ministry and the fact that many of the Biblical gifts were “ordinary” and necessary in a healthy church. Dissecting the Biblical texts so that “tongues” were over, but “miracles” still allowed you to pray for miracles at prayer meeting was a task few pastors really wanted to take on or explain. The more common approach was to say “keep that prayer language to yourself” and don’t start pressuring people to get “baptized in the Holy Ghost.” Just say “We all need to be filled with the Spirit.”

The charismatic movement of the 80’s and 90’s, however, was a very different movement than the charismatic renewal of the 1970’s. In my years around charismatics, I never saw anything particularly strange, heretical or bizarre. The leaders of the movement were low-key people like Dennis Bennett or Jamie Buckingham. This would change. The advent of Christian television began to elevate leaders with a profile less acceptable to Southern Baptists and more controversial in the church as a whole.

In the early 80’s in particular, the prosperity gospel turn of Oral Roberts seemed to be a key moment. Roberts was, for many Southern Baptist leaders, a charismatic/pentecostal brother preaching Christ before he was a faith healer. (I remember going to a UMC meeting with Roberts speaking, and it was quite dignified.) But when Roberts began his bizarre tales of a giant Jesus telling him to promise big returns in order to raise money, something changed. More and more charismatic leaders began promoting heresies and false teachings. Southern Baptists who had considered their differences with charismatics relatively minor were now confronted with an array of spiritual diseases, distractions, dead-ends and damnable nonsense.

How much did things change? Rod Parsley was a long way from John Osteen. Osteen sounded SBC. Parsley sounded like a false prophet. And while Adrian Rogers still preached on TBN, he was now surrounded by people who would never be accepted in SBC circles for any reason. A parting of the ways was inevitable.

The prophecy movement of the mid-nineties increased the division. The SBC’s reaffirmation of Biblical authority could not sit quietly while the prophets received new revelations for the end times church. While there were always SBCers involved in the fringes of these movements–especially spiritual warfarism–most Baptist pastors were rightly concerned that the “new” Charismatics (as these Kenneth Haggin influenced charismatics came to be called) were far outside the Christian mainstream. More orthodox charismatics–such as Third Wavers and traditional Pentecostal churches–now were confronted with major heretical currents in their own “families,” and an almost complete inability to deal with the problem. Soon, prosperity and word-faith teachers all but vanquished “traditional” charismatics from evangelical leadership.

The leaders of the conservative resurgence in the SBC began to increasingly see the charismatic movement as a threat. The mission field, in particular, became a focus of these concerns, as charismatic Christianity in some form is dominant in most of the non-western world. While SBC missionaries were often ministering in areas where all evangelicalism was charismatic/Pentecostal in flavor (especially concerning spiritual warfare,) the leaders of the SBC’s International Mission Board began making charismatic sympathy more of an issue for missionary appointment. A serious parting of the ways was in the wind. Even a charismatic IMB president couldn’t stop the inevitable.

Is the SBC paranoid? Or are the IMB leaders right to insist that the charismatic movement must have no place on the mission field? I will suggest several responses.

1) There is much to be concerned about in contemporary charismatic practice and belief. The IMB leadership should insure that none of our missionaries are involved with the prosperity gospel or other charismatic errors. The abuse of these teachings in Africa particularly are a heinous reminder of how quickly some of the diseases of western evangelicalism can spread and change into worse forms in other cultures.

2) There is also much of value in the more charismatic-style evangelicalism of the third world. It is not a good idea for our missionaries to be placed in a rigid straitjacket regarding the way churches can worship or the way prayer ministries may express the power of Christ. We should never discourage our missionaries from being open to what is good or force them to deny the true movement of the Holy Spirit wherever they find it.

3) Neither dispensationalism nor cessationism are part of any SBC confession of faith. (Sorry MacArthur SBCers. We are NOT confessionally dispensational in any way.) I believe Charismatic SBCers are good SBCers. This applies, however, to the presence of gifts of the Holy Spirit. SBC confessions are just as clear that there is no “second” Baptism of the Holy Spirit. While we cannot insist on a level of theological conformity that says continuationism is a heresy (especially when so many Baptists affirm some version of a continued working of the Spirit in gifts), we can and should be clear that our confessions make no room for the necessity of a second “work” on Spirit Baptism.

I am very firm on this. I lose patience quickly with those who create two classes of Christians based on this experience. Here in the mountains of Appalachia, this doctrine is the source of much mischief.

