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The Fatal Flaw of the Charismatic Movement

Thursday, May 23, 2013 | Comments (13)

The Strange Fire conference represents a thorough, biblical response to the errors and excesses of the charismatic movement. It will be comprehensive both in its scope of content and breadth of teaching. On that note today we wanted to let you hear from another of our keynote speakers.

Dr. R.C. Sproul is a voice you’re probably familiar with from his daily radio broadcast, “Renewing Your Mind.” He has stood shoulder to shoulder with John MacArthur for many years in uncompromising faithfulness to the gospel. Dr. Sproul is a prominent pastor, theologian, teacher, and author who will bring valuable insight and perspective to Strange Fire.

In preparation for the conference, we asked Dr. Sproul what concerns him about the charismatic movement. His answer drives us to the inseparable relationship between the Word and the Spirit, and to what he calls the fatal flaw of charismatic teaching and practice.

For more information about Strange Fire, please visit the conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Friday, May 24, 2013at 11:45 AM

Dr. RC Sproul has blessed me through the years and I’m thankful to God for his life. What a laudable speaker.

#2  Posted by Bryan Chasteen  |  Monday, May 27, 2013at 4:48 AM

Is there going to be a translation of the conference into Spanish for spanish speakers? The Charismatic movement is very powerful in the Latin-american countries.

#3  Posted by Howie Gardner  |  Monday, May 27, 2013at 7:03 AM

I am an Assemblies of God minister and, like yourselves, I am appalled at such things as prosperity teaching, holy laughter, the Word of Faith movement etc. Also I am disgusted with individuals such as Popov and Tilton who obviously use the movement for their own financial profit. However the 3 reasons that I am electing not to join with you in the Strange Fire conference are as follows:

(1) I believe an honest exegesis of I Corinthians 13:8-12 will reveal that spiritual gifts will not end until we see face to face with Christ. If that aspect is true today then either the hyper-Preterists are correct and the parousia did occur in 70 AD or else we have advanced to a point to where our own perception is greater than that of Paul and the other Apostles. If either were so then we would have no need of scripture. So while I do agree with you that much of what is presented a spiritual gift is just emotion or fakery, one cannot reach the conclusion that a thousand such examples of false gifts does not remove the fact that scripture affirms the existence of the real McCoy.

(2) A local pastor friend once submitted the proposal to me that spiritual gifts have ceased because, if a legitimate prophecy or miracle were to occur, it would have to be added onto scripture and that, since the canon is closed, God has thus assumed a vow of silence and, in the present day, is reacting to prayer much the same as the god of Deism. If that were true then neither Iddo (Zechariah 1:1) nor the 100 individuals that Obadiah hid from the wrath of Jezebel could have been prophets (as the Bible describes them) since their words are not recorded in scripture. For that matter Jesus Himself both did and said other miraculous things not recorded. Certainly no legitimate Pentecostal is implying that a modern day manifestation of the Spirit should be added onto scripture anyway - that is a charge of the dispensationalists.

(3) Finally there is one other thing that concerns me here: I suspect that such learned men as Sproul and MacArthur are well aware of the exegetical accuracy of what I just said but are afraid to say so openly for fear of rebuke from either their followers or denominational leaders. I remember the strong rebuke and obnoxious treatment that James Robison received when he took the unorthodox position of actually shaking hands with (horror of horrors!) both Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson. So just the acknowledgement that the other side might even have a valid point in some areas seems to invite ostracism. I sincerely hope I am wrong here but I have met with a number of you who will not even sit at the same table with a Pentecostal for fear of damaging their reputation.

Were it not for those 3 concerns I would gladly join you at the Strange Fire Conference as I am sure that much of what you present would be both uplifting and strengthening to both the Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal communities.

#4  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Monday, May 27, 2013at 9:13 AM

Howie #3,

Thanks for the excellent challenges,

Let me see if I can offer some responses,

You write,

So while I do agree with you that much of what is presented a spiritual gift is just emotion or fakery, one cannot reach the conclusion that a thousand such examples of false gifts does not remove the fact that scripture affirms the existence of the real McCoy.

The problem with those of us who will be attending the SF conference is we haven't seen any real "McCoy" gifts as you claim exist. As I have always maintained, the Bible speaks of spiritually gifted individuals, not just some nebulous idea of "gifts" floating around out there.

