Phonity noun: superficial unity for which fundamental differences are ignored.
I wrote several introductions to this article, but each time I found myself politely beating around the bush, which, as you will see, goes exactly opposite my purpose. So I’m just going to skip the howdies and handshakes and spill it:
As long as Reformed—which I assume to be cessationist*—and Charismatic Christians continue to pretend the differences between them are minor and sweep them under the couch, their unity is fake, false, phony, fraudulent, and fraught with failure. If a movie was made about it, it might be called Irreconcilable Differences. Here’s why:
Positively, we (Cessationists) believe that
- God has given his Word in full, therefore, prophesy (in the divine revelation, “thus saith the Lord,” sense) is ended;
- the gifts of tongues and healing were given to authenticate divine revelation, therefore, since revelation is finished for our time, so are tongues and healing.
Negatively, we believe that
- if you “speak in tongues,” you are
- faking it,
- under some kind of hypnotic influence,
- or under demonic influence;
- when you say, “God told me . . .” without following with a Scripture reference, you are
- or making it up;
- all “faith healers” are frauds.
In view of all that—and setting aside who is right and who is wrong—I can understand how Cessationists can lovingly bear with Charismatic brothers, though I cannot see how they can quietly “agree to disagree.” The latter does not seem loving at all. What really boggles my mind is how Charismatics can brush aside what Cessationists believe about those things that identify them as Charismatic—that is, that they are all fake—as though it is no big deal.
But my bewilderment is of no importance to you. How this can be is less important than the question, “Should this be?”
I know the current rapport between Charismatic and Reformed Christians is very fashionable and celebrated, but is it, as it stands, a good thing? Is a unity based on near silence a genuine unity? Regardless of which side you are on, you must agree that these are very serious disagreements. One of us is terribly wrong, and in serious need of correction. If we sincerely aspire to any kind of genuine unity, we need to talk about this.
That is why both Cessationists and Charismatics, rather than becoming pugnatious, should welcome events like Grace Community Church’s Strange Fire conference as an opening of constructive dialogue. Charismatics should listen when the sessions become available online, and by all means, respond intelligently. (Note: “Shut up and stop ‘quenching the Spirit’” is not an intelligent response.)
And if we can’t talk about it, we should stop pretending and call it quits.