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Letter to the Editor on Reformed Charismaticism

Craig Dumont's article, "Experiencing the Supernatural Fullness of Spirit-Filled Living," appeared in the June 2000 issue of the Chalcedon Report. This is a letter to the editor.

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Dear Editor,

Craig Dumont's article, "Experiencing the Supernatural Fullness of Spirit-Filled Living," appeared in the June 2000 issue of the Chalcedon Report. Craig has written for Chalcedon in the past and I suspected then that he was a "Reformed charismatic," which he confirmed in an email to me almost a year ago. In this article he comes out boldly and admits he is Pentecostal/charismatic. I greatly appreciate and applaud Craig's efforts to gently bring an entire Pentecostal church into the Reformed camp, which may be part of the reason for his admission. However, Craig's article is reminiscent of Joseph McAuliffe's article "Reformed Charismatics," that appeared in Chalcedon Report, July 1995. Both discuss issues which non-charismatics would not take issue with, but completely avoid the real substance and divisiveness of charismaticism. To the uninformed, these articles could leave the impression that charismaticism is not so bad after all.

The reason I find this so interesting is that it is identical to the approach I practiced when I was a charismatic for 27 years and a "Reformed charismatic" for the last 16 of those years. Not only did I avoid the divisive issues of charismaticism when talking with non-charismatic brethren, I even avoided letting them know I was charismatic in the first place (kind of a closet charismatic). After finally abandoning charismaticism (for a multitude of reasons) and getting into a solid Bible-preaching PCA church, I began to realize that "Reformed charismatic" is indeed an oxymoron. Simply being a 5-point Calvinist and a postmillennialist (which I was for those 16 years and still am) is a start, but it isn't all there is to Reformed theology. A charismatic who holds to those positions is certainly an oddity in charismaticism and he's definitely not going to be challenged any further than that in being "Reformed and continually reforming." Instead, his fellow charismatic brethren will continually challenge him on the validity of holding to those basic views of soteriology and eschatology. Men, forgive me for being blunt, but I can't pussyfoot around on the dangerous philosophies that are trying to infiltrate our churches. Notwithstanding Craig's and Joseph's Chalcedon articles, charismaticism goes with Reformed theology like a skunk goes with a rose! Even setting aside all the unbiblical practices and heretical doctrines of charismatics that reek of the stench of revived Gnosticism, the charismatic view on tongues and prophecy is unbiblical and completely at odds with Reformed theology and with the historic creeds and confessions. When one points out to a charismatic that their view of tongues and prophecy is inconsistent with the scriptural view of tongues and prophecy, their response is always the same, "Yes, but I feel in my spirit the experience is true." The Reformed response to this should be, "Show me chapter and verse that gives you permission to judge an unbiblical experience as being true based on your own subjective feelings!"

After 27 years of practice, I am more fluent in "tongues" than most charismatics, able to turn it on or off at will even in mid-conversation in normal English. But that charismatic "prayer language" has absolutely nothing to do with the Biblical tongues. Charismatic tongues are nothing more than a random assemblage of vowel and consonant sounds into meaningless words and phrases, identical to what every young child does when first learning how to speak. It's the same gibberish, only a little more adult sounding. Indeed, the common method of leading a person to speak in tongues is to exhort them with, "Speak whatever syllables come to your mind, but don't say anything in normal English." Then, when the person speaks one or two random syllables, the leader and those around laying hands on the person excitedly shout, "You've got it brother (or sister), you've got the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Now keep practicing speaking in tongues and you'll become more fluent with time." The subjective feelings resulting from believing this deception perpetrated by church leaders confirm in the individual's heart that the experience is real. And it must be from God because so many "godly" people do it. The truth is, anyone skilled in this art of deception can teach any person, Christian or non-Christian, how to speak in tongues just like every charismatic in only 5 or 10 minutes.

John MacArthur's book, The Charismatics, points out that even Mormons and other cults speak in tongues. Whether one holds to the traditional miraculous view of Acts 2:4 or the non-miraculous view espoused by ex-charismatic Robert Zerhusen (his articles are on the Reformation Ink web site) one thing is certain: Acts 2:4 has little to nothing in common with modern charismatic tongues. With regard to "prophecies," I did not see even one single true prophecy in 27 years as a charismatic. Instead, charismaticism is notorious for either outright false predictions or nauseatingly meaningless sentimentalities that get passed off as "God speaking."

The Scriptures command false prophets to be stoned to death (Dt. 13:1-10; Dt. 18:20-22; Zech. 13:3; Lev. 20:27), but charismatic churches don't even confront their "prophets" with gracious church discipline! Apparently, charismatics love their false prophets (Jer. 5:30-31).

Wayne Grudem, the primary theology resource for Reformed charismatics, argues that valid New Testament prophecy can be fallible. However, Ken Gentry does a marvelous job of refuting Grudem in his book, The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy, A Reformed Response to Wayne Grudem. As Douglas Jones (himself an ex-charismatic) points out in his article "Unquenching the Spirit," in Credenda Agenda (vol. 7, no. 6), a belief in fallible prophecy has serious repercussions for the orthodox Reformed Christian. Not taking God's "spoken" word with death-penalty seriousness, which is the only realistic position that can be taken in charismatic circles, ultimately leads into not taking His written Word seriously. The necessary cavalier attitude of the typical charismatic toward prophecy, due to all the obvious false prophecies, ultimately leads to the hyper-Arminian theology of a fallible, non-omnipotent, non-omniscient God embraced by Gregory Boyd, professor at Bethel College, a view which is becoming increasingly popular among modern evangelicals, particularly charismatics and Pentecostals. As one ex-Baptist charismatic pastor used to teach us in New Covenant Churches back in the early 80s when we lived in Maryland, "God has a Plan A, and a Plan B." Such nonsense leads to a view that prophecy is ultimately dependent on man's unpredictable response, thus no prophecy is sure, not even God's written prophecy!

