The Pentecostals Are Not Wrong

10 03 2009

I have a cousin in South Africa (The land of my birth) who co-pastors a Church. You can check out their website here. I used to go to that church up until the point where my family left to live in New Zealand. Today out of interest I visited their site and listened to one of his messages. It struck a chord with me, and I’ve been mulling over it for the past few days.I’ve come to the conclusion that the Pentecostals are not wrong. Nor are they crazy or heretical. Are spiritual gifts for today? Are there still apostles? Is speaking in tongues still valid? Who knows. There are good arguments for both sides. But I know one thing. My cousin and his church have an exceptionally good handle on Grace. Do we write them off because they speak in tongues and we think that it’s impossible? You’ve got to be kidding me. I think some people out there are in danger of becoming fundamentalists. The old “Everyone who is not in my denomination is wrong!!“.

Some people want to highlight the abuses of the pentecostal movements. I’m all in favour of that. We should not swallow anything uncritically. Pentecostals are so focused on the spirit that they tend to ignore everything else that goes along with the Christian life. I’ve been a part of churches like that. They all but ignored the Bible, or used it out of context. One church I went to actually called the Bible a manual for life. Like it was something I got with a toaster.  I’ve been to one of those Holy Ghost revival meetings they hold in a tent. I’ve seen some strange things. People falling all over the place, behaving like animals. It was scary to watch.  These are the two points I have an issue with. Without a solid understanding of the word, it’s easy to become tossed about and carried away by every wind and doctrine. People chase after experiences, and leave the church when the feelings dissappear. Perhaps there is a link here with the high divorce rate?

When people start behaving less than human it worries me. Anyone remember the “Toronto Blessing”? People were mooing like cows, and making strange animal noises. Apparently this was a manifestation of the Spirit. I think not. When I see the Holy Spirit moving in scripture I do not see people removed from their human state. The Spirit came upon Mary and conceived Jesus within her. But she still had to go through 9 months of pregnancy, child birth, breast feeding, and teaching her son how to walk, talk and read. Not once do we read of her experience being somehow superhuman. When Jesus healed people he made them whole. He made as it were fully human again. They didn’t become animals or disembodied spirits.  When the Spirit of God moves people may be healed, given insight or wisdom, or even the ability to speak in other tongues. All of those I see in scripture. But I do not see any dehumanisation. Never ever do we see that.

What about Prophecy? That’s a tricky one. I don’t have the energy to cover it any depth here. But I feel the real question is that do we believe God still speaks to people? It doesn’t have to be Moses and the burning Bush or anything like the prophets in the Old Testament. But can God still give us divine guidance or insight into a situation? I would argue yes. But that does not mean we include private revelations into the canon.

I posted a question on a forum once.” What are the minimum set of beliefs that make one a Christian? Something we can all rally around and stand in unity on.” The response came from a Roman Catholic and even today I am still bowled over by his (or her) wisdom. The risk in seeking out the essentials of the faith is that we end up with a minimalist faith. Christians should not be afraid to declare what they believe, but should never use that belief to opress or disenfranchise others. Faith that does not work in love is quite useless, as are doctrinal statements that do the same. While I am all for theological debate, and the correction of clear mistakes, we must remember to do this in love. That doesn’t mean we become wishy washy people who roll over and let everyone walk all over us. It means we grow in maturity. We don’t put up with heresy but we certainly don’t destroy those who are still learning what we consider basic.

What are your thoughts?

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30 responses

10 03 2009
pttyann

I enjoyed your post it does bring back some memories I’ll tell ya,if we all acted out like some do in churches whew we would run people off,some still do.I think we should obey God & his word and not run after any & everything just because some one says it’s right,maturity is truly what’s needed.Totally good post thanks for sharing.
Numbers 6:24~26

10 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Thanks for the comment Pttyann. I’m big on the Christian maturity thing. I’d like to see a lot more people grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know Numbers 6:24-26:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

10 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

Are signs and wonders for today? Of course they are!

Should there be prophets and workers of miracles today? Of course there should, but they are hard to find because today everything needs to happen in the ‘church’ and by committee. But that’s not how it works. God ‘calls’ people one at a time and will give them gifts one at a time.

We have not because we ask not because we are trying to do everything with the herd mentality. Look at all the prophets and leaders in the OT … all individuals. Look at all the believers who made a difference in the NT (the book of Acts) … all individuals.

The way I see it, anyway …

10 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Are signs and wonders for today? Well there are some who disagree and think they were only for the founding of the church, and ended with the death of the last apostle. I agree God raises up certain individuals to do certain tasks within a church. But that doesn’t mean they are now prophets in the old testament sense. The argument is more nuanced than “they were individuals, God still uses individuals, so there must be prophets”.

10 03 2009
mick martin

Having grown up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I first experienced Pentecostal Christianity at the age of 18 and it turned my life around. That was 27 years ago. I have since spent a number of years working as a pastor in a large and very effective Pentecostal church. At the same time, I have been very much influenced, especially in recent years, by many ‘non-Pentecostal’ evangelical theologians and practitioners. It’s unfortunate, I think, that we have several distinct ‘streams’ of Christianity that rarely seem to converge (despite the fact that Scripture only ever speaks of one ‘river of God’!). In my opinion, evangelicalism could benefit greatly from embracing certain aspects of the Pentecostal understanding and experience of the Spirit, just as it would do the Pentecostal movement a lot of good to embrace a bit more solid evangelical theology. (Someone like Gordon Fee – who I notice is on your recommended reading list – is a great example of someone who has brought together the best of these two streams.)
I (half) jokingly describe the church community I now pastor as an ’emerging Roman orthodox evangelicostal church’. How much better off would we all be without the lines of theological demarcation (and the mutual distrust and suspicion these lines give rise to) that currently dominate the church landscape?

10 03 2009
Ask the leadership coach » The Pentecostals Are Not Wrong « A Worthy Discussion

[…] Christian posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippetPentecostals are so focused on the spirit that they tend to ignore everything else that goes along with the Christian life. I’ve been a part of churches like that. They all but ignored the Bible, or used it out of context. … […]

10 03 2009
Mason

Ok for a long time I was cessationist, no sign gifts, no weird fall down when I touch your head stuff. My feeling was that it was at best something that people were socially trained to do, probably an act, and possibly some sort of possession.

Now I’ll admit, there are a lot of things I’ve seen that I still feel fit into one of those categories. However, the arguments I learned for cessationism just don’t hold up to biblical scrutiny in my eyes.

The problem for me is that while cessationism does not hold up to biblical scrutiny, neither does about 90% of what I see in the Pentecostal movement. Things like ‘holy laughter’, or the ‘if you have enough faith you can do/have anything you want’ mentality, or the chaos, or the subhuman actions.

It’s like the movement took the example of the Corinthian church that Paul was reprimanding, thought they should use it as an example to follow rather than a warning of what not to do, and then multiplied it by about 100.

Do I think sign gifts have ended? Not necessarily, I see no biblical reason to say that.
Do I think much of what happens under the guise of Pentecostalism is unbiblical and not from God? Yes, much of the time I do, though not always.

If I could find a church that uses sign gifts in a biblical way, that follows the many guidelines that Paul sets out and does it in an authentic way that points to God and not to self, I’d be all for it. Unfortunately I’ve not found such a place.

10 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Mick those are some fantastic insights. How much better off would we be? I’d like to think a lot. Unfortunnately it’s often the abuses within the movement that put a lot of people off, including myself. There is plenty we can learn from each other. I’ve really enjoyed Gordon Fee’s book “Paul, the Spirit and the People of God”. It’s a condensed version of his larger magnum opus “God’s empowering Presence” which comes highly reccomended by N.T. Wright. I think people can be pentecostal without the weirdness, the falling over, without even speaking in tongues or prophecying. I don’t think those gifts were intended as something for everyone. What that looks like, who knows! But I’m interested in finding out.

BTW – I laughed out loud at your “emerging Roman orthodox evangelicostal church” definition.

10 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Hey Mason, I think we’re on the same page here. There are too many weirdities in the pentecostal movement that I don’t find in scripture. Holy Laughter is one of them and the other is falling over – are these really supposed to be normal human behaviour? Did Jesus ever heal someone’s laughing gland so they could laugh without being able to stop? I don’t think so. Too often we associate weirdness with the manifestation of the Spirit. The Spirit gives life, and where the Spirit goes there is life. That doesn’t mean the Spirit turns humans into monkeys or limp logs.

Like you I haven’t found a church that does this well. It’s normally cessationist or full on weirdness. Could someone please start a church somewhere in the middle???!?!?!

10 03 2009
willohroots

That would be..me? I am in a new church start, four years now, it is still a baby. I run with the SBC crowd.
This is a great post. I do not buy into most of what I see pentecostals up to. I do not buy a second baptism, and Paul did everything but beg and cry to get tongues to calm down. Yet he said do not forbid it.
I am also in rebelion to those who claim the Holy Spirit retired, The Triunity is not Father Son and Holy bible.
God does speak to us today. I know that for a fact, but I am not waiting for a new revelation.

