Why are people deluded by CHARISMATIC ERROR?
Updated January 30, 2006 (first published March 13, 2000) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)
Why are so many people deceived by charismatic error today? It should be obvious that falling on the floor and getting "drunk in the Spirit" are not biblical practices, that genuine biblical tongues are not mere gibberish that can be learned, that rock music, the very name of which refers to fornication, cannot glorify a holy God; and that women should not teach or usurp authority over men. Yet all of these and many other charismatic errors are readily accepted by multitudes of people. I believe the following are some of the chief reasons behind this delusion:
NOT TESTING EVERYTHING BY THE BIBLE ALONE; LACK OF DISCERNMENT
The chief reason people become deceived is that they refuse to exercise discernment, they refuse to test everything carefully by the Bible ALONE. Proverbs 14:15 says, "The simple believeth every word: but THE PRUDENT MAN LOOKETH WELL TO HIS GOING." 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "PROVE ALL THINGS; hold fast that which is good." The Apostle Paul taught that the Scriptures are able to make the man of God "perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:15,16). That means that the Bible alone is the sole authority for faith and practice. Those who refuse to take the Word of God and measure every religious teaching and experience by it are on the road to spiritual delusion.
Consider the dangerous counsel of Charles and Frances (the Happy) Hunters:
"Once you begin to walk in the supernatural you really have to be ready for anything and everything and NEVER QUESTION the way God does it! ... We always need to be completely open to the move of the Holy Spirit and never be so closed that we cannot see that God might possibly be doing something so fresh and new today move of God is because I have NEVER CRITICIZED ANY MINISTRY OR WORK of God!'" (Charles and Frances Hunter, Holy Laughter, pp. 65, 103).
This is unwise counsel. It sounds spiritual, perhaps, to "be completely open to the move of the Holy Spirit," but this ignores the Scripture's warning that the last days will be filled with spiritual delusion. "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. ... And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. ... For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 24).
We must be in submission to the Holy Spirit, but we must be careful continually that we are not deceived by a false spirit.
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtility, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
The apostle Paul feared that the Corinthians would "bear with" false teachers and deceivers. The Corinthians were puffed up with their spiritual gifts and supposed deeper understanding of the things of God, and they were wide open for the devil's delusion. They were tolerant of error and hungry for experiences. This is exactly what is happening in the Charismatic movement.
DABBLING WITH ERROR
An excellent yet frightful illustration of how people get involved in things such as the charismatic Laughing Revival is contained in the book Holy Laughter by Charles and Frances Hunter. They trace their own involvement in the charismatic phenomenon, admitting that it began with dabbling around in Pentecostal circles, even though they felt at the time that Pentecostalism was not biblically correct. Consider the following very carefully. It explains why many people are being deceived by error:
"...when Charles and I were married and we began TO NIBBLE AROUND where the Holy Spirit was concerned, we saw 'those' people with both hands raised! ... Whenever you begin to nibble, however, sooner or later you're going to get caught! ... We began to hear a lot about a woman named Kathryn Kuhlman. ... What was this peculiar, unspiritual thing that made her push them all down ["slaying in the Spirit"]? We rejected it, of course, but our hungry little 'SPIRITUAL PIG' HEARTS drew us to one of her [Kathryn Kuhlman] meetings the next morning after the experience at the Charismatic Conference. I [Francis Hunter] stepped into the aisle. She merely said, 'Jesus, bless my sister,' and bless me He did! Faster than you can blink an eye, I was lying on my back on the floor of the First Presbyterian Church in my very best dress. ... All the arguments I previously had about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking with other tongues disappeared instantly! (pp. 13, 19, 20).
"We went to a Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship banquet in Houston. ... The man [the speaker] said, 'Well, Jesus, bless Francis!' Down I went faster than you could blink an eye, followed one second later by my precious husband! ... I tried to get my hands off of the floor, but nothing happened. I couldn't believe what had happened to me, because it was physically impossible for me to move. ... I felt as though someone had given me a divine alka seltzer because way down deep in the very center of my being I began to feel a most peculiar type of 'bubbling.' ... then it abruptly came out of my mouth in the form of the loudest laugh I have ever heard. ... no pressure on my mouth could keep the laughing back. I laughed, laughed, laughed and laughed. ... I stopped laughing just as quickly as I started, and suddenly I was released from the bed of Holy Ghost glue in which I had been resting! (Charles and Frances Hunter, Holy Laughter, pp. 21-23).
This is a plain and sad confession which has been repeated by others countless times. Mrs. Hunter is deceived today because she ignored the warnings of the Word of God and flirted with error and demonic delusion. She could have known from 1 Timothy 2:12 that Kathryn Kuhlman was not called of God to preach. She could have known from 1 Corinthians 14:33 that the disturbing confusion of charismatic meetings is not of God. She could have known from 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 that tongues were a sign to unbelieving Israel, that genuine tongues is not something that can be learned. She could have known from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that women are not to exercise ministry gifts in the services in the presence of men. She could have known from Matthew 12:39 that we are not to seek miracles, because "an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." The Hunters ignored the clear teaching of the Word of God in these matters and blundered forward into the world of charismatic chaos. Mr. Hunter should have obeyed the Word of God and rejected error when he confronted it, and Mrs. Hunter should have followed her husband in that wise, biblically-based decision.
Instead, though, they made themselves gullible, ignored doctrine, and pursued and experience. This is a sure formula for deception.
THE DESIRE FOR HOLINESS
Another reason many are drawn into the Charismatic confusion is the desire for holiness. The born again child of God yearns for holiness. He wants to be like Christ. He despises the indwelling sin nature and desires to be free from the struggle with the flesh. We must be careful, however, that we are following Bible holiness, for there are many demonic and human substitutes.
"Holy" simply means to be set apart for God. The Old Testament tabernacle was holy because it was consecrated wholly for God's service. Bible holiness for the Christian is two-fold: It is positional and it is practical. Positionally, the believer is eternally set apart in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:2, 30). He is "in Christ." It is a new position before God, and it is a once-for-all and eternal position. Practically, though, the believer is to "put on Christ" daily. He is to die to self and grow in grace and knowledge. The book of Ephesians presents a plain outline of Bible holiness. Chapters 1-3 present positional holiness. The theme of these chapters is grace and the key phrase is "in Christ." This is the believer's unchanging position. Chapters 4-6 present practical holiness. The theme here is obedience and the key word is "walk."
Ephesians 5:8 brings both aspects together: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but NOW are ye light in the Lord: WALK as children of light." We have been given a perfect position in Christ; we are NOW light in the Lord. Thus we are to live up to this position day by day.
Bible holiness is a WALK not a FLIGHT! The Bible does not promise an EXPERIENCE whereby the Christian can be placed into a perfect plane of spiritual life in this present world. There is no "Second Blessing," no "Entire Sanctification" promised in the Word of God. Don't be deceived by false promises of holiness.
Many of those who have been deceived by Charismatic error have gotten involved out of desperation. They are undergoing some severe trial and are on the brink of an emotional and physical breakdown, and as a last resort they attend a Charismatic meeting to "give it a try." Randy Clark, one of the fathers of the Laughing Revival, testified that as a pastor of a Vineyard church he "felt empty, powerless, and so little anointed emotionally, spiritually, and physically, I knew I was burning out." In that condition he ignored his conscience which told him that the Charismatic Laughing Revival was patently unscriptural and that he should therefore avoid it. He did not agree with the doctrine of Kenneth Hagin and the Rhema movement, but he attended the Rodney Howard-Browne meeting at Rhema anyway--out of desperation. Guy Chevreau, a former Baptist pastor who has become immersed in the Laughing Revival, testifies that he also first attended the meetings in Toronto as a failure in the ministry and "too desperate to be critical."
I have heard almost the identical testimony from many of those who have accepted the Charismatic movement. This is a frightful warning to us. No matter how desperate you get, do not ignore the Word of God and your conscience. Do not break down the walls of biblical separation which God has commanded that we erect against doctrinal error. To do so is to invite spiritual delusion. God has not promised that the Christian life will be smooth sailing. It is filled with every sort of trial and difficulty. Psalm 119 is the record of the man of God who loves the Word of God. Note that this long psalm is literally filled with difficult experiences, of dryness of soul, of inner fear and dissatisfaction. Romans 8:18-24 describes the same thing. The true Christian life is replete with suffering (v. 18), waiting (v. 19), vanity (v. 20), bondage of corruption (v. 21), and "groaning and travailing" (vv. 22-23).
This is the normal Christian life. It is a walk of FAITH NOT SIGHT (or feeling), and don't allow the devil to promise you a quick path to that perfection which will be experienced only at Christ's coming or at our departure from this evil world and this sinful body of death.
LEANING ON FALLIBLE MEN INSTEAD OF THE INFALLIBLE BIBLE
I have read the testimonies of dozens of people who have accepted the Laughing Revival, and a common thread is their immersion in the sermons and writings of Word-Faith teachers. Chip Brogden, who was once a follower of Benny Hinn, testifies that as a young Christian "it wasn't long before my library contained books written by Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Lester Sumerall, Charles Capps, and other leading faith teachers" (Brogden, New Move of God, or Old Move of Man?, Contemporary Pentecostal Issues, 1997). In their zeal to "find the blessing," many immerse themselves in the teachings of such men. It is no surprise that these are led from error to error. The Lord Jesus Christ promised to lead us in the truth if we continue in His Word (John 8:31, 32). It is the Word of God itself which is a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). It is the Word of God by which we are sanctified (John 17:17) and through which we grow (1 Pet. 2:2). God uses ministry-gifted men to protect the churches (Eph. 4:11-14; Titus 1:5-11), but the believer is to go directly to the Word of God for his light and sanctification. If I am spending more time focusing on the words of men than on the Words of God, I am setting myself up for spiritual delusion.
The man who led me to the Lord Jesus Christ was very wise about these matters, and I am thankful for his help. He taught me to test everything-- absolutely everything--by the Bible. He taught me to be suspicious about man's teaching. While we were traveling together prior to my conversion, he took me into a Christian bookstore in Alabama and explained that there were large numbers of books there which would lead me astray. He told me that God has promised to lead me in the truth if I stay in His Word (John 8:31-32) and if I obey Him (John 7:17). He taught me not to trust in my heart (Jer. 17:9) or in any type of religious experience, no matter how real or impressive, but in the Word of God alone (2 Pet. 1:16-21).
LEANING ON EXPERIENCES RATHER THAN LIVING STRICTLY BY FAITH IN GOD'S WORD
Perhaps the root error of Charismatic confusion is to put experience above the Word of God. Very few will admit that this is what they are doing, but examples abound. The Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International was not established strictly because of the Bible but because of a vision (an experience) which its founder allegedly had. The Church of God of Prophecy was similarly founded on a vision, an experience. So was Youth With A Mission and countless other Charismatic organizations. I have received probably hundreds of letters through the years from people trying to convince me of the truth of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. Almost invariably they will tell me about their experience. Charismatic women preachers have told me that they know they are called to preach, in spite of what the Bible plainly says (1 Tim. 2:12), because of their alleged experiences with God. God spoke to them; God encouraged them; God led them. It is all experiential.
During our missionary work in Nepal I met a pastor who had three wives. He owned three pieces of property and had his three wives and their children located in three different places. He lived most of the time with the youngest wife and visited the other two from time to time. When I confronted him that God's biblical standards forbade him to be a pastor (1 Tim. 3:2), he vehemently argued that God had called him through a vision and he had no intention of quitting the pastorate. Many other Nepali pastors, more impressed with his visionary experience than the Word of God, supported him in that unscriptural decision.
When Charles Parham, often called the father of Pentecostalism, was challenged about his false doctrine of sanctification, he sought refuge in what he believed to be an experiential sign from God. William Durham, another early Pentecostal leader, denounced the doctrine of a second work of grace for sanctification. "I began to write against the doctrine that it takes two works of grace to save and cleanse a man. I denied and still deny that God does not deal with the nature of sin at conversion. I deny that a man who is converted or born again is outwardly washed and cleansed but that his heart is left unclean with enmity against God in it" (James R. Goff, Jr., "Pentecostal Quilt," Christian History, No. 58, 1998). Durham rightly taught that sanctification is two-fold in nature: the child of God is sanctified once-for-all positionally and he is also sanctified experientially as a process which is appropriated over one's entire earthly life. When Parham heard this challenge to his doctrine of sanctification, he declared: "If this man's doctrine is true, let my life go out to prove it, but if our teaching on a definite grace of sanctification is true, let his life pay the forfeit" (Ibid.). Durham died later that same year, and Parham claimed vindication for his doctrine because of this experience. Be not deceived. Durham's death did not prove that his doctrine was wrong.
It is not an experience, no matter how unusual or miraculous it appears, which determines whether or not a doctrine is true. There is only ONE thing which determines if something is true, and that is the Bible rightly divided!
Dear brethren, do not be deceived by end-time wildfire which is posing as a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. We need the power of the Spirit of God in our lives in these evil days, but the manifestation thereof will not be drunkenness or uncontrollable laughter or strange shaking and weird noises or tongues. The Word of God tells us precisely how to have spiritual revival:
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:11-21).
Note that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not some weird experience; it is not a baptism or a slaying or a manifestation; it is a way of life for those who are saved through faith in the finished atonement of Jesus Christ and who obey the Word of God and walk in fellowship with Christ. Read the entire fifth and sixth chapters of the book of Ephesians. The command to be filled with the Spirit is in the context of a passage which instructs us in how to please God in the ordinary affairs of our daily lives. The filling of the Spirit is the simple yielding to His control over our everyday lives, the simple obedience to the Bible's commands through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.
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