Pro And Con On The Charismatic Movement

What About Continuing Revelation and Miracles in the Presbyterian Church Today?, by Robert L. Reymond (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977, 64 pp., $1.95 pb), The Spirit Within You, by J. Terry Young (Broadman, 1977, 192 pp., $4.95 pb), The Spirit of God, by Thomas Hopko (Morehouse Barlow, 1976, 132 pp., $3.50 pb), Essays on Renewal, by Leon Joseph Suenens (Servant Books, 1977, 131 pp., $2.95 pb), Experiencing the Holy Spirit, by Jim McNair (Bethany Fellowship, 1977, 171 pp., $3.50), and Fire in the Fireplace: Contemporary Charismatic Renewal, by Charles E. Hummel (Inter-Varsity, 1978, 275 pp., $4.95 pb), are reviewed by Erling Jorstad, professor of history and American studies, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

Whatever else critics or friends of the neo-Pentecostal (or charismatic) renewal claim for it, none can deny that it has shattered long-nourished stereotypes, produced much excellent scholarship (along with much fluff) on pneumatology, and brought together in worship, and in debate, Christians who had rarely before spoken to each other. The movement today has a momentum all its own; like an escalator, it has people getting on and getting off as it keeps moving.

These generalizations are wondrously illuminated by a comparative study of these recent books. Three continents, five communities of faith, administrators, pastors, and professors all are represented. Two are critics, two are outside observers, two are friends—a nice mix.

First, the critics. Reymond of Covenant Theological Seminary cites the Westminster Confession of Faith and also draws on Kuyper, Warfield, and Vos to support his contention that charismatics must not be allowed to hold the office of deacon or elder in the Presbyterian church. He argues from an exegesis of First Corinthians 14 that the “sign gifts” are no longer present today. Further, true worship excludes “non-rational elements” (meaning tongues and prophecies). To him, simply because some neo-Pentecostalists claim new revelations and charismatic gifts “in no way establishes the legitimacy of either after the apostolic age.” Citing Warfield, he argues that there is little evidence for miracle-working in the post-Apostolic age; the miracle workers after then came from without—“a heathen world” (p. 48). Hence, when church officials apply Westminster standards, they must exclude those prophecying or speaking in tongues from these positions.

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The other critic, J. Terry Young of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, delivers both a blistering attack on the teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the attendant gifts, and restates what “fullness of life in the Holy Spirit” means in light of Scripture and church teaching. He denies the validity of any second baptism; he states “every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him” and denies the need for any “second crisis-type experience” to know the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The last portion of the book summarizes the person and work of the Holy Spirit. You know that the Spirit dwells within through the “watermarks” of vision, understanding, love, and fellowship; no signs replace these permanent evidences of the indwelling Spirit. Critics of neo-Pentecostalism will find their convictions strongly supported in this work. Friends of the movement have a handy summary of why many Christians, committed to scriptural evidence, resist their cause.

The next two books are far less polemical, yet in their way also suggest some of the theological distance the movement has traveled. Hopko of St. Vladimer’s Seminary encapsulates Eastern Orthodox teachings on the Holy Spirit. The study is more devotional and pastoral than analytic, using Scripture, hymns, teachings of the church fathers, and liturgies. Touching only briefly on neo-Pentecostalism, Hopko states that the Corinthian gifts are given so that “the fruit of the Spirit can grow in human life.” The gifts are seeds for an abundant life, not ends in themselves. The major portion of the book is an exposition of Orthodox pneumatology, a fascinating counterpoint to much of Western teaching.

The book by Suenens, who is probably the leading Catholic bishop involved in charismatic renewal, is a collection of ten of his essays written since 1970. They were issued to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination. Only two essays concern themselves with neo-Pentecostalism; the author calls for a reunion of “charismatic” and “social” Christians (his terms). He argues that no permanent polarizations must necessarily follow from the differences today. Other essays contain excellent pastoral advice on fidelity and sexuality; some, such as those on the Vatican Council and on Mary, are for Catholic readers.

In another realm altogether is the book by McNair, a New Zealand Baptist evangelist. He presents a primer for those newly committed to or about to join the renewal movement and who are fearful of the criticisms that their new life is too emotional and unscriptural. The author seeks not to persuade the critics but to support the wavering and the worried. He has no doubts that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is “a full biblical experience.” Such an experience is “the pentecostal reality portrayed in the Bible.”

