The influence of “non-theological factors” on the rise of Montanism

“Non-theological factors” always play a role in the rise of reform movements in the church.  By “non-theological factors,” I mean social, economic, political, and cultural elements that are not directly derived from received interpretations of the truth of the Gospel.   Political, cultural, and economic factors can play a very significant role in shaping the direction a given movement takes, as well as the way the movement is received by the church.

Sometimes interpretations of popular movements which lean heavily on the importance of these non-theological factors can be dismissive of substantive Christian convictions.  However, this need not be the case.  We should expect that reform movements are influenced by social forces, and indeed that they should form their particular Christian convictions in dialogue with social forces at play in their time.

This is an important part of the church’s missionary engagement with the world.  There are no “purely” theological convictions, because theology is always worked out in the course of the church’s life in history, and it is bound to be affected by social, political, and cultural factors.  Therefore, we should not fall into the trap of assuming that non-theological factors determine of the rise and shape of reform movements, but we should examine the way that Christian convictions interact with non-theological factors in the history of particular movements, and evaluate the role of non-theological factors on the basis of this interaction.  It is the interaction of specifically Christian convictions with non-theological influences that produces the vitality and volatility of the reform and renewal movements.

Montanism, a popular second century movement which upheld a rigorous vision of Christian discipleship, and was marked by prophetic spiritual gifts, is an interesting case-in-point.

A number of non-theological factors played a role in the history of the Montanist movement. The movement took root in Phrygia in the late second century, where it would seem that the tradition of prophecy had continued to exist alongside the priestly office (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. V.17).   The continuing existence of a prophetic office made it difficult for the bishops and clergy of that region to deny the Montanist prophecies, in spite of the eccentricities and excesses of the Montanists.  W. H. C. Frend suggests that the Montanists were a threat to the clergy, and as such the rivalry between priest and prophet caused the Montanists to be resented, and contributed toward their rejection by the established church (Saints and Sinners in the Early Church, 69).  No doubt the prominent role played by women would have also created concern among clerics.

It seems that the Montanists raised no serious doctrinal challenge to the established church, but their somewhat strange and extreme positions and their threat to established leadership led the church to push them out of its fellowship. While it is difficult, on the basis of the evidence, to evaluate the established church’s decision, it does seem that the church might have benefited from the continuing vitality of Montanism, and its excesses might have been kept in check, had the Montanists been given a continuing place in the established church’s life.

After the movement was officially rejected by the clergy, it continued to flourish in the Phrygian countryside, but also spread to North Africa.  This move was aided by the fact that the movement found fertile soil for a rigorist morality in that context.  A significant political factor inNorth Africawas the persecution of Christians, which led to a spirit of defiance and apocalyptic hope among the Christians there, even before the spread of Montanism.  The persecutions inNorth Africaled to an anti-imperial protest ethic among the Christians, with martyrdom and confession being valued above all else.  In this political environment the strict Montanist discipline appealed to Christians like Tertullian, who had faced the prospect of dying for their faith.  The rigorist morality also reinforced the social distinctions between the Montanists and the rest of North African society, distinctions which again were made quite apparent during times of persecution.

Thus we can see that some non-theological factors influenced the Montanist movement in various ways.  The tension between prophetic and priestly roles in the Church caused difficulties with the clergy which influenced the rejection of Montanism.  The rural regions ofPhrygiaproved more fertile soil culturally for the rigorist morality of Montanism, and the persecutions inNorth Africaalso supported the rigorist and apocalyptic currents of the movement, leading Montanism to grow specifically in those regions.

However, it is also obvious that such non-theological factors alone cannot be credited with bringing about the rise or Montanism, or determining its character.  Ultimately the Christian convictions of the Montanists themselves were more significant in shaping the movement’s existence.

First of all, the conviction that the Spirit was speaking directly through the Montanist prophets led members of the movement to embrace a radical obedience and adherence to the discipline that was derived from their prophetic utterances.  So Tertullian ridicules the Catholic criticism of Montanist fasting by noting that Catholics will fast at the request of the Bishop, yet the Montanists fast at the direction of the Spirit (On Fasting, XIII).  Further, after the movement was rejected by the church, one can understand why many members continued to adhere loyally to their leaders, since they believed that the church had rejected the Spirit in rejecting the Montanists.  Likewise, the apocalyptic anticipation of living on the cusp of a new age would encourage radical adherence to the movement and generate a significant following.

Finally, we can note that a strong conviction concerning the holiness of the church shaped the Montanist relation to other Christians.  In On Modesty, Tertullian is enraged that the “Pontifex Maximus” has issued an edict indicating that the sins of adultery and fornication could be forgiven with proper repentance.

“But it is in the church that this (edict) is read, and in the church that it is pronounced; and (the church) is a virgin!  Far, far from Christ’s betrothed be such a proclamation!” (On Modesty I).

The pardoning of adulterers is parallel to the pardoning of idolaters in Tertullian’s mind.  The Church’s holiness is seen in the integrity of her discipline, and it is this conviction concerning the Church’s holiness that drives Tertullian’s adherence to Montanism.

I would argue that, while the non-theological factors certainly played a supporting role in Montanism’s rise, the leading role in shaping the movement came from the central theological convictions that its members embraced.  More specifically in North Africa, it was the encounter of these strong convictions about the divine origin of Montanist discipline and the integrity of the Church with the political condition of government persecution which produced the enthusiasm and vitality of the Montanist movement.

Methodism as religious society-become-church

Continuing on the theme I posted last week: In the quote below, Albert Outler reflects on the origins of Methodism as a religious society, with a view to the way this has evolved in Methodist history.  As with many such renewal movements, Methodism became a sort of hybrid of “movement” and “church,” and its peculiar structures, practices, and culture reflect this inherited tension.  While the tension can be fruitful, it sometimes produces a certain amount of confusion regarding the nature of the movement-church, both for the membership of the movement-church and for their fellow Christians.

