Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue

asuza

I am becoming convinced more and more every day that continuationism is not just a non-essential doctrinal issue for Christians.

My thinking about this started shortly after the Strange Fire conference as I engaged continuationist critics on social media. They denounced the conference with such fervent descriptions as hateful, divisive, painting with a broad brush, throwing all the faithful Pentecostal/charismatic people from around the world under a heresy bus.

The strongest antagonist to the conference, Michael Brown, even wrote a 400 plus page book responding to the various talks and lectures presented at Strange Fire. My friend Lyndon and I wrote up a lengthy, chapter-by-chapter review of his book that can be read HERE, if anyone is interested.

Their primary claim was to say the Strange Fire participants wrongly attributed the bizarre, wild-eyed antics and paranormal stories witnessed at a typical health and wealth style mega-church, to faithful continuationists who never display any of that ridiculous conduct or claim any of those types of otherworldly experiences. The wacky high jinks seen on so-called Christian TV like TBN or Sid Roth’s “It’s Supernatural!” program are not the norm, but are fringy and embarrassing. They hardly represent genuine, enthusiastic charismatic worship and belief.

Yet, in spite of their assertions of false accusations, what I was observing from the charismatic world provided an overwhelming contrary conclusion. The insistence by those pure and clean continuationists that true continuationism is not marked with the outlandish faux-testimonies of miraculous healings, visits to heaven, and pronouncements of fake prophecies, really had to make me wonder about their credibility. Certainly they couldn’t be that blind.

In fact, with what I was seeing, the TBN and Sid Roth style charismatic continuationists are the standard majority, whereas the ‘balanced,” sober-minded continuationists were the true fringe. Their view of continuationism has practically zero influence upon the vast body of charismatic believers. And that vast body is pretty vast, like say in the hundreds of millions world-wide.

If a person just does a simple search on the best selling charismatic books, he will find that all of them are written by the health and wealth continuationists. Just take a look at the material sold at Bethel Redding’s bookstore. It is all goof-ball charismatics like Derek Prince, Rick Joyner, Joyce Meyer, Randy Clark, and C. Peter Wagner. I don’t see anything representing the balanced, non-crack-pot continuationist. Say for instance, Wayne Grudem, or even Michael Brown.

Now. I understand that when I claim continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary issue that I am making a rather bold charge. I even had some respected friends push back against what I am stating; but I am prepared to back up what I mean.

When I write that continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary doctrinal matter, I am obviously saying continuationism has a direct and detrimental influence upon essential Christian doctrine, or those essential, core doctrines being what defines Christian orthodoxy and practice. I was asked by my detractors to provide some examples, and I believe I can.

I want to aim my focus upon what I believe to be the most significant, and that is how continuationism maligns the doctrine of God, specifically the work of the Holy Spirit. While I certainly affirm a robust belief in the work of the Holy Spirit in acts of providence and individual salvation, continuationist conduct and claims of the supernatural attributed to the Holy Spirit are often blasphemous, or lead to the blasphemous. I’d like to demonstrate what I mean in a series of posts highlighting what I believe are key areas. I’ll begin with this post considering the first one,

Theological Compromise. I think we would all agree that one of the major works of the the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s people in spiritual truth. In fact, in John 16:13, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. His ministry will be to speak authoritatively for the Father and the Son and He will glorify our Lord.

Thus, if the Holy Spirit was truly at work among God’s people like a number of continuationists claim, then He would not be leading the church into compromising with gross, doctrinal error. Any person equating the proclamation of gross, doctrinal error as a move of the Holy Spirit would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, would that person not?

Cases in point:

Check out this picture:

copelandHere we have, from left to right, John and Carol Arnott of Catch the Fire ministries, Brian Stiller of World Evangelical Alliance, Kenneth “X-men weather controller” Copeland, an antichrist, Thomas Schrrmacher, another guy from the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunniclife, a peace activist, again with the World Evangelical Alliance, James and Betty Robinson of Life Today ministries, and the now eternally judged, Bishop Tony Palmer.

Back during the summer of 2014, that writhing nest of spiritual asps, met together to discuss joint efforts in unifying Catholics and “evangelicals”®™ for the purpose of working together. James Robinson gushingly stated after the meet up, “This meeting was a miracle…. This is something God has done. God wants his arms around the world. And he wants Christians to put his arms around the world by working together.” [Charisma News Online 7/7/2014].

