Before I begin, I do not want Charismatic Christians to feel singled out so let me make clear that this is simply the first group that I am addressing in a series of posts aimed at reconciling differences, addressing concerns, and encouraging various groups of believers within the Church. Theological issues within the Church are everywhere, especially with myself, and I simply desire to humbly state what I think needs to be said. I have some charismatic beliefs myself, and I know that not all Charismatic Christians believe the same things. I will be challenging some beliefs that are mainstream and some that are not. Nonetheless, I say this in love! This is Part 1 of the “5” series: 5 things I Want to Say to My Charismatic Friends.
Depending on how well you know me, or at what lengths you have had detailed conversations with me about various faith-based topics, you may or may not know that I have many detailed and complex views on charismatics in the Christian Church. I would define a “Charismatic” Christian as someone who places deep emphasis on these aspects of their faith: the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and emotions. I am writing this as an open letter with the intention to ensure that my charismatic Christian friends and I see eye to eye on many crucial issues regarding our faith in Jesus Christ. I truly appreciate the heart and energy that Charismatic Christians have for the Lord, Jesus Christ. With that said, there are many theological and cultural issues within the Charismatic Church that I want to address.
The topics that I will be writing to the Charismatic denominations of the Church about WILL NOT APPLY TO EVERYONE WHO IS CHARISMATIC. I want to make that crystal clear. As a matter of fact, I hope that most Charismatic Christians reading this simply look at my post and say, “well duh” in response to many of my points and that they see them as reasonable.
1. I love the emotion of my charismatic brothers and sisters, but I do not equate one’s emotion about God with their devotion to God.
I want to first start by affirming my love for Christians that fall under the Charismatic label. I was saved at a charismatic-leaning church, and I have many friends who are very evidently “filled with the Holy Spirit.” I love the joy, the happiness, and the vigor in which my Charismatic Christians friends approach their faith. While fighting the good fight of faith, I often find myself in the trenches of Christianity trying to bring the truth of the Gospel to this dying world. The battle for the faith is hard-fought, and I often find myself encouraged by the unwavering smile of a Charismatic brother or sister as we cling to the Gospel. I pray we never abandon one another but that we instead love one another.
However, I do want to suggest to my Charismatic Christians friends that the level of outward emotion does not guarantee that the person has or has had a serious conviction about their faith. Within Charismatic Churches, there is often a strong emphasis on emotion. But outward shows of emotions are not the only way we can display the conviction we have towards our faith. We all know this, but it’s okay for us to hear it again: Our emotions are not a litmus test for our faith. I know many Christians, who are not charismatic, who do not shout or cry in worship, but still have a deep and honest relationship with the Lord. Simply put: being stirred by your faith to emotions is one way to honor God, but it is not the only way.
We all need to honor God with our hearts and minds. We all need to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. Many of my Charismatic Christians brothers and sisters (especially my age) have the spirit part down. But, in a rush towards the excitement, many forgo the importance of loving God by knowing more about God. Of course many Charismatic Christians know the basic doctrines, but they often fail to understand the truly meaty doctrines that come from knowing God intellectually which can build a foundation for one’s devotion to God and their emotions about God. I will expand on this in point 5. For now, I ask you to bear with me and forgive me if I step on your toes.
2. I believe in signs and wonders as long as they are on the Bible’s terms.
I have mixed feelings about always being the friend who cringes at a theologically inaccurate prayer request. It makes me feel as if I am a cold-hearted Pharisee when I tell a friend that I have a concern with the way they pray. However, I also rejoice in truth and, whenever I am able, I want to honor God in correcting them. I often try to lovingly challenge the prayers of some Charismatic Christians when they pray demanding things such as signs and wonders (or miracles). The problem is not what they are asking for, but why they are asking for them. Let me explain how the theology of some pastors within the Charismatic Church often lacks a full picture of God’s purposes for miracles.
Signs and wonders can be anything from praying for miraculous healing to allowing someone to speak miraculously in a foreign tongue in order to share the Gospel. I believe that these are possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, as long as the healing or manifestation of the spirit is within God’s will. I believe God still sends signs and wonders today, and therefore, I often pray for these types of miracles but I also do so asking God if He is willing first.
