One of the most difficult and rewarding experiences I have had in my journey with the Lord is having my beliefs challenged by my friends at undergraduate Bible School. Yes, I did go to the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Oklahoma for most of my undergraduate. But when I decided that I was going to seminary, I decided to finish my degree at a place that might prepare me a little in Bible and languages. The only place close to me at the time was a place called the University of Biblical Studies and Seminary.

When I enrolled, I was one of only one hundred on-campus students. What I did not know when I enrolled was that they were all charismatics. Not only this, but most of them were pretty radical charismatics. Every one of them spoke in tongues. Every one looked for prophets. And all believed very deeply that we should expect God to work miraculously in our lives. Now, if you knew me at the time, you would know that I felt that I was in the devil’s den. In 1997, I was sure that if you spoke in tongues, you probably had a demon.

However, after a few months of being in class with these “demon-filled-maniacs,” the ice began to break. It was very challenging for me, as I wanted my heart (and head) to stay in the freezer. But as I sat next to this one young man each day (I don’t even remember his name), did projects with other students, and fellowshipped over lunch with so many of the students and teachers, I could not help but allow the culture shock move me toward a massive reorientation of perspective. I remember thinking to myself, “This guy I sit next to each day is a great guy.” He did not seem to be demon-possessed at all. In fact, his basic confession about Christ, the Bible, and so many other things were the same as mine. Many of the students, I remember thinking, live out their Christian life with greater passion and love than I do.

So there I was, taking classes on interpreting dreams, dodging “prophets” who came to prophesy over students during chapel, and remaining silent while other students told of their bizarre experiences, having fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord who were very different from me. Sheesh, they even elected me as Student Council president—the one guy who not only did not speak in tongues, but did not believe in it.

Simply put, this experience broke my heart. It was the first time I realized I did not have everything figured out. And it would not have come without the culture shock.

Take a turn with me for a moment…

One thing I often told people as a physical fitness trainer is that they would have to change their routine in order to stimulate muscle growth and strength change. The basic principle is this:  if someone sticks with the same routine for too long, their muscles will adapt and not be challenged any longer. Therefore, they must continually be mixing things up. Sometimes this routine change would be minor, like changing from one group of machines (Cybex) to another (Icarian), or going from light to heavy weight.  Another minor change would be simply to adjust the way one sits on a machine.

Other times the changes would be more radical like doing the same chest press machine for a total of one hundred repetitions, instead of the normal three sets of fifteen on three different chest press machines.

But every once in a while, I would have people do something more unorthodox. I would have them exercise with someone who has entirely different goals in their training. This would sometimes involved doing aerobics or kick boxing. Other times it might be swimming laps instead of doing weights. The point is to drastically change your workout ever so often to stimulate advancement, change, and growth. The goal in each of these is to “shock the muscles,” as us trainers would call it.

This same principle holds true when it comes to theological and intellectual growth. We must be continually challenging ourselves in many ways. Some of these will be minor and some will seem downright unorthodox. But if you do not do this, your education will be limited to a confirmation of prejudice – which is not really education at all. If you do not do this, at best, there will be no change; at worst, your intellectual muscles will begin to atrophy. Your heart will be ice when God does not want it to be.

Ways to shock your theological/intellectual muscles:

  • Make sure that you have unbelieving friends who can challenge you. They ask great questions.
  • Make sure you have friends of other theological traditions. Treat them well. Listen to them. Watch their lives.
  • Examine the best defense of positions with which you currently do not agree. Their adherents have reasons for believing the way they do; they are not just stupid.
  • Attend a church outside your tradition at least six times a year. Why six? It just sounded like a good number.
  • Blog your thoughts and interact with others on other blogs. This will force you to articulate your thinking in a much more precise way.
  • Get out of your cultural environment at least once a year. This may be something minor like visiting the homeless shelter downtown, or it may be something more like going on a mission trip to the other side of the world.
  • Enter into discussions in web forums of other traditions and beliefs (though don’t neglect fellowship with those who agree with you).

In all of these things, be ready to change. You are not doing this to solidify your own position, but to learn.

While we all have a exercise routine that is very valuable, we need a shock every so often. We also have a spiritual and theological routine. It needs a shock as well.

While I have not changed in my basic position about the charismatic gifts, I no longer think all charismatics are demon-possessed! I have changed in my attitude, assurance, and disposition concerning those who disagree with me. More importantly, this lesson goes well beyond my relationship with charismatics. I now try to be very careful with how I judge others. This is the best lesson I could have learned.

