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Vines’ book on charismatic movement draws seminary president’s affirmation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The “charismatic” movement is based on an unbiblical presentation of the Spirit’s empowerment of the church, according to a Southern Baptist Convention seminary president in affirming a former SBC president’s book critical of the movement.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the statement in a positive review of “SpiritWorks: Charismatic Practices and the Bible” by former SBC President Jerry Vines.

Mohler’s review appeared in the January issue of SBC LIFE, the SBC Executive Committee’s monthly journal. Vines’ book is published by the Broadman & Holman trade books arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC.

Vines’ SpiritWorks analysis of the charismatic movement was written in part due to questions of its influence with the SBC. Vines, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., is described in Mohler’s review as one of the SBC’s most respected pastors.

In his review, Mohler echoed several concerns raised in the book. “… He [Vines] rightly points to the emphasis on feelings and experience as the Achilles heel of the charismatic approach to doctrine and discipleship,” Mohler wrote.

“Taking an informal biblical perspective, Vines points to the fundamental truth that the Holy Spirit always exalts Jesus Christ, and never draws center stage in the biblical revelation,” Mohler continued. “Fully divine, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and many evangelicals err by a lack of recognition of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the church.”

In SpiritWorks, Vines addresses the issue of a feeling-oriented society. “It is vital for Christians to approach the Bible as the final source of authority. There is a tendency today to elevate one’s personal experience above truth as revealed in the Bible. Our culture tends to place trust in man’s feelings as the prominent feature in making decisions about truth,” Vines wrote. “Our feeling-oriented society wants to go by how it feels about a matter in determining what the truth of a matter is.”

In a succession of chapters, Vines reviews current charismatic practices and beliefs ranging from speaking in tongues to territorial spirit warfare. “His method is honest and straightforward,” Mohler wrote of Vines’ book, “and his careful study of the biblical evidence is evident.”

Vines also takes on the teachings of such charismatic leaders as Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts and Kenneth Copeland.

In a related story, also featured in the January issue of SBC LIFE, Jerry Spencer, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala., answered several questions about being “slain in the spirit.”

“The answer is,” Spencer said, “being `slain in the spirit’ is never mentioned in the Bible.”

The charismatic movement within Southern Baptist churches was also addressed by Ron Phillips, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Hixson, Tenn. In Phillip’s newly released book, “Awakened By The Spirit” published by Thomas Nelson, he described his journey from being an anti-charismatic fundamentalist to “passionately believing that evangelicals and charismatics can rediscover their common heritage and experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in personal life and ministry.”

In a chapter titled, “Baptists and Other Heretics,” Phillips wrote, “Today hundreds of Baptist and evangelical churches are moving in the power of the Spirit, and awakenings are happening in every region. Yet reactionary forces rise to quench the fire of the Holy Spirit. Those affected by the work of God’s Spirit are often feared and unwelcome.”

He continued, “Baptists and others should have the freedom to operate in the Spirit within biblical parameters. Is the Baptist and evangelical tent big enough to embrace evangelical doctrines and, at the same time, welcome the Spirit’s move? I pray so.”

Phillips said hundreds of church members have left his church over the charismatic issue, but hundreds more have joined the 6,000-member Tennessee congregation.

Mohler said SpiritWorks will be welcomed by people looking for a careful and biblical analysis of contemporary charismatic beliefs and practices. “Vines is not out to ridicule the beliefs of other Christians, but to reveal the unbiblical nature of their practices,” Mohler wrote.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes