Some Clarification on the Indicator of Charismatic Influence


Okay.  Time for a little clarity.  Here’s hoping…

In my last post, I made up 2 lists of a whole lot of continuationists/charismatics/whatever term you want to use and around a hundred pairs of knickers are in a knot for one reason or another.

“So and so isn’t crazy!”

“So and so is an amazing man of God!”

“So and so isn’t charismatic!”


People apparently didn’t actually read the post too carefully, seeing as my disclaimers were missed:

You’ll also see that the previous list is very generous regarding who’s included among the “theologically cautious” charismatics.  I included both John Piper and DesiringGod, as well as charismatics who basically never address the issue or have continuationist beliefs that they never act out (like Rick Warren, Craig Groeschel, Scott Williams, Bill Hybels or Perry Noble).

In other words, I maximized the first list in definite favor of the “theologically cautious” in order to not be accused of missing anyone or skewing the numbers in a negative way, but that accusation still came (as I expected). The case was so strong, I could have included all the cessationists in the “theologically cautious” crowd and the results would have looked the same.


If we’re being honest, I wouldn’t have included a few people in the first list (i.e. Rick Warren or Bill Hybels or Lou Giglio), mainly because nobody on either side of the continuationist/cessationist divide follows them too closely for anything outside of leadership development or their social initiatives ideas or something of that nature.  I also wouldn’t have been as gracious with people like Mark Driscoll, simply because I personally think he’s on the crazy side or things, but I left him in the first category simply to buttress their numbers.  I also wouldn’t have included Ed Stetzer either, but since he’s not a cessationist so I included him, assuming that not being a cessationist means he’s logically a continuationist…both of which he denied today:

I’ll reserve comment and let him speak for himself as he’s apparently going to write something on his views soon.  Either way, I used him to pad the numbers in the favor of the “theologically cautious” crowd.

I had a second disclaimer:

You’ll also see that the previous list is very generous regarding who’s included among the “theologically absurd” charismatics: I’ve only basically included the ones that I’m aware of, and a few in South America that I’ve learned about while writing this.  If I had around 600 hours to do research, that list would be a lot larger.

In other words, I minimized the second list in definite favor of the “theologically cautious” in order to not be accused of missing anyone or skewing the numbers in a negative way, but that accusation still came (as I expected). The case was so strong, I left out some possibly huge ringers from the “theologically absurd” crowd simply because I wanted to be relatively sure that I wasn’t horribly misrepresenting people (and lacked the time/ability to do the necessary background research).


For example, if I could read Portugese, I may have included Aline Barros (1.581 million followers and the celebrity wife of a supposed prosperity preacher), but my language limitations prevented me from confirming some things that I found online about things that she and her husband, Gilmar Santos, apparently have taught or said.  Aline Barros travels in the same circles as some rather questionable folks (i.e. Bill Johnson, John Bevere, etc.) but that’s not sufficient “proof” of anything…hence I didn’t include her.

I actually try to do some homework on people.

Speaking of which, I included a few people in the “theologically absurd” list that ruffled some feathers.

One example (among many) was Judah Smith, so I’ll explain why he’s on the “absurd” list and just say that similar cases are made for almost everyone on the second list.

And as a side note: I’ve got a bunch of “can you back that up” requests, which I’m more or less ignoring.  My readers know how to use the interwebs, so please don’t expect me to justify every single name on either list to every single inquirer.  The information I’ve based decisions on is highly public and widely available, and Google isn’t that confusing.

Now back to Judah Smith.

judah-smith(source – Judah Smith, calling you a loser.  You still love him now?)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an authority on Judah Smith.  I originally had him on the first list along with Steven Furtick, but I moved both Smith and Furtick to the second list because of what I came across in my research.  There are two main reasons I moved Smith:

1.  The  explicit doctrine of City Church.

Look at what the church doctrinal statement says about the baptism & gifts of the spirit, healing and prosperity.  That may not look incriminating to you, but it definitely means something with prosperity crowds.  It’s kinda like how TD Jakes fleeced Mark Driscoll with Oneness Pentecostal “insider talk” when he defended modalism in Elephant Room 2.  Driscoll thought Jakes was agreeing with him, but Jakes definitely wasn’t.

For those who don’t remember what was said at ER2, search the archives over at Alpha and Omega ministries where James White explains the whole “language breakdown” at ER2.  Go there and search “Elephant Room Jakes” and choose the first link, which is this.  Shoot!  Here I am, trying to be crabby, and I end up doing the work for you again…You’re welcome!

2.  The publicly pursued associations of Judah Smith:

Now it’s true that his church doctrinal statement can be interpreted one way or the other, but the company he keeps tells you which way he is leaning.