I happen to believe God had absolutely nothing to do with it at all, because I happen to believe the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy. To say the Holy Spirit does is blasphemy.

Both sides teach a false gospel. And while Catholics and those pseudo-evangelical grifters have a canyon’s wide divergent views of what is “the gospel,” each of their “gospels” are built upon the foundation of false doctrine that does not save anyone.

The only thing that brought them together is their continuationist views of the Spirit. The pope, and those useful idiots meeting with him, represent the largest world-wide collection of continuationists. While the pope believes Mary is a co-redemptrix with Jesus, and Copeland thinks Jesus wants Christians living in emperor decadence, both sides affirm the on-going supernatural work of the Spirit either in forms of continued revelation, visions and dreams, and even miraculous healings. Is anyone beginning to see how continuationism is not just a non-essential doctrine?

“Oh, Fred,” someone may say, “Kenneth Copeland is hardly a representative of true continuationism. Everyone agrees with you that he and his lunatic wife are goofy.” Okay, let’s consider a second picture,

louengleHere we see Lou Engle, founder of The Call ministries on his knees, kissing the feet of Matteo Calisi at the Azusa Now event held at the LA Colosseum. Calisi has been an active leader for years in Italy attempting to unify Catholics with Italian Pentecostals, as well as Pentecostals worldwide. The common factor for him? Why it’s the continuationist views of the Holy Spirit shared mutually between Pentecostals/charismatics and Roman Catholics.

In a 2014 interview with ZENIT, the online equivalent of Charisma News, but for Catholics and minus the howling mad crazy, Calisi explains in the interview the significance of the pope visiting with a group of Pentecostal evangelicals in Italy,

The Bishop of Rome is perfectly aware of the urgency to search for unity between the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Evangelical Churches. More than half a billion Christians adhere to the Pentecostal Movement, which is the second Christian confession soon after the Catholic Church for its large numbers. The Pentecostal Movement is the fastest growing movement in the whole history of the Christian Church, there is no other precedent. A movement born from the Holy Spirit without human founders, so little known by specialists and ecumenists especially here in Italy, which had an astonishing growth in the past century from 0 to 600 million participants. [ZENIT 8/7/2014] (emphasis mine).

Engle invited Roman Catholics to the Azusa Now event because he wanted to bring all the followers of Christ together for the “purpose of unity, miracles, healing, and the proclamation of the gospel.” [CT 4/11/2016]. In other words, continuationism. Calisi was quoted as saying that the doctrinal divide between Catholics and evangelicals®™ is sinful and that Jesus doesn’t care about our doctrinal difference. I may be going out on a limb here, but I happen to believe with sound conviction that Jesus does care about individuals who venerate Mary and the saints to the point they pray to them. Put another way, Jesus hates idolatry.

Again, someone is gonna say, “Fred, Fred, Fred. We are continuationists and we agree with you that Lou Engle is a wack-a-doodle. How can you possibly say continuationism has anything to do with this?”

Look. The folks of this conference is specifically meeting together under the guise of a mutual, charismatic fraternity. They are laying aside key, theological talking points, talking points that mark the difference between biblical truth and soul damning error, for the very purpose of promoting their fraternity.

Moreover, go back to Engle’s website and check out that “about The Call” page. Look at that massive header photo of thousands of young people packed into a stadium at one of their prayer rally things. Thousands of other people all across the nation where Engle does his shtick will hear him say that doctrinal division from Catholics is sinful, and we need to love one another as brothers and sister in Christ in spite of any theological or doctrinal difference.

Those young people go away thinking there is nothing wrong with Catholicism because they have a shared experience with the Catholic in the Holy Spirit. I can even imagine them thinking, “Oh, Catholics have visions and dreams and visits from Mary and the saints just like charismatic leaders say they have with dead charismatics (as I wrote about HERE) and frequent visits to heaven (as I wrote about HERE). The conclusion then is that there is nothing particularly wrong about the theology of Catholicism. Everyone loves Jesus, experiences the Holy Spirit, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy and to say He does is blasphemy! Hence, I see continuationism as touching right in the middle of core doctrinal truths about who God is and the ministry of the third person of the Trinity.

I’ll pick up with some more here soon.

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19 thoughts on “Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue

  1. Pingback: Things I have read on the internet – 29 | clydeherrin

  2. Fred, I appreciate much of what you said here and I stand in substantial agreement. I am fully persuaded that cessationism is biblical and continuationism is unbiblical. Furthermore, I hold that the vast majority of the charismatic movement flirts with rank heresy. However, there is one disconnect for me. I am also a convinced dispensationalist. We dispensationalists get a little rankled when our position is attacked by using the likes of John Hagee as representative of dispensationalism by our covenant theology brethren. We are quick to distance our brand of dispensationalism from these wild proprietors. I wonder if Grudem, Piper, et. al. feel the same when they are lumped together with Kenneth Copeland and his ilk. Perhaps my disconnect is unwarranted. Does Grudem really lead to Copeland in a way that Robert Thomas leads to John Hagee?

  3. @mscottc – I think the difference would be that dispensationalism alone doesn’t lead people to wild-eyed doctrines. If you consider the folks who brought dispensationalism into the mainstream, so to speak, it was men who were Presbyterian ministers. They disagreed with the hermenutics of covenantalism that marked their denomination.

    Have their been strains of dispensationalism that went bad, well of course, just like there were strains of covenantalism that went bad, say, as the most glaring example, Arminianism. Theonomy could also be put into that camp, as could Lutherans who practice infant baptismal regeneration.

    Does Grudem really lead to Copeland? as you ask. Maybe not; but his insistence upon God talking to people with fallible prophecy could certainly lead folks to no good, especially when it comes to shepherding a church.

  4. Thanks Fred! I agree Grudem’s views can lead to potentially greater danger than Hagee’s bizarre ends times scenarios, although Harold Camping types are a danger to the church in the same way wild-eyed charismatics are. They just aren’t as wide spread. In either case, I think we ought to be careful about drawing too much from Grudem (point A) to Copeland, et. al. (point B). I doubt too many people who read Grudem or Piper extensively are in as much danger as those who are drawn to Copeland, et. al. The latter have probably never heard of Grudem.

  5. But, the defining, unifying factor is that both groups are continuationists. Meaning, they both adhere to the same view regarding the actions of the Holy Spirit in this day and age.

  6. The Reformed have their fringes as well. Harold Camping is Reformed, the pro-Arab Palestinian pro-BDS anti-Zionist evangelical Anglican preacher Stephen Sizer is Reformed, and the set up all Misaic laws Christian Reconstructionist (Theonomist) Gary DeMar and Ary Noth are Reformed too.

  7. But keep in mind, those “fringes” carry absolutely zero influence within the broader scope of American Christianity. For example, Campingnites, if there are any still around these days, were always marked out as unChristian and fringe. Even theonomists are dying out and the only truly active “ministry,”Demar’s group, only project a facade on the internet that makes them look more influential than they truly are. See here, http://pulpitandpen.org/2015/04/13/jds-post-debate-thoughts-beside-the-dying-fire/

  8. So because of the false you throw it all out? As one commenter here wrote about being persuaded that cessationism is biblical and continuism is unbiblical. All because of these heretics you people are persuaded as such. That really is sad indeed.

  9. Does Grudem really lead to Copeland? as you ask. Maybe not; but his insistence upon God talking to people with fallible prophecy could certainly lead folks to no good, especially when it comes to shepherding a church.

    Which argument could also be used to reject the gift of prophesy in Biblical times (not that i have known of any verified detailed modern prophesies being fulfilled today). Unless it can be proved that allowing for these gifts results in bad fruit no matter how they are used then seeking to disallow the supernatural gifts based upon the predominance of bad fruit is as invalid as Catholics arguing against SS due to rampant divisions in Protestantism.

    The valid debate is whether Scripture teaches that these gifts would cease, which is not the case as I see it, despite the predominance of fraud, while the bad fruit is a reflection of the lack of character of those who claim such tools. Having a charism does not equate to character, and it is the latter that determines whether one will be honest in his claims, as well as how he will use the instruments God provides.

  10. PBJ writes,
    Which argument could also be used to reject the gift of prophesy in Biblical times (not that i have known of any verified detailed modern prophesies being fulfilled today).

