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Charismatic Tradition and Covenant Path Marking

posted by xscot mcknight

This post builds on my previous posts, starting with the post on Legalism by any other name.

Richard Foster sketches the Charismatic tradition, the third “theory” of the Christian life, by looking at St Francis, the Apostle Paul, and William Joseph Seymour whose story today has been nearly forgotten but who had a major influence on the charismatic movement in the USA. Foster sees defining characteristics in the charismata (gifts), building in love, and the latter with four characteristics: responsibility, limitation, esteeming others, and unity within diversity. The strengths include a correction of the impulse to domesticate God, rebuking our anemic practices, spiritual growth, empowerment. And its potential pitfalls include trivialization, rejecting the rational, divorcing gifts from fruit, speculative end-time scenarios.

Again, let us clarify what covenant path marking is about: it is the attempt to measure or quantify what it means to be faithful to the covenant (as we interpret it) and to use that measure in judgment of self and others. I prefer this to legalism because legalism is always bad, and easy to use, but covenant path marking enables us to look at the function of all these actions we use to judge and see that they are both good and bad, good because they can be expressions of covenant faithfulness but bad when they are used to judge others and bad when they become the goal of Christian existence.

But, there is here too a danger with covenant path marking. Whenever manifestations of the gifts — tongues, healing, words of prophecy — become the criterion of judgment of self and others, then we are dealing with covenant path marking. Whenever we judge ourselves as either “making the grade” or “not making the grade” because we do or do not manifest the gifts, or whenever we judge others on the same basis, then we have turned a means of grace and edification into an end or a manifestation of the Spirit into the Spirit itself.



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Michael Mangold

posted June 13, 2005 at 10:31 am


We see severe covenant path marking abuse in the Evangelical tradition. For example, that speaking in tongues is the ONLY proof of salvation. And of course, such a position is always backed up by Scripture!Another criterion Evangelicals use for salvation is “dates” as in “on what date were you saved?” Oh, if you don’t come up with a date immediately, you are not saved. These criteria are merely means of exclusion and exclusion is a Jesus no-no!



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John Frye

posted June 13, 2005 at 11:16 am


Without stirring the pot too much on this topic, I found Greg Boyd’s REPENTING OF RELIGION: TURNING FROM JUDGMENT TO THE LOVE OF GOD quite thought-provoking and helpful. It is “in/out,” “good/bad(evil),” thinking that is in itself judgmental. Adam and Eve ate from “tree of the knowledge of GOOD and evil” and most evangelicals think and act if it was just from “tree of evil” that they ate. We presume to make the distinctions about what is good and evil, who’s in, who’s out. This violates grace and Jesus’ deeply inclusive lifestyle. I suspect that God’s grace is much more shocking in practice than we even know.



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glenn

posted June 16, 2005 at 3:24 pm


In regards to Michael’s comment above, perhaps it is somewhat ungenerous to equate the path marking of some (a very small few) Charismatic circles that use speaking in tongues as an evidence of salvation with the “Evangelical tradition” at large. I think it best to place the blame at the doorstep to whom the blame belongs (i.e., those few in the particular tradition that preach this) rather than at the doorstep of everyone in the neighborhood.The Evangelical tradition is not defined by the Charismatic movement.Further, I have yet to see or hear (in my admitted limited experience) Evangelicals question and use the date of one’s conversion as an evidence of his or her salvation, or lack thereof.These seem to be exaggerated characterizations of Evangelicals. Really, I don’t think they’re that bad :)



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