December 16, 2017

How I Became a… (Quiet) Charismatic

Holy Spirit fire doveToday we continue our series on “How I Became a…”. Last month I discussed how I had become a Theistic-Evolutionist. Two weeks ago I told my story of becoming an Arminian. Today we are continuing the series by looking at how I became a (Quiet) Charismatic.

Before telling my story (and before the darts are thrown), I do want to define what I mean by (Quiet) Charismatic:

First of all.  I am a Charismatic.  That is, when it comes to the the so called charismatic gifts of the spirit, I have moved from a cessationist position to a continualist position.  I believe that the Holy Spirit endows believers with these gifts today.

Secondly, I am a quiet Charismatic.  I you were to observe me in a Church Service, there would be little (other than the occasional raising of a hand) to identify me as Charismatic.  I have never spoken in tongues, or been slain in the spirit, or given a word of wisdom or a number of other things that might identify me as a Charismatic.

I do not believe charismatic gifting is intended to be normative for all Christians, nor is it necessarily permanent gifting.  To give an example, when someone points out the number of prophets that there are in the Old Testament, I would point out how many people in the Old Testament are not prophets.  God speaks to people.  God doesn’t speak to most people.  I think this a key to keeping the discussion civil here.  We have had a number of recent discussions about this on Internet Monk.  When “W” says that God puts a thought in his head with information hat he can’t possibly know of his own accord, I believe him.  When Stuart or Miguel say they have never heard the voice of God, despite wanting to, I have no trouble with that either.  I believe that both situations are consistent with the way that God operates, with the latter being much more common with the former.

I think that where we can get into trouble is when our expectation is that all Christians should experience the former, or that all Christians should experience the latter. (A note of clarification:  I am not attributing either of these extreme positions to “W”, Stuart, or Miguel.  I will let them speak for themselves.)

And now for the story.  There are no eureka moments in this story, just a series of “hmm” moments…

The church that I grew up in was in the latter cessationist camp.  They taught that when the Canon of scripture was complete, the charismatic gifts ceased.  “For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  1 Cor 13:9-10″  There were no genuine charismatic gifts, those who practiced them were either doing it from the “flesh” or with the assistance of Satan.  How the Holy Spirit really operated was laid out in an Emmaus Bible Course by highly regarded bible teacher C. Ernest Tatham entitled “The Holy Spirit at Work.”

Then the first of my “hmm” moments occurred.  Church Elder, Wally Best, was driving home from church one day. He was praising God in song as he was driving and he reached a point where he found he could no longer sing,   Much to his own surprise, he started speaking in tongues right there in the car.  While this was disconcerting to him, it was even more disconcerting to the other Elders.  While I was too young to know or remember all the details, the result was that Wally ending up leaving our church and starting his own.

In a similar time frame, C. Ernest Tatham had a similar experience.  Again, it wasn’t an experience that he was looking for, or an experience that he was expecting.  It just kind of happened.  He later recounted his story in the book “Let the Tide Come In”.    I happened upon a copy of this when I was in my late teens, and when I realized it was the same author who had written “The Holy Spirit at Work” my jaw just dropped.  This was an esteemed teacher in the movement who was turning his back on much of what he had earlier believed and taught.  Definitely another “hmm” moment.

At age 15 I went away to an interdenominational youth camp.  Some of the youth met together for a prayer meeting one night and I joined them.  It was proceeding along in a pretty sedate way when their was a move of the Holy Spirit in a way that I have not seen before or since.  Soon we were all on the floor sobbing and confessing our sins.  I remember saying to myself “Wow”, so this is what it was like in the upper room.  This was certainly a “hmm” moment, and one marked with a big exclamation mark.

At 17 I joined the military.  I also started drinking.  Heavily.  Things escalated.  The night that my drinking buddy tried to commit suicide and I had to physically restrain him from jumping out a window was the night that I decided to stop drinking.  That was when I realized I had a drinking problem and I couldn’t quit.  Finally months later I said “Ok God, I am supposed to be a Christian.  I have this problem and I can’t handle it anymore.  I need you to handle it.”  I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol again for years, and never had a problem with it again.  It was many years later when I considered the theology of God as Healer that I had my “hmm” moment.

The following year I went away to University, and the year after that I joined the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship on our Campus.  It was there that I met my first Pentecostal, Belinda.  Hard to believe that I could go my entire childhood without meeting a Pentecostal, but that was the insular Christian world in which I lived.  Belinda was unlike any other Christian I had ever met.  She exuded joy in a way that I had not seen in anyone else.  In my many conversations I had with her I could tell that she was being genuine and that this wasn’t just some put on front.  She was only at the University for a year before she transferred to another school but my interactions with Belinda taught me that the Charismatic/Pentecostal types were not necessarily the fleshly demonic influenced types that I had been warned against.  Again, another “hmm” moment.

In my fourth year of University I started dating Marie.  Marie was a Charismatic Catholic Christian, a combination that I didn’t even know existed prior to meeting Marie.  Having been raised in, and still attending an anti-charismatic, anti-catholic church, my interaction with Marie produced many “hmm” moments.  As an off topic aside:  Marie had her own spiritual “aha” moment while we were dating, and decided to become a nun. (When one friend joked to her that I had scared her off men forever she sweetly replied, “Actually, after dating Michael, I realized that there was only way I could do better!)

After leaving that University I moved to Ottawa where I met “Mitch”.  I have known Mitch now for over 25 years now and he is one of the most godly men I know.  It was early in my relationship with him that he confided in me that he spoke in tongues in his private devotional life.  This really got me thinking.  Mitch wasn’t some person that I had read about, or knew as an acquaintance.  He was a best buddy.  Someone who I really looked up to, and someone who was one of the most gentle, kind, and patient people you could ever meet.  My mental images of the wild charismatic continued to be dashed piece by piece.

It wasn’t long after meeting Mitch that I also met Chris.  Chris was much like “W” on this site.  God would give him something to say to a stranger that he would meet on a bus, he would resist it, but would eventually pass it on.  Invariably the recipient would break down weeping, because Chris would have told him something, that no one else could have known, and which dealt with an issue that the person was facing.  I was in a weekly bible study with Chris, and other than this unusual gift he seemed just like an ordinary everyday student.  Almost every week when talking with Chris I had another “hmm” moment.

About that time I had my Arminian eureka moment and started looking for a new church.  I ended up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  The C&MA is an interesting denomination in that they could be best described as being charismatic in theology, but not in practice.    Their founder A. B. Simpson, is considered to be one of the founders of the Pentecostal movement, and in fact the early Alliance lost half of its members to Pentecostal churches.  The Alliance in more recent years has been more characterized by theologian A. W. Tozer, who it is said coined the phrase “Seek Not, Forbid Not.”  In reality, when it came to charismatic gifts, “seek not, forbid not”, became “believe, but don’t practice.”  However, in three years at that one church I heard more teaching on the Holy Spirit than I had heard in my previous twenty four years.  Yes, there is a third member of the Trinity, though you wouldn’t have known it from the previous churches I had attended.

Mitch and I got married to our respective wives 8 months apart and together we headed to the Alliance seminary in Regina, Saskatchewan.  My most significant “hmm” moment came during my years at seminary.  I had written about this experience several years ago:

I was attending seminary, just a few blocks from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada.  My good friend Mitch, a fellow seminarian, and friend for many years, invited me to visit the church that he was attending.  It was located right in the middle of this poor neighborhood.

We went to visit the following Sunday.  What followed was one of the strangest things that has ever happened to me.   As I sat down in my seat, I began to feel this overwhelming sense of evil in the church, like nothing I had ever felt before.  I said to myself, “What is going on here?  What am I responding to here?  Is it the music?  Is it the atmosphere?  What is causing me to sense this evil here?”

As much as I tried I could not figure it out.  But I knew that something was definitely wrong.  So I asked my friend Mitch to come outside with me for a bit.  Once we were outside I told his what was going on.  We prayed and asked God to protect the church from whatever was disturbing the service.  When we went back in, the sense of evil was gone.

After the service, Mitch said that we really needed to talk to Pastor about the issue.  I was quite resistant.  “What is the Pastor going to think when someone walks into his church and tells him, Hey Pastor, I know you don’t know me, but I felt an overwhelming sense of evil during the service?”  Mitch assured me that this was a Pastor who was quite knowledgeble in this area, and that he would vouch for me.

So we went in to see the Pastor, and after introductions I told him the story of what had happened.   Immediately after I finished, the Pastor turned to Mitch and asked.  “How far was Mike sitting from J. T. [not the real initials]?”  Mitch said, “He was one row behind us, and three seats over.”

I was flabbergasted, not only was the Pastor not surprised at what I had told him, but he was able to immediatly identify the probable source of what I was experiencing!  The Pastor then thanked me for drawing this to his attention.  According to the Pastor, J.T. had been dabbling in the occult, and the Pastor was afraid that he had brought a demonic influence with him into the church.  The Pastor then went on to tell me that he believed that God had given me the gift of discernment, and he encouraged me to look for a church where this gift could be utilized.  This was my first real experience of a charismatic church, and I was a bit uncomfortable with the whole idea, so rightly or wrongly, I never followed up on his suggestion.

Two weeks later I was told, J.T. manifested a demon during the morning service.  He was taken out to another room, where he was prayed for and the demon was dealt with.

I will end my stories there.  In summary though I do want to say that in over fifty years I have had very few personal experiences with charismatic gifts.  I can count them on one hand.  I also know that personal experience tends to have a major influence on one’s theology which probably explains where I have ended up on the matter.  I have had so many “hmm” moments that I can’t help but conclude that these experiences can’t be discounted.

As for the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:  “For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. ”   That has to be one of the worst applications of a verse that I have ever seen.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Faulty O-Ring says:

    You were not passively led to this set of religious beliefs–you chose them, even if you were influenced by the people around you and/or some of the murkier regions of psychology. The way you present your story seems calculated to make ordinary feelings and intuitions seem miraculous, when in fact most people (regardless of religion) experience them, and there is no way to know how divine they are, or how accurate your memories of them (let alone the stories you tell about them) are.

    So your religion teaches that “dabbling” in “the occult” is evil and Satanic. Okay, fine–as you know, other religions teach that what YOU do is evil and Satanic, and everybody’s entitled. But when you say “the occult,” do you have any clear idea of what you mean? Because some of your story reminds me very much of things said by esoteric or New Age Christians, who are not so different from you.

    • I won’t say what Mike or any of his church groups experienced was the occult. It sounds very reasonable and biblical to me. But I will say that the farther in to charismaticism you go, the more occult it gets. It’s why places like Bethel, IHOP, those Florida revivals, Toronto…and maybe even Azuza…are no better than occult practices, in my mind.

      When a charismatic loses Jesus and loses the Scriptures, the Spirit drops the Holy.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Problem is, a lot of Charismatics in my experience (late Seventies-early Eighties) weren’t “Quiet” at all. More like “TONGUES! TONGUES! TONGUES! TONGUES! TONGUES!”

        Me? I was alone in holding out for Wisdom. Because Wisdom is the command control over all the others, telling you when to use the others and when NOT to. Only thing I’m sure of Tonguing is I’ve never done it. I didn’t last long around Charismatics.

        And when you mix LOUD Charismatics with Spiritual Warfare(TM) and Discernment(TM)-as-Seeing-Demons-Everywhere, you get a mixture of Witchfinders-General and Shamanism.

        The only Charismatics that didn’t go overboard were the Charismatic Catholics at Azusa Newman Center circa 1980; their tonguing would rise during the Eucharistic Prayer and Elevation of the Host at their Masses; the priest would hold in place while the rhythm of the tonguing rose and fell, breaking and running out like surf on a beach; when it died away to silence after a minute or two, he would continue the Mass. THAT is the only Charismatic event that didn’t get me looking around for an exit.

        Jeff seems to have reached a similar conclusion as me: Spectacular Charisms and Supernatural Events are sub-types of Paranormal Events, and like all Paranormal Events they are rare and usually ambiguous. And like a lot of things, you can never go after them directly — only as a side effect of some other goal.

        • And when you mix LOUD Charismatics with Spiritual Warfare(TM) and Discernment(TM)-as-Seeing-Demons-Everywhere, you get a mixture of Witchfinders-General and Shamanism.

          And that’s all I see in charismaticism. Waves and waves of it, being reinterpreted, cycles of strange fire and burnt over people.

