The Charismatic movement within the Christian Body traces it roots to a renewal that swept through the Church in the 1960s and 70s. The name of this broadly ecumenical movement derives from the Greek word translated as “gifts”, charisma (χάρισμα), while its theological roots were planted by early Pentecostal tradition. While many people consider Pentecostal and Charismatic believers to be one and the same, the Charismatic theological framework is not as dogmatic with regards to the subsequence of the Baptism in the Spirit and the evidence of tongues. Settled on the reality of Spirit Baptism and the need to practice all of the New Testament spiritual gifts including prophecy, discernment, tongues, healing, and miracles, Charismatics are nonetheless liberal in the belief as to when the baptism occurs and what gifts are evidenced and allow a wide range of belief on these matters. Making the Charismatic view even more unusual in Christian history is that the movement largely has not been known for creating new churches of like minded believers. The Charismatic believer will often be a force for change, or renewal, within the broader Catholic and Protestant bodies.
Since there is no single Charismatic position on spirit baptism, its effects, or its timing, how can we understand what it means to be a Charismatic believer? Perhaps the best framework in which to find the answers is found by viewing Spirit Baptism as a metaphor with multiple dimensions rather than a doctrine. Larry Hart categorizes the Baptism as (1) Jesus’ eschatological redemptive work; (2) Christian initiation; (3) the Christian life; and (4) empowerment for Christian mission and ministry. All of these factors contribute to an overall pneumatology and experience. Searching the Bible to understand the Charismatic worldview takes us far ranging from the book of Acts, as each author emphasized a different dimension of the Spirit’s work and effect. This counters the criticism often leveled at the Pentecostal reliance on the narrative passages in Acts by including the Johanine and Pauline corpus in the mix. “All that Jesus has done as the Messiah (Jewish language), the Christ (Greek language), in his earthly ministry and since his ascension–is subsumed under the Spirit baptism rubric.” (Hart) In other words, the Baptism in the Spirit has a place and is effectual in every aspect of our Christian life from initiation through the progression of sanctification and in the empowerment of our ministry.
This broad range of experience in the Charismatic viewpoint lessens the reliance on a specific timing and a single crisis event. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a defining moment for the Christian, however and whenever it is experienced. Rather than a single moment in time, the Charismatic confirms the continual outworking of the Spirit in the process of sanctification and in the receipt of power for ministry. The expansive collection of views on the timing of the Baptism extends to the views of evidence in tongues. The view of speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of Spirit Baptism is a Pentecostal doctrinal distinctive. Charismatics characteristically have a wide range of views on this gift, ranging from being like-minded with the Pentecostal to the viewing of empowerment for all of the Gifts as evidence of the Baptism. The Charismatic typically looks for all of the gifts mentioned in the Bible to be distributed throughout the body rather than seeking the monolithic practice of a single gift. Within the Body, some should speak in tongues and some should heal and some should express wisdom, etc. Requiring tongues to be the sole evidence of Spiritual indwelling runs contrary to Scripture according to the Charismatic viewpoint.
Charismatic believers are dispersed throughout the Body in a way that mimics Paul’s teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit. All Christians will receive the Spirit Baptism for empowerment in their lives; it is releasing ourselves to the experience that sets the Charismatic apart. As the Church is surrendered to this empowerment, further revival will be the evidence of the Father’s glory, the Son’s loving sacrifice, and the Spirit’s work. The combination of a head and heart Christianity is especially attractive in this postmodern culture as more and more people look for something more than facts that feed their intellect.
Other views on Spirit Baptism can be found here.
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