Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Doctrine and The Holy Spirit
I more than anyone know the dangers of charismatic thought run amuck -- I have seen it result in literal death, to people I love dearly. There are other even more personal, and therefore unsuitable for blogging, instances in and around my life, of how the charismatic experience does enormous harm to people, the church, and the name of God. But the solution to such does not lie in denying the Holy Spirit's capability to intercede directly, or in looking the other way.
What upsets me so about this issue is that the best way to fix the problem is not in picking sides but in fusing them. Sound doctrine is the best way to keep charismatic experience in check and charismatic experience is the best way to keep the reformed from becoming lifeless, or worse legalist. That's important, let me repeat it -- Sound doctrine is the best way to keep charismatic experience in check and charismatic experience is the best way to keep the reformed from becoming lifeless, or worse legalist.
Certainly the biggest problem in evangelicalism today is moving people past the "salvation experience" into a genuine and transforming faith. I have never seen a program work yet, I've talked the problem to death, but the only time I've seen it happen is when "something" just clicked in that person. What could that "something" be besides the Holy Spirit?
And the thing that is really, really sad is that when that something clicks in a person that has a well formed sense of doctrine the result is beautiful. But when it happens in those that don't, the result is generally disasterous -- charismatic or otherwise. I know a few exceptions to that observation, but they are people who, for various reasons, lack the intellectual capability to ever have a reasonable doctrinal understanding -- obviously, the Spirit chooses to work in them most carefully.
This is a conversation that needs to be joined, gracefully but with deliberate intent. Avoiding the subject or limiting oneself to denunciation of the bad actors, does not get the job done.
My prayer is that the great thinkers of our faith, particularly in the reformed tradition, would pick up this discussion fully and heartily. A fully cessasionist viewpoint simply denies reality -- there is too much experiential evidence to the contrary, but experience alone is a dangerous thing. Denial of the experience is; however, equally dangerous.
It is not purely coincidental that virtually everthing that is wrong in the reformed/evangelical movement is not wrong in the charismatic movement and vice-versa. Such tells me that the truth and a genuine faith lies in the middle, not in picking one or the other, or in failing to pick.