Once More: Reformed and Charismatic?

A Response to Pastor Koleoso and DGM

Tope KoleosoOur friends at DGM have done it again. This time it’s a lecture by Tope Koleoso that has folks discussing the question of the relations between the charismatic movement(s) and Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

Tom Chantry, a Particular Baptist friend, has replied to this specific video. This topic was covered on the HB in 2008 in response to an essay by Calvin College prof Jamie Smith and in 2009 in response to a query from HB reader Nick. There’s no need to repeat those posts here but I want to say a couple of things:

There is an objective definition of the adjective “Reformed.” Words mean things and the adjective “Reformed” signifies “that theology, piety, and practice derived from Scripture and confessed by the Reformed churches in their ecclesiastical catechisms and confessions.”

Objection: But the meaning of words change. The word “nice” used to mean “stupid” but that’s not how we used it any more.

Answer: I understand that the meanings of words change but there is a difference between the natural evolution of the meaning of a word and theft. When a word has been in continuous usage by an identifiable society of people, and when the meaning and intention behind the word has remained constant, the sense of the word cannot suddenly be said to have “changed” when another group simply lays hold of the word by force and re-defines it.

It is a natural process for grass to go dormant when the temperature gets colder. There’s not much to be done about it. It’s the way of things in the providence of God. If, however, one’s neighbor sprays poison across one’s yard, that’s not the same thing as the grass going dormant. That’s vandalism. That’s a crime.

Recovering the Reformed Confession-FeaturedThe usage of the word “Reformed” has not gone dormant, as it were. It’s not as if the Reformed churches have left the word lying about for a century or two so that they no longer have any reasonable claim on the word or its original signification. The Reformed churches confess the same faith they did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are about 500,000 of us in North America, a million in Nigeria, 50,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, millions in South Korea, and untold (but large) numbers in other Asia locations which should not be specified for their sake. Reformed confession, however is not moribund world-wide, even if it languishes somewhat amidst the revived Anabaptists (see below) in North America.

Now, we are frequently and unhappily inconsistent with our confession so, in some respects, it is understandable that our evangelical friends, who, relative to the great traditions of the Western Church, practically homeless, should want to move into our nice house but, like it or not, we’re still living here so they shall have to go somewhere else.

As I’ve argued in an essay in Always Reformed in the 19th century, American evangelical Christianity morphed into a reproduction of the Anabaptist movement of the 1520s. You might not remember overhead projectors but if placed an image of the first-generation Anabaptists on the projector and then lay an image of 19th-century American evangelical religion on top of it, they would match quite nicely.

Simply because an organization or movement begins calling itself “Reformed” doesn’t make it so. If confessionally Reformed congregations began calling their congregations, “Such and Such Baptist” church, on the premise that they do practice the baptism of hitherto unbaptized adult converts, our Baptist friends would be justifiably outraged—even if it might lead to marked growth in attendance to Reformed congregations! DGM has sympathies with certain aspects of the Reformed confession but it is the product of American revivalism of the so-called First Great Awakening, which if scholars of the period are to be believed, was not actually all that great (see Recovering the Reformed Confession for more on this) and, in certain respects, the Second Great Awakening. To that they have added a dash of predestinarian theology and a recent recovery of the doctrine of justification. We’re all thankful for the good things that come out of DGM but this episode fits their pattern of attempting to include Rick Warren and the leader of the dangerous and rejected Federal Vision movement under the Reformed umbrella. Consider this: multiple Reformed denominations publicly and deliberately rejected the FV theology and practice and named the person whom DGM has invited to speak twice to their gatherings. When challenged, the leader of DGM asserted that he knows better than the Reformed churches what they ought to confess. Check Heidelcast episodes 2 and 3 on this where I documented these claims.

Reformed ministers do rely on the sovereign Holy Spirit to do signs wonders but not of the sort Pastor Koleoso imagines. We rely upon him and beg him earnestly to use the decent and orderly preaching of the Word to bring his elect from death to life and we rely upon him to use the holy sacraments to confirm his promises and strengthen our faith and union and communion with the risen Christ.

Those things are rather less visible and spectacular than the sorts of things that our Charismatic and Pentecostal friends claim but there you have it. The Reformed are not Pentecostal or Charismatic. We had this debate with the Anabaptists in the 16th century. They weren’t satisfied with the sufficiency of God’s Holy Word, the Holy sacraments as instituted by Christ, and the decent and orderly piety as instituted by the apostles. See the section in Recovering that discusses the Reformed response to Munzter on exactly these points. The modern renewal of the early Anabaptists, the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements, seek to reproduce apostolic phenomena. They can’t do it but bless their souls they keep trying.