It is interesting that this text comes from the same time as the Rupp essay on Wesley as prophet.  In the wake of Vatican II, there was great optimism regarding the possibilities of visible Christian union.  Both Rupp and Outler are keen to stress Wesley’s insistence on Methodism’s ecclesial location as a movement within the Church of England, raised up in “extraordinary” circumstances to meet a particular need.   From the perspective of “ecclesial charisms,” the vocation to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land” through the “irregular” ministry of lay preachers could be seen as the particular Methodist charism.

What happens when the specialized movement takes on the character of a “church”?  The original charism and vocation cannot help but be hampered, because the Methodists are now focused on doing all the things that the church does, rather than the specific vocation around which they were formed.  The church at large also suffers the impoverishment of being cut off from the ministry of those with the particular Methodist charism.   Again, with Rupp, he wants to stress that Wesley only broke with the Church of England because it was necessary for the provision of the mission of the Church in America.

Here is the quote, from That the World May Believe: a study of Christian unity and what it means for Methodists (New York: Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, 1966), pp. 59-63.

Methodism is a religious society that became a church without the complete loss of its character as a religious society.  Methodists are not always mindful – and many non-Methodists are not even aware –  of this dual inheritance from both the Catholic and Protestant traditions in the Christian community, an experiment in the fusion of “justification by faith alone” with a disciplined ethic of “faith working by love.”  The history of this society-become-church is often confusing both to ourselves and to our neighbours.  We are usually reckoned among the pietists – but no typically pietist group ever had anything like our General Rules and Discipline.  We classify ourselves as Protestants, but none of the classical traditions of continental Protestantism had anything like the Wesleyan ideal of “Christian perfection” and the Wesleyan concept of evangelical morality.   And yet, if the quintessential formula for ecumenism is something like “consensus in faith, community in worship, unity in mission,” then it would be true to say that Methodism has been ecumenical from the beginning.  John Wesley was a rebel and a church reformer, a critic of the standing order, and a rude disturber of the false peace of Zion.  Because he was convinced that the regular ministries of the Church of England were failing in their mission to the nation, he felt authorized by the Holy Spirit to raise up an irregular ministry of gospel proclamation and to organize a network of religious societies in England, Wales, Ireland – and later, America.  To these he gave a distinctive set of “General Rules,” a peculiar pattern of organization (classes, bands, etc.), a novel principle of lay-leadership, and a communal ethos that marked off the Methodists from the Non-conformists as well as from the “High Churchmen.”

Despite all this, Wesley was no separatist. He never lifted a finger to overthrow the power structure of the Established Church nor even to invade it.  The Methodists were ill-treated, but Wesley held them in the church and kept them loyal to the sacraments.  The Anglican bishops reacted in varying degrees of distaste and bafflement, but they wisely refrained from any resort to formal excommunication in dealing with these Wesleyan irregulars.

This self-image of an evangelical order within an inclusive church was not effaced even when the Methodist societies developed into separate churches with sacramental ministries of their own.   Thus we learned – or might have learned – that wide diversity within an inclusive fellowship is not only tolerable but can actually be a vital service to the cause of authentic unity.  The early Methodists deliberately retained their distinct ties with the ancient and universal community but, quite as deliberately, they insisted on their freedom in Christian mission and nurture.  Wesley had no qualms in his use of laymen as preachers in the Revival and as leaders of the societies.  At the same time, he refused, on principle, to allow these laymen to administer the sacraments which were available in the Church of England.  He even forbade Methodist preaching services to be scheduled in competition with “church hours.”  Given the violent and divisive spirit of the age, this uneasy maintenance of the Methodist societies within the unity of “Mother Church” is one of the most remarkable incidents in Protestant church history.  When, however, the American Revolution had deprived the Methodists in the new republic of any ordained ministry for the sacraments, Wesley proceeded – by his ordinations of Richard Whatcoat, Thomas Vasey, and Thomas Coke – to remedy this defect himself rather than to approve the pattern of sectarian self-ordination by laymen begun by Philip Gatch and others at the Fluvanna Conference of 1779.

Where was Outler going with this?  His phrase at the start of the last paragraph is telling, where he speaks of Methodist “self-image” as that of “an evangelical order within an inclusive church.”   I believe Outler longed for this to be recaptured in some way, although he was clear that this would be costly: “We are, or ought to be, willing to risk our life as a separate church and to face death as a denomination in the sure and lively hope of our resurrection in the true community of the whole people of God” (p. 75).

Methodism as an Extraordinary Ministry

Some people have suggested that if John Wesley were born in another century, or another country – that is, in a Catholic time or place – he might have founded a religious order, rather than a movement which ended up becoming a new church.   Although he was not able to convince his followers to uphold his views on the matter, Wesley consistently argued that Methodism was a religious society within the Church of England, rather than a distinct Christian church.  The decisions he made which led toward separation (notably his ordinations of ministers for America) were done under necessity.  In other words, he did not want to compete with the Church of England, and only ordained ministers in places where the Church was not keeping up with the demands of the mission (and ignoring his pleas that it grant ordinations to his preachers to fill the gaps).

I came across this discussion of the issue by Gordon Rupp from 1968.  Rupp makes reference to Wesley’s remarkable 1789 sermon, “The Ministerial Office” (now identified in the scholarly literature as “Prophets and Priests”).  Here, as Rupp notes, Wesley does some creative exegesis in order to establish his claim of  a distinction between the priestly and prophetic ministries, while maintaining that Methodism must be understood as the latter.

The issue, particularly in the way that Rupp frames it here, raises classic issues that I hope my dissertation on “eccleisal charisms” might help to answer.  While I won’t be making my arguments in the same way as Wesley, my conclusions will end up supporting Wesley’s distinction between ordinary and extraordinary ministies.

Here then, is a claim to be called by God, to an extraordinary ministry of evangelism and of building up men and women to salvation (for John Wesley claimed that the doctrine of perfect love was the grand depositum of Methodism for which God appeared to have chiefly raised them up).

