Thursday, February 22, 2007

Practicing Theology: An invitation to dialogue on "Reformed Charismatics"

I'd like to invite discussion, via comments to this post, on the topic of "Reformed Charismatics" (aka: Charismatic Calvinists).

I am a former charismatic (including: tongues-speaking, prayer language, prophesy seeking, slain in the spirit, demon rebuking, name it and claim it, women preachers/pastors, etc.) who came to embrace Reformed theology in the mid-80's.

I assure you that I will NOT use this as an opportunity to belittle or attack anyone personally. But I do hope for some honest and even vigorous discussion because, try as I may, I have not been able to reconcile charismatic theology with truly Reformed theology.

Here are some possible areas to consider:

- Prophesy (Biblical accounts vs. what is claimed/experienced today)

- Worship (corporate and private)

- Miraculous gifts (verifiable examples today?)

- Spiritual gifts (still in operation today?)

- any other facets you might care to discuss

I'm inviting anyone and everyone to comment, even if you aren't charismatic--just stay on topic and behave like a Xian, please.


Carla Rolfe said...

"try as I may, I have not been able to reconcile charismatic theology with truly Reformed theology"

Exactly what I've been saying from the first day I heard someone call themselves a charismatic Calvinist. I guess that was about 4-5 years ago. I'd never heard the label, prior.

I came out of the AoG church not long after the Toronto Blessing & Brownsville Revivals were at their height. While I am well aware that not all charismatics would relate to what went on (and still does) during that time period, I still can't see how charismatic theology fits with the doctrines of grace.

Connie said...

Carla: So, it IS a relatively new thing! When I first read it two years ago on a Puritan chat board I wondered where it originated and how widely accepted/known it was.

My first thoughts at that time went to the Vineyard movement (a lively topic at DTS while we were there because of Deere, Bodine, and Storms) of the late 80's and early 90's and I wondered if there was a connection--I was familiar with the "Toronto Blessing" you mentioned, but not the "Brownsville Revivals".

I'd be very interested to know what today's "Reformed charismatics" consider to be non-negotiables in their theology and practice.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts; great questions. :)

Here's my .02 cents, for what it's worth. By way of background, I've never been involved in the charismatic movement. I was formerly in a church that was cessastionist in its theology. I'm now in a reformed church that fully believes the gifts of the Spirit have not ceased. God opened my eyes to His sovereignty in Nov 2004, and radically changed my core thinking. Praise God! :)

I think we've seen so much ABUSE of the supernatural gifts, that we wouldn't recognize the genuine article if it bit us. 1 Thess 5:20-22 says, 'do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.'

That the gifts have been/are so widely abused does not negate their existence. I think the key lies in 'examining everything carefully.' We must be discerning.

I can easily reconcile reformed theology with I guess what is called charismatic theology, because God can do and will do whatever He pleases to accomplish His purposes. He can bestow His gifts on whomever He pleases whenever He pleases, for the building up of the body of Christ.

And where, in 1 Cor 12, would we draw the line? How do we determine which gifts exist today and which ones have ceased? I don't think that's our call to make.

I have found that it's actually easier as one who embraces reformed theology, to accept that the gifts are alive and well today - b/c I fully embrace God's sovereignty in all things. Do I speak in tongues? No. Heal? No. Prophecy? No. But that's ok - I don't have to seek the 'experiences' to know God is present and at work. Am I 'open' to His gifts? Certainly. The power that satan wields hasn't diminished over time, so why would those 'tools' or gifts used to combat him have ceased? (That was from a great teaching I heard)

Anyway, sorry this is so long! If anyone is interested, I'd direct you here.

Scroll down to A Journey With the Holy Sprit Volumes 1-5.

This is Church of the Open Door, Maple Grove, MN, pastor Dave Johnson. We've been listening to him for years. This is NOT a charismatic church; very reformed in nature. Dave gives the most well-balanced, solid teachings on this subject that I've heard. I highly recommend it.

OK, seriously, I'm done! :)

Connie said...

Gayla: Thanks! This is exactly what I was hoping for--hear from those who are "among" Reformed charismatics and are familiar with that line of thinking.

It has been sooooo long since I traveled exclusively in charismatic circles, and the boundaries have clearly changed since then!

