Millions of genuine Christians around the world are caught up in the charismatic movement. I was one of them.
I was taught to believe that ordinary born-again, Bible-believing Christians are inferior to charismatic Christians. In one church I attended, the leaders taught that non-charismatics “do not have the Holy Spirit,” and that they “have not been baptised with the Spirit.” In another church I attended, where it was admitted that the Spirit of God was involved in Christian conversion, they taught that non-charismatics “are not moving in the Spirit,” and that they “haven’t submitted to all that God wants to do through them.”
Charismatics in general think that non-charismatics are being held back from God’s blessings. Some think that a non-charismatic’s believing in cessationism can actually prevent God from giving them all that he desires to give them. (Cessationism is the teaching that God has ceased giving the miraculous sign gifts and revelatory gifts described in the New Testament at the completion of the New Testament scriptures). Others think that non-charismatics are being held back by their own fear of what other people might think of them, or fear of “letting the Holy Spirit move through them.” All charismatics think that non-charismatic Christians are to be pitied and prayed for until they “get it.”
Real, ordinary Christians
Years later, I moved to another town where I discovered a group of Christians who rejected and opposed the charismatic movement. I also discovered that they were more mature, more godly, more Christian than I believed was possible for non-charismatics!
These people were blessed by God in many ways. I saw this and I could not deny it. Their prayers to God were serious, thoughtful, humble and expectant. Their worship singing was reverential and orderly. And they at least appeared to be reaching levels of Christian holy living that were superior to that of the charismatics whom I knew who were of similar age in the Christian faith. Were these really people who “didn’t have the Holy Spirit,” or who “didn’t move in the Spirit”? Were they really refusing to submit to “all that God wanted to do through them”?
Should we believe the Bible or ‘Experiences’?
A battle began within me as I told myself to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is, I continued to believe in the charismatic distinctive doctrines and practices and I tried hard to be suspicious of these cessationists. I told myself, “They only appear to be good Christians, but in reality they were resisting the Holy Spirit!” I challenged these godly non-charismatics to answer my questions. I must confess that I looked down on them, and that I was too proud at first to take their answers seriously.
They told me that, yes, I should “walk by faith and not by sight.” They said that I needed to “walk” by the faith of the Bible and not to interpret it based upon what I thought I had experienced, or upon what I thought I had seen and heard. But it was not that they were confirming me in my charismaticism – they were beginning to challenge it, to its core teachings.
As my friendships developed with these cessationists I learned a lot. We had some long, serious discussions. I read their books. I listened to their sermons and talks, both live and on cassette tapes.
And then – slowly at first with much reluctance, and later with much gladness and relief – I repented of my charismatic beliefs and practices.
God led me out of the Charismatic Movement
What do charismatics think of those who have left the charismatic movement? Some of the following things were said to me; others are what have been said to other former charismatics. They divide into two basic responses:
(1.) Some suggest that former charismatics were not real charismatics, but that either they had pretended that they were, or they had somehow been deceived into thinking that they were.
(2.) Others say that it is possible for a genuine charismatic to somehow “quench the Holy Spirit,” “grieve the Spirit,” “sin against the Spirit” and then live in a “back-sliding” state as a non-charismatic again – a state in which (so they say) God is chastising them by withdrawing from them in some measure. But if they really were a genuine charismatic then the “back-slider” would repent and return to the “Spirit-filled life.”
Charismatics strongly resist the idea that their ‘gift of tongues’, ‘prophecies,’ ‘words of knowledge,’ ‘dreams that came from Jesus,’ ‘healings,’ ‘miracles,’ ‘demonic deliverences’ (i.e. exorcisms), ‘holy laughter’ and times of being ‘slain in the Spirit’ (i.e. hypnotic trances) were not really from God. They say that it is a temptation from the devil to deny these things, and a sin against the Holy Spirit. They cannot accept that God leads many Christians out of the charismatic movement, and that he shows them from his word (the Bible) that its distinctive doctrines are false and its practices are bogus, and that he makes them repent of them all. And they don’t like to think that anyone may be spiritually better off out of the charismatic movement.
But I have had the pleasure of discovering real, increasingly mature and godly Christians who do have the Holy Spirit, and who are moving in the Spirit, and who are receiving all that God wills to give them (even “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3; and “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” 2 Peter 1:3) – but they have never believed that the miraculous sign gifts and revelatory gifts of the New Testament are for today. And I have had the pleasure of discovering other ex-charismatics besides myself who have become better Christians since they came out of membership in, and even out of pastorates of, Pentecostal and charismatic churches.
And what of the ‘miracles’ that I had actually seen with my own eyes?
I have been in crowds of genuine Christian people who became excited to a state of euphoria in ‘healing and deliverance ministry’ meetings. I have seen them line up (and I have joined the line with them) at the front of the hall in order to receive a touch on the forehead by local charismatic church leaders and visiting preachers, which caused them to fall backward into the arms of waiting “catchers” and then either to lay motionless on the floor with an expression of ecstasy on their faces, or to go into convulsions (and be prayed over and have demons ordered to come out of them “in the name of Jesus”) until they stopped writhing about and were allowed to rest until they returned to consciousness.
I had desperately wanted to be ‘slain in the Spirit’ too; but for some reason I did not fall down and I felt a failure because of “my lack of faith” or “my unconfessed sins.” I repeatedly repented of my sins and I asked God to search my soul for sins that I didn’t know were sins, so that I could repent of them too. But I still didn’t “receive the blessing” of being put under this trance.
I have had small and large groups of charismatics pray for me to “get it.” On one occasion some well-wishers even prayed to God that if there were any demons “from back in my family tree” interfering with me, that they might be exposed so that they could cast them out of me. But no demons showed up and I still did not fall down.
I am now very glad that I did not succumb to this hypnotic induction!
I have never encountered anyone who has been given a genuine gift from God of a language that they had not learned, or any words from God in a language that they had not learned.
I have seen many so-called ‘healings’ and ‘deliverances’ – many instances of euphoria-induced pain relief, and of imaginary or psychogenic health problems healed, and of symptoms temporarily suppressed by the power of suggestion or will-power. But I have seen no cancers miraculously removed, no missing fingers replaced, no Parkinson’s disease reversed, no broken bones put back together, and nobody actually get out of their wheel-chairs and never need them again. And I have seen nobody even partially or briefly miraculously healed of physical or organic health problems.
I have heard of people in far away places being miraculously healed of AIDS, or having their tattoos miraculously washed away, or having gold fillings miraculously appear in their mouths – or even being raised from the dead. But I have never seen proof of these things.
– Simon Padbury, June 2011.