Reformed Charismatic
Discussion Group




Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I want to take this opportunity to welcome those of you who are considering joining or who have recently joined our list. We are very glad to have you participate and pray that this list may prove as great a blessing to you as it has to us. As one of the moderators and as a pastor, I wanted to share a bit about how this is a different kind of list.

Your moderators are pretty tolerant of discussions that are off the main focus of our list. These discussions sometimes help us to get to know each other better. Whether within the focus of our list or not, some topics will cause a lot of others simply to hit the delete key. Email list messages are not like receiving personal, hand written letters—we don’t all have to read every single post, much less respond. In this sense, an email list is like the big door at the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, where Luther nailed his ninety-five points for debate. Lots of other “posts” had been put there, but Dr. Luther’s got noticed, and the Reformation began.

We try to maintain a spiritual fellowship here, not unlike what one should experience in a local church. I view my task as somewhat analogous to that of being the pastor of the list. Of course, this is merely an analogy; nothing should take the place of a local fellowship where the Word is preached, where baptism and the Lord’s Supper are practiced, and where the Lord Jesus’ sheep are shepherded according to the Scriptures. But I would like to draw out some implications of this analogy:

We should try to think and pray before we write. Sometimes I imagine that we are in a large cyber-parlor, each of us with Bible in hand, sharing what the Lord has done in our lives. At times we take issue—conscience sometimes compels us—but we are going to strive to conduct ourselves as becomes the followers of Jesus Christ: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2, 3) Very soon, after all, we will go into the sanctuary and worship the Lamb. We will break one loaf and sip from a common cup.

1. As with many other lists, while we maintain certain doctrinal standards, we are also committed to respecting one another as those who bear the image of God and who, as people who love the Lord Jesus, are brothers and sisters together. Part of what that means is getting to know each other through the experiences of life. We want you to share briefly who you are. How did you come to know the Lord Jesus? What do you do? What is the kind of church you attend? Another part of what this means is that we will not tolerate “flaming;” most Christian lists warn against disrespectful posting, but we regard it as sinful and people who persist in it will be blocked from posting.

2. We are also committed to sound doctrine. That doesn’t mean that we all have to dot our “I”s and cross our “T”s the same way. But, among other things, it does mean that we subscribe to Sola Scriptura, by which we mean that the Bible, not experience, is the ultimate standard of truth. We are not saying that experience isn’t valid nor that we cannot deduce truth from it, nor do we mean that God became mute after the completion of the Bible, simply that the Scripture is the only absolutely trustworthy standard.

Allow me to elaborate: I believe that God has continued to speak to his people since the completion of the New Testament. My wife and I regularly experience this as we minister to hurting people. In our spirits—not by vibrating our tympanic membranes—God has spoken to us many times. In other words, I am a card-carrying member of the Charismatic movement. I don’t reject dramatic or weird experiences that other people or I might have; it is simply that I test everything by the standard of God’s Word. If it is contrary to Scripture, I reject it. Sometimes, even if something is not contrary to the Bible, I will not embrace it. Rather, I will withhold judgment until I have more insight.

One of the things that makes this list unique is that we simultaneously embrace two positions that many Christians believe are mutually exclusive: we are committed to the Reformed faith, but we also are open to Charismatic phenomena such as prophesying, speaking in tongues, healing, and casting out demons.

Many of our list members are lonely people. We have Calvinistic Charismatics/Pentecostals who are members of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches and are longing for more doctrinal soundness, while others have joined Reformed churches and profoundly miss the exercise of spiritual gifts and the free, joyful worship that takes time to adore the Lord Jesus. We have pastors who find themselves ecclesiastical misfits. On the one hand, we have ordained Assembly of God people who have come to see that the Bible teaches unconditional election. Or, on the other, people such as myself, a Presbyterian minister, who realized that he would not be approved to accept a call to a congregation in some Presbyterian denominations or presbyteries, because he speaks in tongues or engages in other “Charismatic” practices.

Jonathan Koh and I discovered each other on lists where what we wrote was summarily dismissed because we were not cessationists. Jonathan proposed this list and asked me to help him moderate it. He set the list up through Missionary Aviation Fellowship, and reformed-charismatic@xc.org went on-line on Tuesday, September 30, 1997. In 2001, Jonathan suggested that we move the list to Yahoo Groups, not only because it was free, but because it would expose us to a larger pool of people. This was done on April 26, 2001. So was born Reformed-Charismatic, the list for theological misfits, for those who cannot bring themselves unquestioningly to goose-step behind any man or movement, because that seems to compromise our unswerving loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and his requirement that we test everything by the Bible.

Many of our folk are in a time of transition and are not sure in which theological camp they belong. This is a place for discussion and questions. Life is a pilgrimage. Back in 1994 I was backpacking in the southern Rockies, and our group got lost. We stopped, pulled out our water bottles and had a drink, then got out our topographical map and compasses, located mountains, found the stream that we had recently crossed and figured out where we were. Only then did we head out again.

We want this list to be a spot like that—a friendly, safe place where pilgrims can take inventory on their journey to the Celestial City. In order for it remain such a place, we must avoid the natural tendency to pigeonhole other people. Aren’t we here because we are tired of that being done to us? Most of us have met an arrogant Calvinist know-it-all, who used his theological acumen to belittle others and who was so opposed to experience that we wondered if he were even saved. We surely didn’t want somebody to think that we were like that. Most of us have also met a wacky person who claimed to be Charismatic, a person who confused his delusional psychosis for “the Holyghost told me.” We hated it when people associated what we experienced with that kind of insanity.

May our Lord Jesus keep us from doing that to others, particularly on this list.

Let me talk about our theology for a moment. Certain things are absolute: the Trinity; the deity and humanity of Christ; his future second coming; salvation being by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone; and the complete trustworthiness of the Bible. Beyond those essential doctrines is the whole body of the Reformed faith. Here we are dealing with points of theology that, while very important, are not essential to a person’s being regarded as a believer. In other words, you do not have to be a Five Point Calvinist in order to be an active, respected member of our “cyber-congregation,” but someone who is an out and out Arminian, Semi-Pelagian or Pelagian should not join our list with a view to being a missionary to poor, benighted Calvinists.

Our list is firmly committed to the essential truths of Evangelical Christianity—beyond the clear, hard and fast boundaries of the basics of Protestant theology, there are millions of people who name the name of Jesus. We are happy to have you on our list and ask questions, but please remember that this is a list that is Reformed, meaning that it is committed to the theological tradition that people often call Calvinism. People who would consistently propagate teachings that are contrary to these basic truths of Reformed Christianity and who would refuse to cease after having been warned privately and publicly would be unsubscribed. Of course, there is a distinction between raising questions and propagation; it is one thing to engage in Christian dialogue, quite another to try to take over a list.

So this is a list for people who are in varying degrees both Reformed and Charismatic. It is not a place for Reformed people to attack Charismatic people—that would defeat the purpose of the list. If you are a Charismatic looking for a way to attack Reformed theology, or if you are Reformed and simply want to argue against all present day manifestations of the Holy Spirit, please find another list on which to do that. But if you find yourself wrestling between these two poles and yearn for fellowship with other strugglers, this is the place for you.

Bob Vincent 

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