          There’s no love. No peace. No wisdom. No fruit of the spirit. Let alone doctrine or theology or integrity or ethics.

          Nothing.

          Painting a broad picture? Yeah, I kind of am. Individuals may be different, but step back, it’s all the same.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Burnt over people”?

            Like in the “Burnt Over District” of Upstate New York, that 19th Century Weird Religion Capital of the USA that spawned Spiritualism, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism, and all these other offbeat-to-weird religions who didn’t survive long?

        • HUG, i hear you about the Mass being peaceful, but honestly, Catholic charismatics could be and often wete out on the fringe. I spent quite a few years in Catholic charismatic “communities,” and there was a tremendous amount of lying, financial sneakiness, etc. done by the people at the top. Also pretty flagrant sexual sin, albeit it involved adults, not kids.

          At this point, many decades on, i do believe the Holy Spirit is here, for today, just not in the way that the vadt majority of Pentecostals and charismaticsexpect or believe in. I have no time whatsoever for the rampant superstition that is part of so much charismatic practice, and though it pains me to admit it, i believed a lot of it myself (though have not for about a decade).

          It can be very difficult to have convrrsations with a lot of charismatics about belief, and i have no plans to re-engage w/ithe movement any time soon, if ever. I wish they would all focus on the fruit of the Spirit rather than on extraordinary gifts, and get about living their lives with a more balanced perspective on these things, but…

          • Do you know if there’s Lutheran “charasmatics”?

          • Brianthedad says:

            There were, in the 70s. Split some congregations. I’ve heard older members talk about the turmoil. Google “the Lutheran church and the Charismatic Movement.” the LCMS did a report on it for guidance for congregations in 1977. Not sure if there are any officially around, but some of the CoWo congregations impart some of that flavor.

          • Interesting. Thanks Brian.

  2. The Holy spirit is alive and well, we each of us are drawn by the spirit and if we are sensitive to and willing to follow this spirit it is pretty amazing what occurs.

    I am not too sensitive but rather pretty calloused by life and my experiences to date but even so there are times when I can point to where the spirit either led or influenced the outcomes of events or interactions with other people.

  3. Wow – Mike Bell and F O-R are about as far apart on this issue as you can get. But to answer your question, Fault…

    “But when you say “the occult,” do you have any clear idea of what you mean? Because some of your story reminds me very much of things said by esoteric or New Age Christians, who are not so different from you.”

    It’s all in the asking, as in, “WHO are you asking?” Are you asking God (Father, Son, and [esp. relevant in this case] Holy Spirit)? Or are you asking someone else?

    As for the distinction between “esoteric” and “rational” Christians (forgive me if I’m assuming what your stance in this is, but your linking of Charismatic thought and “occultism” seems to substantiate my guess), I empathize with the rational approach to faith, but I can no longer assume that it must be the path that ALL Christians must take. In point of fact, very few people in the Bible approach God or their faith in a “rational” manner, as we disciples of the Enlightenment would define it. 😉 People are emotional animals, no matter how much we may regret or decry God’s decision to create us so. Some people will key into their emotions for faith more than their logical capacity. We Spockian Christians just have to accept that, and realize that overdone rationality is just as much an error – I, and any number of others here, can name lots of examples off the tops of our heads *cough*Reformedhypercalvinism*cough*

    I say all this as someone who is as non-(c)harismatic as you can get, thinks that most expressions of charismatic theology and worship are flawed, and wouldn’t dream of becoming a charismatic myself. But I can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Well, God and the Holy Spirit don’t talk to me, at least not in such a way that I can distinguish what they say from my own psychology. To claim otherwise seems…presumptuous. The central claim of Charismatics and Pentecostals is that they DO regularly converse with God, the angels, etc., and this is not so far removed from “occult” techniques like dream analysis, tarot cards, ouija boards, ESP, etc.

      • The claim that God no longer speaks to *anyone* apart from their reading Scripture could be construed as equally presumptuous. And a careful reading of the passages used to substantiate cessationism shows that a cessationist reading is very eisegetical. (IOW, it’s read into the text, not arising out of it.)

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          I have no way of knowing whether God does speak to people (whether through “Scripture” or not), but am suspicious of people who express certainty that they have received such a message.

  4. I believe that the triple bulwark to the early gnostic approaches- that is creed, canon, and episcopate- was the trajectory for putting divinely conferred power or talent in the background. In many ways, the Montanists of the second century have been a prototype that has appeared throughout time. Novatians, Donatists, Cathari, Priscillianists, Joachim di Fiore, Fraticelli, Homines, Intelligentiae, Flagelliants, some early Anabaptists, Vaudois, some early Quakers, Herrnhuters, Swedenborgians, early Mormons, Irvingites. From Montanus to James Nayler, from Muggleton to Evan Roberts, the list could be extended indefinitely. It seems to surge up again and again both as a revival and as a survival. It is to me essentially positive and negative,. Very appealing in simplicity, spontaneity, and purity. And a protest against the naturalization of the Church in the world.
    I personally think gifts are not over. But I don’t think that more than one in a thousand have been so gifted. Now the fruits, on the other hand, they should be evident in all. But, truth be known, if you consider the Beatitudes, or seven virtues, or even the fruits outlined in Galatians…….I doubt most Christians could list, let alone expound on them.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      I’m not actually sure what you think that list holds in common – std devs from the norm? In point of fact their doctrines were very disparate, and several of the groups should probably be called heretics…while others cults, and others just kind of weird.

    • I don’t know about one in a thousand. I suspect that if you gathered up a representative cross section of 1,000 professed Christians from a wide variety of religious backgrounds — and then you interviewed them at length one at a time about their beliefs and their experiences as a Christian in an environment in which they felt free to speak without fear of negative consequences — I think you would be surprised at how many accounts of the miraculous and/or operations of the Holy Spirit you would get from the experiment, even from those who take a cessationist stance doctrinally. Of course, you could take that to mean their are a lot of flaky folks with overactive imaginations who desire the attention such stories can attract. And while I know from experience that there is quite a bit of exaggerated or even downright dishonest testimony floating around out there — particularly in Charismatic and Pentacostal circles where expectations for that kind of thing are high — I also know quite a few stable, rationally grounded Christians, who, when pressed on the point, will share about their encounters with the Holy Spirit in a one-on-one conversation. I could share a thing or two myself. And one in a thousand, I am certainly not.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Stable, grounded people are nevertheless part of a certain religious culture. There’s a reason they experience angels or UFO’s rather than say, the Evil Eye.

        • As someone who grew up in a very cessationalist Baptist Church and who left the church in my early 20’s, eventually descending into my own nihilistic black hole, there are few people more conditioned toward skepticism in this area than myself. During my mid to late 20’s, God made Himself real to me in a way that I had never experienced in my youth. While most of that involved a changing of my heart, there were some seemingly miraculous, very out-of-the-ordinary experiences that I believe God used to get through my thick, skeptical skull.
          Could those experiences be rationally explained away as dellusions or phychological projections or hallucinations or whatever? Sure they could. Even after all these years as a believer, my mind still engages in that kind of skeptical descontruction almost automatically. I can argue against my own beliefs better than anyone.
          All I can say is that God provided me with enough to make a choice, and I chose to believe. And a significant part of that choice for me involved spooky spiritual stuff outside the box of my strictly rational thinking habits. I’m sorry if that ruffles anybody’s theological feathers.
          But if I can’t believe that God works and moves and communicates in my own life in the present tense, there’s no way I could maitain a belief in some Jewish guy rising from the dead 2,000 years ago. I’m too much of a natural skeptic for that.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            But notice it was the dead Jewish guy, and not the blue Hindu guy. It’s not a coincidence that you (I surmise) come from a culture where one is traditional and not the other.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            But therein is your error, FOR. He isn’t dead.

  5. Thanks Michael. I enjoy knowing you better.

  6. Vega Magnus says:

    Eh… I’m inclined not to buy into Charasmatic stuff. People find what they expect to find, so if someone is Charismatic, they will experience the world as viewed through their beliefs. So if you think that God communicates via speaking in tongues and whatnot, then that is how you will perceive things as happening, and the inverse is true for non-Charasmatics also.

    • VM, I think you missed the point. Mike was not “expecting” nor “perceiving” ANYTHING. These were his experiences, unlooked for and unexpected. We can pontificate, theologize and rationalize the experiences of others all we want, but our attempts at diminishing them can in no way take them away or relegate them to some pigeon hole theology.

      Experiences are what they are. Just note them and move on to your own path.

      • Ever notice that a lot of the stories in the Bible are particular highlights? We read them as if miraculous gift stuff should be occuring daily, when the accounts in the Bible could have weeks, months, years in between occurrences. Probably every believer, in their lifetime, has had a handful of truly supernatural miraculous events/encounters/moments. Some maybe more than others.

        The problem is expecting it to become the norm.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          It’s like Star Trek V’Ger and the Unknown Space Anomaly of the Week — when everything’s an extraordinary anomaly, it’s no longer an anomaly. It’s what’s NORMAL, and the universe has become “Lovely, Lovely Chaos.”

    • OldProphet says:

      Sorry VM. “People find what they expect to find”. No, they find what they were taught. Or what they feel The cessation doctrine isn’t taught in Scripture. The gifts of the Holy Spirit function throughout church history. Do a study on it. By the way, the 1st Corinthian passage doesn’t teach cessation either. That is a dispensation teaching that is false, in my opinion

      • “People find what they expect to find”. No, they find what they were taught.

        The difference being? Look at the forefathers of most charismatic movements. They went looking for something intentionally, often because they were pissed off at something else or desperately desired something more, not because they were taught to expect something. And then they taught others.

        There’s on difference.

        • OldProphet says:

          Sooo, all charismatics only believe what they teach or do because they are angry or desperately looking for something else? Only them evil tongue talking gibberism guys? Really? You want to keep this untenable position? By the way, Martin Luther believed in tongues. And divine healing. Look it up

          • Did I take that position? I’m just studying history and pointing out commonalities. Those guys taught others, and everyone has their own reasons for wanting to believe.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Almost all Christians believe in tongues…they just disagree on whether the gift operates today!

  7. Thanks for sharing. I, too, am a quiet Charismatic; less Charismatic than I used to be, and definitely more quiet. Spoke in tongues from near the beginning of my Christian experience (age 25), but have never had an “interpretation” (of either my own words or other persons’, and actually view most such “interpretations” I have heard ad nauseam over the decades as being bogus). Never have prophesied, but have (when we were more actively involved in Charismatic churches) at times felt impressed to read particular Scripture verses, which seemed quite appropriate for the occasion. Have had some pretty intense experiences when praying for people to receive the Holy Spirit – i.e., I seemed at that time in my life to be able to be an aid for them to receive, with them experiencing a definite physical sensation and/or having a powerful reaction. Never have been “slain in the Spirit,” despite numerous attempts of people/pastors/etc., to push me down. 😀 We lived in Kansas City during the whole “Kansas City Prophets” thing and attended the two main churches in the conflict, and saw/heard/knew the principal players. After moving to Texas, was present at one of the first meetings at which John Arnott (Toronto Airport Vineyard) brought the “Toronto Blessing” to Texas. Never have had “words” for people. My wife used to get visions at times, but she has pretty much become non-Charismatic, and maybe even borderline Christian (not sure which side of the border she might be on). I never have been convinced of the cessationist position, even though we attended a cessationist church for several years after exiting our cult church. (Long story)

    One of the best books still on glossolalia is Morton T. Kelsey’s Tongue Speaking, original copyright 1964, I think, though other editions with differing subtitles show later dates; it’s the same book, though, I believe, and would be of interest to anyone, no matter what one’s charismatic or non-charismatic or anti-charismatic or Christian or non-Christian beliefs. Buy it.

    Of course, there is also John Sherrill’s They Speak With Other Tongues, which is also a good read, and provides some nice history of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement(s), though The Azusa Street Mission and Revival by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., may be the best book on the history of Pentecostalism’s beginnings.

    • FWIW, my godfather in the Orthodox Church (he entered a year before we did, and exited several months before we did) had a Charismatic background, and after he became Orthodox, he attempted in a dissertation for a degree to disprove the Charismatic claim that a reason for the decline and even disappearance of the charismata was the institutionalization and hierarchicalization of the Church (otherwise known as “It’s Constantine’s Fault!”). He was proceeding along quite well until, as he says it, he saw his thesis fall apart in his hands, as the evidence was indeed pointing to that as having been the case. As I said, he subsequently left the Orthodox Church – partly because of that, and partly because of a (re)visitation of the Holy Spirit in his life. When he tried to explain it to our priest, he was met with incomprehension on the priest’s part (and maybe a little anger and frustration?).

      A fellow Orthodox convert and mutual friend/acquaintance queried him about this, and my godfather friend wrote in response (this will likely take more than one post):

      Why One Man Left The Orthodox Church

      The following is from correspondence I facilitated between two Orthodox friends (both converts).

      N,

      My name is C. I think E sent you an email recently about the possibility that I would contact you. Actually I think we’ve met before and I’ve certainly seen you several times at St. X.

      I enjoy Church history particularly as it is related to the Church’s doctrinal beliefs. If you are inclined and find it convenient time-wise I’d appreciate hearing what you have to say about the Montanist movement, how it came into conflict with the Catholic Church, and how that conflict was resolved. As E said, I’m just here to listen.

      Grace and peace,

      C

      – – –

      Dear C,

      As you know, the documentation on the Montanists is very limited. It is unfortunate that, with the exception of Tertullian, we do not have any documents authored by the Montanists which show us what they taught or prophesied. One thing is clear. The episcopate had already asserted its right as the final ecclesial authority, and they did not welcome prophets into the services. This quite contrary to the New Testament and The Didache.

      While charismatic authority was still recognized, it was generally relegated to the monastic community, reserved for only the more advanced elders.

      It would appear that the charismata had already begun to wane in the second century. I am not entirely sure why this occurred but I have my guesses. I tend to agree with Edwin Hatch that the philosophers replaced the prophets as the leading spokesmen for Christianity.

      The Body of Christ needs all five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). This is a problem for the institutional hierarchy because they have no control over whom God chooses. These charisms are given by the sovereign choice of God, not the Church. Those who walk in these graces have authority in the body of Christ which is proven by the Spirit and power. The Catholic Church had become so institutionalized that it confused institutional authority with ecclesial authority. While there have always been bishops and priests who walked in these graces, there were many who, while void of the Spirit, obtained their positions by political intrigue.

      In its obsession with Apostolic Succession, the “Catholic” Church lost the Apostolic power and spirit. St. Symeon the New Theologian attempted to address this at a much later date. Montanism represented a dichotomy between political authority and spiritual authority. It is really little different than the prophets of the Old Testament who were in constant conflict with formalized Judaism, or the Lord and His apostles in their conflicts with the Jews of the Second Temple period.

      These rambling thoughts represent part of a much larger, and more complex, explanation as to why I left the Orthodox Church.

      N

      (continued below)

    • (continued from above)

      Dear N,

      First, of all, thank you for your charitable and irenic response.

      Your statements raised a question. This just popped to mind. No obligation to answer and, again, this is not meant to be a challenge or to spur a debate or anything: Why was this controversy so sharp and regional if the viewpoint represented by Montanism was the norm? If latitude (in regard to charisms and graces) was the original and universal stance of the Church, would not one expect to find conflict over this on the scale of, say, some of the Christological controversies when attempts were made to suppress it? Or, put in a very different way, why would God have so guaranteed the Church’s triumph on Christological and other issues but not on such a key issue as this?

      Grace and peace,

      C

      – – –

      E,

      I am forwarding the communication between C and myself. I have attached my response to his last inquiry. It is just a little over two pages.

      N

      N’s Two-Page Response to C:

      You propose a very interesting question as to why the emphasis was upon Christological issues as opposed to Pneumatological. I will write my general reflections without enumerating the supporting citations. Many of my thoughts would require volumes to articulate. Therefore, any single expressed idea could be challenged. Which, by the way, you are welcome to challenge or question.

      The deeper problem with discussing the Holy Spirit is relative to our experience. If a person has not experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit as they did in the book of Acts, it is very difficult to understand many things the New Testament says about Him. However, I am neither a Charismatic nor a Pentecostal. I do not wish to be identified with movements which have their own limitations and problems. Nor can one ever fully say, “I know the Holy Spirit.” Because of His infinite Nature, we will spend eternity coming to know Him. However, I can say that even if one is baptized, chrismated and partakes of the Eucharist regularly, he still needs to personally invite the Holy Spirit to fill, baptize, speak, guide, teach and manifest Himself. He needs to cry out that the Holy Spirit would reveal Jesus and the Father to his heart.

      Now to the point of your question: There were Christological controversies during the New Testament period, but the Apostles did not get sidetracked into endless debates about it. There continue to be controversies for Judaism and Islam, and there is the Western development of Unitarians, Jehovah Witnesses and United Pentecostals. In almost all of these cases one cannot win a debate by using the formulas of the Church Fathers, which begs the question about just how much was accomplished in the Golden Age of theology. In fact, most Jews and Muslims who are being converted are convinced by signs, wonders and demonstrations of the Spirit.

      In large part the Christological controversies were the result of approaching Christianity from a Hellenized epistemology. Vladimir Lossky and Georges Florovsky both provide some rather good arguments that Orthodox theology was not the Hellenization of Christianity, but the Christianization of Hellenism. However, the transition from a Church full of the Spirit in Acts toward the more Hellenized model would indicate otherwise. The Orthodox Church cannot afford to admit such a thing since it claims to have guarded the sacred deposit without corruption, maintaining the fullness of what the Apostolic Church had in the New Testament period.

      The Fathers employed the Greek paradigm of the various schools with the general interest in ontogeny, cosmogony, theogony and anthropology. Consequently there was an obsession with understanding the Scriptures from an eclectic Greek cognitive construct. This was further complicated by the pedagogic canons for rhetoric, grammar and sophia (wisdom). Greek hermeneutics and homiletics lost the life, the power and the Spirit of revelation as it sought to dogmatize theoria. The many quarrels about the First Arche (????) and the Eternally Begotten and the much later quarrels about the Monarchy and the procession of the Holy Spirit are all matters of interest to the Greek mind.

      May I suggest something for your investigation and inquiry? I have recently gone through the book of Acts and marked every reference to the Holy Spirit in an effort to understand how He operated and how the early Church related to Him. Do the same, and follow this up by doing the same thing in the Epistles. Ask yourself these questions: Why did the Church discontinue this relationship with the Holy Spirit? Why do we not see the Holy Spirit manifesting in this manner? Can we experience the Holy Spirit in this way and, if so, what do we need to do to invite the Holy Spirit to be manifest as Lord in our lives?

      After going through Acts, take a look at the church history of Eusebius. The topic of the Holy Spirit is conspicuously absent from his discussion of the historical account recorded in Acts. He refers to the Christians as having “grace” and “power,” but does not mention the Holy Spirit even once. This is a reflection of the impoverished understanding of the Holy Spirit which existed in the fourth century.

      Even those who wrote about the Holy Spirit, such as Ambrose and Basil, spoke of Him in detached terms based on a study of Scriptures, indicating that they were not familiar with the active living presence of the third Person of the Trinity in their lives. The role of the Holy Spirit was redefined as liturgical, Eucharistic and rationalistic, as though the living God were to comply with the rubrics of the Sacraments. He could no longer be trusted to show up and inspire the people in unregulated spontaneity or impromptu movings. He could no longer be trusted to speak, lead, guide, reveal and heal. Only the most advanced could expect to see the uncreated light and experience the deifying work of the Spirit. Consequently, the monastic understanding of the Holy Spirit was limited to an ascetical approach which, in turn, became the prevailing opinion of the Orthodox Church.

      Clearly the role of the Holy Spirit changed within a couple of generations of the Church. St. John Chrysostom actually laments this fact as a great loss to the Church in his commentary on I Corinthians 14.1 Montanism represented a fatal and flawed attempt to return to a living relationship with the Holy Spirit. However, it found success because the laity still operated in the charismata. There was a remnant of believers who still trusted the Holy Spirit. The death nail in the coffin came when Constantine outlawed private meetings in houses. Spiritual songs and hymns were also outlawed in an attempt to stamp out some of the heresies. In their effort to control the heretics they quenched the Spirit. In other words, it was against the law for a group of people to meet with the Holy Spirit.

      The Christological controversies of the fourth century represent an interesting period in the Church. I have my own questions about whether or not it accomplished a triumph of orthodoxy. Would we have actually lost the truth without all the polemics? Would Arianism, Nestorianism or the Monosophytes have prevailed as the dominant theological view of Christendom? These questions are rhetorical in my mind. There are many historical examples of Christians who have had no theological influence other than the Bible and have understood the Father, Son and Holy Spirit correctly.

      (continued and finished below)

    • (continued from above)

      We know that philosophy began to be the dominant method of theologizing very early. Long before the West introduced Scholastic Theology, the East had succumbed to the temptation to make Christianity a cerebral activity. At least as early as Justin Martyr and Clement, Christianity became a philosophy. An academic aristocracy replaced charismatic authority, which often manifested among the most uneducated and barbaric people. Yet the Apostle Paul warned that philosophy cannot know God (I Corinthians 1:18-20). Paul said that he deliberately chose not rely on sophia when preaching so that the “demonstration of the Spirit” and the “power of God” could be present (I Corinthians 2:4,5). This is precisely why one does not see the power of God or demonstrations of the Spirit with most of the Church Fathers. It is also why the Holy Spirit does not manifest with most contemporary priests, bishops and Protestant preachers. Volumes of treatises were written, but “The kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (I Corinthians 4:20). I am speaking of a power which I have personally witnessed, so this is not merely academic to me.

      The early preachers, unlike the Church Fathers, did not rely on the schools of Greek rhetoric and the rules which governed homilies. Preaching was not a cognitive function. Rather, they relied upon the person and power of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 1:12). When they preached, people did not just hear about God; they actually heard from God (I Thessalonians 1:5, 2:13; Romans 10:14). If the Spirit of God is not speaking through the preacher, then he is not preaching.

      Because of the general Greek belief that the image of God in man is his rational faculty, God was approached as a rational Being. However, the things of the Holy Spirit cannot be received by “the natural man … because they are foolishness to him” (I Corinthians 2:14).

      All of the debates about homoousia and hypostasis may have clarified the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, but they resulted in further intellectualizing Christianity. This all goes contrary to the warning of Paul, who wrote, “Solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers” (II Timothy 2:14). While the Orthodox Church sees the many schisms as necessary heresies in order to define and defend the truth, the reality is that Christianity began to split and divide over these wranglings about words.

      In the end we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. One can accumulate a pedantic understanding of all the Church Fathers and still not have a single revelation of the truth, because such revelation comes from the Spirit. The theology of the Fathers has great appeal to those who are intellectually inclined. This is especially true for those with a background in philosophy. However, the Father in heaven chose to conceal things from the wise and reveal them to babes. Therefore Paul wrote, “Let him who is wise become a fool that he may be truly wise” (I Corinthians 3:18).

      Footnote related to Chrysostom on 1 Corinthians 14:

      1 Seest thou by how many reasons he leads him to silence and soothes him, in the act of giving way to the other? By one thing and that the chief, that he was not shut up by such a proceeding; “for ye all can prophesy,” saith he, “one by one.” By a second, that this seems good to the Spirit Himself; “for the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Besides these, that this is according to the mind of God; “for God,” saith he, “is not a God of confusion, but of peace:” and by a fourth, that in every part of the world this custom prevails, and no strange thing is enjoined upon them. For thus, saith he, “I teach in all the Churches of the saints.”

      What now can be more awful than these things? For in truth the Church was a heaven then, the Spirit governing all things, and moving each one of the rulers and making him inspired. But now we retain only the symbols of those gifts. For now also we speak two or three, and in turn, and when one is silent, another begins. But these are only signs and memorials of those things. Wherefore when we begin to speak, the people respond, “with thy Spirit,” indicating that of old they thus used to speak, not of their own wisdom, but moved by the Spirit. But not so now: (I speak of mine own case so far.) But the present Church is like a woman who hath fallen from her former prosperous days, and in many respects retains the symbols only of that ancient prosperity; displaying indeed the repositories and caskets of her golden ornaments, but bereft of her wealth: such an one doth the present Church resemble.

      – Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 12, Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, Homily XXXVI. 1 Cor. xiv. 20

      • EricW~ I find these thoughts from “N” of great interest and benefit. I thank Mike Bell for being the cause of their appearing, CM, if it was he, for allowing such an unusual deviation from standard posting, and you for posting them. If there are more I would be most interested in reading them, here or elsewhere. I would be highly interested in N’s take on Origenes. This is really good stuff. Many thanks to both N and you.

        • Charles Fines:

          Well, I hope they weren’t too off-topic. 🙁 One reason I posted them is I thought N has made some interesting and thought-provoking comments about the reason(s) for the cessation of the gifts, and cessationists often point to the gifts’ “disappearance” as a supporting argument.

          Do you mean Origen of Alexandria? What specifically are you interested in? I can query N re: if he has anything to say about what you might be interested in when you clarify that. You can email me at papaweiss1 at yahoo dot com. N is not easy to contact, so it might be awhile.

        • very interesting Eric

      • Wow, Eric. That was a lot to digest at one sitting. But there’s a lot there worthy of serious contemplation.
        From I gather from the NT, spiritual gifts were part of the way in which the Spirit guided those first Christian communities to function as a single body under Christ’s headship, each member supplying something that was in turn supplied to him or her by the Spirit. Bringing something to the collective table was expected of every member of the body, and not just from the religious professionals or spiritual superstars.
        I suspect the decline of the overt operation of spiritual gifts had something to do with the gradual removal or fading away of that expectation as the church’s focus shifted toward other things.
        Now, does that represent a derailment of God’s original design for the church? Or does it mean that it was God’s perfect will that church history went the way it did? I don’t claim to know for certain, but I don’t really think it’s one or the other. I believe that Christ has given His bride-to-be some leeway and some self-determination in how she dresses herself. Right now, that may look like a chaotic fashion nightmare, but eventually I trust that she’s going to put on the dress that best pleases Him.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        In that case, your friends should become (Utah LDS) Mormons. They have restored all these offices.

    • I currently attend a Nazarene church, which is what I cal “Quiet Pentecostal”. Before deciding to join this church after 20 years in an Assembly of God denomination, my wife and I had a “sit down” with the pastor and asked him his stance on “the gifts”. He explained that the Nazarene Church was born out of the early charismatic movement but came to the conclusion that they were not going to actively express the vocal “giftings” (read: speaking in tongues, prophesying, etc) unless it was expressed from the pulpit. Fine with ME, so 14 years later here we are.

      Do I miss the pentecostal drama of the A of G church? Not at ALL! Do I still express giftings in my own life? Yes, in my private life and with selected friends.

      As for my home church, the pastor related his experience of seeking “more of God” as a young man, and it sounded suspiciously like a classic case of “Spirit infilling”. He regularly encourages the congregation to seek such an infilling for themselves, and there are some who have had a similar experiences, INCLUDING speaking in tongues.

      On the other hand, I heard the district superintendent excoriate the A of G church for their doctrine, and THAT from the pulpit. So it makes me very aware that should our current pastor move on we MAY end up with one that holds to the same MacArthurian views, in which case we would leave.

      Its Ok to NOT believe in such, but NOT OK to actively denigrate those who do. Our own experiences are not touchstones for the total Christian experience, and the bible we have is what keeps us on an even keel through our disagreements. I am not the hand, you are not the foot, but Christ IS the Head.

      • In my experience, those who have the gifts are often the ones who denigrate those who don’t. I rarely see it the other way. There’s a lot of rhetoric to watch out for about “normal” and “subnormal” believers…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Like I said up at the top, the only thing I’m 100% sure of regarding TONGUES! TONGUES! TONGUES! is that I’ve never done it myself. I didn’t last long around True Believer Charismatics.

        • Funny thing StuartB – my experience has been almost the opposite

    • If you knew Bickle, I’m sorry. He has destroyed many lives.

      Never been slain. Tried speaking in tongues and realized it was ALWAYS my mind making gibberish. It never just ‘came out’ of me. Possibly only once heard a true interpretation of tongues from someone else, but the tongues sounded like hebrew to me and the woman who interpreted knew hebrew, so who knows. Never prophesied but awfully good at predicting stuff. Never done a cold read on others, had many cold read me and pass that off as prophesy. Never seen anyone supernaturally healed. Never seen a leg grow without lots of handwaving and step on it, sit, step on it, sit types of manipulations no different than a chiropractor.

      None of it.

      • Yeah, we knew Bickle. Started attending his church when he first opened up in KC, as South Kansas City Fellowship at Fox Hills Office Park in Shawnee Mission/Overland Park, KS. Left not long after the “Blow the Trumpet in Zion” message in which he called the church to an extended period of fasting to bring in some move of God or something (I still have the tape but haven’t listened to it for years and years), and then week after week instructed and directed people how to do the fast, and we thought: “If God is doing this, God can direct it.” Touched base off and on over the years, and attended the joint Wimber-Bickle conference when the two churches “cross-pollinated” each other. We were actually in a Vineyard Church when Wimber came in to take over the Kansas City Fellowship-Full Faith Church of Love (Ernie Gruen) conflict over the Kansas City Prophets (I also have the tape of Ernie’s sermon expose – “Will We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?”), and when our pastor announced that the resolution of the conflict was that Bickle’s church would come under Wimber’s authority and discipline and become a Vineyard Church, he also announced that our church was no longer a Vineyard Church. I guess he, like many, didn’t trust Bickle any further than he could throw a Bible. 😉

        To prove a point about the bogus nature of many “interpretations,” I once thought of giving a message in “tongues” that would actually be a mishmash of Hebrew and Russian and Greek basically saying, “What you are saying is a bunch of crap” just to see how someone in our small TX church (aka “the cult”) would have “interpreted” it. I pretty much knew who would likely do it, and also knew that he/she knew none of those languages and that the interpretation would be obviously wrong. But I never did. 😮

        My wife was possibly supernaturally healed instantaneously of a very painful wrist injury at that same church when someone prayed for her. Surgeries and nerve severings hadn’t helped, and merely touching it caused intense pain. After the lady prayed, the pain … stopped (at least 90-95%) … and never returned.

        Our younger daughter tested positive for PKU at birth. We brought her forward for prayer (at a church in KCMO) and the follow-up tests came back negative. The doctor/lab tech was extremely puzzled, saying that there must have been something wrong with the first tests, because the retest or whatever test they had done should have come back positive from all his experience. I recall she smiled when the pastor laid his hand on her for prayer, something a bit unusual for so young a newborn, we thought. I wish I had obtained the medical and test records to keep for reference.

        So those are possible supernatural healings we’ve experienced.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Tried speaking in tongues and realized it was ALWAYS my mind making gibberish. It never just ‘came out’ of me. Possibly only once heard a true interpretation of tongues from someone else, but the tongues sounded like hebrew to me and the woman who interpreted knew hebrew, so who knows.

        Best one-line description of Tonguing came from a reporter covering one of Pat Robertson’s periodic runs for President:

        “SOUNDS LIKE SCAT-SINGING IN HEBREW”.

  8. David McGee says:

    I am half way through R T Kendall’s Holy Fire. Very interesting to read the thoughts of a man who was mentored by Dr. Lloyd-Jones. RT Kendall considers himself Reformed and Charasmatic. Also, John Piper has written that the gifts of the Spirit have not ceased. Who knew that you could be Reformed on your theology AND Charasmatic..lol

    • Available for years:

      Renewal Theology: A Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective from a Reformed & Charismatic theologian (originally published in 3 volumes, now a single volume):

      http://www.renewaltheology.net/about_renewal_theology.html

    • Oh, you can definitely be Reformed and charismatic. Or Pentecostal: My theology professors at the now-defunct Bethany University were Reformed, despite the usual Arminian positions of the Assemblies of God. A lot of Pentecostal theology students likewise went the Reformed direction, in part ’cause of their influence—and in part ’cause Reformed guys write most of the Protestant theology books.

    • Speaking of Reformed theologians, I don’t agree with much of anything that Wayne Grudem teaches, but I think he absolutely NAILS it when it comes to the gift of prophecy and its expression in the church.

      Here is a debate between him and a British theologian on the subject. Really worth anyone’s time who has a stake in this topic: http://vimeo.com/37169587

    • I held out hope for the longest time that Reformed + Charismatic was the answer. Full spirit life plus intellect and doctrine, both keeping each other in check.

      I doubt both now.

  9. We Lutherans aren’t too keen on trusting in our “experiences”…at least in the moment.

    For we know, as St. Paul tells us, that “the devil can to us all dressed up as an angel of light.”

    So, while an experience may truly be from God, the Word and the sacraments are the only places where we can absolutely trust that God is there, and at work for us and in us.

    • Steve, in my church I’d say that it’s the Word alone—not the sacraments, which are seen as mere reminders of Christ.

      And by “Word,” that’s the Bible, not “a word from the Lord” which would be the charismatic gift of prophecy. Gotta make that clear.

      Do you think that an overactive practice of discernment in churches, such as yours and mine, could serve to quench the Spirit? And wouldn’t that be an irony? One gift cancelling out another.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        I absolutely think it can, Ted. However, I don’t think the inverse is true. I have some good friends who are charismatic and love the Lord deeply. But their experience and practice of speaking in tongues hasn’t actually ever done anything to further the ministry of the Holy Spirit (this was a conversation they were having between themselves, I just listened in). It doesn’t feed the poor, visit the widow or orphan, or preach the gospel. Or can the Spirit be divorced from those things? I don’t know.

        • From what I can make of Paul’s explanation to the Corinthian Church about tongues is that they serve as a kind of individual spiritual battery charger — self edification, as he called it. That pretty much lines up with my experience of that gift. Like you said, it doesn’t feed the poor or spread the gospel. But when I get in a depressed funk, getting alone with God and praying in tongues is a remedy that has worked for me on many occassions. And having that present tense experience of the Spirit helps me keep at bay those tides of doubt that sometimes threaten to drown my faith. All in all, I thinks it’s just one of many avenues God has provided for us to relate to and spend time with Him, just like regular prayer or reading and contemplating scripture. It’s just a little too “spooky” for some people.

          • From what I can make of Paul’s explanation to the Corinthian Church about tongues is that they serve as a kind of individual spiritual battery charger — self edification, as he called it.

            Which is a very convenient, subjective experience. Looking in from the outside, it often seems to have the opposite effect: completely stunted spiritual development. So what’s the point? If a spiritual practice has no discernible effect, short or long term, why keep it up, or why keep repeating it the exact same way each time?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Which is a very convenient, subjective experience. Looking in from the outside, it often seems to have the opposite effect: completely stunted spiritual development.

            Kind of like all those statues staring at their smartphone screens maybe moving their thumbs to text?

        • But their experience and practice of speaking in tongues hasn’t actually ever done anything to further the ministry of the Holy Spirit

          Bingo. Nor enriched their own lives besides a spiritual box checked off. It certainly doesn’t “build up their spirit”. And for many, it seems to have stunted their spiritual growth entirely.

          • “And for many, it seems to have stunted their spiritual growth entirely.”
            I suspect that can be more accurately attributed to unbalanced, unhealthy church environments where people are encouraged to get high on their own endorphins, and showy displays of “spiritualism” are the norm — and not just the excercise of tongues by itself.
            There are plenty of preachers who have done more harm and than good from the pulpit. And there are evil and unrepentant people who partake of the Eucharist every week without any discernable positive effect in their lives. Does that make preaching or taking the Lord’s Supper bad?
            I’m just saying that privately praying in tongues has proven to be a benefit and help to me in my spiritual journey. That’s all I’m saying.

          • Fair rebuttal, slug.

      • For us, sacraments ARE Word of God.

        Again, we don’t discount all experience. We have them, after all. We just realize that we ought never trust in them…apart from Word and sacraments.

    • About the scripture that says that the devila can appear as an angel of light, I’m wary of Christians using this against spiritual gifts. For one thing it is a shield or defense against anything supernatural that God brings our way, another is that we flirt with (in my thinking at least) blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (which, taken at face value, is attributing to the enemy the works of the Holy Spirit)

      • The devil is the great deceiver. And he may come to us as something which we might believe is from God.

        Experiences might be from God. But we cannot know, for sure. The only places we can know, for sure, is in His Word and Baptism and Lord’s Supper. It’s all one Word.

  10. I consider myself a contemplative charismatic. The bottom line is that God is active in this world. When he chooses to want human help in the process, it would be poor behavior for me as his child to not help.

  11. Thanks for this, Mike. It follows pretty closely my Christian experience too, and “quiet charismatic” is a good way to describe it. The Holy Spirit is still part of the Trinity whatever anyone thinks. I’ve had fewer “hmm” moments, but my observations over the years are right in synch with yours.

