Calvary Chapel Movement*

Biblical Doctrine or Charismatic & Ecumenical?

Aberrant Charismatic Theology

Calvary Chapels teach the errors of the Charismatic movement. Calvary teaches that the sign and revelatory gifts in the early church are still available today and should be sought and practiced. They teach their followers to seek what Charismatics call the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." According to Calvary doctrine, this baptism is a second baptism which comes upon the believer subsequent to his salvation.

Nowhere in God's Word are believers exhorted or encouraged to seek a second baptism. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite when It states, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). The Scripture states there is but one baptism. Charismatics teach that there are two. The Bible states all true Christians are fully and completely baptized with one baptism. Charismatics teach that only some are complete in their baptism.

One leader within the Calvary Chapel movement, Larry Taylor, writes in the booklet What Calvary Chapel Teaches:

In our services, we focus on a personal relationship with God through worship, prayer, and the teaching of the Word of God. We teach both expositorily and topically. We do not allow speaking in tongues loudly during services, nor prophecy while a Bible study is in progress because we do not believe that the Holy Spirit would interrupt Himself. We have specific "after-glow services" and believer's meetings when these gifts of the Spirit may be exercised (

Calvary Chapel's charismatic doctrine is often referred to as being "moderately charismatic." This is because Calvary Chapels do not teach nor believe in many of the blatant errors of the hyper-Charismatics. Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel, does not believe that a Christian can be demon-possessed or that a person under the Holy Spirit's influence should be out of control or behave in an undignified manner. He teaches against practices such as "being slain in the spirit," and barking or laughing uncontrollably. Calvary's stance thus seems sensible and orderly, but this combination of truth and error is what makes these doctrines so seductive and confusing.

Concerning Fundamentalism, Taylor writes:

Fundamentalism is that portion of Protestantism which holds to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, believing that they are divinely inspired and inerrant. Hence, the "fundamentals" of the faith are emphasized. Although the modem news media and the liberal church scorn fundamentalists as backwards and stupid, the truth is that fundamentalism has preserved the integrity of God's Word and held on to the essential doctrines of the orthodox faith ... (Ibid.)

In this instance, Taylor is correct. Fundamentalism has held and should continue to hold to the fundamentals of the faith (would be better termed "cardinal doctrines of the faith"). A day does not go by that I do not thank God for strengthening and raising up men and women who refuse to compromise the teachings of Scripture with the philosophies of the world (Col. 2:8). But teaching that speaking in tongues is for today is a direct contradiction of the so-called "fundamentals."

Taylor then defines Pentecostalism:

Pentecostalism as a modern movement grew out of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century, and spawned denominations that emphasize the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of spiritual and Scriptural gifts of the Spirit which had fallen dormant in the main line churches. (Ibid.)

Taylor points to the Azusa Street revival as the beginning of the restoration of the "Scriptural gifts of the Spirit."  However, neither the gifts of the Holy Spirit nor the Holy Spirit has been dormant for the last 1,900 years. Only the revelatory and the miraculous sign gifts "ceased" when the perfect canon of Scripture was completed in the first century (1 Cor. 13:8). The Holy Spirit has never left the church (Eph. 1:13-14; Heb. 13:5). It must be noted that the phenomena at Azusa Street could not be a true movement of the Holy Spirit, for there were spiritists, hypnotists, and many unscriptural activities taking place at the Azusa Street Mission. People who were allegedly under the power of the Holy Spirit were given to fits of laughing and weeping uncontrollably. Many babbled in unintelligible gibberish. Much of the same error and unscriptural activity that took place at Azusa Street is occurring today in places such as Toronto and Pensacola.

Taylor then defines the position of the Calvary Chapel as the following:

Over the years, however, fundamentalism, while it clung to the integrity of God's Word, tended to become rigid, legalistic, and unaccepting of spiritual gifts. Similarly, Pentecostalism became enthusiastic and emotional at the expense of the teaching of God's Word. Calvary Chapel is the balance between the two. At Calvary Chapel we believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible, and we encourage their exercise, but always decently and in order, and with the primary emphasis on the Word of God which we look to as our primary rule of faith. (Ibid.)

According to Taylor, then, anyone who believes that the gifts of the foundational Apostolic Period are not for today is "rigid and legalistic." But the Bible teaches that believers are to base their beliefs on Scripture alone as opposed to experience—there is nothing "legalistic" about it. Calvary claims to be the balance between those who cling to God's Word and those who put emotionalism and experience in the place of God's Word. This is not balance. Make no mistake about it, Calvary is teaching grave error. The world teaches us to seek unity and common ground with those who have beliefs different from our own.1 God's Word teaches us to separate from unscriptural practices. John 8:32 says, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." We are not instructed to find the "balance" or the "middle ground." Jesus did not say, "know the balance, and the balance shall make you free."

