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Posts Tagged ‘healing’


I first wrote this and blogged it July 13, 2005. And this is the revised version.

Being sifted like wheat

Since October 17th 2008 I have been thinking and reflecting about the difficulties we have in life and that we face as Christians. It seems that there are times we are constantly under spiritual attack and no matter what we do; our courage fails us right at the time it is crucial that it does not. How often does it seem that we hear the voice of God in what ever way it is that he is talking to us, and yet we don’t do as he has told us; instead we do exactly the opposite?

  • Peter the Apostle knew all about this, Luke records the warning, exhortation and encouragement of the exchange between both Jesus and Peter.

Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[1] as wheat.
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Luk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Here we read that Satan has asked God permission to sift Peter and that he has been given permission to do so. There is another story in the OT about a man called Job who also was sifted by Satan with Gods permission.

Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? With todays society and the readily availability of instant food, I would say probably not. A normal sieve was round about 30 – 40 cm across with sides about 100 mm – 150mm high, and a fine mesh type bottom, some sieves were bigger made of a mesh type material, about the size of a blanket and took two people to operate.

What happens is that you put the harvested wheat with the stalk etc into it and throw it up and down, shaking it, tossing it, so that the wheat is separated from the rest of the plant, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing or grinding into flour. The sifting process is a much-needed process for the grain to be any use.

So we see here that Jesus is telling Peter and though he is talking specifically to Peter, I believe he is also talking talking to the rest of the disciples; that he and they are going to be sifted, to be thrown about, that they will be going through some tough times, but not to worry, he has prayed for Peter / them that they will not fail. John 21:15-17.

Jesus tells us that he has prayed their faith will not fail them, that they will turn back, and in doing so strengthen many. Peter now argues with Jesus, protesting that it would not be so. Jesus declares, it will be so, and this is how it will pan out! And as the story progresses we know that indeed all the disciples bar John deserted Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus also reinstates them all, especially Peter.

How often have we been in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, our boldness and confidence fleeing from us? Our faith becomes shaken, we get tossed and turned. Perhaps we don’t quite reach the stage Peter and the others did in denying our Lord. Yet for what ever reason we find we are going through a dark night or season of the soul, where we know our walk with the Lord is perhaps not OK. We find the going tough. We lack the wisdom, boldness and even passion to witness to others. Our prayer life lacks the dynamic it once had and we wonder in the deeper recesses of our inner being if we will ever recover that dynamic again? We intend to pray and instead get easily distracted. Or we go through the motions of being a Christian, not enjoying our reading of the word – that is if we do read it. We go through the motions of praying, while deep within we can’t wait for the prayer time to be over. Legalism creeps in, duty replaces joy and intimacy.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is I’m talking about? Praise God for it. Perhaps the time will come for you to experience it, perhaps not. Perhaps you have gone through that and come out the other side wiser for the experience. Or perhaps you are in the middle of such an experience right at this very moment.

If this is you then we have joined company, and we need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Just as Peter was sifted by satan, we to are liable to being sifted by satan in all his subtle and not so subtle ways. Just as Peter was told by Jesus that he would fail, he was also told that his faith would not totally fail him, that he would bounce back and strengthen others.

What ever it is we are facing right now at this very moment, God will not allow us to face more than what we bear and he will also provide a way out, under the shadow of his wings.

Father God, I lift us all up to you, individuals families and friends. Lord I ask that we who are going through the trials of being sifted that you will strengthen us, help us to both know and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you are providing a way out. That you will deliver us from the shaking of the evil one.

For those who have come out of such an experience I ask that you will continue to help them to walk with you in joy, in peace, in strength, in the fullness of your spirit, and for those who have not yet been through the sifting process that indeed you will prepare them for such an event if it is to be your will for them to do so. I ask that none of us will ever fall away, to deny you Lord, that we will all grow from strength to strength, faith to faith, in the power of your spirit I ask that you will do this Jesus, shielding us from the power of the evil one.

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This article is from John Marks Ministry

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/8206.htm Here’s an article on an important modern movement within Christianity I wrote about ten years ago. What has changed?

