October 22, 2020

iMonk: “Shouldn’t these people be picking better stocks?”

fellini clowns 2

I’m tired of weird Christians.

I am tired of hearing people I work with say that God is talking to them like He talked to Moses at the burning bush or like He talked to Abraham. I’m weary of people saying God speaks directly to them about mundane matters of reasonable human choice, so that their choices of toothpaste and wallpaper are actually God’s choices, and therefore I need to just shut up and keep all my opinions to myself until I can appreciate spiritual things. I’m tired of people acting as if the normal Christian life is hearing a voice in your head telling you things other people can’t possibly know, thus allowing you a decided advantage.

I mean, if all this were really happening, wouldn’t these people be picking better stocks?

I’m weary of immature college students and high school kids going on and on about what God is saying to them as if they were up there with the authors of scripture. I’ve had it with Christian musicians acting as if every lyric they write is a message directly from God and free from the possibility of mediocrity or poor taste. I now hear preachers who preface their sermons with an appropriate selection from CCM, rather than with scripture. I mean, is there really that much of a difference?

I’m burned out on Christians telling me about the next big thing God is going to do, as if they really know. I’m tired of Christians predicting the future and being consistently, continually wrong, but acting like they weren’t wrong. If you said that on New Year’s Eve the east coast was going to fall into the ocean because of divine judgment and it didn’t happen, you were wrong. Really, badly, embarrassingly wrong. So why can’t you act like you are wrong? Why am I so sure you will have more absurd predictions next Sunday?

I’m worn out on people doing weird things that aren’t in the Bible and saying it’s the “leading of the Spirit.” Falling over. Acting drunk. Jumping around like a wasp went down your dress. I’m tired of turning on the TV or the radio and hearing Christians making more noise than a riot at a mental hospital. I’m out of patience with Christian spirituality equaling some form of clown college graduation.

I’m seriously fatigued from constantly hearing reality explained as spiritual warfare between angels, Christians, demons, and various conspiracies. The drama of blaming everything from illness to bad credit to all your bad choices on the devil is getting old. I’m tired of people being delivered from demons when their problem is their own rebellion, stupidity, meanness, and determination to get their own way.

I’m tired of God being the bag man for everything ever done by some guy who didn’t want to answer questions about right and wrong. I’m tired of God directing people to do things that, uh…actually are not all that ethical or are just plain evil. I’m tired of having to tell my kids that “Yes, so and so said God told them to do it, but that’s not what Jesus should do or you should do.” I’m annoyed at the attention weirdo Christians get, and the obligation I supposedly have to love them anyway.

giulietta-masinaLet me use some bad language: “Normal.” Dare I bring up that word? Isn’t the Christian life a constantly supernatural life? A frequently miracle-filled life? A life of divine direction, healing, and signs? A life where you (the Christian) know all kinds of things that ORDINARY people don’t know?. A life where you (the Christian) are in on the future, in on the prophecies, under the ministry of anointed prophets who are plugged into the big plan? A life that is a battleground of constant demonic assault? Aren’t Christians supposed to have supernatural knowledge of Kung Fu, and be able to hang in the air and…….well, maybe not.

Isn’t the Christian life the “Victorious” life? The “Purpose Driven” life? The “Spirit Filled” life? The life with Christ living in you and through you? It’s not a normal life, and it’s not ordinary. Right? Do I get an “amen?”

Or maybe you are like me. You are an ordinary Christian living an ordinary life. You don’t hear voices, see visions, or believe you are under constant attack by demonic forces. You may have some experiences that you call supernatural or miraculous, but they are the exception, not the rule. When you pray for people, things usually don’t change; you change. You have no authoritative insight into what is going to happen in the future. You suspect that if you were filled with the Spirit, you would love God and people more, and do the right thing more often. You’d be more like Jesus. You wouldn’t be running around in circles pointing out angels on the roof. The fruit of the Spirit would make you a person others would want to be around, not someone who would frighten animals and small children.


  1. That Other Jean says

    Amen. The weird ones never seem to consider that the voices in their heads are not God, but their own.

    I miss Michael Spencer–he was so often the voice of religious sanity.

    • There are too many people in evangelicalism who are weird. Then you have those who have their own agendas and you wonder about their motives. You know the kind….they are friendly and shower you with love because they want you to try out their church. They have it right… when everyone else is screwed. up!

  2. I bet this is what Abram’s wife told him… “God told you to go where?!?” 🙂

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’m seeing a theme in these Internet Monk classics:

    I’ts OK to be Normal.

    • +1

    • Unless you’re a normal evangelical, of course…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Which outside Normal Evangelicalism means highly Abnormal.

        “Whose brain was it?”
        “A Mrs ‘Normal’. Abby Normal.”
        — Mel Brooks, “Young Frankenstein”

      • Phil from the sounds of it we’re abnormal evangees.

        HUG you are an absolute crack up.

      • Phil’s got me curious. As much as I respect the late Michael Spencer and fully understand where he was coming from when he wrote this, I can see the tone of this article coming off a bit high-brow and self-righteous. As G.K. Chesterton so famously stated to the question, “What is wrong with the world?”: I am. What’s wrong with evangelicalism? Guess what? I’m sick of myself and my own failings. I’m thankful for God’s forgiveness. The same should be extended to the “normal” evangelical.

    • I hope so….

  4. I’m leading my church men’s group tomorrow on “How does the Holy Spirit work?” As I’ve been pusling the Spirit in what to bring to the group, about the only message I’m receiving from the Spirit is to tell them, “I have no idea.”

    • This is the confusion caused by Pentecostalism, which has made the Holy Spirit into only mystical bringer of miraculous signs and direct messages from God. No, nowhere are we told the Holy Spirit brings these things to all Christians. What the Holy Spirit does for all Christians is brings them into the church and causes the preached Gospel (and the received sacraments) to create and strengthen faith. We’ve lost this idea because evangelicalism wants to take credit for itself for these things. I choose whether to have faith, I choose whether to be baptized, it’s MY devotional life that strengthens faith. The church needs our planning and brilliant marketing messages to succeed. Wrong-o. That’s all the Holy Spirit’s doing.

      Luther explains it well:

      “For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel.”


      • Spot-on, Boaz. Thank you.

      • What the Holy Spirit does for all Christians is brings them into the church and causes the preached Gospel (and the received sacraments) to create and strengthen faith.

        But that’s not all the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of Elohim/YHWH) does. Do a search with a Bible software program for all the passages about the (Holy) Spirit/Spirit [of] Elohim/Spirit [of] YHWH. You will undoubtedly find some interesting things, as well as expand or balance your Biblical Pneumatology.

  5. Great last line in Michael’s essay!

  6. Donlcha know? When man speaks to God, it’s called prayer; when God speaks to man it;s called schizophrenia.

    • The world’s excuse: “the devil made me do it”.
      The Christian’s excuse: “God made me do it”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In Calvinism, that’s literally true.

        That’s why Predestination is so popular among the followers of Calvin & Mohammed; it’s a Universal Excuse Machine. “Not My Fault!”

        • Panda Rosa says

          Calvin, I could believe, but what does Hobbs say?
          And how does Mohammed stack against Iron Mike?

  7. Laugh out loud funny and seriously sad at the same time. I’m don’t have the wherewithal to rise above ordinary or normal and I’m OK with that. Less pressure.

  8. I understand the frustration. I’m a Pentecostal, and I’m armpit-deep in this stuff.

    I actually do believe the Christian life is meant to be a supernatural one. But at the same time, Christians need to practice a whole lot of discernment… and we don’t. We’re so eager for the supernatural that we forget there’s real supernatural and there’s fraudulent supernatural. All of those folks who claim to hear God: I don’t doubt they hear something. But have they ever learned the difference between the voice of God, the voice of some other spirit, and just them talking to themselves? Likely not; they figure if it sounds like what they hope God sounds like, it must be God. Hence all the really lousy predictions which have taken God’s name in vain.

    Hearing and proclaiming the voice of God requires accountability. Yet the average Evangelical and Pentecostal, especially in the United States, largely lives an accountability-free existence. We want the freedom to do as we like, to interpret God as we like; to run up and down the aisles of the church babbling in tongues all we like, with nary a thought as to whether God approves—we approve, and supposedly we know the mind of God so well.

    And all this undisciplined, unaccountable foolishness means that when God is really speaking to us, we won’t be able to hear him for all the cacophony.

    • K.W.,

      Having been raised in the AoG years ago (and not having had a bad experience either, for what it’s worth), I have to wonder though, do you think that people generally believe that God directly spoke to them this or that word, or is it rather mostly a manner of speaking? E.g., the guy in Sunday School class shares what he felt God had told him to do about Problem X in his life, so the next guy will share his “testimony” using the same sort of language. In short, “feeling moved” comes to be related as “God spoke to my heart.”

      Given the retrospective musings of many an ex-Charistmatic/Pentacostalist, I suspect that this is what is going on most of the time. Few seem to spend much time trying to explain to themselves what or who “that voice” was back in the day: they never heard it in the first place.

      Also, I know it was a rhetorical flourish as much as anything else, but how common is it nowadays for Pentecostal services to actually feature people running the aisles?

      • Comme çi, comme ça: Some of us do in fact mean they were “moved” to something, as opposed to God talking to them. Others are pretty sure God spoke to us. Not in an audible voice (though there are rare exceptions): We believe God dropped a direct message into us. Now, not all of us bother to confirm it was God, which is the problem: We’re pretty sure we know what he “sounds” like, despite our rather lousy track records.

        As for running in the aisles, no, it wasn’t entirely rhetorical. In the ’90s I went to an Assemblies church which was trying to connect itself with the Toronto/Brownsville revivals. All sorts of weirdness was happening. Loads of people came to Jesus, and dispersed from there to other churches in town, so occasionally I see bits of it here and there in those churches (and mine). I don’t knock weirdness for that reason: The Holy Spirit can use whatever means he wishes when it comes to stretching people’s faith. But honestly, not all of it is the Spirit. Sometimes Christians just wanna be “a peculiar people,” as the KJV puts it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Also, I know it was a rhetorical flourish as much as anything else, but how common is it nowadays for Pentecostal services to actually feature people running the aisles?

        Happened recently enough to make it onto YouTube:

  9. I’m weary of people saying God speaks directly to them about mundane matters of reasonable human choice, so that their choices of toothpaste and wallpaper are actually God’s choices

    Question for the crowd – do you think was this an exaggeration? Does this really happen? Often? I live in California and we get plenty of weirdos but I don’t think I’ve seen people think God ordained their toothpaste choices or other mundane decisions. Just trying to figure out if I missed out something common in churches today.

    I have seen what was stated re: high school and college students – I think that is just as much of the lack of a emotional throttle at that age as it is theological immaturity (although I’m not sure how theologically mature we should expect people to be at that age).

    • Nope, I’ve seen it. I’ve known people who asked the Holy Spirit to select which tea to drink that morning, who claimed their wardrobe choices were divinely inspired, who prayed for every traffic light to turn green and gave God the glory when it did.

      Like you said, it’s theological immaturity. But I’ve seen it in all ages. Some folks never do grow up, spiritually speaking: They never seek knowledge, figuring they don’t need to know anything, they just need to follow the Spirit. Consequently they don’t know how to follow the Spirit… but that’s another rant.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I think it’s a corollary of choice paralysis & analysis paralysis. If God decides what tea you should drink this morning and what clothes you should wear today, You Don’t Have To.

