Strange Fire and the Charismatic Movement, Part 4 of 6

Characteristic #2: The Constant Push for a Desperate Expectancy for “God to Move”

What is wrong with a desperate expectancy for “God to move”? Well, I can think of several things wrong with being desperate as a Christian, but more foundational than that, the issue is, What are we desperate (or longing) for? As we saw in the previous characteristic, the desperation is for God to move so that we will “experience his presence” or successfully “seek his face.” In Movement X, the idea of preaching propositional truths need not be rejected outright, so long as the main focus is to really experience the God we are preaching about. (This really goes to the heart of my concern with the movement. Simply affirming sound theology is irrelevant—what matters is having that theology impact your Christian life.)

The Brownsville Revival (and most of Movement X that I have encountered) did not emphatically endorse the “prosperity” preachers. While there are elements of their views here and there, the main focus is on a holy desperation to experience God: desperation to have an experience of God that will leave you saying, “More Lord.” People are urged to pray for hours and hours and hours, to fast, to cry out over and over again in order to have this experience. This desire is fulfilled, not when someone understands the truth about Christ and turns from sin, not when someone takes every thought captive to obey Christ, but when one has a “powerful experience of God”—and remember from the previous post what constitutes this experience. One of Michael Brown’s messages at the Brownsville Revival characterizes this well.

Michael Brown’s message (aptly entitled “Holy Desperation”) is viewable on YouTube in eight segments. At the end of the final segment (Part 8), one can see the result of his message. Prior to watching this, I naïvely wanted to hold out hope that some “Charismatics/Pentecostals” really did reject the excesses. After listening to Michael Brown’s radio program in which he talked with Phil Johnson (from Grace to You) and then with Sam Storms and Adrian Warnock, I held out hope that maybe, just maybe, this was someone who really did reject the excesses and yet remained a “Charismatic.” (However, I was still rather cautious: If he rejects the excesses, what is left of Movement X?) By using the example of Michael Brown I want to make clear that my concern is what he teaches and views as Christianity. How does he present Christianity? This is not about whether or not he is a Christian. In fact, I wanted to listen to Michael Brown’s preaching at the Brownsville Revival because during his talk with Phil Johnson he seemed to decry the “excesses” in the Charismatic movement. This was curious to me, because I wanted to see if he really did view Christianity like Phil Johnson, for example. Well, I listened to Brown preach at the Brownsville Revival and I saw what occurred there: it was simply more of the same. It was typical of Movement X. While Michael Brown may agree that Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar are teaching errors, he still heartily embraces the fundamentals of Movement X. The theme of desperation is constantly present not only in Brown’s message but in Movement X as a whole.

Would someone like Tope Koleoso reject the Brownsville Revival? Perhaps. But the issue is not mainly what kinds of physical experiences are acceptable, but rather the fact that Movement X promotes the desperate seeking of any emotional, physical experience. Tope Koleoso, for example, speaking about a specific Sunday service planned at his church, talks about the event as a special time to not “just” preach the Gospel but to “seek the face of God.” The hope for these events, Koleoso says, is that “signs and wonders [would] be amongst us powerfully.”

Koleoso says the Bible dictates a Christianity that includes lame people walking, blind people receiving their sight, and other miraculous signs. He pushes his people to expect to see these things today because this is what the church is supposed to be. Koleoso, echoing the leaders of the Azusa Street Revival, talks about the concept of the “full gospel.” He doesn’t want a partial gospel (one that is not demonstrated by signs and wonders), but a “full gospel”—one that is, in his words, “not just propositional truths, but the power of God.” (Once again, I disagree with Koleoso because we have drastically different meanings for the “power of God” in regards to the gospel being demonstrated. Koleoso says that God wants to shine the light by having the gospel preached and signs and wonders being done. He wants the “Gospel proclaimed and demonstrated” with signs and wonders. This, he contends, will bring about the conversion of sinners. This actually betrays a low view of the gospel. God does not use signs and wonders to bring people to faith in the gospel. The gospel itself is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. God used signs and wonders to validate the Gospel in the early days of the Church, not to save people.)

Koleoso calls his people to have a desperate expectancy for these signs and wonders, this experience of “seeking God’s face.” If you watch Koleoso talk about this service, you will note that he mentions “reformed theology.” He gives lip service to preaching the gospel but constantly comes back to promoting this desperate expectancy to see “God move.” In fact, he actually says, “To extent that you come with expectancy and faith is the extent to which you will see God move.” This is extremely common in Movement X: Instilling in people a psychological expectancy to encounter physical experiences. Is it any wonder, then, that physical, sensual experiences occur, just as they do in pagan religious services with the same sort of suggestibility? As we have already seen, nothing is distinctly Christian about the “manifestations” in Movement X. In typical Movement X fashion, Koleoso defends his position from his experience. He says, “You can argue with my theology, you cannot argue with my miracle.” (He says other things, as well, such as, “I believe in healing, because I believe in a God who is able to do these things.” Whether God is able to grant someone an apostolic gift is not even part of the discussion.)

In summary, the second characteristic of Movement X is a desperate expectancy to see “God move” (as defined in the previous post). This push for expectancy must not be overlooked—it is this sort of suggestibility that actually leads to many of the so-called “manifestations.” As I mentioned, this sort of “riling up” of people’s emotions and expectations is present in many pagan religions and it inevitably leads to extreme experiences which have nothing to do with Christianity but are all too often claimed as being the work of the Holy Spirit.

In the next post we will examine the final characteristic of Movement X. We will see that while there is indeed strange things happening (albeit not of the Holy Spirit, perhaps other spirits), there is a conspicuous absence of the biblical apostolic sign gifts in Movement X.


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