November 14-15, 2004
vol 15, no. 184

Musings on the Charismatic Movement - Part Two

        Considerations on "Baptism of the Spirit." The holy Doctor of the Church St. John of the Cross illustrates the contradictions of the modern charismatic movement and how it cannot be of God for one must not desire these charisms, while the charismatic creed is to indeed do the opposite and to yearn for them. It only invites satan in the front door.

          by Kevin M. Tierney

          Editor's Note: While Kevin has been bringing you this series most Sundays in comparing the Propers of the Mass of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, the title of this feature "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi" also extends to ways in which one prays determining how one believes. The charismatic movement, which John Paul II is on record as boasting as the "greatest movement in Church history" is, like the rest of the conciliar church, heading for oblivion. Kevin points out in his multi-part essay why this is and why the charismatic movement is dangerous. Below is part two.

      "If baptism in the Spirit is a religious experience, how many times does this occur? Can we be 're-baptized in the Holy Spirit?' Are there numerous baptisms in the Holy Spirit? Is every time we have an intense encounter with God a 'baptism in the Holy Spirit?' If it is numerous times, what about Scripture's command of just one baptism? The majority of your charismatics will refuse to answer such questions. Indeed, it 'doubts the work of the Holy Spirit.' Yet precisely because of the threat of demonic deception, St. Paul commanded such spirits are to be tested."

    As everyone knows, I'm very skeptical of the Charismatic Movement, and I do not think of it as a renewal within the Church. If anything, as I hope to demonstrate later, it is not a sign of coming prosperity, but coming danger. I'd like to devote one musing each over the next few ones to specific areas of the Charismatic movement. Today I would like to focus on what is popularly known as "Baptism in the Spirit."

    The one problem with "Baptism in the Spirit" is that it means many different things to many different people. It is almost like dealing with a Protestant concept. The reason this is so is because such terminology in relation to the Pentecostal movement "is" a Protestant concept. It was known as an intense religious experience in the person's life. It was distinct from baptism, for those Pentecostals that actually believed baptism regenerates the soul. For those who rejected baptismal regeneration, "baptism of the Spirit" normally came after they accepted Christ as their "personal Lord and savior" and it would be, as John Wesley termed it "A Second Blessing."

    In the Charismatic movement, "baptism in the Spirit" seems to be the unifying factor. It seems to be where the Holy Spirit comes into the life of the Charismatic. If this is the case, of what use is the sacrament of Confirmation? I thought it was confirmation that gave us the Spirit and gave us grace!

    Furthermore, how can one really know if they have indeed been baptized in the Spirit? I personally know when I was baptized. It was when the father said I baptize Thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We know that our sins are forgiven and absolved when the priest announces so. Yet baptism in the Spirit, there is no priest doing the baptizing, there is no person doing so, but it is an inward religious experience. How can that experience be tested? For if it is true because one feels it, therefore the one who feels contraception and abortion are right, well they must be right as well. Yet obviously this is false. There is an objective standard for such things. Natural and divine law condemn such. Therefore such sentiments can be compared to that objective standard. The baptism we receive with water, can be measured against an objective standard. Provided it was with water and with the triune formulae, we know that it is a valid baptism. Yet baptism in the spirit is entirely subjective. It is a supernatural event.

    The only problem with supernatural events is that we must be extremely careful. In the Ascent of Mt. Carmel, arguably the greatest Spiritual Master of the Church, St. John of the Cross, had the following to say about such supernatural experience and knowledge. I will quote him many times in future musings. (Note, one may find The Ascent of Mt. Carmel and the passages in discussion from the Second Book. It may also be found online at this address. ) I will bold parts that I feel we should really focus upon.

        "What we have to treat, therefore, in the present chapter, will be solely those kinds of knowledge and those apprehensions which belong to the understanding and come supernaturally, by way of the outward bodily senses -- namely, by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. With respect to all these there may come, and there are wont to come, to spiritual persons representations and objects of a supernatural kind. With respect to sight, they are apt to picture figures and forms of persons belonging to the life to come -- the forms of certain saints, and representations of angels, good and evil, and certain lights and brightnesses of an extraordinary kind. And with the ears they hear certain extraordinary words, sometimes spoken by those figures that they see, sometimes without seeing the person who speaks them. As to the sense of smell, they sometimes perceive the sweetest perfumes with the senses, without knowing whence they proceed. Likewise, as to taste, it comes to pass that they are conscious of the sweetest savours, and, as to touch, they experience great delight -- sometimes to such a degree that it is as though all the bones and the marrow rejoice and sing and are bathed in delight; this is like that which we call spiritual unction, which in pure souls proceeds from the spirit and flows into the very members. And this sensible sweetness is a very ordinary thing with spiritual persons, for it comes to them from their sensible affection and devotion, to a greater or a lesser degree, to each one after his own manner."

