Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934-1982), was an Orthodox monk in the ancient tradition who dedicated his life to reawakening modern Western man to forgotten spiritual truths. From his remote cabin in the mountains of northern California, he produced writings which have been circulated throughout the world in millions of copies. His books Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future and The Soul After Death have changed countless lives with their uncompromising and sobering truth. Since he wrote this piece, the Charismatic movement has progressed even beyond what was happening in the 70’s, (the point in time which these chapters were written) with great speed with such things as the Toronto Blessing (“Holy laughter movement”). This article is about the movement itself and not a condemnation of people.
“COSTA DEIR TOOK THE MIKE and told us how his heart was burdened for the Greek Orthodox Church. He asked Episcopalian Father Driscoll to pray that the Holy Spirit would sweep that Church as He was sweeping the Catholic Church. While Father Driscoll prayed, Costa Deir wept into the mike. Following the prayer was a long message in tongues and an equally long interpretation saying that the prayers had been heard and the Holy Spirit would blow through and awaken the Greek Orthodox Church. By this time there was so much weeping and calling out that I backed away from it all emotionally… Yet I heard myself saying a surprising thing, ‘Some day when we read how the Spirit is moving in the Greek Orthodox Church, let us remember that we were here the moment that it began'” .
Six months after the event here described occurred at an interdenominational “charismatic” meeting in Seattle, Orthodox Christians did indeed begin to hear that the “charismatic spirit”was moving in the Greek Orthodox Church. Beginning in January, 1972, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou’s Logos began to report on this movement, which had begun earlier in several Greek and Syrian parishes in America and now has spread to a number of others, being actively promoted by Fr. Eusebius. After the reader has read the description of this “spirit” from the words of its leading representatives in the pages that follow, he should not find it difficult to believe that in very fact it was evoked and instilled into the Orthodox world by just such urgent entreaties of “interdenominational Christians.” For if one conclusion emerges from this description, it must certainly be that the spectacular present-day “charismatic revival” is not merely a phenomenon of hyper-emotionalism and Protestant revivalism-although these elements are also strongly present-but is actually the work of a “spirit” who can be invoked and who works “miracles.”
The question we shall attempt to answer in these pages is: what or who is this spirit? As Orthodox Christians we know that it is not only God Who works miracles; the devil has his own “miracles,” and in fact he can and does imitate virtually every genuine miracle of God. We shall therefore attempt in these pages to be careful to “try the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). We shall begin with a brief historical background, since no one can deny that the “charismatic revival” has come to the Orthodox world from the Protestant and Catholic denominations, which in turn received it from the Pentecostal sects.
The Pentecostal Movement
THE MODERN PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT, although it did have 19th-century antecedents, dates its origin precisely to 7:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve of the year 1900. For some time before that moment a Methodist minister in Topeka, Kansas, Charles Parham, as an answer to the confessed feebleness of his Christian ministry, had been concentratedly studying the New Testament with a group of his students with the aim of discovering the secret of the power of Apostolic Christianity. The students finally deduced that this secret lay in the “speaking in tongues” which, they thought, always accompanied the reception of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles. With increasing excitement and tension, Parham and his students resolved to pray until they themselves received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” together with speaking in tongues. On December 31, 1900, they prayed from morning to night with no success, until one young girl suggested that one ingredient was missing in this experiment: “laying on of hands.” Parham put his hands on the girl’s head, and immediately she began to speak in an “unknown tongue.” Within three days there were many such “Baptisms,” including that of Parham himself and twelve other ministers of various denominations, and all of them were accompanied by speaking in tongues. Soon the revival spread to Texas, and then it had spectacular success at a small Black church in Los Angeles. Since then it has spread throughout the world and claims ten million members.
For half a century the Pentecostal Movement remained sectarian and everywhere it was received with hostility by the established denominations. Then, however, speaking in tongues began gradually to appear in the denominations themselves, although at first it was kept rather quiet, until in 1960 an Episcopalian priest near Los Angeles gave wide publicity to this fact by publicly declaring that he had received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and spoke in tongues. After some initial hostility, the “charismatic revival” gained the official or unofficial approval of all the major denominations and has spread rapidly both in America and abroad. Even the once rigid and exclusivist Roman Catholic Church, once it took up the “charismatic renewal” in earnest in the late 1960’s, has been enthusiastically swept up in this movement. In America, the Roman Catholic bishops gave their approval to the movement in l969, and the few thousand Catholics involved in it then have since increased to untold hundreds of thousands, who gather periodically in local and nationwide “charismatic” conferences whose participants are sometimes numbered in the tens of thousands. The Roman Catholic countries of Europe have also become enthusiastically “charismatic,” as witnessed by the “charismatic” conference in the Summer, 1978, in Ireland, attended by thousands of Irish priests. Not long before his death Pope Paul VI met with a delegation of “charismatics” and proclaimed that he too is a pentecostal.
What can be the reason for such a spectacular success of a “Christian” revival in a seemingly “post-Christian” world? Doubtless the answer lies in two factors: first, the receptive ground which consists of those millions of “Christians” who feel that their religion is dry, over-rational, merely external, without fervency or power; and second, the evidently powerful “spirit” that lies behind the phenomena, which is capable, under the proper conditions, of producing a multitude and variety of “charismatic” phenomena, including healing, speaking in tongues, interpretation, prophecy-and, underlying all of these, an overwhelming experience which is called the “Baptism of (or in, or with) the Holy Spirit.”
But what precisely is this “spirit”? Significantly, this question is seldom if ever even raised by followers of the “charismatic revival”; their own “baptismal” experience is so powerful and has been preceded by such an effective psychological preparation in the form of concentrated prayer and expectation that there is never any doubt in their minds but that they have received the Holy Spirit and that the phenomena they have experienced and seen are exactly those described in the Acts of the Apostles. Too, the psychological atmosphere of the movement is often so one-sided and tense that it is regarded as the very blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to entertain any doubts in this regard. Of the hundreds of books that have already appeared on the movement, only a very few express any even slight doubts as to its spiritual validity.
In order to obtain a better idea of the distinctive characteristics of the “charismatic revival,” let us examine some of the testimonies and practices of its participants, always checking them against the standard of Holy Orthodoxy. These testimonies will be taken, with a few exceptions as noted, from the apologetical books and magazines of the movement, written by people who are favorable to it and who obviously publish only that material which seems to support their position. Further, we shall make only minimal use of narrowly Pentecostal sources, confining ourselves chiefly to Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox participants in the contemporary “charismatic revival.”
The “Ecumenical” Spirit of the “Charismatic Revival”
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 thepower of the “spirit.”
“Speaking in Tongues”
IF WE LOOK CAREFULLY at the writings of the “charismatic revival,” we shall find that this movement closely resembles many sectarian movements of the past in basing itself primarily or even entirely on one rather bizarre doctrinal emphasis or religious practice. The only difference is that the emphasis now is placed on a specific point which no sectarians in the past regarded as so central: speaking in tongues.
According to the constitution of various Pentecostal sects, “The Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues” (Sherrill, p. 79). And not only is this the first sign of conversion to a Pentecostal sect or orientation: according to the best Pentecostal authorities, this practice must be continued or the “Spirit” may be lost. Writes David Du Plessis: “The practice of praying in tongues should continue and increase in the lives of those who are baptized in the Spirit, otherwise they may find that the other manifestations of the Spirit come seldom or stop altogether” (Du Plessis, p. 89). Many testify, as does one Protestant, that tongues “have now become an essential accompaniment of my devotional life” (Lillie, p. 50). And a Roman Catholic book on the subject, more cautiously, says that of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” tongues “is often but not always the first received. For many it is thus a threshold through which one passes into the realm of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Ranaghan, p. 19).
Here already one may note an overemphasis that is certainly not present in the New Testament, where speaking in tongues has a decidedly minor significance, serving as a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and on two other occasions (Acts 10 and 19). After the first or perhaps the second century there is no record of it in any Orthodox source, and it is not recorded as occurring even among the great Fathers of the Egyptian desert, who were so filled with the Spirit of God that they performed numerous astonishing miracles, including raising the dead. The Orthodox attitude to genuine speaking in tongues, then, may be summed up in the words of Blessed Augustine (Homilies on John, VI:10): “In the earliest times “the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spake with tongues” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” These were signs adapted to the time. For it was fitting that there be this sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That was done for a sign, and it passed away.” And as if to answer contemporary Pentecostals with their strange emphasis on this point, Augustine continues: “Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid, should speak with tongues? Or when we imposed our hand upon these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? And when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so perverse of heart as to say, ‘These have not received the Holy Spirit’?”
Modern Pentecostals, to justify their use of tongues, refer most of all to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chs. 12-14). But St. Paul wrote this passage precisely because ‘tongues’ had become a source of disorder in the Church of Corinth; and even while he does not forbid them, he decidedly minimizes their significance. This passage, therefore, far from encouraging any modern revival of “tongues,” should on the contrary discourage it‹especially when one discovers (as Pentecostals themselves admit) that there are other sources of speaking in tongues besides the Holy Spirit! As Orthodox Christians we already know that speaking in tongues as a true gift of the Holy Spirit cannot appear among those outside the Church of Christ; but let us look more closely at this modern phenomenon and see if it possesses characteristics that might reveal from what source it does come.
If we are already made suspicious by the exaggerated importance accorded to “tongues” by modern Pentecostals, we should be completely awakened about them when we examine the circumstances in which they occur.
Far from being given freely and spontaneously, without man’s interference – as are the true gifts of the Holy Spirit- speaking in tongues can be caused to occur quite predictably by a regular technique of concentrated group “prayer” accompanied by psychologically suggestive Protestant hymns (“He comes! He comes!”), culminating in a “laying on of hands,” and sometimes involving such purely physical efforts as repeating a given phrase over and over again (Koch, p. 24), or just making sounds with the mouth. One person admits that, like many others, after speaking in tongues, “I often did mouth nonsense syllables in an effort to start the flow of prayer-in-tongues” (Sherrill, p. 127); and such efforts, far from being discouraged, are actually advocated by Pentecostals. “Making sounds with the mouth is not ‘speaking-in-tongues,’ but it may signify an honest act of faith, which the Holy Spirit will honor by giving that person the power to speak in another language” (Harper, p. 11). Another Protestant pastor says: “The initial hurdle to speaking in tongues, it seems, is simply the realization that you must ‘speak forth’…The first syllables and words may sound strange to your ear… They may be halting and inarticulate. You may have the thought that you are just making it up. But as you continue to speak in faith… the Spirit will shape for you a language of prayer and praise” (Christenson, p. 130). A Jesuit “theologian” tells how he put such advice into practice: “After breakfast I felt almost physically drawn to the chapel where I sat down to pray. Following Jim’s description of his own reception of the gift of tongues, I began to say quietly to myself “la, la, la, la.” To my immense consternation there ensued a rapid movement of tongue and lips accompanied by a tremendous feeling of inner devotion” (Gelpi, p. 1).
Can any sober Orthodox Christian possibly confuse these dangerous psychic games with the gifts of the Holy Spirit?! There is clearly nothing whatever Christian, nothing spiritual here in the least. This is the realm, rather, of psychic mechanisms which can be set in operation by means of definite psychological or physical techniques, and “speaking in tongues” would seem to occupy a key role as a kind of “trigger” in this realm. In any case, it certainly bears no resemblance whatever to the spiritual gift described in the New Testament, and if anything is much closer to shaministic “speaking in tongues” as practiced in primitive religions, where the shaman or witch doctor has a regular technique for going into a trance and then giving a message to or from a “god” in a tongue he has not learned .