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

    32 replies to "Why I No Longer Think Charismatics Are Demon-Possessed"

    • John W Brandkamp

      An excellent post Michael. I’ve made a conscious decision to have as diverse a group of friends, in real life as well as online, as possible. The danger otherwise is that we end up living in nothing more than an echo chamber of what we already believe. Thank you for your irenic insights.

    • Jay

      So if not by demons, have you figured out by what means they are speaking in tongues? Human? Holy Spirit?

    • Ed Kratz

      Ugh! What’s going on with the formatting here? I tried to sort it out on the back end but it still shows up wonky?

    • Ounbbl

      What are these “charismatic gifts”? If you are talking about ‘glossolalia’, it is a shamanic practice Paul tried hard to reprimand the Corinthian people with their foot straddling on the Greek pagan practices. He spent one full chapter of 1Co 13 not to praise and give Hymn to Love, but to let them follow the mature way of love to discard this ungodly practice.

      Does glossolalia prove one is saved? Doe it save the church; does it save the troubled Christianity; does it save the evil inflicted world? Why don’t we pray for them to wake up? Even the praxis of righteousness (charity, fasting, prayer) was told to be hidden (Mt 6:1ff), now they love to put a label of ‘babbling tongue’ on their forehead like a phylactery in their pride to boost their ego (the meaning ‘edification of self’). Does the fact of being nice people prove they are right?

    • I would heartily agree that whatever your theological position it is good to expose yourself to those who hold other positions and their arguments. It is easy to fall into believing a straw-man or a stereotype about others if you never interact with them. And it is easy to become complacence in you own position if you are not willing to examine it and face the challenges that exist to it.

    • Shaun Campbell

      Excellent post! I meet different people everyday, some Christian, some secular. We cannot imagine the worldview of others because we have not lived their circumstances. The Jews of Jesus time were so self righteous, they would have nothing to do with gentiles. They thought themselves pious but they were just plain wrong. Jesus went through Samaria, where no other jews would go, to spread the gospel. He set an example, we are not to judge and dismiss. None can understand the ways of God. Do not rely on your own understanding and do as He commands. Much love.

    • Jon Sellers

      I tried to dislike the comment by Ounbbl, but hitting the icon only gives a thumbs up option. Ounbbl exemplifies the kind of ignorance of scripture and charismatic practice both in the bible and today that can only lead to further prejudice and condemnation. Hence his post.

      Good article Michael. Amazing how exposure to people face to face humanizes them and makes our secret judgments about them less credible. One of the great errors of the evangelical/fundamental movement of the 20th century was the strong emphasis on separation from all other Christians with whom you did not have doctrinal agreement. That isolating and wall building tendency is both unscriptural and grievous to the unity of the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Let us remember to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

      Now how do I unlike a comment?

    • Jon Sellers

      Now how do I unlike a comment?

    • J. Paul

      Thank you for the post. I recall attending an apologetics conference in Chicago some years ago, in which I was surprised to find that Roman Catholics were embraced while Pentecostals were not only shunned but demonized. Later that year, I also attended a Pentecostal revival meeting in which intellectualism was denounced.

      Contrary to Ounbbl’s erroneous Scripture interpretation, glossolalia and evangelism/discipleship (theological/spirtual discourse and practice) is a marraige that could only have been born in heaven. The edification is not for our pleasure, but for the boldness in preaching the love of God in the face of torture and martyrdom.

    • Bill Gaines

      I was raised in OK and CA in OK we lived back in the hollers. In CA if we were not in the sence Haight/Asbury we were in the foothill looking for Love. Somehow I found myself in PHC church. Tongues were mandatory and in some of their churches so were snakes. Somehow the Lord guided me to a place where I found a balance via Youth for Christ.

      The people caught up in these practices are all but brained-washed. And while we send missionary around the world we fail to enlighten these folks in our own back yard. Thank you for hosting a program that will help with enlightenment.

    • Mary

      It appears some are presenting objects meting out the relevance for this post. “Jew” bashing…Shaun…careful son, the Messiah lived a TOTALLY/FULLY Jewish lifestyle !!! “charismatics” “Pentecostals”-Bill, I can agree with some of these observations, having been delivered from the Pentecostal Holiness sect of Christianity. However, Christianity itself is a religion formed as a result of picking selective pieces of doctrine from the absolute authority of God, as though we are entitled to do so simply as a result of a profession of faith. This, dear friends is the manifestation of the lawlessness that God will judge. And I trust we are aware that this judgment begins in the house of God. What if He audited your life today?

    • Alexander M. Jordan

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for this helpful post. I think you really exemplify on your blog that it is possible to engage with the viewpoints of others in a friendly way, with a view to learning together, while still holding strong doctrinal convictions.

