Thursday, November 10, 2005

By Request - Charismatic Headcase

I mentioned in my Good Reads post about Dan's post at Cerulean Sanctum entitled, How Not To Be A Charismatic Headcase, but I didn't go into a lot of detail. Frankly, being a non-charismatic, I don't necessarily feel qualified to comment. But since Dan asked if I had any thoughts on the subject, I'll venture out to the end of the limb and see how much weight it will hold.

I've actually addressed a similar topic previously. My post, Crazy or Normal, was based on a post from Michael Spencer at the Internet Monk. I can't get a link to his post, but it was about those of us who are ordinary or do not have any of the "special" gifts that a few emphasize so heavily.

First of all, Dan makes five specific calls to charismatics and the charismatic movement in general which would clean up much of the horrible and heretical which often takes center stage. They are:
1. Stop being so undiscerning.
2. Stop letting immature people minister to others "charismatically."
3. Stop overemphasizing the gifts and the people who have them.
4. Stop living in a charismatic ghetto.
5. Stop practicing magic.

I have no problem with any of these. As many of the commenters on that post have noted, most of these are applicable to non-charismatics as well. Far too many Christians are so undiscerning that they wouldn't notice a shovel hitting them in the face. I wrote in my other post that since I don't get any of that special revelation from God which some claim to receive, my life is lived and directed by discernment based on the depth of my relationship with my Creator. If we all made seeking discernment a full-time job, the Christian Church would experience such a reformation that the world would be shaken to it's foundations. But alas, we're sinful and lazy.

There's something about the context of a church which makes people think that only the godly occurs there. "We're in church! There can't be bad doctrine or unbiblical practice or (gulp!) SIN happening in this building! Not during a service!!"

How naive! I've sat in pews and heard people gossip with one another. I've known teenage boys who were lusting in their hearts after certain females -- right there during the sermon! Even more commonplace, I witness people who are supposedly worshiping God but actually are thinking about what they have to do later in the day or worrying if the people sitting in front of them can hear their off-key singing. Too many sitting in the pews don't come to experience God, but to experience a good feeling. Or even simply to satisfy their conscious. Presence in a church doesn't make everything which happens within it's walls "of God".

I have noticed more than a few people who get so wrapped up in running the church or being noticed in ministry that they lose sight of the God they are supposedly serving. A position of authority seems to trump actual spiritual formation for them. After all, who would question the faith of the Administrative Board President or a popular Sunday School teacher? Yet those responsibilities are less important than our personal spiritual walk.

Dan's complaint of believers who aren't mature enough to practice discernment, yet impugn others with their false revelations is a familiar complaint with me. I've talked to too many people who have been accused of having demons or being told that God has called them to do something which they cannot do. I guess even one person who life has been messed up by immature wanna-be prophets is too many people. I just wish there had been only one. It's not pretty seeing people wrestle with the words of someone claiming to speak for God but obviously miscommunicating. The damage these people do is an embarassment to the Kingdom. In spite of that, most Imitation Isaiahs seem to be clueless; claiming to be only the messenger and feeling quite spiritually full of themselves. Their own feelings trump anything the Bible might have to say to the contrary. Why is it that those who need discernment the most are the ones who think they need it the least?

It's also true that very few people are brave enough to read people's work if they know they won't agree with the theology or the mindset of the author. Hey, it's all I can do to get most Christians to pick up a book, period -- even the Bible! I've read blogs where people like Rick Warren or Jerry Falwell or Brian McLaren are castigated for their teachings, yet it is obvious that the blogger is simply parroting what was written somewhere else and not writing from personal experience. One of the more challenging books I've read lately is "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller, and believe me, there is plenty of difference in Miller and myself. But I enjoy being challenged. Far too many people are so intellectually lazy that they cannot handle a different idea. For that matter, so many people don't know what they believe in the first place yet have no interest in investigating anything that's not spoon-fed to them from the pulpit on Sunday morning.

Dan's fifth call -- stop practicing magic -- particularly struck a chord with me. He writes:
"Nothing dishonors God more than attributing His power to objects, words, or certain rituals."
Most non-charismatics think this really doesn't apply to them. But it does. Some claim that if we don't close our prayers with "In Jesus' name we pray" that God won't answer. I know people who believe a person isn't saved unless they physically make a trip to the altar at the front of a church to pray the sinner's prayer. Then there's the whole issue of a "sinner's prayer" to begin with. And, although it's a topic all it's own, some teach that no one is saved without being baptized -- a certain ritual being put above God's saving grace.

But of course, the charismatic television services are where you see much of this. The "health and wealth gospel" or the "name it and claim it" stuff are particularly offensive. However the "specially blessed prayer cloths" are a bit humorous if you forget that some non-discerning people are being taken in by this nonsense.

I mentioned in my short reply to Dan that much of the "magic" stuff is at the heart of cultic doctrine. I'm currently reading a book by a woman who left the Mormons. In it, she talks about the special underwear (garments) which are to protect the body from evil and danger. Then there is the baptism for the dead and the secret rituals of the temple. To the unfamiliar, it reads like a Harry Potter novel. At it's root is the belief that we are saved by works, not by faith. That is certainly dishonoring to God, to say the least.

I don't know how widespread the abuses that Dan lists actually are within the charismatic movement. But I know that all five calls are fitting for charismatic and non-charismatic alike.

1 comment:

A Human Bean said...

Rev. Ed,

I just want to concur with what you have said. I am a pseudo-charismatic. I use that term because my seminary degree is from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. I do speak in tongues and I obviously believe the gifts are for today. However, I am not part of a charismatic church because I think too many of them place way too much importance of the signs and wonders. I am also not fully in line with the idea of the initial physical evidence belief of most pentecostal churches.

The gift come with great responsibility. For instance. If someone does really have the gift of prophecy, they need to be the first person to say to someone they believe they have a "word" for that they need to hear from God themselves. I have had people speak into my life prophetically, but it was always confirming what I already knew. It was God's way of spurring me to act on what he had already said.

I could go on and on about the Word of Faith groups. I truly wonder if they are using the same Bible that most of us have. TBN and CBN have done more harm than good when it come to spreading the Gospel.

I want to strenuously concur with the issue of maturity. God has called all of us to be ministers, but maturity in faith is required. Even if we have a gift it must only operate in a climate of maturing faith and spiritual discipline. Someone with discernment needs to keep thier mouth shut until they have proven themselves approved by God. As they mature other Godly leaders around them will recognize that God is using them in this way.

Finally, I also think there is way too much emphasis on the gifts being present in the worship services of many charismatic churches. God did not say that these should be everyday occurances. Gift are precious and not wasted. Some churches make it look like you can turn gifts on and off like a water spigot. That is just not Biblical

Thanks for the post. Hopefully some of those who abuse these gifts will read it.