02 August 2006

"Tongues" across the water:
response to Adrian
part the fourth AND LAST!

by Dan Phillips

Prefatory words

This is the last post of a series that really began with mine on supposed angelic languages, went to Adrian Warnock's lengthy and passionate (but friendly) response, then bounced back to my cumulatively far lengthier but equally passionate (and friendly) first, second, then third post in the series.

I will recap in part only one blast from the previous: Nobody has to read any of these posts. Therefore, please don't offer criticism on this one, until and unless you've read Adrian's post and my four. Otherwise, you run the risk of (looking really silly while) faulting either Adrian or me for failing to do something we already did, not saying something we already said, or not "proving" something we never set out to prove.

Do that, and your comment runs the risk of going all Roanoke Colony on you. In these matters, I will be Judge, Jury, and Delete-O Guy. Just so we're clear.

My first post focused on the end of Adrian's post, then the next two took the large middle (the verses he threw at me in-Christian-love). All that is left is the start, and that is where I'll finish.

(I note that Frank jumped on that portion Monday night. Since Frank is such a great and forceful writer, I just glanced at it. Weak minds are always in danger of intimidation by their betters. If I'm to have any hope of even a semi-original thought, I have to read his after posting mine. It's just the measure I have to take to maintain the integrity of my response to Adrian—begun so many words ago—remaining my response.)

Spurgeon Laughs, Adrian Launches

Adrian noted that Phil quoted Charles H. Spurgeon relating how he was moved to laughter by a truth from the Word. Spurgeon was commenting on 2 Corinthians 12:9. Here is part of what the great man said:
I have often read in Scripture of the holy laughter of Abraham, when he fell upon his face and laughed; but I do not know that I ever experienced that laughter till a few evenings ago, When this text came home to me with such sacred power as literally to cause me to laugh.
Read in context, we see that Spurgeon was meditating on a specific Scripture. The truth of it hit him wonderfully and hard, and so delighted him that he laughed. Spurgeon's hearty and holy laughter was text-based, truth-based, wholly explicable and capable of verbal expression. Basically all the things we associate with the Toronto "Blessing"—except not.

Nonetheless, Adrian takes us briefly to Toronto—pause to imagine how Spurgeon might comment!—then he launches thus:
This practical belief in the experiential efficient power of the truth of the Gospel is something I fear is lacking in many cessationist, and for that matter many charismatic, circles.

I would love to challenge the TeamPyro guys . . . and the rest of us (including myself)—When was the last time you experienced such an impact of the Word of God brought to life by the Spirit of God?

Have you ever experienced the weight, and at the same time the lightness, of the presence of God when a truth comes to life that you feel you might (or indeed you actually do!) fall down laughing?

This experience of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the grace and love of God is one I believe is right to seek and to cry out to God for. Do you agree with that? Is it unfair of me to make the accusation that far too many of us—including those of us who claim to be charismatics—fail to seek experiences of God with sufficient passion? Could the weakness of our passions explain the weakness of our Christianity?

First I'm struck by how fair and even-handed Adrian clearly strives to be, and I think he succeeds. It'd be a harsh read to hear him as blaming us "have-nots," or meaning to talk down to us. Adrian believes there's a wonderful experience out there for all of us, one that all of us should be seeking. He clearly and sincerely feels that we not only rob and impoverish ourselves by not seeking it, but we weaken our ministry, and the impact we might have for Christ. This should concern us all.

So I'll start with...

Areas of agreement

It is, beyond argument, all too possible for us to preach and live a hollow, cerebral, naturalistic Christianity. I can't say which is the barnyard fowl and which the cackleberry, but it isn't without reason that those who are big on doctrine, and objective truth, and teaching, are not always known to be equally big on warmth and personal depth in preaching or relationships.

I can easily think of preachers who strike me this way. I recently downloaded and listened to one of them preaching a series on 1 Peter. My love for that book has grown over the years—a book of glorying and rejoicing and love amid painful, blasting suffering; a book full of grace, and of Christ, and of the realities of life. I was on a personal retreat, I wanted some good preaching on 1 Peter, and I took this brother along on CD.

His preaching was very accurate. It was correct. It treated the text well. It was true. It clearly came from a place of absolute belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. It was Calvinistic.

And it could have been preached by a disembodied voice. It was like a commentary, only spoken. Good, really good... but lacking something, for me. He did seem interested in the Word; he did not seem thrilled with it, nor very personally affected by it.

