“Please don’t come to me. Please don’t come to me. Please don’t come to me.” These were my thoughts as “Prophet James” was making his way around during chapel service one morning at my undergraduate Bible school in 1997. He was invited by the school, which was a “Third Wave” charismatic college. Every student in the entire school (as far as I know) spoke in tongues. Well, every student except one: me. In fact, when I enrolled, I had no idea what to expect. I just saw the ad in Christianity Today, realized that the college was in my hometown, and thought it would serve me well to bridge the gap between the time my wife graduated from college and my trek to Dallas Theological Seminary. I had a few hours left for college. Why not? Had I known the background was so charismatic, I am sure I never would have enrolled.

From student to student, he made his way around the chapel. He would place his hands on their head and begin to speak forth their life to them. They received his every word with tears rolling down their cheeks. Admonishments and encouragements, revelations of their deepest thoughts, and instructions for moving forward; from the student’s perspective, these were the words of God. From my perspective, they were, at best, the visions of a charlatan. At worst, they were the utterances of Beelzebub. Either way, I did not want him coming near me. So I hid and, thankfully, ended up escaping what I believed to be perverting madness. Phew.

From Christian to Anti-Charismatic

I grew up in a non-charismatic, Dallas Theological Seminary grad-led church. The church I was attending at the time had just gone through a difficult split due to the charismatics gifts issue. I stayed on the side that said “nay” to the gifts. All my life, my exposure to the Charismatic movement was defined by abuse, disillusionment, scandal, and anti-intellectualism. When I really started following the Lord in the early nineties, my newfound commitment to Him was facilitated by theology and apologetics. I began to realize that the faith my mother nurtured in me was not just true, but really true. I hated the indignities Christianity had suffered, especially with all the scandals of the eighties. Christianity had received a bad rap and the culprits, in my estimation, were all Charismatics who knew neither what they believed nor why they believed it. The largest church in my area was charismatic and had plenty of hats thrown in this ring of scandal. Wayne, my best friend went to this church. When I was young and would sleep over at his house on Saturday night, we both dreaded what we were in for the next Sunday morning. He did not follow in his mother’s charismatic footsteps. When at church, both of us would look across at each other in what can only be described as amused fear (you know, the type that makes you gawk and laugh at the same time) as people danced up and down the isles, carrying banners for the Lord and, yes, speaking in tongues. The anxiety produced those Sunday mornings resulted from a fear of the unknown, and an unspoken pressure to take part in that unknown.

My experience did not stop there. Growing up, I went to many charismatic services and events. Sometimes, people were going into convulsions on the ground during worship service. Other times, they would be doing something that can only be described as barking. One time, while eating pizza with a group of charismatics, we had a girl pray against the “demons of fat grams.” Seriously! Sometimes people would get knocked out as they were “slain in the Spirit.” Satan was behind every door, and healing was always only one faith step away. At a singles event, I went to in the mid-nineties, there was a charismatic guy in our small group who was constantly having “words from the Lord” which made no sense. I never wanted to be in his group. One time he was getting a word from the Lord and interrupted our otherwise fruitful discussion to let us know. We all stopped and waited for him to share the full complement of the transmission. “The Lord is telling us we need to stop . . . to stop . . .” Then he paused for a long time with his eyes closed. Finally, he opened his eyes and said, “I lost it. Let’s get back to the study.” Lost it? Lost it? I thought. Lost the word from the Lord? Get it back! The casual way in which they seemed to get a word from the Lord was incredibly contemptuous. What was the Old Testament penalty for a “lost word from the Lord?” I did not know, but I assumed it was serious. All in all my exposure to the charismatic movement growing up was bizarre, irreverent, incongruous, and distracting. I was definitely anti-charismatic.

By the time I got to my Bible college, I was well-schooled in all the anti-charismatic polemics Christianity had to offer. John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos was both a Bible and a tract. I was an evangelist for Christ first and second a forewarner of the dangers of the charismatic movement. It is not as though I thought all Charismatics were not true believers, but I was convinced that they were under serious (probably satanic) deception.

