The Holy Spirit in the life of faith

Charismatic teaching and practice is doublethink, having two contradictory views at the same time without cognitive dissonance. The two views...

  1. The Bible is the only authority for Christian faith, the only source of true teaching.
  2. The Holy Spirit intervenes and directs, including, illuminating the mind to properly understand the Bible.

In other words, the Holy Spirit can tell us how to interpret the Bible, meaning, the Bible is not the authority for Christian faith after all, rather, these interpretations are. And of course, these contradict with other people also listening to the Holy Spirit. So you can't trust these Holy Spirit-inspired messages after all.

The solution is to accept apostolic teaching as the authority for truth.

The Bible does not teach Charismatic teachings (tongues, laying on of hands and "body ministry", calling out to Holy Spirit to guide our every smallest step). Nevertheless, God blesses it because he blesses everything we do in faith (as best he can).

Charismatics typically believe and practice the following...

I am not a charismatic and I do not believe their claims. My views...

I'm not the only one who rejects charismatic claims.

Charismatics have a particular way of viewing Christianity. They emphasize the moment-by-moment experience by (1) seeking God's will for the present circumstance, and (2) seeking to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. The emotional aspect of the faith is emphasized and the use of rational human reason is de-emphasized. Thus, they prefer to act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the moment rather than perfect themselves as they work to excel in virtue, prayer, devotion, etc.

Some charismatic Protestant groups (for example Calvary Chapel) generally limit many of the charismatic practices to special meetings. But nevertheless, the mindset invades everything they say and do.

Charismatic Mindset

A strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the life of faith. The Holy Spirit guides from moment to moment during day to day decisions and activities. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct before doing even the most mundane activity; the Holy Spirit will provide wisdom about what to do.

Pray to the Holy Spirit and worship the Holy Spirit through song.

Speak in tongues either privately or even in their group worship and prayer meetings. Some groups having modern day prophets operating in the Holy Spirit-inspired gift of prophecy.

A strong emphasis on singing songs of worship and praise of God, often in an animated manner with the lifting of hands, swaying, dancing, and sometimes singing in tongues.

Looking to their fellow Charismatics (including their pastors and teachers) to provide Spirit-inspired utterances speaking to them about their current life issues. Looking to Bible reading and daily prayer as a way in which the Holy Spirit speaks into their lives.

Charismatic Assumptions

Several unspoken foundational assumptions in all this...

  1. The Holy Spirit speaks to us about every issue in our lives.
  2. We can clearly discern the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Christians are to base their life of faith on these inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Each Christian can correctly interpret the Bible through prayer to the Holy Spirit.
  5. The Holy Spirit speaks through others (including their pastors and teachers) via prophetic utterances; we are to receive these messages as from God.
  6. The "feeling" of the presence of the Holy Spirit means the Holy Spirit is truly present.

Charismatics have not considered the origins or effects of these.

They believe they can correctly discern the promptings and messages from the Holy Spirit but readily admit it's rare to actually hear articulate spoken words. So, they interpret various feelings, coincidences, signs, utterances from others, and other subtle perceptions to hear the word of the Holy Spirit.

The danger is: the human mind continually speaks to us and subconscious messages invade into our perception. How can anyone be so sure they have truly heard the "voice of the Holy Spirit" amid such chaos? The power of their faith that they have accurately discerned the promptings of the Holy Spirit dominates.

Without realizing it, Charismatics hold these extra-Biblical sources of Divine guidance as more authoritative than scripture since they are obeying these promptings of the Holy Spirit rather than scripture. But in so doing, they have unwittingly violated their foundational doctrine of Sola Scripture (scripture only).

There's more. Charismatics believe the Holy Spirit-inspired utterances of their fellow Charismatics (including their pastors and teachers). No matter how wacky or off the point these utterances might sound, they must be accepted as from the Holy Spirit as long as they don't contradict scripture. For Charismatics to deny that these utterances are from the Holy Spirit is to declare as flawed the very foundation of the Charismatic life of faith. Once they begin rejecting these Holy Spirit-inspired utterances, they have placed their own discernment as the authority rather than the Holy Spirit.

How many times when hearing Holy Spirit-inspired utterances from their fellow Charismatics do they sense that the Holy Spirit is speaking, while at the same time sensing that the person speaking is adding something of their own? Would the Holy Spirit really speak through this vehicle of his communication in a manner causing his message to become distorted? And can we really trust ourselves to discern which pieces of the message are from God and which are from man? If the message is garbled when spoken by someone else, perhaps our interpretation of the message is also untrustworthy. Perhaps when we think we are accurately discerning the message (just like the person speaking a "wacky" message from God thinks it is from God), perhaps we are unknowingly distorting the message in our understanding of it. How are we to know?

Charismatics claim to be able to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit based on a "feeling" they have during worship sessions or when attending a Bible study. This implies that sometimes the Holy Spirit is present and sometimes he isn't. Sometimes the Holy Spirit "falls" and Charismatics develop a strong desire to experience this feeling again and again. It provides the focal point for many Charismatics.

The danger in all this is that it is so subjective. In essence it is based on the notion that I can determine the truth about any situation by calling upon the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to me. Whatever I determine that the Holy Spirit has spoken to me, I hold to be the truth.

Speaking in Tongues

Charismatic speaking in tongues is not a language, just as a baby crying is not a language. There is no vocabulary, no grammar, no syntax, no communication of ideas.

Although the early Christians probably copied this practice of speaking in tongues from the pagans, Paul does not strictly forbid its use (but he does drastically restrict its use).

The Biblical form of speaking in tongues is when someone speaks in a language they do not know but that the listeners around them do know. That Paul speaks in tongues more than any of them is not surprising since he was a miracle worker.

1 Corinthians 14

I discuss these questions in detail in my Bible Commentary.