Home > 2 Peter, Bible Study, quotes, S. Lewis Johnson, Sermon illustrations > The Charismatic Movement, A Potemkin Village: S. Lewis Johnson in 2 Peter

The Charismatic Movement, A Potemkin Village: S. Lewis Johnson in 2 Peter

I’m currently going through S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, an evening class (ten sessions) he taught in early 1976, with emphasis on the false teachings of the 1st century as well as modern errors.  Studying the Bible, so many ideas and problems really are timeless, just as true now as nearly 40 years ago: as for instance, Dr. Johnson’s comments regarding the charismatic movement.

The first lecture tells about the “Potemkin Village” expression (something I was unfamiliar with, either never learned or had forgotten) and its background in Catherine the Great’s Russia: the story that the great Russian man Potemkin had exaggerated his accomplishments, then the Queen decided to visit the city he had supposedly built; so Potemkin hurriedly went to the site and built up a scene of impressive buildings rather like a Hollywood movie set..

Upon later reflection I recalled the 1970s movie “Capricorn One”, which presented basically the same idea of a façade, a fake image as supposedly the truth to the people being fooled:  astronauts about to embark for the moon are taken away minutes before launch, to a fake set of a moon landing while the real space launch occurs without them on-board, and all transmissions of the astronauts to the public are really from this movie-set location.

In the 2 Peter series, here SLJ likens the modern-day charismatic movement to a Potemkin Village — something that appears to be the real thing, visually impressive to people who lack discernment, but is hollow and without substance: observations to an issue still with us today (nearly 40 years later).  A friend observed that if SLJ were still with us, she could easily picture him as one of the speakers at the upcoming “Strange Fire” conference.

No one ever gains the favor of God through false doctrine and no one ever gains a sense of peace through false doctrine. You may have a kind of false peace for awhile, but you never will have the true peace with God until you have the right doctrine. This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement, because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines — and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge. …

So he says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge….   A Potemkin Village is a village in which is all façade, in which there is no reality.  Incidentally that story is also greatly exaggerated.  He was an eccentric man but there is no real historical proof that he ever did that.  But nevertheless the figure of speech of Potemkin Village has come into our language expressing that which is supposed to be something but it’s really nothing.  And in my opinion, if I may just pass an opinion, the charismatic movement is one giant Potemkin Village and we are going to see as time passes that it does not satisfy those who are most deeply involved in it.  True salvation comes through the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord, as Peter says.

  1. Truth2Freedom
    August 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

    • August 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for the reblog!

  2. Robyn Wallis
    August 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

    Without the firm foundation of truth that can only be obtained by the real Word of God they will continue to seek a false truth based on their experience and emotions, building a faulty theology, just has S.L. Johnson stated “one giant Potemkin Village”.

    This village is designed by neo-orthodoxy, mysticism, existentialism and paganism, and it will not withstand the real storms of life (see John MacArthur sermon “Is Experience a Valid Test of Truth” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-461/is-experience-a-valid-test-of-truth)

    John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

    They are to be pitied and corrected. Their false leaders should be called out and condemned. I am so glad the great teachers in the past and now are making a big noise and seeking to bring truth to the deceived, and I trust God will draw His own out from among the liars and hypocrites.

    Great post Lynda. Thanks.

    • August 17, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      Very true. Thanks, Robyn, and for the link as well!

  3. August 18, 2013 at 5:16 am

    “…there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines — and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge.”
    While it is interesting to hear your frequent reflections of S. Lewis Johnson, a little more detail would be useful in this case. I have no doubt there are excesses and dubious to even false doctrines touted within portions of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movements…first-hand experience, Perhaps his comments were related to what he heard from prominent televangelists…some of the most visible evidence of Charismatic excesses.
    Still, it seems to be a rather broad-brush condemnation…particularly when the key “doctrine” relates to the practice of the sign gifts which are so clearly a part of the early church (such as in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14).
    You ought to at least explore the Scriptural supports for the Cessationist doctrine.

    • August 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Thanks for the comment, Tom. This post is anecdotal to a much larger topic that has been dealt with elsewhere, within the overall context of the error of continuationism. Specifically concerning S. Lewis Johnson: his 1 Corinthians series, in chapters 12-14, went into much more detail. See this previous post concerning the temporary gifts, the summary points from one of SLJ’s sessions in 1 Corinthians 12.

      My observations in this post fall within the understanding brought out also in this recent series of posts from Fred Butler (Hip and Thigh blog): — 10 posts so far, starting June 26 this year, and several so far for this month (August 2013). Please reference my previous post and the series from Fred Butler for more details concerning what cessationism actually believes as well as the error of continuationism.

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