This little booklet came to my attention at the recommendation of a friend in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) at a time when I was seeking to understand the implications of the "Charismatic renewal or Church Growth movement" at a time when I and one of my congregations were hold a trial membership with The American Association of Lutheran Churches (TAALC). We had been members for just a little over a year and were becoming increasingly uneasy by the Charismatic emphasis we were seeing and hearing in that group at the time. Much of that has since been eliminated.
At any rate, at the time, It was all pretty new to me. I tried to view the Charismatic orientation as just another "Piety Style" but something about what I was seeing became increasingly unsettling and did not square with my understandings of either Holy Scripture or the Lutheran Confessional writings. My ELS friend recommended Dr. Carter Lindberg's excellent book "The Third Reformation?". I highly recommend that book also. My friend also recommended that I write and ask for a copy of Pastor Julius V. Kimpel's little booklet "The Charismatic Movement In The Lutheran Church".
Pastor Kimpel, a Pastor of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod graciously sent me several copies of his booklet and also granted me written permission to reprint and distribute his booklet with the condition that I provide him with extra copies from time to time. When first printed the booklet received endorsement from a number of LC-MS officials . The presidents of the LC-MS Fort Wayne and St. Louis seminaries arranged for it to be handed out to all their theological students.
Truly Pastor Kimpel's little booklet was enormously helpful in giving my thoughts focus. During my first reading I kept responding with affirmatives of what I was reading for these were thoughts and conclusions which had been solidifying in my own mind as I had studied the subject. With the tendencies of modern American entertainment and emotionalistic culture confronting the church on every side in this day and age I believe that this little booklet is of great benefit in calling Lutheran Christians to the Scriptural and Confessional understandings. I reprint it here with that intent and I believe Pastor Kimpel would approve. Pastor Kimpel died not long after granting me permission to reprint and distribute copies of his work.
I am very thankful to have been in contact with him concerning this little booklet prior to his death.
The " Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA", a middle conservative Lutheran body that formed in the mid 1990's subsequently included a good bit of the information set forth by Pastor Julius V. Kimpel in an official Doctrinal Statement concernng the Holy Sirit and His Proper work. I believe their statement to be a very good one and commend it to you. The LMS-USA statement can be found on their web site at www.LMS-USA.org. I was part of the development of that statement and presented a paper on the subject that we will eventually make available on this www.ELCM. org site.
Finally a prayer of thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for enabling a Pastor Julius V. Kimpel to set forth with such clarity the various dimensions of the issue as well as the clear Confessional Lutheran response. May the reading of Pastor Kimpel's words be a challenge to each reader and may it also be a calling to the Lutheran Biblical and Confessional understanding and witness.
Pastor Roy A. Steward, ELCM President
The life and the faith of many of our Lutheran people have been significantly affected by a recent development among us, the "charismatic movement." Often referred to as "neo-Pentecostalism," it is the doctrine of the Pentecostal church bodies which has leaped over denominational lines during the last quarter of a century or so and permeated all of the mainline churches, ours included [ Editors Note: Pr. Kimpel is referring here to LC-MS]. The name "charismatic" reflects their distinctive and strong insistence that the charismata (gifts) of the Holy Spirit are intended for the church today, as they so often put it, "just the same as at the first Pentecost."
Those who are drawn to the movement like to refer to it as a force for spiritual renewal. They see their church as lacking in life and power, needing the stimulus which they believe their movement will bring. And they go about that renewal effort with zeal. Others of our people [LC-MS Lutherans] not drawn to the movement but faced with what seems to be a foreign intrusion into their church, are taken aback by it and react against it. It is upsetting to them, and when the movement meets their unmoveableness, there is disturbance and division.
So our people [ LC-MS as well as other Confessional Lutherans] need good answers to some real questions.
We Lutherans believe in the Holy Spirit!
Dr. Martin Luther, in his <Large Catechism>, speaks of the importance of the Holy Ghost and His work: 'For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not be buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves." (Triglot Concordia, The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; St. Louis, Mo., Concordia Publishing House, 1921).
This is precious doctrine to Lutherans. It is part of their official statement of belief in the Lutheran Confessions, to which our pastors are committed in their ordination vow, and which our congregations everywhere make their own in their local constitutions. It is doctrine which they consider inviolate, so that anything which does any hurt to this (or any other) article must not find hospitality in our churches.
That being the case, it is certainly in order for us to give careful attention to what the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions teach concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. And that need not be a dreary exercise - not if we understand what doctrine really is: divine truth, exciting answers from the very Word of our Lord to mysteries too much for mere human mind and heart to know without His enabling.
You will know that you are talking with charismatic, or that charismatic influences are at work in your congregations, when you hear members of the church saying things such as the following:
....that not all the treasures of God's grace are found in Word and Sacrament but must be sought in a special "experience" after being born again in Baptism.
....that our Baptism is only "water Baptism" which must be supplemented later by "Spirit Baptism," the former giving us indeed a spiritual rebirth but only starting us out while the latter brings us an upper level spirituality which makes Jesus really our Lord.
....that there is a distinction between "spirit-filled" Christians who have attained upper spiritual levels, and on the other hand, ordinary " born again" Christians, sometimes referred to as mere " nominal" Christians; or, some say, to be a really "born again" Christian one must be
"Spirit-filled," thus drawing a contrast between such elite Christians and ordinary, merely baptized Christians.
....that they have a "full Gospel," making the point that our churches don't have a complete Gospel, which should preach as essential elements not only the Cross and the Empty Tomb of Christ but also the promise that believers should expect miraculous gifts such as "tongues" and "healings."
....that they have direct revelations from God ("God spoke to me, and He said....,etc."), that God imparts His will or truth to them through visions or dreams, just as He did for the Prophets and the Apostles.
....that certain "gifts of the Spirit" are sings by which believers can know that they have faith, are in God's grace or have the Spirit, and that the lack of these - say, "tongues" and "health and healing" - are signs that they are lacking in faith and that their sanctification is incomplete.
....that, having tied their special "experience" to their lifestyle, they have successfully "claimed the promises" and found the power for "victorious living" (typically, they are carried away with exuberant and upbeat testimonies replete with vivid accounts of healing, financial reward, and the like; faces aglow, they exhort the rest of us to strive for the same);
....that the church "needs another Pentecost" to get power for renewal (they usually couple this with criticism of our formal and liturgical worship as "dead," and urge a high- decibel whoop-it-up type of service as "real worship"), and they offer a way to a new Pentecost and power;
....that there are "steps" - rules or formulae - by which Christians can really be made into the image of Christ and attain fullness of power for victorious living, and they offer how-to books and courses for that (with titles like "Seven Steps toward Spiritual Maturity," "Ten Steps Which Show you How , or Preparation for the Spirit's Baptism," etc.).
These are typical "Charis-speak." By these you will know them.
Lutheran who are under the influence of charismatic teaching usually don't use all of this "Charis-speak". They may have reservations about some of it - it goes against the Lutheran grain, countering much of what they remember from their previous indoctrination. They may deny believing or teaching some of these charismatic doctrines even while holding to others.
Also, they may take this or that of charismatic doctrine but refuse to call themselves "charismatic." Some, while not holding to all the false views of other charismatic, nevertheless refuse to reject or condemn the aberrations of the others.
So, "I am not a charismatic," does not always mean what it seems to say. Even when there is no acceptance of the label, we must still reckon with charismatic tendencies or influences, sometimes quite pronounced.
II. The Right Questions to Ask
Some of us, when we hear charismatic give voice to convictions such as those we've just outlined, may wonder: "I can't see what's so wrong about that. What's wrong with it? What's your point?" Some of it indeed sounds good. Who can argue with sentiments like this: the church often doesn't act, nor members live, as if there were much power at work or much spirituality active; we neglect the "spiritual gifts"; we want a "full Gospel"; we should grow toward spiritual maturity? And the charismatic members come across as very zealous Christians, full of ardor to go all the way with God's Word and their commitment to our Lord and Savior. "They're such nice people! Such fine Christians!" "they're so generous, so sacrificial, in their financial support of the church." They are so faithful in church attendance."
"They have such strong faith." And what's wrong with that? Indeed, would that many of the rest of us who are lackadaisical and lukewarm in the practice of our faith took example from them!
But is that all there is to it?
Zeal? Oh, the things that zeal, misdirected, has done!
Nice people? But haven't we all had nice neighbors, fine friends too, who were way off in their religion (or no religion, even)? Need we - do we? - approve of all they stand for just because they're "nice"?
Generous givers? But should we put a $ - sign in the stained glass above the altar and its cross?
Great church attendance? Football stadiums draw bigger crowds. So do the beaches. Does that make them true religion?
Our Lord Jesus Christ told us how to judge those who come to us as prophets: "By their fruits ye shall know them (Matt.7:20). The prophet's "fruits" include what he teaches.
A Lutheran who comes to matters of the faith in the manner of Martin Luther, will ask: WHAT DO THE SCRIPTURES SAY? So, TO THE WORD! "nice people" and "good Christians" can err, and do err. The Bible says, "The first to state his case seems right, until another comes and examines him" (Prov.18:17). The case of the charismatic too must be examined. They need our prayers. Most of all, they need the loving correction which their brothers and sisters in Christ can give them form the Lord's word of truth.
III. An Old, Old Problem in the Church
Charismatic are wont to represent their movement as a revival of ancient Christianity. That, they say, is the solution to the problem of a Spirit-less modern church. They offer us a church in which all the signs in Mark 16:17-20 are to be repeated, and church life just as in the days of the Apostles - with all its miraculous manifestations - is to be recaptured.
It was a problem in the early church.
Saint Paul, in 1 Cor. 12-14, deals with a matter which had become a real concern to members of the congregation at Corinth: Who, or what, is truly spiritual? He begins by reminding them of their previous heathen religion: "You know how...you were carried away to these dumb idols, even as ye were led" (12.2). "Swept away," literally, "as you felt yourselves moved." Or: "seized by some power which drove you." Were the Corinthian Christians truly spiritual because they had a sense of being overpowered and carried away by spiritual forces? He effectively scotches, at the very outset of his discussion, their claim that their ecstatic seizures (in which they spoke in tongues) indicated a superior spirituality. Why, you had those seizures when you were heathen, he pointedly says.
