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Steve Lawson on the Fundamental Flaw of the Charismatic Movement

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Comments (15)

The charismatic movement is hard to define. It represents a vast, diverse array of teaching and practice. On the charismatic spectrum, you’ll find extravagant prosperity teachers, ecstatic speaking in tongues, strange “spiritual” manifestations, as well as legitimate ministries where the gospel is faithfully preached. However, regardless of where charismatic groups might land on that spectrum, they are all tainted with the same dangerous defect.

In the following video, Steve Lawson elaborates on that defect—the fundamental flaw of the charismatic movement:  

All of the speakers at the upcoming Strange Fire conference are committed to the sufficiency of Scripture. They realize that any addition to God’s written revelation is not only a diversion from Scripture but also a dilution of Scripture. Out of zeal for the truth and love for the Body of Christ, we are compelled to speak to that issue at this point in church history. For more information, please visit our conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Ramon Jones  |  Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 3:38 AM

member of a church that was described in this media blog. I have been a member for about 10 years. My heart breaks when I hear preaching about speaking in tongues, healing, and financial prosperity. Out of all the things that I hear, one thing really has been eating away at my heart. My pastor (father-in-law) says that when God made the Earth and said that it was good, God will not destroy it. He asked us, "Why would God destroy something that he said was good?" He also states that we shouldn't be focused on going to Heaven because God is bringing Heaven on this Earth. Our church service would be considered charismatic through our behavior, but it has a background of Missionary Baptist. We have a bible study class that is doing a series on spiritual warfare. One of the key points was "the importance of talking to the devil".

#2  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Today’s broadcast, Steven Lawson explains Sovereign Election

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

#3  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Ramon (1), your comment of sharing your concern for the error you are recognizing in your church prompted me to respond. I pray the LORD will give you opportunity to confront others out of concern for them based on biblical truth: Only God the Father, Christ the Son, and the archangel Michael have the authority to talk to the devil; Jude 1:9 and Jude 1:10. Christians are commanded to resist the devil, James 4:7-10; put on God's full armor, Ephesians 6:11; and trust God to protect and defend His own, Romans 16:20. There is nothing important about talking to a supreme authority created to submit to God's sovereign will alone. Quite the contrary. Such is not a bible study class, but a study in the occult. Stand firm!

#4  Posted by Kelly Torian  |  Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9:34 AM

I can’t tell you how timely these messages are for me. Though I attend a large church whose pastor is a great expositor of the Word, I am beyond grieved and horrified for what is passing for truth, and what has captured the attention and acceptance within the individual group Bible classes. Specifically, I am speaking of the book Jesus Calling which is a group of devotionals whose author has written messages following a daily scripture verse she says she received from Jesus as she “listened” for Him and wrote those messages down. If that weren’t horrible enough, she writes as Jesus in the first person singular. On two or three separate occasions, an otherwise solidly Biblical teacher read from passages from this devotion much to my dismay. I finally said something this past week when she said “this is what Jesus said” when she quoted from the book. To save my life, I couldn’t help but open my mouth in the middle of the class and say “That is NOT what Jesus says”. That did not go over well and I was accused of using my gift of discernment in a spirit of anger and not love after I spent a great deal of time in an email outlining the error of the author of the book both doctrinally, theologically and in her method of “hearing from God” which really is no different than pagan practices I was actually adept in before Christ rescued me.

The Charismatic Movement closely mirrors the equally prevalent error infecting the church which is based upon the contemplative “experience of God” movement rather than Sola Scriptura. To be quite frank, it is nothing but pure pagan/new age ideology wrapped up in an occasional Bible Verse and trumpeted as the best and greatest thing to happen to the Body of Christ. It is nothing more than spiritual and emotional opiate for those who want their spiritual growth to arrive in this age’s instant gratification manner. And it is everywhere. I pulled an Elijah last night when praying, telling God it felt as if I was one of the last woman standing against an onslaught of false doctrine invading the Body of Christ.

And then, for some reason, I decided to take a gander at the latest messages on Grace to You this morning as I prepared for work. Imagine my surprise when I heard Pastor MacArthur some of the very same things I had said yesterday. God is good. I am not alone.

I am curious to see if anything is written or discussed on the book Jesus is Calling on the GTY website. If there is, help a sister out and let me know where I can find it.

