If the assessment of Reformed Charismatics given by Brett McCracken in his Christianity Today piece is accurate, the movement diverges from historic Reformed orthodoxy in one salient area: Sola Scriptura: The Word of God Alone.
There are alarming references in Brett’s piece which seem to infer that “orthodoxy” or “doctrine” is insufficient to produce true spiritual growth and fulfillment:
Dihan Lee: “So you’ve got the corner on orthodox faith. Great. Show me how that’s going to heal my marriage. Show me how that’s going to remove depression and shame out of my life,” he said. “To engage with a broken city, orthodoxy alone doesn’t cut it. You also need power.” [emphasis mine]
Pastor Lee is coming awfully close here to an Osteenian “Best Life Now” view of the Christian life, seemingly ignorant of the Psalmists’ depression (just read the Psalms – maybe start with Psalm 42) and the Apostle Paul’s lifelong spiritual battle against indwelling sin [Romans 7] and incapacitating fear on the inside and adversaries to his ministry on the outside [2 Corinthians 7:5]. But the disconcerting point Lee seems to be making is that teaching the Bible alone is not sufficient – which is a clear departure from the Reformed view of the sufficiency of Scripture.
Even more disturbing is Brett’s example from Renew Church LA and its lead pastor, Ger Jones who
“…refers to the front rows as the ‘Holy Spirit splash zone,’ where worshipers display livelier expressions and sometimes share prophetic words with the congregation during the service.” [emphasis mine]
Aside from the blatant irreverence in characterizing any part of the worship of a Holy God as a ‘splash zone,’ Jones is clearly advocating for continuing prophecy outside the context of the Word of God alone. It may indeed be ‘Holy Spirit splash zones’ the Apostle Paul had in view when writing his corrective to the Church at Corinth [see 1 Corinthians 14].
Or this from a member of the worship team at Brett’s own church [Southlands in Brea, California]:
“She has come to see the Reformed charismatic worship of Southlands as ‘a beautiful blend of allowing the Word to formulate your response to God while allowing the Holy Spirit to speak.'”
I may be making an assumption here, but what I hear her saying is the Holy Spirit speaking is a distinct event from hearing the Word of God preached, or the Holy Spirit speaking follows from the Word preached, and not during the preaching event itself.
The authority is redirected from Scripture alone to whatever I have come away with in my experience of the Word. Certainly the Spirit’s speaking IS both during and after – but in the context of the balance of the article, there seems to be an attempt here to make a case for the Spirit speaking outside the Word in continuing revelation. This is more closely akin to “what does this passage mean to me.” Our response to the work of the Spirit in His Word is not how does the word of God (or the Spirit of God) make me feel, but rather, what do I know: what has the Spirit of God revealed to me that I can know and be assured of [2 Timothy 3:14-15].
A Reformed view would make no distinction between the preaching of the Word and the speaking of the Holy Spirit. They are one and the same – in the context of the clear directive of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 to “test” what is preached, holding fast to what is good and rejecting what is bad.
The insufficiency of Scripture alone is driven home when Brett quotes Joshua Ryan Butler at the end of his piece:
“It’s hard to gather a really diverse group of people by ideas. But the power and presence of the Spirit of God in our midst can.” [emphasis mine]
This depends upon how one defines and identifies “the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.” Brett and his sources seem to define the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in terms of emotional responses alone. While I concede that the moving of the Spirit may evince itself in emotion, emotion untempered by reason (the Word) is a recipe for all kinds of doctrinal error and foolishness.
Again, I may be assuming too much, but Joshua Ryan Butler in the quote above seems to advocate the laying aside of clear doctrinal distinctives for the sake of unity. It is in the context of the preaching of the word (a rational, idea-centric event) that the Spirit moves (“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God”). The Word of God IS the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, not our emotional response to it or our “prophetic utterances” added to it. The Spirit of God may be – and often is – moving without any of the emotional responses anticipated – dare I say longed for – by neo-Pentecostals.
Reformed Charismatics (at least those cited in this Christianity Today piece) seek a remedy for the joy that is lacking in “staid Reformed churches” in the importation of “non-Western” Christianity. We are to believe that these “non-Western” Reformed charismatics are uninhibited by “the post-Enlightenment rationalism that pervades Western culture” in favor of “the ‘naturally supernatural’ elements of their faith,” and therefore have something to teach us Westerners about the ministry of the Holy Spirit because we have been blinded by rationalism.
But in equating “the naturally supernatural” with “the power and presence of the Holy Spirit,” are Reformed Charismatics displaying a lack of discernment given the animistic context in which many of these “non-Western” believers live?
Lord willing, we’ll take up this question in the next post.