I have some thoughts on what you shared and hope to interact further in a day or two (I'm just now getting over a nasty head cold!!) Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

*** A friend emailed me saying she's having problems logging on to post a comment, so I'm posting it for her! (Thanks for commenting!!)***

You know that theology is not my strong suit, but I can tell you that
we have a cousin in CA who seems to share all of the same major
beliefs we do, yet he is in a church that they call
charismatic. When we have talked with him about this, it seemed that
they had a much different definition of charismatic than we did,
coming from "you know where". I wish we had been able to sit down
with him and define the theology more carefully, but we were not, as
I am certain he would consider himself in the "reformed" circle.

Connie said...

anonymous/sheshe: First, regarding your statement, "You know that theology is not my strong suit...". I strongly beg to differ!

You, my friend, have "practiced" your theology FOR me many times, and I have gained tremendously from it!!!

Okay, now that we have THAT cleared up! :-)

You brought up a point that I've been considering--one's definition of charismatic. How, what, and why does one consider himself to be charismatic these days? Is it primarily their theology? Is it primarily practice? Is it a blend of both?

In my understanding (and personal experience), the driving force as a charismatic is experience. THAT is what drives and/or directs their theology. RATHER than theology driving/directing experience.

THIS is what concerns me most about the notion of Reformed charismatic--it is the reliance upon feelings, emotions, and experience at the cost of consistent sound theology. THAT is basically why I've been unable to reconcile the two thoughts/practices.

Connie said...

How timely! My oldest daughter is studing worldviews. This week's discussion includes the topic of miracles. Last night we had a great time discussing the various types of cessationists (there are at least four). I couldn't help but think how well prepared she should be for discussions like we're having here--even if she ends up differing from dear old mom! :-)

4given said...

Hey Connie,
You wrote: it is the reliance upon feelings, emotions, and experience at the cost of consistent sound theology

Though I am not "reformed charismatic" I do have some friends and family that are and I would not consider the statement above to be consistent with my experience with these individuals. However it may be true for some, but methinks we should not lump them all within this category. It would be like lumping all of us within the hyper-Calvinism camp.

How they define the charismatic part of this label is vastly different than what we are familiar with. In my opinion it is more balanced and I can, though I do not agree with it, understand why they embrace this... just as I can understand why one dear friend may be a-mil vs. another being dispensational pre-mil, etc.

From my experience with these individuals, their Gospel is solid and their reformed views are solid. We reformed folk need to consider erring on the side of mercy on non-essentials without compromising truth, of course.

Just a thought.

Love you dear friend.

Connie said...

4given: Thanks for joining in--I was hoping you might! :-)

You clearly understand where my dilema is as you said, "However it may be true for some, but methinks we should not lump them all within this category" That's where I am in all of this--trying to understand what/if/how charismatics differ.

My own experience in/with the charismatic movement makes me very guarded (for good reason) but seeing/reading/hearing others who consider themselves to be Reformed charismatic has given me plenty of reason to rethink and examine what exactly is going on!

I'd like to expand on this, but must stop for now--family needs calling at the moment!! I hope to pick this back up later this evening!

Annette said...

I suppose it depends on what you see as Charismatic. I think charismatic and I don't immediately think of speaking in tongues and such like. My first thought is...oh...people who are free in their in they'll raise their hands in worship, they'll dance before the Lord if so led, and such like.

People who did the "other stuff" were pentecostal, and therefore a wee bit odd, but believers none-the-less. :)

That said... since getting married I've learned the charismatics are tongue speakers, focused on the Holy spirit and such like.

Quite frankly... I've seen, since I've gone to a number of different churches, some rather unique things among people that I know are believers. Speaking in tongues AND having interpreters of such language. I can't dismiss that the Holy Spirit works in this way. I seen and heard stories of miracles happening when believers pray over the sick or injured. i don't particularly think that God cares if a person is pentecostal or reformed ... he works in ways unexpected at times. I can't place limits on what he will do in his sovereign grace.

I've seen too much I guess to doubt what God can do.

Carrie said...

Once again, I feel lost in right field somewhere because I don't understand the meanings behind the phrases, reformed theology, charismatic theology, charismatic Calvinist, and reformed Charismatics. What do all of these phrases mean? Please forgive my ignorance, but can you put them in more practical terms for me?

I guess I can say this... I think the search for absolute theology is futile. God is sovereign and He will do things His way. Just like Gayla said, who are we to determine what has or has not ceased? If miracles are not happening in our lives the way we think they ought, maybe we are asking the wrong questions like the disciples when they asked Jesus why they couldn't get rid of certain demons. Maybe we should be asking God to show us our hearts concerning the issue.