#5  Posted by Rafaqat Lal  |  Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Freddie Elias “these signs would accompany ALL WHO BELIEVE! MARK 16:17”. If your interpretation of Mark 16:17 is correct then why not all believers has theses signs and wonders and by the way signs of apostles also include raising dead, healing lame and blinds along with speaking of tongues. Why hasn’t any Charismatic raised any dead yet. The fact of the matter is that God gave those signs and wonders to the apostle and their companions alone to authenticate the message they were carrying. Matthew 10, Mark 3 & Luke 6 Reports that Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. Mark 16 if carefully read in context also says that these were the apostles of Jesus who were the first believers and thus were under discussion here. Further Paul in 1 Cor. 14 says that the signs of tongues were not for the believers, but for the unbelievers to show the Judgment of God that was imminent. As in the Old Testament God said that I will speak to them in tongues that were not their own….

Seeking signs and wonders does not make us believers; Let me remind you what Jesus said “This wicked and adulterous generation has asked for signs…..

#7  Posted by Joyce Wilson  |  Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 5:10 PM

A wicked generation not believing in Jesus unless they see him perform a sign or wonder is not the same thing as those who believe in Jesus having signs and wonders. Do you really think Jesus would tell his believers they'll have signs and wonders following them just to turn around and call those same believers wicked for believing his words? He wouldn't. Signs follow believers, believers don't follow signs. There is a difference.

Miracles, signs, wonders, and acts of healing can be found in the old testament, being done by people other than apostles; which means such gifts and signs are not unique to the apostles. They are and will always be, Acts of God - Exclusively!

I feel sorrow there is such mass confusion over signs and gifts, some brought on by intellectuals who have pushed big faith off the table because they can't fathom the Holy Spirit still doing big things today through mere humans. Doubt is contagious, and if people are not seeing TRUE signs and wonders, it's probably because, once we entered the age of reason, we stayed there too long, abandoning faith unless it could be contained in a nice little logical package or in a doable dose. None of you have any scripture saying signs and wonders have ceased because apostles have ceased. I just don't believe you. Show me the scripture. I believe the scriptures as they are written. When Paul said some of you will have such gifts (1Corinthians 12) he was talking to corinthians, regular folks who believed.

Jesus is still in the business of authenticating the kingdom of heaven. Why would he ever stop? Jesus Christ the same today, yesterday, and forever!

#8  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Monday, October 7, 2013 at 3:02 PM


Were the miracles in the Old Testament done throughout all of the Old Testament or were they restricted to only a couple of periods with only rare exceptions?

Can you tell me where true signs and wonders are being done now? Are they done on a regular basis? Are these powers available on command?

You and I have spoken before about this and I certainly don’t want to quench the Holy Spirit but, I am not about to believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the church has these abilities. It seems reasonable to me that God will do what He wills to do through whom He wills it. It also doesn’t sound like you are going to change your mind anytime soon, but perhaps you should keep Matt 7:22-23 close at hand.

I would also advise caution on only believing something with a proof-text attached to it. As the saying goes, "a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." Out of curiosity, why are you a regular on this blog if you think Macarthur is wrong?

#9  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Joyce, #7 writes,

Do you really think Jesus would tell his believers they'll have signs and wonders following them just to turn around and call those same believers wicked for believing his words? He wouldn't. Signs follow believers, believers don't follow signs. There is a difference.

No where does it say that believers will have "signs and wonders following them around." What Mark 16:17 states is that "these signs will follow them that believe..." There are at least three issues with that citation, however.

First, it is from the last 12 verses of Mark and those verses are disputed as being original to Mark's Gospel. I wouldn't make bold assertions about how believers are to experience signs and wonders based upon a passage of Scripture that is problematic as the last 12 verses of Mark are.

Secondly, for the sake of argument, assuming those verses are legit, Jesus's primary audience is the apostles, not all believers of all times who will believe on Jesus.

Then third, immediately following those words of Jesus, He lists the signs and wonders which will follow and they include handling deadly snakes and drinking poison. Are you prepared to engage in handling snakes and drinking poison to impress upon people the reality of the Christian faith?

A couple of better passages that address signs and wonders is found in Acts 4:30, 5:12, and 2 Corinthians 12:12, for instance, that relegate the use of signs and wonders exclusively to the ministry of the Apostles. I believe that to be the immediate group of men who were appointed by Jesus Himself, and the Apostle Paul. A case can possibly be made that those apostles laid hands on certain other believers and imparted to them the ability to do such signs and wonders, but such an ability is thus limited to the laying on of hands of the apostles, and once they died, that ability ceased with them.

