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Charismatics Not All the Same

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This paper is published 2½ years after the Toronto Blessing first hit the UK. Time and again in BTM literature we have opposed 'charismatics', or, more accurately, 'charismaticism'. Some have taken this to mean a total opposition to all charismatics, of whatever hue. In this Outline, we shall present a simple statement that refutes this, mainly by supplying necessary definitions.

1. It has been said that all Believers are 'charismatic' in the Biblical sense of the word, because every single Christian has been blessed with various spiritual gifts. This is perfectly correct. As one who came from a Calvinistic background, I understand why and how some Christians tend to shun the subject of gifts, saying that they all ceased with the Apostles. It is really a defence mechanism, based on a fear of offending Almighty God with the excesses of certain charismatics. But, we ought not to reject what is proper in an effort to distance ouselves from what is unbiblical. There is really no proof that the gifts have ceased, so we should not insist that this is so. In fact, to insist that they have ceased is to deny our own salvation, for salvation is called a 'gift' of God, as are faith, righteousness, love, etc.! (See book: ‘Plagues, Crossings, and Small White Things’, K B Napier).

 2. By 'charismaticism' we mean that all-pervading spirit or influence that takes over the mind and heart, and which emphasises spiritual experiences over and above scriptural text. Those who have this spirit might speak of belief in scripture, but their actions and practicesdeny such a belief. Isaiah 30:1 says: "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin." Many charismatics are of this nature: they follow theories and new things, signs and wonders, and teachers who do not teach God's Truth. In verse 5, God says this is to their shame and is a reproach to them. In verse 8, Isaiah is commanded to make a public declaration against the rebellious people and also to make a permanent record of God's anger against them. BTM has done this, not for its own sake or glory, but because God says so and because "... this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD." (verse 8). These liars ask those who see visions and those who prophesy to tell them lies, because they prefer them to the Truth.

Matthew Poole says only an insane man will deliberately prefer lies to the Truth, and so this text is not saying rebels against God do so consciously. Rather, they say they obey scripture, but reject it by their actions. This is what we see amongst charismatics who adhered to the Toronto Blessing and to other charismatic fables. That is, they obey the spirit of charismaticism rather than the spirit of God. (We would add that a man need not be insane to accept lies: all it takes is sin!). That is why we oppose charismaticism and all charismatics who obey its voice.

3. We tend to distinguish 'old style' Pentecostalists from current charismatics, whose existence really goes back only to about the 1960’s. The 'old style' Pentecostalists are usually opposed to charismatic excesses, sins and beliefs. Many of them are godly folk who wish only to worship God in Truth. And many of them believe in the gifts but have rarely seen them in operation (the experience of most). They view the current trends with great alarm and distance themselves from them. Thus we do not include these folk amongst the 'charismatics' we oppose. Mainly, with a few individual exceptions, their beliefs in the gifts are orthodox and Biblical. However, we must add the following to this statement...

4. We will oppose any belief that is not scriptural. Thus whilst we might indeed accept as our Brethren many 'old style' Pentecostalists, we might also, at the same time, oppose or reject certain of their beliefs or practices. We would do this purely on the basis of God's Truth, and not because a person is a Pentecostalist. This is a fair thing to do, for all denominations (and others) are permeated with unsaved or rebellious people. We cannot oppose one type of denominational error whilst ignoring the errors of other denominations!

5. We oppose and reject any denomination or group that preaches rank Arminianism. By this we mean open and deliberate Arminianism, which is really religious humanism. It preaches that we may become saved by our own effort, i.e. we can 'choose' Christ whenever we wish and that salvation is the product of our own response. Almost all denominations and preachers tend to fall into a modified form of this trap, mostly unintentionally, being unaware of the theological implications. Thus, whilst we may accept such preachers as ‘genuine’, we nevertheless point out their error.

But, current charismatics deliberately use Arminian means and methods, that are worldly, without a shred of Biblical holiness. Their preaching and teaching are plainly unscriptural and they revel in their own glory. It stands to reason that if a church or preacher preaches salvation by self effort, then those who are 'saved' under such preaching are likely to be unsaved. These same folk go on to 'serve the church' and pass on their unscriptural teachings to others. Thus, we oppose charismaticism and rank charismatics, whereas we do not generally oppose 'old style' Pentecostalists... although we will oppose these also, if they turn to blatant charismaticism or preach other heresy.

6. Having said all that, we would wish to add that to call one's self a 'charismatic' or a 'Pentecostalist' is unnecessary and is fundamentally an error, which is why we point out that charismaticism is rooted in Pentecostalism. We say this as a warning, not as a rebuke. A similar argument is also made against ALL denominations and denominational spirits. Basically, to be known by a denominational name is unscriptural, and we see no difference between denominational loyalty and the situation spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians..."...I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos... Is Christ divided?". We would certainly not shun folk because they belonged to a denominational church, or because they referred to themselves as 'Pentecostalists' (etc), but we would, however, tell them that we do not accept their 'title' or some of their beliefs.

As an individual Christian I hold firmly to the 'five points' of Calvinism, but I do not call myself a Calvinist. I protest against Rome (and other cults) but I do not call myself a Protestant. I believe in the gifts, but would definitely refuse any name such as 'charismatic'. My preference is to call myself a Christian or a Believer, and to tell those who believe unscripturally that they are wrong, or even that they are heretics. I see no Biblical precedent for calling one's self a 'Pentecostalist' or a 'charismatic', whether or not one joins with Toronto Blessing or other heretical activities. It is our hope that all who now call themselves by such names will see the error of using them, and will return to a more Biblical epithet! We welcome their input against the gross errors in the Toronto and charismatic movements, although we do not necessarily accept everything they do or say (on the above grounds).

7. Charismaticism was born out of Pentecostalism. This had to happen at some time in history, because of the seed of heresy contained within Pentecostalism (just as different seeds of error are contained within other denominations). What happened to Pentecostalism can happen to any denomination, which is another good reason to drop the title 'Pentecostalist'. Far better to say that a Christian is one who accepts scripture as it stands, including gifts, fruit, and the work of the Holy Spirit in one's Christian life! There is no need whatever to add another name to those already given by scripture (and there are several, including 'Christian', 'Believer', etc). (Important: Read Article on Azusa Street).

We hope that this short paper gives a clearer indication of our attitude toward Pentecostal Brethren - an attitude which we believe to be scriptural.

© April 1996

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom