Friday, October 05, 2012

Charismatic Crackpot

We had a charismatic crackpot  in church recently.  Not all charismatics are crackpots, any more than all crackpots are charismatic.  Indeed, CJ Mahaney is one of my favourite preachers.

But this man, I fear, was both.  I’d never seen him before, but noticed him in the congregation.  He stayed quiet enough during the meeting, and I went to introduce myself to him afterwards.  Within seconds – literally – he’d told me of the wonderful ministry he had, the hundreds (literally) of amazing miracles God had worked for him in a few short weeks (more, in fact, than in the whole of Bible history) and that he was a direct descendant of a famous preacher (one who, incidentally, had no children…).  He told me he was full of the Spirit.  That he was on fire for God.  That he’d been a Christian for years before he was baptised in the Spirit.

I knew where this was going, so I smiled, and said ‘Well, my understanding of that is different from yours.’  I tried to wish him well and walk away, but he wasn’t having that.   It then went like this:

Him: Have you been baptised in the Spirit?

Me: In the Bible, baptism with the Spirit means conversion; it always does.

Him: No; I was a Christian for twenty years before I was baptised in the Spirit.

Me: No, you weren’t.  In the Bible, baptism in the Spirit is conversion – look at 1 Corinthians 12:12.

Him:  I’m on fire for God, sold out for Jesus.  It’s wonderful; everyone should be.

Me:  Undoubtedly.  But I’m a Bible man…

Him:  So am I.

Me:  … and in the Bible baptism with the Spirit is conversion.

Him:  It’s not; what about ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’  (He’s referring to Acts 19:2)

Me: If you read the passage, they replied ‘We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit…’ and when they were asked what baptism they had received, they said ‘John’s baptism.’  These people weren’t Christians.

Him: They were men of God.

Me: It doesn't say so; whatever they were, they weren’t Christians.  They hadn’t heard of the Holy Spirit and they’d only received John’s baptism, not Christian baptism.

Him: Are you filled with the Spirit?  I‘m on fire, on fire – you should be on fire like me.  I’m on fire, I’m full of the Spirit.

Me: Well, you’re full of something, that’s for sure.  But it seems to me that it’s yourself you’re full of, not the Spirit.

Now you may accuse me of being ungracious.  Possibly.  But I had tried to get away without offence, debate, or rancour; and please note:

  • a) he wasn’t – in practice – evangelical, though he may have claimed to be, and even thought he was.

Like many charismatics (I’ve said this before, haven’t I?) he responded to my ‘the Bible says’ with ‘my experience is…’  When I pushed  him about the Bible (a little more than the above extract suggests) he made one attempt to respond.  Good.  But it wasn’t a good one, and he hadn’t thought it out.  When that was pointed out, he switched from his own experience to my experience…

‘Sola Scriptura’ is the basic principle of evangelicalism.  Experience – true or false – is  never an adequate response to the Bible.

  • b) he wasn’t Spirit-filled, either – though he certainly claimed to be

The Holy Spirit is given to glorify Christ, Jesus said (John 16.14).  But this man spoke of himself, not Christ.  There was no obvious humility in him (in fact, there was obviously no humility) which is a sign of the Spirit’s work (Eph. 4:2).

These people are dangerous.  They mislead the immature and hinder the truth.  There are few greater needs today than for the church of Jesus to leave behind its gullibility.

(See, by the way, Conrad Mbewe for another story – much more interesting than mine.)

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