The Dividing Line
Understanding and Applying Biblical
The Charismatic Movement
Before the 1960s, if you had
said someone was "charismatic," you would have
meant that he had great charm, magnetism, and popular appeal.
In this sense, John F. Kennedy was the charismatic young
candidate of the Democratic Party for the presidency in
1960. Since 1960, to call someone "charismatic"
could just as well be taken to mean that he speaks in tongues.
The word charismatic
comes from the Greek words charis, "grace,"
and charisma, "gift." The "Charismatic
movement" describes an interdenominational Christian
movement, worldwide in scope, that has grown enormously
since the 1960s. Its major emphasis is on "spiritual
gifts," supernatural gifts said to be bestowed by the
Holy Spirit. The most notable of these gifts is an ability
to speak in tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit's blessing.
Because of its influence and practices, the Charismatic
movement poses serious questions to those who would practice
the Bible's teaching concerning personal and especially
History of the Charismatic Movement
The Charismatic movement emerged
from a movement born early in the twentieth century known
as Pentecostalism. To understand the Charismatic movement,
we must first understand the Pentecostal movement.1
The Development of Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism arose out of
the nineteenth-century holiness movement, which we mentioned
briefly in Chapters 1 and 6. Holiness Christians emphasize
the need for a devout, upright life. Methodist holiness
Christians teach that the Holy Spirit eliminates the sinful
nature in the believer through a second work of grace after
conversion. Keswick holiness advocates teach that the power
of the Holy Spirit suppresses the sinful nature. Both agree
that the Christian can live in victory over conscious sin.
This idea of a "second blessing" after salvation
led many to search for further spiritual gifts.
Among these searchers was Charles
Parham, a holiness preacher who headed a small Bible college
in Topeka, Kansas. Parham later reported how on December
31, 1900, a student named Agnes Ozman asked him to lay hands
on her and pray that she might receive the Holy Spirit.
Parham did so, and as he prayed she suddenly began to speak
in another language, allegedly Chinese. This event has traditionally
marked the birth of Pentecostalism.
There had been occasional outbreaks
of tongues-speaking throughout church history before 1900.
The Montanists were a group in the early church (active
c. A.D. 150-350) characterized by the giving of prophecies
and speaking in tongues. Likewise, during a time of intense
persecution by the Catholic Church in the 1700s, a group
of persecuted French Protestants practiced tongues-speaking.
Other groups such as the Shakers and the Mormons (American
sects) and the Irvingites (a British group) also practiced
tongues- speaking at various times. These were all isolated
The events associated with Parham sparked a movement that
has grown and continued to spread to the present.
Others heard Parham teach on
the gift of tongues and joined his cause. One of these,
a black holiness preacher named William J. Seymour, held
a series of meetings in Azusa Street in Los Angeles from
1906 to 1909. Word of the displays of tongues-speaking and
faith healing soon spread, and crowds thronged to the "Azusa
Street Revival." The fame of Azusa Street gave momentum
to the young movement. It took the name Pentecostal
in reference to the filling of the Holy Spirit on the day
of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Pentecostals claim that, as at
Pentecost, the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is
to speak in tongues.
From these beginnings the movement
blossomed. Today there are many Pentecostal bodies. Among
the largest are the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies
of God, the United Pentecostal Church, the Church of God
(Cleveland, Tennessee), and the Pentecostal Holiness Church.
As the contribution of William Seymour suggests, there has
been a large African-American contribution to Pentecostalism.
An example is the Church of God in Christ, founded by C.
H. Mason, who joined the Pentecostal movement after visiting
Seymour's Azusa Street meeting. It has become the most important
predominantly black Pentecostal group and one of the largest
and fastest-growing Pentecostal denominations.
The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. By
Mark Sidwell. ©1998. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available
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