Sunday, October 6, 2013
Endowed With The Gifts of The Spirit – The Fruit of Pentecostal Charismatic Theology
I want to accomplish a couple of objectives in this post. First, I want to refute Adrian Warnock’s misrepresentation of John MacArthur’s view regarding the Pentecostal/Charistmatic Theological (PCT) parasite that lives in the visible Church. Second, I want to spend some time talking about the most serious theological error that I believe characterizes PCT. By now you are probably aware that Patheos has posted a public criticism of John MacArthur concerning his own criticism of Pentecostal-Charismatic Theology (PCT). The article was written by Andrian Warnock. I will provide a few very brief comment about his reason simply because it is obviously fallacious that it only requires a few remarks.
Andrian’s rebuttal essentially comes down to two things: PCT is growing at a maddening pace, and we are bigger than the other components of evangelicalism once you step out of the Western world. Warnock writes, “The Charismatics and Pentecostals are acknowledged by experts to be proliferating like no other previous movement in history. It seems to me that the movement contains many vibrant, faith-filled people who have a deep trust in God, a sense of a relationship with God, and a strong desire to share the gospel.” Apparently, Warnock is oblivious to the fact that this statement has absolutely no bearing on the question concerning whether or PCT is actually biblical or not. In order to determine if a movement is a biblical movement, we must compare its teachings with the Bible, not with its growth rate. Mormonism’s growth rate was extraordinary as well. Does that mean it teaches Christian truth?
Warnock continues, “Outside of the West the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movement dominates the Evangelical church. Whether you are Charismatic or not yourself, I hope you agree that these hundreds of millions of people are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we share in salvation together as one Body.” This is a fascinating statement. I think Jesus addresses it with these words, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:22-23) It seems clear to me that professions and numbers, regardless of their passion or sincerity to size are not substitutes for genuine Christianity. Warnock’s rebuttal fails to achieve its goal by a long shot.
John MacArthur is offended that PCT adherents claim to experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their movement. The reason this claim offends Dr. MacArthur and should offend anyone filled with the Spirit is that these experiences have continually and, steadily produced a stream of one false teaching after another. It is more than just a little disturbing when you hear PCT adherents claim that the NT gifts are still present and still needed in the modern Church when the people laying unique claim to those gifts continually line up in support of men who are false teachers and prophets; Men who claim to heal the sick and even raise the dead. What has the PCT movement given the Church since its inception back in the late 1800s to early 1900s? What is the fruit of this self-professing Spirit-filled movement? Let’s take a look to see what she has contributed to the modern Church.
We can begin with Katheryn Kuhlman. This was a woman preacher, something that is very common in PCT circles, who traveled around claiming to heal people miraculously. Having been interviewed and obtaining names and addresses of several people (23+) that Kuhlman claimed to have healed, one Dr. Nolan discovered that not a single miracle had taken place. One woman who was supposedly cured of spinal cancel through her brace away and ran across stage, experienced the collapse of her spine the next day. She died four months later. But the attendees would never hear the rest of the story. In their minds Kuhlman was a great miracle worker from God. Many people don’t know that Kuhlman had a proclivity for the flamboyant lifestyle. She liked expensive things. In addition, she was married to an evangelist who had divorced his wife for the purpose of marrying Kuhlman.
Aimee Semple McPherson had a strong influence on Kuhlman and others in the PC camp. She too was a traveling faith healer. Few people know, however, that McPherson faked her own kidnapping in 1926 to carry on an adulterous affair. It was this event that led to her founding the International Church of the Four-Square Gospel. McPherson died of an overdose of barbiturates. Again, few people realize this about McPherson. Kuhlman had significant influence on Benny Hinn and John Arnott while McPherson influenced Hinn as well.
Another PCT figure, AA Allen, claimed to perform hundreds and thousands of miracles and healings in his ministry. He claimed he could turn one-dollar bills into twenties. He sold anointed prayer cloths. He offered “Miracle Tent” shavings as points of contact for miracles. He actually started a “raise the dead” campaign at one time. It ended when his disciples refused to bury their departed and their departed refused to come back to life. Allen died from cirrhosis of the liver. He had received DUI after a miracle crusade in Tenn. This is one of many alcohol-related incidents. He was an embarrassment to the ministry and to the Christian Church.