There are no gifted individuals as recorded in the NT alive today. If there are, then it behooves those of you in your camp to demonstrate that they exist by healing people with missing limbs, who are paralyzed, children in burn and cancer wards.

Healing in the NT didn't depend upon a person's faith to "really, really believe" he can be healed, or were they performed in controlled environments within a church building. They were done publicly to anyone regardless of their belief in Jesus.

As to your point #2, it would be helpful to understand how you are defining "prophecy" and "miracle." Zeroing in on the word "prophecy," the Bible defines it as divine revelation. IOW, a revelation that is given by God to His specific messenger to His covenant people.

What I have typically understood prophecy to mean according to modern day charismatics is the concept of God's spiritual leading or something along those lines. Often I hear such words as "God told me" or "God is leading me..." etc. But that is not biblical prophecy, but mysticism.

As to point #3, I am not entirely sure what you are meaning. If you are implying that men like R.C. and John are being dishonest about the work of spiritual gifts because they are afraid of being ostracized if they acknowledge the reality of charismatics, that is a bit of a ridiculous charge. Knowing both guys, that is entirely a wrong-headed comment about what they believe and teach.

#5  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 7:08 AM

Scripture does not affirm 'the real McCoy' but does confirm the existence of tue apostles in 2 Corinthians 12:11-13. Forgive Paul this wrong Howie!

#6  Posted by Howie Gardner  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 7:37 AM

Dear Fred,

Thank you for your reply but it seems to me that you are avoiding the point. On the one hand I could in fact give you a number of alleged miracles and we could debate their authenticity. And yes, although they are admittedly rare, I could actually give you before and after x-rays demonstrating the creation of a missing hip bone in an individual and even a new set of eyes appearing in a baby born with empty eye sockets; records which you would no doubt seek reasons to discount. But even if you were to do so successfully it would not invalidate the fact that sound exegesis of scripture affirms that spiritual gifts will not end until the return of Christ. As I have said, a thousand examples of miracles that were exposed as invalid does not change the fact that the Bible affirms the existence of the real McCoy. If you can offer reasons to discredit this view then speak forth. But if you cannot demonstrate scriptural basis for your cessationist beliefs then it seems to me that you should abandon them. In regarding point # 3, I do not personally know either MacArthur or Sproul but I have had enough contact with other dispensationalists to know that they say one thing in private conversation and quite another in public. So in general my accusation of the dispensational community ostracizing its own when they get out of line still stands. But again though, thank you for your response and most importantly I think we can at least agree that this is not a point which should cause us to be divided.

#7  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 8:39 AM

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#8  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 12:33 PM

Howie #6 ,

You write,

On the one hand I could in fact give you a number of alleged miracles and we could debate their authenticity. And yes, although they are admittedly rare, I could actually give you before and after x-rays demonstrating the creation of a missing hip bone in an individual and even a new set of eyes appearing in a baby born with empty eye sockets; records which you would no doubt seek reasons to discount.

Let me offer a couple of thoughts in response.

First, you seem to contradict your own convictions on the matter of spiritual healing when you affirm that such miracles are “admittedly rare.” According to your basic charismatic premise, miracles and wonders are to be a regular occurrence during this church age. It is something that will be witnessed with frequent regularly. The idea of “rare” implies they don’t happen like charismatics claim such things should happen.

Secondly, in the record of the NT gospels and the book of Acts, none of the miracles had to be documented or verified in order to please a skeptical community. Everyone knew without exception that Jesus performed the signs and wonders that are recorded. Even his enemies recognized their authenticity and hence the reason they attributed the works to Satan. Yet today charismatics have to resort to “documentation” of such occurrences.

People came to Jesus with severe maladies and crippled bodies and went away whole. No one was turned away. I should be able to bring my wheel chaired bound neighbor to a Christian with the gift of healing and he should without fail heal my friend, but obviously, such things never happen and thus the reason why they are questioned.

Continuing,

the fact that sound exegesis of scripture affirms that spiritual gifts will not end until the return of Christ.

Assuming that you have the right view of the phrase “face to face” which I don’t believe you do, but assuming you do, I am not arguing that God never heals or performs wonders; He most certainly does and will. The issue is that He doesn’t use gifted individuals to do such things now, but acts in His divine providence.

