February 17, 2020

iMonk Classic: An Appetite for Fanaticism—Is There Something Wrong with Saying ‘You’ve Gone Too Far’?

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
Undated

Note from Chaplain Mike: The Harold Camping debacle over the weekend made it clear that many in our culture and in our Christian circles remain susceptible to fanaticism and the fervor that false teaching and imbalanced emphases often work up. I thought it would be a good time to review what Michael Spencer had to say about this tendency.

It occurred to me this week, while observing a group of religious fanatics putting on a public demonstration of embarrassing, excessive religious behavior, that I would be considered way out of line if I told the fanatics to cut it out and calm down. Such is the equation of fanaticism with the genuine work of God, that I would be proving to my peers that I was totally insensitive to the Holy Spirit if I questioned the behavior of fanatics in any way.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a fanatic as a person motivated by an extreme, unreasoning, enthusiasm for a cause. The original latin root had religious connotations referring to orgiastic temple rites and ceremonies. Today, the word “fanatic” is used generously in everything from sports to hobbies to religion. Americans are, generally, quite tolerant of fanatics, whether they be grown men dressed as Jedi Knights or football fans colored and tatooed like some kind of visitor from the islands of New Guinea. Unvarnished, undiluted enthusiasm is considered a good thing, even if it borders on the excessive.

The exception to this seems to be the secular view of religion. Your average Joe or Joanne doesn’t want to work next to a religious fanatic, have their kid’s team coached by a fanatic or be visited by fanatics selling literature. A whole array of laws have now come into existence to warn the religious fanatic to build his church elsewhere and keep his religion invisible. So one may tattoo a team logo on his forehead, but John 3:16 tacked on a cubicle may result in reeducation camp. Even churches are discovering that their once-welcome presence in the community is now interpreted as an invasion of drooling pedophiles.

On the other hand- and of more interest to me in this article- is the inability of the Christian community to come to terms with fanaticism in its own ranks, and to agree that it is 1) probably not the work of the Holy Spirit and 2) ought to be discouraged- firmly and frequently.

This has been a perennial problem in Christian history, but I do not have the space to document that claim. I will make a view historical observations. For one thing, Americans have always shown a temperament for fanaticism. From the two great awakenings to Azusa Street to the Toronto Blessing, religious enthusiasm has frequently broken out into behavior that needed…uh…explanation. One will find that other cultures- such as the British- may have burned at the stake from time to time, but the kinds of historical appetite for fanaticism we enjoy on our side of the pond have been rare to unknown.

Further, American Christian history is full of the defense of the fanatical impulse. One will find that in virtually every historical outbreak of fanaticism, no matter how manipulated or bizarre it may have been, there will be someone defending it as the work of the Holy Spirit. From Jonathan Edwards to the editors of Christianity Today, there have always been those who made reasoned defenses of unreasonable behavior. The Biblical evaluation of such defenses is the purview of the reader, but I am struck by the fact that so many are clearly uncomfortable saying “Barking like a dog or stumbling around drunk are unspiritual, fanatical, bad behaviors and we ought to have nothing to do with them.”

Instead, there is a tendency to be influenced by what I call the Pentecostal mindset towards the excessive or the strange. The Pentecostal mindset, exemplified most clearly in the early years of the Pentecostal movement, says that when bizarre and fanatical behavior occurs in the context of Christian experience, one ought to consider, even be willing to err on the side of, the possibility that such behavior is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Vineyard movement is the most sophisticated practitioner of this approach, and only the frightening excesses of the Toronto movement caused the Vineyard to put on the brakes, and even then at the cost of many Vineyard congregations who preferred to give the shaking, drunken, laughing, barkers the benefit of the doubt.

The scriptural support for this approach is meager. It consists of the following: 1) the description of some Old Testament characters acting fanatically under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 2) The notation in Acts that, when filled with the Spirit, some concluded the disciples were drunk. 3) The description of worship in Corinth, which sounds rather busy. Beyond that, you have the word of observers of such behavior that, in the end, it was really mostly God. If you sense I am not impressed, you are right. That the Bible makes a case for the Pentecostal mindset towards fanaticism seems to me to be a claim built upon certain presuppositions that should be routed.

What are those presuppositions? Anything done zealously is the work of the Spirit. The louder,the better. The more attention-getting, the more likely God is in it. Whatever is different from a typical Sunday morning in a well-behaved church is certainly God at work. If the fanatic gives God the credit or the blame, then God was at work. This is all, of course, patent nonsense.

As plainly weak as the case for generously overlooking fanaticism is, it is the rare Christian who will tell his or her friend or family member or pastor that they are over the edge. Perhaps it is a case of “What right do I have to judge?” And the answer should be, the perfect right all Biblically reasoning people have to call the unreasonable ridiculous and wrong.

For example, one frequent mild case of fanaticism I experience is the person who tells me that “God has told me to sing this song in church.” I will admit that I rarely challenge this claim, since it does little harm to tolerate it, but what if I did? (And really I should.) What if I said that there is no reason for me to believe God is telling them what to sing, that God instructed them specifically that I should give them an place in public worship to do so or that I should subject the congregation to the claim that God is whispering secret messages into the ear of some people but not others.

I would be perfectly right to say that if she would like to sing, just ask me, and keep the fanatical ploy out of it. There is nothing more spiritual about saying “I am only singing this Ray Boltz tune because God appeared to me like Moses and told me sing it.” This is an attempt to parade one’s spiritual experience, it is probably a lie, and it can’t be verified. Just ask, do it for the glory of God and sit down.

Of course, some of you are already shocked at the rudeness of this, and have concluded, like me, that tolerating this is the greater good. You suppose that when the youth groups come to the altar rubbing and hugging all over one another, I should bless God for their love in the Spirit. You suppose that when a group of church members begins telling others not to vaccinate, pay taxes or use contraceptives because God directly told them so, I should say nothing. When the pastor says that God told him we are to sell, move and build, we ought to do exactly that. You suppose that person who quits their job to watch TBN full time may be hearing from God and who am I to judge?

And it may be, in every case, that the zealot is right and I am wrong. But tolerating fanaticism has turned American Christianity on its head. Rather than being a religion of the Word, it is a religion of experience. Instead of being objective, it has become hopelessly subjective. Instead of being a collective, corporate participation in a Biblical community, it has become an individual, radical, quest to “chase God.” Instead of being comprehensible, it has become esoteric and mysterious.

In modern Christianity, fanatics have a clear runway to positions of leadership and influence. And virtually no one wants to dampen our appetite for fanaticism, no matter how much scripture and reason indicate a better way. Perhaps we are so sensitive to the secular persecution of our religion, that we are reluctant to criticize anything within our own fold. Our reluctance could prove costly, as fanatics tend to rise above correction, and to only be deterred when the damage has been done.

Here’s a closing thought. Jesus was perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit, and he seemed to be a really normal guy. Not normal as in sinful, selfish and foolish, but normal as in not a fanatic. He didn’t fit into the world system, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t because he was a wacko or a zealot. He was impassioned with the Spirit of God, and he shows us what a real God-filled person is like. God-centered, sacrificial, love-motivated living without the distractions of fanaticism.

Comments

  1. “This has been a perennial problem in Christian history”….

    And doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. It seems there was a slight miss-calculation and the new end of the world date is now October 21, 2011.

    • Awwww, man…..that’s almost 5 months; the wife will still expect the house to get painted before launch.

      Rats;
      GregR

    • Adrienne says

      I think a little common sense would help this particular “fanatic” tremendously. It is time for Mr. Camping’s children to step up and take the responsibility that we all have to do at some time. When we see that our parents are “failing” we get them the medical, physical etc. help that they need. It is time for his family to take him out of the limelight, away from the media and get him the help that he so desperately needs.

      • cermak_rd says

        Just because you (or well, most sensible people) don’t agree with Camping’s calculations, that does not mean the poor man needs to be “helped”.

        • I agree with Adrienne.
          Camping seems either delusional or a grifter.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Or both.

          • Brendan H says

            not a grifter.

            having asperger’s, I’m terrible at reading people, generally. However, his sincerity is obvious even to me.

            I tend to think that he’s perhaps experiencing a bit of dementia, but can’t diagnose him unless I actually meet him. Of course, he apparently has been like this for at least 20 years, so maybe it’s just who he is.

  2. I do believe that charismatic gifts continue into our time, but have seem them sorely abused, usually because someone loves the spotlight that goes along with appearing to be “filled with the Spirit”. The Pentecostal mindset behind this is theologically shaky. One pastor I know tells me that he received Christ at age 12, then wasn’t “filled with the Spirit” until he was 19…My thought was, “Wow, does the Holy Spirit have a waiting list that long?” This particular pastor was “filled with the Spirit” at a college retreat, and admitted that he was one of the few students there who couldn’t claim the experience…..hmmmm….can we say “peer pressure to speak in tongues”?

    I haven’t read a lot of books on the subject of the Holy Spirit, but Billy Graham’s “Holy Spirit” is one of the best I’ve found. You made a great point when you said “Jesus was perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit, and he seemed to be a really normal guy. Not normal as in sinful, selfish and foolish, but normal as in not a fanatic. He didn’t fit into the world system, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t because he was a wacko or a zealot. He was impassioned with the Spirit of God, and he shows us what a real God-filled person is like. God-centered, sacrificial, love-motivated living without the distractions of fanaticism.”

    Our Christian culture is caught up right now in branding Jesus and His followers as radicals, and tells us that we are to be radicals as a response. Truth is, they were rather ordinary, when you get down to it. I like Lady Julian’s description of the true Christian life as “full homely divinity”…It should be devout; both publicly and privately, but not otherworldly or difficult to comprehend; and it should be habitual, practiced consistently, with diligence and love. Whatever you do in the name of God, your ultimate motivation must be love. In my experience as a Christian, I’ve seen some miraculous and wonderful and exciting things…but the “Acts” (pun intended) I’ve found to be the most memorable and moving are the ones that are done humbly, quietly, with dignity and perseverance, as a part of our normal, everyday, going to work, caring for our families and neighbors, loving God, loving people lives. A life like this is a truly “Spirit-filled” life.

  3. I also wonder if some of this is a reaction to Catholicism, since I see many retorts to any hint of criticism or disagreement that sum up as “You’re not the Pope!”

    For example, when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was trying to get an agreement on an Anglican Covenant (so that there would be a standard of basic belief and some mechanism for conflict resolution within the Anglican Communion, which is currently splitting between the more conservative/orthodox faction mainly in Africa and the more progressive/liberal faction in North America), one of the immediate accusations made was that he was behaving as some kind of Anglican Pope and trying to set up a “Curia”.