He hosts a conference at his own church called “Prosperity with a Purpose” that in 2009 had Oral Roberts as a speaker, and he’s about as prosperity gospel as they come, and in 2010 had Brian Houston as a speaker; you know, the guy who wrote “You Need More Money“?  That’s about as fishy as this:


He’s also been a speaker at plenty of Hillsongs conferences since 2008, Jentezen Franklin’s “Forward” youth conference since 2009,  he’s spoken at C3, a prosperity-gospel church in Austraila, at Ray McAuley’s prosperity gospel church in South Africa…and he’s apparently Justin Bieber’s pastor, which only shows you what exactly Judah Smith thinks a pastor is.  Justin Bieber lives in Los Angeles but his pastor is in Seattle?  Huh?

Things just got somewhat more fishy…

Fish Market(source)

Judging by the company Judah Smith keeps (and doesn’t keep), as well as my limited exposure to what he does (and the fact that I haven’t found record of him speaking anywhere respectable), I read his doctrinal declarations in the light of whom he chooses to hang around and don’t naively hope for the best.

He may NOT be a prosperity preacher, but he seems to hang around with a whole LOT of prosperity preachers.  Hence, he ended up on the second list.

Finally, here’s some thoughts about that post (which has become startlingly popular today):

1.  It’s not any sort of accurate gauge for anything.  Twitter is one thing, but things like website traffic, video views, radio listeners and book sales would fill out the numbers to more accurately show any person’s true following/scope of influence. Beyond that, there are a whole lot of older/impoverished people who aren’t on digital media that can go unaccounted for numerically in research of this nature (i.e those who listen to the radio, which globally speaking, still is widely used).  It wasn’t meant to be any sort of authoritative study; it’s a blog post.

2.  It’s not even remotely comprehensive.  I missed a bunch of people on the second list, and I’m not sure who I missed on the first list as I was mainly addressing who, I’ve heard referenced as the “level headed” guys everyone claims as their representative theologians/intellectual delegates.  On the second list, I could have easily expanded it ten-fold if I would have had another few weeks for research.

3.  The numbers do show something though, as has already been pointed out in the comments and on Twitter: the level headed crowd is almost entirely composed of white western pastors (almost all from the United States).  Outside the United States, the prosperity gospel is both far more popular and largely mainstream.  Some people have suggested otherwise, but the numbers do give an indication that, well, a whole lot more people are listening to Chris Oyakhilome than Dr Michael Brown…as in 1,302, 000 more.  Even if you divide that number by ten, it’s still a ton more.

So I hope that clarifies things somewhat, if even a little.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Trying to bring clarity to a tsunami” Unger

P.S. – Judah Smith didn’t actually call you a loser.  He was joking.  This is what he really things of you:

Judah Smith 1(source – Judah Smith thinks you’re all right!)


15 thoughts on “Some Clarification on the Indicator of Charismatic Influence

  1. Pingback: Mennoknight’s Twitter Analysis Post | hipandthigh

  2. When I read Lyndon Unger, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Fred Butler, and a host of others, via internet blogs,I am reminded of the words written considering our precious Savior: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.” But even more so, they very words of Jesus Himself; “You will know them by their works.” Thank you Lyndon for your love of righteousness and hatred of evil.” Romans 12:9-12

    • Thanks for the kind words Brad. Psalm 69:9 and 119:139 come to mind.

      When I first learned of Cash Luna (the prosperity preacher in Guatemala), and discovered that the average person in Guatemala lives on $700 USD a year while Cash Luna has a private jet (Sabreliner 60) that is old but not cheap, I almost threw up.

      Luna makes Creflo Dollar look like a fairly upstanding individual.

      It’s hard not to hate that kind of evil.

  3. On thing that may skew the numbers even more is this notion. Many of the twitter followers of the cautious group are probably not following them specifically because they are cautious continuationists. For example, I imagine there are a lot of Piper followers who are cessationists since Piper’s is not primarily known for his promotion of the miraculous gifts. On the other hand since the second group is mostly known for their promotion of charismatic excesses and their ministries largely revolve around this distinctive, most of their followers are following them because they explicitly agree with those distinctive emphases..

  4. Hello,

    Why do you have a link to Ravi Zacharias on your page, are you supporting his ministry? He is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance a denomination that has pentecostal history and believes in tongues, he must be, under your criteria, a false teacher.

    • Er, no. I don’t automatically support everything that Ravi says and does just because I link him. He’s not a false teacher. I’ve listened to around 200 hours of Ravi and he has never mentioned spiritual gifts.

      He is good at what he does, but that does not include addressing spiritual gifts.

      Settle down. Have some tea.

        • Uh, no. If a guy comes from a denomination that is affiliated with something that he personally doesn’t have anything to do with, I don’t hold him responsible for the errors of others.

          Can you link me something where Ravi EVER talks about anything related to the charismatic movement?

          Can you find me a single charismatic, anywhere, that cites Ravi as an authority or exegetical defender of any charismatic doctrine?

          Feel free to take a week and search. Longer if need be.

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