Charismatic renewal is not going way. According to David Barrett, editor of World Christian Encyclopedia pentecostals and charismatics numbered an estimated 100 million worldwide in 1980. He says that number jumped to about 150 million by 1985.(1)

The word ‘charismatic’ (Greek charisma – a gift of grace) is useful as an adjective but sometimes offensive as a noun. Here we will reluctanly use ‘charismatic’ as a noun, and as an adjective, but with the understanding that every true Christian is charismatic.

We are now hearing about ‘post-charismatics’. They had assumed the experiences in Acts 2,8,10,19 and I Cor. 12 and 14 were normative for all Christians for all times. Having sought an emotional high, they found that their version of the charismatic renewal promised more than it delivered. (2) Let us work through the myths or misconceptions in order.

# 1: ‘RELIGIOUS RENEWAL IS A FAIRLY MODERN PHENOMENON’.

Those unfamiliar with the mistakes of the past, as Santayana said, are likely to repeat them. Movements of religious renewal are not new. Thet happen when something lost is found: the book of the law (Josiah), prayer and asceticism (Desert Fathers), simple lifestyle (Franciscans), justification by faith (Luther), sanctification (Wesley), spiritual gifts (Pentecostals).

Christian renewal emphasizes the church’s organic, communal nature and tends to idealise the primitive apostolic church. Static institutions are challenged to change and become dynamic.

Traditionalists are usually blind to the disparity between the institution’s claims and its inaffectiveness.

Renewalists often have little – or an idealised – sense of history; God is on their side and against the institution; they don’t realize that they too will set up new institutions which will eventually settle down, preserve a status quo and be challenged again.

Howard Snyder and others have helped us formulate a ‘mediating model’ of the church, which affirms history and expects renewal – both. (3)

# 2 ‘”ENTHUSIASM” IS A SIGN OF IMMATURITY’

Not necessarily. Stolid Anglo-Saxons may not approve of too much enthusiasm, but other culture (Latins, Africans) like it. Two Israelite leaders, Eldad and Medad, got excited when the Spirit fell on them, so Joshua the institutional spokesman told Moses to stop them. Moses retorted by wishing the Spirit might similarly fall on the lot of them (Numbers 11:26-30)!

Experiences of some of the mystics (Richard Rolle, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross), reveal an affinity to modern ‘charismatic’ phenomena.(4)

Whenever the Holy Spirit manifests himself in a person, a culture or an age he produces various attitudes: an ordering attitude, a praying attitude, and a questioning attitude, and an attitude of receiving. Without the receptive attitude the other three dry up. ‘Without mystical experience, without an ongoing awareness of the presence of God, one does not live a full and rich Christian life … the charismatic renewal represents the re-entry into the world of the felt presence of God… it means mysticism, the attitude of receiving, is being renewed for us.’ (5)

In all renewal movements there is a predictable dialectic: a move far enough one way will cause the pendulum to swing back to the other extreme.

The sad history of Enthusiasts illustrates both the dangers of unchecked fervency not centred on the revelation of Jesus Christ, and also the inadequacy of merely institutional or rational authority …. The faith is endangered when Christians have to choose between this uncontrolled fervency and dessicated, authoritative, uninspired orthodoxies in Protestantism or Catholicism. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love and community, the Spirit of reflection and control. (6)

# 3 : ‘PENTECOSTALISM IS AN ECCLESIASTICAL ABERRATION THAT CAN BE IGNORED.’

Not without reason has Pentecostalism been called the ‘third force within Christendom’.

Pentecostalism teaches a necessary second stage in a believer’s relationship to the Lord – ‘baptism in the Spirit’ – whose initial evidence is speaking in tongues. Its mission has been to restore spiritual gifts that had been neglected or opposed by the churches: tongues, interpretation, prophecy, faith, miracles, healing, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment (I Cor. 12:8-10).

# 4: ‘”NEW-PENTECOSTALISM” IN THE 1960s AND 70s WAS INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM THE OLDER PENTECOSTALISM’.

The Neo-pentecostal renewal began in a significant way in the historic churches in the 1950s.

