Is the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement (made up of those who believe that miracles, signs and wonders are still for today) a recent phenomenon within the last 100 years? Dr. Eddie Hyatt doesn’t think so.
To quote his book site, “2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity offers convincing evidence that the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are rooted in the two-thousand-year history of the church.”
The problem I’ve found with church history books is that most are written by Cessationists, so these inconvenient facts are often left out, which makes Hyatt’s book (first published in 2002) a refreshing scholarly resource.
I agree with Vinson Synan, Dean of the School of Divinity Regent University, who said in the foreword, “Hyatt’s work is another in a stream of scholarly works that are driving nails in the coffin of the Warfield theory of the cessation of miraculous signs and wonders after the end of the apostolic age.”
I wrote a post last year along these lines here:
Hyatt is no novice when it comes to church history. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Regent University where he majored in church history and spiritual renewal. He also holds the Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Pentecostal-Charismatic Studies from Oral Roberts University. Eddie has lectured on revival, church history and various Biblical themes in churches, conferences and some of the major educational institutions in the world today. These include Oxford University in England, Oral Roberts University, Zion Bible College, Celebration Bible College, and Christ For the Nations Institute.
Hyatt documents revival/renewal movements from the Day of Pentecost to the present time and analyzes their impact on the larger Christian community. It’s fully annotated with quotes from original and secondary documents that clearly refutes the idea that supernatural signs and wonders and healing ended with the apostles.
The book is laid out in eight parts. Each part is a segment in church history, giving authoritative documentation and interesting insights. Hyatt clearly shows that there is an unbroken succession of believers who walked in the power of the Spirit with supernatural signs and wonders in each period until today.
Here are a few quotes from the book that really tell it all (brackets, parentheses and bold-type added for clarity and emphasis):
“The church of the first century was a charismatic church…It was this dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit in the personal, individual lives of the believers and in the corporate life of the church, rather than the organizational structure, that provided the basis for its life, community and mission.” (loc.103)
“Justin [Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165)] was obviously familiar with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. In His “Dialogue With Trypho” he writes, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time”….In another work called “The Second Apology of Justin,” he speaks of the ability of Christians in his day to cast out demons and minister healing” (loc.133)
“Tertullian (A.D. 160-240), in “Against Marcion”…reveals both his acquaintance with speaking in tongues and his belief that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were a sign of orthodoxy.” (loc.161)
Just in case you’re thinking that those guys were before the completion of the Bible (a reason why some argue that the gifts of the Spirit aren’t for today), here is some more inconvenient history:
“Athanasius (A.D. 295-373), known as the Father of Orthodoxy, was bishop of Alexandria in Eqypt. His life actually spanned both sides of the Council of Nicea (about the time the New Testament was canonized in its final form)…his writings reveal no knowledge of a theory that these gifts [of the Spirit] were to cease, nor that they were reserved a select, saintly few.” (loc. 372 and 386)
“Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604)…In his “Dialogues,” Gregory records many miracles of which he had personal knowledge, including the raising of the dead.” (loc.446)
“Miracles accompanied the arrival of the Gospel to Great Britain in the late sixth and early seventh centuries.” (loc.505)
[Hildegard of Bingen (A.D. 1098-1179)] “…had no formula but seemed to rely on the inner leading of the Holy Spirit….Contemporaries reported that “scarcely a sick person came to her without being healed.” (loc.547)
“Everywhere he preached [Vincent of Ferrier (A.D.1330-1419)], countless conversions and remarkable miracles were reported. Butler reports that some fainted or, as would say today, fell under the power.” (loc.574)
Hyatt documents the real reason why the charismatic gifts diminished:
“Professor James L. Ash, Jr. says that virtually all historians of Christianity agree that the institutionalism of the early church was accompanied by the demise of the charismatic gifts.” (loc. 232)
“History demonstrates that the institutional trend…culminating in the ecclesiasticism of the medieval Roman Catholic Church and in its monarchical bishop….meant that spontaneous manifestations of the Holy Spirit became less and less desirable, especially by those in authority.” (loc.245)
“It is for this reason that Ash, in answer to the popular notion that the charismatic gifts were replaced by the New Testament Canon, declares,“The bishops, not the Canon, expelled prophecy.” (loc. 249)
This notion that the gifts ceased with the apostles (or canonization of the Bible) is a well-constructed myth. If anything hindered the charismatic gifts and miracles, it was the Spirit-suffocating religion of men, not God.
I will end with one more quote from the book site:
“Those who identify with these movements will be affirmed in the experience of the Holy Spirit and will gain a new respect and appreciation for the movement of which they are a part. Those outside the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements will also benefit by reading this volume in that they will gain an understanding of this movement that Harvard professor Dr. Harvey Cox says is “reshaping religion in the 21st century.”
I have found the book to be a valuable historical resource that belongs in the library of any serious student of revival.