Do we really need a Charismatic Reformation?

J. Lee GradyScot 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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

0 thoughts on “Do we really need a Charismatic Reformation?

  1. Peter – these abuses are widespread – St least on this side of the pond. As a “charismatic” myself, I am ashamed and embarrassed at the utter foolishness of much of the charismatic church – especially in the USA and on TV.

  2. Martin, you may be right. I accept that many TV preachers show the unacceptable face of the charismatic movement. And I thought afterwards that I should have agreed with Grady more specifically about “manipulative fundraising tactics”, which are indeed widespread.

    But I wonder how fair it is to tar with the brush of all 15 theses even “much of the charismatic church”. From my own, rather limited, experience, there are many charismatic churches in the USA, as well as in the UK and Canada, of which the picture Grady paints would not be a fair one. Whether they are anything like a majority I don’t know.

  3. I canceled my subscription to Charisma (which was free, a gift from a friend) and told them precisely why: Until Grady repents or leaves, I’ll have nothing to do with the magazine. I know quite a few people who’ve done the same. Eventually, money will speak to them louder than he does… one can hope, at least.

  4. Thank you, Kay. While I understand what you told them about Grady, I don’t think I would put it quite so strongly. Sadly, controversy sells magazines – to most people, if not to you!

  5. I don’t mind some controversy, Peter (anyone who knows me, knows that) … and I don’t mind and certainly welcome issues within our culture being challenged and addressed.

    What I don’t go for is the Caped Crusader routine – Grady has become a heresy hunter as odious as Hanegraaf or MacArthur.

  6. Kay, I don’t appreciate heresy hunters either. I didn’t see Grady as one in this article, not least because no one has been named. I have seen others of his which tend that way. I don’t know his work well enough to make a proper judgment.

  7. By the way, Kay (and anyone else who might be reading), would you agree with me that Grady is attacking something of a straw man? I agree that some high profile ministries are a bit like what he describes. But is this typical of charismatic churches in the USA or elsewhere?

  8. Peter – definitely. I consider the man to be an enemy of revival and even of the Church.

    Again, I want to be clear – it’s not so much his opinions on certain subjects (though we disagree), it’s his overwhelming focus on those subjects to the exclusion of anything good that’s happening in the Church, and the way he chooses to express those “concerns”.

  9. Hi Guys,

    I have just read this ‘new theses’ of Lee Grady. I have to say it must be down to perspective. I came out of a life of lies, violence, drugs, prisons and false friendships almost 20 years ago. If I had not undergone such a deep conversion (17th June 1993), I really do believe I would have walked away from the Church 10 years ago due to the subtle spirit of compromise that I believed myself to be in amongst in two ‘none-denominational charismatic’ Churches. On reflection I see now that each ‘leader’ of each congregation that I walked away from, had personal histories of struggles with authority and submission, and if we can’t follow we can’t lead. I struggle to believe that I was called into Eternal Life to silently suffer seduction within the ranks of The Redeemed.

    I’d nail Lee’s Theses to the Vatican door tomorrow given the opportunity.

    Nice website guys, really weird choice of security word.

  10. Welcome, Colin. My security words are all biblical names, as I explained several years ago.

    Thank you for your comments on Grady’s theses. I’m sad that the churches you found were ones for which these theses are appropriate. I am confident that there are also non-denominational charismatic churches which do not fit Grady’s negative picture.

  11. Over the years, I have seen just about everything that is listed in Grady’s call for a reformation of the charismatic movement. I hope and believe that the church is addressing the issues, and has been for some time, but it is certainly a good idea for us to be aware of them, and to make sure that, at least in the local churches we are in, these problems do not raise their ugly head. If we pretend that they don’t exist, we merely make it easier for people to write us off as weird, manipulative, or simply stupid.

  12. Thank you, Gerhard. I’m sure all of these abuses can be found, if perhaps not quite in the extreme way Grady claims. And it is good for charismatic leaders to be aware of the dangers, to avoid slipping too far in wrong directions. My objection was to how Grady seemed to be presenting such aberrant practices as the accepted norm.

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