As they say back home, you can put lipstick on a pig but he’s still a pig. Thomas Muntzer wasn’t Reformed in the 16th century and he’s still not Reformed.

46 Comments

  1. I should mention to you, Dr. Clark, that you have single-handedly opened my eyes to this issue, and I no longer call myself Reformed as a result (or at least I try to catch myself). Although I no longer have a clue what I am besides conservative, biblical Christian, I have gained a healthy respect for the meaning of a label. Thank you.

    My own Acts 29 church plant calls itself “Reformed Charismatic,” and I have become the official -drop the first part of that description- advocate. Will let you know when I convince the other 72 million of them in North America, and they’ve all moved out of your nice house.

  2. Dr. Clark, having a thoroughly evangelical upbringing (although we did practice infant baptism) and having landed in the charismatic and mildly neo-orthodox world by my college days, discovering Reformed theology and ecclesiology in the OPC along with its sharp critique of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy shortly after was a clear alternative. I embraced the historic Reformed confession whole-heartedly. (I even gave up my complaint that the catechism should ask “Who is God and how has he acted?” G. F. Wright instead of “What is God?”

    Imagine my shock a few years later when reading John Leith’s The Reformed Tradition. In Leith Reformed wasn’t so much a theological system or a confession, but rather what those churches who have historical descent from the 16th century Reformed now believe even if they are Arminian, neo-orthodox, liberal, hierarchical, and whatever else mainline “Reformed” and Presbyterian churches have become. So while I’m very sympathetic with your claim, I suspect it’s anachronistic. Perhaps we have to settle for “confessionally Reformed”.

    In the evangelical world Reformed simply means adherence to the 5 points, as you know. I tell my Baptist (DGM) and charismatic (SGM) friends who claim to be Reformed that there are 37 points of Calvinism (a la the Belgic Confession) and not just 5.

    • If someone wants to argue that the Dissenting Brethren at Westminster, as well as Cromwell, Owen, Ames, and nearly everyone in Puritan New England was not Reformed, and also argue that Archbishop Ussher of Armagh at the time of the Puritan Commonwealth as well as the Hungarian Reformed bishops for the last few hundred years are not Reformed, I suppose it is possible to argue that church government is of the essence of being Reformed.

      That does, however, create a few problems.

      A number of the English Congregationalists living in the Netherlands at the time of the Synod of Dort were willing to live under the Church Order of Dort. They actually organized a classis under that system of government. If English Congregationalists in the 1610s and 1620s were willing to live under the Church Order of Dort, does that mean that the Dutch Reformed are not properly governed because their system of government is insufficiently Presbyterian?

      There can be no question that the Westminster Directory of Church Government and the Westminster Confession were drafted specifically to define Presbyterian church government and provide a rebuttal with Scripture proofs of Congregationalism and Episcopalianism.

      That’s fair.

      It is possible to be more conservative than the confessions. To argue that church government is of the essence of the Reformed faith appears to go beyond both the original intent and actual practice of Reformed churches in the 1600s.

    • Hi Terry,

      As has been suggested there were multiple polities at Westminster and at Dort, so no. I am a de iure divino presbyterian and am deeply suspicious of monepiscopacy but traditionally we’ve recognized monepiscopal churches as churches, hence the British delegates to Dort.

  3. So… What if a person believes everything in the 3 Forms of Unity and the Westminster standards except the parts that teach cessationism?

    • Bradley,

      It’s not a matter of simply dissenting from a doctrine. It’s dissenting from a piety and a way of reading Scripture. It’s dissent from the Protestant conviction about the sufficiency of Scripture (sola scriptura). It’s dissenting from a way of speaking and a view of authority (Scripture v personal experience). It’s dissenting from a way of reading redemptive history (we’re not apostles). It’s dissenting from a certain understanding of the relations between Scripture and covenant.

      So, when someone says, “I like everything but cessationism” I suspect that there’s more going on since one’s view of revelation and gifts is tied to a lot of other issues.

