Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cessationism Versus Continuationism: Why The Pentecostal/Charismatic Attack On Reformed and Protestant Theology Fails

By Charlie J. Ray

As you may have noticed in my biographical sketch, I spent ten years or so within the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and was a solid Arminian. However, over the years I began to feel manipulated and coerced, and any legitimate questions I had about the reality of so-called miracles and gifts, which were being claimed through stories and anecdotes, were either ignored or reprimanded by practically everyone in the movement from the top to the lowliest person in the pews. The short of it is that within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement honest questioning of the theology, practices and "gifts" is discouraged, and anyone who dares to raise such questions is immediately shunned or "counseled" so that the "body" is not harmed.

While Pentecostals and Charismatics are advocating what they would call "power evangelism," made popular by the now deceased John Wimber of the Vineyard movement, I would contend that "power evangelism" and the signs and wonders movement actually undermines evangelism and the biblical accounts of miracles which took place in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. If the poor quality of today's miracles and signs and wonders are the same sorts of signs and wonders recorded in the Bible, then we would have to question the resurrection, divine healing, and other biblical miracles, including the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, what we see today in the charismatic movement is a poor imitation of the genuine supernatural miracles recorded in Holy Scripture. I can say this with confidence because few if any miraculous healings performed by Pentecostal/Charismatic ministers either on the local level or on national television can be documented or substantiated. The vast majority of such miracles are either outright false or only partially true due to "evangelistic" exaggeration, as noted by Roger E. Olson, who is also a former Pentecostal and familiar with the practices of the movement. Olson comments:

"Still another aspect of Pentecostalism's dark side is its tendency to condone dishonesty on the part of influential and popular evangelists and ministers. One day I was browsing through the books at a publishers' overstock sale and came across the autobiography of a Pentecostal evangelist who held tent revival meetings in the small Midwestern city where I grew up. I remembered his rather farfetched sermon illustrations of miraculous occurrences in his life and ministry. The book contained a chapter on a miracle that supposedly happened during his revival in our town."

"When I read his account of the incident I was shocked but not surprised; I had encountered enough similar evangelistic stretchings of truth to know they are rampant in revivalist and perhaps especially in Pentecostal circles. According to the evangelist, a high wind caused by a tornado reduced buildings around his revival tent to rubble but left his tent undamaged. He even claimed that local television crews filmed the aftermath of the storm and his intact tent."

"What I vividly recall is a windstorm that sent men from our church to the tent in the middle of the night; they held it down as the winds whipped its sides. But no tornado touched down near it and no buildings around it were destroyed. I would have remembered if they had been. That evangelist is probably still traveling around telling his tall tales and whipping up fervor and offerings. Denominational leaders to whom he is accountable need to challenge his exaggerations and insist on honesty."

"To the best of my knowledge they have not done so. Playing fast and loose with truth is rampant in Pentecostal circles, and is excused and even joked about as "speaking evangelistically. " Numbers are inflated and stories of exaggerated if not invented. To be sure, many Pentecostal ministers are honest and truthful. One thinks of noted Full Gospel pastor, speaker and writer Jack Hayford, who was labeled "The Pentecostal Gold Standard" by Christianity Today. Would that all Pentecostal ministers were as squeaky clean and honest as Hayford. The movement's leaders could do more to ensure that."

"As a former insider, I know that Pentecostal leaders reading this article are defensively bristling at what they know is true about their movement. Telling it publicly either inside the movement or to outsiders is considered traitorous behavior. As one denominational leader told me, 'If you see a problem among the leaders you should pray to God about it and keep it to yourself; you have no business challenging them or making it public.' This is a common attitude among Pentecostals."

"A favorite Pentecostal saying is 'Touch not God's anointed' (a paraphrase of Psalm 105:15). The saying is meant to forbid criticism of the movement's leaders. When I was a boy the worst label my parents and Pentecostal relatives could put on a person within the movement was "critical" or "negative." Too often Full Gospel leaders insist on total, abject loyalty and uncritical acceptance of whatever they say. Too many Pentecostal organizations lack any structure for safe criticism of dysfunctional behavior, aberrant teaching or abusive practices on the part of leaders and powerful ministers." (From "The Dark Side of Pentecostalism," in The Christian Century).

I share the same experience with Olson concerning the Pentecostal movement. Any time I dared to ask questions about miracles or theology of individuals or ministries, I was immediately either ignored or brushed aside. Where is the accountability factor when testing the veracity of anecdotal claims to resurrections from the dead, missing limbs growing back, lost eyes being miraculously regenerated, deaf mutes who can now hear, etc.? None of these categories of anecdotal stories to my knowledge have been documented or verified to the satisfaction of both unbelieving and believing observers and critics. And this is precisely the problem with such anecdotal claims for miracles and healings. They are, for all practical purposes, unverifiable and therefore unfalsifiable as well. This puts such "miracles" beyond the purview of logical and reasonable examination and questioning.

