In many Christian circles today, Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement are regarded as merely another Christian denomination. Yet, the fact is, the core doctrines of Pentecostalism are fundamentally incompatible with the principle of Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone.
Now, I realize that many Pentecostals would most likely dispute that, but, at the very least, they must acknowledge that there is a glaring contradiction between modern Pentecostal theology and historic Protestant convictions regarding the singular authority of Scripture as the one, true and infallibly God-breathed message from God to his people in the post-apostolic church. Pentecostals do not really believe that the Bible as we have it contains everything needed for spiritual maturity, growth in grace, and the pursuit of God’s glory, and in fact, that is the whole point of Pentecostalism.
A Full Gospel?
If one listens carefully to Pentecostal teachers, one will hear the expression “full gospel” to describe the Pentecostal system, thus signifying their belief that the complete gospel is not found in the pages of Scripture but includes Pentecostal gifts and miraculous signs and wonders. Although, sometimes “full” is dropped, but the definition is the same. For example, David Wilkerson, one of the most influential Pentecostals of the last half-century, made the assertion:
A fully preached gospel must include signs and wonders.
Another way of putting that would be: you’re not really preaching the gospel if all you do is open the Bible and proclaim its message; you must also display miraculous gifts, according to Pentecostal theology.
The Historic Faith
Yet, every classic confession of faith from the Reformation takes the same position against this Pentecostal/Charismatic view, and the Bible agrees, that extrabiblical “prophecies” have no authority whatsoever. The Westminster Confession of Faith, written in 1647, said regarding the sufficiency of Scripture:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for God’s own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or of traditions of men.
The Belgic Confession, written a century before in 1561, says:
Since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.
The Scottish Confession, written a year before that in 1560, put it a bit plainer and in fewer words, borrowing directly from 2 Timothy 3:17, saying:
We believe and confess the Scriptures of God sufficient to instruct and make the man of God perfect.
Even the Church of England rightly affirmed in 1562 in their 39 articles of religion:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.
This is just a sampling of the classic confessions of the faith, but all of them either explicitly or implicitly rule out the private prophecies and supplemental messages from God that are so common in all forms of Pentecostal and charismatic belief. The Westminster Confession uses the phrase “new revelations of the Spirit,” which is a staple of Pentecostal theology.
The Biblical Faith
The apostle Paul says that only Scripture is “breathed out by God,” θεόπνευστος, theopneustos, and is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphases added). Pentecostalism holds that “new revelations” and miraculous sign gifts are required for spiritual growth, but the Bible says that Scripture Alone is sufficient for living the Christian life. Someone’s personal impression based on a dream, vision, or voice in the head has no place in the church’s teaching ministry. Such things have no legitimate authority over the conscience of any believer; we are commanded to order our lives by “a more sure word of prophecy,” namely Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Signs and Fresh Revelations?
The charismatic movement began on the false notion that “speaking in tongues” was the mark of what they called a “Holy Spirit baptism.” Although, by “speaking in tongues” they essentially meant “spewing pagan gibberish.” That is what the modern conception of the so-called gift of tongues is, nothing more than a return to ancient paganism. For more information on that subject, please see my past article, What is the gift of speaking in tongues?
Today, however, most of the hype among charismatics is about so-called “fresh messages from God.” I am yet to hear, however, even one legitimate prophecy from a charismatic (or any) extrabiblical source. All of them are either demonstrably false prophecies or superficial, spiritual cliches with an empty form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5). Then, of course, there are other so-called “messages” that are so vague or confusing that they are completely worthless, such as claiming that God told you to go comb someone’s hair (and that was not even a classic charismatic who said that but a certain dubious teacher part of my own SBC). Dreams, visions, and inner voices are the vehicles through which most charismatic prophecies are received today. Some charismatics even believe that God gives them messages in the most mundane features of every day life. A popular charismatic “prophetess” once told how she was once speaking to someone and saw a bird fly by the window, and she was convinced that it was some kind of horrible omen. That is not Christianity but is superstitious sorcery.
