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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Survey 4 - From the Renaissance
to the Modern Era

Our Background and Objectivity
Comparing Modern Tongues to Biblical Tongues
Basic Introduction to the Charismatic Movement
Opening Remarks and Introduction to the Gifts
Survey 1 - Continuity of the Gifts in the First Few Centuries
Survey 2 - Decline of Orthodox Gifts and Rise of Counterfeit Gifts
Survey 3 - A Change in Tune Regarding the Gifts
Survey 4 - From the Renaissance to the Modern Era
An Introduction to the Gifts in Modern Times
The Origins of the Modern Charismatic Movement

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

In our second survey we established from historical documents that toward the end of the second century counterfeit gifts were emerging among heretical sects such as the Gnostics and the Montanists. From the Montanist example, we saw that both Eusebius and Asterius Urbanus (whom he quotes extensively) specifically made note of the distinction between the character and quality of the prophetic gifts among the heretics and the gifts among the orthodox churches. In particular, according to Asterius Urbanus and Eusebius, the distinction was marked by the "ecstatic," "raving," and "babbling" that accompanied the prophetic gifts among the Montanists. Such ecstatic behavior they noted was "contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning." And we also noted that these assessments by Asterius Urbanus and Eusebius were completely consistent with Paul's instructions for the operation of the gifts provided in 1 Corinthians 14:31-33, 37-40.

From this we can conclude that historically speaking that the early church identified the counterfeit gifts by the fact that they occurred while the speaker was in an ecstatic state. Conversely, "the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning" concerning authentic gifts, was that they did not involve a state of ecstasy or raving or babbling. Therefore, as we embark upon our examination of hypothetical restorations of gifts beginning with the Renaissance, we can determine whether or not those "restorations" were authentic or counterfeit by this same standard.

Where gifts are accompanied or characterized by ecstatic states, raving and babbling, we should conclude that these gifts are the reemergence of the counterfeit gifts of the early heretics. If the gifts are not ecstatic, but follow in accordance with the orderly manner of early Church custom, then we can press on to examine them further.

In our third survey, we established that somewhere between the close of the second century and the arrival of Augustine, the authentic gifts so definitively passed out of existence that Church commentary regarding this issue shifts entirely toward explaining their cessation. In fact, as we have noted, there is a consistent commentary regarding the cessation of the gifts throughout the Middle Ages including such writers as Augustine (354-430 AD), John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), Gregory the Great (600 AD), and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD).

Furthermore, since this cessation of the gifts posed a problem for these writers we can conclude that if the gifts had been going on, they would not doubt have preferred to assert that than to explain why they had ceased. Or in other words, the cessation of the gifts posed a dilemma for these writers that needed to be explained. We can imagine that they would not invent this dilemma just to have to answer it. Rather, we can assume that the dilemma was real, that the gifts had in fact ceased, which required an explanation. Therefore, from the statements of these writers we can conclude that it was widely and prevalently understood from at least the middle of the fourth century until the middle of the thirteenth century that the authentic gifts were no longer occurring.

This brings us to the period from the Renaissance to the modern era.

As we move forward through the Renaissance, we find that several groups have been suggested to have spoken in tongues. What we must keep in mind is that we are trying to substantiate the authenticity of modern occurrences of gifts. Since modern occurrences cannot be traced back to the apostles or early church, they cannot be authenticated in that manner.

Nevertheless, the existence of gifts in a modern context still must be accounted for. How did they get here? Where did they come from? If as we answer these questions we find that the modern practices of gifts originated from heretical groups or in a manner consistent with the counterfeit and ecstatic experiences of the ancient heretics, then we cannot except modern gifts as authentic. Instead, we must reject them as the heirs of heresy and the continuation of counterfeit heretical gifts.

For this purpose, it becomes necessary for those modern groups who practice the gifts to trace their origins from orthodox Christian groups and away from heretical groups. In this effort, several sources have been suggested. The Anabaptists, the Huguenots, the Ranters, the Mennonites, the Moravian Brethren, and the Quakers are a few of the more common candidates.

But there are five problems with these suggested origins for modern charismatic gifts.

First, there is the problem of documentation. Unfortunately, corroborating the claim that any of these groups actually practiced the charismatic gifts is very difficult to do using objective sources. In fact, such corroborating accounts are so difficult to find that it becomes impossible to document the origination of modern gifts among these groups without relying upon heavily biased sources. Objective sources such as encyclopedias or other reference books say nothing that would corroborate such notions. Or, in other words, the only documentation one can find for these claims comes from those who currently practice the charismatic gifts. That makes substantiating the initial claim that any of these groups practiced the gifts extremely difficult.

Second, there is the problem of distance. The Ranters were an English movement from 1649-59. The Huguenots lived in France in the sixteen and seventeenth century. There has been over three hundred years between then and now. So here we run into the same problem of continuity that we have with the early Church. It becomes necessary to document not only that these groups practiced the gifts (a task that is impossible enough on its own), but also to document the continuity from those groups to the modern practice of the gifts. Even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that one of these 2 groups might have practiced the charismatic gifts and that they were "orthodox enough," that still would not substantiate modern practices of the gifts without documentation tracing modern occurrence directly back to these groups.

