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Tony Payne in the story of the charismatic movement

Not the American darts player, but the Australian author, Publishing Director at Matthias Media and editor of The Briefing, Tony Payne is well known for his clear, evangelical and extremely well thought-out theological communication that is both insightful and practical on modern issues for Christians in our contemporary culture.


But increasingly he is also known for his story of beginnings and transition through the charismatic movement. In 2010 in an article published by The Briefing, A continuing story: 19th-century Methodists, charismatics and me, he describes his Christian beginnings and how he was first drawn by the 'charismatic' to seek the experience of miraculous, supernatural and dynamic Christian living:
"I had a powerful intuition that I was part of something radical and real—a movement that was recovering the power and reality of New Testament Christianity by restoring to it the spiritual gifts, experiential richness and miraculous flavour that had somehow become lost or forgotten."
Now years later, Payne reflects upon these early years and notices the similarity between his journey and the original factors that led to the rise of Pentecostalism. At the beginning of the nineteenth-century, the spread of Methodism to America inspired the Holiness Movement, after first originating in the eighteenth-century from John Wesley's new experiential spirituality which promoted the power of freedom from sin and the personal change that Christians could experience through the work of the Holy Spirit. Wesley's new emphasis inspired the English movement that would eventually grow, spread wings and develop into the American Holiness movement. And by the second half of the nineteenth-century it would be teaching a second post-conversion experience of Spirit baptism and the availability of 'faith healing'. 


As the 'spiritual ancestors' of the charismatic  movement, the Holiness preachers first inspired the birth of the Pentecostal movement at the turn of the twentieth-century, which grew into a worldwide movement in only three years when in 1906 a re-occurrance of tongues-speaking gained world-wide attention. This revival of tongues was perceived within the movement as an End-time restoration of the gift of languages (tongues) for multi-cultural evangelism, along with the other sign gifts such as miracles and healing, and as an essential evidence to identify those elite Christians who had been uniquely empowered by the Spirit for this task of final harvest of the unconverted world. 


But in searching out and reflecting upon his own past, Payne notices the similarity in what fueled his own early quest and those factors which were driving nineteenth-century Methodism:
"It was a basic spiritual impatience. 19th-century American Methodism saw itself caught between two glorious realities. Behind them were the glories of the New Testament, with the power of Christ in his person and work, his miracles of healing, and the tantalizing references to charismata in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In front of them were the glories of the age to come, where there would be no sin, no disease, no death and no decay—a new world where Christians would finally be made perfect like their Lord, and where they would enjoy uninterrupted, face-to-face fellowship with God.
But they saw themselves stuck between these two, like a traveller who has left one brilliant city and is journeying towards an even more dazzling one, but who finds the road between them difficult and tiring, and the scenery unexciting. Their answer was to assert that the journey should not be so difficult—that there should be a shorter way. They wanted to say that miraculous powers of the New Testament age should be fully present in our lives, and that victory over sin and disease would not simply occur in the next age, but should also be our experience now."
Payne sees in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements a chronic spiritual 'impatience' (what theologians might describe as over-realised eschatology) -- an impulse to under-emphasise the distinct delay that has been imposed by Christ's ascension between this age, the 'last days', and the next age to come where after Christ's second coming there certainly will be divine health, perfect sinlessness, victory, peace and complete prosperity. 
"My problem was that I didn't want to wait with patience. I wanted the power and the gifts and the glory, and I wanted it now. I wanted to share in the miracles and victory of Christ, not his suffering.
I was a continuationist who had fixed on the wrong point of continuity—because it is not the miraculous powers and wonders of Christ and the apostles that continue in our lives, but the afflictions and sufferings they endured for doing his Father's will. Our imitation of Christ, Paul and the apostolic churches is in laying down our lives in sacrifice for the sake of others and their salvation (1 Cor 10:33-11:1).
As I should have known, and have now discovered, this is the more excellent way."
In this article Tony Payne is not only personally reflective and critical, he is well researched and considered. Referencing among other things Donald Dayton's Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, he shows that he has properly read and understood the historical development of the charismatic movement and the importance of this for understanding and accurately evaluating the Pentecostal emphasis against the backdrop of our common Biblical data.


But in identifying what had driven his quest for the miraculous along with the early charismatics, Payne is also honest in his assessment of how serious this departure really is in terms of the New Testament's teaching. He sees it as a failure to follow Christ's pattern of cross-shaped living, who like him must suffer before entering his glory. While we wait for Christ to bring the New Creation, our walk is actually shaped and characterised by waiting. We must patiently endure, patiently suffer, patiently struggle; all the time while we yearn for what we cannot yet have: the glory, complete freedom and victory and full possession of our final inheritance -- a redeemed universe encompassing body, mind, spirit, and world.


Read more...

View full article here.


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Tony Payne, The Briefing, Issue  #379, April 2010, A continuing story: 19th-century Methodists, charismatics and me.

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