My reader David Elliott pointed me to this Christianity Today interview from April. The author of An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker [?!], 2010), Regent University professor Vinson Synan, is asked a series of questions centered loosely around his book.
Sidenote: "THE Century of the Holy Spirit." Don't miss that. It begins with the Azusa Street "revival." Before that — Holy Spirit? Not so much. Nineteen centuries, not much Holy Spirit... until the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Ahh, now, all sorts of Holy Spirit!
Read the interview, it's fairly brief. But do it in private. That article will have most of you talking aloud to yourselves. Particularly, you should read that interview in light of CT's snarky profile of Al Mohler, which has been much discussed of late. The contrasts are... interesting and informative.
As has been pointed out even by those lofty souls who find it distasteful to give Christianity Today the general drubbing that it (to my mind) so richly deserves, the Mohler piece was disdainful and slanted. Readers were encouraged to view Mohler askance and critically. It couldn't be (to the writer) that Mohler was a sharp man living from Biblical convictions; everything was seen to be crafted, disingenuous, a bit sinister.
Contrast that with the softball questions lobbed at Vinson Synan in the interview above — and, particularly, at the astonishing assertions and responses allowed to go unchallenged.
Question: What to you has been one of the most unexpected changes of the past century?I noted this at the time of which Synan speaks. It wasn't important to the Charismatic movement that the Roman Catholic church preaches a false, damning non-gospel, that it encourages idolatry, that it adds to Scripture and a host of other ills. They speak in tongues! They're big! They like us! We're validated! Ergo, the Holy Spirit is sweeping through them... er, evidently not in any way affecting their hatred for Christ's Gospel, but, well, they like us! They really like us! Yayyy!
There's more, much more.
Synan says the high point was some big meeting, the low point was — what? What do you think? Word-faith heresy? Barking like dogs, mooing like cows, gold dust, whiter teeth, behaving appallingly and blaming it on the Spirit? False prophecies? Perverting the Gospel? Abuse of thousands of adherents? Shelving the Bible?
Nah; a couple of televangelists' moral scandals. (And, btw, they're back, accepted by the same movement — a fact Synan doesn't mention.)
But no fear, those same morally-corrupt televangelists "still helped spread the movement worldwide" — that would be the "movement" of the non-Gospel-centered, non-sanctifying, non-Christ-exalting "Spirit" (i.e. fake tongues, fake prophecies, etc.). What matters more than anything is the legitimization and spread of "the movement."
And, Synan is asked, what do non-Charismatics most need to understand about Pentecostals?
The answer is simply amazing. We nons most need to understand that "Pentecostals are the most successful at converting people in competition with Islam."
I. Am. Not. Kidding.
And who are Synan's prize examples of these more effective evangelists?
Brothers, sisters, it just goes on and on. Like:
- Africans and Indians are more receptive to Pentecostalism because the don't really "have to change [their] culture or paradigm" to be Pentecostals.
- A big leader to keep one's eye on is T. D. Jakes (who is, at best, wobbly on the Trinity — one Person of whom is, as I recall, that selfsame Holy Spirit whose century this has been).
- Oral Roberts is the previous "transformational" paradigm. Baptists and Presbyterians can't equal him. ("Thank God!" is heard 'round the land.)
- Oral Roberts
- Benny Hinn
- T. D. Jakes
- Jimmy Swaggart
- Jim Bakker
- Reinhard Bonnke
- Sidelining the Gospel (i.e. treating the Roman Catholic church as a big Christian denomination — if they are friendly to Pentismatics)
And before that? Before the Holy Spirit really-really got going with spiritual giants like Bakker and Hinn and Bonnke and Swaggart and Jakes?
Well, I guess it was a pretty pathetic offering. All we had to show for the non-Holy-Spirit era is Augustine, Athanasius, Anselm, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen. You know. Pikers. Those guys, their work, their sermons, and those books they wrote which are still opening treasure-caskets centuries later.
But Mohler? Oh, yeah. After all, remember: CT kissed-and-made-up with the world decades ago on the issues of female "pastors" and ditching Biblical cosmogony — and Mohler is on the (to them) wrong side of both of those issues. So Mohler gets elitist mocking and disdain, while folks like Synan get a pass.
Bonus thought 1: note that there is no reformation going on in the Pentismatic movement, if Synan is any representative. Everything that fueled the last century of Pentismatic-inflicted miseries and errors is still embraced and enabled.
Bonus thought 2: also remember, Reformed Charismatics, by their distinguishing doctrines, necessarily own these folks as well.