I have no problem praying for healing, tongues, and other signs and wonders. However, I find it crucial to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit does not need to comply with the demands of our prayers. We cannot speak things into existence. We CANNOT tell the Holy Spirit where to go and what to do. God’s hands are not tied without our prayers. We are His soldiers. There are many popular teachers within the Charismatic denominations that would strongly disagree with this paragraph. Many of these teachers do not allow for suffering in their theology, and they teach that with enough faith, God will always heal physical ailments. A theology that doesn’t allow for suffering is a theology that does not allow for the Apostles’ martyrdom, the suffering of the Church around the globe, and so much more. Pastors who deny suffering in their theology are preaching a prosperity Gospel not found in the Bible. As a note of grace, these pastors may claim and believe their theology allows for God to be Sovereign over suffering, but they often have other views that contradict this view.
Another point I want to make about miracles is that they cannot be a litmus test for the genuineness of one’s faith in God. The devil can do miracles and he can empower people to do them as well. Jesus did His miracles as the Son of God on Earth. He was fully God and fully Man while on Earth so what He spoke into being truly happened. There are popular heresies in some parts of the Charismatic Church that suggest Jesus stopped being God and as a man, with the Holy Spirit, performed these miracles, which would suggest that Christians can speak things into existence and do miracles just like Jesus. But this works off the faulty assumption that Jesus, being God eternally, stopped being God eternally, which is impossible. Jesus was still God when he was on Earth, and therefore did his miracles in the authority of the Triune God. God has surely granted us access to these types of miracles, but only when He wills.
I believe that the Bible is the basis and the framework by which we should judge all things that can be considered “supernatural.” There are plenty of demons, false teachers, and false prophecies that were given to people throughout the Bible to lead them astray. Likewise, there are plenty of false teachers inside of the Church today preaching faulty theology and are leading people astray. They too use the Bible, but take scripture out of context. There are scriptures that can be misused in an attempt to support the heresies I am addressing. So I ask my Charismatic brothers and sisters to critically think about the shepherds they listen to and to watch out for false teaching. Some teachers simply need loving correction, some need to be removed from the Church—but that is a conversation for another day.
3. I want to seek revival, knowing that it is not fully possible.
I’m not the teacher on the topic of “Eschatology” or the study of the End Times. However, it is clear to me that the scriptures tell us that one day Jesus will return and make all things new. When Jesus returns, we will be happy, healthy, and holy in an eternal kingdom. We will not fear disease, nor death, nor anything else. That is all still to come, but until that day, we live in a dying world that is broken by sin.
With this in mind, what do we do with the topic of “Revival”? There is a prominent view in some Charismatic Christians teachings that suggests that God is using us to bring revival to the Earth right now so that Jesus may return. The idea is based around this premise that our actions, through God’s Holy Spirit, will transform the world for God so that he may return. Which is why people often look a little disgruntled when charismatic christian leaders talk about bringing revival to the world and taking “strongholds” from the enemy. These terms can be interpreted in different ways, so I will deal with them as kindly as possible.
I initially wrote about six paragraphs here before realizing that, no matter what I wrote, there would be too much more to say than I could explain adequately. In short, I believe the Bible tells us this: God has a plan to restore the earth one day, and until that day, He will use us to bring light and hope to many people in this present age of Earth as it falls into darkness. The light we bring will overcome strongholds of darkness, and it will bring revival. But, on a large scale, this earth is falling apart beyond our ability to save it, according to God’s will, as shown in His word. So, for now, we, as Christians, live as aliens in this world, which is currently a kingdom of darkness, and it is not God’s will to heal and restore all things right now.
Of course, I believe every Christian is, in a sense, already part of God’s Kingdom. We have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13). I am simply stating that we are not the ones who will ultimately overcome the kingdom of darkness, though our work for God certainly fights against it. But the responsibility of saving the world is too heavy for us to bear. We must run the race with endurance and faithfulness, doing all we can know that this present world is passing away.
4. I want my Charismatic brothers and sisters to become comfortable with their teachers and theology being questioned.
I want to reiterate that this is coming out of a place of love. I cannot think of a single Christian pastor, let alone a Christian, who hasn’t made a mistake in teaching Christian doctrine. I understand people can learn and grow out of inaccurate theological beliefs, which makes it very difficult to judge whether a teacher is false or not. But, more often than not, I have had a lot of people call me ‘too theological’ and ‘judgmental’ when I have called into question a teacher that they like.
