There are many lessons we can learn from the death of the Charismatic movement, if we are willing and humble enough to prayerfully consider them. ( I define the death of a Spiritual movement as this; If you are worse off and further from “the only True God”for having participated). I don’t think it helpful to just dismiss everything about it as rubbish and to try to move on, for only Truth can set us free.
I would like to call our attention to the foundational source of the departure, which is the erroneous doctrine which quickly flooded in and was widely accepted in various forms.
It is ironic that one of the features of the Charismatic movement as it developed was an “Anti-doctrine” bias.
If I heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times and in a thousand forms, “We are not into doctrines which Divide…we are just into loving Jesus”. Doesn’t that sound nice? Loving and simple, thats all we want, right? To get back before the “dusty doctrines” or beyond all “the petty fighting about dogma” between “religious leaders”, pastors and Theologians who have “nothing better to do than fight and divide over silly doctrine”.
But that was a deception in itself, and a seduction.
The deception is manifold; First of all, it implies that doctrine is a petty, trivial annoyance, compared to “knowing the LORD and loving him”. Secondly it teaches that christian doctrine isn’t as important as Love, and that theologians who care about doctrine are striving about nothing and in the process dividing the church.
But what is doctrine? Doctrine is the body of truth, the teaching delivered to us by the apostles. Is it important? You be the judge-
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: ( 2 John 8-10)
It is impossible to be without doctrine. You will either have right or wrong doctrine , but it is impossible to be void of doctrine, and your doctrine determines everything else about you spiritually.The most important thing about anyone is what they think of God.
Secondly, doctrine does indeed divide. True doctrine culls out the faithless and the heretics. False doctrine is extremely divisive.
This anti doctrinal attitude actually opened up the Charismatic movement from the very beginning to strange new doctrines, special revelation, and dampened the sense of discernment of a brand new generation of born again Christians, newly endowed with the Holy Spirit indeed, but also viscerally resisting anything that smacked of “dead religion” that many of them came out of.
I said that this was a seduction as well, because this whole attitude about Doctrine,(The Truth) , implies that those who have the Spirit and the deep “Revelation knowledge” are above the more traditional Christian who is full of “head knowledge”. It is a gnostic seduction, and is hard to see and resist.
In the place of the “Dry dusty doctrines of the past”, as one Charismatic leader described them, flooded in new revelations and teachings, such as Shepherding, the Word of Faith, Dominionism, Church Growth, Spiritual Warfare, Experiencing God, Visualization, the Manifested Sons of God, Restoration of the Apostles and Prophets, the Prophetic movement, Kingdom now, and Deliverance excesses all flooded into the Charismatic church over thirty years or so, under different “Apostles”, “Prophets” and teachers.
It is not my place to expound on each of these separately, rather I would like to point out the similar themes that underlay all of them and served to be the poisonous “Sickness unto death” of the Charismatic movement.
The false teachings which soon engulfed and eventually killed the Charismatic movement have these attributes in common;
- They were all basically Triumphalist- The believer is supposed to be the “head and not the tail”, we are all supposed to reign in this life, (in the name of Jesus of course), We are all destined to do “Greater works” than Jesus did, He was the pattern Son that we are supposed to imitate, and collectively become. Satan is under our feet, we just don’t know it yet, because we haven’t received the “revelation knowledge.
- They usually featured an “over realized Eschatology”, which confused the glories to come in the next Age, with the present day. False teachers would posit that rather than waiting for Jesus to come back and set the world straight, Jesus is waiting for that portion of the Church which has “revelation knowledge” to come into its own, and to set the world right.
Jesus is supposedly “kept in the heavens until…” the time of restoration, which we must accomplish under the guidance of restored Apostles and Prophets. This is based on a distortion of a scripture in Acts 3,
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.(Acts 3:20-21)
Orthodox Evangelicalism would say, that Jesus is waiting in heaven to come back, that He(Jesus) may restore all things. But the Charismatic teachers insisted that Jesus is waiting in heaven until the time which we are rebuilt by renewed Apostles and Prophets, in order for we the church to restore all things.
- These teachings promised a coming ultimate”Golden Age” a great last days revival in which the church would so demonstrate the power of Jesus, nations would tremble and shake, running to our leaders to learn what it is that we have.
- These heresies exalted an elite company of men (and women)- The “Shepherding “movement was an attempt to bring order and teaching to those who had received Jesus and the Baptism of the Spirit and in many cases had come out of dead churches. The Shepherds were exalted beyond measure, christians were taught to submit all things to their Shepherds, even deeply personal decisions between married couples.
- Another example of human exaltation was the theology of the “Manifested Sons of God”, Which promised that an elite company of super Christians would come into “the revelation knowledge” of who they “truly are in Christ”and would begin to demonstrate for all to see that the true Church is full of the power of God. This errant theology is based upon a distortion of a passage in Romans 8 :22- For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Supposedly the true Sons of God shall arise in the last days, and basically demonstrate the reality of God, through signs wonders and miracles. They would establish the Kingdom of God, and shortly afterwards Jesus would come back to receive the Kingdom from them!
This is one of the main themes that runs underneath almost all of the errors which have so seduced and distorted those in the Charismatic movement. It is so intoxicating to those in the movement, that although it has been denounced and exposed as false all along the way, this hope of super Apostles and Prophets bringing the world to its knees for Jesus keeps resurfacing.
The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination pronounced it as a heresy in the late 1940’s, and again in the days of the “Toronto Blessing”,George Wood of the AOG produced a fine paper denouncing the mystical revival as yet another expression of the Manifested Sons of God heresy. But when the same thing broke out in the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola Florida in the late 1990’s, the denomination sold out the truth and fell in behind the error.
Manifested Sons of God is the underlying error of the Word of Faith error as well as Dominionist theology, and the heretical New Apostolic Reformation of today.
- Part of the above error is the belief which developed which taught that these “manifested Sons” cannot arise until the offices of “Apostles and Prophets” are restored to the churches. Suddenly in the 1980s there were new “Apostles” and “Prophets” which arose, going about giving “Words”, and making predictions in the name of the LORD which often failed to materialize.
- A departure from the normal view of the Fall and Redemption entered in. The Fall was a fall from Dominion granted to Adam as “god of this world”. Adam allegedly turned the Dominion over to Satan, making him “god of this world”. God was supposedly on the outside looking in! I have heard Copeland and Hagin teaching that God needed a man on this wealth to work through, in order to do anything!
Salvation was a restoration of Dominion, and the church’s work is to “take Dominion once again ” over this planet.
*Finally- there has been a strong strain of anti-rationality in spiritual experience. God “zaps” you and you change for the better, Strange and irrational things are happening because God wants to “offend the mind” that He might get at the heart.
This anti-intellectualism is of course, Paganism and not Christianity. But when you consider the extremes this took many people and churches, particularly in the Toronto and Pensacola movements, it is frightening. How are you ever going to come back when you have gotten “Drunk in the Spirit” or “soaked in prayer “or “swam in the River of life” in front of thousands of people?(Only by humbling yourself and admitting you are wrong).
I could go on and on, but I think I have demonstrated that the main theme of almost all of this bad teaching, was a form of human exaltation, the Sovereignity of the Believer, a power hunger, and craving to see “the greater works” and to bring the unbelievers in to “Awe and amazement”. An anticipation for “Super Apostles and Prophets” to come and demonstrate the power of God.
Also, there developed a spiritual warfare void of reverence and the fear of God, nor of any regard for the person of Satan as a fallen angel of high status, (Jude 8-10) in which we Christians learn the techniques to bring down the principalities and powers, and to take dominion over our own cities and territories.
Even worship and repentance became a means towards this end. Worship itself is “Spiritual warfare”, blasting a hole through the heavenlies, taking the dominion that was ours, making openings for the blessing of God to come down.
I remember standing in a Charismatic worship service and hearing the congregation rousingly singing “We are making war in the heavenlies, we are tearing down principalities…” and then “We rush on the cities and run on the walls, great is the army that carries out his word….”, on into “These are the days of Elijah…”.
I was struck by the contrast to the early days, when we would sing simple songs like, “Jesus,name above all names, beautiful Saviour, glorious LORD…”, as we lifted hands and wept, and adored God the Father and Jesus the Savior and LORD. I thought, “There is something so wrong here, all we are singing about is ourselves…We are sick…”.