By Gary E. Gilley
The focus of the
Pentecostal and charismatic movements has always been centered on shared
experiences, not theology. This is especially true of those in the charismatic
movement, which transcends all denominations. Thus, for example, there are
Catholic charismatics, who believe in a sacramental form of salvation, and there
are Lutheran charismatics, who believe that infant baptism is redemptive, and
there are Baptist charismatics, who believe they are saved through faith alone.
While these three types of charismatics might vary widely in their views of the
fundamentals of their faith, what they have in common is an experience -- the
experience of speaking
in tongues. While all charismatics do not personally speak in tongues, all
would accept the validity of tongues-speaking. This experience does have a
doctrinal framework, of course, which could be expressed in the following two
1) The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace that brings power in the life of the believer.
2) The evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues.
conclusion of these statements is that a person who has not been baptized by the
Holy Spirit is a "second class" Christian and is not experiencing the
power of God in his life. If the charismatics are correct, an important
ingredient is missing from the spiritual life of most Christians. If they are
wrong, then they have elevated a questionable at best, or at worst, a fraudulent
practice to the centerpiece of Christian living. If the baptism of the Holy
Spirit is truly a subsequent experience, with the evidence of speaking in
tongues, then all Christians should seek this baptism. If it is not, then this
theology should be exposed and denounced. One cannot have it both ways.
foundation for the unique theological position of charismatics is found almost
entirely in the book of Acts. Four
passages are critical:
Acts 2:1-8 -- The day
of Pentecost where tongues were first spoken.
Acts 8:14-18 -- In Samaria where the new believers did not receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles came, even though there is no record of tongues being spoken.
Acts 10:44-48 -- At Cornelius' house when the Gentiles received the Spirit.
Acts 19:1-7 -- When John's disciples received the Spirit at conversion and spoke in tongues.
A careful study of
the above passages, and others, will reveal that it is extremely difficult to
base doctrine on the book of Acts. Acts is a book of history, tracing the
transitional nature of the early church. Note the transitional nature and the
diversity of the reception of the Holy Spirit in these four passages. For
example, there is no speaking in tongues in Acts 8; no wind or fire except in
Acts 2; some, who were already saved, received the Spirit, along with some new
converts; etc. However now, according to Romans 8:9 and I Corinthians 12:13, the
Holy Spirit is always received at the moment of conversion.
It should also be
noted that most converts, even in the book of Acts, did not speak in
tongues. The following believers apparently did not speak in tongues: 3000
at Pentecost (2:41); 5000 men (4:4); the eunuch (8:35-38); Saul (9:3-18);
Sergius Paulus (13:7-12); at Antioch (13:43); Lydia (16:14,15); Philippian
jailer (16:27-34); Berea and Thessalonica (17:4,12); Athens (17:34); Crispus
(18:8); and at Ephesus (19:18).
clearly teach that the purpose of Spirit baptism is to bring us into the body of
Christ -- Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26,27; Ephesians 4:5 (one baptism); Colossians
2:12; I Corinthians 12:13 (as well as verses 14-26 pointed out that not all
speak in tongues).
So how do
charismatics deal with the apostolic teaching that Spirit baptism occurs at the
moment of conversion, brings us into the body of Christ, and is not accompanied
with tongues? They deal with it by teaching that there are actually two Spirit
baptisms in the New Testament. This view holds that the first baptism, called
the baptism of repentance, happens to all believers and brings them into the
body of Christ. The second baptism is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, or
endowment with power, which is signified by tongues. The first is baptism
by the Holy Spirit; the second is with the Holy Spirit.
position is that when Paul referred to tongues in I Corinthians 12-14, he was
speaking to believers who had received the first baptism (by the Spirit) and
were, thus, already part of the body of Christ. As part of the body of Christ,
some had received the gift of speaking in tongues -- but not all. Obviously
then, not every believer will receive the gift of speaking in tongues. On the
other hand, when a Christian has received the second baptism (with the Holy
Spirit) the evidence will be speaking in tongues as a SIGN of that experience.
Therefore, according to this view, some Christians have the gift of tongues, but
all Christians who have received the second baptism will evidence this fact with
at least an initial experience of speaking in tongues.
