My heart was a bit heavy as I witnessed the blogosphere light up today over John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference and the broad brush stroke polemics against Charismatics. I appreciated Michael Patton’s thoughts on the subject.
Now to be clear, I am not a Charismatic. But I used to be and commitedly so – third wave, direct experience (direct communication is better; we all should have some kind of experience), charged atmosphere, seeking signs and wonders (or what I thought were signs and wonders). But seven years ago I stepped away due to a challenge by a friend on the disjointed and fragmented way I was reading Scripture. As I studied and considered Scripture from a holistic perspective and learning how to read stuff in context, I transitioned into soft-cessationism. This was not due to any negative experience but as a result of a formulation of a robust view of the doctrine of Scripture and how God sufficiently spoke through it. In other words, when I considered how the 66 books fit together and pointed to God’s redemptive work through the Son and how everything pointed to him, it made me re-evaluate how I understood continuation of gifts, prophecy, hearing from God directly and an over-reliance on experiential phenomenon as proof of God’s Spirit at work.
It was not like I didn’t read the Bible, didn’t believe in essential Christian truths, or didn’t have a commitment to Christ’s church. In fact, many in my circles genuinely loved the Lord, sought to serve and please him and recognized that he had paid the price for their life. Although, I went to extremes after my conversion away from Charismania, I came to rest in kind of a tense area. In fact, I have said on a number of occasions, that I went from being a crazy charismatic to a crusty cessationist and now live in a place called tension.
Why tension? Because I discovered that there are actually thoughtful, well read and even scholarly Charismatics who believe in the authority of Scripture and allow it to interpret how to consider God’s work in the world today. I ran across guys like Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms, scholars, pastors and authors. I encountered Vineyard guys like Luke Geraty and others who took the Bible and discipline of theology serious. These folks are not the experience driven, ignore the Bible, anything goes step-child fringe that rightly deserves critique. In Michael’s article, I appreciated his statement that you can’t judge all Charismatics by the ugly red-headed step children. Continue reading