Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Catholicism and Pentecostalism

One of the traditional arguments for Catholicism is the appeal to Catholic miracles. By that I’m including not only reported miracles but Catholic prophecies and apparitions.

We could discuss this on its own merits, and, indeed, I’ve had occasion to do that, but right now I’d like to make a different point.

This element of traditional, as well as popular, Catholic apologetics antedates the rise of modern Pentecostalism. But Pentecostalism goes toe-to-toe with Catholicism in this regard. Pentecostalism also lays claim to an abundance of prophecies, miracles, and visions.

Of course, someone might object that most of these claims are fraudulent. And that might well be true. But, if so, why are the miraculous claims of Pentecostalism less credible than the miraculous claims of Catholicism? If one is going to be sceptical, why not be consistently sceptical?

Of course, we could examine all their respective claims on a case-by-case basis, and, indeed, that would be prudent–although there’s too much to sort and sift. But that greatly complicates the Catholic appeal to miracles.


  1. Another parallel is that both Catholics and Pentecostals do exorcisms.

  2. Maybe there's a better argument to be made here.

    1. Non-Calvinists have miracles.
    2. Therefore, not Calvinism.

    That wins me over!

  3. Steven,

    I realize that your argument is tongue-in-cheek, but I'd also note that we have Reformed charismatics. We also have reported miracles involving John Knox and the Covenanters.

  4. I would interested in your exegesis of Romans 15:17-19.

    I have seen it both ways.

    If there is such a being as a Reformed charismatic, who expereinces the supernatural, then, I am one of those.

  5. There are Reformed charismatics.

  6. Speaking of Catholicism and the Charismatics, I saw a Catholic church in my area that has a "charismatic Mass." Most Catholic Masses are non-Charismatic.

    If the Charismatic Mass has some aspect of the Holy Spirit that that the non-Charismatic Mass does not have, shouldn't the local bishop be encouraging everyone to attend?

    If not, shouldn't he be putting it out of business?

  7. Previous comment was by Steve Jackson

  8. Steve Hays has a doppleganger now. Or maybe Hays is the doppleganger? We won't know until we find out which one has a goatee.

  9. Here are two (of many) places where Steve addresses the compatibility of Calvinism and continuationism (as opposed to cessationism).

    I post some comments since I'm also Calvinistic and continuationist (I would even accept the term "Charismatic" with a capital "C" despite the negative connotations). :)

  10. Steve,
    What do you say about those Reformed guys who define Reformed a la 3FU, and the Westminster Standards? Do you think they're too narrow?

  11. Javier,

    I don't know if you're asking a general question, or a question specific to the charismatic issue.

    i) There is a strand of charismatic theology in Reformed tradition. Calvin refers to God raising up new prophets and apostles. Of course, we can debate what he meant by that.

    Two of the leading Westminster Divines (Rutherford, Gillespie) make similar statements.

    ii) Miracles were reported in connection with Knox and the Covenanters, as well as Spurgeon.

    iii) Conversely, when the WCF identifies the pope as the Antichrist, and uses prooftexts about "lying wonders," that's a kind of charismata from the dark side.

    iv) Of course, what ultimately matters is not what is traditional, but what is true. Either things like this happen or they don't. Tradition can't be prescriptive about reality.

    v) The Reformed creeds and confessions are fine as far as they go. But they are subject to revision and expansion.

    Even a "Confessional Calvinist" like Scott Clark has broken with the Reformed Confessions on statecraft and Gen 1 (to mention two prominent examples).

    vi) There is more to Reformed identity than Confessional identity. There is also an interpretive tradition, such as the appellate process in Presbyterianism.

    vii) Ultimately, we have to live by sola Scriptura.