The “Pentecostal” and “Charismatic” Movement
It has been said that Christianity has two great branches – Catholic and Protestant. Some are now saying that there are three branches – Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal.
Pentecostalism itself is not a denomination, but a rapidly growing religious phenomenon among all major sections of Christendom. Religious commentators are beginning to recognize it as the third force in the Christian world. Sometimes called "the Charismatic movement," it is no longer confined to the small Pentecostal groups as it once was. This activity is becoming quite widespread within the Catholic Church as well as the more conservative Protestant denominations. It can be identified by the experience of speaking in tongues (glossolalia). Interdenominational groups, like the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, are very active in spreading the "Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit." So many charismatic groups are springing up, especially in the youth generation, that this movement has been dubbed "the Jesus Revolution."
The apostle John has this word of wise counsel: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1. Following is a six point evaluation of the modern Pentecostal movement:
1. Pentecostalism Lacks the Apostolic Emphasis on the Gospel of Christ.
The New Testament accurately records the gospel that was preached by the apostles. They went everywhere proclaiming the good news of what God had done in Christ for the salvation of the human family. In the words of Paul, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 Cor. 5:19. The message of those early Christians was an exaltation of Jesus Christ. He was God, incarnate in human flesh, who kept the law of God for us. He died for our sins, rose again for our justification and forgiveness, and ascended to the right hand of God for our acceptance and restoration to the Father's favor. Christ Himself, the Representative of the human race, was set forth as the "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30) of all repentant sinners who would believe on Him as their Substitute before the bar of eternal justice.
The New Testament also shows that faith in Christ's work for us will bring about dynamic changes in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit brings peace, joy and love, as well as various gifts, to those who accept what God has done in Christ for their justification and salvation. Rough, uneducated fishermen became refined and forceful exponents of the gospel. Cruel persecutors of the followers of Jesus became ardent and loving disciples. Some of the followers of Christ were given gifts of prophecy, healing, speaking foreign languages, etc. Yet with all the spiritual power and gifts that were manifested in the lives of the apostles, they did not go around preaching, magnifying and extolling their experience in the Spirit. Said Paul, "For it is Christ Jesus as Lord whom we preach, not ourselves." 2 Cor. 4:5, Phillips. Certainly God wants to manifest His sanctifying grace in human lives, but that is not the gospel. That is the result of believing the gospel. The gospel transcends human experience. It is the record about what God has done in Christ for poor, guilty, sinful man. It is something that God did completely outside of us, but nevertheless something that He did for us; and the right believing of this brings the true experience of salvation in the individual soul.
In Pentecostalism the gospel message of our forgiveness and acceptance in Christ has been subordinated to an emphasis on the personal, subjective experience. The Holy Spirit's work in the believer is its "gospel." This inverts the whole New Testament emphasis. Instead of really glorifying Christ, it degenerates to the glorification of human experience. When people become preoccupied with what God is doing in them, they lose sight of what God has done outside of them. Whenever men try to reduce Christianity to the dimension of their own human experience, it becomes a cheap, egocentric counterfeit of apostolic Christianity.
2. The Pentecostal Movement Is Focused on Subjective Experience Rather Than on the Objective Word of God.
Genuine "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Rom. 10:17. Faith does not rest on our experience, no matter how elevating and Spirit-filled that experience might be. Our salvation rests entirely upon Christ's experience for us, just as Isaiah says, "By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many." Isa. 53:11. And the apostle Paul declares, "By the obedience of One shall many be made righteous." Rom. 5:19. It cannot be stressed too strongly that Bible faith rests upon something that was done entirely outside of us. The Word of God instructs the sinner in the knowledge of Christ's infinitely perfect character, His infinite substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, His triumphant resurrection.
This knowledge of what God has done for him creates faith in the sinner's heart. Faith rests on the certainty of that objective salvation, feeling or no feeling. If the believer feels sinful and destitute of the Spirit, he may still rest in the fact that Christ died for the ungodly. If he is filled with the Spirit and transported to the mountain top of Christian experience, he still knows that his experience cannot save him or recommend him to God.
