December 12, 2018

Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (4)

Summer Clouds (2017)

Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (4)

We are taking the Pentecost season to post a Sunday series of excerpts and reflections from Scot McKnight’s new book, Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us.

• • •

The mark of Pentecost and the mark of the new Christian movement is renewal through openness to the Spirit. The sign? God would speak to the people through prophets. In the New Testament era, God’s Spirit would empower “both men and women” to be prophets. There is no indication in the New Testament that the gift of prophecy would either die out or that it would be assigned exclusively to famous preachers and pastors. Young and old, men and women— God raises up prophets among them all.

…Is our God the God who speaks? Has he now ceased speaking, or does God still speak today?

• pp. 72, 86

Scot McKnight devotes a couple of chapters in his book about the Holy Spirit to ways that God speaks outside the Bible. Many Christians, including those in the cessationist traditions where I received my formative ministry training, deny that God does speak this way today.

But Scot reminds us that, on the day of Pentecost, the spirit of prophecy was proclaimed as an essential sign of the Spirit-indwelt church:

In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

He backs this up with several paragraphs of New Testament epistle texts that indicate that God’s word of prophecy was being experienced in the churches. He also reminds us, however, that Paul and the other authors stress testing the prophecies that are spoken, and that not all will be judged genuine.

McKnight does not give a lot of examples of how this might work today, and I think some readers might find that frustrating

However, I don’t. It seems to me that one of the problems I’ve encountered among the Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third Wave, and other groups that emphasize the continuation of the charismatic gifts is that they end up institutionalizing the gift and practicing it in certain set ways. What is meant to be the surprising, sovereign work of the Spirit speaking to the church becomes another recognized church practice. That becomes our “biblical” model. As a result, the voice of the Spirit gets bogged down in the traditions of “Spirit-filled” churches perhaps even more than in liturgical settings.

It is my opinion that if the Spirit speaks, it will be in the Spirit’s way and the Spirit’s time. We won’t be expecting it and we certainly won’t be conjuring it up by our methods. There are few I read about in the scriptures who weren’t surprised when the Spirit spoke. I don’t know many (any?) congregations that are truly like this, but I would hope Christians and churches might be open to the Spirit speaking without expectations of how that must happen or what it is like.

If it’s truly God speaking, I would think we’d all be caught off guard. We certainly won’t be in control of it.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    ” . . . if the Spirit speaks, it will be in the Spirit’s way and the Spirit’s time.”

    Chaplain Mike, I think this is your ‘golden line’.

  2. Robert F says:

    Here’s the problem: How do you test prophecies to see if they are genuine? It seems to me that answering this question always leads to putting a theological doctrine or perspective above any ostensible manifestation or prophecy of the Spirit. It think that is unavoidable, but I also see where that would make one suspicious of all such manifestations and prophecies, and less likely to see positive value in any of them.

    • I think in the early church this was done by applying the “rule of faith,” which was essentially the Creed. I would think also that there might be an emphasis on consensus decision-making as one way of testing.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But when you’ve ditched creeds as “dead legalism”?
        Where’s your Reality Check then?

  3. Burro (Mule) says:

    How do you test prophecies to see if they are genuine?

    Each tradition has its methods. The Roman Catholics have the Pope as the court of final appeal as well as their doctrine of private revelations. Charismatics generally have something of the same thing; a ‘court of prophets/elders/apostles’, etc. Cessationist Protestants deny that any such thing takes place. The Orthodox lean heavily on ‘charismatic elders’ and, if necessary, councils of bishops.

    It’s just discernment, basically, composed of a heavy dose of common sense coupled with a dollop of spiritual sensitivity, overlaid with fasting and prayer, and a familiarity with the contents of the Scriptures.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      In other words, it’s more work than we typically care to do.

      • Unfortunately, this. Most churches I’m familiar with would just as soon let the leaders take over — at least until they do something unpopular.

    • Your last paragraph is an excellent summary, Mule.

    • flatrocker says:

      And seasoned with time – plenty of time. Time is the great equalizer. Fads and heresies are no match.

