Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do Reformed Charismatics have an image problem?

Marcus ponders this question which speaks to two labels I don't mind using to describe me.

He notes: ."..I know a lot of people who are charismatics who want to strongly identify themselves with the very core of evangelicalism, by their doctrinal convictions and their mission-mindedness. We are Christ-centred, cross-centred, scripture-centred, grace-centred, faith-centred. Passionate to build churches to the glory of God. Not only so, but among some of these friends I number preachers and other Bible handlers of an astonishing degree of gifting: exegetically good, powerful in application and full of the Holy Spirit."

I remember in my early days as a Christian, at University, getting the impression that being charismatic and having 'reformed' theology were polar opposites. It was only when I met Marcus, and then read people like Grudem, Virgo, Mahaney etc that I found to my relief that the two can and do go together.

Twitter: "not all [charismatics] are bipolar and crazy" - Amen to that!


  1. Some of the problem for me is the label. I like the "Reformed" part as opposed to "Calvinist" ... although Calvinist Charismatic has a nice ring to it. The word Reformed is more accurate and more comprehensive.

    But I don't like the word "Charismatic". I would have preferred "Continuationist" or even "Third Wave". I understand the label Charismatic to mean something different than the others and personally, something I do not understand to be true. I just say I'm Charismatic to make it easy for others to pigeonhole me.

    Net, my preference ... Reformed Continuationist.

  2. I consider myself a Charismatic Calvinist. I'm a member of a Southern Baptist Church and I'm a product of the third wave movement. It's not easy being me!

  3. I consider myself Charismatic Reformed (
    While I would consider myself a conservative charismatic, and I prefer Reformed over Calvinist mainly because I don't like my beliefs sounding like I'm following a man "Calvin" when in truth I am following no
    man but following the teachings of the Bible.

  4. Charismatic and Reformed is probably the best way to describe it. I don't think I know any pure Calvinist. I certainly don't agree with him on everything.

  5. I think we're meeting the problem of definition here again aren't we? Certainly that appears to be the case as I read through Marcus's interesting post that you linked to.

    It does get pretty complicated, especially when there are definitions on the one hand that sound right and good (e.g. Marcus' definition of a reformed charismatic) and yet don't totally match the sociological or theological/ ecclesiastical phenomenon they're trying to decribe. By many definitions of 'reformed charismatic' I myself am one. And yet I wouldn't self-identify as such, and I think most reformed charismatics would recognise that as accurate.

    Definitions work best when they describe the distinctives of a particular movement or group and help us define it over against other groups, otherwise the labels are meaningless. Though, all this distinguishing and defining needs to take place in a spirit of love and unity in the gospel, and with a view to mutual discussion and healthy open-bibled brotherly debate, rather than a partisan spirit that is obsessed with who is 'in' and 'out.'

  6. I guess the "reformed charismatic" finds that he thinks he belongs in evangelicalism but often finds himself either thought of as an outsider or a contradiction...

  7. excellent comment from Pete. My post wasn't a theological justification of a position, rather a reflection on how one part of the evangelical world didn't expect to hear about scriptural truth from another who VERY MUCH want to major on truth from the scriptures.

    I will write something more on the subject of labels and self-definition over on Digital H2O, but my basic take is that they tend to only be positive for people who are happy to use them to describe themselves. For everyone else they are neutral or negative (or they would use them too). Therefore the danger is that we think we know what we mean positively by using a label of ourselves, but can be unaware of the negative connotations and denotations that attach to it in the minds of others.

    A couple of examples: I have a ministry friend in Canada who says that he cannot label himself as an evangelical in North America now (he is an evangelical - resoundingly so), because he is instantly heard to be making a political statement not a doctrinal one

    More personally, I no longer use the phrase "conservative evangelical" of myself (doctrinally I am one) because I realised that while I used it to mean something about the scriptures, the person of Christ and the nature of the atonement, lots of other people heard a sociological label about constituency affiliation or how they perceived the attitudes of that constituency towards them.

    I think we need to closely link our labels to our doctrine, rather than to rather more nebulous categories. I very much agree with Pete's call for distinguishing and defining to take place in a spirit of love an unity in the gospel.

  8. ...the more that can take place among Christians in a spirit of love and unity in the gospel the better!

  9. Thanks Marcus.

    I wonder could you direct us to the article you refer to in your post, in which you were quoted as an 'avowed reformed charismatic'? It would be interesting to see the context of the comment. If you'd rather not for some reason, that's fine obviously. :)

    Bish, I think your comment here is good:

    'I guess the "reformed charismatic" finds that he thinks he belongs in evangelicalism but often finds himself either thought of as an outsider or a contradiction...'

    And that's especially where I think the need for grace is needed. So, even if someone is to think of reformed charismatics as a contradiction, that doesn't mean they've thereby forfeited the name 'evangelical.' We (probably) ALL hold views which, if allowed to take their full course, would wreck our theology and certainly undo our evangelicalism, if not actually render us severed from Christ. All error is, if allowed to play itself out to the full, damnable. One of God's graces to us is that he prevents us from being consistent with all our little errors. We should show each other that kind of grace too.

    Failing to see this can be a part of a partisan and divisive spirit - if I really want to I can find the hole in somebody's theology and show how, consistently held, that would amount to a denial of the gospel.

    Of course, the irony is that real warning over where our inconsistencies could one day lead us, or those we disciple, takes place best in the context of brotherly fellowship and care, not a climate of suspicion and witch-hunting.

  10. Thanks Pete

    the article, as far as I know, isn't written yet and I don't know if it will be.

    Not sure about Bish's comment about reformed charismatics thinking they belong in evangelicalism but being thought of as an outsider. By whom? And by what criteria? It may be that I am not actually a reformed charismatic (I can accurately describe myself as a conservative evangelical as well), but I search in vain for any doctrinal or historical criteria or definitive statement of evangelical essentials of recent years that would place me anywhere other than at the very centre of confessional evangelicalism.

    Isn't the heart of it that we need to discover each other's doctrinal convictions and work with those, rather than make assumptions about those convictions based on (necessarily) loose labels?

  11. I guess we're all inclined to either exclude ourselves or others, instead of loving and understanding one another.