A Brief Introduction
I am becoming convinced more and more every day that continuationism is not just a non-essential, secondary doctrinal issue for Christians.
My thinking about this started shortly after the Strange Fire conference as I engaged continuationist critics on social media. They denounced the conference with such fervent descriptions as “hateful,” “divisive,” “painting with a broad brush,” “throwing all the faithful Pentecostal/charismatic people from around the world under a heresy bus.”
The strongest antagonist to the conference, Michael Brown, even wrote a 400 plus page book responding to the various talks and lectures presented at Strange Fire. My friend Lyndon and I wrote a lengthy, chapter-by-chapter review of his book that can be read HERE, if anyone is interested.
Their primary claim was to say the Strange Fire participants wrongly attributed the bizarre, wild-eyed antics and paranormal stories witnessed at a typical charismatic style crusade to faithful continuationists who never display any of that ridiculous conduct or claim any of those otherworldly experiences. The wacky high jinks seen on so-called Christian TV like TBN or Sid Roth’s “It’s Supernatural!” program are not the norm, but are fringy and embarrassing. They hardly represent genuine, enthusiastic, but orthodox Pentecostal-charismatic worship and belief.
Yet, in spite of their assertions of false accusations, what I was observing from the charismatic world provided an overwhelming contrary conclusion. The insistence by those pure and clean continuationists that true continuationism is not marked with the outlandish faux-testimonies of miraculous healings, visits to heaven, and pronouncements of fake prophecies, really had to make me wonder about their credibility. Certainly they couldn’t be THAT blind.
In fact, with what I was seeing, the TBN and Sid Roth style charismatic continuationists are the standard majority. Quite the opposite, the so-called balanced, sober-minded continuationists were the true fringe. Their view of continuationism has practically zero influence upon the vast body of charismatic believers. And that vast body is pretty vast, like say in the hundreds of millions world-wide.
If a person just does a simple search on the best selling charismatic books, he will find that all of them are written by the fringe, kooky continuationists throughout the Charismatic spectrum. Just take a look at the material sold at Bethel Redding’s bookstore. I don’t see anything representing the balanced, non-crack-pot continuationist. Say for instance, Wayne Grudem, or even Michael Brown.
Continuationism, A Non-Essential Issue?
Now. I understand that when I claim continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary issue that I am making a rather bold charge. I even had some respected friends push back against what I am stating; but I am prepared to back up what I mean.
When I write that continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary doctrinal matter, I am obviously saying continuationism has a direct and detrimental influence upon essential Christian doctrine, or those essential, core doctrines being what defines Christian orthodoxy and practice. I was asked by my detractors to provide some examples, and I believe I can.
I want to aim my focus upon what I believe to be the most significant, and that is how continuationism maligns the doctrine of God. More specifically, how it touches the work of the Holy Spirit. While I certainly affirm a robust belief in the work of the Holy Spirit in acts of providence and individual salvation, continuationist conduct and claims of the supernatural attributed to the Holy Spirit are often blasphemous, or lead to blasphemy. I’d like to demonstrate what I mean in a series of posts highlighting what I believe are three key areas. I’ll begin with this post considering the first one.
I think we would all agree that one of the major works of the the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s people in spiritual truth. In fact, in John 16:13, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of Truth.” His ministry will be to speak authoritatively for the Father and the Son, and He will glorify our Lord.
Thus, when the Holy Spirit is truly at work among God’s people He leads them into the truth of who God is, who Christ is, what the Gospel message is, and a right understanding of Scripture. The Holy Spirit would not be leading the church into compromising with gross, doctrinal error. Any person participating with the proclamation of gross, doctrinal error, while claiming it is a move of the Holy Spirit, would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, would he not?
Cases in point:
Check out this picture:
Here we have, from left to right, John and Carol Arnott of Catch the Fire ministries, Brian Stiller of World Evangelical Alliance, Kenneth “X-men weather controller” Copeland, an antichrist, Thomas Schrrmacher, another guy from the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunniclife, a peace activist, again with the World Evangelical Alliance, James and Betty Robinson of Life Today ministries, and the now eternally judged, Bishop Tony Palmer.
Back during the summer of 2014, that writhing nest of spiritual asps, met together to discuss joint efforts in unifying Catholics and “evangelicals”®™ for the purpose of working together. James Robinson gushingly stated after the meet up, “This meeting was a miracle…. This is something God has done. God wants his arms around the world. And he wants Christians to put his arms around the world by working together.” [Charisma News Online 7/7/2014].
