What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic Tradition? (Part 2)

As I mentioned in What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)), I was brought up in a Charismatic / Renewal church where my dad was a pastor. Having been exposed to both the Reformed and Charismatic flows, I strongly believe that we can learn from one another. Both of our streams have strengths which we can draw from, as well as weaknesses which God can use to show His glory.

We also have our blind spots, and the moment one stream says, “I don’t have a blind spot; I see everything clearly,” then maybe pride is my blind spot. With no further ado, here is what I believe my Reformed brothers (and sisteren) can learn from us Charismatics.

  1. We endeavour to express our love for God with our whole being

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” Luke 10:27a (NIV)

Loving God is not just a private matter, or a ‘mind’ matter. No, it is much more than that! When I am in love with the LOVE of my life, then I am not ashamed to show the world who that person is, and how I feel about her. The Bible paints many pictures for us where God wants us to be head-over-heals in love with Him (e.g. Song of Songs; Hosea; Ephesians 5:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelations 19:7-9; 21:1, 2).

The Psalms are also filled with every expression of human emotion through the whole body – laughing, crying, clapping, singing, dancing, praising, praying, shouting, kneeling, etc.  So the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why is it OK to find these expressions in the pages of Scripture, but not in the pews of a congregation?”

  1. We believe God can speak to us in any way He chooses

I know this is a scary one for many Reformed friends, due to your strong emphasis on Sola Scriptura. Firstly, I want to thank the Reformed flow for putting such a massive emphasis on the Authority of Scripture. It is primarily through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4) and the Holy Writ (2 Tim. 3:16) that God has chosen to speak to us. And today more than ever, the Church (as a whole) needs to submit afresh to the infallible, and inspired Word of God.

Secondly, although God speaks primarily through His Son and Holy Word, there are also secondary ways He communicates to us. Here are some Biblical examples:

  • Through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19, 20)
  • Through dreams & visions (Daniel 7, 8, 10; Acts 10; 16:6-10; Revelation)
  • Through prayer (Psalms; Romans 8:26, 27)
  • Through an audible voice (1 Samuel 3; Matthew 3:13-17)
  • Through an inner voice / conscience (1 Kings 19; Acts 13:1-4)
  • Through another person (Judges 6:1-10; Acts 11:27-30)
  • Through an angel (Judges 6:11-40; Acts 10)

To look at these Biblical examples, and say God only spoke like that in Bible times, is a bit presumptuous. God is still at work in His world, and one of the primary ways is by leading his children through speaking to them. And here, as Charismatics, we need to heed the warning from our Reformed brothers. We cannot continuously claim that God is speaking to us, but we are not hearing Him speak through the pages of Scripture. If we are not immersed in the Bible, how dare we make claims that God has spoken. The Bible is what God has SAID throughout history, and we need to engage it daily in order to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts. There are too many ‘I heard from God and you can’t tell me anything otherwise’ Christians running around and causing more harm than good.

On the other side is also a danger. If we say that God only speaks through the Bible, we restrict God to times when we are hearing, reading, studying, meditating on, praying and singing Scripture. So my question is, “When you are not thinking specifically about the Word of God, but you are thinking how you must fix the bathroom tap, can God speak to you in that moment? If He speaks, will He quote only from the Bible?”

I believe we can limit God by saying He must just speak in one way. Let’s say you are driving a car, how will God warn you of possible danger around the corner? Will He remind you of a Scripture verse? Will He leave an impression on your heart to slow down? How will He protect His beloved child?

My prayer is that we will continue to learn from one another. For instance, I am currently struggling through Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. In my 34 years in the Charismatic flow, I’ve never heard an in-depth discussion on the topic of predestination and election. Without even knowing it, it seems to me our default position in the Renewal movement is Arminianism.  Why are glossing over these difficult texts in Scripture, and not engaging them? We can surely learn from our Reformed brothers in this regard.

Let us pray:

Father God, I come to You in the name of Jesus

Unify Your body for Your glory

Press down on our pride, so that our knees would buckle

Under the weight of Your fear and glory

And when we rise, may it be on Spirit’s wings

As we fly formation from various streams!

 

 

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What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)

To put this blog post in perspective, let me just share a bit of my background. Both my parents became children of God in the Reformed tradition. Their faith grew as they poured their lives into ministry and missions. When my Dad felt called to leave his teaching occupation, and enter the pastorate, he started studying at a Reformed Seminary. However, as he was studying Scripture, he started to become convinced of the Biblical teachings in regards to being filled with the Holy Spirit and miraculous healing. He eventually joined an independent Bible College in the Charismatic tradition.

I was born when my Dad had already made the move from the Reformed to the Renewal flow. As a result, I grew up in a Charismatic church. Only in my 20’s did I start to be exposed to the Reformed tradition through friendships, missions, sermons and books. A whole new world opened up for me, and here are some of the most important things I’ve learned from my Reformed brothers in the Lord.

  1. They tremble at the Word of God

God speaks through Isaiah, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2b  ESV) By reading works in the Reformed tradition, God started to expose my carelessness and biases when approaching the Word of God. My Reformed brothers do not come to the Holy Writ to quickly get a word for the day, or to get five verses which validates their position.

No, they come before the Holy Scripture and pray, ”God, I tremble at Your Word. Speak to me through Your Word.” And then they allow God to speak to them by doing proper exegesis. They don’t skim over an agonising piece of Scripture (e.g. Job; Matthew 23; Romans 9) which does not fit their preconditioned theology. Never, they let this uncomfortable text confront their false beliefs, their skewed picture of God and their hidden idolatries.

    2. They encourage deep thinking

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7  ERV) I can only speak for the Charismatic movement which I am part of. But many times we seem to think feeling is more spiritual than thinking. And sometimes we even feel guilty for thinking differently about a certain passage of Scripture than our specific flow’s consensus.

Thankfully, I have observed from my Reformed brothers that they model and promote deep thinking, humble questioning and articulate reasoning about the Word and the world. As we can see in the verse above, God does not do the thinking for us. No, as we start the work of thinking, God comes and gives us supernatural understanding. We need both: thinking (on our part) and revelation (on God’s part).

      3. They connect us with our roots

Jesus says, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52  NLT) The amount of written works produced by the Reformed tradition about our Christian heritage is staggering. Many a scholar or pastor or layman has delved into history in order to bring to life the writings and lives of Christian heroes of the past.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to every theologian or minister who took the time and ink to record the words and acts of past saints. Through this literary treasure we start to realise the greatness of God’s redemptive story, and the miniscule part we play in the larger scheme of Heaven’s saga. Let us learn to measure our words and actions against the Holy Bible, and the cloud of witnesses (the saints of old) surrounding us.  As we do this, we will be humbled and encouraged to depend on His grace to finish the race.

There are many more things I am learning from my Reformed brothers, but time prevents me to elaborate. Suffice to say, I believe God wants all of us (different denominations / flows / etc.) to learn from one another. As we do, Christ will command greater blessing on His Bride, the Church.

Watch out for part 2: What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic tradition?

Let us pray:

Our Father in Heaven, bind us together as brothers from different backgrounds

May we learn from each other as we journey together

Let us keep Christ at the Centre

Let us proclaim Good News unashamedly

Let us run to finish well

By Your grace alone

Amen