by Fr. Seraphim Rose
IN GENERAL, followers of the "charismatic revival" have the feeling of being (as they constantly repeat) "Spirit-filled." "I felt free, clean and a new person and completely filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ranaghan, p. 98). "Because of what was begun in the baptism of the Spirit, I have now begun to see more a vision of what life in the Spirit is like. It is truly a life of miracles of being filled over and over with the life-giving love of the Spirit of God" (Ranaghan, p. 65). They invariably characterize their "spiritual" state in similar words; a Catholic priest writes, "Whatever other particular effects may have occurred, peace and joy seem to have been received by all, almost without exception, of those who have been touched by the Spirit" (Ranaghan, p. 185). One inter-denominational "charismatic" group states that the aim of its members is "to show and spread Jesus Christ's Love, Joy and Peace wherever they are" (Inter-Church Renewal). In this "spiritual" state (in which, characteristically, both repentance and salvation are seldom mentioned), some rise to great heights. In one Catholic, the gift of the "Spirit" "has risen within me to long periods (several hours) of near ecstasy in which I¹d swear I was experiencing a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Ranaghan, p. 103).
Spectacular stories are told of deliverance from drug addiction and the like. The Greek priest Fr. Eusebius Stephanou summarizes this "spirituality" by quoting a Roman Catholic priest who states that the "charismatic" movement involves "a new sense of the presence of God, a new awareness of Christ, a greater desire to pray, an ability to praise God, a new desire to read the Scriptures, the Scriptures coming alive as the Word of God, a new eagerness to have others know about Christ, a new compassion for others and a sensitiveness to their needs, a new sense of peace and joy..." And Fr. Eusebius presents the ultimate argument of the whole movement: "The tree is known by its fruits... Do these fruits demonstrate the presence of the devil or of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ? No Orthodox in his right mind who has seen the fruits of the Spirit with his own eyes can give a mistaken answer to this question" (Logos, Jan., 1972, p.13).
There is no reason to doubt any of this testimony. True, there is also much testimony - we have given a few examples - that contradicts this and states definitely that the "spirit" of the "charismatic revival" is something dark and ominous; but still it cannot be doubted that many followers of the "charismatic revival" actually feel that it is something "Christian" and "spiritual." As long as these people remain outside the Orthodox Church, we might well leave their opinions without comment. But when an Orthodox priest tells us that sectarian phenomena are produced by the Holy Spirit, and he even exhorts us: "Don't be left out. Open your heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be part of the growing charismatic renewal" (loc. cit.) - then we have the right and the duty to examine their opinions quite closely, judging them not by the standard of the vague humanist "Christianity" which prevails in the West and is prepared to call anything "Christian" that merely "feels" so, but by the quite different standard of Orthodox Christianity. And by this standard there is not one item in the above list of "spiritual fruits" but that can be, and has been in the sectarian and heretical movements of the past, produced by the devil appearing as an "angel of light," precisely with the aim of leading people away from the Church of Christ into some other kind of "Christianity. " If the "spirit" of the "charismatic revival" is not the Holy Spirit, then these "spiritual fruits" likewise are not from God.
According to Bishop Ignatius, the deception known as "fancy" is satisfied with the invention of counterfeit feelings and states of grace, from which there is born a false, wrong conception of the whole spiritual undertaking... It constantly invents pseudo-spiritual states, an intimate companionship with Jesus, an inward conversation with him, mystical revelations, voices, enjoyments... From this activity the blood receives a sinful, deceiving movement, which presents itself as a grace-given delight... It clothes itself in the mask of humility, piety, wisdom." Unlike the more spectacular form of spiritual deception, fancy, while "bringing the mind into the most frightful error, does not however lead it to delirium," so that the state may continue for many years or a whole lifetime and not be easily detected. One who falls into this warm, comfortable, fevered state of deception virtually commits spiritual suicide, blinding himself to his own true spiritual state. Writes Bishop Ignatius: "Fancying of himself... that he is filled with grace, he will never receive grace... He who ascribes to himself gifts of grace fences off from himself by this 'fancy' the entrance into himself of Divine grace, and opens wide the door to the infection of sin and to demons." "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Apoc. 3:17)
Those infected with the "charismatic" deception are not only themselves "spirit-filled"; they also see around them the beginning of a "new age" of the "out-pouring of the Holy Spirit," believing, as does Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, that "the world is on the threshold of a great spiritual awakening" (Logos, Feb., 1972, p. 18); and the words of the Prophet Joel are constantly on their lips: "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). The Orthodox Christian knows that this prophecy refers in general to the last age that began with the coming of our Lord, and more specifically to Pentecost (Acts 2), and to every Orthodox Saint who truly possesses in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit - such as St. John of Kronstadt and St. Nectarios of Pentapolis, who have worked thousands of miracles even in this corrupt 20th century. But to today's "charismatics," miraculous gifts are for everyone; almost everyone who wants to can and does speak in tongues, and there are manuals telling you how to do it.
But what do the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church teach us? According to Bishop Ignatius, the gifts of the Holy Spirit "exist only in Orthodox Christians who have attained Christian perfection, purified and prepared beforehand by repentance." They "are given to Saints of God solely at God's good will and God's action, and not by the will of men and not by one's own power. They are given unexpectedly, extremely rarely, in cases of extreme need, by God's wondrous providence, and not just at random' (St. Isaac the Syrian). "It should be noted that at the present time spiritual gifts are granted in great moderation, corresponding to the enfeeblement that has enveloped Christianity in general. These gifts serve entirely the needs of salvation. On the contrary, 'fancy' lavishes its gifts in boundless abundance and with the greatest speed."
In a word, the "spirit" that suddenly lavishes its "gifts" upon this adulterous generation which, corrupted and deceived by centuries of false belief and pseudo-piety, seeks only a "sign" - is not the Holy Spirit of God. These people have never known the Holy Spirit and never worshipped Him. True spirituality is so far beyond them that, to the sober observer, they only mock it by their psychic and emotional - and sometimes demonic - phenomena and blasphemous utterances. Of true spiritual feelings, writes Bishop Ignatius, "the fleshly man cannot form any conception: because a conception of feeling is always based on those feelings already known to the heart, while spiritual feelings are entirely foreign to the heart that knows only fleshly and emotional feelings. Such a heart does not so much as know of the existence of spiritual feelings."