Monday, 25 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 8 Responding to the Charismatic Movement

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In light of all that we have considered about the Charismatic Movement, given that there is so much within that movement which draws Christianity back to the darkness of Romanism, the question then arises as to what should our response be to the Charismatic Movement and to its teachers. Since it is one of the most potent forces today in undermining the work of the Protestant Reformation we clearly cannot embrace it. What then will we do? When the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians he did so in response to error having crept into that church through the influence of those described as ‘false brethren unawares brought in ... that they might bring us into bondage’. Paul denounced in the strongest terms those who had brought false teaching into the church, yet to those who had been deceived his approach was somewhat different. Although Paul did rebuke those Galatians who had followed after false teachers, and indeed marvelled that they had done so, he did it in love and with the desire that they would return again to the purity of the gospel. Our response to those who teach false doctrine and our response to those who are deceived by it will be different. The promoters of false doctrine are to be denounced and opposed with all of our strength, yet although we are to seperate from those who espouse error that does not mean that we are to abandon people and leave them to be deceived by false teaching. Instead we must seek to show them their error that they might turn to the truth. Whether they are following the errors of the Charismatic Movement, the errors of Rome, of Mormonism, of Islam or of any other false religion, we are to seek to turn people away from those who would deceive them. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 7 An Ecumenical Spirit

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It would be wrong to say that everyone within the Charismatic Movement desires union with the Roman Catholic Church. There are preachers within charismatic and Pentecostal churches who are opposed to any form of ecumenical unity with Rome, as are many believers within those churches. Indeed many of the early Pentecostals were vigorously opposed to the teaching and doctrines of Roman Catholicism. Yet today there are a large number of prominent charismatic teachers who consider the Roman Catholic Church to be another equally valid branch of Christianity. And once again we find that it is the most prominent figures within the Charismatic Movement who are guilty, it is those preachers who are followed by millions and who are the most influential, who indeed are the true mainstream of the Charismatic Movement. It is those whom we find are most keen to promote an ecumenical agenda. The spirit of ecumenism in the Charismatic Movement is extremely clear to see and indeed we find that the very nature and focus of the Charismatic Movement makes the ecumenical goal more attainable than it ever was before.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 6 A Return to Mysticism

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What is mysticism? In his Dictionary of Theological Terms Dr Alan Cairns describes mysticism as ‘The search for a higher initiation into spiritual mysteries, or a higher consecration to spiritual realities, or a union with deity, by a withdrawal from the external world and by means of contemplation. In this way mystics profess to apprehend truths which are beyond the understanding’a. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it as ‘a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different tradition’b. Mysticism has existed within the broad sweep of Christianity for centuries, as well as being found in many other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taosim. Within Christianity mysticism finds its greatest prominence during the period of the Middle Ages, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, and also in the Orthodox Church, in both cases often being closely linked to Gnosticism. People such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena and Ignatius Loyala, all active in the Church of Rome during this period were mystics, and promoted mystical practices. Mysticism in the Roman Catholic Church has continued through to the modern era with men such as Padre Pio. The ideas of trances, visions, meditation, ecstatic experiences, contemplative prayer and the professed miraculous ability to survive without food for long periods of time can all be found within the realm of ‘christian' mysticism. The reformers of the 16th century by and large turned away from such ideas and were sceptical of the claims of the Roman Catholic mystics. Yet mysticism has remained prominent within Roman Catholicism, and its practices and teachings are also increasingly found within the Charismatic Movement. One area where this has come to light in recent years is in the practice of a form of contemplative prayer known as Lectio Divina. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 5 Demons, demons and more demons

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The famous Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon once made the following remark in relation to demon possession; ‘Satan is not inside our heart now, he entered into Judas, but he cannot enter into us; for our soul is filled by another who is well able to hold his own’a. The true believer cannot be possessed by the devil nor any of his demons. When Christ was accused of casting out devils through the power of the devil in Matthew 12, he responded by saying ‘how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house’. The devil cannot take control of one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as every believer is, having received the Holy Spirit at their conversion, for he is the ‘strong man’ that cannot be bound by any demon. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell alongside a demon within a believer for ‘what concord hath Christ with Belial?’ Indeed no example can be found in Scripture where a demonic spirit has ever inhabited a true believer. Also it is not the norm today for people in general to be possessed by demons. Only where they voluntarily and purposefully invite demons into their lives by involvement in occult practices can people today be demon possessed. When Christ ministered upon the earth he invaded the domain of Satan, confronted demons and demonstrated his power over them. Yet this was a unique period. Satan himself realised that his ability to deceive the world would soon be greatly restrained and so was in a heightened state of activity. The ushering in of the gospel age that followed Christ’s atoning death and resurrection has resulted in Satan being bound and greatly restricted in his ability to deceive the nations.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 4 Unquestionable Authority

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At the 1st Vatican Council on 18th July 1870, the Roman Catholic Church passed one of its most absurd doctrines, that of Papal Infallibility. The decree passed at that council stated that ‘when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, 1) in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, 2) in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, 3) he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable’a.

Although this was the first time that the infallibility of the Pope had been officially declared by the Vatican, the idea that the Pope and indeed the Roman Catholic Church could not err had long been a part of Roman Catholic church history. In 1075 Pope Gregory VII stated that ‘the Roman Church has never erred and will never err to all eternity, according to the testimony of the holy scriptures’b. Even though the doctrine of Papal Infallibility only teaches that the Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra, it still teaches that a mere man can infallibly define a doctrine, without rebuke from any other man. More importantly, it means that no-one can bring the teaching of that person or church to the bar of scripture to challenge whether they are true or not.