Archive: Good News and Charismatics

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor, Good News Magazine

I should like to reflect publicly and personally about a very important matter. At the Conference on Charismatic Renewal of Christian Churches in Kansas City, Missouri (see page 41), and at this summer’s Good News Convocation in Anderson, Indiana, people asked: What is the relationship between Good News and the charismatic movement? DOES Good News encourage speaking in tongues?

Actually, these are not new questions. They were first asked back in 1972, following our third convocation in St. Louis. There, for the first time, we began to face the reality of the charismatic movement. We scheduled a workshop titled The Evangelical and the Charismatic Movement, “a frank and open discussion giving two different perspectives on the charismatic movement as it relates to the evangelical.” One speaker was a United Methodist who sometimes speaks in tongues privately; the other a United Methodist who does not. Each spoke and then they interacted graciously with each other and the audience. As a result, two distinct viewpoints were clearly presented. Perhaps more important, a demonstration was made that all evangelical United Methodist Christians are not identical twins in spiritual experience!

This workshop, plus a sprinkling of raised hands in the worship services at St. Louis (and sometimes since then) caused some to say, “Good News has gone charismatic.”

We have sought no identification except with the historic Biblical faith, so we felt it necessary to clarify the Good News position with an editorial, “Tongues-Speaking: Good or Bad?” Thousands of reprints have been distributed since it was published early in 1973.

What Good News believes concerning the Holy Spirit was stated more recently in the Junaluska Affirmation, adopted in 1975 as our summary of Biblical faith, in the Wesley-Otterbein tradition:

Scriptural Christianity affirms that the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, was active from the beginning in creation, revelation, and redemption. It was through His anointing that prophets received the Word of God, priests became intermediaries between God and His people, and kings were given ruling authority. The Spirit’s presence and power, measured in the Old Testament, were found without measure in Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed. The Spirit convicts and woos the lost, gives new birth to the penitent, and abides in the believer, perfecting holiness, and empowering the Church to carry out Christ’s mission in the world. He came to indwell His Church at Pentecost, enabling believers to yield fruit, and endowing them with spiritual gifts according to His will. He bears witness to Christ and guides God’s people into His truth. He inspired the Holy Scriptures, God’s written Word, and continues to illuminate His people concerning His will and truth. His guidance is always in harmony with Christ and the truth as given in the Holy Scriptures.

Looking back over more than 10 years of Good News history, it may be helpful to further comment upon our position. When we say “charismatic,” we use the word on the basis of its root meaning: having to do with the various charisma (Greek for a gift of grace) which God, through the Holy Spirit, gives according to His will for the good of all (I Corinthians 12:4-11). We acknowledge any and all Scripturally specified gifts when these are received and exercised in harmony with the Bible’s plain teaching. And we urge every Christian to seek the fullness of all that God, through His Spirit, has to offer. Above all, we must seek after the gift of perfect love, that crown jewel of Christian character (John 15:12; I Corinthians 13).

Concerning the charismatic question, Good News has resisted pressures from two extremes. Some loyal supporters have urged us to acknowledge that speaking in tongues is the “pearl of great price” in Christian experience. We have not found this opinion justified by the full weight of Scripture. Other loyal supporters have urged us to condemn tongues-speaking, but we have not found clear Scriptural warrant for such an exclusion. Therefore, we have said that speaking in tongues can be a legitimate gift of the Spirit.

We have sought the fine balance found in God’s revealed Word. This has led us to find unacceptable the tendency of many liberals who find themselves uncomfortable with the supernatural and therefore minimize the vibrant dimensions of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we have disagreed with those who avoid or suppress the Holy Spirit because He often sets people on fire with zeal for Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation of lost sinners, and much needed reform in the church. (One Good News leader has said that our church needs to become as comfortable with the spiritually alive as it is now with the spiritually dead.)

Our desire for Biblical balance leads us to avoid regarding Acts as the true heart of the New Testament. And, we have not wanted to emphasize disproportionally the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Giver, we believe, deserves more attention than the gifts.

The fulcrum of Biblical balance, is found in Jesus Christ. His coming to earth as the God-man. His teachings. His lifestyle. His atoning death for sinners on the cross of Calvary. His glorious resurrection from among the dead. His heavenly ministry now as our Intercessor with the Father. And, finally, His cosmic coming again at the close of this age. Jesus Christ, in all His majestic power—He is the full Gospel! Christ, as predicted in the Old Testament, documented and taught in the New Testament. He has been the cutting edge of real Christianity in every generation.

Where ought “the action ” spiritually to be? Not in education. Not in our feelings or personal experiences. Not in our particular church. Not in our philosophy, culture, or in social reform. We should not ignore them, but neither should we allow them to occupy the central place in our thinking, our witness, our programs, our giving of time and money.

The central place belongs, after all, to Jesus Christ only! When anything usurps His rightful place, that is, at best, a serious mistake; at worst it is heresy.

Good News desires Christian unity centered upon Jesus Christ as we meet Him through Scripture quickened by the Holy Spirit. No other common ground is possible or adequate for authentic Christian unity. If we are united in our understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us, then we can abide in love despite occasional variances.

We don’t all have to worship the same way … but we must all adore Christ! We don’t have to agree on everything the church does or does not do … but we must gladly acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Church’s Supreme Head!

The proper ground of Christian unity is this: “I have been put to death with Christ on His cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.” (Galatians 2:10, Good News)

If tongues speaking or non-tongues-speaking should become the basis of fellowship (or of separation), then something else would be put in the central place that belongs only to Jesus Christ. God forbid!

The final word is best spoken by John Wesley. Once he said, “I desire a league offensive and defensive with every soldier of Christ.” That is where we stand concerning the charismatic movement. We are eager to work and worship with all who will unite in Jesus Christ, regardless of how we may differ in things not essential to our salvation.


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