    So I think maybe a lot of Protestants tolerate behaviour that makes them personally uncomfortable because they have this little voice in the back of their head saying “No Pope here”.

    🙂

    • I believe you’re right on, Miss Martha. It’s funny how we Protestants don’t want a Pope, but we want our pastors to be the all-in-all in every aspect of our individual, local churches. Do we want a new program in the church? Tell the pastor, it’s his responsibility to make it happen. Do we want our church to have financial accountability? It’s the pastor’s responsibility. Do we want to be led to deep spiritual pools to drink? It’s the pastor’s job. Church discipline problem? The pastor should be dealing with that. “Everything rises and falls on leadership…” was the John Maxwell mantra adopted by pastors in the early part of the 2000’s…So, if your church isn’t doing well in some area, isn’t it the pastor’s responsibility? And if the church is falling short in some regard, isn’t it the pastor’s responsibility to fix the problem?

      The list could go on and on. There are many Protestants out there who, in practice, want their pastors to function as “mini-popes”, all the while exclaiming a disdain for the real office of Pope. I wonder aloud if we didn’t rush toward that CEO/Maxwell model of leadership so that we American evangelicals, as members of congregations, could more easily run from our responsibilities as the Body of Christ. We are consumers, who want to be fed, and we expect our “mini-popes” to do the feeding!

      • Sorry, I got off your point. Yes, we do tolerate a lot of things that frankly, aren’t scriptural, because we want our pastors to deal with it…or either we define scripture for ourselves, without proper guidance, and nominate “ME” to be our own “mini-pope”.

    • Martha, I think you are spot on, and ironically, the more vitriolic the voice against the papacy, the more likely that Pastors Bob and Darlene have risen to a height that would make Benedict nose bleed and faint. And the sheepie’s are the very last to know, of course. I say this as a “somewhat contented protestant” as Michael used to say, I’m not making an argument for ANY kind of papacy here. Oh how Israel pined for a KING……not much changes….

    • cermak_rd says

      It seems as though Chicagolanders of Mexican and Central American ancestry are embracing Pentacostalism big time. There are at least 5 Spanish speaking iglesias near me and seems like more being built all the time. The growth seems to be coming from the Catholic Church, which I thought had an Azuza charistmatic movement of its own.

      • Charismatic, sí, Azuza, no (at least from my second-hand experience of the Charismatic movement as it happened in Ireland in the 1980s).

        Steady on there, cermak_rd: you wouldn’t want us to be enthusiasts or anything would you? 😉

    • Randy Thompson says

      Martha’s “little voice” in the back of many Protestant heads is saying “No Pope here” because every Protestant is his or her own Pope.

  4. A side bar to all this is that in charismatic circles (I’m Vineyard), leaders are expected to experience something out of the ordinary regularly (or so it seems to me). There is an unspoken pressure to touch the supernatural. This is not a good thing. Instead of just deciding to change a sermon topic, it has to be “GOD spoke to me last Tuesday night , and here’s the new agenda….”

    I agree with Michael, this is not as inocuous as it seems.
    GregR

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      A side bar to all this is that in charismatic circles (I’m Vineyard), leaders are expected to experience something out of the ordinary regularly (or so it seems to me).

      And when “regularly” becomes “Constantly/Continuously”…

      There is an unspoken pressure to touch the supernatural.

      Until Legba opens de gate and de loa mount their horses and ride.

      • Maya Deren’s film, Divine Horsemen? About voudoun (voodoo) in Haiti. Looks like some of it is available on youtube in segments.

        And yes, this is a huge problem in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

      • Randy Thompson says

        When “regularly” becomes “constantly” you have what the great 19th Century Max Weber called “routinization of charisma.” In non-sociological jargon, the charisma becomes routine, or, ecstasy becomes habit. When this happens, a pastor is in danger of becoming a shaman or witchdoctor, who explores the heavens and reports back to the faithful what’s going on there.

        • Randy Thompson says

          Ooops. I meant “great 19th Century sociologist Max Weber”!

        • Wow. Well put.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          When “regularly” becomes “constantly” you have what the great 19th Century Max Weber called “routinization of charisma.”

          Like when Star Trek Voyager encountered the Unknown Anomaly of the Week. (As its predecessor Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea encountered its Seaweed Kaiju Monster of the Week.)

          When you’re constantly running into “Anomalies”, they’re not Anomalies. They’re what’s Normal, and the Universe is Chaos. Ia, Ia, Yog-Sototh…

          • “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” – oh,now you’re talking, HUG! I used to love Irwin Allen’s thrifty re-use of stock shots and special effects, when the giant seaweed monster was roaring and flailing its fronds (how seaweed could vocalise was never adequately – or indeed, at all – explained, but obviously it was the same principle as space films where you could hear the sounds of the battle between starships even in a vacuum).

            I loved that show – I can even forgive them for the obligatory leprechaun episode, and Richard Basehart’s (admittedly not the worst) attempts at an Irish accent when playing the ghost of his pirate ancestor.

            🙂

          • Actually, VtBoS is not a bad example of what we’re talking about – it started out as a kind of spy/thriller show, with far-fetched but not too impossible scientific plot McGuffins of the Week (usually evil Eastern European or Asian governments trying to steal secrets) and then morphed into – well, seaweed monsters, re-incarnated pirate ghosts, and flying saucers – because plain old ‘cops’n’robbers’ type plots weren’t catchy enough.

            You start off with ‘the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still being poured out today’ and you end up (not necessarily, but always the danger of it) with ‘God told me that this is the song to avert the Great Volcano Eruption and if you don’t let me sing all twenty-eight verses, you are demons!!!!’

          • One more Mike says

            And the coolest submarine ever

          • Oh, when it comes to skiffy submarines, it’s a tie between Captain Nemo’s “Nautilus” and the “Seaview” for first place 🙂

            One of the many things that had me tearing my hair out about the movie version of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was the dreadful, dreadful CGI of the “Nautilus” in the canals of Venice. No way on this Earth could even Captain Nemo get a vessel the size they represented the “Nautilus” to be that far up the canals. Curled up in a ball on the floor whimpering about draft and displacement and horribly out-of-proportion drawing and all the rest of it, so I was 😉

    • It’s now called “living in the supernatural realm”. I know many who are trying to live there…I have not yet arrived.
      🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s now called “living in the supernatural realm”. I know many who are trying to live there…

        Any of them succeeded so far?

        This sounds like the fanboy behavior I’ve encountered in Comics and Furry Fandoms. In the old SF litfan days, it used to be called “FIAWOL” — Fandom Is A Way Of Life. (Countered by “FIJAGH” — Fandom Is Just A Gorram Hobby.) The core problem with fanboys of anything is they immerse themselves in their obsession to the point they pinch off any reality check. It becomes their entire life, and if anything (like Reality) steps between them and the subject of their obsession it becomes a matter of Life-or-Death Survival in their hindbrain.

    • Greg R, this is how Luke begins his gospel. He could have said, “The word of the Lord came upon me as the prophets did,” or “God spoke to me,’ but he didn’t. Instead he said, “I too decided…” (current NIV from biblegateway.com) My older NIV says, “It seemed good also to me…”

      “1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

      • aaarghh. misplaced quotation. hate that.

        • “It seemed good also to me…”

          LOVE THIS…..good enough for GOD HIMSELF , but just not good enough to be religiously “BONE-EE-FIDE !! We have to raise that bar up to the Book of Acts, or it just aint’ kingdom livin’….. the pity is that there will always be massive pressure on pastors/teachers anyway, we don’t need to be manufacturing our own.

  5. This sort of behavior also seems to widen the gap between those who believe in “science” and Christianity. Religious fanaticism belies the notion that someone can have a common sense, down to earth spirituality.

    • And I’m wondering if it’s the behavior , per se, or the monstrous promotion of it. Remember it was scientist Blaise Pascal who had a note sewn into his coat with some rough notes about a vibrant encounter with GOD HIMSELF. What we don’t seem to get is that Blaise went out of his way to HIDE the news of it. Now I routinely hear sermons about it, which may not be wrong, but maybe not what Blaise and the Holy Spirit had in mind.

      D.L. Moody also had experiences that he RARELY talked about, for good reason. I’m thinking it’s the desire to blow the horn and “bring in the people to assembly” type mandate that might be more the problem than experiences themselves. Comments welcome.

      GregR

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        More like bragging rights and one-upmanship than “bring the people to assembly”.

      • It certainly seems like discernment is gets put to the side during a pentecostal service. Where is the check in the “God told me to/God moved me/etc” reasoning?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Isn’t the original meaning of “Taking God’s Name In Vain” falsely claiming “God told me to”? Especially using “God Told Me To” to justify an Evil?

  6. dkmonroe says

    “Just ask, do it for the glory of God and sit down.”

    Amen! Preach it! 😀

  7. “Rather than being a religion of the Word, it is a religion of experience. Instead of being objective, it has become hopelessly subjective. Instead of being a collective, corporate participation in a Biblical community, it has become an individual, radical, quest to “chase God.””

    It may seem minor but I was struck by a subtle change of words projected on the screen in church this Sunday for the well-known hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. In the last verse, the words are “Lord haste the day when THE faith shall be sight…”—that is, when the objectively true, collective, corporate faith of Christianity will be fully revealed. Instead the words were changed to “…when MY faith shall be sight…”. It may seem trivial, but given the nature of this particular church, it struck me as a clear shift in its theology to what is described in the quote above about subjectivizing THE faith into MY experience.

    • That is happening ALL over the place, these days.

      Not that it cannot and does not happen in places where the Sacraments are valued, but it seems to me that it really goes crazy in places where there are NO SACRAMENTS. Faith has to touch down somewhere and become tangible. Without the Sacraments it all gets turned into ‘us’…or the ‘self’.

  8. We as a people do love to “experience” things don’t we?

    The enemy is most assuradely enjoying this whole Camping headline and the mockery it brings to every believer. Sad though, where has Jesus’ name been in all of it? Actually, maybe that’s a good thing? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

    I told my husband last night that it is times like these I want to have my own sign, “I’m not a Christian like THAT. I’m not on his side.” Coming from my prodigal life and the things I know people say about us because those very words have come out of my mouth, it makes me frustrated and I don’t know what to do with my frustration. It also boggles my mind that some people can be so blindly following someone who can say, “Oh ooooops, my bad. What I meant was…….” If Jesus had been that kind of “wishy-washy” who would still be at His feet?

    I am not the least bit interested in “chasing” God or going along with any so-called Christian crowd that gets the attention and/or the media coverage. I simply want to know God. Guess which is easier?

  9. Reading The Azusa Street Mission and Revival by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., based on some extensive historical research in Europe that had not been presented in earlier works took a lot of the shine off the revival for me.

    All persons interested in Azusa Street should read Robeck’s book.

    • I’m going to keep that title hand;y and get that into my Kindle when I finally get around to buying it………soon, I hope. thanks, EricW

  10. I think a big reason for the acceptance or even encouraging of fanaticism in evangelicalism has to do with the underlying pragmatism inherent in evangelical theology. Once we go down the path of letting the ends justify the means, well, it’s not a big leap to have people going to extreme means to “experience God” or “win souls”. People who are fanatics are just a little more sold out than the rest of us, so actually, we shouldn’t think them nuts, we should just ask ourselves what’s holding us back… I’ve actually heard people use this line of reasoning quite often. In fact, a person I’m friends with on Facebook who’s a youth pastor said something like “well at least the people who sold everything to preach Camping’s message are dedicated to what they believe. That’s more than I can say about most Christians.” I hate such idiocy and manipulation.

    • Radagast says

      The followers of Jim Jones were pretty dedicated too. Dedication doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with right thinking.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The followers of Jim Jones were pretty dedicated too.

        So were the 9/11 hijackers and the first wave or two of suicide bombers.

  11. Radagast says

    “There is nothing more spiritual about saying “I am only singing this Ray Boltz tune because God appeared to me like Moses and told me sing it.” This is an attempt to parade one’s spiritual experience, it is probably a lie, and it can’t be verified. Just ask, do it for the glory of God and sit down.” – Private revelation – God may have revealed this to this particular individual, but maybe wasn’t asking for it to be shared with the world. Because once you go down this road the focus is not on others but on oneself- narcicism of the Christian variety. I believe Jesus stated over and over about public displays of “look at me, I’m holier than you”. The Christian mystical writers were all over this as an appetite of self that needed to be cleansed.

    “Instead of being objective, it has become hopelessly subjective.” – Which is why I tend to like a Magesterium, Catachism or at least some guideline of beliefs. Otherwise it turns into amateur hour and everyone with an opinion wins.

    “Instead of being a collective, corporate participation in a Biblical community, it has become an individual, radical, quest to “chase God.” ” – And this could be a complaint of mine for the post evangelical wilderness – too many wanting to go it alone – or redefine church using their own rules. Our faith is based on a collective “where two or three gather in my name…” and not some indivdual, me centered, “god/Jesus is my ________ – replacing we, our, and worship with me, mine, boyfriend, feed me now -the way I prefer (not a dig against post-evangelicals – just a dig at the whole individualistic form of relationship in general).

    “Instead of being comprehensible, it has become esoteric and mysterious.” – Actually here I like the eastern chuch view of mystery – but that does not mean I am into people barking like animals – sorry – looks rediculous – probably feels rediculous – and christianity was never meant to be a therapy session to get out inner feelings through embarrassing public displays. More like group frenzy than spirtual fruitfulness. If you are out there behaving like you are tripping on acid, you better rethink the message your sending.

    Fun article….

    .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Otherwise it turns into amateur hour and everyone with an opinion wins.

      And given some of the more spectacular examples (Tokin’ the Lamb Yoing-Yoing-Yoing), amateur hour has turned into The Gong Show.

      • and sadly that is what has happened HUG. craziness being passed off as the ‘kewl thing of God’ peddled to easily impressed youth that have little or no spiritual discernment…

        Lord Jesus…have mercy… 🙁

    • That’s probably why, in the Lives of the Saints, every time you read about a saint who had revelations and mystical experiences, the corollary is a suspicious, box-ticking, bureaucratic bishop who is highly doubtful about all this fuss, thinks the saint is hysterical at best and a nutcase at worst, and usually either ships them of to the most remote monastery/convent in the diocese (or better yet, the country) and puts them under holy obedience not to tell anyone about this at all.

      Yes, fifty/a hundred/three hundred years later, said bishop gets pummelled in all the hagiographies for being so blind and for daring to persecute one of God’s Elect, but I think this is God’s way of maintaining checks and balances – if you can survive Bishop Worldly-Concerns thinking you’re a few sandwiches short of a picnic without flouncing off in a huff to set up your own little “House of Prayer” or “Magnificat Meal Movement”, you’re probably genuinely having mystical experiences of the right kind (i.e. not self-delusion or diabolic deceits).

      🙂

      • Hi Martha:
        [quote]Quote:”Yes, fifty/a hundred/three hundred years later, said bishop gets pummelled in all the hagiographies for being so blind and for daring to persecute one of God’s Elect, but I think this is God’s way of maintaining checks and balances …”[/quote]
        Now….is it REALLY ‘God’s way”…..or…is this any great amount different than those who have been pilloried here for exclaiming….”God told me”…etc, etc?

        Perhaps it isn’t ‘God’s way” at all….but merely the vagaries of mankind? Perhaps…..the changing tides of very human individuals….after all….some ‘saints’/mystics certainly seemed to be as nutters as so many who are decried here….from the charismatic camp…..and….many ‘bishops’ …then and now, sure seem to be far more secular (or worse) than ‘spiritual’….so…maybe it’s all a cosmic yin and yang thing after all.

        Just wondering….why some HERE can attribute things to ‘God’…..while castigating others for doing the very same thing? (not necessarily you….your sentence just struck me as an example of how we often practice what we decry in others. As in….I”m UNIQUE….but YOU’RE WEIRD….or..I”m merely ECCENTRIC, but YOU’RE CRAZY!

        Incidentally, I’ve read much of Hildegard of Bingen….as well as Julian of Norwich! Not bad for a ‘wascally protestant’, eh?

        Blessings,

        • Hi, Walt.

          I was just pointing out how balance seems to work properly (or at least in some form); if someone is making extraordinary claims about being guided by the Holy Spirit or personal revelations from God, then testing will winnow out the truth.

          So instead of saying “Yes! I will build a church in that spot where the twelve year old girl/illiterate Mexican peasant says Our Lady wants it built!”, the bishop says “Okay, fine, but do this for me – provide some proof that you’re not nuts, okay? A miracle would be very nice along those lines, if possible.”

          🙂

          • Personal experience of this: I’m living about fifteen miles away from a site where there was an alleged Marian apparition back in the late 80s. We had the full fifteen minutes of fame with huge crowds, tour buses full of pilgrims, people claiming to see all kinds of things. The local hierarchy didn’t interfere but let it burn itself out naturally.

            It’s died down immensely now, but in the past few months, another alleged visionary from Dublin has been making trips down to the site and making pronouncements.

            Again, I have no idea if this happened in fact or not; I’m inclined to doubt it, and I’m very inclined to doubt Mr. Visionary, but I’m leaving it up to the bishop for the final word of decision.

  12. Hi all,

    I’ll just say a few things. If you’ve never experienced a supernatural touch from God, it is nearly impossible to rationalize how such activities could possibly be of God. Experiences range from a deep “warm sensation” in the heart a la Wesley, or waking up one morning speaking barbaric a la Calvin, or intense emotions a la Edwards or simply falling flat on your back as in an Azuza Street revival, or speaking in tongues as Ben Witherington once described. You cannot put one tag on the experiences of the Holy Spirit. I’ll say it is like Morpheus saying to Neo, “unfortunately no one can be told what the matrix is, you have to sede it for yourself.”

    Two books totally changed my whole perspective on this were Jack Deere’s “Surprised by the Voice of God,” and Sam Storm’s “Convergence.” Both these men were staunchly against supernatural experience and they went through changes that turned their world upside down. Also recently is a good book by NT scholar Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, “Whose Afraid of the Holy Spirit.” DTS is not friendly to charismatics so one of their top professors writing on such a topic is very significant.

    At the end of the day, you have to want God to touch you in a special way – it will not be forced and God is quite happy to let you enjoy him with or without supernatural experiences.

    Yuri

    • I’m not saying the things you describe don’t happen – I’m Pentecostal, and I’ve seen and experienced the real. My wife was on her deathbed and had what I can only describe as a miraculour healing. I’ve also seen plenty of fake, though. I also know that having these sorts of experiences doesn’t generally change people in the long run. It doesn’t instantly sanctify them (sometimes I think it makes them worse, but that’s another discussion).

      Certainly, the Holy Spirit is living and active, and is at work. I just don’t think chasing after different experiences is what the Christian life is all about. Signs and wonders are things that happen in the Kingdom of God, but they aren’t the point of the Kingdom. The point of the Kingdom is Jesus ruling and reigning, and as the Church we should exhibit what that looks like.

    • Yuri; this is very anecdotal, and not meant to ‘trump’ anything in your post, but it is worth noting that MANY leaders of note that have had legitimate (as far as I can tell ) experiences from GOD still graviitate toward a group that deals in more mundane operation of the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking Sam Storms and Todd Hunter, specifially, but I could add many names quickly and easily.

      This does NOT discount those experiences, but they are not nearly the hub of the wheel that many make them out to be. Yes, we need GOD’s daily touch desperately, but it does not have to be grist for a Disney-esque, or TBN-esque , movie to ‘count’. That’s what many of these leaders found out yrs into their charismatic ‘thing’.

      Blessings and the touch of GOD to you and yours
      GregR

    • Yuri: been there. done that. got the T-shirt, rug burns from carpet time, whiplash from overly enthusiastic saints doing stuff they claimed to be the Holy Spirit…

      [sigh]

      being foolish for God nowhere in the fine print of being a passionate, sincere, dedicated disciple. no such manifestations Jesus is recorded doing. the extreme stuff just human foolishness trying to be passed off as something extra. something spiritually special. something elitist. something esoteric. mostly peddled like Tom Sawyer did when he was told to whitewash the fence as punishment. it is all in the delivery, but in the end it is simply whitewashing the person claiming to be so super spiritual they claim to look like Moses & Elijah at the Transfiguration…

      Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • Randy Thompson says

      I like Yuri’s point.

      At one point in my life, when I was very young, a non-Christian acquaintance asked me if I was a believer. I thought about his question, and said this: “Yes, I’m a believer. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. However, I don’t believe that God has done anything since then.”

      My experience of evangelical Christianity, at that time, led me to believe that everything we needed to know about how to avoid hell was to be found in the Bible, and that if we wanted to know God, we needed to read and know the Bible. The Christian faith, from my perspective at the time, was nothing more than an endless, boring Bible study where you read the Bible to find out what you already knew.

      The Bible only become relevant, interesting and life-giving when the experiences I read about in the Bible became my own. For example, Acts reads much less like a fairy story when you’ve shared some of the experiences described there.