Catholic charistmatic renewal (the term ‘Neo-pentecostal’ soon went out of vogue) probably goes back to Pope John XXIII convoking the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and his prayer that the Holy Spirit would renew the church as by a new Pentecost.

Charles Hummell uses a World War II analogy to explain what happened. Pentecostalists based their pneumatology on the Synoptics and Acts: wasn’t Jesus first conceived by the Holy Spirit, then later baptized in the Spirit? Didn’t the disciples ‘receive’ the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, but were later filled with the Spirit at Pentecost? Traditional theologies, on the other hand, were Pauline. They said you mustn’t build doctrines from these events in the primitive church, but rather ask ‘What do the New Testament letters to various churches teach us?’ And only once is ‘baptizing in the Spirit’ explicitly referred to there (I Corinthians 12:12-13). And so the battle-lines formed, and the troops became entrenched within their fixed positions. It was something like the French Maginot Line facing the equally impregnable Siegfried Line. Each army was safe behind its ramparts but unable to advance. Suddenly the German panzer divisions moved swifly around these fixed positions and rolled into Paris without a pitched battle.

So with our little theologies. We fight our wars, protect territory already won, and are often ill-prepared to take new ground. ‘For decades pentecostal and traditional theologies of the Baptism in the Spirit faced each other along one major doctrinal battle line. Then suddenly the Holy Spirit moved around these fixed positions to infiltrate charismatic renewal behind the lines in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches’. (7)

Catholic charismatic renewal has less emphasis on spiritual gifts and more on nurturing a personal relationship with Christ and on developing Christian community. In 1979 the Australian Catholic Theological Association said that through the movement thousands of Australian Catholic men and women were able to experience a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ; a renewal of faith; an introduction to a serious prayer life; a new appreciation of the Scriptures; and openness to the use of their gifts from the Holy Spirit; a commitment to evangelism. (8)

# 5: ‘CONSERVATIVE CHURCHES ARE FRIGHTENED TO TOUCH CHARISTMATIC RENEWAL BECAUSE IT’S AN “ALL-OR-NOTHING” PACKAGE.’

Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Seminary has popularized the notion of a ‘Third Wave’ of charismatic renewal experienced in many churches in the 1980s.

Many historians feel this century has seen the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since the first century or two. The first wave came … with the Pentecostal movement. The second came around the middle of the century with the charistmatic movement. The Third Wave is more recent, having begun around 1980, with the same powerful, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which have been confined to Pentecostals and charismatics now being seen in a growing number of evangelical churches.

Wagner goes on to talk about his ‘120 Fellowship’ that meets from 7.30 to 9.15 Sunday mornings.

We see signs and wonders on a regular basis. Because of this realize we may be different from some other churches and Sunday school classes, but we do not consider ourselves any better. We don’t teach a ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ as a second work of grace (many of us have had experiences of what others might call ‘Spirit baptism’ but we simply say it is a filling or anointing of the Spirit which may happen to a person many times). Nor do we permit ourselves to be called ‘Spirit-filled Christians’ as if others in the church were something less than Spirit-filled. We do our best to avoid the Corinthian error concerning tongues. While we do not forbid tongues, neither do we stress (it). We treat tongues as just another spiritual gift, but not as a badge of spirituality. Many pray in tongues, but we do not encourage public tongues in our class.(9)

His conclusion: ‘I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit’. (10)

Many mainline churches are now incorporating a ‘soft-side’ charismatic renewing force into their worship/service, sponsoring healing services, for example, or praying for healing and deliverance in their normal worship times. Thousand are attending John Wimber’s ‘Signs and Wonders’ courses in many parts of the world.

# 6: ‘THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO UNDERSTAND THE TERM “BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT”‘.

‘Baptism in the Spirit’, in the pentecostal and charistmatic traditions, is an effusion of God’s Spirit upon a Christian with power for praise, witness and service. It is an experience ‘which initiates a decisively new sense of the powerful presence and working of God in one’s life, (and) usually involves one or more charismatic gifts’. (11) Pentecostals normally view it as a ‘second work of grace’. Charismatics have come to understand it as a deepening of the faith grounded in the new life received in Christ.

When a person becomes a Christian (and that can happen in many different ways), he or she never realizes all that has happened. A fuller understanding of ‘justification’, for example, may come much later. But it happened earlier. So we mustn’t put dogmtic strait-jackets on this experience. Conversion can be dramatic (if the person was running hard from God beforehand, for example), or quite matter-of-fact.

So with the Holy Spirit. Luke and Paul write about the work of the Spirit from different perspectives. For Luke the Spirit gives believers power for witness in the world – and that can be repeatable. Paul talks about the Spirit incorporating us into the Body of Christ – that’s once-for-all.

Words can have different meanings in different contexts. Paul has perhaps five separate meanings for ‘flesh’. The Bible has many ways to describe the meaning of the death of Christ. ‘Baptism’ is used in the Scriptures as a flexible metaphor, not merely as a technical term. I heard Canadian theologian Clark Pinnock say: ‘So long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use ‘baptism’ to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well’.

# 7: ‘RE SPIRITUAL GIFTS: THE BEST COURSE IS TO BE CONSERVATIVE (STICK TO THE SAFE ONES, AND LEAVE THE OTHERS WELL ALONE!)’.

Every church ought to be open to the full spectrum of the gifts. Spiritual gifts are meant to create truly Christian community. Where there is love, there’ll be gift-giving. God’s gifts are love-gifts — God at work.

Gifts are given freely bythe Holy Spirit to whomever he wishes. They can’t be manufactured byus nor is their presence or absence a sign of Christian maturity.

In a truly biblical fellowship the focus is not on the gifts, but the Giver (but that shouldn’t be a cop-out, ignoring the gifts we aren’t comfortable with).

Here’s a common problem: ‘I had the best hands laid on me, but nothing happened’. Well, what did you expect to happen? Faith-filled prayer believes you have received the Spirit: leave the rest to God’s timing. David du Plessis (‘Mr. Pentecost’) says, ‘Baptism in the Spirit is always easy when Jesus Christ does it for you, but always difficult when you struggle to do it yourself or with the help of others’. (12) And Richard Lovelace: ‘Christians act as though fellowship with the Holy Spirit were very hard to establish. Actually it is very difficult to avoid! All that is necessary is for the believer to open up to that divine Reality in the centre of consciousness which is the most fundamental fact of a Christian’s inner life’. (13)

# 8: ‘PROPHECY ISN’T NEEDED TODAY –WE’VE GOT THE BIBLE’.

Western fundamentalism has been infected with ‘dispensationalism’ which sees the activity in the Book of Acts as transitional: the canon of Scripture is now closed, and the curtain has been brought down on all this sort of thing. When Paul says tongues and prophecy will be with us ‘until the perfect comes’ (I Cor. 13:10) they say Paul meant a ‘perfect Bible’; the rest of the church interprets Paul as referring to heaven, ‘when we shall see face to face’.

Prophecy is a direct dominical utterance (‘thus says the Lord’) for a particular people at a particular time and place, for a particular purpose. The Divine Word also comes through Jesus, through Scripture, through circumstances, and through visions (more commonly in non-Western cultures). Prophecy gives the church fresh insights into God’s truth (Eph. 3) or guidance about the future (Acts 11), or encouragement (I Cor. 14:3, I Tim. 1:18), or inspiration or correction. It either edifies the church or brings it under judgement (‘God is in this place!’ – see I Cor. 14:25). The biblical prophets combined judgement with hope.

# 9: ‘TONGUES IS AN “ECSTATIC” GIFT (FOR IMMATURE CHRISTIANS)’.

The gift of tongues (‘glossolalia’) is a quasi-linguistic phenomenon, not language in the normal sense of the term. (14)

Tongues-speaking is not an indication of mental imbalance. After fifty years of research the consensus still runs, in the words of Virginia Hine twenty years ago: ‘available evidence requires that an explanation of glossolalia as pathological must be discarded’. (15)

Two decades of research into the discrete functions of left and right hemispheres of the brain appears to show that the dominant cerebral hemisphere (the left, for 95% of the population) specializes in thinking processes which are analytical, linear, logical, sequential, verbal, rational. The right hemisphere normally shows preference for thought that is visiospatial, simultaneous, analog (as opposed to digital), emotional. While speech has been seen to rise from mapped sectors of the left hemisphere, language-formation capacities are probably spread over both hemispheres. (16) Glossolalia may be right hemisphere speech, sharing a location beyond – but not contradictory to – the usual canons of rationality. It is appropriate to think of glossolalic prayer as neither irrational nor arational, but rather transrational: when reason fails in prayer, the Spirit helps (Rom. 8:26,27). It’s spirit to Spirit communication rather than mind to mind. (I Cor. 14:15).

