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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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, September 23, 2005

PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC THEMES IN LUKE–ACTS AT THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY: THE BATTLE OF INTERPRETATIVE METHOD

This is an e-mail I sent to Rev. Paul Elbert, an adjunct Professor at the Church of God Theological Seminary in regards to an article he published in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology. [See: JPT 12.2 (2004) 181-215 at http://www.pneumafoundation.org/resources/articles/JPT_PentCharThemes.pdf]

Dear Rev. Elbert,

I was saved through the ministry of an Assemblies of God church in Wauchula, Florida in the mid 1980's. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and experienced all of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. After two years of being ministered to in a Spirit-filled home Bible study, I felt a divine call to ministry and matriculated at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, Lakeland, Florida. I was a pre-seminary major and graduated in 1991.

Afterwards I worked as a youth pastor for a year and then matriculated at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky where I earned my master of divinity degree in 1995. I chose Asbury because I perceived that there was at least some kinship with the wesleyan/holiness movement.

While at Asbury I took a seminar on Calvin's Institutes. It was during that seminar that the Holy Spirit revealed to me that God is indeed sovereign over all creation, His creatures and over everything that happens.

I began to see the kinship between the Arminian theology that is essentially man-centered, where the focus and credit is on man's efforts to do God's will. And I noticed this same tendency in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

I was a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies for over 2 years while in seminary. However, after much prayer and reflection, I resigned from the Society shortly after my graduation in 1995. Since 1996 I have been what I would call "post" Pentecostal/Charismatic.

A number of things God showed me played a huge part in that decision. The first was my discovery that the Word of Faith, health and wealth doctrines were based on syncretism with Christian Science doctrines via Kenneth Hagin and other 1940's era Pentecostal revivalists. I could go on and on about the doctrinal problems there, including oneness Pentecostal denial of one of the fundamentals/essentials of the Christian faith, the triunity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In reading your article, "Pentecostal/Charismatic Themes in Luke-Acts at the Evangelical Theological Society: The Battle of Interpretative Method," Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 12.2 (2004) 181-215, I could not help but notice the overwhelming hostility you exhibited towards those who should be your brothers in Christ. I can understand this feeling of rejection since I experienced much the same thing when I was a student at Asbury and often argued vehemently with professors over issues of Spirit baptism and even theories of inspiration of Scripture and inerrancy thereof.

I'm no scholar like yourself. However, just from my perspective, even if we accept your interpretation of Luke-Acts and that of Roger Stronstadt and other Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars, it does not necessarily entail that what we see going on in today's Pentecostal/Charismatic churches is one and the same experience which the persons in the New Testament experienced. There is no practical way to verify the two are precisely the same experience. It might be that today's Pentecostals are reading their own experience back into the text.

Moreover, you totally vilify Calvin without even mentioning the situation John Calvin was dealing with in refuting the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Calvin's situation had absolutely nothing to do with charismatic gifts of the Spirit as Pentecostal/Charismatic worshippers perceive those things today. In fact, the Reformers were dealing with Traditions of men that had been added to Holy Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church was using the idea that the Church had experienced ongoing "miracles" to prove that the Church was infallible and that its "living traditions" were therefore true and the Reformers, being without miracles, must be false.

You also neglect to mention that Pentecostals utilize dispensationalism as much as the dispensationalists themselves do, including doctrines like the pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the church. The one time you mention the Wesleyan-Arminians as hostile to the Pentecostal movement (as opposed to just the dispensationalists and the Reformed or Calvinists) you mistakenly lump them together with "neo-Calvinists."

If signs and wonders in themselves are proof of true doctrine, then there is no basis for the warnings in Holy Scripture that there would be many false prophets in last days doing false signs and wonders among the people, a theme that we almost never hear about from Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars like yourself or from Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. Moreover, the doctrines that gave rise to the current Pentecostal/Charismatic revival were Protestant as you admit yourself. The first Pentecostals came from the Wesleyan holiness tradition. Let me remind you that John Wesley was committed to Sola Scriptura, justification by faith alone, salvation by grace alone, Christ alone as the only way of salvation, and that God alone would get all the glory. Your passing remark that you're Protestant is meaningless because you glossed over the English Reformation, which gave rise to Methodism, Puritanism, Presbyterianism, and many other Protestant denominations in the U.S. today.

The trouble with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that it has forgotten its theological roots and in the rush to prove its experience is true has shot itself in the foot by attacking fellow conservative Christians and aligning with liberals like Harvey Cox, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

I for one don't believe that the so-called "miracles" that are occurring in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches today are genuine. From my personal experience, Pentecostals don't get any greater answers to prayer than other Bible believing Evangelicals. While there are extraordinary claims made and lots of "anecdotal" evidence that we are to accept with blind faith, there is little objective verification to support the reported healings. Bullying Evangelicals around won't get you the response you desire.

There is a reason that there are only a handful of Pentecostal scholars these days. It's because the Pentecostal movement as a whole is anti-intellectual and not open to any critical examination of their doctrine or the ecstatic experiences in their churches. I've read accounts where Pentecostal scholars were ostracized because they went to "cemetery."

I guess my greatest problem with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement these days is the tendency to denigrate the doctrine of sola scriptura and to place more authority with the "community of faith" or the church than with Scripture. This is scarey given the reason we had the Protestant Reformation to begin with. Where experience becomes the source of doctrine rather than the Holy Spirit inspired Holy Scriptures, we wind up with heresies like modalism in oneness Pentecostalism, Christian Science in the Word of Faith Movement, and the undermining of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I might also mention that tongues and baptism of the Holy Spirit seems to take precedence over issues like fellowshipping with idolaters who pray to the Virgin Mary and saints, i.e. Charismatic Roman Catholics.

Call me names if you like. Rant and rave about how "closed-minded" Evangelicals are. But the truth of the matter is that you're acting worse. You're close-minded, dogmatic and you're fellowshipping with those who have accepted false doctrine. I have no doubt that the earliest Pentecostals would have never dreamed of fellowshipping with Roman Catholics.

I could have written more but, since this is merely a letter and not a scholarly article, I will leave it at that. I suppose I'm still sympathetic to your concerns, being more familiar with the issues from personal experience. However, I think deception, false doctrine, and greed are rampant in the American Pentecostal/Charismatic churches these days. I for one would rather stand with Scripture than with Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition. Sola Scriptura!

Cessationism is not specifically taught in Scripture. I will grant you that. However, if we're going to base our theology on "experience" of the Spirit, then God has shown me that the Pentecostal movement is mostly an ecstatic experience conjured up by men who wish they could make God do what they like. That's my "experience" as the Holy Spirit "revealed" it to me. Sensationalism doesn't make matters any better for your case.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Charlie J. Ray

2 comments:

WALLACE said...

NEW TESTAMENT THEOLOGY IS PENTECOSTAL.I HAVEN'T FOUND A TRUE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH.

LEAVING A PENTECOSTAL FELLOWSHIP WILL NOT SATISFY YOUR DESIRE FOR
FOR TRUE WORSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP.

NON PENTECOSTAL FELLOWSHIP WILL NOT MEET OUR SPIRITUAL NEEDS.

WHY NOT TRY AND CHANGE TODAYS ERROR FILLED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH?

Charlie said...

I'm currently attending an American Mission in America parish that is charismatic. However, I attend the early traditional service. I still fellowship with Pentecostal/charismatics but I don't buy the idea that what we see today as "gifts" of the Spirit is supernatural. Rather it is man's attempt to duplicate the supernatural and it's basically a cheap imitation.

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