In the pages that follow we shall encounter “charismatic” experiences so weird that the comparison with shamanism will not seem terribly far-fetched, especially if we understand that primitive shamanism is but a particular expression of a “religious” phenomenon which, far from being foreign to the modern West, actually plays a significant role in the lives of some contemporary “Christians:”mediumism.
ONE CAREFUL AND OBJECTIVE study of “speaking in tongues” has been made by the German Lutheran pastor, Dr. Kurt Koch (The Strife of Tongues). After examining hundreds of examples of this “gift” as manifested in the past few years, he came to the conclusion, on Scriptural grounds, that only four of these cases might be the same as the gift described in the Acts of the Apostles; but he was not sure of any of them. The Orthodox Christian, having the full patristic tradition of the Church of Christ behind him, would be more strict in his judgment than Dr. Koch. As against these few possibly positive cases, however, Dr. Koch found a number of cases of undoubted demonic possession – for “speaking in tongues” is in fact a common “gift” of the possessed. But it is in Dr. Koch’s final conclusion that we find what is perhaps the clue to the whole movement. He concludes that the “tongues” movement is not at all a “revival,” for there is in it little repentance or conviction of sin, but chiefly the search for power and experience; the phenomenon of tongues is not the gift described in the Acts, nor is it (in most cases) actual demonic possession; rather, “it becomes more and more clear that perhaps over 95% of the whole tongues movement is mediumistic in character” (Koch, p. 35).
What is a “medium”? A medium is a person with a certain psychic sensitivity which enables him to be the vehicle or means for the manifestation of unseen forces or beings (where actual beings are involved, as Starets Ambrose of Optina has clearly stated , these are always the fallen spirits whose realm this is, and not the “spirits of the dead” imagined by spiritists). Almost all non-Christian religions make large use of mediumistic gifts, such as clairvoyance, hypnosis, “miraculous” healing, the appearance and disappearance of objects as well as their movement from place to place, etc.
It should be noted that several similar gifts have also been possessed by Orthodox Saints – but there is an immense difference between the true Christian gift and its mediumistic imitation. The true Christian gift of healing, for example, is given by God directly in answer to fervent prayer, and especially at the prayer of a man who is particularly pleasing to God, a righteous man or saint (James 5:16), and also through contact in faith with objects that have been sanctified by God (holy water, relies of saints, etc.; see Acts 19:12; 2 Kings 13:21). But mediumistic healing, like any other mediumistic gift, is accomplished by means of certain definite techniques and psychic states which can be cultivated and brought into use by practice, and which have no relation whatever either to sanctity or to the action of God. The mediumistic ability may be acquired either by inheritance or by transference through contact with someone who has the gift, or even through the reading of occult books .
Many mediums claim that their powers are not at all supernatural, but come from a part of nature about which very little is known. To some extent this is doubtless true; but it is also true that the realm from which these gifts come is the special realm of the fallen spirits, who do not hesitate to use the opportunity afforded by the people who enter this realm to draw them into their own nets, adding their own demonic powers and manifestations in order to lead souls to destruction. And whatever the explanation of various mediumistic phenomena may be, God in His Revelation to mankind has strictly forbidden any contact with this occult realm:
“There shall not be found among you any one that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a necromancer. For whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the Lord” (Deut. 18:10-12; see also Lev. 20:6).
In practice it is impossible to combine mediumism with genuine Christianity, the desire for mediumistic phenomena or powers being incompatible with the basic Christian orientation toward the salvation of the soul. This is not to say that there are not “Christians” who are involved in mediumism, often unconsciously (as we shall see); it is only to say that they are not genuine Christians, that their Christianity is only a “new Christianity” such as the one Nicholas Berdyaev preached, which will be discussed again below. Dr. Koch, even from his Protestant background, makes a valid observation when he notes: “A person’s religious life is not harmed by occultism or spiritism. Indeed spiritism is to a large extent a ‘religious’ movement. The devil does not take away our ‘religiousness’… [But] there is a great difference between being religious and being born again by the Spirit of God. It is sad to say that our Christian denominations have more ‘religious’ people in them than true Christians” .
The best-known form of mediumism in the modern West is the spiritistic seance, where contact is made with certain forces that produce observable effects such as knockings, voices, various kinds of communications such as automatic writing and speaking in unknown tongues, the moving of objects, and the apparition of hands and “human” figures that can sometimes be photographed. These effects are produced with the aid of definite attitudes and techniques on the part of those present, concerning which we shall here quote one of the standard textbooks on the subject .
- Passivity: “A spirit’s activity is measured by the degree of passivity or submissiveness which he finds in the sensitive, or medium.” “Mediumship… by diligent cultivation may be attained by anyone who deliberately yields up his body, with his free will, and sensitive and intellectual faculties, to an invading or controlling spirit.”
- Solidarity in faith: All present must have a “sympathetic attitude of mind in support of the medium”; the spiritistic phenomena are “facilitated by a certain sympathy arising from a harmony of ideas, views and sentiment existing between the experimenters and the medium. When this sympathy and harmony, as well as the personal surrender of the will, are warring in the members of the ‘circle,’ the seance proves a failure.” Also, “the number of experimenters is of great importance. If larger, they impede the harmony so necessary for success.”
- All present “join hands to form the so-called magnetic circle. By this closed circuit, each member contributes the energy of a certain force which is collectively communicated to the medium.” However, the “magnetic circle” is required only in less well-developed mediums. Mme. Blavarsky, the founder of modern “theosophy,” herself a medium, later laughed at the crude techniques of spiritism when she encountered much more powerful mediums in the East, to which category also belongs the fakir described in Chapter 3.
- The necessary spiritistic atmosphere is commonly induced by artificial means, such as the singing of hymns, the playing of soft music, and even the offering of prayer.”
The spiritistic seance, to be sure, is a rather crude form of mediumism – although for that very reason its techniques are all the more evident – and only rarely does it produce spectacular results. There are other more subtle forms, some of them going under the name of “Christian.” To realize this one need only look at the techniques of a “faith-healer” such as Oral Roberts (who until joining the Methodist church a few years ago was a minister of the Pentecostal Holiness sect), who causes “miraculous” healings by forming an actual “magnetic circle” composed of people with the proper sympathy, passivity, and harmony of “faith” who put their hands on the television set while he is on the air; the healings can even be brought about by drinking a glass of water that has been placed on the television set and has thus absorbed the flow of mediumistic forces that have been brought into action. But such healings, like those produced by spiritism and witchcraft, can take a heavy toll in later psychic, not to mention spiritual, disorders .
In this realm one must be very careful, because the devil is constantly aping the works of God, and many people with mediumistic gifts continue to think they are Christians and that their gifts come from the Holy Spirit. But is it possible to say that this is true of the “charismatic revival” – that it is in fact, as some say, primarily a form of mediumism?
In applying the most obvious tests for mediumism to the “charismatic revival,” one is struck first of all by the fact that the chief prerequisites for the spiritistic seance described above are all present at “charismatic” prayer meetings, whereas not one of these characteristics is present in the same form or degree in the true Christian worship of the Orthodox Church.
- The “passivity” of the spiritistic seance corresponds to what “charismatic” writers call “a kind of letting go…This involves more than the dedication of one’s conscious existence through an act of will; it also refers to a large, even hidden area of one’s unconscious life…All that can be done is to offer the self – body, mind, and even the tongue – so that the Spirit of God may have full possession…Such persons are ready – the barriers are down and God moves mightily upon and through their whole being” (Williams, pp. 62-63; italics in the original). Such a “spiritual” attitude is not that of Christianity: it is rather the attitude of Zen Buddhism, Eastern “mysticism,” hypnosis, and spiritism. Such an exaggerated passivity is entirely foreign to Orthodox spirituality, and is only an open invitation to the activity of deceiving spirits. One sympathetic observer notes that at Pentecostal meetings people speaking in tongues or interpreting “seem almost to go into a trance” (Sherrill, p. 87). This passivity is so pronounced in some “charismatic” communities that they completely abolish the church organization and any set order of services and do absolutely everything as the “spirit” directs.
2 There is a definite “solidarity in faith” – and not merely solidarity in Christian faith and hope for salvation, but a specific unanimity in the desire for and expectation of “charismatic” phenomena. This is true of all “charismatic” prayer meetings; but an even more pronounced solidarity is required for the experience of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which is usually performed in a small separate room in the presence of only a few who have already had the experience. The presence of even one person who has negative thoughts about the experience is often sufficient to cause the “Baptism” not to occur – exactly in the way that the misgivings and the prayer of the Orthodox priest described above was enough to break up the impressive illusion produced by the Ceylonese fakir.
- The spiritistic “magnetic circle” corresponds to the Pentecostal “laying on of hands,” which is always done by those who themselves have already experienced the “Baptism” with speaking in tongues, and who serve, in the words of Pentecostals themselves, as “channels of the Holy Spirit” (Williams, p. 64) – a word used by spiritists to refer to mediums.
- The “charismatic,” like the spiritistic, “atmosphere” is induced by means of suggestive hymns and prayers, and often also by hand-clapping, all of which give “an effect of mounting excitement, and almost intoxicating quality” (Sherrill, p. 23).
It may still be objected that all those similarities between mediumism and Pentecostalism are only coincidental; and indeed in order to show whether or not the “charismatic revival” is actually mediumistic, we shall have to determine what kind of “spirit” it is that is communicated through the Pentecostal “channels.” A number of testimonies by those who have experienced it – and who believe that it is the Holy Spirit – point clearly to its nature. “The group moved closer around me. It was as if they were forming with their bodies a funnel through which was concentrated the flow of the Spirit that was pulsing through the room. It flowed into me as I sat there” (Sherrill, p. 122). At a Catholic Pentecostal prayer meeting, “upon entering a room one was practically struck dead by the strong visible presence of God” (Ranaghan, p. 79). (Compare the “vibrant” atmosphere at some pagan and Hindu rites; see above, pg. 50.) Another man describes his “Baptismal” experience: “I became aware that the Lord was in the room and that He was approaching me. I couldn’t see Him, but I felt myself being pushed over on my back. I seemed to float to the floor…” (Logos Journal,Nov.-Dec., 1971, p. 47). Other similar examples will be given below in the discussion of the physical accompaniments of “charismatic” experience. This “pulsing,” “visible,” “pushing” spirit that “approaches” and “flows” would seem to confirm the mediumistic character of the “charismatic” movement. Certainly the Holy Spirit could never be described in these ways!
And let us recall a strange characteristic of “charismatic” speaking in tongues that we have already mentioned: that it is given not only at the initial experience of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” but is supposed to be continued (both in private and public) and become an “essential accompaniment” of religious life, or else the”gifts of the Spirit” may cease. One Presbyterian “charismatic” writer speaks of the specific function of this practice in “preparing” for “charismatic” meetings:
“Often it is the case that… a small group will spend time ahead praying in the Spirit [i.e., in tongues]. In so doing there is greatly multiplied the sense of God’s presence and power that carries over into the gathering.” And again: “We find that quiet praying in the Spirit during that meeting helps to maintain an openness to God’s presence… [for] after one has become accustomed to praying in tongues aloud… it soon becomes a possibility for one’s breath, moving across vocal chords and tongue, to manifest the Spirit’s breathing, and thereby for prayer to go on quietly, yet profoundly, within” (Williams, p. 31).