4) Speaking in tongues is matter of huge theological debate, and there is much documented disagreement on the subject among SBC Bible scholars. Those wanting to ban those with a “prayer language” are doing several things wrong: First, they are going beyond the confessions. Second, they are delving too deeply into private experience. (Who really cares HOW someone prays in private? Will private Liturgy be targeted next?) Third, the assumption behind this appears to be an endorsement of dispensational versions of cessationism. In other words, a whole theological system, a la MacArthur, is at work here, and the SBC is a denomination whose genius is avoiding detailed, deep levels of required theology on contentious non-essential issues. Someone is really asleep at the wheel here. If a few thousand SBCers speak in tongues, it will be nothing that hasn’t been going on in the SBC for more than three decades.

5) There is good evidence that the current view of charismatics is influenced by poor scholarship. A good example is John Macarthur’s “Charismatic Chaos,” a mediocre, alarmist book that seriously misrepresents much of the charismatic movement. Worst-case caricatures make an already confusing situation more confusing. There is much we ought to learn about the charismatic side of evangelicalism, and the difference between Sam Storms/C.J. Mahaney and Kenneth Copeland/Rod Parsley would be a good place to start.

6) The association of charismatics with a rejection of “eternal security” is a different matter. Charismatics hardly have a corner on this view, and I would assume that many more SBCers question this doctrine than any conservative leader would care to admit. The abuse of “once saved, always saved” has convinced many that apostasy is, indeed, possible and common. But the primary difference is the confessions, specifically the BFM. It is clear on this issue, and the IMB can require subscription to confessional standards. (It would be good to remember, however, that the SBC is a barely confessional association of churches, and no church has to endorse or use the BFM in any way to be Southern Baptist.)

7) Southern Baptists have recently started using the word “Kingdom” in a very healthy sense. I was brought up in a kind of landmarkism that could not see any church beyond the local congregation, so it is refreshing to hear the SBC promoting “Kingdom Evangelism” and so forth. The opposition to all things charismatic, however, points out that while the SBC talks about the “the Kingdom,” there is still a tendency to see only what the SBC is doing as a manifestation of the Kingdom of Jesus.

I believe the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent conservative resurgence has much to offer as it affirms positive, unifying aspects of our particular brand of evangelicalism. On the other hand, I am fearful that SBC leaders looking at all charismatics and all charismatic practices as “threats” are naive and failing to learn from our own history of generosity on the issues of cessationism/continuationism.

The kinds of fundamentalism that despise the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement are not healthy. They are movements that find more and more ways to narrow the definition of the “truly saved.” The SBC’s minimal confessionalism and maximum cooperation made the charismatic movement a small matter as compared to larger issues of world mission, church planting and re-evangelization of the west. I believe priorities in mission, not priorities in exclusion, should determine how we treat our charismatic friends in the SBC and beyond it.


  1. I fell into a small independent Pentecostal church (300 on Easter morning) in northern Kentucky in March of ’72. You and I have talked before, so I hope you remember my conversation here is not intended for argument. Indeed, all you say here both concerning history and a description of what I’ve noted from my small point of view withing it is pretty well “right on”. Nonetheless, I can’t deny my initial entry into a “baptism in the Holy Ghost”. It is one of about three supernatural experiences encountered in soon to be 34 years that have served as anchorpoints for me when many other aspects of this journey would have convinced me my conversion was no more than an emotional conclusion. What I would suggest, then, is that the possibility for such an immersion is always there. What is “off-center” is the doctrinal definitions that Charismatics/Pentecostals have applied to it. It is NOT another “badge”. It does NOT turn anybody in “Super Saint”. It does NOT lift believers to another level above their brethren. Neither is it singularly manifested so that my particular event sets the individual pattern to which everyone else has to attain. Just my perception of it, brother. That church I fell into, by the way, now runs around 600 or so on any given Sunday evening, preaches television faith and prosperity, and lost me a little over a year ago. I’m presently involved in a Youth Detention Center and a rescue mission ministry while sitting on the back pew of a local AOG. Peace to you and the great meal you provide here…

  2. I tend to point out the difference between “charismatic” and “Pentecostal”.

    You can be Spirit-filled” without embracing the Pentacostal belief of the second work of grace, “baptism of the Holy Spirit, the initial evidence of which is speaking in tongues”

    Some Pentecostal churches believe that this experience “equips”, others believe that you are not turly saved until you recieve this baptism (the initial evidence of which is speaking in tongues).

    Out of the Pentecostal movement came the “Jesus-only” and Apostolic-oneness movement. And some of them are not very open about these anti-Trinitarian, five-fold ministry, “full gospel” doctrines.

    You have to be careful about the organization you’re looking at and know the “key phrases”. These people came to my church and what I found on their website was way more disturbing than what they said and did in my church.

  3. Apparently, something ate my comment last night. Too bad, because it was brilliant. Oh well, just to say, I really appreciated the indepth analysis of the charismatic movement from the late sixties till today. I lost track of them post seventies. Anyway, thanks.

  4. Brian Pendell says

    I have spent 20 years of my life in SBC churches, and 5 in charismatic churches. Currently I am in a church that is neither, but I consider my background to be Charismatic Southern Baptist, more or less. I was a member of an SBC church until March 2005, and still am closely involved with that church through it’s small groups.


    1. I do speak in tongues. Yes, I believe the other gifts still exist as well. I do these things privately at home and don’t do them during public service. I never made a secret of my beliefs but I never tried to emphasize them or push them on people. The pastor, the deacons, knew of this. It was never a problem. I actually taught Sunday School to adults a time or two.

    The few times it came up, I would present the case for gifts based on Acts 2, the case for cessationism based on 1 Cor 13, explain why I found the one more persuasive than the other, then leave the decision to “what was right” to my audience. I never tried to speak on behalf of the Convention or the church. It proved to be a workable solution.

    2. I do believe there is such a thing as prophecy based on Acts 2:18-19. That said, I believe that modern prophecy is NOT to bring forth new teaching, but simply to re-affirm the Gospel and call people back to it.

    Looking at the OT, we see the same principle at work under the Old Covenent. If you look at the prophets like Elijah, for example, or John the Baptist, they did not introduce new teaching. Elijah’s purpose was purely to call people back to the Torah and away from the Baalism they had fallen into. John the Baptist called people to “repent” — not to do something new, but to do something they had been taught from childhood, to return to God.

    It seems to me that God does not need prophecy to introduce “new truth”. We have had the two founders of the two covenents — Moses and Jesus — to teach us and we do not need any more. However, human orthodoxy does tend to go off the rails with grim regularity. That is when God chooses a person to speak by the Holy Spirit, challenging orthodoxy and calling it back to the truth it has lost. Martin Luther might be an example of one such person, although of course he would never claim the title “prophet”. But really, what did he do that was so different from what Jeremiah did? To point out to people their errors (such as believing they would be safe because they had the Temple), call them back to the truth they were ignoring, and be persecuted for it is the same thing the OT prophets experienced. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

    On to your points:

    Agree #1 and #2.

    I’m not sure I agree with point #3.

    If it is true that there are not two baptisms, how do we explain Acts 8:14-17?

    “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into[c] the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. ”

    With all due respect, the verse seems conclusive that the Holy Spirit does not NECESSARILY enter a believer on water baptism. These believers had been baptized specifically in the name of the Lord Jesus, but the Holy Spirit had not yet “come upon them”. Maybe “indwelling” and “coming upon in power” are two different things? After all, Jesus was doubtless indwelt by the Holy Spirit from birth, but there is no record of it manifesting through him in power until after his baptism in Luke 3:22.

    #4, #5 agree.

    #6 — This is the first time I have ever heard that “Charismatic” is a synonym for “one who doesn’t believe in eternal security”. That is an artifact of many charismatic denominations, yes, but I don’t believe that the two must ALWAYS and all the time go together.

    To be charismatic, all you need to do is believe the spiritual gifts are active — or at least potentially active — today. You can be a charismatic and believe in eternal security. Or you can be a charismatic and not believe in it. Just because many charismatic denominations teach it does not make it an Article of Faith.

    #7 concur.

    Want to add — I have no doubt that my non-charismatic Baptist brethren are saved. I say this because they demonstrate the only true evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives — love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, patience, and self-control (Gal. 3:19). These are far more conclusive than any “gifts”, which we know from 1 Cor 13 are totally useless without love.


    Brian P.

  5. Charis Aletheia says


    I can understand your trepidation regarding “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as represented in what you wrote here:

    “SBC confessions are just as clear that there is no “second” Baptism of the Holy Spirit. While we cannot insist on a level of theological conformity that says continuationism is a heresy (especially when so many Baptists affirm some version of a continued working of the Spirit in gifts), we can and should be clear that our confessions make no room for the necessity of a second “work” on Spirit Baptism.

    I am very firm on this. I lose patience quickly with those who create two classes of Christians based on this experience. Here in the mountains of Appalachia, this doctrine is the source of much mischief.”

    I was curious, however, as to your thoughts on the doctrine of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as explicated by someone like D. M. Lloyd-Jones? I find his position persuasive, and devoid of the “THE second work” mentality, as well as the “two-class Christianity” that is often set forth (overtly or otherwise) by many holding to “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as being a separate and distinct work of the Spirit subsequent to regeneration.

    Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

  6. mort_chien says

    I was pentacostal 20 years ago and left it when the irrationality became too great to bear. Couple of questions/thoughts:

    1) Miracles are verifiable. Either they happened or they did not. I never saw a single organic healing in a sick person that could be clearly attributable to prayer/anointing/prophetic utterance. Some people did get well, others got sicker and died. None ever experienced a verifiable organic change in their bodies – except those who died.

    2) Tongues is supposed to have content and it too should be verifiable. Falsely called “angelic tongues” (see 1 Cor 13:1) is more likely hyperbole and in any case the only examples of such angelic languages were either clearly understood by the listener (Acts 27:23-24 as an example) or forbidden to be related (2Cor 12:4). I never heard any “tongue” and translation that was independently verifiable by a native speakeer of the “language”. Though anecdotal tales abound in this area.

    3) The only Bible example of tongues with interpretation is Acts 2 and apparently the interpretation did not require supernatural means. perhaps that suggests that Paul expected something similar in Corinth.

    4) I am not a cessessionist. But I do insist on objective and verifiable evidence for extraordinary claims. An inanity is still an inanity even when solemnly pronounced as fact in a church setting. Read: gold teeth and barking in the Spirit a la Vineyard.

    5) The equality of “prophesy” = “tongues” + “interpretation” is bad exegesis. They have equal usefulness/greatness as regards edifying the church. But they are quite different things with entirely different purposes and intended audiences.

    6) I have yet to hear and see a counter example of the following. Supernatural utterance begins subordinate to the written Word of God, rises to its equal, and eventually supercedes it in practice. It is sooooo much easier to “get a prophesy” for a hard life issue than wait and endure and do the hard work of study or allow the Holy Spirit to work progressive sanctification at His pace rather than mine.

    7) As much as I would like to exegetically rule out a private prayer language as a possibility, I cannot. It would seem some allowance for the practice may be necessary to square with 1 Cor 14. But I wonder how those who practice such prayer can continue with so little evidence of its utility and/or meaning.

  7. Brian Pendell says

    I would like to respond to Mr. Chien, if possible —

    1) “Miracles are verifiable. Either they happened or they did not.”

    Let me caveat this by saying there is a lot of wishful thinking in your local charismatic church. People are very willing to claim something as a “healing” when it is not. I myself have been guilty of this.

    That said — “verifying” a miracle is no easy task. I note the problems we have with secular scientists vis-a-vis the sun standing still for Joshua or the Red Sea et al. Some of it is unexplainable physically, others of it can be demonstrated to happen but we cannot prove a direct supernatural connection.

    Seeing a miracle requires faith that supernatural powers are involved — it is always going to be prone to coincidence and it is always going to be somewhat ambiguous. “Clearly attributable” is an impossibility when dealing with the supernatural, as we simply don’t have enough understanding of supernatural phenomena.

    Let’s expand the net wider — have you ever seen ANY miracle or other potential involvement in a Christians life that was clearly attributable to God, and could not be written off as coincidence or as the result of natural causes? In such a way that would hold water with an unbiased, skeptical audience? I have seen few, whether as Charismatic or not.

    2) “Tongues is supposed to have content and it too should be verifiable.”

    Not necessarily. Paul states that “For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1 Cor 14:2). NO ONE understands them, not even the speaker himself (1 Cor 14:14).

    I would point out that word: Mysteries. Looking up my Strong’s for the word, I find the word is MYSTERION (Strong’s 3466) — a matter that is not comprehensible by human reasoning or knowledge but must be revealed through supernatural insight.

    Flipping back through the OT, I *believe* (someone correct me if this is wrong) that the infamous “writing on the wall” was a tongue — the hand in Daniel 5 wrote something on the wall that no one could understand. Daniel had to tell them not only what the writing said — MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN — but also it’s interpretation. Both syntax AND content (IMO) are hidden — perhaps (and I could be very, very wrong) this is the earliest Biblical example of “tongues and interpretation”.

    Further, I would point out that Paul was writing to a predominantly Greek audience, and the Greek culture at the time was strongly influenced by the concept of “Voces Mysticae” — the literal language of the demiurges, the creatures who inhabited the realm between man and the Gods. If you equate these with “angels” and you can see the “language of angels” that Paul was speaking of … not a metaphorical exaggeration, but a literal truth, especially since we’ve already shown that they are not understandable by earthly means.

    The most obvious Pagan example of this is the oracle at Delphi, where a priestess would speak — rave, actually — in an unknown language, which would then be interpreted into Greek by a male priest. This appears to be the function of tongues and interpretation in this setting — a Christianized version of the Greek Delphi. Mr. Davidson — a non-Christian — discusses some of the parallels between the prophets and pagan seers as part of a larger article at

    3) I suggest that a supernatural gift of interpretation is unnecessary if the message is given in a human language with a readily understandable human meaning. If this is so, it is not a mystery and does not require anything beyond normal human intellect to understand.

    4) Concur.

    5) Not sure I agree, but this is already long so I’ll let it pass for now.

    6) So you’re saying practice theory? That we don’t do what we’re supposed to do? Of what endeavor is that not true in church?

    For example, I could just as easily say that, despite our equality in Christ, in practice there is almost always an elite “clergy” and a non-elite “laypeople” and the difference is pronounced. Even though we argue against it and fight the tendency, it still happens. Does that mean the theory is wrong?

    7) I practice a private prayer language. And the answer to your question is that I, personally, have great evidence that it is helpful in that it builds my faith and it does strengthen my spirit. Although it is sort of annoying when you’re laying in bed at night, and you suddenly feel a surge and this whole paragraph of tongues just comes leaping out. Then you spend the rest of the night wondering just what’s going on…

    Besides, if it *IS* a gift from God, the ability to speak in the language of the demiurges — the angels — is a gift beyond human comprehension. If true, we have the literal ability to speak in languages beyond human comprehension, what pagan society would rightly call “magic words”. If such is a gift from God, it is to be cherished and respected, lest he decide never to give you another one :).

    Although, I tend to agree. My first reaction when I manifested the gift of tongues was , “what a rip-off!” There are a number of other neat gifts in those verse I’d much, much rather have. Miracles, for example. Make feeding the church picnic a LOT easier :).


    Brian P.

  8. I myself do not speak in tongues, but I know Southern Baptists who do. I do, however, have an affinity for the charismatic mindset and its emphasis on the power of God. I grew up in a Southern Baptist tradition that focused strongly on both the Word of God and the power of God, and I was actually converted at a pentecostal/charismatic revival. Those early encounters with God in that revival have been the foundational points for my understanding of my own salvation experience; I believe the Bible because I have encountered the God that appears on its pages.

    And although recent shifts in the convention via the IMB policies and others do not encourage me, I remain a Southern Baptist because I think we get closest to the mark of authentic Christianity. I’ll try to explain what I mean. On this issue of tongues, the power of God, etc., I see two camps that represent opposite errors. The error stems from not really paying attention to Jesus’ words in John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

    On one side there is the truth-heavy camp that emphasizes the propositional truths of Scripture over the working of the Holy Spirit. I put someone like John MacArthur and most other cessationists in this camp. They believe that the only (or at least the primary) miracle available to mankind today is the Word of God. They do not emphasize the powerful working of the Holy Spirit through miracles and wonders, and thus I don’t think they understand that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20)

    On the other side are the off-balance charismatics who emphasize the Spirit over the truth. This is the Spirit-heavy camp. On this end of the spectrum all that matters to Christian living is having experiences of God and His power, with scriptures that deal with these “power issues” taking precedence over more abstract theological issues. This de-emphasis on biblical truth has led to excesses and errors in the prosperity and word-faith movements.

    The truth is that most evangelical, SBC, and pentecostal/charismatic churches fall somewhere in the broad middle of this spectrum. I feel blessed to be a child of both the charismatic power emphasis and the SBC Reformed theology emphasis. And although I long for God to renew his miraculous works in our day for His own glory, I just get too weirded out when I go into many charismatic worship services. The SBC tradition of emphasizing both the truth of the Word and the power of the Spirit (without saying too much about tongues, for right or wrong) seems just about right to me. I wish that we could shift a bit more to the “Spirit’ end of the spectrum, but if I am going to err I want it to be toward the “truth” end. That’s because I do believe John MacArthur does have the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think some of the off-balance charismatics are very close to the truth.

  9. mort_chien says

    Mostly for Brian P.

    Brian, thank you for your response, brother. I am less clear when feeling passionate, so I’d like to try a couple of things again. As I said earlier, I would only mildly try to dissuade someone from using a “prayer language” – but only to the point of encouraging a rational self evaluation and to discourage its public (mis)use.

    Most of these discussions tend toward tongues at the expense of the other charismatos. I mentioned healing because it is the other highly visible and often illused gift. Every healing in the Scriptures was unambiguous – even the blind man who got the second touch. There may well be a scientific explanation for whta might be mistaken for a 2 step healing. I’ll leave it to interested folks to search for that on the net. The man’s brian may noy have known quite how to interpret the new sensation of sight.

    I cannot see how the writing on the wall can be thougt of as “tongues”. Miraculous, yes, but not spoken and without human aid in appearance.

    Not sure about “demiurges” – the gnostics used the term a bunch. The Greek word means “a popular public speaker” – not an angel.

    Here is an alternate understanding of public tongues. Just food for thought.

