At the risk of painting the Charismatic Movement with too broad a brush, I believe the Charismatic Movement is at the forefront of a new basis of faith, with its emphasis on private revelations, prophecies, and visions.
“Charismatic” is derived from the New Testament Greek term charisma, translated “gift.” Charismatic theology holds to a belief in a spiritual experience subsequent to salvation commonly known as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience is usually accompanied by speaking in other tongues, or glossolalia, a term derived from the New Testament Greek word that is translated “tongue.”
I am not saying God does not demonstrate his power in this age or that the Holy Spirit does not work AT ALL in the church today. I don’t accept the notion that the supernatural moves of God stopped with the first century church. Nor am I saying that ALL revelations, prophecies, visions or speaking in tongues is of the devil. What I am saying is that SOME signs, miracles, healings, etc. are not of God and SOME speaking in tongues is not “necessarily” spirit led.
The Charismatic Movement claims that visible and audible signs and wonders are the unifying force of true Christians. One of the aims of the Charismatic Movement is to unite various Protestant movements with Catholics under the banner of signs and wonders. The movement unites with some Charismatic Catholics who continue to practice idol worship.
Any movement (including Charismatic) that uses signs and wonders as proof of some level of spirituality is operating in deception. There is indeed a fine line and the problem I see is that the Charismatic movement (in general) has crossed that line and expects us to accept that they are ALL of God. That is a “dangerous deception” as Christians need to be more discerning about the movement and seek out the true move of God and not get caught up in the emotional flood of signs and wonders.
The Charismatic (neo-Pentecostal) movement has it’s roots in the Pentecostal movement which began around 1900 at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas when Agnes Ozman experienced speaking in tongues and believed she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Was her experience checked against the total context of Scripture? No, the Bible was made to fit her experience and Pentecostalism was born.
Pentecostalism did not start because the church discovered long-neglected truth in the Bible, it started because Agnes Ozman had an experience. Decrying accommodation to modernity (referred to as modernism), they took a firm grip on the Bible as infallible authority. In many cases they found in the Bible doctrines rarely practiced, such as “entire sanctification,” “Baptism of the Spirit,” and “speaking in tongues.”
Until 1960, these experiences were contained in denominations such as Assemblies of God, Foursquare, and United Pentecostal. But in 1960 Pentecostalism spilled over denominational lines when Dennis Bennett, rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California experienced what he believes was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. In appropriating these experiences, Charismatics sought to restore authenticity and power to strayed Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian traditions.
What makes the Charismatic movement especially worthy of concern is that Charismatics hold a great deal in common with other Christian bodies. They are followers of Christ, have access to the Holy Spirit; come together with others to worship, study, and serve. They truly love Jesus, the Scriptures and are sincere. They believe in the authority of the Word of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, His physical resurrection, salvation by faith and not works, the need to live a life of obedience, and to proclaim their faith. They really believe in their approach, but many of them are like the Jews of whom Paul said,
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” [Romans 10:2]
I am concerned that the Charismatic movement tends to foster a sort of “easy believism.” Some who are involved in the movement seem to focus more on signs and wonders than they do on the Word of God. As a result, they are tossed to and fro by whatever popular doctrine is preached that week with no real foundation in the whole Word of God.
I have no doubt there are some in the movement who are indeed anointed by God, as there are in most denominations and churches. This message is not directed at them, but rather I challenge those who are seeking truth to look into the pages of the Bible and see if what they are hearing from the pulpits is in accord with the Word of God.
While it is a grave sin to ascribe the supernatural of God to the devil, it is equally a grave sin to ascribe the devil’s signs and miracles to the Spirit of God. In Matthew 7 Jesus identifies a group of people who prophesy in His name, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works,
“…I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).
Deceptive Signs & Wonders
The gifts of the Spirit are sorely needed in the Church today, but we must be careful not to pervert them like the Corinthian church did. Some signs and wonders are deceptive and I suggest that we not put our trust or hope in them without deep discernment.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.” [2 Thes. 2:9-10]
There have been many examples throughout history and in our present culture of those deceivers operating in counterfeit miracles and signs & wonders. One doesn’t have to look much farther than some of the TV evangelists to find it, the holy laughter present at the Lakeland Revival in 2008 and the manifestation of demons in Stacy Campbell, or in the craze with visitations of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are many false teachers in our day selling their false hope/false healings, etc. in exchange for significant contributions to their financial wealth. Beware of those and steer clear.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 13] attempted to correct the problems in that Church because they were so busy fracturing the fellowship over the temporary issues and forgetting what was eternal. The Corinthian church had allowed the entire world system in which they existed to infiltrate their assembly.
