Monday, May 07, 2007

Charismatic Calvinists ... Beware!!

I am incredibly interested in following the thoughts and writings of Jesse Phillips - author of "Prophetically Speaking". He is vocalising much of what I have thought, feared and wondered for some time now - quite obviously benefiting from being at the SGM Pastors College. Many cessationists point to our forefathers such as the Reformers and some of the Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards and claim since they believed the gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased, therefore so should we if we are to be logical reformed Calvinists. So Jesse's question; "Is reformed theology inherently cessationist?" is an excellent one worthy of serious consideration. He concludes:

"Although there is nothing inherently cessationist about reformed theology, given its emphasis on God's sovereignty it's easier for charismatic apathy and functional cessationism to set in ... it is easier for functional cessationism to co-exist with reformed theology than with others (i.e. Armenian)".

I said on his site that I like the term "Functional Cessationism". When I was growing up, my home church moved resolutely away from it's charismatic heritage and became in essence cessationist. In other words, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not welcome in corporate gatherings. However there was no sermon or published booklet outlining the Scriptural rationale for this revised position on the charismatic gifts. If anyone was to ask the leaders, "Are you cessationist", they would be told "No - God is sovereign and He can do what He wants". But the gifts were not modelled, taught or welcome. Therefore we were "Functional Cessationists".

Jesse goes on to say;

"We can become complacent though certain gifts cease, assuming that if God wanted certain gifts to be given he would provide some sort of sovereign jump-start apart from any human initiative ... but it is certainly easier for this sort of charismatic fatalism to creep in where sovereignty is emphasized. Reformed charismatics must fight for faith so that we do not become apathetic and too quickly credit the absence of certain gifts strictly to God's sovereignty".

I liked and noted two phrases there which are extremely important. "Sovereign jump-start". Very often in theology I hear until I am weary the phrase, "God is sovereign". Indeed He is! But is His sovereignty an excuse not to pray for revival as I have been told? Is His sovereignty an excuse not to step out into a new area of gifting - such as Terry Virgo has been doing with healing? Is His sovereignty an excuse to become functional cessationists because one is not hearing the type of prophetic utterance that was expressed in the Bible? I do think our danger as charismatic calvinists is to wait for this "sovereign jump-start" - which may not actually be coming! God has poured out His Holy Spirit and has given His gifts. There is nothing more coming from heaven to help us complete the mission we are on!

The second phrase I liked but I found chilled me was "charismatic fatalism". I have seen this attitude happen again and again as I have grown up. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones saw exactly the same thing as Jesse has pointed out - he called it "Fear of excess". As a church we heard warnings against all types of charismatic "excess" - a list can probably be found in John MacArthur's "Charismatic Chaos". The illogical thought process was reached that if God was sovereign, surely He would not allow these excessive and shameful things to happen therefore maybe He hasn't given the gifts at all. Surely an honest reading of the New Testament shows that is ridiculous. Paul COMMENDS the Corinthians for the fact that they "came behind in no gift"! I wonder what church today can be commended in that same way? Yet of course he went on to "not command no use instead of abuse but right use" (as Professor Gordon Fee put it).

He closed by quoting from a lecture on the danger of the Third Wave position:

"Given the significance of Acts in recording the first 30 years of the church, if you read it as though it has no application for us today, you end up becoming a functional cessationist and dispensationalists. You may believe that the gifts are available in theory, but that everything supernatural in Acts is unique and has no relevance to us."

To all charismatic calvinists - let us beware! There is no need to downgrade the strength of doctrinal beliefs or the awesome heritage of our forefathers. But surely the call to the Church is to wake up and read the Word of God as it should be read! Or as Brent Detweiler put it:

This is what we need and this is what we can experience in our day. God, may we see the book of Acts rewritten at the end of the age!”


jul said...

I'm surprised I haven't seen this from you, but there's a bit of news you might be interested in on my blog. Unless I've missed something on your blog that is.... I think this would have been hard to miss you posted it though.

thebluefish said...

'course if you wanna be thoroughly reformed you gotta be baptising infants..

Hugh Griffiths said...

Thanks for highlighting this blog and the (really good!) questions and debate it raised. Love the comment by thebluefish LOL

janelle said...

GREAT post. I've been increasingly curious to see where SGM will end up. It seems like there was such an emphasis placed on the charismatic at the beginning of our movement, and now it seems to be wavering. Examples such as there no longer being a prophetic mic at some of the conferences (which was really weird, because I can't remember the last time I saw that at a SGM conference), leads me to wonder if we will eventually become functionally cessationist. But then again, there are guys like Jesse who aren't willing to let that happen. I pray that the coming leaders of my generation will continue to seek the gifts, even as we seek to preach the Gospel.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks to all for the comments, I'm so stirred by the vision and the dreams that this whole topic is stirring up. I find myself swinging from despair that the Church will NEVER effect the community with the power of the Spirit to blazing hope!! So I am so grateful to Jesse for firing this up. A special welcome to Sheree - Jesse's mum. I have profound respect for mums, as my dear friend Sheila will testify! I really found your call to parents so challenging and moving and I whole-heartedly back it. Let's all NEVER give up in our passionate pursuit of the Spirit.

And a 100% yes yes YES to Janelle's comment! As an up and coming generation we don't have to meekly follow where our fathers go if we dont feel it's in line with where the Spirit is going. The great Jonathan Edwards said it is the DUTY of every generation to find out where the Spirit is going and follow!! I am not content to "be like" a Mahaney, or a Tomczak or (dare I say it) even a Baxter or a Virgo!! Surely our call on our generation is to see God take us where we have never ever dreamed!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting you mention functional cessationism in relation to SGM Janelle. I would agree with you deeply - it's puzzled me for ages why "we" preach this charismatic dimension in our churches and yet see so little of the manifestation of the Spirit among us.