From Anti-Charismatic to Sober Cessationist

It may surprise you to know that things changed a great deal while I was at that charismatic Bible college. While the chapel services always scared me quite a bit (as such events still do), it was not the “liturgy of charismatic chaos” that changed my mind, it was the people. You see, I had to sit next to these “bizarre” people during class. I had to listen to them ask questions of the professors. I had to see them learn Greek, New Testament, and systematic theology. I had to do projects with them. I had to be on their debate teams. Believe it or not, they even elected me Student Council President! And you know what? They were kind, gracious, loving, passionate, and totally committed to the Lord. They were not always, as I had led myself to believe, emotional basket cases looking for their next experience. They desired to love and serve the same Lord Jesus Christ that I did. In fact, one guy I sat next to every day was about as good and committed a Christian as I had ever known. I became good friends with him, so much so that eventually, the fact that he spoke in tongues did not even enter my mind when we talked. It got lost in our fellowship around Christ. When I thought about this, it confused me and left me scratching my theological head. Maybe I was missing something.

The next curve ball sent me over the edge. Our textbook for systematic theology class was Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. For those of you who don’t know, Wayne Grudem is a theology professor at Phoenix Seminary. Grudem holds a BA from Harvard University, an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1999. I had never been exposed to Grudem before. I figured my charismatic undergraduate school would either dig deep in the barrel to find a charismatic systematic theology textbook or just concede and use a non-charismatic text, knowing that there is no such thing as a good charismatic systematic theologian. Grudem’s text quickly became my favorite book. What a great storehouse of theological treasure it was! At every turn, he argued irenically and persuasively. He wrote clearly, held his Evangelical ground with resolve, and thought rationally. However, as it turned out, Grudem was Charismatic! No. It can’t be! I thought to myself. How could this theological erudite be Charismatic? And if that was not enough, he was a Calvinist! A charismatic Calvinist? At that time in my life I was beginning to strongly embrace Calvinism. I found Calvinists, and the system of biblical interpretation they represented, to be well-grounded, biblical, and satisfying. What attracted me to Calvinism’s ethos was that more than any other system is that it let God be God and did not seek to elevate man and his needs to the center of the Divine program. However, this was not the view I had of the charismatic movement. To me, charismatics were all about me . . . my experience, my emotions, my healing, my gifts. To be a charismatic Calvinist was about the best example of an oxymoron I could think of!

Reading Grudem’s arguments for his charismatic stance was like reading the arguments all over again for the first time. I could not put him in the same nutty category in which I placed all the Charismatics of my youth. I could not associate him with the scandals of the past, the out-of-control television personalities, or the sensational anti-intellectualism that seemed to accompany so many Charismatics. Since then, the population of rational, level-headed, intellectual Charismatics has only grown. Who would ever accuse Gordon Fee, C. J. Mahaney, John Piper, Sam Storms, or Craig Keener of being theological lightweights? Yet they are charismatic. Then there is my other hero, J.P. Moreland. His book Love Your God With All Your Mind is a standard tract that I hand out now. It admonishes Christians to use their minds, not just their emotions, in their faith. Yet J.P. is Charismatic too! Concerning Sam Storms: you could not meet a more level-headed, passionate, pastoral, and (ahem) charismatic thinker. Yeah, and he is a Calvinist too!

How could all of these guys be wrong? Though I am, as of Tuesday, the afternoon of February 7th, 2023, not persuaded of their arguments, I am no longer anti-charismatic.

From Cessationist to “I want to be Charismatic”

It’s been 25 years since I sat in that class studying Wayne Grudem with my charismatic buddy. Today I tell people that I am not charismatic, but I want to be. I remain on the side of some type of qualified cessationism (the belief that the gifts of the Spirit such as tongue, prophecy, and healings, ceased sometime in the early church) for biblical, historical, and experiential reasons, but changing my position is not out of the question. As we will see, while the arguments I put forward for cessationism are somewhat compelling, they are only somewhat compelling. As I have rethought this issue over the years, I have often prayed without ceasing that God would direct me in the right way.

