Off the Charts

Off the Charts[1]

“Off the charts”—this is the phrase that opens the door for the prophets, prophetesses, and others who claim God, angels, or whatnot are speaking to them and revealing the future in “these last days,” because we are no longer in a time and place that the Bible covers, so it is no longer speaking to us.

The rationale is that, due to the fact that the end of history is upon us—an erroneous assumption that is nothing but speculation and based on nothing biblical at all—God is revealing details and events that are not described in the Bible.[2]

When questioned, the proponents of new extra biblical revelations respond, “How do you know God is not revealing new things to the Church?” and “How can you be so certain this is not happening now?” This form of questioning places people like me in a difficult place, since there is little to appeal to of a factual nature. I cannot point to studies, numbers, or other verifiable documentation to support my position. And, on the other hand, neither can those who are open to new revelations appeal to any objective evidence for their claims. Many of us will appeal to Revelation 22:18-19:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of the prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this book.

Certainly the “off the charts” proponents will say that the admonition not to add or subtract from the Book of Revelation is merely an ancient form of copyright and is not applicable to the rest of the Bible and does not actually mean that one should not prophesy about these last days.

However, an examination of two other biblical passages suggests this concept to be at least questionable if not downright faulty. First, Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” Second, Deuteronomy 12:32: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Thus it may be concluded that the warning not to add or subtract can equally be applied to the whole of Scripture.

Despite the obvious, those who are already trapped into believing the contemporary prophets will find it difficult to turn from and expose them. By trapped I mean, once a group or church commits to the words of its prophets about the future, naysayers will not be welcomed and minds will close.

Revelation 22:18-19 may in fact be an ancient form of stating, “Don’t touch this writing,” and legitimately so, as it is a thoroughly biblical warning. In addition, the attempt to justify “new improved truth” and revelations by the “thus saith the Lord” prophets ignores the fact that the Book of Revelation brings us right up to the grand finale, right to the Second Coming of Christ, the Day of Judgment, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the new heaven and the new earth—there is no more history after that, only eternity in the presence of God. And Revelation perfectly corroborates both what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The history, tradition, and councils of the Church down through the ages make it clear that the Bible is the sole source for Christian faith and practice. It has been the Protestant branch of the Church that has more carefully adhered to this policy, but now, however, we see this being largely abandoned by what I have sometimes called the Fourth Branch of Christianity, the charismatic/Pentecostal branch. It is here where we find the vast majority of those who declare we are off the charts and must open up to fresh words from God.

Sarah Young, Kat Kerr, Patricia King, Lorna Byrne, and many more

Jesus is talking to people now—so promises Sarah Young in Jesus Calling. It is very much like He is on the other end of the phone. Kat Kerr gives a constant flow of messages about what she just heard the other day, directly from God. Patricia King is in on it as well, the high priestess of prophetesses in the Bethel network, receiving messages from the Source. And one of these King predictions is that we are going to have a whole lot of contact with angels in 2015. And angels, being close to God, will be revealing many new things and imparting much needed wisdom. Though in a bit of a different category, the Irish lady Lorna Bryne is constantly, minute by minute, in touch with all sorts of angels and souls.

It is all okay, because we are off the charts. The Bible is not needed now; all we need is an angel, a direct call from Jesus, or even a chat with the Almighty in the “throne room” to find direction, comfort, and wisdom.

The persons mentioned above relate messages, however comforting and assuring, that are essentially false. Sarah talks about Jesus all the time; in fact, Jesus is the focus of the conversations. He is warm, comforting, and full of mercy, but of the ordinary human kind. There is something decidedly missing, namely the Jesus of the Bible. Kat Kerr is as spiritual as one can get, full of Bible phrases, and she loves Jesus. Patricia King is much the same, and all the Jesus talk is enough to convince most people that nothing could be the slightest bit wrong. Lorna Byrne, well she is far from sounding like an evangelical Bible believer, but she does throw in a “Jesus” or two from time to time. Are Christians being deceived? The answer is, they are.

Philpott, why are you writing this?

I am alarmed when I see Christians falling into deception, especially when those who promote and champion these deviations represent such a large swath of the Christian community. Since these views are widely and publically disseminated, it invites people like me to make comment. That is the way it is in a free society.

Five of Sarah Young’s books are among the top twenty-five best selling Christian books in 2014. Kat Kerr is a sensation wherever she travels and is currently on a world tour. Patricia King is easily the most respected and popular prophetess in the Bethel/IHOP/Kansas City Prophets/Morning Star/Toronto-Arnott network, as is made evident in her many YouTube videos. Lorna Byrne is big in the UK and is attracting many new adherents. Her books, Angels in My Hair, Stairways to Heaven, and A Message of Hope from the Angels are all on the bestseller lists in the UK. She is now making an impact in America as well.

Now you understand why I am writing this. And there is one more reason.

I am the pastor of a church; I have a congregation to care for. I read John 10:7-18, and I find Jesus cautioning about wolves who would harm the sheep. Then I read Paul’s warning to the elders of the church at Ephesus:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves ill arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert…   Acts 20:28-31a

Concluding remark

This type of warning is something in which I wish I did not have to engage; there is enough work already. I find myself in solidarity with Jude 3: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”


[1] This discussion is intramural in nature, that is, between Christians.

[2] This is not the only period in history that Christians have supposed theirs was the last generation and that Jesus’s Second Coming was imminent.

The Anointing, The Anointing, The Anointing

The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.

“The Anointing — this is the whole thing, isn’t it?”

That is what I heard Paul Cain say some ten years ago at a nearby Pentecostal church.

Reverend Cain is a big name among the so-called Kansas City Prophets, along with a number of others like Bob Jones, Mike Bickel, Rick Joyner, John Paul Jackson, Francis Frangipane, Lou Engle, and James Goll. The Apostolic-Prophetic Movement[1], sometimes known as the Third Wave, was to be the re-establishment of the Five-Fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher as found in Ephesians 4[2]. These leaders saw themselves as part of the reconstitution of the fabled biblical model meant to operate in the “last days.” And for such a grand vision, a special and super powerful anointing would be required.

Rodney M. Howard-Browne

I was wondering then if the anointing Cain talked about was the same that Rodney M. Howard-Browne purportedly brought to America from his home in South Africa. It was Howard-Browned who strongly influenced the “revival” that came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Canada. It was there that Randy Clark received the anointing from Howard-Browne and spread the “fire” of the revival.

Howard-Browne, in his books Flowing in the Holy Ghost (FHG) and Flowing in the Holy Spirit (FHS), describes that anointing.[3] It is essential and necessary to define what Howard-Browne means by anointing as presented in the two books mentioned above.

In FHG he says, “the anointing is the presence of God”. . .”that will come and begin to touch people” (p. 13). “I wait for the unction all the time; I wait for the burning of the Spirit of God within. That burning, that churning, bubbles like a boiling pot inside, because that’s what the word ‘prophesy’ means” (p. 14).

Howard-Browne says, “you must stir yourself up for the gifts to begin to operate” (p. 14). Therefore, after stirring, “it will happen automatically. God will begin to move.” (p. 15).

In a section labeled “When the Anointing Falls” he says, “I began to speak supernaturally. I became another person! . . .It’s almost like I’m standing outside my body, hearing myself prophesy. . . .People begin to shake and fall out under the power of God in their seats as the word of the Lord comes forth. No one touches them” (p. 31). He goes on: “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to get up and prophesy now.’ However, you can prepare for the anointing to prophesy. You do this by stirring yourself up, by preparing your heart, and by waiting on the Spirit of God. Then, when the anointing comes, you flow with it. But you can only prophesy when the anointing comes!'” (p. 31).