I could go on and on about men like Oral Roberts, W.V. Grant, Jr., The Kansas City Prophets, John Wimber, Randy Clark, Paul Crouch, Jack Coe, Paul Cain, William Branham, John Avanzini, John Arnott, Benny Hinn, Ken Copeland, Ken Hagin, Fred Price, Marilyn Hickey, Pat Robertson, Robert Tilton, Earnest Angsley, John Wimber, The Vineyard Movement, The Laughing Revival, Rodney Howard Brown, The Toronto Blessing, The Brownsville Revival, Jim Bakker, and so forth. The list could go on and on and on. These men and women are false prophets, false teachers, teaching false doctrines for the purpose of material gain. All of them speak in tongues and claim to possess the same gifts of the Spirit that existed in the NT Church. This list is literally a tiny fraction of prominent names from among prominent names.
Now, here is the response you will hear from defenders of PCT. They will claim that ALL these men and women are the abusers. They are not indicative of PCT in general. And that, ladies and gentlemen is a dishonest argument. If it were not for the support and endorsement of the overwhelming majority of PCT churches, the movement in general, these men and women could never have risen to the levels of success they experienced. The fact that I have only listed a few indicates that these practices and teachers are prevalent within the Charismatic movement. Of course there can be small pockets here and there that may see these leaders as the abuser that they are. But that is the whole point. Such small pockets do not represent the majority of the movement.
Now, I want to turn your attention of the false teachings that have been the fruit of most PCT (Pentecostal-Charismatic Theology). The most obvious teaching among PCT is the notion of individual-personal-experiential revelation. This is the view, embraced by an overwhelming majority of PCT adherents that God is still actively giving revelation to the individual and even the Church. PCT adherents often make a big deal out their dreams, continually looking for spiritual meaning and messages from God. The focus is more than a little odd; it can be downright bizarre. The PCT adherent believes that God speaks to them often, through an inner voice that only they can hear. This inner voice provides very specific guidance in their lives around issues like careers, marriage, divorce, even, and things like relocation, and even interpreting Scripture. The goal, from my perspective is to know the hidden will of God, that will which is not revealed in Scripture. Moreover, there is a spiritual pride associated with this practice. The idea that God spoke to me and told me something is lauded as an indication that this person is very close to God. There is a power-factor that immediately surrounds such people. Essentially, this view inadvertently denies the sufficiency and efficiency of Scripture. This is by no means a small issue.
PCT embraces a view of salvation and atonement that is really quite different from that taught in Scripture and expressed by historic Christianity. Many Pentecostals believe that if you die immediately after sinning that you suffer eternal damnation because sin cannot enter the Kingdom. They reject the view that all sin, past, present, and future are forgiven in Christ. They teach that the security of the believer is conditioned upon the actions of the believer. Essentially, truly born again regenerate people can and do suffer eternal judgment in PCT.
Pentecostals teach that a person can be saved but not filled with the Holy Spirit. Some actually teach that sanctification is also a separate work of grace. In that system a person is regenerated, then subsequently sanctified, and then finally filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit. The evidence that one has been filled with the Spirit is speaking in tongues. If you do not speak with tongues, you are not filled with the Spirit.
Pentecostal worship is also quite different from historic Christianity. PCT adherents encourage their congregations to get in or enter the Spirit as they begin to worship. In most Pentecostal services, the goal is to impart some emotional experience that they call worshipping in the Spirit. I once had an Assembly of God pastor tell me that he knew when someone was dancing in the Spirit because people who did such in the flesh would get tired. The notion of “dancing in the Spirit” is nowhere found in Scripture. Another feature of Pentecostal worship is the practice of being “slain in the Spirit.” This happens when a preacher lays hands on you and you fall down. Again, nothing like this is ever witnessed or taught in Scripture. Another phenomenon is being “drunk in the Spirit.” This happens when people get so emotional that they just begin to stagger around the church and fall down, and basically behave like a bunch of drunks. A more recent phenomenon was the laughing revival. Supposedly the Spirit comes on people and they begin to laugh hysterically. If you have ever witnessed this phenomenon as a true Christian, you can’t help but feel like Satan is using it to blaspheme and profane true Christian worship. It is about as heinous a practice as I have ever seen associated with Christianity. There is nothing Christian about it.
