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[Editor’s Note: Responsible for the following report are six of the students of our Prot. Ref. Theological School: Messrs. Wayne Bekkering, Arie den Hartog, Mark Hoeksema, Marvin Kamps, James Slopsema, and Ronald Van Overloop.]

On November 3, 1971 six students of the Protestant Reformed Seminary attended a Pentecostal (charismatic renewal) meeting at West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of the students had heard of these meetings, attended one, and spoke of it to the student body and professors. The thought was that the students be asked to attend a meeting and write a report for theStandard Bearer.

We did not attend this meeting with open minds. We did not go in order to determine for ourselves whether such a meeting was right or wrong. Rather did we go with the firm conviction that the charismatic renewal movement is to be condemned on the basis of Scripture on the basis of our past study of church history and Reformed and Scriptural doctrine, we knew that this movement is not in harmony with Scripture and is a deviation from the historic manifestation of the church throughout history, Nor did we attend out of mere curiosity: for to go to an un Scriptural meeting just to satisfy one’s curiosity is wrong.

Rather, our attitude was one of condemnation: we took a condemnatory position, which position is the only proper one. Our positive purpose, which explains our presence, was: to gain firsthand information with respect to the charismatic movement in our community; to expose the evil of such a movement; and to convey to the reader the appealing power and enticing character of this movement. Because the charismatic movement represents a great temptation to the youth of our church, we desire specifically to warn both the parents and youth of the church to resist this movement on the basis of Scripture.


The events of the evening included preliminary instructional classes and a prayer meeting. The classes were “given to afford the baptism of the Spirit.” That is, they were held in order to prepare the participant to receive the baptism of the Spirit and to take part in the prayer meetings. The classes were called the “Life and Spirit Seminar.” There were seven successive classes within the seminar: 1) Union with God and One Another; 2) Steps toward Union with God; 3) Gifts of the Holy Spirit; 4) Praying for the Baptism of the Spirit; 5) Growth Talks after the Baptism is Received; 6) Being Sanctified in the Spirit. Also offered was a general introductory course, which we attended. After the classes ended, all the participants reconvened in a large auditorium for a prayer meeting. Approximately 600 people were seated in a large circle, with the leader in the center of the circle. The leader was surrounded by other leaders of the group playing on various rhythmical musical instruments. There were many events which took place during the two hour prayer session. There was a goodly amount of singing which was emotional and superficial. Songs that were sung included: There is a Balm in Gilead and Spirit of the Living God. The words of the latter are:

Spirit of the Living God fall a fresh on me,

Spirit of the Living God fall a fresh on me, 

melt me, mold me, fill me, use me,

Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

Another example was:

I have decided to follow Jesus,

I have decided to follow Jesus, 

I have decided to follow Jesus, 

No turning back, no turning back.

The cross before me, the world behind me, 

The cross before me, the world behind me, 

The cross before me, the world behind me, 

No turning back, no turning back.

Tho’ none may join me, still I will follow, 

Tho’ none may join me, still I will follow, 

Tho’ none may join me, still I will follow, 

No turning back, no turning back.

Upon the field, He’ll be my captain, 

Upon the field, He’ll be my captain, 

Upon the field, He’ll be my captain, 

No turning back, no turning back.

There were also repeated refrains of “Jesus is Lord, Alleluia, My Redeemer, How I love you, Precious Savior.” During the singing, many sat with closed eyes, yearning faces, concentrating expressions, and uplifted hands, striving for spiritual ecstasy. It was indeed appealing to the emotions—soft, sweet voices rising in moderate crescendos and slowly subsiding into a peaceful silence. During the intervals between songs, muttered personal prayers could be heard. Immediately following the personal prayers there was chanting in tongues, which was done individually. Yet, there was a unity: for all sang at the same time, all prayed at the same time, all spoke in tongues at the same time, and all ended at the same time. There were also “Spirit directed” testimonies which were supposedly prophecies. For example, one middle aged woman spoke of a physical healing experience which was accomplished through her faith in conjunction with the work of the Holy Spirit. Others read passages from errant modern versions of the Bible, personal interpretations of which passages they shared with the others in the meeting. Another woman gave an elaborate account of her baptism of the Spirit. She was unable to receive the baptism of the Spirit for a time because she clung to her expensive clothes and wig. Evidently the desire to retain these things prohibited the possibility of her being baptized in the Spirit. Having renounced these carnal things, she was overcome by the power of the Spirit in baptism, a power which she experienced so forcefully that she was cast upon the floor as she reveled in her experience. “He socked it to me!” she said. This all happened when she was convicted of the truth of I Timothy 2. The above occurrences were representative of those which took place during the prayer meeting.


Particularly in the introductory class several principles were enumerated which form a basis for the conception of the Holy Spirit and His work maintained by this group. First, the point was made that water baptism was absolutely necessary because those who are thus baptized receive the Spirit as a potential power within them. Because the Lord Jesus Christ does not do anything without our consent, it is necessary to request the Lord to release the power of the Spirit within us and turn it into an actuality (“pull the cork out”), which is the baptism of the Spirit. We must open our hearts in order for the Spirit to work. Though from God’s viewpoint the potential and actuality are both accomplished in water baptism, from man’s viewpoint these are two separate occurrences. If one refuses to ask Jesus to release this potential, it never becomes all actuality. Those who open their hearts to the Spirit and experience the baptism of the Spirit receive either immediately, or, at some time in the future, either wholly, or in part, the following gifts and fruits of the Spirit: speaking in tongues and interpretation of them, healings or miracles, and prophecies. This latter is said to be a sharing of spiritual experiences. The fruits of the Spirit are those which are enumerated in Galatians 5:22, ff., and Ephesians 4:1-4: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. These gifts and fruits are realized in the individual to the extent that he is faithful in prayer, Bible reading, witnessing to others, communal sharing of experiences with the body of Christ, and obedience.

