Why Confront the Charismatic Movement?

Personally, I do not wish to confront the Charismatic movment, except to point out distortions here and there, simply because the deceive always seeks to deceive.  But it seems like noted pastor and author John MacArthur is always picking a fight with the Charismatic Movement.  He tells us why:

But it’s refreshing to know that he does not doubt our salvation but only sanctification, since we’re in error as Charismatics, and only the truth will set us free–which, according to John MacArthur, means being non-Charismatic.

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12 Responses to Why Confront the Charismatic Movement?

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    It’s too much. I’m not a Charismatic, but MacArthur’s approach goes too far – such as his study notes explaining that the tongues speaking in Corinth was pagan gibberish. How can someone say that who is truly committed to Scripture. MacArthur comes across as being more committed to an agenda on this issue.

  2. Simon says:

    Johnny Mac is not above reproach himself. Lets consider a few facts about him. He’s an independent megachurch pastor with Calvinist soteriology and dispensational eschatology. Ummmm what right, and by what authority, does he crusade against other Christians?

    Personally, I think the guy is a charlatan. There is no precedent to the sort of Christianity he advocates, just as surely as there is no historical precedent for the Charismatic movement. TC says that MacArthur is too dogmatic. But what is he dogmatic about? Certainly not the historical dogmas of the Church. He’s dogmatic about Calvinism. This is not historically, nor biblically I believe, defensible. Agree totally with Jon. He is driven by an agenda. And it seems conservative evangelical movement in America is agenda-driven or, more accurately, ideologicially driven. I think Johnny Mac represents probably some of the most reactionary and ignorant elements in the Reformed movement.

  3. Simon says:

    TC, there are just so much that is wrong about with that clip. Particularly the assumption that he, John MacArthur, has THE Truth that these Charismatics need.

    The clip also exposes the mish mash in evangelical soteriology vis a vis sanctification. If Charismatics are saved like he says, but aren’t being sanctified by Truth, then are they really saved to begin with?

    So he wants to convert other evangelicals to his narrow and peculiar brand of evangelical Christianity. At least the charismatics would be on board with his dispensationalism. But couple that with Calvinist soteriology and his wierd take on the work of the Spirit in the church (so-called cessationism – this guy subscribes to more “isms” than anyone else I think), you have a very very abnormal Christianity – one that neither the Apostles nor anyone at Nicaea would recognise. Add to this his dubious record on pastoral care. We were talking about mental health issues in the Church not long ago. This guy has got to be the epitome of what is wrong about Christian pastoral care to the mentally ill.

    • TC says:

      Simon, ouch! Well, since come hail from different traditions we tend to interpret things differently, and that’s ok with me For example, I read Theronn’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy from evangelicalism (Baptist), and I was made to realize even more our differences.

      Is there any room for diversity within your Orthodox tradition, or is uniformity the order of the day? (Calvinism is a whole other issue ;-))

  4. Simon says:

    TC haha! I was talking about Johnny Mac’s crusading against other Christians, which seems to be his favorite past time. Particularly why he assumes to be the doctrinal policeman of Christendom given his heterodox positions on a number of theological issues – especially on eschatology. I wasn’t really making a point about Orthodoxy. But you can see, and Protestants take joy in pointing this out, that the Church has always had diverse views on a number of issues. There hasn’t been uniformity on everything – nor do Catholics or Orthodox claim as such. The overarching Tradition provides room to move in all sorts of theological directions. There are broad boundaries however. Look at the Creeds. The dogmatic statements contained in them are actually very limited. The West (including Catholicism) has tended to dogmatize a lot more than the East – Protestants took this to a whole new level with their confessions.

    But again, my point above was to defend the Charismatics against tirades from the likes of Johnny Mac. In fact, if it wasn’t for the dry worship of Puritanical types like MacArthur, you probably wouldn’t have Charismatics to begin with. These Christians were longing for actually experiencing God in worship. They probably went to far. But Johnny Mac can’t give them worship. He can only give them Christian lectures – and pretty poor ones at that!

    • TC says:

      Simon, thanks for the defense.

      Then give Protestants – who don’t want to be Orthodox or Catholics – some room to be diverse and so on.

      • Simon says:

        I am giving everyone room to be want ever they want. If you choose to be Protestant, then diversity is what you are going to get. But we can have a robust, but friendly, discussion about it. Again, this ain’t about Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. It’s about Johnny Mac. And, btw, I think it’s him who isn’t giving much room to be diverse not me 😉

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Spot on, Simon.

      Dry worship is a problem in many conservative evangelical churches. One of the problems is that everything is cerebral. It’s all geared around the understanding, and can become both information overload and stifling. Even though I myself am an evangelical, part of me yearns sometimes for colour, liturgy, and the kind of worship that appeals to all the senses; presumably something that you have.

      As a brief anecdote, in 2010 my wife and I took a boat trip in Holland across a lake from one fishing village to another. The first one was Catholic – full of colour, life, flowers, bustling atmosphere, etc. The one on the other side of the lake was Protestant – drab, every single house was painted the same colour (dark green), austere, devoid of personality, no discernible flowers, etc. No doubt the Protestants believed that those on the other side of the lake were ‘dead’ in their transgressions, having no ‘life’ in them – irony alert.

      At least Charismatic worship is participatory and involves the emotions (I take your point there). I’m not saying that Reformed brethren in grey suits aren’t emotionally involved in their services, but you know what I mean 🙂

      • TC says:

        Simon, I appreciate the clarity.


        It depends. I’ve visited Anglican services where the service was somewhat “dry,” but then visited another, and it was quite charismatic and the like. I’ve also experience the same with Presbyterians.

        Then I’ve visited some Baptists churches where the service was “dry.” It all depends.

  5. Andrew says:

    I think there’s a lot of truth in what Jon says about protestants. Yes, it’s obviously a stereotype, but it does seem that evangelical theology has historically been closely linked with dull worship and miserable christians. I’ve experienced it myself on numerous occasions. The charismatic movement has, I believe, been the major factor in changing this. Over the past, say, 30 years, it does appear that the culture in many non-charismatic evangelical churches has become lighter and more joyful, reflected not just in their services, but also in people’s lives. I can only attribute this to the influence of the charismatic movement. I see this as a good thing, whilst being aware that it could obviously be taken too far.

    That said, the core theology of the charismatic movement regarding the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit is a different matter, and there are a lot of problems here. I see no evidence that these gifts, as practiced by charismatics, are genuine, although the practitioners are generally sincere. Then there is the prevalence of bad theology and deception in the movement. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth and will lead people into the truth, so it would seem unlikely that there is somehow “more” of the Holy Spirit in the charismatic movement (and pentecostalism) than the rest of the church. This is one of the main reasons why I reject charismatic pneumatology.

    Regarding JMac, I don’t think he’s always picking fights with charismatics. Yes, opposition to the charismatic movement is an aspect of his ministry, but it’s only an aspect, and it’s definitely not the dominant aspect. I was disappointed by what he said in the video – no single church or group has all the “truth” and yet people still grow in them. Compared to the central truths of the gospel, a misunderstanding about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is quite minor. I don’t think he would similarly target Presbyterians over their baptismal views, for example. Would he dare to suggest that Presbyterians can’t become sanctified disciples of Jesus? I doubt it. Yes, the extreme end of the charismatic movement is dominated by false teaching, but most charismatic churches are not in that category.

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