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The Charismatic movement is an interdenominational Christian renewal movement and is one of the most popular and fastest-growing forces within the Christian world today. The movement traces its roo...
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I for one am deeply grateful for this platform on which we are privileged to vent our convictions and positions - even if they disagree with the premises of the essays. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! To the question, "What is the Charismatic Movement?" S. Michael Houdmann asks if it is scriptural? And then he makes this observation about Satan: “He continues to attack the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible.” He concludes his argument by stating that we don’t need these spiritual gifts today since the Bible is all we need. And for the most part I agree with his position. But I would like to add a couple of observations: The origin of the present-day Charismatic phenomena goes back further than the Azusa Street revival of 1906. Some highly recognized reformers and early preachers either spoke in tongues or endorsed/praised the manifestation of this gift, including: Martin Luther, George Fox, D. L. Moody, Charles Finney, General Booth (Salvation Army), A. B. Simpson, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, William Wilberforce, Evan Roberts (Welsh revival), Corrie ten Boom, Count Zinzendorf (Moravians), George Whitfield, and others (i.e. www.cai.org). They warned of excesses and fanaticism for sure, but were not opposed to the exercise of the Spirit. In their sermons, they reminded their followers: “Forbid not to speak in tongues,” and “Despise not prophesying.” As to the all-sufficiency of the Bible, it should certainly be the basis of our convictions and beliefs. That being said, the Bible itself encourages us to diligently exercise the gifts and calling of the Holy Spirit, which include apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers - "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13). I don't know about you, but I certainly need help in reaching those goals. And I thank God for making it possible through the gifting and equipping of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was never intended to take the place of the Holy Spirit, or silence the mouth of God, or put an end to His voice giving us personal direction. It gives us principles to live by and general directions for our behavior, and it tells us we need the operation of the Holy Spirit to clearly show us the way we should go. “But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie – just as it has taught you, abide in Him” (1 John 2:27). As to excesses among Pentecostals, that’s unfortunate. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There were “excesses” in these aforementioned revivals too. Guess how the Quakers inherited their name? Everyone of these famous preachers were fanatics! They “went overboard” in praying and in meditating in the Word – sometimes days on end! In the end, they made a mark in history, not because of great eloquence or sharp wit, but because they had invited the Holy Spirit to fill and anoint them, not just once, but repeatedly! When they spoke, demons trembled, unbelievers fell on their knees, and saints were empowered to be bold witnesses. We could all use a little of that, couldn't we?
Like most things, there is a 'secular' description and a 'Christian' description and it is important to understand the difference. In holy scripture, 'charisma,' (Biblical Greek: literally, 'graces'), refers to the 'lesser spiritual gifts' operating at a level of impact and power below what people see as 'miraculous.' The 'greater gifts' are called 'energēma' (from which we derive the English word, 'energy'). They are usually translated 'operations' or 'workings.' You will find them both being discussed in 1 Corinthians 12). A 'grace' is a divine manifestation that 'interrupts' an anticipated negative outcome and offers a path of 'escape' from the effects of sin in someone's life. GOD simply does this because He can, not because anyone did anything to 'deserve' it. They include the sudden emergence or use of a variety of languages and interpretations revealing hidden thoughts or ideas inside people, or as new 'solutions' to mundane problems arriving as either 'words of wisdom,' (practically applied knowledge), or as raw information containing the tools of wisdom, ('words of knowledge'). These can solve economic, health or social problems. They tend to arrive through people who have no 'background' in those fields, so that glory goes to Christ alone. As they are actually being applied to real-world issues, these are known as 'helps' and 'administrations.' Once the 'words of wisdom' begin to address significant health issues beyond the scope of 'normal' human understanding, we are entering into the arena of the 'energema.' At this point, people are either wittingly or unwittingly interacting directly with the 'medical doctors' of the holy kingdom, who are actually the beings known as 'angels.' This involves something called 'words of faith,' since 'how' miracles occur is initially a major obstruction to their arrival. A 'word of faith' is essentially a 'story' that takes the bad health situation and 'retells' it using the 'analogies of faith' (Biblical Greek: 'analogia pistis'). Inside this 'narrative' is a 'believable solution' to the seemingly impossible problem using the unique 'story language' of the Bible. The angels literally 'embody' this language as they operate and never depart from it. They perpetually 'tell the One divine story' presented to us in scripture. When they perform this 'ministry' for humans, the 'causes' of our diseases are exposed and revealed. We then have a choice to accept their 'version' of our life story or continue living our own. That is actually how 'miracles' happen...or don't. "And Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief." (Mathew 13:58). Faith is described like a cultivated plant with great designs and big plans, (the mustard plant, the 'biggest' herb in the garden). Ironically, this plant also has the smallest seeds. Like cultivation, it can be easily 'ruined' at any stage along the way unless it is carefully and skillfully tended. That is why people of ANY era are more likely to experience 'charisma' than they are 'energema.' Yet both remain equally available to us. The 'Charismatic Movement,' beginning as part of a 'Methodist revival' in 1906 is simply the latest. 'Methodism,' (and most other recognized denominations), actually began with these periodic, historically recognized 'divine visitations.' The original Methodist one took place in Europe in the 1700's. We have them nearly every 100 years dating back to the day of Pentecost and the 'Jewish Christian Church,' (Acts 2), followed closely thereafter by a 'Roman Gentile' version, (Acts 10). Before Martin Luther's 'Protestant' separation, nearly all took place inside the Roman or Greek Churches, 'reviving' various charisma as GOD was shaping or reshaping our history. There happens to be another one underway right now in Asbury, Kentucky. It will be fascinating and encouraging to see what the Holy Spirit has planned for it.
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