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THREE LETTERS BY DISILLUSIONED CHARISMATICS

An email from "A Disillusioned Charismatic - Am I Alone???"

This email was sent by a friend. I contacted the writer and we have been in correspondence. He has asked for some of my essays and has kindly given permission to reproduce his email here.

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I am 48 - reluctantly "MiddleClass" - (despite efforts to be otherwise !!) Father of 3, Company Director, and "born again" Christian. I am a fifth generation Christian, having my Great Grandfather's diaries describing his travels by pony and trap through the villages of Essex preaching the gospel - each succeeding generation following this pattern of evangelical zeal and leadership in the church.

I have, from the age of 18, been in church leadership through youth work, House Group Leadership, Church planting, mission, and church eldership for 20 years. My life has pretty much been `non stop' church, all consuming at times, believing the church to be loved by God and a revealer of Christ to this world (Eph. 3 v 10).

Two years ago I stood down from all leadership as the gap between "what we were saying and what we were seeing" became too wide far my comfort, doubts that were at the back of my mind came to the fore. The tension between "being in faith" for the supernatural and struggling to deny what was clearly obvious - that God does not appear to intervene in our lives to the extent to which we think - became an uncomfortable position.

My Charismatic theology is essentially one of intervention - (1 Cor. ch.12) "Spiritual gifts" defined as "supernatural" (extra natural). Gifts used to affect our human circumstances. From wisdom, through healing to miracles. All these gifts are characterised by their "super naturalness". All essential to deal with deadlocked human problems, essential pastoral tools needed to build a dynamic and effective church. Tools designed to do a job!

Armed with a vision to convert the world, and knowing that, without faith, you can't please God, one learns personally and teaches corporately that we first "find our gift", develop, and then exercise through faith this supernatural gift within the church.

This process finds its expression in prophesy, words of knowledge, pictures!!, visions, tongues, healing sessions, and more recently ministry sessions. We have seen 'Toronto', machine gun prophets (who ride off into the distance) and a posse of other various 'ministries'. In many churches they came and go without any questions being asked as to their truth or effectiveness. One is reticent, especially in leadership, to say what lurks at the back of your mind for fear of the charge of 'lacking in faith'.

Recently I asked four friends (honest men), enthusiastic charismatics, collectively representing a total of l00 years involvement in this tradition to recall a clear unambiguous prophesy of healing that they would confidently and honestly say was supernatural - something that they were party to. The silence spoke volumes as each assumed that the other must have witnessed something. Some positive response to my provocative question.

When this phenomena seems to have no expression, the tendency to explain away the apparent silence becomes overwhelming. Good and honest leaders present many options :

"Wait for Gods timing"

"It has happened, but you need the eye of faith to see it"

"There may still appear to be a problem but this is a 'lying symptom'"

"It hasn't happened because 'there must be a curse' or 'sin in the camp'".

Worse than the excuses is when testimony is given to something that clearly is not the case, not possible!!!! That doesn't happen!!!!. Sadly it does. How is this possible, I don't know but I have done it!!. A Pastor friend of mine said "there is more Spin in the church than in the labour party"

18 months ago I was woken at 4 am. by a friend, to be told that his daughter had just committed suicide and that he had helped her. Could I came down to be with his wife and son. This event was the culmination of years of torment for the whole family. There had been every conceivable form of ministry, prayer, fasting, taking authority, laying on of hands. Yet, despite every effort, this young woman could not bear to live. My friend would fast till he dropped, return home twice every day to pray over his daughters bed, speak out and claim healing in tongues and in English whilst at work on his roofs, read and study to find some means of unlocking this nightmare, never blaming God, just living in faith. Unfortunately, as with numerous tragic situations, God did not intervene. To the church this represented a failure and it has tried to give all sorts of unhelpful reasons for the lack of healing in this life. The situation has in the subsequent months caused me to doubt so much I once believed.

I have been a part of this belief system, committed and giving enthusiastic assent.

