The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-54, titled “Charismatic Chaos” Part 3. A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
of the sermon, “Charismatic Chaos” Part 3, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.
Charismatic Chaos – Part 3
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
In our study of this most fascinating and important subject of the
Charismatic movement in our contemporary time, we come tonight to message
number three in our series; and we are going to be building on the prior
message dealing with “Does God still give Revelation?” as we talk about “Are
there still Prophecies from God?”, another very important component of
understanding and assessing the Charismatic movement.
Certainly, in my mind, the most disturbing aspect of the Charismatic movement
and their thirst for supernatural experience and supernatural encounter is
their claim that God is still revealing Himself verbally to them. As we saw
in our last study, they claim that God is speaking to them: that is a
constant claim. In fact, there probably is nothing more commonly expressed
among Charismatics than that, “The Lord told me!” Or, “Jesus told me!”
They believe that the Lord is still telling them specific things in specific
terms. God is still breathing out revelation.
It has been a curiosity to me and should be to us, I think, that if God is
still giving revelation, the only ones that He gives it to are Charismatics!
Nobody else seems to be getting revelation with the exception of the founders
of various cults. But apart from the cults and the Charismatics I don’t see
people within the framework, the broad framework of Christianity, claiming
Now, I want to be very clear that when I talk about the fact that God is no
longer giving revelation, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I do believe
that the Holy Spirit does lead Christians. Romans 8:14 says that, “As many
as are led by the Spirit, they are the children of God.” I believe the Holy
Spirit guides us. I believe He empowers us to witness, to speak, to write,
to act with Spiritual Power and impact. I believe the Holy Spirit impresses
His will on our minds leading us to praise, leading us to obedience, leading
us to righteousness, leading us to spiritual service. We as believers can be
confident of his moving on our minds to lead us to truth. However, He does
not speak to us in audible words. He does not place inaudible, but specific
words in our minds. He is not breathing out any more revelation.
We noted the importance of understanding that in our last study, and if you
weren’t here you’ll want to get the tape. You remember that Jude said that,
“Scripture was once for all delivered to the Saints.” And when it was
“delivered” it was done. He was not only speaking of past Scripture when he
wrote that, he was speaking of present Scripture which he himself was even
writing, and he was speaking of future Scripture yet to be written by Apos
tles and their associates to complete the New Testament. He identifies the
composite of God’s revelation and says, “It was once for all delivered to the
Saints,” in God’s plan.
And after all the Scripture was complete and “once for all delivered to the
Saints” the Early Church said, “The Canon is closed.” Now that word “canon”
needs definition. We mentioned last time that it comes from a word “kanon”
(Greek) which is a reed. That reed was used as a measuring stick, and so the
word “kanon” in the Greek came to mean a rod, or a bar, or a measuring rule,
or standard, or limit. We would call it a measuring rod, or a measuring
stick, a ruler, a yardstick; something by which other things are measured.
In the more spiritual sense it became a standard by which you measure truth.
The Scripture metaphorically then became the standard of all truth; the
standard of all spiritual ideas, concepts, and theology. And so the Canon of
Scripture, that is Scripture completed, and the rule was “once for all
delivered to the Saints.”
Just to give you a little deeper insight into that, the Old Testament Canon
was closed about 425 B.C., 425 years before Christ. The last prophecy was
written by Malachi, [and] placed into the Canon. There was no question which
books were inspired by God. No question. It was clear to the people of God
what they were. In fact, under the leadership of the scribe Ezra, there was
some work to pull all of that together, and the consensus of the people of
God was very clear on what the 39 inspired books were. How did they know?
Two simple ways. One, the writer, well known to be a spokesman for God,
claimed to be speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. First
principle, the writer, well known as a spokesman for God claimed to be
speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. Second principle, there were
no errors of history, geography, or theology at all in the book. And if the
writer was familiar to them, claimed the inspiration of God, and wrote
without error, they knew they had inspired revelation.
Now there were many attempts made by Satan to infiltrate the Old Testament
Canon with uninspired books. At least 14 of them have been accumulated and
together they are called the Apocrypha. You find them in a Roman Catholic
Bible. They are not a part of our Bible. They are not inspired books. They
are books: 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the rest of Esther, the Wisdom of
Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), Baruch, the
Song of the Three Holy Children, the History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon,
the Prayer of Manasses, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. All spurious. We call them
Pseudepigrapha–false writing. They were clearly fakes. How do we know they
were fakes? They were written long after the canon was completed and they
lacked the prophetic quality and authorship to stamp them as inspired
Scripture. None of their writers claimed divine inspiration and some openly
disclaimed it. And Apocrypha books contained errors of facts, errors of
ethics, errors of doctrine. For example, some of the Apocrypha books
advocate suicide. Some of them advocate assassination and some of them teach
praying for dead people. Therein lies one of the reasons you find them in a
Catholic Bible. The Old Testament Canon was unquestioned; it is still
unquestioned because it is so evident what was inspired.
The New Testament writers then came together to write the remaining 27 books
of Scripture. And they had similar tests to determine a book’s canonicity.
One, was the book authored by an Apostle or someone closely associated with
an Apostle? They knew who the Apostles were and they knew who their close
associates were. The key question about the book’s inspiration was tied to
Apostolic authorship or one closely associated. For example, the Gospel of
Mark was written by Mark, and Mark was not an Apostle but a close associate
of Peter, who was. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by
Luke who was not an Apostle but a very close associate of Paul, who was. The
Apostles were known to the people, their associates were known to the people,
and when Apostles wrote and claimed inspiration the people were secure in the
veracity of their writings.
Another test applied by the Early Church was the test of content. Did the
writings square with what the Apostles taught? In those early years of the
Church, heretics such as the Gnostics tried to slip in phony books, but none
of them ever made it. If it didn’t square with Apostolic doctrine–it didn’t
pass. And the doctrinal aberrations were very easy to spot.
A third test was this, “Is the book regularly read and used in the churches?”
In other words, did the people of God readily accept it? Read it during
worship and make its teachings a part of their daily living?
A final test was determined that would sort of pull it all together, and that
was the book recognized and used by succeeding generations after the Early
All of those tests applied leave us with the 27 books that we have in our New
Testament. They all were written by authors who were either Apostles or
closely associated with Apostles. Their content is in complete and total
agreement and harmony with all the teaching of the Apostles, and with all
other books of the New Testament and Old Testament. All 27 of them were read
in the churches and used by the Church and by succeeding generations even
until now. There was also a formidable group of fakes that came in the New
Testament period, books like the, “Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of
Peter, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Shepherd of Hermas.” And then there were
false books called, “the Gospel of Andrew, the Gospel of Bartholomew, the
Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip.” They all failed to make it in
because they couldn’t pass the test of authenticity.
The false books then of the Old Testament and New Testament, what we call, as
I said, Pseudepigrapha, were attempts to pollute the Biblical text with
spurious revelation. Now, listen to me. That attempt didn’t end in those
days; it is still going on and before we are done tonight we are going to see
that in clear terms. People and groups have continued to claim their works
and their writings are inspired by God, and are true, and authoritative and
binding. And whenever they do that, it leads to aberrant doctrine.
Revelation 22:18 warns about this, it says, “I warn everyone who hears the
words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds anything to them, God will
add to him the plagues described in this book.”
Now, someone will scoff and say, “Well, that’s only a warning that applies to
the Book of Revelation and not the entire Bible.” Before you congratulate
yourself, by the way, too loudly on such reasoning, realize this, Revelation
is the last book ever written, all the way as late as 96 A.D. It is the last
book penned; it is therefore the last book in the Bible. Therefore, if you
add anything to the Book of Revelation, you are adding it to the Bible and
you put yourself in danger of the curse of Revelation 22:18.
Now, someone will immediately say, “Now, wait a minute. If that’s true then
why don’t these people who add to the Bible go up in smoke? Go up in flames
or have some personal holocaust that takes their life.” Well, one thing is
clear, God does keep His word. He doesn’t keep it by your timetable or mine
but by His own; and He may be withholding the force of that curse until
“Judgment Day.” Christ has put His stamp of authority on the Scripture. The
Church has clearly discovered the Canon of God’s Word under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit, and has abandoned every spurious attempt to pollute it with
false writing. To add anything to Scripture or to downplay the singular,
unique, inspiration of Scripture, then is to not only go against the Word of
God and the warning of Scripture and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles,
but it is to bring yourself into the very dangerous place where you are
susceptible to the curse of God. And, of course, what happens when you
introduce something as true is [that] you open up a spiritual free-for-all,
The Charismatic movement today has initiated that free-for-all as serious as
any error in that movement is the error of claiming revelation from God. It
is reckless; it is indiscriminate. Now, within that revelation claim, there
is a specific category that I want to deal with tonight and that’s the matter
Yesterday, I was watching television, and I have been watching Channel 40
frequently lately, in order to glean some illustrations of this. And a
preacher from Texas, by the name of Larry Lee came on and told about a
prophecy that he had had, that he [then] gave to a certain individual.
Verbatim, God gave it to him; verbatim he gave it to this certain individual.
This is common. This was not any big prophecy with far reaching implications
or application; this was a personal prophecy for one guy, and he repeated
that prophecy from God that was given to that man as expressing the very will
of God, in the very words of God. This is routine for them.