But the Methodists had a double pattern of spirituality. There were the ordinances of the Church of England, of Word and sacraments.  There was also the spiritual fabric of the Methodists, the intimate bands which were almost lay confessionals, the class meeting which was the essential cell, or koinonia, the love feasts and the occasional splendid eucharistic solemnities when thousands gathered at the Lord’s table and when Wesley and his ordained Anglican friends administered…

Wesley himself distinguished clearly between the commission to preach and authority to administer the sacraments: the first he thought a prophetic office, the second to depend on ecclesiastical authority.  He developed this in his sermon on “The Ministerial Office.”  He affirms that in ancient times the office of a priest and that of a preacher were distinct – from Noah to Moses “the eldest of the family was the priest, but any other might be the prophet”.  So in the New Israel, in the early Church, “I do not find that ever the office of Evangelist was the same with that of a pastor, frequently called a bishop.  He presided over the flock and administered the sacraments.”  In this light, Wesley goes on, are the lay preachers of Methodism to be regarded.  “We received them wholly and solely to preach, not to administer the sacraments…In 1744 all the Methodist Preachers had their first Conference.  But none of them dreamed that being called to preach gave them any right to administer sacraments.”

Whatever we think of Wesley’s strange view of sacred history in the matter of priests and prophets, and his sometimes eccentric exegesis, his distinction is important and deserve serious consideration, for it had important practical consequences.  While he lived, the Methodists who acknowledged his authority did not permit laymen to administer the sacraments…It was the failure of the bishop of London, despite repeated petitions, to provide sufficient clergy for North America, and the ecclesiastical chaos caused by the War of Independence, which led Wesley in 1784 to ordain four clergymen for America, and in later years a handful of clergy for Scotland and England.

At the end of his life, Wesley pondered the swift, deep extension of the revival to the very ends of the land.  Though he did not live to see it, the great work was to be repeated in the next generation in North America, the West Indies, Africa, Australia and the islands of the Pacific.  His own comment on it was: “What hath God wrought!”  and whether we take it affirmatively, or whether we turn it into a question mark, it is the question which John Wesley and his work ask of contemporary ecumenical theology.

From Gordon Rupp, “John Wesley: Christian Prophet,” in Prophets in the Church, Concilium 37, ed. Roger Aubert (New York: Paulist, 1968), 54-56.

“Gift” in the Old Testament

Finding a parallel for “charism” in the Old Testament is not easy.  One way is to look at various words translated “gift” in English Bibles.  Using the same categories I found in the NT, I found a very different set of uses for “gift” in the older Testament.

First of all, if we think of the commonly assumed meaning of “charisms” – diversity of gifts given to believers – we find that there are only a few references, and even those are open to other interpretations.  The vast majority of occurences of “gifts” in the OT relate to religious offerings and gifts exchanged between humans.    There are no occurrences describing salvation as a gift, though there are a few terms which seem to imply “blessing.”

What is perhaps significant with relation to the question of ecclesial charisms, however, are the three references in Romans which describe the Levites (8:19 and 18:16) and the service of priesthood (18:7) as gifts.  As far as I’ve seen, these are the only references which imply that a particular group within the people of God is itself a gift of God for the benefit of the whole.   Their functional specialization also coheres well with the idea of specialized movements which are raised up around a particular gift that brings with it a vocational obligation.

BLESSING

REF HEB MEANING
Genesis 30:20 zebed good gift (of a son)
Num. 8:19 nathan Levites given as a gift to Aaron & sons
Num. 18:6 mattanah Levites as gift for Israel to perform service at tent of mtg
Num. 18:7 mattanah service of the priesthood given as a gift to Aaron and sons
Deut.     33:15 NA gifts of the ancient mountains
Deut.     33:16 NA gifts of the earth
Psalm 127:3 nachalah children are a gift of the Lord
Eccl.  3:13 mattath a man’s labour is the gift of God
Eccl. 5:19 mattath a man’s labour is the gift of God

DIVERSITY OF GIFTS GIVEN BY GOD TO BELIEVERS

REF HEB MEANING
Num. 8:19 nathan Levites given as a gift to Aaron & sons
Num. 18:6 mattanah Levites as gift for Israel to perform service at tent of mtg
Num. 18:7 mattanah service of the priesthood given as a gift to Aaron and sons
Eccl.  3:13 mattath a man’s labour is the gift of God
Eccl. 5:19 mattath a man’s labour is the gift of God

RELIGIOUS OFFERING

REF HEB MEANING
Exodus 28:38 mattanah holy gifts
Leviticus 22:2 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Leviticus 22:3 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Leviticus 22:4 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Leviticus 22:6 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Leviticus 22:7 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:10 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:12 terumah gift / offering
Lev.       22:12 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:14 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:14 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:15 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:16 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Lev.       22:18 NA gift for a burnt offering
Lev.       23:38 mattanah gifts / offering
Numbers 5:9 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Numbers 5:10 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Numbers 7:3 qorban gifts / offering
Numbers 18:8 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Numbers 18:9 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Num.     18:10 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Num.     18:11 mattan gift / offering
Num.     18:19 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
Num.     18:29 mattanah gifts / offering
Num.     18:32 qadosh holy (gifts / things)
Num.     31:52 terumah gift / offering
Deut.     12:6 terumah special gifts / offerings
Deut.    12:11 terumah special gifts / offerings
Deut.    12:17 terumah special gifts / offerings
Deut.    16:17 mattanah gift / offering
1 Samuel 6:3 NA gift offering
1 Samuel 9:7 teshurah gift to take to the man of God
2 Kings 12:18 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
1 Chro.  26:20 qodesh dedicated gifts
1 Chro.  26:26 qodesh dedicated gifts
2 Chro.  31:6 qodesh holy (gifts / things)
2 Chro.  31:12 terumah contributions
2 Chro.  31:12 qodesh dedicated gifts
2 Chro.  31:14 terumah contributions
2 Chro.  31:14 qodesh dedicated gifts
2 Chro.  32:23 minchah gift / offering
Ezra 1:6 migdanah valuable gifts for the rebuilding of the Temple
Psalm 45:12 minchah gift for the King from daughter of Tyre
Psalm 68:18 mattanah ascended God receiving gifts from people
Psalm 68:29 shay kings will bring gifts to you
Psalm 72:10 minchah gifts for the King from kings of Tarshish and Islands
Psalm 72:10 eshkar gifts brought to the King from kings of Sheba and Seba
Psalm 76:11 shay let all around bring gifts for the Lord, who is to be feared
Isaiah 18:7 shay a gift of homage will b brought to the Lord
Ezekiel 20:26 mattanah idolatrous offering of passing sons through fire
Ezekiel 20:31 mattanah idolatrous offering of passing sons through fire
Ezekiel 20:39 mattanah idolatrous offerings will no longer profane my name
Ezekiel 20:40 maseth on holy mountain God will seek the people’s gifts
Ezekiel 44:30 terumah offerings / special gifts
Ezekiel 45:13 terumah offerings / special gifts
Ezekiel 48:8 terumah offerings / special gifts
Ezekiel 48:12 terumiyyah special gift
Ezekiel 48:12 terumah sacred portion
Ezekiel 48:12 qodesh most holy (portion)
Ezekiel 48:20 terumah special gift
Ezekiel 48:20 qodesh sacred (portion)
Ezekiel 48:20 terumah (sacred) portion
Hosea 8:13 habhab idolatrous sacrificial gifts
Micah 1:7 ethnan idolatrous temple gifts
Micah 1:7 ethnan idolatrous gifts
Micah 1:7 ethnan wages of prostitutes

GIFTS EXCHANGED BETWEEN HUMANS

REF HEB MEANING
Genesis 24:53 migdanah costly gifts
Genesis 25:6 mattanah gifts for sons of Abraham’s concubines
Genesis 32:13 minchah gift for Esau
Genesis 32:18 minchah gift for Esau
Genesis 32:20 minchah gift for Esau
Genesis 32:21 minchah gift for Esau
Genesis 33:10 minchah gift for Esau
Genesis 33:11 berakah gift for Esau
Genesis 34:12 mattan bridal gift
Genesis 43:11 minchah gift for Joseph
Genesis 43:15 minchah gifts for Joseph
Genesis 43:25 minchah gifts for Joseph
Genesis 43:26 minchah gifts for Joseph
1 Sam.  10:27 minchah gifts for Saul
1 Sam.  25:27 berakah gift for David
1 Sam.  30:26 berakah gift for David
2 Samuel 11:8 maseth gift for Uriah
1 Kings 9:16 shilluchim wedding gift for Solomon’s daughter
1 Kings 10:25 minchah gifts brought to Solomon from other nations
1 Kings 13:7 mattath gift for man of God
1 Kings 15:19 shochad gift between kings
2 Kings 5:15 berakah gift for Elisha
2 Kings 8:8 minchah gift for Elisha
2 Kings 8:9 minchah gift for Elisha
2 Kings 16:8 shochad gift for the King of Assyria
2 Kings 20:12 minchah gift for Hezekiah
2 Chro.  9:24 minchah gifts brought to Solomon from other nations
2 Chro.  17:5 minchah gifts for Jehoshaphat from all Judah
2 Chro.  17:11 minchah gifts for Jehoshaphat from Philistines, Arabians
2 Chro.  21:3 mattanah gifts from King to sons
Esther 2:18 maseth gifts from the King to the people
Esther 9:22 mattanah gifts to the poor
Psalm 45:12 minchah gift for the King from daughter of Tyre
Psalm 72:10 minchah gifts for the King from kings of Tarshish and Islands
Psalm 72:10 eshkar gifts brought to the King from kings of Sheba and Seba
Psalm 112:9 nathan the righteous have freely scattered their gifts to the poor
Proverbs 6:35 shochad scorned husband accepts no gifts (bribe)
Prov. 18:16 mattan a man’s gift makes room for him
Proverbs 19:6 mattan all are a friend to he who gives gifts
Prov.  21:14 mattan a gift given in secret subdues anger
Prov. 22:16 nathan one who gives gifts to the rich comes to poverty
Prov.  25:14 mattath one who boasts falsely is like clouds without rain
Isaiah 1:23 shochad your rulers chase after gifts
Isaiah 39:1 minchah gifts for Hezekiah
Jeremiah 40:5 maseth gift for captain of the bodyguard
Ezekiel 16:33 nedeh men give gifts to harlots
Ezekiel 16:33 nadan you give gifts to all your lovers
Ezekiel 46:16 mattanah gift from prince to his sons – inheritance
Ezekiel 46:17 mattanah gift from prince to his servants – temporary until jubilee
Daniel 2:6 mattena king offers Daniel gifts
Daniel 2:48 mattena king gives Daniel gifts
Daniel 5:17 mattena Daniel refuses king’s gifts
Daniel 11:38 yaqar (Antiochus) will offer costly gifts to foreign god
Micah 1:14 shilluchim parting gifts
Micah 7:3 shillum ruler & judge accepts gifts / bribes

Summary of the Uses of Charism and Related Words in the New Testament

Further to my last post, I’ve categorized the use of charisma in the New Testament, along with dorea and pneumatika, since both of those words are used interchangeably with charisma at times.  After the first three tables I’ve got other uses of dorea and pneumatika, for context.

The bold references are texts that I included in more than one list.

Most of us use “charisma” and “charismatic” only in the sense of the second table – diverse gifts given to believers – but clearly the New Testament concept has broader applications.

Also notable are the two texts in Timothy, which have been used (rightly or wrongly) to defend various ordination practices.  One’s understanding of the relationship between “office” and “charism” will likely determine the way those texts are read.

