Charismatics and Anti-Charismatics
There are two main preferences in every denomination and church. One is quiet, sometimes contemplative, sometimes sleepy, and the other is enthusiastic, oriented toward motion and activity.
Many new denominations and independent congregations were formed after the Reformation, usually paralleling their cultures. If the culture was motion oriented, the congregation was motion oriented. If the culture was stiff and formal or quiet, the congregation followed suit.
The experiment in the newly formed United States of America included the notion of religious liberty and personal individuality. The beginning of the Declaration of Independence is as follows:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the National bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal stations to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.____________ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.____ That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed,___ That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
This reads more like an American church constitution because it is a religious document, and it formed the example for American churches.
A careful look at the above quoted section will expose its humanism and naturalism. Were it written from a Biblical perspective, it would have been worded something like this:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for societies to dissolve the National bands which have connected them with others, and to receive among the Powers of the earth, the separate and responsible stations to which the God of Israel entitles them, an appropriate fear of God and consideration of others requires that they should declare the causes for the needful Separation.____________ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created Unequal, that they are endowed by their Creator with greatly varying abilities and certain unalienable Responsibilities, that among these are Righteousness, Justice, and the pursuit of Truth.____ That to make foundational these responsibilities, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the God of Abraham,___ That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Responsibility of the Society to determine to do right nevertheless, clinging to the foundation of such principles in the fear of God, in spite of the lack of Safety and Happiness.
This was not the way it was constructed.
In the same manner as the new American Patriots, the Puritans, Baptists, Methodists—all denominations and congregations broke away from other denominations and congregations. Each sought freedom from tyranny and error or liberalism, but they always became like their parents. The strictest churches of our day seem liberal contrasted with churches after the Great Reformation.
Many denominations historically determined to stand against the Enthusiasts, folks who were convinced that the Spirit of God moved men and women into forms of worship that were considered scandalous. Enthusiasts were known for their shouts, contortions, eruptions and other disturbing behaviours, claiming that the Spirit of God was moving them, coming upon them, filling them, etc. Pastors commonly preached fervently against such ‘devilish’ behaviour. Years later, Pentecostalism formalized Enthusiastic practices, and the Assemblies of God was later formed, establishing the Charismatic Movement.
The separation between non-Pentecostal/non-Charismatic Protestant and Catholic churches and the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches was so great that anti-Pentecostal sermons were preached that condemned the Enthusiasts for their excesses and evils, while Pentecostal sermons were preached condemning spiritual deadness among non-Pentecostals. Protestant churches stood against Catholicism, Catholic priests spoke against the wayward Protestants, and each group saw the need to inoculate its own against the evils of the others. Nothing had changed in 1600 years.
From the 1960s to the 1990s, walls began coming down. Non-Charismatic congregations began using catchy Charismatic choruses—miniature hymns repetitively quoting pieces of Scriptures or catchy personal-relationship-with-God issues.
Individualism became much more important, following cultural trends at large. Charismatic churches that had rejected ‘doctrine’ as a great evil began to look to non-Charismatic churches for examples of doctrine. Baptist churches that had once spoken out against the Charismatic Movement now embraced its freedoms in ‘worship,’ adopting Charismatic choruses months after they were popularized in Charismatic churches instead of decades. Some Catholic churches embraced Charismatic doctrines, desiring the accompanying enthusiasm. Catholicism had no trouble adopting protestant ideas without violating Catholic standards. As walls came down, standards of Christianity followed.
What draws someone to a Charismatic or a non-Charismatic church? Is it the doctrine? Very few churchgoers are aware of their church’s doctrines. Church attendance is usually a matter of feel and fit. Some folks attend a church because it is what they are used to, and some attend because of the beliefs of the church. Most attend because it either fits with their personalities or because it directly contrasts with their personalities and lives, providing a welcome change.
Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are far more feelings oriented than non-Charismatic churches, and anti-Charismatic churches are far more structure oriented. Charismatic churches tend to attract strong, vocal women, and men attracted to those women. Anti-Charismatic churches tend to attract folks who desire order and peace at least on Sunday. Charismatic churches tend toward excitement and expectation (“God is moving again!”). Anti-Charismatic churches tend toward quietness and formalism (“Stand for the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed…”)
There are curious crossovers. Some anti-Charismatic churches attract very Charismatic women who take them over. Other women look to those Charismatic women as supreme examples of Godliness and take-charge activism.
Women, not men, are the backbones of nearly all churches. Men are put on the pulpits and are usually the preachers, but women hold authority and sway. Charismatic churches tend to exaggerate this trend.
Today’s churches are designed to meet the ‘needs’ of as many as possible. They must attract Charismatics and non-Charismatics alike. Many ‘services’ have a Charismatic music segment followed by a traditional hymn and a message. If the congregation is mainly Charismatic, the message will be louder, with the preacher making rapid motions and gestures and the audience verbally responding. If the congregation is mainly ‘conservative,’ the message will be shorter, quieter, and with little audience response. Newer churches combine the active with the formal and quiet. They employ exciting music with miniature soothing concerts and even dance. The service moves more like a show.
Very formal churches attract Charismatic Sunday School teachers, and few notice the inconsistency. They are like a breath of fresh air. Charismatic churches will attract doctrinally oriented ‘Spirit-filled’ Sunday School teachers. It is becoming very difficult to tell the difference between churches based upon the music and the Sunday Schools. There are no institutions that maintain such low standards for its teachers as Protestant churches. (Roman Catholic and the various ‘Orthodox’ churches don’t do better.)
What attracts a conservative, non-Charismatic person to a Charismatic church? Whatever attracts opposites to each other in marriage is the same force. Many non-Charismatics hate feeling bored. A Charismatic church offers excitement and a closer relationship with God.
Some are weary of their bitterness toward God and their guilt feelings, and they seek refuge in Charismatic churches. They ‘lose themselves’ in ‘the Spirit’ and obtain ‘a refreshing’ and a new ‘filling of the Holy Spirit.’ They want to become closer to God, hoping to solve their bitterness against Him. Non-Charismatic churches have no means to solve the bad feelings from bitterness.
Charismatic activities have helped many to temporarily forget their troubles, while others who are not as ‘churched’ get drunk to forget theirs. This does not indicate a lack of fervency in their faiths, but their fervency is from a position of weakness. They are seeking a refuge, a hiding place, looking to go ‘under the shadow of the Almighty’s wings.’ Church is their escape from day-to-day problems. They seek an infilling of the Spirit of God to give them overcoming power throughout the week.
The Attraction of Formal Churches
What attracts a vivacious, Charismatic person to a ‘Formal’ church? Again, opposites attract. Some naturally very Charismatic folks live chaotic and somewhat empty lives. They long for quiet, majestic hymns, uplifting, quiet homilies and the formal majesty and beauty of a well-kept and well-run church. They do not want some inner power, but a transcendental Being Who rises above all and Who governs from the heavens in majesty. Naturally Charismatic folks attending high churches feel God’s majesty in the beautiful pipes sounding out majestic hymns.
Benefits of Religion, and Religious Holes
What attracts non-religious folks to a Charismatic/Pentecostal church in the first place? Some have described an imaginary ‘hole’ in one’s heart that only God can fill. There is no hole that God can fill; a new heart is the only acceptable solution. There is a hole that only religion can fill.
Religion serves vital purposes in society and in the individual, restraining society from total decadence and giving some ideal of right and wrong. It serves as a basis for law, justice and culture. It provides answers where answers are not possible, explaining the unexplainable through various gods. It adds rhythmic normalcy without which citizens would be constantly nervous. It provides ways of restraining fear and anger. Without it, folks would blame other folks for natural disasters, but instead that can look to the gods over whom they have some sway.
Religion soothes the individual by giving him a sense of hope, a reason for living, a reason for planning for the afterlife, a feeling that the god or gods can be convinced to intervene when things get too bad, a consolation after the death of a friend, songs for refreshment, and something upon which to focus besides oneself.
Charismatic/Pentecostal religions are much stronger than conservative religions, as if their volume controls are turned up. Folks with higher bitterness, frustration, thought wars, greater helplessness and emotional shifts are attracted because these religions offer greater distractions and more active solutions.
Non-Charismatic/non-Pentecostal religions offer a long-term anchor. Their volume controls are turned down for folks who prefer to meditate or who want to be left alone.
Some Baptist churches that are fervently anti-Charismatic are truly very pro-Charismatic! They just deceive themselves. Their services are at least as active, noisy with “Amen!” and carrying on as any Charismatic church. They are out to win souls!
Biblical, Frustrating Religion
All religions except the one described in the Book of James help folks not think about teachings in the Jewish Bible.
The Bible is frustrating to many because it shows valiant and ignoble folks, giving no excuse for the ignoble, and giving every reason why anyone created in the image of God can be valiant through His power. Each person is responsible for not being valiantly righteous, Godly and centered on Yehovah instead of self.
Charismatics often have a very difficult time with the Bible because it is so cold. It states things in ways that would hurt anyone centered on feelings. New translations have helped make the God of the Bible a much nicer guy.
Non-Charismatics have less difficulty with the Bible because so few read it. It is a good book to take to church, maybe, but once one has his ‘faith’ (religion), reading the Bible is an extracurricular activity.
Today’s churches reach out for folks from these extremes. They want to bring the bitter and the joyful together in ‘fellowship’ and ‘unity of the Spirit.’ Some churches even offer formal services at one time on Sunday morning and Charismatic services at another!
What does all this have to do with the Bible? Nothing. It is totally unrelated to the Bible. The Word of God does not center on any individual’s liking or preference, but on the plan of Yehovah for Israel, and Truth. An individual’s circumstantial bitterness or joy has nothing to do with Israel’s Spiritual status and Yehovah’s judgments on Israel.
The Bible is not designed for the self-centered bitter person nor the self-centered joyful person. It is not designed for politicians, doctors, lawyers or money managers. It is designed to portray what is important from Yehovah’s perspective.
While Charismatic and Pentecostal churches keep declaring that ‘God is moving again,’ and non-Charismatic churches declare that God has ceased speaking, leaving it up to men and women to be His hands and feet to the world, Israel is still in unbelief. Many Jewish individuals having no knowledge or interest in the Jewish Scriptures; some having a liberal interest; some have rabbinic fervency.
Churches and Judaism
All churches follow various forms of Judaism. Charismatic Judaism includes Hasidic Judaism, and liberal Judaism includes Reform Judaism. Conservative Jewish congregations are like Conservative churches: they stand somewhere between a strict orthodox stand and a liberal stand, bent toward the liberal stand. And like their Christian counterparts, the most bitter and the most joyful are attracted to the most Charismatic forms. The Jews combined the most Charismatic and the most Formal forms of Judaism long ago, and the churches are just now seeing the light.
What does all this have to do with the Bible? Nothing. It is totally unrelated to the Bible. Judaism centers on rabbis’ teachings. In the meantime, Israel is still in unbelief, and holocausts always recur. As the population increases, new plans for the next holocaust and new inventions for disposing of Jews are made.
There are a few Jewish and non-Jewish folk here and there who Biblically believe the Word of God. If they are bitter, they are bitter like Naomi whose bitterness led to Salvation. They await the Consolation of Israel, the Spirit of Yehovah of Hosts. They know that one Jewish or non-Jewish person’s salvation is good, but not satisfactory until all Israel is in faith. They desire to know the Word of God in order to live righteously, do justice, love Grace, and to selflessly walk with Yehovah. They also desire to properly present the plan, goodness and Grace of Yehovah to anyone, especially the People of Israel. If a fearer is also a pastor, he will instill this Hope and these things into all who will hear.