Insidious Neo-Pentecostalism and the Reformed Charismatics

This article by Brett McCracken (a man I have deep respect for as a brother in Christ) in the current issue of Christianity Today grieves me on three levels:
  1. The implication that faithful, non-charismatic Reformed pastors (like me) are short-changing our congregations by not creating an environment conducive to and allowing for an emotional response to the preaching/teaching of word of God;
  2. The elevation of the *experiences* of non-Western neo-Pentecostals (and its inevitable cognate: the clearly unbiblical idea of continuing revelation) above *the word of God* to support the flawed thesis that emotional responses to the preached word are necessary evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in a congregation; [the entire essay quotes only one verse from the Bible, and that from Francis Chan who is attempting to use Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 “Do not quench the Spirit”) to make a point against those who guard and warn against the “abuses or unwieldy emotionalism” characteristic of neo-Pentecostalism. My own view would be that, in the context of 1 Thessalonians 5, the evidence of the quenching of the Spirit is not the absence of an emotional response to the Word, but the hearer’s rejection of the Word preached as evidenced by an absence of sanctification in their lives (1 Thessalonians 5:23; see also Jesus in John 17:17)]The experiences of non-Western neo-Pentecostals cannot be accepted on their face without due consideration of the context of animism prevalent in the non-Western countries (where this so-called “moving” of the Holy Spirit is taking place), and how this context may influence the practice of the Christian faith in those places.
  3. The admitted bias of the author (he’s a member of a “Reformed Charismatic” church), which evidences itself in a lack of balance in the piece. The Reformed cessationist view is conspicuous in its absence.To support their view, Reformed Charismatics often appeal to Jonathan Edwards (“Religious Affections”) and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (the aggregate of his preaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit), both of whom believed in the power of the Holy Spirit to work supernaturally and at will. However, both Edwards and Lloyd-Jones seem to reject the full-blown neo-Pentecostalism advocated in this CT piece.In the case of MLJ, his biographer, Iain Murray, makes it clear that MLJ rejected much of what is characteristic of what has come to be known as the “Charismatic Movement.” Both Edwards and MLJ do not deny that “heart” is a vital part of worship. But neither of them – I don’t believe – would have elevated “heart” above “head” as the insidious neo-Pentecostalism advocated in this article seems to do.
I will have more to say in subsequent posts, particularly about the articles’ emphasis on continuing revelation, its insistence on the insufficiency of “orthodoxy,” and my own caution against the undiscerning acceptance of “non-Western” spiritual experiences because of the influence of animism.

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