One of the things I have noticed in Sydney is that some of us get riled up at the mere mention of anything to do with Chrasmatic theology or practice. I know people whose preaching usually has a point in it where they critique, helpfully or otherwise, an aspect of charismatic theology or practice.
Now I am not a charismatic but I am concerned with the way we Sydney evangelicals talk about our charismatic brothers and sisters and I do think we need to repent and apologise for this lack of tact and grace.
Here are my three biggest concerns:
- We lump all Charasmatics together
What do all these guys have in common: Creflo Dollar, CJ Mahaney, Brian Houston, John Wimber, John Piper and Kenneth Copeland. Answer: They all, in some sense, call themselves charismatic. This little exercise should show us that charismatic is a broad term in which many different people fit under. Now I have got no problem with anyone going at a charismatic prosperity preacher with gusto but when we, with that same gusto, go after a reformed brother who happens to be charismatic with a small ‘c’ I think we are forgetting that there are differences and we are now lumping all people who call themselves charismatic together and tarring all with the same brush. This is neither loving nor gracious.
2. We don’t critique them lovingly, graciously or well
I remember at college having a class about music in church. The topic shifted to how our charismatic brothers and sisters do music. It was interesting that those of us who were most vocally opposed to the charismatic view of music were the ones who had the least experience with charismatic music! The scary thing is that I have heard preachers do this too. I have heard preachers critique the charismatic point of view based on hearsay and the like and not on their own experience or research. This leads to wrong conclusions and, in some cases, slander. We also don’t do our people any service when we critique badly because we are warning them against a straw man and not a real danger which may or may not be there.
3. We treat Charismatics like they are Galatians and not like they are Corinthians (if they even are)
Have a look at the way Paul talks to the Galatians:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Have a look at how Paul; talks to the Corinthians:
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
1 Corinthians 2:1
21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1 Corinthians 16:22-24
Why the difference in language? Why is Paul so harsh to the Galatians and loving (notice the repeated use of brothers and sisters) to the Corinthians? It is because the Galatians were going to a false gospel. Whereas the Corinthians, even though they had issues to do with speaking in tongues, prophecy and the like (1 Corinthians 12-14) were not going to a false gospel. For Paul there were issues that, because these issues threatened the gospel, needed to be dealt with harshly using strong language. Then there were other which needed correction but were done with loving words and with an acknowledgement that these guys were his brothers and sisters.
When I look at our critiques of charismatics I hear a different thing going on. I hear us treat our charismatic brothers and sister as if they are Galatian heretics not Corinthian believers. This says far more about us than it does about our charismatic brothers and sisters.
Do charismatic brothers and sister need to be critiqued in love? Yes, just like we do.
Lets make sure we love them as we critique them. Lets make sure we commend the gospel by how we critique anyone as we do it with grace, love and