Let us remember also that speaking in tongues can be triggered by such artificial devices as “making sounds with the mouth” – and we come to the inevitable conclusion that “charismatic” speaking in tongues is not a “gift” at all but a technique, itself acquired by other techniques and in turn triggering still other “gifts of the Spirit,” if one continues to practice and cultivate it. Do we not have here a clue to the chief actual accomplishment of the modern Pentecostal Movement – that it has discovered a new mediumistic technique for entering into and preserving a psychic state wherein miraculous “gifts” bcome commonplace? If this is true, then the “charismatic” definition of the “laying on of hands” – “the simple ministry by one or more persons who themselves are channels of the Holy Spirit to others not yet so blessed,” in which “the important thing [is] that those who minister have themselves experienced the movement of the Holy Spirit” (Williams, p. 64) – describes precisely the transference of the mediumistic gift by those who have already acquired it and have themselves become mediums. The “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” thus becomes mediumistic initiation.
Indeed, if the “charismatic revival” is actually a mediumistic movement, much that is unclear about it if it is viewed as a Christian movement, becomes clear. The movement arises in America, which fifty years before had given birth to spiritism in a similar psychological climate: a dead, rationalized Protestant faith is suddenly overwhelmed by actual experience of an invisible “power”that cannot be rationally or scientifically explained. The movement is most successful in those countries which have a substantial history of spiritism or mediumism: America and England, first of all, then Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, black Africa. There is scarcely to be found an example of “speaking in tongues” in any even nominally Christian context for over 1,600 years after the time of St. Paul (and even then it is an isolated and short-lived hysterical phenomenon), precisely until the 20th-century Pentecostal Movement, as the scholarly historian of religious “enthusiasm” has pointed out;10 and yet this “gift” is possessed by numerous shamans and witch doctors of primitive religions, as well as by modern spiritistic mediums and the demonically possessed. The “prophecies” and “interpretations” at “charismatic” services, as we shall see, are strangely vague and stereotyped in expression, without specifically Christian or prophetic content. Doctrine is subordinated to practice: the motto of both movements might be, as “charismatic” enthusiasts say over and over again, “it works” the very trap into which, as we have seen, Hinduism leads its victims. There can scarcely be any doubt that the “charismatic revival,” as far as its phenomena are concerned, bears a much closer resemblance to spiritism and in general to non-Christian religion, than it does to Orthodox Christianity. But we shall have yet to give many examples to demonstrate just how true this is.
Up to this point we have been quoting, apart from Dr. Koch’s statements, only from those favorable to the “charismatic revival,” who only give their testimonies of what they imagine to be the workings of the Holy Spirit. Now let us quote the testimony of several people who have left the “charismatic” movement, or refused to enter it, because they found that the “spirit” that animates it is not the Holy Spirit.
- In Leicester (England) a young man reported the following. He and his friend had been believers for some years when one day they were invited to the meeting of a tongues speaking group. The atmosphere of the meeting got a hold on them and afterwards they prayed for the second blessing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After intensive prayer it was as if something hot came over them. They felt very excited inside. For a few weeks they reveled in this new experience, but slowly these waves of feeling abated. The man who told me this noticed that he had lost all desire to read the Bible and to pray. He examined his experience in the light of the Scriptures and realized that it was not of God. He repented and denounced it… His friend on the other hand continued in these ‘tongues’ and it destroyed him. Today he will not even consider the idea of going on further as a Christian” (Koch, p. 28).
- Two Protestant ministers went to a “charismatic” prayer meeting at a Presbyterian church in Hollywood.”Both of us agreed beforehand that when the first person started to speak in tongues, we would pray roughly the following, ‘Lord, if this gift is from you, bless this brother, but if it is not of you, then stop it and let there be no other praying in tongues in our presence.’… A young man began the meeting with a short devotion after which it was open for prayer. A woman started to pray fluently in a foreign language without any stammering or hesitation. An interpretation was not given. The Rev. B. and I started to pray quietly as we had agreed earlier. What happened? No one else spoke in tongues, although usually in these meetings all of them, except for an architect, pray in unknown tongues” (Koch, p. 15). Note here that in the absence of the mediumistic solidarity of faith, the phenomena do not appear.
- “In San Diego, California, a woman came for counseling. She told me of a bad experience that she had had during a mission held by a member of the tongues movement. She had gone to his meetings in which he had spoken about the necessity of the gift of tongues, and in an after-meeting she had allowed hands to be laid on herself in order to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues. At that moment she fell down unconscious. On coming round again she found herself lying on the floor with her mouth still opening and shutting itself automatically without a word being uttered. She was terribly frightened. Standing around her were some of the people who were followers of this evangelist and they exclaimed, ‘O sister, you have really spoken wonderfully in tongues. Now you have the Holy Spirit.’ But the victim of this so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit was cured. She never again returned to this group of tongues-speakers. When she came to me for advice she was still suffering from the bad after-effects of this ‘spiritual baptism’ ” (Koch, p. 26).
- An Orthodox Christian in California relates a private encounter with a “spirit-filled” minister who has shared the same platform with the leading Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal representatives of the “charismatic revival”: “For five hours he spoke in tongues and used every artifice (psychological, hypnotic, and ‘laying on of hands’) to induce those present to receive the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ The scene was really terrible. When he laid hands on our friend she made guttural sounds, moaned, wept, and screamed. He was well pleased by this. He said she was suffering for others – interceding for them. When he ‘laid hands’ on my head there was a presentiment of real evil. His ‘tongues’ were interspersed with English: ‘You have the gift of prophecy, I can feel it.’ ‘Just open your mouth and it will flow out.’ ‘You are blocking the Holy Spirit.’ By the grace of God I kept my mouth shut, but I am quite certain that if I had spoken, someone else would have ‘interpreted.’ “(Private communication.)
- Readers of The Orthodox Word will recall the account of the “prayer-vigil” held by the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of New York at its convention in Chicago in August, 1970, where, after a dramatic and emotional atmosphere had been built up, young people began to “testify” how the “spirit” was moving them. But several people who were present related later that the atmosphere was “dark and ominous,” “stifling,” “dark and evil,” and by a miraculous intercession of St. Herman of Alaska, whose icon was present in the room, the whole meeting was broken up and the evil atmosphere dispelled (The Orthodox Word, 1970, nos. 4-5, pp. 196-199).
There are numerous other cases in which people have lost interest in prayer, reading the Scriptures, and Christianity in general, and have even come to believe, as one student did, that “he would not need to read the Bible any more. God the Father would himself appear and speak to him” (Koch, p. 29).
We shall yet have occasion to quote the testimony of many people who do not find anything negative or evil in their “charismatic” experience, and we shall examine the meaning of their testimony. However, without yet reaching a conclusion as to the precise nature of the “spirit” that causes “charismatic” phenomena, on the basis of the evidence here gathered we can already agree this far with Dr. Koch: “The tongues movement is the expression of a delirious condition through which a breaking in of demonic powers manifests itself” (Koch, p. 47). That is, the movement, which is certainly “delirious” in giving itself over to the activity of a “spirit” that is not the Holy Spirit, is not demonic in intention or in itself (as contemporary occultism and satanism certainly are), but by its nature it lays itself particularly open to the manifestation of obvious demonic forces, which do in fact sometimes appear. This book has been read by a number of people who have participated in the “charismatic revival”; many of them have then abandoned this movement, recognizing that the spirit they had experienced in “charismatic” phenomena was not the Holy Spirit.
To such people, involved in the “charismatic” movement, who are now reading this book, we wish to say: You may well feel that your experience in the “charismatic” movement has been largely something good (even though you may have reservations about some things you have seen or experienced in it); you may well be unable to believe that there is anything demonic in it. In suggesting that the “charismatic” movement is mediumistic in inspiration, we do not mean to deny the whole of your experience while involved in it. If you have been awakened to repentance for your sins, to the realization that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of mankind, to sincere love for God and your neighbor – all of this is indeed good and would not be lost by abandoning the “charismatic” movement. But if you think that your experience of “speaking in tongues,” or “prophesying,” or whatever else of the “supernatural” that you may have experienced, is from God – then this book is an invitation for you to find out that the realm of true Christian spiritual experience is much deeper than you have felt up to now, that the wiles of the devil are much more subtle than you may have imagined, that the willingness of our fallen human nature to mistake illusion for truth, emotional comfort for spiritual experience, is much greater than you think.
As to the precise nature of the “tongues” that are being spoken today, probably no simple answer can be given. We know quite certainly that in Pentecostalism, just as in spiritism, the elements of both fraud and suggestion play no small role, under the sometimes intense pressures applied in “charismatic” circles to force the phenomena to appear. Thus, one member of the largely Pentecostal “Jesus Movement” testifies that when he spoke in tongues “it was just an emotional build-up thing where I mumbled a bunch of words,” and another frankly admits, “When I first became a Christian the people that I was with told me that you had to do it. So I prayed that I could do it, and I went as far as copying off them so they would think that I had the gift” (Ortega, p. 49). Some of the supposed “tongues” are thus doubtless not genuine, or at best the product of suggestion under conditions of emotional near-hysteria. However, there are actually documented cases of Pentecostal speaking in an unlearned language (Sherrill, pp. 90-95); there is also the testimony of many concerning the ease and assurance and calmness (without any hysterical conditions at all) with which they can enter into the state of “speaking in tongues”; and there is a distinctly preternatural character in the related phenomenon of “singing in tongues,” where the “spirit” also inspires the melody and many join in to produce an effect that is variously described as “eerie but extraordinarily beautiful” (Sherrill, p. 118) and “unimaginable, humanly impossible” (Williams, p. 33).
It would therefore seem evident that no merely psychological or emotional explanation can account for much of the phenomena of contemporary “tongues.” If it is not due to the working of the Holy Spirit – and by now it is abundantly evident that it could not be so – then today’s “speaking in tongues” as an authentic “supernatural” phenomenon can only be the manifestation of a gift of some other spirit.
To identify this “spirit” more precisely, and to understand the “charismatic” movement more fully, not only in its phenomena but also in its “spirituality,” we shall have to draw more deeply from the sources of Orthodox tradition. And first of all we shall have to return to a teaching of the Orthodox ascetic tradition that has already been discussed in this series of articles, in explanation of the power which Hinduism holds over its devotees: prelest, or spiritual deception.
THE CONCEPT OF PRELEST, a key one in Orthodox ascetical teaching, is completely absent in the Protestant-Catholic world which produced the “charismatic” movement; and this fact explains why such an obvious deception can gain such a hold over nominally “Christian” circles, and also why a “prophet” like Nicholas Berdyaev who comes from an Orthodox background should regard it as absolutely essential that in the “new age of the Holy Spirit” “There will be no more of the ascetic world-view.” The reason is obvious: the Orthodox ascetic world-view gives the only means by which men, having received the Holy Spirit at their Baptism and Chrismation, may truly continue to acquire the Holy Spirit in their lives; and it teaches how to distinguish and guard oneself against spiritual deception. The “new spirituality” of which Berdyaev dreamed and which the “charismatic revival” actually practices, has an entirely different foundation and is seen to be a fraud in the light of the Orthodox ascetical teaching. Therefore, there is not room for both conceptions in the same spiritual universe: to accept the “new spirituality” of the “charismatic revival” one must reject Orthodox Christianity; and conversely, to remain an Orthodox Christian, one must reject the “charismatic revival,” which is a counterfeit of Orthodoxy.