Frederick Dale Bruner, a Presbyterian missionary in the Philippine Islands, and a very competent student of Scripture, writes: "It is important to note that Paul places this valuation of the spiritually 'sweeping' at the very outset of his treatment of 'spiritual things' in Corinth. As the superstructure to his essay in chapters twelve to fourteen Paul has written: Seizure is not necessarily Christian or para-mountly spiritual." And he adds this observation which we offer for careful consideration by our charismatic friends: "The relevance to Pentecostalism does not need to be stressed." ('A Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 286-7; William B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1976. used by permission.)
Martin Luther, whose Reformation was a conservative movement, found his work made difficult by that same fanatic trendiness. He was opposed by radicals such as the "Enthusiasts" (we might call them subjectivists, or people who were led more by their feelings than by the Word) and the "Heavenly Prophets," who claimed direct revelations from God.
Their idea of reformation was revolutionary change, a firestorm fueled by their fanaticism. Luther believed that this wild left-wing radicalism was a worse danger to Christianity than corrupt Catholicism. While modern charismatic usually disclaim any kinship with these fanatics the likeness is there for us to see - the subjectivism, the being "swept away" which Saint Paul decried. Lutherans, as did Luther, feel comfortable only with the objective certainties of The Word! Subjectivism, on the other hand, is distressing to Lutherans (and many other Christians), who see the preoccupation with 'experience' as a detriment to simple faith in the objective facts of what Christ has done for us.
The charismatic movement, we believe the Scriptures and the record will show, is not a modern-day solution to an old problem, but rather an old, old problem revisited upon the church.
There is a momentum in ideas. History tends to repeat itself. If this problem is not to disrupt the church - if the "fruits" of these teachers are not to be green persimmons in the mouth of the church -, we need to carefully examine the claims and assumptions of the charismatic movement. This we shall do in the following pages.
IV. What about those Claims and Assumptions?
Our charismatic friends like to take us on a guided tour of Saint Mark 16:17-20 and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. In the Mark passage we are asked to stop for a visit with Jesus as He sat at table with the eleven disciples and gave them The Great Commission, promising them certain miraculous signs which would follow those who believed. In Acts we are given four stop-overs to linger especially over: chapters 2, 8, 10, and 19, where we have examples of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - tongues of fire, the sound of rushing wind, and speaking in tongues on Pentecost, and speaking in tongues on some of the other occasions. Here, we are told, is a pattern for the church of later ages. The lesson, they say, is that we should seek these gifts now.
1. The Signs of Mark 16:17-20. Signs of What?
Here "sings" are promised to those who believed: new tongues, healing, power to cast out demons, and immunity to poisons and snake-bite. To the charismatic this means that these gifts which God once gave are irrevocable and constant, the guarantee of that being the Christ Who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb.13:8). These gifts, it is claimed, are to be a way of life in the church also today, signs of the reality of a person's faith and of a true spiritual experience making a person fully pleasing to God.
Is that so?
Let's ask the charismatic some questions. Assuming for a moment (just assuming: we don't for a moment concede) that the signs then promised are constant, meant to be repeated today "just as in the days of the Apostles," as many charismatic put it:
If these sings are evidences of faith, why don't you give equal attention to all these signs? Tongues - of that you make much. And healings. But what about the others? Specifically -
You don't take a strychnine-break when others take a coffee-break (we pray you never do!).
But why not?
You're not in the snake-handlers cult? Why not?
Your spouse is seriously ill. Do you go to a physician?
And why this pick -and-choose treatment of Holy Scripture?
You could answer, of course, that such miracles could, and can, happen in each of those cases if - IF in God's will and providence, it is necessary, say, in an emergency situation.
Right! We who believe in the greatest miracles - Creation, the Incarnation of the Son of God, our Savior's atoning death and the Resurrection, and the power of God in Word and Sacrament - we certainly believe that He could do these lesser miracles. It would be a small matter for Him to relieve us of the ordinary necessity of using medicines, and He could excuse us from prudence in the handling of serpents and poisons.
But God doesn't do it that way.
Certainly not because we don't have enough faith. Our Lord says that even a little faith - "faith as a grain of mustard seed" - can do such things, even move mountains (Matt.17:20).
It's a matter of God's Will and providence. If - IF and WHEN - He wills. When the purposes of God must be served but ordinary earthly and human resources are not equal to the occasion. He uses extraordinary means.
Consider what our Lord Jesus Christ said about the Holy Spirit. Comparing the Spirit to the wind, He said: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). God's Spirit, the "Holy Wind" (the Greek pneuma can be translated wind, breath, or spirit) blows when and where He pleases into the hearts and lives of people. A windmill does not tell the wind when or how strongly or in what direction to blow; the windmill waits until the wind comes, then is turned. So it is with us. The Holy Spirit is not to be manipulated by us; it is not for us to tell Him how to operated. God is not our servant. He is not subject to our faith; our faith is subject to His will.
Consider what Jesus said (Mark 16:20) about the purpose of those signs: "confirming the Word" and showing that "the Lord (was) working with them." The miraculous gifts were not signs of something about us, but about the Gospel. They were verifications of the Word. But even then not promiscuously and like a common thing, but in given cases , as the Spirit of God saw fit. And when sufficient verification had been thus given, then recorded in Holy Scriptures to stand today and for all time as credentials of the Gospel, just as if they had been wrought before our very eyes, why are further signs needed?
To call for ever more signs shows that a person does not regard the original signs as good enough! Not only does God not want Himself and the signs He has given us treated so disrespectfully, but what good would it do to indulge such mistaken hankering for endless repetitions of His signs? "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets (Holy Scripture) neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31). In fact, Jesus refused to give signs when people demanded them instead of trusting His words, calling them "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matt.12:39). The only sign given them, Jesus said, would be "the sign of the Prophet Jonah" (v.39), that is, His Resurrection. That greatest of all signs is enough! That our Savior even went beyond that and promised the signs of Mark 15:17-20 is amazing grace, but not a ground for misguided faith to expect constant further verifications - something which is not promised in this passage.
On this point Lutheran charismatic have little in common with Martin Luther. On the meaning of the Mark passage the Great Reformer wrote:
"The Holy Spirit is sent forth in two ways. In the primitive church He was sent forth in a manifest and visible form. Thus He descended upon Christ at the Jordan in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), and upon the apostles and other believers in the form of fire (Acts 2:3). This was the first sending forth of the Holy Spirit; it was necessary in the primitive church, which had to be established with visible signs on account of the unbelievers, as Paul testifies in I Cor. 14:22: 'Tongues are for a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers.' But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue." (Quoted in Warren Lewis, Witnesses to the Holy Spirit [ Valley Forge, Pa., 1978] p. 173. Also in Vinson Synan, In the Latter Days [Servant Publications, 1984, Ann Arbor, MI.], p.29, 30. Used by permission.)
2. The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
Look at Acts 1:8, where our Savior promised the power of the Holy Spirit to enable His church to be witnesses to Him "in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth."Pentecost, the fulfillment of that promise, took place at Jerusalem. However, lest believers there suppose that others - the Samaritans, whom Jews generally despised, and the Gentiles - were not to have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a repetition of the Pentecost miracle (at least with the visible sign of speaking in tongues) was provided, to emphasize that the church is one, whatever our nationality, race, or class.
Clearly, as Prof. Kurt Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) points out, these miraculous manifestations were meant as an accreditation of "the divine institution of the Apostles and Prophets" (that is, Scripture) as the foundation of the church (Eph.2:20). "It is wrong," he writes, "to simply assume that the same thing that applied to Peter and Paul applies also to us. They were Apostles. They were part of the foundation of the Church. We are not." ("What Does Baptism Mean for Daily Living?" [Kurt Marquart], in The Lutheran (Australia) and The Christian News, 1/7/85, p.15,16. Used by permission.) There is nothing in these texts to give us any right to assume that everyone may expect miraculous gifts!
Does Acts 19:1-6 teach, as charismatic claim, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Baptism - a "second Baptism" or "Spirit Baptism," in distinction from "water Baptism"? It tells us that certain believers at Ephesus who had received the baptism of John (a valid Baptism of repentance and remission of sins, but only a provisional and temporary rite) now received Christian Baptism and its gift of the Holy Spirit. "They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them and they spake with tongues, and prophesied" (V.5,6). The meaning is simply that in Christian Baptism there is a completeness which John's baptism did not have, that is, that in it comes the Holy Spirit. Paul, after explaining to the Ephesian disciples that Christian faith is "in Jesus," and that therefore Christian Baptism is into Jesus and not into John, baptized them "in the name of the Lord Jesus" with the "laying on of hands," and so they received the Holy Spirit. Note that this passage in no way presents the granting of the Holy Spirit as an independent rite, separated from Baptism. The laying on of hands with prayer, was (and still is) and integral part of the baptismal service, in which and by which God's Holy Spirit and our salvation are bestowed. This is why our Baptism is what it is, a Means of Grace!
To remove the reception of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to a time after Baptism removes part of our Baptism, and is not to be accepted. To be baptized in Christ is to be in the Spirit.
That the Ephesian believers spoke in tongues is interesting. But nothing more. Certainly not a prescription for the church today.
V. The Special Emphasis on Tongues
Charismatic are often popularly referred to as "Tongues Talkers" because of the special prominence given to this part of their teaching and ways of worship. Tongues, of course, were part of the first Pentecost, and charismatic make a big point of the necessity of repeating Pentecost in full measure.
1. The Tongues Test
Have you ever heard charismatic refer to speaking in tongues as a test of a Christian's level of faith? It is quite common for them to refer to their "tongues gift" as a verification of an upper level of spirituality.
