Tag Archives: charismatics

God in flesh and bone: Medieval devotion to the embodied, incarnate, human Christ


For the complete story of the mill and brewery operator, mother of 14, and “lay mystic” Margery Kempe (1373 – 1438), see my Patron Saints for Postmoderns or the fascinating website “Mapping Margery Kempe.” Why should we care about Margery? Lots of reasons, but here are a couple that particularly struck me, excerpted from the chapter on Margery in Patron Saints:

God in Flesh and Bone

At the start of the chapter I made a connection between Margery and
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. What was it about Gibson’s
movie that has galvanized so many modern (or if you like, postmodern)
Western Protestants? After all, of representations of Christ’s life there
has been no end. Why did this one, in particular, speak so deeply to so
many? I think there are two answers to this question, and that both of
them can help us understand and benefit from the life of this odd English
mystic, Margery Kempe. Continue reading

Signs and wonders: the charismatic power of early Christianity


Again a re-post, from the Christianity Today history blog. For a related posted on this blog, see here:

Signs and Wonders: The Charismatic Power of Early Christianity

by Chris Armstrong | January 7, 2009

When we teach about the early church, we frequently omit the story of spiritual gifts.

orant catacomb priscilla3.JPG

Cessationism is the belief that the miracles of Jesus’ lifetime and the apostolic period happened solely to attest to the authority and inspiration of the apostolic writings, and that miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts ceased after the writing of the apostolic documents was concluded.

As writers such as ex-Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere have argued, this is a position with no biblical foundation. But it also has a problem with the historical record. That record shows clearly that the early church was quite active in the charismatic gifts at least through 200 AD. There was a decline in the 3rd century, and then again it became active.

Sadly, many writers and teachers who are not cessationist continue to give the impression that miracles and extraordinary gifts were phenomena limited to the apostolic period. The way the early church is usually taught, we hear much about martyrdom and persecution; much about Gnostics and Arians and doctrinal disputes; much about how bishops and clergy roles evolved, and how the apostolic tradition was passed down and the canon of the New Testament evolved. Continue reading

Evangelicals and psychiatric services


The following is part of a talk I was invited to give to a group of psychiatric residents (doctors-in-training) here in the Twin Cities a few years ago. The talk was on “the evangelical tradition,” and was intended to give these medical practitioners a sense of the beliefs of evangelicals, possible impediments to serving this constituency, and ideas of how to serve them better.

I have already posted other portions of this talk here under the titles “Basic, basic Christianity” and “Evangelicalism–a basic summary,” part I, part II, and part III. What follows is the final portion of the talk, which outlines issues that may face a professional providing evangelicals with psychiatric services, and ideas on how to serve (some) evangelicals better:

Now I’d like to turn the corner and address more directly some of the challenges that may come up in serving evangelical Christians from within the field of mental health care.

The insights that follow mostly come from my Bethel colleague Steven J. Sandage, Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Studies, Bethel St. Paul. Steve has served as clinician, psychologist, and chaplain in a variety of settings (community mental health, correctional, university) and currently engages in part-time clinical practice. He taught at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Medical College of Virginia as an adjunct faculty prior to coming to Bethel.

As Steve has related it to me, some evangelicals have a tendency to over-spiritualize—they frame problems as spiritual, not being able to think in an integrative way about the interactions of their minds, emotions, spirits, and the material world. They may refuse medication, for example, because they think this would show a lack of faith in spiritual truth or spiritual reality. Continue reading

Roots of Pentecostal scandal: Romanticism gone to seed –part II


Here is the second part of the two-part article on the dysfunctional aspects of the holiness and Pentecostal movements’ emotional and social culture, first published in 2004 on Christianity Today’s history website:

Romanticism Gone to Seed—Part II
Have the holiness and Pentecostal movements really been hyper-vertical and anti-domestic?
By Chris Armstrong

A number of you wrote in to critique my recent newsletter “The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal: Romanticism Gone to Seed” on various grounds—including my supposed lack of salvation, my supposed hatred of Pentecostals, and my lack of solid evidence to back up the claim that the intensively “vertical” piety of Pentecostals and their holiness forebears has sometimes been indulged at the expense of “horizontal,” human relationships.

Since there is no sure way that I know of to prove one’s salvation, I’ll move on briefly to the question of my views on Pentecostalism, before offering some more of that historical evidence many of you were looking for. Continue reading

The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal—Romanticism Gone to Seed


A wave of criticism quickly followed the first publication–in 2004, on Christianity Today’s history website–of the two-parter that begins with the article below. Along with that wave, however, came another, larger wave of responses from those within the Pentecostal and charismatic movements who affirmed my analysis.

Now, six years later, I still stand by the argument I present here, which first dawned on me as I was at Duke in the late 1990s, studying the “emotional culture” of the 19th-century holiness movement. The holiness movement was the precursor of modern Pentecostalism, and its emotional DNA contained the troubling “anti-domestic” gene that I describe in this pair of articles. The first of the two articles, below, sets up the argument. The second, to be posted here soon, offers further evidence.

To be clear, I owe my faith to this movement, and I affirm the tremendous blessings it has brought. For more on that, see this article.

The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal—Romanticism Gone to Seed
The sexual stumblings of prominent ministers point to a hidden flaw in Pentecostal spirituality.
By Chris Armstrong

The sordid 1980s scandals of Pentecostal ministers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart will incline some to presume that Paul Crouch, president of Pentecostal-linked television network TBN, did engage in the alleged homosexual liaison.

But whether the allegations in this case are eventually substantiated or not [update, Feb. 2010: Crouch has weathered the scandal and is still atop TBN], the question arises again: why does the Pentecostal ministry seem particularly susceptible to sexual scandal?

It may turn out, in fact, that statistically, Pentecostal ministers fall in this way no more often than do other ministers. I’m sure we make this connection at least partly because of the long cultural shadows of Bakker and Swaggart.

But I don’t think the connection is accidental. Continue reading

More charismatic phenomena in non-charismatic church movements–“the early years”


Here is a continuation of my previous post on charismatic phenomena in “non-charismatic” church traditions. This time we head back farther in time and cross confessional lines. As with many of these posts, this was previously posted a few years back at http://www.christianhistory.net. For a related article on this blog, see here:

Christian History Corner: Timeline of the Spirit-gifted
Before Moody, Finney, Edwards, and Mather came a long line of Catholic and Orthodox believers reputed to enjoy the promise of the Father.
Chris Armstrong

Several readers wrote in after last week’s newsletter, “Do non-charismatics ‘Do’ Holy Spirit Baptism?” to chide me for omitting the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who have sought and taught the Spirit’s empowering work in the Christian’s life.

As I thought about filling that gap in this week’s newsletter, it occurred to me: Why should I try to say again what has already been well said, and exceptionally well researched, by a scholar who has made the history of Holy Spirit baptism his life’s work?

Stanley M. Burgess is a professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University and editor of The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 2002). That indispensable tome displays prominently on its cover an abbreviated timeline of Pentecostal prehistory. Continue reading

Do Non-Charismatics ‘Do’ Holy Spirit Baptism? Ask D. L. Moody, Charles G. Finney, Jonathan Edwards, or Cotton Mather


As a Christian “of Pentecostal extraction” working at Christianity Today International, I was often asked by friends from that movement to see whether I couldn’t get some more coverage of the Wesleyan-holiness-Pentecostal-charismatic stream in CTI publications. I agree that Christianity Today itself had not always done a great job of covering that significant (to put it mildly) stream within American and world evangelicalism–though I think that’s starting to change. So early on, I posted a couple of short items pointing to the affinities between Pentecostals and other evangelicals. Here is one of those:

Do Non-Charismatics ‘Do’ Holy Spirit Baptism?
Ask D. L. Moody, Charles G. Finney, Jonathan Edwards, or Cotton Mather
Chris Armstrong

Recently we’ve heard a lot about the rapid worldwide growth of Pentecostal and charismatic groups. Researcher David Barrett and his team have been reminding us for years that these groups have passed all others in their global spread. Polls here at home have showed similarly high domestic growth rates in such groups.

Some secular commentators have found this growth menacing—the burgeoning of yet another potentially violent, reactionary religious group. Some evangelicals, too, are discomfited, finding the charismatics’ emphasis on Spirit-bestowed gifts such as tongues and prophecy exotic, if not downright alien. Continue reading