    Tongues is speech in a language unknown to the speaker, directed toward God in the form of prayer (ch14:14-17). Its primary use is in private prayer. Verses 18 and 19 makes it clear that Paul’s use of tongues was almost completely private and he all but rules out himself ever speaking in a tongue in the church. Public “tongues” was not the norm. In its public use speaking in tongues is a deliberate withholding of knowledge by God from unbelievers. This is the usual meaning of the word “mystery” – knowledge that is or has been deliberately withheld from people. Knowledge that can only be made known by Divine revelation. Frequently, this word refers to the mystery of the gospel, hidden for many ages, but now made known to His saints.
    The quote in vs 21 is from Isaiah 28:11 in which God says that He will speak to the people of Israel in a foreign tongue. God would have provided them with rest, but they would not listen to the prophets speaking their own tongue. The terrible warning is that they would not respond to this, but would stumble, be broken, and taken captive to a land in which they would continue to hear unintelligible (foreign) words. The same sign of judgment was echoed previously in Deut 28:49 where the Jews are told that turning from God will result in their conquest by a people whose “language they do not understand”. God is saying “Because you will not believe, I shall see to it that you shall not believe.” It is an awful judgment to have ones understanding removed, to have ones heart hardened, and to be turned over to ones own desires. The Assyrian invasion and the Babylonian captivity of the Jews fulfilled these prophecies – and the majority of the Jews remained unbelieving. In fact, some became quite comfortable in Babylon. Esther and Ezekiel include many examples of physical prosperity with spiritual destitution. One blatant example of Jewish accommodation to the gentile world: “Esther” is named after the pagan god, Ishtar; and Mordecai is similarly derived from “Marduk”. In Gen. 11:1-9 we see another instance in which God’s judgment on a disobedient people was to take away their understanding by confusing their languages.
    In Acts 2 we see the same pattern. The majority of the Jewish nation had rejected their Messiah, who would have provided them with rest. This first instance of “tongues” was a sign that the Jews had “missed it” just as they had missed it before the Babylonian experience. Peter’s preaching which followed led 3000 to faith, but this was a small fraction of all those present in Jerusalem at Pentecost and corresponds to the small “faithful remnant” that returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. Within a few years, God’s work would establish a primarily Gentile church in which the Word of God was received and spread in Gentile languages. Soon to “speak of the mighty deeds of God” in a non-Hebrew language would not require supernatural ability and “tongues” could cease by itself (1 Cor 13:8). The sign was fulfilled in that the Jews remained unbelievers for the most part, and though today we find occasional converts from Judaism, the vast majority are quite comfortable in their unbelief. Note that Acts 2 is the only explicit instance in which “tongues” are interpreted, and oddly enough, without supernatural aid!
    If the public speaking in tongues occurring today were the Biblical manifestation Paul describes (and I do not believe that it is), a number of things need to be changed. First, the supernatural aspect must be clearly demonstrated. A real language must be spoken by one without the natural ability to do so, and a correct translation given. This is easily testable if a natural speaker of the “language” is present and can confirm both the tongue and the interpretation. The content of the “language” should be a prayer to God in the form of singing, blessing, praise, and thanksgiving. Secondly, the protocol required in 1 Cor 14: 27 – 40 must be implemented. No more than 2 or 3 per church meeting, always one at a time, never without a validated interpretation, and women are to be silent. Thirdly, if tongues have returned, it is a warning that things have gone terribly wrong in the Church and that God is judging or about to judge His people by confirming them in their unbelief. This should be understood as a disaster of historic proportions comparable to the destruction of the Jewish nation. Real repentance, perhaps unprecedented in modern times, is called for. These things described in this paragraph are clearly not the message being put forward by the majority of the modern proponents of tongues.

  10. Today, only a minority of those who attend charismatic churches actually practice glossolalia. For the most part we are, in Gary North’s memorable phrase, “Baptists without hymnals.”

    A positive trend in the USA is the merging of charistmatic worship with reformed theology. Bob Mumford may have pioneered that trend. David Wilkerson admits finding great comfort in the old Puritan theologians. The pastor of King’s Park International Church, a lively, diverse charismatic fellowship, jokes about having almost completed his degree from “reform school” (Reformed Theological Seminary).

    The “pope” of our denomination, Rice Brookes, was responsible for dozens of churches, some with a thousand or more members, when God called him to deepen his foundation. He sat quietly in the back of the homiletics class at RTS, taking copious notes, while other students, pastors in training with perhaps a few dozen souls to oversee, tried to suck up to the teacher.

    Reformed theology keeps you humbly grateful. Charismatic gifts keep you optimistic.