    "2. And it must be known that, although all these things may happen to the bodily senses in the way of God, we must never rely upon them or accept them, but must always fly from them, without trying to ascertain whether they be good or evil; for, the more completely exterior and corporeal they are, the less certainly are they of God. For it is more proper and habitual to God to communicate Himself to the spirit, wherein there is more security and profit for the soul, than to sense, wherein there is ordinarily much danger and deception; for bodily sense judges and makes its estimate of spiritual things by thinking that they are as it feels them to be, whereas they are as different as is the body from the soul and sensuality from reason. For the bodily sense is as ignorant of spiritual things as is a beast of rational things, and even more so."

    3. "So he that esteems such things errs greatly and exposes himself to great peril of being deceived; in any case he will have within himself a complete impediment to the attainment of spirituality. For, as we have said, between spiritual things and all these bodily things there exists no kind of proportion whatever. And thus it may always be supposed that such things as these are more likely to be of the devil than of God; for the devil has more influence in that which is exterior and corporeal, and can deceive a soul more easily thereby than by that which is more interior and spiritual..."

    "5. And, besides all this, when the soul sees that such extraordinary things happen to it, it is often visited, insidiously and secretly by a certain complacency, so that it thinks itself to be of some importance in the eyes of God; which is contrary to humility. The devil, too, knows how to insinuate into the soul a secret satisfaction with itself..." (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book II)

    Even when speaking on when these things do occur, he states emphatically the soul is not to desire them.

        "The reason for this is that corporeal vision, or feeling in respect to any of the other senses, or any other communication of the most interior kind, if it be of God, produces its effect upon the spirit at the very moment when it appears or is felt, without giving the soul time or opportunity to deliberate whether it will accept or reject it. For, even as God gives these things supernaturally, without effort on the part of the soul, and independently of its capacity, even so likewise, without respect to its effort or capacity, God produces in it the effect that He desires by means of such things; for this is a thing that is wrought and brought to pass in the spirit passively; and thus its acceptance or non-acceptance consists not in the acceptance or the rejection of it by the will. It is as though fire were applied to a person's naked body: it would matter little whether or not he wished to be burned; the fire would of necessity accomplish its work. Just so is it with visions and representations that are good: even though the soul desire it not, they work their effect upon it, chiefly and especially in the soul, rather than in the body. (ibid., Paragraph 6)

    There is much more I could quote, but let's think about such things. First, let's start from the bottom. To the Charismatic movement, baptism in the spirit, this intense religious experience with the Spirit, is something that is to be sought after and desired. Indeed, we are told we should all be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Yet St. John of the Cross warns us of such seeking. Since I'm a Star Wars geek and proud of it, as Yoda would say it leads us "down the path.... to the dark side." Furthermore, we are told that even if this "baptism in the spirit" were true, it cannot be relied upon. One would certainly say one's feelings and experience ties in with the subject matter St. John of the Cross is talking about here. (And while I will not overload with quotations, in chapter II of Book II, he deals with apprehensions of "imagination and fancy" which I would recommend as also very important to this discussion.)

    If baptism in the Spirit is a religious experience, how many times does this occur? Can we be "re-baptized in the Holy Spirit?" Are there numerous baptisms in the Holy Spirit? Is every time we have an intense encounter with God a "baptism in the Holy Spirit?" If it is numerous times, what about Scripture's command of just one baptism? The majority of your charismatics will refuse to answer such questions. Indeed, it "doubts the work of the Holy Spirit." Yet precisely because of the threat of demonic deception, St. Paul commanded such spirits are to be tested.

    That is all for my musings currently. I will treat the issue of prophesy within the Charismatic movement in my next musing. Until then, it is my hope that God blesses each and every one of my readers.

Kevin Tierney

    November 14-15, 2004
    vol 15, no. 184
    Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi