Why Calvinists Need Their Charismatic Brothers and Why Charismatics Need Calvinists Too


White-haired, suit-wearing Presbyterian lawyers don’t typically garner the fandom of teenagers, but Mr. Z did. Each week dozens of us would gather in his home. He would feed us and let us trash his house, watch movies, and play basketball. Each gathering would culminate in a Bible study. I met Mr. Z in high school because I was invited to his home for just such a study. For a year I kept coming back. This unlikely mentor taught us Ephesians. Verse by verse, he explained this beautiful book to us. His love for the Bible was infectious, and I caught it. I didn’t know it until later, but I’d fully embraced the doctrines of grace—doctrines I hold dear to this day.

As I matured, I would always go back to Ephesians. Like one of those well-worn paths beloved by hikers, Ephesians became my favorite trail to trek when I wanted to encounter the sovereign majesty of God. But something stuck out to me that I never got—something Paul prayed. He prayed that the Ephesians might know the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (1:19). No matter how hard I studied, power was never the result. Not this kind of power. Not until I met Pastor J.

Pastor J was like Mr. Z in a lot of ways. Both older guys, both wise, both godly, both with a deep love for Scripture, and both with a sharp intellect. But Pastor J had a different set of gifts. Pastor J would pray for people, and the things he prayed would actually happen. Pastor J would speak to people and say things about them no one else knew. As I got to know Pastor J, I came to understand that these were spiritual gifts. Again, my life was changed, and I embraced the miracle-working God.

These two men—one deeply Reformed, one powerfully charismatic—personify two words that have come to describe me. I’m a Reformed charismatic. With one foot I’m firmly planted in the historic Reformed world. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, I sat under the feet of world-class professors like John Frame. Yet my other foot is planted elsewhere—in the world of the modern, global, charismatic movement. I admire the missionary zeal of the global south and east along with the spiritual power and miracle-producing faith they embody. Yes, it’s an odd space in the church world to occupy.

After graduating college and getting married, my wife and I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be part of a church-planting team. For five years we labored alongside some amazing people, and in that time I came to be exceedingly grateful for Mr. Z and Pastor J. I prayed for people, and miracles happened. The Spirit would move through my words, and people would come to faith. I would teach the gospel, adorned with all the doctrines of grace and watch my students cherish these doctrines the way I did when they were shown to me years earlier in Mr. Z’s house. It was exhilarating and illuminating. Then I moved to Boston to plant another church. Again, the mingled power of the doctrines of grace and the gifts of grace produced the fruits of grace that finally convinced me: these worlds, Reformed and charismatic, need each other.

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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Adam Mabry