It is easy to see
that a poor understanding of the book of Acts is overturning the clear teaching
of the epistles. Even Acts refutes this "two-baptism" view when in
11:17 Luke declares the tongues "experiences" of chapters 2 and 10,
which were signs, as gifts. Tongues, in the early church, were
"sign-gifts." (See below for a discussion of sign gifts.)
opposition to the charismatic position is found in Ephesians 4:5, which says
that there is only one baptism. The distinction between
"by" and "with" cannot be sustained. The same Greek
preposition "en" is used both in I Corinthians 12:13 and in Acts 1:5.
In I Corinthians 12:7-13, we are told that God has already given the gifts as He
wills. He tells us that we do not all have the same gifts (read 12:4, 7-11,
14-18 and 28-31). In all of the New Testament, only I Corinthians 12:13 explains
the purpose of the baptism of the Spirit, which is to bring us into the body
(church) of Christ. To claim that its purpose is to give us power from God, and
is evidenced by speaking in tongues, is without Biblical basis.
The New Testament is clear that tongues were actual foreign languages -- not incoherent gibberish. Acts 2:4-8 is the only passage in the New Testament that sheds light on the nature of tongues. At that event, those who heard tongues spoken by the apostles were able to understand them in their own language. The apostles apparently spoke in languages they did not understand -- but they spoke in known languages, understandable to the listeners.
Why did God use
tongues in the early church? Much debate has taken place over this question. The
major theories are presented in the following few paragraphs, with a short
commentary following each theory:
The First Theory: Church Edification
The idea is that
the gift of tongues was, and is, given for the edifying of other believers.
However, the whole purpose of I Corinthians 14:1-19 is to emphasize that tongues
were worthless for this purpose.
The Second Theory: Evangelization
At Pentecost, it
was Peter's gospel message -- not tongues -- that brought people to Christ. With
Cornelius (Acts 10), it was new Christians who spoke in tongues and no unsaved
people were present. At Ephesus, there was no indication that any unsaved people
were present when tongues were spoken (Acts 19:6). Tongues at Corinth were
clearly not evangelistic. In fact, Paul remarked that unbelievers observing them
would likely be repelled, just as they were at Pentecost (I Corinthians 14:23
and Acts 2:13).
The Third Theory: Proof of Spirit Baptism
In the New
Testament, many believers are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit, with no
mention of speaking in tongues. Spiritual baptism always has reference to our
baptism into Christ. The difference between baptism and filling is found in
Ephesians 5:18. We are commanded to be filled; therefore, it is not universal
among Christians, whereas baptism is.
The Fourth Theory: Devotional
Paul said that he
would rather pray and sing with the Spirit AND the mind than with just the
Spirit alone (I Corinthians 14:14-15). The purpose of tongues is as a sign (Mark
16:17), not for personal spiritual growth.
The Fifth Theory: Condemnation
According to I
Corinthians 14:21, which quotes Isaiah 28:11,12, tongues were a sign to the
nation of Israel that God was bringing judgment upon them for their sinfulness
and rejection of Christ.
The Sixth Theory: Apostolic Authentication
Since, on the
testimony of Jesus, tongues were a sign, it remains only to determine what they
were a sign of (Mark 16:17). In II Corinthians 12:11-13, Paul appeals to signs
and wonders as the proofs of the apostolic office. If that is what they were,
then that is their purpose. No unusual manifestation of the Spirit's presence
(no sign) ever occurred except in the presence of an apostle or by those who had
been directly ministered to by an apostle.
A combination of
the final two theories rings true. Tongues,
as a sign gift, point out two things: the judgment of Israel, and in a secondary
sense, to the authority of the apostles.
five facts that show the distinctive character of the apostolic office:
1) the church was founded upon them (Ephesians 2:20);
2) they were eyewitnesses of Christ's resurrection (Acts 1:22 and I Corinthians 15:7-9);
3) they were special authorized agents (Luke 6:13);
4) the fact of their appointment was authenticated by signs; the absence of miracles would invalidate the claim of one who asserted that he was an apostle (II Corinthians 12:12 and Acts 5:11-13); and
5) the fact of their apostolic authority (II Peter 3:2, 15-16; I Corinthians 4:12 and II Thessalonians 3:6,14).
Tongues as a sign
Mark 16:17-20 -- Signs were to be manifested by the apostles and by those to whom they ministered. In verse 20, Mark already (by AD 68) considered these signs past.
