Charasmatic Renewal: Are Adventists Missing Something?

Speaker: Categories: May 11, 1996


[1hr, 17min, 37sec / 1hr, 5min, 51sec]


Miraculous healings: demonstrations of divinity or deceptions of the devil? Speaking in tongues: intelligible communication or chaotic improvisation? Caught up in the Spirit: phenomena peculiar to first century Christians only or repeatable reality for twentieth (and twenty-first) century Christian, too? Charismatic manifestations - are they believable or bogus?

Our Adventist heritage has given us the answers to each of the above questions hasn't it? But the present focus and foment, even among Seventh-day Adventists, may suggest that charisma merits another look maybe even some other answers!

Dr. Bernard Brandstater, our May San Diego Adventist Forum speaker, has been intrigued by the charismatic renewal movement which seems to be sweeping the country, which has been reported even in Adventist congregations. He has researched the topic; he has visited some of the sites; he has interviewed some of the participants. In short, he has chosen to become knowledgeable about a topic which many SDAs would consider off-limits.

He notes, "Most Adventists have been skeptical or hostile towards the Charismatic Renewal movement. While we believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we've been troubled by what we've observed: disorderly worship, bizarre physical manifestations, tongues that have no meaning, and doubtful claims of healings and miracles. It's been easy to label it all as human delusion or demonic deception."

"Now thirty years after it began, he contends, "we need to re-examine the phenomena and the long term results. Many of them are undeniably good -- deepened spirituality, revitalized prayer, burgeoning mission work, joyous fellowship, and explosive church growth."

Can such phenomena be evaluated by the results produced? Does" By their fruits you shall know them apply? Do charismatic Christians experience a different relationship with the Lord than other more typical Christians? Is the difference desirable? Would Satan counterfeit something which doesn't exist, which doesn't thwart his purposes on earth? Have you ever seen or heard of a counterfeit three dollar bill?

Dr. Brandstater has observed that which would appear to be of human devising, he has heard reports of that which must certainly be of Satanic origin. But," he notes, "there is also a large measure of rich spiritual experience that I've come to believe is the real thing -- true personal encounters with God. And then he questions, “If this is really the case, is there anything more important for Adventist Christians to seek?"

Is this a passing religious fad? Is it isolated, restricted to just a few Pentecostal type congregations? Our May speaker indicates that this modern-day movement now includes 390,000,000 members worldwide! "In its size and impact the Charismatic Renewal is said to far eclipse the Reformation. It is the greatest upheaval in the Church since the apostles." And then he asks, “Should Adventists continue to ignore it? Or can we learn something from it?"


"Perhaps it’s time," he challenges, "we lowered our guard concerning the gifts of the Spirit. The risks of deception may be much less than the tragedy of despising the Lord's real presence. We should try to discern and embrace what is biblical and faith-strengthening in the Charismatic Renewal, while at the same time we can turn away from practices that are scripturally unsound .... “

To provide a broader perspective than that of just a single observer, Dr. Brandstater has invited six other SDAs to join him in this presentation. They are: Edward Fickess, senior litigating attorney, I.R.S., New York State; Mike Fickess, college student and son of Edward; Theresa Munoz, elementary teacher, Riverside, California; Tom Hamilton, practicing attorney, Riverside; Caroline Hamilton, wife of Tom; and Hazel Holland, secondary school teacher, Riverside.


Bernard Brandstater is an anesthesiologist who was born and educated in Australia. (Yes, he does have an accent!) He is a lifelong Adventist, great-grandson of a pioneer church leader in Australia. Since 1969 he has been Professor of Anesthesiology at Loma Linda University. He is an active member of the University Church. He was founder of the Student Sabbath School and for four years was executive producer of the televised Sanctuary Sabbath School. For years he has studied charismatic Christianity -- looking for ways in which religious movements have been renewed and re-energized. Though he has a host of other interests and hobbies, research of the Charismatic Renewal movement may well have become his avocation!

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