Charismatic Renewal: 10 Suggestions for the Way Forward
In the previous post I looked at 10 strengths and weaknesses of charismatic renewal. If the charismatic renewal is not only to thrive in the days ahead but also expand its influence in the broader evangelical world, several things must occur. Included among these, in no particular order, are:
(1) Charismatics must return to a robust view of the gospel and how it functions to shape all of life and belief.
(2) There is a great need in charismatic circles for a more explicitly Christological center to theology and ministry. In other words, without diminishing their emphasis on the Holy Spirit, charismatics must elevate their focus on Jesus Christ: his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. In a sense, Pneumatology must be subservient to Christology.
(3) Charismatics are notoriously weak when it comes to ecclesiology. This is seen in: a) the tendency to embrace structures of local church leadership that are alien to the NT pattern; b) a flippant and casual approach to both church membership and discipline; c) a low view of the nature and priority of the sacraments; and d) an overall failure to recognize the centrality of the local church as God’s primary means for expanding the kingdom and exalting his Son (see Eph. 3:10).
(4) Charismatics must turn from a man-centered (anthropocentric) orientation to a more biblically robust God-centered or theocentric perspective on the faith. This should express itself in at least three ways: a) a thorough refutation of open theism which, sadly, has infected much of the charismatic world; b) a comparatively more Reformed understanding of soteriology (although this need not entail full-blown 5-point Calvinism); and c) a recognition of the centrality of God’s glory as the ultimate purpose for both creation and redemption.
(5) There is a great need in the charismatic world for a Scripturally shaped and pastorally sensitive theology of suffering (one that does not undermine or compromise its equally important belief in the reality of divine healing).
(6) Charismatics cannot afford to be identified with the more extreme forms of eschatological Zionism. The most effective antidote to this widespread error is a recognition of the way in which Jesus became the antitypical fulfillment of the many shadows, symbols, and typological adumbrations of the OT. If charismatics do not come to understand how the NT interprets and fulfills the OT prophetic word, it will remain hopelessly mired in the darkness of dispensationalism and the many errors it spawns.
(7) Charismatics must cease paying mere lip-service to the convergence of Word and Spirit. There has been in many charismatic circles a loss of the functional authority of Scripture. The simple but sad fact is that cessationists are right: charismatics, in general, have often failed to subject all claims of prophetic revelation or spiritual power encounters to the final standard of biblical authority.
(8) A repudiation of all expressions of manipulative and hyper-spiritual sensationalism is essential.
(9) The charismatic movement must distance itself from the so-called Health and Wealth gospel as well as the extremes of the Word of Faith movement.
(10) There is in the charismatic world an unhealthy hankering for whatever is new and bizarre, often without regard for the history of the Christian church and the consensus that has developed around the “Great Tradition” and the ecumenical creeds of the past. In a word, charismatics tend to fall prey to what C. S. Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery. In the days ahead, charismatics must be willing to look backward as readily and eagerly as they look forward, and to learn from our forefathers in the faith.