I have taken up explaining why I believe continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue. My previous post introduced my basic thoughts on the matter, but just a quick recap:
Contrary to what is generally agreed upon among garden variety Evangelicals and Christian denominations, I don’t believe continuationism, or charismaticism, or even Pentecostalism for that matter, is merely a quirky, but otherwise acceptable tradition of Christianity. I believe the otherworldly claims of the paranormal, coupled with the bizarre, aberrant behavior inherent with continuationism, are detrimental to core doctrines of Christianity, most significantly, the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
I think we can all agree that if there are any beliefs, doctrines, or even peculiar worship practices that claim to come directly from God via the Holy Spirit, those things are certainly essential, and can hardly be considered non-essential. They strike, as it were, at the very center of what Christians believe about God, especially the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is definitely essential.
One clarifying point is in order. As soon as we invoke the idea of “essential” vs. “non-essential” the notion of a person’s salvation comes to mind. Am I saying that if one is a continuationist, he believes false doctrine that is outside the defining bounds of the Christian faith? Put another way, can a person be a Christian and adhere to continuationist views? Why yes, I believe a person can hold to continuationist views and be saved. But that hardly means that continuationism in itself is far from being erroneous or a primary issue.
During a twitter exchange where I was fleshing out my thoughts on the matter with some detractors, a friend of mine, David Kjos, asked the question, “Must error be immediately damning to be a primary issue? If cessationism is secondary, isn’t Sola Scriptura also?”
A right thinking Christian would immediately recognize the importance of his question. If the opposite of cessationism, that being continuationism, is a secondary, non-essential doctrine that has no direct bearing on one’s saving faith, then Sola Scriptura would fall into the secondary, non-essential category as well.
But the right thinking Christian would also recognize and affirm that what is believed and taught concerning the authority of Scripture in the Church, that being Sola Scriptura, is not just a non-essential doctrine for Christians, but it is one that is primary. While one is saved if they do not believe upon Sola Scriptura, rejecting all that the doctrine entails regarding the authority of Scripture will lead to all sorts of gross error.
So too with continuationism. It is enough of a primary doctrine that the pursuit and practice of it by Christians easily leads to major theological error both in the teaching of Scripture, as well as the life of the Christian.
My attempt here is to document my claim that continuationism strikes at the heart of our doctrine of God. I am particularly concerned that the practice and behavior of continuationists can be blasphemous, attributing works to the Holy Spirit that are certainly contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture, and in some cases making the Holy Spirit out to be a liar. My last post pointed to some doctrinal compromise and I argued that the Holy Spirit will never, ever at any time, direct believers to compromise with unbelievers or those promoting a false Gospel.
With this I want to hit on a second major point,
Lies and Tall Tales. I could make this topic an ongoing series all it’s own, because tall tales of supernatural adventure are ubiquitous throughout all of continuationism.
Ever since I became aware of Pentecostals and charismatics back as a youngin’ in Missouri, I came to recognize that the speakers on the radio would tell some of the most amazingly fantastic stories of supernatural abilities and encounters. Such things as healings, visits to heaven, visits with Jesus in their bathroom, visits with angels, and extraordinary powers, like mind-reading, commanding evil spirits, or seeing into the future.
The way the testimonies were presented, such experiences should be a frequent occurrence for the average, spirit-filled believer. Every Christian should be having visits with Jesus or trips to heaven on a regular basis. I, as a young churched teen was not having such experiences, so I often wondered if God really loved me.
And those kind of stories were not relegated to the fever swamps of your typical continuationist churches like the Assemblies of God or Pentecostal denominations.
When I was in college, my Southern Baptist church had an evangelist named Sam Cathy come to lead a series of “revival meetings” for a week. Every night he would regale us with his supernatural exploits. He apparently had the ability (in Christ, of course) to command evil spirits. He could tell them to levitate furniture and force them to tell him all of their top secret plans for evil doing (in Christ, of course). He was like an evangelistic superhero rescuing wayward, demon-possessed sinners and Christians from lives of disastrous consequence.