I love God and know I am loved by him - I love his church and my life has been enriched by the relationships I have made within it. Yet, I am now having to come to terms with a different reality. Demolishing old walls trying not to demolish the whole building. I now have a strong sense of alienation, a feeling of letting down my friends and fellow leaders. I am struggling to find a way to explain to my children why I once believed something that I now question. To be honest I am uncertain of more than I would like to admit!!.

Has anyone else "been there" and what are you left with ???

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[MB NOTE- As one who attended a Pentecostal Church for 2 years I have seen some of these practices taking place (but long before the "Toronto 'Blessing'" etc. came in.)
This heartcry only emphasises the importance of seeking the REAL TRUTH on ANY issue. Notice how the leaders were misleading both themselves and their congregation when they were not witnessing to the real truth of the various events, but used falsehoods for excuses. One might well ask, "WHO is behind this whole system of deception and self-deception?"
The writer of this letter is not the first to reach such a devastating conclusion - and he will not be the last. One highly recommended book that demolishes the charismatic position is John MacArthur's "Charismatic Chaos". This should be read by all charismatics. Again, the importance of reading ALL sides of a position to find the real truth is paramount in any sphere of life. To fail to do so is to deliberately prefer to remain in willful ignorance. We leave to the reader's imagination God's view of such a position.]

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MB thought added 25 March 2003 -

A ROOT CAUSE OF WHY CHARISMATICS SPLIT OFF
In examining the whole charismatic spectrum, it has recently occurred to me that there is a very strong theme running through all charismatic churches, particularly with regard to the way in which most of them are the results of splits in a sound church. Not infrequently this might be initiated by an assistant pastor or by a very strong character in the church.
I would suggest that the common factor in many such splits is the strong desire of the new leader for POWER over his "own" flock. This desire for power can be carefully hidden yet nevertheless be extremely strong in the new leader. The desire to have power over others - any power - can be an overriding urge in some people. They may (or may not) have power in their workplace. If they do, then they may also want it in their church. If they do NOT have any power at their work, they may nevertheless covet it in a situation where they can see the potential in another area of their life.
In using the two opposite examples, I am not trying to "have it both ways", but really saying that this urge is so strong in some people that they will find SOME way of obtaining it in SOME area of their life.
Now this is not quite the same as those who are natural leaders - although at times it will be almost indistinguishable. They will rise to these positions by ABILITY that will be recognised by people looking for leadership in an area of life. They should lead their people wisely and well. The truly humble leader (of which there are very few by their very nature of being leaders) will also be prepared to take criticisms from his flock without taking umbrage - a most severe test of ANYONE'S Christian faith.
It is the power-HUNGRY man who is the greatest danger, particularly in churches, as this will be hidden beneath a veneer of charm and graciousness. He will be popular because he will know how to feed the basic human instincts of wanting "happiness, excitement, emotionally moving events in their life, social togetherness, etc." It is when his teaching/leadership is questioned that the true person begins to reveal himself. He will use manipulation, lying, carefully structured meetings etc. in order to hold on to power. He will also angrily dismiss those who dare to oppose him.
To give you one example. I know of a man who proclaimed that the church did not need a pastor. He eventually got the pastor out. However, the church had to have some form of leadership - and guess who had the "leadership qualities" and who they therefore chose as their leader?
There is the case I know of a very well known top man of a charismatic group of churches who blasted a member non stop for 30 minutes who had dared to adversely comment on some of the teachings he was giving! They and another family quickly left.
Beneath the veneer of love and joy in charismatic churches, there is a great fear that some of the basic teachings and practices must not be questioned lest they "rock the boat" or "show a lack of faith". It was because my friend dared to question exactly what was really happening that the dam at last broke and the truth then rapidly became apparent. Few have the courage to do this, but the end results will mean many coming nearer to the truths of the real Christian faith - which should be the ultimate aim of ALL Christians.
MB (26 March 2003)
- now to return to the way the church progressed -

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Early January 2002 update.
My friend has ordered 30 copies of John MacArthur's book "Charismatic Chaos" (The 1992 updating of his 1978 book "The Charismatics") and has passed them to friends and relatives in the church and others. He found it "compelling" and is reading it a second time. Several in his church have also begin to "question" some of the practices they have been carrying out, but he is finding it very difficult at the moment.
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7 Feb 02 - "I have been continuing to push doors and ask questions - have a very interesting response to the books I circulated !! Many have said that it has answered many questions that had been lurking at the back of their minds!!."