Acts 2:14-21; 4:3 -- Only the apostles spoke in tongues or performed signs on these occasions.
Acts 8:13 -- Phillip was not an apostle, but had the apostles' "hands" lain upon him (6:6). However, his converts performed no signs or wonders. Only when apostles came from Jerusalem and laid hands upon Philip's converts was there any unusual demonstration of the Spirit's presence in them (8:15-17).
records new groups (Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles and Old Testament believers) in
the initial act of receiving the Holy Spirit, which would later be the mark of
all Christians (Romans 8:9).
Acts 10 -- God employed a series of supernatural visions in order to have Peter be the one to present the Gospel to Cornelius.
Acts 19 – Acts 19:2 would be better translated, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" These men were not yet converted. In 19:6, tongues came to authenticate Paul as an apostle.
II Corinthians 12:12 -- Some at Corinth who had been converted under Paul received the gift of tongues to validate Paul's claim to apostleship.
All signs are
signs only in association with the apostolic ministry. Mark considered the signs
as past (AD 68). Hebrews 2:3-4 was written around the same time and also
considered the signs as past.
The last recorded
miracles in the New Testament took place about AD 58 (Acts 28:3-9). In AD 60,
Epaphroditus became sick, but he was not healed miraculously (Philippians
2:25-30). About AD 62, Timothy had a stomach ailment, which remained uncured (I
Timothy 5:23). Around AD 64, one of Paul's associates was so seriously ill that
Paul had to leave him behind, uncured (II Timothy 4:20). Yet earlier, Paul had
been instrumental even in restoring life to the dead.
All signs may be
considered as spiritual gifts, but not all spiritual gifts were signs. The gifts
of miracles, healings, and tongues were sign gifts. All the sign gifts were
temporary (compare Acts 11:17 with Mark 16). As with the miracles of Jesus, they
served to authenticate the position and authority of the apostles.
The argument runs
as follows: God had warned Israel on several occasions (Isaiah 28:11,12; 33:19;
Deuteronomy 28:49,50; Jeremiah 5:15) that when they found themselves invaded and
surrounded by those speaking in languages they did not understand, it was a sign
to them that they were being judged by God for their disobedience. When, at
Pentecost and in the early years of the church, tongues were spoken in the
presence of Jews, it would be a sign to them that judgment was coming because of
their rejection of the Messiah. That judgment came with the destruction of
Jerusalem, the temple, and the scattering of the Jewish people in AD 70. At that
point, the purpose of tongues (as a sign to disobedient Israel) had been
fulfilled, and therefore, tongues ceased. This was the primary purpose for
13:8-10 -- Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be
done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will
be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect
comes, the partial will be done away.
This passage was
written around AD 55, and clearly states that tongues shall cease. The question
is, when? The answer to that question is often seen as hinging on the meaning of
the word "perfect" in the text.
What is "that
which is perfect"? - -
1) The Rapture (a view often held by tongue speakers)
However, the term "that which is perfect" cannot refer to the Lord because of the neuter articles. It can be translated "when the perfect thing arrives." This view also contradicts other Scripture, which states that there will be prophecy after the rapture -- during the Tribulation (Revelation 11:3-13) and during the Millennial Age (Joel 2:28).
2) The Canon
Not even the New Testament allows us to know fully, there is much that we still do not know.
3) The Eternal State
This is when we
will see face to face, and is the best understanding of "perfect." The
passage is therefore teaching that both prophecy and supernatural knowledge will
cease forever at the point when God ushers in the eternal state. But carefully
notice that tongues is not named among those gifts that are said to be made
inoperative by the arrival of the perfect. Therefore, tongues could cease prior
to this event. With prophecy and knowledge the verb "shall cease,"
meaning "to lay aside" or "render inoperative" is used. With
tongues a different verb is used meaning "to stop" or "they will
be done away." It carries with it the idea of a natural cessation.
It is also
important to note the voice changes: "will be done away," is in the
passive voice, meaning that they will be forced to stop by an outside agent
(i.e. that which is perfect). However, "cease" is in the middle voice,
which allows for the possibility that they could cease in and of themselves --
naturally -- when their purpose is fulfilled.