I have never tried to speak in tongues. I would not know where to start. It would probably make me very uncomfortable. But life in Christ is not about staying in your comfort zone. Two very personal issues in the last 15 years have caused me to step outside my comfort zone and seek God’s charismatic intervention. The first was with my sister, Angie. Though exorcism is not necessarily a gift reserved for the charismatic, the idea itself has always fit more naturally within a charismatic worldview than within a cessationist worldview (more on that in my forthcoming). When my sister was mentally ill, severely depressed, and suicidal, she kept telling me she had a demon inside her. She wanted me to do something about this evil she carrying and believe was responsible for her impending self-harm. Here I am, a pastor, with my sister asking me to exorcise a demon. Having been through what I had with Angie over the preceding year and a half, I was desperate and willing to do anything. Therefore, one day I set up an “exorcism” (whatever that was). I went over to her house, prayed that God would give me the power to cast the demon out of her, mustered up as much faith as I could (just believe it Michael, just believe in God), laid my hands on her (why? I don’t know . . . that is what they do on TV), and commanded the evil spirit to come out in the name of Jesus. After many repeated and very sincere attempts with no success (I did not even know what “success” looked like), I gave up. My sister killed herself a couple of months later. Did she have a demon? I don’t know. But my charismaton could not do anything about it. Did God not take my request as sincere? Was he sitting on the edge of his seat, waiting for me to demonstrate a faith that I lacked, hoping that I was going to heal her?

Then there was my mother. She had an aneurysm and a stroke at age 56 in 2006. After they removed a significant portion of her brain, she was rendered unable to walk or talk (except for a few odd phrases and songs). This Christian hero of my life now sits in a chair all day long, unable to walk or talk, watching the same movies over and over. She has the mental capacity of a six-year-old. Just about every week I prayed over her with charismatic vigor, asking the Lord to heal her through me. Nothing ever changed. Sam Storms has told me not to give up, but it is hard not to try and adjust my thoughts and believe God wants us to be content in her paralysis of mind and body. I have never wanted to have or experience the gift of healing so desperately in my life. Does God not think I am serious? Is he waiting for me to take her to someone with the gift of healing? Name the person. I am there.

“Please don’t come to me” used to be my cry. But it isn’t anymore. Today, I truly want to be Charismatic. After all, who wouldn’t? What Christian wouldn’t want to experience God in such a way? Who wouldn’t want to see the hand of the Almighty perform a miracle? Who wouldn’t want God to come in such a way and speak into their darkest situations, giving them encouragement, saying he cares, that it’s going to be alright? Maybe I want to be charismatic for selfish reasons. Maybe that is why it is not working. Or maybe it is just wrong.

I know I have been throwing around the word charismatic as if it means something definite right now. I have to define my terms so that we can all be on the same page and know exactly what it is that I am not and what I am evaluating. I don’t portend to make charismatics look bad by being a sincere non-charismatic who has tried his damnedest to be charismatic but has not been able to cross that bridge. I want to approach this honestly, maybe correcting some misunderstandings on both sides, and helping people to see that we all have this deep down desire to find the movements of God in the supernatural.

Part 2 coming…

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    20 replies to "Confessions from a Want-to-Be Charismatic"

      • C Michael Patton

        Yeah, thanks a lot Grammarly! I thought that app was supposed to catch things like that! Thanks Eric.

    • Michael W Craven

      I leave the important things like who gets what gift up to the Holy Spirit… this is based on the 1 Cor 12:11b
      “distributing to each one individually ‘just as He wills.’ ” Humans are funny when it comes to the uncertainty of life… some are frightened by it, but other people have learned to live with the uncertainty. How shall we know who the true believers are? Does it matter? Aren’t we told to love, even our enemies? Loving the lovable is easy.. loving those who are difficult to love, aye, there’s the rub.

