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.