        As for the “pray for every traffic light to turn green”, that actually DID happen to me. Once. In 1974. When I was running late for a class and after a prayer hit every traffic light on a green from Live Oak Ave & Peck Road in South Arcadia to Rio Hondo College in Whittier. Never happened before or since.

        • Can’t resist: we Catholics had St Christopher to handle these duties so as not to bother the Holy Spirit. The dear Saint was retired in 1969 by Pope Paul due to questionable sourcing integrity. But really we think St C could not figure out Rome’s traffic and was proved unreliable.

    • A family friend says that God will tell her exactly what shelf in the Goodwill store she is to find some item for her home. Apparently He has also told her what particular street to move to in her town, and when there wasn’t a home advertised for rent on that street, somehow she ran into a neighbor who told her to ask about a house being remodeled on that street and the owner of that house ended up renting it to her. (Now that might be a bit on the crazy side, but I can’t deny that took some real faith in provision from God)
      Of course, she also has a mannequin head with a bridal veil sitting on an end table in her living room as a representation of being a bride of christ.

      Earlier there was a question about “hand raising” in church. I grew up in a relatively small denomination (Church of God, General Conference) and still remain in that denomination today. My current church has quite a few “hand raisers”, some raise their hands just a little, and some just about hyper-extend their elbows to reach toward God (I’ll admit that may be a slight exaggeration…). My family’s church (same denomination) — hardly anyone raises their hands. As they say “if the spirit moves them”… it hasn’t done that to me yet. I still can’t quite get into the waving of the palm fronds on Palm Sunday either. Maybe underneath it all I’m one of those stony German Lutherans …

      Perhaps these extraordinary expectations for Christians is setting some up for disappointment and an unrealistic view of everyday faith? (Maybe some of the “Nones” that have been discussed this week? ) How can one cherish the extraordinary times if there aren’t some mundane ones to balance it?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Of course, she also has a mannequin head with a bridal veil sitting on an end table in her living room as a representation of being a bride of christ.

        Your family friend sounds kind of weird.

        • “How can one cherish the extraordinary times if there aren’t some mundane ones to balance it?”


          I think the whole “hand-raising” thing has more to do with personality than anything. I’m glad others feel free to worship God so outwardly. I’m just not an “out there” person, right or wrong. But since God knows our hearts and following Jesus is dying DAILY (not just Sundays or Saturdays or Wednesdays), He knows we love Him whether we raise hands or not.

        • She is definitely, um…unique! Good heart, but a little (ok, a lot) kooky!

      • Read this post. Then this Sunday’s readings included Nehemiah 8:6 – And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands.

  10. I agree with Michael 99 and 44/100 per cent of the time. It’s that last little 56/100 of a percent that makes me think that even Michael might be mistaken from time to time.

    For example:

    Re falling over — “As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6) and also maybe “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” (Rev. 1:17).

    Re acting drunk — “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:” (Acts 2:15-17a).

    Re jumping around like a wasp went down your dress — “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8).

    Conclusion: If we decide we always know how being in the Spirit makes a person behave, we really don’t know anything about how being in the Spirit makes a person behave.

    • Years ago I was going to meet my girlfriend at her Assembly of God church. We were going to catch a movie. I went in to find her at the front of the church on the ground. I was pretty shocked to see this. But as minutes went by I began to get angry. The movie was going to start and there’s my girlfriend on the ground in the front of the church, apparently “slain in the spirit” or something. I was pretty upset and confused by the whole thing.

      Later in our relationship she had to spend the evening praying to God if we were meant to be together. The next morning she said God said no. I guess He was right.

      • I met my wife at an AG church that I also attended for several years. I’m glad that I never got very caught up in the revivalism stuff and was even moderately critical of various things prior to us leaving a year or so after we got married. But I’m sure to an outsider it would be very disturbing. Actually, I would find it disturbing if I ever went back; I really dislike that kind of a setting. To be fair, not all AG churches are the same; some are much “mellower” than others.

