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Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as healing, miracles and glossolalia, are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today. Dr. Dale A. Robbins writes in regards to charismatic beliefs that Church history argues against the idea that charismatic gifts went away shortly after the apostolic age. Dr. Robbins quotes the early church father Irenaeus (ca. 130-202) as writing the following,"...we hear many of the brethren in the church who have prophetic gifts, and who speak in tongues through the spirit, and who also bring to light the secret things of men for their benefit [word of knowledge]...". Dr. Robbins also cites Irenaues writing, "When God saw it necessary, and the church prayed and fasted much, they did miraculous things, even of bringing back the spirit to a dead man." According to Dr. Robbin, Tertullian (ca.155–230) reported similar incidents as did Origen (ca.182-251), Eusebius (ca.275–339), Firmilian (ca.232-269), and Chrysostom (ca.347-407).[1] The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charis (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

Often confused with Pentecostalism (which it was inspired by), Charismatic Christianity tends to differ in key aspects: most Charismatics reject the preeminence given by Pentecostalism to glossolalia, reject what they consider to be legalism sometimes associated with Pentecostalism, and often stay in their existing denominations such as Roman Catholic Charismatics.

Because of the continual cross-over between Pentecostalism and the modern Charismatic movement, it is increasingly difficult to speak of Charismatics and Pentecostals as being part of separate movements. Yet because neither movement is monolithic, it is also unfair to speak of them as being one movement either. The difference is primarily one of origins. Beliefs of the two groups are very similar; each movement, however, is unique in its historical beginnings. Having been conceived in unique contexts, the difference may secondarily be described in terms of contrasting church cultures evidenced through each movement's manners and customs (i.e., worship styles, preaching styles, altar ministry methods). Until a more acceptable broad nomenclature is used, it needs to be understood that both movements share a great deal in common, and yet can sometimes be clearly differentiated.



Beginnings 1950-1975

While it is difficult to locate the place and time that Charismatic Christianity began to influence the mainstream churches, Dennis Bennett, an American Episcopalian, is often cited as the movement's seminal influence. Bennett was the Rector at St Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California when he announced to the congregation in 1960 that he had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Soon after this he was ministering in Vancouver where he ran many workshops and seminars about the work of the Holy Spirit.[2] This influenced tens of thousands of Anglicans world-wide and also began a renewal movement within the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was a renewed interest in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in mainstream churches such as the Episcopal, Lutheran and Catholic churches. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal was focused in individuals like Kevin Ranaghan and his group of followers at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Dennis Bennett was Ranaghan's counterpart in the Episcopal Church.

The Charismatic Renewal movement in the Eastern Orthodox Church never exerted the influence that it did in other mainstream churches. Individual priests, such as Fr. Eusebius Stephanouof the Greek Orthodox Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, founder of the Brotherhood of St. Symeon the New Theologian, Fr. Athanasius Emmert of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Fr. Boris Zabrodsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America, founder of the Orthodox Spiritual Renewal Services and editor of "Theosis" journal, were the more prominent leaders of the Charismatic renewal in Orthodoxy.

On an international level, David du Plessis along with a host of others (including Lutheran and even Southern Baptist ministers) promoted the movement. The latter did not last long with their denominations, either volunteering to leave or being asked to do so. But in the Episcopal and Catholic churches priest and ministers were permitted to continue on in their parishes, provided they did not allow these concerns to create major divisions within their congregations.

Change 1975-2000

While there are many charismatics within established denominations, many have left or have been forced out and have joined either more progressive Pentecostal churches or formed their own churches or denominations. The house church movement in the UK and the Vineyard movement in the USA are examples of a formal Charismatic structure. The Hillsong Church in Australia is an example of a Pentecostal church that has embraced Charismatic belief and practices, which has, in turn, influenced the Australian Assemblies of God denomination. In New Zealand, the pre-eminent Pentecostal movement has been the New Life Churches, although other local and international Pentecostal denominations are also well established.

Since the mid 1980s, the Charismatic movement has made some notable changes in its theology and emphases. This process has been termed The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit and has been typified by the ministry of C. Peter Wagner, Word-faith Theology and the Toronto blessing phenomenon. Some opponents of the Charismatic movement have noted that these recent trends have been influenced heavily by the Latter Rain Movement of the 1950s within the Pentecostal churches — a movement that was officially declared heresy by The Assemblies of God at the time.

There appears to be a great deal of evidence which shows that, since 1975, the Charismatic movement has been influenced by the Latter Rain Movement and its influential teachers (such as William M. Branham). This can be explained by the desire of Charismatic Christians to enter into fellowship with those within the Christian church who have experienced similar forms of Religious ecstasy. As a result of this, Charismatics came into contact with both mainstream Pentecostalism as well as the Latter Rain Movement. It appears that modern-day Charismatics and Pentecostals are far more united in experience and theology because both movements have adopted elements of Latter Rain teachings.

Charismatics - a world perspective

As noted earlier pentecostalism and charismatic are often used interchangeably. With that in mind, according to Christianity Today, pentecostalism is "a vibrant faith among the poor; it reaches into the daily lives of believers, offering not only hope but a new way of living." [3]. In addition, according to a 1999 U.N. report, "Pentecostal churches have been the most successful at recruiting its members from the poorest of the poor." [4] Also, according to Christianity today, in Brazilian churches, where Pentecostal Christians are often very poor "Preachers constantly ask parishioners to give what seem like laughable sums of money; these people tithe 20, 30, and sometimes as much as 50 percent of their income." [5] Christianity Today also noted that Brazilian Pentecostals talk of Jesus as someone real and close to them and doing things for them including providing food and shelter. [6] In addition, according to Christianity Today, "Scholars have long branded Pentecostalism an eminently "otherworldly" religion, focused more on things above than the mundane below. To many that seems like a foregone conclusion, given the movement's emphasis on charismatic experiences, intense religiosity, and ascetic tendencies. Even highly respected Pentecostal scholars argue this point." [7]

Charismatic Denominations

The following groups are all charismatic, although some of then would describe themselves as non-denominational

Charismatic Catholics

Main article: Catholic Charismatic Renewal
While Charismatic Christians are not exclusive to any single denomination, Charismatic theology is not uniquely Protestant. There is a burgeoning Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II was reputed to have had a Charismatic Priest as his personal pastor.

Criticism of the Movement

Christians who are at odds with Charismatics (often Southern Baptists and the various Reformed denominations), sometimes use the word in a derisive manner and generally believe and teach that Charismatics are everything from shallow to dangerous — even demon possessed, although this latter charge is increasingly rare as Charismatic and Pentecostal groups become more established in the American religious landscape.

Many conservative authors have written detailed polemics against the movement. Charismatic Chaos by scholar John MacArthur is one of the better known examples of this. Similar books by dispensationalists include: Occult Invasion by controversial author and apologist Dave Hunt; One World by Ron J. Bigalke Jr.; and, Seduction of Christianity by Hunt. One of the earliest criticisms comes from B. B. Warfield's book Counterfeit Miracles, which is still considered to be one of the classic defenses of cessationism and criticisms of the revivalism that the charismatic movement is based on. Criticism comes from non-cessationists as well. For example, apologist Hank Hanegraaff's controversial book Counterfeit Revival (criticized by Charismatics and some of Hanegraaff's fellow apologists for its gross misrepresentation of the charismatic movement) is critical of many of the extremes of the movement, particularly of groups such as the Toronto Blessing and the Kansas City Prophets. (Contrary to popular belief, Hanegraaff is not a cessationist).

The term Charismaniacs is occasionally used to parody the movement. This term is also often used, especially in Calvary Chapel, to distinguish moderately charismatic churches, such as Calvary Chapel itself, from more extreme variants such as those associated with the Latter Rain and Toronto Blessing movements. In fact, the term may have been coined by Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith.

There have been many criticisms of the movement and Biblical arguments made against the movement. Some of these include:

1. There is claimed to be Scriptural support for cessationism from the following verses 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Ephesians 2:20, Hebrews 2:3-4, Acts 2:22, 2 Cor. 12:12, etc.

2. Charismatics often argue that the Bible never says that the gifts will cease. However, this is rejected as untrue by cessationists and has numerous logical problems. For example, it is an argument from silence, considered to be a logical fallacy. It can also be used "both ways" - i.e. one could just as easily reverse the argument and state that the Bible never says that the gifts will continue either.

