"Baptiscostal No More"
The more I read online, keeping in mind discernment about such sources, the more aware I became of ungodly "movements" and influences in the Christian Church. The Christian Research INstitute (CRI) became an invaluable source of information to me, as was the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry (CARM). While I was very informed about the errors in cults such as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, and had spent a good deal of time debating them in real life and online, movements such as the "Emergent Church", Word-Faith, Latter Rain, Third Wave, Joel's Army/Manifest Sons of God and the ominously-named Kansas City Prophets were new territory to me. As I studied, common denominators began to emerge, such as adherence to a dominionist theology. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Christians are to "take control" over existing political structures and "claim the nations" in order to present the world to Christ as a "spotless bride." They've got it backwards. We're to obey Christ (and questions of how are nicely answered in books such as John Piper's "What Jesus Demands from the World", as well as the New Testament itself) and let Him worry about conquering upon His return.
The certainty that God is doing "a new thing" in our generation is also inherent in these groups' convictions, and again lacks biblical support. The Bible indicates that both wickedness will greatly increase and the love of many will wax cold before Jesus' second coming; there will be (sadly) no dramatic, global revival in anticipation of our Heavenly Bridegroom. It is on the basis of this misconception that Hank Hanengraaff terms these new movements part of a "Counterfeit Revival."
Thirdly, these groups and the charismatic movements in general tend to elevate subjective experience to dangerous levels of credibility. While this is certainly not true of all churches in all branches of Pentecostalism, a person's "word from God" is taken at face value and accepted as "revelation" if given from a prophet. This opens the concept of divine inspiration up to gross error, and sets up a slippery slope of determining what GOD ACTUALLY SAYS. John Macarthur and others have written literally volumes on this. In the last month, [a period from May - June 2007], I have read hundreds of pages documenting this widespread problem, and to attempt to sum up in a few paragraphs the danger of subjective theology is impossible. Beyond common sense, (many of the "visions" and "prophecies" reported border on the absurd), we cannot be both sola scriptura and open to new revelation from humans claiming to hear from God. [MY NOTE, 3/17/11: In my studies since then towards a certificate in biblical counseling, one of the more interesting lectures in the systematic theology course dealt with this subject. Jay Adams articulately and succinctly explains the logical fallacy and doctrinal impossibility of believing in both the sufficiency of Scripture, AND special prophecy today.] The canon of Scripture is closed, and God has given us the revelation He intends for us to have.
Once the importance of sound doctrine is downplayed, (as I have seen first-hand in what I thought was a relatively sound charismatic church), a sense of ecumenism enters. While certainly there are many issues that might be described as "nonessential" and shouldn't divide Christians, interpreting the Bible's meaning according to one's own experience (or, worse, basing theology on one's esoteric experience) is very dangerous to the Church. When Christians can no longer distinguish truth from heresy because they don't know what the Bible teaches anymore, the stage is set for the Great Deception.
Each of these groups mentioned above (various off-shoots of the charismatic movement) is related to each other by one or two degrees of separation. This is well-documented by various sources who have studied the roots of the movements from the Azuza Street Revival to the Vineyard's early days. (Please e-mail me if you would like sources; they are too numerous and lengthy to list here). The "Toronto Blessing" and Pensacola Outpouring" were not isolated, a-typical aberrations; they were the fatal fruit of this sick branch of the Church. The excesses documented in those events take place every day, all over the world. [3/17/11: Last summer I read "The Other Side of the River", a first-person account from a man caught up on the movement in a small Alaska town. I felt like I could have written his story -- some of the "manifestations" are so clearly satanic.]
More frightening to me is the role the New Age plays in these "Christian" movements. Just last week, [late May 2007], I went to the website of the Healing Room ministry (which started in Spokane, WA and is now international) to see if, in fact, it has Word-Faith roots. When I saw the reading material promoted in their online bookstore, I nearly became physically ill - it reads like a "Who's Who of Apostate Third-Wavers." Sadly, I had been referring people to Healing Room for intercession since 2004.
Okay, what about tongues and getting "slain in the Spirit"? Isn't that biblical, at least if there's an interpretation? I cannot help but quote here, since many have said it better than I could ever hope to: "...most of the groups reporting the operation of the charismata throughout Church history were heretical or, at least, a little "off" in their theology and practices. Moreover, tongues speaking has even been seen in non-Christian religions." C.S. Butler believes this pattern demonstrates that the Holy Spirit was not involved, although other spirits may have been. [3/17/11: Compare the accounts of physical "manifestations" with those of New Age/Eastern religion practitioners evoking 'Kundalini Serpent Power'. Frightening stuff.]
