The following article was submitted by Caleb Nakina, a fourth year student at CABC.
Charismaticism must be of great interest to every Christian who understands this age. It must not be ignored as though non-existent. The fact is, it has swept across all of Christendom, for better or for worse, and thus attention must be given to it. Dr. Ken Matto says that “one major tenet of this movement… is the fact that [it] is world wide in scope.” Charismatics are widely accepted and eagerly defended by a number of Evangelical Christians (see, for instance, MacArthur 13-15).
Such “success” must not blind us to the movement’s flaws. Even Menzies and Menzies, who have written meticulously to defend Pentecostalism, admit this movement’s shortfall in building a trustworthy theology. They essentially admit that the movement has been better known for experience-related enthusiasm than for biblically-based beliefs. They see this to be the reason why the movement’s future might be bleak. They say,
“…in spite of its vitality and growth, the future of the movement is uncertain. This is largely due to the fact that theology gives direction to our experience and praxis, and the theological legacy of Pentecostalism is ambiguous. Pentecostals have been known for their spiritual vitality, not their theological prowess or intellectual rigor (9—italics mine).”
One has only to wonder how possible it is to have spiritual “vitality” without a strong base of theology. The only possible kind of “vitality” in the absence of good theology is a sham. One’s spiritual strength is directly proportional to their understanding of God. In the absence of theology, any seeming spirituality is a mere façade that needs to be torn down.
Failure threatens Charismaticism. Unless the movement reforms from an experiential to a biblical theology, they are bound to fail. Experiential theology cannot serve as a base for spiritually strong believers. It will crumble with time. We pray that they reform.
From its inception, the true church grew in direct proportion to the believers’ adherence to the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). The apostle’s doctrine has been inscripturated for us so that we too can continue in it. Any sect that does not conform to the Scriptures will die out by and by. The purpose of this paper is to outline the danger that the Charismatic movement poses to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. For as long as this remains true, their demise looms.
Charismatics are usually referred to as a child of Pentecostalism, and rightly so I contend. Pentecostalism started early in the 20th Century (Wagner 20-22). It began with the supposed reinstitution of the use of spiritual gifts—especially the miraculous ones. This “revival” is understood to be based on personal encounters with the Holy Spirit in what is wrongly though popularly termed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Bridge 101-08; Unger 14-37). In the Pentecostals’ understanding, this encounter is post-salvific, and is primarily evidenced by speech in tongues (Weil 185). The Pentecostal movement advocates for the use of the spiritual gifts in similar manner as they were at the dawn of Christianity when Jesus Christ’s apostles were in charge of the leadership and direction of the church (Unger 7).
Because this Pentecostal movement was largely rejected by mainstream Christendom, several of the people who adopted its theology in mainstream churches either decided or were forced to leave. However, from the 1960s, some people who subscribed to Pentecostal ideologies started staying in the mainline churches with their Pentecostal experiences (Longhenry). Strictly speaking, Charismatics are these Pentecostal-like believers thriving in major denominations from the 1960s to date (Weil 185-6).
We must not think that this term “Charismatic” refers to a charming personality as evidenced in, say, gifted speakers. Instead, it derives from the Greek Word for spiritual gifts, i.e. Carisma, “Charisma”. Danker says that, in the New Testament, the word Carisma is “always [used] in connection with divine generosity bestowed on believers” (Danker 381). The gifts that are granted to believers for the benefit of the Church as a body are in view when we talk about Charisma. The Charismatics get their name from this term because of their emphasis on the use of spiritual gifts just like their Pentecostal friends did before them (Weil 185). There are, apparently, some marked differences between the Pentecostals and the Charismatics, but this paper treats those differences as insignificant enough to allow for these two terms to be used fairly synonymously. For this paper’s scope and purpose, therefore, the term “Charismatic” will embrace the Pentecostals too and vice-versa.
At the heart of the Charismatic movement is a misunderstanding of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This misunderstanding predisposes Charismaticism to undermine the Scriptures, as they seek to imitate an age of Christianity that did not have the complete canon of Scripture.
If the proposition of this paper is true, and Charismatic tendencies are enjoying much favor amongst otherwise orthodox Christians, then something must be wrong. It means that Christians are defending a group of people whose existence is undermining the very authority that undergirds our faith as it was delivered to us “once for all” (Jude 3, NIV). Christians are harboring, rather than exposing, an enemy. This must be because the church is, at least partially, ignorant of something; either our authority—the Bible—or the Charismatic doctrine, or both. This paper will point out some dangers of Charismatic beliefs to our faith resulting from the Charismatics’ tendency to undermine the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.