Search Our Site
and Faith Movements
to the Gifts in Modern Times
Background and Objectivity
Comparing Modern Tongues to Biblical
Basic Introduction to the Charismatic
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
Survey 4 - From the Renaissance
to the Modern Era
An Introduction to the Gifts
in Modern Times
The Origins of the Modern Charismatic
Section 1 | Section
2 | Section 3 | Section
| Section 5
our surveys of history we have found that according to Irenaeus
and Justin Martyr the prophetic gifts including tongues continued
at least into the middle or late second century. But based
upon the available documentation, by the time of Augustine
and continuing through the end of the seventeenth century
the gifts had ceased for some reason among orthodox groups.
We have also seen that the early church documented and identified
counterfeit gifts by the ecstatic manner in which they were
performed including raving and babbling. Likewise, we saw
that this type of ecstatic behavior was present among the
heretical Shakers who were known to have spoken in tongues
and among the Quakers as well, although we don't know if they
practiced the gifts.
Still, we are left without a basic answer to the question,
"Where do modern charismatic gifts come from?" To this question,
some might say, "They come from God." But on this point we
cannot jump the gun. We are not just to accept every person
that claims to be a prophet. We must examine the claim, test
the spirits, and evaluate the legitimacy of the reported miraculous
phenomenon. There are two reasons for this.
First, passages like Deuteronomy 13:12-14, Deuteronomy 18:21-22,
1 Corinthians 14:29, and 1 John 4:1-3 instruct us to examine
the validity of those who claim to be operating in the supernatural
power of the Spirit. And second, passages such as Exodus 7:11,
Exodus 7:22, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, 2 Timothy
3:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1, and Revelation
19:20 instruct us that there will be false prophets, false
teachers, and false signs and miracles. So, we cannot just
assume that every reported miracle "came from God."
So, the question remains, "how did the modern charismatic
Fortunately, in the modern era our options narrow as history
becomes more substantially and exhaustively recorded. As we
will now demonstrate, all modern charismatic groups originated
from John Wesley and the Methodists. This is not to say that
John Wesley or the Methodists practiced the charismatic gifts.
Rather, particular doctrines held by Wesley evolved into what
became known as the Holiness Movement, which began within
Methodism. And from this Holiness Movement we can trace all
modern practice of the gifts.
As we will demonstrate, this fact has been established as
a matter of documented and common knowledge. And what this
evidence does for us is twofold. First, because it is a matter
of documented fact that all modern charismatic groups originated
from the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, we know that the reemergence
of modern charismatic gifts should not be viewed as independent,
spontaneously occurring phenomenon. Instead, the reemergence
of the gifts in the modern era is readily explainable in terms
of the normal, natural mechanisms by which ideas and trends
are spread through person to person contact and mass publication.
Therefore, since this dispersion of charismatic practice was
achieved through these natural methods of dispersion, there
is no warrant to suppose that they occurred by supernatural
intervention, at least not direct supernatural intervention.
Second, because the source of the charismatic expansion is
identifiable, it is more readily subject to examination. We
are not chasing a ghost, so to speak. In other words, if we
could not identify a source for the spread of the Charismatic
Movement, then it would be impossible to evaluate the authenticity
and origin of the phenomenon.
But before we get into the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, there
is one other option for the origin of the Modern Charismatic
gifts that we should cover.
Although the Holiness Movement really didn't begin to pick
up speed and move toward charismatic tendencies until the
later half of the nineteenth century, it is a matter of common
knowledge that Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church,
which he founded, were speaking in tongues during Irving's
lifetime of 1792-1834. (Being the followers of Edward Irving,
members of the Catholic Apostolic Church are more commonly
known as the Irvingites.)
Here are some selected quotes about Irving from Britannica.com.
"Irving, Edward...Church of Scotland minister whose
teachings became the basis of the religious movement known
as Irvingism, later called the Catholic Apostolic
Church." (Britannica.com, "Irving, Edward.")
"By then a convinced believer in such pentecostal phenomena
as speaking in tongues, Irving preached throughout Great
Britain, returning to London to assume a minor position in
the evolving Catholic Apostolic Church." (Britannica.com,
While it is the personal understanding of the author's of
this article that Edward Irving and the Irvingites did generate
the defining influence on the spread of modern Charismatic
practice, it is not likely that any modern Charismatic would
trace their practice back to Irving and the Irvingites. If
the origins of the modern Charismatic movement were traced
back to Irving, it would be easily enough to disprove its
The reputation of the Irving and the Irvingites is marred
significantly by the fact that Irving made documented prophecies
that did not come to pass.
"His popularity waned, however, because of his increasing
stress on apocalypticism and eschatology, including his
prediction in 1825 that the Second Coming of Christ would
occur in 1864." (Britannica.com, "Irving, Edward.")
Irving predicted the return of Christ would occur in 1864,
which of course did not happen. According to the Biblical
standard (and to obvious common sense) this made Irving a
false prophet, which would in turn nullify the legitimacy
of the gifts he and his followers claimed to practice. Here
again is how the Bible tells us to determine a true prophet
from a false one.
Deuteronomy 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How
shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the
thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which
the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously:
thou shalt not be afraid of him.
In many ways, this also makes Irving resemble the early heretic
Montanus, who is said to have also wrongly predicted the return
of Christ while emphasizing the gifts of tongues and prophecy.
And, of course, Montanus was rejected as a heretic by the
early church and his prophetic gifts as counterfeits for these
very same reasons. But Irving's erroneous prophecies are not
the only mar on his record.
"In 1828 his Doctrine of the Incarnation Opened
aroused opposition for its denigration of the human side
of Christ's nature. After a similar work by him appeared
in 1830, he was charged in ecclesiastical courts with
maintaining "the sinfulness of Christ's humanity."
Despite his protest that he had been misinterpreted, he was
excommunicated by the London presbytery, and in 1833 he was
deposed from his ministry by the Church of Scotland." (Britannica.com,
"As his preaching began to emphasize the supernatural and
the imminence of the second coming of Christ, criticism
arose, especially over his views on the human nature of Christ."
(Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.
As the two above excerpts from Britannica.com and The Columbia
Encyclopedia show, Irving was excommunicated over suspicion
that his view of the nature of Christ was not orthodox. For
these reasons, despite Irving's influence on the popularizing
of Charismatic gifts in the modern era, modern Charismatic
groups are not likely to point to Irving for their origin.
If they did, their practice of charismatic gifts would immediately
be invalidated by the fact that the originator (Irving) was
a false prophet excommunicated for his suspected heretical
views on Christ.
This leads us back to the Wesleyan Holiness Movement.
We must remember that Christians today do not live in a vacuum
of history. Modern doctrines and modern practices did not
spring up just moments or days ago or poof into existence.
They were developed by certain figures and events in the midst
of particular circumstances. The modern Charismatic Movement
is no different. The practice of the gifts in modern times
did not just appear suddenly without prior cause for anyone
who currently practices the charismatic gifts. Those who practice
the gifts now do so as a result of historical factors that
existed prior to when they personally came into contact with
them. In order to authenticate the modern gifts, we need to
examine them in light of these historical factors.
Consequently, for the purposes of gaining a proper historical
context and perspective on the modern practice of the charismatic
gifts it is important to understand where the modern Charismatic
Movement came from. Only then will we be able to evaluate
the modern Charismatic practice in light of a correct historical
context. With that in mind, we now turn our attention to the
history behind the Wesleyan Holiness Movement.