There has arisen recently a very interesting group that is sort of leading
the prophetic parade, if we can call it that, and they come from Kansas City.
They have gathered the name, “The Kansas City Prophets.” They are the
subject of much writing today. They are self-proclaimed prophets in Kansas
City and they serve as a good example of how far prophetic abuses can go.
They are very popular. I was shocked, absolutely shocked, to find out within
the last week, that one of their leaders is speaking in Westminster Church,
the Church of G. Campbell Morgan and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in the city of
London. That is the level to which they have ascended, these Kansas City
Invited to speak as guests in a Kansas City church, these self-styled
prophets each prophesied that, “The Lord had told them that the Church was to
disband. That the Church’s leaders had no right to challenge the prophecy
and that if the Church failed to heed the prophecy, ‘Ichabod, the Glory Has
Departed,’ would be written above the door.” Now, imagine a man coming into
the pulpit of this Church, telling you he had a “Word from the Lord” that
you’re to disband, and if you don’t disband according to the “Word from the
Lord,” Ichabod would be written over your Church.
The Prophets had allegedly received a message from God saying that all the
Christians in Kansas City were to be under the authority of the Prophets’
home church. So that all the Christians of Kansas City were to leave their
churches and go to the Church known as the Kansas City Fellowship. Similar
prophecies were delivered in and around Kansas City and other churches and
incredibly, one church at least, actually responded by dropping its ties with
the Assemblies of God and aligning with the Kansas City Fellowship. Now
that’s a novel approach to “Church Growth!” But it has more in common with
the methodology of cults than it does with the work of the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, the Kansas City Prophets admit that they have prophesied
falsely on occasion–they admit it. They specialize, they say, in predictive
prophecy. They foretold, for example, that a nationwide revival would sweep
across England in June of 1990, one year ago. Hundreds of thousands were
going to turn to Christ and the movement would then spread to the entire
European Continent. Like many of their predictions, the revival never
materialized. One of their prophets concocted a novel explanation of why so
many of their prophecies go unfulfilled, and I am quoting, here’s what he
I figure, if I hit two-thirds of it, I’m doing pretty good. God
told me that, “If I release the 100% Rema (sp.) right now, the
accountability would be awesome, and you’d have so much ‘Ananias
and Sapphira’ going on that the people wouldn’t grow, they’d be
too scared.” But He said, “If it was ‘on target’ it would kill
instead of scaring the people to repentance.”
Now, I don’t even know what that means. But apparently what he meant was,
God told him I have to be wrong once and a while or people would be too
frightened of what I say. Kansas City Fellowship Pastor, Mike Bickel (sp.)
adds, “Now, the ‘two-thirds,’ you know when Bob first said it, I said, ‘two-
thirds?'” He said, “Well, that’s better than its ever been up to now, you
know. That’s the highest level it’s ever been.” In other words, these so-
called prophets claim they have a “Word from the Lord” but the odds are one
in three at best that it will be false! No wonder their prophecies have
thrown so many churches into hopeless confusion. And what a blasphemy
against the God who is supposed to be the author of these.
Oddly enough, despite their poor track record, the Kansas City Prophets have
garnered an international following. They have aligned with John Wimbers’
(sp.) Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and they now speak worldwide about the
modern day prophetic ministry. In a forward to a book endorsing the Kansas
City Prophets, written by Dr. John White, he writes:
Battles about prophets have plagued the Church from time to
time. Early last century it was the Irvingite Controversy in
London with the leading prophet having to confess after years
that he had been deceived. Many of us have found that hearing
from God is no easy thing. In fact, the Church has had so many
bad experiences with prophets that we now react too rapidly and
fearfully. We could be in danger of discarding a live baby in
our horror over dirty bath water.
My question is, “Who says there’s a baby in the dirty bath water?” White,
for example, fiercely defends the Kansas City Prophets, although he
acknowledges that they have, “made mistakes.” He seems to believe that
criticism of them is inherently Satanic. Quoting White he says:
Satan fears those words that come fresh from God’s lips.
Because Satan so dreads the fresh word, he will arouse
controversy wherever it comes forth miraculously through the
lips of a real prophet, or from the lips of an Evangelist,
aflame with the Spirit.
Now, do you see what a trap that is? Because if you hear a prophecy and you
reject it–Ah! Ha! That’s satanic! So you’re trapped. Curiously, White
believes that controversy about the Kansas City Prophets is strong evidence
of their genuineness. In a section titled (mistitled really), “Beware of
False Prophets,” White quotes Jesus’ warning about false prophets in Matthew
7:15, Matthew 24:11, and Mark 13:22. Then White writes this, listen to this:
We are warned that it is to happen. Most scholars feel the
words of Jesus apply particularly to the last days. They may be
approaching us now. How are we to discern the false from the
true? For one thing, true prophets will be unpopular.
Listen to me, let me say this as plainly as I possibly can, that is the worst
imaginable starting point for a discussion of how to discern false prophets!
Whether they’re unpopular or not doesn’t mean anything. Jim Jones was
unpopular, except with a few deceived souls. Certainly, those who speak
truth are often unpopular, but notoriety and unpopularity is not a test of
authenticity. Saddam Hussein is unpopular! And Jesus and John the Baptist
went through periods of their ministry when they were enormously popular.
That doesn’t prove anything. The only test of a true prophet is the accuracy
of his prophecies.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not
spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not
come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken.
The prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” Simple, Deuteronomy 18:21-22, “If
it isn’t true it isn’t from God!” And what was the penalty under the Law for
such a prophecy? Verse 20 adds, “But the prophet who shall speak a word
presumptuously in My name which I have commanded him to speak. . .that
prophet shall die.” There weren’t in those days a lot of false prophets
running around loose. Astonishingly, in a five page discussion, of how to
discern false prophets, White never once, in five pages, never once speaks of
accuracy or truthfulness as a test of their integrity. In fact, he
explicitly states that he believes that those are not valid tests of a
He believes that lying prophecies do not necessarily disqualify a person from
speaking for God. He concludes his section on discerning false prophets with
this statement, “Prophets are, of course, human beings. As such, they can
make mistakes and lie. They need not cease to be prophets for their mistakes
and failings.” That statement not only betrays an appalling ignorance of
Scripture, but it betrays a very strong desire to legitimize prophecy at any
cost. Biblically a prophet spoke the mind of God. Every prophetic message
contained a “Thus saith the Lord,” if not explicitly, implicitly. A prophecy
in the Biblical sense is not the prophets opinion, it’s not the prophets
speculation, it is the Word of God and it could never be wrong–never! It is
not a mere impression on the prophet’s mind. It is not a guess. It is not a
divination. It has nothing whatever to do with sooth saying; it is a Word
from the Lord. And the Lord never made a mistake. And since the prophet
speaks a Word from the Lord, he was held to the highest level of
accountability and judged with the utmost severity if he prophesied falsely.
It stands to reason that since a prophet is a mouthpiece for God’s own words,
every authentic prophecy would be true, reliable, and inerrant. Otherwise,
God’s a liar, for we must downgrade the meaning of prophecy and embrace some
secondary level of inspiration where you sort of give your opinion. We would
have to devise some kind of theory in which God somehow enables contemporary
prophets to deliver a message that maybe true or maybe false; it’s sort of
“up for grabs.” Beloved, the ecclesiastical landscape is literally filled
with Charismatics who are saying, “God talked to them and God gave them
prophecies,” and they are pushing those prophecies at the Church. That is
serious, that is disastrous, and the results of it are all around us.
Last Sunday, in connection with talking about discernment, I quoted from Bill
Haman (sp.), who wrote an article in the magazine called Charisma, which is
one of the chief magazines of the movement. And in that article he shared
his belief about prophecies and I need to repeat that because you need to
hear it in this context. Haman believes:
“All personal prophecies are conditional, whether or not any
conditions are made explicit.” That is, he says, “Prophecies
can be canceled, altered, revised, reversed, or diminished. For
prophecy of this kind to come to pass requires the proper
participation and cooperation of the one who receives the
So in Haman’s scheme, the fact that prophecy goes unfulfilled is no proof it
was false to begin with! If circumstances change or if the prophet himself
lacks faith, God may change the prophecy in any way or even cancel it. So
everything is “up for grabs.” First, he may be right, he may be wrong. If
he’s right, and he doesn’t follow through with the right amount of faith, or
circumstances change, even though it once was right, it now is wrong. It
should come to pass, it might not come to pass, if it does come to pass it’s
ok, if it doesn’t come to pass it’s ok. Just, endless, useless double talk!
Obviously, Haman would deny that he puts modern prophecy on the same level as
Scripture, but in practice it is absolutely impossible to discern any
Now how do you determine if a prophecy is true? Here’s what Haman says,
listen to this:
I have sometimes heard people say, “I didn’t witness with that
prophecy,” but after questioning them, I discovered that what
they really meant was that the prophecy didn’t fit their
theology, personal desires, or goals, or their emotions reacted
negatively to it. They failed to understand that we don’t bear
witness with the soul, the mind, the emotions, or will. Our
reasoning is in the mind, not the spirit. So our traditions,
beliefs and strong opinions are not true witnesses to prophetic
truth. The spirit reaction originates deep within our being.
