Friday, November 11, 2005


Just part of the picture

Over the last few weeks, I've made a number of posts to this blog which discuss some of the experiences that led me into and out of the charismatic movement. These posts have apparently found at least a small readership. In one article, Right & Blond expresses sympathy for the difficult experience I had with charismaticism, the Word of Faith movement in particular, but goes on to draw some conclusions from what I've shared thus far.

At one point, he comments that on account of my experience and not on account of Scripture, I've swung from charismatic extremism to the other extreme which is "fraught with legalism." Were his analysis of my spiritual journey accurate, I have most certainly jumped from the frying pan into the fire, because legalism as normally defined is the teaching that we are justified before God entirely or partially on account of our good works. If one has any doubt that legalism is a damnable doctrine, sit down for a few minutes and take a peek at Paul's letter to the Galatians: if I were to try to add even one single good work to Christ's imputed righteousness, I would be denying the faith and saying that Christ died in vain! Thankfully, though, I can report that far from moving towards legalism, I have moved away from it. Whereas as a charismatic I believed that one of my good works--my decision for Christ--was pivotal in my salvation, I have since been persuaded by Scripture that even the faith I exercised at conversion was a sovereignly bestowed gift of God. My works outside Christ are 100% filthy rags, so my entire hope for salvation is placed on Christ alone. Thus, I plead innocent to the charge of legalism.

However, I don't think that that's what Right & Blond means to say when he speaks of legalism. Instead (I hope he'll correct me if I'm mistaken), he sees that on account of my experience I've made a flying leap into a Scripture-only mindset that discounts the active role of the Holy Spirit. I suggest this possibility because in my charismatic days, I tended to think of non-charismatics as "Word-only" people: cold and dead in their faith. In fact, I sometimes characterized the non-Spirit-filled as legalistic because of my perception that they stuck only to the cold, literal text of Scripture and discounted the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is the charge against me, I again plead innocent, although I do plead most wholeheartedly guilty to the charge that I hold to the Scriptures alone--Sola Scriptura--as my sole and sufficient guide of faith and practice. Although my experiences were most certainly used by God as a catalyst towards making the transition from charismatic to Reformed doctrine, they were not pivotal or foundational. Whereas I held my former views first on account of personal experience and second because of Scripture, I have come to my present views through my study of Scripture. Although my former experiences help to confirm the counterfeit nature of the spiritual gifts in which I once professed to operate, it is through the study of Scripture that I have found the true doctrinal foundation for my present understanding of Scripture, a fact that I hope will become evident in my future posts.

Also, I feel that I must plead innocent to another charge that's often implicitly pronounced against those who are deemed guilty of holding to Sola Scriptura: the charge of denying the present-day operation of the Holy Spirit. If I were to deny the Holy Spirit's gracious work, I would be forced to deny my salvation, for it is through His work that I came to believe the Gospel and trust in Christ. If I had only the Word but not the Spirit, I would yet be in my sins on account of my depraved nature, for by nature I am utterly unwilling to repent of my sin or trust in Christ. To this day I completely depend on the Holy Spirit to open up the Scriptures to me and to apply them to my sin-prone heart. Moreover, I depend on the Holy Spirit's ongoing help as I go about my day-to-day life, for it is He who brings Scripture to mind as I make decisions and deal with my sinful neighbors. The Holy Spirit is my constant companion as I run the Christian race. Although a more through understanding of Scripture has led me to understand that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians are no longer needed by the church and have therefore ceased operation, I most wholedheartedly acknowledge the ordinary operation of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to me through the Scriptures and guides me through God's work of Providence.

Finally, I plead innocent to any charge that I have changed my view on the gift of prophecy primarily on account of my negative experiences with the Word of Faith doctrine. In fact, on this blog, I have already shared some of my Scriptural reasons for my belief that the gift of prophecy that we see in Scripture is not in operation today. Lord willing, I hope to expand upon this aspect of my argument in greater detail in the days to come.

In some conversations, I notice that folks will sometimes listen to part of what I say, then jump in to interpret what I've said thus far as though I've finished expressing all my thoughts on the subject. Since I'm less articulate in spoken conversation than in writing, I occasionally have to catch my breath to gather my thoughts, so sometimes folks mistake my pause for breath as a signal that I've said all that I'm going to say. Such is the case with my posts on charismaticism: I've only begun to say everything that I have to say. Although I've concentrated on my personal experiences in most of my earlier posts, I've done so because of my observation that charismatic belief tends to be based on experience first, Scripture second. Therefore, I've so far concentrated on experience, but henceforth I will have more to say about the Scriptural reasons I have adopted a cessationist view. Once you've heard what I have to say about the true foundation for my view, you may be in a better position to accurately judge me and my position. I've so far divulged only part of the story. For the rest, stay tuned!

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