      Why not simply speak about illumination rather than revelation? The Reformed have always had a doctrine of illumination. One question is how to describe what happens when the Spirit helps us to understand Scripture? We call it illumination but we don’t call it “revelation.” The problem with much contemporary evangelical piety is that it is not content with Scripture and wants to pretend to be apostolic again–as if they were being teleported or raising the dead and the like. The truth is, neo-Pentecostalists and charismatics simply re-describe ordinary phenomena in extraordinary, apostolic terms but it’s not the real thing.

    • Dr. Clark, I agree with you in principle, and probably also in practice, regarding the charismatic movement. I’ve seen its devastating effects up close and personal.

      I once regarded the charismatics as allies against liberalism, but I am no longer even convinced we can call charismatics “evangelicals” in principle, though certainly many charismatics are much better in practice than their professed principles. In principle, the charismatics resemble Roman Catholicism more than Protestantism in their view of authority and continuing revelation, and it is not irrelevant that the Roman Catholic Church is quite supportive of their “charismatic renewal.”

      I do think some qualifications are important, however.

      First, I fully concur that the charismatic movement is outside even the most generous interpretations of the “system of doctrine.” It takes its authority from individual experience and not from sola scriptura. Furthermore, its typical focus on a feel-good theology is utterly destructive of any Reformed concept of personal conviction of sin.

      However, what do we do with men like Martyn Lloyd-Jones? His own church was destroyed after his death by the dangerous door he opened to the charismatic movement, and that should show us that men who are inconsistent will often find their followers more consistent than themselves. But it seems clear that there are at least some people in the Reformed camp who, based on exegesis of Scripture, argue for the possibility of continuing prophesy, tonguespeaking, miracles, etc.

      My personal response to men like Lloyd-Jones is to apply the biblical standards. Let’s grant for a moment that tonguespeaking exists. If it exists, it must be practiced according to biblical standards with no public tonguespeaking without an interpreter. How many charismatic churches follow that rule? And what about the rule requiring 100 percent accuracy in prophesy, or the person prophesying is to be considered a false prophet?

      I believe we can show without much difficulty that even if the charismatic gifts continue today, virtually all of what are claimed to be charismatic “gifts” are actually either (at best) people sinning by violating Scriptural warnings against tonguespeaking without interpretation, or (at worst) false prophets who should be excommunicated.

      Second, however, I fundamentally disagree that the charismatic movement can be rooted in the First Great Awakening. You may very well be correct about its roots in the Second Great Awakening, but when Davenport and others like him advocated a wild focus on experience and rejection of duly constituted ecclesiastical authority during the First Great Awakening, Edwards and Whitefield both responded — if my memory serves correctly, quoting from one such situation — “what means this nonsense?” That, not support, was the response of the leaders of the First Great Awakening to proto-charismatic “exuberant worship.”

      I realize you object to much of the Puritan wing of Calvinism, but to blame the First Great Awakening for the charismatic movement seems to be too much of a stretch. I simply do not see many similarities between either Puritanism or the First Great Awakening, on the one hand, and the charismatic replacement of sola scriptura with private revelation and individual experience.

  4. Pingback: Once More: Reformed and Charismatic? – via The Heidel Blog | Pilgrimage to Geneva

    • I wasn’t being sarcastic. What exactly are you on about? I take Dr. Clark’s historical analysis and claims seriously, and no longer bandy about the label “Reformed.” Where do you think I was being sarcastic? Never mind if it was a mis-reading of me, no harm done.

  5. haven’t taken the opportunity to say Thank you so THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful that the HB is back up and running. I am thankful for men like yourself who aren’t afraid of the “calvinist” public who idolize the Pied Piper and his ilk like Grudem. I am grateful that you speak the truth boldly and with much grace (i’m still learning the grace part as I’ve got the boldness part down pat but then again I’m from brooklyn). I am grateful that you are pointing out the inconsistencies in these arguments for charismatic and reformed being okay as a singular term. As an EX-pentecostal and EX-charismatic (yes, their me-ology is quite different), I am shocked when i find those who grew up confessionally reformed falling for the Pied Piper’s contemporary flute-tune. So, again, THANK YOU.

