Calvinist charismatics flourishing by joining head and heart religion

Reformed churches, known for their intellectual and doctrine-based approach to the faith, are also adopting charismatic practices, reports Christianity Today magazine (January/February). The mixing of Calvinism and charismatic practices is particularly evident in the new church planting networks, such as Advance, Newfrontiers, and Acts 29 (to some extent), which are active in the U.S., Britain, and other parts of the world. These churches show the free-flowing worship of charismatic Christianity as well as the expository preaching and liturgy of the Reformed tradition. For instance, Frontline Church, an Acts 29 congregation that has expanded to four locations in the Oklahoma City area, “combines structured liturgy (creeds, the Lord’s Table) with ‘planned spontaneity,’ including small groups of prayer during communion, where congregants pray for each other’s healing and offer prophetic words to one another (e.g., ‘I believe the Lord wants to say to you…’),” writes Brett McCracken.

The Reformed tradition has tended to be “cessationist”—teaching that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesy, and healing ceased after the apostolic period of church history. Reformed apologists, such as John MacArthur, targeted charismatics as espousing false doctrine and emphasizing feelings over sound teaching. But in the early 2000s, Korean-American church planter Dihan Lee started a congregation with a Reformed-charismatic synthesis. Lee does not label his preaching Reformed, though he “preaches God’s sovereignty, covenants, and election, but also the prophetic, the gifts, and spiritual warfare.” Reformed charismatics see their teachings as particularly appealing in the global South, where Pentecostalism has spread rapidly. Oscar Merlo, former executive director of the Alberto Mottesi Evangelistic Association, one of the world’s largest Latino evangelical associations, says that the Reformed emphasis on the cross is an important corrective to the charismatic stress on prosperity and victory. The “Word and Spirit” emphasis of these churches is also finding a hearing in the secular urban centers of the U.S., where the teachings and practices of spiritual unity can break down racial and political polarization, McCracken reports.

(Christianity Today, 463 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188)