While some Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars and leaders are attempting to bring a more biblical balance to the out of hand theology and practices of the movement in general, such attempts wind up failing to impress the Evangelical side. The most notable of such attempts is made by Wayne Grudem and John Piper, representatives of the Reformed side of the Charismatic movement. Grudem in particular is an articulate defender of the charismatic gifts for today and has written a definitive book on the subject of prophecy, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, (Wheaton: Good News, 2000, revised edition). Be that as it may, Grudem's attempt to show that prophecy is fallible and subject to Scriptural review and judgment essentially makes "prophecy" more "natural" than supernatural. In fact, Grudem's recommendation that Pentecostals and Charismatics stop prefacing their prophecies and interpretations of "prophetic" utterances in glossolalia with, "Thus saith the Lord...," and instead say, "This is what I believe the Lord is saying...." reveals the distinction between a truly apostolic declaration/revelation, as Grudem himself admits, and something that is lesser and subject to human fallibility. The short of it is that this sort of "prophecy" could be accepted by anyone and even preaching could be considered "prophecy" by this view. It does not require any sort of "supernatural" or "miraculous" gift but instead could be attributed to natural talents or gifts that are then utilized for ministry through the Spirit.

Moreover, Grudem and other more balanced charismatics even acknowledge that the vast majority of Evangelicals he knows are "open and seeking" such experiences yet have never experienced any miraculous events. In fact, Grudem wishes to redefine regular Evangelical descriptions of divine leading as "prophecy":

"That’s a hard first question because there is no one answer that fits every church. I am in a church, Scottsdale Bible Church in Arizona, that has about 7,000 people in it. I suppose its position would be “open but cautious.” Its heritage would be more from Dallas Seminary and Calvin Seminary and Bible Church background which has traditionally been more cessationist. In fact, in people’s actual prayer lives as well as in the personal conversation of the pastor in the pulpit to the congregation, people talk about the Lord leading them and guiding them in specific ways. Sometimes in ways it sounds very much like the gift of prophecy to me, but they don’t call it prophecy. They call it prompting or leading. I am thankful for all of that and I am very comfortable being in a home fellowship group where people pray and are willing to say how they think the Lord is leading them and guiding them as they pray and what He brings to their minds. And they don’t call it prophecy. But I’m thinking, 'That sure looks like prophecy to me!'" (From Continuationism).

Well, I'm thinking that it sure looks like Grudem is grabbing for straws to find the supernatural everywhere he looks. To lower the actual miracles to common everyday judgment calls and redefining that as "prophecy" does not serve to reinforce the scriptural accounts of prophecy, rather it denigrates and lowers the biblical standard to something that is actually naturalistic. Confusing the natural with the supernatural is inexcusable in my opinion.

Even more telling, at least from my perspective, is Grudem's admission that virtually none of the Evangelicals with the "open and seeking" position have indeed experienced a divine healing or miracle:

"I encounter students and pastors all the time who say 'I’m not persuaded by the cessationist arguments from Scripture but I’ve never seen any of these miraculous things in my life.' That is the most common comment that I hear about these things from people who are in mainstream Evangelical positions. And over the years as I’ve taught not only here at Phoenix Seminary but at other seminaries - adjunct at other seminaries - by far the most common view expressed among seminary graduates is open but cautious. They say 'I’m not convinced by the cessationist arguments but I really don’t know how to put these things into practice in my own church and I’ve never seen them happen.' Tim, the cessationist argument is not winning the day in terms of exegetical arguments or persuasiveness in the books published. I think it’s appealing to a smaller and smaller group of people." (From Continuationism).

While I might agree that some of the exegetical arguments supporting the cessationist view fail, I cannot agree that the continuationist arguments are any more successful. The fact of the matter is that the Bible is silent on the issue of both cessationism AND continuationism. It is only by an extremely biased reading of the New Testament texts can anyone justify the arguments for ongoing charismatic and miraculous gifts today. Furthermore, an appeal to sheer numbers is a logical fallacy. The book of Isaiah and the epistle to the Romans both make clear that God has a faithful remnant while the majority often goes astray. Be that as it may, I seriously doubt the accuracy of Grudem's assessment that the cessationist position is losing ground.

Furthermore, Grudem tacitly admits that there is a difference between the quality of the apostolic miracles recorded in Scripture and the "fallible" gift of prophecy being practiced today. After having spent over ten years in the charismatic movement and having practiced most of the "charismatic gifts" personally, I am convinced that Charismatics and Pentecostals are merely playing church. Essentially, they are trying to reproduce biblical miracles by emphasizing human manipulation of the "gifts" and human control over the operation of the gifts. The short of it is that the Arminian and Wesleyan emphasis on human cooperation and synergy takes precedence over a truly supernatural, monergistic act of God. I would contend that any so-called "Reformed" charismatic theology is a contradiction in terms and an oxymoron. A thoroughly monergistic view of the supernatural operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit would say that the Spirit comes and goes as He pleases (see John 3:8; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Philippians 2:13) and not at the discretion of mouthy human beings who think God is at their disposal to perform miracles at their command.

A further illustration of the problem of exaggerated stories of healings and miracles comes from the recent revival services of Todd Bentley, the Canadian evangelist, in Lakeland, Florida. As is typical of Pentecostal/Charismatic miracle claims, not one of the evangelist's "miracles" could be confirmed:

"When asked to present evidence of the healings, Bentley promised to give 'Nightline' the names and medical records of three followers who would talk openly about his miracles. He never delivered. Instead, his staff gave 'Nightline' a binder filled with what he says are inspiring miracles, but with scant hard evidence. It offered incomplete contact information, a few pages of incomplete medical records, and the doctors' names were crossed out."