Some Lutheran charismatic deny that they in any way consider themselves to have a "more complete faith" than non-charismatic because of the "tongues gift." Quite properly they condemn such a test as spiritual arrogance and self-righteousness. Other Lutheran charismatic, however, do cite the tongues capability as a test of upper level spirituality and even of valid ministry. Consider: "Could it be that 'tongues' is God's latter-day way of 'testing the spirits' as to a true or false surrender to His Lordship?....In any case, we know that the baptism-in-the-Holy-Spirit helps to reveal who has a valid ministry and who does not." (Lutheran Charismatic Tract #3, "What's Your Gift?" [Charislife, Box 12201, Portland, Ore., 97212]. Used by permission.) Whether or not our charismatic friend makes such claims for himself, his emphasis on tongues makes it difficult for the rest of us not to get the distinct impression that we, as well as our church and the Gospel we preach, do not fully measure up.
Even when the charismatic admits his own lack of the "tongues gift" (like, "I have had an experience, but I haven't spoken in tongues yet"), it's a left-handed way of saying that with him "tongues" is the touchstone of superior spirituality.
However, when charismatic make these gifts into signs of more complete faith or spirituality, they are reading into texts such as Mark 16 something which just isn't there! The gifts are signs, as we pointed out in the preceding section, "confirming the Word"; not a word about the individual Christian's faith or piety.
And why pick tongues as the preeminent sign of superior Christianity? Even if Mark 16 is taken as a pattern for the present, must not one or two poison immunities also be employed as evidences of the Spirit?
2. Are the Tongues of The Bible the Tongues of the Charismatic?
What, really, is this "speaking in tongues"?
We mentioned before the predilection of charismatic to use the Book of Acts (particularly chapters 2, 8, 10, 19) to make their case. However, Acts 2, the story of Pentecost, is decisive on the point that the "tongues" in which the Apostles spoke were living foreign languages, languages of that day but not previously learned by the Apostles, languages which were perfectly understood by the hearers - "every man in his own language" (V. 6). A far cry from the so-called tongues of the modern charismatic movement, which are not a language but an ecstatic babbling made up of unknown sounds! The Biblical tongues were not ecstatic speech and modern ecstatic speech is not Biblical tongues. Among all charismatic who claim to have received the gifts of tongues instantaneously there is not one case on record where such persons have gone to a foreign mission field to work among the natives without having had to attend language schools!
To refer to I Cor. 14:2, in which the King James Version has the words "unknown tongue," is no help for the charismatic argument, for the word "unknown" is not in the Greek original, having been added in the KJ translation (its absence in the original usually indicated by its being rendered in italics). Nor is "tongues of angels" (I Cor. 13:1) helpful, for the Apostle is speaking of a condition of unreality: were I to know every human language (which he did not), it is as nothing compared to the preeminent fruit of the Spirit, LOVE. By the way, compare that estimate of "tongues" to the extravagant emphasis on that gift by the charismatic: they make it preeminent; he puts it far down the list! And for them to refer, as they do, to "heavenly tongues" is pure invention, an extension of their misunderstanding of I Cor. 13:1. Nowhere does Scripture use that term.
3. Other Possibilities
Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod at the time this paper was written, has offered other possible explanations of the modern "tongues": "In dealing with such a phenomenon we must always reckon with the possibility of delusion, psychological or emotional instability, or even diabolic deception." ( The Lutheran Witness [5 14 63]: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 63118. Used by permission).
Those who shrink from explaining "tongues" in terms of the diabolic should nevertheless consider the purely human factor. Like emotion - even ecstatic conditions - which may be worked up during a warm-up period of a church service by a rousing hymn-sing and insistent, importunate praying, or may be self-induced.
It is a prescription for mass hysteria when the charismatic preachers and writers depict people striving for and earnestly seeking this gift, wrestling with God in prayer until they finally receive it and feel a happiness, an "experience," they had never before imagined possible.
When their teachers have such an obsession with speaking in tongues, making their hearers feel that every Christian should strive for this gift, is it any wonder that people get swept away with a like obsession?
A charismatic in the Kansas City area, evidently departed from former ways, has said that the "unknown tongues" phenomena can be easily self-inflicted. He says you have only to open your mouth and set your tongue in motion, not thinking or caring what sounds come forth, and this will be "the Holy Spirit's new language." Self-delusion, indeed! Who is to tell, lacking dependable interpretation, if the words be from God's Spirit or from within man?
Aye, there's the problem! A professor at one of our seminaries went with one of his students to a charismatic gathering, and while there he "spoke in tongues." The hearers appropriately marvelled, but on the way home, the professor asked his student "Do you know what I spoke?
The Twenty-Third Psalm, in Hebrew." Similarly, a student of Hebrew in Dallas went to a "tongues" service and spoke the Twenty Third Psalm in Hebrew. An official "interpreter" of the church then "interpreted," saying that what had been said in this unknown tongue was a revelation about a certain scandal in the congregation! Revelation?!! And we Lutherans say that we have a sufficient revelation for all matters of faith and life in you-know-where - Holy Scriptures. Far better than gibberish.
A respected acquaintance of mine, a former charismatic, writes: "I have spoken in tongues, and will gladly testify that it does not edify. Reminds me rather of the chatter of a toddler who can not yet form words and sentences so as to be understood. The Psalms of David are much better!"
What about the possibility even of what Dr. Bohlmann calls "diabolic deception"? Direct communication with the spirit world is claimed by the 'New Age Movement," a Luciferic or Satanist cult. Or what shall we say about those demented souls who approached me, a visiting minister, on tow different occasions in asylums, recognized me immediately as a clergyman (in one case I wore no clergy collar), then proceeded to "show me that they could speak in tongues" but interspersing that with curses upon me and my Lord Jesus Christ?
Tongues a verification of piety? Or evidence of the Holy Spirit in us? Consider these other possibilities.
VI. Miraculous Healings as an Entitlement?
"Claim the promises!" Every Christian should, of course. But what are the promises? Are they entitlements? And what is it to "claim" them?
1. What Saith the Word?
The basic considerations which apply to speaking in tongues also apply to the healing gifts. It is easy to quote Scripture passages which promise healing. God can indeed heal, and He does heal. Let no one shorten the hand of God in this matter! It is the Lord "Who healeth all thy diseases," (Psalm 103:3). However, God makes no blanket promises to heal everyone who desires it - not even us who believe in Him, as if we may ask whatever a capricious will desires. God, Saint Paul emphasizes, "worketh all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph.1:11). And our will is not always His will, as that same Saint Paul was told when he prayed for healing of an infirmity which he called "a messenger of Satan to buffet me," and "a thorn in the flesh" (II Cor. 12:7). The Apostle also advised the young preacher Timothy to use a medical remedy (I Tim. 5:23), indicating that we can see the Lord's hand in ordinary, everyday means and instruments such as medicine and herb, doctor and nurse, hospital and clinic.
Exuberant charismatic, swept away by their religious experience, will tell you stories of "miraculous healings" - not, however, the miracles which all Christians see in everything around them, but "miracles" in which they have by-passed the ordinary means of God's healing processes with us and asked God to deal with them by signs and wonders.
Putting aside what has been pointed out by others concerning psychological healing of psychosomatic ills and acknowledging that the Lord does indeed often heal even when a Christian's prayers are deficient or even improper (God be praised for that mercy!), we must point out some fundamentally wrong aspects of charismatic teaching about healings.
It is presumptuous, and patently untrue, when a charismatic tells us, "God wants you well. Just have faith, and you will be well." or, "If you are not healed, it's because you don't have enough faith." Or, "If you have faith - faith as a grain of mustard seed -, healing is always available; there is no limit to what God will do for you."
God did not give Saint Paul healing of that "thorn in the flesh." He gave him grace to bear what God's will permitted to go on. And the Apostle did not tell young Timothy to just exercise more faith in order to be well; not a word of it! God is not our servant. God is not subject to our faith; our faith is subject to His will!
Hasn't the believer in "faith healing" ever read the Book of Job? It was not due to any lack of faith on Job's part that he suffered; he was a man of great faith. It was not sinfulness which brought him illness; it was his righteousness! (Read Chap. 2:1-6). It is not lack of faith, either, which is the reason we are sometimes unwell. And it is not faith, but lack of faith - in fact, it is willful imperiousness - which moves people to disobey the Scriptures' instructions (James 5:14) to "pray" AND "anoint with oil," that is use means which God has provided.
Infirmity goes with humanity. "Sorrow...thorns and thistles...sweat...all the days of thy life...unto dust shalt thou return" - those are the Lord's own words to us (Gen 3:17-19). For anyone, clergy or laity, to make long prayers for the sick, which do not utterly defer to God's will but are rather admonitions to the sick to "just have faith" and "claim the promises," and to put into their minds an anti-medical bias is irresponsible ministry and mishandling of God's Word of truth.
If the claims of these healers were true, need any believer wear glasses? Or die? Have you ever heard of a miraculous cure for an amputation? Or of a major birth defect? Or of spontaneous regeneration of a nervous system which has disintegrated?
2. The Effect on a Believer's Spiritual Life
Consider the effect on the faith of a susceptible believer when promises of unlimited answer to prayer are made - and not fulfilled:
Paul Brand, Head of Rehabilitation at the U.S. Public Health Service leprosy hospital at Carville, La., describes the experience of disillusioned believers:
"God neither protects Christians with a shield of faith nor provides a quick, dependable solution to all suffering...Many Christians have prayed for healing,...felt a sudden rash of hope...yet still they live unhealed. For them, divine healing is the cruelest joke of all. At the precise moment they most need support from the church they receive instead a taunting accusation that in spiritual as well as physical help they do not measure up." ("A Surgeon's View of Divine Healing," in Christianity Today, 11/25/83, by Phillip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand.
Copyright by Christianity Today, 1983. Used by Permission.)
He also writes, "In my own observations, and undue emphasis on divine healing causes far more sorrow than joy."
A graphic description of the distress suffered in the souls of many by hopes offered but not fulfilled was received by the writer of this paper in a letter which was a response to something I had written for publication:
"My wife and I were members of (N, name of congregation), and saw what you wrote of take place before our eyes...I will be specific with you. We saw the faith of many cruelly tested..."
"Mr. (N) was a member of (N). Somehow the word got around that if people believed and had faith, he would not die. So they prayed with faith, thanked God for His promises, had prayer meetings, prayer chains, etc., etc. Then (N) died...You should have seen the sad faces.
"Then there was a paraplegic, (N), who was assured by the Pastor that God would heal him perfectly. It didn't happen; in fact, he suffered a relapse and is still paralyzed from the neck down. Again, the assurance had been given that he would be well.
"The net result of these false and misleading presentations was a lessening of faith on the part of many, and a sore misunderstanding of Christian teaching and doctrine. You are certainly correct about the cruel disappointment suffered because of the false teaching that God is subject to our demands, rather than the other way around."
It sounds good, all the talk about "great faith" and "claiming the promises." However, it is irresponsible ministry which promises more than God Himself promises or gives, but delivers disappointment instead, and then, covering its own failure, lays the blame on the tortured soul of the believer with the accusation that his faith isn't great enough. Not "great enough"? Do we forget what Jesus said about faith as little "as a grain of mustard seed" and how much it can do? It's not the greatness of our faith which does wonders; it's the greatness of Him in Whom; even little faith can trust.
Moreover, it is culpable ignorance to teach - or believe - that large areas of life, such as the wonders of medicine, can be separated from God's sovereign control, as if He were to heal only by signs and wonders. ALL THINGS come from His Fatherly hand. Faith must see that. Faith must see God's goodness in the bounties of nature from which come the materia medica. Faith owes God this respect, that we use means He has provided.
Worse yet, it is not faith, really, that prompts a person to "claim" healings (or anything else) as entitlements from God. No matter that a person calls it "faith which can move mountains," it is incredible effrontery, and faith only in the sense of what we could call "IMPERIAL faith." But isn't faith just placing ourselves utterly in God's hand, with empty hands waiting and willing for what He wills to give? DO WE HAVE ENTITLEMENTS?
VII. All Aglow with their Victorious Lifestyle
"This life is so great!" Charismatic, tying their religious experience to lifestyle, typically have upbeat stories of "victorious living," replete with accounts of personal triumph over adversity, of healings, and even of financial reward. They fairly glow with the affirming faith with which they "claim the promises." And they confidently advertise their prescriptions, or "steps," how to get "power for living."
We admire people who are so upbeat. We envy them for their optimism. We see the glow which seems so typical of charismatic, and we wonder if "maybe they have something there."
Such happiness - what can be wrong there?
1. A Realistic View of Life?
First, is that the picture of the Christian life which The Bible shows us? Indeed, Holy Scripture assures us that we have "overcome the wicked one," (I John 2:13,14), and it offers "overcomers" eternal compensations for their troubles here (Rev.2:7,11;21:7). Final victory, yes! Victories here and now, yes. But incessant glow? Holy Scripture presents a realistic picture which is struggle and pain, sickness, failures and frustrations (Gen. 3:17-19 again!).
It's a long sometimes dull, often tiring, difficult march through the wilderness to our heavenly home and final victory. We, as much as Saint Paul, shall have our messengers of Satan to buffet us, and many a thorn in the flesh.
Can we imagine the Old Testament prophets, with their stern messages from God to an ungodly generation, faces ever aglow with optimism? Really? Elijah a faithful servant of God, labored in fearful discouragement (I Kings 19:9-18). The martyrs - they were martyrs.
The typical charismatic picture of "life in the Spirit" as power and joy and glow, promises triumphantly claimed, can be cruelly misleading to people who desperately want to be in that picture too but find life's realities to be different. The devastating effect on other Christians who are made to think that they have somehow missed out on a lot of goodies along the way is correctly described by Phillip Yancey: "The viewer whose experience is different can begin to feel distressingly inferior, as if somehow he is missing out on the magic of faith." ('The ironies and Impact of PTL," Christianity Today 9/21/79. Phillip Yancey Copyright, Christianity Today; 1979. Used by permission). The unreality of the "victorious living" syndrome can be destructive of the faith of those who are expected to profit by its example.
And it can backfire on the spiritual life of the person who persuades himself that "victorious living" is really his lifestyle. A former charismatic, speaking from disillusioned experience, writes to me concerning "those who maintain the facade of victorious life": "No one lives on the mountain top all the time. Even Jesus had to return to the valley to meet the sin and sorrow of this present age. To expect that a Christian will spend all his life in an unreal emotional condition is cruel, provokes hypocrisy, and leads to all manner of excesses in the name of devotion."
2. Backwards Theology
Secondly, this "victorious living" theology is all backwards. Frederick Dale Bruner, in a classic exposition of II Cor. 10 - 13 tells us why. We summarize:
"The Corinthian Christians had such a triumphalist view of life. They were under the influence of teachers who fancied themselves to be better Christian missionaries than Paul.
Paul, by his admitted afflictions and sufferings, as well by his lack of personal impressiveness, did not have the evidences of power which they had come to associate with authentic spirituality. To them, full of the Spirit was power; not to have power was a lack of full possession of the Spirit. So they were becoming suspicious of his apostleship. In sentences which are poignant and yet very pointed, sharp and decidedly not lacking in sarcasm (they are so "wise"; he is only a "fool"), he shows how turned-around their ideas were: everything "high" must be "brought low," all exalted sense of spiritual fullness and power must become a deep sense of spiritual need and weakness! Christian spirituality is to be under Christ; that alone is power, and all other power - i.e., power in power - is weakness." (Ibid, Pages 309-313).
What an appropriate short history of the heart-religion, the subjectivism, of higher-life charismatic theology!
Paul's answer was: Power was not something acquired beyond grace. He had learned (the "thorn in the flesh" discussion brings this out) that grace is not "mere grace," simply a first blessing to be succeeded by a second blessing of power. "Grace," the Lord told him, "is all you need" (Chap. 12:9). Paul does not speak of "five steps" (or seven, or whatever) by which he gets power; he tells us that his weakness is his power, for then he has God's grace.
The Apostle found it increasingly difficult, in this discussion, to maintain his self-control. Finally, he explodes. In chapter 11:4 he bluntly declares that this theology of the higher life taught "another Christ," "another Spirit," and "another Gospel," than what had first been brought to them. They who bring this "another" are, he declares, "false apostles" (Verse 13).
Because, while Paul preached a crucified Christ Who gave them all they need, i.e., grace, they want more (!) - a Christ Who gives them power.
Because, while Paul brought them the Spirit, making them Christians in name through Baptism, they brought the Spirit more, making Christians in the Spirit.
Because, wile Paul brought the Gospel in part (they said), they brought a full Gospel.
They are not real. Though they glowed with a luminous message, warmth of devotion, and a hot zeal of life, their large claims and their celebrated spiritual experiences were a subversion of the Christian faith!
So he puts it to them: "Are you in the faith?" (Chap. 13:5)
VIII. The Charismatic Faith and the Great SOLAS
Our charismatic friends will tell you, "We give it to you straight from the Bible! Only the Word, and all of the Word!" Fine! That's as it should be. However, when Lutherans with a nodding acquaintance with their church's doctrine hear charismatic - especially in their own midst - make claims such as have been elaborated in the preceding pages, they sense here some contradictions of the faith which has been precious to them. They face some disturbing dilemmas.
The truth is, some cardinal principles of charismatic faith are contrary to the great principles which are at the very heart of Lutheran belief, the great SOLAS. No matter how zealous and well-intentioned the charismatic are (and they are that!), they "do err, not knowing The Scriptures." (Matt. 22:29).
1. Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone!
Most charismatic try to demonstrate that their teachings are based directly upon the Word. They sound very LUtheran. But wait. They indict our church for not teaching all of the Word. Here is a typical complaint from charismatic in our midst: "Why does our church throw out part of the Bible? Why do we disregard what the Scriptures say about speaking in tongues and miracles of healing? We don't have the full Gospel."
Lutherans feel a real smart at such an indictment. The answer, of course, is the same as to the question, "Why do you beat your wife?" It is: WE DON'T!
But the fact is, charismatic who claim that our church is teaching less than the "full Gospel" say that because they - the charismatic - are adding to the Word.
Consider the following (by prominent Lutheran charismatic clergymen): "How does God come to you? He comes to your principally through His Word, The Bible. This is the channel which the Holy Spirit uses most frequently...It is a tool, to be used faithfully in your daily prayers as one means of attaining to maturity." (Larry Christensen, Speaking in Tongues [Bethany Fellowship, INC., 6820 Auto Club Road, Minn. MN 55438]. Copyright, 1981, by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission.) Again: "I believe that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, in addition to the Word and Sacraments, are to empower and equip the church for her ministry." (Rodney Lensch, My Personal Pentecost [Impact Books, 139 W. Jefferson, Kirkwood, MO 63122.] Used by permission.)
That isn't SOLA SCRIPTURA. Lutherans confess that Holy Scripture is all-sufficient, our only source and norm of doctrine. When charismatic attribute to a so-called "Baptism in the Spirit" what Lutherans attribute to the MEANS OF GRACE, when they look for revelations or upper-level experiences or power for victorious living also outside of the Means of Grace, their claim to stand on Scripture alone must be called into question.
To thus direct the thought of Christians away from the Means of Grace to special experiences is to err from the truth and to put souls in jeopardy. Well have the Lutheran Confessions declared, "Whatever is ascribed to the Holy Spirit apart from the Means of Grace is of the devil." (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VIII, 10, Triglot, 1921 [Concordia Publishing House, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63118). Used by permission)
With Lutherans let it ever be, then: SOLA SCRIPTURA!
2. Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone.
Charismatic - in our churches too - like to speak of "total submission," "total yielding," and the like. That certainly sounds laudable. Isn't it a goal every Christian should want to achieve?
But wait. In charismatic teaching this "total submission," or "total yielding," is not the goal of a Christian's striving, but the prerequisite for the "Spirit Baptism." And here a Lutheran has questions. Isn't this putting the cart before the horse? Do not submission and obedience come after the Holy Spirit fills us? How, then, can they be prerequisites?
What happened here to our great SOLA GRATIA, "By Grace Alone"?
Rodney Lensch writes: "I never felt able to measure up...I didn't feel loved of God" (Ibid). Lutheran charismatic claim that a feeling of being right with God, a certainty of having received the mercy of God, has come to them by the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them. They say that, while there is a certain receiving of the Holy Spirit by means of Word and Sacraments, this is "insufficient for fully sanctifying faith and life in the Spirit." Note" insufficient for fully satisfying status with God! If this means anything, it means that the grace which comes to us in faith and Baptism are not enough, and that something else must be added.
Pentecostals in general like to quote Acts 5:32 to buttress their idea of obedience - this "total submission," etc. - as a condition for being filled with the Spirit: "the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." However, that text reads literally: "the Holy Spirit whom God gave (past) to those who are obeying (present) Him." So the meaning is: obedience is the present result of the prior gift of the Spirit. The charismatic has the order reversed. The Spirit is not a gift which only the ecstatically able elite can attain; He fills us first, then things happen in and to us.
We become "Spirit-filled" in our Christian Baptism. Note: "By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...all were made to drink of one Spirit." (I Cor. 12:13). When we are baptized, the Spirit gives Himself fully. By the graphic picture of "drinking in" Saint Paul conveys the truth that the Spirit fills our innermost being. This filling is not, then, a separate occurrence in a later "Baptism in the Spirit" to be received only by the elite Christians.
In Titus 3:4-8 we are assured that "through the washing (Baptism) which renews and regenerates us," accomplished "in the Holy Ghost," that Holy Ghost is "shed abundantly on us." Abundantly!
In Gal. 3:26-28 Baptism is seen as "putting on Christ." All that he came to give us is put on us as beautiful new clothing, all His saving gifts. God is not parcelled out, Christ now, Spirit later. Baptism is a Means of Grace, not a part-grace.
Anything tending to glorify the believer's dedication and devout human obedience vitiates grace, emptying the Means of Grace of their benefits by crying for a greater, higher, and finally spiritual "Baptism in the Spirit." The Means of Grace give us everything. And this "everything" must be inviolably maintained. SOLA GRATIA!
Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.
The tragedy of the charismatic faith is its teaching that the mastery of sin - the "total submission" of obedience - is the condition for the "fully satisfying" status with God. Tragedy, yes. What a sad mixing of Justification and Sanctification when the latter is made to come before the first, reversing the proper order! How inconsistent for a Lutheran, who confesses a belief in Justification by Faith Alone, a doctrine which Lutheranism throughout its history has called "The Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls."
Classic Pentecostal doctrine - and you judge how and whether this accords with what you have heard from Lutheran charismatic - is to make faith just one, the last, of a number of "steps," or conditions, required of believers before they can attain to spiritual fullness. It is argued: Yes, faith in Christ receives God's gift of salvation and, in a sense, the Holy Spirit too; but there must be a second act of faith for obtaining the full Spirit and, with that, sanctification, power, and victorious life. The first faith, they say, obtains grace, forgiveness of sin, and justification, but there must be a second experience, which alone brings "life in the Spirit." The "steps" toward this, it should be noted, are held to be after not with, Baptism and "firs" faith.
These steps, be it noted, are "inner works" - variously described as preparation"... "absolute and entire surrender"..."searching and cleansing the heart"..."the removal of all conscious sin."
However, this important question must be asked: What is faith? Is it an act, a doing? Or is it a receiving? Read Romans 3:22 f., and note how faith and works are put in contrast to each other.
When faith is coupled with prior inner works which prepare a person to get God's full gift, then faith ceases to be Scripture's "faith without works." Faith cannot be one in a list of steps, or inner works, and still be "faith alone."
The charismatic formula for receiving God's full gift is not faith apart from works, but faith after works. Where is the faith-not-works of Holy Scripture? Do they not see the utter antagonism of faith and works as the means by which God's gift is received?
Luther summed up the Gospel in these few words: "Believe, and you have it!" Glaubst du, so hast du!
This is the simple teaching of the Gospel: Faith in Christ brings the fullness of the Spirit. Fullness! "Rivers of living water" (John 7:37-39).
The perversion of this simple teaching by charismatic is the mother of many miseries. If the believer is thrown upon himself to accomplish a dedication - that "total submission," that "inner cleansing," etc. - in order to receive God's fullness, or if his possession of that fullness is set in doubt, then he is of all creatures the most miserable. For the moment one adds to, "Believe," any "absolutely believe" (surrender, yield, obey), no matter how devout it is made to sound, he will feel the crushing weight of The Law and the impossible. Who can do it? Who can know his heart? The devotional absolutes of the charismatic ("yield to God at every point...go all the way with Christ") will not be Gospel comfort, but excruciating soul-pain, for they "call believers not to grace in Christ but to groveling within their own hearts to find what is not there: the absolute." (Bruner ibid, Page 252).
We simply throw ourselves upon a Christ Who has given Himself to us completely. That is, and that only is, "By Faith Alone." So be it! SOLA FIDE!
SOLUS CHRISTUS: Christ Alone.
Christ alone! A Lutheran will say, "Why, of course!" It has become heart and soul of his faith. We wonder, then, how a Lutheran (or, in fact, any Christian) could fail to see that this fundamental principle of Scripture faith can not be squared with the charismatic' doctrine, stated as follows: "As there is a faith toward Christ for salvation, so there is a faith toward the Holy Spirit for power and consecration." The argument, stated in other words, is: Born again in Christ, this only begins something which is "in the Spirit." It is a fundamental error of the charismatic to thus place faith in the Spirit beyond simple faith in Christ.
This error is not an idiosyncrasy new with charismatic.
It was a fundamental error of the teachers of the congregations at Colossae, a false doctrine against which Saint Paul thundered in his letter to them. The teachers there did not deny Christ; apparently they thought they honored Him by a fuller devotion than mere faith. But their doctrine advocated special acts or means by which a believer was to make his way to fulfillment - self-abasement, severity to the body, visions - governed by regulations and rules, aided by, heavenly powers beyond Christ. (Cf. Chap. 2:18-23). Paul, however, argues vehemently against this. In chapter 1:19-28 he points out that "in Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness" (of the Godhead), and that we have this "all" by being "in Christ." He hammers home this theme: Fullness is Christ's; the believer is in Christ; therefore the believer has all the fullness." Christians ARE fulfilled! To even suggest that a believer still needed, though in Christ, some additional kind of spiritual fulfillment, was heresy.
Similarly, the churches in Galatia were troubled by "Judaizers." They too demanded evidences of Christianity beyond confession of faith, particularly the rite of circumcision - much in the manner of charismatic who urge tongues-speaking in order for the believer to be complete before God. But hear Saint Paul's answer to all such teachers of supplements to faith! In Gal. 5:2-12 he warns those who decide, on principle, that such supplements to faith are required: "Christ will profit you nothing...Christ is become of no effect for you...You have fallen from grace...He who troubles you shall bear his judgement... I would that they were even cut off who trouble you." And in Chap. 1:6-10 the Apostle denounces their doctrine of supplements to faith as "another gospel, which is not another." That is, it is not Gospel at all!
Twice the Apostle says it, repeating it for emphasis, that anyone who teaches this, though it be "an angel from heaven," is under God's curse as a teacher who is "not a servant of Christ."
No sterner words were spoken in the New Testament. They are as true now as they were then. As long as speaking in tongues (or anything beyond faith in our Christ) is advanced as evidence of the possession of God's full gift, these same stern words must apply to the charismatic movement.
Does the charismatic insist on some manifest evidence of the reality of faith? Scripture meets that need adequately when it offers these two:
(a) The confession of faith, the spoken "Lord Jesus" (I Cor.12:3);
(b) the prayer of faith, spoken "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6).
Both confession of faith and prayer use the tongue and in both of them we express divine truth in a way that unintelligible "speaking in tongues" does not. Both of these evidences are offered in the ceremony of Baptism. These two evidences, begun in our Baptism and continued in the life of faith, with the patient love and works of love which issues from them, are not spectacular, but they are Scriptural, and they have a simplicity and normalcy which we miss in the charismatic' strident requirements.
Authentic spirituality is having Christ as the center. Christ, explaining the function of the Spirit, said, "He will bear witness to Me" (John 15:26). The Spirit is not a second Savior. He does not supplement Christ; He represents Christ to us. He is Christ messenger, the "Comforter" who brings us to Christ. Christ is our only source of Christian life and power. To seek another, even in the divine Person of the Spirit, is to separate the Christian from his source.
Summing up: Faith is to give the honor for the whole work of salvation, from beginning to end, to Christ! SOLUS CHRISTUS! Christ alone!
IX. What Does the Charismatic Movement Do for the LIfe and Work of our Church?
Charismatic are wont to recommend their movement as a force for "renewal" in the church. "Spiritual renewal" is the term often used. The argument goes something like this: The church had real power at first, right after the Pentecost experience. It was a time of tremendous missionary expansion. Then - centuries of stagnation. But after that - live again in the church, for a while at least, when the Spirit of God moved mightily in the Reformation.
And after that little while, another lessening of power which lasted until the Modern Missionary Movement. Now, however, a largely Spirit-less and powerless church, not alive to either its supernatural nature or its mighty mission. The answer, charismatic tell us, is in the power which their "renewal" will bring.
Hear the Rev. Larry Christensen, an ALC pastor and past president of Lutheran Charismatic Renewal Services. In a speech at the Lutheran Charismatic Conference in 1979 he said that the church is like the much-advertised "97-pound weakling," lacking power because two elements - Scripture and the power of God - have not come into a dynamic interchange. "The church is ineffectual," he said, "and nobody takes it seriously."
Without denying that we people of the church have our weaknesses and sins of omission, we have to say that these critics have a view of church history which is revisionist as well as a wrong perception of how the Lord of the church works in history.
The church's message has ever been "foolishness" to the world (I Cor. 1:18). God speaks in a "still, small voice," not strong wind nor earthquake nor fire (I Kings 19:12). The Lord of the Church knows what He is doing. He did not send His Son into the world until "the fullness of the time was come," (Gal. 4:4). When the time was right, He acted. Christ also told His Apostles, "Tarry ye here in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). "Wait" was His word in Acts 1:4. IN HIS OWN GOOD TIME God grants His blessing.
In the meanwhile we, being the mere human beings we are, are limited by our environment and the prevailing conditions of our time. Ours it is to "tarry," to "wait," for Him to do His thing (and pray Him to do so), but not to say that His Spirit is not in His church because we do not see what we want to see.
We don't need a downbeat, "Nobody takes it (the church) seriously." And if the state of the church is, humanly speaking, less than perfect, the answer is NOT charismatic renewal.
Would the "Holy Wind" (the Greek word translated Spirit is the same as for breath, or wind) - would the "Holy Wind" fill the sails of our ship to propel her more swiftly if the crew were charismatic? We doubt that. Let us tell you why.
1. What would "Tongues" Do for the Church?
In the Corinthian congregation of Saint Paul's day there were evidently some who tended to see in the very extraordinary and supernatural nature of tongues-speaking, with its abandonment of consciousness to supernatural power, a proof of the in-dwelling Spirit and, therefore, of superior spirituality. Some who had the gift used it purely for personal satisfaction ("edifies himself," I Cor. 14:4), much as a child with a new toy. They were speaking in a new-to-them language but without anyone there who could understand and tell the others what it was all about. This, the Apostle said, was "unfruitful," that is unprofitable for the church. Following up on this, he points out that when outsiders come (V. 23: "unlearned, or without faith" - people not yet Christians but interested in finding out more about this faith) and see all this confusion of Christians talking what neither they nor anyone else understand, what would they think? Paul answers his question himself, V. 23: "Will they not say that ye are mad?" Mad - that is, crazy! That would indeed be "unfruitful" - it would hurt the church. People would be repelled, not drawn to the congregation. "Prophecy," he said, would be far better - that is, sharing the Word so others would be "edified," or built up in understanding (V.4b,12,24). So he expresses, in words which could hardly be more forceful, his considered judgment of the comparative usefulness of understandable proclamation of the Word and of "tongues-speaking": "five words" of the former are better "than ten thousands words in a tongue" (V.19).
No less today. Tongues-speaking, far from being a force to build up the church, hurts it. It is a travesty that Pentecost's beautiful miracle of understanding ("We, every man in our own tongue...hear the wonderful works of God" Acts 2:8,11) should be used today by the tongue-talkers not as a vehicle of understanding but in an orgy of confusion! It is amazing that people who are commissioned to communicate the Gospel come up with the notion that God wants them to seek a mystical experience in which they utter sounds which they do not even understand. Saint Paul, the inspired Apostle of Christ, calls this injurious to the church. It interferes with the evangelism mission of the congregation.
It is a disturbing fact: Many are turned away from the Christian faith by the charismatic manifestation of it. We affirm this in the face of the charismatic movement's advertisement of its missionary successes. Unfortunately, those who are driven out cannot always, like those who come in, be counted.
Understand why Lutherans whose congregations are infiltrated by the charismatic (Pentecostal) movement are frequently heard saying, "If this church is going to be a holy roller' church, count me out"? Better by far, of course, to stay and turn away the infiltration. But some, in their weakness and sense of frustration in the face of growing inroads, just depart. The church suffers.
The charismatic movement a force for renewal? Hardly!
2. About Schismatic Tendencies.
Charismatic "renewal" is not, as the wishful thinking of the charismatic has it, a unifying movement in which all believers gird up their loins and get on with the task they have been given, all this in a power the church has not had for centuries but will now have under the banner of the charismatic.
No, the charismatic movement in our churches is not unifying. It is divisive. Always. There is what Dr. Bohlmann calls "an unfortunate schismatic tendency with the church." (Bohlmann, Ibid)
Isn't this a curious problem? The charismatic is usually a zealous Christian. Enthusiastic. And effective in certain areas of Christian life and in the work of his church. This attracts some. Why would it repel others and cause division in the church? It is not so "curious" when you consider that, as Dr. Bohlmann also writes, "Frequently a distinction arises between the haves and the have-nots, thus producing a spiritual elite which arrogates to itself a certain superiority of insight and qualification." (Bohlmann, Ibid)
"Religious egotists" is the unkind, yet easily understandable, characterization of charismatic by people who perceive them as sitting in judgment and looking down on other Christians who have not hallucinated the same "experience."
Given the all-too-common conviction of the charismatic, transparent to other people, that he has attained a higher level of spirituality in his "Baptism in the Spirit," also that he has found a "victorious" lifestyle unattained by the ordinary Christian, we can see why the charismatic movement is always a force tending to be divisive. It "must necessarily" be so, comments Bruner. (Bruner, Ibid, p. 318.)
"Necessarily"? Charismatic will usually deny this vigorously, claiming to be very humble about God's special gifts to them, denouncing all religious egotism. Nevertheless, divisiveness is built into the charismatic doctrine, say what they may. Claims of special "experiences" and upper-level spirituality denied to just ordinary Christians can understandably bring nothing but difficulty in the charismatic's relationships with others.
Lutherans, who reject such claims as unscriptural, have reason to be offended. They perceive that such claims rub out the oneness in which we are all "knit together...to all riches of the full assurance of thanksgiving...complete in Him" - that is, in Christ (Col. 2:2,10) THERE IS NO SUCH THING, IN SCRIPTURE, AS THAT DISTINCTION BETWEEN "ORDINARY" CHRISTIANS AND "SPIRIT-FILLED" CHRISTIANS! A person is either a Spirit-filled Christian or he is no Christian. Rom. 8:9: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Any distinction between what amounts to "first-class" church members and "ordinary," only-once-baptized Christians is a prescription for division.
Particularly, if those who believe that they have received a deeper "experience of renewal" form their own little groups - ecclesiola in ecclesia, or "little churches in the church," - or whatever they choose to call them - for the purpose of fostering the greater spirituality which they see in themselves, this can only be looked upon as introverted elitism. Presto, a divided church!
True, our Gospel divides people - believers from unbelievers (Matt. 10:34 f.). Definitely. But not Christian from fellow-Christian in the congregation. What divides them is "another gospel, which is not another" (Gal. 1:6). What unifies a church is the "same mind, and the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10) - mind and judgment made to be the "same" by careful attention to the GREAT SOLAS!
A few closing Thoughts:
Many charismatic, especially those in our Lutheran churches, will disavow and even reject some - perhaps even many - of the errors herein charged to the charismatic movement. Where that is the case, God be thanked! Our people who are attracted to the movement are generally very earnest, genuinely concerned about finding something which they feel to be mission in their own spiritual life, often also intrigued by possibilities of the movement for "church renewal" in what they call their "dead" church. They pick up an idea here, another there, from the wide range of charismatic teaching. So charismatic differ among themselves. But if in a given case the errors be few, remember: it's an aggressive movement, and aggressive movements can grow, and we must heed the warning of the inspired Apostle: "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (I Cor. 5:6).
All of us, clergy and laity, have rights and obligations in this matter. Study, and be informed on the matters involved. Seek the counsel of those who are theologically competent. Why not ask your pastor to lead a study of these matters in Bible class or some special study group?
We have competent lay people too who can lead in such studies. Study materials? This folder can be used as such, and additional copies can be secured through the writer, who is also preparing some study outlines based on the folder.
Let's pray that our people learn not to hanker after the spectacular in worship and life - like "tongues" and "miracles" - as evidences of a superior spirituality, but that they be content with what they Scriptures say is "the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). This may seem prosaic and ordinary, unexciting and commonplace, to those who are inclined to measure life in the church according to the decibel level. But it is Holy Scripture and the truth of that Word of God which will free us from exotic hankering and misplaced priorities. Our choice has to be Emotional fads or the objective truth of the Word of our Lord?
Rev. Julius V. Kimpel
"THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH"
For Bible Class
by Rev. Julius V. Kimpel
These Discussion guides are intended to accompany the use of my booklet, "The Charismatic Movement in the Lutheran Church." Each group of questions is based on a corresponding section under the same title in the booklet.
We have purposely avoided an approach which pleads the history and traditions of our church, as well as one which simply asks, "What do you think?" Such considerations have their place, but they are not our Lutheran way. As Lutherans, teachers and students, we say TO THE WORD! "It is written!" The motto of the great reformer, echoing a few thousand statements of the Scripture itself, is our way. Our thoughts, our feelings, our experiences -- and certainly not our offhand impressions, and biases based on misinformation and lack of information -- must not govern the response of a Lutheran. "Thus saith the Lord!--that should be the Lutheran's way of resolving points of doctrine, and it is that approach which will be used in this discussion guide.
The more so since charismatic quite commonly dismiss the content of writings such as my booklet as mere traditions and human formulations (that's a common perception of what "doctrine" is) of a "dead" church. Again, we hear them refer to their teachings as perfectly acceptable options within Lutheranism, and statements of position such as my booklet sets forth (basically just restating official documents like those my church body has adopted) as "just your opinions." We only reply: Don't be misled by that! Examine for yourself what your church body and this writer are saying, and see for yourself if our doctrine is a wax nose which can be shaped to please the eye of the beholder.
May the Lord bless your study of His Word in relation to the issues raised by the invasion of foreign charismatic influences into our congregations.
Orientation, Definitions, Getting Terms Straight
[The first 4 sections of the Booklet -
The Charismatic Movement in The Lutheran Church
I. Now who are these Charismatic?
II. The right questions to ask.
III. An Old, Old Problem in the Church
Now Who are these Charismatic? The Right Questions to Ask. An old, old Problem in the Church.
1. One difficulty in dealing with charismatic penetration into a congregation [or a church body] is pin-pointing who and what charismatic are.
Which of the indications listed pages 3 and 4 [ in Section I. Now, Who Are These Charismatic?] have you noted?
There is a diversity among charismatic--you may recognize some of these indications in one charismatic, others in another. Expect self-conscious defensiveness as to this, sometimes even a vehement, "I am not a charismatic!"
Do you accept that disclaimer at face value?
What is some of the unwelcome "baggage" which the term "charismatic" carries which leads to this defensiveness?
