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Christian History Home > News > 2002 > Timeline of the Spirit-gifted


Timeline of the Spirit-gifted
Before Moody, Finney, Edwards, and Mather came a long line of Catholic and Orthodox believers reputed to enjoy "the promise of the Father."
Chris Armstrong | posted 8/08/2008 12:33PM

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Several readers wrote in after last week's newsletter, "Do non-charismatics 'Do' Holy Spirit Baptism?" to chide me for omitting the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who have sought and taught the Spirit's empowering work in the Christian's life.

As I thought about filling that gap in this week's newsletter, it occurred to me: Why should I try to say again what has already been well said, and exceptionally well researched, by a scholar who has made the history of Holy Spirit baptism his life's work?

Stanley M. Burgess is a professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University and editor of The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 2002). That indispensable tome displays prominently on its cover an abbreviated timeline of Pentecostal prehistory.

At the Dictionary's back, Burgess presents in an absorbing 8-page chart a much fuller timeline—a highly concentrated summary of his three-volume study, The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions, Eastern Christian Traditions; and Medieval Roman Catholic and Reformation Traditions.

What follows is a sampling from that chart. As with the Spirit-seeking Protestants in last week's newsletter, none of these Catholic and Orthodox folks can be called "Pentecostal" or "charismatic"—this would be a misleading anachronism. But the career of each one speaks out for the claim that the Holy Spirit has empowered ordinary Christians through the centuries—with jaw-dropping results:

1st century


"Writers of the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas [two inspirational books used widely in the early church] witness so much charismatic activity they find it necessary to distinguish between true and false prophets. At about the same time, the writer of Pseudo-Barnabas suggests prophetic ministry is normative in the church."

2nd century


"[Christian apologist] Justin Martyr argues that God has withdrawn the Spirit of prophecy and miracles from the Jews and has transferred it to the church as proof of her continued divine favor.

Irenaeus of Lyon describes the gifts of prophecy, discernment of spirits, and exorcism in his Gallic church, and even mentions that individuals have been raised from the dead. He warns against certain false Gnostics who fabricate spiritual gifts to win favor with the naïve."

3rd century


"Origen of Alexandria says healings, exorcisms, and validating signs and wonders continue to be experienced in the church. Just as miracles and wonders added to the credibility of 1st-century apostles, so they continue to draw unbelievers into the Christian fold."

4th century


"Augustine [of Hippo], in The City of God, reports contemporary divine healings and other miracles. These he links directly to the conversion of pagans."

10th-11th centuries


"Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022), perhaps the most famous Eastern [Orthodox] charismatic Christian, reports his most intimate spiritual experiences, which include a 'baptism in the Holy Spirit' accompanied by gifts of copious tears, compunction, and visions of God as light. [Burgess provides a resume of this influential leader's life and teachings on p. 1112 of the Dictionary.]"

12th-14th centuries


"The sermons of Thomas Aquinas are frequently confirmed by miracles, and he often experiences ecstasy, especially in the last months of his life.

Bonaventure reports that Francis of Assisi, while an unskilled speaker, is empowered by the Holy Spirit while ministering. Wherever he goes, his sermons are accompanied with miracles of great power, including prophecy, casting out devils, and healing the sick. As a result, his hearers pay attention to what he says 'as if an angel of the Lord was speaking.'"

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