      Spiritual experiences are the by-product of knowing God and His Son and being filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not seek experience for its own sake, we seek God for His sake. What happens or doesn’t happen after is God’s doing. To seek experiences is, finally, to seek one’s own emotions. To seek God is to grow in grace; to seek experience is to grow in self-absorption.

      I would suggest, ever so delicately, that seeking spiritual experience is to religion what masturbation is to marriage. (Sorry if I run afoul of the Internet Monk censors on that one!)

      And, when someone does something or says something because they believe God “told” them to, you can generally tell whether or not God really spoke. When God speaks and acts, you know it’s God speaking and acting, because people’s lives are blessed and changed.

      The problem with charismatic Christianity, it seems to me, is that they tend to be undiscerning and settle for too little.

      • “We do not seek experience for its own sake, we seek God for His sake. What happens or doesn’t happen after is God’s doing.”

        Very good, Randy. I heartily agree.

  13. AMEN!!! AMEN!!! AMEN!!!

    [did i tell you that when exclaimed 3 times in rapid succession the Lawd God Jeehovah speaketh forth His fresh rhema word to warmeth the cockles of the hearts of the elect]

    ~so sayeth the Lawd~

    😀

    • :o)

    • Yesssuh,, I testify to a spirit of Joseph-be-a-Jubilatin’ …… now comes de speshul DANCE……

      • oh yeah baby, replete with glory hoops & flags & banners & prayer shawls, etc.

        let the prancin’ & dancin’ & shakin’ in the name of the Lawd commence with a shout & a good blast from the shofar!!!

        😀

    • I find mocking comments like these particularly offensive.

      • Thank you, Michael….I concur. And bless you Randy Thompson, for your nuanced words….and the courage to express them in what seems to be (at least today) a toxic environment (not your crack about all being popes…:)), and Yuri……
        And…now…perhaps we should pray…..

        “Oh Lord, I thank you that ‘WE’ are not as other men. like those religious fanatics, those ostentatious hornblowers, those subjective (rather than ‘objective’…like us) exhibitionists and experientialists.

        You know who we mean, Lord, those raving Pentecostals, those ‘foaming at the mouth’ charismatics, why…those who are comparable to the followers of Jim Jones….and even radical Islamists, who murder innocents, and commit suicide while bombing churches and cafes…all those ‘seekers of experience’.
        Why, WE all attend staid, SENSIBLE churches…even those of us who DON’T attend the church you founded….like Martha does. We have (for the most part) ALL of the sacraments…all 7….not merely one or two….or….even NONE….like some of the rabble. We wouldn’t even THINK of disturbing your repose on Sunday by exclaiming in Praise….of your Name….or anything else. We are quiet and reverend….those of us who are alive….the only movement is the ushers….going from pew to pew….checking pulses, to see who’s still alive….and who’s now in Your Presence.”

        I am not totally unrepentant for the foregoing words…..but…as has been pointed out….what parts of this ‘discussion’ has been more of a ‘lynch mob’ than any form of ‘reasoned discourse’…..and, in my opinion, kinda discredits any credence that otherwise might be given to what’s been observed.

        And…before you shoot me down as some ‘thin-skinned’ Pentecostal or Charismatic….I’m neither. I’m one of a growing demographic that Michael Spencer wrote about….who’s experienced about every weirdness and aberration imaginable…..and suffered through the intolerable boredom and ‘deadness’ in many of the ‘other’ groups….only to finally exclaim….”A POX on ALL your houses!”

        Blessings to all…..even those who will now be heating the vats of oil…..and plucking their many chickens.

  14. Read Karen Armstrong’s “Battle for God” for a perspective on the rise of radicals. It’s been a few years since I read it, and it’s from a more secular view, but interesting nonetheless.

  15. As plainly weak as the case for generously overlooking fanaticism is, it is the rare Christian who will tell his or her friend or family member or pastor that they are over the edge. Perhaps it is a case of “What right do I have to judge?” And the answer should be, the perfect right all Biblically reasoning people have to call the unreasonable ridiculous and wrong.

    the craziness+plainly weird+bizzare+wacky+silly+esoteric+gnostic words, manifestations, claims, justifications, confirmations & uncomfortable realization one finally admits resulted in a large exodus from the charismatic/prophetic camps. i was one of them. identified most with Rob McAlpine’s Post Charismatic? book. once exited there will be no returning to the charismatic expressiveness even considered mild for this more skeptical saint…

    J. Lee Grady @ Charisma Magazine attempted to bring some correction or admonition to this very issue. you can read it here: http://charismamag.com/index.php/fire-in-my-bones/30684-getting-the-weirdness-out-of-the-prophetic-movement.

    i think it is a good example of damage control that will absolutely have no affect upon the craziness already released from the Pandora’s Box of the Prophetic. too much craziness has already been done to think that now such antics will be reeled in to some more acceptable levels. i think the craziness factor will only ramp up because the so-called freedom of Holy Spirit expressiveness now a blank check anybody can begin to write. no one corraled the first group that promoted such things, why be cautious now? heck, go for even a more bizzaro world of a supra-natural flavor & the reaction will be just as crazy, “This is the new thing of God!”

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • Chap Mike: sorry about the link. i had enclosed it with single quotes, but then took them out when i went back to edit before posting.

      Mea culpa… 🙁

    • thank you J. Lee Grady. Wonderful, short and to the point article.

      GregR

  16. There also seems to sometimes be an underlying presupposition in the charismatic/pentecostal movement that God only speaks or acts (or at least speaks or acts best) in certain rather extraordinary ways, which just happen to be the ways the movement promotes. In other words, the fanaticism in this corner of Christiantiy can tend toward exclusivism, just as the fanaticism of the uber fundamentalists and other extreme corners of Christianity sometimes do.

    • another side bar: by emphasizing the extraordinary, we inoculate against the practice of the presence of GOD and more “mundane” forms of spiritual practice and discipline. I mean, there’s just no ZING factor, no special ZAP or Ju-Ju. Brother Lawrence and Dallas Willard are hard sells when the package is short on emotive cayenne.

      Just as ‘entertainment only’ becomes junk food, these “moves of the spirit” become junk food, and the christian life is now devolved into pursuing more and more of it, and of course the experts/industry that sells it. Seminars and special weekends anyone ???

      GregR

      • I mean, there’s just no ZING factor, no special ZAP or Ju-Ju. Brother Lawrence and Dallas Willard are hard sells when the package is short on emotive cayenne.

        simply the most satisfying bit of prose i have read so far on this thread…

        ah…so refreshing…

        🙂

        • thank you Joseph, I’ll admit this entire thread is painful to me; have you ever tried to foster spiritual formation in these kinds of environments ? I got tired of being the evil alien after about 5 yrs and had to write a very painful “good-bye” to that part of my ministry. I hope this doens’t sound like self-pity, the whole thing is pandemic, and much, much bigger than my personal story of woe.

          blessings and healing on all of us, may we not lose hope and courage in doing good where we can
          GregR

          • GregR: having my Vineyard attendee card (vs. membership) plus 4Square membership card & independent charismatic church membership, i can speak to this segment of my faith journey. i pursued the charismatic/prophetic with true intent on finding out for myself what was of God & what was simply exaggeration/hype & a misunderstanding of the role the Holy Spirit in the expressions of true spirituality…

            i discovered there was no real difference between the ‘spirit filled/touched/baptized/inspired/stirred-up’ crowd & those that were happy simply being a cessationist claimant. i did not discover a greater proportion of transformed, sanctified saints exhibiting more character of Jesus than their counterparts.

            i understand your story of woe. it is not uncommon. and i don’t think it was a waste of time to have taken that leg of the journey. i will not claim i am anti-charismatic. i simply will say i am a cautious or skeptical charismatic that does not need the uber-spiritual ‘stuff’ to connect with the Almighty. in quietness & solitude i find myself very capable of meeting Jesus. nothing extraneous to distract or be the cause for unnecessary confusion. life is difficult enough without the added burden of sifting thru religious kookiness to glean the kernel of good from it.

            blessings on your journey…

            ~Joseph

          • conversations like today’s help; there is a “charismatic wing” to the evangelical wilderness, where the wanderers are NOT anti-charismatic, but tired of all the hype, baloney, and show. reading posts like yours tell me I may be crazy, but I’m not alone.

            HIS help on your journey as well
            GregR

          • I was part of a thrid wave church and one of the difficulties I found was that people were often being dishonest to fit into the “god manifestations” that happened. For example when there was prophecy happening across the evengelical church I was in I felt tempted and did say what others wanted to hear. It bothered me and I avoided churches like that later on in my journey. Looking back I would say that is part of the Christian expereince. It’s just as bad as the way people tend to be dishonest in accountability relationships becuase they feel like they have to lie in order to fit into the system.

        • “in quietness & solitude i find myself very capable of meeting Jesus”

          Beautiful.

          As well as He is very capable of being found in that quiet and solitary environment.

          • what she said; thanks for underlining this, Rebekah, sometimes hitting the “mute” button sends us to GOD and ourselves.

            GregR

          • Joseph, I, too, like your “in quietness & solitude i find myself very capable of meeting Jesus. nothing extraneous to distract or be the cause for unnecessary confusion. life is difficult enough without the added burden of sifting thru religious kookiness to glean the kernel of good from it.”

            Good stuff!

  17. Update for the Huffington Post this afternoon:

    “As crestfallen followers of a California preacher who foresaw the world’s end strained to find meaning in their lives, Harold Camping revised his apocalyptic prophecy Monday, saying he was off by five months because the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.”

    Sigh…..

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      According to morning drive-time, he was also saying last Saturday was The Rapture but it was a “Spiritual Rapture.” Which led to on-the-air speculation as to “what about all those soulless husks walking around afterwards” which led to jokes about “ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!”

      • ATChaffee says

        That’s kind of like the Great Disappointment in 1844 where we Adventists concluded Jesus really did return but it was a Spiritual Return, and oh yeah, it was to the Heavenly Sanctuary instead of to earth. Alas, we believe soul and body are indivisible so we don’t get to have zombies.

      • In my office at work HUG some people were wondering if the Joplin tornado was supposed to be a part of the earth’s destruction, or if God made a mistake in not starting to destroy the entire country. Either way the fact that this happened in the “Bible believing” part of the country does make me want to ask…where is John Piper when you need him !?!?!? I mean this tornado would be a good follow up to his comments on the Twin Cities tornado a couple of years ago, as well as the collapse of the I-35 brdige in Minneapolis.

        • Don’t forget the latest Iceland volcano…

        • Don’t forget the Icelandic volcano eruption on Saturday, Eagle! The prophecy begins to be fulfilled!