To make this quite clear, in what follows we shall give the teaching of the Orthodox Church on spiritual deception chiefly as found in the 19th-century summation of this teaching made by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, himself an Orthodox Father of modern times, in volume one of his collected works.
There are two basic forms of prelest or spiritual deception. The first and more spectacular form occurs when a person strives for a high spiritual state or spiritual visions without having been purified of passions and relying on his own judgment. To such a one the devil grants great “visions.” There are many such examples in the Lives of Saints, one of the primary textbooks of Orthodox ascetical teaching. Thus St. Nicetas, Bishop of Novgorod (Jan. 31), entered on the solitary life unprepared and against the counsel of his abbot, and soon he heard a voice praying with him. Then “the Lord” spoke to him and sent an “angel” to pray in his place and to instruct him to read books instead of praying, and to teach those who came to him. This he did, always seeing the “angel” near him praying, and the people were astonished at his spiritual wisdom and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” which he seemed to possess, including “prophecies” which were always fulfilled. The deceit was uncovered only when the fathers of the monastery found out about his aversion for the New Testament (although the Old Testament, which he had never read, he could quote by heart), and by their prayers he was brought to repentance, his “miracles” ceased, and later he attained to genuine sanctity. Again, St. Isaac of the Kiev Caves (Feb. 14) saw a great light and “Christ” appeared to him with “angels”; when Isaac, without making the sign of the Cross, bowed down before “Christ,” the demons gained power over him and, after dancing wildly with him, left him all but dead. He also later attained genuine sanctity. There are many similar cases when “Christ” and “angels” appeared to ascetics and granted astonishing powers and “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” which often led the deluded ascetic finally to insanity or suicide.
But there is another more common, less spectacular form of spiritual deception, which offers to its victims not great visions but just exalted “religious feelings.” This occurs, as Bishop Ignatius has written, “when the heart desires and strives for the enjoyment of holy and divine feelings while it is still completely unfit for them. Everyone who does not have a contrite spirit, who recognizes any kind of merit or worth in himself, who does not hold unwaveringly the teaching of the Orthodox Church but on some tradition or other has thought out his own arbitrary judgment or has followed a non-Orthodox teaching – is in this state of deception.” The Roman Catholic Church has whole spiritual manuals written by people in this state; such is Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. Bishop Ignatius says of it: “There reigns in this book and breathes from its pages the unction of the evil spirit, flattering the reader, intoxicating him… The book conducts the reader directly to communion with God, without previous purification by repentance… From it carnal people enter into rapture from a delight and intoxication attained without difficulty, without self-renunciation, without repentance, without crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), with flattery of their fallen state.” And the result, as I.M. Kontzevitch, the great transmitter of patristic teaching, has written,11 is that “the ascetic, striving to kindle in his heart love for God while neglecting repentance, exerts himself to attain a feeling of delight, of ecstasy, and as a result he attains precisely the opposite: ‘he enters into communion with satan and becomes infected with hatred for the Holy Spirit’ (Bishop Ignatius).”
And this is the actual state in which the followers of the “charismatic revival,” even without suspecting it, find themselves. This may be seen most clearly by examining their experiences and views, point by point, against the teaching of the Orthodox Fathers as set forth by Bishop Ignatius.
Attitude Toward “Spiritual” Experiences
HAVING LITTLE OR NO FOUNDATION in the genuine sources of Christian spiritual experience – the Holy Mysteries of the Church, and the spiritual teaching handed down by the Holy Fathers from Christ and His Apostles-the followers of the “charismatic” movement have no means of distinguishing the grace of God from its counterfeit. All “charismatic” writers show, to a lesser or greater degree, a lack of caution and discrimination toward the experiences they have. Some Catholic Pentecostals, to be sure, “exorcise satan” before asking for “Baptism in the Spirit”; but the efficacy of this act, as will soon be evident from their own testimony, is similar to that of the Jews in the Acts (19:15), to whose “exorcism” the evil spirit replied: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”St. John Cassian, the great 5th-century Orthodox father of the West, who wrote with great discernment on the working of the Holy Spirit in his Conference on “Divine Gifts,” notes that “sometimes the demons [work miracles] in order to lift into pride the man who believes himself to possess the miraculous gift, and so prepare him for a more miraculous fall. They pretend that they are being burnt up and driven out from the bodies where they were dwelling through the holiness of people whom truly they know to be unholy… In the Gospel we read: There shall arise false Christs and false prophets” .
The 18th-century Swedish “visionary,” Emanuel Swedenborg – who was a strange forerunner of today’s occult and “spiritual” revival- had extensive experience with spiritual beings, whom he frequently saw and communicated with. He distinguished two kinds of spirits, the “good” and the “evil”; his experience has been recently confirmed by the findings of a clinical psychologist in his work with “hallucinating” patients in a state mental hospital in Ukiah, California. This psychologist took seriously the voices heard by his patients and undertook a series of “dialogues” with them (through the intermediary of the patients themselves). He concluded, like Swedenborg, that there are two very different kinds of “beings” who have entered into contact with the patients: the “higher” and the “lower.” In his own words: “Lower-order voices are similar to drunken bums at a bar who like to tease and torment just for the fun of it. They suggest lewd acts and then scold the patient for considering them. They find a weak point of conscience and work on it interminably…The vocabulary and range of ideas of the lower order is limited, but they have a persistent will to destroy…They work on every weakness and belief, claim awesome powers, lie, make promises, and then undermine the patient’s will… All of the lower order are irreligious or anti-religious… To one person they appeared as conventional devils and referred to themselves as demons.”
“In direct contrast stand the rarer higher-order hallucinations… This contrast may be illustrated by the experience of one man. He had heard the lower order arguing for a long while about how they would murder him. But he also had a light come to him at night, like the sun. He knew it was a different order because the light respected his freedom and would withdraw if it frightened him… When the man was encouraged to approach his friendly sun he entered a world of powerful numinous experiences… [Once] a very powerful and impressive Christ-like figure appeared… Some patients experience both the higher and lower orders at various times and feel caught between a private heaven and hell. Many only know the attacks of the lower order. The higher order claims power over the lower order and, indeed, shows it at times, but not enough to give peace of mind to most patients… The higher order appeared strangely gifted, sensitive, wise, and religious” .
Any reader of the Orthodox Lives of Saints and other spiritual literature knows that all of these spirits‹both “good” and “evil,” the “lower” with the “higher” – are equally demons, and that the discernment between true good spirits (angels) and these evil spirits cannot be made on the basis of one¹s own feelings or impressions. The widespread practice of “exorcism” in “charismatic” circles offers no guarantee whatever that evil spirits are actually being driven out; exorcisms are also very common (and seemingly successful) among primitive shamans,14 who also recognize that there are different kinds of spirits – which are all, however, equally demons, whether they seem to flee when exorcised or come when invoked to give shamanistic powers.
No one will deny that the “charismatic” movement on the whole is firmly oriented against contemporary occultism and satanism. But the more subtle of the evil spirits appear as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), and a great gift of discernment, together with a deep distrust of all one¹s extraordinary “spiritual” experiences, is required if a person is not to be deceived. In the face of the subtle, invisible enemies who wage unseen warfare against the human race, the naively trusting attitude towards their experiences of most people involved in the “charismatic” movement is an open invitation to spiritual deception. One pastor, for example, counsels meditation on Scriptural passages and then writing down any thought “triggered” by the reading: “This is the Holy Spirit’s personal message to you” (Christenson, p. 139). But any serious student of Christian spirituality knows that, for example, ³at the beginning of the monastic life some of the unclean demons instruct [novices] in the interpretation of the Divine Scriptures…gradually deceiving them that they may lead them into heresy and blasphemy” (The Ladder of St. John, Step 26: 152).
Sadly, the attitude of the Orthodox followers of the “charismatic revival” seems no more discerning than that of Catholics and Protestants. They obviously do not know well the Orthodox Fathers or Lives of Saints, and when they do quote a rare Father, it is often out of context (see later concerning St. Seraphim). The “charismatic” appeal is chiefly one to experience. One Orthodox priest writes: “Some have dared to label this experience ‘prelest’ – spiritual pride. No one who has encountered the Lord in this way could fall into this delusion” (Logos, April, 1972, p. 10). But it is a very rare Orthodox Christian who is capable of distinguishing very subtle forms of spiritual deception (where “pride,” for example, may take the form of “humility”) solely on the basis of his feeling about them without reference to the patristic tradition; only one who has already fully assimilated the patristic tradition into his own thought and practice and has attained great sanctity can presume to do this.
How is the Orthodox Christian prepared to withstand deception? He has the whole body of God-inspired patristic writings which, together with Holy Scripture, present the judgment of Christ’s Church for 1900 years with regard to virtually every conceivable spiritual and pseudo-spiritual experience. Later we shall see that this tradition has a very definite judgment precisely on the chief question the “charismatic” movement raises: concerning the possibility of a new and widespread “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” in the last days. But even before consulting the Fathers on specific questions, the Orthodox Christian is protected against deception by the very knowledge that such deception not only exists, but is everywhere, including within himself. Bishop Ignatius writes: “We are all in deception. The knowledge of this is the greatest preventative against deception. It is the greatest deception to acknowledge oneself to be free of deception.” He quotes St. Gregory the Sinaite, who warns us: “It is not a little labor to attain the truth precisely and to make oneself pure of everything that opposes grace; because it is usual for the devil to show his deception, especially to beginners, in the form of truth, giving a spiritual appearance to what is evil.” And “God is not angry at him who, fearing deception, watches over himself with extreme caution, even if he should not accept something which is sent from God… On the contrary, God praises such a one for his good sense.”
Thus, totally unprepared for spiritual warfare, unaware that there is such a thing as spiritual deception of the most subtle sort (as opposed to obvious forms of occultism), the Catholic or Protestant or uninformed Orthodox Christian goes to a prayer meeting to be “baptized (or filled) with the Holy Spirit.” The atmosphere of the meeting is extremely loose, being intentionally left “open” to the activity of some “spirit.” Thus do Catholics (who profess to be more cautious than Protestants) describe some of their Pentecostal gatherings: “There seemed to be no barriers, no inhibitions…They sat cross-legged on the floor. Ladies in slacks. White-robed monk. Cigarette smokers. Coffee drinkers. Praying in free-form… It occurred to me that these people were having a good time praying! Is that what they meant by the Holy Spirit dwelling amongst them?” And at another Catholic Pentecostal meeting, “except for the fact that no one was drinking, it seemed like a cocktail party” (Ranaghan, pp. 157, 209). At interdenominational “charismatic” meetings the atmosphere is likewise sufficiently informal that no one is surprised when the “spirit” inspires an elderly woman, in the midst of a fit of general weeping, to stand up and “dance a little jig” (Sherrill, p. 118). To the sober Orthodox Christian, the first thing noticeable about such an atmosphere is its total lack of what he knows in his own Divine services as genuine piety and awe, proceeding from the fear of God. And this first impression is only strikingly confirmed by observation of the truly strange effects which the Pentecostal “spirit” produces when it descends into this loose atmosphere. We shall now examine some of these effects, placing them before the judgment of the Holy Fathers of the Church of Christ.
