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Pentecostals, Charismatics, and the Third Wave. Who Believes What? Part Two


In the previous article we looked at the historical and theological origins of the classical Pentecostal movement and the many denominations it produced. But today we also hear of so-called Charismatics, as well as the Third Wave movement. How do these differ, or do they?

The Beginnings of Neo-Pentecostalism or the Charismatic Movement

Neo-Pentecostalism or as some prefer, the Charismatic movement, refers to the penetration of the Pentecostal experience into the mainline denominational churches. For quite some time, Pentecostal distinctives remained within decidedly Pentecostal denominations. But that was soon to change. One influential figure in this was David DuPlessis (1905-87).

DuPlessis was born in South Africa and became active in Pentecostal ministry at an early age. In December of 1936 he received a prophetic word from Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1945) that was to change his life:

“I have been sent by the Lord to tell you what he has shown me this morning. Through the old line denominations will come a revival that will eclipse anything we have known throughout history. No such things have happened in times past as will happen when this begins. . . . Then the Lord said to me I am to give you warning that he is going to use you in the movement.”

DuPlessis became the secretary of the World Pentecostal Fellowship and eventually got involved in the World Council of Churches (which exposed him to considerable criticism; he was excommunicated from the Assemblies of God in 1962). His principal effort was to unite Pentecostals around the world and to bring the outpouring of the Spirit into mainline denominations.

One of the first and most influential ministries that brought the Pentecostal experience into the mainstream of Protestant evangelicalism was The Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship (1952), founded by Demos Shakarian (with the help of DuPlessis and Oral Roberts)

But the major event that catapulted Pentecostalism into the limelight of mainstream denominational life occurred in 1960.

Dennis Bennett (1917-1991) was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California (1953-1961). Something occurred in his life and ministry that many believe marks the true beginning of the modern Charismatic movement. On Passion Sunday, April 3, 1960, he announced to his church that he had spoken in tongues.

After this historic service, pandemonium broke out. One man stood on a chair shouting, “Throw out the damn tongue speakers.” Bennett's curate tore off his vestments, threw them on the altar, and stalked out of church crying: “I can no longer work with this man.” Bennett resigned immediately and eventually took the pastorate of an episcopal church in Seattle.

Bennet’s experience, however, was not the only event that spread Pentecostalism outside its standard denominational barriers. Through the influence of Harald Bredesen, a Lutheran pastor from Mt. Vernon, New York, an outbreak of tongues occurred on the campus of Yale University in 1963, the participants in which were subsequently called glossoyalies. [I might add here that it was my personal encounter with Bredesen at a Bible study in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in the summer of 1970 that eventually led to my receiving the gift of tongues.]

Equally influential in the ever-increasing charismatic renewal was Oral Roberts and his focus on divine healing. In 1967-68 Roberts sought and obtained membership in the Methodist church.

Charismatic renewal wasn’t confined to Protestant denominations, as the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal was soon very much in the news. The Second Vatican Council, which concluded in 1965, created an atmosphere of openness to the charismatic work of the Holy Spirit. Pope John there directed every Catholic in the world to pray daily: “Lord renew your wonders in this our day as by a new Pentecost.”

The Roman Catholic charismatic movement first emerged in the mid-1960s with several laymen on the faculty of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Similar events occurred at Notre Dame and elsewhere. In 1967 the first annual National Catholic Pentecostal Conference met on the campus of Notre Dame University and in 1975 10,000 Catholic charismatics attended the International Charismatic Conference at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Another, extremely controversial, expression of charismatic renewal was The Shepherding or Discipleship Movement. This movement found its doctrinal inspiration in the teaching of two men: (1) Watchman Nee (see his The Body of Christ) and (2) Juan Carlos Ortiz (an Argentinian Christian). The need for every believer to be “under authority” and to have “covering” from a “shepherd” in the local church was popularized by a group that came to be known as The Fort Lauderdale Five: Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and Ern Baxter.

This movement posed a serious threat to unity within the charismatic wing of the church. The Shepherding leaders were denounced publicly by The Full Gospel Businessmen's association, Pat Robertson, and others. Kathryn Kuhlman pointedly refused to appear on the same platform with Bob Mumford, saying: “The man is a heretic.”

In 1989 Bob Mumford issued an apology for the excesses of the movement and any harm for which he was responsible:

“Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts . . . [but] these biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the spheres of my own responsibility. For the injury and shame caused to people, families and the larger body of Christ, I repent with sorrow and ask your forgiveness” (see Christianity Today, March 19, 1990).

The Charismatic movement in America eventually gave birth to numerous independent charismatic churches and relational networks.

Charismatic Renewal in England

The spread of Pentecostal experience beyond its denominational boundaries also took place in England. An influential figure was Michael Harper, curate to John Stott at All Souls Langham Place in London. Harper first experienced the power of the Spirit in September of 1962. He left All Souls and established Fountain Trust in September of 1965, an interdenominational organization which aimed to encourage local churches to experience renewal in the Holy Spirit. Renewal magazine was established as the primary voice of the charismatic movement in England.

In 1995, Harper joined the Antiochian Greek Orthodox church, taking with him nine other Anglican pastors. His decision was in large part triggered by the Anglican vote to ordain women priests in 1992.

We should also point to the emergence of the House Church Movement in the early 1970s and the influence of Arthur Wallis, Bryn Jones, Terry Virgo, Gerald Coates, Roger Forster, Barney Coombs, etc. Charismatic renewal in the Church of England was largely led by David Watson at St. Michael-Le-Belfrey in York, David Pytches at St. Andrews in Chorleywood, and Sandy Millar at Holy Trinity Brompton in London

The Third Wave

So, now that we’ve seen the emergence of both classical Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement in mainstream Protestant denominations (as well as in the Roman Catholic Church), what are we to make of what is called the Third Wave.

The Third Wave, a phrase coined by C. Peter Wagner, refers to the growing, and increasingly organized, numbers of conservative evangelicals who now embrace the full range of spiritual gifts. Principal among those in the Third Wave is the Vineyard. One would also include New Frontiers, for many years led by Terry Virgo.

The “first wave” of the Holy Spirit, explains Wagner, was the classical Pentecostal movement that began in 1906. The “second wave” was the Charismatic movement that saw traditional denominations embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As noted above, this is generally dated with the experience of Dennis Bennett in 1960-61. The “third wave”, therefore, is the embracing by evangelicals of the gifts of the Spirit while at the same time rejecting several of the classical Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctives.

There are several ways in which Third Wave believers differ from their spiritual cousins:

Most Third Wave believers do not believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience separate from conversion. John Wimber, who led the Vineyard until his death in1997, argued that all believers experience baptism in the Spirit at the moment of their initial conversion by faith in Christ.

Similarly, Third Wave Christians do not insist that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of baptism in the Spirit. Many will receive the gift of tongues at the time of their conversion, but most will experience this manifestation of the Spirit at some time subsequent to their being born again. And unlike their Pentecostal cousins, those in the Third Wave do not believe that God intends for every Christian to receive this particular gift.

Another way in which those in the Third Wave distance themselves from their Charismatic cousins is in their denial that since “healing is in the atonement” all believers may justifiably “claim” complete physical health in this present age. Make no mistake here. Third Wave Christians believe in divine healing and insist that “gifts of healings” as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 are still operate in the present age.

A primary distinctive of the Third Wave that differentiates them from both Pentecostal and Charismatic believers is their emphasis on what theologians have called the Already and Not Yet of Christian experience. This isn’t to suggest that Pentecostals and Charismatics deny this principle. It is simply to say that Third Wave believers more readily account for the absence of healing in all instances by appealing to those experiences which are already ours by faith in Jesus and those that are not yet part of what God designed for us. The kingdom of God and its supernatural power is already here, present with us and manifest in numerous ways, but will not yet be disclosed in its fullness until the Second Coming of Christ and the inauguration of the New Heaven and New Earth.

This distinction between the Already and Not Yet of Christian experience also explains in large measure why the Third Wave has distanced itself from the errors of the Word of Faith movement as well as other forms of the so-called Health and Wealth or Prosperity gospel.

In sum, although there are some significant theological and practical differences that exist among Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave believers, there is far more that unites them than what divides them. All within these movements happily and zealously affirm the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, his virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and personal, physical second coming to consummate history. They all affirm the inspiration and authority of the Bible and preach that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

My prayer is that all believers within these distinct expressions of spiritual life can join hearts and hands in the spread of the gospel and the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ.


1 Comment

Thank you for these thoughts Pastor Storms. I have enjoyed your books on spiritual gifts and on tongues, which was particularly helpful. I was saved on the Berkeley campus in April of 1971 while tripping out on acid. At that time Christ was revealed to me as the Son of God and looking up I saw a white dove flying from free to tree. I followed him and came across a Christian who prayed for me. Before that the effects of the acid fell away. Later I came across a choir of Christians on the campus and met a young man named Morris who centered me and gave me a Bible and the Cross and the Switchblade. I was baptized and prayed for to receive the Holy Spirit at the church that Morris attended. I have spoken in tongues throughout the course of my life. I returned to my hometown by hitchhiking across the country, but first stopped at the college I had left to witness to all my friends. There is so much more to tell, but I am a strong believer in reformed theology and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I live in a small town in central PA where I attend church and help out at a Christian school. I retired from teaching special education students for 38 years while being married for 47 this May. My wife and I praise God for his mercy and goodness to us. May he continue to bless you in your walk with him.

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