I happen to believe God had absolutely nothing to do with it at all, because I happen to believe the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy and a false Gospel. To say the Holy Spirit does is blasphemy.
Both sides teach a false gospel. And while Catholics and those pseudo-evangelical grifters have a canyon’s wide divergent views of what is “the gospel,” each of their “gospels” are built upon the foundation of false doctrine that does not save anyone.
The only thing that brought them together is their continuationist views of the Spirit. The pope, and those useful idiots meeting with him, represent one of the largest world-wide collection of continuationists. While the pope believes Mary is a co-redemptrix with Jesus, and Copeland thinks Jesus wants Christians living in emperor decadence, both sides affirm the on-going supernatural work of the Spirit either in forms of continued revelation, visions and dreams, and even miraculous healings. Is anyone beginning to see how continuationism is not just a non-essential doctrine?
“Oh, Freddy,” someone may object, “Aren’t you choosing a rather extreme example? Kenneth Copeland is hardly a representative of true continuationism. Everyone agrees with you that he and his lunatic wife are goofy.”
Okay, let’s consider a second picture,
Here we see Lou Engle, founder of The Call ministries on his knees, kissing the feet of Matteo Calisi at the Azusa Now event that was held at the LA Colosseum. Calisi has been for years an active leader in Italy attempting to unify Catholics with Italian Pentecostals, as well as Pentecostals worldwide. The common factor for him? Why it’s the continuationist views of the Holy Spirit shared mutually between Pentecostals/charismatics and Roman Catholics.
In a 2014 interview with ZENIT, the online equivalent of Charisma News, but for Catholics (minus the howling mad crazy), Calisi explains in the interview the significance of the pope visiting with a group of Pentecostal evangelicals in Italy,
“The Bishop of Rome is perfectly aware of the urgency to search for unity between the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Evangelical Churches. More than half a billion Christians adhere to the Pentecostal Movement, which is the second Christian confession soon after the Catholic Church for its large numbers. The Pentecostal Movement is the fastest growing movement in the whole history of the Christian Church, there is no other precedent. A movement born from the Holy Spirit without human founders, so little known by specialists and ecumenists especially here in Italy, which had an astonishing growth in the past century from 0 to 600 million participants.” [ZENIT 8/7/2014] (emphasis mine).
Engle invited Roman Catholics to the Azusa Now event because he wanted to bring ALL the followers of Christ together for the “purpose of unity, miracles, healing, and the proclamation of the gospel.” [CT 4/11/2016]. In other words, continuationism. Calisi was quoted as saying that the doctrinal divide between Catholics and evangelicals®™ is sinful and that Jesus doesn’t care about our doctrinal difference. I may be going out on a limb here, but I happen to believe with sound conviction that Jesus does care about individuals who venerate Mary and the saints to the point they pray to them.
Put another way, Jesus hates idolatry.
Again, someone is gonna say, “Fred, Fred, Fred. We are continuationists and we agree with you that Lou Engle is a wack-a-doodle. How can you possibly say continuationism has anything to do with this?”
Look. The folks at that conference are specifically meeting together under the guise of a mutual, continuationist fraternity. They are laying aside key, theological talking points — talking points that mark the difference between biblical truth and soul damning error! They are laying aside doctrine for the very purpose of promoting their fake Holy Spirit fraternity.
Moreover, go back to Engle’s website and check out that “about The Call” page. Look at that massive header photo of thousands of young people packed into a stadium at one of their prayer rally things. Thousands of other people all across the nation where Engle does his shtick will hear him say that doctrinal division from Catholics is sinful, and we need to love one another as brothers and sister in Christ in spite of any theological or doctrinal difference.
Those young people go away thinking there is nothing wrong with Catholicism because they have a shared experience with the Catholic in the Holy Spirit. I can even imagine them thinking, “Oh, Catholics have visions and dreams and visits from Mary and the saints just like charismatic leaders say they have with dead charismatics (as I wrote about HERE) and frequent visits to heaven (as I wrote about HERE).
The conclusion then is that there is nothing particularly wrong about the theology of Catholicism. Everyone loves Jesus, experiences the Holy Spirit, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy and to say He does is blasphemy! Hence, I see continuationism as touching right in the middle of core doctrinal truths about who God is and the ministry of the third person of the Trinity.
I’ll pick up with some more here soon.