[MB comment - One is left wondering why they did not seek answers to these important questions when they first arose. Why were they too fearful of asking them in a Bible study group or at some other church meeting? It is understandable they they do not want to "rock the boat" but it is God's truth that is at stake.]
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We corresponded regularly. I sent some leaflets and articles which he found excellent summaries of the various heresies he had been taught. Amongst them were Hanegraff's book "Christianity in Crisis", and leaflets "The faith movement may be prospering but is it healthy?" and "A look into - the word faith movement." He was promised a reply by John Hosier ("theologian" of the New Frontiers church) on his teaching about "baptism in the Holy Spirit". He never received this reply - as I had predicted.
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Update 25 February 2003
The church is now very badly divided. Two elders have resigned, several have left, and other mature members have "taken the pastor to task". In order to shift blame for the problem, the pastor said in a sermon that had my friend not resigned, he would have been dismissed anyway. My friend challenged this and asked the other elders whether his dismissal was ever discussed. All agreed that it never had been. The pastor would not release a tape of a conversation which infuriated many members.
One of the main problems is the "Word-Faith" teaching of the church. This is the "name it and claim it" teaching - that you can become healthy and wealthy etc. because you ARE a god, and can change situations. No wonder they are having problems in the church with this horrendous teaching being given by the pastor!
My friend said "I have had over 25 people specifically express their gratitude to me for raising an issue which was long overdue." This could be applied to ALL charismatic churches.
I expressed my concern that members who leave may form their own church, but then take with them much of the incorrect attitude to the true faith, particularly in worship that they have absorbed over many years in this church. It is here that the vital importance of sound, gripping sermons that are expositions of the Scriptural truths becomes so VERY important. Sound teaching will produce a sound, godly church.
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Update 22 August 2003- The young "prosperity" pastor has left. The congregation is greatly depleted, but there is no apology by the main Pastor for teaching erroneous doctrine. My friend is in discussion with several other Christians "all of whom are going through a reappraisal of beliefs in light of the exposures of the 'spin doctoring' within the charismatic churches."
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In February-March 2002 I received some e-mails form another disillusioned charismatic and he willingly gave me permission to give the following outline of his spiritual journey.
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My correspondent became a Christian in a Baptist church from a non-Christian background just as his church was going into the Charismatic movement. "After a few years I moved on to a Charismatic house church, because I was dissatisfied with that my church for not being Charismatic enough." His discovering the 'young earth' (i.e., Biblical time-scale) creation movement and developing a keen interest in this subject kept him in touch with non-Charismatics. This helped him to see that, "...contrary to what Charismaticism would lead one to believe, there existed many Christians who had a strong, deep, mature faith who themselves were not Charismatics, and indeed rejected the distinctive Charismatic teachings and practices. One certainly did not need to become a Charismatic in order to draw closer to God, to grow as a Christian in Biblical understanding and life-style, to worship God in Spirit and in Truth."

At University he became involved with the Christian Union, which was "predominantly Charismatic". He also went on long walks and had deep theological discussions with a young Christian woman, a fellow-student at the university (who later became his wife). She was not a Charismatic and never had been, and knew enough about the historic Protestant Christian faith to see that the teachings and practices of the Charismatic movement were not "main stream" Christianity.

After attending a talk by a missionary-pastor from America about the Christian Faith of the Reformation, he recognised that this preacher's Christianity was so very different from his own. Over the months following, through attending further lectures from this missionary-pastor, through studiously comparing the Christian teachings that were rediscovered in the Reformation with his own beliefs, and through many conversations with present-day Reformed Christians, he underwent a massive world-view change.