Many Christians describe the physical location of its
corresponding sensation as the upper abdominal area.
What is he saying? He is saying, “Ignore your beliefs. Ignore your
theology. Ignore your reason. Ignore your logic. Ignore your common sense,
and wait for a feeling in your upper abdominal area, so you will know whether
a prophecy is true!” Foolish! Nonsense! That kind of thinking, however,
permeates the Charismatic movement. In the end, many prophecies are judged
on nothing more than some kind of feeling in the gut. That is precisely why
error and confusion run rampant in the Charismatic movement. You cannot have
an approach to theological data like that without having Satan move in and
confuse everybody. The fact remains throughout the history of the Church, no
genuine revival, no orthodox movement has ever been led by people whose
primary authority was based on private revelations from God. None in the
history of the Church. Many groups have claimed to receive new revelation,
but all of them have been fanatical, heretical, cultic, and fraudulent. Both
Charismatics and Non-Charismatics need to consider whether there is a
parallel between these groups and the modern Charismatic movement. It moves
more, and more, and more into heresy and aberration, because it is not
controlled by the Word of God.
Several major heresies will illustrate this for you, and I will give you a
little history flow here. Let’s take an old one from the second century,
Montanism. Montanism. Montanus was a second century heretic from Phrygia,
who believed he was a prophet sent by God to reform Christianity with new
revelation. He believed he was inspired by the Holy Spirit in all his
teaching and he wrote the very Word of God, and spoke the very Word of God.
Two “so called” prophetesses, Priscilla and Maximilla, were instrumental in
the spread of Montanism. And I warn you at this point, that in most cults
there has been a dominating influence by a woman, which, of course, steps
outside the provision of Scripture, indicating clearly to us that women are
not to teach in the Church, but are to learn in submission. And so, there is
a reversal of that kind of role, usually in cultic activity. It was true in
Montanism back in the second century.
Of these women, Eusebius, one of the early fathers wrote, “Montanus also
stirred up two women and filled them with the bastard spirit, so that they
uttered demented, absurd, and irresponsible sayings.” Some historians have
taken that to mean that these women spoke in tongues. Hippolytus, another
early writer, wrote about the Montanists and said this, and, of course, these
have been translated into English. He said of the Montanist:
They have been deceived by two females, Priscilla and Maximilla,
by name, whom they hold to be prophetesses, asserting that into
them the Paraclete Spirit entered. They magnify these females
above the Apostles and every gift of grace, so that some of them
go so far as to say that “In them there is something more than
Christ.” They introduce novelties in the form of fasts and
feasts, abstinences, and diets of radishes, giving these females
as their authority.
Montanism spread rapidly throughout the early church and reached Rome by the
second half of the second century. Eusebius described its birth and early
growth with these words:
Montanus, they say, first exposed himself to the assaults of the
adversary through his unbounded lust for leadership. He was one
of the recent converts and he became possessed of a spirit and
suddenly began to rave in a kind of a ecstatic trance and to
babble jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of
the Church, which had been handed down by tradition from the
earliest times. Some of them had heard his bastard utterances;
rebuked him as one possessed of a devil, remembering the Lord’s
warning to guard vigilantly against the coming of false
prophets. But others were carried away and not a little elated,
thinking themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of the gift
There you are in the second century. Satan already attempting to counterfeit
and confuse in the Church with supposed new revelation. Tertullian, one of
the leading Church Fathers converted to Montanism in the later years of his
life and wrote this description of a Montanist church service. Here is his
We have among us now a sister who has been granted gifts of
revelations, which she experiences in church during the Sunday
services through ecstatic vision in the spirit. And after the
people have been dismissed at the end of the service, it is her
custom to relate to us what she has seen. “Among other things,”
says she, “There was shown to me a soul in bodily form and it
appeared like a spirit, but it was no more something void of
qualities, but rather a thing which could be grasped. Soft and
translucent and of ethereal color in a form at all points human.”
And I ask, “Does that sound familiar?” Tertullian sounds like he might have
been describing a 20th century Charismatic church, and somebody having a
vision of something. Montanus and his followers claimed to receive
revelation from God and they claimed that it supplemented the Bible. They
believed the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of Montanus and Priscilla
and Maximilla. Montanus believed he was living in the last days immediately
before the Return of Christ. He taught that the Kingdom would be set up in
his own village, and that the Kingdom would be in Pepuza, and he would have a
prominent role in it. Those and other false prophecies were among the chief
reasons the rest of the Church considered his movement heretical. He opposed
formalism in the Church. He wanted everything to be free flowing, no
structure, no form, let it all happen. And he boldly intimidated Christians
by claiming his followers were more spiritual than those who had only the
dead letter of the Scripture. Sound familiar?
In most respects you might say Montanus held to an orthodox theology,
Trinity, Deity of Christ, etc., but the movement was schismatic. They
believed themselves to be the True Church. The rest of the Church branded
Montanism as a serious heresy to be rejected. Augustine wrote against the
movement and at the Council of Constantinople the movement was decreed the
equivalent of outright paganism.
It’s sad to say, but much of the contemporary Charismatic movement could be
branded Neo-Montanism. One Charismatic leader, Larry Christianson, who has
written a very popular book on tongues, [which has been] around for many
years, claims, believe it or not, “The Montanist movement as part of the
Charismatic historical tradition.” So even they want to be identified with
Let’s move in history to another movement–Roman Catholicism. Roman
Catholicism. You might not understand the close parallel between the
Charismatic movement and the Catholic movement. You might be curious about
why there are so many Charismatic Catholics; that would tell you a little bit
about the affinity that they have for each other. The similarity between the
Charismatic view of revelation and the traditional teaching of the Roman
Catholic Church is worth a look.
A good place to start is with the Roman Catholic concept of tradition. Roman
Catholic scholar, Gabriel Moran, will help us with that. He gives three
classifications of revelation or tradition. Dogmatic Tradition–that is the
revealed truth made known by God in Scripture before the death of the last
Apostle. That would be Scripture. Dogmatic Tradition is often called by
Secondly, he says there is Disciplinary Tradition. Disciplinary Tradition.
What does he mean by that? He says, well there is a tradition including the
practices and liturgical rites of the Church, in Apostolic or Post-Apostolic
times that are not a part of divine revelation in Scripture. Disciplinary
Tradition is commonly called Secondary Tradition. Tradition then, said the
French Roman Catholic, George Tafard (sp.), “Was the overflow of the Word
outside sacred Scripture. It was neither separate from nor identical with
Holy Writ. Its contents were the other Scriptures through which the Word
made Himself known.”
You ask yourself the question, “Why do they believe in the perpetual
virginity of Mary? Why do they believe in the Immaculate Conception? Where
do they find that? Where do they get Purgatory? Where do they get lighting
candles for the dead? Where do they get that? It does not come out of
Scripture,” you say. Yes. But it comes out of their Secondary Tradition,
which is the equivalent of Scripture in terms of its authority. It was
decided by the Pope or the Church or the Council.
Another Roman Catholic with a view similar to what Charismatics are saying
today is Caspar Schatsguire (sp.), who died in 1527. He taught, “That an
intimate revelation from the Holy Spirit is an everyday possibility. Once
known beyond doubt,” he said, “It is as binding as the teaching that came
from Christ’s own mouth.” And there is the third level of revelation.
Dogmatic Tradition and Scripture, Disciplinary Tradition in the ceremonies
and the development of Catholic tradition, and then there is that Personal
Revelation that comes through some revelation from the Holy Spirit that comes
to an individual.
Now all of that raises the question, “Where does the Bible end?” Because of
their interpretation of the word “tradition,” Roman Catholic Doctrinal
teaching is utterly opened ended. Church councils and Popes can still bring
in new doctrines, and individuals can have new revelations from the Holy
Spirit. So there is always the possibility of adding something that is equal
in authority to the Scripture. The Council of Trent, meeting from 1545 to
1563, was convened to solidify Catholic opposition to the Protestant
Reformation. And here is what that Council said:
“The Holy, Ecumenical and General Synod of Trent, having this
aim always before its eyes, that errors may be removed and the
purity of the gospel be preserved in the Church, which was
before promised through the Prophets in the Holy Scripture, and
which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first published by
His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached through His
Apostles to every creature as a source of all saving truth and
of discipline of conduct. And perceiving that this truth and
this discipline are contained in written books and in unwritten
traditions, which were received by the Apostles from the lips of
Christ Himself, or by the same Apostles at the dictation of the
Holy Spirit, and were handed on and have come down to us
following the example of the orthodox fathers, this Synod
receives and venerates,” listen to this, “with equal pious
affection and reverence, all the books, both of the New and Old
Testaments together with the said traditions as having been
given from either the lips of Christ or by the dictation of the
Holy Spirit and preserved in unbroken succession in the Catholic
They have all kinds of revelation. According to that, God has been giving
revelation through the Roman Catholic Church since the New Testament era on.
From the unwritten traditions handed down, it’s a short step to the concept
of the infallibility of the Pope, who is the successor (supposedly) to Peter.
And the Roman Catholic theology teaches that when the Pope speaks
“ex cathedra” (that means out of the seat of authority) he does it with
supreme apostolic authority–nothing lacking whatsoever.
