Many readers will have landed on this page after reading my About page. If you haven’t, you should really read that first as it provides some context for what follows.
First, by “charismania” I am not referring broadly to sincere believers who believe the miraculous spiritual gifts are for today. I’m referring to the very obvious unbiblical, unethical, circus-like atmosphere that characterizes a lot of alleged displays of such gifts. I’m thinking here of phony faith healers, “teaching” that has a demon behind every problem, money-grubbing televangelists (prosperity gospel), and pastors and other leaders who “beat the devil” out of people and otherwise abuse their congregations. Here’s an illustration. This sort of thing isn’t of God and those who abuse and manipulate people in the name of Christ like this should be in jail. Frankly, I’m appalled that anyone who names the name of Christ does such things.
Of course the above doesn’t represent the entirety of charismatic believers. I’ve never been in a charismatic church, but know plenty of people who have. I have friends who would call themselves charismatic who, like me, find spiritual abuse and church-as-frenetic-shouting-match disgusting. My personal position on spiritual gifts is that of being “cautiously open” — and both of those words are important. If God wants to empower someone with a gift like speaking in a foreign language in some context where that’s needed to spread the gospel (as opposed to uttering gibberish; 1 Cor 14:6-12), I’m fine with that. I try not to put the words “God” and “can’t” into too many sentences. But such gifts need to follow the scriptural parameters. There are clear OT contexts for these gifts (Isa. 28:11, 12; Deut. 28:49). They are not indiscriminate, disorderly, and random. The gifts are distributed by God unevenly in Scripture (1 Cor 12: 4-11; 14:13-33). There is no expectation that all believers will have all the gifts or the same gifting. The gifts are also not conditions for salvation or keeping God happy. We don’t add to the cross unless we want to be heretics. I recommend the following book for an overview of various positions on this issue: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? (Zondervan).
Related to the above, I do not endorse deliverance ministry. While I allow God to do what he wants when he wants, acknowledging that might be dramatic and spectacular, I believe that deliverance ministry is lacking in a scripturally correct angelology and demonology. In all honesty, it tends to be simplistic and without exegetical moorings. This sort of material is my own academic focus (see my book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, or the “lite” non-academic version, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches About the Unseen World – and Why It Matters). I’m a supernaturalist, but what one believes about the supernatural must be grounded in the biblical text to (by definition) be biblical theology. Biblical theology isn’t feeling- or experience-driven. Yes, people can be possessed (a better term is likely “oppressed”), but its simply misguided to suggest that sinful habits, unwise behavior, and poor decisions were caused by demons. Christians need to own what they do, repent, and submit to the lordship of Christ. When we fail, we find forgiveness, but we don’t sin to multiply grace. It’s equally wrong (and unconscionable) to assign medical conditions to demonization. There really is such a thing as mental illness. Autism isn’t evidence of demonic oppression. I could go on, but I hope the thought is clear. I’d recommend two episodes of my podcast to illustrate these points. They should be listened to in order. The second one provides a basic overview of what I think are the flaws of deliverance demonology.
Naked Bible Podcast: Episode 68: Interview with Fern and Audrey
Naked Bible Podcast: Episode 148: Q & A with Fern, Audrey, and Beth
When it comes to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), I don’t endorse that, either. I don’t believe in an apostolic succession that would have modern-day apostles that are extensions of the original NT 12 (and Paul). The NT term is used to describe individuals who were not Paul or the 12, basically sent to churches for ministry. A careful study of apostolic authority undermines the NAR thinking on apostolic authority. I recommend pp. 1-14 of the study below, especially pp. 10-12, which details the nature, scope, and limitations of apostolic authority quite well.
Clarke The Source and Scope of Pauls Apostolic Authority (Criswell Theological Review n.s.12/2 [Spring 2015] 3-22)
I also recommend the following book on the NAR. I’m in agreement with its criticisms and its irenic tone.
R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pevic, A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement (Weaver Book Company, 2014)