2. "Why not let them indulge a few strange ideas if it makes them happy?" That's a question some of our people ask. Well, why not? Cf. I Cor. 5:6; 8:10; also Ecclesiastes. 10:1. (After we finish our studies, come back to this question again).
3. Dr. Bruner makes the point (Page 6, middle [middle of chapter III. An Old, Old Problem]) that the essential elements of Pentecostalism (the charismatic movement) go back a very long way and are "not necessarily Christian or paramountly spiritual."
Can you give reasons why this point is important?
How much of the attraction of the charismatic movement is due to a feeling that it offers something new and unique and exciting in an age when the old, mainline churches seem quite unexcited and blase' about their message?
4. Eph. 4:11-16 (Members of Christ's Body, the Church, are to use their gifts to build up the Body both in life and doctrine, so that our people are not blown around by every "wind of doctrine").
In light of this passage comment on --
(a) being insensitive to doctrine (doctrinal relativism);
(b) uncritically following spiritual leaders.
5. Charismatic dislike comparisons between their movement and the "Enthusiasts" of Luther's time (page 6 [Chapter III. An Old, Old Problem in the Church]).
But what Likenesses can you point out between them?
6. Re: Luther's view that the subjectivism (emphasis on feeling and great emotional experience) of the "Enthusiasts" was a greater danger to the church than corrupt Catholicism: today a similar point is made, that the charismatic movement is a greater danger than liberalism.
In what respect is this true?
Signs and Wonders
[ Chapter IV. What about those Claims and Assumptions]
What about those claims and Assumptions?
1. "Expect a miracle." Thus the TV charismatic. "Just as in Acts 2," is the prescription often heard from charismatic preachers in our churches for "renewal" of today's church. But may we, as a matter of principle, expect repetition of whatever was done in former days? Cf. Ex. 7:3-10:2---The Ten Plagues, may we expect them to happen again?
Heb. 10:18 --Should Christ be crucified now?
2. Lutheran charismatic claim that Luther was charismatic. He indeed had an intense belief in the work of the Holy Spirit, as his Explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed shows.
But it is nonsense to call such expressions of faith charismatic. Cf. The quotation from Luther on Pages 9b-10t [very end of Chapter IV. 1.]) and comment: Did Luther consider Acts 2 a pattern for the church in all ages?
3. What was the purpose of the miraculous gifts of Mk. 16? (Cf. pages 7 and 9 [Section 1. of Chapter IV "The Signs of Mark 16:17-20. Signs of What?])
Signs of What?
Signs of special levels of faith and spirituality?
Or [Signs} of the authority of the Word? ( note especially v. 20).
Wanting a confirming sign of one's faith is itself a sign of something about that person. does it show--
(a) much faith or little faith?
(b) trust in one's own doing ("tongues", etc.) and feeling, or in Christ's doing?
4. Nor are "signs and wonders" the marks of right teaching. Read Ex. 7:11, 12a; II Thessalonians 2: 9-12; Rev. 13:13; Matthew 24:24,25. Note especially: "lying wonders."
Need we feel guilty about doubting the validity of the claims of self-acclaimed miracle- workers?
What are signs by which we may know our teachers? Cf. Matthew 7:16, 20.
What is included in a prophet's (teacher's) "fruits" (I John 4:1-3)?
When tongues, prophecy, and miracles come in association with false doctrine, may we doubt their validity as signs of right faith and teaching?
5. Consider the functions of "signs and wonders" as "confirming the Word" (Mark 16:20) and the sign better than all other signs (Matthew 12:38, 39). On the other hand, "Tongues will cease" (ICor. 13:8). Note: This has to mean, the charismatic gift of "tongues" would cease, but not languages (unless we make a preposterous assumption that all human communication, as also "tongues of angels," are to be no more and that saints and angels will be mutes!).
What is the sign to which faith should look (Matthew 12)?
6. One should never "strive" for these gifts, nor "wrestle with God" for them. Cf pages 8 - 9 [Section 1. of Chapter IV.]
Are these gifts received, or are they achieved?
What is the difference between the two ideas? Cf. I Cor. 12:4).
The Special Emphasis on Tongues (pages 11-14)
[Chapter V. The Special emphasis on Tongues}
1. What are the two distinctive features of the "tongues" (languages) of Acts 2:6-11? Cp. I Cor. 14:9,28, where it is plain that a translator ("interpreter") was to be used.
How do these "tongues" differ from the ecstatic utterances of the charismatic?
2. Is this miraculous gift possible today? Certainly! Matthew 19:26 --"With God all things are possible." But is it needed now in its original function as a "sign" confirming the Gospel (Mark 16:20; Matthew 12:38,39; cf. also the Luther Quote on pages 9b-10t [end of Ch 4. Section 1]) ?
Who alone determines if and when such a gift will be given (John 3:8)?
Discuss: Lutheran Bible Translators does not rely on "tongues"; they send all their workers to language schools. Why?
3. Why should anyone make so much ado about "tongues"? Note: With Saint Paul "tongues" was the least of the gifts -- always listed last. Also cf. I Cor. 14:19. And note I Cor. 14:1 --"Tongues" was indeed something the Corinthian Christians might "desire", but what they were to "rather do" and "covet earnestly" (I Cor. 12:31) were the "best gifts."
Which are these (not the ranking in I Cor. 12:28 and 14:1)?
Indeed, charismatic put new meaning into Matthew 20:16a, "The last will be first, and the first last."
4. Have you noticed that the beautiful and much-quoted "charity (love) chapter", I Cor. 13, is between the two "tongues chapters"? There's a reason: The "tongues" gift was to be used in consideration of other people (I Cor. 14:4a).
Comment: Is speaking in "tongues" other-people orientated or self orientated?
Why is "prophecy" (telling the Word in preaching, teaching, and evangelism) far better? Cf. I Cor. 14:4b, 5.
5. Members of the Corinthian congregation had this gift, yet Corinth was the most immature, unspiritual, and troublesome of Saint Paul's congregations. Again, it is a fact that "tongues" are manifested and used by cults, false teachers, and even non-Christians.
Comment on the charismatic's claim that "tongues" are an indication of special spiritual power or of an advanced work of grace beyond mere baptismal regeneration.
6. All Lutheran congregations commit themselves to our Confessions as true expositions of Holy Scripture, and every pastor at his ordination and in every installation in to a pastorate takes a vow to teach according to these norms. Cf. your congregation's constitution. Also consider this from our AUGSBURG CONFESSION, Article XXIV, "Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people (I Cor. 14:2,9)."
How will this help you in dealing with the activities of "tongue-talkers" in your church?
7. Have you ever heard "interpretation" of a tongues-talker's utterances? Then you may agree that "interpretation" may be doubted. Ho can you judge? CF. I Cor. 2:13. We call this the "Analogy of Faith"--that is, everything must agree with the faith taught by the Scriptures. "Tongues", then, must not be used, either privately or publicly apart from the objective interpretation of the Word. But is this the way you have observed tongues-talkers to do?
Charismatic Entitlements (Pages 14-19)
[Chapter VI. Miraculous Healings as an Entitlement?
Chapter VII. All Aglow with their Victorious Lifestyle.]
Miraculous Healings, Victorious Lifestyle
1. God does heal! Do atheists and evil-doers get healing?
Cf. Matthew 5:45b (also Luther's explanation of , "Give us this day our daily bread," in the Small Catechism).
What determines whether God heals in a give case (Eph. 1:11)?
Does God always heal (II Cor. 12:7)?
2. Cf. I John 5:14. Prayers for material gifts (health, prosperity, life itself) must always be conditional--that is, there must always be an IF (like Matthew 8:1-3). Is it lack of faith, or great faith, to use this IF?
Some of your prayers are not answered as you wish, but is it because of too little faith?
Matthew 17:20. What is your judgement about this rebuke, administered by a charismatic to a non-charismatic by devoted Christian, "You're weird! You don't really have to be sick, you know. Not if you have faith!"?
3. Scientific research tells of powers some people have of healing by their mere touch, powers obviously not related to Christian faith. Soviet scientists, certainly atheistic, report them.
People of false religions, even of no religion at all, have these powers (Ex. 7:11). They are forces, including powers of human mind, more than we can understand. So--are all the healings we get necessarily miraculous divine interventions?
Do you know of cases, or perhaps have had such experience yourself, when healing could be explained otherwise than as miracle?
4. How do you explain cases like the following: instant "miraculous" healing one day (crutches thrown away, for instance), but the ailment returns a few days later?
Could it be a case of, "We can think ourselves into anything" (Uncle Zeb in "The Waltons)? If so, is this to say that God does not intervene in our illnesses or other needs? Explain your answer.
5. Describe the spiritual devastation, both in personal faith and in the life of the church, which comes from "claiming the promises" while indulging false expectations which are later shattered. How would you deal with a deluded friend who has had such a crisis of faith?
What does it do to a church's credibility when such extravagant promises made in its name do not come true?
Who is to be blamed in such cases--
(b) The person who promises more than he has a right to promise?
(c) the person who believes such extravagant promises?
(d) the church which permits such promises made in its name?
6. You may have noticed the overriding obsession with prosperity and physical healing in the prayer-concerns of many charismatic, reflecting the materialism in the "old Adam" of us all.
What does Matthew 6:25-34 have to say about the priorities in our praying?
7. We hear much today about malpractice suits vs. physicians, and even vs. clergy and/or their churches (a book, Clergy Malpractice is available from Fortress Press). Generally (though not always!) judges are reluctant to rule in cases involving churches. However, should no congregations judge if a "ministry of healing" done in its name has been responsible or irresponsible? Cf. I Cor. 6:1-3.
The Great Solas (Pages 20 -26)
[Chapter VIII. The Charismatic Faith and the Great SOLAS
Section 1. Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone!
Section 2. Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone.
Section 3. Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.
Section 4. Solus Christus: Christ Alone.]
This is the hear of the matter.
Lutherans have always stood for these scriptural and cardinal principles of the Christian Gospel: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) - Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and Solus Christus (Christ Alone). In judging doctrine --whether or not it is according to
Scripture (and therefore Lutheran) Lutherans have always used this standard:
Does it agree with these cardinal principles?