In modern Pentecostalism the subjective experience becomes the all absorbing element of religion. In this case people cannot help but build their faith on something inward rather than on something outward. Faith comes to rest on miracles, wonders, feelings, things that the worshiper can sensibly experience. The Pentecostal will try to extol reality and substance, but he confuses the experience of a poor, finite and sinful human being with reality and substance. The truth of the matter is that the only reality and substance that a Christian possesses is what he has by faith in Jesus Christ. A Christian's treasure is in heaven. He is reckoned righteous before God only by faith in the sinless life and atoning death of Christ and shall be saved only by this hope.
The Pentecostal will say, “Seeing is believing!” But subjective experience is no criterion for truth. A true Christian must "live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God". He must not judge after the sight of his eyes or after the hearing of his ears (Isa. 11:3). He will remember that Jesus said that many would come in His name and show great signs and wonders, and if possible deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). The Bible says that in the last days Satan will work with all signs and power and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2:9). In the last judgment many will come to Christ, saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not done many wonderful works?" But Jesus will say, "Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." Matt. 7:22-23.
3. Pentecostalism is More Catholic Than Protestant
If ever humble, earnest, searching of the Word of God for light and truth were needed, it is now. By the utterances of the Bible, every experience and miracle must be tested. If we trust in our senses, we shall surely be deceived. If we trust our experience, we merit the condemnation of fools, for it is written, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." Prov. 28:26. There is a constant danger that religious enthusiasts will mistake their whims and impulses as the Holy Spirit, when in reality they are the promptings of the wayward human heart.
Anyone who understands the real principles of struggle in the sixteenth century, will appreciate that Pentecostalism is Roman Catholic in its most fundamental principles. On the other hand, it is clearly contrary to the principles of the great Protestant Reformation.
There are two aspects
of redemption: (1) God's work for us in Christ; (2) God's
work in us by the Holy Spirit. All Christians will subscribe
to these two aspects of man's salvation. The struggle of the sixteenth
century was this: Roman Catholicism taught that men could be just in the
sight of God on the basis of what God's grace did in their experience.
In other words, it based its faith and hope of salvation on Number 2.
The Reformers contended that the sole basis of salvation was God's work
already accomplished in Jesus Christ. In other words, they based their
faith and hope of salvation solely on Number 1.
Pentecostalism is doing more than anything else to bring Catholics and Protestants together. But it is not bringing Catholics over to Protestant principles. Rather, it is bringing Protestants over to Catholic principles. This is because Pentecostalism, along with Romanism, places supreme emphasis on God's work of grace in the human heart instead of God's work of grace in Jesus Christ.
It should ever be
remembered that the Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself. He comes to
glorify Christ, and will use men and women who will cooperate in that
great purpose (see John 16:13, 14).
Moreover, the Spirit teaches the believer that his Treasure is only in heaven, and that he can never look to any thing or any experience down here as the fulfillment of life. Life can only be fulfilled at the coming of Jesus to receive His own unto Himself; and the Spirit is given to stimulate their love for His appearing and to sustain their hope of His coming (Rom. 8:23-25). Meanwhile they live by faith, and remain righteous and acceptable to God only because their Substitute is wholly pleasing to Him.
4. Pentecostal Theology Degrades God Into a Popular Somebody.
In Revelation 14 an angel is represented as proclaiming "the everlasting gospel" to every nation on earth. It is important to notice that his first words are, "Fear God, and give glory to Him..." Rev. 14:7. If, as Solomon says, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then the modern Charismatic movement is the beginning of folly. This word "fear" means an attitude of reverential awe in view of the unspeakable majesty, power and holiness of God. It is an attitude born of knowing the infinite distance between the holy Creator and the sinful creature, yet at the same time knowing that that distance has been spanned by God's grace in Jesus Christ. Certainly God wants His people to be joyful in His love and mercy, but reverence is the first law of worship. The religion of the Bible does not bring God down to man, but lifts man up to God.
Pentecostalism tends to make of God a popular Somebody. Under its influence, people will shout, dance, laugh, and leap for joy, and they are encouraged to do this in the complete absence of faith, repentance, or obedience.
Furthermore, God says, "Come . . . let us reason together." Isa. 1:18. The Pentecostal emphasis on the spectacular, the novel, and emotional experience, inhibits man's highest critical faculties and makes it impossible for God to educate the mind to the right kind of thoughts about His character and work.