Having your favorite teacher questioned is a hard thing to stomach, and I want to say I understand that. Many of my readers know that I love John Piper and Francis Chan, both of which have been accused of being false teachers due to things they have said and believe. I do not defend them as infallible, and I am always willing to hear people who question these teachers. However, it makes my stomach hurt to hear these teachers be challenged, and sometimes, I do lash out in reply. I feel like the questioning of my favorite pastor’s teaching is like one questioning whether my parents raised me right, or whether my girlfriend is a liar. I take offense and feel hurt at these ideas.
So, to be clear, I understand why I have been given disappointed glares and accused of putting God in a box when I have challenged the theology of my Charismatic Christian friends and their pastors. But I do it out of love, and I do it because I do not want anyone wasting their time with an imitation Christianity that may lead Christ to say, “I don’t know you.”
Look at Matthew 7:21-2321 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
In a way, this should terrify everyone. You can have zeal and do wonders and still not be saved. This fear draws me to writing this because I love my Charismatic Christian brothers and sisters. I have pointed out some beliefs these false teachers hold, and I am happy to point out more but not because I’m trying to bully them. I simply want to love in a way that rejoices in truth and takes no pleasure in evil. (1 Corinthians 13:6). So if I question your theology, please be patient and willing to learn. Moreover, do not be afraid to correct me.
5. I want you to know good theology, so you don’t walk away from the faith.
Good theology truly does matter! God wants to be worshipped in Spirit and Truth. So yes, we need to love God with our emotions, and that love must be rooted in the truth revealed in His word. This is way more important than many people care to realize. When a church, a pastor, or an individual Christian teaches false things about Christianity, it harms people’s ability to love God. There are many theological systems that are not biblically sound, leading people to leave Christianity.
I have seen Charismatic Christians speak healing and other signs and wonders over people without asking if they were interested in God, and without offering the Gospel. These people were left unhealed, and it made the God of Christianity look laughable to them. It hurts Christians when they are sent out to do something that God never guaranteed He’d give the power to do. We cannot speak nor command healing because we are not God. We can only humbly ask for it like the leper who came to Christ, acknowledging Jesus’ authority to heal him, and then asked to be healed. (Matthew 8:1-4).
The Gospel is what people need more than physical healing. Salvation and eternity with God are better than any healing one can receive on earth. Charismatic Christians are told that the Holy Spirit can empower them, but they are often not given the guidelines that are laid out in scripture as to how the Holy Spirit Empowers them. So when their prayers yield nothing, these people begin to doubt God or blame the devil, where in reality, they were simply asking for what God did not guarantee. Because of this, there are so many former Christian artists, pastors, and more who claim to reject Christianity, when they never truly knew it.
I have stated why and how faulty theology is hurting Charismatic Christians. I love my brothers and sisters within this denomination of the Church, and I am happy to expound upon and discuss what I have said. I pray that everyone within God’s Church shows one another grace while discussing theology. I will close this by reminding all my brothers and sisters of the faith about the words of Proverbs 27:17.
Proverbs 27:1717 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
Next week, I will address what some may consider the opposite of the Charismatic community, that being the Intellectual and Reformed community. Again, dear Charismatic brother or sister, I love you and want you to know the truth. I consider myself a Charismatic, and I want to walk with you all until the day God calls us home. Please reach out to me personally if you have any questions.
Grace and Peace, Remember the Gospel,
Appendix: A Lack of Energy is not a Lack of Faith
Lastly, if you know me well, you know that I often suffer from depression. Almost like faulty wiring, or emotional narcolepsy, the joy I feel as a believer will randomly shut off, and the Holy Spirit will lead me into a place where I seek God in quiet rest and lament. I love the days where my joy reaches the same level as those who are cheering, dancing, and singing during worship. However, it hurts me that I often feel as if I fail to meet a standard of holiness when I cannot jump and dance with my Charismatic Christian friends. So, I need you to know brothers and sisters that though I love your show of devotion, I take my rest knowing that God is the only one who can truly measure someone’s devotion to him. I try to bare the burden of these mental health struggles in a way that Glorifies him and helps his kingdom. I do pray for healing for my mental state, back, and many other things, but I remain how I am not because I lack faith.