Many people who attend Calvary are either confused or unaware of what Chuck Smith teaches on the issue of "tongues" being for today. The following quotes are taken from an article entitled "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit" by Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith:

Speaking in tongues is an exercise of faith that is an affront to my intellect. My intellect used to be very important to me. A straight-A average was the most important thing in the world when I was going to school, but God humbled me. I must admit it is very humbling to pray to God in tongues, for you don't understand what you are saying. I must by-pass my intellect to communicate with God in the spirit. I must trust the Holy Spirit to speak to God, instead of my intellect. I must have faith that He knows, much better than I know, what is best for me and how to petition God for it. In order to exercise my faith by speaking in tongues, I must deny that my own intellect is better able to communicate (

Chuck Smith bases his belief that one must pray in tongues, while bypassing his intellect, on Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." This is a misunderstanding and misapplication of this verse. First, it is not we who are praying or making intercession; the verse clearly states that "the Spirit itself maketh intercession." We have nothing to do with His intercession on our behalf. Second, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." This rules out speaking or groaning out loud in public or in private.  Chuck Smith teaches the same error that extreme Pentecostals and Charismatics use to justify praying in unintelligible gibberish.

Chuck Smith also believes that if an individual doubts that he is speaking in tongues because he has the ability to stop, Satan must be behind it. He writes:

The first hassle you find, the minute you start speaking in an unknown tongue, is that Satan tells you that you're just making it up. When he does you're going to stop—just like that. And then he will say, "See, you were making it up, because you can stop." That is exactly what he did to me. But Paul said, "I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with understanding." (Ibid.)

This is the same erroneous teaching that Charismatic seminars promote when training people to speak in tongues. The people giving the seminar encourage the participants to "let their voices go" and to speak out whatever syllables or gibberish is in their head. They are then told not to let the devil deceive them into thinking it is only gibberish and not a genuine Holy Spirit-given "prayer language." How can such faulty teaching be reconciled with what is clearly stated in God's Word, which says, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1 Cor. 14:33)?

No one needed to teach the apostles how to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost. They did not speak gibberish but, instead, known languages understood both by them as well as those hearing them. They spoke intelligible languages as the "Holy Ghost gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4-11). The apostles had no reason to doubt that this was an act of God. Faith is reasonable, and we must never "bypass" the mind that God has given us.

When the Pentecostal movement began at Azusa Street, a clear and definite difference existed between the emotionally driven Pentecostal and the sober Bible-believing Fundamentalist. Hyper-Pentecostals were considered "extremists" and part of the "lunatic fringe." But this is no longer true today. The Fundamentalist is now the one who is considered divisive, extreme, and unloving while the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are considered loving and tolerant. What has caused this dramatic reversal? Though many factors exist, the primary reason is that the vast majority of churches have gradually compromised. Doctrinal issues have been clouded because church leaders fail to practice Biblical separation from those who promote these unscriptural doctrines. Many churches have not heeded the apostle Paul's exhortation: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).

Calvary Chapel churches have played no small part in giving the Charismatic Movement the respectability it has needed to thrive and flourish. Calvary Chapel, by taking a so-called moderate or "balanced" stand on extrabiblical revelation, such as prophecy and tongues, has made what was once considered extreme and unacceptable now appear to be moderate and credible.

Fellowshipping with Compromisers

Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, Chuck Missler and many other well-known leaders of the Calvary Chapel movement often appear on the hyper-Charismatic Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). By appearing on TBN, these men, by association (2 John 9-11), actually endorse TBN's many programs that con money from their faithful viewers. The manipulative and blatantly unscriptural practices of TBN to raise money are almost beyond belief. Promising those who send money 100 to 1,000-fold returns on their "seed faith" offerings is only one of the many deceptions TBN uses to fleece the flock, yet Chuck Smith and Chuck Missler hosted the "Praise the Lord" broadcast just this past year (2000). 

Chuck Smith opposes such unscriptural practices, but then he appears on TBN. His compromise has a huge impact on those who attend the various Calvary Chapel churches and who identify strongly with him, for it implies that this network and its blasphemous "word-faith" teachings have his stamp of approval. After all, if the gifts of miracles, tongues, and prophecy are for today, who would dare question or judge TBN's ministry? Galatians 5:9 makes it clear that only "a little leaven [bad doctrine] leaveneth the whole lump." TBN has much more than a little leaven. Chuck Smith warns people about unscrupulous televangelists on his various radio ministries, but he rarely names the people or programs against whom he is speaking. An overseer of the church of God has an obligation to warn other believers of unscriptural and ungodly practices. How can church leaders warn God's people if they remain silent for the most part and go so far as to participate with and, thereby, endorse those who promote unscriptural teachings for profit?