      One early church leader, Tertullian [c.ad 160-c.225] (Roman theologian from Carthage) ‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they [Christians] love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other). usually quoted as, ‘See how these Christians love one another’. Instead, we are in the same state as any of those early churches Paul to whom he wrote about. Not on purpose, but our affinity to not love is there…

      He didn’t say if they pass this doctrinal statement, if they profess this and such, no see how they love one another.

      There are a lot of things we shouldn’t be doing… as a church, shouldn’t we be praying for our leadership civil and sacred? Instead, I am hearing rumors of Christian nationalism… forgetting what John Calvin did in Geneva… when the judgment they are craving comes, it will begin with the church… how many “Doh!”s will there be.

      Good to be hearing from you again Mike.

      • C Michael Patton

        What a great name to see! Feel like I’m back in 2009 when I see the name Michael Craven! Great to “see” you!

    • Bill

      Mike, very well written. I can understand your perspective though I am a continuationist. I could match your frustrated experience with the desire to be a Calvinist. I have been around some of the leading Calvinist who have impressed me with their learning and their faith. I have almost become a Calvinist a couple of times but I just can’t force myself to believe it. Anyway, i have wondered what is wrong with me at times. My charismatic experiences have been scattered. Some good experiences, some questionable, and some just plain weird.

      • C Michael Patton

        Bill, you had me until you said you couldn’t become a Calvinist. Then I lost all respect for you. Your lucky I let this comment skate.

        Ha! In reality, as I will admit in later posts, my inability to become a charismatic has nothing to do with doctrine. In fact, I will admit that I think the Bible leans in the direction of its prolific continuation (especially Peter’s speech in Act 2). My inability ironically comes from experience. It’s ironic because I grew up thinking charismatics were the ones who let experience drive them.

        I am a continuationist, right now, as long as this means that God does still do these things, I’m just not sure the are a part of the gifts of the body of Christ anymore.

        • Justin Emmanuel

          Fascinating, you distinguish between charismatic and continuationism..
          Now you have my full attention. Looking forward to you explaining your thoughts.
          Thank you very much for this post.

          I am a full blown christian but a nominal calvanist. Definitely charismatic, I’ve seen way too much from the beginning of my walk with the Lord.

          I’ve also seen so much nonsense pushed by the charismatic church. But I have also seen God move supernaturally.

          I simply can’t swallow most of the arguments for censationism that I’ve seen. They appear to me to be more of what can best be described as Sola ‘I don’t like Benny Hinn’.
          As in, being against someone like Benny Hinn is the ultimate authority for all things pertaining to faith.
          This is not Sola Scriptura.

          I believe that the gifts of the Spirit will end when the job of the gifts of the Spirit end, I.E. The Great Commission. That’s why the first one was tongues and also, most of the people that I’ve ever spoken to from a censationist background actually got saved in a pentecostal church. Funnily enough.

          I’ve even seen censationists operate in words of knowledge, of course they wouldn’t call it that. But they were born again and Spirit filled, even if they did have different language for it. God will do what God will do.

          Thanks for reading all of this if you have, I am really looking forward to reading about the distinction that you have between the gifts and continuationism.

      • C Michael Patton

        And thanks for saying it was well-written! I really appreciate that.

    • Don Scott

      Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the next installment.

    • Isaac Gutiérrez

      Hello pastor Michael, thank you for sharing your thoughts. As a “grew up pentecostal, nowadays reformed baptist” who can’t make his mind on cessationist vs. continuationist and on how to interpret experiences I grew up seeing in pentecostal churches, and who is today in a continuationist-leaning reformedish church, I’m very curious as to all you have to say on this matter.

      I identify with how you felt in the charismatic church, as how I felt growing up in pentecostal church (kind of “out of place”, “why those experiences aren’t happening to me”).

      God bless you and strengthen you in faith, love and hope my brother!


      • C Michael Patton

        Thanks Issac. Pray that I’m able to come to a God honoring confusion. This is and important, church-splitting issue.

    • Pastor in England

      Beautiful post, Michael! And I completely understand you. I am charismatic, I speak in tongues, and I experience God’s power in my life and ministry. In my over 20 years of ministry, I have witnessed a few of the miraculous. I spoke in tongues at a young age when I went forward in church to be filled with the Spirit. With such childlike hunger, all I wanted was to be “filled to the overflow” as the preacher taught at the time. I was hungry and before I knew it, I felt “something” come upon me and I couldn’t understand the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was sitting in tongues! My heart was fired up and I knew my life had experienced something truly wonderful. I didn’t want it to stop and so I always went into prayer and the language came back every time and it became a part of my daily prayer life. I then realised the more I prayed in tongues, more of it flowed out of me. Now I pray in tongues for hours. I have seen two cripples walk, a fibroid tumour shrink miraculously (not instantly but a week after the lady went back to check), and various healings. In fact, I CANNOT ever be convinced that God isn’t at work through His Spirit anymore. I hear His voice when He speaks to me and I have ministered to others by the gifts of the Spirit, and oh I cast out devils! I was recently prophetically ministered to by a Charismatic pastor I invited to our church. He was spot on! In simple terms, the gifts of the Spirit are still here.

      Whereas charismatics have often been branded for non-intellectualism and emotionalism (these criticisms are not baseless though), I have several academic degrees including a PhD from some of UK’s best universities. I also have some academic accomplishments, publications with awards and so on. I like to believe I’m a thinking man (hopefully! Haha!). There are various other charismatic pastors and Christians with higher intellectual accomplishments than me. The criticisms of non-intellectualism levelled against us are therefore not entirely accurate as you have rightly alluded to. Having said that, there have been several excesses in charismatic circles and, like you, I cringe and sometimes want to dissociate myself from charismaticism. I have witnessed the weird and the plain stupid! Like anything good involving imperfect humans, there’ll always be the nut cases. These are aside the abuses, the greed, the lack of sound doctrine, the scandals, etc. God help us!

      Pleased to see you loved Grudem’s work. I do too but I don’t consider myself a Calvinist although I do not discount Calvinism at all. I was trained in Rhema Bible College although I do not fully agree with all the doctrines of the so called “faith movement”. Nonetheless, faith in God and His continual work today as He did yesterday is something we must all uphold. The Lord has not changed.

      I understand your pain (I.e. regarding your mother, sister…). Growing up I witnessed anointed charismatic pastors go through some really difficult situations, accidents with all their kids dead, illnesses in their own bodies although they ministered healing to others, my own mother’s struggles with her health although I minister healing to others, a lady in my church still struggling with difficult health issues although I’ve laid hands on her and so on. The list goes on. How can I make sense of these things? I know I am anointed by the Lord. I have seen and continue to see His power flow through me but how do I explain some of the “no shows”? The answer deserves a whole book! We like to think it all has to do with the faith of those being prayed for. I beg to differ as that only makes those doing the praying feel good about themselves. Did Jesus (God Himself!) at one time touch a blind man TWICE before he could see clearly? How was that possible? Others had only one touch, one word, etc from the Master and we saw instant miracles?. So why? The things of the Spirit are indeed hard to grasp. As we grow in Him, we continue to learn. We will have some answers here but I believe we will have ALL the answers one day when we see Him again! Hallelujah! Michael, I pray you continue to hunger after Him like the deer panting after the water and you will have your own “charismatic” experience. For me, I’m ever wanting more and more and more to be filled with His Spirit as His Word says. Thanks again for such beautiful post and I look forward to Part 2! Every blessing to you and the good work you’re doing in blessing the Body of Christ.

