Opening salvo. One of the greatest dangers to Biblical faith today is the charismatic movement in its distinctives.
Clarification. Note my wording. I am not saying every charismatic believer, nor every doctrine taught by every charismatic. I was a charismatic believer in my early years as a Christian. I’ve known many wonderful charismatic believers. Some wonderful printed and spoken material is available from Christians who are (in my judgment) dead wrong when it comes to the issues relating to Charismaticism.
By distinctives I mean those doctrines that set them apart from Biblical orthodoxy. Chief is their affirmation of some sort of (radically redefined) revelatory gifts such as tongues and prophecy. All this translates to the notion that God still communicates in some way on an individual basis, apart from Scripture. Charismatics may say “The Lord told me,” followed by something found nowhere in Scripture.
An aside: Years of careful development of these matters is available at Pyromaniacs in these posts and in these, for instance, as well as in talks given at the Sufficient Fire Conference (videos, audio).
Benny and the jest. In non-Charismatic circles Benny Hinn is a joke, but tens of thousands of Charismatics, unknown and high-visibility, continue to prop him up. As a movement, they are clearly not in on the joke, and they own him.
Now, because I care for my readers, I wouldn’t normally recommend watching Benny Hinn talk…well, ever. But this ~9-minute video so perfectly reveals the heart of the difference between high-visibility Charismaticism and Biblical Christian faith that I’ll commend it to you:
Hinn-tense mis-focus. As you listen, you’ll note these common characteristics:
- Benny Hinn preaches Benny Hinn; that is…
- The real authority and focus is Benny Hinn’s personal feelings, insights (“the Lord has been showing me”), readings of “the Spirit,” promises, and predictions; we don’t know these things, we need Benny to tell us;
- The Gospel and Cross of Christ are not even mentioned;
- Instead, much is made of the “anointing,” which is anchored in no Biblical text;
- Viewers are dependent on Hinn’s (historically wildly inaccurate) directions, insights, and predictions, as they’ll never find what he’s saying in their own Bibles;
- Viewers are directed to other places (Nigeria!) and other times (days are coming!) in a desperate search for some promised “bigger/better/greater-than-ever-move-the-Spirit” than they can know in the Gospel, in Christ, through their Bibles, in their local churches;
- Wild promises – which will never be followed up on – implying that folks will (for the first time in ~2000 years) walk on water and be “translated” from location to location instantly;
Biblically un-Benny-ficial. Hinn does attempt a few Biblical allusions – all disastrous to him. He wants to suggest some hidden insight in exploring what came before Paul’s translation to the third heaven – but Paul himself is deliberately vague about the event, dismissing it so as to emphasize how Christ’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in suffering (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Hinn hints that deep truths are also lurking in speculations about Moses surviving long fasts (“the anointing!”), and how Elijah and Philip were transported.
All these have in common the fact that the actual text of Scripture makes nothing of what so fascinates Hinn. What interests Hinn is of no interest to the inspired writers of Scripture, and vice versa.
Look! An atom’s shadow! Follow me! I’d observe that high-visibility charismatics are like living Apocrypha. Like them, a characteristic of apocryphal writings is to take some small or obscure Scriptural feature and camp out on it.
For instance, Scripture narrates that Daniel’s friends were in the oven. Saying or praying what? Not stated. So an apocryphal book invents their prayer for our entertainment. Similarly Hinn and his ilk make lucrative careers of focusing everything on darkened corners of Scripture while effectively ignoring every single major truth.
Yeah, but next time, boy, that’s gonna be great! Hinn survives on a credulous, ill-taught, uncritical and enabling public. If they knew the least bit of history, they would know that the charismatic movement has only been around a bit more than a century as even a vaguely orthodox Christian option. They would know that, in that time, all of the combined efforts of the entire movement have utterly failed to deliver on any distinctive promise.
Biblical miracles contrasted. The miracles of the Bible were often done in full daylight, witnessed by crowds, and undeniably genuine. Opponents were left scrambling for explanations. The reality in Hinndom is the exact opposite. Proponents are the ones scrambling to explain their abject failure to be able to validate even one Biblical-level miracle.
And yet, having produced nothing, Hinn promises even more – and the validation-machine keeps humming.
Biblical Christianity, by way of contrast. Hinn’s spirit is exactly the opposite of that of Paul and the apostles – men who actually did perform jaw-dropping spiritual wonders.
Not about me. Paul expressly says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Paul’s teachings were not designed to get people hung up on his person, his feelings, his personality. The focus of his life, preaching, and ministry were Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let me spell that out.
Really really not about me. When some Corinthian believers were getting hung up on leading personalities, Paul poured acid scorn on that spirit (1 Corinthians 1:11-16). He wanted nothing to do with it. Instead, Paul emphasized that he preached the Gospel, the Cross, the person of Jesus Christ (vv. 17-31). It was all about Jesus and His good news – and this was public knowledge, through the teaching of Paul and the other apostles.
So Paul wanted nothing to do with impressive rhetoric or flashy crowd-manipulation. He notes, “When I came to you, brothers, [I] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1). So what did he do? “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2). That was Paul’s message: Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Further, Paul stressed that every last Christian was related to Christ personally through faith, was fulfilled in him, and could walk in him as their local churches continued in His Word (Colossians 2:10; 3:16).
The heart of the matter. I’ll expand on this in another column, but will conclude: the Biblically-faithful Christian centers on the person of Jesus Christ, because of the work of Jesus Christ, all of which is only known through a Bible which contains all the words of God that we need.