A second principle concerns tongue speaking, which is of two kinds: private, which is a quiet, personal speaking in an unknown language for the benefit only of the individual; public, in which a member of the community speaks for the benefit of all in an unknown tongue. Of these two kinds we witnessed only the former at the meeting which we attended. However, we were told that public tongue speaking frequently occurs and that the criterion by which the genuineness of such speaking is judged is whether or not it is interpreted. If the speaking in tongues is genuine, there will always be an interpretation given by someone; conversely, if there is no interpretation given, the conclusion is necessarily that the tongue speaking was not genuine. Thus the speaking in tongues and its interpretation is obviously a closed system. Prophecy is also a gift of the Spirit. But by prophecy is not meant a revelation of God or a prediction of future events. The idea of prophecy, as the term was used by the community, was very ambiguous and was used as a sort of catch all. Anything that did not fit in another category was put under the general heading of prophecy. The main idea or manifestation of prophecy was a sharing of personal interpretations of Scripture and a sharing of spiritual experiences.

Thirdly, t he community spoke of the fact that the result of seeking communion and fellowship is the establishment of a “Spirit filled” community. The prayer meeting which we attended was sponsored by this “Spirit filled” community. Although there were several hundred persons in attendance at the prayer meeting, approximately 80 to 100 were members of this community. The by words of this community are: love, unity, joy and happiness. Their appeal to the idea of a community is based upon a wrong understanding of Acts 2-4. This community exceeds the boundaries of individual denominations and unites individuals of various faith in the common sharing of the Spirit. Individuals from various denominations were present: Roman Catholic, Christian Reformed, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutherans, various Pentecostal groups, etc.


All must be evaluated on the basis of Scripture; and many criticisms immediately can be made of such a movement.

First of all, the very nature of the principles which underlie these meetings and the movement in general are not clearly defined and set forth. These principles are in whole or in part un Scriptural. The reason why these principles exist in a confused state is that the whole movement, as was evident from the meeting, is subjective and mystical.

Secondly, the movement claims revelation apart from the revealed Word of God as recorded in Scripture. The participants claim that the Spirit within them gives them a new revelation apart from Scripture. Thus they have little regard for the sufficiency of Scripture. They seek to substantiate their movement with random, unrelated quotations from Scripture, torn out of context. This, of course, does violence to the organic nature of God’s Word; their principles are contrary to it.

Thirdly, the movement has an errant doctrine of the church institute as it is constituted in the three offices. Although it may pay lip service to the idea of the church institute, in reality it denies the sufficiency and necessity of the preaching of the Word. It claims that one must have Spirit baptism which must be accomplished apart from the preaching. This leads to the establishment of the idea of an elite group within the church. The people baptized by the Spirit are a church within a church. I

Fourthly, they claim that this “Spirit filled” community is able to unite ecumenically individuals of various ecclesiastical backgrounds. It is one, not on the basis of the truth of God’s Word, but on common subjective feelings of undefined love, joy, peace, etc. It makes no difference what you love, or how you love, but only that you love.

Finally, as is evident from all of the above, Arminianism runs rampant in all of their thinking and teaching. They claim that Jesus is Lord, but yet deny His sovereign Lordship by maintaining that His Spirit is not able to operate in one unless the individual invites and allows Him to work.

This movement, as was evident from this prayer meeting, can be appealing to the child of God, and especially to the youth of the church. Its appeal isfound in the fact that Scriptural language and enticing music are used, supplemented by an emphasis on spiritual unity, spiritual warmth and love, and a communal joy in salvation through Christ. The entire meeting is characterized by sentimentality and emotionalism. The meeting in its entirety can have an hypnotic effect upon the participant. This danger must not be minimized. We found that we had to resist consciously this hypnotic power of emotionalism.


In conclusion, we want to direct some remarks of a positive nature to the reader with regard to such movements.

First, we can be thankful that we have the pure preaching as the exposition of the Word of God. For only the preaching of the Word instructs, comforts, and unites the people of God. The people of God can, in humility, listen to the voice of their Shepherd only as He speaks to them from the pulpit through His ambassadors. The emphasis must always and continuously be on the preaching of the Word. I Corinthians 1:18 states: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” Romans 10:14, 15a also emphasizes this: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom (should be: “whom”) they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?” We must not forget that true communion and fellowship in Christ are found only in personal appropriation of the truth of God’s Word. Only as the people of God understand that truth can they enjoy the true communion of the saints. In the days and years to come we must satisfy our spiritual longings and desires by drinking deeply of the authoritative, revealed Word of God,

Secondly, the baptism of the Spirit is inseparably connected with the preaching of the gospel. The contents of this baptism, which are the fruits of the Spirit (“. . . love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . .”) are only received under the preaching of the Word. If the fruits of the Spirit can be received apart from the preaching, what then is the necessity of the preaching?

We suggest to those who desire further study of this movement to read The Modern Tongues Movement, written by Robert G. Gromacki, published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.