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A Brief Description of the Charismatic Movement: Its History & Aim

A Brief Description of the Charismatic Movement:
Its History and Its Aim

by Blake McGuckin

Our church has been going through a study recently that has as its central focus decision making according to Christian principles. The study aims to polemically address a false teaching that depends upon new, unauthoritative revelation from the Holy Spirit for decision making. In its place, a Biblical theology of decision making may supplant the heterodox orthodoxy, that is commonplace heresy, so prevalent in the American Church today. However, the theology being counteracted was not self-conceived but was birthed out of a larger movement.

The larger movement has spread its heretical understanding throughout the ages and has required much effort on the part of the faithful to put it to rest in various eras. This article will focus on this movement and hone in on aspect of its theology to expose the motive behind the movement.

The larger movement I refer to is that of the Charismatic movement. Although, the term Charismatic came about in the second century, its theological bent dates all the way back to the Apostolic era. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul discusses tongues and its place among the spiritual gifts. The Corinthians had elevated this gift in their day to the preeminent Charis (gift of grace) in the church. The Charismatics of the 2nd century actually took this further by declaring that they had an enhanced version of this gift and therefore had a direct line of communication to God through it. However, Paul has harsh words for adherents to this belief in 1 Corinthians 14:1-19, concluding in verse 19: “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version 2001). Let the reader recall that Paul is the same apostle who by divine inspiration states in Ephesians 4 that the local body of believers joined to Christ grows “when each part is working properly” and in so doing, “builds itself up in love.” It is clear from these and other passages that Paul considered the edification of the local body paramount to the life of the believer. Gifts that edified the individual believer alone rather than the whole local body of believers were relegated as lesser Charis.

Understanding Paul’s line of argumentation begs the question of why the later Charismatics of the 2nd century placed so much emphasis on the gift of tongues, especially given the benefit of a completed canon. The answer is quite simple, yet also remains insidious for many hapless sheep and goats today. The claim to the exercise of the enhanced gift of tongues sets the supposed Christian apart so that they occupy a second tier of the faith and from this second tier are able to exercise authority over others within the visible church. The Contemplative Anabaptists and Libertines followed suit with their own variations on this central understanding of claiming extra Charis to gain power. Later, the Pentacostals and Charismatics of today continued the longstanding heterodox tradition. The overt or covert purpose of these groups was and is to use complex systems based loosely off of Scripture to prop themselves up into positions of power.

The supposed spirituality of these adherents is a farce that no doubt some of them believe, but as yet, is deceptive and a stumbling block for sons of redemption and of perdition. The ability to pronounce a secondary blessing on oneself is meant to provide a degree of separation that directly contradicts the Biblical understanding of all Christians comprising “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9; The Holy Bible, English Standard Version 2001). This degree of separation is reminiscent of the Aaronic priesthood which existed in ancient Israel and was instituted by God until fulfillment in Christ. These Charismatics maintain a purported direct line of communication to God which allows them to guide the people like the ancient prophets, but they maintain special positions of power like the priest (the goal of their endeavors).  The author of the book of Hebrews wrote of Christ as being a high priest after the Order of Melchizedek and a priest forever who does not need to sacrifice continually for sin but has saved his people by the one sacrifice of his body and continually intercedes for them with the Father. He also wrote that Christ was the final revelation of the Father and that the old ways of hearing from God that were used in past generations had ceased. These usurping Charismatics seek to displace Christ as mediator and undermine his status as God’s final revelation by ignoring the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from Christ and from the Father. In their supposed standing of greater Charis, they construct fanciful webs of deceit that divert from the Word of God and do such under the guise of being guided by the Holy Ghost. In doing so, they turn away from the Spirit who works only in concert with his Word that he so faithfully preserved, “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” than the true event of the Transfiguration of Christ. It is by the perspicuity, that is the clarity, of the Scriptures that such an aberrant understanding of a “greater Charis” is overthrown and that the underlying purpose of usurpation is revealed. The clear, objective interpretation of Scripture and its contradiction to this theology provides sufficient basis for the assertion that this theology does not concern itself with sober study but instead is intent on the ascertation of position and power.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things, there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23; The Holy Bible, English Standard Version 2001)  Be self-controlled for the sake of your souls; throw off this theology and “receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls,” (James 1:21)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (2001). Crossway.
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