Physical Accompaniments of “Charismatic” Experience
ONE OF THE COMMONEST RESPONSES to the experience of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is laughter. One Catholic testifies: “I was so joyful that all I could do was laugh as I lay on the floor” (Ranaghan, p. 28). Another Catholic: “The sense of the presence and love of God was so strong that I can remember sitting in the chapel for a half hour just laughing out of joy over the love of God” (Ranaghan, p. 64). A Protestant testifies that at his Baptism, “I started laughing… I just wanted to laugh and laugh the way you do when you feel so good you just can’t talk about it. I held my sides and laughed until I doubled over” (Sherrill, p. 113). Another Protestant: “The new tongue I was given was intermingled with waves of mirth in which every fear I had just seemed to roll away. It was a tongue of laughter” (Sherrill, p. 115). An Orthodox priest, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, writes: “I could not conceal the broad smile on my face that any minute could have broken out into laughter – a laughter of the Holy Spirit stirring in me a refreshing release” (Logos, April, 1972, p. 4).
Many, many examples could be collected of this truly strange reaction to a “spiritual” experience, and some “charismatic” apologists have a whole philosophy of “spiritual joy” and “God’s foolishness” to explain it. But this philosophy is not in the least Christian; such a concept as the “laughter of the Holy Spirit” is unheard of in the whole history of Christian thought and experience. Here perhaps more clearly than anywhere else the “charismatic revival” reveals itself as not at all Christian in religious orientation; this experience is purely worldly and pagan, and where it cannot be explained in terms of emotional hysteria (for Fr. Eusebius, indeed, laughter provided “relief” and “release” from “an intense feeling of self-consciousness and embarrassment” and “emotional devastation”), it can only be due to some degree of “possession” by one or more of the pagan gods, which the Orthodox church calls demons. Here, for example, is a comparable “initiation” experience of a pagan Eskimo shaman: Not finding initiation, “I would sometimes fall to weeping and feel unhappy without knowing why. Then for no reason all would suddenly be changed, and I felt a great, inexplicable joy, a joy so powerful that I could not restrain it, but had to break into song, a mighty song, with room for only one word: joy, joy! And I had to use the full strength of my voice. And then in the midst of such a fit of mysterious and overwhelming delight I became a shaman…I could see and hear in a totally different way. I had gained my enlightenment…and it was not only I who could see through the darkness of life, but the same bright light also shone out of me… and all the spirits of earth and sky and sea now came to me and became my helping spirits” (Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, p. 37).
It is not surprising that unsuspecting “Christians,” having deliberately laid themselves open to a similar pagan experience, would still interpret it as a “Christian” experience; psychologically they are still Christians, although spiritually they have entered the realm of distinctly non-Christian attitudes and practices. What is the judgment of the Orthodox ascetic tradition concerning such a thing as a“laughter of the Holy Spirit”? Sts. Barsanuphius and John, the 6th-century ascetics, give the unequivocal Orthodox answer in reply to an Orthodox monk who was plagued by this problem (Answer 451): “In the fear of God there is no laughter. The Scripture says of the foolish, that they raise their voice in laughter (Sirach 21:23); and the word of the foolish is always disturbed and deprived of grace.” St. Ephraim the Syrian just as clearly teaches: “Laughter and familiarity are the beginning of a soul’s corruption. If you see these in yourself, know that you have come to the depths of evils. Do not cease to pray God that He will deliver you from this death…Laughter removes from us that blessing which is promised to those who mourn (Matt. 5:4) and destroys what has been built up. Laughter offends the Holy Spirit, gives no benefit to the soul, dishonors the body. Laughter drives out virtues, has no remembrance of death or thought of tortures” (Philokalia, Russian edition, Moscow, 1913: vol. 2, p. 448). Is it not evident how far astray ignorance of basic Christianity can lead one?
At least as common as laughter as a response to charismatic “Baptism” is its psychologically close relative, tears. These occur to individuals and, quite often, to whole groups at once (in this case quite apart from the experience of “Baptism”), spreading infectiously for no apparent reason at all (see Sherrill, pp. 109, 117). “Charismatic” writers do not find the reason for this in the “conviction of sin” that produces such results at Protestant revivals; they give no reason at all, and there seems to be none, except that this experience simply comes upon one who is exposed to the “charismatic” atmosphere. The Orthodox Fathers, as Bishop Ignatius notes, teach that tears often accompany the second form of spiritual deception. St. John of the Ladder, telling of the many different causes of tears, some good and some bad, warns: “Do not trust your fountains of tears before your soul has been perfectly purified” (Step 7:35); and of one kind of tears he states definitely: “Tears without thought are proper only to an irrational nature and not to a rational one” (7:17).
Besides laughter and tears, and often together with them, there are a number of other physical reactions to the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” including warmth, many kinds of trembling and contortions, and falling to the floor. All the examples given here, it should be emphasized, are those of ordinary Protestants and Catholics, and not at all those of any Pentecostal extremists, whose experiences are much more spectacular and unrestrained.
“When hands were laid on me, immediately it felt as if my whole chest were trying to rise into my head. My lips started trembling, and my brain started turning flips. Then I started grinning” (Ranaghan, p. 67). Another was “without emotion following the event, but with great warmth of body and a great ease” (Ranaghan, p. 91). Another gives this testimony: “As soon as I knelt down I began to tremble…All of a sudden I became filled with the Holy Spirit and realized that ‘God is real.’ I started laughing and crying at the same time. The next thing I knew I was prostrate before the altar and filled with the peace of Christ” (Ranaghan, p. 34). Another says: “As I knelt quietly thanking the Lord, D. lay prostrate and suddenly began to heave by the power of someone unseen. By an insight that must have been divinely inspired… I knew D. was being moved quite visibly by the Holy Spirit” (Ranaghan, p. 29). Another: “My hands (usually cold because of poor circulation) grew moist and warm. Warmth enveloped me” (Ranaghan, p. 30). Another: “I knew God was working within me. I could feel a distinct tingling in my hands, and immediately I became bathed in a hard sweat” (Ranaghan, p. 102). A member of the “Jesus Movement” says: “I feel something welling up inside me and all of a sudden I’m speaking in tongues” (Ortega, p. 49). One “charismatic” apologist emphasizes that such experiences are typical in the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which “has often been marked by a subjective experience which has brought the recipient into a wonderful new sense of nearness to the Lord. This sometimes demands such an expression of worship and adoration as cannot be contained within the usual restrictions imposed by the etiquette of our Western society! At such times, some have been known to shake violently, to lift up their hands to the Lord, to raise the voice above the normal pitch, or even to fall to the floor” (Lillie, p. 17).
One does not know at what to marvel the more: at the total incongruence of such hysterical feelings and experiences with anything at all spiritual or at the incredible light-mindedness that leads such deceived people to ascribe their contortions to the “Holy Spirit,” to “divine inspiration,” to the “peace of Christ.” These are clearly people who, in the spiritual and religious realm, are not only totally inexperienced and without guidance, but are absolutely illiterate. The whole history of Orthodox Christianity does not know of any such “ecstatic” experiences produced by the Holy Spirit. It is only foolishness when some “charismatic” apologists presume to compare these childish and hysterical experiences, which are open to absolutely everyone, with the Divine revelations accorded to the greatest Saints, such as to St. Paul on the road to Damascus or to St. John the Evangelist on Patmos. Those Saints fell down before the true God (without contortions, and certainly without laughter), whereas these pseudo-Christians are merely reacting to the presence of an invading spirit, and are worshipping only themselves. The Elder Macarius of Optina wrote to a person in a similar state: “Thinking to find the love of God in consoling feelings, you are seeking not God but yourself, that is, your own consolation, while you avoid the path of sorrows, considering yourself supposedly lost without spiritual consolations” .
If these “charismatic” experiences are religious experiences at all, then they are pagan religious experiences; and in fact they seem to correspond exactly to the mediumistic initiation experience ofspirit-possession, which is caused by “an inner force welling up inside attempting to take control” (Koch, Occult Bondage, p. 44). Of course, not all “Baptisms of the Holy Spirit” are as ecstatic as some of these experiences (although some are even more ecstatic); but this too is in accord with spiritistic practice: “When spirits find a medium friendly or well-disposed in submissiveness or passivity of mind, they enter quietly as into their own home; while, on the contrary, when the psychic is less well-disposed from some resistance, or want of passivity of mind, the spirit enters with more or less force, and this is often reflected in the contortions of the face and tremor of the medium’s members” (Blackmore, Spiritism, p. 97).
This experience of “spirit-possession,” however, should not be confused with actual demonic possession, which is the condition when an unclean spirit takes up permanent habitation in someone and produces physical and psychic disorders which do not seem to be indicated in “charismatic” sources. Mediumistic “possession” is temporary and partial, the medium consenting to be used for a particular function by the invading spirit. But the “charismatic” texts themselves make it quite clear that what is involved in these experiences – when they are genuine and not merely the product of suggestion – is not merely the development of some mediumistic ability, but actual possession by a spirit. These people would seem to be correct in calling themselves “spirit-filled” – but it is certainly not the Holy Spirit with which they are filled!
Bishop Ignatius gives several examples of such physical accompaniments of spiritual deception: one, a monk who trembled and made strange sounds, and identified these signs as the “fruits of prayer”; another, a monk whom the bishop met who as a result of his ecstatic method of prayer felt such heat in his body that he needed no warm clothing in winter, and this heat could even be felt by others. As a general principle, Bishop Ignatius writes, the second kind of spiritual deception is accompanied by “a material, passionate warmth of the blood”; “the behavior of the ascetics of Latinism, embraced by deception, has always been ecstatic, by reason of this extraordinary material, passionate warmth” – the state of such Latin “saints” as Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola. This material warmth of the blood, a mark of the spiritually deceived, is to be distinguished from the spiritual warmth felt by those such as St. Seraphim of Sarov who genuinely acquired the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not acquired from ecstatic “charismatic” experiences, but by the long and arduous path of asceticism the “path of sorrows” of which the Elder Macarius spoke, within the Church of Christ.
“Spiritual Gifts” Accompanying “Charismatic” Experience
THE CHIEF CLAIM of the followers of the “charismatic revival” is that they have acquired “spiritual” gifts. One of the first such “gifts” that becomes noticeable in those “baptized with the Holy Spirit” is a new “spiritual” power and boldness. What gives them boldness is the definite experience which no one can doubt that they have had, although one can certainly doubt their interpretation of it. Some typical examples: “I do not have to believe in Pentecost, because I have seen it” (Ranaghan, p. 40). “I began to feel that I knew exactly what to say to others and what they needed to hear…I found that the Holy Spirit gave me a real boldness to say it and it had a marked effect” (Ranaghan, p. 64). “I was so confident that the Spirit would be true to His word that I prayed without any ifs. I prayed in wills and shalls and in every other kind of declarative statement.” (Ranaghan, p. 67). An Orthodox example: “We pray for wisdom and suddenly we are wise in the Lord. We pray for love and true love is felt for all men. We pray for healings, and health has been restored. We pray for miracles and, believing, we have seen miracles happen. We pray for signs, and receive them. We pray in tongues known and tongues unknown” (Logos , April, 1972, p. 13).