      I think some of the comments above though, did not seem to get your point. You were not defending the charismatic position, but saying that you learned to see them as real people with reasons for believing as they do, and that while you thought/think they were mistaken in their system, nonetheless you could observe that in some ways their Christian lives were exemplary and that they held other basic beliefs that were theologically sound.

    • Ounbbl

      Some writes “Ounbbl’s erroneous scripture interpretation” Eh? No, it’s not from my brain. It is a summary of reading all the books and writings written about the subject by both sides for several years.

      Theology or interpretation aside, just look at the TV or youtube pictures showing their entertaining, enchanting, emotion-driven behavior.

      How we can show the God of love, the redeeming Christ’s suffering and death and His power resurrection to the people who do not know God and get repulsed because of these fringe Christians of glossolalia, barking laugh, falling down, crawling on the floor. Folks, it’s just power game played by those pseudo-pastors (false shepherds). Not power of Spirit which should show in the fruitage (Gal 5:22). I may be able to put up with tongues (I just plug up my ears), but for the sake of who desperately misses the Gospel, I pity them and, should I say, I sigh ….

    • Ounbbl

      As for aheology of tongue speaking: One time I was reading their statement of faith on the website of one of the well known ministry. I remember reading “tongue-speaking is the seal (? sign) of one’s salvation.” What an arrogant unbiblical mentality. Later on, when I got back to have it copied, it’s gone. Be ashamed.

      Like the sabbatarians: Sabbath-day keeping (worshiping) is the sign/proof of one’s salvation.
      Like the Catholics: Keeping the Church’s rules, regulations, rituals is the proof.
      Like the prosperity Gospel cult: your prosperity is the proof of your faith.

      On and on. These are what He says. ‘I never knew you.’

    • J. Paul

      Ounbbl, thank you for sharing your experiences. In my 38 year experience in the Assemblies of God, I have not once seen barking, roaring, laughing, snakes, crawling (except maybe in the toddler nursery or when my wife momentarily lost her wedding ring [smile]).

      Oh, and uh, I know of no one who gets their theology from YouTube.

      When we come to God, he doesn’t take away our emotions and personality type, thereby transforming us into starch-ironed melancholies. In that day, as we gather around the throne of God, can anyone really be so small-minded as to think that everyone will react the same way?

      It was in my apartment that I was baptised in the Holy Spirit with glossolalia. My response was to love and worship God and then to go and preach the Gospel. It was like Don Francisco said in his song, “I’ve got to tell somebody.” It was like a fire shut up in my bones.

      Blessings brother!

    • david carlson

      I was fortunate enough when I got saved to have the fellowship of ChiAlpha, which is the AG College age youth group. Never got into the whole tongues thing (which was not in anyway a major element), but sure loved the warm environment where the bible was of prime importance. Seldom have I found since such a great environment where study and life came together.

    • Rocky Lewis

      Great post Michael. I especially appreciate the recommendations for the theological shock treatment. The media loves to polarize and isolate. Red state, blue state, denominational lines, secularists vs. the faithful. The internet can exacerbate this problem with the tendencies to engage in serial monologue, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your site is a great example of how to engage people with multiple views thoughtfully. So, thank you.

    • ruben

      I think we Christians should be careful with our statements, my parents are adventists and they constantly call the Roman Catholic Curch as being of the Devil. The same with Michael’s former views (speaking in tongues are from demons). I have known God to work though these movements in my life (even if I disagree with many practices of both). To me, calling these demonic is close to (if not the same as) blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Q: Did Jesus speak in tongues, i.e., glossalia?

      Good post, CMP!

    • GEM

      This type of article is why I continually read this blog. I was brought up in the PHC, but left when I saw what I thought were abuses of the Holy Spirit. I have since spent years pursuing intellectuallism and attending non-Charismatic churches only to see a complete neglect of the Holy Spirit, which is also an abuse. There are extremes on either side and unfortunately we spend too much time focusing on our differences than we do on our similarities.

      I firmly hold that ALL of the gifts are for the believer even today, but I cringe at being called Charismatic because of the perception. Today I am comfortable worshiping with Charismatic and non-Charismatic alike.

    • ounbbl

      “All of the gifts are for the believer… ” Humm – Does the Bible say? It makes sense, since God’s gifts are not for the non-believers. But for the believer to do what? To go after? To crave after?

      Gifts are God-given;otherwise it’s not gifts.