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McNair accepts the classic Pentecostal teachings of growth toward Christlikeness. Whatever term you give to the second baptism, he states, “the gift of tongues is shown to be a basic part of the Christian gospel and Christian life, part of God’s good news for his people.” Finally, “Whatever else is said about the other gifts, this remains certain—tongues and prophecy are intended for every believer.”

The final two chapters draw a roadmap for the journey toward an authentic understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The author’s advice is forceful, direct, and assuring. In sum, this work is for those who want to believe the neo-Pentecostal commitment and need a vigorous verbal recharging of the spiritual battery.

No reader should be surprised at the vastly different reactions toward the charismatic movement. However, continued polarization is not the only alternative. We have in the historical and analytic book by Hummel a fresh and attractive case for moderation. The work should be carefully studied by inquiring persons along every point on the spectrum.

Several features stand out. The author, director of faculty ministries for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, has done his homework. He has utilized the most recent and responsible scholarship available: Dunn on First Corinthians, McDonnell on tongues, Culpepper on history, among others. Next, he acknowledges that the scriptural record is anything but perfectly clear on the meaning of the sign gifts. He thus avoids the old “fallacy of the undivided middle,” which we learned about in college courses in logic. Finally, Hummel seeks to gently persuade the reader to avoid the pitfalls of the sour nay-sayers or the overheated cheerleaders.

Hummel himself is sympathetic toward the neo-Pentecostal movement, but keeps the evidence rather than his personal preference in front of the reader. His work is divided into four parts: history, Luke and Acts, Paul and Corinthians, and current issues. After briefly reviewing the history of the movement in Part One, and fully discussing Luke’s teachings on the Holy Spirit in Part Two, he moves to the center of the argument in his Pauline exegesis. “Paul does not declare that tongues was causing the greatest difficulty because the Christians prized this gift above the other charisms. His severest criticism occurs in the first eleven chapters and is aimed at the party spirit, divisions, sexual immorality, lawsuits, and disorder at the Lord’s Supper. The charism of tongues appears to be less of a problem to Paul than it is to modern interpreters who call it overvalued and ostentatious” (p. 158). That tongues is a genuine gift is clear; that it is the centerpiece of Paul’s teaching is a claim not supported by the record.

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How does Hummel resolve the differences between the opposing camps? This review cannot do justice to his careful study, but two passages show his perspective. He states that the phrase “baptism in the Spirit” does not occur as such in the New Testament. But the phrase “baptize with (in) the Spirit” does occur seven times. In each case, Hummel shows, the meaning is slightly different; or at least the reader must respect the possibility of more than one interpretation. The author goes on to develop what those interpretations could be. Paul uses the phrase about spirit baptism as “a once and for all action in the Spirit at conversion incorporating the individual into the body of Christ.” Luke, however, uses it to describe “the enduement with power for effective witness and service which, after Pentecost, was frequently repeated.”

Or a second example, “Neither Luke nor Paul teaches that speaking in tongues is a sign of the individual’s inner spiritual development. In the Acts it is often one evidence of the Spirit’s outpouring, of which there are also others. But it cannot be taken as the sign of a second inner experience of baptism in the Spirit. Paul presents this charism as one of many which builds the body, not as a mark of spiritual maturity (or immaturity)” (p. 197).

How, though, would Hummel keep the movement alive, sensitive to criticism, yet faithful to the Scriptures? He reminds us that “the heart of charismatic renewal is not tongues nor baptism in the Spirit.…” Rather it is commitment to “the full range of charisms as manifestations of the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of the Christian community.” All the gifts are needed every day for the building up of the church, a body that needs daily renewal. The gifts are not the property of a few high-ranking leaders, nor the possessions of some people for private use. These are to be developed throughout the whole body to build up the Christian community.

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But specifically how? Hummel calls for frequent discussion within congregations for information and direction. He pleads with us to expect the Holy Spirit to make his presence known. The author tells us not to fear the gifts simply because they might be misused, nor to hesitate to ask for them out of fear of not knowing where such searchings might lead. But, we can ask, what about the disputes and divisiveness in the churches? He writes that “We should realize that it is people, not the truth, who cause division.” People use different terminology and they have conflicting and often faulty communications systems.

But all of that has been said before. Hummel contributes, in his summation, some original insights. We need to exercise all the gifts, avoid a tendency toward individualism, remain open to change, recognize what the nonessentials in a dispute might be, and accept “the loving unity possible amid marked diversity of perspective” concerning spiritual gifts.

The way of moderation is the most difficult path to follow. Hummel notes that such a path “does not yet give answers to some of the profound questions it raises.” But we can be sure, he concludes, God is renewing his church, one means being the neo-Pentecostal movement. This book brings together for us a constructive statement of where to begin and what to expect.

Tension In Modern Life

Facing Up to Modernity: Excursions in Society, Politics, and Religion, by Peter L. Berger (Basic, 1977, 246 pp., $11.50), is reviewed by Lewis Rambo, assistant professor of religion and psychology, San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, California.

This book is a collection of eighteen essays demonstrating the range, depth, and vitality of Peter Berger’s thought. By profession a sociologist, Berger explores various facets of the contemporary world with both analytical objectivity and passionate conviction. Berger believes that a sociologist should seek to be as detached as possible in the process of examining the social dimension of modern life, but he also recognizes that the sociologist is a person with values that unavoidably influence his work. He urges an honest recognition of one’s biases.

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The unifying theme of the book is the diverse ways that “modernity” shapes contemporary society and consciousness. By modernity Berger means a host of factors that have important consequences on religion, politics, and self-understanding. The pivotal essay in the book, “Toward a Critique of Modernity,” identifies five characteristics of modernity. First, there is the process of abstraction—a style or mechanism by which life is quantified and simplified, thereby sacrificing its richness and complexity. Among the common products of such abstraction are IBM data cards and Social Security numbers. Second, there is a shift in the approach to time. Instead of being concerned primarily with the past or the present, modernity is preoccupied with the future.

Third, there is a process of individuation in which people are progressively separated from their families, communities, and cultures. The individual self becomes a fragile, but frantically preserved, entity with little sense of identity. A fourth characteristic of modernity is the multiplication of options and the resulting freedom of choice for individuals. This can be liberating for some, but in many cases it results in a terrifying loss of stability and certainty. The “liberated” self is precarious and often is in desperate search for meaning and purpose. Secularization is the fifth facet of modernity that Berger discusses. Secularization is not only the declining influence of religious institutions on the modern world, but also the multiplication of religious options within a modern society. When there is diversity, certitude and confidence are lost. Secularization’s impact is also felt in the virtual disappearance of the supernatural within the public life of most “advanced” societies. Religion tends to become basically a private affair.

The split between the public and private spheres produces tensions within the individual that must be alleviated in some manner. In this connection, Berger’s essay “Toward a Sociological Understanding of Psychoanalysis” is an illuminating study of the way in which psychology as a discipline, as a science, and as an ideology functions in modern society. Psychological therapy serves as an institution that mediates between the public and private spheres of life in order to heal and maintain eroding identities.

In another fascinating essay, “A Sociological View of the Secularization of Theology,” Berger chides the “death of God” theologians as being scholars who have too easily accommodated themselves to the thought forms of secularity. Secular theology is, in fact, self-liquidating. On the other hand, he does not believe that the defensive posture of the more orthodox is much better. The conservative Christian often rejects modernity without carefully examining it. Berger’s penetrating insights force both the “liberal” and the “conservative” to do rigorous work in order to meet the challenges of the modern world.

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Berger urges the church to take a stand of courageous affirmation in order to stem the tide of alienation, spiritual lassitude, and meaninglessness in the essay entitled “A Call for Authority in the Christian Community.” Berger is critical of those theologians who assume the superiority of the “modern mind” and reject the message of the Bible because it is, to them, “primitive.” Thoughtful reconsideration of the Christian tradition, including those elements of the supernatural, leads to a renewal of appreciation for the power and promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Facing up to Modernity contains many excellent essays that will serve as a good introduction to those unfamiliar with Berger, and for those who have read his other books, this collection brings together some vintage articles. One will not always agree with Berger, but those interested in wrestling with important topics could find few who surpass Berger’s sharp intellect and crisp, lively style of writing. If you wish to savor some of Berger’s other books, consider these. Invitation to Sociology is a general introduction to the field. For an example of his work in the sociology of religion see The Sacred Canopy. For a more complete understanding of the effects of modernity on contemporary consciousness see The Homeless Mind. Those who are interested in ethics and political science should read Pyramids of Sacrifice. As a demonstration of Berger’s enormous range of interests see his novel, Protocol of a Damnation.

Freire: Third World Theorist

Paulo Freire: His Life, Work and Thoughts, by Denis Collins (Paulist, 1977, 94 pp., $2.45 pb), is reviewed by Samuel F. Rowen, coordinator of curriculum development, Missionary Internship, Farmington, Michigan.

Paulo Freire has become one of the most significant forces in education in the Third World. His best known book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has been translated into many languages. It is difficult to engage in discussions on the mission of the church without coming across the use of the ideas of “praxis” and “conscientization,” which are central to his thought.