I believe that when a body goes to sleep at night and after about 8 hours or so wakes up....that is a miracle. I have yet to hear an explanation for that. How does God do that?

I was just discussing Mark 3 with someone today. When Jesus went into the synagogue, the Pharisees were waiting to set Him up. When Jesus said, Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill? they (the Pharisees) said nothing.

verse 5 said Jesus was angry with them and grieved at their hardness of heart...then He healed the man.

To me, this was not about healing the man's hand or Jesus' power. It was about the condition of the heart....everyone's... the man with the withered hand (a believing heart), the Pharisees (hardened hearts), and Jesus (a heart longing to see repentance in those who said they knew God).

Call me simplistic, but I believe the issue when it comes to miracles and spiritual gifts will always be about the heart and God's glory regardless of the "packaging" or the circumstance.

Anonymous said...

Connie, there have been some great comments here!

There is much wisdom in what has been said. Great discussion!

Shannon Lewis said...

As a 'full-blown' Reformed-Charismatic Christian, I'll gladly 'chime-in' on this list. I think at the heart of 'reformed theology' is a desire to be truly Biblical, and I'm primarily a 'Reformed-Charismatic' for that reason: there is nothing in the Bible that genuinely points to cessationism, and the overall picture of Biblical Christianity is one that includes the miraculous. Simple reading of D.A. Carson's incredible "Showing the Spirit" pretty much dismantles even the most aggressive cessationist arguements, and it's written by a solidly reformed Bible Scholar.

I agree: many of the practices of the AOG and the tradictional Charismatic (or in the the case of the AOG - Pentacostal) movement don't mix well with solid doctrine - they don't need to. I think 'denominations/associations' like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Grace Churches International, the Association of Charismatic Reformed Churches, New Frontiers International, Household of Faith Community Churches, and the Grace Network (as well as certain individual churches within the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches and the Vineyard Churches) are all exploring various, mostly healthy, and Biblical expressions of what it is to be both 'Reformed' in doctrine and 'Charismatic' in experience. I think one of the most profound, and important decisions that needs to be made to SOLIDLY make the connection between the two is this: remain Gospel-centered and not no Gifts-centered, which is the wonderful balance that Reformed-Charismatics bring to the Charismatic world.

I've seen a mass exodus from PCA churches in the past few years to Greek Orthodoxy & Roman Catholicism, mainly because - though they received solid doctrine - they were STARVED over the years for 1.) mystery & 2.) experience... in this sense, I think the Reformed Charismatic movement is a healthy correction to an otherwise wonderful, and profoundly TRUE, expression of faith: the Reformed churches.

More in a minute...hopefully I can post these all.

Shannon Lewis said...

Interestingly enough, John Calvin was not a full-blown "cessationalist" him here yourself (with commentary by me):
Calvin, from "Commentary on 1 Corinthians", pg 305,comparing modern day gifts, as compared to what we see in the Scriptures, explaining WHY it might be that we don't see the same supernatural acts in his day:
"Today we see our own slender resources, our poverty in fact; but this is undoubtedly the punishment we deserve, as the reward for our ingrattitude."
Note, Calvin's thoughts regarding our "poverty" regarding the supernatural gifts spoken of in 1 Corinthians - his case is that "ingrattitude" has led to their disappearance, not "the passing of the Apostles".

Second quote - John Calvin commenting on Eph. 4:11 (taken, not directly from the source but from an article by John Frame quoting Calvin on this very subject) claims that the term prophet refers to "not to all those who were interpreters of God's will, but to those who excelled in a particular revelation."
So, first - Calvin didn't see the need to associate the term "prophet" with that of the "preacher/teacher" as reformed cessationalists do today. He continued,
"This class either does not exist today or is less commonly seen."
Note - Calvin never makes a case that the gifts have passed. He only implies that if they do exist, he hasn't seen them, so he assumes they must be fairly uncommon - apparently due to the reasons he mentioned in the fore-mentioned quote from his commentary on 1 Corinthians...
Next, he states that these prophets were "instrumental in revealing mysteries and predicting future events'" and that God "now and again revives them as the need of the time demands". Some have wondered whether we was referring to Martin Luther there, but no matter what the case, it would seem that even the role of Apostle - an issue on which I would disagree with Calvin - is still open if God saw that the need arose for such a person!