The charismatic movement is beginning
to deepen the furrows it has plowed into the smug complacency of the
main-line churches, and indications are that the furrows will remain.
With more than 40 different denominations actively involved, with
millions of dissatisfied Christians longing for a deeper personal
experience with Christ, and with the ever expanding circles of influence
flowing out from the thousands of prayer groups that dot the world, we
seem to be standing on the threshold of an uncontrollable emotional high
that could change the total image of Christianity.
Only yesterday, major national
publications compared the movement in importance to the activities
surrounding the Protestant Reformation. (See Time, Nov. 2, 1962; Life,
June 9, 1958.) But perhaps without realizing it, they were speaking
prophetically; for its influence has breached the dikes of human
intellect and is tearing at the seams of every church.
What's so different about that? Hasn't
every major modification in doctrine had this effect on organized
Certainly it has—but the charismatic
movement has pointedly deviated from the established ways and has based
its reason on feeling, not its emotion on intellect, and
the result is a development that some find frightening.
At issue in any typical discussion you
may have with any charismatic is the question of whether or not the
"uncommitted" has received the Holy Spirit.
"If you don't speak in tongues,
you don't have the Spirit," is a common assertion. "Only when
you can exhibit the language of the Holy Spirit can you be sure that the
Spirit resides within you."
This is official doctrine,
notwithstanding the disclaimers issued by some.
The Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal
group par excellence, have gone on record with the following statement
"Resolved, That this Council
considers it a serious disagreement with Fundamentals for any minister
among us to teach contrary to our distinctive testimony that the baptism
in the Holy Ghost is regularly accomplished by the initial, physical
sign of speaking in other tongues."—Cited by Carl Brumback, Suddenly
From Heaven (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), page
What they are actually doing is this.
They are claiming that you must test your Christian experience by
whether or not you have the gift of tongues. At least you have to be
able to exhibit something supernatural or spectacular to prove your Holy
connection. What does the Bible say to this?
"The fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's
have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live
in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be
desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one
another." Galatians 5:22-26. (Italics supplied.)
According to Luke 11:13, the Holy
Spirit will be granted to everyone who will ask for it. "How much
more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask
him?" Jesus says. This is sound Christian doctrine, for if we were
required to do something in order to receive the Spirit, then we would
have salvation by works. But it is also plain that someone would not or
should not be asking for the Spirit unless he really meant to live in
such a manner as a life in Christ would indicate.
In the charismatics' experience, love
is to be the supreme experience. Naturally they call upon the Holy
Spirit with sincerity—but theirs is basically a doctrine of love, and
to them nothing is to surpass this.
Since God is the embodiment of Love,
one has to assume that love includes a deep fellowship with God the Son—not
just in words but also in deeds. But discussing with a charismatic the
relationship of love to sincerity is much like playing a game of
we playing spiritual poker?