      • Ronald Avra says:

        Time is the element of which you have to submit to a pace not your own. It comes as it does, you cannot alter it in any regard, and its lessons are received in their seasons.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello MULE,

      I like your recipe for discernment, particularly with this ingredient:
      “a dollop of spiritual sensitivity”
      For them what has even this, being out in the silence of nature IS to be open to the joy and wonder of the Holy Spirit

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQFlu4L_iAU

    • Robert F says:

      @ Burro, In other words, it’s a fallible process undertaken by sinful people, the outcome of which could be getting it wrong, and the Church has gotten it wrong, in big and small ways, many times over two thousand years. And getting it wrong means the Church (which includes the institutional Church) probably has (I think certainly has) quashed and misrepresented the Spirit again and again.

      Lord have mercy — that’s what it comes down to.

  4. Rick Ro. says:

    –> “If it’s truly God speaking, I would think we’d all be caught off guard. We certainly won’t be in control of it.”

    This.

    The athletic director of my daughter’s school just resigned because he and his wife have felt led to do mission work in Cambodia. This guy is an awesome AD, and because I didn’t want to see him leave I decided to ask him the particulars of how they got this calling. (I jokingly told him if his answer wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t let him go.) Suffice it to say, they were both caught off guard and not in control of it. It took shape slowly but specifically, and with many confirmations along the way. (One example: a call from a church from across the country saying that this church wanted to sponsor mission work specifically in Cambodia but they’ve been unable to find any takers, would they like to be sponsored.)

    His story reminded me of my own when called to open a church coffee shop ministry. It wasn’t MY idea!! No, it caught me off guard and I was not in control of it once I began asking God for confirmations.

    –> “If it’s truly God speaking, I would think we’d all be caught off guard. We certainly won’t be in control of it.”

    I also think that if it’s truly God speaking, it’ll be very specific. It won’t be a generic “be good to the environment,” but a “start a nature conservatory in Issaquah, WA.” That’s why I felt the coffee shop ministry thing for me was God talking, and why the AD felt it was God talking to he and his wife: not a generic “become a missionary,” but a very specific call to Cambodia. I mean, check out all the Holy Spirit and angelic encounters in the Bible. Every single one of them is extremely specific!

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Scot McKnight devotes a couple of chapters in his book about the Holy Spirit to ways that God speaks outside the Bible. Many Christians, including those in the cessationist traditions where I received my formative ministry training, deny that God does speak this way today.

    Which puts you out-of-balance in the “SCRIPTURE as Party Line — QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!” direction. Who needs Christ when We Have The Book? When We Have A Verse?

    It seems to me that one of the problems I’ve encountered among the Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third Wave, and other groups that emphasize the continuation of the charismatic gifts is that they end up institutionalizing the gift and practicing it in certain set ways.

    i.e. Tongues Tongues Tongues Tongues Tongues and Tongues.

    Out-of-balance in the opposite direction.

    • Christiane says:

      trying to practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit by institutionalizing it in set ways . . . . would be like trying to corral the wind . . . if there is nothing more we know about the Holy Spirit, it is this: that He is free to go where He will go

      for me, the ‘thin places’ of the world offer an example,
      because for people who experience a deep love with the nature in those places, there are moments when out of that ‘love’, a ‘knowledge’ of the Holy is formed

      so much for ‘the lost’ of this world . . . . it may be they are not so very lost at all, just ‘feral’ believers, in their humility made more open to the Holy Spirit by the grace of a God Who cares for His Creation

      we assume so much but have we discounted the power of the One Who was sent forth to renew the face of the Earth ??

    • Christiane says:

      Hello Headless,

      you wrote: ” Who needs Christ when We Have The Book? When We Have A Verse?”

      was this not seen when the Patterson-ruled SBC took this out of the Baptist Faith & Message?
      ” The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

      what could replace Our Lord, Who, when He said something, there ARE NO ‘in other words’ ???

      I think the doctrine of ‘inerrancy’ needed to dismiss Our Lord as the ‘lens’ through which all of sacred Scripture is to be examined. And so certain verses were ‘used’ to bring harm on people, contrary to the ‘way’ of Christ, if He had been considered as those ‘verses’ were examined.

      Yep, I agree with your comment. The SBC ‘permitted’ Patterson to ‘take over’ and he did. He did. And maybe now the chickens have come home to roost and people of the SBC will wake up to the need for the words
      “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” in their BF&M. (?)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        what could replace Our Lord, Who, when He said something, there ARE NO ‘in other words’ ???

        The King Jimmy, of course.
        Recited like the Koran.
        “IT IS WRITTEN!”