    I got involved with a charismatic (but not in-your-face-about-it) fellowship group back in the ’80s. People did speak in tongues or prophesy occasionally, but it was not intended to be part of the act in the weekly meetings. I think discernment was more of a factor.

    I also have a friend something like Mitch. Unfortunately he lives several states away and I only see him once a year for less than an hour, but talking and praying with him is a good antidote for a lot of religion that accumulates during the year.

    Sympathies about the nun. My favorite ex-girlfriend (the only one I don’t avoid, and enjoy sitting down and chatting with) has assured me that I’m not the reason she’s a lesbian.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      People did speak in tongues or prophesy occasionally, but it was not intended to be part of the act in the weekly meetings. I think discernment was more of a factor.

      “Discernment” in its original meaning of “Seeing beneath the appearance to the reality” instead of today’s “GOD TOLD ME YOU HAVE A DEEEEMON UNDER YOUR BED!!!!!”

      Belonging to a church whose characteristic way to flake out is Mary Channeling (see “Baysiders”), I am skeptical of Charismatic Words of Prophecy. As in “You’d better have independent confirmation and authentication.”

  12. Christiane says:

    when we open our lives to the service of others in Christ’s Name, we can expect ‘help’.

    I remember the job that taught me this: I was hired as a teacher (math) in a drug rehab in Paterson NJ that was run by the Diocese and I taught boys from 13 to 18 in age, all in the same class. There were things I remember saying to some of them that didn’t ‘come from my own wisdom’ . . . I know this. And there were the times that I KNEW to listen, just listen, when the pain poured out of one of them and their tears flowed . . . I never doubted that any of this was ‘help’ that I received for their sake. I never doubted it for a moment. I remain grateful to God for the moments of ‘help’ I was given for the sake of those boys, gifts of kindness and patience shown to them at the right moments when all else would have failed them.

    Charismatic? I don’t know. Words fail me to describe the experiences of those days, but I retain a stronger sense of the mercy of God, and the reinforced Catholic belief that all of goodness in this world comes ultimately from God.

  13. Joseph (the original) says:

    I am a proud card-carrying member of the Post Charismatic crowd (ala Rob MacAlpine’s book). I have ‘seen’ too much misuse of the gifts to last me 2 lifetimes and since my experience of the gifts, especially in what was termed the Prophetic Movement, which was my sincere attempt to understand the dynamic better…

    Too much Christianese urban legends passed around as facts. Too little actual ‘discernment’. Too little humility and restraint…

    Too much sensationalism. Too much one-up-manship. Too many celebrity-status reputations. Too much money being made off the ‘trend’ (Simon the Sorcerer comes to mind). Too much really, really odd/weird ‘manifestations’ or ‘words’ to even remotely think it could be Thee Holy Spirit (Lord, have mercy)!

    So, what I chose to do was exit the hyper-charismatic circus for a much more saner version of being a (Quiet) Charismatic that prefers the ‘not-for-show’ display of what are considered the gifts, thank you very much…

    I prefer this post-charismatic wilderness and will remain a post-charismatic for my remaining faith journey. The snake oil that has been peddled in the past as being of God has convinced me most of the flashy, highly visible stuff being promoted as the Holy Spirit is anything but holy. My advice? Stay away.

    • Ditto. Post-Charismatic. I was insanely eager and desperate for the charismatic experience. I found nothing.

      Heartbroken idealist, lol.

      I’m still willing to believe. I’m doing some research into the whole “word of faith” side of things at the moment, specifically what it’s like stripping away so much of the bs and just focusing on Jesus and his promises. Listening to Mike Webb and through him Hagin specifically besides some side reading and talking to a friend who is very into this stuff. I’m finding some good stuff but there’s so much crap that needs to be filtered aside.

      For the larger gifts…I’d be more willing to believe in them if every church had a handful of people walking in them humbly and did not in any way lead into showmanship or money grabbing/empire building or “ministries”, etc. These gifts are normal and current for the day? Prove it. Show me simple men and women, all unknown except to friends and family, who are walking in them.

      Show me that, and I will believe again.

      • OldProphet says:

        StuartB. I’m a nobody. I work a slug job. I pray for the sick. Some get healed, some don’t One lady got healed of cancer. Some I watched die in the hospitals. I do prophetic and teaching stuff in my church but I’m not a church leader I sit in the pews like everyone else. I minister prophetically in the market place. I’m just a Christian. But you are right, ego, pride, and self glorification are serious issues in the Charismatic movement.

    • Not sure exactly what you are saying here, but as a friend of Rob McAlpine I can sum his position up as ‘not no use of the gifts but the right use’

      Just saying

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        Ken:

        Yes! I was a regular commenter on Rob’s blog and was encouraged when the things he had been sharing was finally put into book form.

        You and I will not have any disagreements about the validity of spiritual gifts/giftings today. My own history is one of Pentecostal/Charismatic participation and theological sympathies. But c’mon, the attention grabbing ‘stuff’ that became the prominent manner which ‘Charismania’ manifested itself gave the gifts camp a rightful black eye and caused as much, if not more, negative reaction from the cessationist camps as well as the unchurched. Spooky-spiritualism is not good, period. As such, it is best avoided since its distracting elements do not bring ‘glory to God’, but attention to the Anointed of the Lawd! To try and define just what the ‘right use’ of the gifts looks like, when and where it’s appropriate, how such rightful use can be discerned, etc. is problematic, no matter how sincere those that champion the spiritual giftings wish to operate in them. When inside the Pentecostal/Charismatic camps, I could say many of the more ‘kooky’ things of uber-supra-spirituality made me wonder how in the world God Almighty had the self-control to withhold the judgmental lightning bolt of displeasure from such antics!

  14. Mike, I so, so thankful for this post. The ministry of the Holy Spirit, in the regard which you talk about it, is so misrepresented and misunderstood, and your story shows how and why the church needs to do such a better job.

    If people knew that God was interested in tangibly reorienting people’s lives, in the manner that we see Jesus doing it in the Gospels, the church would not be so easily discredited today. Along with the lack of empathy and understanding, the church also struggles with a lack of power. All talk, not so much follow through. 1 Corinthians 4:20 is appropriate:

    ” For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”

    • Is it appropriate within the context of Paul’s writing? Or should we just lift it out and apply it to supernatural gifts?

      • Need you to flesh out the question a bit more. What’s the “it” that you’re referring to?

        • 1 Cor 4:20

          • Sorry, I’m apparently not with it today. I’m not getting what you’re asking. How do you mean ‘appropriate?’

            As to the second question, no, we shouldn’t isolate this one verse and use it to validate anything that we call supernatural. Absolutely not.

            In context Paul is addressing issues of pride and arrogance of some of the Corinthian believers. Paul is essentially saying “We’ll see if they can back up all this junk they’re talking by what they’re actually doing.” Well, pride and arrogance are not fruit of the spirit, so it’s likely that they’re not walking in the power of the Spirit.

            What’s most intriguing is that Paul cites the kingdom here. “Kingdom” is my biblical-theological lens… At the end of the day, I think that is what the whole Bible is getting at. So I pay close attention to Kingdom/Power dynamics when they present. I see Jesus announcing the Kingdom in Luke 4:18-19:

            “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
            because he has anointed me
            to bring good news to the poor.
            He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
            and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to let the oppressed go free,
            to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

            Twice earlier in the chapter, Jesus is cite as being “full/filled with the Holy Spirit.” A few verses after the Kingdom proclamation, he is casting out demons and healing the sick.

            So ‘Kingdom’ and ‘power’ appear to go hand and hand, as I see it. As we anticipate the fullness of the eschaton, God’s re-creation of the new heavens and the new earth, we practice here-ness of the Kingdom by engaging in holistic ministry in the power of the Spirit as Jesus did. All the while we experience the not yet-ness of the Kingdom in the midst of suffering, sin,, etc.

            Both/and. It is a mystery.

    • The “lack of power” comment gives me pause. For instance, I’m curious as to why the Holy Spirit only seemed to show up at the Calvary Chapel we attended when our charasmatic preacher spoke. When other, less “enthusiastic” speakers filled in, the Spirit seemed to take a leave of absence… “seemed” being the operative word here. This is why I cringe when I hear about there being a “lack of power”.

      • I understand the concern, and by no means do I want to associate the work of the Holy Spirit with personality type or a pressure-filled, legalistic forcing of something. I want to redeem what Paul was getting at in the scripture.

  15. You said, “To give an example, when someone points out the number of prophets that there are in the Old Testament, I would point out how many people in the Old Testament are not prophets.”

    I would like to point out the prophecy in Joel, of which Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” All in the faith would be prophets! And Peter said the day has arrived. So fulfills Moses’ wish (Numbers 11:29).

    You said, “God speaks to people. God doesn’t speak to most people.” Here you are indicating the revelatory gifts of the Spirit, basically, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation. Yet, there are so many other gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows at his will. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is so much more then the prophetic gifts. There are several lists of the gifts in the NT that are not exhaustive.

    I would argue that every believer has the Holy Spirit and therefore, is charismatic whether they believe it or not. They have gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows at his will. That is why the cessastionist might find himself speaking in tongues even though he doesn’t believe it. It is not the will of man but the will of the Spirit, as he gives.

    • Good summary — but I would clarify that the will of the person is a primary factor in whether a person will use the gifts that they potentially have. Sure, a cessaionist might have a moment of being caught up in prayer and finding him or herself speaking in tongues, but for the most part, if he does not believe in the gifts he will discredit any potential leading of the Spirit as “just in his head” or “bad pizza” or “I’m going to look stupid if I try that.”

      The risk factor is important. That’s why safe spaces need to be cultivated where people can seek, try stuff out, and if it flops, no big deal. One needs the freedom to fail, while at the same time making sure the congregation isn’t harmed by anyone who is overstepping. It’s tough, but doable.

      • but I would clarify that the will of the person is a primary factor in whether a person will use the gifts that they potentially have.

        So, those who don’t, just need to “try harder”? It comes down to the person, doesn’t it. God is absolutely willing, and the Holy Spirit is a gentleman, he won’t force anything. So…it’s your fault.

        • Nope nope nope nope nope nope x 1,000.

          I was addressing the relationship between theology and praxis.

          I’ve been burned by “try harder,” and “if you’re not manifesting the gifts than it’s your fault.” I felt like an inferior Christian for years. I hate when people are hurt by people who say those things.

        • Stuart I have seen first hand how someone is hurt by people pushing what they believe on someone. My friend Lou was hurt by a Church pushing tongues. If I try to talk to him about it the hurt manifest right away. It is obvious to me but not to him. So I don’t push. Stuart you are young and bright and bold. You have much to do yet and you will. I see such great potential in you. You know what I want, I want for Stuart to be Stuart.

        • Sean, are you saying that it is like when Jesus went to some towns and could do no miracles because of unbelief?

          I have often wondered if we don’t see the miraculous is because we neither expect it or believe in it.

          • That’s a different subject, I think. I’m simply trying to say that the experience of the gifts are not likely to surprise somebody out of the blue if that person does not hold at least a slightly positive/expectant framework. I wouldn’t expect a cessationist to have a positive continuationist experience unless that person was open to changing perspectives.

            I’m probably making this more complicated than necessary…

    • Not going to like, I really dislike the book of Joel, because it gets trotted out all the time and cast underfoot. Same with select parts of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.

      I’d rather read Ecclesiastes.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        same with the book of Malachi…

        Lord…have mercy! 🙁

        • Malachi….. you mean where he says you rob from God bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and see if I won’t open the windows of Heaven. If we would only teach it from the heart of God. The tithe in Deut. talked about spending this with God and the third year to put it aside for the alien and the widows in the land so they could experience Him too and don’t forget the Levite. Seems what God was saying is I want to spend time with my people. Oh but wait if we want to fund our churches isn’t it this that gets said. The tithe was about the love of God being expressed in He wanted to spend time with us. The only thing we truly have to give which is also our love. I want to know is it possible to spend time with the Living God and not be blessed by it. We wonder why people walk away from things. Everything is His why would he need our money. Open hearts give and love gets to work.

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            don’t you find that those that emphasize, “teaching the Whole Counsel of God!”, conveniently cherry-pick just what is categorized as such divinely sourced counsel???

