Rational Charismatics

I was raised in the United Presbyterian Church by a Presbyterian Dad and a Methodist Mom. When I was 16, Bill Bright ushered me into a more dynamic and personal relationship with Christ, and when I was 18, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I loved serving the Lord and experiencing the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in my life. But when I turned 50, I went through a personal crisis as I tried to determine how I should identify myself within the body of Christ. After much internal debate, I finally decided that I was a “Rational Charismatic.”

I am Charismatic, knowing without any doubt that the gifts of God, as outlined in the New Testament, are available and operational today.

I am rational, meaning that facts and reason inform my beliefs. Evidence matters. A quality education and the ongoing development of ideas that impact our lives and inform our understanding of the world around us matters.

Sadly, after writing that, I feel the need to validate my conservative biblical beliefs to my friends reading this blog. That subtle feeling reveals the problem we have created. Why have we believers allowed ourselves to think a high view of Scripture and confidence in the person of Christ doesn’t coexist with rational thought?

Jesus is so completely the Son of God, Son of Man, Lord of all and Creator of all, I have no reason to doubt that he is who he says he is. So much so, that I have no fear in pursuing my doubts, thinking through the realities of life, and interfacing what I read in the Scriptures every day with science. In my mind, New Testament faith does not require blindness, because there is evidence for its truth. I have no trouble reconciling the discoveries found in the natural history museum with Genesis, or chemistry with Jesus turning water into wine. Because of the miracle Christ has done in me, I know he can override natural law, but natural law is not his enemy. He created this orderly system within which we live, which is why the scientific method of discovery works.

As referenced earlier, some conservative believers have made a horrible mistake by positioning their teachings against science. Modern science is the product of western civilization, which is the child of Christendom. Centuries ago the popes taught that science and the Bible conflicted in areas which science has since been proven correct. Now Bible scholars agree that the church’s interpretation of the Bible was wrong and that, in fact, the Bible and scientific knowledge are harmonious. Think of that. As science has proven to be correct, the church has had to refine its interpretation. What’s wrong with that? Our interpretations of the Scriptures are not the absolutes of Scripture. Some of our interpretations should change as we grow and learn. I believe that since God is a God of order, and he created all, that the knowledge we gain through studying his creation is harmonious with the Scriptures.

Those who deeply embrace and defend ideas they believe to be biblically based, which are not evidenced, might find themselves in the same position as our forefathers who tried to defend a flat earth. Facts are helpful in informing our interpretations of Scripture. Scripture is helpful in informing our existence. Facts are never the enemy of Christians.

I’m not defending the cynic or the unbeliever. In my view, people who let their hurts, arrogance, or bigotry shadow their thinking are just as vulnerable as sincere believers who are desperately hoping they are right, when they are wrong.

Accepting modern science is not a contradiction of Paul’s admonition to reject the “wisdom of this world”. He wasn’t dealing with science, but philosophy and our understanding of God and our existence. He wasn’t devaluing the importance of facts or truth, but emphasizing the temporary nature of trends and traditions, something we should continue to be cognizant of today.

We can grow in our understanding of the Bible, believe the New Testament, and fully operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, without having to deny the reality that exists in the world around us.

Let’s be rational, Bible-believing Christians. To be rational Charismatics might require that we discard some of the cultural superstition in our modern Christian practice. I think that would serve us well.

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30 thoughts on “Rational Charismatics

  1. Ken Arnold says:

    i couldn’t agree more!!

    Great blog.

  2. Angela says:

    this is very well written. I completely agree that science wasn’t given to us to fight against but to work seamlessly with Christianity. I really pray that those ppl who think otherwise will allow the scales to fall off their eyes and see the world AND the Bible for what it truly is. A book not only with love and guidance, but a history book waiting to be proven and discovered! 🙂

  3. Pam says:

    Thank you! This perspective speaks volumes and adds rational insight into a confusing dilemma of explanation. I get asked why I don’t go to church in my super rural area. This explains it perfectly.

  4. Edward Barler says:

    I could not agree more! So therefore, our faith in God does not require us to believe that the world was only created 6,000 years ago, and does not require us to discard all of the evidence of fossils which might suggest that the world was created 6 billion years ago. These are, of course all theories; but Jesus has given me new live and new hope and whether the world was created 6,000 years ago or 6,000,000,000 years ago cannot possibly change that!

  5. Micah Smith says:

    Thanks Ted, for addressing an important and frequently misunderstood subject in the western church. Please carry on and deal with your question, “Is the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement superstitious?”

  6. John Nicholson says:

    This is a really excellent post, I agree with it thoroughly. Fortunately here in the UK, it is only the atheists of the Richard Dawkins school that accept the assumption that science and Christianity are incompatible, not the church. And I love the term “rational charismatic”. It is just what I want to be.

    • Richard Dawkins has been embarrassed so many times by his overstatements, generalizations, and total falsehoods, I’m amazed anyone still listens to him. It actually discredits the academic world that some of them claim him as an academic. He’s an advocate, not a scientist. Actually, he’s an ideologue who won’t let facts get in the way of his agenda. Other than these things, and a few more, I like him.

  7. I recall our conversation about this a few month ago where I expressed my dismay that, as a Christian Apologist, I was getting branded as having little faith because I desired reasons and knowledge to reinforce what I believe. I read a report from Summit Ministries that states over 90% of the students that pursue a curriculum of learning worldview and apologetics stay in their faith into adulthood. Sadly, the same can’t be said for other students, who according to Barna, experience a dropout rate from Christianity over 50%. Great article, Pastor Ted!! I can now call myself a Christian Apologetic and Rational Charismatic!

  8. Chuck says:

    Well said Ted. A wise man was once asked a very complex question to which he replied, “Why would you want to trade such a great question for an answer.” lol I enjoy reading your blogs and I liked the recent video you made while biking. I think humility is very important and not having a pat answer neatly wrapped with a bow on it is ok. Keep writing, you’ve got thoughts than inspire and get us thinking in the right direction.

  9. Joe Machuta says:

    I too like the phrase rational charismatic. That is how I look at myself. I wish more evangelicals would be aware of the fact that our presuppositions, the hermenetical grid throuh which we view scripture makes a big difference in interpretation. Great article!

  10. Bonnie Nelson says:

    What reality in the world around us should we deny???

  11. Lana says:

    This is what I have always loved about your Ps. Ted. You are not afraid to think deeply (and write) about difficult issues.

  12. tiko says:

    Rational Charismatic makes total sense. ..as Christians there will always be a need to enhance our knowledge of the world that we live in, so that we can stay relevant. ..the bible says that the men from the Tribe of Issachar were wise because they were men able to discern the times…thanks for your wisdom Pastor Ted.

  13. Dude says:

    I don’t think you have to defend your position. If evidence demands a verdict, and that that scientific reasoning points to God (and in many great minds it does) then so be it. God created us in His image, with intellect- and He gave us a natural desire to explore and discover. That’s what science does, does it not?

  14. Ted Flood says:

    I do not believe science was ever the subject of contention here, but some of the theory’s involved. The question i have always asked is; it my or our interpretation of the scriptures that could be wrong or do my interpretations just need better definition or revelation. There are the absolutes that are never in question and then there is how we interpret the rest of the bible.I have learned to some degree that God’s plan for man hasn’t changed and if that is true then it must be it must be our thinking that needs modification. God gave us this planet to enjoy and be prosperous with in all it’s beauty and majesty and with that all the science that it takes to maintain it.God’s focus has always been on man and the value there of….as imitators of Christ Jesus so should ours.

    • Excellent Ted. As you know, I teach that there are absolutes, interpretations, and deductions that we draw from Scripture. The absolutes are never wrong, the interpretations might be wrong, and our deductions (theological constructions) have the highest likelihood of being wrong. Then, of course, our cultural norms, personal preferences, etc. are just that. Where Bible teachers make their mistake is that they will teach a deduction that they believe with equal emphasis as an absolute. Then if the deduction proves to be false, people get disillusioned. Even worse, if they teach a cultural norm as an absolute, the odds of future discouragement are sky high. At St. James, I let people know these distinctions as I teach, which causes them to be rocks in their faith.

      • Ted Flood says:

        Yes Ted I remember your teachings on this and agree wholeheartedly. I believe that Jesus longs to breathe his creativeness into each of us and where we miss it sometimes is that he also wants to create through us. Science is a system of knowledge and ideas based on facts that God created for us to use and so that we would experience the incredible life he has outlined for each of us in Jesus. In other words, God created science and when used with the capacity he gave us to think, breathe and survive we become blessed with prosperity and health “Life and life abundantly”. There is no separation from the Gospel and science and life when we remember Heb 1:3 that christ upholds all things by the word of his power” and “that in christ all things consist and are held together”.Col1:17.
        .

