Scot McKnight reposts an article by J. Lee Grady, in Charisma News, It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation. As the article is in honour of Reformation Day tomorrow, Grady offers a set of theses, not 95 like Luther’s (which McKnight also posted today) but a mere 15. These theses (don’t try to say that too quickly!) are directed at today’s charismatic church, which, he claims, needs a new Reformation. He writes:
I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets.
Well, Grady certainly has some hard things to say. But who is he saying them to? Is he perhaps attacking a straw man? I won’t go through all his theses, but to respond to some of them:
- Which charismatics really treat the Holy Spirit as “an “it” … a blob, a force, or an innate power”? Maybe some people do try to manipulate him, but are they really charismatics?
- Which charismatics have dramatic experiences but do not test them against Scripture? But while it is true that “Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture”, we must be careful not to reject ones that don’t accord with our preconceived interpretations of Scripture. And if the test here is supposed to be that the church mustn’t do anything not explicitly described in the Bible, then that rules out most of the things that ANY church does.
- Who really blames everything on demons? Maybe some blame too much on them, but overstating one’s case does not help such theses to be accepted.
- Does anyone really believe that we can win spiritual battles just by shouting at demons? But surely it can be a legitimate part of the persevering prayer which is needed.
Now I can in general agree with the rest of the 15 theses. But I still wonder if the abuses that Grady points out are genuine or widespread. Of course where these abuses are found they need to be stopped. But the problem with Grady’s article is that it suggests that the charismatic church is in a far worse state than it really is. Thus he plays into the hands of its enemies, who can easily misunderstand Grady as suggesting that these abuses are characteristic of the charismatic movement as a whole.
However, I can entirely agree with Grady’s final thesis:
15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will focus on God’s priorities.
Yes, this kind of charismatic Reformation is what we need today.