Yes, yes: I know I'm on Hiatus. And I know I'm bumping today's "best of" post. Stop.
This appeared this week on the internet, on the Facebook page "Ask Dr. Brown."
You know: he asked. For those who can't read the tiny print or can't click the image to make it bigger, it says:
Since it seems like an honest question, it deserves an honest answer. I was tempted to pull a Cyrano for this one and give you 50 responses by topic because it's such a rich question, but I'll stick to the basics and avoid any appearance of ill-will or flippancy.
Dr. Brown, we here at PyroManiacs are all confessional baptists, and by definition and confession we reject all manner of Lutheranism in fact every day we exist -- including the proto-Lutheranism of Luther. We reject his baby baptizing, his philosophy of the eucharist, his ecclesiology, and frankly his politics. I'd be willing to roll in the fellows over at the Cripplegate as well even though I can't really speak for them. We're all of the same stripe, and we;'re not Lutheran or endorsers of much of what Luther said or wrote apart from the Bondage of the Will.
Specifically to Luther's anti-semitism, I'd point you to our confessional eschatologies to see a refutation of Luther's view of Jews. None of us have ever endorsed anything like anti-semitism, and to imply that we have, with mere silence, endorsed or overlooked his faults is, to say the least, the antithesis of generous. Theologically, I'd compare that to your endorsement of the "Lakeland Revival" (or perhaps it is better call that, as you did, "treading very carefully").
Our confessional rejection of all manner of 16th century racism and political cant is a lightyear ahead of your failure to discern many people and events which, frankly, are well known by their fruits.
What bothers me about this question, frankly, is that somehow the C.V. of refutations of a series of events 500 years old is here compared to the on-going blind eye turned toward the vast majority of on-going Charismatic theology and practice.
Let's think about this: 500 years ago, someone demonstrates that his view of people different than himself sociologically or politically is pretty provincial and, if we can say it plainly, insulting. In every generation after him, because of his influence in general, every biographer of him points out the fault, decries it, and indicates we shouldn't be like him. All the people who follow this guy theologically and denominationally all repudiate his faulty views, and they confessionally reject these views. His 500 years of influence are thereafter gleaned for the best of his ideas and the worst are literally called out and rejected, and reasonably-healthy churches are thereafter grown.
On the other hand, three (maybe four or five, depending on how you calculate it) generations of believers have come and gone since the original Azusa Street Revival in 1906. What has certainly happened in the last 107 years is that, in hindsight, there are a short list of major offenders which popped out of the theological progeny of that event -- and Dr. Brown might even express some concern and regret that someone with such potential didn't reach his (or her) highest and best for the Lord; he might even call some of them dangerous. What you can't find, and can't demonstrate, is anyone inside the movement calling out the problem in a way that the denominations involved can wrap their arms around it and, like the Lutherans have for 500 years, ensure that wisdom, discernment, and the real pastoral care for the souls of human beings is demonstrated so that there are hedges in place to prevent men like Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley and the Bakkers and Pat Robertson and T.D. Jakes from doing what they have done to the church of God in the future.
No one, frankly, is asking Dr. Brown to refute Marcion or the Gnostics: the question stands as to whether or not he and men like himself who everyone will admit are the most-dignified and most biblically-sound of that movement will join together to do what even the Gospel Coalition is able to do for its movement: set the dividing line between broad orthodoxy and broad theological hooliganism. Join with like-minded men to make sure that if their doctrine is Biblical, there are methods of making sure it stays that way.
Dr. Brown obviously belongs to the school of Charismatics who think that their cautious and pious version of the movement represents most practitioners, but it doesn't by a longshot. Let's assume for a second (and this is a mightily-generous assumption) that all the US congregations of the AOG, the Apostolic Church, COG and COGIC, International Foursquare, and International Pentecostal Holiness are all wholly and fully inside what someone might call the "cautious Charismatic" camp. That is: let's say they never have anything happening inside them that looks like barking like a dog, or prayer for healing that looks like a slap fight, or preaching which equates personal prosperity to the objective of the Gospel, and they never have a substantially-false prophecy which harms anyone. According to ARDA, a generous headcount there is 5 million people.
Globally, TBN reaches 100 million people. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are over 500 million sociologically-Christian people (PEW research says 517 million)-- and of that number, 15% self-select as "Pentecostal." (source: ARDA) That's 75 million Charismatic adherents who, frankly, are not as cautious as Dr. Brown are. My suggestion here is that it turns out that the cautious fellows have, for so long, merely sighed heavily when someone is exposed as a fraud that now they are in the tiny minority of people in their own theological camp.
Now, honestly: one might respond to this with a very sincere and sober, "So what? What is it to me that most people (who believe them) take these doctrines too far? In my view of it, the daffy enthusiasts are the least of our problems because let's face it: even at 100 million that means that something like 900 million people reject the work of the Holy Spirit altogether -- and that, frankly, is far more grievous to me than the idea that some people take the sign gifts of God to an ecstatic extreme."
I think that response exposes a huge swath of disingenuousness on the part of the so-called "cautious Charismatics." If indeed it's a huge issue that most people with a Christian confession reject these doctrines and therefore they need correction, why is it any less serious that in the camp where these doctrines are allegedly affirmed that most -- by a long shot, north or 80% of all people who are under the sway of these doctrines -- get them entirely wrong by abuse and, let's face it, fraudulent showmanship intended to prey on the vulnerabilities of the weak?
This tactic to avoid responsibility always makes me see stars whenever anyone hides behind it. It's a theme in some apologetics circles that they can't be held responsible for the abuses of some in their camp because those people have adopted one doctrine too narrowly at the expense of what Jesus called the "weightier matters." It's a theme is some circles of evangelists and missionaries that they can't be held responsible for what their disciples do with their teaching when it turns out that they have produced a generation of verbal assaulters rather than ambassadors for Christ.
What it ought to mean to Dr. Brown and to those like him is that not many should become teachers, because those who teach will be judged with greater strictness, not less. And if your tongue starts many fires by what it endorses or whitewashes, how strict the judgment, do you think? Even if we concede that these doctrines are biblical, how biblical is a laissez-faire attitude toward discernment, correction, discipleship and rebuke?
This relates to the question asked in this way: we're not talking about an obscure problem (a minority of one man) or a remote problem (something happening off in a corner). If the faults of Martin Luther raise this question to anyone not Roman Catholic, how can the sewer pipe of faults pouring out literally everywhere even today not require a response which does for it what Lutherans have done for Luther for 5 centuries?
Last, I would plainly appeal to Dr. Brown in his vocation. This is what appears on the first page of Dr. Brown's web site:
I find it hard to believe that a man who understands what is at stake in the Christian faith between Jews and the Church, and what is at stake when considering agnosticism and atheism, and what is at stake in the moral and spiritual flaws endemic in LGBT political and philosophical advocacy cannot see what is at stake in the difference between John Piper or C.J. Mahaney or himself and the likes of Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, T.D Jakes, and so on. I simply cannot believe that someone who can see how Judaism differs from Christianity -- to the extent that he recognizes Jews must repent and believe, that they cannot follow YHWH unless they follow Yeshu'a -- cannot see that those who do not rightly know and receive the Holy Spirit are in, to say the least, a lot of trouble.
The problems with Martin Luther's racism and politically-partisan polemics are well-known, and have been well-dealt with by those who follow his teaching. Because the same can't be said about the Charismatic movement, and in fact often those who see themselves as apologists for this movement look the other way when the movement is promoting men who are simply frauds and con men, the question of what other should do about Martin Luther is, at best, a distraction from the wolf at the door.
Thanks for asking.