For those of you don’t just follow this blog but know me, you’ll know that from around 1991 (grade 9) until March of 2002, I was quite involved in the charismatic movement. In 1992 I was scolded for arriving to youth group late and told “if you can’t come on time, don’t come at all”, so I took that as saying “you’re not welcome here”. Being the angry and arrogant youth that I was, I shopped around for youth groups and ended up at 2 youth groups simultaneously; Hartland Baptist and Full Gospel Christian Fellowship (which was renamed to Gateway Christian Ministries). The Baptist church was a North America Baptist Conference church and the Full Gospel Church was an Apostolic Churches of Pentecost church, both of which I was involved with until I graduated.
This meant that I was exposed to two very different theological streams and being very young, I liked the experience of the Full Gospel Church far more (they had a skatepark, rock music, and more attractive girls, etc.). This also meant that I didn’t get taught on spiritual gifts and the whole charismatic movement from an ambiguously “open but cautious” Mennonite perspective alone, but I also got exposed to an unapologetic and boldly charismatic take on tongues speaking and doctrine of subsequence (meaning that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens at conversion but the filling of the Spirit happens sometime after and is manifest by the outward sign of tongues), prophecies that included the words “thus saith the Lord”, and “healings” of things like a sore elbow on a regular basis. After I left Prince George for Bible College, I was affiliated with HillCrest Apostolic Church in Moose Jaw, Sask. (off and on) from 1995 to 2002, and when I finally left there I was the intern College & Career pastor. By the time I had left I had found myself between the rock of God’s word and the “hard place” of charismatic theology, and I couldn’t ignore the pressure any longer. From 2002-2006 I was in Bible College/Seminary (and finding myself being dragged by the scripture towards cessationism), and from 2006-2010 I was in seminary in Los Angeles, where I had the opportunity and resources to finally address some of the technical and complex issues I hadn’t yet tackled. By 2010 I had become an firm and committed cessationist.
Now I was in the charismatic movement during the Toronto Blessing movement where people were barking, laughing, getting stuck to the floor with “holy glue” and even throwing up “in the spirit” (a practice referred to as holy vomiting. No kidding). I have been involved with at last 10 charismatic churches in multiple cities, I’ve visited another 30+, and I’ve lived, worked, and made circles of friends that included thousands of continuationists in 6 cities in Western Canada. I have spoken in tongues, healed others, been healed and even prophesied, or at least I was told by the pastors, leaders, “apostles” and prophets in those circles that I actually did those things. I’ve seen the third wave, the reformed charismatics, the Pentecostals, the “Pentelectuals” and several other streams of charismatic theology first hand.
I’ve also tried my best to learn about the movement from its strongest defenders. In my struggling through the issue, I’ve read or listened to a biblical defense of all the various issues surrounding the charismatic movement (or charismatic related issues) from the best they have to offer: Sam Storms, DA Carson, Wayne Grudem, Vern Poythress, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Jack Deere, Jack Hayford, Adrian Warnock, Henry Blackaby, etc. (and the worst they have to offer, like Benny Hinn, Rick Joyner, Oral Roberts, Tommy Tenney, etc.). Beyond that, I have worked through all the hundreds of pertinent passages of scripture (both Old and New Testament), many of them in the original languages. I’ve contributed to an exegetical digest of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and part of that work involved reading everything published on 1 Corinthians 12-14 (and the issues of spiritual gifts) between 1996 and 2009 (I could post the bibliography, but it’s 24+ pages).
All this to say that I don’t come to my conclusions lightly or blindly. I’ve almost exclusively read charismatic authors on the subject and critically engaged their arguments and exegesis, and I’ve had some good help from John MacArthur and David Jeremiah along the way (I would have linked David Jeremiah’s 1 Corinthians series as a resource in my previous post, but the sermon pack with 1 Cor. 12-14 in it is $78…).
I’ve read and critically interacted with every continuationist I could find, but I am inescapably bound by scripture and conscience to believe that the sign gift of tongues has fulfilled it’s purpose and ceased, the office of prophet is closed (until the tribulation), and the healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles are no longer manifest in the same way that they were in Jesus’ day.
I also don’t write this to give any sort of refutation of any one strain of continuationist theology, but rather to simply offer forward my own tale of exploration and discovery for, well, sheer personal interest to the people that are reading here. I think I will write one more post that deals with some of the specific ideas/issues that have been watersheds in my journey…but that may come sometime next week.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Mennoknight” Unger