08/05/2007

Charismatic hypercalvinists!??

Years ago I preached at a church in the North-east of England that was looking for a pastor. I can't remember what I preached on, but I do remember being asked by one of the elders about my church background. He said, "So you are from a good reformed church then?" My answer was "Yes, and we are a charismatic church also." The elder looked shocked to say the least!

Now of course, it has become more popular for people to say that they are reformed charismatics. Some do find the two terms contradictory but I find nothing in the Word that says holding to the doctrine of grace mean that you cannot also "earnestly desire spiritual gifts."

It has been interesting to follow some recent blogging on the subject of Reformed Charismatics. Back in March, Adrian Warnock posted on the 2007 Shepherds' Conference, where CJ Mahaney preached and asked the question "what would the church look like in another 30 years?"

An important question! Does being reformed and charismatic mean we end up losing our charismatic or reformed distinctives? Do we become middle of the road - a little less charismatic or a little less reformed - or both?

Since Adrian's post raised such important questions I have discovered through my friend Dan Bowen, a blog called Prophetically Speaking by Jesse Phillips, a pastoral intern at Metro Life Church, Orlando (SGM church). He has posted some excellent stuff, including "Is Reformed Theology inherently cessationist?" {Edit 2013:  This blog has closed, but the points raised are still good!}  His answer is "no", but he issues a challenging statement -

"...although there is nothing inherently cessationist about reformed theology, given its emphasis on God's sovereignty it's easier for charismatic apathy and functional cessationism to set in."

And

"Functional cessationism, for example, is an attitude that says, "If God wants to heal he will" without praying earnestly with expectancy that God will respond to and answer our prayers for healing. We can become complacent though certain gifts cease, assuming that if God wanted certain gifts to be given he would provide some sort of sovereign jump-start apart from any human initiative."

In reflecting and commenting on this post, I was struck that the danger of fatalism in relation to seeking God for spiritual gifts, or for healing, is exactly the same danger that is faced when reformed theology is misapplied in the area of evangelism.

Reformed theology should motivate evangelism

While I don't wish to caricature hyper-calvinism, the impression given is that "the elect shall be saved, we must not offer the gospel to those who are not elect." So active evangelism is discouraged or at least ignored.

In my mind - the elect shall be saved and that is a very good reason to go out and preach the gospel. What better motivation than a guarantee that there shall be success in preaching! Not all shall be saved, but the elect shall be saved.

In Acts 18v9-10, we read - "Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no-one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.'"

The elect are there to reach, so let's go and preach the gospel to every creature so that the elect will hear!

Furthermore, if we take God at His Word - He commands us to go out! That in itself should be enough! It helps, though, to have the gracious promise that the elect shall be saved.

Reformed theology should encourage seeking after spiritual gifts and healing

By the same token, Jesus told His disciples to pray for the sick! We have the model of the early church praying for the sick! We are commanded to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14v1). Isn't that enough?

Simply saying that God is sovereign and will give gifts and give healing if it is His will is a form of hyper-calvinism. If we apply the same logic to the rest of our lives we would not reach out and we would not strive for godliness. God has commanded us to preach, to be godly and to seek spiritual gifts.

But God's sovereignty is surely an encouragement. We are told - "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him" (Matt 7v11), and "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." (1 Cor 12v7).

Here again is gracious encouragement. He commands - so we obey, but He also promises. He will give gifts! It is part of His sovereign plan. So let us actively seek Him for them.

He is the great Healer (Exodus 15v26). It is part of His sovereign purposes to heal - not everyone, but many. So why not pray in faith? And we will have the joy of seeing God answer in power and we will give Him the glory for His mighty work.

And if it is not His will to heal in that particular instance or at that particular time, we have lost nothing. We have shared precious fellowship in caring for His people in prayer, and we know that He works all things together for good to those who love Him. And we know that we find Him in the valley.

May God's sovereignty fuel our faith and our praying. And may we see a mighty outpouring of healing power.

7 comments:

Jesse P. said...

I appreciate your comments about my blog. I it good to meet like-minded folks!

Jesse P. said...

Sorry for the typo..."it is good" to meet like-minded folks!

Baxter's Boy said...

"Does being reformed and charismatic mean we end up losing our charismatic or reformed distinctives? Do we become middle of the road - a little less charismatic or a little less reformed - or both?"

I think the automatic danger is that we all (as in evangelicals) tend to head for the safe middle of the road. I don't know why! Its just in our hyper-orthodox nature. The outrage of that scenario however means that our charismatic nature gets whittled down and we begin talking about "the baptism" and "back then" and we struggle to find present day testimonies of ENCOUNTERS with God now - today!

And I really believe that as that happens so does our reformed nature, our commitment to the Word. We begin spending time in "safe" texts that have historical romance - such as the Cross, and the Gospels and we cease applying the text to today - what is God saying to us NOW - TODAY?!

Can we not take our example from God the Son who was 100% Man and 100% God?! Can we not be so 100% charismatic that we put Benny Hinn or Reinhard Bonke to shame?! Yet be so 100% reformed and committed to the Word of God that we put those ridiculous paedo-baptists to shame too?!?! "Whatever He says - DO IT!?!".

I was reading the announcement of our Lord's being on earth. We are all very familiar with "The SPirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news". And that's where we stop. The Gospel. But Jesus went on! "To release those in captives, to open the blind eyes!". Mark 16!! Let's be about the Master's work!!

Peter Day said...

Jesse - Amen. It is good to find like-minded folks. And I pray that all of us "reformed charismatics" would be 100% reformed and 100% charismatic, and that our blogging would be a great blessing for the Kingdom - by His amazing grace.

Dan - I love the vision of putting Benny Hinn to shame. Oh God visit us with such power! I love, too, the vision of being so reformed that our brethren in that camp are stirred too - not just about baptism, but about what all the great puritans knew - the experience of what they wrote about.

Reformed charismatics are not simply middle of the road Christians who avoid extremes. Rather we should be "whole road Christians" taking the fulness of the Word and the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

thebluefish said...

v.encouraging to see someone else seeing that reformed theology encourages evangelism and seeking gifts/healing. amen!

Shannon Lewis said...

O boy!
Are we ever swimming in the same stream!
Excellent blog...I'm 'subscribing'!
blessings,

Shannon

Peter Day said...

Thank you for your visit, Shannon. It's been a while since I have visited my blog myself! But here I am tonight, and I am finally getting round to updating.

Thank you so much for your encouragement. It has blessed me to read your comment.