          To be this much fair to Mr. Camping, he always did claim that The End would be October. Saturday was to have been the Secret Rapture, all the rest of us unbelievers are left behind to suffer the unimaginable torment of the tribulation, and then in October Christ returns openly and that’s it. folks.

          • Martha, how are the sunsets over there with the ash in the air?

            I got “caught up in the clouds” of last year’s volcano. My first trip to Europe ever, and as soon as we landed they said “You ain’t a-goin’ nowhere.” ( I quote this in honor of Bob Dylan’s 70th) And with all the flights canceled I kept thinking “There must be some way out of here…” because I was “Stuck Inside of Brussels with the Marseille Blues Again”. (That was a paraphrase, of course.)

            But the sunset from the Slow Train out of there was gorgeous.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Is Ireland still above-water?

          • And really off-topic, but what does it say about international relations when Obama chugs a Guinness and the Queen won’t take a sip? Did he mean to upstage her?

          • HUG, yes, despite all the rain, we’re still just about keeping our heads above the waves 🙂

            Ted, the sunsets would probably be glorious if it weren’t for all the dank grey clouds (see above re: rain) 😉

            And Her Maj is an elderly lady, so maybe the Pint of Plain was a bit too heavy for her. Obama, on the other hand, cut his teeth politicking in Chicago, so he knows all about how to win the Irish vote (and note for any who saw the tv coverage of the interior of Ollie Hayes’ Pub, the clerical gentleman with the beard is my Church of Ireland brother-in-law from Shinrone, which is where the Obama ancestors really originated from, never mind those Moneygall chancers).

            😀

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Saturday was to have been the Secret Rapture, all the rest of us unbelievers are left behind to suffer the unimaginable torment of the tribulation…

            Unless they take the Ultimate Get-Away-From Option.

            According to newsfeeds, there have been two suicides (one in Russia) regarding Camping’s Prophecy. Plus a news item more-or-less local to me (Lancaster, California, in the desert north of Los Angeles) where a Campingite mother cut the throats of both her teen daughters then her own when May 21 came and went and she thought they’d been Left Behind. (All survived; both daughters in hospital, mother in slammer.)

        • One more Mike says

          I was told by a very serious evangelical today that the Joplin tornado was triggered by Obama’s “desertion” of Israel. I wanted to ask what Obama did to trigger the Tuscaloosa and the 450+ tornadoes all over the US in April. But I let it go. But I did comment to him “Now if there had been a tornado in Israel, that would have been something to wonder about.”

      • Just a funny story:

        Saturday evening I was at a graduation party. Everyone was on the back patio of the hosts home.

        4 people, including myself, enjoying a conversation amongst ourselves, when my husband suddenly notices we are the only ones outside. Uh-oh! Did the rapture happen? He goes inside to check and leaves me with the other 2 outside.

        Prior to this, we had been discussing the roots of my life of the no drinking, no smoking, no card-playing, no rock and roll, no dancing and I had shared of a memory where a girlfriend from my private Christian school had the Grease soundtrack and I was floored and thrilled and we enjoyed some John Travolta/Olivia Newton John tunes back in the late 70’s.

        Waiting for my husbands return from his “rapture research” a friend then turned to me and said, “It was the Grease soundtrack wasn’t it? That’s why you’re still here.”

  18. I am a charismatic. I was touched by the Holy Spirit when I was 19. It was life changing. It was a catalyst of growth for me, though with difficulites. There are several things I think we have to keep in mind here. First, we are not the first to deal with these kinds of experiences. IF we could cease defining christianity as just the first century AD and then skip over to the Reformation to now, we would realize there have been those believers who have experienced what we think of as Charismatic-the catholic mystics, east and west. They contended with these same things. I think we would be wise if looked at this who subject of the charismatic phenomena form the LONG TERM historical perspective. Second, we have to look at the issue of spiritual maturity. The charismatic gifts or experiene is NOT a mark of your maturity. God gives you these things so you can GROW. But if your flesh is not being crucified DAILY, you end up in some of the oddities we see. I have seen and know some very spiritually gifted believers SHIPWRECKED because they got into a place where they were not dying daily to self. The “higher” up you go, the more you need to remain broken and humble before God. For those that forget that, well, God judges them for thier own good, and they fall…hopefully one day to be restored. All the more reason to keep each other in prayer!Third, I do think that church polities that do not provide a firm oversight can be more suceptive to the occurence to what others have called “charismania”. Sometimes, we may need to actually REMOVE someone from thier charge. This is not a shamless plug for episcopal government, however, I do think in this regard, this kind of government helps. Finally, I will share what my southern baptist professor told me, that in spite of all the foolishness going on in the church, there is no other place I would rather be. Better to have to wade through the mess to get to the genuine that to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bathwater”. I am not saying that is easy, but then again, what of value ever is?

    • Finally, I will share what my southern baptist professor told me, that in spite of all the foolishness going on in the church, there is no other place I would rather be. Better to have to wade through the mess to get to the genuine that to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bathwater”. I am not saying that is easy, but then again, what of value ever is?

      words of caution wise for those that identify more with being post-charismatic vs. anti-charismatic…

      however, what i have personally discovered in much of the prophetic/renewal/signs+wonder camps there was no baby in the bathwater to begin with. what was there was an idol fashioned to look like a real baby, but no, what was there needed to be thrown out along with the tub, the fixtures, the towels, bathmat & soap! throw it all out thank-you-very-much…

      my sensitivity to the things of the Spirit can be candidly called a bull-s**t meter. it is cranked over to maximum sensitivity & goes off at the slightest sense of spiritually themed claims be they dreams, visions, visitations, angelic interactions, prophetic utterances, manifestations, or any such self-proclaimed credentials…

      my charismatic experiences include some very, very uncanny things as well as being a witness to some rather questionable & down-right horrific things being passed off as Holy Spirit inspired.

      not sure what to do with my previous experiences other than letting God continue to work out good, or work to my continued good, those things that left me scratching my head in bewilderment…

      yes, proper oversight or boundaries or accountability greater when the spiritual giftings are promoted, encouraged, ‘released’. and teaching & swift correction needed when anything remotely wacko happens, which will indeed occur if such spiritual freedoms are deemed legitimate…

      blessings too on your journey…

      ~Joseph

  19. Radagast says

    Now that was a coherent, thought out response. The Catholic mystics did have a lot to say in this area and I agree it must be done in humbleness – calling focus on oneself tends to feed the appetite of vanity.Even Paul had something to say about some of the charismatic gifts, what was really important and edifying to the community over what should be done in private.

    Your response put what I have seen into perspective – I guess every expression of the faith is prone to excesses and abuse. In the Catholic Church I have seen the charismatic movement mostly from the outside, and though I see it as another path, it is not my path (I believe the movement got its start right here in Pittsburgh).

    What hurts the charismatic movement outside the church (Assemblies of God and the like who, in my area is made up of former Catholics) is the requirement that one MUST display the gifts or they do not truly have the indwelling of the Spirit. This tends to give the impression that those who display float about three feet higher off the ground than the rest of us.

    Regards….

  20. Jonathan says

    I say this with some hesitation, but does anyone agree with me that it is no coincidence that Camping was trained as a engineer? I can speak only from experience, but I have known engineers whose high opinion of their ability to figure anything out was pretty obnoxious. One told me, after he was called for jury duty but struck by the attorneys, that attorneys can’t stand to have engineers on a jury because engineers are the most rational people on earth and will not be swayed once they’ve made up their minds. He said this proudly.

    Since Camping’s come to my attention, I’ve seen the signs: an obsession with a problem (the timing of the alleged Rapture) that can be solved with mathematical precision. Once he believes he solved it, nothing moves him from that solution. If the solution proves false, he rationalizes, insisting that he and his calculations are still basically right. It matters not that no one agrees with his solution or that most people believe the problem insoluable to begin with. What matters is that Camping believed that he could figure it out and now he believes he did. Seriously, nothing screams “engineer” like that does. To me, anyway.

    • Radagast says

      Being from an engineering background I can agree with much of what you say. Its a vanity that I have fallen under in the past (and I smile when you mention the whole court and lawyer thing being I had a similar experience years ago). For me it took and understanding wife with a big frying pan to knock a bit of sense into me and look at faith from my heart instead of always from my head..

    • The problem in general is sin (pride and unrepentance). But engineers can be vulnerable in this area. Experienced engineers usually recognize that reality is the great undoer of theory.

    • You can tell an engineer a mile away……but you can’t tell them anything face to face.

      • And I should know, I are an engineer.

        • Jonathan says

          Well, truth is, I’m a lawyer and, given my profession’s reputation, perhaps I shouldn’t poke at others’. But I’m pretty sure that Camping wouldn’t be doing this stuff if he’d gotten a liberal arts degree.

          • Maybe you’re right. Or just maybe he’d be talking about his “vision” instead of working out the “math”.

          • cermak_rd says

            Mama don’t let your babies become engineers
            cause they’ll read the Scriptures alone, gnawing like a dog on a bone
            And come up with something inane…

            Mind you, I’m an engineer that has served on 2 juries in my lifetime (1 civil, 1 criminal).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      One told me, after he was called for jury duty but struck by the attorneys, that attorneys can’t stand to have engineers on a jury because engineers are the most rational people on earth and will not be swayed once they’ve made up their minds. He said this proudly.

      Sounds like something Ayn Rand would say.

    • On an earlier post about dispensationalism, we discussed the fact that adventist movements with this “engineering” approach to Scripture arose at a peculiar time in history—when both the Industrial Revolution and the spiritual awakenings were taking place in Britain and America. This led to a way of interpreting the Bible that I call “exegetical engineering.” Camping is an extreme example of that, but the mindset is common in dispensational circles.

    • brian the lurker says

      As an engineer myself, I would like to point out that one of the fundamental canons of the engineer’s code of ethics is that you will only perform services in your area of competence, where you are skilled by education, training and experience.

      • cermak_rd says

        wait! we (engineers) have an official code of ethics? I thought it was just common sense (well and the intense desire not to make a fool of oneself).

  21. Great post, Chaplain Mike. I particularly like your closing paragraph about Jesus being a “normal” acting man, though fully impassioned through the Holy Spirit of God. “God-centered, sacrificial, love-motivated living without the distractions of fanaticism.” Yes.

    I have been reading Pope Benedict’s second book about Jesus, this one being about the Last Supper, the trial, crucifixion, resurrection. It struck me anew how afraid and sad Jesus was about the process of dying that he was about to experience. He was obedient, yet he was fully human too. You can be both afraid and brave. You can be sorrowful even while expecting something glorious to happen later. (By the way, I think Pope Benedict is a great writer. He knows what questions will be asked by his readers and he answers them well. He is not afraid to point out passages in the four Gospel versions that contradict one another. He is able to live with some unanswered questions. I am liking him very much!) I am off-topic again. Delete as needed.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      He is not afraid to point out passages in the four Gospel versions that contradict one another. He is able to live with some unanswered questions. I am liking him very much!