"When pressed further, Bentley provided the name of a woman in California who had a large tumor in her uterus that shrank after she saw Bentley. Her husband, however, told 'Nightline' that it could be a coincidence because she was still undergoing medical treatment. He said she was too tired to talk to us at the time but added that she was regaining her strength day by day.

The husband did provide some of his wife's medical records from a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, where she went for cancer treatment after being turned away by American hospitals. They, however, insisted on obscuring the clinic's name and the names of the doctors."

"Not a single claim of Bentley's healing powers could be independently verified."

"Bentley, however, remains positive. 'I believe God is real and he's showing himself to his people,' he said. 'Yes, I believe the prayer of faith will save the sick.'" (From ABC's Nightline).

This is typical evasion by Pentecostals and Charismatics. When pressed for facts and documentation even the most credible of their leaders usually cannot produce. Admittedly, Todd Bentley is one of the fringe Charismatics but he is making huge profits at the expense of those who are in need of a true miracle, not a cheap imitation.

Sadly, most of the scholars of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement make appeals to these sorts of ongoing "miracles" as proof that their continuationist exegesis of Scripture is confirmed in experience, which could not be further from the truth. Even more telling is that their attacks on the cessationist view of apostolic signs, wonders and miracles is based on an argument from silence.

When we examine the Bible we see many accounts of signs, wonders and miracles by Jesus and the apostles to confirm the Gospel message and the new covenant that God introduced at the birth of the Christian movement. However, there is not one verse that even comes close to saying that the charismatic gifts and the apostolic office accompanied by the power to perform signs, wonders and miracles would continue uninterrupted for an indefinite amount of time. The typical Pentecostal/Charismatic defense of this view actually centers on one particular passage from First Corinthians:

"8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, ESV).

While we must acknowledge that the apostolic office and apostolic miracles were still in operation in the time of Paul, it does not follow that Paul intended for all of his statements to be taken as universally applicable for all times and places. Even Pentecostal and Charismatics will acknowledge this fact when it comes to culturally conditioned statements made by Paul concerning food offered to idols, long hair by men, shaving women's heads, and women praying without their heads being covered. (See 1 Cor. 8:1ff; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Moreover, the entire epistle of First Corinthians is dedicated to dealing with problems in the churches in Corinth. Based on chapter 4, one could reasonably determine that chapters 13 and 14 are not meant to defend the exercise of spiritual gifts but rather to correct the tendency of the Corinthians to follow the lead of the "super" apostles who were placing more emphasis on miracles and the supernatural than upon the Gospel itself. When this occurs it naturally turns the Christian faith into something more like magic or gnosticism.

In chapter 13, Paul is not saying that the gifts would not pass away. The emphasis of the chapter is to correct the arrogant attitude of those who are acting without love! They think they are so spiritual. They operate out of the natural man to try to reproduce the supernatural and fail miserably. 1 Corinthians 14 likewise emphasizes preaching and not some "naturalistic" and "fallible" view of prophecy as indicated by Grudem's theology in his book on prophecy in the New Testament. It seems more natural to see that 1 Corinthians 14's view of tongues and interpretation is dealing with speaking foreign human languages with an appropriate translation and not some supernatural language unknown to man. This is precisely why Paul emphasizes speaking with the mind and not in the language of angels, i.e. gibberish. It is only by an extremely convoluted exegesis can anyone justify speaking in "unknown" tongues from Paul's statements in 1 Cor. 14. In fact, when Paul says, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues," I believe he is in fact referring to foreign human languages and not glossolalia or unknown tongues. Paul is not encouraging speaking in glossolalia in the first part of the chapter, rather he is making a concession to the fanatics that if they must speak in gibberish, they should do it in their closets! Speaking in tongues is a sign to unbelievers because God sent conquering nations to take Israel captive. Therefore, it is not something Paul is encouraging! Those who refuse to believe God are the ones perpetuating this sort of fanatical and irrelevant theology. For Paul the priority is preaching the Gospel and this is confirmed several times over in 1 Corinthians. (See 1 Cor. 1:18-30; 1 Cor. 14:13-14). When Paul seems to be encouraging speaking in unknown tongues, he is speaking with irony because he is in fact encouraging just the opposite. It could be reasonably argued that Paul wishes to deal with the issue from an oblique angle rather than directly so that his corrections will be more easily accepted. For Paul, prophesying is practically identical with preaching.

Finally, 1 Corinthians 13 is not saying that the gifts would continue until Christ returned or until the New Testament canon would be closed. The chapter neither confirms continuationism nor cessationism since that is not the purpose or intent of Paul's comments. Rather, Paul is dealing with arrogance and a lack of love and emphasizes that love is what will endure forever, not spiritual pride! In fact, I would argue that Paul is saying that love is that which is perfect and when the perfect is come, these other "immature" imitations and partial views will pass away as unnecessary. Again, the argument Paul is making is against spiritual pride and immaturity.

That being said, it is obvious to all that the qualifications for the office of apostle can be met by no one today since there are no living witnesses to Christ's ministry and resurrection.  (Acts 1:21-26).  And even charismatics like Grudem admit this. He also admits that his view of the operation of spiritual gifts is "fallible." Therefore, Grudem is admitting that there is a distinction between what the apostolic office and ministry was authorized and empowered to do and what the average Christian is empowered and authorized to do. It is obvious to me and most other Christians that we do not have the power to do the same miracles that Jesus Christ did or what His authorized and chosen apostles did.

I could speak more of this issue and I realize that my criticism is brief and not a formal exegetical exposition of 1 Corinthians. There are places in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul is speaking about natural languages and others where he is speaking about unknown languages. While it is difficult sometimes to follow Paul's line of thinking, the basic summary of the entire passage is that Paul prefers that we "prophesy" or "preach" in known human languages and pray in known languages, particularly in public. Everything should be done in decency and order. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 13 in no way implies that Christians would retain apostolic office or apostolic authority to perform signs, wonders and miracles until Jesus Christ returns (i.e. the parousia). And from our own experience and the historical evidence of church history this shows itself out. Modern debunking of today's miracle claims by Pentecostals and Charismatics only further destroys their credibility.

Some Pentecostals and Charismatics advocate returning to a premodern worldview to support their theology of miracles. (Charles Kraft, Peter Wagner, etc.). They blame our lack of acceptance of their theology and their anecdotal miracles on our Enlightenment worldview and the effects of Rudolf Bultmann's demythologizing exegesis of Scripture. I would contend that returning to the dark ages would only open up Evangelicalism to ignorance and superstition. It is one thing to accept the biblical miracles at face value and quite another to accept modern miracle claims at face value. The difference is that the Bible is an infallible and inerrant record of God's miracles meant to confirm Jesus Christ as His Son and the Gospel as the only way of salvation. Since we have the inspired word of God on the matter, we do not need further signs and wonders. Furthermore, we are not obligated to accept modern miracle claims because they are "fallible" and are not the inspired word of God. We should test all things by Scripture to discover what is true.

If Pentecostals are going to argue that replicating biblical miracles persuades more people today, then the opposite seems to be happening. (Luke 16:29-31).  The majority of unbelievers remain unconvinced.  In fact, pseudo miracles do more damage because when these turn out to be untrue or greatly exaggerated the credibility of the minister, the message, and the entire movement is called into question. Sometimes new converts go back on their faith because they found out they were lied to or that the miracles were not what they thought. A relationship based on a lie is no relationship at all.

Moreover, Paul says that it is the foolishness of preaching that will convert the soul of the unbeliever, not miracles!  (1 Corinthians 1:22-25; Galatians 3:1-6).  Perhaps we should follow Paul rather than the "super apostles" of today?


Postscript:  Miracles apart from the propositional truth claims of Scripture lead to deception.  The way to tell truth from error is the theology of the person claiming miracles as confirmation.  The Reformed Christian, according to Calvin, needs nothing more than Scripture.   (Luke 16:31).


Anonymous said...

Greetings, Charlie,

This may be a sidetrack to the main-line discussion of the continuity
vs. secessionalism debate (hence, you do not have to post it, unless
you want to), yet it must be central in the overall consideration of
Charismaticism and its false claims: namely the Gospel of the grace of
God and utter perversion thereof, by Pentecostals. It is no secret
that their conception of the Gospel rests upon the age old, rotten
Pelagian foundational precept, according to which, God only proposes,
while sovereign man disposes. The entire scheme of salvation and
sanctification is built upon active man, who makes use by his own free
will of potential blessings, which inactive God has in store for those
that will and run. Not only do all Charismatics and Pentecostals
believe in an universal love of God for all, which, however is
powerless to prevent so many of its alleged objects from going into
perdition, not only do they insist on Christ's universal atonement by
which He has made salvation available for everyone, but the actual
salvation depends on one's "free choice" whereby one allows "Jesus to
come in" and to "become one's personal Savior" - not only do they
espouse all these classical Arminian errors, they go even further:
they teach that there is a "second blessing" which is also achieved
through willing and running. The "personal Pentecost" is potentially
for all Christians, yet few there be that do enjoy and experience it,
because many fail through their lack of zeal, desire, diligence,
faith, etc. It all finally depends on man, on him that wills and on
him that runs, not on God that has mercy [on whom HE will have mercy].

There very obsession with seeking healings and other power
manifestations show that they are not content with the "only comfort
in life and death" (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 1, Q/A 1). Their low
regard - casual shrugging off such precious items as the remssion of
sins, shows that they are ignorant of their real problem and
need...Since in the Arminian presentation of the Gospel, forgiveness
of sins is such a casual and easily / automatically received thing -
obtained through a simple, presumptuous prayer, wherein Jesus is
allowed to become one's personal Savior and a verbal "thank you" is
given, for dying in one's place, since Christ's blood therefore is
considered a "common thing", they disregard it and look for more
"powerful" manifestations, such as healing of eczema...

Even if one fourth of their alleged miracles were true in the sense
that there were no natural explanations for those occurrences, STILL
those manifestations would not validate their claims to true apostolic
Christianity. A presence of a supernatural phenomena does not
establish veracity of the doctrine - the doctrine must be considered
by itself in light of Scriptures which all bear one witness to one
hope of the calling, to one great salvation, to One Lord, one faith,
one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and
through all, and in all [of His people] from the beginning of time to
the end of age. But for Charismaticism there are different hopes and
various faiths, at least two baptisms and two levels of salvation,
mutable, inactive lords and passive Father who is not above
manipulation of "name-it-and-claim-it-religion"...

God's people, Christ's sheep must harken unto this ever timely
warning: "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams,
and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to
pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods,
which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not
hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for
the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your
God with all your heart and with all your soul" (De.13:1-3)

In Christ,
Renat N. Ilyasov, NN, Russia

Anonymous said...


The Predestined Blog said...

Nice Article Pastor Ray,

I'm humbled by the fact you linked my article.

Press on for the fight for truth.

Anonymous said...

In response to the preceding post: I do think that the atmosphere of tolerationism among the "Reformed"
(broadly speaking) towards Charismatic experiences can be traced to and is rooted in the theology of revivalism, promoted even by men like Jonathan Edwards in the past. If revivals (outpourings of the Spirit,
resulting in mass conversions, etc.) are to be expected, nay, even eagerly sought and prayed for, then, there is at least a possibility that what is taking place today in many places might be the genuine work of the Holy Spirit and who would want to blaspheme against the HS? I do
believe that not only blatant heretics and false apostles of free
will, like Charles Finney and John Wesley are responsible for modern
day wild revivalism, but the non-Arminian Puritans also share the
blame, to an extent, because people like John Piper, who is greatly influenced by Edwardsian theology, may perhaps condemn some specific scandalous instances of modern day power paranoia, yet he, on his own Edwardsian principles cannot rule out all of those "experiences" in totto and per se,
because revivals (in this thinking) are to be sought for, and if revivals are to be expected, logically, there may be and perhaps should be "personal Pentecosts", etc.

Plus there is a traditional tolerationism towards Arminianism as a legitimate concern for the Gospel. Take only the proverbial friendship of [generally] Calvinistic evangelist George Whitefield and his brazenly Arminian counterpart John Wesley. This friendship is lauded
today as a true Christian communion among evangelicals, while in fact, it is an effectual undoing of all Calvinism to the point where it is conveniently relegated to the domain of high minded church historians
and scholars.

Yet the only proper stance towards "another gospel" of Arminianism at large and Charismaticism in particular is that of the Canons of Dordt, i.e., open refutation and condemnation thereof.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Ga.1:8,9)

In Christ,
Renat N. Ilyasov, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hi, Renat....

Unfortunately, Evangelicals in general are more concerned with ecumenical relationships than with truth, dialogue rather than polemics, and compromise rather than prophetic challenging of heresy. Most Reformed denominations here are more concerned with being accepted by Evangelicalism at large so they are not willing to openly condemn Arminianism or even the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Even more disturbing is that even the Oneness Pentecostal group, which is anti-trinitarian, is now accepted by trinitarian Pentecostals and increasingly by even mainline Charismatics and Evangelicals. I.E. even the Reformed Charismatics are giving tacit approval of such heresy and heterodoxy by their very acceptance of the Charismatic movement.

I would disagree that Jonathan Edwards would have approved of extrabiblical revelations or any of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrines and practices. I see the problem as being more with Finney's semi-pelagianism and the pragmatic view of revivalism--if it works, it must be right.

Remember that Edwards was preaching to his own people in his own church. Most of the church members were unconverted. After the revival was over they removed him from his pulpit and he was forced to become a missionary to the Indians.

Thanks for your input. I would be interested in reading any theology you might have on the issues of common versus particular grace? As far as I can tell the majority of the Princeton Calvinists accepted that distinction: Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, B.B. Warfield, etc.

The problem with Anglicanism is their confession of faith is so brief almost any heretic can join up and be accepted!

May the peace of God be with you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Charlie, for sending the article. Needless to say, while I agree w/ much of what is stated, I do feel the "other side" is being a bit misrepresented due to the wacky behavior/teachings of some who are more prominent figures (at least, during their 15 minutes of fame, a la Andy Warhol). The "paint them w/ the same brush" or "one size fits all" approach certainly is a problem with which not only Pentecostals have to deal, but in some ways, all church organizations have to contend, particularly in a very secularized and "post-Christian" culture. In any case, your comments provide very good food for thought and a good basis for dialogue from all sides of the conversation. I wish we had more time to have such conversation! Blessings...

dvopilgrim said...

My thesis is that there is a connection between the present “signs and wonders” or the “tongues” movement and Deut. 28:49. Read more here:


nick said...

"Touch not my anointed" remains good advice. Saul was disobedient, yet David did him no harm. "He who judges the law is not a doer of the law but a Judge (James 4:11)." Ponder this-- that Ananias and Sapphira fell down dead at the feet of a man that had one time been called Satan by Jesus for "thinking not as God thinks but as man thinks."

Isn't it time to come out of 16th century theology? If God sent his reformers then, will he not send his "sent ones" today? Everyone's got Bibles today. No Inquisition threatens. These are different times with different challenges. No army can make it today with muskets and black powder.

Take care you don't throw out the Holy Spirit with your dirty Charismatic bathwater. Scripture has much to say that cannot so easily be put aside.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Nick, does "touch not my anointed" mean that Pentecostal and Charismatic preachers are not to be tested by Scripture to see if what they are teaching and preaching is biblical? If so, then how are we to know the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet?

Your quote only proves to me that your experience trumps Scripture. It is very dangerous to place ecstatic experience above Holy Scripture. This is the same thing the New Age movement, Mormons, and many other cults do. No, the true test of a preacher relies on Holy Scripture as the final authority and not signs, wonders, or miracles.

Furthermore, I must say that the verse you quote occurs only twice in the Bible: 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15. In 1 Chronicles the verse is referring to Abraham and Sarah in the patriarchal time period where the king was forbidden to touch Abraham's wife or Abraham himself. It has nothing to do with not questioning modern preachers and evangelists regarding whether their doctrine or their "demonstrations" of miracles are true or false! The second instance is a reference to the same thing. Pharoah was not to touch Abram's wife (Genesis 12:17; 20:3, 7). So your use of the verse to stop the testing of ministers by God's Word is not even the context of the verse you cited.

The Expositor's Bible Commentary makes it clear that during the patriarchal period the terms "anointed" and "prophet" were used in a more general way. Because this is an early period of time there are no other "prophets" or "anointed" ones:

The titles by which the patriarchs are described possess, at this early period, more generalized meanings than those they came to have later. They are called "anointed" (v. 22), in the sense of being set apart by God's Spirit--a phrase elsewhere used specifically for prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exod 29:7), and kings (1 Sam 2:35), with whom the presence of the Spirit was symbolized by a visible anointing with oil and ultimately for Jesus (Christ = Messiah = "anointed"; 1 Sam 2:10; Ps 2:2; Acts 10:38).
The patriarchs are also called "prophets," in the sense of being recipients of God's special revelation--a title later used specifically for those who proclaimed God's revealed will (cf. the definition implied in Exod 7:1-2). Abraham was thus designated a "prophet," at the time of God's special protection against Abimelech, the Philistine king of Gerar (Gen 20:7); others of the patriarchs did, however, make specific predictions (e.g., Jacob, Gen 48:19; 49:1). Psalm 105:16-45 then continues Israel's history on into the career of Joseph, the descent into Egypt, and the Lord's deliverance of the Hebrews in the Exodus, on the wilderness journey, and right up to the conquest of Canaan; but David now turns to another source.
From the comment on 1 Chronicles 16:18-22. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Old Testament.

I might add that forthtelling God's revealed will is the only legitimate use of the term "prophet" today. Even Wayne Grudem says that there are no modern Apostles or Prophets as defined by the apostolic period or the OT period. (See Prophecy in the New Testament and Today).

Acts 17:10-11 (ESV)
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

1 John 4:1-6 (ESV)
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

I would contend that 1 John refers to aberrant theological views of Jesus Christ as well as specifically denying He came in the flesh. For example, the Word of Faith movement teaches a completely different view of Jesus as God and man from what we see in Scripture, the ecumenical creeds, and in the Reformed and Lutheran confessions of faith from the Protestant Reformation.

The problem with "cult" like movements like Pentecostalism is that they tend to ignore doctrinal affirmations made by the church against heresies throughout history. This in and of itself opens the door to outright heresies. While the classical Pentecostals are not out and out heretics, their heterodox doctrines and their rejection of the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed confessions of faith have opened the door to outright gnostic heresies in the form of the Word of Faith syncretism of Pentecostalism with Christian Science and New Thought, both of which are forms of the New Age movement. You can see this documented very well in D.R. McConnell's book, A Different Gospel.

Any church, denomination or movement which outright rejects the Reformed confessions of faith eventually wind up in either cultic heresies or theological liberalism. The Assemblies of God, for example, never had a theological statement until the "New Issue" of oneness Pentecostalism and Jesus only baptism came on the scene around 1914-1916. And even the Sixteen Fundamental Truths statement is a bare bones statement of faith. At least it does include the trinity as a "fundamental" truth of their faith. However, EVEN the trinity is no longer seen as "fundamental" today since there are inroads of accepting "fellowship" with oneness Pentecostals. I can mention that trinitarian Pentecostal scholars are openly promoting this compromise with heresy, including the Society for Pentecostal Studies. The doctrinal statement for the SPS does not include any trinitarian statement and has had Dr. David Bernard as a past president of the society.

While many laymen are unaware of it, the Society for Pentecostal Studies is essentially liberal. One does not even need to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture to be a member!!

Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. has openly suggested that the Assemblies of God dialogue with the oneness Pentecostal churches for terms of open fellowship. And Dr. David Bernard and other oneness Pentecostal scholars openly publish in Pneuma, The Journal for Pentecostal Studies. I might point out that only members of the society may publish articles in the journal.

You can see the doctrinal statement for the SPS here:

To support fully, to the extent appropriate for an academic society, the statement of purposes of the World Pentecostal Fellowship, which reads as follows:

(a) To encourage fellowship and facilitate co-ordination of effort among Pentecostal believers throughout the world.

(b) To demonstrate to the world the essential unity of Spirit-baptized believers, fulfilling the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ,

(c) To cooperate in an endeavor to respond to the unchanging commission of the Lord Jesus, to carry His message to all people of all nations.

(d) To promote courtesy and mutual understanding, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, until we all come in the unity of the faith”

(e) To afford prayerful and practical assistance to any Pentecostal body in need of such.

(f) To promote and maintain the scriptural purity of the (World Pentecostal) Fellowship by Bible study and prayer.

(g) To uphold and maintain those Pentecostal truths, “most surely believed among us.”


The short of it is that the Pentecostal movement has not only introduced the heresy of the Word of Faith Movement but it is now openly working to destroy the doctrine of the trinity by compromising with the heresy of the oneness Pentecostals.

Sir, I beseech you in the name of Christ Jesus to forsake the Pentecostal movement and find yourself a Bible believing church where the doctrines of the Bible alone are taught, not ecstatic experiences which lead to the denial of the trinity and other aberrations.

Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie J. Ray

[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Anonymous said...

You've never been healed or prayed in tongues...right?

~Former Cessationist

Charlie J. Ray said...

No, I have not. I was duped at one time. I never witnessed even one miracle and I've been to visit just about every healing evangelist out there.

I've babbled gibberish before. I hardly call that supernatural, though.

I have prayed for people and I have seen God answer prayers. But none of those answered prayers were "miracles". They were providential answers to prayer. God mostly heals through modern medicine, although he is certainly not bound to do so. If he wants to work some other way, he is God and we're not.

That being said, it does not follow that every charlatan and false prophet out there who can tell a miracle story actually can prove it. Liars are good at exaggerating the truth for their own profit.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Society for Pentecostal Studies

Ian said...

An excellent post from 2008 that is still totally relevant today. It's interesting you quote Roger Olson as I've recently been reading some of his other material (do you realise he's arminian?).

I've been investigating pentecostals/charismatics and I've basically come to the same conclusions as you and Roger - it's all corrupt, starting from Azusa Street if not before. There are plenty of sincere people in it, though, both leaders and followers, who have been deceived and their eyes are blinded to what's really going on. It's a sort of a cult where people dare not challenge things - like a house of cards, if you take one bit out, everything will come crashing down, and that's too much for them to contemplate.

Charlie J. Ray said...

With all due respect to Roger Olson his Arminianism is not much better than the Pentecostalism he rejects. Olson's arguments against the sovereignty of God at his blog have more in common with atheistic arguments against Christian theism than anything else.

Simply because I quoted Olson here does not mean I believe Olson is a Christian or that Olson's views in other areas are good. Olson tends toward the open theism view, which is only one step away from atheism in my opinion.



Pesky Brit said...

I'm amused by how many healings seem to involve people with uneven leg length :-) Amazing what a little hip shift can do!

From a personal perspective, my experience of "miraculous healings" has generally had a more damaging rather than encouraging impact on my faith. They just never seem that miraculous!

It doesn't mean that I'm not open minded to God having and demonstrating such powers. I've just never seen anything convincing in the flesh. And I certainly don't think that these rather "lame" (sorry!!) events are at all effective when folks try to use them as a sign that God exists.

Jesus did water into wine, raising the dead, healing a leper, etc... "healing" uneven leg length really isn't in the same league! :-)

Sorry if this is experiential rather than theological, Charlie!

Ian said...


I was shocked to read your comments about Roger Olson. Arminianism is an accepted historic theological position based on scriptural exegesis. To say it is "not much better" than the institutional lies of pentecostalism is really out of order. Arminians do not go round conning people for personal gain.

In addition, your questioning his faith ("...does not mean I believe Olson is a Christian") is a dusgraceful statement and something I believe you should apologise for and repent of.

What has Christianity come to when we regard those of different theological convictions as non-christians? Where is the love?

Quite frankly, Mr Ray, you need to find a better way of approaching doctrinal disagreements than saying "I'm right, you're wrong, and anyone who holds your view isn't a Christian".

Charlie J. Ray said...

Ian, your ignorance of church history is appalling. The Synod of Dort in 1618-19 condemned Arminianism as a semi-pelagian heresy that has more in common with Roman Catholicism than with the Protestant Reformation. I might add that modern Arminians think Roman Catholics are saved.

Pentecostalism is Arminian and for good reason. Arminianism makes man the captain of his own soul while God is powerless to save anyone at all.

If you read Olson's blog you'll see that Olson's vitriolic attacks against the God of the Bible are similar to atheist arguments. He thinks the God of the Bible is "evil" and other such nonsense.

I would also point out that the Arminians under Archbishop Laud in the 17th century English Church made no secret about his inclinations toward Rome. In fact, Laud persecuted the Calvinists in the Church of English mercilessly. That might be why he receive no mercy after the Revolution.


Maurice Harting said...

I must say that I agree with most of what the author said here.

The trouble with charismatics and pentecostals is that most in these camps don't understand the difference between God's gracious daily acts and God's miracles. The birth of a baby is not a miracle, but a providential act of God. Typically miracles are an exception to the norm, like walking on water.
And I don't see too many pentecostals or charismatics walking on water these days lol
Maurice Harting mauriceharting@yahoo.ca

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for your comment, Maurice. You're exactly right. You hear a lot about miracles but finding one is like looking for a winning lottery ticket. It always seems to escape you when you need one. The real, down to earth daily life of people is one of trouble, difficulty, toil, and suffering. Anyone who tells you differently is most likely looking for a way to hustle you.

I was in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement for 10 years and never once saw what I would call a genuine miracle. Providence, yes. Miracles and the supernatural? No.



Maurice Harting said...

Having grown in the faith over many many years to the point that I could say that I am mature in the faith I have learned a couple of essentials; they are:
1. God is in full control and in charge of everything. He is the Creator and we are not. He is Sovereign and we are not. He is the author of salvation and we are not.
2. As a sinner I am at the mercy of God and can do nothing to save myself. No amount of good thoughts, good words or good deeds on my part can save me. Salvation is exclusively created by God in a "dead" sinner like me through Holy Spirit regeneration.
3. Everything I do as a Christian that is good is born of God in me, for without Him I can do no good that is acceptable to God.
4. I believe that the 5 Sola's and the TULIP give us the biblical view of the essentials and who we are. Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, scripture alone and for God's glory alone (the 5 sola's) is given to us who are Totally depraved need Unconditional election through a Limited atonement by means of an Irresistable grace in order that we may Persevere as saints (aka TULIP).
Maurice Harting mauriceharting@yahoo.ca

Charlie J. Ray said...

