Matt Recker and the Gospel Coalition, Part 8: Charismatic Theology

The New Calvinism is a recapitulation of the New Evangelicalism, a movement that began during the 1940s, blossomed during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and broke apart during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Third Wave was marked by theological change. Leaders such as John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner no longer grounded healing in the atonement or tongues in Spirit baptism. Instead, they shifted the doctrinal basis for miraculous gifts toward inaugurated eschatology. On their view, the presence of the kingdom required the presence of kingdom authority, which was manifested especially through power encounters (healings, exorcisms, and even resurrections).

 

During the summer of 2014, Pastor Matt Recker published a series of blog posts in which he argued that the New Calvinism is essentially a recapitulation of the New Evangelicalism. The New Evangelicalism was a movement that began during the 1940s, blossomed during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and broke apart during the 1970s and 1980s. While it never comprised a majority of American evangelicals, it did exert a powerful influence through its principal voices (people like Harold John Ockenga, Carl F. H. Henry, Edward John Carnell, and Vernon Grounds), its leading evangelist (Billy Graham), and its leading publications (United Evangelical Action and Christianity Today). The principal mark that distinguished New Evangelicalism from the older fundamentalism was its willingness to embrace theological liberals and Roman Catholics as Christian brothers, viewing them as subjects of Christian recognition and fellowship. In addition to this primary feature, neoevangelicalism also displayed several less definitive characteristics.

One of those was its embrace of Pentecostals in full Christian cooperation. Pentecostalism—the First Wave of charismatic theology—began in about 1900. When the Azusa Street revivals splashed on the scene, fundamentalists almost unanimously rejected Pentecostalism as a serious error. While fundamentalists recognized that most Pentecostals were fellow-Christians, few were willing to cooperate with them publicly in organized endeavors.

From its beginning in 1942, however, the National Association of Evangelicals chose to admit Pentecostals. This decision marked a break with the older fundamentalist mentality, and one that marked the New Evangelicalism. While the neoevangelicals were not Pentecostals, they were unwilling to treat the cessation of miraculous gifts as a test of fellowship. They still thought that the Pentecostals were mistaken, but they chose to tolerate the mistake.

Once it gained a platform within evangelicalism, Pentecostal theology began to grow. Surprisingly, and in full continuity with New Evangelical methodology, it spread into the liberal denominations, beginning with the Episcopal Church. Eventually it even surfaced among Roman Catholics. This new and more respectable movement dropped the name Pentecostal in favor of the name charismatic. By the 1970s it had even entered the counterculture, producing saved hippies who called themselves “Jesus People.” This move toward popularity and respectability eventually became known as the Second Wave of the charismatic movement.

The Third Wave was marked by theological change. Leaders such as John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner no longer grounded healing in the atonement or tongues in Spirit baptism. Instead, they shifted the doctrinal basis for miraculous gifts toward inaugurated eschatology. On their view, the presence of the kingdom required the presence of kingdom authority, which was manifested especially through power encounters (healings, exorcisms, and even resurrections). In principle, all of the miraculous gifts were still in play, including the gift of apostle (which some, but not all, distinguished from the office of apostle).

During the 1990s, significant evangelical voices began to identify with the Third Wave. Besides Wagner and Wimber, Charles Kraft became a significant voice at Fuller Theological Seminary. Tim Warner taught courses on power encounters at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Exegetes Gordon Fee and Jack Deere became known for their charismatic theology. Perhaps most significantly, New Testament scholar and theologian Wayne Grudem became a public voice for Third Wave views.

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