Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre, has written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:
I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
But charismatics share stories all the time about change here and now, about how when God gets involved, people locked in conflict are able to forgive each other, bodies are healed of life-threatening or debilitating conditions, families are reconciled. Hope stirs. Charismatics expect God to change things around them and through them for the better. Sometimes this takes much longer and is more painful that you would know from what we teach or would wish, but I love the hope of concrete and visible newness that characterizes a charismatic worldview. Hope for restoration, new life, and healing infuses the New Testament and I couldn’t imagine a church that didn’t expect God to be willing and able to change the worst of situations.
This is similar to what I found when I did my thesis on Iris Global’s charismatic aid work in South Africa – they were able to provide much more hope to poor people than secular or even non-charismatic Christian organizations. Since they know that – and experience how – God is doing miracles, their support to people in need isn’t limited to human means or promises about the afterlife.
A clear Biblical example of this is the lame man in Acts 3. He expected Peter and John to merely give him money, which was all human power could do for him to ease his suffering. But since the power of God is limitless, the charismatic ministry of the apostles was able to totally cure him from both disability and poverty.
Obviously, the primary reason we should be charismatics is that charismatic theology is true – God is indeed working miracles today. But as a secondary argument for why charismaticism should be embraced, I think this fact that people who are going through difficulties are greatly relieved by it, is a strong one.
Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief of PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!
One thought on “Charismatics Have A Hope the World Doesn’t Have”
I agree with the article. Early Christianity up until around 250AD was indeed `charismatic’. It was also highly effective and distinctly counter-cultural in its mission, and notably, strongly oriented toward peace (i.e. non-violent means of persuasion, not vengeful etc.).
Today, we need Christians to discover healthy ways to explore their `charism’. That must include ways to develop their critical thinking in terms of developing reasonable ways to explain what is happening to them “in the Spirit”, and be more accountable to leadership and the wider Body of Christ.
I’m very tired of encountering charismatic `prophets’, for instance, who make predictions `in the Spirit’ of `revival’, who when challenged about it theologically, can’t be held to account for anything “because the Spirit told me to say it…and the Spirit is never wrong”.
Human beings throughout the church’s history , in their pious zeal for God and the Truth, have often misread “the Spirit” and what that Spirit is saying to them. That has led to legalisms and fundamentalism which have caused many to back off from the faith and devastated the world around the overly religious through wars etc.
In the USA today, right-wing, conservative, evangelical and notably charismatic Christianity is significantly claiming a “move of the Spirit” in supporting anti-peace, racist and pro-NRA politicians like Donald Trump who are enemies to the type of peace Jesus prosecuted for during the Sermon on The Mount. How can those notably charismatic Christians claim to be “in the Spirit” and so always right because “the Spirit told them so”, and yet be so conflicted with a major body and emphasis of Jesus’ teaching directed toward the peaceful in-breaking reign of Christ (Mt 5-8).
All that I am saying is, I am all for charismatic Christianity. But only if it critiques itself honestly against the basic teachings of Christ, and does not always claim to be above reasonable criticism “because the Spirit told me so”.