GIFT OF GOD / SALVATION

REF GK MEANING
Jn. 4:10 dorea gift of God; living water
Acts 2:38 dorea gift of the HS
Acts 8:20 dorea gift of God
Acts 10:45 dorea gift of the HS
Acts 11:17 dorea gift of HS
Rom. 5:15 charisma free gift of God
Rom. 5:15 dorea free gift of God
Rom. 5:16 dorea free gift of God
Rom. 5:16 charisma free gift of God
Rom. 5:17 dorea gift of righteousness
Rom. 6:23 charisma free gift of God – eternal life
Rom. 11:29 charisma gifts and calling of God are irrevocable
2 Cor. 9:15 dorea the unspeakable gift of God
Eph. 2:8 dorea the gift of God (salvation)
Eph. 4:7 dorea each has grace given according to measure of the gift of X
Heb. 6:4 dorea tasted of the heavenly gift, and made partakers of the HS

DIVERSITY OF GIFTS GIVEN BY GOD TO BELIEVERS

REF GK MEANING
Rom. 11:29 charisma gifts and calling of God are irrevocable
Rom. 12:6 charisma gifts that differ according to the grace given us
1 Cor. 1:7 charisma so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
1 Cor. 7:7 charisma each has a particular gift (context of celibacy)
1 Cor. 12:1 pneumatikon spiritual things (spiritual gifts?)
1 Cor. 12:4 charisma varieties of gifts, but the same spirit
1 Cor. 12:9 charisma gifts of healing
1 Cor. 12:28 charisma gifts of healing
1 Cor. 12:30 charisma gifts of healing
1 Cor. 12:31 charisma strive for the greater gifts
1 Cor. 14:1 pneumatikon spiritual (gifts in context), especially prophecy
1 Cor. 14:37 pneumatikon if anyone thinks himself a prophet, or spiritual
Eph. 3:7 dorea according to the gift of grace given to me by his power
Eph. 4:7 dorea each has grace given according to measure of the gift of X
1 Tim. 4:14 charisma the gift that is in you (thru prophecy with laying of hands)
2 Tim. 1:6 charisma the gift of God that is in you (thru laying of hands)
1 Pet. 4:10 charisma whatever gift each of you has received

BLESSING

REF GK MEANING
Rom. 1:11 charisma that I may share some spiritual gift with you
1 Cor. 1:7 charisma so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
2 Cor. 1:11 charisma the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many
Jas. 1:17 dorea every good gift
Jas. 1:17 dorea every perfect gift

OTHER USES OF DOREA

RELIGIOUS OFFERING

REF GK MEANING
Mt. 2:11 dorea gifts from the Magi
Mt. 5:23 dorea gift offered on the altar
Mt. 5:24 dorea gift offered on the altar
Mt. 8:4 dorea gift that Moses commanded for one healed
Mt. 15:5 dorea gift devoted to God (corban)
Mt. 23:18 dorea gift offered on the altar
Mt. 23:19 dorea gift offered on the altar
Mk. 7:11 dorea gift devoted to God (corban)
Lk. 21:1 dorea gifts put into the treasury
Lk. 21:4 dorea gift offered by the widow
Heb. 5:1 dorea gifts offered by high priest (& sacrifices for sins)
Heb. 8:3 dorea gifts and sacrifices offered by the high priest
Heb. 8:4 dorea gifts offered on earth by priests according to the law
Heb. 9:9 dorea gifts /sacrifices offered in present age, incapable of perfecting
Heb. 11:4 dorea the accepted gifts of Abel

GIFTS EXCHANGED BETWEEN HUMANS

REF GK MEANING
Rev. 11:10 dorea they will give gifts to one another (gloating over prophets)

FREELY

REF GK MEANING
Mt. 10:8 dorea freely you have received, freely give
Rom. 3:24 dorea justified freely
2 Cor. 11:7 dorea free of charge
2 Thes. 2:8 dorea without paying for it
Rev. 21:6 dorea I will give freely to him who is thirsty
Rev. 22:17 dorea take the water of life freely

WITHOUT CAUSE / MERIT

REF GK MEANING
Jn. 15:25 dorea hated without cause
Gal. 2:21 dorea then Christ died for nothing (if righteousness is through law)

OTHER USES OF PNEUMATIKON

SPIRITUAL

REF GK MEANING
Rom. 1:11 pneumatikon that I may share some spiritual gift with you
Rom. 7:14 pneumatikon the law is spiritual
Rom. 15:27 pneumatikon gentiles have been made partakers of spiritual things
1 Cor. 2:13 pneumatikon spiritual things / truths
1 Cor. 2:13 pneumatikon spiritual people ?
1 Cor. 2:14 pneumatikon spiritually discerned
1 Cor. 2:15 pneumatikon those who are spiritual
1 Cor. 3:1 pneumatikon those who are spiritual
1 Cor. 9:11 pneumatikon spiritual things
1 Cor. 10:3 pneumatikon spiritual food
1 Cor. 10:4 pneumatikon spiritual drink
1 Cor. 10:4 pneumatikon spiritual rock (Christ)
1 Cor. 12:1 pneumatikon spiritual things (spiritual gifts?)
1 Cor. 14:1 pneumatikon spiritual (gifts in context), especially prophecy
1 Cor. 14:37 pneumatikon if anyone thinks himself a prophet, or spiritual
1 Cor. 15:44 pneumatikon spiritual body
1 Cor. 15:44 pneumatikon spiritual body
1 Cor. 15:46 pneumatikon that which is spiritual
1 Cor. 15:46 pneumatikon that which is spiritual
Gal. 6:1 pneumatikon you who are spiritual
Eph. 1:3 pneumatikon every spiritual blessing
Eph. 5:19 pneumatikon spiritual songs
Eph. 6:12 pneumatikon spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places
Col. 1:9 pneumatikon spiritual wisdom and understanding
Col. 3:16 pneumatikon spiritual songs
1 Pet. 2:5 pneumatikon spiritual house
1 Pet. 2:5 pneumatikon spiritual sacrifices

Typology of Views on Charismatic Movements: Conclusion

To recap, I’ve been presenting a series of posts on charismatic movements, outlining a typology of views, as follows:

  • Charismatic more fundamental than institutional (Leonardo Boff).