      Last week, we were going on about the Campingite Rapture and Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism was an attempt to reconcile the whole Bible when taken hyper-literally. Including “the four Gospel versions that contradict one another.” Looks like the original Dispys (and a lot of their spiritual/intellectual descendants) were NOT “able to live with some unanswered questions.”

  22. and still you come back to post…. mark, we love your oh-so-predictable self !!

    GREG R

    • I think Mark just got raptured.

      • oh my…

        😀

        • actually ‘Mark’ suddenly transformed into ‘William’…

          hmmm…

          i am sure there is a prophetic meaning for this, but i just can’t seem to discern what it could be… 🙁

    • Charles Fines says

      Greg, I am not finding a reply button on your post to me above and hope you find this which is in answer to it. I am pleased to find a misunderstanding behind my disagreement and accept your explanation. My sense is that the great majority of Blacks reading your words would have come to the same conclusion as I did. But it is also my sense that probably not many Blacks hang out here in the first place and those that do would probably also take your extended hand of fellowship. It is a sorry legacy that we Americans have left for ourselves and our grandchildren.

      I am often guilty of ridiculing those I disagree with and need to work more on that myself. Somehow the effect is greatly intensified when it is a group effort way beyond the simple addition of numbers. I suspect it somehow allows entrance to a spirit better left alone. Thank you again for responding in love.

      • Explanation accepted. If it helps, I have 23plus yrs in at the VIneyard, if I was making fun of anyone, it was “myself” , and maybe that was not such a great idea. There is almost no more dangerous (that I can think of) charge in todays society than to be called “racist”.. It can cost a person their job, and the heartache that follows that. I’d be very careful handling that peice of description, and I’ll try not to stumble into words that invite that description.

        back to work; thanks for your prompt honesty
        GregR

  23. A problem I have with pointing out the fanaticism inherent in some parts of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is some seem to believe it absolves them of the need to look at the fanaticism in their own lives and churches. As long as they can point to those “weird” Pentecostals over there, they can sit back smugly and feel little need to get their own houses in order. Granted, Pentecostal/Charismatic fanaticism is often more obvious and showy; but let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist elsewhere.

    I have known independent, fundamental Baptists whose attempts to justify themselves via legalism parallel those of the Pharisees themselves. I have known a few ulta-traditional Catholics who on the one hand believe absolutely in the need to submit to and obey the “true” church, but then criticize the Pope (both Benedict XVI and John Paul II) for not living up to their impossibly high standards. Now none of these folks would consider themselves “charismatic” at all; yet they were stil seen as fanatical by many who knew them.

    • William, the most fanatical people I have encountered are not those southern fundamentalist types but those who combine some sort of modernism with eastern mysticism (with the downgrading of Scripture) and argue that Christian ethics do not matter.

    • Nice post, William. The admonitions of M.Spencer need to be heeded and used on ourselves as well. We need to take heed when we THINK we stand, so well said. I think this kind of thing usually starts slowly and in small increments, so I appreciate your words.

  24. I say, tell it like it is Chaplain Mike.
    I have seen plenty of people’s psycological well being destroyed by lots of Charismatic nonesene.
    the worst thing is that the only people who speak up against this stuff are usually over-rational, non-experiencing automotons of the faith. Most of my friends, after experiencing the gong show, have fled everything Charismatic in favour of stuffy bone-dry exegesis and mental assent to doctrines. at least they’re in the safety of people who don’t tolerate absurd explainations that lack sense. but, overall i think this development is very sad.
    i have had awsome experiences in prayer, and witnessed incredible things: lives changed, circumstances changed, etc. (and more dynamic, and obviously miraculous, things besides). i wouldn’t have experienced any of it if i let the crap i witnessed in the past get me down or put me off of experiencing God for real. what a shame that people fear the experiencial side of the faith because no one has enough sense to critique this self-indulgent charade that often masks as experiencing God.
    I do wish i was more bold to denounce certain things i saw when i was in the midst of various false experiences back in the mid 90’s. i might have actually helped some people if i wasn’t so mixed up in it myself. there is no guidance or maturity in much of the “moves of God” i know of. i knew things were wrong, but i kept my mouth shut because the “anointed” people leading were certainly better equipped then me. i bet a lot of people were in that predicament.

  25. Didn’t get raptured. Still here.

    I know I’m not popular here because I stand up for biblical truth. Ever since Chaplain Mike took over this site, the majority of people who come here are those who have an ax to grind against anything that sounds evangelical or conservative.

    I also think many people, not all, who come here are those who call themselves Christians but are:

    1) Bitter against God

    2) Bitter against orthodox Christianity as reflected in Scripture

    3) Are angry that a preacher or theologian said something along the lines of “You cannot be a true Christian and accept modernism or postmodernism” (think John MacArthur).

    4) Are angry that someone told them that they cannot reject the gospel and still be saved.

    5) Are angry that they read a book that states that one cannot have a gay lover and truly belong to Christ.

    6) Universalists.

    7) Those who want to make Christianity as much palatable to them as possibe.

    • Um, Mark, you’re doing what you say others here are doing to those you are trying to protect/defend or whatever it is you are doing. I’m sure I could have said that more efficiently but I’m not in the mood.

      I like your backwords humility and upside down perfection. Since you are the only one who is standing up for Biblical Truth on this site. If I weren’t so mad, I’d be laughing.

      Everyone is on a journey Mark, even you. None of us here…..NONE of us, are in a perfect place with the things we have each experienced, seen, read, heard or had hammered down our throats. And yes, absolutely some of us have an ax to grind and in my extremely humbled opinion, it’s an ax that needs to be ground. Atleast it is for some of us to be able to move on from it. If the sound of grinding and angst makes you the least bit uncomfortable, I can show you the door. Otherwise, love us.

      And I will say, with bated breathe, that Micheal Spencer had an ax to grind. If you read his book you might find that it was with people that walk above the rest of us with a Bible in one hand and their judgements in the other.

      None of the above is to be considered the opinion of Internet Monk or anyone involved, commenting or just peering in. They are mine. All mine. And I’m proud to have ’em.

      I am now stepping away from the mic……..

      • With all due respect Rebekah, what ax would that be?

        If you think I’m some holier than thou fundy who has a Bible in one hand and a ax of judgment on the other, you’re terribly mistaken.

        Yes, I take Scripture’s inspired nature much more seriously than some people do here, but that is not why I have such a critical stance to this website and some of the people who frequent here.

        I know we’re all on a journey. I, by no means, have reached the level of perfection nor has my sanctification process been complete. I understand that all Christians progress in the Christian faith on various levels and will not reach ultimate glory when our Lord comes back in glory.

        What my problem is that many people in churches today – regardless of denomination – have given themselves over to various forms of modernism in their theological and ethical thinking. People using their own personal problems to dilute the message of the gospel. That is what I have a problem with.

        I wish Michael Spencer was still here. Though I didn’t agree with him on every point, at least he stayed true to the faith even when he had to critique certain aspects of evangelicalism. It’s one thing to give constructive criticism to certain aspects of the family you live in, it is totally another thing to change the rules of the family that has been there for a long time so that “upset people” can join the family and cause mayhem.

        • Mark, I really take issue with your opinion here. First of all, did you happen to notice who wrote the post you are commenting on? That’s right, Michael Spencer.

          If anything, we who inherited Michael’s legacy have not yet had his courage to be as critical as he was of evangelicalism, the new reformed movement, young earth creationists, those with a strict view of biblical inerrancy, those who do not appreciate the historic traditions of Christianity, Christian fanaticism, and those who would add anything to grace. Michael wrote posts appreciative of Roman Catholic traditions, orthodox traditions, mainline Protestant traditions, and others as well. He despised the culture war mentality of the Christian right. He came to a place in his life where he explicitly expressed appreciation for “Mere Christianity.” We aim to continue his legacy here, and perhaps some day, God willing, we will be able to speak as clearly as he did to both critique and encourage.

          I urge you to read one of Michael’s last posts: “Evangelical Ecumenism and a Jesus-Shaped Guest List.” Here’s what he said there:

          Is the Jesus you are following calling you into ecumenical relationships with other Christians? Not evangelistic relationships, but fellowship around a shared Christ, even if not a shared table?

          Or is Jesus giving you your theological policeman’s orders for the day? Get your quota of arrests. Get the Catholics off the streets. Arrest some mainliners. Let’s clean this neighborhood up. And be careful out there.

          …The ecumenical community is created by Jesus. It’s his guest list, and I can set up a lecture room at the Hyatt and outline my objections, or I can go in and have some food, drink and conversation. Jesus won’t beg me. He’ll just tell me where to find him.

          That’s what Internet Monk has always been about, Mark. And always will be, as long as I have anything to do with it.

        • Mark, it sounds like you’re still grieving for Michael Spencer. That’s fine. We all miss Michael, but he died of cancer, and we need to accept that and move on. I think Chaplain Mike is doing unbelievably well with this blog, and let’s thank God that he came in at the right time for a smooth transition, along with Jeff, Damaris and others.

          You said, “I know I’m not popular here because I stand up for biblical truth.” If only it were that easy. Mark, it’s almost as if you’re calling yourself a martyr, the last of the faithful, and demonizing those who don’t agree with you and calling us apostate. Yes, you did say, “the majority of people who come here” have an ax to grind against anything evangelical or conservative. Then there was that list.

          I’m not saying that you don’t stand up for biblical truth, Mark, but your very narrow, unforgiving interpretation of it, and your often unkind manner of presenting it, just plain wear people down.

          As for the tone of discussion “now” versus “then”, go back to blogposts from 2009 and earlier for a more objective outlook. And I think you’ll find also that Chaplain Mike is a lot more lenient with the delete button. He goes out of his way to encourage discussion, even when it’s disagreeable. Michael Spencer had his own technique, a lot more straightforward with the delete button and often a pithy comment to go along with it.

          • “Michael Spencer had his own technique, a lot more straightforward with the delete button and often a pithy comment to go along with it.”

            Perhaps if that was still practiced more often we wouldn’t have all these “intruders” invading this website.

            There are things that fellow Christians can agree to disagree on and live peaceably (e.g., baptismal mode, church government style, eschatology, views on Spirit gifts today, etc.), but when some “hotshot” who thinks that orthodox Christianity is a movement for a bygone time starts promoting things that would make the apostolic fathers sit on edge wouldn’t it be right to correct that person for the sake of their salvation?