#10  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Monday, October 7, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Are Miracles for Today? RC Sproul

RC Sproul talks about: Many people are quick to designate any unexpected or awe-inspiring event a miracle, while others deny the very possibility of miracles occurring at all. So who’s right? Should we still anticipate miracles from God? And what’s at stake in this discussion?

#11  Posted by Joyce Wilson  |  Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 12:06 AM

Fred, thank you for your questions.

How do you feel about the man in Mark 9:38? A man the disciples rebuked for exercising one of the signs spoken of by Jesus without their approval, only to have Jesus then confirm that the man was doing a good thing.

Concerning your question:

“…Are you prepared to engage in handling snakes and drinking poison to impress upon people the reality of the Christian faith?”

I answer: Jesus plainly said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord the God.” (Luke 4:12). Jesus did not jump when Satan wanted him to prove himself. No real believer puts on a show to entertain, mesmerize, or show how close he or she is to God. Any act God does through any one, any two, or any group of believers, will always be for the sake of His Kingdom—and as He sees fit.

If I accidently drank poison, or through happenstance picked up a snake and threw it, I would most certainly consider it to be divine intervention if I didn’t die in either circumstance. I once came face to face with a neighbors dog who had gotten loose and charged for me. The bully dog of the neighborhood headed right for me, and seeing that I had nowhere to run, I stopped and stood still. The dog came right to me and stopped. Another neighbor came to my rescue, but seeing the normally aggressive and barking dog, calm, she was amazed. Would you say that God intervened? Would you chalk it up to regular ol coincidence? Would you argue that the dog was really not as ferocious as we previously thought? Do you see the problem, Fred? God may be intervening in our lives all the time in ways that make worldly people marvel; but we might over think it and say, ah that was nothing. So long as you are abiding in Christ, why wouldn’t he protect you from venomous snakes, ferocious dogs, poisons consumed, and more? This is not to say that Christians don't die. Sometimes God just calls a saint home, with no further intervention granted.

Your statement: “A couple of better passages that address signs and wonders is found in Acts 4:30, 5:12, and 2 Corinthians 12:12”

Acts 2 also has similarity to Acts 4:30, and was not exclusive to the apostles. 2 Cor 12:12, If something is exclusive to an apostle then you shouldn’t see it anywhere else in the bible being done by anyone other than an apostle. Signs and wonders can be found throughout the bible, whether it’s manna from heaven, Joshua praying that the sun would stand still, and on and on and on. What’s exclusive to the apostles appear to be, 1) Philip being transported (Acts 8:39), and 2) Ananias and Sapphira dropping dead (Acts 5:1-11). Those two things are consistent with foundation building and, I would therefore argue, exclusive to apostles. But gifts of healing or faith that could move mountains (whether you believe those mountains to be real mountains or mountain-like problems), are not exclusive to apostles, which is why Paul tells the Corinthians (1Cor 12) that some of them would be given such gifts.

#12  Posted by Joyce Wilson  |  Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 1:10 AM

Ben asked: “Were the miracles in the Old Testament done throughout all of the Old Testament or were they restricted to only a couple of periods with only rare exceptions?”

Answer: I see miracles, signs, and wonders throughout the old testament: David and Goliath, Samson’s Hair, Balaam’s Donkey, Manna from Heaven, Daniel in the Lions den, etc.

Ben asked: “Can you tell me where true signs and wonders are being done now? Are they done on a regular basis? Are these powers available on command?”

Some miracles are constant, such as the earth’s gravitational pull, a child being born, or the sun rising. Then there are other interventions that God does through one, two, or several people, as needed. Sometimes an entire church prays and a wondrous act of God occurs.

There is no power on demand, even the apostles sometimes couldn’t affect their own health or imprisonment or that of others (1Tim 5:23, 2 Cor 12:7). They were dependent upon God, as we all are. Aron Lee Ralston’s mom said she prayed for her son through the night when she didn’t hear from him. Most people know of his miraculous survival in a cave, after cutting off his arm to live. God honored the Christian mom’s prayer—because he wanted to—and even the world called it a miracle.

Doctors give reports often about people coming into the hospital, prayers going out, and miracles happening. Even Greg Laurie has said that he knows there are times that he has prayed and something has happened right at that moment. People often write the 700 club and give testimonies about how they were healed when someone prayed for them. I believe such things are possible.

