Many within evangelical circles seem to have failed to recognize how influential and growing the charismatic movement is these days among the most theologically astute. By “theologically astute,” I mean that this new breed of charismatics is thoroughly evangelical, orthodox, and Christ-centered. They hold Scripture as the final authority and do not allow the controversial gifts such as tongues, healings, and prophecy to steal their focus. When these gifts are practiced, they are done so with order and intentionality – or not at all. I call this the “fourth wave” of charismatics and not only are these charismatics biblically and theologically driven, a large portion of them are Reformed Calvinists. Agree with them or not, all one has to do is look at the Acts 29 Network – a transdenominational, church-planting network – and see what an impact they are having.
Though I am not charismatic, I am excited about the popularity of this “fourth wave.” Why? Because they have brought so much balance. They have caused many of us (who formerly wrote off all charismatics as Christianity’s “nut jobs”) to seriously consider, for the first time, the continuationist theology and biblical exegesis that provide the backbone to the movement. Credit pastors like John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Sam Storms, along with scholars such as J.P. Moreland, Craig Keener, Wayne Grudem, and D.A. Carson for so much of this. And, like it or not, most of these men are far more well-known and popular than the fading ”cessationists” (non-charismatics) who went before them (Chuck Swindoll, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Hank Hanegraaff, etc.), especially among the younger generation of evangelicals. It is hard to ignore such a growing movement within evangelicalism. It seems now that just about every scholar I talk to is either a continuationist or a wannabe continuationist. Hardly ever do I connect with those who find the old-line cessationists’ arguments persuasive anymore (just in the last few months I have talked to Gary Habermas, Craig Blomberg, Mike Licona, and Paul Copan, who all shared the same thoughts). And Dan Wallace, while not a continuationist, has not been silent about his beliefs that cessationists’ arguments can and have led to bad places. Things have indeed changed.
Nevertheless, it is still difficult to know who is and who is not a charismatic due to the fact that most of us don’t know what the term means. We use words like cessationism, continuationism, and charismatic. When I associate the term “charismatic” with Christians, six primary things come to mind. Any or all of these could be present in my thinking:
1. Unusual attention given to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer
2. The tendency to seek and expect miraculous healings
3. The tendency to seek and expect direct prophetic communication from God (dreams, visions, experiences, personal encounters, etc.)
4. Unusual attention given to the presence of demonic activity in the world
5. Very expressive worship
6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit
I am going to briefly explain each of these. Please pay special attention to the graphs (yes, my mind works in graphs!) since I am going to attempt to show how, with all of these, the designation “charismatic” works on a sliding scale. Here is the model:
Please notice that the scale is not black and white (well,……………