The Charismatic Movement
35 Doctrinal Issues

Charismatic Movement - A Brief History of Pentecostalism


The Three Waves

From the second century to the nineteenth century there is no historical evidence that godly, orthodox believers spoke in tongues. We do have instances of tongues speaking in these centuries, but in every case the people speaking in tongues belonged to heretical groups. See our discussion under #15 in this paper. From Montanus (2nd Century) to Edward Irving (19th century), instances of "tongues" within the church were never considered to be part of genuine Christianity. Also we should note that these "heretics" who spoke in tongues were speaking some kind of emotional, nonsense gibberish and not real languages as was the case in Acts chapter 2.

Wave #1
Old Pentecostalism or Classic Pentecostalism

In 1901 at Bethel Bible College, Topeka, Kansas, Agnes Ozman received what she called the baptism of the Spirit and spoke in "tongues." The practice then became part of the Holiness movement of the church in the United States. In 1906 tongues were spoken on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, and out of these two events in 1901 and 1906 grew the mainline Pentecostal denominations which are still with us today (Assemblies of God, etc.).

Wave #2
New Pentecostalism or Charismatic Renewal

This is sometimes referred to as the New Charismatic Movement. It was like the old charismatic, Pentecostal movement in that it gave special emphasis to certain gifts, most notably the gift of tongues. It was a new movement in the sense that it crossed denominational lines and barriers.

In 1960, in Van Nuys, California, the modern Charismatic movement began in an Episcopalian Church (St. Mark's, with Dennis Bennett as rector). There was an outburst of tongues speaking in this church. This event was so significant that both Time and Newsweek covered the story. After that the movement spread like wildfire in the Episcopalian Church and then among Lutherans and Presbyterians as well.

The movement soon entered the universities. This began in New England. In October of 1962 the glossolalia phenomenon broke out at Yale University, among members of the Evangelical Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Included in this new-Pentecostal revival were Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and even one Roman Catholic. Five were members of Phi Beta Kappa, and some were religious leaders on campus (they were soon called "GLOSSO YALIES"). Thereafter the movement spread to Dartmouth College, Stanford University and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Even more significant than these events is what happened in 1967. All roads lead to Rome. At the time of Easter vacation, in the Spring of 1967 there were in the Notre Dame area about 30 zealous Catholics who had received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." In 1968 about 100 to 150 met for a Catholic Pentecostal conference. In 1969 there were about 450 Catholic Charismatics who met including about 25 or 30 priests. In 1970 the increase was more spectacular. Almost 1,300 attended the conference, including Catholics from Canada. In 1973 22,000 Catholic Charismatics met together at Notre Dame, including Catholic participants from at least 10 foreign countries. In 1974 the Notre Dame conference was attended by 30,000 people. And finally, the 1975 international conference held in Rome, attracted 10,000 pilgrims from 50 countries to hear Pope Paul VI express his warm appreciation for the movement. The movement was mushrooming not only in the Roman Catholic Church but in all of the major protestant denominations.

The Kansas City Charismatic Conference was held in the summer of 1977. All three wings of the Pentecostal movement were present: 1) Old Pentecostals (sometimes called "classical Pentecostals"); 2) Protestant Charismatics; and 3) Catholic Charismatics. This was the biggest and most inclusive gathering of "baptized in the Spirit" believers in modern history. There were nearly 50,000 participants in this 5 day conference. One speaker proudly hailed this conference as "the largest and most inclusive ecumenical assembly in the history of American Christianity." Almost half of the participants were Roman Catholics.

A newspaper article published in 1977 (AP) reported that there were 10 million charismatics in America (5 million Classical Pentecostals and 5 Million New Pentecostals). Thus the new charismatic movement grew to 5 million in only 17 years (1960 to 1977)! Today the movement is still very much alive and growing, although we probably will not see the same kind of mushrooming growth as we saw in the 60's and early 70's. Christianity Today (January 7, 1983) reported that the Assembly of God denomination (Pentecostal) is the fastest growing American denomination. At that time there were 1.6 million Assembly of God adherents and the number was growing fast.

The New Charismatics are not separatist but rather reformist in character. They are not interested in separating from old ecclesiastical structures. Rather they are told to stay in these churches and to renew them by their continued presence within. This is what is meant by Charismatic Renewal.

Wave #3
The Signs and Wonders Movement

The term "third wave" was first coined by C. Peter Wagner in 1983:

I see historically that we're now in the third wave. The first wave of the moving of the Holy Spirit began at the beginning of the century with the Pentecostal movement. The second wave was the charismatic movement which began in the fifties in the major denominations. Both of those waves continue today.

I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and charismatics have experienced, but without becoming either charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has lasted almost through our whole century. [Peter Wagner, "The Third Wave?" Pastoral Renewal, July-August 1983, pages 1-5.]

This movement is also called the Signs and Wonders Movement and the Vineyard Movement. It has been a rapidly growing movement, drawing adherents from both charismatic and non-charismatic churches. The movement stresses "power evangelism" whereby the gospel is explained and demonstrated by way of supernatural signs and wonders.

There are three key leaders of this movement: 1) John Wimber, probably the central figure of the movement. He was the founder of the Vineyard church movement and he taught with C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary. The course was entitled "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth." 2) C. Peter Wagner, professor at Fuller Seminary School of World Missions where he co-taught with John Wimber. 3) Paul Cain, an influential modern day prophet, a disciple of William Branham whom Cain called "the greatest faith healer of our time" and the "greatest prophet of all time." Branham was a heretical false prophet who held erroneous view on the Godhead and on the Trinity.  [For more detailed information about the Signs and Wonders Movement, see the article by Robert Dean, "Don't Be Caught by the Undertow of the Third Wave," Biblical Perspectives, May-June 1990 and also other of Dean's very helpful articles in this series.]

