A Better Way to Counter the Charismatics

Since we have a duty to teach our children the important truths, I’m rewriting some of my Orthosphere essays to make them more accessible to young readers. The rewrites will fill in more details, details that the typical Orthosphere reader already understands but which a young person might not know. The latest rewrite is of my essay on Pentecostalism, Strange Fire, and What’s Wrong—and What’s Right—With Pentecostalism.

In the rewrite, I add basic information about Pentecostalism’s beginnings, the distinction (increasingly irrelevant) between Pentecostalism and the newer Charismatic movement, on the basic claims of Pentecostalism, and the heterodoxy and heresy to which Pentecostalism is so susceptible.

To summarize my main point: Pentecostalism’s unique emphasis is on the alleged gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, miraculous power, and receiving new revelations from God. But although opponents of Pentecostalism generally focus on cessationism—the doctrine that the miraculous sign gifts ceased with the passing of the Apostles—the real error of Pentecostalism is something much more basic: taking its eyes off the Savior in a mad rush to partake of the thrill of alleged Holy Ghost power.

15 thoughts on “A Better Way to Counter the Charismatics

  1. Pingback: A Better Way to Counter the Charismatics | Neoreactive

  2. Thank you, Mr. Roebuck. Years ago, a charismatic service I attended frightened me. During one, a woman laughed hysterically while she rolled on the floor during a sermon. The minister made light of that, telling us that it always happened. A young man seemed offended when I asked whether he felt well after I watched him prostrate. Dr. Russell Hittinger describes a Kathryn Kuhlman service where the evangelist invited a woman to join her on the stage because she believed that Our Lord had cured the woman’s back injury. The woman threw off her back brace, ran back and forth on the stage, split her spine, and died a few days later. But had an ambulance been there, she might have survived. Gerry Matatics, a professional Catholic apologist, describes a charismatic service where he prayed a psalm in Hebrew to see whether anyone would interpret his “tongues.” So someone failed fully when he tried to do that.

    In my opinion. most events at charismatic services probably have purely natural causes. But to be honest, I need to admit that, during a charismatic Mass, I floated to the floor when the priest touched my shoulder with two fingers. After I sobbed for about 20 minutes, I told a priest who took my pulse, “Father, I’m glad you guided me down when I fell. If you hadn’t done that, I would have cracked my head open on the cement floor.” “No one was within 10 feet of you,” he replied. “What?” I asked. “I saw hands on my shoulder blades.”

    Although I felt serene after Mass, and although I stopped obsessing about whether Christ would cure my Cerebral Palsy, I suspect that my fall and the potential hallucination probably weren’t miraculous.

    • Many strange things happen, but basing one’s religious beliefs on experiences is dangerous. I think it’s normal to be frightened by Pentecostalism in action, because the phenomena seem to be of mysterious origin. Committed Pentecostals are confident that it all comes from the Lord, but they’re playing with fire.

      For an example of a Christian who is dealing with cerebral palsy, see any of the Justin Peters videos to which I linked in my “Strange Fire” post. Peters also looked at one time to Pentecostalism as a possible cure for his condition, but eventually realized the errors of their teaching.

  3. Pingback: A Better Way to Counter the Charismatics | Reaction Times

  4. The Great English Monsignor, Ronald Knox, once said that if one is speaking in a language which one has never heard before nor learned before, it may be as a result of Diabolical Forces including Possession.

    • Yes. Many people crave the supernatural, but great deal of the supernatural is malevolent even if is masquerades as benign.

      • Alan: a question that had never occurred to me before I read your obviously true statement that “many people crave the supernatural:” why is that, do you think? I mean, I know how Augustine answered the question, but that’s not quite what I’m curious about. How would a naturalist answer the question, do you think? Or, to come at it from a somewhat different angle, why are so many people who are “not religious” – who hold to no religious doctrines – so interested in “supernatural” phenomena?

        If there is no there there, then – in their own terms – whence all the interest in what’s there?

        Is it no different than a starving man wolfing down grass because he does not believe in the existence of meat or potatoes?

      • In the context, I had in mind mainly two things: One is that many people just want to inject excitement into their lives. I heard long ago something to the effect that some people have a deficiency of a certain brain hormone, with the result that they cannot enjoy themselves unless they are committing extreme acts such as jumping out of aircraft that are not on fire. The other is that since the supernatural is not directly detectable by the senses, some people look to Pentecostal-style spiritual action for a spectacular confirmation of their faith.

  5. “… basing one’s religious beliefs on experiences is dangerous.”

    Quite so. Anyone who has been around Pentecostals of one or the other variety knows well enough that, as you mention in the O.P. I seem to recall, experiences, or “feelings,” is a big part of it. Whether or not the Holy Spirit is present in a Pentecostal “worship service” is often determined by the way one “feels” during the service. This, of course, begs the question: exactly what does it feel like to you? Almost invariably the answer is something to the effect that it feels like a tingling up the spine or a like sensation over one’s entire body, goose bumps and the like.

    I have a weakness for H.S. football (could care less about the thoroughly polluted collegiate and professional-level sports for the most part), especially the “smash-mouth” variety as opposed to “finesse” football. Anyway, I have pointed out many times with Pentecostal friends and relatives that the feeling they are describing as attributable to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their worship services, is the exact same feeling I get (or used to get when I was younger) when a player from my team put a big hit on a player from the opposing team. The point, of course, is to plant a seed of caution in those to whom I am speaking about equating what they feel to the presence (or absence, as it were) of the Holy Spirit. (Most of them share my enthusiasm for H.S. football, so the comparison isn’t completely foreign to them.)

    On the subject of speaking in tongues, I was once at an anually-held Pentecostal “revival meeting” at a local church in which a pastor from a brother church preached a topical sermon on the subject, sharing his personal anecdote of the first time he was “slayed in the spirit” and spoke in tongues. He said he was being prayed over to receive the gift of tongues, and that he was instructed to repeat the words “see my tie” three times in quick succession, upon which, following this advice, the “gift of tongues” descended upon him in a torrent and he had ever since spoken in tongues … profusely. Ridiculous!

    I wonder whether you’re familiar with Oneness Pentecostalism? It occurs to me that this particular branch (?) of modalism may well have been an attempt by its originator(s) to put the proverbial brakes on the larger Pentecostal movement’s tendency to place so much significance on alleged “Holy Ghost power” at the expense of salvation through Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice.

    • I know almost nothing about Oneness Pentecostalism. Your theory sounds plausible at first, except that OPs tend to emphasize speaking in tongues as a necessary indication of salvation.

      • My experiences with Oneness Pentecostals is very localized (say within a 150 mi. radius), so keep that in mind as you read the following.

        No adherent to oneness doctrine I have ever encountered has ever indicated to me that (s)he believes speaking in tongues is a necessary indication of salvation. Their main emphasis is Jesus name only baptism, and they are extremely dogmatic about it. They deny the *persons* of the trinity, while adhering to a certain kind of (unorthodox) trinitarianism that is very hard to nail down; it is extremely simplistic to the point of being very complicated and virtually unintelligible, if that makes any sense.

        Jesus name only baptism (Jesus Christ being the “family name” of the godhead in their estimation) is absolutely essential to salvation! As far as they are concerned, anyone who accepts the *persons* of the trinity believes in three gods no matter how you slice it, and is therefore damned to hell. Likewise for anyone baptized according to the wrong formula. Tongues, “shouting,” spontaneous gutteral utterances during their services, running up & down the aisles, leaping over pews and stuff like that they consider to be special “gifts of the spirit” bestowed upon the especially righteous and favored among them, but not necessary indications of salvation. The *really righteous* among them will look down on you if you don’t follow their lead and act like an idiot in church, but they still consider you a brother or a sister in Christ so long as you’re baptized in His name only.

        My theory was based on that understanding of oneness doctrine.

  6. Oooh, I look forward to seeing more such revisions, as I enjoy reading here, but often must really struggle to understand. I enjoy being a bit out of my depth (forces me to stretch and grow) but I could use training wheels! XD

  7. Pingback: Father Knows Best: Early May Edition | Patriactionary

  8. Pingback: Misunderstanding Jesus | When is Jesus Coming Back?

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