Many have offered that God has handed us denominations so that our departures over tradition and tastes may be filled without having to visit Rome with every quarrel over authority, worship, or theology. Even still, most demonstrate Christian charity to those whom they differ upon doctrinally, because we can comprehend that the legs are useless without the eyes to guide and the eyes are useless without ears to hear, etc.
In my interactions across a broad spectrum of people, publications, and places of worship, I’ve noticed a tense ripple of disgruntlement when Pentecostal or Charismatic practices are offered up in conversations about Biblical doctrines and disciplines. I’ve read far too numerous articles, heard all too many, and caught an awful amount of eye rolls when Pentecostal or Charismatic christian arrives at center stage.
Not two weeks ago during a class on the Old Testament, a classmate of mine confidently assured the class that modern-day Pentecostals belong in the same dark annals of church history as the Arian and Gnostic heretical sects. Not one to be outdone, the professor of said class nobly warned us that we must be vigilant of Pentecostals/Charismatics because they elevate words of knowledge to that of Scripture.
Anecdotal evidence it may be, these occurrences and those like them have been ratcheted up over the course of the past decade as the tremors from the Charismatic revival have reverbrated into the broader Christian culture. The precious, self-acclaimed defenders of the faith spend their time launching literary crusades against Charismatics, causing me to wonder—can we have an iota of consideration as brothers and sisters in Christ with the critics before they declare us abominable heretics?
Encountering similar resistance? In following are common preconceptions and smears against Charismatics and Pentecostals.
Charismatics are not Rooted in Scripture
I’d like the banner-holders of this tactic to meet author and evangelist Perry Stone, a man who has nearly six-digit study hours in the Holy Bible. Listen to his sermons or peek into his books, and one will discover that Charismatics are hungry for the Living Word of God along with the Calvinists, the Baptists, the Reformed Presbyterians, or any other denomination whose calling card is rooted in the Word.
In addition, look up any of the figureheads of the Apostolic church—Dutch Sheets, Chuck Pierce, Bruce Allen, Bobby Conner, David Wilkerson, John Kilpatrick, etc.—and you will find that their sermons and practices are staple-gunned to Scripture. The charge of Scriptural illiteracy is frankly inappropriate and needs to be readdressed by those who are leveling shots at those who have committed no theological crimes.
Charismatics are Hucksters in Pursuit of a Quick Buck
This is a much beloved tactic I’ve come across. Detractors will attempt to handcuff Charismatics to the prosperity gospel. If a Charismatic minister even dares to preach on the supernatural favor of God, critics will immediately bag-and-tag that minister as a prosperity gospel con artist.
Will there be door-to-door salesmen co-opting the Gospel for a burgeoning bank account? Of course—Scripture warns us! However, to assassinate the character of Charismatics by dishonestly tying them to the prosperity gospel is a ploy I’d expect from Saul Alinsky leftists rather than fellow believers.
Charismatics Succumb to Emotionalism
Simply put, get to know passionate worshippers and you’ll soon recognize their authentic gratitude toward their Savior. Do some people “go overboard” out of an insecurity to fit the mold? I’m sure there are those people, yet I’m quite positive that a wide number of people across the denominational spectrum attempt to “play the role” in their daily Christian walks as well.
Regardless, this much maligned “emotionalism” in worship is often nothing more than an overflow of the worshiper’s heart, so to label such authenticity as disingenuous is conceited. Would the same people who criticize Charismatics also command the Seraphim to pipe down from singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty”?
Charismatics do Uncomfortable Things like Speak in Tongues, Get Slain in the Spirit, and Believe in Miracles/Healings
For a practice that the Apostle Paul dedicated a chapter to, speaking in tongues really is the whipping child of Charismatic detractors. How dare we believe that the Lord has given us a prayer language that is a private pipeline to him and can be interpreted in a public setting for the edification of the body!
As to being slain in the spirit, it has happened to me before and I can testify that I was skeptical when I saw everyone around me dropping like tackling dummies. A half a second later, my former skepticism was torched. The Holy Spirit packs quite a punch due to the fact that He is…you know…part of the Trinity.
For those that don’t believe in modern day miracles, get yourself a copy of Miracles by author Eric Metaxas and dig into a 21st century sirloin of hearings, miracles, and prophecies fulfilled.
Detractors label these “mystical behaviors” as a 1st Century Church artifact. If it was good enough for Paul, then it is good enough for me. It would be absurd and uncouth to ignore the power of God by declaring hearings, miracles, and modern-day prophecy as something “only to get the early church started.” Who among the body of Christ seriously considers us better than the early Apostolic church in that we don’t need such things? Leave room for God in your theology, and one finds that He is not a tame lion.
Charismatics are Icky because John MacArthur Told Me So
In 2013, Pastor John MacArthur held a conference cataloguing the iniquities of Charismatics in his book Strange Fire. He charges that Charismatics are in danger of offending the Holy Spirit with their practices.
Rev. MacArthur has valid criticisms when he presents abuses by Charismatics, yet it strikes me that he sees Charismatics as a danger because they are lacking in theology. Now what is the first unlawful criticism I mentioned in this article?
This is not intended to be a hit piece on Reverend MacArthur. He is a brother in Christ and is saved by grace just like I am. However, I wonder if he might be the one in danger of quenching the Spirit when he spits ad hominem diatribes at Charismatics.
Frankly, if he is going to beat the war drums, then he will have to answer to the rebuttals. Not every Charismatic is a carbon-copy of Joel Osteen, yet MacArthur seems to enjoy labeling most Charismatics as such. Talk about beating a straw man to death! Osteen does not represent Charismatics as a whole and to put on airs that he does is simply a convenient strategy rather than a rightful rebuke.
For a seasoned rebuttal in regards to MacArthur’s Strange Fire, check out Dr. Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire as a primer for a Charismatic response tempered with grace and consideration.
To conclude, I am aware of the problems within the Charismatic church, just as I am aware of the problems in other denominations, so to parade a denomination’s sins on a pike in willful ignorance to the reality is crass, to put it mildly.
Until we meet in heaven, let us demonstrate civility toward one another and work in conjunction when it comes to our common interests—like minor points, such as the Great Commission and the Kingdom. All this bickering and finger-pointing is wearing thin as the end of days approaches, and to circle the wagons around our pet schools of theology is embarrassing. Our God is sovereign over theology and we Charismatics carry our crosses just like anyone else does, so can we shake hands and move forward together in sharing the Gospel and cultivating Christian community?
Kevin Cochrane is a writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ.For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males (views on my blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com are my own and do not necessarily represent those of The Majesty’s Men). To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.