Here, again, a genuine Orthodox characteristic, acquired and tested by long years of ascetic labor and maturing in faith, is supposedly obtained instantly by means of “charismatic” experience. It is true, of course, that the Apostles and Martyrs were given a magnificent boldness by the special grace of God; but it is only ridiculous when every “charismatic Christian,” without any notion of what Divine grace is, wishes to compare himself to these great Saints. Being based on an experience of deception, “charismatic” boldness is no more than a feverish, “revivalistic” imitation of true Christian boldness, and it only serves as another identifying mark of “charismatic” deception. Bishop Ignatius writes that a certain “self-confidence and boldness are usually noticeable in people who are in self-deception, supposing that they are holy or are spiritually progressing.” “An extraordinary pomposity appears in those afflicted with this deception: they are as it were intoxicated with themselves, by their state of self-deception, seeing in it a state of grace. They are steeped in, overflowing with high-mindedness and pride, while appearing humble to many who judge by appearances without being able to judge by fruits.”
Beyond speaking in tongues itself, the most common “supernatural” gift of those “baptized in the Spirit” is the direct reception of “messages from God” in the form of “prophecies” and “interpretations.” One Catholic girl says of her “charismatic” friends: “In some of them I witnessed the speaking in tongues, some of which I have been able to interpret. The messages have always been those of great solace and joy from the Lord” (Ranaghan. p. 32). One “interpretation” is summarized thus: “He was speaking words from God, a message of consolation” (Ranaghan, p. 181). The messages are nothing if not bold; at one meeting “still another young woman announced a ‘message from God,’ speaking in the first person” (Ranaghan, p. 2). A “charismatic” Protestant writes that in such messages “God’s Word is directly spoken!… The Word may suddenly be spoken by anyone present, and so, variously a ‘Thus says the Lord’ breaks forth in the fellowship. It is usually in the first person (though not always), such as ‘I am with you to bless you'” (Williams, p. 27).
A few specific texts of “prophecy” and “interpretation” are given in the apologetical books of the “charismatic” movement:
- “Be like a tree swaying with His will, rooted in His strength, reaching up to His love and light” (Ford, p. 35).
- “As the Holy Spirit came down upon Mary and Jesus was formed within her, so the Holy Spirit comes upon you and Jesus is in your midst” – given in tongues by a Roman Catholic and “interpreted” by a Protestant (Ford, p. 35).
- “The feet of Him who walked the streets of Jerusalem are behind -you. His gaze is healing to those who draw near but death to those who flee” -this had special meaning for one member of the prayer group (Ford, p. 35).
- “I reach out my hand to you. You need only take it and I will lead you” -this same message was given a few minutes earlier to a Roman Catholic priest in another room; he wrote it down and entered the prayer room just in time to hear it uttered in exactly the words he had written down (Ranaghan, P 54).
- “Do not worry, I am pleased with the stand you have taken. This is difficult for you but will bring much blessing to another” – this brought final reassurance to one person present concerning a recent difficult decision (Sherrill, p. 88).
- “My wife walked in and began to play the organ. Suddenly, the Spirit of God came upon her and she began to speak in tongues and prophesy, ‘My son, I am with you. Because you have been faithful in little things I am going to use you in a greater way. I am leading you by the hand. I am guiding you, be not afraid. You are in the center of My will. Do not look to the right or to the left, but continue therein’ – this “prophecy” was accompanied by a “vision” and was directly responsible for the founding of a large and influential Pentecostal organization, the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (Logos Journal , Sept.-Oct., 1971, p. 14).
We may well believe, according to the testimony of witnesses who find that such messages apply directly to them, that there is something preternatural about a number of them, that they are not just “made up.” But does the Holy Spirit use such artificial methods to communicate with men? (The “spirits” at seances certainly do!) Why is the language so monotonous and stereotyped, sometimes worthy of the penny fortune – telling machines in American cafes? Why are the messages so vague and dreamlike, sounding indeed like trance-utterances? Why is their content always one of “consolation,” “solace and joy,” reassurance, precisely without prophetic or dogmatic character – as if the “spirit,” even like the “spirits” at seances, were especially pleased with his non-denominational audience? Who, after all, is the strangely characterless “I” that speaks? Are we wrong in applying the words of a true Prophet of God to all this? – “Let not your prophets that are in the midst of you, and your diviners, deceive you… For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:8-9).
Just as one “baptized in the Spirit” usually carries the ability to speak in tongues over into his private devotions, and in general is aware that “the Lord” is constantly with him, so too, even outside the atmosphere of the prayer meeting he often has private “revelations,” including audible voices and tangible “presences.” Thus does the “prophet” of the “charismatic revival” describe one of his experiences: “I was awakened from a deep restful sleep by a voice that seemed loud and clear… distinctly saying: ‘God has no grandsons’… Then it seemed as if there was someone in my room and the presence made me feel good. Suddenly it dawned on me. It must be the Holy Spirit who spoke to me” (Du Pleissis, p. 61).
How can one account for such experiences? Bishop Ignatius writes: “One possessed by this kind of spiritual deception fancies of himself [the second form of prelest is called ‘fancy,’ mnenie in Russian] that he abounds in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fancy is composed of false concepts and false feelings, and in this character which it has it belongs fully to the realm of the father and representative of falsehood, the devil. One who, in praying, strives to unveil in the heart the feeling of the new man, yet does not have any possibility to do this, substitutes for this feelings of his own invention, counterfeits, to which the action of fallen spirits does not tarry to join itself. Acknowledging his incorrect feelings, both his own and those from the demons, to be true and grace-given, he receives conceptions which correspond to the feelings.”
Precisely such a process has been observed by writers on spiritism. For someone seriously involved in spiritism (and not only mediums themselves), a moment comes when the whole false spirituality that cultivates passivity of mind and openness to the activity of “spirits,” manifested even in such seemingly innocent pastimes as the use of a ouija-board, passes over into the actual possession of this person by an invading spirit, after which undeniably “supernatural” phenomena begin to appear . In the “charismatic revival” this moment of transition is identified as the experience of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which, when it is genuine, is precisely the moment when self-deception becomes demonic deception, and the “charismatic” victim is virtually assured that from then on his deceived “religious feelings” can expect a response from the “Spirit” and he will enter a “life of miracles.”
The New “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”
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 miraclesŠof 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.”
The Spirit of the Last Times A “Pentecost Without Christ”
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES and Orthodox Fathers clearly tell us that the character of the last times will not at all be one of a great spiritual “revival,” of an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” but rather one of almost universal apostasy, of spiritual deception so subtle that the very elect, if that were possible, will be deceived, of the virtual disappearance of Christianity from the face of the earth. “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) It is precisely in the last times that satan is to be loosed (Apoc. 20:3) in order to produce the final and greatest outpouring of evil upon the earth.
The “charismatic revival,” the product of a world without sacraments, without grace, a world thirsting for spiritual “signs” without being able to discern the spirits that give the signs, is itself a “sign” of these apostate times. The ecumenical movement itself remains always a movement of “good intentions” and feeble humanitarian “good deeds”; but when it is joined by a movement with “power,” indeed “with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9), then who will be able to stop it? The “charismatic revival” comes to the rescue of a floundering ecumenism, and pushes it on to its goal. And this goal, as we have seen, is not merely “Christian” in nature – the “refounding of the Church of Christ,” to use the blasphemous utterance of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople – that is only the first step to a larger goal which lies entirely outside of Christianity: the establishment of the “spiritual unity” of all religions, of all mankind.
However, the followers of the “charismatic revival” believe their experience is “Christian”; they will have nothing to do with occultism and Eastern religions; and they doubtless reject outright the whole comparison in the preceding pages of the “charismatic revival” with spiritism. Now it is quite true that religiously the “charismatic revival” is on a higher level than spiritism, which is a product of quite gross credulity and superstition; that its techniques are more refined and its phenomena more plentiful and more easily obtained; and that its whole ideology gives the appearance of being “Christian” – not Orthodox, but something that is not far from Protestant fundamentalism with an added “ecumenical” coloring.
Those who bring Christian ideas to the experience assume that the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” is a Christian experience. But if it can be given to those who merely seek a cheap, easy status experience – then there is no necessary connection whatever between this experience and Christ. The very possibility of an experience of a “Pentecost without Christ” means that the experience in itselfis not Christian at all; “Christians,” often sincere and well-meaning, are reading into the experience a Christian content which in itself it does not have.
Do we not have here the common denominator of “spiritual experience” which is needed for a new world religion? Is this not perhaps the key to the “spiritual unity” of mankind which the ecumenical movement has sought in vain?
The “New Christianity”
THERE MAY BE THOSE who will doubt that the “charismatic revival” is a form of mediumism; that is only a secondary question of the means or technique by which the “spirit” of the “charismatic revival” is communicated. But that this “spirit” has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity is abundantly clear. And in fact this “spirit” follows almost to the letter the “prophecies” of Nicholas Berdyaev concerning a “New Christianity.” It completely leaves behind the “monastic ascetic spirit of historical Orthodoxy,” which most effectively exposes its falsity. It is not satisfied with the “conservative Christianity which directs the spiritual forces of man only towards contrition and salvation,” but rather, apparently believing like Berdyaev that such a Christianity is still “incomplete,” adds a second level of “spiritual” phenomena, not one of which is specifically Christian in character (although one is free to interpret them as “Christian”), which are open to people of every denomination with or without repentance, and which are completely unrelated to salvation. It looks to “a new era in Christianity, a new and deep spirituality, which means a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” – in complete contradiction of Orthodox tradition and prophecy.
This is truly a “New Christianity” – but the specifically “new” ingredient in this “Christianity” is nothing original or “advanced,” but merely a modern form of the devil’s age – old religion ofshamanistic paganism. The Orthodox “charismatic” periodical The Logos recommends Nicholas Berdyaev as a “prophet” precisely because he was “the greatest theologian of spiritual creativeness” (Logos , March, 1972, p. 8). And indeed, it is precisely the shamans of every primitive tribe who know how to get in contact with and utilize the primordial “creative” powers of the universe – those “spirits of earth and sky and sea” which the Church of Christ recognizes as demons, and in serving which it is indeed possible to attain to a “creative” ecstasy and joy (the “Nietzschean enthusiasm and ecstasy” to which Berdyaev felt so close) which are unknown to the weary and half-hearted “Christians” who fall for the “charismatic” deception. But there is no Christ here. God has forbiddencontact with this “creative,” occult realm into which “Christians” have stumbled through ignorance and self-deception. The “charismatic revival” will have no need to enter a “dialogue with non-Christian religions,” because, under the name of “Christianity,” it is already embracing non-Christian religion and is itself becoming the new religion which Berdyaev foresaw, strangely combining “Christianity” and paganism.
The strange “Christian” spirit of the “charismatic revival” is clearly identified in the Holy Scriptures and the Orthodox patristic tradition. According to these sources, world history will culminate in an almost superhuman “Christian” figure, the false messiah or antichrist. He will be “Christian” in the sense that his whole function and his very being will center on Christ, Whom he will imitate in every respect possible, and he will be not merely the greatest enemy of Christ, but in order to deceive Christians will appear to be Christ, come to earth for a second time and ruling from the restored Temple in Jerusalem.
Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away (apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God… even him whose coming is after the working of satan with all lying wonders, and with all deceivableness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 9-12).
