"Prove all things; hold fast that which is
(1 Thessalonians 5:21)
The believer in Christ is to prove or test all things, and this includes the modern Charismatic movement. We are to test all things by the Word of God which is our only infallible rule and measuring stick. How does the Charismatic movement line up with God's inerrant Word?
Our approach will be a doctrinal approach. We will be looking at 35 doctrinal issues. Our key question will be, "WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES?" (see Romans 4:3). We will compare what the Charismatic movement teaches with what the Word of God teaches in order to see if there is a difference. Any teaching that is out of harmony with the Word of God or which contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture we must label as erroneous and false.
We must form our conclusions based upon objective truth, upon the plain facts of God's Word. We will not and must not form our conclusions based upon subjective feelings and personal experiences: "It must be true because it happened to me." "I know that speaking in tongues is for today because I have spoken in tongues." "I know that speaking in tongues is valid because I know someone who speaks in tongues." "I know that God has special healers today because my best friend was healed by one of them."
Our conclusions will not be based on subjective experiences but upon God's objective truth: "I know so because God said so!" Regardless of my personal experiences, I am going to test all things by the Word of God and I am going to agree with what God has said even if it seems to contradict what I have experienced or what I have felt or what has happened to me or others whom I know.
We agree fully with the following quote which has been attributed to Martin Luther:
"Feelings come and feelings go and feelings are deceiving. My warrant is the Word of
God, naught else is worth believing. Though all my heart should feel condemned for want of
some sweet token, there is One greater than my heart whose Word cannot be broken. I'll
trust in God's unchanging Word 'till soul and body sever, for though all things shall pass
away, His Word shall stand forever!"
Positive Aspects of the Movement
In fairness we should recognize that there are some positive aspects of the modern Charismatic movement. While in this paper we want to clearly see and discern many of their doctrinal errors, at the same time we do not want to be blind to the positive aspects of this movement. Even though we do not approve of the Charismatic movement in general and even though we cannot participate with Charismatic people in their error and in their experience-orientated way of living, yet we can still learn from them and recognize some things that are commendable.
For the most part these people have an enthusiasm for the things of God. They have a freedom and a boldness to praise the Lord in public and in private. They are not ashamed to speak of the Lord before both Christians and non-Christians.
They are usually excited about spiritual things. They are often enthusiastic about sharing what they have found with others: "My friend, I want you to have what I have."
They seem to have a spiritual dynamic which is sadly lacking among some Bible believers. When you think of Charismatic people you normally do not think of deadness. These people are lively and enthusiastic and excited and emotional and vibrant. They often have a zeal for serving the Lord, though, as we shall see, their zeal is often not according to knowledge. Should not Bible believers be excited and enthused about the things of God? Often this is the way we were when we first came to know Christ as our personal Saviour, but as the years pass by we tend to lose some of this. It is easy to leave our first love. As we grow in knowledge we must be very careful not to lose our zeal for Christ and our enthusiasm to make Him known to others.
Often Charismatic people exhibit a type of joy and happiness. They seem to be enjoying what they are doing. Their religion is not a dead ritual. It is personal and real to them. They do what they do because it is meaningful to them and because they enjoy it.
They often show a warmth and concern for one another. They are friendly and outgoing and are generally not afraid to talk to others about the Lord and what He has done for them.
The Bible and prayer are important to them. They like to get together in their small prayer groups and Bible study times. They enjoy getting together for fellowship and prayer and praise and singing. The major problem is that they let their subjective personal experiences govern how they interpret the Bible, but we commend them for their interest in the Scriptures and for their desire to have a personal and real relationship with the Saviour.
We can learn from those who are Charismatic. As we test this movement by the Word of God, we should recognize what is commendable and exemplary about the movement. We can learn from the positive aspects of this movement. May God help us to be orthodox (on a straight line doctrinally), but may we avoid a dead orthodoxy (being doctrinally correct but lacking a real and right relationship with the Saviour that transforms DOCTRINE into LIFE). We do not want to have doctrine without life and we do not want to have life without doctrine. True doctrine will always be "according to godliness" (1 Tim. 6:3), that is, according to God-fearing conduct.
The following pages are based upon a four hour teaching session on the Charismatic Movement which used to be given annually at the Burlington Bible Institute, Church of the Open Bible, Burlington, Massachusetts [this school is no longer in operation]. These studies have been updated in light of recent developments whenever possible.
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