            Do you think it is loving to tell a person to continue in heresy, when that heresy will land him or her in hell?

            • Let this be a lesson to all commenters. Mark’s comment here is an example of what we will not tolerate on Internet Monk. He has been duly warned. I expect the rest of us to treat Mark and every other commenter with the utmost respect. As Michael Spencer wrote in the comment policy:

              I moderate assertively. I delete comments that are irrelevant, too long, off topic, selling things, pimping blogs and especially those that reject the Christian profession of other posters.

              A primary commenting rule is to not engage in attempts to convert other Christians to your tradition or away from their own.

              If I announce a policy in a particular thread, I will moderate assertively according to that policy.

              Comments that denigrate the discussion itself or participants in the discussion will not be posted.

              You do not need to be obnoxious, mean or profane to be placed on moderation or banned. If your comments consistently are obstructive to the conversation, I will moderate accordingly.

              I have no problem banning commenters that offer no positive contribution to the discussion. I have a large audience and I moderate so they can have a civil discussion. I do not have any commitment to absolute free speech on my blog. I have worked hard for the success I have in this medium, and I do not share it or allow others to denigrate or manipulate it. You may participate, but I do not sponsor wars, slander, threats or pointless arguments.

              I’m not a perfect moderator, so if you want to accuse me of being hypocritical or inconsistent, I already agree with you and it doesn’t matter. You won’t win the comment war.

              For more information, please refer to the “FAQ/RULES” page under “ABOUT IM” on the top menu.

      • I came in this morning to extend a humble apology as my comment above was written and submitted through a frustrating and irritating part of my day yesterday. Though I am not in any way condoning Mark’s comments, I did not need to take anything out on him.

        So Mark, I aplogize for being rude.

        However, since there has been more commenting since I was last here, I have to say to you Mark……..

        The “intruders” that you speak of, though probably not all of them, are “intruders” that Jesus died on the cross for. And those “intruders” could very well be grafted in just like the Gentiles (like me and possibly even you!).

        So, please, I beg you, one sinner to another…….please tread carefully!

        Lord have mercy!

        • Wait a minute, that TOTALLY didn’t come out right! Each and every person was someone Jesus Christ died on the cross for! I was trying to say that there are, no doubt, some people who visit here that are not the least bit interested in the message of Jesus Christ.

          I hope I made that a little more clear. Thanks!

    • “3) Are angry that a preacher or theologian said something along the lines of “You cannot be a true Christian and accept modernism or postmodernism” (think John MacArthur).”

      Or think Pope Pius X:

      “In a decree, entitled Lamentabili Sane Exitu (or “A Lamentable Departure Indeed”), issued 3 July 1907, Pius X formally condemned sixty-five modernist or relativist propositions concerning the nature of the Church, revelation, biblical exegesis, the sacraments, and the divinity of Christ. This was followed by the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (or “Feeding the Lord’s Flock”), which characterized Modernism as the “synthesis of all heresies.” Following these, Pius X ordered that all clerics take the Sacrorum antistitum, an oath against Modernism.”

      Mark, please stick around and talk with us. Don’t feel that you’re being chivvied away because you’re the Lone True Christian who is being persecuted. Give us your opinions and let us thrash things out.

  26. Charles Fines says

    Reading the first two thirds of this discussion puts me in mind of a PBS documentary from the Civil Rights era on the Freedom Riders. When the first bus got into Alabama territory without serious incident, they came to a city where the chief of police gave the local bottom feeders fifteen minutes to do whatever they wanted before the police would step in to restore order. I have witnessed a mob spirit myself and recognize it even when restrained. The one here was complete with unwarranted racial slur and mocking and jeering that would likely bring up unpleasant memories for Jesus.

    To suggest that we have “the perfect right all Biblically reasoning people have to call the unreasonable ridiculous and wrong” sets the stage. Much as I wish Harold Camping was not presently occupying center stage, he presents himself with much more decorum than many of the pipe wielding and gasoline throwing participants here. And if he received his information as a charismatic revelation rather than as, to him, reasoned Bible study, I missed that part.

    Paul spoke very well to the abuse of spiritual gifts. He did not deny the validity of prophecy within the church but assumed it, and said it should be restrained, ordered, and discerned by others within the church. He did not suggest that those keeping order within their own church pick up pitchforks and torches to keep other churches in line. Paul said that altho he discouraged public expression of the gift of tongues without interpretation, he himself prayed in tongues privately more than all the people he was speaking to. If he had stated that here, hopefully he had his running shoes on.

    Ordinarily there is a fair balance to these threads but this one really went off the deep end to my perception and presented what it deplored, a spectacle making me want to put on my tee shirt saying, “I’m not with these people!” Jesus sometimes had harsh words for the religious leaders but I don’t recall him ridiculing people, especially what you might call the little people.

    • being a bit overdramatic with the comparisons? and you only mention speaking in tongues (glossolalia vs. xenoglossia?) & prophecy. and your interpretation of correct use or application within the church is???

      have you ever had a self-proclaimed super spiritual sort come up to you at a service & ‘speak a word’ over you? tell you that you are a divinely “appointed intercessor for China. Begin speaking in tongues but make it sound like Chinese”? no? nothing like that? an apparent abuse of both prophecy & speaking in tongues?

      say what???

      so to be, say, on par with the ol’ Apostle Paul speaking in tongues de rigueur? but you don’t use the other qualifiers of his ministry? (2Cor 11:16-29)

      what is the proper use of such things then? i have never experienced such things in a public setting. and the self-styled x-treme prophetic types with their books, conferences, seminars, DVDs truly using their ‘gift’ for the edification of the body?

      unfortunately the abuse of such things is the norm, not the exception. and i was involved in it as sincerely as could be pursued. i consider myself spiritually gifted, but it is to the extent i am usually able to sense what is human ego & parroting of things they have been taught or shown. since my own experience in both speaking in tongues & in giving & receiving prophecy was quite extensive, i found the supposed benefit is so entangled by the weirdness factor it is not worth making it the central point of faith practice. simply being sincere or even zealous about being expressive & giving oneself over to manifestations does not even come close to proof it is valid. being kooky for Jesus is not an indication of being spiritual. it is simply a ‘sign’ of being goofy. silly. misguided. and if that is what is being pursued or used as the way to express one’s sprituality, then i say to those unfamiliar with it to remain so. there is way too much chaff to winnow thru to find any kernel of good in it.

      i will not participate in a meeting/service that is centered around the use of spiritual gifts. if such things are needed to prove spiritual maturity or novelty or ‘being anointed’ then it is best to be avoided. and the onus to make it more acceptable, in control, in order, proper, restrained, etc. squarely on those that promote such things. there is much work to be done in the charismatic/prophetic camps to clean up the mess left by the abuse of spiritual gifts before it can ever be presentable enough to those of other camps you would want to invite over for a look. until then i would caution anyone unfamiliar with the charismatic/prophetic expressions to stay away.

      • Charles Fines says

        I have many fond memories of the Foursquare Church I started out with after saying yes to Jesus. That was started by the woman in the first image in this thread. Like me, she had a few things to work out. As with all my learning experiences since then I chewed the fish and spit out the bones. I have both good and bad to learn from and 37 years later I am still proceeding two steps forward and one back. Like Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

        I am not aware of it if Harold Camping claims his dates as a prophetic word from God. It was my impression that he figured this out on his own with his intellect. Correct me if I am wrong. If he should prove to be a cynical scam artist, the people who follow him are probably sincere. To jump from criticizing Camping for leading many apparently astray to a wholesale castigation of all things connected with the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement is a pretty broad leap. I do not see anything resembling a Jesus-shaped spirituality in it but rather a self-righteous and obnoxious judging of others.

        It sounds reasonable to say we have “the perfect right all Biblically reasoning people have to call the unreasonable ridiculous and wrong.” This would assume that “we” are Biblically correct and reasonable and have the ability to detect and point out those who are neither. The whole Evangelical movement is based on “Biblical” teaching and belief. All the many splinters of the Protestant movement are based on “Biblical” teaching and belief. The Roman and the Eastern wings of the church are based on “Biblical” teaching and belief. Harold Camping bases his predictions on “Biblical” teaching and belief.

        Why repeat the errors we can see all around us and all thru history? I can tell you what my understanding of the Biblical message is today, but I don’t see any part of that message that tells me I should insist you believe the same and castigate you if you don’t. I am responsible to God for my understanding as is Harold Camping. My understanding of the Biblical message is not the same as it was 37 years ago, nor is it the same as it was yesterday. To say that we have a perfect right to call other people ridiculous and wrong, and that this gives us the license to ridicule and denounce whoever we choose that differs from us, that is just plain wrong.

        If you are in sixth grade, this does not give you permission to bully those in kindergarten. If anything you ought to be looking out for them and remembering what it is like to be starting out in the school of life. There are many schools with many grades, some perhaps with a more direct connection to the footsteps of Jesus, some perhaps not.

        I am not always certain about how close I am to the Spirit of Jesus. Sometimes it seems like I am lagging far behind and I wish I had more people praying for my encouragement and spiritual progress. This makes me think that people like the followers of Harold Camping might benefit from someone praying for their encouragement and spiritual progress. I don’t know anyone who thinks that barking like a dog is pleasing to God, but I would imagine that they too might benefit from prayers for encouragement and spiritual progress. I don’t think that any of us benefit from ridicule and castigation.

        Harold Camping might have stepped in a cow pie but there is no disputing that this world is in a terrible mess and apparently getting worse day by day. Anyone that can’t see that needs to look again. Sure, setting dates is a risky business with almost certain chance of failure, but that doesn’t mean that a general trend isn’t apparent to anyone that looks. We are all in the same boat here, like it or not. If some of us would prefer to escape it all and fly away, that is natural enough.

        In my view, if someone appears to be weaker, a Jesus-shaped spirituality would look out for them and give them an encouraging Word, not shove them out of the boat and beat them on the head wih an oar.

    • Charles:

      I have been in Charismatic circles since 1973.
      The last 10 years I was involved in the so called new Wave.

      My church is the one that Toronto came to for advice when stuff broke out there, because we had it before them. We had a woman who made noises like a cuckoo clock. Others who spun their heads so fast their hair was a blur, and we have been part of the xtreme prophetic. We were a whistle stop for all the top name speakers in that stream.

      For years many people in my church held the attitude Michael speaks of. We were hesitant to say This looks wacked out because we did not want to be judgemental. Many of us took a wait and see attitude. We felt that maybe we could help balance things out, be involved in helping out and discipling people, seeing the movement take some deeper roots rather than just offering emotional experiences. Some of us got involved in leadership and took board positions. We honestly wanted to see God’s goodness prevail and people get grounded in Christ.