The Orthodox teaching concerning antichrist is a large subject in itself and cannot be presented here. But if, as the followers of the “charismatic revival” believe, the last days are indeed at hand, it is of crucial importance for the Orthodox Christian to be informed of this teaching concerning one who, as the Saviour Himself has told us, together with the “false prophets” of that time, shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). And the “elect” are certainly not those multitudes of people who are coming to accept the gross and most unscriptural delusion that “the world is on the threshold of a great spiritual awakening,” but rather the “little flock” to which alone our Saviour has promised: It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). Even the true “elect” will be sorely tempted by the “great signs and wonders” of antichrist; but most “Christians” will accept him without any question, for his “New Christianity” is precisely what they seek.
“Jesus is Coming Soon”
JUST IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, significantly, the figure of “Jesus” has been thrust into strange prominence in America. On stage and in films long-standing prohibitions against portraying the person of Christ have been abrogated. Sensationally popular musicals present blasphemous parodies of His life. The “Jesus Movement,” which was largely “charismatic” in orientation, spread spectacularly among teenagers and young people. The crudest form of American popular music is “Christianized” at mass “Jesus-Rock Festivals,” and “Christian” tunes for the first time in the century become the most popular in the land. And underlying this whole strange conglomeration of sacrilege and absolutely unenlightened worldliness is the constantly reiterated expression of seemingly everyone’s expectation and hope: Jesus is coming soon.
The careful observer of the contemporary religious scene – especially in America, where the most popular religious currents have originated for over a century – cannot fail to notice a very decided air of chiliastic expectation. And this is not only true of “charismatic” circles, but even of the traditionalist or fundamentalist circles that have rejected the “charismatic revival.” Thus, many traditionalist Roman Catholics believe in the coming of a chiliastic “Age of Mary” before the end of the world, and this is only one variant on the more widespread Latin error of trying to “sanctify the world,” or, as Archbishop Thomas Connolly of Seattle expressed it [as] “transforming the modern world into the Kingdom of God in preparation for His return.” Protestant evangelists such as Billy Graham, in their mistaken private interpretation of the Apocalypse, await the “millennium” when “Christ” will reign on earth. Other evangelists in Israel find that their millenarian interpretation of the “Messiah” is just what is needed to “prepare” the Jews for his coming . And the arch-fundamentalist Carl McIntire prepares to build a life-size replica of the Temple of Jerusalem in Florida (near Disneyworld!), believing that the time is at hand when the Jews will build the very “Temple to which the Lord Himself will return as He promised” (Christian Beacon , Nov. 11, 1971; Jan. 6, 1972).
Thus, even anti-ecumenists find it possible to prepare to join the unrepentant Jews in welcoming the false messiah – antichrist – in contrast to the faithful remnant of Jews who will accept Christ as the Orthodox Church preaches Him, when the Prophet Elijah returns to earth.
It is therefore no great consolation for a sober Orthodox Christian who knows the Scriptural prophecies concerning the last days, when he is told by a “charismatic” Protestant minister that, “It’s glorious what Jesus can do when we open up to Him. No wonder people of all faiths are now able to pray together” (Harold Bredesen, in Logos Journal , Jan.-Feb., 1972, p. 24); or by a Catholic Pentecostal that the members of all the denominations now “begin to peer over those walls of separation only to recognize in each other the image of Jesus Christ” (Kevin Ranaghan in Logos Journal , Nov.-Dec., 1971, p. 21). Which “Christ” is this for whom an accelerated program of psychological and even physical preparation is now being made throughout the world? – Is this our true God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who founded the Church wherein men may find salvation? Or is it the false Christ who will come in his own name (John 5:43) and unite all who reject or pervert the teaching of the one Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church?
Our Saviour Himself has warned us: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you beforehand. If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness, go not forth; Behold, he is in the inner chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of man” (Matt. 24:23-27).
The Second Coming of Christ will be unmistakable: it will be sudden, from heaven (Acts 1:11), and it will mark the end of this world. There can be no “preparation” for it – save only the Orthodox Christian preparation of repentance, spiritual life, and watchfulness. Those who are “preparing” for it in any other way, who say that he is anywhere “here” – especially “here” in the Temple of Jerusalem – or who preach that “Jesus is coming soon” without warning of the great deception that is to precede His Coming: are clearly the prophets of antichrist, the false Christ who must come first and deceive the world, including all “Christians” who are not or do not become truly Orthodox. There is to be no future “millennium.” For those who can receive it, the “millennium” of the Apocalypse (Apoc. 20:6) is now; the life of grace in the Orthodox Church for the whole “thousand years” between the First Coming of Christ and the time of antichrist . That Protestants should expect the “millennium” in the future is only their confession that they do not live in it in the present – that is, that they are outside the Church of Christ and have not tasted of Divine grace.
Must Orthodoxy Join the Apostasy?
IT IS TRUE ENOUGH, to be sure, that an Orthodox awakening would be much to be desired in our days, when many Orthodox Christians have lost the salt of true Christianity, and the true and fervent Orthodox Christian life is indeed rarely to be seen. Modern life has become too comfortable; worldly life has become too attractive; for too many, Orthodoxy has become simply a matter of membership in a church organization or the “correct” fulfillment of external rites and practices. There would be need enough for a true Orthodox spiritual awakening, but this is not what we see in the Orthodox “charismatics.” Just like the “charismatic” activists among Protestants and Roman Catholics, they are fully in harmony with the spirit of the times; they are not in living contact with the sources of the Orthodox spiritual tradition, preferring the currently fashionable Protestant techniques of revivalism. They are one with the leading current of today’s apostate “Christianity”: the ecumenical movement.
There have been true Orthodox “awakenings” in the past: one thinks immediately of St. Cosmas of Aitolia, who walked from village to village in 18th-century Greece and inspired the people to return to the true Christianity of their ancestors; or St. John of Kronstadt in our own century, who brought the age-old message of Orthodox spiritual life to the urban masses of Petersburg. Then there are the Orthodox monastic instructors who were truly “Spirit-filled” and left their teaching to the monastics as well as the laymen of the latter times: one thinks of the Greek St. Symeon the New Theologian in the 10th century, and the Russian St. Seraphim of Sarov in the 19th. St. Symeon is badly misused by the Orthodox “charismatics” (he was speaking of a Spirit different from theirs!); and St. Seraphim is invariably quoted out of context in order to minimize his emphasis on the necessity to belong to the Orthodox Church to have a true spiritual life. In the “Conversation” of St. Seraphim with the layman Motovilov on the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit” (which the Orthodox “charismatics” quote without the parts here italicized), this great Saint tells us: “The grace of the Holy Spirit which was given to us all, the faithful of Christ, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, is sealed by the Sacrament of Chrismation on the chief parts of the body, as appointed by the Holy Church, the eternal keeper of this grace.” And again: “The Lord listens equally to the monk and the simple Christian layman, provided that both are Orthodox.”
As opposed to the true Orthodox spiritual life, the “charismatic revival” is only the experiential side of the prevailing “ecumenical” fashion – a counterfeit Christianity that betrays Christ and His Church. No Orthodox “charismatic” could possibly object to the coming “Union” with those very Protestants and Roman Catholics with whom, as the interdenominational “charismatic” song goes, they are already “one in the Spirit, one in the Lord,” and who have led them and inspired their “charismatic” experience. The “spirit” that has inspired the “charismatic revival” is the spirit of antichrist , or more precisely those “spirits of devils” of the last times whose “miracles” prepare the world for the false messiah.
“Little Children, it is the Last Hour” (1 John 2:18)
Outside of genuine Orthodoxy the darkness… grows. Judging from the latest “religious” news, the “charismatic revival” may well be only the faint beginning of a whole “age of miracles.” Many Protestants who have discerned the fraud of the “charismatic revival” now accept as “the real thing” the spectacular “revival” in Indonesia where, we are told, there are really occurring “the self same things that one finds reported in the Acts of the Apostles.” In the space of three years 200,000 pagans have been converted to Protestantism under constantly miraculous conditions: No one does anything except in absolute obedience to “voices” and “angels” who are constantly appearing, usually quoting Scripture by number and verse; water is turned into wine every time the Protestant communion service comes around; detached hands appear from nowhere to distribute miraculous food to the hungry; a whole band of demons is seen to abandon a pagan village because a “more powerful” one (“Jesus”) has come to take their place; “Christians” have a “countdown” for an unrepentant sinner, and when they come to “zero” he dies; children are taught new Protestant hymns by voices that come from nowhere (and repeat the song twenty times so the children will remember); “God’s tape-recorder” records the song of a children¹s choir and plays it back in the air for the astonished children; fire comes down from the sky to consume Catholic religious images (“the Lord” in Indonesia is very anti-Catholic); 30,000 have been healed; “Christ” appears in the sky and “falls” on people in order to heal them; people are miraculously transported from place to place and walk on water; lights accompany evangelists and guide them at night, and clouds follow them and give them shelter during the day: the dead are raised .
Interestingly, in some parts of the Indonesian “revival” the element of “speaking in tongues” is almost totally absent and is even forbidden (although it is present in many places), and the element of mediumism seems sometimes to be replaced by a direct intervention of fallen spirits. It may well be that this new “revival,” more powerful than Pentecostalism, is a more developed stage of the same “spiritual” phenomenon (just as Pentecostalism itself is more advanced than spiritism) and heralds the imminence of the dreadful day when, as the “voices” and “angels” in Indonesia also proclaim, “the Lord” is to come – for we know that antichrist will prove to the world that he is “Christ” by just such “miracles.”
In an age of almost universal darkness and deception, when for most “Christians” Christ has become precisely what Orthodox teaching means by antichrist, the Orthodox Church of Christ alone possesses and communicates the grace of God. This is a priceless treasure the very existence of which is not so much as suspected even by the “Christian” world. The “Christian” world, indeed, joins hands with the forces of darkness in order to seduce the faithful of the Church of Christ, blindly trusting that the “name of Jesus” will save them even in their apostasy and blasphemy, mindless of the fearful warning of the Lord: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23).
St. Paul continues his warning about the coming of antichrist with this command: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”(2 Thess. 2:15). “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so say I now again: If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9).
The Orthodox answer to every new “revival,” and even to the final terrible “revival” of antichrist, is this Gospel of Christ, which the Orthodox Church alone has preserved unchanged in an unbroken line from Christ and His Apostles, and the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Orthodox Church alone communicates, and only to her faithful children, who have received in Chrismation, and kept, thetrue seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Religion of the Future
IT IS DEEPLY INDICATIVE of the spiritual state of contemporary mankind that the “charismatic” and “meditation” experiences are taking root among “Christians.” An Eastern religious influence is undeniably at work in such “Christians,” but it is only as a result of something much more fundamental: the loss of the very feeling and savor of Christianity, due to which something so alien to Christianity as Eastern “meditation” can take hold of “Christian” souls.