While this survey shows that there is a significant body of literature on the theology of charisms and charismatic movements (and a wide divergence of viewpoints), I would argue that numerous questions remain which need to be addressed.

Significantly, for the most part, the literature on charisms has not been significantly incorporated into discussions of unity and diversity.   Of course, Cullman’s argument attempts to do this, but I would argue that he has disassociated the biblical idea of charisms from its original vocational context and applied it too liberally to all confessions, thereby inappropriately justifying continued separation across the board.  Also, it is apparent throughout his argument that his major concerns are with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and magisterial protestant traditions, but he offers no criteria by which we should distinguish these separations as “legitimate” as compared with more recent protestant schisms.  Would he support, for example, the continual splintering of pentecostal and independent charismatic churches on the grounds of protecting their particular charism?

Further, his model suggests that there is a charismatic gift at the root of all church divisions.  While I believe there are many confessions or denominations in the Church today that began with such a misapprehension of charisms, this is certainly not the case in every situation.  It seems nonsensical to speak of the English reformation, for example, being rooted an unrecognized charism.  We might speak of Anglican charisms that developed in the subsequent history of Anglicanism, but if the separation of the Church of England from Rome was not rooted in a charism, we must question the validity of using such post-division gifts as a reason for continued structural separation.

Other uses of the idea of “gifts” as a way of discussing diversity in ecumenical documents have not delved into the biblical theology of charisms, nor asked questions about the appropriateness of applying the term to traditions / denominations / confessions.  Though the idea of “complementary gifts” has been a helpful way to build ecumenical bridges, it should not be used to construct a positive vision for ecclesial unity which justifies continued “separation.”

Where the idea of charisms has been incorporated in a more sustained way into a vision of the unity of the Church is in Catholic literature on the religious life, but little work has been done in attempting to apply the insights of this perspective to protestant reform movements. The comparison has sometimes been made, but not explored in much theological depth (See, for example, Outler’s remarks on Methodism as an “order,” in That the World may Believe, 54).

The weakness of some Catholic approaches, especially those which stress the complementarity of charism and institution, is that they are not helpful in interpreting the divisive history of renewal and reform movements in the life of the Church.  The question is of paramount importance, particularly for the many evangelical protestant denominations which began as reform, renewal, or missionary movements, with no intention of starting new “churches.”  In evangelical circles, partly because of the prevalence of free church ecclesiology, the tendency has been to emphasize the significance of the movements and downplay the importance of historical continuity.

All this is to say that I think significant work needs to be done on the topic of  “group” charisms, and how this concept  fits into the larger discussion about the limits of legitimate diversity in the Church.

Typology of Views on Charismatic Movements, Part 7: Charisms as Justification for Separation

One final perspective on charisms which needs to be discussed here is found in Oscar Cullmann’s 1986 book Unity Through Diversity.  Cullmann’s fundamental thesis in this work is that “every Christian confession has a permanent spiritual gift, a charisma, which is should preserve, nurture, purify, and deepen, and which should not be given up for the sake of homogenization” (Unity Through Diversity, 9).  Cullmann is concerned that the frustration of some with an apparent lack of progress towards unity is based on a “false goal” and a false hope of homogenization, which has no basis in the New Testament (14). The goal of unity should rather be a “union of all Christian churches within which each would preserve its valuable elements, including its structure” (15).

In making this argument, Cullmann claims to be drawing upon Paul’s understanding of the Church, which is “entirely based upon this fundamental truth of the variety of charisms” (18).  Basing his argument on the Pauline texts that deal with the charismatic gifts, he argues that unity can exist through diversity, rather than in spite of diversity.  The function of the Spirit in Pauline community is to create diversity, and yet “this does not cause fragmentation, since every member is oriented to the goal of the unity of the whole body” (17).  While he acknowledges that the Pauline image of the body and its parts was not originally intended to apply to churches, he argues that it is consistent with the meaning of Paul’s charismatic theology, and that Paul does, in other places, ascribe various “gifts” to different churches.

I expected to hear more from Cullmann on this point, but his sole support is a reference Romans 1:11 as an example of Paul ascribing a “particular mission to each of the different churches.” He goes on to argue that Paul views the one church to be present in each local church, a point which he believes underscores the idea of a “union of churches” where all are given equal ecclesial status (17).

Cullmann insists that he is not suggesting that things should simple remain as they are between the churches.  He suggests that relations between the churches should proceed on the basis of attempting to speak frankly to one another about the charism or charisms that we see in each other’s traditions (19).  He also notes that there are often “peculiarities” or “distortions” of the charismatic gifts that need to be weeded out by careful self-examination (16).  For example, Cullmann identifies essential charisms of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions as “concentration on the Bible” and “freedom,” but notes that these are often found in their corresponding distorted form biblicism and anarchy (20).

What clearly sets Cullmann apart in his proposals is that he speaks of a charism as being at the root of “every confession,” and that he argues that separation and autonomy might be necessary in order for these charisms to be safeguarded. The sinful element in these historic divisions is not the fact that churches are separate, but the fact that the separations have been hostile, rather than peaceful.

But in order to preserve certain charisms in their pure form, it was perhaps also necessary hat completely autonomous churches came into being (the Orthodox and the churches that derived from the Reformation). This would not necessarily and as such have led to a hostile separation which would have excluded every kind of fellowship (koinonia), the “right hand of fellowship” could have been extended here too, despite the aspect of continuing separation, as at the apostolic council (cf. Gal. 2:9; Acts 15:1-31) (31).

What Cullmann is arguing for, then, is a unity in continued separation, in which churches would remain autonomous but share in fellowship through a council or other structure of some kind.

The main thing is the achievement of a koinonia that is a true unity through diversity.  However it is developed as a conciliar organization, it should, without itself being the church as the body of Christ, guarantee unity through the fact that it brings to expression and awareness that in each of the individual churches that belong to it, and with its particular charisms, confessional structure, faith and life, the ONE universal church is present (64).

I’ll finish off this series (finally!) with some concluding thoughts on the typology in my next post.

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, part 6: Institutional over Charismatic

As I said in my introduction to this series, it is hard to find anyone today who actually tries to make a theological argument for the priority of the institutional over the charismatic in the Church.

Historically, the obvious example of prioritizing the institutional over the chairsmatic is modern Catholicism, before Vatican II.   The Roman Catholic Church was conceived as a perfect society, meaning that the Church was a complete social system, and its various elements were instituted by God, so that it would lack nothing in its historical existence until the return of Christ.  The priesthood, all the sacraments, the hierarchy, even monasticism and the religious life, were said to be derived directly from Jesus Christ himself.  These institutions were therefore invested with divine authority, such that, any “charismatic” who arose outside the established order would be seen as problematic. As Johann Adam Möhler summarized this view, “God created the hiearchy and in this way provided amply for everything that was required until the end of time.”

Of course the problem with this perspective was that, for one, it was not historically accurate.  It embraces what Avery Dulles describes as a “regressive method” of theology, whereby the latest teachings of the Church are adopted “as if they have been present from the beginning” (Models of the Church, 32), since any change would be seen as an “innovation,” and would undermine the view that all had been provided for in the Church’s institutions (including the magisterium).  Clearly, the Church’s institutions have developed over time, and many innovations have been made along the way.  Among these innovations, we must include some which I would call “charismatic movements”: monasticism of various kinds, the mendicant orders, apostolic societies, and so on.  These are among Catholicism’s most treasured institutions, but in the modern “perfect society” scheme of ecclesiology, it would have been difficult to explain their origins, apart from rooting them somehow in the divine institution of Jesus Christ.

These ideas are pretty far removed from the life of the Church today, even for Roman Catholics. However, the “institutional over charismatic” mindset is by no means absent.  Institutionalism is a pervasive social phenomenon, and all of our churches (even those which are highly charismatic) have to wrestle with the challenges it brings.  Therefore, the natural tendency in any church tradition is to be sceptical of leaders and movements who arise from oustide the established order.  We could say that, though it is not argued for theologically, “institutional over charismatic” is the default operating perspective of most churches.

Clericalism is perhaps the best example.  Even in evangelical churches, which profess a strong doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers,” there is a tendency to view the pastors as “professional Christians,” and to exclude lay people from fulfilling many roles which they ought to be able to fulfill.  Those who have the gifts (charisms), should be freed to exercise them, but they are sometimes excluded simply by virtue of the fact that they are not clergy.

I grew up in a denomination (The Salvation Army) where the clergy are largely responsible for the business of the church.   It strikes me as rather odd that we should expect pastors to be business-savvy, when there are likely members of their congregation who are business men and women themselves.

I’ve noticed that a lot of other evangelical traditions tend to have a “pastoral prayer” at every service.   This is where the pastor stands up and leads the congregation in a long prayer prayer.   I suppose most people see this as harmless, but I think it promotes a clericalist mindset.  Why would we want the pastor to be the only who publicly prays during worship?  It sends the message, again, that pastors are the “professional Christians.” It is interesting that in the older traditions (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.), which most evangelicals assume are more “clericalized,” the prayers are not led by the pastor, but by lay intercessors. In the SA, the officer often leads this prayer, but sometimes it is a layperson.

The problem is that we can’t go too far in the other direction.  We need institutions, including ordained ministry (in my opinion).  We need stable structures that endure over time, and provide a means for passing on the faith from one generation to the next in a way that retains the historic core of gospel teaching.  We cannot escape this need.   We must embrace the institutions of the Church, without absolutizing them, and thereby excluding any new wisdom that the Spirit might bring from unexpected places.  That means, in part, that the institutional authorities of the Church must be open to discerning and coordinating the charisms that arise among the people.

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, Part 5 continued: Charismatic Enlivens Institutional

Within this perspective we can also include some of the literature on charisms and the religious life in the Roman Catholic tradition (a word of clarification for those who aren’t familiar with Catholic terminology: Catholics refer to the “orders” within Catholicism (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits) as the “religious life”). Since Vatican II it has become increasingly common for religious to speak about their movements as having a particular charism which is to be preserved and cultivated for the good of the whole Church.  Vatican II didn’t specifically apply the term “charism” to religious life in this way, but Perfectae Caritatis §1 speaks of the various gifts (variis donis) that are evident in the variety of forms of religious life, and also exhorts the religious to preserve the “spirit of founders.” Subsequently, however, both Paul VI and John Paul II used the term specifically in relation to the religious life.  See Evangelica testificatio §11, 12; Mutuae relationes §11, 13; Redemptionis donum §15.

Surprisingly, there has been little in-depth critical theological reflection done on the implications of applying the biblical idea of charisms to religious life. The most extensive treatment can be found in a short book by John Lozano, a Claretian Father and theologian, entitled Foundresses, Founders, and their Religious Orders (1983). Lozano’s discussion of the role of religious life as charismatic reforming movement comports well with the more general framework provided by Snyder and Sullivan, that is, viewing charisms as an enlivening force which renews the institutional life of the Church, like “lava” pushing against the “hard crust” of established institutions.

But when these charisms erupt at the surface, from the interior where the Spirit of Pentecost is burning like lava, they must necessarily push against the hard crust which has been hardening for centuries.  The People of God are not just a charismatic reality (although they are a charismatic reality essentially), but also an institutional entity.  The Church has its firm structures and its ministers, people whom God certainly helps in their care for his people, but people who are likewise conditioned by a certain mentality (61).

However, Lozano specifically gives attention to how such charismatic activity becomes itself institutionalized in religious families, and specifically to the question of how a charism can be said to be “transmitted” via such an institution – a question which has not received sufficient attention. It should be noted, however, that Rahner does deal with this question in The Dynamic Element in the Church (58-62), as discussed in a previous post. Lozano argues that, strictly speaking, a charism cannot be transmitted, but must come directly from God.

The charism, as we have said, always comes directly from the Lord.  It is not given by the Church, by any member of the Church (including founders and foundresses), or by the religious community  The Lord, by means of his Spirit, gives it to each individual… (76)

In a broader sense, however, the charism is transmitted by the particular religious institute in that the community becomes a context where that particular charism is cultivated, deepened, and actualized by the stable structures (i.e., the rule, constitutions, spiritual theology and practices) of the institute.

The gift received by the father or mother, and directly from God by their followers, is collectively cultivated, proposed in spiritual doctrine to new generations, deepened and actualized.  Its principle elements, the aim of the Institute or the “primordial concern” of the community, are described in the Constitutions, the form of life and spiritual environment are also described in them, as a point of consideration and source of light and nourishment for successive generations.  In this less proper sense, the charism is transmitted (76).

Religious join a particular institute, then, “because we realize that our vocation essentially coincides with that of its members and with the aims which this institution pursues” (75).

The picture that emerges from this perspective, then, is that of a vocational diversity in the church, evidenced in the various movements of reform and renewal which have at their root a particular charism.  The fruitfulness, functionality, and vitality of the movements depends on their continual interpretation and actualization of that charism in their own institutional structures.

This in fact became the basis for a program of renewal of the religious life after Vatican II. Perfectae Caritatis §2b speaks of this in terms of “loyal recognition” and “safekeeping” of “the spirit of the founders,” which give the various communities “their own special character and purpose.” Elizabeth McDonough summarizes the relevant papal documents relating to this renewal, and drawing upon them, identifies a set of presuppositions which underlie this perspective. If religious communities are in fact based upon a particular charism given to the Church, then existing communities must ask themselves a) if they indeed have a charism; b) if they know what their charism is; and c) if they are prepared to strive to live accordingly.  If their answer to any of those questions is in the negative, the religious community will not survive. (McDonough, “Charisms and Religious Life,” in The Church and the Consecrated Life, 135).

How much of this thinking could be transferred to protestant reform movements?  Can we speak, for example, of  a Methodist charism, or a Salvation Army charism, or a Christian and Missionary Alliance charism?  I think, historically speaking, we can easily make the case that these movements all started out in a way similar to a Catholic order: they were not trying to be “churches,” but instead trying to live out a very specific vocation within the Church.   They brought their particular charism to the Church, and the reaction was, as Lozano describes it, somewhat volcanic.  But do these groups remain focused on their founding charism today?  Is this still a helpful way to understand their place in the universal Church?  To what extent can an independent protestant movement sustain a focus on a particular charism, once it starts to take on “churchly” functions (one or two generations down the road)?

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, Part 5: Charismatic Enlivens Institutional

A number of interpretations of charismatic movements centre around the idea of the enlivening effect of charisms on the institutional elements of the Church.  Such perspectives view both the established structures of the Church and the continued emergence of new reforming movements as normal and part of the Spirit’s work in the Church.

Along these lines, Howard Snyder attempts to provide what he calls a “mediating perspective” of church renewal, incorporating both the institutional and charismatic aspects of the Church.  Noting that institutional and charismatic views of the Church individually have their limitations, Snyder argues for a “a theory of church life and renewal which combines insights from both the institutional and charismatic views,” not seeking a middle ground but attempting to “incorporate the truth of both.” In his view both stable institutional structures and dynamic renewal movements are legitimate and in some sense normal aspects of the Church’s life in history, although the merits and faithfulness of individual movements and institutions could be debated” (Signs of the Spirit, 274-275).

The reform movements spring up within the institutional church, bringing new life and growth, analogous to a new sprout growing out of a stump which appears dead.  Snyder then offers what he considers to be the “marks” of this mediating model, which is based upon the idea of authentic reform coming through ecclesiolae in ecclesia – radical and more intimate expressions of the church which exist in the Church, for the good of the whole Church, maintaining some form of institutional ties with the larger body (Signs of the Spirit, 276-280).

Francis Sullivan, a Roman Catholic reflecting on the charismatic renewal movement in Catholicism, offers a similar view of the Church and the place of renewal movements in the Church’s life.  Sullivan speaks of the official sacramental ministries and charismatic movements as two “equally important” ways in which the Spirit gives life to the Church.

There are two distinct, but equally important, ways that the Holy Spirit breathes life into the body of Christ: on the one hand, by his covenant relationship with the church, guaranteeing the effectiveness of its sacraments and official ministries, and on the other, by his unpredictable and often surprising charismatic interventions (Charisms and Charismatic Renewal, 47).

The official ministries of the Church exist to safeguard and pass on the tradition, but charismatic movements are given “for the purpose of shaking the church out of the complacency and mediocrity that inevitably creep into any institution” (47).  Sullivan is comfortable speaking of the official structures of the Church as institutional, and of ascribing an inevitable stultifying character to those institutions, which puts him closer to someone like Snyder than to Rahner or Ratzinger.

In addition to Catholic religious orders, Sullivan also suggests that many movements that ended up becoming sects or separate church bodies began as charismatic movements within the Church.  Their separation indicates a failure to renew the Church, but it need not indicate that the separated movements were not in fact the work of the Spirit, because blame for separation often lies on both sides, and at times has been due to a resistance to reform on the part of the Church.

I certainly do not think that the fact of separation by itself is proof that the movement in question could never have been an authentic work of the Holy Spirit, because there is also the possibility that it was rather the refusal of the Church at that time to admit its need of reform and accept renewal that led to the alienation and eventual separation (49).

Without going into detail, Sullivan suggests that “the history of Western Christianity in the last four hundred years has been profoundly marked by alienations of this kind, whether from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or from various Protestant bodies in the following centuries” (49).

Sullivan also notes that, while for much of this period, Catholics simply denied that the Holy Spirit was at work protestant bodies, Vatican II affirmed that the Spirit works not only in individuals but also through churches and ecclesial bodies outside of Catholicism. On this see Unitatis Redintegratio §§3 and 4.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ (§3).

…Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood…Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church (§4).

I’ll continue the discussion of this perspective with another post on Catholic literature about charisms and the religious life (religious orders, etc.).