So I had a critic link me to some web forum comments he made against my posts I’ve been writing exposing the spiritual shamanism of continuationism. I wanted to offer up some responses to various, selected thoughts.
My challenger writes,
Fraud predominates in continuationism, yet Pentecostalism testifies overall being among most committed to holiness and basic doctrines and evangelicalism…
I am glad that my anonymous reviewer begrudgingly acknowledges my thesis. I can understand how awkward it can be to favor a particular theological tradition, yet have to embarrassingly admit that position is for the most part, whacked.
It’s like that one cousin who is just a “hold my beer,” fireworks and gasoline propelled dirt bike stunt away from receiving a Darwin award. “You mean that guy who almost burned his house down with the lighter fluid and the pumpkins? Yeah, he’s my cousin.” The same is with continuationists. “Oh yeah, I believe God does spectacular signs and wonders all the time. Oh, but I don’t believe Christians take trips to heaven or see gianormous angels. That’s the crazy continuationists!”
…and are more unified in basic beliefs than basically cessationist denominations, and in which liberalism and “sterility” is more likely to be the reality.
I have to wonder what basic beliefs continuationists – in the case provided, Pentecostals – are all essentially unified around? You have all sorts of stripes and flavors of Pentecostals, Assembly of God’s, and other Holiness style groups. If what is meant is that they all affirm Jesus as savior, sure, they are unified. But they are just as equally unified around the idea of the Holy Spirit manifesting unusual paranormal phenomena. Would my antagonist not agree to that? The very name PENTECOSTAL implies the adherents would believe such things.
The rampant fraud in continuationism is inexcusable, as is the liberalism and overall spiritual deadness among those who claim to be Protestant and deny the perpetuity of personal supernatural gifts…
Ah yes, the old “Protestant worship is nothing but boring, dead orthodoxy” argument. Michael Brown threw out this cliche all throughout his Authentic Fire book. He’d write how he would much rather attend a service with pew jumping, running around the building, chandelier-swinging worshipers, than a stuffy, reading from a hymnal, standing still worship service.
Sober-minded worship is hardly a sign of “dead orthodoxy.” When a church sings out hymns that tell of the glory and power of the awesome God we serve, that is true worship in my mind. The running around the building and swinging from the chandelier service is not spirit-filled, but utter flesh-driven foolishness that mocks Christ.
Missing between the extremes is an objective examination of the issue of whether personal supernatural gifts are available today, which I believe Scripture supports, but not the aberrations.
The word “supernatural” has to be defined. I, as a non-continuationist, believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course I define the concept of “supernatural” and identify spiritual gifts much differently than continuationists. For instance, I believe teachers, preachers, evangelists would be spiritual gifts to the church (Eph.4:8-12), as well as individuals who are blessed financially and are moved to give generously to God’s people (Rom.12:6-16). And certainly, eternal salvation is God’s ultimate gift (Rom.6:23).
Continuationists dismissively wave off my definition of supernatural. Those examples are the non-spectacular kind of gifts and don’t really count.
But honest question here: How exactly would the aberrations my contender notes be identified from the genuine Holy Spirit given signs and wonders gifts?
What is often the norm witnessed and observed among continuationists would never qualify as the supernatural gifts defined in the New Testament. Tongues are wild, cacophonous free for alls, so-called healings are extremely questionable, even outright lame, and the amazing urban legend like stories that often abound among the congregations are unverifiable hearsay. The same goes for stuff Keener supposedly documents in his two big volumes on miracles.
What is needed is more genuine evidences of the resurrection power of Christ, not only in the profound transformative effects of true regeneration, but in other miracles (which have strong testimonies thanks to be God), including via personal spiritual gifts.
Yes. Those two evidences would certainly help the cause of the continuationist claims of extraordinary supernatural gifts in the church. In fact, seeing that the marks of true regeneration are tragically absent in the personal character of many of the continuationist preachers that dominate the internet and “Christian” TV, I would think that would be the priority.