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He is important for those concerned with missions because many Latin American evangelical theologians feel that his pedagogy is the most relevant to the political realities of their countries. In a recent church conference in Manila all of the discussions centered around the ideas of Freire. I personally asked a Catholic priest from a parish in Manila where he was looking for theological assistance, Europe or Latin America. He forcefully replied, “Latin America. The European church is too doctrinal. It is to Gutierrez and Freire that we are looking because they speak to our realities.”

In Paulo Freire: His Life, Work and Thoughts we are introduced to the person and his writings that are making such a profound impact. Collins shows us that the eclectic thought of Freire is both disturbing to people and also appealing to many diverse groups: “The Latin American reader understands Freire because of an experience of political struggle or an involvement in a social movement which has a socio-economic framework. The Catholic reader identifies with Freire’s humanist orientation and feels on familiar ground with Freire and the philosophers who have influenced him. The Marxist reader recognizes in Freire’s writings a number of contemporary currents which Marxist thinkers (Gramsci, Lukacs, Marcuse) are used to dealing with. The reader who happens to be an educator finds accents of liberation which characterize progressive tendencies in the contemporary pedagogical debate” (p. 26).

Collins traces the major sources of influence on Freire’s life and thought. His growing up with poverty led him to commit himself to seeking the “maximum self-development and growth in freedom of all men and women.” Collins identifies five philosophical strains that, combined with his own classical humanism, shape his thought: (1) personalism; (2) existentialism; (3) phenomenology; (4) Marxism; (5) Christianity.

Freire was influenced by Emmanuel Mounier’s personalism and tried to demonstrate that “the impulse to remake the world, which receives so much Christian disapproval, has a Christian origin” (p. 29). Collins portrays Freire in an optimistic light as he implements his educational philosophy. Best known for the literacy work in northeastern Brazil, Freire believes that all education is political and therefore should lead to freedom. This is captured in the title of one of his works: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Because of the political implications of his pedagogy, Freire is exiled from Brazil and is presently a consultant with the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

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Freire’s pedagogical method is dialogical in nature. Education should assist man in generating the “themes” of his own existence. This process is one of defining the problems and discovering the limits inherent in a situation. As man begins to “name” the world for himself he becomes free to change his world. Praxis is the point at which reflection and action come together authentically. Reflection without action is mere verbalism; action without reflection is activism. In praxis the authentic word is spoken because it includes both reflection and action in an ongoing process. To speak a word apart from praxis is to produce “an alienating and alienated blah.”

Collins has given us an excellent introduction to Freire’s life and philosophy. At times it is hard to read, but this reflects the difficulty of Freire himself. Collins intends to give a sympathetic introduction to Freire. This he does well. However, he does not deal critically with some of the major issues that are unresolved in Freire’s thought. For example, Freire has been criticized for his inability to root praxis in history. It is the question of liberation for what. Harvie Conn of Westminster Seminary has attempted to root the idea of praxis in the biblical idea of covenant.

It would be wrong to ignore Freire on the basis of what he does not do. He is profoundly affecting the thought of the Third World. Every missionary should be conversant with his ideas. Paulo Freire: His Life, Works and Thought provides an excellent introduction to this difficult, but significant, man.

For Philosophical Sophisticates

Reason and Religion, edited by Stuart C. Brown (Cornell, 1977, 315 pp., $15.00, $6.95 pb), is reviewed by Irving Hexham, assistant professor of philosophy of religion, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

This volume is a collection of papers delivered at five symposiums at a conference sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy held at the University of Lancaster in England in 1975. It is a stimulating work, which presents, in a readily accessible form, the views of a number of leading contemporary philosophers.

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The topics covered by the symposiums were wide-ranging: Hugo Meynell and Harry Stopes-Roe discussed the intelligibility of the universe; Norman Malcolm and Colin Lyas argued about the grounds of religious belief: Peter Winch and Stuart Brown were concerned with meaning rather than with questions of truth; D.Z. Phillips and Richard Swinburne treated the problem of personal identity and immortality. The debates were heavily Wittgensteinian, although Karl Popper and others make occasional appearances. The arguments are ones that may strike many evangelical Christians as strange, and yet they are those that have preoccupied Anglo-Saxon philosophers for the last decade.

This is a book for the philosophically sophisticated. It is not a book for young Christians or people who simply dabble in philosophy. It is a hard book to read, and can be, at times, disturbing to faith. For those who have had a philosophical education, it is a stimulating and exciting book that opens up new avenues of thought. As such, it would make an excellent textbook in an advanced course on contemporary religious philosophy.

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