Randy Clark

Not everyone got the anointing, not even those who actually touched Browne. Randy Clark, who had reportedly gotten the anointing, was also able to pass it on to others, or so it was claimed, and he was in Toronto, too, and people touched him, and some got it, but most didn’t.

A contingent from our local ministerial association visited Toronto, and after they returned we gathered in a meeting. There we were, expecting something big. But even for those who got close to the “anointed” people and even touched one of them, nothing happened. Though disappointed, we planned another trip.

I saw Randy Clark personally some years back now in Redding, California, when he visited the Bethel Church pastored by Bill Johnson, whom I guessed had gotten the anointing as well. The anointing was power, and power was what it was all about, the power to heal and do miracles. So many had miracle stories: crowns of gold on teeth; gold dust in their hair; feathers mysteriously floating down from the ceiling; people raised from the dead (none were confirmed); people with stomach and back pain – healed; folks with chronic migraines – healed; youth who smoked pot and were popping pills – healed on the spot. Oddly, the people I was with who were members of Bethel, both with some serious bodily ailments, were never themselves healed, nor did they know anyone personally who had actually been healed. The miracle stories circulated around town, one here, one there, but somehow the ones healed could not be located. This was no doubt a miracle, too.

Do I sound irreverent, or judgmental? Am I being a God mocker and thus in danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?[4] Could I be standing against the flowing of the river of the Spirit now moving in these last days? Am I foolishly, even rebelliously, refusing to ride the wave? Frankly, these kind of mind-think, conformist charges are enough to satisfy and shut-up most questioners, but not everyone is falling in line or is so lacking in confidence in the saving grace of Jesus that they stop thinking and evaluating.

Cain’s anointing

Paul Cain rambled on for an hour and finally starting indicating that he was about to reveal the biggee, the real deal, the ultimate, that one great thing that meant absolutely everything. Wow, the anticipation; it was palpable. Cain moved toward the front of the stage. He stood stone still. He stretched out his left arm, his brown eyes scanning the congregation, now speechless, motionless, while we waited without a sound. And then it came, what we were all waiting for: “The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.” He said it was the anointing.

To demonstrate the anointing he stared at a number of the faithful sitting in the front row.[5] One by one he told their fortunes. He said he saw a television set type thing over each one’s head and could watch their futures unfold before his very eyes. One would be a great prophet in Africa. Another would be greatly used of God in Asia as a healer. One young lady would found a school for orphans in South America. Without exception each person would  do something wonderful in the kingdom of God. Cain could see it on the television screen. It was the anointing that made it all happen.

Kundalini and Shaktipat

Over the years I’ve talked with a number of so-called prophets and healers who spoke like Howard-Browne. A burning power rising up in their bodies that gave them power to do miracles. During my days in the Jesus People Movement when we did see miracles, I never experienced or heard about anything like what Howard-Browne described. However, I had, and actually continue to have, conversations with those involved in various spiritual practices that do sound like what Howard-Browne described.  I turned to Wikipedia for the material I suspected I would find.

Kundalini is described within–eastern religious, or spiritual, tradition as “an indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system and ultimately to bestow the state of Yoga, or Divine Union, upon the ‘seeker’ of truth.” “The Yoga Upanishads describe Kundalini as lying ‘coiled’ at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened.” In physical terms, one commonly reported Kundalini experience is a feeling like electric current running along the spine.

Kundalini can be awakened by shaktipat — spiritual transmission by a Guru or teacher — or by spiritual practices such as yoga or meditation. Sometimes Kundalini reportedly awakens spontaneously as the result of physical or psychological trauma, or even for no apparent reason.

One man said he felt an activity at the base of his spine starting to flow so he relaxed and allowed it to happen. A feeling of surging energy began traveling up his back, at each chakra he felt an orgasmic electric feeling like every nerve trunk on his spine beginning to fire. A second man describes a similar experience but accompanied by a wave of euphoria and happiness softly permeating his being. He described the surging energy as being like electricity but not, traveling from the base of his spine to the top of his head. He said the more he analyzed the experience, the less it occurred.