I could go on and on about all the serious errors and even heresies that exist in PCT. I think you get the point. The errors touch the nature of divine revelation and Scripture, the believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit, salvation, the atonement, worship and more. I am sure that defenders of PCT will respond by calling these abuses. However, the fact remains that these so-called abuses are the very behaviors, practices, and beliefs that have come to define PCT over the short 100+ years of its existence. In the second place, I am curious just how it is that PCT adherents distinguish the abuse of a gift from the proper exercise of a gift. Is it abuse when someone runs circles around the Church yelling glory at the top of their lungs or is it the power of the Holy Spirit? We hear the word abuse quite a lot. What we need to see is the criteria by which abuses are identified so that we can interact with it. So far, I have not seen anyone in PCT publish such a list. In addition, the radically autonomous nature of most PCT churches makes genuine consensus nearly impossible. What one PCT writer says is abuse, 10 others claim is no abuse at all.
In summary, if it is true that the PCT movement is actually endowed with the NT gifts, it seems that the gifts not only don’t help avoid error and sin at all. If anything, the presence of the gifts seem to have a very high correlation with serious error and even heresy. One would expect just the opposite. I would expect a true movement endowed with the true gifts to see a high correlation with truth, with very low instances of error, of moral failure, of materialism.
Here is the list of PCT heroes: Katheryn Kuhlman, Amie Semple McPherson, Oral Roberts, W.V. Grant, Jr., The Kansas City Prophets, John Wimber, Randy Clark, Paul Crouch, Jack Coe, Paul Cain, William Branham, John Avanzini, John Arnott, Benny Hinn, Ken Copeland, Ken Hagin, Fred Price, Marilyn Hickey, Pat Robertson, Robert Tilton, Earnest Angsley, John Wimber, Rodney Howard Brown, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Reinhard Bonnke, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Gloria Copeland, T.D. Jakes, and so forth. Is it a coincidence that every personality in this list also has a very high attraction to and interest in materialistic gain? What these false teachers require to be successful is a movement of people that endorses them, agrees with their teachings, and supports them financially. This movement is the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. While it is true that there are small elements, tiny actually, that view these men correctly as false teachers, the truth remains that such elements are small, uncommon, and not the norm.
The typical PCT adherent will accept, approve, and support many if not most and all the names in this list. What is sorely needed in PCT is for someone to specifically dig into the beliefs and, practices of the movement, and gain consensus on what is abuse and what is not abuse. Perhaps then we can have a conversation about the conclusions as well as the criteria. Until such criteria is in place, those of us who are not PCT adherents are left to qualify our comments as addressing the movement as a whole with the understanding that some within the movement may not be as guilty of error as the movement itself.
Suffice it to say that it is indeed an egregious error to claim that something is the work of the Holy Spirit when in fact that work is used to issue false prophecies, make false claims about being Spirit-filled, pretend that healings and miracles are regular occurrences, and to line the pockets of false teachers with millions of dollars so that they can build empires and live lavish lifestyles all in the name of Jesus. If anything, the PCT defenders that claim that there are abuses in these practices should simply say amen and pronounce their public shame rather than defending them. After all, the PCT movement as a whole has made a mockery of Christianity with its prosperity gospel, its pseudo-tongues, its false claims about the miraculous, its visions and dreams, its radical focus on the experiential, and its obsession with the material. It is only because we care about the Church and about the testimony of our Lord that we make such public criticisms of a movement that does nothing but create scandal after scandal for the Christian community.