      • C Michael Patton

        Thanks my friend. That is encouraging.

        • Michael W Craven

          It’s been a very long time Michael since we’ve spoken. I think the last time was in 2005… I’ve prayed for you and your ministry. Not that you’d “convert” to any particular denomination, just that you continue to seek God’s will for your life and ministry. I read with interest, a bit of shared sorrow, and a shared hope your most recent postings and will continue to support you the best way I am able…

          Yours in Christ,

    • Michael W Craven

      But you could be right with 2009… it was a while ago..

    • Daniel Eaton

      I feel your discomfort. A co-worker of mine, back when I was a teen, invited me to a concert at his church. It was led by a guy that was very popular for writing a lot of popular songs and musicals at the time that my Baptist church choir sang. So a couple of family members and I attended. Turned out it was a *very* charismatic experience.

      We were in awe at the dancing “in the spirit” and speaking in tongues “in the spirit” and so forth. One guy standing at the back of the sanctuary let out a loud yell, charged down the aisle, “tagged” a dancer in front of the stage, and ran back to his starting place. Later, as my boss asked me about the event, I relayed this story. My co-worker, who walked up behind me at the time without me noticing, then informed us that it had been his brother.

      I had conversations with my co-worker after that regarding my thoughts. He was curious enough to ask for them. Be careful what you wish for! LOL I explained that all of the commotion of folks yelling and “proclaiming” all kinds of stuff and speaking in tongues, not to mention the circus going on in the aisles, was a major distraction to anything going on on the stage. As such, had the Lord intended to reach me with some song or some teaching from the stage, it would have been near impossible to do so. So just what was the intended purpose? Was it just for personal emotional highs? That was the appearance.

      Ultimately, he agreed that even in regular services that all of this “demonstration of gifts” was a huge distraction. We never got into a debate over whether gifts ceased or not. But just dealing with it from the standpoint of the purpose of the gathering and no “translations” of these messages going on and nothing being done in an orderly fashion was enough to make him think.

      • C Michael Patton

        Yep. That is it. Exactly.

        I have had the privilege of being involved at Bridgeway Church with Sam Storms, as you may know. It is a much better and much more tame atmosphere. While I have not jump on board with the prophetic utterances at the end of the service, I have really enjoyed (surprisingly) the worship, and, of course, Sam’s sermons. It seems to be a good example of what could be considered the “best-of” this tradition.

        Good to hear from you!

    • Bibliophile

      Michael, my good man!

      Very interesting post; but also terribly sad to hear about the tragedy involving your mother (may God have mercy on her) and sister (may her soul rest in eternal peace). Let me offer some information and personal insight which hopefully may be helpful on your journey.

      Beginning with Greeks circa 300BC, philosophical systems gained ascendency over more poetical and mythical accounts of reality. The materialists of classical antiquity – the first “natural philosophers”, if you prefer – sought the ultimate constituents of the cosmos in elemental terms: fire, earth, water, air. This paradigm shift from imagination (stories) to ratiocination (philosophy) became the dominant discourse of Western civilisation, heavily influenced the growth and development of Christianity in the patristic period, and is still the over-arching, cultural grand-narrative, the lived philosophy or worldview, that prevails even today, especially in Europe and the West (although confidence in that worldview has been weakened since the post-modern critique of rationalist epistemology; on which more shortly).

      But the situation became acute when Enlightenment rationalist thinkers took rationality to the pro-max level and exaggerated the power of human reasoning. Theologians of the period presupposed the scientific methodology of rationalists and treated the Bible as “a storehouse of facts”, no different than any other fact of nature studied by the physical sciences, asserting that the task of theology was merely to systematize the “Biblical facts”, much the same way, say, as a biologist classifies organisms. This rationalist approach to sacred doctrine, inherited by Protestants since the Enlightenment, is still presupposed by many – if not most – Evangelical theological “heavyweights” today, Wayne Grudem included.

