Of late, my mind has been drawn to a few dilemmas, which need resolution. Mind you, when I say ?€œresolution?€? I do not necessarily mean agreement. Agreement is a luxury that isn’t always readily available as an option. Since I have limited time to compose this post, I’ll get right to the point.
The first issue which needs resolution is the persistent divide that exists between fundamental evangelicals and charismatic/Pentecostal evangelicals. I don’t have any illusions about trying to bring agreement between these two branches of evangelicalism. However, there are some harmful assumptions, which each side makes about the other, which ensure that the wedge that exists between them continues to exist.
Charismatic/Pentecostal evangelicals make the first assumption I will address. The idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place as a secondary event to salvation creates a class of ?€œhaves?€? and ?€œhave-nots?€? within the church. The end-result can be that a form of spiritual elitism develops where the ones who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit have a greater understanding than those who have not. The assumption that those who have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit are some how lacking, creates a class system within the church ?€“ the ?€œSpirit-filled?€? Christians and everyone else.
I?€™m not going to address the validity of that doctrinal belief, but rather what I want to address is the fact that the sort of class system that develops is patently unbiblical. It is no wonder that there is such zealousness to have an experience within those congregations so that one can feel a part of the spiritual ?€œhaves.?€? I don?€™t make this accusation lightly since I have had people come out of those congregations and testify to their own ?€œfake?€? experiences. This sort of division breeds jealousy in the ?€œhave-nots?€? and therefore can illicit a contrived spiritual experience. In other words, they fake it. It also puts the entire fundamental evangelical wing of the church in the ?€œhave-not?€? category. This cannot be healthy.
On the other side of aisle, fundamental evangelicals, in their insistence upon the cessation of the gifts of tongues, prophecy and miracles, are forced to make a decision. There are three possible decisions.
The first decision is to believe that they are faking the gifts. True, there are those who have tried to fake miracles, who?€™ve falsely declared, ?€œThus says the Lord,?€? or who have faked the gift of tongues. But have all charismatic/Pentecostals done this? By accusing our brothers of faking the gifts, we have accused them of collectively lying.
The second decision is to believe that the tongues, miracles, and prophesying are indeed real, but demonically inspired. I haven heard, on multiple occasions, fundamental evangelical people smear charismatic/Pentecostals by saying this. It is no small charge to accuse our brothers and sisters of being demonized to the point that they are performing demonically inspired signs and miracles. To say this is to say that millions of born again Christians throughout the world are deeply and seriously, internally demonized. While I can accept that Christians can be demonized (this does not mean possessed) I cannot believe that the Lord would allow such a massive demonic deception to persist in his church for so long. We must look at the spiritual fruit. The fact is there are millions of godly men and women, who practice the ?€œPentecostal?€? gifts, that demonstrate good fruit in their lives. Fruit, which if they were demonized to such a deep degree, would surely not exist.
The third and final decision fundamental evangelicals can make is to simply dismiss the gifts as unnecessary and/or undesirable in worship. These people may accept the gifts as present in today?€™s church, but they have seen the abuses and have made a personal decision that these gifts are not worth the trouble that may come with them. The problem with this is that if you believe these gifts are present today and operating within the church, then you must also believe that God has continued their existence for a reason. To dismiss them is to dismiss God?€™s purpose for them.
What can we do? The wall that exists between charismatic/Pentecostals and fundamental evangelicals is more than a wall of doctrine. The fact is that this wall is full of a little doctrine and a lot of elitism, self-righteousness, and pride. The truth is that godly men on both sides of the aisle have come to their conclusions after carefully studying the Scriptures. Which camp is right? I don?€™t come to the end of this article with an answer. All I know is that both sides need to display some humility toward the other. I?€™m not going to reveal my hand on this. Rather, I would like to hear from you. What do you believe is the answer? I look forward to your input.