As a Charismatic, his conception of God had been that "God was distant and normally uninvolved with His created universe"; that is, somewhat less than the immanent Upholder (Sustainer) and Ruler over all things whom he came to appreciate while he increasingly came to believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace (i.e., what many refer to as Calvinism or Reformed Faith). His charismatic leaders had told him that the universe had been left under the governance of natural laws and 'chance' and had come under the influence of demons and "the god of this world" (Satan), and that the true God could occasionally be invoked to intervene "if one had faith, or had enough faith, or as free from unconfessed sin, or free from demonic possession." He believed the commonly heard phrase that "the Devil may win some battles, but God will win the War". This opinion he now considers desperately wrong and even blasphemous, since it implies that the Devil sometimes wins over God!

"In Charismatic circles I was taught that it was up to us Christians whether God or the Devil won out in our life's circumstances, and we could 'help God win, and get His will done on earth' by praying and 'having faith', and especially by 'praying in tongues' (which I did often). Looking back with sadness at those days when I was a convinced Charismatic, I realise that I did not then know the all-powerful God of the Bible, who alone was responsible for causing the rain and sun to come upon the righteous and the unrighteous, for there are many verses that speak of God "who worked all things together for the good of His people who love Him (Romans 8:28), who worked all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:9).

"The more I studied what the Bible teaches about how God is GOD over all things, the more I realised that the world-view of the Charismatic was far short of the truth. I saw that I had to repent of believing in a God who was too small, and in this I underwent a massive change in my world-view. I came to realise that the Charismatic conception of God was more like the god of humanistic deism than the Omnipotent King of kings of the Bible."
Soon after this he also repented of his speaking in "tongues". He came to see that this "This vocal 'jazz'-like improvisation served no purpose other than to give Charismatic 'tongues-speakers' a giddy, euphoric feeling in their brains and a sense of pride over the 'have nots'."
"The Bible shows that the 'gift of tongues' (Acts 2:7-12, 1st Corinthians 14:10-11) were real human languages, either known to hearers or known to other Christians to whom God also gave the 'gift of interpretation of tongues' -- more specifically, the God-given ability to understand the particular words of the one whom was 'speaking in tongues'. The Bible also teaches that the true 'gift of tongues' was given (to the early New Testament) church as a sign to the unbelieving Jews (e.g., Acts 2:5,12-13, 1st Corinthians 14:22) compared with the O.T. reference that Paul quotes, signifying to them that God was now with 'the Christians', and instituting the New Covenant with them, and giving them new revelation. Also they are for edification - not for the pleasure of the speaker.

"Subsequent to appreciating these things, and eventually repenting of his Charismatic 'tongues' gift (which was as real anyone else's whom I met, and as real as any Charismatics that those whom I knew had ever heard of), and many other Charismatic practices, I came to a full cessationist position." Shortly after this his girl-friend's mother, herself a Christian woman of strong faith and a former missionary, died of cancer. Had he still been a charismatic and believed what he did in those days, he doubts if he would have been able to handle it, "since here was a faithful, faith-filled woman, whose prayers for healing God was not answering with a 'yes'." But he had by this time found great strength in his new-found faith, and has "grown a lot in the authentic, Biblical Christian faith" since repenting of and rejecting Charismaticism.

He says, "For this deliverance I thank God."

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3rd Testimony of an Ex-charismatic

One person contacted me about purchasing our book "Breakdowns are Good for You" in the course of which he said, although he was brought up in the Pentecostal church and his father was a minister, he has since accepted the Reformed Faith;

"I have been working with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties for three years believing that Psychology/Counselling worked to help people deal with issues, however due to experiencing bad patches I questioned the theories that I believed and also taught others. I found that they didn't work. As soon as a trial came along the theories I had been taught crumbled. By Gods grace I have a friend who attends a church with reformed beliefs and over a period of many months has pressed home the truth, as I was brought up in the Pentecostal Movement with my father being a minister in the denomination.
It has been hard relearning this new doctrine, though such a blessing. I now attend a church with reformed beliefs. Though I believe God has shown me the truth, that Sin is at the core of such effects as Depression, Anxiety, Anger, etc. I feel that I want to be as clear as I can with this subject of Counselling, this being the reason to purchase your book. I am really eager to read your book. I have seen a glimpse of it with David, but he hasn't let it out of the grasp of his hand yet." [MB-sounds as if he really treasures it!]
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