But as I have written elsewhere, continuationists also have a signs and wonders problem. I don’t consider neck pain, bad backs, and ankle strengthening to be rather spectacular. Restoring the scarred flesh of an Iraqi war veteran’s severely burned arms or a paraplegic’s severed spine to full functionality like Jesus and the apostles did, however, is a radically different story.
My challenger then provided a series of statistics believed to be positive for continuationists. Allow me to respond to a select few,
Only 10 percent of adults in Pentecostal churches do not identify as born-again or evangelical.http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/may/pew-evangelicals-stay-strong-us-religious-landscape-study.html
I am not entirely sure why that is important to the case of solid Pentecostals. If a person reads the linked article, he will see that the general thrust was a positive report on evangelicals in general. Evangelicals, unlike mainstream, more liberal denominations, are not hemorrhaging members, and in fact are gaining in numbers. That was an odd mention of a statistic for his argument.
73% (highest) of Pentecostal/Foursquare believers strongly affirm that Christ was sinless on earth, with Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists being tied at 33%, and the lowest being among Episcopalians with just 28%
So… what exactly? I imagine we could poll a whole lot of the same Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists, and they’d affirm the Trinity, or even the Resurrection.
What that statistic doesn’t tell us is that those same 73% of Pentecostals will also more than likely affirm the false doctrines of “sinless perfection” or “entire sanctification,” the idea that Christians can be fully sinless here on earth, and that a newly baptized believer will speak in tongues. Both of those teachings are erroneous and have messed up the lives of countless believers who have appropriated them for their lives.
Bible Reading: the highest was 75%, by those going to a Pentecostal/Foursquare church who reported they had read the Bible during the past week (besides at church), while the lowest was among Catholics at 23% – http://www.science20.com/print/972444
Again: so, what? It is one thing to read the Bible. It is entirely another thing to understand it, believe it, interpret it properly, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply the theology and doctrine to one’s life. Pentecostals may read the Bible a lot, but that doesn’t mean anything if what is found in the Bible has no profound or lasting impact on people’s lives. It is my experience that those same Pentecostals, even though they may read the Bible more than those Catholics, have about the same level of depth in understanding the Bible as those same Catholics. Simply put, there is a reason why continuationist/charismatic/Pentecostal churches are scandal plagued.
16% of the country’s white Protestant congregations are Pentecostal, compared to 65% of the Protestant churches dominated by African-Americans [black churches make up about 6% of evangelicals].
I don’t necessarily see that 65% of African-American churches are Pentecostal as a good thing. The reason I say that, and at risk of being swarmed by BLM sympathizers, is the terrible dysfunction found in the black community. Those same Pentecostal African-Americans swear allegiance to a political party that stands vehemently opposed to the holiness their Pentecostal denomination allegedly teaches. You cannot possibly claim to be a person committed to holiness and reading the Bible and remain beholden to a political party that openly advocates wicked sin like abortion, the most of which take place in African-American communities.
76% say they have experienced or witnessed a divine healing, and 70% of those from the Global South say they have witnessed the devil or evil spirits being driven out.
Okay. Let us say 76% have experienced or witnessed a divine healing and another 70% witnessed exorcisms of some sort. Going back to a few things my antagonist acknowledged, if fraud is rampant among Pentecostals, how exactly do we determine if those are fraudulent accounts or genuine? That 76% is a rather impressively large figure, but if what is being affirmed is that fraud is rampant among Pentecostals, even my challenger would have to say that figure is a bit skewed, maybe even wildly exaggerated.
But that leads me to a larger question. Going back to the opening statement, if rampant fraud predominates continuationism, how can they be committed to holiness? The very fact that continuationist are willing to perpetrate fraud from the pulpits and believe the fraud while sitting in the pews, strikes at the heart of what it means to be holy.
If there truly was a commitment to holiness among Pentecostals, charismatics, and the wide tent of continuationism, self-appointed con artist prophets and preachers would not be prowling the earth promoting their spiritual fraud and devouring men’s souls, and the congregations would not be willingly lapping up the spiritual fraud that is fed to them.