Calvary teaches that the doctrines on spiritual gifts were "side issues" and that these issues should not divide the body. Calvary has a built-in philosophy for compromise and toleration of questionable doctrines. Notice once again what Larry Taylor writes:

When we move away from the essential doctrines to those that are less essential we risk setting barriers up in the church, something we at Calvary Chapel have no desire to do. Still, Calvary Chapel is distinct from denominational churches and other Protestant groups and people want to know what those distinctions are. That is the purpose of this little booklet (

The Scriptures do not teach that any portion of the Word of God contains doctrines that are "less essential."2 Our Lord and Savior left no room for doubt on this subject: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).


1  While we are instructed by Scripture to be of one mind, the evangelical today scoffs at the idea of true biblical unity based on complete agreement with, and submission to, God's holy Word. The only use of the word "unity" in the New Testament is found in Ephesians chapter four. It is a "unity of the Spirit" (v. 3), not of men. It is a "unity of faith" (v. 13) based on sound doctrine for which believers are to contend, not water down (Jude 3). No real spiritual unity can exist apart from doctrinal unity, and we are to "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).  [Return to Text]

2  This does not appear to me to put much of a priority on truth other than the "essentials." In fact, why run so as to win (1 Corinthians 9:24)? If you have the "essentials" down, it's no big deal if you get deceived into other areas. What kind of a warning is Colossians 2:8 then anyway? So what if you're taken in by empty deceit! You have your essentials! Eat and drink (theologically speaking), for tomorrow we all go to heaven! WHAT A LIE! One cannot categorize Bible doctrine as very essential, not so very essential, less essential, non-essential, or whatever other type of human ranking system. Differences in "Importance," yes, but there are no doctrines that are more or less essential than others. The Bible does not divide doctrine into essential and non-essential. Paul labored to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Modern evangelicalism claims that certain doctrines are "essential" and others are "non-essential," and that Christian unity revolves strictly around the essentials, while the non-essentials have no meaning in regard to fellowship. But the Bible nowhere says that doctrine can be so divided. "The faith once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) describes that body of truth delivered to us by the Lord's Apostles through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The entire body of truth is to be contended for. Timothy was to allow NO OTHER DOCTRINE to be taught (1 Timothy 1:3). There is no hint here that some Bible doctrine is essential and other doctrine is not.  [Back to Text]

Quotes from the Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, Statement of Faith, and from web sites linked from the Calvary Chapel main web page (Source: FBIS, 7/3/01):

ECUMENISM: "We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of doctrinal differences that have led to the division of the body of Christ. We believe that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is His (Agape) love, which is greater than any differences we possess and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians" (Statement of Faith, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa).

Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapels, is very ecumenical. In a 1993 book he says: "We should realize that we're all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren't any real divisions in the Body. We're all one. What a glorious day when we discover that God loves the Baptists! -- And the Presbyterians, and the Methodists, and the Catholics. We're all His and we all belong to Him. We see the whole Body of Christ, and we begin to strive together rather than striving against one another" (Smith, Answers for Today, p. 157).

Chuck Smith's ecumenism is also evident from a statement quoted in the December 1995 issue of Sojourner magazine. "Paul points out that some say, 'I'm of Paul,' while others say, 'I'm of Apollos.' He asked, 'Isn't that carnal?' But what's the difference between saying that or saying, 'I'm a Baptist,' 'I'm a Presbyterian,' 'I'm a Methodist,' 'I'm a Catholic'? I have found that the more spiritual a person becomes, the less denominational he is. We should realize that we're all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren't any real divisions in the Body. We're all one."

CHARISMATIC GIFTS IN GENERAL: "We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Scriptures are valid for today if they are exercised within the scriptural guidelines" (Statement of Faith, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa).

TONGUES: "When you're alone in your closet, when you are among believers in an after-glow prayer service, you can speak in tongues -- and you can pray to God. Why? Because nobody is going to benefit from tongues. You know who's going to benefit? Paul says only the Lord. Because nobody understands what you're saying. Only the Holy Spirit knows what you're saying" (A Raul Ries Bible study; tape #IN44-5, Acts 1:8; Calvary Chapel, West Covina, CA).

BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: "The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite occurrence, subsequent to salvation, whereby the Third Person of the Godhead comes upon the believer to anoint and energize him for Spiritual service" (Greg Laurie's web site, as linked from the Calvary Chapel main web page).  [Return to Top]

* Excerpted and/or adapted from a May-June 2001 Foundation magazine article: "Some Reflections on the Calvary Chapel Movement," by Robert W. Hurzeler.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 1/2002