5. The Pentecostal Experience Lacks the New Testament Emphasis on Repentance, Faith, and Obedience.
In the realm of subjective experience the true gospel of the Bible places the primary emphasis where the New Testament places it—on repentance, faith and obedience. Jesus commanded His disciples to preach repentance and faith. Paul preached "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20: 21. Repentance means a godly sorrow for sin. The heart will never experience this unless it becomes sensible of its own moral defilement in the light of God's law.
The majesty, holiness, and justice of God must be presented to the mind of the sinner until he sees something of how offensive and damning is his state of corruption and rebellion in the sight of Infinite Purity. When the sharp arrows of conviction pierce the soul and he becomes terrified with the thought of appearing before God in his sin, then the soul is ready to hear the good news of God's saving love in Jesus Christ. The message of the cross does not lessen the sense of sin, but deepens it, for in the light of the terrible suffering of the Savior, the sinner sees how grievous sin appears in God's sight.
By the working of the Spirit upon his heart, he begins to hate sin for what it is, and longs for that purity and righteousness unto which he is powerless to attain. The Spirit not only gives him repentance toward God for breaking His law, but also faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith is not a mere opinion about the historical Jesus, but it is a trusting response of the whole life to Jesus Christ. The repentant sinner, claiming no merit of his own, comes into the presence of a holy God presenting nothing but the merits of a crucified and risen Savior, claiming nothing except that Christ stands as his Substitute.
True faith will bring forth the fruit of obedience to the whole will of God, to the whole law of God, the Ten Commandments. Faith is the seed or root of obedience because it acknowledges the lordship of Jesus Christ over the whole life. These are the primary graces imparted by the Holy Spirit: repentance, faith and obedience. The wondering crowd will be more enamored and impressed with spectacular things, like miracles and tongues. A circus is more pleasing to carnal hearts than self-renunciation, sorrow for sin, and faith that will be manifested in obedience to all the commandments of God.
6. Pentecostalism Represents Love (Agape) As an Emotional Experience.
The divine agape love of the New Testament is not a sentiment or emotion, but a heaven-born principle. Pentecostalism presents love as a rapture or feeling that is enjoyed in the believer's heart. The Bible presents love as a principle of unselfish concern for others. These two concepts are as different as night is from day.
The one who accepts the Pentecostal experience will do things because the "love" in his heart makes him feel like doing it. He may even quote Paul, who says, "The love of Christ constraineth us." The one who accepts the principle of Bible love will do things whether he feels like doing them or not. In fact, in the matter of duty, his feelings will not even be consulted. His first concern is God's glory, and he will obey Him even if it runs contrary to his own feelings and impulses. He will keep God's law at the expense of personal convenience or even life itself. He will do this because he has made Jesus first and last and best in everything. Furthermore, he will serve and seek to benefit his fellow men. He may not have a strong emotional feeling toward them. He may not like some of them. But he will love them as souls for whom Christ died.
Pentecostalism is a sensual "love" experience. Many who have participated in it testify that the experience is similar to a sexual experience. Instead of getting "high" on drugs, many are taking up the motto, "Get high on Jesus." Instead of being the work of the Holy Spirit, it is often the work of the spirits of devils who stimulate the sensual organs of the brain. Bible prophecy foretells that this phenomenon is going to grow throughout the Christian bodies until the religious world becomes "the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Rev. 18:2. Yet a remnant, armed with the Word of God, shall escape the grand delusion that will unite the Catholic and so-called Protestant worlds. This remnant is described in Revelation 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
On the Religious Front
The doctrine of transubstantiation has long been a source of friction and division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. To the Catholic, this teaching means that the bread and wine consecrated in the service of the Mass are changed in form, or “transubstantiated, “ into the very blood and flesh of Christ. The Anglican, on the other hand, has believed that these elements of the Communion service are symbols or memorial of Christ’s sacrificial offering for the sins of men.
A significant document has been released jointly by dignitaries of the two churches. It signified that a consensus of belief on the Eucharist has been reached. This document, entitled Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine, reveals that the Anglican Church has officially come over to the Catholic opinion on this teaching of Christianity.
The statement proclaims that “communion with Christ in the Eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, becomes his body and blood,”
This is another ecumenical “straw in the wind” which portends further ideological union in the future. One Church of England official commented on this accord: “[It is] the most important doctrinal pronouncement made between official representatives of the two churches since the Reformation.”