Charismatic Movement

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The Charismatic Movement is a movement, particularly among Evangelical Protestants, that proposes it experiences a frequent and particularly strong "outpouring of the gifts" of the Holy Spirit. This often takes the form of "glossolalia" - speaking in incomprehensible tongues, but can also include frequent claims of healings and visions. These are often introduced into Charismatic services through moments specially designated for improvisation. Another common characteristic of the Charismatic movement is a belief that the Second Coming is imminent and will occur within a matter of years.


Beliefs that the End Times will arrive in a matter of years go back among Evangelicals to the 19th century, when the Protestant "Second Advent" movement predicted that the Second Coming would occur in 1843-1844. The consequent failure of this prophecy led the Adventist Ellen White to reinterpret 1844 as the date when Christ entered into the most holy place of His heavenly sanctuary. She claimed to receive this interpretation and other "prophecies" from the Holy Spirit.

The foundation of the Charismatic movement is commonly dated to 1901 with the creation of modern Protestant Pentecostalism. The Pentecostals chose their name because they proposed that they were reenacting the Pentecost, when the apostles spoke in foreign national languages by the Holy Spirit's power. In modern Pentecostalism, however, the "tongues" spoken are not national languages but are instead a stream of incomprehensible phonetics.

In the late 1960's, the Charismatic movement passed into the Roman Catholic Church, where it is also called Neo-Pentecostalism.

Orthodox Responses

Two of the main critical works produced in the Orthodox Church to respond to the growth of Charismaticism were Fr. John Morris' 1984 book The Charismatic Movement: An Orthodox Evaluation and Fr. Seraphim Rose's 1975 book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, wherein he included a chapter "The Charismatic Revival as a Sign of the Times".

Orthodox theologians answer the Charismatics' claims that they experience a Charismatic "renewal" of gifts and practices that were found in the early Church by stating that the Holy Spirit never left the Orthodox Church. The theologians also distinguish beliefs and practices in the early Church from those of Charismatics.

For example, St. Paul wrote: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."(1 Thess. 4:15-17) He also wrote that God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”(Heb. 1:2) St. Theophan the Recluse, however, noted that Paul denied knowledge of a date for the world’s end and thus doubted that Paul was absolutely certain that it would come in his lifetime.[1] ("Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." 1 Th 5:1-4)

There are three common alternate explanations among Orthodox for the Charismatics' glossolalia and other claimed "gifts of the Spirit":

  • (1) That the gifts could be from God, but that Charismatics often treat them carelessly without using discernment, reverence, meekness, or preparation through asceticism and acts of virtue.[2]
  • (2) The supposed gifts like glossolalia could be mental delusions, fancies, or "prelest", rather than actual miracles, like St. Seraphim of Sarov warned against. [3]
  • (3) Fr. Seraphim Rose proposed that the glossolalia might be directed by demons. [4]

While Charismatics perceive the "gifts of the spirit" as ongoing and perhaps weekly in their assemblies, Church Fathers like St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine taught that the Spirit's gifts declined in frequency with the end of the Apostolic era in the 2nd century AD. St. Augustine commented:

In the earliest times “the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spake with tongues”(paraphrasing Acts 2:4) which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” These were signs adapted to the time. For it was fitting that there be this sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That was done for a sign, and it passed away.

Charismatic Movement in Orthodox Churches

As Fr. Timothy Cremeens explained in his dissertation "Marginalized Voices", "the Charismatic Movement's effect upon the Eastern Orthodox Churches was negligible" in comparison to its effect on other Churches.[5]

Its main figure in the Orthodox Church was Archmandrite Eusebius Stephanou, who created the Brotherhood of St. Symeon the New Theologian in the 1960's as part of this movement. This eventually led to the creation of the Orthodox Christian Laity organization, which takes St. Symeon the New Theologian as its patron and is dedicated to "Orthodox Education and Spiritual Renewal"[6].

In 1978-1988, the Service Committee for Orthodox Charismatic Renewal published a newsletter, Theosis, edited by Jeremy Munk.[7] The Service Committee was founded by V. Rev. Boris Zabrodsky, who is currently the pastor at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Homewood, Il., which holds healing services after the Divine Liturgy.[8]

The only known Charismatic organization in Orthodox Churches in Europe is the Army of the Lord ("Oastea Domnului") in Romania.

Further Reading

  • Spencer Estabrooks, A Continuing Pentecost: The Experience of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Christianity, Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity, available at:
  • Fr. John Morris' 1984 book The Charismatic Movement: An Orthodox Evaluation
  • Hal Smith, Modern Charismatic Movement Similar to Charismaticism in the Early Church?, 2015, Ancient Faith Blog, available at:


  1. Theophan the Recluse, quoted in “Tolkovanie Svyatogo Pisaniya,”
  2. Fr. Paisius, cited in: "Modern Charismatic Movement Similar to Charismaticism in the Early Church?", 2015, available at:
  3. St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers,”
  4. Hieromonk Seraphim Rose of Platina, "Charismatic Revival As a Sign of the Times", available at:
  5. Abstract, Fr. Timothy Cremeens, Marginalized voices: The history of the charismatic movement in the Orthodox Church in North America 1968-1993, 2011,
  6. Our Mission", Orthodox Christian Laity,
  7. "Theosis: Charismatic Renewal in the Orthodox Church, Articles from Theosis Newsletter and Other Links", available at:
  8. "Calendar of Events", St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Homewood, Il.,