Richard Beyer claims there is a ‘fundamental functional similarity between speaking in tongues and two other widespread and generally accepted religious practices, namely Quaker silent worship and the liturgical worship of Catholic and Episcopal churches’. (17)

# 10: ‘WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT HEALED?’

Let’s look at the tough questions.

Does God want everyone healed? Pentecostalists usually say ‘yes’ (and if you aren’t, the problem is with your, or your praying friends’ or your church’s lack of faith). Most others would say ‘no’.

Francis McNutt offers a more balanced view:

In general, it is God’s desire that we be healthy, rather than sick. And since he has the power to do all things, he will respond to prayer for healing unless there is some obstacle, or unless the sickness is sent or permitted for some greater reason. (18)

The church today surely needs less pride and prejudice in this area. ‘But what if we pray publicly and they’re not healed?’ is the kind of faithfless question that stymies our maturing in this area. Our calling is to be faithful and obedient. It’s God’s business whether he heals or not!

# 11: ‘DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL SPIRITS IS A MEDIEVAL OR ANIMISTIC IDEA. WE’VE NOW OUTGROWN ALL THAT’.

Naturalism is a view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual.

This world view has influenced theology in this century principally through Rudolf Bultmann: ‘The forces and laws of nature have been discovered, and therefore we can’t believe in ‘spirits’ …. whether good or evil.’ (19) Against this, the biblical worldview holds that the universe consists of both visible and invisible creatures, angels, demons, and powers. As theologians like Gustav Aulen and Helmut Thielicke point out, the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom in the ministry of Jesus Christ can’t be understood apart from its being a war against the principalities of evil. Emil Brunner says we cannot rightly understand the church of the New Testament unless we break out of the strait-jacket of naturalism and take seriously the dynamic manifestations of the Holy Spirit. (20)

Someone has calculated that 3,874 (49%) of the N.T.’s 7,957 verses are ‘contaminated’ with happenings and ideas alien to a naturalistic world-view. Morton Kelsey notes that the only large group of Christians who take seriously the idea of a direct encounter with the non-space-time or spiritual world are the Pentecostals and the charismatics, ‘and they have come in for derision from every side’. (21)

However, as C.S. Lewis and others have warned us, there are two opposite errors we must avoid: either disbelieving in the devil’s existence, or giving Satan more attention than he deserves. Cardinal Suenens similarly exhorts us to steer a safe course between ‘Scylla and Charibdis, between underestimation and exaggeration…'(22)

Within the church the gift of ‘discernment of spirits’ is very important. The Scriptures suggest various tests to discern the spirits: Is Christ glorified? (John 16:14); the church edified?; others helped? Does it accord with Scripture? Is there love? Is Jesus Lord of the person’s life? Is there submission to church leaders – allowing others to weigh what is said or done?

# 12: ‘IT’S ALL SO DIVISIVE THAT WE OUGHT TO LEAVE CHARISMATIC ISSUES WELL ALONE’.

Divisiveness would head anyone’s list of the issues confronting us in the modern charistmatic renewal.

My observation, however, is that divisiveness is not a function of the presence or absence of certain spiritual gifts, but of insecurity, fear (‘charisphobia’), insensitivity (‘charismania’), or lovelessness on one or both sides.

David Watson talked about tidy churches, with piles of papers neatly in order. The windows are opened, but the fresh wind of the Spirit blows the papers about, so the elders scurry around collecting them all again, and close the windows. ‘You’ve got tidiness, even stuffiness. That’s the picture of many a church. I would prefer to have the windows open with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit blowing…. Give me untidiness with life every day if the alternative is tidiness and death. One of the tidies places you can find is the cemetery.’ (23)

Let us beware of the error Gamaliel warned about (Acts 5:33-39). If this is of God, we must take the movement seriously.

Certainly the swift stream of renewal often throws debris on to the banks. Old wineskins can’t cope with new wine without bursting. When the Spirit is at work, the devil will be sowing weeds among the wheat.

# 13: ‘EXPERIENCE-CENTRED AND WORD-CENTRED THEOLOGIES WON’T MIX’.

The success of an experiential theology must be judged by the ease (or lack of ease) with which it moves from Spirit to Word. If Word and Spirit can be held in dynamic union, then experiential theology has the possibility of becoming definitive for the life and witness of the church today. Too often Word takes the place of Spirit. (24) Our traditional theologies run the risk of being rationalistic, contrived conceptual schemas. The Holy Spirit is the subject of a sterile ‘pneumatology’, with little openness to an experience of his power. But, again, an experience-centred theology sometimes stays there. (25) Sometimes there’s an unhealthy identification of truth with a prophetic leader, or a great experience: everything else derives validity through reference to these. Or else the Bible is used as a sanction for one’s independent feelings and experiences. Or perhaps we are not open to the whole of experience. (26)

Thus an unhealthy individualism and a pervasive subjectivism often accompanies pieties of personal experience. As Russell Spittler has put it:

Individualism is a virtue when it assures conscious religious experience, but becomes something of an occupational hazard for Pentecostal-charismatics. Add in some dominant personality traits, take away an acquaintance with the church’s collective past, delete theological sophistication, and the mix can be volatile, catastrophic. (27)

Let us beware of inhabiting simplicity this side of complexity, or complexity the other side of simplicity, but rather move to simplicity the other side of complexity! (28) The security of the slogan is easier than the hard work of discovering the truth. Much of what is written in pentecostal/charismatic books is what Kilian McDonnell calls ‘enthusiastic theological fluff – pink hot air in printed form’. (29)

There is a great need for a thorough-going charismatic theology. For example the justaposition of the ideas of ‘baptism in the Spirit’ and the release of spiritual gifts may be seen to be a most significant contribution to twentieth-century theology, but a lot more work has to be done on it yet.

# 14: ‘IN THE CHURCH’S WORSHIP, YOU CAN’T MIX CHARISMATIC ELEMENTS WITH TRADITIONAL FORMS’.

Probably, in retrospect, it will be seen that in corporate worship, ‘in the sphere of liturgy and preaching, that the pentecostal movement will have made its most important contribution, and not in the sphere of pneumatology, as is constantly and quite wrongly supposed’. (30)

Pentecostal/charistmatic worship features are invading traditional churches with a rush! It’s becoming more common for worshippers of all kinds to raise their hands in adoration, as they sing scripture-songs in their morning worship-services. However these songs are as limited as is charismatic theology: there are very few about mission and justice, for example; they’re mostly ‘God loves me and I love him’ songs. Nice, but there’s more; love issues in a life of witness and obedience in a hostile world. (31)

The way forward ultimately is to integrate the unique insights and results of charismatic renewal into the full life of the church, with a submission to the order, tradition, doctrine and spirituality of the church as a whole. It’s not helpful to go ‘underground’. Every special movement needs the whole church body to give focus, direction, discernment and correction; it needs to be tested, evaluated, encouraged, improved and admonished. As Leo Cardinal Suenans says: ‘To be most useful, the charismatic movement must disappear into the life of the church’. (32)

# 15: ‘THE PROBLEM OF ELITISM SHOULD EVENTUALLY GO AWAY’.

I’m pessimistic on this one. We enjoy sorting others out according to false hierarchies of value. There have always been ‘haves and have-nots’ in the church: only the categories change. In one era a priestly caste takes special prerogatives to itself and we have the evil of clericalism. In others there are ‘heresy trials’ with the orthodox removing the heterodox. In the charistmatic renewal, experience is the watershed: those who have ‘arrived’ have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ in a discernible experience subsequent to conversion, and speak in tongues. But the New Testament mostly uses ethical rather than experiential categories to define stages of Christian maturity (e.g. Barnabas, was ‘spirit-filled’, ie.. he was a man filled with goodness and faith, Acts 11:24).