Moreover, I wouldn’t say spiritual gifts have ended, but that those wondrous gifts that were necessary for the foundation of the NT church have ceased because they are no longer needed. Other gifts that strengthen the body still remain which I affirm.

I do not personally know either MacArthur or Sproul but I have had enough contact with other dispensationalists to know that they say one thing in private conversation and quite another in public.

As far as the inconsistent dispensationalists you are mentioning, R.C. is not a Dispensationalist, so he doesn’t really count. Knowing John personally, I have never seen him say one thing in private and quite another in public. That would not be His character at all, so I am uncertain why this is a point with you. Perhaps you can elaborate.

Fred

#10  Posted by P B  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 2:51 PM

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#11  Posted by Howie Gardner  |  Tuesday, May 28, 2013at 6:29 PM

Fred, again you seem to want to avoid presenting scriptural basis for your position. You state that "I am not arguing that God never heals or performs wonders; He most certainly does and will" and that surprises me; particularly since you seem to want to act as Mr. MacArthur's press secretary. Is that his position? I have never seen anything to make me think so. A friend sent me the following statement: "Cessation" is totally unbiblical -- it rests not just on one verse, I Cor. 13:10, but on one WORD in that verse: teleios. To quote a former cessationist who was a fellow student in Greek class in 1973 at Bethany Bible College, "Teleios can NOT mean THE BIBLE, as I'd been taught; it can ONLY MEAN the final consummation of all things with the return of Jesus Christ." Frankly, any other interpretation of that word, in that verse, in that context, is not Biblically honest, let alone good hermeneutics. " I agree with that and again you seem to take offense to my saying that I question the integrity of people who should know better going to such extremes to make that or any verse say just the opposite of what it obviously does say. If you have scriptural support that I am missing then show it. I'm not concerned as to whether you think some TV evangelist might have the gift of healing or not (although here again you don't seem equipped to present scripture to defend the gift having ceased). Instead you talk in circles and promote a convention that seems bent on promoting a concept that you seem woefully unable to defend. Again, I would feel a lot more comfortable if Mr. MacArthur would simply say "healing, tongues, miracles and prophecy all ceased because such and such verse says so." But they don't - they rather talk in circles just as you are doing. Patricia - first off, I am not a charismatic but rather a Pentecostal so I can neither defend nor even speak authoritatively about much of what those guys are saying. I do not personally know anyone who promotes the idea that everything supernatural is therefore of God. That sounds incredibly naive. Secondly I don't think I have said anything that would imply that I support any of the various fads that put a seal of approval upon unholiness. Of course the latter is subject to personal conviction. For example there are some who are offended by my having competed in Track & Field since I run in shorts. I have however had numerous opportunities to share the Gospel through that sport and feel no conviction to leave it. Thirdly, I have no idea what the charismatics are presently teaching about the Jezebel thing you speak of. But after 20 years of holy laughter, holy dog barking, the Holy Spirit Glue movement, etc - nothing would surprise me. I think in those areas, Pentecostals share much in common with dispensationalists.

#12  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, May 29, 2013at 4:29 PM

Howie writes,

Fred, again you seem to want to avoid presenting scriptural basis for your position.

Howie, if you search the sermon catalog of GTY, you’ll find plenty of messages providing you an exegetical and biblical reason for our position that the gifts of tongues, healings and other miracles have ceased. I would suggest looking at John's study of 1 Corinthians 12-14, as well as Charismatic Chaos. Both are available for free and are in audio and transcript form.

However, you are the one who originally posted a comment challenging our views of the gifts. I am merely responding to your challenges.

One of the primary challenges to your position is the fact that miracles on the level recorded in the Gospels and Acts performed by Jesus and His immediate apostles, do not occur today. You asserted that you can provide documentation and the like to prove such occurrences do happen, but I say the NT record is clear that extraordinary signs and wonders were very public, witnessed by countless individuals both believing and unbelieving, were undeniable in that persons who were blind, or maimed, or paralyzed, were entirely and completely healed, and the signs and wonders had an evangelical purpose of proclaiming the salvation offered in Christ.

My contention, and one that I have yet to see you wrestle with in our exchange, is that miracles, signs and wonders, and extraordinary works of God do not happen today like they happened in the NT era. I was looking for you to address this glaring difficulty with your viewpoint.

If we both agree that the so-called "healings" of TV preachers are bogus, then point us to someone who genuinely does heal people in the same fashion as Jesus and the apostles. At least address what I see are inconsistencies between your basic claims as a Pentecostal, such as extraordinary gifts like the kind Jesus did are normal and frequent in the modern day church, and my assertion that there is no verifiable testimony of them happening as recorded in the NT.

If you don't want to flesh that out, then it's just better to move on to something else.

Fred

#13  Posted by Howie Gardner  |  Wednesday, May 29, 2013at 5:56 PM

Fred, I am beginning to understand how William Lane Craig must have felt when he kept asking the atheist Frank Zindler to address the teleological argument and all he kept getting was comments about how Daniel didn't write Daniel, how Noah didn't build the ark, etc. I keep asking you to give scriptural support for the cessation of spiritual gifts and you keep avoiding the point. I maintain that the Bible says just the opposite and I have given you passages to support my conviction. Additionally I have read a number of MacArthur's works and still stand by the conviction that he is either not taking the time to read the passage in context or he is being dishonest about its interpretation.

"I say the NT record is clear that extraordinary signs and wonders were very public, witnessed by countless individuals both believing and unbelieving" - SO WHAT? That doesn't even begin to address the question. If you can look directly at a passage saying one thing and then depict it as saying something just the opposite then you are in effect calling God a liar. By the way I don't recall conceding that EVERY miracle reported by TV preachers is indeed bogus. All I meant to say was that I am suspicious of a number of them. I know a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in the 70s and after prayer later appeared with Oral Roberts to give both his testimony of having come to Christ as a result and to report on his oncologist's verification that both a tumor had vanished and the upper portion of his mouth had been restored. The man is still alive and well today and serving God with all his heart. (I should point out that this was the OR who had not as yet had to deal with the deaths of his daughter, son and 2 grandchildren - after that, as you probably know, he began doing and saying things that caused most of us to cringe.) Also I think I can go through my records and find verification from Johns Hopkins Hospital of a metal pacemaker and a six inch incision in a man's brain disappearing after his having visited Kathryn Kuhlmann. And, as you seem to put great stock in huge numbers witnessing a miracle, I am rather confident that both Oral and Kathryn had an audience numbering larger than the multitudes that followed even Jesus Himself. Should that even matter though? Again, if you can site me chapter and verse that these things have stopped happening then I will be obligated to label all of the above as either hoax or satanic. But until such, I remain more suspicious of both yourself and MacArthur.

#14  Posted by P B  |  Wednesday, May 29, 2013at 6:27 PM

Hi Howie,

I am uncertain as to how you are differentiating Pentecostals from charismatics. Having attending numerous Pentecostal churches in addition to vineyard, word of faith, independent Christian, and assemblies of God when I lived in the US for a few months, I don`t see much difference in terms of practice and belief except maybe some of the more established denominations are bit more reserved in expression, and in fact, the Pentecostals I know though located in several provinces in my country and in different towns, seem to hold to the same teachings and beliefs I mentioned earlier.

No one openly and baldly says dumb stuff like `If its supernatural its God`` anymore than they openly say stuff like `sex equals love` but in practice that`s how it works out when you see folks accept things without question and get bristly if you do question. However, if there is a difference between Pentecostals and charismatics that I`m unaware of, please feel free to explain; there is always information gaps when folks of difference persuasions are reviewing each other`s stances from their own perspectives. One thing I do know is that truth can stand up to scrutiny and isn`t threatened by it. Personally I am not totally sure if the reason the biblical gifts aren`t present today is because they really were meant for authenticating the apostles and the church as a thing genuinely of God and therefore have ceased once having accomplished their purpose, or if its because the church today is so removed from what the biblical church was about that God cannot authenticate us without authenticating something not of Him. I just know that after that many years in churches that claimed to have those gifts, I saw precious little evidence of anything of the sort...and I believed wholeheartedly and fervently, and wasn`t a skeptic. Fred, I would be interested if you guys would take Howie up on his claim to be able to demonstrate an authentic and documented miracle though. If he`s willing to follow through and produce the goods, it would be fair to have a look and share with us what is found. Blessings brothers :)