        • I’m sure they’re not Josh. But since then, right or wrong, anything coming close to this kind of behavior weirds me out. Even in my current evangelical church, “hand raisers” really make me nervous. But I know they are just worshiping God. Just out of curiosity, are there “hand-raisers” in Lutheran or other main line churches?

          • Same with me; I get weirded out pretty easily with things, though I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been “sensitized” due to overexposure, or what. I’m just as sensitive about other revivalistic practices (not only Pentecostal/Charismatic stuff) like “Bow your head, close your eyes” altar calls or “If you’re not absolutely sure you are saved…” and other manipulative stuff.

            I bet the hand-raising practice goes along with contemporary style worship songs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are mainline churches that make heavy use of modern worship music and also involve hand raising.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            Oh, certainly. Evangelical worship practice has made its way, in the guise of the “church growth movement,” into many mainline congregations. Hand-raising often comes with the package. Even congregations that never adopted this have individual members who come in with it, whether directly from Evangelical or in its watered down version. To many of these, that is the ordinary posture adopted for prayer. Sometimes you can watch the individual congregants and get a pretty good idea of what tradition they came from: the Evangelical hand-raising or the Roman body-crossing. (And we purebred German Lutherans? stoney silence, of course 🙂 Also worth mentioning is that the Catholics and the Anglicans each have their own home grown charismatic elements.

          • Ha. I like the way you purebred German Lutherans do it. 🙂

            Josh maybe we should go find a German Lutheran church. 🙂

          • Funny, Joel. Oddly enough, I attend an SBC with my family, though I have issues with the way they do things. We go to the “traditional” service, though they also have a “contemporary” one. Ours is probably one of the few Southern Baptist churches that I can tolerate, as it seems not to be stereotypically “southern baptisty” as I tend to imagine baptisty-ness. Sometimes guest speakers of a more revivalistic bent (which I try to avoid like the plague) remind me of just how not southern baptisty our church is. Unfortunately, the church does host large outreach events on occasion, and I try to stay away during those times.

            I’d probably feel more comfortable in a somewhat traditional Anglican setting, but who knows how I’d feel after the novelty of the liturgy wears off? Also, I dislike church hopping, especially with the kids. We’ll see.

          • My wife went to Hope Baptist in Las Vegas. The preacher was from Georgia and taught from the Word. She really liked it. Now we go to a Calvary Chapel “mega” church that sometimes is a little too contemporary for my taste, but does teach God’s Word and it’s all about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. But i would like to go to a smaller traditional church someday. Maybe a Baptist church. 🙂

      • Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm….. Paxil anyone? 😛

    • It seems to me that most of the biblical references to falling down before the Lord are talking about falling prostrate on one’s face, not backwards as is always seen in revival settings.

      The Acts 2 reference says that some made fun of them, attributing their speaking in various languages to drunkenness, not that the disciples were “acting drunk” per se.

      The Acts 3:8 reference was a joyful response of praise to an awesome healing; what Michael is talking about (I think) is some “got the Spirit” sort of thing where “I can’t control it; it’s the Holy Spirit!” That is *not* what the Acts passage is about.

      • Re: falling down –and in absolute terror, not ecstasy.

      • For the record: We Pentecostals don’t believe in the whole “I can’t control it; it’s the Holy Spirit!” excuse. We certainly can control it. (Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to accuse other people of quenching the Spirit.)

        • Maybe “I can’t control it” is not the most accurate way to put it. But the unusual physical movements are still attributed to the Holy Spirit. In other words, people are not claiming that they’ve decided to act oddly just because they though it was a good way to worship God; it is usually attributed to the Holy Spirit by observers or by the worshiper. So maybe “I should allow it” or “I should not resist it” is a better way to phrase it. But even so, I have had friends come back from out-of-state revival experiences with new shaky “manifestations of the Spirit” that they would thereafter experience during prayer/singing that they claimed would just “happen.”

          Of course, I’m not trying to judge anyone else’s experiences; my big point is that the verses cited in this sub-thread are poor proof texts to use as support.

          • The official Pentecostal viewpoint on this may be phrased more kindly than this, but essentially its, “They’re full of crap.”

            Yes, the Spirit can “make” people do all sorts of things. But the people who do them are always voluntary, willing participants in such things. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. That applies just as much to the supernatural as to the natural. The Holy Spirit is not the author of wrong behavior. (Socially inappropriate, perhaps, but never wrong.)

    • Marcus Johnson says

      I don’t think that MS is mistaken, only that his list is incomplete. Let me add one “I’m tired” statement to the mix:

      I’m tired of proof-texting. The Gospel is not a mass of verses from which one can pick and choose a few to affirm a doctrinal belief. Men broke the Bible into books, chapters, and verses to facilitate reading, but the real Scripture is a narrative created within a historical, cultural, and theological context. Would it make sense to grab a 700-page novel, flip to four random passages on random pages, and draw a conclusion about the author’s intent regarding the whole novel from those sentences, without reading the novel as a cohesive narrative, and without an understanding of historical context surrounding the narrative? Your literature professor would pimp slap you if you tried. So why do we do it with the Bible?

      been there, done that: These verses cannot be glued together to form a doctrine that supports this idea that the Spirit can make us do wild, erratic things, just for the sake of praising God. Each one of those verses has its own separate storyline, its own separate audience, and its own separate meaning. It would be a gross misjudgment to interpret these statements as though Jesus or Luke suggested, “Fall on your back and go into a pseudo-seizure? Sure, why not? Glory to God!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’m tired of proof-texting. The Gospel is not a mass of verses from which one can pick and choose a few to affirm a doctrinal belief.

        That’s the ultimate in “Magic Book-ism”, turning the Gospel into a grimoire of unrelated one-verse verbal-component magic spells.

      • Except we see some of the NT authors doing a bit of “proof-texting” themselves, don’t we?

        • petrushka1611 says

          Yep….I’ve been thinking the same thing a lot lately. *sigh*

        • Marcus Johnson says

          No, we don’t. The apostles referenced passages from Scripture for many reasons, but the doctrine found in the epistles and the gospels were formed as a continuing narrative that recognized the context in which the original text was created.

          • Galatians 3:16?
            Ephesians 4:8?
            Matthew 2:18?
            1 Corinthians 14:21?

          • How does “out of Egypt have I called my son” as applied to Jesus recognize the context in which the original was created?

          • Marcus Johnson says

            For each of those verses (and you could probably find many more references to Scripture), find the OT passage to which the author refers and read the entire chapter (in some cases, the entire book). The NT passage recognizes the original intent and context of the OT passage. Also, in the verses you mentioned, the author was not attempting to base an entire doctrine on a couple OT passages. Those are some significant differences that separate quoting/paraphrasing from proof-texting.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            been there, done that: How does it not recognize the context? I should also point out that Matthew is not trying to establish a doctrinal practice by his referencing of Hosea.

            For the folks watching at home, we’re referring to Matthew 2:15, which referenced Hosea 11:1.

          • Marcus Johnston:

            I did that (read the immediate and surrounding context), which is why I picked the verses I did. Their NT use seems to fit the following definition of proof-texting, including the criticism that the original OT writing “may not in fact support the proposition for which it was cited when read as a whole.”

            “Prooftexting (sometimes “proof-texting” or “proof texting”) is the practice of using isolated quotations from a document to establish a proposition. Using discrete quotations is generally seen as decontextualised. Critics note that such quotes may not accurately reflect the original intent of the author, and that a document quoted in such a manner may not in fact support the proposition for which it was cited when read as a whole.”

            Can you explain how each of the four verses I listed “recognizes the original intent and context of the OT passage” it quotes such that the NT author is not in any way proof-texting?

