Practices Of The Charismatic Movement
The `Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship does not accept the practices of the Charismatics as they are unscriptural, being based on certain erroneous doctrines and characteristics of Charismatic thinking. A few significant practices enable us to distinguish the Charismatics. We should be able to judge whether these practices are scriptural or not.
1. Speaking in Tongues
Charismatics claim that every Christian must be baptized in the Holy Spirit and this is made evident by the speaking in tongues, quoting Acts 2:1-13 as scriptural evidence. They believe that is repetitive and is the key to all spiritual blessings. It helps them to read the Bible better and worship God, for example. They may either speak as a whole group or as individuals in the group. What does the Bible say about this practice?
The tongue that the Charismatics speak is not Biblical tongue. The tongue in the Old and New Testament (OT & NT) is always a language. The tongues spoken in Acts 2 were foreign languages. More than ten different types were mentioned in the passage. 1 Cor 14 also refers to the gift of tongues as foreign languages and gives us a few basic points on the speaking of tongues:
A. Tongues Must Be Interpreted (v5, 28)
Unless the tongue is a language, it cannot be interpreted. The person who speaks must ask whether anyone can interpret for him. In the early days, the Charismatics claimed that they spoke languages, except that no one understands the language nowadays. Linguists who have done analyses find that tongues fail to test for languages in terms of grammar, syntax, etc. No one understands the tongue, not even the speaker. We therefore do not agree with the practice of the Charismatics because their tongues are not languages. It is exoteric tongue or just noise and sound.
B. Pagans Commonly Speak in Exoteric Mysterious Voices.
Chinese mediums and even some cults like the Mormons are known to speak in tongues similar to the Charismatics.
C. The Practice in Which Tongues Are Taught and Learnt Is Absolutely Unfounded and Unscriptural.
In Acts 2:4, the speaking in tongues was unexpected; no one learnt about it. Nowhere in the NT is anyone taught or learned about speaking in tongues, unlike nowadays when it is common for people to be taught to speak in tongues. Furthermore, even if we were to accept tongues as scriptural, the manner of their practice today is in error. 1 Cor 14 clearly shows that the emphasis on tongues is unscriptural:
i. It is discouraged in public meetings.
ii. If spoken in public, only two at most three are to speak (v27a).
iii. Someone must be able to interpret tongues (v27b).
This is to preserve the good order in the Church. Yet Charismatics insist that every Christian should speak in tongues as evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They believe that tongue-speaking is a sign of maturity and the key to spirituality. This is unscriptural as tongue-speaking is considered the least important of the spiritual gifts in 1Cor 12. The Church at Corinth which was the most keen to speak in tongues was also the most carnal Church. The conclusion is simple – tongue-speaking is not a sign of spiritual maturity.
2. Faith Healing
Faith healing campaigns are conducted openly in many places and even in regular meetings. It is always practised amongst the Charismatics. The emphasis on faith healing has much to do with their doctrinal belief, which stresses that physical healing is part of the atonement work of Christ. Therefore according to the Charismatics if your sins are forgiven, you will be healed of your diseases.
Whenever the gospel is preached by the Charismatics, so is faith-healing. In the bible there are many instances of healing. In Mark 1, we read that Jesus healed a man in the synagogue (V26). Peter’s mother-in-law (V 31) and many people (V 34). How did he heal the sick and for what purposes?
A. The Lord Never Publicised His Faith Healing.
On contrary, in v40-41, He warned those He had healed not to tell anybody. The Charismatics by contrast, encourage people to bring the sick to them for healing.
It was neither Jesus’ intention to demonstrate the ability to heal nor His desire to heal every disease (v37-38). Rather His purpose was to preach the gospel and save men from their sins. Mark 2:1-11 shows that His ability to heal was to testify that He is the Messiah. It was a sign of His Sonship.
The Charismatics on the other hand, testify to the power of the Holy Spirit and His ability to heal. They fall into the danger of believing only in the wonder-working power of Jesus Christ and not in His salvation. John 3:23-25 tells us that those who come to believe in Jesus Christ because of signs have not truly received salvation. They must acknowledge themselves as sinners and to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
B. The Charismatics Have No Ground for Healing.
When the disciples performed healing in the name of Jesus Christ they never failed. The Charismatics claim they can heal, but how many actually are healed? Many have died from the very diseases they have been healed from. Medical doctors who have followed faith healing campaigns have conclude that people only felt that they had been healed. We may conclude that faith healing as practised by the Charismatics is clearly unscriptural.
Charismatics claim to receive direct revelations from God. The OT and NT prophets always used the phrase “thus says the Lord” whenever they spoke on behalf of the Lord and never claimed to take the place of the Lord. However, today we sometimes hear a person speaking of God in the first person. Never in the Bible do the prophets speak directly as though God is speaking. Those in a trance when possessed by evil spirits truly speak as a demon would speak, in the first person. It is quite different from what the Holy Spirit is speaking.
What conclusion can we draw? The Charismatics are seen to be conducting pagan practices. We do not believe in the claims of conducting pagan practices. We do not believe in the claims of direct revelations from God today because the revelation is completed in the Bible. We receive the revelation of God through His Word.
If people were to practise speaking direct revelation, there will be great confusion. It implies that what they say is equal to what the Bible says. The authority of the Bible is undermined as it will not be the only authority. People would not have to go through the Bible to hear God speak. The practice of prophesying as though God were speaking is a direct confrontation to the Bible. It is totally unwarranted and absolutely unacceptable.
4. Spiritual Dance
In their meetings, the Charismatics usually have dances, purportedly the work of the Holy Spirit and inspired by Him. What is their spiritual basis? Reference is always made to the OT, such as the times when Miriam led the Israelites to praise the Lord in dance (Exodus 15) and when David rejoiced to see the Ark (2 Samuel 6).
We agree that these are instances of dances, but they were done in a different context. Among the Jews, the physical expression of praise to the Lord is common and part of their culture. To claim that dancing is part of worship under the influence of the Holy Spirit is clearly without scriptural evidence. The Bible does not state that the Holy Spirit induced persons to dance in worship now nor is any such spiritual dance recorded.
However, similar practices are found among pagans e.g. African tribes people under the evil influence of evil spirits. Chinese mediums in trance are known to dance.
5. Collaboration with Pagans and Roman Catholics
The Charismatics do not make a distinction between themselves, the cults and Roman Catholics. Claiming the principle of “unity in the Spirit”, they endorse ecumenism through the speaking of tongues. Their main objective is to unite a world church by the use of tongues.
In deed, since 1950, many Christians have been practicing tongue-speaking and baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Roman Catholics and the Charismatics have joined forces in their meetings and campaigns. Pope John Paul has accepted and approved Charismatism.
There is, however, no change in the spiritual lives of the Catholics other than the speaking in tongues. They will continue to practise Catholicism. How can this be so if the Holy Spirit is truly working in these people? Does the Holy Spirit allow people to continue to practise such things as the worship of Mary? The movement has been accepted also by the liberals and certain Protestant Churches. They do not see anything wrong in their doctrines. This casts doubt on whether Charismaticism is the work of the Holy Spirit. The spirit working among the Charismatics must be the same spirit working in the Roman Catholics, liberals and ecumenists.
This is the most serious problem. The Spirit working in the pagans, cults and Catholics is also deceiving the Charismatics and many Christians. May the Lord help us to be more careful in our dealings with such groups.
Huang Ee Yuen