Since the Roman Catholic Church then, allows for additional revelation
they’re very comfortable in the Charismatic realm, in terms of this
particular issue. They too, like the Charismatics, go beyond the Scriptures.
Their doctrines of Penance, Purgatory, Papal Infallibility, Prayers for the
Dead, the whole Sacramental System, doesn’t come out of the Bible at all–at
My concern is, the Charismatic movement is building a tradition. An
unbiblical, extrabiblical, tradition that stands alongside Scripture as
equal. They are doing exactly what historic Catholicism did. When you ask,
for example, a Charismatic person, “How important is it to be ‘Slain in the
Spirit?'” There are some who would say it’s absolutely essential to be
“Slain in the Spirit.” When you ask one of them, “Where in the Bible is
slaying in the spirit discussed?” You probably will get an answer that’s
something like this, “I’m not sure but its got to be there somewhere!” Press
the issue, “Find it for me! It isn’t there.” “That doesn’t matter, Jesus
told them to do it!” That’s the tradition.
Moving into another category, let’s talk about Neo-Orthodoxy. Moving away
from Montanism and Catholicism and looking at liberal theology in the form of
Neo-Orthodoxy. It’s a term, it’s a title for a theology that denies the
inerrancy of Scripture, the inspiration of Scripture. Neo-Orthodox theology
says the Scripture not the objective Word of God, but it’s the subjective
Word of God. In other words, it would go something like this, “The Bible, as
the words sit on the page, was not written by God. But when you read these
words written by man God can make them alive to you and they become inspired
to you.” That’s Neo-Orthodoxy. It is not the Word of God, but it becomes the
Word of God in you as God kind of warms it up and makes it apply to you.
Sitting on the shelf it is not the objective Word of God, but some of its
truths will pop out at you and they become to you the Word of God.
J. K. S. Reed puts it this way, “God marches up and down through the Bible
Magisterially, making His Word come to life at any point throughout its
length and breadth. So too it is rightly said that the Bible becomes the
Word of God. The Bible becomes the Word of God by stated and steady
appointment.” In other words, God just zaps you with it and it becomes the
Word of God, because of its effect on you.
Emile Brunner (sp.) says, “The Spirit of God is imprisoned within the covers
of the written word, and He is released in your experience.” Mystical! So
Neo-Orthodoxy says, “The Bible is not all there is. God is still giving
revelation.” C. H. Dodd, one of the most popular Neo-Orthodox writers says,
“If the Bible is indeed the Word of God, it is so, not as the last word.”
Not as the last word. God has more to say. If it is the Word of God–its
not the last word. So the inspiration of the Bible depends on subjective
Now, what do you get then out of this? If you follow the path, God is still
talking, God is still speaking, and prophecies are still coming from the
Lord, you are following the tradition not of historic Christianity, not of
Reformation theology, you are following a tradition of Montanism,
Catholicism, and Neo-Orthodoxy. You’re falling into the traps that have led
to those kinds of errors. This is not in line with historic theology.
And one last illustration–the Cults. The Book of Mormon says this, (this is
right out of the Book of Mormon):
Do you not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold!
I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I
have spoken are true. And how do you suppose that I know of
their surety? Behold! I say unto you, they are made known unto
me by the Holy Spirit of God. And this is the Spirit of
Revelation which is in me.
The Book of Mormon says this is the Holy Spirit’s revelation. The Mormons
put two other books, written by Joseph Smith, on a par with Scripture, “The
Doctrine and Covenants” and the “Pearl of Great Price.” From these “Further
Revelations” pour error, after error, after error concerning God, Christ, the
nature of man, theological chaos, [and] damning heresies. By the way, did
you know what the seventh Article of Faith is in the Mormon religion? Here’s
the seventh Article of Faith, listen to it, “We believe in the gifts of
tongues, prophecy, revelations, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues.”
They are very comfortable in that arena, because they believe in ecstatic
experiences and extended revelation.
Christian Science, which I always think is a ridiculous name because it isn’t
Christian and it isn’t scientific. It’s like Grape Nuts; they’re not grapes
or nuts. Christian Science is another cult. A cult that bases its teaching
on truths supposedly given by God in addition to Scripture. The Christian
Science Journal, July 1975, states, “Because it is not a human philosophy,
but a divine revelation, the divinity based reason and logic of Christian
Science necessarily separates it from all other systems.” It is divine
revelation. That same issue of the Christian Science Journal calls Mary
Baker Eddy “The Revelator of Truth for this Age.” Another woman, by the way.
Mrs. Eddy wrote:
I should blush to write of “Science and Health with Keys to the
Scriptures,” as I have, were it of human origin and were I,
apart from God, its author. But as I was only a scribe echoing
the harmonies of Heaven in divine metaphysics, I cannot be super
modest in my estimate of the Christian Science Textbook.
