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Henry I. Lederle: The Third Wave: New Independent Charismatic Churches, Part 2

Remarkably, Faith teaching here shows a similarity with Liberation theology by acknowledging the importance of material possessions and rejecting an over-spiritualized salvation that focuses only on the soul and the life hereafter. Rightly understood, both stand in stark contrast to secular, materialistic culture and the narcissism of postmodern society.

The last central teaching of the Faith movement may be discussed under the rubric …

A Right to Healing?

With regard to the healing of the body, the Faith movement stands in direct continuity with Classical Pentecostalism. In fact, the recovery of the doctrine of divine healing in evangelical Christianity preceded the Pentecostal movement by a good fifty years, as has been pointed out above. On the fringes of Christianity, divine healing has probably never been absent. Through the Pietist and Holiness movements, physical healing became part of a crucial stream of Christianity. The first advocates were generally skeptical about medical work. In time, the anti-medical stance of such people as John Alexander Dowie of Zion City, Chicago, Illinois, was replaced by an integral or holistic approach in which medical, psychological, and spiritual aspects were all incorporated, as we see, for example, in the ministry of Francis MacNutt.

The Faith movement represents only one group of a broad spectrum that acknowledges the reality of divine healing today. There is a growing emphasis in all Three Waves of the whole Pentecostal-Charismatic movement that God desires wholeness and health for His children. Sickness and disease are of the devil, and Jesus came to liberate those under demonic influence and to destroy Satan’s evil purposes. The term “Healing in the Atonement,” which correctly links the biblical passages Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:17, and 1 Peter 2:24, was originally conceived in anti-medical circles and still carries that baggage. Today its focus is to emphasize that the death of Christ on the cross has consequences not only for our eternal salvation but also for our bodily healing. The reference is to the messianic prophecy in Isaiah that “by His wounds we are healed.”

How this is worked out in practical details brings us to divergencies within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The most radical form of the Word of Faith teaching claims absolute victory in this present life. Christians are entitled through Christ’s atoning death to the blessings of Abraham, which include salvation, health, and material prosperity. Physical healing is considered a right of every believer that may be expected and claimed boldly after the devil has been rebuked. Sometimes it is even stated that praying is not necessary. The believer just needs to make a positive confession of faith. Most problematic are the situations in which people are taught that all lingering symptoms of illness are to be denied and not to be treated medically. Unfortunately, there have been examples where this has led to deaths that easily could have been avoided by timely medical treatment. (Denying symptoms is a more extreme approach than that of temporarily disregarding symptoms when one is convinced that this is what God is requiring.) One is often dealing with the hardness of human hearts that have difficulty focusing on the seen rather than the unseen dimension.

Inevitably, a one-sided focus on faith may lead to the loss of acknowledging God’s sovereign freedom. It seems as if God has no choice but to respond to human proclamations and requests. Support for this view is offered from Isaiah 45:11, which in the King James Version states: “Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.” Modern translations capture the implied irony by rendering it: “Would you command me?” Once more it needs to be said that reality and experience soon trip up those who follow on this path. God, as a personal loving and responsive being, is our hope, not a particular key phrase from Scripture.

Examples of foolhardy and presumptuous faith in fact amount to over-realized eschatology. Claiming total healing as an absolute right in the here and now for every believer denies the element of mystery that remains in our fallen condition. There is a creative tension between the already and the not yet, as was explained above. The continued occurrence of death is a conclusive indication that some aspects of fallenness still remain and will be resolved only in the life hereafter.

Although this polarity or creative tension may bring some balance, it should nevertheless not come to function as a way to evade the biblical call to prevailing expectation and robust faith. The concept of the already / not yet tension itself is helpful, but the major episodes of salvation history illustrate that God works not only from the already to the not yet, but regularly does miracles—something totally new, that allows the power of the future to invade the present. Creation is a radical creation out of nothing. The exodus is encircled by the wondrous inflicting of plagues and miraculous deliverances. The incarnation, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are all unexpected, apocalyptic events through which God reveals Himself and His majesty. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the Second Coming, and even individual rebirth are the not yet becoming the already through God’s inbreaking grace and sovereign rule. Paul states that we live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Life in the Spirit walks the fine line of ongoing openness to the miraculous on a daily basis.

These insights of radical biblical truth the Word of Faith movement presents to Christianity at large.

Conclusion

In this chapter the four major groupings of the Independent Charismatic churches have been discussed. The first two groupings Restorationism and Dominion-minded Charismatics have premillennial and postmillennial perspectives respectively. For differing reasons their impact has decreased. The third grouping, Empowered Evangelicals, has moved away from traditional Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctives but retains a strong ministry of the full range of biblical charisms and openness to the supernatural realm. They have moved into the position of a new denomination as a global Vineyard Fellowship.

The roots and fruits of the Word of Faith movement were probed in the final section. Despite some initial excesses which discredited the whole movement, it continues to grow internationally and challenges traditional Christianity with an innovative perspective on the role of faith and the spoken word. The pivotal position of these churches in the twenty-first century will be explored further in the next chapter.

 

PR

 

This is part of chapter six from Henry I. Lederle, Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal & Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Tulsa: Word & Spirit Press, 2010). Used with permission.

Theology with Spirit

Theology with Spirit
The Future of the Pentecostal & Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century
Henry I. Lederle

Henry I. Lederle, Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal & Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century. Tulsa: Word & Spirit Press, 2010. x + 246 pp.; bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-0-9819526-3-5.
Distributed by Ingram (ingrambook.com). Available at BarnesAndNoble.com and Amazon.com, also in the Kindle Store.
Query WordSP@gmail.com regarding discounts for quantity purchases.

 

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Henry I. Lederle, D.Th. (University of South Africa) and M.A. (University of Orange Free State), is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He is the author of Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of Spirit-Baptism in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Hendrickson, 1988), Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Word & Spirit Press, 2010), and several collections of essays, articles and reviews.

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