The Charismatic Movement burst into the mainline denominations in the 1960's. Christians, touched by the movement, claimed that God was doing a new thing in the last days. He was restoring New Testament Christianity prior to the end of the world. God was pouring out the Holy Spirit as at the day of Pentecost, to empower his children for witness and service and to liberate for victorious Christian living. As a sign of this "baptism and fullness of the Holy Spirit", He was giving the gift of glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, as well as giving a range of other supernatural gifts listed in the New Testament (e.g. interpreting tongues, prophecy, miracles, healing...). Those touched by the movement believed that this post-conversion experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit was available to all Christians through prayer and laying on of hands. With enthusiasm and joy, many Christians joined the Charismatic renewal movement, such that today it is a vital force within the Evangelical Christianity. What assessment can be made of this twentieth century revival movement? What are its good points and bad?
In the late nineteenth century, churches in the U.S. had become stale, dry and formalized. In the Methodist church, a revival of the old Wesleyan approach broke out in the 1830's in a prayer group led by Phoebe Palmer. She stressed John Wesley's teaching on a post conversion experience that enables a believer to live a sinless life, and the joyous release this gives to worship. This revival was called the Holiness movement.
Initially members of this movement stayed in their local congregations and met separately in home meetings. Yet by 1880 Holiness churches were founded and followers abandoned their old congregations.
In the 1880's a number of remote Holiness churches in Tennessee and North Carolina began to stress the New Testament gifts of the Spirit. By 1896, 100 North Carolina people had spoken in tongues. They split from their Holiness churches in the early 1900's and formed the Christian Union. In 1906 they took the name the Churches of God.
In 1900 at Bathel Bible College, Charles Fox Farham, who had been influenced by the Holiness movement, taught that the church needed to be revived by the Holy Spirit. As a group they prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
On January 1st, Agnes Osman asked the principal to lay hands on her head and immediately she spoke "in syllables that no one understood". Forty other students spoke in tongues that year. The interpretation was that they had been "Spirit baptized" in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. "In those days will I pour out my Spirit". By 1905 there had been 25.000 conversions to the movement in South West U.S.A.
From Bethel, Sister Lucy Farrow took the message to Houston and from there, in 1906, William Seymour, a Negro preacher, brought it to Los Angeles. He set up the Azusa St. storefront church and invited Negro Christians to pray for "a recurrence of apostolic signs and miracles". There was an explosion of tongue speaking and healings, the news of which spread throughout the whole of U.S.A. The church became the centre of the new movement. It was called the Apostolic Faith, Latter Rain or Pentecostal movement.
Initially the movement was a mission/prayer group movement with many Christians remaining in their own churches. Massive opposition soon caused the formation of Pentecostal churches such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, United Pentecostal Church (1916), Foursquare (1921). The movement spread worldwide.
The different backgrounds of the new converts to the movement and the numerous leading personalities, hindered any united church group. Basically they held similar beliefs:-
i] Fundamentalist. Literal interpretation of the Bible.
ii] Arminian. Humans determine their own salvation.
iii] Second blessing. Not all had a strong Holiness background and therefore did not hold to perfectionism, but rather taught a growth in holiness during the Christian life, e.g. Assemblies of God.
iv]Separatism. Rejection of worldliness.
The differences between the emerging Pentecostal churches were in the area of:
Lifestyle dress, wearing of jewelry, taking medicine;
Church Government .... Some had a single leader, others Bishops, others used a Presbyterian or Congregational method.
In 1916 the movement was divided over the "new issue". A Unitarian doctrine spread through the Pentecostal church. (A unitarian believes there is one God, but not in three persons. The three persons of the trinity are merely three manifestations of God [Jesus].) The issue of "oneness" or "Jesus only", caused new churches to evolve, eg. United Pentecostal Church Inc.
The emerging Pentecostal groups tended to be fundamentalist stressing:
i) personal conversion
ii) A changed life through the Spirit's power
iii) The centrality of the Scriptures
iv) Expectant prayer
v) Small group mutual ministry
vi) Moral rigour
vii) Joyous informal friendly worship
viii) An awareness of Jesus' close return.
Their peculiar shape in comparison to the mainline Christian denominations lay in:
i) Their doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit as a post conversion experience paralleled to Pentecost, accompanied by the sign of tongues, and
ii) Their view that at least one other supernatural gift was available to the believer. An emphasis on spectacular healings and miracles is a hallmark of Pentecostal churches.