      Paul admonished the wayward 😉 Corinthians rather to pursue the more excellent thing (see 1Co 13 on love). God gives, then one receives. Read what the gifts were in 1Co 12. It ain’t for ‘babbling tongue’, for sure. If I’m allowed to bet on this point, I am willing to bet with my dear neck stick out for all who may want to take. Not for my pride, for the poor souls sticking out t. May God forgive … me.

    • GEM


      You took my statement out of context. My point was that I hold to a continuationist standpoint; believing that all of the gifts of the HS are for believers today just as they were at the time Paul wrote the letter.

      I would agree that Paul was chastizing the Corinthian believers for putting so much emphasis on one particular gift (speaking in a tongue). And I would also concede that if Paul were here today he may say the same thing to many Charismatic/Pentecostal churches. But, please don’t stop reading at 1 Cor 13. Continue to chapter 14 as well, where Paul says,

      “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”

      Paul no where condemns the gift of speaking in tongues, but he does say that it should be used properly.

    • minimus

      well, hells bells, McPatton…..great article.

      I thought maybe you were gonna say that you were afraid of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, calling a work of the Holy Spirit that of Satan (Mark 3).

      But alas, it was more of a “celebrate diversity” read…

    • ScottL

      Truth Unites & Divides –

      Can we ask when tongues (or glossolalia) was given? This might answer your question of whether Christ spoke in tongues.

      If anyone is interested, I’ve been posting an in-depth series on the gift of tongues, as I am a full-continuationist. Myself and a colleague also have a blog fully dedicated to continuationism – To Be Continued.

    • Andrew Rogers

      I agree, great article. I am going to send it to all the people who disagree with me 🙂

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you so much for this post. It was particularly meaningful to me because I graduated from college yesterday and will be moving from the US to Taiwan in a month. College was a great experience for me, and today I have been feeling miserable about leaving it behind. However, I know that God intended for me to get my job in Taiwan and has great plans for me there.

      Reading a post about the importance of challenging yourself and changing the way you interact with your faith has encouraged and comforted me in this transition. It reminded me that, although I grew considerably at college, this growth could not have continued indefinitely, and going on an adventure may be exactly what I need.

    • Steve Wright

      Michael, Like you, I too am a Sooner alum (class of ’89). However, I was not saved during those undergraduate years.

      I had the reverse experience of you when I went to Seminary, for I was one of the few charismatics in an otherwise non-charismatic school. However, I do not and have not spoken in tongues, I accept the validity of all the gifts for today. (Thus, I call myself a charismatic in that context).

      My seminary was gracious enough to allow me to write my Masters Thesis for my MDiv on just that point, though it went against the school’s beliefs.

      All of this bio to say a loud Amen to your encouragement to be with brethren of other traditions. It is quite healthy.

      Blogs can aid in this, if we do not miss the point and use the comment section to simply argue against other theological positions – Rather we should listen to others and share our counter-perspectives in love.

    • John

      Tongues or the ‘spectacular’ gifts are erroneous b/c you’ve seen them used wrongly or falsely? I guess no one should preach anymore b/c I’ve heard lots more false sermons than I’ve seen crazy charismatics. Paul doesn’t say discard one or any of the gifts, rather he encourages the use of them all, and to earnestly desire them. The problem is the lack of the more important thing which is love. These folks were selfish in their usage, Paul says stop the selfishness not the gifts. How could Paul say ‘tongues are bad’ then turn around and say ‘I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all’? Paul was either a) trying to keep his foot in the pagan or 2) a very immature Christian? Personally the only thing I see in Scripture that could possibly mean no tongues or prophecy (NT type, not OT type) is ‘when the perfect comes’. I believe this is when Christ returns, to me it is hard to make it mean ‘when we have the full canon of Scripture’. Doesn’t fit with the rest of…

    • Jeannie

      Well Michael, It must be a relief that you have come to the conclusion that all those who speak in tongues are not demon possessed, considering the apostle Paul spoke in tongues more than us all. 1 Cor.14:18 and 1 Cor.14:39.
      Blogs might “articulate” your mind, but the truth is we are not meant to articulate or RECLAIM our minds, we are meant to RENEW our minds with the Word of God. Perhaps you need to get off the blogs and get into the bible then you would know that the Apostle Paul, who spoke in tongues more than us all was not demon possessed when he wrote the epistles any more than those are who speak in tongues today.

    • Ed Kratz

      Ouch. I forgot all about the Bible! 😉

    • J. Paul

      Jeannie, part of renewing our mind, at least for some, involves reclaiming the mind. God gave us a mind which includes an intellect, as well as a spirit and body. Unfortunately, many Christians have yet to put them to practical use. We all have a lot to learn. Self-discipline is not an option. Nevertheless, charity in all things.

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