Kundalini can also awaken spontaneously, for no obvious reason, or triggered by intense personal experiences such as accidents, near death experiences, childbirth, emotional trauma, extreme mental stress, and so on. Some sources attribute spontaneous awakenings to the “grace of God,” or possibly to spiritual practice in past lives.

The popularization of eastern spiritual practices has been associated with psychological problems in the West. Psychiatric literature notes that “since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or ‘spontaneously’.

I could go on, but I think the above is enough; however, one last observation might be of value. On the fourth page of the Wikipedia article on Kundalini is a section with the heading, “Physical and psychological effects.” In brief, I list some of the items which are referred to as “Kundalini syndrome”:

 involuntary jerks, tremors, shaking, itching, tingling, and crawling sensations; energy rushes or feelings of electricity circulating the body; intense heat (heating) or cold; trance-like and altered states of consciousness; disrupted sleep pattern; loss of appetite or overeating; mood swings with periods of depression or mania.

The quest for power

Certainly Howard-Browne and any of the Kansas City Prophets and those associated with Rick Joyner of Morningstar in North Carolina, Mike Bickle of IHOP in Kansas City, Bill Johnson at Bethel Church in Redding, California, or anyone else associated with the Third Wave would not knowingly embrace anything to do with Kundalini or shaktipat, but there is an obvious association if not direct connection. That association could well be the quest for power.

Power, the one great and overriding drive behind the occult, is the great lure. So much of the tragedy of humanity has been the direct result of striving to acquire and retain power. The quest for magical powers to heal drives shamanism and religions like Santería. The neo-pagan religions like Wicca also focus on power to heal and perform  magic. How thin the line can be that separates the occult and pagan from the biblically orthodox.

Anyone who has either read of or experienced firsthand a great moving of the Holy Spirit desires to see it happen again. It is as though we can “work up” such a revival or awakening ourselves. We can go to extremes and “work up” the crowd with music and great expectations of miracles and pass them off as a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. In my view, the epitome of error is the concept of containing an anointing, a special and rare gift of the Holy Spirit. One way of identifying authentic Christianity is that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is front and center.

Off the charts

But then I think: no, wait a minute. These guys up in Redding at Bethel and in Kansas City say we are “off the charts.” Their prophet’s declare that these are the last days and the Bible is not so important anymore. After all, many are conversing with angels now, even big name angels, some speaking directly with Jesus as one would in a phone call;[6] people like Kat Kerr are going direct to God, bypassing angels all together. Yes, face to face meetings with the Creator of heaven and earth in the “throne room” to get the real scoop for the last of the last days. Apparently, we are right up there at a few seconds before midnight on the great cosmic clock. Wow, I’m a believer!

Going corporate?

Am I making fun? Yes I am to a degree, in order to highlight the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And one wonders, what comes next? I mean, where can you go next? After hearing from God personally and getting the definitive word about the wrap-up of history from the Big Guy, everything else seems second rate, not to mention a waste of time. Someone who has followed the whole enterprise in Redding said to me last month that they have shifted into “corporate” mode to fill a possible void, and by that he meant the selling of product – everything from worship music, dietary supplements, t-shirts and other kinds of clothing, paperback books, and who knows what else that these entrepreneurs will concoct. God help us.

Is it possible for the newly and self ordained apostles and prophets to drop all of it? Think of the humiliation, the embarrassment, the decrease in salary, invitations to speak drying up, the rejections, the tongue-waggers, the falling book sales, the payments on the improvements to the property, the praise of the crowds? What do you do – retire, repent, step down, and confess, with your whole life exposed as a fraud? What do you do after making shipwreck of your faith and many thousands of others’ faith as well? Here is where the miracles are needed.