In 1960, after a period of establishment, the revival movement again struck the mainline denominations. This movement was called the Neo Pentecostal or Charismatic revival movement. Again the movement was church based with its aim of purifying and uniting the existing denominations. "This movement is characteristically unifying rather than divisive" (Michael Harper). As before separate Sunday afternoon and weekday meetings were held for the fellowship and teaching of the new converts. "Our meetings and conferences are designed to equip Christians with the spiritual power which should then find expression in their local churches" (Michael Harper). eg. in Sydney Australia, Calvary Chapel and the Faith Centres were among the first Charismatic churches.
Unlike the first Pentecostal revival the opposition this time was not very strong. Many ministers' meetings were held by the new charismatic leaders and were well attended. Yet pressures existed for the formation of new Charismatic churches. "I was CofE born and bred, but one becomes a loner in many ways, as few people in or out of the church understood the ways of the Spirit". "It is pleasant to worship in small groups of like minded people". Many Charismatics did remain in their congregations. Some Anglican churches are now charismatic.
Doctrinally Charismatics are similar to Pentecostals, but not as strong. In the 1970's it was possible to say that a Pentecostals would teach you are only a Christian if you have spoken in tongues. Charismatics would teach that tongues are an optional, although desirable gift of the Spirit, inherent in every persons conversion experience. By the year 2000 this distinction was quite blurred. As a rule of thumb Charismatics/Pentecostals rest strongly on Baptism of the Holy Spirit as "a second encounter with God, (the first is conversion) in which the Christian begins to receive the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit into their life... this second experience is given for the purpose of equipping the Christian with God's power for service" (Don Basham).
In 1967 the Charismatic revival broke into the Roman Catholic church and soon spread throughout their world wide communion. Brussels became the movements' unofficial headquarters under Cardinal Leo Josef Suenens. By 1980, 50 Bishops were Charismatic and probably 10% of church members. Typical of the Catholic church, the movement was warmly accepted as a new order.
In the U.S., Charismatics have tended to remain in their churches and have gained acceptance. In 1976 the first Baptist Charismatic conference was held. The same year Methodists gave cautious approval. In the U.S. the term Charismatic is used to describe those who value tongues and other extraordinary gifts, but who remain within their traditional denominations. In 1977 the Charismatic renewal conference of the U.S. had 45,000 in attendance.
In England, especially through the initial work of "Fountain Trust" (founded by Michael Harper, an Anglican Minister), Charismatics gained acceptance in the mainline denominations. In 1978 a Charismatic service was held in Canterbury Cathedral. Lambeth estimates there are over a million Anglican Charismatics.
In Australia the majority of Charismatics have tended to join renewal churches, "Growth Centres" "City Church" etc, or join the now softened Pentecostal Churches, eg. Assemblies of God. Not many have stayed in the mainline church. There are some Anglican Evangelical Charismatic churches, but they are few and far between. Most Anglican Charismatic churches are High Church.
Through the 80's and 90's the movement has continued to grow and diversify. The most notable feature of the movement is the development of new "waves" of the Spirit, eg. "signs and wonders", "the Toronto Blessing" ........ The continued success of the movement has influenced worship technology. The majority of mainline churches have adopted a semi-charismatic worship form. Charismatic choruses tend to dominate most worship services, particularly the evening youth service. This trend reflects a desire to emulate the numerical success of the movement.
A revival movement such as Charismatic renewal has many precedents within the Christian church. Whenever the church becomes dull, dead and dreary, godly people react. For the last 2,000 years Christians have reacted against coldness, rigidity, formality and dead orthodoxy in their churches. This twentieth century revival is the expression of an unsatisfied spiritual hunger.
As a revival movement it draws on three separate strands of Christian tradition.
1. The New Testament church pattern
The nature of the New Testament church, as recorded is Acts, is both communal (sharing is love), and powerful (a multitude of gifted members using their gifts for witness and service in the body of believers). Even in the New Testament itself we see this initial free, laissez-faire system being controlled and restricted, eg. 1 & 2 Timothy develops the role of Elder/Bishop and Deacon. Naturally as restrictions developed so a reaction must set in.
At the end of the 2nd century, Montanus attempted to reestablish the New Testament church by stressing common ownership of property and the extraordinary gifts, prophecy, tongues..... The Montanists were finally driven from the church.
In the 4th century, with the establishment of a State church by Constantine, a tendency grew for Christians to abandon the now semi-pagan church. The growth of Monasticism was an attempt to reinstitute a New Testament church lifestyle.
During the Middle Ages monastic orders came and went regularly moving from wordlessness (poverty) to worldliness (plenty).
In the 16th century, during the Reformation, a radical reformed group developed called the Anabaptists. They felt the reformation of the church didn't go far enough. They set about restoring the New Testament church. They developed a communistic lifestyle and exercised the ministries of apostle, prophets and other charismatic gifts (possibly tongues). They were persecuted throughout Europe. Some settled in Moravia and were later called Moravians. They were renowned for missionary fervour. Some followed a key leader called Hutter, they were named Hutterites. Others settled in the Netherlands and were called Mennonites.