# 16: ‘”MAGIC ISN’T A PROBLEM IF WE’RE MINISTERING IN CHRIST’S NAME.’

It is possible for a miracle-centred theology to become ‘theurgical’ (Gk. ‘theourgia’ – magic). An openness to signs and wonders can easily degenerate into ‘miracle-mongering’.

Miracles are not just for show. ‘Jesus resisted the temptation to work miracles to dazzle people or to seduce them into believing in him…. He refused to give the Pharisees a ‘sign from heaven’…. It was not as a wonder-worker that he desired to be sought after’. (33) John Bodycomb writes: ‘I am uneasy about theological assumptions implicit in either that impassioned roaring heavenward (reminiscent of the prophets of Baal) or in that sycophantic sweet-talk that begins ‘Lord, we just simply ask you to …’ (whatever it is)’. (34) Magic involves repeating formulas (‘vain repetitions’). It’s wanting blessings more for my sake than God’s. It’s manipulating Deity for my ends.

# 17: ‘THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL IS ECUMENICAL’.

‘If it is charismatic, it s ecumenical’ says ‘Mr. Pentecost’, David Du Plessis. But, he says, there has been a dangerous tendency by Pentecostals/charismatics to criticize the church, leading to the formation of schismatic, independent groups:

The more schismata the less charismata (I Cor. 12:25,26). I have a passion for unity because the prayer of Jesus was for unity that the world may believe. And I have very little hope for the world unless unity comes to Christianity…. (35)

# 18: CHARISMATIC RENEWAL AND MISSION.

Christians are commissioned to do in their world what Jesus did in his: bringing salvation (‘wholeness’, the ‘reign of God’), where there is pain, sickness, lostness, alienation, oppression, poverty, war, injustice. So the church’s mission has three dimensions: evangelism (preaching good news), works of mercy (relieving persons’ pain), and works of justice (addressing the causes of pain); and three instruments: word (what we say), deed (what we do) and sign (what God does).

Pentecostalists/charismatics have brought the church back to ‘signs and wonders’ and they have generally done evangelism better than others.

But pentecostal/charismatics churches are weakest of all in the justice area. There’s more in the prophets than Joel’s promise of the Spirit on all flesh. The prophets cried out for justice, the redress of wrongs done to the poor.

# 19: ‘BEING “BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT” IS AN ANTIDOTE FOR ANTINOMIANISM’.

It isn’t. Antinomianism (living carelessly and ‘lawlessly’) is as much a trap for Pentecostals/charismatics as for anyone.

# 20: CONCLUSIONS: THE WAY FORWARD.

‘As I observe it,’ says Sherwood Wir the most important gift God has given to the charismatic renewal is a fresh outpouring of love. Not joy, not ecstasy, not tongues, not miracles, not even martyrdom, but love. (36)

And there’s something else the cautious ought to be more afraid of : attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. That’s a very serious sin, Jesus warned.

Paul sums it up: ‘Make love your aim, while you set your heart on the gifts of the Spirit’ (I Cor. 14:1).
FOOTNOTES

(1) Christianity Today, May 16, 1986, 40.

(2) e.g. Eternity, Feb, 1980, 21ff.

(3) Howard A. Snyder, The Problem of Wineskins (1976), The Community of the King (1978), The Radical Wesley (1980), Liberating the Church (1983), all IVP, Illinois.

(4) Bengt Hoffman, a professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in a book entitled Luther and the Mystics, Minneapolis: Augsburb Publishing House, 1976.

(5) Mark Hillmer, ‘Spiritual Renewal in the Family of Lutheranism’ – 6-page paper, date and place of publication unknown.

(6) Roland Walls, article ‘Enthusiasm’, in Gordon S. Wakefield, ed., A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, SCM, 1983, 133-4. Walls goes on: ‘A growing number of Eastern Orthodoxy which has been at pains to spell out the difference between natural and supernatural enthusiasm. In this tradition, undisciplined enthusiasm arises more from psychic and disturbed emotional sources than from single-minded devotion to love of God and our neighbours … The only fires that can be trusted are those of love of God and our fellows, and the cleansing fire of repentance.

