There is a large and influential group who would be classed as Charismatic Calvinists (or reformed continuationists). There are many from this group who have been faithful in their proclamation of the gospel and have served as examples of Christian piety. For this I am thankful and grateful for what I continue to learn from them. However, the question I ask in this post is, can you be Calvinistic and Charismatic? I ask this question because there are those who preach that the reformed must be charismatic.
The Charismatic Calvinist is a novel combination that has come to most prominence in recent years. In fact, the majority of Calvinistic teachers in the history of the church have been cessationtionists (a cessationist believes that the miraculous gifts were limited to the early church).
What is Calvinism? Being a Calvinist goes beyond the embracing of the five points (TULIP – Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of Grace). The five points are important (and Scriptural), but they are not all there is to Calvinism. Burk Parsons argues that Calvinism needs to be understood as a theology that
“begins with God, teaches us about God, and directs our hearts and minds back to God according to the way He deserves, demands, and delights in our worship of Him and our obedience to Him.”
Calvinism is theocentric theology that calls for devotion to God with the outflow of doxology. Such a theology is grounded in the authority of the sufficient Scriptures and is practiced by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. Of course, much more could be said, but for the purpose of this post I will dwell on the features of the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The consistent Calvinist stands on the authority of Scripture. This is driven by the conviction that the word of God is the authoritative, infallible and sufficient rule for all matters pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). With this comes the belief that the “former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” The Calvinist has a high view of Scripture. Since the word of God is authoritative, infallible and sufficient, why do I need to appeal to experience? The Calvinistic approach to Scripture views God’s word as complete and nothing is needed in addition to it which claims divine authority. A battle cry of the reformation was Sola Scriptura. This is the recognition that the Scriptures alone are the supreme authority for matters of salvation and sanctification (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). To claim divine authority outside of the Scripture by means of visions, experiences or leading is wrong. The word of God alone can be appealed to as Divine authority.
Furthermore, the Calvinist is completely dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit – in accordance with God’s sovereign decree – brings regeneration to the soul (John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5) and enables the believer in all matters for Christian living (Eph. 5:18). Calvinistic writers over the years have written much on the work of the Spirit as revealed in God’s word. For an example, consider these classics John Owen (Discourse on the Holy Spirit 1674 or The Works of John Owen, Volume 3: The Holy Spirit) and Abraham Kuyper (Work of the Holy Spirit).
The Calvinist does not need to be charismatic. Why? Because he has a high view of Scripture that provides the sufficiency for Christian living and he recognises that this is what God has ordained. Further, the Calvinist understands the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit and desires to honour the Lord through the Spirt’s enabling. In my next post I would like to show why I believe that to be charismatic is to be inconsistent with Calvinism – the discontinuity of the continuationist (the belief that the miraculous gifts are still in operation today).