This post is the third in a series on Reformed Charismatics: Is It Possible? Click here to go to the introduction.
Jensen’s basic thesis is that you can put any two words together, that’s easy, but the two words reformed charismatic can’t be combined without confusion – the two systems are incompatible – much like Catholic Evangelical.
The only way to combine them, says Jensen, is to redefine them. But is that correct? Well, what is meant by Charismatic? Let’s take Phillip’s own definition – it takes him more than 3 minutes to explain it (start at 10:50), during which time he covers 3 separate ‘waves’, so diverse as to cause the interviewer, Kel Richards, to search for ‘something common to put under that label of Charismatic’:
“It’s to do with gifts of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders… by and large the people who see that as the work that the Holy Spirit does”
Phillip agrees, its the emphasis on the gifts. And that’s their definition.
Already we learn two things. Firstly, we see that the definition of charismatic is broad and difficult to pin down. So, far from having two clearly defined and demarcated nouns, we actually have two, slightly blurry adjectives. Very little, if any, redefining is needed when definitions are so slippery in the first place.
But the second lesson is more important: even as given, the definition is not incompatible with reformed theology.
Emphasis on gifts
Well, it is if such an emphasis is exclusive, taking the Holy Spirit’s role to be exclusively signs and wonders, then of course it is impossible to be both reformed and charismatic. The Bible’s clear and indisputable teaching is that the Holy Spirit’s crucial work is inspiration, illumination, regeneration, and sanctification (to list a few).
Yet is the emphasis exclusive? Not at all! No charismatic denies any one of the above works. I think this is where Phillip goes wrong – he incorrectly assumes that Charismatics limit their understanding of the Spirit’s work to His extraordinary work. It may be that some charismatics err in practice and limit their focus to these, but that is a fault of fact rather than a fault of principle – one can be Charismatic without committing any such error.
Everything reformed theology teaches to be the work of the Spirit, a Charismatic can affirm without becoming one whit less Charismatic, for the emphasis is not exclusive of these teachings.
Moreover, the emphasis need not even steal the limelight from any important doctrine or practice. The emphasis does not challenge a single one of the five solas, nor any of the TULIP.
Christ is supreme, the cross is central, you must be born again by the Spirit, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. Humans are totally depraved and elected unconditionally, the atonement is limited, grace is irresistible, the saints perservere. And God gives gifts to His church.
No emphasis on gifts need detract from any of these doctrines. Charismatics restore the gifts from the position of neglect they were given by our functionally-atheist tradtions and rationalisations of the Bible’s harder teachings. They are returned to where they should be, and no higher. That is the emphasis.
Reformed Charismatics: Is it possible?