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"Spiritual Gifts" Accompanying "Charismatic" Experience

THE CHIEF CLAIM of the followers of the "charismatic revival" is that they have acquired "spiritual" gifts. One of the first such "gifts" that becomes noticeable in those "baptized with the Holy Spirit" is a new "spiritual" power and boldness. What gives them boldness is the definite experience which no one can doubt that they have had, although one can certainly doubt their interpretation of it. Some typical examples: "I do not have to believe in Pentecost, because I have seen it" (Ranaghan, p. 40). "I began to feel that I knew exactly what to say to others and what they needed to hear...I found that the Holy Spirit gave me a real boldness to say it and it had a marked effect" (Ranaghan, p. 64). "I was so confident that the Spirit would be true to His word that I prayed without any ifs. I prayed in wills and shalls and in every other kind of declarative statement." (Ranaghan, p. 67). An Orthodox example: "We pray for wisdom and suddenly we are wise in the Lord. We pray for love and true love is felt for all men. We pray for healings, and health has been restored. We pray for miracles and, believing, we have seen miracles happen. We pray for signs, and receive them. We pray in tongues known and tongues unknown" (Logos , April, 1972, p. 13).

Here, again, a genuine Orthodox characteristic, acquired and tested by long years of ascetic labor and maturing in faith, is supposedly obtained instantly by means of "charismatic" experience. It is true, of course, that the Apostles and Martyrs were given a magnificent boldness by the special grace of God; but it is only ridiculous when every "charismatic Christian," without any notion of what Divine grace is, wishes to compare himself to these great Saints. Being based on an experience of deception, "charismatic" boldness is no more than a feverish, "revivalistic" imitation of true Christian boldness, and it only serves as another identifying mark of "charismatic" deception. Bishop Ignatius writes that a certain "self-confidence and boldness are usually noticeable in people who are in self-deception, supposing that they are holy or are spiritually progressing." "An extraordinary pomposity appears in those afflicted with this deception: they are as it were intoxicated with themselves, by their state of self-deception, seeing in it a state of grace. They are steeped in, overflowing with high-mindedness and pride, while appearing humble to many who judge by appearances without being able to judge by fruits."

Beyond speaking in tongues itself, the most common "supernatural" gift of those "baptized in the Spirit" is the direct reception of "messages from God" in the form of "prophecies" and "interpretations." One Catholic girl says of her "charismatic" friends: "In some of them I witnessed the speaking in tongues, some of which I have been able to interpret. The messages have always been those of great solace and joy from the Lord" (Ranaghan. p. 32). One "interpretation" is summarized thus: "He was speaking words from God, a message of consolation" (Ranaghan, p. 181). The messages are nothing if not bold; at one meeting "still another young woman announced a 'message from God,' speaking in the first person" (Ranaghan, p. 2). A "charismatic" Protestant writes that in such messages "God's Word is directly spoken!... The Word may suddenly be spoken by anyone present, and so, variously a 'Thus says the Lord' breaks forth in the fellowship. It is usually in the first person (though not always), such as 'I am with you to bless you'" (Williams, p. 27).

A few specific texts of "prophecy" and "interpretation" are given in the apologetical books of the "charismatic" movement:

  1. "Be like a tree swaying with His will, rooted in His strength, reaching up to His love and light" (Ford, p. 35).
  2. "As the Holy Spirit came down upon Mary and Jesus was formed within her, so the Holy Spirit comes upon you and Jesus is in your midst" - given in tongues by a Roman Catholic and "interpreted" by a Protestant (Ford, p. 35).
  3. "The feet of Him who walked the streets of Jerusalem are behind -you. His gaze is healing to those who draw near but death to those who flee" -this had special meaning for one member of the prayer group (Ford, p. 35).
  4. "I reach out my hand to you. You need only take it and I will lead you" -this same message was given a few minutes earlier to a Roman Catholic priest in another room; he wrote it down and entered the prayer room just in time to hear it uttered in exactly the words he had written down (Ranaghan, P 54).
  5. "Do not worry, I am pleased with the stand you have taken. This is difficult for you but will bring much blessing to another" - this brought final reassurance to one person present concerning a recent difficult decision (Sherrill, p. 88).
  6. "My wife walked in and began to play the organ. Suddenly, the Spirit of God came upon her and she began to speak in tongues and prophesy, 'My son, I am with you. Because you have been faithful in little things I am going to use you in a greater way. I am leading you by the hand. I am guiding you, be not afraid. You are in the center of My will. Do not look to the right or to the left, but continue therein' - this "prophecy" was accompanied by a "vision" and was directly responsible for the founding of a large and influential Pentecostal organization, the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (Logos Journal , Sept.-Oct., 1971, p. 14).

We may well believe, according to the testimony of witnesses who find that such messages apply directly to them, that there is something preternatural about a number of them, that they are not just "made up." But does the Holy Spirit use such artificial methods to communicate with men? (The "spirits" at seances certainly do!) Why is the language so monotonous and stereotyped, sometimes worthy of the penny fortune - telling machines in American cafes? Why are the messages so vague and dreamlike, sounding indeed like trance-utterances? Why is their content always one of "consolation," "solace and joy," reassurance, precisely without prophetic or dogmatic character - as if the "spirit," even like the "spirits" at seances, were especially pleased with his non-denominational audience? Who, after all, is the strangely characterless "I" that speaks? Are we wrong in applying the words of a true Prophet of God to all this? - "Let not your prophets that are in the midst of you, and your diviners, deceive you... For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 29:8-9).

Just as one "baptized in the Spirit" usually carries the ability to speak in tongues over into his private devotions, and in general is aware that "the Lord" is constantly with him, so too, even outside the atmosphere of the prayer meeting he often has private "revelations," including audible voices and tangible "presences." Thus does the "prophet" of the "charismatic revival" describe one of his experiences: "I was awakened from a deep restful sleep by a voice that seemed loud and clear... distinctly saying: 'God has no grandsons'... Then it seemed as if there was someone in my room and the presence made me feel good. Suddenly it dawned on me. It must be the Holy Spirit who spoke to me" (Du Pleissis, p. 61).

How can one account for such experiences? Bishop Ignatius writes: "One possessed by this kind of spiritual deception fancies of himself [the second form of prelest is called 'fancy,' mnenie in Russian] that he abounds in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fancy is composed of false concepts and false feelings, and in this character which it has it belongs fully to the realm of the father and representative of falsehood, the devil. One who, in praying, strives to unveil in the heart the feeling of the new man, yet does not have any possibility to do this, substitutes for this feelings of his own invention, counterfeits, to which the action of fallen spirits does not tarry to join itself. Acknowledging his incorrect feelings, both his own and those from the demons, to be true and grace-given, he receives conceptions which correspond to the feelings."

Precisely such a process has been observed by writers on spiritism. For someone seriously involved in spiritism (and not only mediums themselves), a moment comes when the whole false spirituality that cultivates passivity of mind and openness to the activity of "spirits," manifested even in such seemingly innocent pastimes as the use of a ouija-board, passes over into the actual possession of this person by an invading spirit, after which undeniably "supernatural" phenomena begin to appear [16]. In the "charismatic revival" this moment of transition is identified as the experience of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit," which, when it is genuine, is precisely the moment when self-deception becomes demonic deception, and the "charismatic" victim is virtually assured that from then on his deceived "religious feelings" can expect a response from the "Spirit" and he will enter a "life of miracles."

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