Closing comment

I am one who has made major errors in my life and ministry, and from these I am yet greatly pained and will until I get home. Indeed, the sufferings of this present time, whether the result of the Fall or my own rebellious folly, are not worth comparing with what God has prepared for us. My repenting will last my whole life, and though I may be embarrassed in certain circles, yet I take confidence that all my sin has been atoned for through the shedding of the precious blood of the Lamb. Thus it is with confidence that I continue following Jesus and rejoicing in the ability to yet be a servant in His kingdom. The audience, after all, is not in the pews but in heaven.

Kent Philpott

February 2014 

[1] C. Peter Wagner is often recognized as an “apostle” in the recreation of the “Five Fold Ministry,” and by virtue of his position as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and his part in launching the Church Growth seminars at Fuller (of which I was a part), he provided prestige and clout to the fledgling “Third Wave” revival.

[2] Rather than 5 ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, many combine pastor and teacher, since the two are joined by the Greek co-coordinating conjunction kai or and. More correctly, it is the four fold ministry. And it may be noted that, while these ministries or offices may not always have been formally established, they have never be absent in the long history of the Church. 

[3] The two books are virtually identical in content, having only minor variations and additions. To read one is to read the other.

[4] The God Mockers is the title of a book written by Stephen Hill who was the principle evangelist for the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida during the mid-1990s. All those who rejected the idea that it was a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit he so labeled.

[5] I had gotten in place early and was a little surprised at how ushers brought in, paraded might be a better word, a group of people and seated them directly in front of the platform. The reason for this became clear later on.

[6] This is what Sarah Young does as she journals in her books like Jesus Calling.

Charismatic and Pentecostal: An Opinion

Charismatic and Pentecostal: An Opinion

I admit it; I am a charismatic and a pentecostal.

A “charismatic” is a person who believes in and/or practices or has one or more of the ‘grace’ gifts. The Greek word for grace as transliterated from the Greek is charis. The word charismatic, then, is an adjective turned into another noun built from charis. All but cessationists, who are those who deny the operation of grace gifts now that the New Testament is published and the age of the Apostles is over, would be classed as charismatics or at least persons believing that the grace gifts are still bestowed on believers today.

A “pentecostal” usually means someone who, in the tradition of the early part of the 20th century in the Azusa Street Revival (Los Angeles in 1908) to the present, speaks in tongues.[1] Early in their tradition, pentecostals believed that if a person did not speak in tongues they were not really born again, since the evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit was tongue speaking. (Some denominations still teach this while most do not.) Pentecostals generally hold that, even if tongue speaking is not evidence of salvation, it is at least something everyone will do if they are truly seeking after God.[2]

I myself spoke in tongues from 1968 to about 1990, with the frequency going steadily downhill until finally it ceased completely. During the Jesus People Movement I also received words of wisdom, knowledge, and prophecy, plus consistently had the gifts of discernment (distinguishing between spirits), healing, and miracles. This is no exaggeration; in fact, I am purposefully minimizing my experiences.

Let us look at the grace gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Romans 12:
utterance of wisdom Prophecy
utterance of Knowledge Service
faith Teaching
gifts of healing Exhorting
working of miracles contributing (in generosity)
prophecy leading   (with zeal)
ability to distinguish between   spirits acts of mercy (with cheerfulness)
various kinds of tongues  
interpretation of tongues  


Many contend, as do I, that Paul cites an additional grace charismatic gift, celibacy. 1 Corinthians 7:6-7 seems to teach this.

Let us take a moment to examine the charismatic gifts.

The cessationist ought to have a problem with the idea that the charismatic gifts are no longer operational, since many of these gifts seem to be in evidence today. Among them are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, distinguishing between spirits, service, teaching, exhorting (which means encouraging), contributing, leading, and acts of mercy. To look at one of these, acts of mercy, it is apparent to most pastors that some will have this gift while others do not. There are observable differences then and not with acts of mercy only. Others that I have seen are leading, contributing, encouraging, teaching, and serving.