And, Ben, I listen to John Macarthur because I agree with him on 75% of his topics. I attended his church, purchased his books, and agreed with most of his discussions. But on this topic, I don’t agree with his extreme views. Conversely, I don’t believe in “name it and claim it" either. “I don’t believe in slamming people into the floor and yelling you’re healed.” But I do believe and know that God still does miracles, signs, and wonders.

I pray that if the Strange Fire crew is going to hold a conference and tell potentially billions of people (over the course of time) a message about what the Holy Spirit is doing or not doing, I pray they don't say anything that is incorrect. Unfortunately, some of the people who are going to this conference are already puffed up with pride, criticizing the brethren, and ready to get them some charismatics. Even though at times the organizers have tried to include charismatics in the conversation in a compassionate way, I fear some have turned the conference tone into a charismatics weenie roast, complete with viewing parties and popcorn. So I will just continue to pray.

#14  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Joyce wrote: Some miracles are constant, such as the earth’s gravitational pull, a child being born, or the sun rising.

Everyday occurrences are, by definition, not miracles. We can--and should--regularly marvel at the limitless power and wondrous design God displays in His creation. But let's not cheapen His creative work by imagining that it's still ongoing, or that He has to do any maintenance whatsoever to sustain it.


As for the viewing parties, we want to share the teaching at Strange Fire with as wide an audience as possible. To that end, we're encouraging people who cannot attend the conference to watch it in a group setting that will promote encouraging discussion and spiritual growth.

To my knowledge, no one promised any popcorn.

#16  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 4:08 AM


Who says these verses are problematic? Westcott and Hort? Are you kidding me? I suggest that if you are going to question the integrity of the bible and God’s sovereignty then you do it in a more appropriate forum. Telling someone that they should be careful about using any part of the bible to defend what they believe is God’s truth makes my blood boil. You need to come down off your high horse and have a reality check.

#17  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 12:11 PM


I am not entirely sure how much you are informed about the last 12 verses of Mark, but it goes way beyond just Westcott and Hort and KJV onlyism (a view I once held strongly). John's last sermon from Mark, as well as his last sermon with teaching the entire NT, goes into great detail about it if you haven't heard it already.

Again, even if the verses are to be included, Joyce has to contend with other problems the passage raises with charismatics that I mentioned above.

#19  Posted by Peter G Moore  |  Monday, October 14, 2013 at 5:07 AM

For your consideration, here are some thoughts from 1 Cor. 13 where Paul makes a very clear point about love: it will never pass away. Love never fails. But notice, that’s not the case with prophecy, tongues and (supernatural) knowledge, see v8. They will fail, cease and vanish away. When will this be? Notice how the Apostle Paul unpacks this. Read verse 8 and then verse 9. Look closely at the connection. Prophecy, tongues and knowledge will fail, cease and vanish away for (or because) ‘‘we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.’’ (1 Cor. 13:9-10) The Old Testament reached a point of completion. When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, the New Testament and therefore the full canon of Scripture was not complete. Hence, the reason for his comment that when that which is perfect (the complete canon of Scripture) has come then that which is in part (prophecy, tongues and knowledge) will be done away.

This is further illustrated by the contrast between childhood and manhood. Childhood is not wrong but it’s transitory. It’s not where you stay. Progression to manhood means that you move on to maturity, responsibility and so on. Paul uses yet another illustration to help reinforce what he is saying. He holds up the concept of a mirror which either because of the materials or lack of light, they only saw dimly. Not everything was clear and distinct. Not so when that which is perfect has come: clarity! We shall see clearly. Paul expresses this as seeing face to face. Now in case anyone thinks the expression ‘face to face’ means the arrival in Heaven all of God’s people let us hasten on to more that Paul has for us!

1 Cor. 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Interestingly Paul does not include the supernatural gifts with those things that now abide, namely faith, hope and love. If the supernatural gifts were to continue, wouldn’t that have been an excellent time to say so? Yes, it would be. But he does not do so. He limits the abiding to faith, hope and love! Paul has told us that love will never fail and contrasts this with the supernatural gifts which will fail or come to an end.

Love never fails but the same cannot be said for faith (trust) and hope if you think about it. Well, now, “the just shall live by faith” and we have a certain hope but faith and hope are for this side of eternity! So, there are 4 categories: the eternal continuance of love, faith and hope which are needed in this life and that leaves us with the 4th category: the supernatural gifts and the clear, emphatic promise that they will fail, cease and vanish away. This will happen before the end of the age. The supernatural gifts were temporary and existed until the New Testament was completed. They were no longer needed and were not designed to remain. That should not surprise us! It is written!