13:8-10 does not give definitive evidence that tongues have ceased and
are no longer operative today -- but it strongly allows for such a view. Paul
implies that tongues will cease when their purpose is fulfilled. If, as
demonstrated above, the purpose of tongues was to authenticate the apostles and
their message, and to serve as a sign to Israel of judgment for rejecting their
Messiah, then tongues have fulfilled their purpose. Phrased another way, since
there are no longer apostles to authenticate, and since Israel has already been
judged (in AD 70), tongues no longer have a purpose in the church today. Tongues
cessation should then be expected with the passing of the apostles and the
judgment of Israel. Both the testimonies of Scripture and of church history
verify this fact. There is no record of anyone speaking in tongues in the New
Testament after AD 70.
History Evidence (Church
history does not prove any doctrinal issues. However, in this case, church
history verifies what we would expect from a study of the New Testament: That
tongues, having fulfilled their purpose, ceased to exist by AD 70, and were not
found in the history of the church.)
It is significant
that the gift of tongues is rarely alluded to, hinted at, or found, in the
Apostolic Fathers. The Fathers wrote to defend Christianity, to correct
Christians, to explain doctrines, etc. after the death of the apostles. Yet they
did not mention tongues in a favorable light, and for the most part, totally
Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) wrote about spiritual gifts but did not mention tongues. He never mentions anyone speaking in tongues.
Montanus (AD 126-180)
did speak in tongues, but was regarded as demon-possessed by Christians of his
day (refer to the section "History
of Tongues," Think on These Things, Vol. 5, Issue 3).
Irenaeus (AD 140-203)
said he had heard that some spoke in tongues. He had, however, been influenced
by the Montanists and did not speak in tongues himself nor apparently witness
anyone that did.
150-222) was converted to Montanism for a period of time. He wrote about one
lady who spoke in tongues and was a Montanist. This was the last witness to
tongues-speaking by any of the Church Fathers.
Origen (AD 185-253)
said that in his day no one spoke in tongues.
347-407) made no mention of tongues being spoken in his day.
354-430) did not write of tongues being spoken during his life.
If, as has been
demonstrated, the gift of tongues has fulfilled the purpose for which it was
designed, and therefore, has ceased, what is going on today? That is, how do we
explain the present day phenomenon of speaking in tongues if the Holy Spirit is
no longer bestowing this gift upon people? What is the origin of speaking in
tongues in the modern church?
Certainly there is
more than one origin. Tongues can be demonic, as is demonstrated by documented
tongues-speaking in pagan religions. Tongues can be faked for the purpose of
peer-approval. After all, if you attend a church that teaches that speaking in
tongues is a sign of spiritual maturity, the pressure to conform could be
It appears that the
majority of tongues-speaking in the modern church is a learned response. In
other words, people are being taught, either directly or indirectly, how to
speak in tongues. Let's take a look at this theory.
Clearly, tongues in
the New Testament were languages, understandable by those who knew the language
being spoken. This is not the case today. Linguists have described modern
tongues as a form of ecstatic speech, similar to that which occurs all over the
world in many religious practices. Interestingly, the first Pentecostals
believed they were speaking in foreign languages for the purpose of propagating
the gospel on the mission field. Some early Pentecostals even rushed to foreign
countries without any language training, and began preaching the gospel,
trusting that the listeners understood them. When it became obvious that they
were not understood, these zealous missionaries had to come home and revise
their understanding of this phenomenon (see Christian History Magazine,
"The Rise of Pentecostalism," Vol. XVII, page 2).
The absence of
Contrary to the
spontaneous and surprising reception of tongues in the book of Acts, modern day
promoters of tongues present formulas and instructions designed to teach people
how to speak in tongues. Usually these instructions include a prescription to
begin by making sounds of some kind, such as by repetition of a phrase.
present speaking in tongues as an act of faith. It is something that you must
knowingly begin, and trust that God will continue. Larry Christenson, a
charismatic Lutheran, said:
"In order to speak in tongues, you have to quit praying in English
...You simply lapse into silence and resolve to speak not a syllable of any
language you have ever learned. Your thoughts are focused on Christ, and then
you simply lift up your voice and speak out confidently, in faith that the Lord
will take the sound you give Him and shape it into a language. You take no
thought of what you are saying. As far as you are concerned it is just a series
of sounds. The first sounds will sound strange and unnatural to your ear, and
they may be halting and inarticulate (have you ever heard a baby learning to
talk?)" (quoted by Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, p.
gave these instructions to tongues seekers at Yale:
"1. Think visually and concretely, rather than abstractly: for
example, try to visualize
Jesus as a person.