(from a review of C.S. Butler's "Test the Spirits: The Charismatic Phenomenon"):
Although Butler does have a pattern of over-stating the case somewhat, the type of information presented in this section I discovered myself by independent study. And it was learning this questionable history of the use of the charismata that first led me to question my involvement in the charismatic movement of today.And finally, John Macarthur, from a sermon transcript (part of a series on the "chaos" of the charismatic movement):
Now the above might be called a "guilt by association" argument. But another point that Butler only touches on was even more important to me. As one studies Church history, it is very apparent that the vast majority of Christians through the centuries did not speak in tongues.
If speaking in tongues is so important and the evidence of the baptism in the Spirit as charismatics claim, then what was the Holy Spirit doing for 18 centuries? Sleeping? I simply found it hard to believe that the only people the Spirit baptized from the post-apostolic age down to modern times were ones involved in groups on the "fringe" of Christianity, or even outside of the Christian faith.
"You see for over a thousand years that part of the world had been dominated with the mystery religions. The pagan mystery religions. They can be traced all the way back to Babylon. But they cultivated, all of them had this in common, they cultivated a magical, sensual, communion with deity. The assumption in the mystery religions and their cultic kind of form of worship, was that you get yourself in some kind of state, a mindless kind of state, a transcendent kind of state, an irrational, not logical, not reasonable kind of mystical state, and when you get into that you will then commune with the deity. You can do it through drunkenness and so they got drunk in the pagan religions. You can do it through the passion of sexual involvement, and so there were priestesses who acted as temple prostitutes, and you could come in and throw yourself into an orgy. And in the euphoria of that orgy, and in the stupor of being drunk, in the stupor of that whole event, supposedly you were to commune with deity.I praise God that He has opened the eyes of my heart. Father, Your surpassing love and PATIENCE overwhelms me.
Paul has that in mind, certainly in Ephesians 5, when he says, "Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." If you really want to connect with God, be filled with the Spirit, don't be drunk. They would do almost anything to get into a semiconscious, hallucinatory, hypnotic, or orgiastic spell, because they believed that somehow that got them in touch with deity. This is not very far different than going back into the 60's in the drug culture, and the things Timothy Leary tried to say about how you transcend this world and touch the divine, and what the Eastern Mystics were saying, as they were advocating the same kind of stuff. Whether from literal intoxication, or some kind of emotional hysteria, or exhilaration, worshipers falling into some kind of euphoria assumed they were then in union with the deity.
According to S. Angus, once professor of New Testament and Historical Theology at Saint Andrews College at Sidney, the ecstasy experience by the mystery religion worshiper, brought him into a mystic ineffable condition, in which the normal functions of personality were in abeyance, and the moral strivings which formed character, virtually ceased or were relaxed, while the emotional and the intuitive were accentuated."
In other words, the worshiper would get into a state where his mind would go into neutral and his emotions would take over. The intellect and the conscious would give way to passion, sentiment, and emotion. This was ecstasy. Angus further said, Ecstasy might be induced by vigil and fasting, tense religious expectancy, whirling dances, physical stimuli, the contemplation of the sacred objects, the effect of stirring music, inhalation of fumes, revivalistic contagion, hallucinations, suggestions and all other means belonging to the apparatus of the mysteries. One ancient writer speaks of men going out of themselves to be wholly established in the divine.
It is exactly what happened in Corinth and it is still going on today. As the mystery worshiper experienced such ecstasy, he believed he was lifted above the level of his ordinary experience into an abnormal sense of consciousness and therein he could really see God. And according to Angus again, he says, "Ecstasy could range anywhere from nonmoral delirium to that consciousness of oneness with the invisible, and the dissolution of painful individuality which marks the mystics of all ages." The person literally became irrational, unreasonable, out of touch with reality. I don't think it is too far afield to say that there are testimonies by Pentecostal Charismatic believers that seem to me to sound very much like this. They explain their various states of euphoria as engaging in communion with the Holy Spirit, but is it that? Certainly not by Biblical definition. Is it only an emotional high? Is it only some kind of psychological self-induced hypnosis? Is it only falling under the spell of the power of suggestion? Or is it demonic? In any case it is not Biblical. It certainly isn't, "Come now let us reason together, says the Lord." It certainly is not, "Let everything be done decently and in order."
The problem Paul dealt with in Corinth is the same problem he deals with through his letters in the charismatic movement today. The problem is this: "How do you tell the real from the counterfeit?" And the only answer I have to you, Beloved, is to take it to the Word of God--and if it isn't there, it isn't real. That's the only place we can go. You certainly can't believe experience. Why? Because "Many will say, 'Lord, Lord,'" and they will prophesy in His name, and they will cast out demons in His name, and they will do miracles, at least what appear to be miracles, in His name. But He will say "Depart from me, I never knew you. Who are you? You workers of iniquity." We need to warn the true believers in the Charismatic movement that Satan is having a field day counterfeiting, because you're not checking with the Word, and because you are not using the mind that God has given you to understand His truth. Christ is being dishonored." http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/CHAOS7.HTM