Something eventually happens to everyone who calls themselves a Charismatic Calvinist;” they eventually become all of one thing and none of the other. Like with Mark Driscoll, the charismatic side of the Charismatic Calvinist grows and grows more wildly out of control as claims of dubious supernatural manifestations grow so pervasive that it strangles out any vestiges of good theology that remain. One simply cannot deny the sufficiency of Scripture (which is the foundational anthesis of the Charismatic Movement) for very long without having it grow like a pervasive and invasive fungus upon the rest of their theology, stifling and snuffing out anything wholesome or true.
This is especially seen in Matt Chandler of the Village Church, who Reformed believers have witnessed take a tragic trajectory toward mysticism, myth, water-down theology and old wives’ tales, and – most recently – egalitarianism and the Social Gospel. Long ago is the day that Chandler threw shade at Steven Furtick during the Code Orange Revival for practicing narcigesis and today Chandler speaks alongside the most nefarious Bible-twisters on the planet without any kind of protest. Endorsing Ann Voskamp – who writes theoerotic literature about making love to God – is not cool. It’s awful. Praying Jesus Culture “over” your church (the music group of what might be the most dangerous church in the country, Bethel Church in Redding, California) is nauseatingly off-putting for a serious-minded pastor. Repeatedly endorsing wild-eyed prophetess (who has the spiritual gift of speaking ecstatic utterance while still speaking English), Beth Moore, is – again – a monumental lack of discernment. Teaching the charismatic style of “binding and loosing” spirits is a bizarre departure from orthodoxy. Endorsing Lent isn’t exactly a historic practice for Protestants, let alone Reformed Protestants, let alone Particular Baptists (it has been gaining momentum the further we depart from the Reformation, however). Village Church pastors engaging in non-evangelical Interfaith Dialogues (dialogues where evangelism is not allowed) with Muslims isn’t good. Writing the foreword to Third Wave charismatic, Sam Storm’s book, “Practicing the Power,” is an atrocious departure from Reformed Theology. Chandler’s embrace of Islamic radical extremist groups in the name of a well-intentioned evangelical kumbaya was insanely wrong.
Aside from adopting the social justice, functional post-millennial culture-conquering common to New Calvinism (for an explanation of New Calvinism, click here), most of these errors are entirely due to one thing – Chandler’s insistence that the Apostolic Sign Gifts (which were only seen in Scripture as practiced by Apostles or by those upon whom the Apostles laid their hands) is for Christians today. One thing cannot be denied; the more charismatic Chandler has become, the worse the rest of his theology has become.
In a video which Charisma Mag celebratorily says is Chandler “showing off his new theology,” he begins by quoting Andrews Wilson, who claims to be a Reformed Charismatic, insisting that there is no discernible difference between the Apostolic church and the church today, setting up the supposition that if we see certain Apostolic Sign Gifts in the Bible, we should see them today (for an explanation on why being both a Calvinist and a Charismatic are contradictory and inconsistent, click here).
Chandler makes clear in his sermon that there is not a second baptism of the Spirit, meaning that he would identify more with the Third Wave than the Second Wave of the Charismatic Movement. And then, like shooting a scattergun of scriptures out over the audience, Chandler started to randomly fire verses out about the supernaturality of the Apostolic Church and proceeded to torch the Cessationism Straw Man, scoffing at those who think the New Testament Church was not supernatural. Of course, Cessationists do clearly believe the New Testament church was supernatural, and Cessationists believe the church today is still supernatural. Cessationism, rather, holds that the supernaturality of the Apostolic Church manifested itself in the sign gifts of true Apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12) and today, a church without Apostles doesn’t see those Apostolic gifts, and the supernaturality of the church is exemplified primarily in the awesome miraculous works of regeneration, repentance, and conversion. Likewise, the Cessationist continues to believe that God Himself if supernatural and continues to do supernatural things, but – unlike the charismatics and their Montanist forbears – we believe the canon is closed and that God’s Word is sufficient.
“If this is New Testament Christianity, then why are we not seeing what seems normal there? Does that question haunt anybody else? It haunts me. It haunts your pastor. So then what happens when you’re confronted by this, you have to do something with it. One of the things becomes the easiest thing to do is that we need to do is to just say something like ‘This is just a sign given to the Apostles to validate the Word of God, and once the Word of God was written, we no longer need these things. That’s actually a theological framework called Cessationism that’s there because – not textually, but experientially (we don’t see it, we got to do something with it, because we can’t be the problem so something must be wrong because we’ve memorized Jeremiah and two of the four Gospels). It’s a good idea, but it doesn’t work – and remember my first argument – the church of Jesus has always been a supernatural community.”