  6. “The usage of the word “Reformed” has not gone dormant, as it were. It’s not as if the Reformed churches have left the word lying about for a century or two so that they no longer have any reasonable claim on the word or its original signification. The Reformed churches confess the same faith they did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. ”

    Dr. Clark, this statement could mislead the common reader since the contemporary, typical, run of the mill “Reformed and Presbyterian” church “confesses” to hold to the same historic faith of Calvin, Knox, etc but betrays its own confession when it comes to worship. How can a “Reformed” church claim the great biblical Reformed heritage in name and yet sell itself out to the fads and passions of the worship practices of the papists, baptists, lutherans, etc. I agree that the word “Reformed” has been hijacked by the like of the baptists but a large part of the problem is due to “Reformed” churches losing their grip on the Regulative Principle of Worship. We can’t be all bark and no bite, all show and no substance. “Reformed” churches cannot be jealous about the “term” when they’ve thrown the RPW out the back door. It’s misleading at best and double-tongued at worst. “Reformed” churches may confess the same faith they did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but they sure don’t practice what they preach.

    My 2 cents.

    Greetings from Brea, CA.

    • Hi Victor,

      Well, we do confess the same faith. Did I not say:

      Now, we are frequently and unhappily inconsistent with our confession so, in some respects…

      I did write Recovering, so I feel your pain.

    • I’m sure you feel the pain Dr. Clark.

      Now, given Christ’s wise words to “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” would it not be prudent, wise and obedient for the Reformed and Presbyterian church to join together and galvanize itself around the RPW prior to correcting our brothers in baptist, lutheran, anglican churches?

    • Victor,

      Life rarely allows the opportunity to one thing at a time. We have ecumenical obligations as well as a call to pursue reformation in our own midst. We can talk about setting priorities. I’m in favor of starting with reformation, hence the HB. Preacher, meet choir–as it were.

  7. Dr. Clark, I used to be a Pentecostal/charismatic, and from the outside I’m watching three deadly heresies that are destroying the charismatic and Pentecostal churches, 1. open theism, 2. modelism 3. the word of faith movement. And I’m watching people being drove out of the charismatic Pentecostal movement because of these heresies. What attracted to the reformed church, is it’s theological structure for the most part hasn’t changed in 500 years. What also drove me away from the charismatic Pentecostal churches, the lack of church government, they have boards instead of elders ruling, and there pastors are pope’s. But on the other hand I cannot accept the predominant teaching in the reformed churches that the gifts ceased after the first century. and I have found myself being chastised by elders in Presbyterian churches for not believing in cessationism. And my question to you after all I’ve said, is there a happy medium, in all this for me?

    • Hi Jeff,

      Good, difficult question.

      We are cessationists. Without it the uniqueness and normativity of Scripture is in jeopardy. That’s a cardinal doctrine for us. The uniqueness of the Word as the source of special revelation and the norm for Christian faith and life is essential to who we are.

      What benefit do you really get from not being a cessationist that you can’t get in Scripture?

    • Dr. Clark, I do not doubt that scripture is the final authority and is a finish document. And I’m trying not to get into personal experience because personal experience doesn’t trump the word of God. But with that said God has made us experience orientated creatures and I think sometimes he expects us trust our experience. And I would believe nothing that was outside of Scripture. I know what I’m saying probably makes zero sense, but it’s hard to convey this.

    • Hi Jeff,

      I understand. It makes sense. That’s why God gave us the preached Word to hear, the visible Word of baptism, and the Supper to eat and drink. God does accommodate himself to our sense experience (!) but he does so quietly and in the ordained and ordinary means rather than in the extraordinary. See the reply to Bradley.

  8. Dr. Clark, what I wrestle with in this area is: how do we rightly describe some of the unexplainable phenomena we experience without opening up a Pandora’s Box? For example, sometimes I’ll be driving down the road or I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and feel led to pray for someone, and it ends up turning out that around the time I was praying was when they really needed some prayers. Or, based on nothing concrete whatsoever, I feel led to share a passage of Scripture with someone and it turns out to be exactly what they needed to hear.

    Some things like that happen to a few times a month, and I am not sure what to make of that.

    What do the Reformed Churches make of such things?

    I live in North Carolina. I was born and raised here. The only Reformed Churches in North Carolina are Presbyterian churches, so my experience with other types of Reformed church is very limited. In North Carolina the only Reformed Churches I know of are PCA, ARP, EPC, OPC and a few Anglican Churches (if you consider that Reformed; Anglicans who actually believe and teach the 39 Articles).

    • Bradley,

      We believe in the ongoing presence of and work of the Spirit in the church and in believers as individuals. The question is how to describe that work. As I noted in the reply to Eric, our assumptions have been colored by the neo-Pentecostalist claims since the early 20th century and behind that, the 2nd Great Awakening (see Warfield’s response in Counterfeit Miracles). Look, it might be great to have real apostolic power but no one has it. If we get bit by poisonous snakes, we will likely get sick (and, absent treatment, die). Paul was bit and didn’t die. I’m not thinking of the longer ending of Mark, btw. I’m thinking of Paul on Malta.

      So, instead of re-describing ordinary phenomena in apostolic terms we should describe things plainly. “I awoke with a desire to pray.” “I felt a strong compulsion to do x or y.” What are these? Leadings, promptings, fine. I don’t doubt that the Spirit is constantly, powerfully, and actively accomplishing his purposes. What I doubt is that we know and say with certainty exactly what he’s doing at any given time. That presumes knowledge of the Spirit’s work that we don’t have. It’s powerful and seductive but it’s powerful precisely because it fills in the sorts of blanks we want to have filled in. It sounds and seems more “spiritual” to say, “The Spirit led me to do/say/think” rather than “after prayer and study I did/said/thought.” The latter is corrigible and the former is less so. It’s really a sort of implicit claim to power, authority, and knowledge that, as far as I know, in the post-canonical era, no one has.

      Why can’t we simply do good, useful, edifying things without attributing it directly to the inspiration of the Spirit. Why do we have to know whether it was directly from the Spirit? Partly, I think, because we feel guilty for being cessationists because the non-cessationists seem to having all the fun.

      Well, let them have fun but let us tell the truth. What we know is that we had a desire or an insight or a happy providence. Great! Praise God. Why can’t we glorify God for the ordained and ordinary? I know you know this but I’m pushing back a little to make a sharp contrast.

      Does that make sense?

    • Bradley, If I may interject my 2 cents.

      It has been my experience (for whatever value we would like to assign experience) that often those who respond to such statements as “your prayer/word from The Lord was exactly what I needed to hear!” is often (if not always) generic, i.e., easily suits the circumstance, and are themselves participants in Charismatic circles. So when you use the appropriate lingo “the Lord spoke to me/laid it on my heart” the signals go off in their head.

      In addition, I find it interesting that one must be a participant in the Charismatic circles in order to experience such supernatural things. It’s interesting that Charismatics don’t have “words from the Lord” for brothers in other denominations. This doesn’t jive well with the fact that they are “gifts” of the Holy Spirit yet he only appears to distribute them among one particular group of Christians. If supposed supernatural gifts were truly gifts, you would find Reformed folk simply waking up one day speaking prophecy for the sole reason that the Spirit has given it.

      One last example:

      Would I be less prompted by the Holy Spirit if I am acutely aware of my friend’s particular need and using scripture speak a word of encouragement to him based upon the knowledge of his situation?

      The point I am making is that Charismatics make it sound like their “spiritual promptings” are “supernatural” because they are unmediated or spontaneous. This puts ordinary events at a loss and less “spiritual”. The consequences of this kind if thinking leads to many of the errors that Jeff enumerates (esp. Word of Faith).

    • Nate, I don’t really run in charismatic circles. And I try to be very tactful about the way I handle it. I don’t really say, “I feel like the Lord told me [fill in the blank].” What about Jonathan Edwards? There were lots of strange things that happened at his revivals. Jonathan Edwards was not charismatic, yet he affirmed what he saw/experienced. It seems like the only reason he responded to it the way that he did is because his superiors put pressure on him.

      A general comment: It’s pretty low to say charismatics as a whole do not believe in Sola Scriptura. Many of them DO believe it. They just don’t believe a cessationistic interpretation is what Scripture teaches. They believe Reformed, cessationalistic interpretations are more or less the product of Rationalism rather than the product of exegesis. Sure, a charismatic view messes up a closed theological system. But does Scripture teach cessationalism? That’s a matter of interpretation. Honest exegesis shows that this issue is not as cut and dried as we might like it to be.

    • Bradley, either you are defining non-cessationist differently than it’s usually defined, which is possible, or you have failed to understand the “sola” in “sola scriptura.”

      We’re not talking about “impressions” that we ought to read a particular verse of the Bible or asking God for wisdom in a job selection and getting a strong sense we should go to one or the other. I know a fiery anti-charismatic fundamental Baptist pastor who has no problem with saying he received a strong impression not to pick up a gun one day, and the person who actually picked up the gun and used it had the gun explode and severely injure him. I know a URC pastor who has dealt with direct manifestations of demon possession in his church in another state — a situation he does not discuss very often. We’re Calvinists, not Unitarians, and we certainly do believe in miraculous answers to prayer. God can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.