This isn't the place for a long diversion on preaching, so I'll try to be extra-pithy, and say a lot in a little.

There is a reason why God did not entrust the preaching of His Word to angels. Had He done so, it would have been 100% accurate, and 100% bloodless and inhuman. Preaching, if done right, will invariably teach; but teaching, if done right, will invariably preach. Many verbs and pictures are used of communicating the Word of God, including teaching, heralding, announcing, proclaiming, arguing, disputing, gossiping, disseminating, dialoguing.... Many reactions to the Word are recorded in Scripture, including listening, hearing, learning, mocking, memorizing, weeping, laughing, mourning.... No one model takes it all in. Preaching has accurately been called "truth on fire."

I've seen in myself the danger of having a naturalistic, duty-driven faith, a "just-the-facts" faith that barely leaves room for emotion. Still, I do believe that our faith must be absolutely driven by and based on facts, and that the man or woman who does not learn to believe and obey sometimes right smack in the face of his own raging and howling emotions, is buying a one-way ticket to chaos, paralysis, madness, fruitlessness, and flesh-driven miseries both experienced and inflicted.

But....

But Biblical exhortations such as "Delight yourself in Yahweh" (Psalm 37:4a) simply have to mean more than "Count yourself relatively fortunate not to be Hellbound like the benighted masses." The cry, "Oh, taste and see that Yahweh is good!" (Psalm 34:8), must mean more than "Keep your sermon notebook full and up to date!" Peter's statement of fact, "Though you have not seen him, you love him" (1 Peter 1:8), has to go farther than "You affirm the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds without reservation."

So I'll agree with, and welcome, what I think is Adrian's central, motivating concern. He is concerned, I think, that none of us become so cerebral and dispassionate that we become theoretical Christians, but practical naturalists and automata. He is repelled, I think, by a formalistic, cold, distant Christianity. He thinks that if we really believed that God is the great God we say that we think He is, it would break the droning monotony of our rote worship.

And I'll agree that Christian candor requires at least this cessationist to admit that this is the error towards which my truth can be, and too often is, misled

Thus far my agreement.

Where I fear I must part company with Adrian, is with his prescription for this lack.

Areas of disagreement

Did you note what Adrian says we need to do?

Here is the good doctor's presecription once again, edited, emphases added:

I would love to challenge the TeamPyro guys . . . and the rest of us (including myself)—When was the last time you experienced such an impact of the Word of God brought to life by the Spirit of God?

Have you ever experienced the weight, and at the same time the lightness, of the presence of God when a truth comes to life that you feel you might (or indeed you actually do!) fall down laughing?

This experience of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the grace and love of God is one I believe is right to seek and to cry out to God for. Do you agree with that? Is it unfair of me to make the accusation that far too many of us—including those of us who claim to be charismatics—fail to seek experiences of God with sufficient passion? Could the weakness of our passions explain the weakness of our Christianity?

We should "seek" and "cry out to God for" experiences. It is not a caricature to say that Dr. Warnock sees experience and feelings as the goal to be sought, the testing-point for spiritual reality.

There's the rub. And there is a major point of divide. Charismatics tend to be very feelings-oriented, very experience-oriented, to the point where reasoning and debating can be very frustrating. "A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with a theory," an Assembly of God elder once said to me.

And so a Charismatic approaches this problem that Adrian and I basically agree on by focusing on directly stimulating the emotions, and causing experiences. Do we feel joyless, far from God, dry, cold? Then do things that make you feel joyful and warm. How many Charismatic services feature words like, "Reach out your hands, and receive that blessing God has for you"? Or, "I believe God has a special blessing for you right now. Just reach out, now, accept it... I feel the Spirit moving, don't you? Just feel Him now, open yourself up and feel Him moving in our midst." Smacking of the "purest" Finneyism—as if bodily postures cause spiritual reality.

If you've been to many Charismatic services, you don't need me to go on. You could fill in gaps yourself—how the music is geared and chanted to excite the emotions directly, the preaching aimed at working directly on the emotions, the bodily choreography devised to create a mood and a feeling. It's sheer psychological manipulation, though in many cases no doubt with the best of intentions.