      The problem is that the post-modern critique of the Enlightenment has exposed the flaws in the foundationalist epistemology of rationalism, which has been the philosophical basis of Protestant theology ever since the Enlightenment. (This epistemology has often been misidentified as realism, probably because of a failure to properly distinguish between Catholic Medieval Scholasticism and Protestant Reformed Scholasticism. Foundationalism is, in fact, a variant of conceptualism, and not realism at all. I mention it here only because, in a previous post, you brought up Descartes and Catholics in the same breath: but it is well documented that the philosophy officially approved by the Catholic Church is Thomistic realism, and not rationalism. Protestantism, however, given the individualistic nature of the movement, has not been so lucky and has tended to accept the Enlightenment challenge on rationalist terms. But this side note deserves a separate post).

      My point here – and I am not accusing you of this at all – is that it is intellectually irresponsible to presume that anyone comes to the Bible from the point of view of neutrality. We filter everything through a conceptual screen. Historians and scholars have identified several cultural moulds, if you will – from the Hebraic, to Hellenic, to Latin, etc – which have shaped Christianity and influenced Biblical interpretation and doctrinal development. Part of the reason why there is so much denominational confusion and very little substantial agreement amongst individual Protestant groups today – case in point, the dispute over charisms in your post – is due to the influence of rationalist thought on Protestant theology. And a major determining factor to my “crossing the Tiber” from fundamentalism to Catholicism was the discovery of St. Thomas Aquinas, who helped me to realise that rationalist epistemological foundationalism is philosophically bankrupt. There has also been a revival in Thomistic realism in the last few decades, which, I think, adequately addresses the myth of the alleged gap between reason and religion propagated by scientism and sensationalised in the media as the “war between faith and reason”; a symptom of which is the whole “creation vs evolution” debte – which, if you ask me, is a total waste of time that entirely misses the point of both creation and evolution while at the same time fails to properly appreciate the true value of both science and religion. It has also tended to foster Christian anti-intellectualism, especially amongst fundamentalists.

      Another symptom of this confusion is the modernist quest for the “(real?) historical Jesus” inaugurated by the likes of Adolf Von Harnack, who saw the job of the historian as that of separating (what he perceived as) dogmatic accretions from the central core of the Christian message, or what Harnack called the “essence of Christianity”. This attitude is reflected even in the apologetics works of moderns like C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity – as the title itself suggests – is reminiscent of Harnack’s rationalist project which arbitrarily privileges the historical-critical framework of analysising and interpreting the New Testament documents, over the more confessional approach to sacred scripture that is characteristic of traditional orthodoxy. One of the reasons I would not recommend Lewis’ version of the moral argument in Mere Christianity, is precisely because of his moral rationalism, which depends on the rationalist conception of the distinction between facts and values – a distinction that only perpetuates the dualistic, Cartesian worldview.

      So, what about your indecision over going full charismatic? Catholics have tolerated charismatic movements within the ranks of the approved religious orders for a long time. The hierarchical organisational structure helps to keep charismatics from going off the rails; and the Magisterium provides a legitimate control for kooky interpretations of the Bible; and the Liturgy around which the whole Catholic Church revolves brings true unity to our public worship. So, being Catholic and charismatic is not necessarily an oxymoron (to use your terms): but I can see why, in your case, as a Protestant, the charismatic movement represents a challenge. Therefore, the real question, in my view, is how to control such a movement and maintain any semblance of unity, without any legitimate form of authority, apart from the “Bible alone”? Without the Magisterium, you only always end up with a charismatic free for all in which anyone can claim any idea that pops into mind as being a “word from the Lord”, set up a new denomination on that basis, claim it is Biblical, and win a multitude of converts to that way of thinking. I believe your post makes my point (though I am sure you will disagree!)

    • tony balsamo

      Thank you for this honest, well thought out, humble post. Your sincerely is refreshing as is your desire to honor God for whatever He has in store for you. I look forward to your next post!

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