3. Charismatics have also been accused of having extreme practices. For example, the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship has allowed controversial practices such as being "slain in the Spirit" and "holy laughter," and participants imitating animal noises such as lions while "drunk in the Spirit." Books such as Charismatic Chaos by MacArthur and particularly Counterfeit Revival by Hanegraaff document many examples of extreme practices within the charismatic movement.

4. Historically, the gifts appear to have ceased, as documented by B. B. Warfield in Counterfeit Miracles. Although charismatics argue that the gifts did continue at least into the 4th century A.D., it seems clear that, at very least, the gifts did not continue to the same quality and extent that they did in the New Testament times. Charismatics sometimes attribute this to various factors such as "corruption" in the church.

5. It has been pointed out that miracles did not occur "evenly" throughout the biblical record but are clustered around a few brief periods. This is the exact opposite of what one would expect if the charismatic position were correct. However, charismatics point out that in the Old Testament there were highs and lows of adherence of God's laws in the Old Testament.

6. The Bible clearly indicates that the sign gifts were meant to authenticate the Apostles and Jesus (Acts 2:22, 2 Cor. 12:12, Heb. 2:3-4, etc.) and that the Apostles and prophets played a unique or "foundational" role in the church (Eph. 2:20).

7. Most charismatics agree that the canon of Scripture is closed and that there are no longer apostles in the church. Cessationists point out that apostleship was listed among many of the other "charismatic gifts" in 1 Cor. 12:28-30, and charismatics themselves admit that apostles ceased. Hence, at least one gift has ceased. (Yet, this is not true. Only in the Protestant churches has apostleship ceased. The Roman Catholic Church use the claim of continual line of apostles, called "apostolic succession," through the popes, bishops, and priests, so as to give that church legitimacy). Cessations further argue that, since there cannot be any more Scripture writers, New Testiment prophecy cannot currently operate in the same manner as it did in the early church.

8. Studies have indicated that modern tongues, unlike Biblical tongues, are not meaningful, spoken languages. See Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism by William J. Samarin. However, charismatics point out that Paul talks about the "tongues of angels." Charismatics also point out that the Spirit may not cooperate with studies and perhaps the researchers missed many instances where speaking in tongues did occur in other languages outside of the researchers purview. These arguments are often dismissed by critics as an "invisible-dragon" argument (i.e. the conclusion is unfalsifiable because the arguer excludes every possible test of truth as invalid - "I have a dragon in the garage, but he's invisible..." - and fails Occam's Razor because the explanation is needlessly complicated). The argument is also criticized as factually incorrect because the research did not compare tongues to the set of known languages (i.e. the research did not compare toungues to French, German, English, etc. and conclude that it was not any of these languages) but rather examined toungues to see whether it even had any characteristics of language and concluded that it did not.

9. Arguments have been made from the doctrines such as the completeness of the canon of Scripture and Sola Scriptura (the sufficiency of Scriptures first advocated in during the Reformation). These doctrines imply that, unlike in the New Testament age, there cannot be any more additions to the Bible or anything authoritative other than Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura translates "Scripture alone") and that the Scripture is sufficient for one's spiritual life and for everyday living. Charismatic theology inherently implies that something more than Scripture is needed, which is often typical of Christian cults. Also, the fact that the canon is closed implies that the nature of prophecy has changed since the New Testament.

10. Charismatics have traditionally placed the burden of proof on cessationists. However, some cessationists argue that the burden of proof is on charismatics rather than on cessationists. This is based on many of the arguments above. For example, MacArthur made this case based on historical evidence in Charismatic Chaos.

Theologians and Scholars

See also

Further reading

(This list is by no means systematic or comprehensive)


Charismatic Chaos by Dr. John MacArthur

Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff

Corinthean Catastrophe by George E. Gardiner

Counterfeit Miracles by B. B. Warfield

Perspectives on Pentecost by Richard B. Gaffin


Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere

The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today by Wayne Grudem


Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Edited by Wayne Grudem

External links

Alternative viewpoints

fi:Karismaattinen liike sv:Karismatisk kristendom zh:靈恩派

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