      What we cannot do is command God with our prayers, or expect him to give us revelation comparable to what he gave to the Old Testament or New Testament prophets.

      When we oppose non-cessationists, we’re talking about claims of continuing revelation from God via predictive prophecy and similar things. We’re talking about people saying, “God told me to marry this person.” Or again, “I received a word from the Lord to tell you _____ today.” Or even worse, “God told me if enough people do ___ then he will turn away his wrath from our community.”

      If those really are words from the Lord, then we need to obey them as prophetic utterances comparable to the Old Testament and New Testament prophets. Those prophetic utterances are revelation just as much as those received and repeated by Moses or Isaiah or any other prophet in the written Word of God, so people believing such utterances have by definition said there is revelation from God available apart from Scripture. That means they don’t affirm sola scriptura.

      If they’re not words from the Lord, we need to rebuke the speakers as false prophets.

      A reminder — the test of a true prophet is 100 percent accuracy. No exceptions. And tonguespeaking may only be done with an interpreter present. Show me a charismatic or pentecostal church that observes those two rules and we’ll talk. If a charismatic or pentecostal church isn’t observing those two rules, then obviously they’ve decided to directly disobey God’s written rules for how the charismatic gifts were to be exercised, and I have every right to rebuke them for their disobedience.

      This isn’t rocket science.

    • Darrell, if I have a strong impression not to pick up a gun, then that is God speaking to me. What’s the difference between having a strong impression (like not picking up a gun) and saying, “I feel as though God may be saying we need to leave this gun alone”?

      Is it the issue of authority? (Or so-called authority).

      Like, if I claim something is from God then I’ve crossed the line. But if I don’t make any claim about where something is from then that’s (mostly) fine. Is that kind of what you are saying?

      The way I hear most of what cessationists say has a lot more to do with what they don’t say than what they do say. I’m surprised a URC person would believe that demon possession can happen today in ways that are along the lines of how it occurred in New Testament times.

      What most charismatics hear Reformed, cessationalists say is: “The Holy Spirit regenerates people and helps us understand the Bible, but other than that He’s pretty much. He lives in a book now. And He helps us when we study the Bible or hear preaching. But other than that He’s as good as dead.”

      It’s not rocket science to figure out why the Reformed Churches cannot even get charismatic/Pentecostal churches to even try to listen to what they are saying.

    • Bradley wrote: “Darrell, if I have a strong impression not to pick up a gun, then that is God speaking to me. What’s the difference between having a strong impression (like not picking up a gun) and saying, “I feel as though God may be saying we need to leave this gun alone”?”

      I think you’ve probably identified the key issue here.

      If I have a strong impression to do something, that doesn’t prove anything about where the impression came from. Maybe it’s from God. Maybe it’s from Satan. Or maybe it’s just the results of the pizza I ate last night affecting my digestive processes and prompting a strange dream.

      If I say, “Thus says the Lord,” I’d better have some pretty strong confidence that the Lord has said it.

      If God has said something in the Bible, I can have that confidence.

      Among the things God has said in the Bible are these:

      “And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord God, when the Lord hath not spoken” (Ezekiel 22:28).

      That shows us that not all who claim to be prophets are prophets.

      One key test of a true prophet versus a false prophet is 100 percent accuracy. That makes sense, since God knows the future. Actually, any “Reformed Charismatic” should say God not only foreknew but also predestined the future, numbering future events among the eternal decrees.

      We know that from Deuteronomy 18: 20-22: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

      Deuteronomy 13:1-2 says that even if a sign or wonder **DOES** come to pass spoken by a prophet who had said, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death.”

      Bradley, maybe you have the confidence to say that your impressions are from God.

      I don’t.

      And if I did, as a Reformed Christian, I think I’d better be willing to submit my “prophesies” to the adjudication of my elders to determine if they have 100 percent accuracy and if they in any way lead people to follow false doctrines.

      The reason why is that at the absolute minimum, false prophets need to be excommunicated rather than being allowed to deceive church members by their public teaching or preaching.

      We’d better be very, very careful before claiming that we speak in God’s name. I’m not willing to do that on anything which God has not clearly stated in His Word.

      I freely grant that it is easier to show the tests for distinguishing between true and false prophets, and for tonguespeaking requiring interpretation, than it is to show that prophesy and tonguespeaking have ceased.