Amen, Maurice.... BTW, I wrote the article, although I did quote extensively from Olson. Olson is an Arminian at best and an Open Theist at worst. I do not endorse his theology. I just thought that his observations on the Pentecostal issue were worth noting.



Maurice Harting said...

Charlie, you and I would agree that arminianism basically has man on the throne of his or her salvation in that he or she decides to believe in God and on that basis they are saved (aka decisional regeneration). My point of discussion with arminians would be if they believe in the Christ alone (one of the 5 sola's) how can fallen and lost man seek after God in unregenerate state, when the Bible tells us that NO ONE seeks after God in that fallen state?
In arminianism the person's personal faith becomes a work unto salvation, while in calvinism our faith is a faith that was imparted (given) by God and applied by the Holy Spirit unto new life.
All good gifts come from God and without God's mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, imparted faith and Holy Spirit we remain lost forever.
Salvation is truly God's work in those whom have been called and chosen.
Maurice Harting maurticeharting@yahoo.ca

Charlie J. Ray said...

That's true, Maurice. Basically Arminianism is semi-pelagian like Rome. Man saves himself. It is essentially a different gospel. Calvinism IS the Gospel. Doctrine matters...



Maurice Harting said...

Charlie, to come back to one of your discussion points on healings and the pentecostal, word faith and other continuationist positions the following:
1. Continuationists typically don't make a clear distinction between miracles (aka wonders) and providential acts by God. They will call the birth of a baby a miracle when in fact it is a providential act of God.
2. Miracles or wonders are super-natural acts that go beyond natural acts in day to day situations. Miracles or wonders are not normative.
Walking on water is not normative or an act of God in nature, but something extraordinary (super-natural)we call a miracle or wonder.
Raising someone from the dead who has been dead for three days and in a state of decay is not normative or a repeatable act of God in nature, but a genuine miracle.
Parting the sea like Moses did with the power of God is not normative, but a miracle.
All miracles have God's providential acting, but not all providential acts of God are miracles.
Most cessationists, like myself, understand the difference between a genuine biblical miracle of God and God's day to day providential rule and interaction with His creation.
I hope this helps in the discussion here ...
Maurice Harting mauriceharting@yahoo.ca

Charlie J. Ray said...

I agree, Maurice. In fact, for Pentecostals and Charismatics the meaning of "sign, wonder, and miracle" becomes so common place as to demean the actual supernatural miracles of Jesus recorded in the New Testament and even the miracles recorded in the Old Testament.

Furthermore, anecdotal evidence presented by Pentecostals is not infallible. Scripture is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and the miracles reported in Scripture are most certain, binding our belief in them. The modern day miracle stories may be fabrications since they are not recorded in the inspired Word of God.

I too am a cessationist. I do not believe Scripture makes ongoing supernatural miracles "normative".

Your distinction between God's providence, answered prayers, and the actual supernatural events is spot on.



Andy said...

Great post Charlie, and great responses to the comments.

I agree with you that ecumenical concerns among professing Reformed Christians are what drives this inability and/or refusal to refute Charismatic theology. Very few have seemed to master the art of polemics.

Friendship overrules commitment to the truth for many of our Reformed leaders. Friendships between Reformed theologians and other evangelicals may be noble, but refusing to point out and debate theological issues, like pentecostalism, implies that these are not really important issues. If supposed cessationist theologians invite Piper or other soft-continuists to be speakers at their conferences, then all their cessationist theology seems to be mere posturing.

As an aside, many of the Edwards lovers are also Baptists, which means that were Edwards living today, they wouldn't admit him into their church membership because he was a baby baptizer.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for your comments, Andy. It's hard to believe that this article was posted three years ago. Frankly, I'm weary of those who emphasis charity and evangelical unity where no such unity actually exists. The closest we've seen to a criticism of this is Mike Horton's book, Christless Christianity. Unfortunately, Horton and The White Horse Inn have been backpeddling because of public criticism.

If the truth matters then classical Calvinists ought to speak up for the Gospel.

May the peace of God be with you!


Glenn Benjamin said...

"You can not throw out the Holy Spirit, with the dirty Charismatic bathwater ". We need the real thing, instead of make believe, and that goes for both sides of the issue. There is no new testament A, and then B, 2-3 hundred years after, when the new testament scripture was canonized by an apostate church. Both sides are wrong, and we need to restore the, "STREET PREACHING, WATCHMAN, NATION CHANGING, NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH."

Charlie J. Ray said...

The Bible ALONE is the Word of God. If you want to follow new revelations and miracles, join up with the Roman Catholics. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

jack said...

My limited experience would indicate that most Charismatic lean toward Armenian theology, but R T Kendall is a respected exception. I have read his comments on the 5 points. My opinion of Bill Johnson is that he also is more toward Calvinism than Armenian. Reformed doesn't equate with cessationism.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jack, that's false. The Calvinist view is cessationist and anyone who thinks that the gifts of the apostolic period continue today is out of step with Scripture and the Reformed Confessions. Secondly, man has no control over the supernatural miracles that God does by His divine decree. There is no need for miracles to confirm the Gospel message because we have the Bible.

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