In the 17th century in England quite a number of groups ("dissenters") attempted to develop New Testament churches. The extraordinary gifts, including tongues, were exercised by the Ranters and Shakers as well as the Quakers. The persecuted Cevenols and Jansenists in France exercised extraordinary gifts.
In the 18th century, the Wesleyan revival in England and U.S.A. stressed mutual ministry and love of the brotherhood. Members reported extraordinary spiritual phenomena including shrieking, swooning, babbling etc.
During the early 19th century, Edward Irving, as well as stressing the second coming of Jesus, also taught that the supernatural powers present in the 1st century should be possessed by the church today. This led to the appearance of extraordinary gifts (including tongues) in his congregation in London is 1830.
Thus the Charismatic movement draws on a long tradition of the re-establishment of a New Testament style church.
The gospels show that Jesus was very aware of his relationship with the Father, and he promises this experience of union to believers, John 14-17. Paul says his own motivation, all I want is " to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection". This state he describes as "in Christ". This sense of contact with the Divine should be the experience of every believer. The centre of Christianity is not words but a person and his power.
The failure of the church at times to reveal this truth has prompted the development of revival movements that seek to renew this experience. Consider the following examples:
i] Gnosticism. 1st to 3rd century. Centred on contemplation to gain new revelations from God for ultimate union with God. Theologically the movement was quite heretical as the Bible was not regarded as God's sure and complete revelation to mankind.
ii] Manichaeism. 3rd century. Sectarian.
iii] The desert saints. 3rd to 4th century. Christians who abandoned the world to live in caves etc. By meditation and prayer they sought union with God.
iv] Monasticism. 5th century. This communal movement, in response to the worldliness of the church, was pioneered by John Cassian who taught that " by meditation on things divine and spiritual contemplation... the soul is caught up into... an ecstasy".
v] Living light. 5th - 12th century. The main exponents were Augustine (5c.),Dionysius the Areopagite (6c.), St. Hildegard (12c.). By placing a cloud of forgetting between self and the realm of things, we rise towards union with God resulting in a vision of the Divine Light.
vi] The Holy Name of Jesus. 12th-14th century.
vii] Spanish mysticism. 16th century. St. Teresa.
viii] Quietists. 17th century Catholic mysticism focuses on contemplative prayer.
ix]. 16th-17th century. The Spirituals, Cambridge Platonists, Quakers, Ranters. Through prayer and meditation and an associated holy lifestyle, Christ will take over a believer's life and they then experience the Divine element within, "the inner light", "the Divine image", "the Holy Self", "Christ within" - union with Christ and the knowledge of God.
The Pentecostal and Charismatic renewal movements draw on a long tradition of Christian mysticism. It is an attempt to renew an awareness of Jesus' presence and his involvement in our lives in and through the Holy Spirit.
3. Second blessing theology
Second blessing teaching derives from:
i] Experience. A believer can often experience a powerful spiritual renewal in their life and this can define their theology.
ii] Poor Bible teaching
a) The problem of standing and performance in the Christian life is not well understood. We are told we "are holy" but also to "be holy". We are "full" but "be filled".
b) A dispensational view of salvation undermines sound Biblical theology. Every Christian has to relive the New Testament cycle of salvation history, ie. we must come to believe in Jesus as Messiah (we are converted), and then later we experience "Pentecost".
To deal with these problems, Christian teachers over the centuries have proposed a post-conversion experience (second blessing) that enables the believer to live a sinless life. ie. to be holy, to gain full sanctification from that moment on. Consider the following:
i] Montanists. 2nd century.
ii] Fraticelli and Anabaptists. 15th century.
iii] Shakers. 17th century.
iv] Methodists. 18th century. Wesley had a tremendous spiritual experience of recommitment in a prayer meeting, when he came to understand fully the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. As an Anglican minister he began to propose that the Christian goal is perfection/holiness. He taught that God forgives sins and therefore would perfect us if asked. He will transform us and give us victory over sin and therefore enable us to see him. This moment of transformation is a post conversion work of the Holy Spirit. In Methodist meetings if was usually associated with swooning, shaking, shouting or babbling.
v] Holiness movement. 19th century. The Methodist church had quietly dropped their second blessing teaching, but in 1830 it was revived by Phoebe Palmer and in 1843 and 1860 the Methodists were divided into separate denominations based on their acceptance or rejection of second blessing theology. By 1880 other denominations had been affected by the movement and new Holiness churches founded on the idea of Wesley's full sanctification - perfectionism.