  11. Whoa!!!
    I have been in the SBC for over 35 yrs now. Preaching in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and OK. I have been through those “years” of charismatic uprising like you said. I appreciate you’re trying to tell the story of the historical background, but with your permission and forgiveness… This posting was way off when it comes to understanding who was involved, the people, and the events. I am sorry, but you just reported the events like as if you peppered a steak… “All over”. And by that I mean you threw names around and misapplied them to events, causes, happening, and influence. Just because Robinson, for one instance, came on like gangbusters in your town, means little to other places and events. This vitamin pill pusher now, shows his true stripes in the present. Another thing, Roberts didn’t blow it with the giant Jesus, he disgraced himself long before that.
    Dennis Bennett? You must be joking? He was a laughing stock even then. And John Osteen? Mr. Hung by the tongue, You name it and claim it, Have Faith in Faith pastor of Lakewood?
    If I have to be in bed with these or any others you mentioned… I’ll just change denominations… It never was a matter of liberal Baptists or Charismatic Baptists.
    If you are Charismatic, that is fine with me. There are great charismatic churches out there that preach Christ and lift up His name. But the times you mentioned, and that we had to go through wasn’t easy and there was a lot of strife and mean things did in those days to hurt churches and divide them.

  12. Reformed theology keeps you humble.
    Charismatic gifts keep you proud.


    The “pope” of our denomination, Rice Brookes, was responsible for dozens of churches, some with a thousand or more members, when God called him to deepen his foundation. He sat quietly in the back of the homiletics class at RTS, taking copious notes, while other students, pastors in training with perhaps a few dozen souls to oversee, tried to suck up to the teacher.

    I’m sorry, but to impugn the godly pastors of smaller churches to life people of is a stench in the nostrils of God.

  13. I’m not a Charismatic. I was telling my story. I don’t endorse Osteen, etc. Good grief.

  14. never said you did… only commenting on the article, not you. About the people mentioned, not your beliefs.

  15. >And by that I mean you threw names around and misapplied them to events, causes, happening, and influence.

    I mentioned Robinson as an example of a popular SBCer who became Charismatic.

    I mention Roberts because he was far more accepted among non-Charismatic evangelicals before ORU began to experience financial problems.

    I’m not sure what “Laughing stock” means, but in mainline churches, Dennis Bennett was very representative of the Charismatic movement and was well respected.

    John Osteen was a former SBCer. That’s why I mentioned him.

    I’m not quite sure what you are throwing around when you accuse me of misapplication and inaccuracy.

  16. yes sir, I do mean that the article was misapplied, mistake ridden and all-around misunderstanding of the times and people involved. Of course you come up. You wrote the article. But don’t get huffy. I don’t know you. Only the article you wrote. You seem to be the type of people that are emotionally attached to what they write so that any criticism thrown upon the article is a personal attack on you. I am sorry you act this way. YOu need to step back and look at what you write and check it out historical, instead of taking it personal.

  17. I mention Roberts because he was far more accepted among non-Charismatic evangelicals before ORU began to experience financial problems.

    He was never accepted by them. Read your history. Even Billy Graham was hesitant to include Him in one of His crusades and never again. The backbiting involved was atrocious

  18. I’m not sure what “Laughing stock” means, but in mainline churches, Dennis Bennett was very representative of the Charismatic movement and was well respected.

    I mean what you implied when you wrote…

    “The leaders of the movement were low-key people like Dennis Bennett or Jamie Buckingham. This would change. The advent of Christian television began to elevate leaders with a profile less acceptable to Southern Baptists and more controversial in the church as a whole.”

    I’m sorry. The first leader in the Charismatic movement isn’t low profile being the first. He can’t help being high profile. I remember those tiems and told to read his book.

    If by what you mean, that they didn’t say outlandish things like more modern tv charismatics, then I agree.

    But to be placed in the times that they came out, then yes even then, this caused a stirring and the feelings of pentecostal people and believers wanting to invade the SBC and now “give us the FUll Gospel that we needed and lacked, caused a great deal of conflict and strife.

  19. Histrion (Jay H) says

    Puritan, Michael wrote:

    The leaders of the movement were low-key people like Dennis Bennett or Jamie Buckingham. This would change. The advent of Christian television began to elevate leaders with a profile less acceptable to Southern Baptists and more controversial in the church as a whole.

    You responded:

    I’m sorry. The first leader in the Charismatic movement isn’t low profile being the first. He can’t help being high profile.

    Read Michael’s words, the ones you quoted, again. Michael didn’t say he was low-profile (meaning little to no public exposure). He said he was low-key (meaning of low intensity). Not the same thing. He then said that the later leaders had a profile less acceptable, but that still doesn’t change the earlier “low-key” to mean “low-profile.”

  20. Thank you Jay for pointing that out. It is good to have friends that come to your rescue.
    And true, he did say low-key, and not low-profile.

    But if you had read my post carefully also, you would have noticed that I picked up on that already by clarifying my statement with this…

    “If by what you mean, that they didn’t say outlandish things like more modern TV charisma tics, then I agree.”

    I was trying to be fair with Michael in his posting, and wanted to make sure that that could be what he was saying.

    My main beef is with mischaracterizing of people of people for one.

    “Bailey Smith, Jerry Falwell and Jerry Vines represented a kind of revivalism that might be narrowly Baptist, but there is much in the emotional tone of the charismatic movement that these men would affirm.”

    Personally knowing these men, I can assure you, that, NO! They would not be agreeing with the “emotional tone of the charismatic movement”

    This point I didn’t bring up, even though I could have, but the problem with this posting by Michael, that in my opinion… Repeat…. in my opinion, it was a bad paper. and by that I mean it threw names around and misapplied them to events, causes, happening, and influence.

    I am sorry, but it is.

    I imagine that Michael wasn’t trying to write a Th.D thesis on the subject and I didn’t expect it to be. It was just a paper, that put 20 yrs of charismatic feelings in the SBC and tried to wrap it up in a small paper. My problem is, that it was poorly done. This might not feel good, to admit it, or be honest and look at the facts in their historical setting better.

    I don’t know. Maybe he wrote this at 2AM and was tired. I don’t know

    I don’t know him, his style or why he wrote it. All I am saying, is that living through those times, knowing many of the people he spoke of, knowing the leaders of the SBC for the past 35 years, what I am simple saying is …

    It’s a bad paper!

    But like I said… It’s nice to have friends to come to your rescue.

    Thank you for letting me post this comment and thank you Jay.

  21. Reticent says

    Michael; just came across this site and post today, and I found it very helpful. My personal background is Roman Catholic. I was saved at age 27, shortly after attended an AOG church, where I grew in my faith quite a bit, and after moving across town a couple years ago I now attend a SBC church. I have had mixed feelings about the “speaking in tongues” issue, and I found the balance of infomation in your post and the comments quite helpful.

    As for the last 10 posts regarding the accuracy of “who was involved, the people, and the events”, I didn’t have an issue with it. By that I mean that the history seems general enough to me that the main point is not clouded; the use of well know names is a useful point of reference; and a detailed history isn’t what I was readinng for in the first place.

    I can certainly understand why puritan and others close to the history might be more concerned about those details, but in my opinion the merit of the post and the majority of comments is found in explaining the evolution and variety of perspectives on the carismatic movement.

    Thanks again for the information.

  22. Jeff Holt says

    I am not getting into the historical debate of who was involved in what movement when. However, I am a Pentecostal that believes in the second work subsequent to salvation called the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

    I would like to comment on the theological importance of the issue at hand. The Bible, which is the ultimate authority should be what speaks to the subject of speaking in tonges and the operation of the gifts. This is where the subject needs to be ironed out.

    The Problem = Hermenutical ERRORR! You cannot read what Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth into what Luke was writing in the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Luke was showing the importance of this Spirit Baptism within the context of mission. This is the whole point. For the enduement of Power to be witnesses.

    Now if you are are flaming dispensationalist that chops up the whole bible and most importantly destroy proper exegesis than there is not use in talking about it. You have destroyed your mind and and only God can help you. (Only Kidding)

    But Classical Pentecostals believe that the disciples were already saved before the day of pentecost. For He has already sent them out in the ministry. And they returned saying that even the demons submit to us in your name. So on the day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with power from on High.

    Now what is the difference between what Paul wrote and what Luke wrote? Simple! Paul is dealing with a church that is full of problems. The church needed guidance in the use of tongues and other gifts in the worship service.

    He is not addressing the subject of Spirit Baptism or the empowerment of it. He is only addressing the excesses. Now in the context of the subject of gifts Paul makes a statement “not all speak with tongues”, now he is talking about a different mode of tongue than that which is recieved at Spirit Baptism.

    He is now talking about the importance the gift of tongues in a worship service. That is it! Paul also talks about the use of tongues in prayer. He says “I pray in the Spirit and I pray with an understanding” That means that we are given a prayer language that we pray in and worship in.

    That means that I don’t have to have an interpretation for that for it is in order and directed toward God. Now If I speak in tongues loud and at the congregation than it needs to be interpreted.

    Thus, there are 3 different modes in which we Pentecostals believe in Tongues.

    Charismatics and SBC or any other Christian sect that does not believe the Spirit Baptism with evidence of Speaking in tongues is incorrectly interpreting Lucan theology through Pauline color glasses.


  23. “The SBC’s minimal confessionalism and maximum cooperation made the charismatic movement a small matter as compared to larger issues of world mission, church planting and re-evangelization of the west. I believe priorities in mission, not priorities in exclusion, should determine how we treat our charismatic friends in the SBC and beyond it.”

    Well said.