by Fr. Seraphim Rose
BEFORE QUOTING THE "CHARISMATIC" testimonies, we should take note of a chief characteristic of the original Pentecostal Movement which is seldom mentioned by "charismatic" writers, and that is that the number and variety of Pentecostal sects is astonishing, each with its own doctrinal emphasis, and many of them having no fellowship with the others. There are "Assemblies of God," "Churches of God," "Pentecostal" and "Holiness" bodies, "Full Gospel" groups, etc., many of them divided into smaller sects. The first thing that one would have to say about the "spirit" that inspires such anarchy is that it certainly is not a spirit of unity, in sharp contrast to the Apostolic church of the first century to which the movement professes to be returning. Nevertheless, there is much talk especially in the "charismatic revival" within the denominations in the past decade, of the "unity" which it inspires. But what kind of unity is this?-the true unity of the Church which Orthodox Christians of the first and twentieth centuries alike know, or the pseudo-unity of the Ecumenical Movement which denies that the Church of Christ exists?
The answer to this question is stated quite clearly by perhaps the leading "prophet" of 20th-century Pentecostalism David Du Plessis, who for the last twenty years has been actively spreading news of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" among the denominations of the World Council of Churches, in answer to a "voice" which commanded him to do so in 1951. "The Pentecostal revival within the churches is gathering force and speed. The most remarkable thing is that this revival is found in the so-called liberal societies and much less in the evangelical and not at all in the fundamentalist segments of Protestantism. The last-mentioned are now the most vehement opponents of this glorious revival because it is in the Pentecostal Movement and in the modernist World Council Movements that we find the most powerful manifestations of the Spirit" (Du Plessis, p. 28, ).
In the Roman Catholic Church likewise, the "charismatic renewal" is occurring precisely in "liberal" circles, and one of its results is to inspire even more their ecumenism and liturgical experimentation ("guitar masses" and the like); whereas traditionalist Catholics are as opposed to the movement as are fundamentalist Protestants. Without any doubt the orientation of the "charismatic revival" is strongly ecumenist. A "charismatic" Lutheran pastor, Clarence Finsaas, writes: "Many are surprised that the Holy Spirit can move also in the various traditions of the historic Church... whether the church doctrine has a background of Calvinism or Arminianism, this matters little, proving God is bigger than our creeds and that no denomination has a monopoly on Him" (Christenson, p. 99). An Episcopalian pastor, speaking of the "charismatic revival," reports that "ecumenically it is leading to a remarkable joining together of Christians of different traditions, mainly at the local church level" (Harper, p. 17). The California "charismatic" periodical Inter-Church Renewal is full of "unity" demonstrations such as this one: "The darkness of the ages was dispelled and a Roman Catholic nun and a Protestant could love each other with a strange new kind of love," which proves that "old denominational barriers are crumbling. Superficial doctrinal differences are being put aside for all believers to come into the unity of the Holy Spirit." The Orthodox priest Fr. Eusebius Stephanou believes that "this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is transcending denominational lines... The Spirit of God is moving... both inside and outside the Orthodox Church" (Logos, Jan., 1972, p. 12).
Here the Orthodox Christian who is alert to "try the spirits" finds himself on familiar ground, sown with the usual ecumenist cliches. And above all let us note that this new "outpouring of the Holy Spirit," exactly like the Ecumenical Movement itself, arises outside the Orthodox Church; those few Orthodox parishes that are now taking it up are obviously following a fashion of the times that matured completely outside the bounds of the Church of Christ.
But what is it that those outside the Church of Christ are capable of teaching Orthodox Christians? It is certainly true (no conscious Orthodox person will deny it) that Orthodox Christians are sometimes put to shame by the fervor and zeal of some Roman Catholics and Protestants for church attendance, missionary activities, praying together, reading the Scripture, and the like. Fervent non-Orthodox persons can shame the Orthodox, even in the error of their beliefs, when they make more effort to please God than many Orthodox people do while possessing the whole fullness of apostolic Christianity. The Orthodox would do well to learn from them and wake up to the spiritual riches in their own Church which they fail to see out of spiritual sloth or bad habits. All this relates to the human side of faith, to the human efforts which can be expended in religious activities whether one's belief is right or wrong.
The "charismatic" movement, however, claims to be in contact with God, to have found a means for receiving the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of God's grace. And yet it is precisely the Church, and nothing else, that our Lord Jesus Christ established as the means of communicating grace to men. Are we to believe that the Church is now to be superseded by some "new revelation" capable of transmitting grace outside the Church, among any group of people who may happen to believe in Christ but who have no knowledge or experience of the Mysteries (Sacraments) which Christ instituted and no contact with the Apostles and their successors whom He appointed to administer the Mysteries? No: it is as certain today as it was in the first century that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not revealed in those outside the Church. The great Orthodox Father of the 19th century, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, writes that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given "precisely through the Sacrament of Chrismation, which was introduced by the Apostles in place of the laying on of hands" (which is the form the Sacrament takes in the Acts of the Apostles). "We all-who have been baptized and chrismated-have the gift of the Holy Spirit... even though it is not active in everyone." The Orthodox Church provides the means for making this gift active, and "there is no other path... Without the Sacrament of Chrismation, just as earlier without the laying on of hands of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit has never descended and never will descend" .
In a word, the orientation of the "charismatic revival" may be described as one of a new and deeper or "spiritual" ecumenism: each Christian "renewed" in his own tradition, but at the same time strangely united for it is the same experience with others equally "renewed" in their own traditions, all of which contain various degrees of heresy and impiety! This relativism leads also to openness to completely new religious practices, as when an Orthodox priest allows laymen to "lay hands" on him in front of the Royal Doors of an Orthodox church (Logos, April, 1972, p. 4).
The end of all this is the super-ecumenist vision of the leading Pentecostal "prophet," who says that many Pentecostals "began to visualize the possibility of the Movement becoming the Church of Christ in the closing days of time. However, this situation has completely changed during the past ten years. Many of my brethren are now convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and that the historic churches will be revived or renewed and then in this renewal be united by the Holy Spirit" (Du Plessis, p. 33). Clearly, there is no room in the "charismatic revival" for those who believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church of Christ. It is no wonder that even some Orthodox Pentecostals admit that in the beginning they were "suspicious of the Orthodoxy" of this movement (Logos, April, 1972, p. 9).
But now let us begin to look beyond the ecumenistic theories and practices of Pentecostalism to that which really inspires and gives strength to the "charismatic revival": the actual experience of the power of the "spirit."