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(Supporting article)

The Born Again/ Charismatic Movement

A brief explanation of the Movement
and its relevance to modern Christianity
.

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1.    INTRODUCTION

Firstly, I believe that the much-used term “Born Again Christian” is misunderstood by many people. It primarily refers to the spiritual rebirth that Jesus referred to in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, with the key phrase being, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Jesus went on to explain that this process included being born of water and Spirit. It is understood that the first step refers to physical baptism – that is, being dunked in water to symbolically cleanse away sins of the past. The second step is normally accepted to mean baptism through the Holy Spirit.

Although Jesus statements on being born again, including the process of baptism, may mean different things to various Christian denominations, it has become a critical focus for some Pentecostal Born Again churches.

The Born Again/ Charismatic movement is one of the fastest growing areas of the greater Christian Church.  And there is a very good reason. I was a staunch atheist myself for many years. I am a thinker, not a dreamer, and I can say that it did take a lot of convincing for me to change my mind. I eventually came to having very solid belief in Gods existence. And my experiences within the movement played a role in me coming to that position. I am not exaggerating when I write that I witnessed, indeed experienced, awesome stuff during that time. Some of these events are documented in the article God within the Church” (begin reading at Heading 4).

This particular article provides a summary of theological views of what it takes to be born again, and some understanding of the Born Again/ Charismatic movement itself. It also discusses the belief building events that do occur in this area of the Christian Church.

If you just want to get to the nitty gritty of the movement itself just start reading at Heading 4 within this article.

If you have limited knowledge of Christianity, but want to understand this article within that context, it may be best to  first read the Lead Article of the websites final section, Christianity explained.

2.    WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BORN AGAIN

The quotes above in the intro, relating to being born again, refer to baptism with water and Spirit. Whilst baptism is accepted as a requirement for being born again, there is more to be considered.

Firstly, within that same chapter in the Gospel of John mentioned above, we are further told, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Here we are also introduced to the need to believe in Jesus existence so as to gain eternal life.

The Gospel of John, more than any other gospel, explains how Jesus was and still is God, i.e. the divine creator who wants a personal relationship with each and everyone of us. Indeed it begins by highlighting that God and Jesus are one and the same. So we are actually being asked in ‘John to believe in a God who lived amongst us as a human being. (You may like to read the brief article, The Holy Trinity where I have tried to explain how Jesus, the person, actually relates to Gods being.)

To gain a deeper understanding of these key elements of Christian faith, we can turn to Pauls epistles (letters) at the back of the Bible for clarity on what these passages, from John, mean in a theological sense.

Paul reinforces Johns gospel by stating in Romans 10:9 that Jesus is Lord and if you believe that in your heart then, you will be saved. In 1Coronthians 15:3, Paul highlights that Christ died for our sins. And in Colossians 1:15-20, Paul made it clear again that Jesus was the Lord God himself. Referring to Jesus, he stated: For by him all things were created and He is before all things, and in him all things hold together and For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him

Again, Paul explained how God in the form of Jesus made peace for us through his blood, shed on the cross. Thus Jesus was our saviour (saved us from eternal death); he died to pay for our wrongdoings/ sins. Even though we all fall short of perfection due to sin and thereby have no place in Heaven, Jesus has cleaned the slate for us through his painful physical death, thereby clearing the way for our eternal life.

Another expectation of preparation for being born again, that needs to be stated, is repentance: changing our lives by turning away from sin (wrongdoing) in life. it is clear in fact that we have been asked in the Bible to try very hard to live good sin free lives. As St Peter put it in Acts 2:38, Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The fundamental Christian belief though, that we need to hold above all others, is that Jesus is our Lord and saviour.

3.    HOW CAN WE ACTUALLY BE BORN AGAIN?

While many requirements for being born again are agreed upon through the greater Christian Church, others are not.

Almost all Christian denominations, and this includes traditional/ mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Pentecostals, consider that the prime need to be born again thereby being saved from death (gaining entry to heaven after physical death) is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. That critical requirement is done and dusted as far as this article is concerned. It has to be met, within  Christianity, if one wishes to be saved. The Bible is pretty clear on that!

Secondly, during the born again process, we commit to turning our backs on our old sinful ways (wrongdoing).

Next, we look to the act of baptism as raised in that verse (from the Gospel of John), mentioned in the introduction. The Bible indicates that it is also an important step. Indeed, almost all Christians accept that the dual baptism of water and Spirit is required, as well as making that primary commitment (Jesus as Lord and Saviour) of course.

And, by and large, all Christian denominations agree about what water baptism entails  ... well kind of.  But when it comes to Spirit baptism there is some disagreement on how it should (or must) happen.