2. Consciously yield your voices and organs of speech to the Holy
3. Repeat certain elementary sounds, such as 'bah-bah-bah,' or something
similar. Bredesen then laid his hands on the hand of each seeker, prayed for
him, and the seeker did actually speak in tongues" (quoted by Gromacki, p.
John Kildahl, in an
interesting book entitled The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, explains
it this way:
"When I hypnotize
someone, I begin by saying 'Lie back ... Shut your eyes ... Relax ... Breathe
deeply … And listen to the sounds of your breathing as you relax, you can feel
yourself getting tired and drowsy.' A sample of a tongues leader teaching
someone to speak in tongues is, 'The Lord is in your presence ... He is with you
now ... Open yourself to Him ... Let all your anxieties flow out of you ... The
Lord wants to give you the gift of His Holy Spirit ... Open your mouth, and He
will give you utterance.' The hypnotist has essentially a two-pronged strategy:
that of sensory deprivation and of developing a special kind of relationship, in
other words, a relationship of dependence and trust" (Gromacki, p. 37).
two universal temptations in regards to tongues. One is artificiality -- the
temptation to think, "I am just making this up." He says to repel this
temptation with all vigor. The second temptation is ineffectuality -- when the
enthusiasm of tongues has dimmed, a person may begin to neglect or cease to use
tongues. Christenson says that every gift of God involves stewardship, and,
therefore, one must resolve to use it all the rest of his life. This amounts to
saying that the "gift" which was sought and begun by artificial means,
must be continued at all costs, even when common sense says it is a hollow
Kildahl claims that when tongues are an important life goal, there is always a
relationship to a leader or a group that conveys a feeling of acceptance and
belonging. If confidence is lost in the authority figure then quite often the
person will stop speaking in tongues. Kildahl, in his studies, said he
"found no tongue-speaker who was unrelated to a glossolalia authority
figure that he esteemed. Those who had spoken in tongues, but were now
indifferent to it in this research, had in each case had a falling out with the
leader of the tongue-speaking group" (The Psychology of Speaking in
Tongues, p. 53).
The Modern Gift
is problematic, the interpretation of tongues is more so. While tongues can be
faked, or explained as a heavenly language, interpretations are not so easily
handled. The interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to understand
and interpret a message, in an unknown language to the interpreter, for the
benefit and edification of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 14:5-19). The
progression should be: God gives a message in tongues to Joe who speaks that
message at a church service, but doesn't understand it. Bill is then given the
ability to understand what Joe has said and relays it to the church.
It is at this point
that the modern gift of tongues breaks down most dramatically. A number of
studies have been done that are anything but supportive of the charismatic
position. Tongues-speaking has been recorded and then played back to those
claiming the gift of interpretation. In every experiment of this nature, each
interpreter interpreted these recorded messages differently. In one instance,
John 3:3 was recited in the German language, but the interpreter claimed that
Acts 19:2 had been recited in French. Another time Psalm 23 was recited in
Hebrew, but the interpretation had nothing to do with Psalm 23. Sometimes the
interpretation contradicts the clear teaching of the Lord. Interpretation has
always been found wanting (see the Handbook on Tongues, pp. 80,95).
Kildahl and his
researchers taped several people speaking in tongues for interpreters:
"In no instance was there any similarity in the several
interpretations … When confronted with the disparity between their
interpretations, the interpreters offered the explanation that God gave to one
person one interpretation of the speech and to another person another
interpretation" (The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, p. 73).
Such studies poke
gaping holes in views held by charismatics and reveal tongues for what they are
-- a learned response, not a supernatural gift from the Holy Spirit.
Kildahl offers the
following possible explanations for the modern tongue movement:
A motor automatism --
Some tongues are the result of a trance-like condition.
Ecstasy -- Some
tongues result from a strong and unusual emotional excitement.
-- Due to repeated suggestions as to what is expected of one and the repeated
appeals to yield oneself to the "power," many writers have concluded
that hypnotism is frequently involved in causing tongues.
Psychic catharsis --
Kildahl found that anxiety was a prerequisite for developing the ability to
speak in tongues. Additionally, persons with a low level of emotional stability
tended to be extreme in their affirmation of the benefits of glossolalia.
Kildahl, p. 40: Research
proved that glossolalists are more submissive, suggestible and dependent in the
presence of authority figures than non-tongue-speakers. This was important
because one has to follow a leader's suggestions to be hypnotized. Research also
proved that tongue speakers think about some benevolent authority person when
they began to speak in tongues.
Kildahl, page 54: Hypnotizability
requires that the subject be trusting enough to turn himself over to someone
else and place his destiny in his hands. If one can be hypnotized, then one is
able under proper conditions to learn to speak in tongues.
Kildahl, page 74: It is
our definite opinion that those who have the necessary psychological
characteristics can learn to speak in tongues. This gives rise to the question,
"If it is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit, why must it be demonstrated and
taught?" I have observed the same routine everywhere I have been:
1) A meeting devoted to intense concentration on tongue speaking,
2) An atmosphere of heightened suggestibility to the words of the tongue speaker leader, after which
3) The initiate is able to make the sounds he is instructed to make. It is the same procedure that a competent hypnotist employs. I have reached the conclusion that tongue speaking is a learned phenomenon.
present interest in tongues?
In our society,
there is a seemingly strong desire for a genuine religious expression in the
midst of the pressures of a secularized society. People are longing for an
authentic relationship with God, but they are not nearly as interested in
knowing God in truth. If spiritual maturity can be attained attending
emotionally-charged meetings and receiving instantaneous supernatural
experiences that deliver spirituality, why do the hard work of Scripture study,
memorization, prayer, and walking by the Spirit? The charismatic movement has
offered a shortcut to godliness. That this shortcut is really a detour leading
people to a dead end, is often not recognized until one has traveled far down
this detour and has come face to face with disillusionment. By then, however,
many have hopelessly lost their way and know of no scriptural compass to guide
them safely back to the path of truth.
not to speak in tongues" (I Corinthians 14:39).
often throw the above words in the face of one who disagrees with their view on
tongues. But it must be remembered that these words were written in AD 55 to a
group of people who had received this gift from the Holy Spirit to authenticate
the apostleship of Paul, AND to warn Israel that judgment was coming for their
rejection of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had not yet ceased giving the gift.
The purpose for the gift was still alive and well.
doctrine undermines the teachings of Scripture and authentic Christian living.
Below is an outline of how the teachings of the charismatics taint, to some
degree, every doctrine found in the Word of God. The following are some
Those who teach
charismatic doctrines tend to downplay theology. John
Wimber said, "When are we going to see a generation who doesn't try to
understand this book (the Bible), but just believes it?"
doctrine places experience above truth of Scripture. Jack
Deere said, "The idea that fallen humanity, can arrive at pure biblical
objectivity in determining all their practices and beliefs is an illusion"
(Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, p. 46). His solution? Experience
and modern prophesies.
Cain and John Wimber are credited with coining the phrase, "God will
offend your mind to reveal your heart" (The Father's Blessing,
p. 182). This is a reference to the charismatic view that the Holy Spirit will
often do an end run around our rational thinking ability, including the
understanding of Scripture, to reveal truth to us. John Arnott teaches, "Do
not take control, do not resist, do not analyze; just surrender to His love. You
can analyze the experience later; just let it happen" (The Father's
Blessing, p. 127). This is a sure recipe for disaster.
There are several concerns here:
Charismatic doctrines undermine the authority of Scripture -- Take, for example, a quote from this charismatic author: Ultimately this doctrine (the sufficiency of Scripture) is demonic even (though) Christian theologians have been used to perfect it (Spiritual Warfare, page 11).
They believe in extra-Biblical revelation – "Today, after years of practical experiences and intense study on the subject of God's speaking, I am convinced that God does indeed speak apart from the Bible, though never in contradiction to it. And He speaks to all of His children, not just to specially gifted prophetic people. And He will speak to us all in amazing detail" (Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, by Jack Deere, p. 214).
This is the error
of all cults as well as the Roman Catholic Church. If God is still giving
revelation today, how are we to discern when God is speaking and when He is not?
The charismatics tell us that as long as the revelation does not contradict
Scripture, then we can be assured that it is from God. However, that leaves the
door wide open for every kind of error. For example, the Roman Catholic Church's
doctrines of purgatory and Mariology, while they may contradict Scripture, for
the most part simply add to the divine revelation. The Mormon's
view that the Book of Mormon is the story of the gospel coming to America is the
same type of error.
It is also their belief that prophets today make mistakes
-- "Anyone who has experience in helping to nurture 'baby prophets' realizes
that they have difficulty in distinguishing the words that the Spirit speaks
from those that come from their own hearts or even from evil sources. At first
they make many mistakes" (Some Said It Thundered, page XIV).
"Prophets are, of course, human beings. As such, they can make mistakes and
lie. They need not cease to be prophets for their mistakes and failings"
(ibid., page XVI).
As can be seen from
these quotes, the charismatic view of revelation would throw the believer into a
sea of subjectivity. God considered the authenticity of His Word so important
that He required the death penalty for Old Testament prophets whose prophecies
did not come true (Deut. 18:20). How do we discern which prophet is right and
which has made a mistake? When do we know that a prophet has spoken truthfully
or has lied? Are we at the mercy of fresh revelation or can we still go to the
Scriptures to find, "Thus says the Lord"? While charismatics give lip
service to the authority of Scripture, in practice, their "words of
knowledge," prophetic revelations, and messages in tongues reign supreme. Thus,
the undermining of the Word of God is perhaps the greatest error that
charismatics have fostered among God's people.
are found in every type of denomination and church background, there tend to be
many gospel messages among charismatics. Even in denominations such as the Vineyard
Church, the gospel often takes such a backseat to the "gifts and phenomenon
of the Spirit" that the content of the gospel is muted at best. For
example, in John Wimber's book on evangelism, Power Evangelism, he never
once discusses what the gospel is. The book is devoted instead to what Wimber
believes to be the only authentic method of New Testament evangelism, something
he calls "power evangelism." In Wimber's mind "proclamation
evangelism," in which a person is shown from Scripture the message of
salvation, just won't work. In Wimber's view, to win substantial numbers of
people to Christ, one must first soften them up by performing some miracle, or
by giving a "word of knowledge." Not only does power evangelism miss
the boat Scripturally, it also serves to confuse the unsaved. The emphasis is
upon signs and wonders rather than Christ and Him crucified. Most are being
attracted to the show rather than the cross.
charismatic circles hold to some form of dominion
theology, which confuses the church with Israel and teaches that we are
looking for a latter day revival that will sweep multitudes into the kingdom and
transform society before the return of Christ (i.e., Reconstructionism).
In addition, the majority of
charismatics are highly, and unbiblically, ecumenical. Many are actively
pursuing reunification with the Roman Catholic Church, and some even consider
the Pope to be an evangelical Christian. The purpose of the church is often
distorted as they concentrate on the showy gifts (miracles, tongues, prophecies)
rather than the balanced functioning of the body.
are not looking for the return of Christ, but for the "latter rain,"
in which they believe there will be a special outpouring of the Spirit that
restores the supernatural gifts to the church and bring a great revival. They do
not believe that Christ can return until the world is prepared for Him by the
Earl Paulk says
that the pretribulational rapture position is a "heresy" inspired by
Satan to rock the church to sleep. His view is not based upon a thorough study
of Scripture, but on a supposedly new revelation from God (Biblical
Perspectives, Vol. 4, #4, page 6).
Many believe in a
second work of grace often called the "baptism of the Holy Spirit."
This baptism gives the believer special powers and gifts. Others, such as the
Vineyard Movement, would not agree with the term "baptism of the Holy
Spirit," but teach essentially the same thing. They say the evidence of the
Holy Spirit at work in our lives is powers, signs, and wonders.
Angels, demons, and
"spiritual warfare" are popular today in charismatic circles. Based
upon experience, rather than Scripture, a whole new theology has been developed
concerning angels and demons that completely misrepresents the teachings of the
Word. (See our report on "Spiritual
Warfare" for a better understanding of this subject).
In conclusion, the charismatic movement is not just a harmless segment within evangelical Christianity, but a devastating error that undermines many of the cardinal truths of the Word of God.
* This report has been excerpted and or adapted from two articles by the same name (Parts I & II) in the August and September 1999, Think on These Things, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL, Gary Gilley, Pastor.