Chandler essentially argues against 2 Corinthians 2:12, that signs, miracles, and wonders were given by the Holy Spirit to validate the Apostles and the Apostle’s Gospel. He says that cessationism is born out of “experience” rather than from Scripture because we don’t see miracles, signs, and wonders today. Chandler even then goes on to mock those who expect to see supernatural things by memorizing the Word of God, ostensibly making the common charismatic mistake in believing that somehow God’s Spirit does supernatural things apart from God’s Word (even though 1 Peter 1:23 says otherwise).
To explain that we don’t see signs, miracles, and wonders because we don’t try hard enough and not because they served a specific, already-fulfilled purpose in historic, redemptive history, Chandler gives what amounts to one of the most historically reckless and biased presentations of miraculous accounts in the early church that I’ve ever heard. As a student of history with a graduate degree in history and as someone who fancies himself a historian, I’m personally offended at Chandler’s half-hearted effort to defend his Neo-Montanist views by butchering history so terribly.
Using what appears to be snippets of a few of the Church Fathers on miraculous gifting that were obtained probably from a brief Google search of charismatic websites, Chandler claims that the first 500 years of church history were replete with accounts of the miraculous. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
First, for an accurate history of the early church fathers and their reports of the miraculous, I would encourage you to read Conyers Middleton’s book, A Free Inquiry Into the Miraculous Powers, Which Are Supposed to Have Subsisted in the Christian Church, From the Earliest Ages Through Several Successive Centuries. It was written long enough ago, before the three waves of the Charismatic movement, to be an impartial guide as to how the Patristic Fathers viewed the Apostolic Sign Gifts. In other words, Middleton is an impartial resource.
“Among the earliest writings like St. Barnabas, St. Clements, St. Ignatius, Polycarp or Hermas, it would be natural to expect that in their valued remains a history of the miraculous gifts, and it would be carried on in the same manner by their immediate successors to the next generation…But instead of this, it is remarkable that there is not the least claim or prevention, in all their several pieces to any of those extraordinary gifts, which are the subject of inquiry, nor to any standing power of working miracles, as residing still among them, for the conversion of the Heathen world.”
What few quotations that Chandler recycled from charismatic websites to purport the Patristic Fathers lived in a time of ordinary miracles are clearly taken out of context in view of the bigger picture. As Middleton explains, “They (the earliest writers) speak of certain spiritual gifts abounding among the Christians of that age only in general, but they can be interpreted to mean anything more than the ordinary gifts and graces of the Gospel, faith, hope and charity, the love of God and man, which they all commend.”
“Herein then we have an interval of about half a century, the earliest and purest of all Christian Antiquity after the days of the Apostles, in which we find not the least reference to any standing power of working miracles, as exerted openly in the Church, for the conviction of unbelievers, but on the contrary, the strongest reason to presume that the extraordinary gifts of the Apostolic age were by this time actually withdrawn.”
Regarding the fathers in particular, my research has determined that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian did all speak (briefly and minimally) of miracles and prophecy (interestingly, not tongues), but in vague terms and not done by them. They spoke only in the realm of hear-say, reporting what they had heard elsewhere. Consider this fact, none of the Church Fathers – NONE – reported performing or even seeing a miracle of any kind performed.
Justin Martyr, who some look to as being a pro-miracle kind of guy, also affirmed the miraculous story about the translation of the Septuagint, the 70 elders being locked away in Jerusalem to translate the OT into Greek, and all came up with their own translation. Justin claimed to have seen the 70 cells in Alexandria with his own eyes. The problem is, it didn’t happen. Yet Justin claimed to have PERSONALLY seen the cells. If a charismatic wants to cite Justin as a source for what he reportedly had seen and heard, Justin claims to have personally seen something that never existed.
Irenaeus, while claiming of having heard of some miracles out there, also claimed Jesus live to be 50 or 55 years of age. Irenaeus was a good polemicist but was certainly imperfect as a historian. When Autolycus – a heathen – challenged Theophilus of Antioch to name a single person raised from the dead in his age, he couldn’t do it. He lived at the same time as Irenaeus who said such things were common, but he didn’t know of a single example. Think about that for a minute; none of the church fathers ever saw a miracle, but only reported of having heard of them. When pressed by skeptics to give a specific instance or name of one who had performed or seen a miracle, they could not provide it. Irenaeus also claimed to have heard of the use of tongues (he condemned ecstatic utterance, and believed tongues had to be actual languages) but says he never personally heard it done.
Tertullian was all about miraculous claims, but Tertullian also claims to have received a vision from God with the exact measurements of the veil that women were obligated to wear (that was a debate back then). He was also told in a vision, supposedly, to mix water with the wine of the Eucharist to make it effectual.
Cyprian claimed miracles happened, but he had a vision whenever he was in an ecclesiastical dispute, siding with his side of dispute.
However, all of the early church figures – all of them, including Jerome and Epiphanius – argued that true prophets never spoke in ecstasy (gibberish), which is one reason they were so quick to anathematize the Montanists. They all condemned the use of ecstatic utterance (nonsense gibberish) as occultic, and that is the only kind of tongues practiced by modern-day charismatics and promoted by Matt Chandler.
Eusebius said that the gifts had diminished in his day (4th Century), as virtually all other of his contemporaries did. In other words, most claimed there USED to be charismatic sign gifts previously, but not in their lifetime. Often, the miracles cited in the earliest of church history are provenly exaggerated. For example, in the tale of Polycarp’s martyrdom, Eusebius omits any tale about the dove flying out of him. Others neglect other details.
Chrysostom denied the charismatic gifts, saying, “In the infancy of the church, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were bestowed even on the unworthy, because those early times stood in need of that help for the more easy propagation of the Gospel, but now, says he, they are not given even to the worthy, because the present strength of the Christian faith is no longer in want of them.” And frankly, it’s hard to get more authoritative than Chrysostom.
He also says, “Because no miracles are wrought now, we are not to take it for a proof, that none were wrought then…there are none who do miracles. Why are there no persons, who raise the dead and cure diseases?” In fact, Chrysostom says that claims of charismatic gifts are “mere phantoms and illusions.”
Then, as superstition arose with the rise of Christianity’s Roman paganization, we enter a period of time of “ecclesiastical miracles,” several generations past those of the church fathers, who never saw a miracle performed. These include outrageous claims, like St. Gregory the Miracle Worker supposedly stopping a river or the many miracles of Simeon Stylites, who likely never existed at all. No doubt, Chandler is taking these insane tales into consideration.
Conyers Middleton says of the “Ecclesiastical Miracles,” that they had the following characteristics:
- They were of such a nature and performed in such a man, as would necessarily inject a suspicion of fraud and delusion.
- That the cures and beneficial effects of them were either false or imaginary or accidental.
- That they tend to confirm the idealist of all errors and superstitions.
- That the integrity of the witnesses is either highly questionable or their credulity at least so gross as to render them unworthy of any credit.
- That they were not only vain and unnecessary but generally speaking, so trifling also, as to excite nothing but contempt.
- And lastly, that the belief and defense of them are the only means in the world that can possibly support or give any form of countenance to the Romish church.
Another resource you might want to read is from John Henry Newman’s “Two Essays on Biblical and Ecclesiastical Miracles.”
What Newman points out is that the accounts of miracles from the 2nd and 3rd Century are extremely vague, never include any identifying information, are all hear-say, and do not include accounts from the individuals themselves. Beginning in the 4th and 5th Century, they get much more vivid, to the point of fanciful, but again, no supporting evidence is ever given other than bold and audacious claims, most of which support some semblance of necromancy or Romanism.
In fact, Newman – who defends Continuationism, oddly enough, says with refreshing honesty…
“I can find not instances of miracles mentioned by the Fathers before the fourth century , as what were performed by Christians in their times, but the (gradual) cure of diseases, and particularly the cures of demoniacs.”
Likewise, the most well-known claims to miracles in this period aren’t that miraculous. These include clouds forming the shape of a cross to Constantine’s Army, rain coming to the army of Marcus Antoninus after prayer by the army, and the sudden death of Arius. These are the types of miracles lauded in the pages of Charisma Mag, hardly enough to convince even the hardcore believers pining to see something miraculous.
Historically, it was Pope Gregory in the 6th Century to be the first one recorded to have argued, “And these signs shall follow those that believe” in Acts 2 to imply all Christians should do these signs, in all ages. The reality is that the first person to hold Chandler’s view was a 6th Century Pope.
We are watching Chandler’s Downgrade right before our eyes, and it is sad to watch. Such is the result of the disease of Charismaticism. It rapes the believer of his senses, it molests the student of his wits, and it tortures the faculties of weak-minded men until they surrender the religion of Christ for vain superstitions.
You can watch the video below.