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For a description of the personality trait, see Charismatic authority
Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as glossolalia (known as 'speaking in tongues'), healing and miracles, are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today.

The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charis (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

Often confused with Pentecostalism (which it was inspired by), Charismatic Christianity tends to differ in key aspects: most Charismatics reject the preeminence given by Pentecostalism to glossolalia, reject the legalism sometimes associated with Pentecostalism, and, until the 1990s, often stayed in their existing denominations.

Because of the continual cross-over between Pentecostalism and the modern Charismatic movement, it is increasingly difficult to speak of Charismatics and Pentecostals as being part of separate movements. Yet because neither movement is monolithic, it is also unfair to speak of them as being one movement either. The difference is primarily one of origins. Beliefs of the two groups are very similar; however, each movement is unique in its historical beginnings. Having been conceived in unique contexts, the difference may secondarily be described in terms of contrasting church cultures evidenced through each movement's manners and customs (i.e., worship styles, preaching styles, altar ministry methods). Until a more acceptable broad nomenclature is used, it needs to be understood that both movements share a great deal in common, and yet can sometimes be clearly differentiated.



Beginnings 1950-1975

While it is difficult to locate the place and time that Charismatic Christianity began to influence the mainstream church, Dennis Bennett, an American Episcopalian, is often cited as the movement's seminal influnce. Bennett was the Rector at St Mark's Episcopal church in Van Nuys California when he announced to the congregation in 1960 that he had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Soon after this he was ministering in Vancouver where he ran many workshops and seminars about the work of the Holy Spirit.[1] This influenced tens of thousands of Anglicans world-wide and also began a renewal movement within the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was a renewed interest in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in mainstream churches such as the Episcopal, Lutheran and Catholic churches. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal was focused in individuals like Kevin Ranaghan and his group of followers at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Dennis Bennett was Ranaghan's counterpart in the Episcopal Church.

On an international level, David Duplessis along with a host of others (including Lutheran and even Southern Baptist ministers) promoted the movement. The latter did not last long with their denominations, either volunteering to leave or being asked to do so. But in the Episcopal and Catholic churches priest and ministers were permitted to continue on in their parishes, provided they did not allow these concerns to create major divisions within their congregations.

Change 1975-2000

While there are many charismatics within established denominations, many have left or have been forced out and have joined either more progressive Pentecostal churches or formed their own churches or denominations. The house church movement in the UK and the Vineyard movement in the USA are examples of a formal Charismatic structure. The Hillsong Church in Australia is an example of a Pentecostal church that has embraced Charismatic belief and practices, which has, in turn, influenced the Australian Assemblies of God denomination. In New Zealand, the pre-eminent Pentecostal movement has been the New Life Churches, although other local and international Pentecostal denominations are also well established.

Since the mid 1980s, the Charismatic movement has made some notable changes in its theology and emphases. This process has been termed The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit and has been typified by the ministry of C. Peter Wagner, Word-faith Theology and the Toronto blessing phenomenon. Some opponents of the Charismatic movement have noted that these recent trends have been influenced heavily by the Latter Rain Movement of the 1950s within the Pentecostal churches — a movement that was officially declared heresy by The Assemblies of God at the time.

There appears to be a great deal of evidence which shows that, since 1975, the Charismatic movement has been influenced by the Latter Rain Movement and its influential teachers (such as William M. Branham). This can be explained by the desire of Charismatic Christians to enter into fellowship with those within the Christian church who have experienced similar forms of Religious ecstasy. As a result of this, Charismatics came into contact with both mainstream Pentecostalism as well as the Latter Rain Movement. It appears that modern-day Charismatics and Pentecostals are far more united in experience and theology because both movements have adopted elements of Latter Rain teachings.

Charismatic Catholics

While Charismatic Christians are not exclusive to any single denomination, Charismatic theology is not uniquely Protestant. There is a burgeoning Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II is reputed to have a Charismatic Priest as his personal pastor.

Theological Distinctives

There two primary beliefs which define the charismatic movement. The first is the belief that the so-called "charismatic gifts" of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy, and miraculous healing, are still in effect today. The second is the belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is separate from both salvation and water baptism. Both of these primary beliefs are characteristic of the Pentecostal movement as well, but are less dogmatically held by Charismatics. Many Charismatics, while they may experience Glossolalia, may not view this as being the Pentecostal phenomenon of Spirit Baptism.

Some Charismatic groups are more Fundamentalist, while some fringe groups experiment with New Age practices. These churches, movements and groups all have in common that they believe and promote the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit in their meetings.

Christians who are at odds with Charismatics (often Southern Baptists and the various Reformed denominations), use the word in a derisive manner and generally believe and teach that Charismatics are everything from shallow to dangerous — even demon possessed, although this latter charge is increasingly rare as Charismatic and Pentecostal groups become more established in the American religious landscape.

Many conservative authors have written detailed polemics against the movement. Charismatic Chaos by Dispensationalist John MacArthur is one of the better known examples of this.

The term Charismaniacs is occasionally used to parody the movement. This term is also often used, especially in Calvary Chapel, to distinguish moderately charismatic churches, such as Calvary Chapel itself, from more extreme variants such as those associated with the Latter Rain and Toronto Blessing movements. In fact, the term may have been coined by Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith.

Theologians and Scholars

Other Charismatic theologians are listed in the article entitled Renewal Theologians.

See also

Last updated: 02-06-2005 16:57:45
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01