Neo-Pentecostalism at Synod

The report of the study committee on Neo-Pentecostalism may be found on pages 264–359 in the Agenda for Synod 1973. Rev. Jerome Julien, writer of this article on the report, is pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After reading the nearly 100 pages of the committee on Neo-Pentecostalism it has become apparent that it will not be easy to communicate to our readers the gist of the report. For several reasons this becomes difficult. First, the report has three sections: a majority report giving counsel to the churches to lovingly and patiently maintain the unity of the faith in matters of Neo-Pentecostalism; a minority report dissenting in the conclusions drawn by the majority and submitted by the Rev. Bassam Madany, the chairman; and a third section on rebaptism. Second, it would be to the readers’ advantage to have before them the recommendations of the report but they cannot be reproduced here due to the fact that they fill a total of six pages in the Agenda.

I must honestly confess that I praise the Lord for Rev. Madany’s courage and forthrightness. He asks Synod to declare that the majority report “is not sufficiently clear with respect to the distinctive teachings of Neo-Pentecostalism.” Further, he asks Synod to declare that the teachings and practices of Neo-Pentecostalism “are not permitted in the Christian Reformed Church.”

The criticism of his committee’s work is to the point. Oh, of course, the majority points out that there are great errors in the movement troubling our churches—and many of their observations are contributions to the understanding of the issue at hand. But, after a reading of their report and their recommendations, one is struck by their willingness to take a “both-and” position: there is great error in Neo-Pentecostalism, but there is some truth , too. Though the Bible is often cited, there seems to be a lack of explanation of the passages from an exegetical perspective. I am not always sure how they came to their conclusions. A sharp line is not drawn.

I wonder if the committee considered A. T. Robertson’s thoughts on I Corinthians 13:8 as they discussed the question: “Are the gifts of the Spirit still present today?” (pp. 310ff.). They write on page 311, “Such a study [i.e., of Scripture occasioned by the rise of Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism] makes it clear that Scripture itself does not demand the thesis that these gifts belonged only to the apostles or their age, or that their purpose was solely to function as signs.”

Rev. Madany also points out other questionable statements in the majority report. Do they hint at a possibility of prophesy as having a foretelling function today (p. 318)? What happens to the full revelation of God in the Bible? They allow for miracles and signs worked by the Lord today (p. 322).

Then the majority report suggests that Synod urge the churches to accept fully and in love those who hold to the Neo-Pentecostalism views. In other words, if Synod receives the recommendations of the Majority report it will mean that the Christian Reformed Church is going on record as saying that Neo-Pentecostalism is an acceptable viewpoint and may be held as not in opposition to our Confessional statements. This is not to say that the CRC will condone the excesses.

Should the Synod give this advice to the churches it will not be saying what Scripture allows, this writer is convinced.

Concerning the section on “Rebaptism and Church Membership” the words of Belgic Confession Article XXXIV are conspicuously absent: “We believe, therefore, that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal ought to be baptized but once with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice.” It is well that the committee recommends faithful preaching and teaching on the doctrine of baptism!