vi] Pentecostal movement. 20th century. The Pentecostal movement grew out of the Holiness movement and so perfectionist theology was generally adopted. The new development was that the second blessing was described in terms of a Pentecostal experience, authenticated by tongues. This experience is defined in Pentecostal circles as either:
a) a the sign of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer with the power to exercise one or more of the supernatural gifts, or
b) the sign of a second work of the Holy Spirit, subsequent to conversion, to empower the believer for service through supernatural gifts. The blessing was given the name of "Baptism in the Holy Spirit".
vii] Charismatic Renewal. The Charismatic renewal movement maintained the second blessing format, but tended not to adopt a strong perfectionist stance, rather they described Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace by the Holy Spirit in the believer's life to empower for witness and service and victorious Christian living. Charismatic renewal therefore, draws on a long tradition of second blessing teaching that has not always addressed biblical truth.
All Christians are baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit in conversion. Spirit baptism is an aspect of conversion. Every person, upon believing in Jesus, is justified and baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, cf. 1 Cor.12:13, Eph.1:13. The believer enters into a full relationship with the Holy Spirit and possesses in fullness all that God offers in Christ, cf. Col.2:10. This is their Christian standing. It does not mean they are perfect, which must await the Parousia, cf. 1Jn.3:2, or that they have no need to grow in and live out their Christian fullness. A believer must faithfully serve Jesus to the end. In faithfulness they will be victorious.
1. The downside
i] Tongue speaking. Charismatics describe it as a God given prayer or angelic language. It is difficult to show a strong correlation between the present day phenomena and that of the New Testament experience, both in form (today it has a non-language form) or Use (today it is generally used for private praise or prayer whereas in the New Testament it is for public worship).
ii] Second Blessing theology. Many Charismatics claim that the church has failed to accept God's promised experience of Spirit Baptism associated with the sign of gifts (tongues, interpretation, miracles, healing, prophecy....). A second blessing view of baptism of the Holy Spirit fails to recognize that Pentecost was a once only occurrence when through the Spirit the disciples were reunited with their risen Lord. It was the beginning of the Spirit's ministry, and since then all Christians have enjoyed his ministry from conversion on. Act.2:38-39; Rom.8:9-11; 1Cor.12:12-13. The move toward a "filled with the Spirit" approach, or better still, "the release of the Spirit", is to be commended.
iii] Further denominational diversity. A Charismatic writer, Kevin Ranaghan, in "As the Spirit Leads Us", writes: "I was flooded by the realization that through the Charismatic renewal which we are experiencing, God is healing breaches and wounds in the body of Christ where they have never been healed before. Walls of separation long diving people equally loved by Christ and truly dedicated to him are beginning now, by the action of the Spirit, to crumble." In truth though the movement has only further divided an already divided Christianity. The cause has been a lack of love on both sides. Non Charismatics have been unwilling to accept revival in their midst, while Charismatics have tended to be elitist (their renewal formula is God's one and only way to live the Christian life).
By arguing for a post conversion empowering of the Holy Spirit Christians are inevitably divided into two groups
a) Those committed to this view are unable to accept other Christians as equal to themselves. They have not as yet been included into the Mystery of the Kingdom. What they have to say is of limited value. They need to be prayed for. Such a view destroys the unity we have in Christ. We must recognize that we are all equal in his sight, and "full" in every way.
b) Those who have rejected Charismatic theology feel degraded and put down, while those who have sought the experience and have not received it, feel that they have a serious spiritual problem.
2. The upside
i] Mutual ministry. Charismatic renewal has hammered home to the church today that Christians are a ministry team gifted tor the good of all. Rom.12:4-6; 1 Cor.12:4-7; Eph.4:7, 11, 16; 1Pet.4:10. A professional elite is unbiblical.
ii] Renewal. Charismatics have forced Christians to realize their inheritance, Rom.15:17. To experience a deepening of communion with the Father and the Son, Jn.14: 21-23; Eph.3:15-19; and know the unspeakable joy of Christ 1Pet.1:8. To move from dead formalism to a personal experience of Jesus.
iii] Living worship. Charismatic services emphasize the real presence of Jesus in their worship. Sadly many liturgical churches have sought to implement Charismatic worship technology rather than learn the lesson of the real presence of Christ in the gathering together of the two or three. Awe in worship is the lesson.
iv] Lifestyle. Charismatic Christians have been in the forefront of developing simple and communal lifestyles within a materialistic world. Experimentation in communal living, maximizing relationships, sharing resources, mission effort, social programs (drug rehabilitation) have been enthusiastically pursued. Their efforts are a tremendous witness.
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