Why I left the charismatic movement

It is over twenty years since I distanced myself from the charismatic movement. I have often thought of writing a book to explain ‘why’. There are many reasons. One of which is the number of charismatic leaders that have fallen morally. Yes, I know that Reformed and Evangelical leaders have fallen also.   But there is this difference: charismatics claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit.   Furthermore, they claim to manifest spiritual gifts such as prophecy which can reveal what is in a person’s heart (1 Cor. 14:24,25, cf. John 4:17-19; Luke 7:39, 22:63, 64).   Why, in the many cases of moral failure in charismatic circles, did no one manifest a ‘gift’ to reveal this?  I do not necessarily mean publicly, but even privately to the person concerned.   ‘Brother, the Lord has shown me that you are committing adultery’ or ‘that you are helping yourself to the funds’.   That would really bring about reality.  This is sometimes mistakenly called a ‘word of knowledge’.   But that is a teaching gift, a ‘word’, ‘message’ or ‘sermon’ characterised by knowledge.   I once heard a minister, purporting to manifest a ‘word of knowledge’  in a congregation of ten thousand, say, ‘Someone here has got a bad kidney’!  Really!  Other reasons for separating from charismania  include the multitude of  false, foolish or banal prophecies, the downplaying of Scripture, constantly seeking miracles or gifts, etc. etc.   God can do what he wants to do, which would include giving extraordinary power to certain people for specific tasks. He can also reveal things to people in unusual ways. But the claim that these things can or should be experienced by all Christians at all times is false to both Scripture, history and experience.  Preachers need both the Word and the Holy Spirit, but you do not need to be a ‘charismatic’ to preach the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Unlike some anti-charismatics, I want to acknowledge that there are many sincere, genuine Christians in the charismatic movement.  But I believe that in many of their beliefs and practices they are mistaken.  I am using the word ‘charismatic’ in its popular sense.  Strictly speaking, all true christians are ‘charismatic’ even if only because ‘the charisma of God is eternal life’ (Rom. 6:23).

Perhaps, to balance things up, I should also say that many churches and ministers who are ‘sound’ in doctrine, orthodox in theology and scriptural in preaching, also give the appearance of being lifeless, if not dead.  To be an effective minister we need, as John Calvin put it, both prayer and study, to which we may add Luther’s ingredient, suffering.  Earnest, fervent, believing prayer is often the missing ingredient in today’s churches, not pseudo-gifts, carnal excitement or pretended revelations.  See Power Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds.

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