Have we fallen prey to the danger of "paralysis by analysis" as Ern Baxter called it?

May God forgive us if we have! I am excited that you mention examples of the prophetic at the last conference - could you elaborate?

Still LOVING this blog! It is water to a thirsty soul!

A SGM Pastors wife.

jul said...

I'm beginning to realize that we're not really preaching the gospel if there is not a demonstration of God's power in signs, wonders, miracles, healing, casting out demons, etc... I've been very convicted about my view of the gospel as just doctrinally correct words. At the SGM church I was part of I think the only reason people were still getting saved is because they use Alpha, where it is still 'alright' to demonstrate a little of God's power at the Holy Spirit weekend. Also, all the charismatics still left tended to congregate to Alpha. The sad part was that though people were introduced into the kingdom by power, there wasn't much power in the church which must lead to some confusion and sadly I saw many people (the ones with the "big" problems that needed God's power) falling away, giving up, within a short time. I think it would be better in some cases not to preach the gospel at all rather than preach a weak and powerless gospel centered on the eloquent and wise words of men. People go away thinking God isn't powerful enough for them and their problems and apart from God's supernatural power, there is no way to convince them otherwise.

janelle said...

Well, it was actually weird because of the LACK of the prophetic. It was at New Attitude. I was sensing some things, so I was going to go have it looked over by whoever was doing the mic, and there was nobody there. And it was that way throughout the conference. Don't get me wrong; it was an AMAZING conference and the Holy Spirit was really moving. But it just caught me off guard, because up until then, and SGM conference I went to ALWAYS had the prophetic, if at least minimally.

Baxter's Boy said...

Oh sorry, my mistake for misunderstanding you! I am getting increasingly bothered about how easy it is to slip into the "functional cessationism" that Jesse has been speaking of. I think he's so right where he quoted that it isn't enough for the pastor to encourage gifts of the Spirit from the pulpit, but they must model them. Could the same be said of conferences? Is it simply enough for the conference host to verbally encourage them, or does the onus lie on them to get up and step out in the prophetic or other?

For example, I remember being very impressed at the old Celebrations that used to be held in the UK a few years ago when C J Mahaney and Bob Kauflin brought prophetic songs between them. Does that still go on?

I think it's absolutely awesome if we can testify that the Spirit is definately moving at the conferences we go to - that makes it all worthwhile. But it makes me wonder - will He ever move and not speak? To me, when God goes silent in Scripture that isn't a good thing. So is the problem that God isn't speaking - or we aren't being obedient to get up and report what He's saying?

janelle said...

Hmmm...Bob definitely still does the prophetic songs. But that is pretty much, in my experience, what the limit is. Sometimes one of the leaders will have an impression or even a word, but that is few and far between. Again, this is at conferences. It will vary church by church in the SGM movement. I'm in a church where all the pastors are "subsequence" guys, but more and more pastors are becoming "third wave" guys. I think this has something to do with it.

Baxter's Boy said...

I think you've hit on a very significant point there, and it's something I have suspected for ages but must confess I don't quite understand. When my home church backtracked on the baptism of the Spirit and subsequent charismatic life, a group of us young guys went to Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 and we asked for his advice and help. One of my friends asked him, "Is the baptism of the Spirit really that significant? Does it really matter what you believe?". I'll never forget his reply.

He said something to the effect that the baptism of the Spirit is a kind of thin-end-of-the-wedge doctrine. Once you change that everything starts to change. Spiritual gifts go - spiritual warfare goes - worship suffers - and so on and so on. Well he was absolutely right. That happened in my church and I've seen it happen again and again.

I love much that goes on with Third Wave guys but I can't quite cope with the inconsistencies. I've seen a number of Third Wavers really stumped and puzzled because they are longing for manifestations of spiritual gifts in their meetings yet no one mentions the baptism of the Holy Spirit!! I would love and long to suggest that we pray and lay hands on anyone who wants it to be baptised with power from on high, and THEN see what happens to the spiritual gifts!!

Oh for a massive huge revival of the Spirit of God and His gifts of power and anointing in your churches!! And in mine!! This isn't an optional extra - Ern Baxter said!! This is life!!

jul said...

I think I've leaned third wave but am open to the subsequent 'baptism'. I always get hung up on the word 'baptism' since it's not used much except to say 'we've all been baptized into one Spirit' and also to say that if we haven't been baptized into the Spirit then we're not saved. In other words, I can see where third wavers are coming from . HOWEVER, if you talk about being filled with the Spirit, I'm coming to see that the initial filling or baptism for power is a theologically distinct experience, whenever it happens. Aren't the Vineyard folks thrird wavers? I don't think they have problem experiencing the gifts and manifestations. The issue is the desire to see God really move. Many who fall into a third wave position are not looking for more. The same could be said for many who believe in the subsequent baptism--they have had their experience and don't see their need for more. I've always held the position that as long as people are teaching that we need to filled with the Spirit and filled and filled and filled, then I don't really care what their position is. I mean, when it happens is not necessarily as important as that it happens. I guess the problem is when anyone assumes they have something they don't, but a proper understanding of 'go on being filled' would remedy that I should think. The crux of the issue is that we don't really understand our need for God and his power in our lives. We're quite satisfied to settle down and plug away at trying to be holy thinking God is exceeding pleased with this.