I know it may come off as “elitist” or “condescending,” but I want to express a concern I have over a certain type of Christian mindset. I will call them “limited Charismatics” or “limited Pentecostals.”
I don’t know everything. I haven’t experienced everything. I’m not perfect in God’s love. Nor am I fully delivered from carnal vices. But I do have faith in Jesus, fear of God, commitment to Biblical principles, and the Christian life. And because of these things, I feel that I have a right to speak to this issue of “limited Charismatic Christianity.”
It seems to me that there are, at least, basically two kinds of Charismatic Christians: (1) Those who “limit” their spiritual experiences to God’s presence and tongues and (2) those who are “unlimited” in the department of spiritual gifts and experiences–and are open not only to God’s presence and tongues, but also to healing, casting out demons, nature miracles, dreams, visions, God’s voice, impressions, coincidences, ecstasy, interior fire, union with Christ, shaking, slaying in the Spirit, laying on of hands, soaking/contemplative prayer, holy laughter, ecstatic prophecy, discerning of spirits, words of correction and rebuke, translation or teleportation, bilocation, out-of-body experiences, the deep mysteries and revelations of the kingdom of God, etc.
The first group–the limited Charismatics–are the majority of Pentecostal/Charismatic churchgoers. They go to church on Sunday morning, worship, feel God’s presence, praise God in tongues, pay their tithes, listen to Pastor, and go home. I think that sometimes this group thinks they have “arrived” in God–that they have experienced all that there is in the Holy Spirit. Paul rebuked the church of Corinth for this: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but but I would rather have you prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:5). He goes on to explain that the gift of prophecy is better than tongues, because it brings direct words from God to people in the church. The gift of prophecy mainly operates through dreams, visions, and God’s still small voice (Num. 12:6; 1 Kings 19:12). Such experiences are called “revelations” because they “reveal” a secret mystery of God’s knowledge about an issue (2 Cor. 12:1). And more than anything, they prove to people that God is real (1 Cor. 14:25). God’s presence and tongues are only meaningful to those who subjectively experience them (1 Cor. 14:4). But revelations or words of knowledge can be meaningful to anyone who objectively observes a word reach its fulfillment in the “real” world (the physical world).
Experiential “side-effects” of the gift of prophecy are things like: healing, casting out demons, working nature miracles, God’s presence continually felt, coincidences and confirmations, spiritual ecstasies (half-asleep states in prayer or contemplation), out-of-body experiences, and even teleportation of your physical body from one location on earth to another (Acts 8:39-40). The “Toronto Blessing” and “holy laughter” should also be included as ecstatic experiences.
All of these experiences, and more, are in the Bible. Of course, you won’t find entire Bible books or chapters that discuss these experiences. Except for maybe sections of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. Most of these “radical prophetic and mystical experiences” are found in fleeting and passing references in the Scriptures. Why? Because the Bible consists mainly of revelations that have been interpreted and translated for man’s common understanding (except for maybe Daniel and Revelation).
But the Bible is good if one uses it correctly. Sadly, I think more Pentecostal/Charismatics are influenced by the Evangelical tradition than they are by the Azusa Street revival. All of these radical experiences I’ve mentioned were experienced by the early Pentecostals. Or, at least most of the experiences–as far as I know. Pentecostal/Charismatics today seem to believe more like Southern Baptists than they do the Apostolic Faith which was manifested at Azusa Street in 1906. Do you know what Southern Baptist philosophy is based on? I will tell you: “The Bible is good enough for me.” The Bible is the only book a Christian ever needs to read, study, or live by–and especially the King James Version (KJV). Anything that has to do with spiritual experience is looked upon with great suspicion. Even “feeling God’s presence” or “speaking in tongues” is considered too radical.
Do you know why this suspicion is present today? I will tell you: the Puritans in the late 1600s, who eventually became the Southern Baptists–were repulsed at the idea of spiritual experiences, because it was all considered “too Catholic” or “too much like witchcraft.” This was also during the so-called Age of Enlightenment, when clergymen everywhere were being trained, to view the supernatural elements in the Bible with the critical eye of rationalism, skepticism, and intellectualism. Miracles were considered “superstitious.” Protestant Christianity–the further it got away from the supernatural experiences of the Catholic saints–became more of a moral philosophy than a religion of God’s presence, power, and miracles. Recently I heard a guy say, “Without the miracles, the Bible is nothing more than a philosophy book.” And I would add to that: “Without the miracles, the Christian life is nothing more than a moral philosophy.” To this day, the group of “limited Charismatics” are bound in this Evangelical rationalism, and refuse to go any deeper in their experiences of the Holy Spirit. God’s presence and tongues is all they will accept (at best). Woe to them! I pray that Christ will give them faith! To go deeper and further with God!