What the cessationist actually rejects however are the so-called ‘power gifts’ – tongues, miracles, and prophecy; the others are ignored or accommodated in some way or another. Prophecy, in particular, is generally misunderstood. It is essentially a forth telling or proclamation of the Word and Truth of God, which, ever since the publication of the New Testament, is simply the preaching of the Word of Christ. In the Jesus People Movement we used to think prophecy was a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ thing, the prophet communicating new information. After long exposure to and experience with this form of prophecy, I concluded that the ‘prophet’ would tend to announce what was in his or her own mind, however sincerely. I thought and practiced in this manner for a decade, much to my regret now.

Being an actual pentecostal

Whether one speaks in tongues or does not is of no consequence. If such is necessary for proclaiming the glory of God, then God will supply it.

The real problem surrounding tongues speaking occurs in a congregational setting. As a senior pastor of a fairly large church during the 1970s I ignored the teaching about the necessity of interpreting tongues for the understanding and teaching of the congregation. I also turned a blind eye to the statement of Paul’s that there should be only a few tongue-speaking messages (see 1 Corinthians 14:27).

Another significant issue arises in a situation where many people, in a service, are speaking in tongues. Others who are new to the group may feel expected to join in. I suspect that whatever can be observed, that is, seen or heard, can be mimicked. Frankly, I have seen this hundreds of times. If one wants to be seen as spiritual and have a need to be approved by the group, he or she may well copy or mimic what the others are doing. Then the group will congratulate, approve, and welcome the new tongue speaker into the inner circle of the truly born again.

A kind of cognitive dissonance is operative. There is pressure to speak in tongues, the urging to do so, the prayers offered up for the gift to be granted, only to have nothing happen. Eventually, the tension must be broken, and the result will be either mimicry or abandonment of the whole effort.

I am pentecostal

This is my testimony: I am pentecostal. In has been decades since I have spoken in tongues, but it could come back. No, I will not carry on speaking in tongues with a whole group of others doing the same thing and without interpretation, as it is a complete violation of Scripture. (Carefully study 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14, making every effort to set aside pre-conceived views. We must be more concerned about being faithful to the Word of God than to the traditions of men.)

At this present time, in September of 2013, I consider that many gifts of the Spirit abound in tens of thousands of congregations around the world, probably without many of these people even being aware of it. My experience has been that those who least suspect they are being gifted by the Spirit are, in fact, the most gifted.

Here is where I see the real evidence, the most biblically oriented evidence, of the working of the charismatic gifts: in proclaiming the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus set His agenda for the Church to continue until His Second Coming: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Indeed, when the day of Pentecost arrived, the Apostles spoke in tongues, to the effect that people heard them telling in their own languages “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11). Three thousand converts came from the proclaiming of a dozen, less one, preachers.

What were the “mighty works”? They were the old, old story of Jesus and His cross and resurrection. Yes, the Messiah had come and died in the sinner’s place. Nothing has changed since then, but when the babbling goes on and on, confused and clamoring, it is not the Spirit of God. It is either human confusion or demonic imitation.[3]

Another kind of speaking in tongues – prayer language

It is characteristic of charismatics and pentecostals to distinguish between speaking in tongues as a prayer language and the speaking in tongues in a congregational setting. It is this latter form that demands interpretation. Let me repeat: if there is so-called speaking in tongues in a group of Christians with an absence of interpretation, then something is drastically wrong.[4]

“Prayer language” is what the lone Christian utters, words that are unintelligible to the human ear but which are supposed to be the indwelling Holy Spirit praying through the mouth of the believer. We are on murky ground here, because the material in support of a private prayer language is not perfectly clear but is open to interpretation. In 1 Corinthians 14:2 Paul writes, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” Now this verse is connected with Romans 8:26-27 by most charismatics and pentecostals:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Here I am not as certain as I would like to be. It was private prayer language in which I most often engaged and which slowly went away without return to this date. I must admit that I am still convinced that this type of spiritual prayer is genuine. The validity of this form of prayer I observed when casting out demons from people during the 1970s, during the Jesus People Movement. This form of prayer caused dramatic reactions from two different people on two separate occasions, about one year apart. These two raised their hands, covered their ears, and said, “Stop that perfect prayer.” However, I do not want to anchor the validity of private and personal praying in unknown tongues on the retorts of demonized individuals.

