MY ANSWER TO GEORGE ZELLER'S CRITICISM OF THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT In an Article Written For The Open Bible Church, Burlington.

By Paul Christensen

Hi

I was very interested to read your doctrinal study on the Charismatic Movement. You have correctly identified some of the aspects of it that seem to be unacceptable to most Christians. As a person who had my first 12 years in the Pentecostal movement, I can fully understand how many non-Charismatic Christians can be put off by some of the antics that Pentecostal/Charismatics get up to. I became disillusioned with the Pentecostal movement in the late 1970s, and become involved in other churches that I felt would give me more depth in my Christian life. Consequently, for the last 10 years I have been involved in a traditional Presbyterian church, and for the last four years I have been an elder. So, in making my remarks, I am not coming across as a fanatical Charismatic wanting to shoot you guys down for what you believe about it.

The attitude to the Charismatic type of worship in my church is that it is part of the unknown, and the congregation would rather keep to the things they know that work for them. I respect that. The church is very evangelical and seeks to win souls for Christ. But when they had an Alpha Course which dealt with the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the gifts, the issues surrounding it came up and I offered myself as a resource person to give balance between one school of thought and the other.

I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit has given spiritual resources to the church in the form of the ministries and gifts outlined in 1Corinthians12. 1Corinthians14 gives good sound teaching on the use of the gift of tongues in the church. I am not a cessationist. I believe that these resources are for the church today. But, in saying that, they must be used in a way that conforms with scriptural teaching, and for the purpose of fulfilling the great commission - to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The ministry and spiritual gifts are for the furtherance of the gospel. They must be used to assist the work of bringing souls to Christ. Unfortunately, many Charismatics do not use the gifts for that purpose - they are selfish with the gifts and try to use them for their own self gratification. The use of the gifts for this purpose is not scriptural and one must doubt whether the Holy Spirit is working through them.

But when a person is fully involved in preaching the gospel to sinners and encounters situations where the power of God is needed to bring success, then the spiritual resources are available for use. Therefore, to be consistent with scripture, we must acknowledge that the resources of prophecy, word of knowledge and wisdom, faith, miracles, healing, discerning of spirits, as well as tongues and interpretation are provided by the Holy Spirit for the church's use, in the same way that a mechanic has a set of tools for repairing motor vehicles. If the mechanic does not use the tools provided, he will not be able to provide a good service for the clients. In the same way, if we as a church do not use the resources that God has given us for the furtherance of the gospel, we will not be as successful as God wants us to be in getting the gospel to lost sinners. I believe that ministers and lay people with a real passion for sinners will not hesitate to use whatever means available - natural or supernatural - to get sinners to accept Christ as their Saviour.

I sense by your article on the Charismatic movement that your basic premise is that it is not of God. Therefore, I do not believe that you are having an open mind about it. You are training your people to reject anything Charismatic right at the outset of your teaching. The content of your teaching then is to prove your basic premise.

To me, it makes no difference whether you wish to take the stance you want to take or not. I believe that genuine ministries are shown by their fruit. God is the final judge of what is correct or not. We are all going to be standing before the judgement seat of Christ, where the scales will come off our eyes and we will know the things of God more clearly. Some will have great regrets about what they believed and what they stood for in their lives and ministries, when all things are revealed for what they really are.

What I want to challenge you in is this: What if the Holy Spirit is supporting the Charismatic movement (taking into account its errors)? What if the ministries and gifts outlined in 1Corinthians 12 and 14 are God's way of getting the gospel to sinners in these days? What if the gift of tongues is really God's way of assisting our intercession and fellowship with God? Then, if you are teaching others that it is false, then you could very well be fighting and rebelling against God.

God cannot support disobedience to his will. Ephesians says 'be not unwise, but understanding what the will of God is.' I would rather take the New Testament literally, especially the teachings of Paul the Apostle. If he teaches that there are supernatural ministries and gifts for the church's use, then I am much safer believing it and teaching others that these resources are for us in these days - that they did not pass away when the last Apostle died.

No employer would tell his mechanics that they cannot use the tools which would do the job of repairing motor vehicles efficiently. We would view that employer is being unreasonable.

Therefore, if we believe that God is a supernatural God, and that accepting Christ and being born again is a supernatural act, then it stands to reason that we need supernatural tools to achieve the best results. If God is expecting that all we can use is just words - ie preaching the general truths of the gospel without any other resources that would show the sinner that God is indeed alive and powerful, then would He be reasonable? I don't think so. I think the reasonable course of action would be to provide supernatural tools to achieve supernatural results. Paul told the Corinthians when he went to visit them he wanted not to see just their words, but also the power.

Anyone can use mere words - even sinners and hyprocrites. But only genuine Christians, born again and filled with the Spirit can demonstrate the power of God to save sinners. Remember that it was more than Peter's sermon that brought thousands of people to Christ as the start of the book of Acts. Five thousand people came to Christ as the result of Peter and John's healing of sick people through the supernatural power of God. Is there not a need for the same power today to convince sinners. Surely the job of saving sinners is just as challenging and difficult today. To say that we don't need the supernatural power of God to save sinners is being unrealistic and just a little bit simple?

So, I am not criticising your church or your ministry. I accept that you are sincerely wanting to save sinners and disciple people for Christ. But I think that maybe your leadership should take another prayerful look at the supernatural ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit, get your eyes off the errors and excesses of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements, and ask God what His will is for you in these matters.

You never know. God may give you a new prophetic vision about these things, and because you have a clear appreciation of the errors and excesses, you may enter into a new phase of power and effectiveness in the Holy Spirit as He reveals ways you can access the supernatural resources that are available to you for achieving your purposes and goals in Christ.

Blessings in Christ

Paul Christensen
Auckland
New Zealand