Why I Consider Myself Charismatic

The Charismatic movement has been (often rightly) taken to task for excesses, abuses, and cultural flaws that obstruct the Gospel. Nevertheless the Charismatic renewal throughout the world has been in my estimation a mostly positive movement, and has given us a language and theology to describe the more experiential aspects of the Christian faith. Although in past I have been hesitant to use the label, I now embrace charismatic as a word that accurately describes one aspect of my faith practice. Here are three reasons I still consider myself a charismatic Christian:

1) I’m a mystic. I believe that as result of the merits of Christ and gift of the Holy Spirit, it is possible and desirable for Christians to have direct, unmediated experiences of God. These kind of experiences include visions, dreams, “promptings,” and deepened awareness of the presence of and union with God. I also find great value in practicing the Spiritual Disciplines as means to strengthen my consciousness of the Divine and open myself to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit on my heart. Mystical experiences have been part of Christianity from the beginning–whole passages and books of the Bible were written as a result of such things. Many passages also detail the kind of direct experience I am talking about (cf. Acts 9:10, Acts 11:5, Rom. 8:16, Rom. 9:1, etc).

2) I believe all of the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to contemporary Christians. I am as-yet unconvinced that the so-called “sign gifts” of speaking in tongues (“private prayer language”) and prophetic speech (“words of knowledge”) and healing have ceased for any compelling theological reason. I know too many Godly, sane, people that have experienced these things to simply dismiss them as “emotionalism” or “a psychological phenomenon.” I see God using people with these gifts for his glory all over the world and in many corners of Christendom. (cf. 1 Cor. 14:5, Matt. 12:33, etc).

3) I believe ritual can and should be infused with emotional response. A wonderful part of Charismatic culture is its emphasis on expressiveness in worship. Biblical worship is full of emotion (just see the Psalms!) including kneeling and raising hands, falling prostrate, clapping and shouting (cf. Ezra 5:9, Rev. 4:10, Psalm 47:1, etc). Yes, our corporate worship should be full of rich theological content, but that doesn’t mean it simply must be reserved in character. Proper reverence does not preclude an authentic response to the Holy Spirit that is deeply and openly heartfelt.

Although I understand and appreciate the point of view of my ceasationist brothers and sisters (at one point I was very close to committing to the position), I cannot reconcile it with the Scriptures or the witness of the Church throughout history.

The Holy Spirit continues his work now as he began it at the foundation of the world: revealing mysteries, changing hearts, healing the broken, and all to point to Jesus.