    I have to chuckle at how you refute your on comment within your own comment. The real gift of prophecy in Scripture was never fallible, contrary to Grudem’s imaginary doctrine he sucked out of his thumb. The prophets of Scripture were prophets because, well, they actually spoke on behalf of God and could prove their authenticity to those they ministered.

    Continuing,
    Unless it can be proved that allowing for these gifts results in bad fruit no matter how they are used…

    That exactly what I am doing with these series of posts. You need to familiarize yourself with real impact continuationist doctrine has in churches and on God’s people.

    Moving along,
    The valid debate is whether Scripture teaches that these gifts would cease, which is not the case as I see it, despite the predominance of fraud, while the bad fruit is a reflection of the lack of character of those who claim such tools.

    The very fact that fraud, and only really fraud, prevails throughout all the continuationist oriented churches in the world should be pretty clear indicator that the gift’s ceasing with the real apostles is affirmed in Scripture.

    Finally,
    Having a charism does not equate to character, and it is the latter that determines whether one will be honest in his claims, as well as how he will use the instruments God provides.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the Holy Spirit empowers individuals who will use spiritual gifts in a way contrary to what God intended them to be used?

  11. I have to chuckle at how you refute your on comment within your own comment. The real gift of prophecy in Scripture was never fallible, contrary to Grudem’s imaginary doctrine he sucked out of his thumb.

    You are correct, as in my fatigue I assumed the argument was that since there were fallible/false prophecies made then it invalidates all prophecy, which would be an invalid argument. I myself have contended against those who attempt to justify failure in prophecy based upon the premise that failed prophecies were made by men of God, and am grieved by ease in which “thus saith the Lord, “O my people..” is invoked by wannbe prophets today.

    That exactly what I am doing with these series of posts. You need to familiarize yourself with real impact continuationist doctrine has in churches and on God’s people.

    I am quite aware of such and contend against the likes of Hinn, and am one who can feel more comfortable in a cessationist church, but as a doctrinally minded person (by the grace of God) I find the arguments against continuationism weak, and believe the genuine article is needed as much as they ever were, It may also be of some weight that unless lower hernias (chastisement) heal themselves, I have realized definite healing after the intercession of others.

    The very fact that fraud, and only really fraud, prevails throughout all the continuationist oriented churches in the world should be pretty clear indicator that the gift’s ceasing with the real apostles is affirmed in Scripture.

    The key word in your polemic is “prevails” and which does not mean that only fraud exists, which is what you need to be able to say, and looking at church history one could argue that since only falsity and corruption prevailed at times then God had abandoned his church.

    Cardinal Bellarmine: “Some years before the rise of the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresy, according to the testimony of those who were then alive, there was almost an entire abandonment of equity in ecclesiastical judgments; in morals, no discipline; in sacred literature, no erudition; in divine things, no reverence; religion was almost extinct. – “A History of the Articles of Religion,” by Charles Hardwick, Cp. 1, p. 10

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: The Church no longer offered certainty of salvation; she had become questionable in her whole objective form–the true Church, the true pledge of salvation, had to be sought outside the institution. – Principles of Catholic Theology,” (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989) p.196

    The reality is that while you can say that only fraud prevails, you cannot say that there is no valid evidence of any “pentecostal” gifts being operative today, nor one can say that God does not work overtly miraculously, unless they consign the testimonies of all to be frauds.

    Finally, “Having a charism does not equate to character, and it is the latter that determines whether one will be honest in his claims, as well as how he will use the instruments God provides.” Are you seriously suggesting that the Holy Spirit empowers individuals who will use spiritual gifts in a way contrary to what God intended them to be used?

    You mean those with gifts such as administration will not use them with a wrong motive, or that only those with supernatural gifts such as of healing cannot? While the exercise of a charism can only be valid, not a fraud, yet simply having a charism does not equate to character and ensure such will be honest, as well as use gifts with the right intent.

    Still, it is those who claim a supernatural gift but who manifestly do not that abound, yet since I cannot validate nor invalidate all testimonies of the miraculous thru pentecostal gifts, then I must go by what Scripture teaches as to both their character perpetuity, which means deploring the fraud yet at least allowing for the genuine.

  12. Pingback: The Daily Discovery (April 27, 2016) - Entreating Favor

  13. Pingback: Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue [3] | hipandthigh

  14. Pingback: Articles on Cessationism, Continuationism, and Spiritual Gifts | hipandthigh

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