            {sigh}

            and what passes off as unquestioned Evangelical ‘biblical’ principles are merely contrived Christianese wives tales offered in grape flavored Kool Aid every Sunday throughout our pluralistic country!

            and the wack-factor of anti-intellection (or more accurately, anti-common sense) passing itself off as orthodox Christianity is frightening. fortunately, venues such as iMonk provide a push-back to most of the more obvious issues causing such consternation within this very diverse Body of Christ we are not permitted to choose who is a family member or who is not…

            Lord…have mercy… 🙁

  16. As for my quiet charismaticism:

    I had an experience of what some would call (but I would NOT!) of being ‘slain in the spirit.’ The reality was I was overwhelmed by the peace and joy of Christ after receiving prayer at a Lutheran healing service (how ’bout den apples!). That was about 5 years ago. Prior to that I was turned off to Pentecostalism by some unhelpful extremists.

    It was in seminary that I really learned to seek the presence of God. For me, that looks like long periods of silence and stillness, and the practice of listening prayer.

    I’m on our church’s Healing Prayer Team, where we walk people through inner healing (trauma, wounds, lies, identity stuff) as well as deliverance. We are becoming known as the most healthy, most sound, most trustworthy church in the area that practices prayer and deliverance. There are structures in place so that people are always in a safe space, cared for, and not compelled to do anything against their will. Our prayer sessions are direct, but quiet and ordered. No screaming, no shouting, no battling.

    I’m not a tongues speaker — not many in our church are (theologically it is NOT “initial evidence of the Holy Spirit”)– but I have embraced a gift to encourage and edify the body through something of a prophetic gift. It’s a privilege to tell people about the love and care that the Father has for them, and give the glory to Christ in it.

    • Sounds like a very healthy, balanced application of spiritual gifts you’re describing.
      Unfortunately, fallen human nature (or at least fallen American nature) causes people to take something that God does in one instance for His own purposes and try to package and mass produce it for general consumption.
      Keep it genuine, keep it humble, and let God be God.

      • Thanks, that’s meaningful affirmation.

        I’m located in a bit of a breeding ground for very flaky charismatic culture, so we have to work very hard to cultivate the authentic stuff and communicate it theologically, gently,and make it a part of the discipleship process. It’s easy to tell the people who are seeking another experience for experience’s sake. It takes patience and humility to minister to that kind of person, because more often than not there is a void or deprivation that they are trying to fill, but not addressing directly. So their identity gets rooted in these experiential things — “God must still love me if he keeps doing this stuff with me” — and we have to identify the core stuff so they don’t keep seeking a high.

    • I visited a PCA church once and they had a few minutes of silent prayer. Summer, windows were open in the sanctuary, you could hear the breeze and distant traffic. I don’t remember if I prayed or not. But suddenly, I had an extreme feeling of peace. Quiet. Certitude, even. It was beautiful and profoundly impacted me. God found me in the quiet. He was there, and he loved me.

      That was a few years ago, after leaving the noisy charismatic world. I don’t atttempt to replicate it. But I’d love to reexperience that moment.

      • That’s so cool. That’s the real stuff, IMO: the presence of Christ that is always available to us. You made room for it with silence and stillness, an historic Christian practice.

        That’s what I’ve been pressing into — it’s been the difference maker for me in my spiritual life.

        Some very sound, helpful books if you’re interested:

        “Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence” by Ruth Haley Barton. Dallas Willard gives the foreword.

        “Mansions of the Heart: Exploring the Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth” by R. Thomas Ashbrook. He takes Teresa of Avila’s spiritual formation framework and makes it very relatable for us modern folks.

      • What Stuart said.

        When the “Charismatic” is reduced to “TONGUES!!” and “PROPHETIC!!” we produce cynics and burnouts who don’t find themselves in that tiny pack.

        If you can’t acknowledge the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in quiet moments like that, or in mundane moments like Communion or reading the Gospel or a Baptism, you’ll burn out on scrambling from the latest revival to the latest cool church with the claims of gold dust or whatever.

  17. Attribute away! lol

    I should probably clarify on the “never hearing the voice of God” bit. Have their been moments in my life when I’ve had an insight or a feeling or a peace of whatever from God? Yes, and “by faith” I choose to believe it was God. I can remember clear as day once when visiting a house church some friends invited me to, where after some singing and a message, but before the prayer time, I had an overwhelming sense to GET OUT, almost an audible voice telling me to RUN AND GET OUT. I listened and did so. And immediate waves of peace as I was driving away.

    That could have been my own mind, past experiences, wisdom, whatever speaking. After years of hardcore fundamentalism, I’m learning the words “trust yourself” are NOT some demonic whispering or New Agey bs. I should trust myself. But I still, by faith, believe God had a hand in that incident and others.

    Yet do I hear God speaking to me regularly? Do I get insights into people I’ve never met or places I’ve never been? Is God leading me into all knowledge so that I can speak authoritatively on any subject that comes up? Does God lead me and tell me who to talk to, or when to bless someone, or to buy them a coffee, or tell them Jesus loves them, etc?

    No. Absolutely not. Whenever that has happened, it was because I manufactured it. It was because pastors and leaders told me to expect that and “be open to it”, so my mind started creating opportunities. It was naive faith.

    Yet all those things I just listed above have happened to me as well, all of a sudden, unexpectedly, without reward or notice…and those, by faith, I believe were from God.

    Makes sense?

  18. I think the main reason the Holy Spirit is so rarely talked about/preached about is that, of the parts of the Trinity, it’s the most mysterious. Oh, certainly God can be mysterious and Jesus can be mysterious, but the Holy Spirit is exponentially more mysterious. How does It manifest itself? How does It infill someone? Is it possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not know it, or not feel it? Is it possible to be once filled, then lose it? What about all the ways some people believe that “you know it’s in you when…”, like speaking in tongues? To me, the questions about the Holy Spirit could fill a book, so in general I think pastors avoid discussing it. And personally, I’m okay with that. Of the Trinity, it seems to me the most likely to be used and abused by people, because it IS so mysterious. It’s almost best letting the Holy Spirit reveal itself and answer my questions WITHOUT anyone else’s interpretation.

    I’ve enjoyed this week’s series of “How I became a…” While it has seemed at times to drift from “Jesus-shaped spirituality” to “theology-shaped spirituality”, it’s clear to me that Jesus can be found in almost any setting (RCC, EO, Evangelical). Heck, I imagine Jesus can even be found in a Mosque, if He so desired (in fact, we should PRAY that He gets seen in mosques!). It’s also clear to me that Jesus can get LOST in almost any setting (RCC, EO, Evangelical). So Bravo to all of you who are keeping your eyes set upon the Son and our Lord and Sovereign in whatever place you are currently calling your church home.

    • I think the main reason the Holy Spirit is so rarely talked about/preached about is that, of the parts of the Trinity, it’s the most mysterious.

      And we love to fill in the gaps and day dream and create new worlds. Something HUG could probably talk a lot about.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I should warn you that I’ve been on an extended worldbuilding field trip to Equestria for the past couple years. Including griffins and wolves as well as unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies.

        But coming back to the subject,

        Look at Medieval Angelology and Demonology for elaborate speculative systems based on minimal original sources, accreted over time. Each generation taking the speculation of the previous generation as fact and foundation for their own layer of speculation.

        Or Victorian “Speculative Reconstruction”, where if a historical detail was not known, it was legitimate to speculate and present the speculation as history. (Such as the association of Scots Tartans with Clans.) Drives present-day historians nuts — when it comes to Medieval History from Victorian Sources, you never know whether a particular historical fact is a Victorian invention.

        • In other news, that new Dracula Unleashed movie is actually pretty well done for a B-movie. Recommended!

          • Dracula Unleashed is good B-movie fare, eh? I wonder what kind of movie “Holy Spirit Unleashed” would be. Grade Z?

          • It’d probably be like the movie Calvary, lol.

          • “Holy Spirit Unleashed.” Starring Nicholas Cage. Yep. I’m gonna start writing the script now.

          • Glad to hear that. The reviews for Dracula Untold have been pretty negative. Walmart has Blu-ray editions of the classic Universal monster movies (as well as some DVD collections) which include a coupon for I think up to $7.50 towards a ticket for the movie. That’s almost like getting the Blu-ray for just a few $$ if Dracula Untold it is worth seeing, and I wouldn’t mind getting Blu-rays of Dracula and Frankenstein and The Mummy (Lugosi & Karloff). Assuming I can find two other people that want to go with me.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          comment deleted. inappropriate.

    • Rick Ro. @ 11:17 a.m., I would feel (there’s that word again) a lot less uneasy about the first paragraph in your comment if you referred to the Holy Spirit as He instead of as It. After all, He is the third PERSON of the Holy Trinity.

  19. Christiane says:

    here is something that illustrates how my faith views the work of the Holy Spirit in times of our greatest need:

    (caveat: it’s a bit graphic, and you may have to ‘skip’ the ad, but it’s well worth watching I think)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZND53eM-Ks

    • Wow. Is that whole movie as powerful as that scene?

      • Christiane says:

        no, I don’t think so, but that is my own opinion . . .

        the scene does illustrate however the CONTRAST between the Catholic sacramental calling on the Holy Spirit and the silliness of the television charlatans who scam a lot of hopeful people with need for God’s help . . . I can only hope this:
        that Our Lord will use ALL who call on Him for help, even if these people are far from perfect . . . He can do that and how He does it, we don’t understand, but maybe that’s okay too

        . . . may our lack of comprehension of the great mysteries of God keep us all humble before Him.

  20. I will never forget waiting for my girlfriend to get off the floor of her church after being “slain in the spirit”. The movie was about to start and there she was…. on the floor. Since then I’ve been mildly skeptical and somewhat creeped out about anything “charasmatic”. I tend to believe that God speaks in a “still small voice” and anything else is all in our head. Forgive me if I’m wrong. I side with Miguel and Stuart.

  21. Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

    I resonate with a lot of what EricW says. Sure, the EOC is large, institutional, and inimical to ad-hoc prophecy. I’m still working out whether that is a bug or a feature. The modern day Charismatic movement is an extreme example of the democratization of the Church. I think that if it triumphs and becomes the dominant form of Christianity, as appears likely moving forward in the 21st and into the 22nd and 23rd centuries, it will represent an Americanization of the Gospel as significant as the Age of the Fathers was, supposedly, a Hellenization of it.

    What I appreciate about the Charismatics is that they realize in their guts and kidneys what EricW said, and what most other Christians need to be reminded of from time to time –

    In the end we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. One can accumulate a pedantic understanding of all the Church Fathers and still not have a single revelation of the truth, because such revelation comes from the Spirit.

    Truth be told, I love a good wrangle as much as, or probably even better, than the next guy. Rationalism would have you scrutinize your brother, mistrust what he is saying, try to find the falsehood in it, and establish the truth by debate. The way of the Spirit-filled man is diametrically opposed to this, and infinitely harder. It would have you trust your brother, appreciate what he has to say, and arrive at truth not by debate, nor even by compromise, but by consensus.

    One place where the Charismatic movement has not been careful is in breaking the link between purity and power. The power of the Holy Spirit is so sovereign in His movements that He tends to put an end to all disputation when He speaks. As you can imagine, this can prove a powerful temptation to those who desire power but who haven’t really got the right motivations for acquiring it. I have seen this power operate in immature Christians to their ruin where there were no older and wiser Christians to “run interference” for them.

    Even EricW in his almost magisterial disposition of the EOC, admits that charismatic manifestations still operate in “highly advanced monastics” –

    Only the most advanced could expect to see the uncreated light and experience the deifying work of the Spirit. Consequently, the monastic understanding of the Holy Spirit was limited to an ascetical approach which, in turn, became the prevailing opinion of the Orthodox Church.

    Once again, I am wondering if this is a bug or a feature. Is Christianity primarily an ascetic religion or not? I don’t think that this question has been adequately answered in the two millennia of the Church’s existence. By the time of the Reformation, the question had taken on a new dimension, that of Grace vs Works or Law vs Gospel. The question – is Christianity primarily an ascetic religion or not? – is easy enough to answer from inside your own prejudices. The Reformers and their heirs would answer a resounding “no”, and I think (I am not certain) that the result of this was their distrust of charismatic manifestations. The Catholics and Orthodox would answer a resounding “yes”, which would, of course, limit such manifestations among the laity. Even the 1st generations of Pentecostals were adamant that the “anointing” had to paid for by much prayer and fasting, and a relatively strict lifestyle.

