I’ve been laying out my case as to why I believe continuationism is not a non-essential, second-tier doctrinal issue.
As I explained in two previous posts on this subject, see Part 1 and Part 2, continuationism is a disastrous doctrine both in the church and with individuals. Primarily because it has massive influence upon the way people think about God and practice their Christianity. The majority of the time, their faith and practice is sub-biblical, if at all, and outright frightening and pagan.
In the first post, I explained how that if the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself among the continuationist believers, he will not lead pastors and their people to embrace theological heresy. With the second post, I pointed out how numerous continuatiionist leaders, preachers, and conference speakers are known for telling grandiose, urban legend-like stories about spiritual encounters they allegedly had with God, angels, traveling to heaven, healing people, and other tales of fantastic spiritual adventure. As remarkable as they may be, those tales are never truly verifiable.
I wanted to end my overview with considering a third area that I believe demonstrates that continuationism is not just a harmless and acceptable secondary, non-essential doctrinal issue.
Disturbing manifestations and bizarre worship practices
I remember the stories my aunts and uncles told me about their visits with Pentecostals. My grandmother, for instance, remembered well Maria Buela Woodworth-Etter. She even named one of her daughters Buela after her. Maria was a traveling Pentecostal evangelist lady. She was a pioneer in shaping a lot of the spiritual chicanery that is passed off as Holy Ghost anointing we see so much of on TBN and in other charismatic venues.
My relatives were spooked by what they had seen with Pentecostals. I was too much later in life when I would visit AoG churches and Pentecostal tent revivals. I recall one aunt telling me how she was invited by a friend to a local “revival” service when she was a teen. After a lengthy singing time and a guy yelling at people for an hour, the service climaxed with the entire group screeching, hollering, rolling on the ground, doing the tongue babbling thing (my aunt’s description), and eventually pouring out into the field where nearly everyone was rolling in a ditch, barking like animals. The scene, as she described it, “scared her slap to death.” I had a similar reaction with my visits.
My aunt was told that the nightmare clown show she witnessed was what really happens when “God’s Spirit moves on the people!” I was told similar things as well.
Outlandish manifestations are ubiquitous among continuationist churches. All a person has to do is search Youtube. In a matter of a few clicks, you will see videos of continuationists gone wild — or mad, depending upon how you think about it.
What I find truly troubling about those scenes is that continuationists will insist it is a genuine move of the Spirit. Moreover, if anyone were to offer criticism or challenge the biblical precedent for such behavior, that person is waved off as quenching the Spirit or some such nonsense. Yet the question remains. Why should people believe such oddball happenings are God moving? Why would the Holy Spirit lead Christians to behave in such an embarrassing, degrading fashion? How exactly does that behavior testify to God’s anointing or His presence?
Holy Ghost Seizures
For instance, why is a woman violently shaking her head as she allegedly “prophesies” said to be “filled with the Spirit” or have “the anointing?”
Seriously, why is that even Christian? Especially given the fact that genuine works of the Spirit include sobriety and self-control? Yet such manifestations are witnessed in continuationist services all over the place. You can see further examples of what I mean HERE or HERE at the Brownsville Revival.
What about worship services themselves? Many times the behavior displayed is indistinguishable from pagan occultism. Consider an example from Perry Stone’s, Omega Center International church in Cleveland. I won’t embed the video, but you can watch HERE.
The video shows a crude mock-up of the Ark of the Covenant. It is brought into the worship center where members begin gyrating and bouncing around it as if at a pagan feast. The troubling aspect to that entire spectacle is how the church members carry on as if their participation flitting around a cheap idol is completely acceptable to God. And the leadership encourages it!
Now I’d imagine that they would justify their idol worship by saying the Israelites danced before the ark. But must we point out the obvious that a lame replica is not the same as the real thing? And the folks at OCI are not Israelites in the wilderness.
Holy Ghost Gibberish
What about the so-called baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues? Throughout church history, “tongue speaking” has accompanied the rising of nearly every fringe, heterodox splinter-group and pseudo-Christian cult that has reared its ugly head. The sensible Christians recognized the babblings of “tongues” as an indicator that the folks were wackos. Groups like the Montanists, Shakers, and Mormons, were always marked out and avoided.
However, con-artist revivalist preacher, Charles Parham, mainstreamed tongues among early, 20th century Pentecostals. Originally, it was believed those speaking in “tongues” were speaking real, genuine human languages, like Japanese, or Spanish, or Canadian. But when folks began to realize there was nothing supernatural whatsoever with their tongues, and that they were speaking nonsensical gibberish, tongue speaking enthusiasts did what the homosexual revisionist do now with the Bible to make it confirm sodomy: they changed the definition of words and verses. So the word “tongues,” which was understood as meaning human languages, was redefined as meaning ecstatic speech, or Holy Spirit anointed repetitive gibberish.
Continuationists insist the gift of tongues must be practiced according to the regulations Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 14, but rarely, if at all, does any practicing tongue speaker abide by those rules as witnessed in this video HERE, and HERE (fast forward to about the 1:30 mark), and HERE. In fact, you can go to Youtube and search speaking in tongues and find dozens of videos.
The most disturbing element to the bizarre behavior found in continuationist circles is what I would bluntly label the spiritual abuse of children. Kids, as young as two years old, are regularly encouraged to repeat and mimic the euphoric buffoonery they witness from adults.
One of the more notorious is Kanon Tipton, the original baby preacher. You can see him in his inaugural video here,
Now. I don’t know about other parents out there, but if my toddler was to waddle up on the platform during a church service, pick up a live microphone, and start shouting incomprehensible baby talk, I would sheepishly say “sorry” to all present and hurry to seize him before he damaged the sound system. It is only in the halls of a continuationist church that a two year old is elevated and enshrined as the “world’s youngest preacher” who has the “anointing of God” all over him. HERE is another video when he is 5 years old. His little cartoon Bible case is just precious, right?
And that Kanon kid isn’t a rare exception. There are loads of little kid preaching videos originating from Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and other continuationist churches.
But child spiritual abuse doesn’t end there. The real bad stuff can be seen in this video HERE as well as in this one HERE. If you really want to see wild continuationist youth, do a search on Bethel Redding, but I digress.
Three things struck me after watching those.
First, it is just creepy how the adults are psychologically conditioning those kids to react to any verbal cues or behaviors from the adults leading a crusade.
Second, if what those videos show is a common occurrence among continuationist churches, the falling over, seizure fits, and gibberish are all learned. In other words, they are not spontaneous works of the Holy Spirit.
Third, it looks as though churches from all over the world train their kids in such a manner. Churches from anywhere like India, to Latin America, and Africa bring their little kids together and teach them how to be a continuationist. It is not strictly an American phenomenon.
Drawing this all to a conclusion, after surveying my examples, I hope folks can see why I don’t believe continuationist ideas is a non-essential issue that we can debate vigorously with each other, but shouldn’t divide over. All of those astonishing examples are not found in a smattering of continuationist churches that remain in relative obscurity off a beaten path. They represent a grotesque spirituality that is endemic to the entire global community of those praciticing continuationist theology.