New Frontiers in the UK has launched a new blog as a place for reformed, charismatic and missional Christians to interact. With a trend toward reformed theology in the US it will only be a matter of time before those in traditionally charismatic environments will respond well to good doctrine but maintain the style they are used to – along with biblical embrace of the Holy Spirit. (Perhaps I am tipping my hand here…)
I like what they are doing on the new blog and I think this sort of “confluence” will be more readily available and normal in the Christian realm soon.
I look forward to watching this site develop and others along the way. To give you a taste of Confluence, Adrian Warnock has some great insights.
Reformed people rightly emphasize doctrine. The reformers began a great tradition of raising a battle cry “back to the word.” We learn from them that human ideas cannot be trusted, only God’s infallible word. They also had a remarkable emphasis on the sovereignty of God. I do not know how any Christian can survive long in this fallen world without trusting that, despite frequent appearances to the contrary, “all things work together for God for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Knowing that it is God who both began and will complete his work of salvation in me also gives me great confidence. But there are two major weaknesses that can easily arise.
Firstly, our honor of the Bible can give rise to us seeking a relationship with a book rather than a person. Cold intellectualism which despises all emotional response to God is not an inevitable result of being reformed, but it is a real danger. Secondly, it is possible to so trust in the sovereignty of God that we begin to resemble stoics, passively waiting for God’s will to unfold. We might even stop working out or own salvation and foolishly “let go and let God.” Prayer becomes mere formalism, since we are so convinced God has the whole universe in his hands, that we do not see the need to wrestle in the quiet place seeking for his kingdom to come. We can also become locked in defeat and condemnation in our personal lives, not expecting to be transformed. Evangelism can become halfhearted at best, since we conclude that God can save the unbeliever without our help if he so wills it. One could argue that reformed people risk discovering to our shock that we love books more we love God or the world.
Loving the Spirit
Charismatics pursue a vibrant relationship with God, who is alive and active and speaking to us today. Next to the latest encounter with God, academic study of his word can seem boring. We do not have a reputation for intellectualism. The temptation is to cast aside the anchor of the truth of God’s word, and, instead of testing prophecy, naively believe that every thought which comes into our minds is a now word from the Lord. Doctrine may be weak at best, and frankly heretical at worst. For all the emotion, and power on display, many charismatics simply do not have a deep root that will help them stand when things get really tough. We may feel on top of the world when we are in the latest conference, but what happens when we get back home and face the troubles which Jesus promised us in this life?
Charismatics can also become very inward looking, and, seeking a deeper experience with God, many congregations have the feeling of an intimate family that any unbeliever would struggle to join. Gifts of the Holy Spirit often flow freely in such an environment, but may well lack any real content, and to an outsider seem frankly weird. A lost world can be forgotten as we are lost in wonder and praise. No wonder many charismatic churches do not grow, since perhaps charismatics risk loving God, but not loving his world, or his unchanging Word.
Unless we study God’s word with vigor and grasp it’s teaching as strongly as any reformed believer how can we know what message to bring the world? Unless we know God as clearly as any charismatic, and experience his life-changing power, how can we expect our neighbors to believe that Jesus is alive and in the business of setting us free? God’s word was given to help us learn what to say to a lost world, and his Spirit was given to empower us, and equip us to be able ministers of the gospel. As this new blog begins, I pray it will be used by God to raise up a people who will love God like a charismatic, love his Word like the Reformed, and love the world like every missionary should. What God has put together, let no man try and separate!