      Well, we have waited, and in the past few years hundreds have left as the church has turned back to seeking signs and wonders and believing that the Christian life is all about walking in signs and wonders and getting wealthy in the process.

      When I read this article in my mind I went ouch, ouch, ouch. Way too much of it is true.

      So those of you who look at what Michael Spencer wrote and Chaplain Mike reposted and think that they are too judgemental, I respectfully say I think that you are off track.
      The body of Christ at large needs to speak about this fringe element, because from my seat it looks like they are spinning right off track.

      • Charles Fines says

        Ken, thanks for your reasoned words. I attended a church back in the 80’s where the same woman every Sunday would stand up and speak in tongues. No one interpreted. It was obvious to me that what she was saying was, “Look at me. I am spiritual. I have the gift of tongues. I occupy a higher position than those of you who do not have this gift. I am something else!”

        I’m not sure what would have happened if I had stood and given this interpretation. Looking back, I don’t think that God was prompting me to do so. There was no prophetic word in the church. The pastor was “Spirit-filled” and led the church to ruin. I went to a Lutheran Church from there but I did not denouce things “Charismatic” and still don’t. I occasionally pray in tongues but it is between me and God. I experience conversation with God daily but it is not intended for you and I would be highly hesitant to share our communication with you or anyone else.

        I regard those who regard things Charismatic as idiotic as idiots. I don’t tell them that if I can restrain myself. All of the Bible is Supernatural. All of Creation is Supernatural. What we regard as material reality is truly an illusion, and yet it is what we have to work with in this schoolhouse of Spirit.

        If we are trying to get out of this with the best grades possible, it would make sense to take advantage of everything at our disposal. Apparently that would include Word and Spirit and this tool we have been given called reason. To make our tool into God appears to me to be a misstep.

        Folks have tried focussing on each of those three, Word, Spirit, and reason, which they like to think of as Reason. It doesn’t work. It’s like a three-legged stool. Would you rather sit for your lessons on a two- or a one-legged or a three-legged stool?

        We’re all finding our Way home. Jesus said the Way involved Love, love of God and neighbor, as he expressed it. Moses had already said this, hidden tho it was, and Paul reinforced it, hidden as it was. That’s the Key. Love, not finger pointing and condemnation and ridicule and castigation.

        Sure we need to ferret out those places in ourselves where we are off the mark, we need to do better, we need to make progress. In my experience this takes up pretty much all of my life effort. Yes, I can check out other people to see how they are doing and learn from it. I can pray for their betterment if I remember. Occasionally I might point out to someone if I think they might not see the cow pie in front of them. Most especially I might point out if someone is claiming to exhibit Jesus-shaped spirituality and is ragging on other people in a most un-Jesus like manner.

        But then that seems to put a fairly heavy responsibility on me not to do the same and I don’t always come off so well in that regard. But it’s all good for learning, for making progress. Glad to listen to anything you might have to say.

        • Charles, I would like to question one thing you said here. You wrote, “What we regard as material reality is truly an illusion, and yet it is what we have to work with in this schoolhouse of Spirit.” Do you really believe that? I’d have to say, frankly, that I think that is not really the Bible’s perspective on reality. We acknowledge God as the Creator of all material things, which he called good. Jesus became a real human being, with a true body and human personality. God inspired words that were written down on paper with pen and ink and bound into a physical book we hold in our hands called the Bible. We baptize with water, partake of bread and wine. It is the “life we now live in the flesh” that we live “by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). We look for a new heavens and new earth, not a disembodied, nonmaterial, “spiritual” future with God. It seems to me that one of the problems with the mindset of some in the charismatic stream is that they downplay the earthly, bodily nature of our faith, preferring instead to seek something “spiritual” as an escape from the flesh. Maybe I’m misreading you here. Please clarify.

          • Charles Fines says

            Chaplain, thank you, sir, for responding. I certainly do believe that our assignment here in the material world is, as Paul put it, like seeing thru a glass darkly. I expect that life on the other side will be like having awakened from a dream, tho certainly dreams seem real and solid enough while we are in them. I would suggest that not only mystical insight over thousands of years but cutting edge physics backs me up. Obviously it is not necessary to believe that the table you set your cup of coffee on is mostly empty space and energy in order to function in the world, but it helps explain things. I do not, as you seem to imply, look on the material world as something to be avoided or escaped. Quite the contrary, it is where our lessons lie.

            But this is all beside the point. My objection to this thread was the seemingly official sanction given to what Walt described as a “toxic environment” and which struck me as a feeding frenzy. The piece by Michael Spencer was reasonable enough until he used the word “ridiculous”, implying that we as a church have the right to ridicule another church we disagree with. This thread was a result, hitting its low point with greg r’s totally unrelated mocking of the Black Church for being, what, Black I suppose.

            At least Michael Bell called him out on that but it was so over the top offensive that I thought it deserved an official response from you. As it stands it is sort of like a sign on the front window of our little store front church, No Colored Allowed, and my Black friends could certainly look at me with raised eyebrows, “You hang out there?” I don’t think the comment was mean spirited so much as it was just plain ignorant but it is giving me a great deal of pause as to where I spend my time. It is bad enough with the occasional bashing of Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and others who some consider sub-human.

            The tone was set with the picture of Aimee Semple McPherson at the beginning, causing offense to the many Foursquare Churches who go out of their way to do things decently and in order to counteract McPherson’s history of excess and antics. It has been many years since I was in a Foursquare Church but I know that if for some reason the pastor and elders were allowing people to bark like dogs that a visit from Jack Hayford would have been quick to follow. There is nothing wrong with pointing out existing excess taken to extremes, but there is a great deal wrong with painting a whole branch of the church with the same brush.

            I don’t find Spencer’s piece unreasonable or mocking, but I think he opened the door by stating we have a right to ridicule. That should be left to Doonesbury and the late night talk show hosts. It is unseemly in the name of Jesus.

          • @Charles Fines and Mike Bell, I guess

            I am willing to see how my post of “Jubilatin in the spirit” lacked taste, tact, and grace. I can also see how some could ASSUME that I had black church, or people of color in mind when I posted that, when in fact I did not. maybe I should not have ridiculed anyone and just shut up, but let me repeat, I did NOT have anything racial in mind when I made that post. The blacks aren’t the only ones who dance, people, or have I gone “racial” again with that observation ??

            I love the IMONK neighborhood, I will work harder at being less flippant and ridiculing.
            GregR

          • @ jCharles Fines , agaon

            If your black friends are more discerning in their reading and thinking than you are, they would not make the same bald assumptions that you made. e.g.: they would take into account the BODY of my posts before deciding that GregR was racist before making such a serious accusation. I will keep your admonitions in mind, though, esp. when dealing with people of color (which I do every day of every week)

            if I seem a little PO’d by this, let me say I am, but I consider this over.
            As some of our friends say here “LORD help us all…”
            GregR

          • Charles, i don’t think my question is really “beside the point.” It may not be your issue, but it is an issue for many Christians today, and I would argue especially for those in Charismatic or Pentecostal circles. It has been an issue all through church history. The early church roundly condemned certain teachings such as docetism and other forms of gnosticism. Those who practiced such teachings often put their focus on special knowledge or spiritual experience at the expense of down-to-earth discipleship. Paul even dealt with this in Corinth when he had to remind those seeking the charismata that in the end, it is love, exercised in the daily realities of relationships and routines, that really counts. “Fanaticism,” as the article calls it, specializes in putting the emphasis precisely where Paul says we should not. The question in the subtitle is apt: is it wrong to say someone has gone too far? Apparently Paul and the early church thought not.

        • Charles:

          What I did not say is that I continue to be charismatic. I strongly believe that the gifts are needed now as much as when the early church was born. I can’t accept the cessationist views of those who would point the finger and laugh and say told you so

          But does this mean we have to be weird? Does this mean that the current incarnation as in Toronto blessing is now normative?

          To me one of the more helpful analogies is a balloon. When squeezed or stressed it bulges at another point, probably it’s weakest. And if pushed out of shape too much it breaks. On the one hand, if I deny the gifts and the living presence of the Holy Spirit I am left with cold orthodoxy and the bible becomes Logos, the Word or divine reason. Christian service in this case is drugery, there is no spark.
          On the other hand, if I stress Holy Spirit to the exclusion of the mind I get emotional excess, and an inclination to follow impulses without thinking things through. And things will get very strange.

          It seems to me that we have to live in tension between these two. Your analogy of the three legged stool has been used for years. I would argue that what I have seen in the renewal movement is really a 2 legged stool. A great emphasis on the spirit, slight recognition of the word, and a rejection of reason. So the balloon is bulged in a strange way, and for many hundreds of people it has burst.

          Peace

          • Charles Fines says

            Ken, you strike me as a balanced person. In a discussion as to how far is too far, I would just point to you and say, “That’s how it’s supposed to work.”

    • I think this is pretty unfair. Are you really going to make such blanket statements about the entire thread? Your comment about Harold Camping’s decorum leads to priority questions. We can be wildly out-of-line as to what Scripture means, to the point of massive abuse, as long as we’re nice?

      I want respectful discourse too. But the “don’t criticize” thing people wave around doesn’t get us there. You took issue with Chaplain Mike’s comment about “the perfect right all Biblically reasoning people have to call the unreasonable ridiculous and wrong.” Are you saying we don’t have that? If so, how far do you want to take that? What about the attacks on the freedom riders you described- should we refuse to condemn their behavior too? What if we all just told civil rights protestors to sit down and stop calling attention to horrible injustices back in the 60’s cause “that’s judgmental?”

      The thing you will find about this thread is that everyone seems to agree. So it’s unbalanced in that way. Is your position not represented? Then represent it. If you think barking like a dog is perfectly acceptable and shouldn’t garner any suspicion whatsoever, then say so. Don’t tell people to stop criticizing as if it’s wrong to do so. With a few minor exceptions, there aren’t really any out-of-hand comments or over the top criticisms. Seriously, I’m going back and looking. I can’t find it. Possibly 2 or 3 times.

  27. Charles Fines says

    Chaplain, you say, “The question in the subtitle is apt: is it wrong to say someone has gone too far? Apparently Paul and the early church thought not.”

    Nothing wrong with that at all if spoken reasonably in Jesus and with a view to lift matters to a higher level. I am not the only one to point out that matters here had gone too far and could use a lift. Wish I could have said it in a way to make a difference but at this point it is flogging a dead horse. You’re the man, you set the tone, it’s a hard job, I acknowledge all that. I won’t bother you any more about it.