Third, there is the problem of association. While the Ranters and the Huguenots passed out of existence by the turn of the eighteenth century, the Anabaptists and Quakers continued and also evolved into such modern groups as the Mennonites and the Amish. So, because these groups continue to exist in modern times, it is theoretically possible that modern gifts could exist as a matter of continuity from these groups (that is, if these groups did indeed practice the gifts). However, as we will see in our next section, the modern Charismatic movement arose out of Wesleyan and Methodist denominations rather than contemporary Anabaptist or Quaker groups. So, even though the Anabaptists and Quakers continue in various forms, modern Charismatic groups have no historical association with them but instead are historical outgrowths of distinctly different denominations. This means that tying the modern practice of the gifts to these groups contradicts the documented history concerning which denominations gave rise to modern Charismatic movement.

Fourth, there is the problem of competing sources. That is not to say competing documentation, but rather the existence of other groups that practiced the gifts and were identifiably heretical. The most prominent example is the Shakers. The Shakers began in England in 1747 at a Quaker revival. Among there known heresies was their stated belief that one of their members by the name of Ann Lee was herself the female equivalent to Jesus Christ. Britannica.com also provides the following description of the Shakers.

"The Shakers derived originally from a small branch of radical English Quakers who had adopted the French Camisards' ritual practices of shaking, shouting, dancing, whirling, and singing in tongues." (Britannica.com, "Shaker.")

So, while it is difficult to authenticate from object or common sources that the Anabaptists, Ranters, Quakers, or Huguenots practiced the charismatic gifts, we know that the Shakers did practice the gift of tongues. And the Ranters, too, were also heretical.

"Its principal teaching was pantheistic, that God is present in nature. The Ranters appealed to the inner experience of Christ and denied the authority of Scripture." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. "Ranters.")

Since the Ranters were pantheists and denied the authority of scripture, it makes little difference whether or not they practiced the gifts. If they did, modern groups would not want to trace their roots back to the Ranters because of these heretical doctrines. And without documentation directly linking modern Charismatic groups to the Anabaptists, Quakers, or Huguenots we have no evidence demonstrating whether or not modern Charismatic gifts arose from those groups as opposed to the heretical groups such as the Shakers and Ranters, which arose around the same time. To assert that the modern gifts came from one group over another without documentation would be simply unsubstantiated "picking and choosing," which is no basis for validating the legitimacy of any supernatural occurrence.

Fifth, there is the problem of ecstatic behavior. As seen previously among the Montanists, the prophetic gifts among the Shakers were accompanied by ecstatic behavior including shaking, shouting, and whirling. Similarly, the Quakers (formally known as the Society of Friends) earned the name "Quaker" from their ecstatic behavior of their services.

"George Fox, founder of the society in England, recorded that in 1650 "Justice Bennet of Derby first called us Quakers because we bid them tremble at the word of God." It is likely that the name, originally derisive, was also used because many early Friends, like other religious enthusiasts, themselves trembled in their religious meetings and showed other physical manifestations of religious emotion." (Britannica.com, "Quaker.")

So, if the origins of modern gifts are traced back to the Quakers, then we run into the problem that the ecstatic and emotional behavior that occurred in their services resembles the counterfeit gifts that were arising in the first few centuries AD. As we have already shown, this ecstatic display of emotion is precisely how the early orthodox Christians distinguished and identified the counterfeit gifts of the heretics from the authentic gifts that they were still witnessing in the orthodox churches at that time. Therefore, if we trace the modern gifts back to the Quakers, we are forced to reject modern gifts as a restoration of the counterfeit rather than the authentic gifts of the first few centuries.

Given with the problems described in the five points above, some modern charismatic groups might abandon altogether the attempt to validate their practice of the gifts by tracing them back to earlier orthodox groups since the Renaissance. Instead, they may prefer to view their practice of gifts in isolation from these problematic groups and argue instead that modern tongues were restored much more recently. If this is the case and modern gifts are to be evaluated in isolation from history, then the origination of modern gifts has conclusively failed the test of historic validation and modern gifts cannot be substantiated or validated through an examination of historic continuity.

As we have seen above modern gifts fail the test of historic continuity for the following reasons. First, the theory that orthodox Christians from the Renaissance practiced the charismatic gifts cannot be adequately substantiated from the readily available documentation. Second, even if some orthodox groups did practice the gifts, there is still no evidence that documents direct connection and continuity from those groups to modern Charismatic groups. Third, even if groups such as the Anabaptists or Mennonites did practice the gifts, the modern Charismatic movement can be documented to have arisen from other sects with no ties to these two groups (as we will further demonstrate later on.) Fourth, known heretical groups such as the Shakers can be documented to have practiced the gifts and so we have at least as much evidence to connect modern gifts to the Shakers as we have for connecting modern gifts to orthodox groups. Fifth, because the Quakers were named for their emotional "quaking" in their services, the evidence is strong that the practices of that group were tied more to the counterfeit gifts of the early heretics such as the Montanists who were also identified by their ecstatic practice of the gifts.

In conclusion, we must acknowledge that modern charismatic gifts cannot be validated by continuity from any historical, orthodox origins from the Renaissance to the modern era.