In the Signs and Wonders movement, tongues speaking can be found but the gift of tongues is not stressed as much as it is in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The Signs and Wonders movement (Vineyard movement) does stress the gift of prophecy (insisting on the importance of modern day prophets) and the gift of healing.

The "Holy Laughter" Movement

Note: The following information, printed in italics, is quoted directly from an article by Albert James Dager, "Holy Laughter," printed in Media Spotlight, P.O. Box 290, Redmond, WA 98073. The entire article is well done and recommended.

Many churches are reporting spontaneous, uncontrollable laughter erupting from their congregations, even during times of solemn ceremony or messages from the pulpit. Some report uncontrollable weeping, falling to the floor in ecstatic trances, and animal noises such as barking like dogs and roaring like lions. Some stagger and reel like drunken people, unable to walk a straight line. For simplicity's sake, all these have come to be called "holy laughter," since laughter is the pre-eminent phenomenon displayed.

It is unthinkable that the Lord Jesus or any of the apostles would have gone around barking like dogs or roaring like lions or reeling like drunk persons or laughing uncontrollably.

One of the most famous outbreaks of "holy laughter" took place in Toronto in 1994. "Worshipers are overcome by laughing, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling and, to the chagrin of some, noise-making that has been described as 'a cross between a jungle and a farmyard.' "  [Daina Doucet, "What is God doing in Toronto?" Charisma, February, 1995, page 20.]

One of the leaders of the "holy laughter" movement is Rodney Morgan Howard-Browne

...a burly, 6-foot charismatic preacher from South Africa. In 1979, at age 18, while praying for hours seeking a deeper spiritual experience, he challenged God: "Either You come down here and touch me, or I will come up there and touch You." Suddenly, his whole body felt like it was on fire. He began to laugh uncontrollably. Then he wept and began to speak in tongues. "I was plugged into heaven's electrical supply," he later wrote. "And since then my desire has been to go and plug other people in."  [Julia Duin, "Praise the Lord and pass the New Wine," Charisma, August, 1994, p. 22.]

The philosophy behind "holy laughter" is this: Why should people sit in church and be sad and mad and get headaches? Why not have some fun? The movement is a reaction to churches that are dead and lifeless and boring. One joke is told about the man in the back of the church who had a heart attack. The emergency medics arrived on the scene but since everyone else in this man's pew were sound asleep, they could not tell the difference between the heart attack victim and the other sleepers. If the others were laughing instead of sleeping, this would have helped the medics.

One example of a "holy laughter" service: At first a few hoots and laughs can be heard emanating from the audience, but there is still relative order. After a time of teaching, Howard-Browne calls a pastor forward who, the night before, had said he was ready to check himself into a mental clinic. Promising a double dose of the Holy Spirit this night, Howard-Browne lays his hand on the man, who promptly falls to the floor.

Howard-Browne then puts one foot on the man's stomach and pronounces that he will go forth forever changed. Someone said, "Why'd you put your foot on him?" "Because I didn't feel like bending down and putting my hand on him." The audience erupts in laughter and from this point things begin to roll. Bending over the man he says, "Go ahead; let that bubble out your belly." The man laughs a little harder. "More!" Harder laughing. "More!" The man tries harder yet. "More!" He begins to force a laugh that sounds like cackling. "More!" The man kicks his legs up and pedals his feet, laughing, "Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" Howard-Browne states, "That's called Holy Ghost aerobics."

This same kind of thing continues with other people. For example, Howard-Browne kicks one man in the foot and says, "You need to let that joy bubble out your belly! Stop praying, let the joy bubble out." etc.

Howard-Browne quotes Peter in Acts 2: "These are not drunk as you suppose..." He lays his hand on a lady in the front pew, causing her to shriek repeatedly, shaking her hands as if she had palsy. He points out that she is a pastor's wife.

He repeats, "These are not drunk as you suppose," and then the drunkard begins his routine: While sitting in his pew a man throws his head back and laughs heartily, kicking one leg up in the air. Suddenly he bolts from his seat and does a locomotive-action shuffle in a tight circle. Then he faces Howard-Browne, kicks one leg out in front and does a prat-fall. Another man jumps out of his seat, does the same sort of locomotion shuffle, arms falling wildly, and falls on the floor. Shortly afterward the first man gets up and staggers around with a mock drunken smile on his face, salutes Howard-Browne and plops down in the pew again. It is obviously contrived, but Howard-Browne and the audience eat it up.

Things continue in the same vein for the rest of the evening. Howard-Browne likes to call himself a "Holy Ghost bartender" who dispenses the "new wine" of charismatic fervor. He teaches that if there is drunkenness in the physical realm there must be drunkenness in the spiritual realm. His mission in life is to make people spiritually drunk.

On one occasion Howard-Browne said this: "One night I was preaching on hell, and (laughter) just hit the whole place. The more I told people what hell was like, the more they laughed." [Reported in the Calvary Contender, c/o Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville, Al 35816.]   Every truly saved person ought to know that hell is certainly no laughing matter.

There is seldom any true teaching from God's Word in these meetings. And when there is it is interrupted by laughter. One charismatic writer said, "No one doubts that having vast numbers of listeners convulsed in laughter can make whatever is being said from the pulpit irrelevant."  [Reported in the Calvary Contender, c/o Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville, Al 35816.] Think of your own local assembly. How much learning would take place if every 5 minutes during the preaching of God's Word people break out into uncontrollable and loud laughter? Could any learning take place in such a circus atmosphere?

God's Word says that all things in the assembly must be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Women and men flopping on the floor, acting drunk, hooting or making animal sounds is certainly not decent conduct in God's assembly (compare 1 Timothy 3:15). "Holy laughter" is not holy at all, and only confuses and contradicts God's order.

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