Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do You Have to Be Crazy to Be a Charismatic?

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Do you have to be crazy to be a charismatic? Or does it just help?  Let's look at the issues involved.

The idea that certain spiritual gifts have passed away has no solid basis in Scripture, and we are told not to forbid people to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39). (I know it is claimed that modern tongues are not real tongues,  but would God command not to forbid something that is about to pass away?)  Now there are rules laid down for the use of the gifts (1 Corinthians 14:26-40).  However, the description given is fairly informal. We are instructed not to all talk at once and not to do things, such as speaking in tongues without an interpreter, which are not understandable.  But we need to be careful of  looking down on something because it is not dignified enough (2 Samuel 6:20-23).  Also, the fact a gift is misused does not mean it is not legitimate. 1 Corinthians 12-14 was written to check the misuse of spiritual gifts. (Note that Paul was not shy, and if the gifts being used were largely counterfeit, we would expect him to say so.)

There is an emotional aspect to our response to God's truth.  We are to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), we are to have peace (John 14:27); even faith, hope, and love have emotional components (1 Corinthians 13:13).  But what is appropriate and what is overboard?  Now I am hesitant to criticize other people's spiritual experiences, if they do not result in false teaching or disobedience to God's commands.  But it is when people pursue experience rather then pursuing God and hold up their experience as necessary for everyone that it creates problems.

Scripture speaks of people being overwhelmed by the greatness of God (Daniel 10:8-12; Acts 9:3-9; Isaiah 6:1-5).  I myself have felt the Spirit fall so powerfully I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  But I have never fallen over backwards nor felt that God wanted me to.  I do not feel I can discount this in all cases as a genuine spiritual experience, but I see no Scriptural basis for requiring it.  I have known cases where God's truth has come home to me in such a powerful way I ended up crying or laughing .  I am not at all sure this is the same as "holy laughter".  As for "holy drunkenness," I do not think this is what Acts 2:13 means.  Further, regarding rolling in the aisles, barking like a dog, or roaring like a lion, I do not see a Scriptural or rational basis for these.

But the basic problem is that certain spiritual gifts and emotional experiences are seen as showing a higher level of spiritual life in those who have them.  This is contrary to Scripture (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 12:28-30; Romans 12:3), which says God is at work in all His people to accomplish His purposes (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10).


  1. I think that I could have written this. Being a pastor in a charismatic church caused me to pause more than once concerning the exercise of gifts.

  2. Having been involved with churches on both sides of the fence on this issue, I think there is too much of a tendency to see it as either/or. Either I accept everything or I throw out everything. I prefer to stand in the middle.