Cognitively Charismatic

A few months ago, I attended the Brooklyn Tabernacle’s conference and prayer meeting. While I was there, I was confronted by lack of receptivity to God and what He would want to do in and through me. I was open to ministry strategy and the study of theology, but what about God answering big prayers or awakening spiritual gifts that I don’t really understand?

During the season of Epiphany at Apostles Church, we are going through the 7 signs of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. This has led to some amazing conversations about spiritual gifts, especially those typically associated with the charismatic wing of the church.

As someone who associates more with Reformed Theology, loves John Piper, and named his 2nd son after the dead theologian John Calvin, I’ve always settled with the typically charismatic gifts as still existing but certainly not completely comfortable with them. These are things like healing, prophecy, tongues, and discerning spirits.

Charismatic With a Seatbelt or Cognitively Charismatic?

Mark Driscoll has used the term charismatic with a seatbelt to describe a willingness toward the gifts, but trying to avoid some notoriously crazy associations with the charismatic gifts.

That always sounded good, but the last few months I’ve realized that I have been merely cognitively charismatic. Open to the charismatic gifts in knowledge only, believing them to exist, but not really open to practicing any of them.

Demystifying the gifts

This sermon series at church has been incredibly helpful because the scriptures speak of Jesus healing people. He heals people physically, spiritually, and performs all kinds of amazing miracles. Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater works than these before speaking about the Holy Spirit, God who dwells in and empowers Christians with spiritual gifts.

Christians are comfortable with the gifts for preachers and teachers, but the charismatic gifts are mentioned right in line with those. In the past as I have thought about gifts of healing or prophecy, I’ve imagined them as magical powers and mystical gifts.

But seeing them as I would see the gifts of teaching and preaching has been incredibly helpful.

Earnestly Desiring the Gifts

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul challenges the church to earnestly desire these gifts. This has led me to approach God in prayer with an openness, not simply because I want to see people healed or truth be proclaimed through prophecy (though I do!), but really because I want people to see Jesus as glorious. That same chapter says these gifts are given for the common good. Are we forfeiting the common good of others by being merely cognitively charismatic?

I think we are.

Why not now?

1 Corinthians 13 serves as a reminder that greater than these gifts is a focus on love and in reality these gifts lack any power without love and compassion. My challenge is why wouldn’t we want to see these spiritual gifts happen in our church? Why wouldn’t we want to see people healed?

My hope and prayer for this sermon series on Signs is that it begins to cultivate openness to spiritual gifts within our church, that a community could really embody Jesus to one another and to our city.

If you really believe God can do really powerful things, why not be open to God using you. And why wait? Why not now?

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3 Replies to “Cognitively Charismatic”

  1. Do you perhaps think that one of the problems that faces today’s Reformed movement in it’s treatment of this particular doctrine is a fear of association on one hand, and a fear of what new problems we may have to deal with on the other?

    Almost every movement, denomination or style of church has it’s bad examples and, in an attempt to disassociate ourselves from ‘the crazies’ who take any number of strange mystical approaches to the practice of the Spiritual gifts, we take a safe road that takes a mere academic view of, at most, studying and appreciating any doctrine that might cause one to ‘act out’ in a way that might bear association with a movement or a style that has a bad reputation. It’s so easy to distance ourselves from practice or language that might put us in an unfavourable association and in doing so we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I think that, if we allowed ourselves to be taught by scripture in this area, we’d see more of the life and growth that we see in the story of the early church. Sure, we’d potentially see a lot of new problems with it too, which is all too evident in areas of the charismatic movement and, in fact, the early church was full of them. Corinthians was written to help bring some order and good structure to the exercise of these gifts in a church that evidently had “gone too far” with it’s practice. Colossians was written to a church that was starting to supplement worship of Jesus with a syncretistic mesh of mystical philosophies into their practice. But that’s where good leadership needs to come in. Like Timothy who was encouraged to “preach the word; … reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” and like Paul was doing with the Corinthian church in his letters and in person, church leaders need to guide teach and guide the local church in it’s biblical practice of the Spiritual gifts for the common good and for Jesus to be glorified in and through the church.

    I’d like to think that in our strive for truth we can allow scripture to dictate our doctrine, language and practice regardless of how our perceived reputations may suffer or what new problems we may open the door to.

    1. I think the issue is primarily one of a pendulum swing. The charismatic movement went far one way, so the typically conservative reformed movement reacted swinging the pendulum the other way.

      In Paul’s letters you see a call back to the gospel as the primary motivation of all things. I agree that if we let the scriptures guide and govern this, we would see greater evidences of spiritual gifts.

      This gets more complex with the consideration of the consumeristic nature of many churches. In the consumer church, the gifts lie strictly with the pastor and full-time paid staff which typically limits the spiritual gifts. The response is to remember the gospel by repenting of sin in the neglect of the trinitarian God, to embrace the Holy Spirit given to regenerate and empower, and begin to practice the spiritual gifts as a whole church body.

      I just think of what gifts may lie dormant and what good the church and our cities may be missing out on as a result of the neglect of spiritual gifts used for magnifying Jesus.

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