David C Cook, Kingsway Communication, 2008
£9.99; 349 pp.
ISBN 978 1 84291 350 5
We have post-everything and post-anything, now we have post-charismatic. Post-charismatic has a range of meanings. John Wimber used it to mean the charismatic renewal was over. Here McAlpine – better known as Robby Mac - uses it to mean not non- or anti-charismatic or even post-Spirit, but moving on beyond the charismatic, beyond its excesses.
I would regard myself as a post-charismatic. I’ve been involved as a leader in a small independent house church and then moved to a much larger house/ new church that eventually became part of Gerald Coates's Pioneer movement. There were a number of reasons why I left, not least being the power struggles and latent dualism. I joined the local Anglican church – where I still belong. Most who have left the charismatic movement have become disillusioned and have given up on church if not God. It is to these people that McAlpine’s books is addressed. It is a timely message.
He starts by giving a brief overview of the history of the charismatic movement. A number of key people are omitted (this is inevitable in something less than a PhD thesis! Notable omissions are Edward Irving and Alexander Boddy). It is a good sympathetic overview. He traces its origins from Wesley, through the Keswick-holiness movements to the birth of the Pentecostal churches through the 60s/70s charismatic wave and then the more Reformed third wave of Wimber et al.
McAlpine then looks at several of the excesses of what could be called charismania. These include the Latter Rain movement, Prosperity and healing, and Covering and authority. Each of these takes up a chapter. What I found fascinating was the influence of the Latter Rain teachings in subsequent movements. The Latter Rain 'prophets' included William Branham, George Warnock and Franklin Hall; the teachings that had a lot of influence include:
- Restorationism - God is restoring to the church truths that have been lost for centuries
- Five-fold ministry - the restoration of the Eph 4 'ascension gifts' to the church
- Laying on of hands - to impart spiritual gifts
- Prophecy - the emphasis on the prophetic gift
- Recovery of true worship - ie the restoration of David's tabernacle
- Immortalisation of the saints - some would embrace immortality before the return of Jesus
- The unity of the church - the church will become a unity before the second coming
- The manifest sons of God - the church will become the ongoing incarnation of Jesus.
The final part, Spirit and praxis, seeks to reflect on these excesses and bring pastoral insight for those hurt by them. McApine writes carefully and irenically even when criticising the excesses - he does it out of a heart of love. There is no doubt that God has moved through the charismatic movement. He has used it to restore a sense of worship and intimacy. The danger is that these gains can easily be lost in the excesses that all too often it demonstrated. McAlpine writes to all those disillusioned with the charismatic and seeks to provide a way for them to reintegrate the Spirit and word. Without one we dry up and without the other we blow up.
Equipping the Church (Kingsway)
David Cook Distribution Canada