Adrian Warnock and Diane Roberts are putting together a Reformed Charismatic aggregator. They asked if I would mind explaining how I ‘evolved’ into a Reformed Charismatic. I had been planning to post something about this anyway as a follow-up to my ‘dividing lines’ posts (here and here). I wouldn’t actually say I evolved into one, rather that I started off as one, evolved away from it, and then came back. Following in the recent tradition of Jollyblogger and Adrian, I will post this as a multipart series. For brevity’s sake, it’s not my testimony, and neither is it intended as a defence of being reformed or charismatic.
The Early Years
I spent just about my entire childhood in church. It was (back then) a reformed charismatic Baptist church in Dunstable (which is mentioned in the Bible you know – look carefully) and it had its own Christian school which I attended. With a Saturday night youth group as well, I was in the building seven days a week most weeks. The pastor, Dr. Stanley Jebb, was a very scholarly evangelical Calvinist, who passionately believed in expository preaching. Every Sunday morning the whole church would gather at 10:00 for an hour’s ‘Bible school’ where we studied church history, or books like J C Ryle’s “Holiness”, or A W Pink’s “The Attributes of God”. At 11:15 we had the main morning service, and from the age of five children were expected to stay in and listen to the sermon. The pastor would quite happily discuss the Greek text and talk about some more advanced theological concepts (for example, at the age of seven I was well versed in the difference between syntheke and diatheke, and why ‘propitiation’ should be prefered to ‘expiation’). In many ways, some of his distinctive ideas lined up with traditional conservative evangelicals, teaching head-covering for women, strongly advising total abstinence from alcohol, keeping Sunday special and dressing smartly for church.
But we were also very definitely charismatic, and involved in the “restoration” movement (now more commonly called the “house church” movement – see Andrew Walker’s book “Restoring the Kingdom” for a historian’s perspective; see also a critical Banner of Truth article ). We went to some of the early charismatic Bible weeks (Dales and Downs) and eventually organised our own (the Anglia Bible week) with speakers such as Peter Lewis, Barney Coombs, Bryn Jones and Ern Baxter. Ern was an American and part of what was known as the “shepherding movement”, which our church was also in and came under his authority. He had a similar passion for the Word and Spirit as our pastor did, and would regularly come over to give teaching.
My earliest recollections of church include the charismatic gifts being used regularly. The times of worship were often powerful with a real sense of the presence of God as people sang “in the Spirit”. As young people we were encouraged to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I still have a slip of paper from a Bible week when I was eight years old which states that I had asked that day to be prayed for to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. However I never did speak in tongues as a child (neither to my knowledge did any of my friends), and this was not considered a problem by anyone. In fact, that week is probably the time that I would say I became a Christian – it is my earliest memory of earnestly seeking God.
Read Part 2 here