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Monday, May 5, 2008

Op-Ed: From the Charismatic Point of View

This is actually a relatively short reply to the issue of Charismaniac Christian belief. Only because I don’t believe there’s much to say as regards a belief versus a physiological manifestation of reality.

Preface: Belief for all Christians is based on that which we cannot reach out and physically touch, smell, hear or see. We all have that in common, from there we tend to diverge into various groups or denominations to the nth degree.

That said, here goes. I will highlight my response in blue to NJ_GOP's comments. And NJ – never fear and let your heart not be troubled, offense is never taken at any faith viewpoint which embodies as THE central tenet of Christ crucified, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. Beyond the application of Christ as the Son of God and the Trinity, everything else is just a detail. The last time I looked none of the rest of us has a direct line (DSL or Cable modem etc.) to the Father.

Ok so here's where everybody gets crazy.  I have never found a verse that has convinced me that these gifts stopped when the Bible was canonized (proper term?).  However, having spent many years within the Charismatic movement, having studied the re-emergence of "gifts" in the early 20thcentury in the U.S. , and having sincerely tried to apply the Charismatic way of life, I have come to the conclusion that 90% of the teachings of the movement are erroneous, maybe even dangerous.

I will disagree with the teachings per se as being erroneous, I will agree that the application of the teaching is often outside the written Word, as revealed to man through the Holy Spirit.  

Charismatics, Pentacostals, Full Gospelers, Faith Movement Folks all seem to share the same common flaw in my humble opinion.  Their 
attitudes often reflect a desire to be God  anybody ever heard of Adam and Eve? 

Those who interpret Scripture to allow the Father OR His Son or to be placed in a position as co-equal to fallen man are going to wind up in eternity without a cool place to sit.

Over and over the teachers in these areas stress the importance of one's personal faith as the power behind getting your needs and desires fulfilled. This seems to be central in many books, sermons, chatrooms, blogs, whatever.  If something isn't going your way, then gosh darn it stamp your foot and demand that God obey your wishes!  These teachers often advise Christians to quote the Bible to God to coerce him into obedience.  Now they will say that this is based on David's prayers where he remembers God's word in his prayers….and yes, we should know God's word well enough to be able to pray like David.  But the distinction is in the attitude.

Attitude is personal, it happens to be only between God and the individual. Unless we develop the “ability” to directly read a persons intent or thoughts its all guess work.

I will agree there are people who seem to have made that error. 
E.W. Kenyon is likely the beginning of that vein of thought - “What I confess, I possess” was his terminology if memory serves.

The whole “name it and claim it” is from that line of thought. Ken Hagin was really the beginning though of the current Word of Faith movement though with the “blab it and grab it” concept, along with Ken Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and some others.

I have read my Book through and through, I fid no reference which will lend credence to me having an easy life, or being wealthy just because I believe in Christ and am willing to die rather than give my self over to the enemy.

For any of the Cyber Crew (or our readers) who happen to swing that way, - It’s your choice, I just don’t see any evidence of a Heaven on Earth being promised to us.

 I have often said I would have made a great Jew or Catholic.  I would just love to be able to have someone hand me the rules and all I have to do is follow the checklist and I'm good to go.  No offense intended here, I know many in both faiths whose relationship with God is way beyond a checklist.

My point is that it is the attitude of our hearts that is the key to all matters of faith.  And keeping one's motives and thoughts in check is a lot harder than keeping an outward list of requirements for me.

We agree, except for being Catholic, I don’t need, want or desire an intermediary to stand between myself and Christ.

 Charismatics frequently (almost always it seems) have an attitude problem.

 Some do. So do Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans and….

 For one thing,  Charismatics will not accept that anything bad can happen to a Christian.

Excuse me, but where does that come from? My wife is a cancer survivor (6+ yrs).

That wasn’t so terribly great to have happen. (she is a Christian also BTW)

 2nd preface(can their be two?)

I was raised as a Southern Baptist, fell away while I was in the service, and came back in a very small Non-denom church(which altered to a Word of Faith – Blab it and grab it)and went from there to a Assembly of God. At no time have I heard a Pastor ever say, or intimate that we as Christians are protected from the evils of the world. Only that having either gone through the ‘bad things’ or having succumbed (physically) to something bad, we have the Hope Of Christ for an eternity which so good, we are not capable of understanding at this point in our existence how good it can be.

 If someone tries that line of “Ghost Shirt” malarkey, I would point them in the direction of Wounded Knee to explain the concept in greater detail to the Sioux who tried that route. Works equally well today.

I often wonder if they have any idea the number of missionaries who have been martyred in this century alone?

I do, can’t say what the rest know about.

http://www.persecution.net/informed.htm  one place to start for anyone who pleads ignorance of how many die on an annual basis.