          • EricW, if you start with the assumption that scripture is true by virtue of it’s author, then what you call NT authors “proof-texting” is actually just scripture interpreting scripture. It’s one thing when we use God’s word as a platform to drive home a point we arrived at without consulting it. It’s another things when God takes the time to explain himself.

          • I have had at least one pastor say that the NT authors were allowed to use/read/interpret/apply the OT the way they did because they were inspired, but we aren’t allowed to use their non-traditional (?) non-grammatical-historic hermeneutic except for the specific OT passages they used in a non-grammatical-historical manner.

          • All this Catholic can add is a very old addage….

            The Devil can quote scripture for HIS OWN PURPOSES!

          • It seems that a lot of the Gospel authors’ proof-texts (especially Matthew) make use of the idea of Jesus being Israel’s representative, and so cite the Old Testament scriptures as such. Basically, just as the Gospel temptation narratives are supposed to parallel the Israelites’ temptations in the wilderness; they cite verses from Deuteronomy to show how Jesus obeys where the Israelites had failed. So also the references to Messianic “prophecies” liberally draw parallels between Israel and Jesus in other ways.

            Similarly, when Paul cites verses in the Old Testament to support Jesus as fulfilling the promise to Abraham, etc., I wonder if he’s really proof-texting in the same sense that we do nowadays (I’m not sure, but maybe not). I think we tend to proof-text more out of ignorance while Paul, given his biblical education, probably knew exactly what he was doing with his use of Scripture and realized that he was “spinning” things as a way of pointing to Jesus. I think with Christ as center of his theology, he was (re)interpreting *everything* from that angle, whether it be God’s promise to Abraham or when Paul speaks to the people of Athens about an altar to an “unknown god” (Acts 17:22-31 — Paul even cites pagan sources as proof-texts here).

            Now, trying to compare the New Testament use of proof-texts to our own…that may be harder to do, but I think it’s at least fair to say that we don’t seem to do it well at all, and it leads to justifying all sorts of strange things. I think we do proof-texting in a variety of ways and for various reasons (ignorance being just one of them), but I suspect that the biblical authors possibly knew exactly what they were doing. Even if I’m right about that, there is still the issue of whether it’s okay to follow the biblical authors’ example; or does the “inspired’ nature of the Bible preclude us from doing the same?

          • It is indeed legitimate to characterize some of the NT uses of the OT as “proof-texting.” From COMMENTARY on the NEW TESTAMENT USE of the OLD TESTAMENT, EDITED BY G. K. BEALE and D. A. CARSON:


            G. K. BEALE AND D. A. CARSON

            It might be the part of wisdom to say what this book is not, so as to clarify what it is and how it works.

            Nowhere does this volume survey contemporary debates over the use of the OT in the NT. The many subdisciplines that contribute to this enterprise have not been canvassed. For example, we do not systematically compare non-Christian Jewish exegetical methods with the exegetical methods on display in the NT. We do not review the ongoing debate between (a) those who argue that the NT writers usually respect the entire context of the OT texts they cite or to which they allude and (b) those who argue that the NT writers engage in a kind of “prooftexting” that takes OT passages out of their contexts so as to “prove” conclusions that belong to the commitments of NT Christians but not to the antecedent Scriptures they cite. We have not summarized the extraordinarily complex developments in the field of typology since Leonhard Goppelt wrote his 1939 book Typos. We could easily lengthen this list of important topics that have not been systematically addressed in this book. …

            Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (xxiii). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            First, I would comment you for entering this source in almost perfect APA format. I’m teaching that writing style in my composition class, and students consistently get it wrong.

            But I digress…

            The excerpt seems to indicate that the authors do not stake a claim on the proof-texting debate; they merely acknowledge that it exists and, to do so, offer a brief synopsis of both sides. Read the excerpt again; the passage refers to what their text is not intended to do.

