For numerologically-interpretive charismatics, “6” is the number of man. I just thought you’d want to know that. So evidently it’s time for a cleanup of the charismatic movement where it has been fueled by the ideas of men rather than the will of God and acts of the Holy Spirit. You know what I’m talking about.
Dan Edelen is starting a series ( [) on “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup,” and I thought I’d interact a little. Part of his posts includes a list of problems and solutions, and this is the part I will take a look at — you’ll still need to read his posts to get the full thrust of his argument. Here’s what he’s got so far:
Problem: In our rush to regain a proper pneumatology, today’s charismatics abandoned a proper Christology.
Solution: We need to get the focus back on Jesus.
Before I left my (charismatic) CLB, my wife and I held a conversation with some good friends. The four of us had been leaders and more recently had been spending time talking about some of the ills we saw and attempting to encourage one another on a path of endurance. One of us finally said something like, “You know, I really miss Jesus.” The statement really resonated, and we began to spend time together in the gospels — particularly the Sermon on the Mount. My experience of the charismatic movement is that it acknowledges and tends to preach that the Holy Spirit (and “everything”) points to Jesus… but the preaching is more often from the epistles or select Old Testament passages. It stands to reason, though, that if “everything” points to Jesus, we ought to take as close a look at him as we can in the gospels so that we will more easily recognize what does and doesn’t point to or exhibit the characteristics of Jesus.
Problem: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility.
Solution: Get the cross back into the picture.
I’ve been uncomfortable with images of the cross in the charismatic movement, as it tends to get wrapped up in the idea of personal sacrifice and “laying it on the altar.” What we’re really talking about is selflessness, which is sorely needed. It is true that many (not all) charismatic leaders can exhibit an arrogance that is falsely taken as confidence or faith. I said in conversation essentially that power takes a second place to dialogue and relationship, which is outward-focused. There are a lot of “bless-me” charismatics running around looking for the latest word or prayer ministry from the latest prophet or evangelist or whoever. An outward focus is imperative as the movement needs to learn to bless others rather than merely those within the movement.
Problem: The movement is awash is Old Testament rituals or theology that were fulfilled in Jesus.
Solution: Get back to the New Testament and its New Covenant.
I’m not convinced by this, for two reasons. First, the Old Testament and the New Testament are not in conflict as though one can make an either/or choice between the two, but one need always remember the gracious incarnation of Christ in understanding the two. Second, the issue is really one of hermeneutics, where the Old Testament is inappropriately allegorized or spiritualized or somehow reinterpreted to mean something new and completely foreign to the original hearers. Rampant types and shadows interpretation has to go — you can theologize pretty much anything that way, and pass it off as scripture. It’s scripture all right, but it doesn’t say what is often being purported. We’ve already mentioned the necessity of the gospels, which would be a good corrective here as well.
Problems: Discernment of any kind is sorely lacking at all levels within the movement. Many charismatic teachers craft entire theologies from disconnected or lone passages of Scripture.
Solution: Build a holistic worldview by teaching the Bible from cover to cover, not from topic to topic.
Here again, this is more a problem of hermeneutics rather than discernment. Well, perhaps in a few cases there’s some attendant lack of common sense. The movement does have notable responsible scholars within it, but there are also a number of untrained pastors and teachers who attempt to take their teaching uncritically from dubious sources of all types and pass it along. Dipping into pet passages is an all too common practice (see above) which could be corrected by using the Lectionary, if they could understand that doing so does, in fact, not limit the Holy Spirit.
Problems: Too many charismatics are more interested in what they can get than what they can give. Also, we love to talk about taking dominion over the kingdom of darkness, but we forget the primary means by which we cripple the Enemy’s purposes.
Solution: We need to be drilled on the Great Commission.
This has been mentioned above as selflessness and being outward-focused. Bringing in the Great Commission is my segue to say that a missional approach to one’s neighbours would go a long way toward making the necessary adjustment.
Problem: The charismatic movement is a cult–of celebrity.
Solution: Time for the old guard, who failed to guard what they were entrusted with, to get off the stage.
There really is no place for celebrity and for pedestal-sitting by those who are the annointed vessel of the hour. Humility, please. These leaders should be more concerned with integrity and respect than with fame and glory.
Problem: We let the miraculous enthrall us.
Solution: We need to be more discerning and less surprised by the miraculous.
I wold love to be unsurprised by the miraculous because of its ubiquity… but we just aren’t there. On the other hand, a proper response would be to worship God rather than be excited about the miracle itself. The miracle is the testimony, not the object of which is being testified. Let it all point to God, and catch those who are not so oriented and redirect their gaze.
Problem: The charismatic movement is obsessed with novelty.
Solution: We must understand that there is nothing new under the sun.
This novelty seems to crop up in new teachings or in new methods which get copied. We haven’t seen the widespread adoption of drop-kicking people to bring them healing, but there are smaller quirks that are transferred or copied. I sat in a meeting one time where one person was shaking in a certain characteristic way — I leaned over to the leader beside me and said, “Let me guess, [noted leader] prayed for him, right?” His response was a smile and a happy nod. Things that seem to work for one person or are quirks of their own personality are no formula for healing or blessing. There’s no need to copy it word-for-word and gesture-for-gesture. The movement would do well to consider the tried-and-true non-formulaic rich heritage of the Christian church, rediscovering some of the habits and practices which have been spiritual disciplines for centuries.
Problem: We continue to tolerate the aberrations of the past, the worst excesses of the charismatic movement, digging them up repeatedly for each new generation after they were long buried.
Solution: It’s time to grow up and face today. In many cases, the good old days weren’t all that good. Wrong doesn’t get right over time.
It’s time to become post-charismatic… and there’s no better reason than the one Dan has given to take note of Robbymac’s book, Post-Charismatic? (US residents need to purchase through Amazon.ca). I know I’ve said a lot about this book, but I really believe in what Rob has written. His research provides a movement-by-movement discussion of charismatic lessons that should be heeded. Time and again some “corrective” or new emphasis that is good is sought, but goes into error at some point along the way. Understanding what has typically thrown charismatic movements off the rails will be instructive for creating boundaries to keep on the track now.
Considering the list of problems and correctives, it seems to me they boil down to three primary concerns:
(1) A lack of humility, coupled with a focus on the man and the miracle.
(2) A lack of balanced grounding in Scripture using standard hermeneutic methods.
(3) A weak understanding of the work of Christ and the purpose of the church.
I think I’ve hit my arbitrary word-limit for today, so I’ll have to expound upon these three tomorrow. Stay tuned for part two.