Unfortunately, the Bible does not clearly explain what is actually meant by Spirit baptism in that verse from the Gospel of John. I can say that the background to Jesus words in the gospel (he is actually talking to a Judaic religious leader who is more interested in rules than spiritual relationships) does give a hint. But anyway, there are two major interpretations of Spirit baptism.

Traditional/ mainline Protestant and Catholic churches have long considered that Spiritual baptism occurs, through Gods grace, at the time of baptism with water. In many of these churches, water baptism is available to the individual from early childhood. Spiritual growth of the baptised individual, then gradually occurs through: learning from the Bible about Gods love for us, what is expected of us, what we are offered;  applying that knowledge to everyday life. Eventually, as a result, the individual comes to commit to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They are considered at that stage to be born again.

Others, and this applies to many evangelical Protestant churches, only permit adolescents and adults to be baptised after they have turned away from known wrongdoing (sin) and are actually ready to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. At that point, they are born again. Individuals often declare that a sense of heightened emotions are experienced during the experience.

But still other Christians, particularly from the Pentecostal churches consider that baptism in the Spirit only comes through a strongly felt conversion experience.

Baptism with water in these churches is again reserved for adolescents and adults ready to repent of their old sins in life and completely commit to the Lord. After water baptism, and often within the same ceremony, they are baptised in the Spirit, literally. A deep religious experience, provided by the Spirit, normally follows for those baptised in this way. It is at that point they are considered to have been born again and, as a result, saved.

Therefore, many people within the original Born Again movement associate the term, Born Again with a significant experience which they believe is a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit (often abbreviated to the Spirit).

In summary, the big difference between traditional churches and those Pentecostal churches is in that area of Spirit baptism. The religious experience at the heart of Pentecostalism (i.e. as in the Spiritual baptism described above) is the result of what is commonly termed an infilling or anointing.

4.    BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Before going on further, let us look at what the actual experience of infilling or anointing; being touched by the Holy Spirit, is all about.

Almost all those within the movement (even those in so called Charismatic groups within evangelical Protestant,  traditional/ mainline Protestant and Catholic churches) expect to dramatically experience the Holy Spirit through this experience of infilling or anointing, i.e. being filled with the Spirit, at least once if not regularly.

The term infillingis accurate in a sense because that is actually what the experience feels like. Often, the Holy Spirit is requested to spiritually engage with those in fellowship in church services. In other churches, someone who has already been previously filled with the Spirit themself, lays their hand on others who desire to be filled. In either case, the Spirit then floods the bodies of the people ready and expecting the experience. Often, but certainly not always, recipients fall to the floor during the ecstatic experience. The term for this is, slain in the Spirit. 

From my experience, infilling can provide a massive sensation – something that will never be forgotten! However, I consider that what each of us experiences relates to our individual personalities. Because I am normally ready and open to the max, I often receive full-blown experiences that  can bowl me over. I have friends and acquaintances, who are more cautious by nature, who merely feel a sense of profound peace at the time. This is true of my wife.

Normally, the experience occurs in the moment – it just happens right there, in the church service or gathering. As I have alluded, there are two necessary elements: the recipient must be ready and open to the experience; the Holy Spirit must initiate it. It can, as I have already written, occur again and again to the same individuals, i.e. if they regularly offer themselves to it and the Spirit is willing.

Now the bit that is really hard to understand and accept for non-believers, is that the Spirit often passes spiritual gifts to people as they experience these infillings/ anointings; are touched by the Spirit. The gifts are more fully explained later in this article. It is the manifestation of these gifts, in particular speaking in tongues, that demonstrates that the Spirit has blessed someone in this way.  And some Pentecostal churches only accept that a person has been baptised in the Spirit appropriately and thereby have been saved if ... and only if ... they can speak in tongues. This is a very strong view based on the odd verse, when so many others related to the subject (notably 1 Corinthians 12 mentioned above) do not indicate this significance. Thankfully, to my mind, this old Pentecostal church view is gradually fading out.

Infilling may even occur during subsequent private prayer long after the Spirits blessing was requested in church. It can even happen the next day after invocation, or even on the way home afterwards. Sometimes infilling regularly occurs spontaneously with so called Born Agains/ Charismatics, e.g. in times of regular deep and private personal prayer.

So, now after explaining a bit about the experience of being Spirit filled, anointed or touched, (and the differences between the theology of various churches on the subject) let us see how the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement evolved.

5.    HISTORY OF THE BORN AGAIN/ CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT

So when did all this Born Again stuff begin? There had been Holy Spirit based revivals in Europe during earlier centuries, but the current movement had its foundations laid during the late 1800s within Great Britain and the USA. There is no one person credited with the creation of the movement however. It first became a global focal point during 1906 at what is known as the Holy Spirit revival at Azusa Street, Los Angeles. A black, visually impaired preacher, William Seymour, who was the son of slaves, attracted attention to the movement that was to impact the world. This was to be the commencement of the Pentecostal church which now includes a quarter of all worldwide Christians.