The life of self-centeredness and self-satisfaction lived by most of today’s “Christians” is so all-pervading that it effectively seals them off from any understanding at all of spiritual life; and when such people do undertake “spiritual life,” it is only as another form of self-satisfaction. This can be seen quite clearly in the totally false religious ideal both of the “charismatic” movement and the various forms of “Christian meditation”: all of them promise (and give very quickly) an experience of “contentment” and “peace.” But this is not the Christian ideal at all, which if anything may be summed up as a fierce battle and struggle. The “contentment” and “peace” described in these contemporary “spiritual” movements are quite manifestly the product of spiritual deception, of spiritual self-satisfaction – which is the absolute death of the God-oriented spiritual life. All these forms of “Christian meditation” operate solely on the psychic level and have nothing whatever in common with Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is formed in the arduous struggle to acquire the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which fully begins only with the dissolution of this temporal world, and the true Christian struggler never finds repose even in the foretastes of eternal blessedness which might be vouchsafed to him in this life; but the Eastern religions, to which the Kingdom of Heaven has not been revealed, strive only to acquire psychic states which begin and end in this life.
In our age of apostasy preceding the manifestation of antichrist, the devil has been loosed for a time (Apoc. 20:7) to work the false miracles which he could not work during the “thousand years” of Grace in the Church of Christ (Apoc. 20:3), and to gather in his hellish harvest of those souls who “received not the love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10). We can tell that the time of antichrist is truly near by the very fact that this satanic harvest is now being reaped not merely among the pagan peoples, who have not heard of Christ, but even more among “Christians” who have lost the savor of Christianity. It is of the very nature of antichrist to present the kingdom of the devil as if it were of Christ. The present-day “charismatic” movement and “Christian meditation,” and the “new religious consciousness” of which they are part, are forerunners of the religion of the future, the religion of the last humanity, the religion of antichrist, and their chief “spiritual” function is to make available to Christians the demonic initiation hitherto restricted to the pagan world. Let it be that these “religious experiments” are still often of a tentative and groping nature, that there is in them at least as much psychic self-deception as there is a genuinely demonic initiation rite; doubtless not everyone who has successfully “meditated” or thinks he has received the “Baptism of the Spirit” has actually received initiation into the kingdom of satan. But this is the aim of these “experiments,” and doubtless the techniques of initiation will become ever more efficient as mankind becomes prepared for them by the attitudes or passivity and openness to new “religious experiences” which are inculcated by these movements.
What has brought humanity – and indeed “Christendom” – to this desperate state? Certainly it is not any overt worship of the devil, which is limited always to a few people; rather, it is something much more subtle, and something fearful for a conscious Orthodox Christian to reflect on: it is the loss of the grace of God, which follows on the loss of the savor of Christianity.
Roman Catholics and Protestants today have not fully tasted of God’s grace, and so it is not surprising that they should be unable to discern its demonic counterfeit. But alas! The success of counterfeit spirituality even among Orthodox Christians today reveals how much they also have lost the savor of Christianity and so can no longer distinguish between true Christianity and pseudo-Christianity. For too long have Orthodox Christians taken for granted the precious treasure of their Faith and neglected to put into use the pure gold of its teachings. How many Orthodox Christians even know of the existence of the basic texts of Orthodox spiritual life, which teach precisely how to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit spirituality, texts which give the life and teaching of holy men and women who attained an abundant measure of God¹s grace in this life? How many have made their own the teaching of the Lausiac History, the Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius, the Lives of the God-bearing Fathers of the desert, Unseen Warfare, St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ?
In the Life of the great Father of the Egyptian desert, St. Paisius the Great (June 19), we may see a shocking example of how easy it is to lose the grace of God. Once a disciple of his was walking to a city in Egypt to sell his handiwork. On the way he met a Jew who, seeing his simplicity, began to deceive him, saying: “O beloved, why do you believe in a simple, crucified Man, when He was not at all the awaited Messiah? Another is to come, but not He.” The disciple, being weak in mind and simple in heart, began to listen to these words and allowed himself to say: “Perhaps what you say is correct.” When he returned to the desert, St. Paisius turned away from him and would not speak a single word to him. Finally, after the disciple¹s long entreaty, the Saint said to him: “Who are you? I do not know you. This disciple of mine was a Christian and had upon him the grace of Baptism, but you are not such a one; if you are actually my disciple, then the grace of Baptism has left you and the image of a Christian has been removed.” The disciple with tears related his conversation with the Jew, to which the Saint replied: “O wretched one! What could be worse and more foul than such words, by which you renounced Christ and His divine Baptism? Now go and weep over yourself as you wish, for you have no place with me; your name is written with those who have renounced Christ, and together with them you will receive judgment and torments.” On hearing this judgment the disciple was filled with repentance, and at his entreaty the Saint shut himself up and prayed to the Lord to forgive his disciple this sin. The Lord heard the Saint¹s prayer and granted him to behold a sign of His forgiveness of the disciple. The Saint then warned the disciple: “O child, give glory and thanksgiving to Christ God together with me, for the unclean, blasphemous spirit has departed from you, and in his place the Holy Spirit has descended upon you, restoring to you the grace of Baptism. And so, guard yourself now, lest out of sloth and carelessness the nets of the enemy should fall upon you again and, having sinned, you should inherit the fire of gehenna.”
Significantly, it is among “ecumenical Christians” that the “charismatic” and “meditation” movements have taken root. The characteristic belief of the heresy of ecumenism is this: that the Orthodox Church is not the one true Church of Christ; that the grace of God is present also in other “Christian” denominations, and even in non-Christian religions; that the narrow path of salvation according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church is only “one path among many” to salvation; and that the details of one’s belief in Christ are of little importance, as is one’s membership in any particular church. Not all the Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement believe this entirely (although Protestants and Roman Catholics most certainly do); but by their very participation in this movement, including invariably common prayer with those who believe wrongly about Christ and His Church, they tell the heretics who behold them: “Perhaps what you say is correct,” even as the wretched disciple of St. Paisius did. No more than this is required for an Orthodox Christian to lose the grace of God; and what labor it will cost for him to gain it back!
How much, then, must Orthodox Christians walk in the fear of God, trembling lest they lose His grace, which by no means is given to everyone, but only to those who hold the true Faith, lead a life of Christian struggle, and treasure the grace of God which leads them heavenward. And how much more cautiously must Orthodox Christians walk today above all, when they are surrounded by a counterfeit Christianity that gives its own experiences of “grace” and the “Holy Spirit” and can abundantly quote the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers to “prove” it! Surely the last times are near, when there will come spiritual deception so persuasive as to “deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect” (Matt. 24:24).
Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is human or who think to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit in some other way than that which the one Church of Christ has handed down to us. True Orthodoxy by its very nature must seem totally out of place in these demonic times, a dwindling minority of the despised and “foolish,” in the midst of a religious “revival” inspired by another kind of spirit. But let us take comfort from the certain words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Let all true Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours. He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18), and that for the sake of the elect He will cut short the days of the last great tribulation (Matt. 24:22). And in truth, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Even in the midst of the cruelest temptations, we are commanded to be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Let us live, even as true Christians of all times have lived, in expectation of the end of all things and the coming of our dear Saviour; for “He that giveth testimony of these things saith: Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Apoc. 22:20).
Reprinted from St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood of Platina, California
Sources Cited In The Text Of This Article:
- Burdick, Donald W. Tongues- To Speak or not to Speak. Moody Press, 1969.
- Christenson, Larry. Speaking in Tongues. Dimension Books, Minneapolis, 1968.
- Du Plessis, David J. The Spirit Bade Me Go. Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey, 1970.
- Ford, J. Massingherd. The Pentecostal Experience. Paulist Press, N. Y., 1970.
- Gelpi, Donald L., S. J. Pentecostalism, A Theological Viewpoint. Paulist Press, N. Y., 1971.
- Harper, Michael. Life in the Holy Spirit. Logos Books, Plainfield, N. J., 1966.
- Koch, Kurt. The Strife of Tongues. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1969.
- Lilli, D. G. Tongues under Fire. Fountain Trust, London, 1966.
- Ortega, Ruben, compiler. The Jesus People Speak Out. David C. Cook Publishing Co., Elgin, III., 1972
- Ranaghan, Kevin; Ranaghan, Dorothy. Catholic Pentecostals. Paulist Press, 1969.
- Sherrill, John L. They Speak with Other Tongues. Spire Books, Old Tappan, N. J., 1965
- Williams, J. Rodman. The Era of the Spirit. Logos International, 1971.
- Pat King. in Logos Journal, Sept.-Oct., 1971, p. 50. This “international charismatic journal” should not be confused with Fr. E. Stephanou’s Logos.
- Most books will be cited only by author and page number. Full bibliographical information is supplied at the end.
- Bishop Theophan the Recluse What is the Spiritual Life, Jordanville, New York, 1962, pp 247-8 (in Russian); English edition, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, Calif., 1995, p. 282. Fr. Eusebius Stephanou (Logos, Jan., 1972, p. 13) attempts to justify the present-day “reception of the Holy Spirit” outside the Church by citing the account of the household of Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10), which received the Holy Spirit before Baptism. But the difference in the two cases is crucial: the reception of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius and his household was the sign that they should be joined to the Church by Baptism, whereas contemporary Pentecostals by their experience are only confirmed in their delusion that there is no one saving Church of Christ.
- See Burdick, pp. 66-67.
- V. P. ByLov, Tikhie Priyuty, Moscow 1913. pp. I 168-170.
- See Kurt Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970, pp. l68-170.
- Kurt Koch, Between Christ and Satan, Kregel Publications, 1962, p. 124. This book and Dr. Koch¹s Occult Bondage offer a remarkable confirmation, based on 20th-century experience, of virtually every manifestation of mediumism, magic, sorcery, etc., that is found in the Holy Scriptures and the Orthodox Lives of Saints – the source of all of which, of course, is the devil. On only a few points will the Orthodox reader have to correct his interpretations.
- Simon A. Blackmore S. J, Spiritism Facts and Frauds, Benziger Bros., New York, 1924: Chapter IV, “Mediums,” pp. 89-1 05 passim.
- On Oral Roberts. see Kurt Koch, Occult Bondage, pp. 52-55.
- Ronald A. Knox, Enthusiasm, A Chapter in the History of Religion, Oxford (Galaxy Book), 196l, pp. 550-551.
- See The Orthodox Word, 1965, no. 4, pp. 155-158.
- Conference XV:2, in Owen Chadwick, Western Asceticism, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1958, p. 258.
- Wilson Van Dusen, The Presence of Other Worlds, Harper and Row, New York, 1974, pp. 120-125.
- See I. H. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1971, pp. 45, 88. 156 etc., and illustration 9.
- Starets Macarius of Optina, Harbin, 1940, p. 100 (in Russian). (cf. Elder Macarius of Optina, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, Calif., 1995, p. 326)
- See Blackmore, Spiritism, pp. 144-175, where an example is given of a Catholic priest who was physically pursued by a ouija-board (propelled, of course, by a demon) when he tried to give up using it!
- See for example Gordon Lindsay, Israel’s Destiny and the Coming Deliverer, Christ for the Nations Pub. Co., Dallas, Texas, pp. 28-30.
- Such is the Orthodox teaching of Sts. Basil the Great. Gregory theTheologian, Andrew of Caesarea, and many other Fathers. See Archbishop Averky, Guide to the Study of the New Testament. Part II (in Russian), Jordanville, New York, 1956, pp. 434-438. (cf. The Apocalypse: In theTeaching of Ancient Christianity, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, Calif., 1995, pp. 253-4
- See Kurt Koch, The Revival in Indonesia, Kregel Publications, 1970; and Mel Tari, Like a Mighty Wind. Creation House, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1971.