I have already mentioned some of the claims made by some of the leaders of the modern Charismatic Movement. The burning question in regard to their claims is: “How can I verify them?” I mean, how can any of us really know that these people are telling the truth? It is not as if I could place a video camera on Mrs. Walters and tape her angelic visitors. We all know that this is impossible. These experiences are either lies, self-induced delusions or undisciplined imaginations run amuck, but whatever they are, they cannot be allowed to be sources of doctrine. The Bible explicitly forbids it. (1) The Holy Spirit plainly forbids us to give heed even to angels if what they say runs counter to Scripture. We don’t stone false prophets anymore, but their sin is no less serious. These men (and women) have the gall to label doctrine “opinion” yet they pass off their unverifiable extra-biblical revelations as beyond questioning. The second you question the biblicality of barking like a dog or laughing insanely they label you a “Pharisee” who cares more for tradition than for God.
Charismatics are notorious for saying things that are intended to sound fresh or insightful, while being completely ignorant of the downright heretical ramifications of what they say. After the recording of their big hit worship album, Hillsong music directress, Darlene Zschech, did an interview with Josh Bonnett in which she said, “God has been moving on the hearts of His people, right around the world, and He’s causing just incredible things to happen, in the Spirit and in people’s lives.” (2) The phrase, “in the Spirit,” is blatantly heretical. It reveals a belief that the Spirit is an influence rather than a Person. The preposition “in” is used in regard to places; the Holy Spirit is not a place or a realm of experience.
The late John Wimber used to say, “God is bigger than His Word.” This seems to be saying something true at first blush. But a moment’s reflection is enough to show its true colors. This statement was used by Wimber as a defense against those who questioned the heterodox teaching within the Vineyard. The Vineyard teachers supposedly got fresh revelations from God, who is bigger than His word. In other words, Scripture cannot be used as a standard by which to test any teaching. Yet the Psalmist tells us that God has exalted His Word above His name. (3)
Intimidation of those with opposing views
This is perhaps the greatest weapon of the Charismatic heresy. They revel in mocking any and every opposing view. And they do it with such panache - such vehemence and acerbity. Benny Hinn has repeatedly claimed that God has shown him, by divine revelation that He is going to kill those who oppose Hinn’s ministry. What are we supposed to say to such asininities? Hinn is not the only one to resort to such ludicrous tactics. Countless of these self-proclaimed “prophets” torture 1 Chronicles 16:22 (Touch not my anointed…) into an umbrella to shield themselves from all scrutiny. Despite the fact that 1 Chronicles 16:22 has no possible application to their cause, they do not extend the same leeway to their opponents. They speak in the most brutal terms against any who do not subscribe to their “manifestations.” Perhaps not many have gone as far as Hinn in claiming that God is going to kill his critics, but every single one of his ilk is guilty by association.
Another tactic is to discount the right of those outside their circles to judge their orthodoxy. One of the arch-heretics of the Third Wave, Roberts Liardon says, “Spectators do not have the qualifications to comment on participators.” (4) This line of reasoning is patently false. It is begging the question to say that I cannot judge the orthodoxy of their doctrine or practice because I haven’t experienced these things. Do I have to commit murder or adultery in order to know that they are wrong? Should I have to experience Buddha worship to analyze its falsity? If I asked Benny Hinn if he believed that homosexuality is sin, I would like to believe that he would answer in the affirmative. What would he think if I asserted that he had no right to judge the validity of the gay lifestyle because he had never tried it? This is pure question begging, but he would use the same line of reasoning against me if I called into question his bizarre practices.
I would affirm that meaningful dialogue with heretics is impossible and that all dialogue in hopes of recovering them to the truth is almost pointless. Matthew Henry wrote, “Real heretics have seldom been recovered to the true faith: not so much defect of judgment, as perverseness of the will, being in the case, through pride, or ambition, or self-willedness, or covetousness, or such like corruption, which therefore must be taken heed of: ‘Be humble, love the truth and practise it, and damning heresy will be escaped.’" (5) The marginal notes to the famous Puritan Geneva Bible of 1557 remark, “The ministers of the word must at once cast off heretics, that is, those who stubbornly and seditiously disquiet the Church, and will pay no attention to ecclesiastical admonitions.” (6)
Surely this must be the reason for the harshness of the Church’s polemic against heresies. Irenaeus calls the heretical teaching such things as “imposture,” and “buffoonery.” The followers of the false teaching he calls, “cracked-brained,” and “senseless.” (7) Tertullian says the heretic, Marcion, has a melon for a heart! (8) Terms such as, “abominable blindness and heresy,” (9) are commonplace in Luther’s works. John the Baptist spoke with vehement fury against the hypocritical Pharisees who came to see him preach. (10) And no one can hold a candle to Jesus’ diatribe in Matthew 23! It is not that we do not care for men’s souls, but rather, “contending for the faith,” (11) outweighs all other considerations, including the feeling of those who cross the line theologically.
In conclusion, we ask, “What should we do?” This is an incredibly difficult question. If all the denominations and/or congregations that are not reeling in Rodney Howard-Browne’s drunken stupor and all those who have not been “slain” through Benny Hinn’s mesmerism called an assembly similar to the ancient Councils and excommunicated the entire Charismatic Movement, this would probably be of no effect. Charismatics recognize no authority outside their own circles because they see themselves as superior to the Body of Christ. Such a move would probably serve to strengthen them. They would see themselves as martyrs being persecuted by the spiritually blind. Perhaps persistent expository preaching and persistent polemic is the only tool we have left. We can preach the word in truth and expose error when the opportunity presents itself. May God help us!
1 Galatians 1:8, 9
2 Hillsong Magazine, cited in Praise Music’s Power Pack
3 Psalm 138:2
4 Cited in Walters’ Spirit of False Judgment
5 Matthew Henry on Titus 3:10
6 Geneva Bible Notes on Titus 3:10
7 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.13.1
8 Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.40
9 Martin Luther, Table Talk CLXXVIII
10 Matthew 3:7
11 Jude 3