She says, I can boast about it because God wrote it. God is its author. And
although the errors of Christian Science regarding God, Christ, and the
Scriptures are well documented in many books, Mrs. Eddy was convinced that
she was used by God to reveal His truth for her day. The truth was that she
was simply a dupe of Satan!
Perhaps the most visible cultists in our nation are called Jehovah’s
Witnesses. Tireless in their efforts, they go from door to door spreading
their doctrine of salvation by works, negating the grace of God through
Christ–a damnable heresy. They claim Jesus was a created being, not God the
Son. And how did they come up with that? They got it from God! In
“Watchtower Magazine,” it says, “The Watchtower is a magazine without equal
on earth. This is not giving any credit to the magazine publishers, but is
due to the great Author (capital A) of the Bible with its truths and
prophecies who now interprets its prophecies.” Boy, God is sure giving a lot
of conflicting theology out.
And then there is the “Worldwide Church of God” founded by Herbert W.
Armstrong, “Plain Truth” magazine, “The World Tomorrow” television program.
And where did they get their start? Mrs. Armstrong had a vision, and the
angel laid out the whole system for Mrs. Armstrong. She told her husband and
a new cult was born. And then there is Sun Myung Moon, self-styled Messiah
from Korea, [who] says he is the divine messenger from God, and God gave him
ultimate truth. “Not from Scripture, not from literature, not from man’s
brain,” he says.
Virtually every cult, every false teaching ever spawned is built on the
premise that its leader or leaders have access to new revelation. And it
even goes into the New Age stuff all the way from Edgar Casey to L. Ron
Hubbard (sp.) and Scientology, who claim direct revelation of some kind from
God. You see, Charismatic acceptance of modern prophecies represents a turn
down a perilous road away from historic Christianity. The marker may read
“Something More,” but the road of new revelation is a path of something less.
Some Charismatics, by the way, are troubled with the problem. Stephen Strang
(sp.) writing in “Charisma” magazine says:
When it comes to something such as personal prophecy, we believe
that extremism is more deadly than when dealing with less
volatile issues. That is because there is an element of control
involved when one individual is able to speak for God to a group
of individuals. It isn’t always easy to tell when a person is
really speaking for God or speaking carnally, or maybe even
speaking for the enemy.
What an amazing mess that is. You don’t even know who they are speaking for.
We believe there are some who purport to prophesy that actually get their
unusual ability to know the future, not from the Holy Spirit, but from the
Spirit of Divination. That’s false by the way, because no spirit, no demon
spirit knows the future, they only know the past. And there are some
Charismatics who are so eager to know God’s will, or to get a word from God
to be singled out in service where the special gift may be manifest, that
they are susceptible to spirits that are not from God. In other words, they
want to “show off” so they are vulnerable. Strang (sp.) has identified the
central problem, but he offers no solution, How do we know if a true prophet
is speaking? How do we know if a message comes from an evil spirit or
divination? How do we know if it comes out of somebody’s imagination? What
he is saying is, “We don’t know!”
Now if we don’t draw the line at Scripture, we are hopelessly caught. Once
you go beyond Scripture everything is out of control. Out of control. This
is a major issue. The Charismatics have never given sufficient attention to
it [or] supplied sufficient answer.
In closing, turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 3. 2 Timothy, chapter 3, a familiar
text, I only read it to pull all these “loose ends” in a sense, together.
The question I pose at the end is this, “Who needs new revelation? Who needs
it? Why? Why would God give it? What would be the purpose?” If, listen to
me carefully, the indwelling resident Spirit can lead you into the “Will of
God” then you don’t need some more revelation to do it. That’s why the
Spirit is there. Right? “As many that are lead by the Spirit are the
children of God.” He’s there to lead you. You don’t need some revelation to
do it–He’s there to do that.
Now, secondly, you say that, “Maybe God’s giving more revelation because we
need it for our spiritual lives.” 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is
inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be (perfect),
adequate, (complete), equipped for every good work.” Listen, beloved, you
don’t need new revelation for direction in your life; the Spirit is there to
lead you. You don’t need new revelation for the virtue of your life; the
Scripture is able to make you perfect. What’s the point of allowing this
confusion? Only this, that Satan uses it to pollute the clear stream of
revelation laid out in the Word, and to confound and confuse the otherwise
discernible leading of the Spirit of God in your life. Be warned of the
prophecies that claim to be from God.
Father, we thank you for the time in the Word tonight. What a very vital
subject. We pray that you will give us discernment, that we might examine
all things; find what is good and cling to it; find what is evil and shun it.
For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, NJ 08022
….online since 1986
Sysop/Webmaster: Tony Capoccia