Dr. Walter Kaiser’s “Reformed” Pneumatology sounding “Charismatic”

Posted: March 2, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Pneumatology, Theology
Tags: , , , ,

In the book, “Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views”, Dr. Walter Kaiser is tapped to present the “Reformed” position. I was delighted at his thoughts and share the following:

Kaiser (2004:35) makes a helpful concession relating to the various works of the Spirit, “We agree that Spirit baptism is a separate work of the Holy Spirit from the fruit of the Spirit or the filling of the Spirit.”

Kaiser, however, is not advocating a classical Pentecostal view, but instead sees Spirit baptism as that work of regeneration which places us within the body of Christ. The filling of the Spirit is better rendered as fillings, for Kaiser agrees with Stott and Carson in suggesting that there are many subsequent fillings in the Christian life. As for the “fruit of the Spirit”, Kaiser understands this as the work of sanctification. In some sense, Kaiser is acknowledging that the Spirit works distinctly in ways similar to Wesleyan and Pentecostal emphases, but sees all proceeding from Spirit baptism as a one-time work. Kaiser then makes theological distinctions between regeneration, sanctification, and empowering without viewing these necessarily as distinct one-time works in the life of the believer, with the exception of Spirit baptism, which he likens to regeneration.

Kaiser (2004:36), not representative of all “Reformed” theologians, makes it clear that he doesn’t wish to be considered a “cessationist” in regards to the charismata, “Nothing we have written ought to lead the reader to conclude that this writer therefore takes a cessationist point of view with regards to the supernatural gifts.”

Kaiser’s position is reflective of how Evangelicalism, as represented in Reformed circles, thought not embracing the “charismatic” title, has certainly made clear they don’t embrace the “cessationist” position. This position in-between cessationism and charismatic is sometimes called “open but cautious”. I have also heard some refer to themselves as “weak cessationists” or “weak continuationists”. I find that the theology is much the same on paper, but there are differences in what exactly the gifts look like and whether they should be pursued in the context of congregational worship. I also find an increasingly large number of folks who respond to tongues with the “seek not, forbid not” position. Such a position is certainly within the middle of both cessationism and charismatic. They are not “charismatic” in that they don’t encourage people to necessarily seek and desire the gifts, and they are not cessationist in that they feel it necessary to discourage people from exercising Spiritual gifts.

Kaiser (2004:37) also sounds very “charismatic” in his understanding of a distinct “empowering” work of the Spirit for specific tasks of ministry, “However, it continued to be possible for all believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for specific tasks at specific times.”

I am encouraged that Kaiser represents a “Reformed” understanding of the Spirit that sounds very analogous to my own “Reformed” understanding of the Spirit’s ministry within the New Covenant.


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