Whether or not the Spirit intercedes for the Christian in the form of private speaking/praying in tongues I cannot say for sure, but either way, it does not violate Paul’s concern that, in the congregation, tongues must be interpreted.

Of greater concern: Christian-oriented shamanism practiced by some pentecostals

The Shaman, while in an ecstatic state, can go to heaven or to hell and deal with angels, deities, demons, or the souls of the dead. Pentecostal Christians are also claiming to have met with angels, either in heaven or on the earth. Some describe taking a journey to heaven and conversing with angels. Some even claim to have talks with Jesus in the “throne room.” These assertions have been made for several years now. One wonders if this is not simply an example of one-upmanship – “I am more spiritual and closer to God that you” – since pride is a powerful motivator even in the broad Christian community. Or perhaps it is delusion; or trickery; or lying. Who knows, but it is reminiscent of the Shaman’s ‘soul journey.’ Talking with Jesus in heaven – how could this find acceptance with Bible-oriented Christians?

The rationale runs something like this: Since we are living in the last days,[5] God is doing something new. We are off the charts now, being so close to the rapture[6] and the years of tribulation. The Bible, while perfectly fine, does not cover the final period and so God is speaking with some specially chosen servants directly. God’s chosen anointed will communicate what God is saying to the Church. So, why be limited by the Bible when you can go direct? And the Church, the real and true last days Church, becomes those who listen to and obey the words of the chosen anointed.[7]

And if someone like me questions such assertions, the rejoinder is: “Well, how do you know God is not doing this?” Or, “Aren’t you in jeopardy of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?”

Many would-be questioners will retreat if so confronted. They may even be cowed into accepting and joining in. I personally have been confronted with those exact statements, and I found it difficult to give a credible answer. It is like being asked, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” There seems to be no good, at least no direct reply to the accusations.

Taking a stand

It is not established in the New Testament that there would be a time prior to the Second Coming of Jesus that sends us off the charts, requiring direct communication with angels or deity. There is no passage of Scripture that indicates Christians will do this; nothing even close.

The Revelation of John, the last book in our Bible, details the very end of history. In the last chapters of that apocalyptic book are the accounts of the defeat of Satan, the victory of Christ, His return, the celebration of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. What began in Genesis is completed in Revelation. What more is needed?

The Holy Spirit has not been taken from the Church or individual Christians. When we gather in Jesus’ name, He is still in our midst, and He will be with us until the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20).

Then lastly, there are the words of John himself. He gives readers a warning not to add to or subtract from the revelation given to him by Jesus. Such warnings were not uncommon in that era; they served as a kind of an ancient copyright mechanism. John inserted it for a reason, and it is applicable to those who insist that we have moved beyond the Book:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The role of feelings in the charismatic/pentecostal experience


Since 1968 I have been involved with those who are charismatic and pentecostal. While not a terribly emotional or feeling-centered person, still I enjoyed the rock and roll bands of my teenage years. My friends knew me as a rather even-tempered person without major highs and lows, emotionally speaking.

During my years as pastor of a charismatic church, increasingly I found myself the odd-man-out. In our services and other gatherings, the ‘worship time’ was the centerpiece and it was assumed to be the time when God showed up. Feeling good became identified with God’s presence. Quiet times, silent prayer, reflective listening to Bible portions, the repeating of creeds, and reciting of prayers we considered be ‘lame’ even sub-Christian. Over time I began to question these assumptions.

By way of my pastoral counseling efforts I found that people would be worried if they did not feel good. Sad, depressed, uneasy, discomforted – these were to be avoided. I began to hear, “Doesn’t God want us to feel good?” “If God is present shouldn’t I feel good?” “God wants me to feel bad?” “Doesn’t God care about how we feel?” “Aren’t praise and worship enhanced when we feel good?” And so on.

These are tough questions, especially for the generations that have grown up to think that everything has to do with feeling good. After all, sad is not the goal of life. But from a biblical perspective, both in terms of precedence and warrant, our feelings are pretty much downplayed if mentioned at all.[8] Yes, there is joy, real and legitimate joy, but upon further study it becomes evident that joy and feelings have little to do with each other. Joy can be present in sadness, even despair.

Sometimes I think that feeling good in worship is, or can be, an attempt at assuring oneself of salvation. I learned that healing was that way, too. If you are healed, it must mean you have God’s gift of salvation. Right? If you ‘feel’ good this must be a sure sign of genuine conversion? Right?

Paul, in Romans 8:14, speaks directly to the issue: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This is what counts. Here there is a gentle but strong assurance of salvation that is not dependent upon feelings. We may be sad or glad, no matter; we may be struggling mightily or rejoicing with “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (see 1 Peter 1:8), no matter.

Growing up into Christ we learn to distrust our feelings and rely instead on the finished work of Christ, both for our salvation and our sanctification. Walking through the “valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil because God is with us,” David said in Psalm 23. We will endure times of distress, pain, and grief, until gladness appears and this may not come until we are in the presence of God in heaven. It is the inner witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we cherish. Feelings come and go, but Jesus is with us until the end of the age. To that I say, Hallelujah.

Concluding thoughts

Why we cling so tenaciously to that which is contemporary than to time honored points of theology and practice is not completely understood. We tend to embrace what is new and exciting, large and loud. If crowds of people are flocking in, this must be evidence of genuineness. Numbers, influence, popularity, and money are the proof of the pudding.

Charismatic and pentecostal – these adjective/nouns are still divisive and growing more so as people pray for and earnestly desire the authentic moving of the Holy Spirit in revival and awakening. There is a kind of desperateness apparent and along with it a rush to sanctify anything that looks like it is attended by miracles. The desire is a good and true one. But it is here in the hunger and the yearning where mistakes are made and well-intentioned people go off the charts, ignore boundaries, and depend on supposed power gifts and miracles as evidence of a fresh move of God. According to Jesus and Paul, we should expect demonically inspired signs and wonders (see Matthew 24:24 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, among others). Maybe some of us who lived through the Jesus Movement and who had to deal with the dark aftermath of it may have a helpful word to speak here. This is what I am hoping to do in this essay.


Kent Philpott

September 2013

[1] This essay does not refer to any specific denomination with “Pentecostal” in its title.

[2] Paul made it clear that even in the Corinthian Church where there was tongue speaking, not everyone did. See 1 Corinthians 12:30.

[3] Based on Scripture it has been long understood that Satan is capable of counterfeiting the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. This sad, confusing, and alarming, but true nevertheless. The story of Simon the magician, see Acts 8:9-25, is a case in point.

[4] No one knows what speaking in tongues looked like or sounded like on the day of Pentecost. It is simply an assumption that what is seen and heard today is the same as what took place in the New Testament era. But it is only a guess, as there were no tape recordings made. The fact is that many religious groups, and non-Christian groups among them, claim to speak in ecstatic tongues. The phenomenon is not limited to Christianity. Some who so practice are as far from Christianity as could be. Considering the vast and confused spiritual marketplace that has overrun the world, critical analytical thinking is advised.

[5] We do expect Jesus to return, but no one knows when this will be. Some try to set dates only to find themselves embarrassed and Christians scandalized as a result. There is nothing in the biblical record that reveals even signs of a run-up to the Second Coming. A careful study of Matthew 24 makes this clear.

[6] A study of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 shows that the “rapture” and the Second Coming are the very same event and not two events.

[7] This is a formula for the development of a toxic faith, or to put it another way, this is how cults come to be.

[8] By ‘precedence’ I mean direct mention in the Bible. while ‘warrant’ refers to biblical teaching that clearly justifies a doctrinal position or practice.