    It fell to the Charismatics of the 70s to construct a self-indulgent Pneumatology

    • It fell to the Charismatics of the 70s to construct a self-indulgent Pneumatology

      All the effects of the 60s culture but with Jesus added. Must have been intoxicating. Many are still living off it.

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        That last phrase was meant to be as snarky as it sounds, but I think it is significant.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        All the effects of the 60s culture but with Jesus added. Must have been intoxicating. Many are still living off it.

        “Because I got High,
        Because I got High,
        Because I got High…”
        — AfroMan
        (Was going to include a YouTube link, but one of the verses is VERY NSFW)

    • ASM I’m not so sure of the words paid for as it denotes the Holy Spirit as a wage being earned. Fasting and prayer are joys to draw close to God. Fasting for anything else seems to be for the wrong purposes like gaining power over something and thinking you have earned it. It just isn’t so with love. It seems impossible to me to draw close to the Father and not have benefits from it. I think they were seeking in the upper room. It would be hard pressed to seek more of God while engaging in all the things that keep you separated. Yet still the need for Him to be more involved so a person could rid themselves of the things that have kept them separated. It’s a good thing He works with us. There is that word work with hmmmmmmm I wonder if He didn’t pay that price.

  22. Christiane says:

    for too long have some people hoped for a ‘dramatic’ reassurance of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, when all along, they have missed the simple signs of God’s Presence in their lives . . .

    is it possible we have lost our sense of ‘wonder’ about the world around us so much that we now require the ‘dramatic’ and the ‘unusual’ and the ‘spectacular’ to shore up our faith ? . . .

    someone on imonk once commented on this same theme with ‘are you not yet entertained?’ and I thought about the meaning of this when I read the works of Therese Lisieux who modeled ‘the little way’ of faith with her childlike trust in Our Lord.

    maybe we need to turn off our tv religious entertainers and instead seek retreat to the peace that is found in natural world . . . maybe our chances of ‘experiencing’ what we seek are better found in the quiet places of the Earth alone with Our God

    • “Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.”

    • A Rob Bell quote:

      ‘Jesus is inviting us to wake up to the divine here, in the language and symbols and reference points that would have resonated with his audience. His message, though, is timeless, because what you want is a full life, a vibrant life, a life in which you experience the divine fullness throughout the day in countless people and events in countless ways. Open your eyes, trust that the divine is present, especially in the lost, the broken, the hungry and the lonely.’

  23. I grew up in a Fundamentalist, Dispensationalist, conservative, anti-charismatic church. Became Pentecostal anyway. Like Mike, I had experiences which didn’t jibe with the church’s theology.

    But I’ll admit: It wasn’t the bad theology which drove me away from that church. It was the bad behavior. I’m not Fundamentalist anymore because I was burned by Fundamentalists. I’m Pentecostal because the Pentecostals took me in. A lot of commenters aren’t charismatic because they were burned by charismatics. We came to our respective theologies after the fact. We claim it was based on thoughtful, objective looks at the scripture, but it’s all filtered through experience. Bad experiences and good.

    Yeah, we Pentecostals get it wrong a lot of times. Our supernatural practices ought to be consistent with the scriptures, and in many churches frankly they’re not—it’s people being weird for weirdness’ sake, and blaming it on the Holy Spirit when ’tain’t nothing holy about it. It’s fruitless, doesn’t grow the Kingdom any, and consists of people confusing their own emotions (or a sound system with really good subwoofers) with the Spirit. There’s no healthy skepticism, no spiritual discernment, no confirmation, nobody boldly standing up to say, “Your ‘prophecy’ didn’t come true, and you need to stop ‘prophesying’ till you learn the difference between your fertile imagination and the actual voice of God.” We’re so happy God is still alive and active, in our euphoria we give a lot of free passes to fakes and charlatans. We give the anti-charismatics a lot of really good reasons to believe it’s all phony.

    Just like misbehaving Christians of every stripe give the anti-Christians their reasons to doubt Christ.

    • So police yourselves. That’s really the best answer. Publicly and loudly, police yourselves when appropriate. Don’t sweep under the rug. Don’t excuse “the flesh”. Police yourselves.

      I’d probably be still a charismatic if my leaders had bothered to do so. But they wanted people to “learn”. And in so doing, wrecked many lives. Or unleashed the vilest of theologies into the wider body when those people left who thought they were being “controlled”.

      • Stuart, you were in a cult – no ifs, ands or buts. Bickle and his ilk are crazy but slyly manipulative, and that part of the so-called charismatic world has wrecked many lives. The thing is, i firmly belive it has little to do with garden-variety charismatic renewal stuff and just about everything to do with the kinds of severe abuses that can be tound in any cult or cult-like group. (Including “cults” that are focused entirely on other things, like politics.)

        I do know something about what recovery from this kind of abuse is like, so that is why I’m saying what I’m saying.

  24. OldProphet says:

    CM, I apologize for any of my comments that were over the top. It’s easy to get carried away with emotion

  25. I tried to post this morning it apparently is lost in cyberspace. I thank you all for this forum and all those who share. From the first time I Heard his voice to the time when He had got all of me was 33 years. I was 48. The last six years have been the greatest I have ever known and I always think I am just touching the top of the iceberg.

    Do I share some concerns with the things I have seen. Have I seen something that hasn’t seemed right for me in conferences and manifestations You bet ya. Sometimes things seem a little bit off and I ask what was that. I’ve even seen people faking things. It was obvious that peer pressure was at work especially with young people. I have seen the one headliner say there goes an angel and went back to talking like he never said that. I got up and walked out he didn’t have anything further to add to me. Besides I notice how rude some of these speakers are when they run everything so late and should’ve shut up an hour or two ago.

    One of the men I went out on the streets for two years or more exaggerated everything more and more till eventually I couldn’t stand it any more. I was suppose to give him a word and I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to. I was hoping someone else would do it. When I finally did it went horrible and it I truly felt like whale vomit for weeks. I was standing there when he browbeat people into saying what he wanted to hear so he could have a testimony. I was there when he said a deaf and dumb guy could hear and speak and it just wasn’t true the man just shook his head because he wanted to get his bag of food and be left alone. Do I have a hard time, yes I do.

    I could tell you I really saw some people get healed. I could tell you I saw a lady I was with get a word for a young man that only God could have known. Did that ever turn his head around. This happened when we asked if we could pray with two people and they had to put out their joint so we could. The young man put his head down as we prayed for the woman when the word came and the women said I see you in front of an easel you are artist aren’t you. All I can say is wow. His head jerk up and his full attention was on what she said next. I saw a deaf ear opened and the man start singing hymns right then and there. They were getting drunk on a porch with like 6 guys. You should’ve seen the look on their faces.

    I have story after story and this is all within 6 years. I never even knew of the gifts till just 6 years ago. I read everything I could on tongues and yes I do speak in them. Never in public. I have never had the desire to speak them in public. I can’t seem to make myself do that. I want interpretation. I’ll wait. I don’t want to exaggerate it is most dishonorable to God. He is quite able to speak for himself and does it just isn’t as some here have said always that dramatic but yet it is when it happens to who it is suppose to.

    I have seen the beauty and the love He has for us. You all here have helped me so much. Can’t wait to stand with you all. My favorite subject is Him. All of Him. I wake with an I love you on my tongue and I need you all of You. If you would look me in the eyes you would see I’m telling the truth.

    I never gave an oral report in school. I failed subjects because I would not do it. When He has got me up in front of people something happens and I feel and sense Him flowing through me and this incredible love and I wonder where the words are coming from and sometimes He is speaking to me as much as everyone else. I had people jumping out of there seats trying to touch me and I knew it was Him they wanted to touch not me. I have sat down shaking so bad after being so calm while speaking that I understood Quakers. I have run to the mountain to pray and thank Him. I understand how this could be a temptation to people but for me not so much. I always feel like vomiting. I think He protects me and would not give me anything before it is time but I surely ask.

    I could go on and on with personal things and I believe he works this way with us. He does want us to share. Here so many of you do. The way he talks to me may not be the way He talks to you but He is. I know it. Each one of us as individual as the sunrises and the sunsets with never one the same. I love you do you know why? Ask Him.

    • W, your faith experiences seem very different from mine, but your words are beautiful, none the less.

      A question – this is the first comment of yours that I’ve really read; what exactly are yo’re experiences with the gifts? do you prophecy? do you encounter ‘the demonic’ (see my comment below for my views on that) In fact, what is prophecy, in your opinion?

      Ben

      • Ben I’m not an expert on the gifts. I just get to experience them sometimes. Lately not so much because I have been grieving my sisters death. I get words of knowledge confused with prophecy. Heck I just found out about them not long ago. I have given words to people in healing prayer and have gotten words for people elsewhere but to be honest those words don’t stay with me. I don’t always retain it and sometimes I think I wasn’t suppose to. The best way I heard demons explained was from KW Leslie and I understood it. Mostly because I have encountered them in my life. The word from the Greek word Dimon or little god and I probably spelled something wrong. Something that wants our worship only it doesn’t care about us or how it gets it. The opposite of God. I saw a sign right after reading his piece of a ” gentleman’s club ‘ and on it was a pretty blonde woman and the picture of her eyes flashed and I heard the word demon. See it doesn’t care about the woman or the man only the worship and it will take from both sides any way it can. Real, yeah. Hurtful, yeah. Never able to fill us Yeah. Keep us running in a swirling circle heading downward like a toilet, Yeah. Name anything that leads away from God and you get the picture. Here is the best part. They can’t occupy the same space as God and we were made in His image so unless we make agreements with them they are not invited. Does that mean they won’t throw thoughts at us geeeeesh we can’t be that naive can we. Oh wait a minute it I was.

        • The bombing In Birmingham demon. The killing of the Amish school children here in central Pa, demon. The prejudice of a Basketball team owner, demon. Everytime we face these as a nation we worship as we turn. Like I said they don’t care about us. The Amish burnt the school turned to themselves and God and starting healing and wouldn’t feed into the media. We have to call these things as they are and turn to the one who can heal us. I’m preaching but it happens all the time and these are opportunities to know the one who loves us and we shouldn’t let them pass. No disrespect just rebuke and turn to God.

        • W, First, sorry for your loss.

          And thanks for your thoughts. The things you mention – the bombings, the ‘gentleman’s club’; those are real, for sure, and terrible. So in that sense I could see that demons are real.

          Bless

    • Thanks for this, w.

      I’ve heard what I believe to be God or Jesus’ voice four times. The first two times were a clear call to “Follow Me.” I ignored the first “Follow me” call as it oddly came while I was watching a Monday night football game in the lobby of my dorm at the University of Washington back in 1981. The second time I heard him say “Follow me” (five years later, but it was the same exact voice) I jumped all over it…LOL. (There were other things going on that made me “ready” the second go-round.)

      I said the sinner’s prayer, ended up speaking in tongues. Yep, some of you think that stuff carries baggage, and maybe it does, but I can’t deny those things propelled me in my initial relationship with God and Jesus and the H.S. I quickly moved away from the speaking in tongues/charismatic setting as I don’t go for over-the-top and melodramatic (my opinion) ways of worship. So I drifted away from the folks that initially led me to the Lord and back to my dad’s Presbyterian roots by plugging into fellowship at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle.

      The other two distinct times I’ve heard His voice were: a) a very weird prophetic experience in the ninth inning of a MLB playoff game in which I heard Him say, “This guy will hit the game-winning home run.” And the guy did about 5 minutes later; and b) when I heard Him ask me to begin a coffee shop ministry. I did that, two years later, after pulsing God, people and the Holy Spirit on what that exactly “coffee shop ministry” meant. There were several “coincidences” that kept coming at me during that time, weird stuff that I couldn’t ignore, so I opened a coffee shop in our church 3 years ago in response to that call. It’s a humble little thing, but I think God is in it even today.

      I still periodically pray to myself using “tongues,” almost primarily when praying for a situation so unimaginably complex, dark and/or dire that words fail to come to me. I always view my own “tongues” as sounding like some sort of African tribal language, and I imagine myself one day going to some place in Africa, speaking in tongues, and having some native Africans reply…LOL.

  26. Are Demons real? There are probably plenty of stories (like Mike’s here) where something happens, and it seems reasonable to attribute it to demons. But I wonder, are there also stories of people sensing evil, or something like it, and there being no later revelation that someone in the church was dabbling in the occult.

    An interesting theory I heard once was that demons are a pagan idea, brought into helenistic judaism via the babalyonian exile (which explains there relative absence in the OT).

