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18.10.13

#StrangeFire and a Third Way

Following on from yesterdays reflections on StrangeFire and Augustine I have been pondering what the conference means for the wider charismatic culture. Especially in the light of the Panel session and the session on Is There a Baby in the Bathwater.
Calling Catholics our brothers in Christ, that is an offence to the Gospel
- Justin Peters
At least we know where we stand.

I first came into contact with the Charismatic movement in my late teens. I was a part of City Church in Canterbury, a church in the New Frontiers Network. We were encouraged to read Wayne Grudem and Piper, discouraged from reading Kenneth Copeland. Calvinism was sound, Arminianism was tolerated. American Charismatic Christianity was represented by a little bit of Wimber and Sovereign Grace Ministries, but there was often a note of caution. The wider Charismatic scene in the UK seemed similar, with differences of opinion mostly coming down to old fashioned Arminian / Calvinist lines.


Then came the Father's Blessing (Or Toronto). What happened in terms of manifestations is not important. What happened in terms of the Charismatic movement is interesting. Through the Father's Blessing we came into contact with a wider range of groups who wear the label 'Charismatic'.

Skipping forward in my mid twenties I became a catholic. Not a Roman Catholic, but in a broader Apostolical sense. An understanding of the Christian faith that is rooted in historic Catholic and Orthodox doctrine. Sacramental, recognising the value of apostolic tradition, and especially the early fathers. Not Reformed. Not explicitly Charismatic - but a theological tradition with checks and balances that is still continuationist - acknowledging that the Spirit works in gift, word and assuredly in the sacraments.

Skipping forward another ten years and I found myself having to re-engage with the Charismatic in a local church. I was surprised by the increased influence of a certain styles of American Charismatic Christianity. Perhaps this tracks back to the openness following the Father's Blessing, perhaps it is a natural result of the availability of new and satellite media. Strange manifestations yes, but I had experienced those myself. More concerning were theological trends that were treading on the toes of ancient heresies. Not liberal angst but teachings that quite possibly suggested the birth of a new religion.

Yet within the wider charismatic movement  I found folk who shared a passion for Christian orthodoxy, whilst remaining Charismatic. Many were Reformed. A few Wesleyan. Others within the Catholic tradition. Differences of opinion abounded over orders, gender, sacraments and salvation - yet a shared love of Christ, the scriptures and an openness to the work of the spirit whilst maintaining a heartfelt desire to remain authentic to the creedal apostolic faith.

The Strangefire conference has offered Reformed Charismatics a stark choice. But it doesn't have to be between the theological extremities of prosperity gospel and the safety of cessationist Calvinism.

Yes there is a third way.

It doesn't have to mean becoming Thomists or even Lutheran (although I suspect some are on the way), but we might gather around Augustine rather than Calvin. A shared love of Christ, the scriptures and an openness to the work of the spirit whilst maintaining a heartfelt desire to remain authentic to the creedal apostolic faith.

I'm not sure it is a 'fourth wave'.

Not yet.