All charismatics use a fairly standard jargon, so standard that Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith radio program has a regular feature called “prophecy bingo.” They provide randomized cards that can be printed out from their website with some of the jargon that charismatics use. For example, charismatics love the word “breakthrough.” So-called “prophecies” for next year, whatever year is coming up, will always include something about “a season of divine breakthrough.” If one searches just the word “breakthrough” on the Charisma News website it will return more than 3,100 results, including an article, “How to Receive a Point of Breakthrough by E-Mail,” whatever that means. Another article from Charisma says, “we are moving into a time of accelerated breakthrough.” They never explain distinctly what the prophecy means, probably because you can adapt an ambiguous prophecy or word of knowledge to anything if you make up your interpretation after the fact; nothing is more pliable than charismatic prophecy which is akin to fortune cookies and newspaper horoscopes.
Recent Charismatic Prophecies
Most of you by now are probably familiar with the article that Charisma published back in 2017 by their favorite gal Jennifer LeClaire, titled, “When the Sneaky Squid Spirit Starts Stalking You.” LeClaire begins the article saying:
When my friend told me she saw a vision of herself with a big squid lodged atop her head, I knew enough about the unseen world to understand a spiritual attack was underway. What I didn’t know was that a sneaky squid spirit would soon start stalking me. Right about now, you may be scratching your head and asking with all sincerity what in the world is a squid spirit?
She did get that part right; I was in fact scratching my head and asking that. Essentially, she describes it as a spirit of mind control but its effects go way beyond what you would think, and she goes on to build an entire doctrine about sneaky squid spirits. A year later, in 2018, the side-wall of the building that LeClaire rents for “ministry” literally collapsed, it was an older building in need of renovations. Of course, I thought she would blame the squid spirit. Instead, though, she blamed a “python spirit” for that incident. Shortly after that, Charisma published another article by LeClaire in October 2018 titled “Are Water Spirits For Real?” and subtitled, “The Truth About Marine Demons.” Apparently, LeClaire has a whole zoo of animal spirits that torment her. In all seriousness though, one may be surprised to find out that there is actually a sizable list of Pentecostal and Charismatic books about deadly sea demons.
Charismatic superstition regularly impinges on the principle of Sola Scriptura, and Charisma Magazine, the largest voice in the movement, routinely publishes purported “prophetic revelations” of those like LeClaire. Recently, one of Charisma’s writers posted his annual “prophecy” for the year 2020, saying:
I saw angels filling up pens with Holy Ghost ink. Words written with resurrection power will heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils. Anointed funeral readings may interrupt the service. I sensed the Lord saying, ‘My roof-tearing angels have been released and they have your address for primetime delivery.’ I see angels with slingshots hurling books into the new year, hitting the foreheads of giants.
Please do not ask me what that means, because I have no idea. Yet, Charisma Magazine is taking it seriously. Although, “seriously” is a very relative term in Pentecostalism.
According to charismatics, such “revelations,” which Charisma Magazine routinely publishes, are fresher and thus, more relevant than Scripture. Basically, as long as it does not deny a major doctrine like the deity of Christ, it is seen as benign by most Christians. I would argue, though, that such extrabiblical revelations build houses atop of sand and give false hope. Even the gospel of a man like David Wilkerson is no gospel at all because the evidence of salvation in such a case is “signs and wonders.” Scripture, however, says that the evidence of salvation is a changed life (Ephesians 2:8-10), feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and inviting in strangers (Matt. 25:31-46), being a good husband or wife (Eph. 5:21-33), a good parent, son, or daughter (Eph. 6:1-4), and a good employee or employer (Eph. 6:5-9).
In all the trials that we face we must build on the rock of Scripture Alone, atop which we have a sure hope. The charismatic and Pentecostal movements today are exerting more influence on evangelicals than any other doctrine or cult. That is what Pentecostalism is, it is a cult akin to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons because it preaches a false gospel. The only difference is their particular errors which are more subtle attacks on the gospel and the Reformation doctrine of the complete sufficiency of Scripture.
For more information, please see the following books:
- Brad Christerson and Richard Flory. The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders are Changing the Religious Landscape. Oxford University Press, 2017.
- John F. MacArthur. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. Thomas Nelson, 2013.
Also, for your viewing pleasure, the opening lecture from the Strange Fire Conference: