All four Church of the Open Door, San Rafael pastors summoned me to the church office that spring day in 1991, dismayed by my growing renunciation of Charismatic theology. One of them, who had been particularly close to me in the early 80’s, was bewildered by my change of heart. He opened the conversation by asking point-blank what had happened.
I explained that my journey began shortly after Bob Winter died. Over the next few months, his mother called me several times to talk about Bob, and how the Lord was comforting her through her bereavement. In one conversation, she told me that Jesus had given her a vision that He now employed her son in heaven as an intercessor for people living with AIDS. Her vision was confirmed, she added, by an acquaintance of hers who independently experienced the “exact same” vision.
Bob’s death had left me devastated.As a result, his mom’s vision offered me a measure of comfort as I grieved. It offered a sense of purpose to a death that otherwise held no meaning that I could understand. So I embraced it, eager for its consolation.
I continued serving with Love In Action, and its AIDS support group, frequently praying for those who had tested positive for HIV. One night, while praying with particular intensity, I found myself praying to my deceased friend as if, because the visions cast him in the role of an intercessor for those with HIV, he was some sort of intermediary between me and the Lord.
Shocked to catch myself praying to anyone but the Lord, I stopped and asked His forgiveness. I realized that my misdirected prayer amounted to necromancy! Deuteronomy 18:10-12 clearly prohibits this practice, so my actions horrified me. I instantly repented, and have never again prayed to any being except the Lord.
My sin of praying to a dead person caused me to begin questioning the assumptions of the Charismatic movement, beginning with visions and prophetic utterances. I began searching the Bible and reading John MacArthur’s book, Charismatic Chaos. As I examined MacArthur’s analysis of the passages that Charismatics commonly use to defend their practices, I could better understand their proper contexts.
I stopped my charade of “praying in tongues,” for example, because it in no way resembled the gift of tongues that the Holy Spirit bestowed at Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-11). And, just as MacArthur’s book noted, I saw that the miraculous gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing diminished as the church grew. My studies convinced me that God had intended those gifts only for the Apostolic Age.
The pastors listened to my defense, but uniformly disagreed with my conclusions. They made a few attempts to reason with me, mostly by misapplying Bible verses and appealing to personal experiences. When they saw my resolve to walk away from Charismatic theology, however, they realized that I couldn’t be swayed. Although they’d never heard of anyone going from Charismatic to non-Charismatic, they couldn’t help appreciating that I’d based my position on God’s Word.
We decided that I would continue as a member of Church of the Open Door as long as I held my beliefs without causing division.
With that, I continued my journey away from Charismatic teaching, learning to evaluate my subjective experiences by Scripture rather than forcing patch-work fragments of Bible verses (in conveniently selected versions) to lend credibility to my experiences. Since that meeting with the pastors, the Lord has solidified my stance on this issue, and He’s shown Himself faithful to increase my understanding of His Word.