10 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Thanks Willis, I really like that comment about the Holy Spirit’s retirement. Made me laugh out loud.
I guess this post has struck a chord with a lot of people out there.

11 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

Paul did a lot of teaching about the gifts and the offices within the church. Yeah, he warned about abuse, yet pronounced that he spoke in tongues and wished all would do so prophesy. ( 1 Cor 12, Romans 12)

Jesus spoke of a ‘baptism’ in (with) the Holy Spirit (Acts 1) so why would we not be looking for this as believers? Why would we think that we can evangelize in our own strength and not need the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit?

Paul said that he came not with eloquent speech (preaching?) but with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. (1 Cor 2)

Does God still speak to people today? Of course He does. Does He still bestow gifts and power on people today? Of course He does. Is the Bible God’s last word? Of course not!!

James said, “You have not because you ask not.”

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive … (Mat. 7)

The way I see it, anyway …

11 03 2009
Mason

“James said, “You have not because you ask not.”
Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive … (Mat. 7)”

See it’s things like that which make me uncomfortable with Pentecostalism. Neither of those passages have anything to do with sign gifts in context, but so often any verse about faith or asking is linked to miracles and signs

“Jesus spoke of a ‘baptism’ in (with) the Holy Spirit (Acts 1) so why would we not be looking for this as believers?”

I know for me personally, and I’d guess for Grant as well though I hesitate to speak for others, that I have no intention of denying the idea that we are baptized in the Spirit. What I contest is the idea that this happens at some point other than the moment of salvation, at some later date that makes you a first class specially empowered Christian. That is something I see no Biblical warrant for, and I think it leads to a great many damaging beliefs.

11 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

Read the first seven verses of Acts 19.

11 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Easy there tiger.

11 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

Just because some (even many) people distort and abuse the teachings of Jesus, Peter and Paul, does not mean that their teachings cannot be trusted and believed and sought after. The trick is not to start another church every time a person discovers a biblical passage he hadn’t seen before.

Too many Christians err on the side of not believing enough under the guise of humbleness. We know from Revelation 3 that lukewarmness is not considred an asset by Jesus.

We need to remember that the church of God is not a visible church, and we should not put too much trust in the visible church. Other than offering a group hug on occasion for those who need such encouragement from time to time it often is no different than the lodges so many people belong to. The fact that there so many (way too many) denominations is proof of this.

The way I see it, anyway … Peace and grace to all.

11 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

“Just because some (even many) people distort and abuse the teachings of Jesus, Peter and Paul, does not mean that their teachings cannot be trusted and believed and sought after.”

That depends on how distorted? Are we talking Marcion or the Arian Controversy? What about distorting it to say Jesus really taught Yoga? Should we seek after that? Can we trust that? When someone distorts the teachings of the Bible it casts doubt on most of what they teach.

“Too many Christians err on the side of not believing enough under the guise of humbleness. We know from Revelation 3 that lukewarmness is not considred an asset by Jesus.”

While lukewarmness is not something anyone desires, why would that come about from not believing enough? Where do we draw the line at enough? At your interpretation or mine? Do we include speaking in tongues? Your conclusions sound nice, but I don’t think you’ve thought through the implications enough.

“We need to remember that the church of God is not a visible church, and we should not put too much trust in the visible church. Other than offering a group hug on occasion for those who need such encouragement from time to time it often is no different than the lodges so many people belong to.”

Fully agree but however imperfect it is still the only organisation that openly preaches the word of God. Do the lodges do that? I don’t think so.

“The fact that there so many (way too many) denominations is proof of this”

Denominations start for many different reasons. Up until the advent of post modernity many divided on issues of doctrine and church governance. Not just because they wanted to be like other lodges, or be a nice society to help people. I’ll admit some liberals did though. Some emergent churches do too. But they are not representative of the whole.

12 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

The Christian ‘church’ is in crisis and decline in the Western world, even though we have the greatest preachers, mega churches, book stores loaded with Christian authors’ contributions, Christian music like never before, and every congregation totally equipped with several professional ‘worship’ teams. We have all this yet the ‘church’ is in real trouble while other religions and atheism is on the increase.

And the reason is that the church has lost it’s power! We really don’t need or depend on God for anything.

Philip went down to a city in Samaria (after the new Christians were scattered) and he preached the gospel there. When the people saw that he healed their sick and cast out their demons they paid attention to his preaching. Many believed and there was great joy in that city. -Acts 8:4-8

Maybe we need to get back to basics. We could use a little joy in our cities, couldn’t we?

12 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

What we are discussing here is a huge subject and not easily dealt with through a few short posts.