    But if there are real… where are they? what are they? Is there some other plane of existence (a spiritual world) which they inhabit, and from which they influence the material world? And why don’t they do that more? If they are actually malevolent, and can actually effect change in our world, why not cause a gas leak, or a heart attack, or cause a bus driver to veer into the next lane?

    It seems ‘neater’ to me to not believe in demons. (But admittedly I can’t explain Mike’s story, nor many others that relate to demon posession.) It may also be that I’m coming at this from completely the wrong angle…

    • Another fun question, why do we even think the Devil, Satan himself, is in America? Maybe he’s wandering around somewhere else…

      • He’s everywhere.

        “…and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19b)

      • OldProphet says:

        I. Once heard John Wimber say that all the demons went to Africa at the invention of the Buick.

        • We must have coffee sometime I’ll bring the donuts. We have the Dunkin variety around here. Buicks who would have figured.

    • Ben, I was in the midst of a long post seeking to answer your questions and relay my experiences. I couldn’t pull the trigger though. It’s a really vulnerable thing to talk about, and I don’t know if I could handle some of the pushback that would be likely.

      My short answer is “yes, they exist.” Watch Jesus closely in the Gospels. John tells us to “test the spirits.” Paul tells us to “test everything.”

      Sorry for the tease. Maybe I’ll sit on this awhile and come back to it.

      • It would be good to hear it, at any time.

        And re the stories about Jesus and demons, personally I am able to believe that if Jesus was a child of his time (as well as being the messiah), then maybe he believed in demons like everyone else did. In the same way he probably had an ancient understanding of cosmology, and the shape of the world. Under this theory [this word strongly emphasised], what was actually happening when Jesus cast out demons I don’t know. Maybe something similar to modern exorcisms, with Jesus demonstrating a high level of concern not to make a performance out of it all…

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Well, Jesus seems to have believed in them, if that matters. You could always interpret them psychologically, if you want to harmonize your demonology with a modern worldview (though this would not explain stories like the Swine of Gethsemene).

  27. This is obviously a heated topic. A lot of people’s identity is tied up into whether or not they are invested in the charismatic gifts. And then there are those of us, like me, who were and no longer. The things that bring others joy are a dark source of grief and pain for others.

    Just a reminder, everyone, that we can still love each other as brother and sister, even while we discuss such matters. We’re not attacking your identity, or your God. We’re discussing intermural stuff. Please remember this.

    • -> “The things that bring others joy are a dark source of grief and pain for others.”

      Bingo. A lot of this drifts toward divisiveness and fails to bring unity. Personally, I’m glad I’ve spoken in tongues, even though I rarely do now, because it helps me realize that those that DO aren’t completely nuts. Unless, maybe I am too. 😮

  28. A great book on the gift of healing is The Healing Ministry: A Personal Journal by Emily Gardiner Neal.

    http://www.episcopalhealing.org/emilybio.htm

    IIRC, Neal was actually healed at the service she covered as a reporter, which turned her worldview upside down. I have the above book; you’ll have to use used book sources to find her book(s).

    She ended up having a healing ministry in the Episcopal church.

  29. Craig Keener and Gordon Fee are longtime (lifelong?) Pentecostals/Charismatics.

  30. Re: “Seek not, forbid not.”

    I’m currently in the C&MA tribe, and I’m happy to report that “seek not, forbid not” is on the outs. The original intention of the phrase was to distance the C&MA from some unhelpful pentecostal/charismatic overemphasis of the gift of tongues, while remaining open to the gifts of the Spirit. But like Mike said, it turned into “don’t practice them.”

    Today, the updated phrase is “expectation without agenda.” It’s much more healthy. The document was composed by two of my seminary professors, and can be found here: https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/spiritual-gifts

  31. OldProphet says:

    W, Re your post at 4:04. It’s kinda like your a long lost brother to me. Every item in that post is exactly what I do, I did, and do occasionally. It’s such a great privilege to serve.the Lord. I never get over the wonder and shock that God would use me to minister to his people. I don’t deserve that kind of favor. I have a lot of zeal for God and his people but not the love most of the time. It’s good to know that His patience with me never runs out! Lord, may your everlasting love and healing balm of Gilead rain down upon W this day. Peace, peace,peace on his crying heart as he searches the depths of your love as to the loss of his sister.

  32. I sensed the powerful sense of God’s presence only once in my life, a few years ago. It was as if a gentle, warm, living and aware energy and presence moved through my body and hands, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. What made it even more powerful was that my wife felt it in my touch, without me saying a word to her or hinting that anything special was happening. She told me afterward that I’d never touched her like that before, and she wished I would again, because she had never felt so comforted. There was a word that was impressed on me as I had this experience, and I believe the word was meant for both me and my wife. The word pressed itself upon me repeatedly: “Peace….peace…”

  33. Faulty O-Ring says:

    Those of you who want “quiet” charismatic services, without the gung-ho ambiance of a charismatic church, should visit a liberal Quaker meeting.

  34. I still, 14 years later, attend the congregation I was saved among (having previously been a seeker three years, before that a decade and half a satisfied agnostic that didn’t waste time thinking about religion, and before that a pre-teen attending the congregation my parents attended that didn’t teach me enough for me to know whether it was Roman Catholic or Protestant, much less learn any real theology). So I’m unlike many of the posters here in that my Christian walk has been done all in one place. Ironically, I’m both the longest attending regular attender that wasn’t on the church plant team and a non-member of the church.

    My congregation is non-denominational, and my best description of it ever was about 10 different semi-this, semi-that’s run together in one big long compound phrase. One portion was semi-charismatic. We do talk and teach about the spiritual gifts regularly. (Being in a college town with a congregation that ranges 25% to 33% college students, there is a strong cyclic component to our non-liturgical preaching and teaching…) We encourage people to practice those gifts that the spirit has given them – but we do not teach that there is any one gift that all Christians do have. When we look at the new testament writings we see multiple non-identical lists of gifts, and we largely practice on the basis that there may well be others. Anyone have any idea how to discern whether the administrative excellence is a spiritual gift, natural talent, or learned from experience? And why wold you say that natural talent is not a gift of God, if you believe that he is involved in creating each one of us? The same issue arises for artistic ability, given the record of Exodus that God gifted a couple craftsmen for the creation of the tabernacle. However, in order to really teach them, we have to encourage people to use the ones they have – so we leave space for that in our practices, but we don’t demand people exercise a gift they aren’t already believed to have.

    My salvation involved a series of four words from the Lord. The content of the first was irrelevant, God just wanted me to understand the concept for the later ones. The third and fourth were given to a husband and wife simultaneously, and were the key to my salvation. The male Air Force officer got the word confirming a passage from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians that I had been reading the night before. His quiet, humble wife got “You need to submit.” (And yes, 14 years later I still could do a better job of submitting to God.) Since then, there have been a few times other people have had a Word of the Lord for me – and once they described it as such but usually not and more than once the statement spoke to me as the Word of the Lord while being spoken to a group rather than addressed to me individually. That is a gift I have experienced, but not one I have knowingly practiced, because I haven’t knowingly gotten such words.

    I have, unpredicably, gotten the nudge for generosity. (For “the nudge” see http://ilikegiving.com/blog/the-nudge-the-woman-and-the-bus-pass.) Nudge gifts have ranged from pocket money to exercising employee stock options for an income equal to 10% of my then-current annual salary to raise the funds for tax, tithe, and gift. Sometimes I don’t know if an act of generous giving was the Spirit’s nudge. Sometimes it clearly was, as when the the nudge says “Pay a college student’s Urbana admission fee, and go talk to the blond in the front left section (whose name I didn’t know) about who from her school is wanting to go but prevented by finances” and it turns out she is that person. This is a gift that can readily be practiced quietly – so far as I know, the only people at our church to know of that occasion of giving are my wife, myself, the recipient, and her younger sister. It can even be practiced anonymously, where the recipient doesn’t know who the giver was (as in the anecdote at that link).

    I have come to view the experience of a spiritual gift as God’s open intervention in the mundane, natural world. This is not something my congregation has taught about. Teaching and depth of thought are two of the weaknesses of our congregation, and things that I come here for. I also believe that he often chooses to be economical with his interventions so as to leave free will available to us, and therefore tends to openly intervene only when it is particularly important or when he can build up more than one person, possibly in more than one way. But I sometimes wonder if this belief of mine acts to limit what God does through and around me.

    I believe all but one the gifts can be practiced quietly. Interpretation of tongues probably requires a group of at least three people (listener, interpeter, tonguer), but by the scale of most churches that is still quietly… Teaching requires two at a minimum (learner, teacher). Preaching is the only gift that comes to my mind as requiring a congregation’s awareness.. And I’ve never heard of a preacher who preached that all members of the congregation should preach… So I believe that there shouldn’t be any expectation that all members of a congregation will loudly display any gift.

  35. Randy Thompson says:

    It’s late, I’m tired, and I’ve had no time to read any of the responses to date (nor the energy, at this point, to do so)..
    I would simply like to say that, if you know God and sense God’s presence and have a sense of God guiding you by whatever means (whether sane or crazy), you’re a charismatic.

    Speaking in tongues is the whipped cream on top of the sundae, not the ice cream and not the topping.

    I’m a charismatic in this sense, for which, praise God!

  36. A recent book on “doing the stuff” (John Wimber’s term, which he explained more fully in his books Power Evangelism and Power Healing) is Jordan Seng’s book Miracle Work: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Supernatural Ministries:

    http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Work-Down-Earth-Supernatural/dp/0830837647

    It deals with “charismatic stuff” and is a combination Bible study, instruction/guide, and story book (i.e., actual testimonies/incidents).

    Seng is a pastor in Hawaii, and studied at Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Harvard. He’s a political theory/science/government policy guy who happens to also be a church planter.

  37. W~ There is a young man who used to hang out here more than he does now, greatly beloved by almost everyone here, someone who is still finding his path. His name is Eagle. There is no tangible connection between the two of you and yet every time you post I think, this could be Eagle thirty years from now. God bless you both!

    • Charles since I have first read your posts you exhibit a kindness and patience which is something I can learn from. You have a peacefulness to wisdom. One which I admired immediately. I hope you are in a position for many to learn from you I know I certainly could.

  38. turnsalso says:

    Since a few have done this already, I thought I’d post my few experiences of what I’d be willing to call a divine presence in religious services. I’m probably a day late to the races here, but oh well.

    First was at the church I was raised in, on Easter nineteen ninety-something. I now recognize what was going on at the time was an altar call, and the only thing I remember definitively was Pastor Dave’s words to “see the love” in Christ’s eyes when imagining him before us. I do a horrible job explaining it (can’t talk about my feelings very easily), and what I have written sounds rather… bizarre (I prefer to say “Ignatian”), but this ridiculous sense of our Savior’s presence and love overcame me, and before I knew it, I was repeating a profession of faith in front of everybody, trying not to cry and failing. I am convinced that God created faith in me that day, and it was sealed the following week in holy Baptism.

    The next time I felt a moment like that was a bit over ten years later, at the Greek church near my college. I’d read about the Liturgy and found Orthodoxy to be very intriguing, but to be there was something other entirely. I’m not sure what to say about this, other than the same soaring feeling happened and my mind changed rather unusually on the Eucharist while reading the Communion prayers as the faithful were going up (long story, raised low-church memorialist, then to the Reformed pneumatic presence, and now to being able to admit that if the elements impart what they signify, they could be said to “contain” or “be” them in a heavenly, spiritual way). This actually happened both times I visited there, but I was too embarrassed to return a third time after I waltzed up with the congregants to the Chalice, full of youthful ignorance and pride… fortunately the priest did his job. Even that time, though, the feeling that God was present in the gathering was still strong, and rather challenged me to consider things more seriously as to where I belong.

    The fourth time was at an Episcopal church of about twenty-five, of whom I was the only one under 50. They were welcoming and gregarious at the Peace, and once again that soaring came during the Communion, and upon returning to my pew, St. Chrysostom’s words came to mind, “Are you not straightway translated to Heaven?” Other than that, the only things I remember about the service were the fact that the celebrant was actually a canon from the bishop’s office that day and that his sermon included the words “Stewardship on Steroids,” which I think was some new program from the diocese. The people were also quite nice at coffee hour, the first time I attended such an event.

    The next and most recent time was my wedding, and it too was marvelous.

    There have undoubtedly been other moments like this outside of church services, but these are the most memorable ones. Thoughts? Have others felt similarly?