2) Tolerance of Charismatic Gifts
This is the second part of a 5-part essay on why I will not be (and you should not be either) joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church any time soon.
Now this critique certainly places me in a precarious theological position with my more evangelical colleagues. I find myself becoming more and more “Orthodox” in my Reformed theology and have come to be in full agreement with the early Church fathers: John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Origen (even if our Roman Catholic friends think he is a heretic), and Justin Martyr as well as the Princeton School of Theologians including Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen among others who claim that the miraculous works of the Spirit have ceased. In other words I believe that Scripture testifies that the works of the Spirit including prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues ceased with the Apostles and the finishing of the canon of Scripture. I am certainly not saying that miraculous events cannot happen (I would never handcuff the Sovereignty of the Father) but that these gifts of the Holy Spirit no longer manifest themselves outside of the Apostolic Age (cf: Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor 13:8-10; Hebr. 2:3-4; Gal 1:8; Rev. 22:19).
In the Reformed confessions (especially Westminster since it is the only Confession of the EPC) there is not to be found one mention of the continuation of the Spiritual gifts listed above. The confessions fail at one spot to give any credence to the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 for example are to be continued to this day. In fact when mentioning the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church neither the Scots, the Second Helvetic, Heidelberg, or Westminster mention any of the aforementioned gifts to be normative or even available to the believer.
The EPC’s official position seems to be seeking some type of middle ground between the Orthodox Reformed view laid out above and those of Pentecostals and Charismatics. The EPC says:
Some would require that Christians manifest a particular gift, such as speaking in tongues, as evidence of a deeper work of the Spirit within. Others would have us believe such a gift is no longer available or acceptable. As a Reformed denomination, we adhere strongly to our belief in the sovereignty of God, a belief that does not allow us either to require a certain gift or to restrict the Spirit in how He will work. Rather, we call upon all Christians to open their lives unto God’s Spirit to fill, empower, and “gift” as He sees fit.
While the EPC claims to not “require the manifestation of a particular gift” the paragraph prior to the quote above seems to do just that when it says, “Regardless of what term is used, we recognize this deepening work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer as being both valid and necessary, producing evidences of His presence in the process.” The official position lists as “examples of these gifts” the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy (as spoken in I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4.) which the Reformed and Ante-Nicene flatly deny as being works outside the Apostolic tradition.
This tolerance of Charismatic gifts in light of Scripture and the Reformed confessional witness I believe is outside the bounds of Reformed Orthodoxy. Though the EPC’s claim to be “reformed” will be examined in another article I can honestly say the broadness of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s views on the Charismatic gifts is out-of-step with Westminster and the rest of the Reformed faith.