Saturday, November 16, 2013
Death by A Million Paper Cuts: Errors in Charismania
While I realize the analogy of paper cuts may seem to belittle the error itself, I think it is the best way to illustrate the numerous errors of the PC movement, hereafter referred to as Charismania. There are more errors in Charismania than one can count. They serve to drain the soul of any life, if it has any to begin with. One error at a time and the Charismatic moves from the naive and not so serious error all the way to laughing like a fool and barking like an insane person and calling it worship. Who in their right mind would continue to listen to guys like Mike Brown after they say things like the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival were movements of God. They represent some of the most bizarre, demonic, mocking behavior that has ever gone on in the history of Christianity. Your credibility should immediately suffer dramatically, the minute you argue along such foolish lines. Jesus is not having people bark like dogs, hiss like snakes, roll around on the floor like insane people. And those who won't stand up for Christ and defend Him against such insanity ought to have their own heads examined. I know of no other way to say it. I remember the acute damage that was done to the Christian testimony by such a display of unbridled stupidity in the name of Christ. There are no excuses for the behavior and there are no excuses for not calling the behavior out for what it was. It was stupid people engaging in stupid behavior. They were told not to think about it, and they were stupid enough to listen to that kind of irrational advice. Let go and let God was the mantra. God was pitted against the intellect. If you don't have enough of a backbone to call it out as an incredibly embarrassing movement for the sake and defense of Christianity, then you don't have any backbone at all. Whatever happened to our love for the truth?
God Speaks to Me
This is by far the most common error in the PC movement. I know of no Charismatic that would deny the belief that God speaks to His children on a very regular basis, outside of Scripture, in their personal, private, and sometimes public experiences. What does this voice of God sound like and is it like anything that occurred in Scripture? First of all, it is an inner voice, in the mind that no one else can hear. It is like “self-talk” except it is not, according to the Charismatic. The sad truth is that there is no way to ensure that it is God speaking to me, or perhaps the pizza I had last night. The second problem is that this experience has no parallel in Scripture. When God spoke in His revelation, He made it clear to the person that there could be no doubt that something miraculous was taking place. Nevertheless, every Charismatic I know of believes that God talks to them in their minds, in that inner voice. Moreover, they can be heard to say almost incessantly, “God said to me,” or “God told me.”
I can Feel God or The Holy Spirit
This is another universal belief in Charismania. Charismatics think they can feel God. They get chill bumps or some warm sensation and believe that that sensation is the presence of God. In fact, Charismatics seem to believe that the presence of God comes and goes. I will never forget, while living in Rome, NY, not far from the infamous “Toronto Blessing,” a Charismatic that worked for me at the time told me that I must go to Toronto because God is doing mighty things over there. My retort was why can’t God just do mighty things right here in Rome? Isn’t God here too? I thought God was everywhere. This is a very common error in Charismania. They equate the Holy Spirit with some emotion, some tingle, or some sensation and assert that He is moving. There is nothing remotely like this ever mentioned or recorded in Scripture. No one is ever said to “feel” God in Scripture. Moreover, if we were able to feel God, we would need some measure by which to tell that “this” feeling is God but “other” feelings are not. Scripture is silent on such matters. The claim that we can feel God is a man-made fantasy without a shred exegetical support in the Divine Revelation.
Charismatics are extremely fascinated with dreams. I cannot tell you how often someone in my family would talk about the dream they had last night. Inevitably someone else would listen and proclaim that that dream was from God. What would the typical basis for the proclamation? They got goose pimples or chill bumps when they heard the dream and that was God confirming it was from Him. I realize that many people will laugh out loud at such nonsense but the Charismatic will not laugh with you. To them, this is serious business.
One of the most egregious errors of Charismania is its lack of any objective hermeneutic. The Charismatic takes every single verse in the text as a specific text speaking specifically to them. For example, the blessings of Deut. 28 are lifted off the pages and applied quite literally by the Charismatic to their personal situation. When Jesus told His disciples they would do greater works than He, the Charismatic applies that prophecy to themselves as a promise. Hence, the hermeneutic of Charismania is an experiential, mystical hermeneutic deigned to reshape Scripture in a manner invented to support the authenticity of their daily, supposedly mystical encounters. Such a nimble hermeneutic can hardly provide the guardrails necessary to avoid or correct error. It can only underpin the existing blunder and compound putrid teaching until it transmutes into full-blown heresy.
Charismania is rancid with autonomy. The distinctly American idea of the individual is a core value within Charismania. The song, “Me and Jesus” is a perfect example. It goes like this and yes, I used to sing in Church all the time: “Me and Jesus, got our own thing going, Me and Jesus, God it all worked out. Me and Jesus, Got our own thing going, we don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” Everyone does what he or she thinks God is telling them to do and no one, not even the pastor or elders had better interfere. This kind of radical autonomy has made its way into the ministry and women are viewed no differently than men. The Charismatic woman will submit to her husband only insofar as she thinks he is in God’s will. And what is God’s will? It is what God tells her it is. In addition, one article boasts that the Assembly of God is making tremendous progress ordaining women to the pastorate: In some areas, according to Charisma magazine, 60 percent of new pastors are women. (Link) The only denominations to reject the biblical teaching on women in the pastorate are radically liberal ones. And then there are the Pentecostals. Their theology of Spirit-baptism leads to the conclusion that women are just as empowered to lead as are men and therefore, there should be no difference to roles based on gender. The problem of course is that Paul’s teachings regarding male eldership in the Churches is really unambiguous. It is not a subject I consider worthy of debate any more than I consider the physical resurrection something we should debate. It is a clear fact and teaching of Scripture and there is no reason to open it for discussion. I realize this approach is offensive to guys like Steve Hays and other liberal scholars who seem to be far more interested in intellectual pugilism than they are in convincing people to apply the truth they know to their lives so as to grow in the knowledge an grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The goal of this post was simply to discuss some of the other errors distributed by Charismania in the name of Christian theism. They are not as serious as Benny Hinn’s stupid remark that there are nine Gods because each person has His own trinity. Nevertheless, they can easily move one from egregious error to outright heresy. When we add the highly subjective nature of the Pentecostal hermeneutic to these errors, the danger seems to be readily apparent. There is nothing in the way to protect the Charismatic from taking their error to even deeper and more serious error as a result of this subjective hermeneutic. The idea that God speaks to us in a way that is hard to distinguish from self-talk is absurd. It has no parallels in Scripture. The notion that we can feel God is utterly ridiculous. The view that God gives us dreams and leaves it to our own subjective emotions to figure out if they are just pizza or maybe divine is just mind-boggling. The highly subjective hermeneutic opens the door for a continual flood of error and heresy to creep in with no end in sight. Finally, the autonomous nature of Charismatic theology, coupled with its rejection of male leadership, has much more in common with liberal denominations than it does with orthodox Christianity. The number of female pastors in the movement is indicative of its interest in following humanistic notions of service rather than the God-ordained roles for the men and women. Non-cessationists, like Steve Hays, ought to be called to account for their support of a movement that is responsible for just about as much heresy and error as any other single denomination in the history of the Christian Church. While Hays and others may be having fun carrying out their intellectual lusts, and arguing for the sake of argument, the sad truth is that millions and millions of souls are being destroyed indirectly and directly by teachings that owe their existence to a variety of Charismatic theologies. At a minimum, before we lend our support to a movement, we should consider the consequences. After all, this is not a debate class. This is the real world where ideas have consequences, some of which are profound and eternal. A little humility and respect and appreciation for that fact should always color our comments and influence our arguments.