When Paul Cain, the world-famous charismatic "prophet" was questioned about his November 1992 prophecy about Bill Clinton that God "intends to put His Spirit upon him and make him into a new man," and "give him the power of the Holy Spirit to lead this country," Cain's only response was that it was a true prophecy but the church didn't pray hard enough for Bill Clinton. So much for the sovereignty of God! Interestingly, this prophecy remained on the Internet for public view on Morning Star's web site up until recently when it was quietly swept under the rug.

Another book that reveals the heretical teachings and immorality of charismaticism is David Cloud's well researched and well documented, The Laughing Revival, From Azusa to Pensacola. Every charismatic and ex-charismatic should read this book. Interestingly, David Cloud, who is himself a dispensationalist, points out in the beginning of his book that a belief in the imminent return of Christ (i.e., dispensationalism) was the primary (and possibly sole) justification for the revival of the charismatic gifts among every single early Pentecostal and charismatic group. Take away this eschatological belief and they ain't got much of a leg to stand on!

Unfortunately, most Baptists have never read Dave MacPherson's excellent book, The Incredible Cover-up, which shows the roots of dispensationalism to converge onto tongues-speaking women prophetesses in Edward Irving's church in London around 1830. Irving was disciplined by the London Presbytery and ultimately defrocked and excommunicated from the Church of Scotland for allowing "unauthorized utterances" (tongues and prophecies) to interrupt his worship services and for preaching heresy on Christ's nature.

Other key personalities in this early charismatic revival included the MacDonald clan of two elder brothers and three younger sisters, who lived in Glasgow, Scotland in 1830. The youngest, 15-year-old Margaret MacDonald, was probably the first to "prophesy" the pre-trib rapture and imminent return of Christ. Similar to what happens today with Brownsville Assembly of God, Irving sent a delegation to Glasgow to bring the charismatic experience back to his church. However, rarely does anyone point out that the otherwise godly and humble lives of the MacDonald family was not due to their charismatic experience, but in spite of it. For prior to 1830, the twin brothers, James and George, served as heads of the household (their parents had died) by leading their family in twice-daily family worship, a practice that is almost completely nonexistent among charismatics today. Fortunately, Reformed folk are a little more faithful in daily family worship because of our Scottish Presbyterian heritage and the 1647 Directory for Family Worship which threatens excommunication for failure to practice it.

Gary DeMar points out in Last Days Madness that even the big dogs of dispensationalism can't find any church fathers writing about the pre-trib rapture prior to about 1830. As dispensationalist Dr. H. A. Ironside writes in Mysteries of God, "In fact, until brought to the fore through the writings and preaching of a distinguished ex-clergyman, Mr. J. N. Darby, in the early part of the last century, it is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon throughout a period of 1600 years! If any doubt this statement, let them search, as the writer has in a measure done, the remarks of the so-called fathers, both pre- and post-Nicene, the theological treatises of the scholastic divines, Roman Catholic writers of all shades of thought; the literature of the Reformation; the sermons and expositions of the Puritans, and the general theological works of the day. He will find the 'mystery' conspicuous by its absence."

Ironically, our Baptist brethren fight charismatics tooth and nail, yet they themselves blindly hang onto the very charismatic eschatological heresy that is foundational to the entire belief system of charismaticism!

Peter Jones' The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, as well as recent Chalcedon articles on Gnosticism, causes one to wonder about the striking similarities between Gnosticism and charismaticism. Is charismaticism a gateway drug into full-fledged New Age Gnosticism? Charismatics look more and more like Gnostic Christians because of their emphasis on personal experience and a personal "word from God." They definitely hold to some common Gnostic beliefs, and thus can easily be called "Gnostic Christians,"but perhaps not full-fledged "Christian Gnostics." Robin Arnaud moderates an Internet discussion group for recovering ex-charismatics, called X-charisma. The horror stories that ex-charismatics tell in this discussion group make charismaticism look more like an outright cult. Indeed, every ex-charismatic I've met confesses the incredible dearth of sound Biblical teaching in their old charismatic/Pentecostal churches. Many confess even losing interest in personal Bible study. But this is simply the fruit of the charismatic teaching on tongues and prophecy. Tolerate false prophecy and other deceptive practices and you will soon find the Word of God no longer being taught or sought (Rom. 1:18-32; 2 Th. 2:9-12). These are the real issues which separate the Reformed from the charismatic and the Christian from the Gnostic.

I am ashamed to admit my 27-year charismatic deception and the deception I helped perpetrate on others. I certainly deserve to be stoned to death and receive the wrath of God for my crimes (Jer. 23:25-32), but am eternally grateful for God's grace in delivering my entire family from charismaticism and for His forgiveness and mercy in not pouring out on me His wrath that I deserve. Instead, His wrath was poured out on Christ. The length of my self-deception can probably be attributed, at least in part, to a lack of meaningful fellowship with solidly Reformed folk. Like other Reformed charismatics, I had isolated myself from the challenges of my non-charismatic brethren by: 1) remaining in unbiblical charismatic churches, and 2) avoiding the controversial issues in conversation with non-charismatic brothers. Since this seems to be a common modus operandi among Reformed charismatics, it remains for the rest of us Reformed folk to reach out to our Reformed charismatic brethren and lovingly challenge them to think hard about the inconsistencies of their theology and worldview.

Dan Brown