Monday, May 16, 2005
Charismania is dangerous to your health!
Before I came to the Reformed faith several years ago, I'd spent several years in the Charismatic Movement. During that time, I suffered from a substantial amount of emotional turmoil. As I've grown in wisdom since leaving "charismania", it's occurred to me that the cause of many of these emotional difficulties may be laid at the doorstep of the Charismatic Movement so many have left or are striving to leave. Let's face it: as charismatics, we were led by our emotions to a far greater extent than the Scriptures. (In my case, the Scriptures were little more than a repository of prooftexts to lend a degree of credence to my precious spiritual gifts and revelations.) Besides that, many of us including myself brought emotional issues into the charismatic scene.
In my case, I brought sporadic depression and anxiety into charismania. Believe me, charismania left me worse off than I started, because it only encouraged me to rely more on my extremely fallible emotions. In no way did it teach me to rely on the Scriptures. Instead, I would pray in tongues or call on an "anointed" friend in search for a word of encouragement. Far from learning to trust in Christ alone, I learned how to depend on men and women who were no less fallible than myself.
For me, coming out of charismania took years. I had a lot of pride invested in my alleged prophetic gifts, so even after I'd come to despair of the charismatic church, I still held on desperately to the prophecies, dreams, and visions that I thought foretold great things from God in my future. Of course, since my hope was based upon the "gifts", and I could never be 100% certain that my words were from God, my hope was based on sinking and shifting sand.
What's more, I'd learned from the WoF that I didn't have to wait on God to answer my prayers as he saw fit. Instead, if I could muster up enough faith, I could demand that my prayers be answered immediately. Although this approach appeared to work well enough in my early charismatic days, it gradually dawned on my that my demanding and claiming and binding and loosing wasn't doing a single solitary bit of good. The believer's authority in which I'd put so much pride was proving to be a sham.
So, you'd think that with my source of revelation and my prayer method gone bust, that I'd turn in humility to Christ. Nope. Instead, I was angry, not at myself, but at God himself. Yes, since it was God who allowed me to become deceived, God was to blame, and I let him know that I didn't appreciate it one bit. "Why not?" I thought. "He knows my thoughts anyway, so I may as well express them." Needless to say, this, er, attitude problem was no help to my emotional, mental, or spiritual health, resulting in periods of depression punctuated by misbegotten hope. (I once went so far as to say, "I'd rather have false hope than no hope at all!") Incidentally, none of this was particularly good for my body. I was still clinging to hope in divine healing--blab it and grab it!--so I ignored the chest pains, intestinal upsets, skin problems, etc. as best I could. My body was reacting to my sinful attitude and false doctrine in all sorts of ways, but yet I clung to hope that I could take authority over it and make it go away.
So, what happened then? Nothing spectacular. At least, it didn't seem spectacular at the time. The best way I can put it is that I got tired of fighting against God and the universe, and decided to give up the fight. It wasn't until later that I came to be persuaded that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased, but for now I made a pragmatic decision: given all the turmoil my faith in the gifts was causing me, I was going to put them on the shelf--that is, cease practicing them--until and unless I became throughly persuaded through Scripture that they were from God.
From that point, my progress--thanks to God's grace!--was fairly rapid, for now I found that I was deeply suspicious of sensationalism and experience-based doctrine. Now at last I had to have facts--that is, Scripture--to back up whatever I was going to believe. If there was some belief or practice I didn't find in Scripture, I was going to toss it in the spiritual dumpster. Suddenly, I'd become a Reformation-minded believer, although it was going to be another year or so before I so much as heard of anything called Reformed theology or Calvinism. This change of heart was so quick and sudden that I can't possibly take personal credit for it. In fact, based on my rotten fruit, it may well be that I'd been a Christian in name only until God brought me to accept the Scriptures alone as my guide for faith and practice.
So what of my old emotional/mental issues? Admittedly, I still get the blues from time to time, but when that happens it doesn't last as long as in the old days, and when I come out of it it's always because I find a Scriptural answer to my unbiblical thinking. At least in my case, my mood and emotions invariably prove to be side-effects of my unbiblical thinking. As my thinking has become more Biblical, my body has suffered less. I am less pale than before, and I suffer from much less digestive trouble. (It also helped that I learned that I was lactose intolerant. It's amazing the difference that dietary changes and enzymes can make.) To put it another way, when I change my behavior and thinking with God's help, I find that my body's chemistry changes for the better as well.
Anyway, I just thought it may be helpful for me to share a bit about the spiritual journey I've taken from charismania to the Reformed faith. I hope it's been an encouragement to you.