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Being Careful With Who Defines A Movement

Some men have been leaders of movements.  Few would doubt that Martin Luther was a leader of the Reformation.  John Calvin was the leader of Geneva.  Men such as William Carey were leaders.  Charles Finney was a leader of the “new methods” of revival movement.  John Wesley and George Whitefield were leaders of the early Methodists.  William Seymour was the leader of the Azusa Street Mission which launched the modern-day Pentecostal movement.  Even today we have men such as Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler or John Piper who are recognized leaders of the “young, restless, and reformed movement.”  Men lead movements.

But we must be careful with whom we label the “leader” of a movement.  For instance, it would be unfair to say that Martin Luther was the only leader of the Reformation.  Others were involved but history seems to only remember Luther.  Luther, however, is not the end all to the Reformation.  While his writings and sermons have value and their place in the Reformation, the Reformation is not Luther and Luther is not the Reformation.  Many others would follow who would not agree with Luther fully such as John Calvin (who would disagree with Luther over the atonement and perseverance of the saints).  Arminius would differ with Luther over unconditional election and the man of Romans 7.  John Wesley would disagree with Luther over sanctification and the nature of cleansing from sin.  Alexander Campbell would have disagreed with Luther over baptism by immersion and whether we should baptize adults only.  The debates are many with many leaders behind the debates.

In our day we are hearing much about the charismatic movement once again.  When I was saved back in 1992, the debate was raging among evangelicals and Pentecostals over spiritual gifts, the baptism with the Spirit, etc.  Shorty after I was saved, I went to visit a local bookstore and was struck by the section “charismatic” (as I was attending an Assemblies of God church).  I had heard the term at our church and so I looked through the books with authors such as T.L. Osborne, Kenneth Hagin, and Kenneth Copeland.  I had not heard of any of them.  I picked up a book by Hagin on faith and took it home to read.  I carried the book with me to church and wise brother asked to see what I was reading.  I showed him the book and he wisely showed me the flaws of Hagin’s thinking.  He told me to avoid the “charismatic” books as they were often plagued with false teachings and poor exegesis of Scripture.

Now I could have, at this point, thought that Copeland, Hagin, Dollar, Hinn, etc. all defined the charismatic movement. They did not and do not now.

I believe we should debate the issue of the gifts of the Spirit.  I have no problem with conferences devoted to studying the person and work of the Holy Spirit and correcting views that may or may not line up with Scripture.  I believe that theological debates are good and needed.  After all, the great doctrines of our faith have often come from debates such as the Trinity, justification by faith, the mode of baptism and its purpose, etc.  Theological debates often were settled in Church history through great councils.  We read even in Acts 15 of the council in Jerusalem where they debated the salvation of the Gentiles and the keeping of the Law of Moses.  Councils and conferences are welcomed for the purpose of sorting out doctrinal teachings.

However, we must not allow a few people to define a movement.  I listened to a cessationist brother teaching on the charismatic movement recently and he had numerous quotes from the likes of Benny Hinn, Copeland, Hagin, Todd Bentley, and Jack Hayford.  Do these men alone define the charismatic movement?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I assure you that the teachers at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) or the Church of God Theological Seminary would denounce the teachings of nearly all of those men (with the exception of Hayford who is respected among Pentecostals to this day).  I believe a person should not use Kenneth Copeland or Joel Osteen to define the Pentecostal movement.  One would build a better hearing among Pentecostals by debating the writings of a Stanley Horton or a Donald Gee or a E.S. Williams than Hagin or Fred Price.

Would Calvinists want Mark Driscoll or even worse, Fred Phelps, to represent modern Calvinism?  Would Arminians want Roger Olson to speak for us all?  I don’t think we would.  We must be careful to seek to not allow one or two people to define a movement.  We must examine the theologians of the movement before we try to isolate the nuts in the movement and say that the nuts speak for the movement when they do not.

That is, of course, my own opinion.  You are allowed to disagree but you would be wrong.  🙂


Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/26/2013 at 1:07 PM

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  1. “One would build a better hearing among Pentecostals by debating the writings of…”



    08/26/2013 at 6:44 PM

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