The Agora
Bible Editorials

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"What are 'charismatic' Christadelphians? Does such a group exist, or is it just a rumor? What do they really believe, and how do they practice those beliefs? It has to be more than just strumming a guitar occasionally, because why would anyone be upset by that."
Well... the Greek "charisma" is related to "charis" -- which is usually translated "grace", but means most literally a "gift". In certain circles, with which you have become quite familiar through websites and the like, to be a "charismatic" means -- most generally -- to have received special "Holy Spirit" "gifts"... or more properly, to be deluded into thinking one has received such gifts!

But.... (watch out, here comes a "definition" again), it is quite possible that -- in other contexts (and some Christadelphian circles may be such)... there is more reliance on the original Scriptural meaning of the word "charis" (grace, or gift). This could mean that, by their reading of the passages, anyone (you and I included, we hope!) who has received any "gift" from God -- such as the knowledge of the truth, and the forgiveness of sins which comes through faith and baptism, and ongoing providential care and instruction from God through His Son -- has in fact partaken of the "charis" of God, and is therefore "charismatic".

Or... alternatively, anyone who has received (and/or developed) a natural gift for public speaking, or private instruction, or just a warm, friendly, caring personality that naturally draws people to him or her... may be called "charismatic" -- with no suggestion of speaking in tongues or raising the dead. In this sense, there are a lot of "charismatic" Christadelphians! I got complimented on being "charismatic" one Sunday, by a young sister recently introduced to the Truth after growing up in a black "Spirit-filled" (non-Christadelphian) church: she said, "Brother George, that was a great talk -- we need more 'spirit' in our meetings!" (Of course, since she spoke the words and didn't write them, I don't know if she meant "Spirit" -- upper case -- or "spirit" -- lower case... although I assume she meant "spirit" as a synonym for "excitement" or "exuberance".) I think what actually happened was I had too much coffee that morning, and then got all worked up on a particular "hobby horse" of mine... I never got "accused" of being "charismatic" again... I'm normally pretty calm and laid-back, as we say down south. As a matter of fact, I'm said to have a nice, soothing voice (maybe THAT'S why folks keep dozing off when I'm talking!).

But I do know other Christadelphian speakers and teachers who might, very reasonably, be called "charismatic" by the above definition (which you can find in Webster's, by the way)... and (I'm guessing) that MAY be the source of some references to "charismatic Christadelphians".

I could add this: some may feel, and with some justification, that we ought to be on our guard against even this rather innocuous kind of "charisma", because we might tend to believe certain things not because of what the Bible teaches, but because the speaker propounding such-and-such was very dynamic and persuasive. Maybe that's why some look askance upon the use of guitars in ecclesial meetings, or upon anything designed to bring a little more excitement or spontaneity into the regular proceedings.


"The 'common use' understanding of a word overrides the actual definition."
Okay... but that's my point too. Sometimes people mean different things even when they use the same words (maybe more often so, when one is in Australia and another is in America...?...). And sometimes "charismatic" doesn't mean "possessing the Holy Spirit gift of speaking of tongues"! Sometimes, it may mean "being filled with the spirit, or Spirit"!

You see, we could have the same discussion at cross-purposes, more or less, if we ask the question (even of one another): "Do you/we/I have the Holy Spirit?" Because that's what the "charismatics" are claiming: present possession of the Holy Spirit. Many (most? nearly all?) believe that such present possession allows them to work miracles and speak in strange tongues... but some at least see the "Holy Spirit" as an influence in their lives apart from any miraculous manifestation.

And what does THAT mean? Even amongst Christadelphians, it could mean very different things... depending on how we define and limit (or try to limit) God's Spirit today.

I don't mean to be merely "academic", or "out of touch" with the real world, in this discussion. But just as Spirit and Holy Spirit can mean different things to different readers, and in different contexts... then "charis", "charisma", and "charismatic" (all of which derive from, and refer to, the New Testament "gift" or "gifts" of the "Holy Spirit") may likewise mean different things to different people.


"So will someone please answer my question in plain English, based on the commonly understood definition of a charismatic, is there such a thing as a charismatic Christadelphian?"
Based on YOUR 'commonly understood definition' of a charismatic, I would have to guess that there are practically no Christadelphians who qualify. But I could not guarantee that there are none. And if you are going to make it a requirement, from your point of view, that we as a worldwide body have not one member who so believes -- before you can teach what you believe to be true to others... then you are asking for a virtual impossibility. (And the same holds true, I think, for any other doctrine that we hold most dear.) Absolute purity of belief, and absolute perfection of practice, are not to be had in this time... and will not be found until Christ returns and purges all tares from the wheat!

Neither would we want a system the main function of which is to assure that we come as near "perfection" as possible in this age, in all matters of doctrine and practice. Such a system would be very dictatorial, and probably very hurtful in other ways... not to mention infringing on those individual freedoms which we have come to cherish.

Christadelphians, as you know, are organized into individual, and local, ecclesial units -- which are largely autonomous, that is, responsible for their own beliefs and practices -- even when and if they all subscribe to statements of faith which are practically identical.

That reminds me of one of Will Rogers' statements. He said once, "I don't belong to any organized political party... I'm a Democrat!"

So I will paraphrase old Will: "I don't belong to any organized church... I'm a Christadelphian!"


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