For instance, Cathy recounted how he was counseling a young pastor struggling with sexual issues. As he talked with the man, his “devil senses” began tingling, and he immediately recognized the pastor was demon-possessed. He then commanded the demon to tell him who he was. The devil, unable to overcome the controlling powers of the evangelist, was forced to speak.
According to Cathy, an Exorcist moment began taking place as a scary voice started speaking from the man. The devil told Cathy how “they” (meaning he and his devil buddies) set up homosexual encounters for this guy with other men and their plan was to elevate him to the office of president of the SBC and then expose a homosexual scandal around him so the SBC could be brought down. Thankfully, God raised up Cathy, Jedi master evangelist, to use his spirit powers to drive the devil out of the man, thus saving his soul and delivering the SBC from future embarrassment.
This was long before Ergun Caner, but I digress.
Looking back now, I believe Cathy was a liar; he made up those stories out of thin air. At best, he seriously embellished, but that is still lying. But he is not a rare exception. Just visit Charisma News Online or the Elijah List or Sid Roth’s TV program to see what I mean. And again, those are the mainstream of continuationists. They are hardly the fringe.
Let me begin with highlighting a couple we would all acknowledge are crazy ones.
First. Back when I was reviewing Michael Brown’s book, under my review of the fourth chapter, I linked to a video of self-appointed apostolic prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, claiming that she miraculously fed a church of 3,000 people with three loaves of stale bread that were found in the church pantry. She further stated that her and her ministry were given a large sum of donation money for a service she conducted. When they took the money to the bank, what they deposited had miraculously increased in value from the amount they originally took in and counted at the church.
Watch the video below to hear her make those claims from her own mouth.
Now, I do have to point out that the video was uploaded by Rightwing Watch, the barking a the moon, crackpot lefty group. In spite of their overt bias against right wingers, the video does not appear to be altered in any way. Jacobs is telling her audience that she fed a church gathering of 3,000 people in the same way Jesus fed 5,000.
I think she has reached stratospheric levels of lying. The immediate questions I have raised in my mind, where is that church she performed the miracle? and surely, out of 3,000 folks, are there any who would come forward to verify her story?
Second. Bethel Church in Redding, California, is swiftly becoming for crazy charismatic stuff, what Roswell, NM is for UFO believers. I might add, Soul damning crazy charismatic stuff, but that’s for another post. Watch the following video and listen to Kevin Dedmon from Bethel Redding, bobbing in a Kundalini style, tell how his son and his friends walked on water and walked through walls just like Jesus,
What I find even more troubling than him recounting what I believe to be an entirely embellished story of his son and his buddies jumping in the swimming pool, is that he would actually make an entire church full of people believe it.
But Jacobs and Dedmon are the extreme, correct? The fringe. Again, those kind of tall tales and Herculean spiritual feats can be found everywhere among continuationists.
But let’s consider an example from a source closer to the more “sound and balanced” continuationists.
In an article responding to the Strange Fire conference, John Piper, recounts the following story,
“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.” [Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos]
If I may be so bold, I think that lawyer friend of Piper’s is a liar, too. If she is not a liar, she was woefully deceived by her own flights of fancy to the point she wanted to inject herself into Piper’s life and family in some fashion. It’s kind of creepy in a way. If that is the case, she should be sharply rebuked and told to keep her mouth shut.
But what is truly tragic is that for months, Piper had to bear under the emotional weight of a false prophecy. He genuinely entertained the soothsaying of this woman telling him she had a Word from God that was quietly upending his life. Even still, one has to wonder about why a pastor, considered to be a champion of the Reformed faith, would allow himself to be manipulated by such superstitious whimsy.
The problem I see with all of those tall tales and urban legends of epic spiritual adventure is two-fold.
First, what does this say about continuationism producing a theological matrix that empowers countless teachers, preachers, evangelists, and self-appointed prophets to stand in front of churches with thousands of attendees and brazenly fabricate falsehoods with impunity and no sense of guilt?
Second, what does it reveal about the countless thousands of continuationists who willing drink in their lying tales without the least bit of question? A work of the Holy Spirit is that Christians develop a sense of discernment. That can hardly be said of these individuals.
The Holy Spirit is not involved with anointing and promoting liars, and what spiritual danger is at hand with those who willfully believe the lies calling them from God?
I have one more point for next time.