(7) Charles Hummell, Fire in the Fireplace, IVP, 1978, 189.

(8) ‘Charismatic Renewal is a valid form of Catholic Spirituality’, The Advocate, 11 Sept. 1980, 10.

(9) Leadership, Spring Quarter, 1985, 114-115.

(10) Pastoral Renewal, P.O. Box 8617 Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48106, July-Aug, 1983.

(11) a quotation by Father Francis Sullivan SJ in David Parry, This Promise is For You: Spiritual Renewal and the Charismatic Movement, London: Darton Longman and Todd, 1977, 144.

(12) Quoted in Larry Chistensen, Speaking in Tongues, Minneapolis: Bethany, 42ff.

(13) Richard Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life, Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1985, 148.

(14) W.J. Samarin, Tongues of Men and Angels, N.Y., MacMillan, 1972.

(15) ‘Pentecostal Glossolalia: Toward a Functional Interpretation’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol 8 (Fall 1969), 2,217. See also J.P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1972.

(16) Russell P. Spittler, ‘Bar Mitzvah for Azusa Street: Features, Fractures, and Futures of a Renewal Movement Come of Age’, in Theology, News and Notes, Fuller Theological Seminary, March 1983, 15.

(17) Richard A. Beyer, ‘Quaker Silent Worship, Glossolalia and Liturgy: Some Functional Similarities’, unpublished essay referred to in Michael P. Hamilton, ed., The Charismatic Movement, Eerdman, 1975, 115.

(18) Francis McNutt, Healing, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1974, 84-6.

(19) Hans Werner Bartsch, ed., Kerygma and Myth, London: SPCK, 1953, 69.

(20) Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, London: Lutterworth, 1952, 49-53.

(21) Morton Kelsey, Encounter with God, Minneapolis: Bethany, 1972, 26-36.

(22) Cardinal Leon-Joseph Suenans, Renewal and the Powers of Darkness, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1984, 115.

(23) ‘David Watson on Spiritual Gifts’, Theology News and Notes, Fuller Seminary, March, 1983, 18-19.

(24) Robert Johnston, ‘Of Tidy Doctrine and Truncated Experience’, Christianity Today, Feb. 18, 1977, 11.

(25) Russell Spittler, op.cit., 16.

(26) See ‘The New Pietism: Plus or Minus? unpublished and undated paper by John Bodycomb, Uniting Church, Victoria. It’s what Bill Burnett, former Arlchbishop of Capetown calls getting stuck in a kind of ‘happy clappy groove’. (Interview by June Coxhead in Vision Magazine, date unknown, p.19). One person commented, ‘I left my Pentecostal church. They wouldn’t let me bring my sorrow to the Lord! They won’t touch a text like Ps. 1219:71 (NIV) : ‘It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees’.

(27) Russell Spittler, op.cit., 16.

(28) See Rowland Croucher, Recent Trends Among Evangelicals, Sydney: Albatross, 1986, Section One.

(29) ‘Church Reaction to the Charismatic Renewal’ in Arnold Bittlinger, The Church is Charismatic Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1981, 154.

(30) Quoted in Walter J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, Augsburg, 1972, 466.

(31) I am told some exceptions are now appearing in Graham Kendrick’s songs.

(32) ‘Catalyst’, Mar. 1980, 1.

(33) Alan Richardson, A Theological Word Book of the Bible, SCM, 1950, 153.

(34) J. Bodycomb, op.cit., 7.

(35) Interview with David Hubbard, Theology News and Notes, Fuller Seminary, March 1983, 7.

(36) Sherwood Wirt, Eternity Magazine, Feb. 1980, 26.

Note on Bibliography : An excellent overview of some of the literature on charismatic renewal may be found in Cecil M. Robeck, ‘The Decade (1973-1982) in Pentecostal-Charismatic Literature: A Bibliographic Essay’, Theology News and Notes, Fuller Seminary, March 1983, 24ff.

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