I am currently engaged in an on-going dialogue with Jonathan K. on his blog, World of Faith, over various questions regarding "Charismatic" theology. Though Jonathan is a regular commenter on several Southern Baptist blogs, he is openly "Charismatic" and is not a Southern Baptist. Though I have found him to be a warm-hearted Christian, and a gentleman in his tone and style of dialogue, there are several issues over which I do not agree with Jonathan in his interpretation of Scripture.
Jonathan first commented on this post here on my blog, and invited me to comment on his blog concerning an issue related to his defense of "Charismatic" theology. At first, I had little interest in taking the time to respond, at least in any length, to Jonathan’s questions. I am fairly confident in my positions on the issues over which Jonathan wished to engage me, and Jonathan is fairly confident on his positions. I don’t think either one of us is probably going to convince the other of our point of view. For this same reason, I do not generally take time in my busy schedule, for instance, to debate with any number of Presbyterians in the blogosphere over the issue of infant baptism. Not to say these are not important issues, nor that those discussing them are unworthy of my respect, but in the general scope of things, I, at this particular time in my life, have more important things to do with my time.
In the end, however, I have taken a bit of time to respond to the questions Jonathan raises on his blog. I think it has been a valuable experience that may also be of some interest for some of you from Southern Baptist backgrounds that read my blog. Not that I consider myself to be an “expert” on these issues, or more equipped to answer Jonathan’s questions than many other people who have more theological knowledge than myself. Neither do I consider Jonathan to necessarily be the consummate defender of the traditional "Charismatic" point of view, though he does, in my opinion, do a quite admirable job of presenting his position.
The point for me is the following: many Southern Baptists have a tendency to equate “continualist” interpretation and a befief in the legitimacy of “private prayer language” with the point of view presented by Jonathan on his blog. The dialogue I have been having with Jonathan is a good opportunity for me to show how, even though I am a “continualist” and believe in “private prayer languages,” I am not necessarily, at the same time, on the “slippery slope” towards full-blown "Charismatic" theology.
I am thankful for Jonathan and his evident love for the Lord and for the Word of God. I am proud to embrace him as my brother in Christ. At the same time, I readily concur with others in Southern Baptist life that someone who takes the views Jonathan takes should not be considered as a candidate for missionary service with the IMB, the NAMB, or for leadership positions of our Southern Baptist institutions. His views, in some areas, are indeed, in my opinion, incompatible with what we, as Southern Baptists, have decided together is our understanding of doctrine taught in God’s Word.
I obviously (for those of you who regularly read this blog) do not, however, think this is necessarily true for all those who adopt "continualist" theology and/or believe in or practice a “private prayer language.” I believe that anyone who carefully reads through the dialogue between Jonathan and me will be able to see how this is the case. Some may even be persuaded that Jonathan’s arguments from Scripture are more convincing than my own. I am okay with that. I believe we all must do our best to look at all sides of the issues, and decide for ourselves what is the best interpretation. We must be guided more by our best effort to be objective than by our denominational biases.
I am hesitant to use the term “Charismatic,” because it means different things to different people. However, for lack of a better alternative, my point in this post is not so much to convince you of the correctness of my biblical interpretation as it is to show you the difference between “Charismatic continualist” interpretation and “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation. For those who do not want to take the time to read through the entire dialogue on Jonathan’s blog, I will give the following synopsis to the differences of the various views, as I see them…
Though some may object and see this as an unfair characterization, for me, between “cessationist” interpretation, “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation, and “Charismatic continualist” interpretation, “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation is the only one that doesn’t “put God in a box.” The “cessationist” is convinced that God does not and will not work now in the same way He worked in the New Testament church. The “Charismatic continualist” is convinced that God always works now in the same way He worked in the New Testament church. The “non-Charismatic continualist,” on the other hand, is content to let God be sovereign and work however He pleases whenever He wants.
Jonathan’s posts (and my comments) up to now include:
What is Charismatic? - Introduction (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part One: Baptized into Christ (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part Two: Water Baptism - The Outward Symbol of our Baptism into Christ (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part Three: The Baptism in the Holy Spirit - Being Filled Afresh for the New Year in 2007
What is Charismatic? - Part Four: Prayer Language and Speaking in Tongues - Evidence of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
What is Charismatic? - Part Five: Spiritual Gifts - The Motivational Gifts (Romans 12)
What is Charismatic? - Part Six: Spiritual Gifts - A Look at 1 Corinthians 12