At the time, local Press reported the fervour of events occurring there and people were drawn to it from all over the world. I understand that services were held on a daily basis for some three years. Race, gender or nationality had no bearing on participants and new groups started and spread through the USA and obviously out into the rest of the world.

It was not until the 1960s though, as mentioned above, that the Pentecostal churches really took off internationally. It was not long before the traditional/ mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches began to embrace the phenomenon with similar services within what is termed Charismatic congregations. Take note that only a minority of these churches,  at this time, offer these services. But if we look, then we can certainly find them!

Essentially, because the Protestant and Catholic churches had a differing theological view of the experience of infilling/ anointing within the Pentecostal churches, they looked to that term, Charismatic. Like myself, these denominations do not accept that only people who have had an anointing (infilling) will be saved from eternal death. Nor do they accept that only those Christians who have spoken in tongues will be saved!

So, why call the experience Charismatic”? Well ... firstly the Bibles New Testament (the Jesus bits) was written in Greek. The Greek word on which it is based, "charismata" roughly translates to grace gift. In effect, the title Charismatic used by Protestants and Catholics basically relates to spiritual gifts that are given to Christians during infilling/ anointing / touching by the Holy Spirit.

6.    GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE

As already explained, those people within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement, are often given specific spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit during Spirit baptism/ infilling/ anointing/ touching. These are the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ referred to in St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12]. The receipt of gifts, and their intended use for the wider Church community, are explained within that verse. And it is the use, or physical manifestation, of these spiritual gifts that offers us the chance to actually witness God at work in a tangible way. (And I do not use the word tangible lightly.)

Spiritual gifts can include the ability to heal the sick, sometimes miraculously, pass on prophesies and other types of advice and guidance directly from God to other people, and to speak in tongues.

The history of tongues dates back to the day of Pentecost itself, when Jesus disciples were miraculously given the ability, by the Holy Spirit, to speak in the foreign languages of those strangers who had gathered there. I cannot say I have seen it myself, but I have heard of instances where modern day Christians who were witnessing for Jesus, without knowledge of languages other than their own, also spoke fluently to strangers in their own foreign tongues. But another type of  tongues (glossolalia) is much more common in the movement. Glossolalia is a manner of speaking in utterances that are unintelligible to the average person.

I have mentioned only the most commonly witnessed gifts here but there are many others. I have provided examples of the manifestation of gifts that I have experienced and witnessed in the article God within the Church. I am an analytical kind of dude, as I have already explained, and these events really did spin me out when I was first exposed to them. Even when cautiously and thoughtfully examined, I believe they still point to a spiritual cause rather than anything physical or even emotional. Anyway, please have a look at the contents under Heading 4 Experiencing the Holy Spirits Presence in the article mentioned above.

You may not see, let us say, powerful miracles at the first service you attend in a church within the movement. The prevalence of these extreme events tends to run in cycles within individual churches and countries for that matter. But attendance should at least give you regular exposure to events, which are not logically explainable – supernatural events that were treated as matter of fact in the early Christian Church. These events, when genuine, greatly assist in building or maintaining belief and faith. And again that is what this website is all about!

7.    CONCLUSION

This article may sound like a sales pitch for the Born Again/ Charismatic  movement to some readers, but I started out on my path of Christian faith in a traditional Protestant church and have spent my last fifteen years of worship almost exclusively in that area of the greater Church. So, I have no vested interests at all. Despite having experienced a number of infillings/ anointings; the touch of the Spirit, I personally don’t believe that I am any more a born again than other Christians who have been baptised/ christened and committed themselves to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, i.e. whether they have received an infilling/ anointing or not; spoken in tongues or not. It is just that I think some time spent in the Born Again/ Charismatic movement, although not mandatory, is worthwhile in anyone’s journey of faith.

As previously stated and repeated, demonstrations of Gods presence within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement are covered more fully in the article, God within the Church” in this section of the website. The movement is also discussed within the context of the greater Christian Church in that article.

The article also offers advice on how to select a church that is appropriate to our individual personalities and for our stages of Christian development, e.g. beginners as contrasted to more experienced Christians. It also provides an alert about contrived behaviour (i.e. faking it) that may be witnessed occasionally in some Born Again congregations. This, none-the-less, does not detract from my positive view on the value of the Born Again/ Charismatic movement within modern Christianity. Most of these churches are not faking, trust me!

I certainly hope that this website can also answer many more questions that you may have on the Christian religion. The site has three major sections. This section provides guidance on how we can prove for ourselves that God does exist by learning how to recognise his presence within our everyday lives as well as the Church of course.  Another section presents God as a believable concept, and it includes a broad, religiously tolerant presentation on God’s being that is titled, “So, what is God?.The final section of the website explains the simple basis of Christianity.





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