      But with all due respect to charismatics, even if prophesy and tonguespeaking still exist, most if not all modern charismatics are violating the clear and obvious teaching of Scripture on how they are to be used. That makes most if not all charismatics false prophets.

      God has some pretty strong warnings in His Word about false prophets.

    • Darrell, we are almost 100 percent on the same page.

      Like, most of the time I have some type of “impression” (if I share it) I don’t say, “God told me [fill in the blank].” I know a few people who do that. It makes me uncomfortable.

      If something keeps coming to mind every time I pray for a close friend I may mention something to them in private like, “Every time I have prayed for you this past week, a certain passage of Scripture kept coming to mind. I don’t really know why, honestly. Consider reading it. Maybe it will speak to you. I don’t know.”

      If the real issue is one of authority, then I definitely side with cessationism. I do think God speaks to us in ordinary ways or through impressions more often than we realize. But the only infallible authority we have is Scripture.

      Sadly, most of the people who seem to be in touch with “the Spirit” are very ignorant of what Scripture teaches in general.

      I hope and pray that these people will be given a hunger for the word.

    • Bradley wrote: “Sadly, most of the people who seem to be in touch with ‘the Spirit’ are very ignorant of what Scripture teaches in general.”

      Bingo.

      That is a common consequence, though not a necessary consequence, of the charismatic belief in continuing revelation. After all, if I can expect an immediate and fresh answer from God to my questions and problems today, why do the hard work of studying what He wrote thousands of years ago in answer to the questions and problems of people who are long since dead?

      A focus on charismatic continuing revelation walks hand-in-hand with a basic lack of biblical knowledge. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens far too often. When it does, we can correctly rebuke such people as despisers of God and His Word.

      They may well be in touch with a spirit, but it is not the Spirit of God which always leads us to His Word.

    • Darrell, over the past 2 years I have met quite a few charismatic folks who really do love the Lord. Almost all of them either grew up Roman Catholic or came from a broken family and did not have any type of Christian/church background at all. These folks got into charismatic churches largely because they did not know any better.

      I have been able to pour into their lives. By God’s grace, several of them have started getting a lot more serious about studying Scripture. I have had to be very gracious and patient with them, and it’s very likely true that they’ve had to do the same thing for me at times. LOL.

      There are probably lots of people who are in the extreme charismatic camps largely because they do not know any better. For many of them, that is all they have known. Getting them to a place where they are open to questioning/challenging what they’ve always known is no small thing. One could compare it to a lifelong Baptist being challenged about his views on baptism. Getting people to see their error is usually a slow process.

      Yes, we need to show them where they are wrong. But we also need to encourage them by showing them the vast riches the Holy Spirit has already given us in Scripture. We need to not only help them step off of their platform of charismania, we also need to offer them somewhere else to stand. They need to see the beauty and sufficiency of Scripture.

      Do we need to point out error? Absolutely. But we should not stop there. We should also labor to winesomely convince them of the beauty and truthfulness of Sola Scriptura.

  9. Could you give some guidence in interpreting passages such as this which seem to imply these gifts of the Spirit are normative for the Church in this age?

    “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”- 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 ESV

    • Hi Eric,

      Context. The church has usually recognized a strong degree of discontinuity between the apostolic and post-apostolic era. Analogy: the Israelites went through the Red Sea on dry ground and the Egyptians were drowned. When I walk between bodies of water, I’m on “dry ground” but it’s not the same thing. So too the analogy between the apostolic phenomena and what happens now.

      NO ONE is doing today what the apostlic company (apostles and designated representatives) did. NO ONE is actually raising people from the dead, speaking in foreign languages by the power of the spirit (Acts 2) and no one is teleporting from place to place. Those modern episodes and phenomena that are described as apostolic aren’t. This is why I say “re-described.”

      What I do with those passages is recognize that they describe distinctly apostolic phenomena, which ceased when the Apostle John died. In our culture, post-Topeka/Azusa St many assume a continuity with the apostolic phenomena that the Reformed rejected in the 16th century. We rejected the Romanist claims to apostolic continuity (the power to do miracles and on-going revelation) and the Anabaptist claims (1520s) to replicate the apostolic phenomena. This debate has been going on for centuries. Indeed, most the early church rejected the Montanist claims in the early 3rd century to be replicating the apostolic phenomena.

  10. Dr. Clark, you said:

    “It’s really a sort of implicit claim to power, authority, and knowledge that, as far as I know, in the post-canonical era, no one has.

