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

An Introduction to the Gifts in Modern Times

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

From 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 gifts arise?"

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, "Irving, Edward.")

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 legitimacy.

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, "Irving, Edward.")

"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. "Irving, Edward.")

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.