Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Calvinist, the charismatic, and the humanist

UPDATE: I've responded/commented on one point that was raised by a reader and hope to respond on other points soon. Feel free to join the discussion!

What is the difference between a Calvinist, a charismatic, and a humanist? No, this isn't the intro to a joke or riddle! The difference is God-centered theology versus man-centered theology. Let me illustrate this so you'll understand what I'm getting at.

When a person thinks, perceives, understands, observes or experiences something he responds in accordance with his theology--his understanding of God and who God is. So, naturally the Calvinist, the charismatic, and the humanist will respond in accordance with their particular theology which will go something like this;

The Calvinist responds, "God has in His sovereignty ordained that I do/understand..."

The charismatic responds, "God spoke to ME and told ME that/to..."

The humanist responds, "Look what I know/did on my own..."

Very simply, God-centered theology promotes God while man-centered theology promotes man. I believe THIS is the foundational tension between charismatic Xians and Calvinist/Reformed Xians, and is foundational to why I have been unable to reconcile the relatively new position, practice and teaching of self-labeled "Calvinist/Reformed charismatics". Calvinist/Reformed charismatics are attempting to blend facets of two completely opposing theologies.

So, why do I even care about this? I care because not only did I endured the fall-out of being a charismatic Xian over 20 years ago, I continue to witness the ongoing fall-out nearly everyday. I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma which is home to Oral Roberts, T.L. Osbourn, Kenneth Hagin, Billy Joe and Sharon Daugherty, Bob Yandian, Willie George, and every variety of offshoot. I regularly hear fellow-homeschool moms and families claiming things of God that God's own Word does not support, everything from proclaimations that God will "miraculously provide money" to repair a damaged car, to claims that God has "made it clear" that a recently disabled Xian woman will soon be restored to complete health. All the while immature Xians (young and old in the faith) stand on the fringes listening, watching, and waiting--only to conclude that God cannot or will not act. All because He has been once again misrepresented by those who profess to "know" Him!

Is God able to do these things? You bet 'cha! Has God promised these things? Absolutely not! Yet His name and character is repeatedly dragged through the mud and soiled before believers and unbelievers alike.

Please, don't simply take my word on this! Consider the concerns voiced by men of far greater learning and understanding--Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and FrankTurk over at Pyromaniacs:

Phil Johnson: No doubt some will find that judgment "shrill." I'm sorry for those who feel that way, but the issues are serious and in real life those very kinds of lies often deceive, disappoint, and even destroy people.

Dan Phillips: "Because the issues are huge, though they're being dealt out as if this were a playground conversation. Because I feel deeply concerned for all the people who you and I know darned well will read an article like this, envy this man's (purported) intimacy with God, and start listening for voices in their head, too. And they'll start heeding those voices, even if (as in this case) they don't quite jibe with the Bible.And what kind of Christ-shaming, damaging, ruinous behavior will come of that?"

Frank Turk: What's at stake here is if we are first using God's precious gift of Scripture to seek Him and find Him, not whether some voice in one's head is the voice of God.

For a broader discussion on this subject check out Pyros (link provided in my blogroll) yourself--at least the last 4-5 posts.


Ben Stevenson said...

Does belief in the continuation of tongues and prophecy necessarily imply man-centred theology? I have no doubt that many people who believe in tongues, prophecy, etc. today do have a man-centred theology, but is that really because of them being charismatics, or for some other reason?

The charismatic response could be changed to:
"GOD has spoken to me and told me that/to..."
(emphasis on God, not on me.)

I prefer the term continuationalist to charismatic, because it implies a view about the continuation of certain things, as opposed to a cessation. Also the word charismatic has a lot of baggage that seems to me to have no necessary logical link to believing certain gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere still continue to operate in the church today.

Agabus is a prophet mentioned in the Bible. The two prophecies he is recorded as having given in the Bible (Acts 11:28 and Acts 21:10-11) show no sign of Agabus emphasising himself.

We know from Acts 21:8-9 that Philip had daughters who prophecied but these are not recorded in the Bible. Must we assume that they had man-centered theology?

Charismatics/continuationalists can have man-centered theology, but not necessarily so.

Anonymous said...

"Does belief in the continuation of tongues and prophecy necessarily imply man-centred theology? I have no doubt that many people who believe in tongues, prophecy, etc. today do have a man-centred theology, but is that really because of them being charismatics, or for some other reason?"

Exactly. Good point.

Plus I think we must consider the whole counsel of Scripture. Just like we reformed types at one time had to deal with difficult texts, such as Romans 9, I would think we'd need to honestly deal with a fairly big chunk of Scripture that speaks to the gifts. (no pun intended!)

Connie, I have a post about the gifts here. I posted this on Sunday, before I even knew of the bruhaha going on at Pyromaniacs. :)

Those guys are heavyweights, no doubt, and my post is pretty simplistic. But I also know that heavyweights, and seminary-educated folks are as susceptible to being wrong in areas as I am. They are certainly not the ultimate authority, and frankly, I sometimes get weary of their dogmatic tone. (And I usually AGREE with them!)

Embracing reformed theology has actually freed me from my previously held notions that, God DOES NOT DO this or that. Or, God DOES NOT work in thus and such way. Does that make sense?

Connie said...

Thank you ben and gayla--I'm giving serious consideration to your comments. On some points I am challenged, on others I remain firm. Nevertheless, I do appreciate you taking time to comment. Naturally, I'm praying, reading, thinking, etc. and plan to respond in detail soon!

Anonymous said...

Connie, I've challenged as well by all that has transpired this week. Some of the passages put forth have really caused me to rethink some things.

Anonymous said...


I noticed in your post you said over 20 years ago you were freed from the Charismatic movement. I was curious, do you have a testimony of this, or a post about this. What were your beliefs then (regarding gifts etc) and what are they now? Have you since stopped 'Speaking in Tongues' or 'Praying in the Holy Ghost'??

I guess I am curious as to how far 'into' the Charismatic movement you went - as I am coming out of it as well.

Connie said...

Anonymous: Sorry, but I'm pressed for time right now. I haven't posted a detailed testimony of that time yet--have a desire to, but haven't done so yet.

Short answer, I participated in just about every facet of the movement which included some really bizarre "manifestations" as well as some of the "tame" things.

I'll give more consideration (and time) to posting my "charismatic" testimony in the near future. Thanks for stopping by and asking!!

Connie said...

I want my readers to know that I have given this much prayer and thought over the past few days. This is the sort of "dialogue" I invited. It is my desire to comment/respond kindly but with boldness. That being said, here we go:

Ben asked, "Does belief in the continuation of tongues and prophecy necessarily imply man-centred theology?"

No, "THE BELIEF IN THE CONTINUATION OF TONGUES AND PROPHESY" does not necessarily imply man-centered theology. You'll notice that I did not specifically name any "gifts" in my post, but you singling them out helps make my point.

What DOES imply a man-centered theology is the INSISTANCE that certain practices exist (continue) today BUT ARE either subtly or significantly DIFFERENT from the New Testament examples. Which is what today's "Reformed/Calvinist charismatic" is teaching. It has become necessary to do so because when questioned, the charismatic/continuationist has been unable to validate experiences and claims related to the gifts.

In my mind, it is very telling that a "redefining" of the practice and magnitude of the gifts became necessary only in recent decades as the charismatic movement grew in popularity. A movement that in church history is UNIQUE to the last century and bleeding over into this century.

I'll comment on some of the other points soon.