            By the way, your use of this excerpt from the Commentary–proof-texting. Just sayin’…

          • The fact that the debate exists and continues means it’s not illegitimate to believe or even assert that there is or may be some proof-texting by the NT authors. That was the purpose of my quoting Beale & Carson. Logos Bible Software creates and formats the source listing automatically. 🙂

          • Marcus Johnson says

            There’s a big difference between validity and soundness, as any logic or rhetoric professor will tell you. Of course, the conclusion that the NT writers used proof-texting as a rhetorical device is a valid argument to make, and no one here would argue that you shouldn’t raise that question. However, it is not a sound argument, because the premises on which that conclusion is based are faulty.

          • @Marcus Johnston: So you know the premises used by those scholars who argue or conclude that the NT authors may have done some proof-texting of the OT? Which scholars, and what are their premises?

      • Whilst I wouldn’t disagree with your assertion that the whole of Scripture is one book written by God and to be read as such, you state “Men broke the Bible into books, chapters, and verses to facilitate reading”; separate authors wrote different books, and the Bible is a more like a themed collection of short stories in that respect; each story stands on its own, whilst the overall theme is the same.

        Though the verses are certainly an artificial (but very useful) separation of the text (in some cases very oddly); even some chapters and verses are not artificial breaks – the psalms for example are effectively a hymnbook; lots of hymns by different authors, sometimes sorted into themed sections. In some of those psalms, the structure is carefully arranged (for example into acrostic lines). Likewise proverbs is a book of separate quotations, which may or may not directly correlate with surrounding verses.

    • I grew up in the AG as well, and I’ve got to say that though I’ve seen plenty of abuses, for the most part, these things don’t weird me out. Mainly because I know plenty of normal and grounded people who have had some pretty strange experiences. If you met them during the week at a store, there wouldn’t be anything weird about them. But yet, they also have had these sorts of experiences. I don’t even think they’ve gone out of their way to have them. They just happen.

      It reminds me of a recent interview with Gordon Fee I read where he says the following:

      “One must ruefully admit that evangelical Christianity by and large does not expect much from God,” he notes. “Most Christians’ expectation level when it comes to the miraculous is somewhere between zero and minus five. Even though evangelicals often pray, ‘If it be Thy will, please heal so-and-so,’ they would probably … faint if God actually answered.”


  11. I think the point is not that these things can never be signs of the Spirit’s power, but that they are not the normative displays of the Spirit’s power, and to focus on them (or try to manufacture them) is to miss the forest for the trees.

  12. Hand raising is actually an acceptable form of worship and prayer and was around hundreds of years before the USA and AOG/Pentecostal existed.

    • petrushka1611 says

      Indeed, and there’s no reason to find it odd except from lack of tradition. Now, running the aisles and/or on top of the backs of the pews….

    • Yeah. And snake handling dates back to the fist century when it was instituted by the apostle Paul.

      • I am a bit surprised to hear you say this Miguel when scripture is full of hand raising. I am working toward ordination in an established mainline and during the eucharist ceremony there is a prayer position that consists of raising the hands…

  13. I wasn’t trying to “proof text” — just remind you of a few instances where things did occur in the New Testament that others at the time might have thought were “weird”….

    I’m not advocating running wild or losing complete control. Far from it. The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. Somebody said that once.

    There are true, unsought manifestations and there are false, counterfeit manifestations. But people don’t make a counterfeit three-dollar bill, because there is no such thing as a real three-dollar bill. Counterfeit spiritual activity only proves that something real exists even if you don’t personally approve of it.. Something unusual doesn’t mean it is false, only that it is outside your comfort zone.

    There are also tares among the wheat. But our job is not to judge.

  14. Good post. I’ve been thinking about this lately- if you go through the bible and count up all the miracles and all the times that God directly spoke to someone, and divide that by the several-thousand-year period when the bible was written, you’re probably going to see that miracles are INCREDIBLY RARE. Totally not the normal day-to-day routine in the lives of God’s followers.