For example, they were emphasizing human philosophies – dominated by materialism, antagonism, competition, selfishness and, hatred (chaps. 1-4), they were into hero worship (chap. 3), they were involved in terrible, gross, sexual immorality (chaps. 5-6), they were suing each other in court – resented each other, argued with each other, and shut each other out from their private groups (chap. 6), they had misevaluated their home and marriage relationships – deprived each other in marriage, divorced each other (chap. 7), they were confused about pagan feasts, idolatry, and things offered to idols – withheld food from the poor at the love feast, burned the Lord’s Table into a drunken orgy (chaps. 8-10), they had relinquished and perverted the proper place of women within the church meeting (chap. 11), they had misunderstood the whole dimension of spiritual gifts and fought each other for prominence in the use of their spiritual gifts (chap. 12), and they had lost hold of the greatest thing – love (chap. 13).
The corrupt spirit of Corinth had permeated the church. The Christians had become carnal, worldly, indulgent, selfish, contentious, vengeful, proud, and compromising. Almost everything that was characteristic of the society had been picked up by the church. They even perverted their own spiritual behavior into pagan-like religion – twisting spiritual gifts away from the Spirit and operating them in the flesh.
All these things were evidence of the absence of the one thing needed: love. Love is not a feeling or an emotion. It is a spirit of self-sacrifice. It is a willingness to met another’s need – even if it means sacrificing something we need or possess.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. [1 Corinthians 13:8-12]
The Crazy “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey”
For many Evangelicals, Christianity has become “signs and wonders,” or “falling under the power,” or laughing uncontrollably.
Influenced by the Latter Rain movement with its new focus on the spiritual elements of Christianity including personal prophecy, typological interpretation of Scripture, the restoration of the five-fold ministry and a different eschatological emphasis, Kingdom Now Theology has also been connected to the New Apostolic Reformation and “Spiritual Warfare Christianity”. A major feature of the expected latter rain would be the “manifestation of the Sons of God” or “Joel’s Army”. The Latter Rain movement taught that as the end of the age approached, the “overcomers” would arise within the Church. These Manifest Sons of God, ones who have come into the full stature of Jesus Christ, would receive the Spirit without measure. They would be as Jesus was when he was on earth and would receive a number of divine gifts, including the ability to change their physical location, to speak any language through the Holy Spirit, and would be able to perform divine healings and other miracles. They would complete the work of God, restoring man’s rightful position as was originally mandated in Genesis and by coming into the full stature of Christ would usher in his millennial reign.
Others offer a Christianity designed to appeal to the worldly minded and to be inoffensive to sinners: church services and Christian TV that out-glitz Hollywood; or the excitement of 50,000 men cheering Jesus in a packed football stadium. For others it’s the quest for self-esteem and a “positive self-image,” probing the unconscious for past abuses suffered that excuse present unbelief and carnality; or quietly carrying on a conversation with an imaginary “visualized Jesus.”
There is an overwhelming presumption by the supporters of these phenomena that it must be of God because of what they perceive to be the “blessings” people are experiencing. Since the Scriptures warn us that Satan appears as an angel of light and his ministers as deceptive ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15), short-term “positive” results prove nothing. The only true basis for discerning whether or not God is behind these alleged revivals is the test He commands:
“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” [Isa. 8:20]
The Challenge to All Believers
My challenge to you is to test your own beliefs.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. [Acts 17:11]
I would suggest one way to discern whether something is a gift from God or not, is what do we do with it? At Pentecost the gift of tongues was used to communicate to those of foreign tongues (Acts 2:8) and I believe God empowers us with His gifts to likewise communicate His truth to those who are unhearing. His gifts are not meant to puff me up, but rather to use in the edification of others. I would question anyone’s true motives if after receiving the Holy Spirit their life is not changed and they are not sharing that life changing experience with others.