  15. Ernie Plumleu says:

    I love the phrase “rational charismatic “. Too many “Christians” believe a variety of different things that really are lacking in scripture evidence or truth. I was raised in a Pentecostal denomination where a lot of times, things were taken out of context or we’re exaggerated. They also lacked the type of love that Christ taught. They spoke with their mouth one thing but lived another. Thanks for the article Ted. I agree with it 100 percent.

  16. bobby jackson says:

    Excellant!! I especially like “some of our interpretations should change as we grow and learn.” Thanks…see ya Sunday. BobbyJ

  17. Gary Sweeten says:

    Brother Ted, did you know the very first mainline denomination to develop a group dedicated to the release of the Holy Spirit was Reformed and Presbyterian? Rev. James Brown of Pa held regular services every week for years. The Presbyterian a Charismatic Communion was formed to support Ministers defrocked for believing the truth of the Spirit. Brick Bradford was the first Executive Director. It is currently called Presbyterian Renewal Ministries. You would be right at home

  18. Thank you Pastor Ted. I totally agree and appreciate all of your blogs. Pat Sharkey

  19. Wade Houston says:

    All truth that is indeed truth is God’s truth. Therefore, we need never fear true science. Science can inform our understanding and in some cases help us in our interpretation of scripture. For example, while extolling the greatness of God the psalmist declared, “All the trees of the field shall clap their hands . . .” Rationally and scientifically we know trees don’t even have hands. In this case scientific rational thought directs us to take this psalmist’s declaration as figurative and poetic truth rather than as literal truth. That takes nothing away from the spiritual value of the psalmist’s expression, and we are not compelled to believe that someday trees will have hands.

  20. Elise Vigil-Cambron says:

    I love it! Part of what I want to accomplish in life is using one science/Christiandom to prove the other.

  21. Cavin Harper says:

    So, Ted…what are some of the ‘cultural superstitions” in modern Christendom that you see? I’d be curious to know what you have identified. Might be a good follow up article.

    • Good question Cavin, and I would be more than happy to talk about that with you. I hesitate to write about it, though, because it would sound like whining. I’ve found that when I simply introduce the idea, leaders think through their own beliefs and interpretations and identify some of their own superstitions themselves. It’s a beautiful thing the way the Lord works in his people.

  22. Walt Willoughby says:

    Ted just wanted to respond to your latest blog. While I am not a rational charismatic, I am a rational Christian (Methodist by choice). I must confess my past doubt of you and you sincerity as you made your comeback. But, this post put your comeback in perspective. I like what you have to say though I used to never be a fan of yours.

    I am a highly technical scientist, a theologian, and have a lot of psychology training. The fact that most of the church is not rational when it comes to actual knowledge gained through science, including older denominations, is why I no longer attend church. I think all truth is God’s truth and the more we know from many sources, the more we know about God. I lived in Colorado Springs for about 28 years and attended 3 services of yours, one was the Don Francisco concert in the space you had on Garden of the Gods in the mid-80’s. I must admit, the charismatic atmosphere was more than I could handle at the time. My point is I would love to attend church again, and I would give St. James a try if I still lived in Colorado Springs.

    If I had to have a pastor with me on my death bed, I would choose you. I think with all the things you have gone through you get it. I believe you are sincere and are growing more than you may know. There are a lot of hateful things that goes on in Christian circles over the non-essentials. Thanks for a well written and need blog!

  23. Aaron says:

    Ted,
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. My faith in God and Jesus and the Holy spirit come from my heart and basically that Gneisses 1:1 statement. I don’t think science can ever explain my faith in God. But it might explain how God created the things around us. My religion helps me live my life; it doesn’t necessarily explain it correctly.
    Science is a gift from God too. My oldest son is alive today because of our awesome medical science.
    Thank you!
    Aaron

  24. Bill Cribbs says:

    Outstanding! Bro. Ted, you were my camp counsellor at Kueta T so many years ago and your godly role model was very important in my formative years. I thank God for your place in my spiritual history.

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