The Roman Catholic church allows (encourages) it’s members to join and be active in the Knights of Columbus. The Anglican (Episcopalian) church allows its members to be Masons. Both the Masons and Knights of Columbus have a secret side to them. They are anything but Christian, even though they appear to adhere to some aspect of Christianity.

Our God is a Spirit, a supernatural Spirit. Jesus, His begotten Son lived on earth as a human for some thirty three years but then went back to heaven from where He came. For our God, the supernatural is normal. We humans need to look beyond our humanness if we are going to understand a supernatural God.

The Bible is loaded with the supernatural. What are we afraid of? Jesus told His first disciples (and us believers by extension) that the things they witnessed Him doing they too would be doing.

Jesus taught that faith as small as a mustard seed would bring huge results. Not theoretical, know about it kind of associate faith, but actual faith that what Jesus taught was real an dependable.

Now mostly we play church and many people find some comfort in the Sunday morning sermon and the idea of going to ‘God’s House’ appeals to people. But we are loosing the battle and unless we are willing to start living and doing what the first Christians did we will be overcome by other religions. And the first Christians were (like it or not) Pentacostals.

The way I see it, anyway …

12 03 2009
Mason

Well Grant this one certainly got a reaction no? lol

“The Bible is loaded with the supernatural. What are we afraid of?”
Afraid of? Nothing, seeing as I have no problem believing in the supernatural.
I just think that the way most of the Pentecostal church approaches the supernatural is unbiblical and not at all fitting with the boundaries and standards laid out by Paul and others. Like I said earlier if there is a church using sign gifts in a sane biblically adherent way, great, I’m all for that, and I have no doubt that it can happen.
Unfortunately that is not most of the movement, and saying that having some discernment about not jumping on board with any crazy actions that are labels as ‘from the Spirit’ is not being anti supernatural or against sign gifts, it is refusing to endorse unbiblical practices which try to guilt other by accusing them of a lack of faith.

“And the first Christians were (like it or not) Pentecostals.”

Wow, well that’s categorically untrue, and about as objective as people claiming the first Christians were Roman Catholic (they had Peter after all), or Baptists (they’ve always existed right?) or Anglican (Jesus always sounds British on those movies so why not).

Now if you mean they had experienced Pentecost (where they spoke in other human languages, not the tongues of Corinthians) then fine, but that’s a one time historical event where the Spirit was brought into the life of the church. To make it normative makes as much sense to me as saying that if we are serious about following Jesus we should go worship him in his manger. That event happened, now we have the effects of it, not constant repetition.

12 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

I guess what this all boils down to really is what every individual, you and I, are prepared to believe.

I was raised in a denominational church where every doctrine they believed in was recorded in the back of their Hymnal. Much of what they believed was identified as being in opposition to what others believed. They were against the Baptists and others and even damned them for thier beliefs. What they themselves actually stood for was rather wishy-washy and really not much different than the Roman Catholics.

The way to salvation is a narrow, single-file path and every believer has to decide for him/herself how their faith will play out in their lives. We cannot be believers by association.

One of you mentioned that he would be glad to align himself with a church that believed and acted moderately. Well, moderation generally leads to luke-warmness and we have already discussed that.

What does it mean to be ‘on fire’ for God? It’s different for everyone and all of us will one day give an account of our lives and at that time explaining about the church we ‘belonged’ to won’t carry a lot of weight.

Over the top Pentacostals, under the top Reformers, against everything Baptists, idol-worshiping Catholics, etc., we will all stand before God one day and will try and explain ourselves and realize that we were men-followers rather than Jesus followers.

I suspect there’s a lesson in there somewhere … the way I see it, anyway. Peace!

12 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Mason, this post has generated more of a response than I ever anticipated. Glad to keep the conversation going as long as it’s done with grace and respect.

“Over the top Pentacostals, under the top Reformers, against everything Baptists, idol-worshiping Catholics, etc., we will all stand before God one day and will try and explain ourselves and realize that we were men-followers rather than Jesus followers.”

What you just said represents the sum total of the preaching I sat under for years. I never knew if I was saved or going to hell. I wondered what Jesus would say when I “got to the pearly gates”. While we will have to give an account, I know that the verdict God will declare at the end of the age has already been brought into the present. He has declared me not guilty by the blood of Christ. I may be a follower of men in some regard. We all are. Jesus knows this. It’s what sin has done to us. We are incapable of perfection.

The church needs to anticipate this verdict in the present. We need to live the declaration now. That means growth and maturity. Not by our own power but by the Spirit. Where the Spirit is there is life, not uncontrollable sub-human, convulsions. Those are the actions that the demons performed when they came into contact with Jesus. I’m not saying it’s impossible for people to have those experiences and be genuine followers of Christ, I’m saying it doesn’t seem consistent with the biblical witness.

I don’t think the first Christians were pentecostals in what we mean by that today. Did they experience pentecost? Of course they did. Were they all falling over, shaking, or convulsing? I don’t think so. People seem to chase after these signs as if they are the only manifestation of the Spirit, but what of Paul when he talks about the fruits of the Spirit? Love, Joy, Peace, self control? Are these not also demonstrations of the Spirits power?

People are not lukewarm in seeking a moderate church. What they want is a church where the Spirit moves, but does not override our humanity. Weirdness for them (and me) does not make someone more spiritual, or more open to the spirit, or even more on fire for God.

12 03 2009
wellwateredgarden

You know what? I agree with you. I just don’t want to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water.’

When I suggested that the first believers were Pentecostals I meant that they were the product of the Pentecost experience. The early Christians went out and preached and proved the existence of God and Jesus by operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with Mark 16:20.

Jesus gave us two commandments … love God and love our neighbor. And He taught that upon His leaving earth, to return to heaven, He would send the Spirit to help us understand his teachings and to witness to His (Jesus’) authenticity.

The other thing is … it’s the Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, it’s not our job. Our job is to witness concerning Jesus Christ and His teachings to non-believers and to back it up with our own lives.

I think we’re on the same ‘page,’ but a little confused about the ‘paragraphs’ perhaps.

God bless you all … peace!

12 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

LOL No worries mate. I agree we shouldn’t say no move of the Spirit or tongues etc because of the weirdness. What I didn’t mention in my above comment were tongues and prophecy. Two things I believe still can and do happen today. Unfortunately even these have been seen as badges of covenant membership (to borrow from Wright) in that they are the “only” proof of the power of the Spirit.

The church needs to be open to the move of the Spirit. Of course we’re not always going to get it right, but I don’t think that means we declare ourselves cessationists to avoid weirdness. I think I’m gonna have to do a few more posts on the gifts, signs and wonders etc in the coming weeks.

13 03 2009
mickmartin

For a really inspiring, heartfelt, thought-provoking and holistic theology of the Holy Spirit, get hold of Clark Pinnock’s book ‘Flame of Love’. To the best of my knowledge Pinnock is not Pentecostal per se, but he has some brilliant insights into the person and work of the Spirit that cut right across the Pentecostal/non-Pentecostal divide.

13 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

I’ve heard some good things about that book. My pastor reccomended it. I know that Pinnock is a heavy proponent of Open Theism which puts me off a lot of his stuff. But this ones sounds interesting. I’ll add it to my wish list 🙂

14 03 2009
Clive

My background is charismatic/ pentecostal and I’ve crossed through many streams and churches and come to the conclusion that you just can’t classify people by tags! I’ve always loved evangelical theology and currently NT Wright is my favourite author (I see you like him too). I’m really at a point I guess where I probably disagree with much pentecostal theology but see Christianity more about the life of the Spirit now than I ever did as a fervent pentecostal. The life of God we receive when we receive Christ is the life of the Spirit, so why would we not want more of him? He is the helper Jesus promised would be with us forever so why would anyone not want his gifts? Pentecostal wackiness isn’t about too much Holy Spirit it’s about not understanding God’s ways. I believe the Spirit leads us into understanding God’s ways and as we know more of God’s ways we can better be lead by the Spirit. I no longer see any conflict between pentecostal/ non-pentecostal issues. Good blog by the way.

15 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Thanks for the comments Clive. I think you show a lot of maturity in your thinking, something that has been lacking from a lot of churches I’ve been a part of in the past. I agree with your statement that Pentecostal wackiness comes from a misunderstanding of God’s ways rather than an overflow of the Holy Spirit.

The church I go to doesn’t identify people by tags. We’re too mixed to do that. We have Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Reformed, Arminian, Baptist, Presbyterian, and even Bretheren. It’s an interesting mix.

16 03 2009
mickmartin

I’m with Clive 100 percent. I gave a series of three sermons on the Spirit last year entitled ‘Person’, ‘Presence’ and ‘Power’. It was my attempt to bring down what I see as the artificial divide between pentecostal/non-pentecostal understandings of the Spirit. The reality of the Spirit is so much bigger than any of our imperfect theologies.

16 03 2009
aworthydiscussion

Yeah Clive has some remarkable wisdom there. I see the Spirit as a way for us to truly live out a christian walk that affects every facet of our lives. If we ignore the Spirit we end up with a dry christianity that affects us 2hrs a week on a sunday. The Spirit is there for the everyday, the mundane, the ordinary. The Spirit is the way we connect with God everyday.

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