Lutheran Christians will reject, both as personal belief and as the witness their congregations are to give, anything which conflicts with, or in any way compromises, these precious and fundamental principles. Quasi-Lutheranism is wont to "integrate" foreign and incompatible elements with Lutheran theology. But careful study of the "GREAT SOLAS" will show that it cannot be done. Attempts to do so are bound to be as unfruitful as mixing oil and water.
1. Charismatic say that we Lutherans ignore, or "throw out", parts of Holy Scripture, namely those passages which deal with "tongues" and "miracles of healing." No, we don't make as much over these portions of Scripture as do the charismatic. Why? (Cf. again Luther, pages 9b and 10t [ End of Chapter IV. Section 1.]; also Luke 24:49b; Acts 1:4b).
2. Lutherans believe in the leading of Providence (Like: an "unexplainable" prompting not to go to a certain place at a certain time, and we are spared an accident).
How is this different from the charismatic's claim of special "revelation" (like, "God spoke to me, and said...)?
3. What is the danger of trusting such "revelations" as sources or norms of truth? Cf. I Peter 1:25; Jer. 17:9; Prov. 3:5.
Our choice: the objective Word, or subjective feeling -- which do you want? Why?
4. How can you show that Luther and our Confessions were not intemperate, but very much to the point, in saying, "Whatever is ascribed to the Spirit apart from the means of Grace is of the devil"? Cf. Rev. 22:18,19.
How do charismatic claims about "tongues" and "miracles of healing", in fact, add to Scripture?
5. Appreciation of Word and Sacrament as truly "MEANS OF GRACE" is distinctively Lutheran. Why is it important that we jealously safeguard this doctrine?
Is this doctrine compatible with the charismatic treatment of "tongues: and "miracles of healing" as means of spiritual growth, power, and renewal?
1. The gifts of the Spirit are gifts of GRACE (Gal. 3:1-5, 10-14). The Spirit works in us through the Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament (Romans 10:17; John 17:17; Titus 3:5; James 1:18). The gifts are results. They cannot, therefore, be means. Dare we ever, then, make "tongues" or any other "experience" a means of winning God's favor?
What about "steps" or "conditions"--things we do--to get the Spirit and His gifts? (Cf. Luke 18:14).
2. Charismatic are wont to refer to "innerworks" such as "total yielding", "complete surrender", and the like as preparation for receiving divine grace. Explain how this is inconsistent with the definition of grace: the unearned favor of God (cf. Eph. 2:8,9).
Do works come before or after grace?
Why is the answer to this question important to you? (Gal. 5:4).
3. "I guess I'm not really a Christian. I haven't had an "experience" of "Spirit baptism," or, "I'm just a back-slider. I've tried, but it's more than I can live up to."
How do such downbeat expressions of despair betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the principle of Sola Gratia?
1. Lutherans believe in Justification by Faith Alone as the central doctrine of Holy Scripture, and precious. We find it scary to hear charismatic speak of our justification, or salvation, as dependent on anything in us. For example: "If you will surrender your life to Christ, He will forgive your sins," or, "Put Jesus on the throne of your life," or, "Jesus is your Savior. Make Him also your Lord," or, "Assured of salvation because you have given yourself to Christ "(or are "spirit-filled").
How can this lead to Pharisaism?
How can it lead to despair of one's salvation?
2. Sanctification is the fruit of justification. Love and good works follow faith (Rom.12:1-2).
When inner works such as "total surrender" and the like are required as "steps" to full justification, what does this do to the vital justification-sanctification order?
3. Our feelings and "experiences" may be deceptive, as well as subject to ups and downs.
What, then, is the danger in making our assurance of faith and justification depend on these?
On what must we base our certainty of acceptance with God (Luke 10:17-20; Philippians 2:16)? Cp. also our LUtheran Confessions: "Concerning the presence, operation, and gifts of the Holy Ghost we should not and cannot always judge ex sensu (from feeling), as to how and when they are experienced in the heart; but.....we should be certain from, and according to, the promise that the Word of God preached and heard is truly an office of the Holy Ghost, by which He is certainly efficacious and works in our hearts, II Cor. 2:14ff.; 3:5 ff."
1. Are we to have a Christ-centered or a Spirit-centered faith? (cf. I Cor. 2:2).
What is the mission and function of the Holy Spirit according to John 5:39 and 15:26---is it to direct us to Christ or to Himself?
If the Spirit is the Messenger for Christ, is it right to make Him, in effect, the Second Redeemer?
Should our focus be on the work of Christ for us, or on the Spirit's work in us?
2. From which Person of the Holy Trinity do all spiritual blessings come? Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:3,10.
Can there be any additional gift, then, from the Holy Spirit? Remember: Saint Paul said "every", "all", and "complete" in Christ!
3. Read Galatians 5:16-6:2 concerning "fruits of the Spirit."
Note: The result ("fruit") of the Spirit's work is, we are enabled to "fulfill the law of Christ" and thus show that we are "Christ's people. The Holy Spirit's role: Enabler. His purpose: The Solus Christus glorified in us!
How do charismatic reverse these roles (see page 24b [Beginning of Chapter VIII Section 4]) ?
Again, the list of "fruits" in Verses 22-23 does not list any of the miraculous gifts. The "fruits" listed are to be in the lives of us all, But the miraculous gifts are bestowed only on some, as God wills, according to a specific purpose of His; hence, their omission from that list.
"Fruits", or special gifts, which comes first?
What Does the Charismatic Movement Do for the Life and Work of the Church? (Pages 26-30)
1. If it is said, "Charismatic are a divisive influence in a church," the typical answer is a vehement denial, blaming the non-charismatic for a lack of love, accusing them of "fighting against the Holy Spirit" in not accommodating themselves to the new teachings and practices.
How does I Kings 18:17, 18 help us in countering accusations like that?
2. The thread running through all the Bible passages with the Greek word "agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay; translated love) is--
(a) understanding the object of one's love; and
(b) a purpose to be helpful.
How does this help you in dealing with division in your congregation [or church body] in connection with the charismatic movement? Or in any other problem?
3. What is the basis for unity in such matters? I Cor. 1:10.
Does that mean that both parties "agree to disagree"?
Or that two contrary views are equally acceptable?
4. Cf. I Cor. 14:20-25. Would it be in the best interest of your congregation's outreach program to permit ecstatic utterance in the church?
Can you think of a better way to confirm the prejudices of the unconverted than to start making ecstatic sounds, fall into a trance, and be "slain in the Spirit" when they are present?
Do you see why Paul insists that what is said must be understood?
May we disregard public reaction to our message after the manner of, "Since the Gospel is 'foolishness' to the natural man anyway why pay attention to what the outsider thinks"?
Discuss this in the light of I Timothy 3:7a; III John 12.
5. A common response to the intrusion of this foreign element into a congregation [or church body] is for members who oppose it to say, "I'm quitting this church!" EXamine this in the light of Jude 3b, also of our confirmation vow (as I learned it: "suffer all, even death, rather than fall away...", that is, from the faith I learned).
Why is this not blind loyalty to one's church?
6. "But," you say, "if nothing works, if avenues of appeal through the disciplinary process of the church are used but the congregation [or Church Body] remains a haven for this false teaching, where do we go from there?
Is it ever right to sever connection with a congregation? Cf. II Thessalonians 3:14,15; I Timothy 6:3-5.
Wrapping it Up: Now, What about that "Renewal"?
It is often said, the charismatic have something to contribute to our churches-- commitment, zeal, energetic efforts for renewal. Shall we merely criticize? Or shall we search our hearts: Do our churches often lack something which our people need? Is there any emptiness we ought to be filling, but are not?
1. Read I Corinthians 12 and 13. Ask: Am I using my gift(s)?
What am I doing to build up the Body of Christ?
How can my congregation make better use of our gifts, especially the "higher gifts" referred to in I Corinthians 12:27-31a?
Do we use our gifts in evangelistic outreach, with people being brought to church, Bible class, membership preparation, and to productive church life generally?
2. What is your gift?
Don't say, "Who, me? I don't have any gifts." Read I Corinthians 12:7.
Suppose you congregation offers no formal outlet for your gift, what then?
What opportunity can you make for release of your gift?
3. "But my church is dead," you say. "It offers me no incentive to work for the Lord."
Discuss: (a) What is a "dead" church? Name some of the popular criteria for calling a church "dead", and do the same for a "live" church.
Now read Revelation 3:1b.
How can Sardis-- or any congregation--become really alive (V.3a)?
What kind of preaching and teaching does this call for?
(b) Are you alive? (V.4a).
4. A common complaint of some of our people is about our worship styles. Some criticize our liturgical forms of worship and our Lutheran hymns; they go for non-liturgical forms and "livelier" hymns.
Our Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV, says of our hymns and ceremonies:
"Hymns...to teach the people...Ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught what they need to know about Christ."
Can you cite advantages of our traditional type of hymns and liturgies?
Are the hymns and liturgies to be faulted per se, or is it the way we do them? (Comment on the Lord's Prayer, etc., in the same vein).
Is 'renewal" a matter of worship style or of the Word?
Would it help if the pastor were to preach a series of sermons on the orders of worship?
5. To what extent do you think the fast pace of modern living and a hunger for ever new sensations contribute to the strength of the charismatic movement? (Explanation: The spirit of our times, it is said, is a case of "emotional heebie-jeebies", in which inward satisfactions are measured by the decibel level). Discuss in the light of Psalm 46:10a and of the Augsburg Confession Quote in Question 4 on the previous page [of this study topic].
Which should we seek: hype or teaching?
Decibels or dignity?
Things exotic or things stable?
Subjective fad, or objective Word?
- The Rev. Julius V. Kimpel
The Lutheran Ministerium & Synod - USA has published this information in booklet form and copies can be ordered from their web site. Or you can copy the material from our site and re-produce it as you desire. Pastor Kimpel would be delighted at any such usage.
We of ELCM pray that all of these writings will be of aid to you in your reflections upon this entire matter of the "Holy Spirit and His gifts"
The Lord be with You in your Study and reflection,
Rev. Roy A. Steward