Do they blame these missionaries for not "praying the hedge of protection" around themselves?  As if God's hands are tied until WE pray this or that into existence!   I will never forget our A.G. pastor when I attended a very large church in the late 70s whose young daughter had cancer.  I don't know what kind of cancer it was, but she had deformities in the shape of her head and face and it was clearly obvious to anyone that she was very very ill. One Sunday morning, as the child lay on a pillow in the pew in front of me, I overheard the pastor's wife say to someone "It's a miracle she's completely healed."  This seemed like a completely stupid thing to say. 

In fact, it was not "faith talk" or "positive confession" it was an outright lie --- or else that poor mom was in a state of complete denial.   At a time when this family should have been preparing themselves and the siblings for this little girl's death, they instead thought it was somehow their responsibility to save their daughter's life by having enough faith. She died about a week later.

The senior pastor (now a consulting pastor) of my church has lost three of his

four children to cancer, the second eldest was the pastor of the church when he died.

No one has denied the results of, or the pain of the loss.

In think the central flaw in the Charismatic thinking is pride.  It is a mindset that God is sort of the O.S. working behind the scenes and nothing really happens until the user starts typing on the keyboard. The user is in full control, having installed the O.S.   and the O.S. is there to serve the user, not the other way around.

 Pride is a human failing, not a charismatic failing. When I hear that applied to charismatic churches I tend to ask the person posing the question if they are breathing, if they are, I ask if everyone in their church breathes?. The answer is typically – yes. Some make the connection, some don’t.

 The major reason I joined a Charismatic church way back in the 70s is because I absolutely loved their zeal and their clapping and their raising their hands to God.  They really seemed to know what JOY was, and that's the way I felt in my heart but my church didn't act very happy.  That was also around the same time that musicians like Larry Norman were entering the scene,  and eventually many of the non-Charismatic churches caught up with the Charismatics where music and worship were concerned.

There is more to worship than music and songs, what we do in our lives to show the love of God to the unsaved is a form of worship, what we do when no one is watching can be a form of worship. The list goes on…

We have three primary “worship” teams plus a youth “worship” team (which played today BTW)all are worship all meet the need, some just worship faster than others.

 When I first started in the Charismatic church, I even had someone pray for me to receive the Holy Spirit and after that people in my Charismatic small group kept calling that prayer my "spiritual birthday".  

(?????) But that disturbed (it should!) me since I had been a born again Christian for many years and I knew I was saved  no doubt whatsoever.  I never adhered to the belief, in all the years I spent in the A.G. churches, that the baptism of the H.S. was a separate, one-time event.

With that I can disagree, it does seem to be a separate event,

but has nothing to do with being saved or not saved before that point.

My goal here is not to debate whether tongues are for today, or whether someone has this gift or that gift.  My point is that if you feel you have these gifts, then get your attitude in order before you even think  you are better than anyone else or you think you have "more of God" (I love that one) than another Christian.  Check your attitude before you start ordering God around and don't stop reading at the end of 1 Cor 12 because 1 Cor 13 is the rest of the message!

May I simply suggest we all need to do that?

In all you do, remember the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by the way really WAS AND IS better than everyone else but never ever acted in a condescending way even to the worst sinners.

We all need to humble ourselves before our maker and creator, in humility use our gifts, not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. Remember that there are people who are praying for their next meal, not for a new car or a bigger house.

One of the most profound things I ever learned, I learned from what I call a "full-blown-screaming" charismatic woman preacher whom I knew personally. She said that when sharing the gospel with the lost, people always ask questions like, "is it Ok to pray to Mary", or "is smoking a sin", or "what about all the evil in the world".  She said that she made it a point to always drive the conversation back to Jesus and avoid the tangents that lead away from introducing the person to Jesus Christ.

Sounds like a solid teacher. Stay focused on the goal, Christ. I’ll go along with that!

If our gifts or our attitudes or our actions have not originated with the goal of making a lasting impact for the kingdom of God then it's time to stop and think.  You may just be a clanging symbol. Forget what mere men may have told you about how great you are, or how much you deserve to be prosperous or the center of attention, or how you are entitled to certain things or how we should demand this or that from God.  (Try picturing yourself talking like that to God's face.)

John the Baptist said "He must increase, I must decrease".   You don't see people whose gift is picking up the trash or cleaning the church toilets with a blog show touting how God has given them the gift of toilet cleaning do you?  Yet the church toilet cleaner needs to check his or her attitude just as much as the "prophet" or "healer".

Study what God's word says, don't skip over the passages about suffering and poverty.  Study the lives of Christians who valued humility.  Examine yourself frequently and find an accountability partner. Consciously avoid speaking "Christianese".  And above all else, avoid the original sin, the one that got Satan kicked out of heaven and got Adam and Eve kicked out of paradise….the desire to be "God" or "Like God".  The best reading material I have found on this topic is at *www.equip.org <http://www.equip.org/>.  I have trusted this website for many years now and have found them to be accurate and factual on almost every topic. I'm still researching some things I have read there, but they are right on the money as far as the faith movement and Charismatic theology.

