Quick Thought: the reason I write about the charismatic movement

Thinking-ManI’m currently in my office, working away, listening to Jesus Culture (it’s white noise that helps me study and refrain from getting distracted), and preparing for a talk I’ll be giving in 25 hours.  I’m going to be at a church in the Vancouver area giving a presentation on what the Bible says about false prophets/false teachers.  I’ll post my notes on the web once I’ve turned them into a post (or series), and there’s some rather interesting and frightening stuff I’ve learned as a result of this most recent study project.  I’ve basically been speed-reading through the whole scripture for a few days and making extended notes, and as I was in 2 Peter I had to stop and soak in a passage:

For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:18-19

That verse, in a nutshell, explains why I have been spending a majority of the last 8 months writing about the false teaching and false teachers that absolutely run amuck in charismatic circles.  There’s a common lie that cessationists like myself think that every single charismatic person is some sort of damned wretch that is beyond the grasp of grace, but this couldn’t be further from the truth; there are plenty of believers in Charismatic circles.  The thing is that 2 Peter 2:18-19 informs me that the false teacher who runs amuck in a charismatic church (often as the pastor or some other leader) ensnares those “who are barely escaping from those who live in error”, meaning they prey on the spiritually immature and weak.

They’re spiritual predators.

False teachers are the spiritual equivalent of Ariel Castro.

Ariel Castro(If you think this comparison is strong, just wait until I post the whole project…)

The false teachers victimize those who come to them, wide eyed and impressed, looking to them for instruction in the ways and words of God.  Those false teachers take those trusting sheep, make them promises that they cannot keep (nor experience themselves), and utterly destroy their spiritual growth.

Some of the people ensnared by false teaching are Christians.  Some are not.  Only the Lord knows who’s who, but the Lord’s sheep are precious to him and need to be warned and, if at all possible, rescued.

In conservative circles, there has been a whole lot of thoughtless jesting, false witness, name calling and trivialization of matters that are of the utmost seriousness to God; the hottest spot in Hell is reserved for false teachers (2 Pet. 2:17). Some of those in my circles, including myself, have forgotten that the people that are ensnared by false doctrine are just that; ensnared.  When I hear Chris Quilala or Kim Walker Smith singing on a Jesus Culture album, I also hear a thousand or more kids in that sweaty room singing with their eyes closed that think they’re the euphoria they’re experiencing is some sort of manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  Those kids are singing their hearts out because they are taught that, ultimately, the amount of emotion they can cultivate by singing in a church service is somehow related to the quantity of spiritual power they’ll have in their lives to deal with all the sins, stresses and struggles that they have to face once the concert is over.

They’re ensnared by error.


Those kids are being sold a lie, and they’re being ensnared by a few musicians who have themselves been lied to by a man who holds the title “pastor”, which is the one thing he is not.

When I was ensnared by error, I wasn’t really aware of it; I trusted those over me to tell me the truth but they lied through their teeth to me.  I, in turn, ensnared others with the false doctrine that I was taught.

That’s right.

I didn’t use to just be an unbeliever; I used to be a budding false teacher (though by God’s grace I never actually made it into a position of real authority or leadership).


I’m glad that someone else was gentle but firm in confronting me in my spiritual apathy and deception, and I’m forever thanking the Lord for the tsunami of grace unleashed in my life.  It’s only my hope that some of us who write on these issues will be able to offer something forth that warns or, if possible, is instrumental in rescuing some who are ensnared.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “ever-struggling to balance compassion with clarity” Unger


12 thoughts on “Quick Thought: the reason I write about the charismatic movement

  1. Thank you for what you do, please don’t stop. I was ensnared in the false charismatic gospel for 12 years until The Lord opened my eyes to the truth, through the teaching of John MacArthur, and listening to Wretched radio. I just happened to “stumble” onto that program through my car radio. I was unaware of the lies for so long, partly because I did not study the scriptures for myself, I was comfortable being spoonfed by our pastors every Sunday. It was the relentless pursuit of “experience” that finally made me question the validity of it all. It is thanks to men like you that the captives are being set free by the truth of the gospel.

    • Thanks for the kind words Theresia. It stinks that there are more than a few who associate with Cessationism who address the Charismatic movement out of a desire to mock silly people who say absurd things (and build themselves up).

      I too was ensnared in the movement for over a decade. I have hundreds of friends who were either wrecked by the false teaching in the movement or are still deceived by the false teaching therein. I don’t know if they read me, but I pray that some do and are challenged to face the scriptures and not assume that the if the Charismatic movement is a farce, Christianity on a whole must be a farce.

  2. Lyndon, I was up late struggling with how to make some sense of all this Charismatic “attractiveness”. It has captured my daughter and her whole family to the point I am now being shunned for suggesting they might want to see what the Scripture had to say about where they are and who they are allowing to teach them and my grandchildren.

    This particular mega-church is pastored by a guy for whom Chris Scarbrough did a sermon review. It was not one of this “pastors” worst sermons by far but was still bad enough to get Chris justifiably agitated! This “pastor” got his start as the youth minister for Ted Haggard (they are still friends) and has since made numerous appearances on TBN. Kenneth Copeland is another one of his big “buddies”. His rock star youth minister was just released from jail after serving time for a second felony conviction. A “preacher” friend of his is now on his staff after being caught having an affair with his co-pastrix wife’s assistant in their Louisiana mega-church.