    Why can’t we simply do good, useful, edifying things without attributing it directly to the inspiration of the Spirit. Why do we have to know whether it was directly from the Spirit? Partly, I think, because we feel guilty for being cessationists because the non-cessationists seem to having all the fun.

    Well, let them have fun but let us tell the truth. What we know is that we had a desire or an insight or a happy providence. Great! Praise God. Why can’t we glorify God for the ordained and ordinary?”

    YES!!! That makes a lot of sense. Thank you. I especially like this one comment you made:

    “It’s really a sort of implicit claim to power, authority, and knowledge that, as far as I know, in the post-canonical era, no one has.”

    That was very helpful. Thank you.

  11. Here is an important issue which I think charismatics will not like and Dr. Clark touched upon: Charismatics do not believe in Sola Scriptura. They may claim it and even express it the way Protestants of the Reformation do, but they deny it other parts of their theology, piety, and practice; using the way Dr. Clark speaks of the definition of Reformed, perhaps charismatics cannot be called Protestant? It’s not that they don’t hold the Scriptures in high regard, but they all either explicitly or implicitly affirm that the church needs special revelation (visions, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc.). The book of nature and the book of the Scriptures is not sufficient for the charismatic.

    Sadly, some will take this as an attack, but it is not meant to so. Having grown up in Pentecostalism, I don’t have a problem saying that there are Pentecostals who are better people than some who hold to Sola Scriptura; nevertheless, the good qualities of these individuals does not extend to their theology, even when they can be regarded as a brother.

  12. One of the things I go back to when I hear people ask if God still speaks today is the line from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”:

    “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word. What more can he say, than to you he has said?”

    God has already given us so much. We already have more than enough to hear and receive. If we are not listening to and receiving what God has ALREADY said, why would he tell us anything else? We need to listen to, believe and obey what he has already shown us.

    It is dangerous to go down the path a lot of charismatics go down, but it is usually of no use to simply tell them they are wrong. Given that it’s unlikely we’ll have a lot of influence over them (or the time to dig that deeply into these issues with them), isn’t the best thing for us to do is to encourage these brothers to dig into God’s word?

    Winning the person is more important than winning the argument. Helping someone get to a more solid place is probably going to happen by them getting into the word more than they are. If they get into the word more then they’ll likely see that a lot of what they see going on in their charismatic camp directly contradicts Scripture.

  13. Thank you, Dr. Clark, for your tireless defense of our Reformed tradition. It is a comfort to know some still remain that will truck no dilution of what it means to be “Reformed”.

    And, by the by, when can we expect to find your wonderful RRC in ebook format? I need to whip it out and occasionally beat a straying brother mercifully with its cogent content and am getting tired of carrying the paperback around. ;)

    an unprofitable servant,
    Patrick

  14. Having watched most of Pastor Koleoso’s talk, it is quite astonishing how he subtly accuses those who don’t follow charismatic practise as he outlines it as being legalistic, unspiritual and basically wrong. Many of us who emerged from this teaching have heard all these accusations before, and they can be deeply damaging as well as being plain wrong.
    The Reformers would stand against such teaching as DGM and this Pastor try to mix, and those whose true colours are shown by their affinity with charismatic Reformed types need to be treated with great caution; one supposedly Reformed and prominent speaker/writer for the GC would have one such fellow ‘Reformed’ charismatic speaker and writer as his pastor!
    There needs to be less heat and more light on how folks speak and write about the errors of DGM and those they promote. But best of all, we need to show the Reformed faith individually and in church as healthy, robust, God honouring and showing a profound Christ likeness which can be so much lacking in the overall church today.

    • Thanks Paul,

      I appreciate this. There seems to be a notion widespread that “What Reformed theology needs…” and they often fill in the blank with some alleged virtue of the charismatic movement. When this happens I wonder how well people really know the Pentecostal/charismatic movements and how well they understand the Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

  15. Pingback: Charismatic Chaos: Response Round-up | The Decablog

  16. Speaking as an outsider (non-denominational, African-American, and a member of a community in the Chicagoland region that was historically Dutch Reformed, but has become majority African-American due to the flight of the Reformed community), it seems that too many labels (reformed, charismatic, baptist, catholic) are being elevated to a level of the ultimate, authoritative commentary on scripture.

Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are welcome but must observe the moral law. Comments that are profane or that deny the gospel or advance positions contrary to the Reformed confession are subject to deletion. Anonymous comments, posted without permission, are forbidden.