 Thanks for listening.

*Christianese Dictionary*

 *Word of Knowledge*:  a person will (under the influence of what he or she says is the Holy Spirit) tell you something about yourself that you already know.  These words of knowledge are based on 1 Cor 12; and to date I have never actually seen one come true unless of course the "word" was sufficiently vague so that it is about as valuable as reading your horoscope.

 *Prophesy* (*in the 21st century): quite honestly I'm not sure this is much different than the Word of Knowledge, except that Pat Robertson prophesied a famine in America that was supposed to occur sometime back in the late 80s I think, and Benny Hinn prophesied that Jesus would stand with him in the flesh on the stage at his Kenya revival.  Silly me thought that when Jesus returned to earth he'd be coming on the clouds and something about a trumpet…..

  *Hedge of Protection:  *another of my favorites.  About the best way to describe this is to tell a true story.  A depressed woman who had been robbed/burglarized 3 times in one year came to church to seek answers. 

When she asked "why" the church leader smiled with the most condescending grin and replied as if talking to a child…"now who's fault was all that?"  The woman was puzzled and said she didn't understand the question.  He went on to tell her that none of those things would have happened to her if she had prayed the hedge of protection around herself. 

*Plead the Blood:  You'll have to google this one  because I don't have a clue.*

 *The 3-second rule:  *that's when you drop the last cookie and you find an excuse to eat it.   technically not Christianese but I thought we needed a break.

 *The spirit of:  smoking, drinking, anger, poopy diapers, etc*.:  this is the Charismatic's way of blaming the devil for everything that goes wrong. The irony is that for the most part, Charismatics are really into the power trip, except for when it comes to personal responsibility oftentimes.  In order to quit smoking or get a loved one to quit, they will pray against the spirit of tobacco…I just made up the poopy diapers part, I know for a fact that Charismatics potty train their kids.

*Spiritual Birthday  *usually this means the day a person is born again. However in my case they labeled the day I "got" the Holy Spirit my spiritual birthday.  In all seriousness, this is the most important day a person can ever experience.

*Point of faith*:  this generally amounts to some snake oil televangelist selling you some asinine object for 100 times what it's worth so that you will get that special prayer answered.  They will tell you that the object itself has no power, but it acts as a point of faith so that the Holy Spirit can answer your prayer (note the emphasis on the power f your faith here).

My absolute all time #1 favorite point of faith object was a photo of a life sized hand of Oral Roberts.  This thing was photo of the front and back of his hand, and it was attached to a little stick so you could put it anywhere that you needed healing.   To this day I wish I had that thing it would go for a bunch on Ebay I'll bet.

*The anointing*:  this one gets on my last nerve.  People go church shopping looking for a church that has the "anointing".  This usually means that they want to feel good when they leave.  Once this Charismatic was complaining that our pastor didn't have the "anointing.  (She came to our church because she felt God sent her to us to straighten us out  I'm not kidding). (steer clear of those, very very clear!!)  When I asked her what the heck that actually means she got really angry with me….probably because she suddenly realized that there was nothing in her thinking that was scriptural.  She never did answer my question.  She's now WHENEVER a person stands up, or cries out, or makes a noise like  “Thus sayeth the Lord of Heaven” I have been rude enough to saunter over and ask them what part of merry old England they happen to be from, and which dialect of Hebrew they were speaking in and/or which Arch Angel they might happen to be. It never won me any friends, but my A.G. pastor always backed me up, he couldn’t put up with it either. moved on to another church.   My bible says that all believers are anointed.  1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27.

*Binding Satan*:  This practice implies that we physically "bind" Satan rendering him powerless over us after we say this.  It is usually said in a prayer but it is usually the person praying that causes the "binding" to happen.  So you may hear someone say "I bind you Satan in Jesus' name" during prayer.  Now I'm not of the opinion that our conversations with God should also be conversations with Satan, so on it's face I just think the practice is off base.  I'm sure there are many books on this topic.

I note that at no point in the Bible does any one imply that any being except God the Father exerts any power over Satan.


All in all, not that short a rebuttal I suppose.

The bottom line from my perspective is that you have had experiences with failed human beings,

One note regarding the mention of a large charismatic church. I’ve never seen a large charismatic church stay on track. They get to big and the fall of the track, they lose the focus of Christ and the whole deal begins to focus on “the mission” or “the ministries”, when the focus fails at any time to be Christ it’s time to consider how to fix that, or where to go to church except where that is going on.


One test I use is after being in a church for a year or two, can I recognize 90% of the people who go there, and do they recognize me? If I can (and I do) then it’s small enough to maintain accountability to and by my brothers and sisters in Christ.