    Like you, the more I dug, the dirtier it got! Yet he has one of the fastest growing Charismatic, seeker friendly, purpose driven, Christ forgotten, Bibles optional, free Starbucks, Rock & Roll Band, work out center, digital teen arcade, multi-campus, entertainment centered “churches” in America.

    I’m sure you too have noticed the post-modern promotion of relativism. It is based on the centuries old model of Hegelianism which was later modified and used by Karl Marx for his famous ism. Secular business guru Peter Drucker continued the practice by adopting and further modifying this model for use in business. Rick Warren’s personal guru was Drucker and we have seen the results of his using the same basic model to create his mega-church. Many churches followed suit and quite successfully I might add.

    It’s actually quite a simple but effective system. It has three basic elements……………………………………………. Thesis – Antithesis – & Synergy.
    Thesis = Truth…. Antithesis = Conflict…. Synergy = Compromise…. but Synergy is quickly adopted as the new “Truth” in the equation which is repeated over and over again. What started out as the original TRUTH is constantly being compromised for the sake of harmony. Entertainment and comfort (fleshly desires) attract non-believers who are quickly assimilated into the churches decision making process (with influence from a trained “group” leader) and nothing is sacred or exempt from change. Not even what little doctrine that might have existed in the beginning. The Truth is sacrificed on the altar of Relativism and heresy prevails under the banner of ecumenicism.

    Absolute “Truth” (that Truth found in Scripture) is no longer the baseline. We are getting closer and closer to becoming a Godless society and we’ve already begun to see those horrible results. “Truth” has become relative. I have my “truth”, you have your “truth”, they have their “truth” and and………….Well, you get the idea! So my “truth” has now become the basis for my thoughts, beliefs and behavior. Pretty warped, huh? Soon, we will have totally sacrificed God’s moral absolutes on the altar of relativism and their next target might actually be gravity itself. Don’t laugh!

    We might actually see people agreeing that gravity is just some old fashioned, out of date belief. But not believing in gravities true old fashioned definition will ultimately lead to a fatal fall. Of course, the same is true for God’s moral absolutes! But rebellion (sin) against His moral absolutes has consequences they cannot even begin to fathom. I hope you find the gravity example ridiculous. Personally I think the first example is even MORE ridiculous. In the second example the only person suffering is the idiot believing Newton’s falling apple was some kind of magic trick.

    Maybe no big ah ha here but at least I’m beginning to see some commonality where once I only saw chaos and diversity of error. Dr. MacArthur was right to say the movement was difficult to pin down. But the closer you look just maybe they all have a common “strategy” and a “model” that can be exposed as the mind control methods they are. Nobody likes to be manipulated, now do they. Hmmmm………

    • Wowzer. Thanks for all your thoughts Craig. I’m certainly horrified at how many big celebrity pastors end up having highly unqualified folks “pastoring” on their staff and making buddies with secular business gurus and philosophers.

      I guess we’re living in the “out of season” part of 2 Timothy 4:2…

      • 2 Timothy 4:2 is a good reminder for us to stay the course. I’m afraid there are now too many Christians who have all but given up in the, “reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” department. Knowing how the story ends is not always the best motivator but we still have the responsibility. We need more of the yous and those like you!

  3. Thank you for sharing your motive in why you write about the Charismatic movement; I’m going to start reading 1-2 Peter and Jude as personal devotional with commentaries sometime late spring so that verse really jumped at me

  4. Going through Jude with our book study group and Men’s Bible study right now.
    I’m never sure how they are responding to this warning, but we warn never the less.

  5. There are false teachers on Charismatic sides, Reformed sides and every side. However, this does not do away with the Truth of God’s word. And no one can make a sound biblical case that the gifts of God’s Spirit have ceased.

    • Why is the Charismatics movement contrasted with the Reformed movement?

      Your juxtaposition is curious, if not possibly telling.

      Also, no one can make a sound biblical case that the gifts of God’s Spirit have ceased?

      Yup. Fully agreed. I’m a cessationist and agree with that statement. I dare suspect you don’t know nearly as much about this issue as you tell yourself.

      Nobody is suggesting that the gifts (in their entirety) have ceased. Only a few specific gifts, and they are only gone because they fulfilled the purposes for which they were given. The majority of the gifts are still around.

  6. I, too, was caught up in much error from listening to false teachers. I was plugged in to a Baptist church the entire time and studied the Bible on my own all the time. BUT no one had ever taught me HOW to properly handle the Truth, the Word. So when the false teachers used things out of context or told about what the verse meant to them or even allegorized the text, I didn’t know better and it made it very hard to argue with their ideas and “interpretations”.
    Gratefully, God saw fit to move us to a small town with a Biblically faithful pastor in order to teach us and show us how to truly live this Christian life.
    I sat under two pastors as I strayed into error….one knew of his congregation’s interest and fascination with the charismatic/word faith/prosperity teaching and did nothing to correct it…the other pastor’s sermons were so completely powerless and anemic that they actually fueled the congregates’ search for “more”. So completely SAD to have the Word and even the DESIRE to truly follow and know the Word, but not know how to study/interpret it and therefore be led quite astray.
    Keep reaching out in love, warning, and TEACHING so that others may see and understand and be rescued from all that is false in this movement. And preachers…PLEASE protect your flock…care for them…feed them…lead them to the Truth faithfully, week after week. Believe me, we sheep need you!!

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