I was at a very famous "moderate" charismatic church service in the seventies, with unbelieving coworkers, to watch a friend get baptized. What was their reaction to the genial chaos and tongues and prophecy? One unbelieving young lady said, "I can sort of understand it, since I'm into chanting, too."

Is that what the Bible says? The goals are right: worship, joy, rejoicing, gladness, awe. But are those things commonly held out and sought in themselves? I often read exhortations by plea or example to "Seek Yahweh" (Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 16:10, 11; 22:19; Psalm 105:4; Isaiah 55:6; Amos 5:6, etc.). I can't think of any to seek an experience of the Lord, or feelings about the Lord.

And seeking the Lord is hard work. The word suggests study, concentrating, effort, devotion, sacrifice, focus. You don't giggle, vibrate or emote your way into it. It may flow from an enthusiasm, but the act itself is hard work.

But to many Charismatics "hard work" means "grim, joyless, dispassionate toil." It needn't be that at all. I have a favorite lake in the Sierra that is off the trail, and that literally can't be seen until you're within a hundred yards or so of it. Getting there is hard work—but it's joyous, it's exhilarating, it's a blast, it's more than rewarding. (And the fishing is always great!)

This brings us, I think, to the heart of it all. We're wrong if we divorce emotions from faith. But we're just as wrong if we substitute emotions for faith, or seek them instead of faith.

"Faith," I read, "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Further, "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you can see it—experience it, feel it, touch it—we aren't talking about faith. Because faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrew 11:1). It is if we believe that we "see the glory of God" (John 11:40)—not the reverse.

But the Charismatic wants to feel so that he can believe. He wants to see, to touch, to experience, so that he can believe. And so, while talking a great deal about walking by faith, he puts himself out of the realm of the walk of faith, Biblically defined.

But, fellow-cessationist friend, before you nod too smugly, consider this. If we have this faith the Bible talks about, what is the result? Does it bear fruit? None answers better than Peter:

[you] who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Feelings are significant symptoms. I say "significant"—not "reliable" nor "unambiguous." One may be depressed due to unconfessed sin (Psalm 32:3-4), exhaustion (1 Kings 19:4), a host of other reasons, or no apparent reason at all. But if there is no godly love, joy, peace, or hope in one's life—that can't be good. Where does one go?

The charismatic goes in search of the feelings themselves, the experiences. He does what he must to whip them up. If he has them, it means he is near to God. The cessationist by contrast may grimly purpose to do without those fruits of the Spirit, to do without joy and hope.

Both are wrong. All those feelings and experiences are what we would be enjoying if we really believed the Word. So their feebleness should not move us to grit our teeth and soldier on joylessly. Nor should they move us to fly off in frantic pursuit of the latest and greatest emotional jolt, with its inevitable thralldom to the law of diminishing effects.

No, we should go back in search of God, who by His Holy Spirit made Himself known thorugh His Word (cf. 1 Samuel 3:21). The Spirit gave the Word, by which God begins (James 1:18) and nourishes (1 Peter 2:2) our spiritual life of faith.

The charismatic, equating feelings and experiences with the presence of God, is reluctant to subject those experiences to Biblical criticism. The stakes are high to him. That is why he is likely to be unmoved by any Biblical consideration brought in this entire series. You see, if he loses those experiences, he feels he will lose God, and intimacy with God. Walking by faith (not sight/experience/feeling) is repugnant to him. So he may become a feelings-junky.

But the cessationist may just as surely make the false equation between being fact-filled and being Spirit-filled. His cool personal distance and detachment is no more fragrant to God than the charismatic's strange wildfire.

The fault in both is defective faith. The answer for both is robust faith, glorying faith. The remedy for both is in the Word of God, which creates, nourishes, sustains, and directs our faith.

Conclusion

So to answer brother Adrian directly: Yes, the word of God has resonated with me emotionally, intimately, personally—many times. And no, this hasn't happened nearly as much as it should, as it would, were my believing grasp of the Word more fulsome, hearty, bold, robust, and lively.

But I cannot accept an invitation to adress the manifest lacks in my Christian life by casting aside the Word for the pursuit of experiences. Freedom will not lead me to truth, and thence to genuine discipleship and the Word. It is by continuance in Christ's Word that I prove to be a genuine disciple (student), learn the truth, and am set free (John 8:31-32).

So I in turn appeal to my brother Adrian. Carefully and diligently put your feelings and experiences to the test of the bright white light of the Word. Already a couple of faulty experientially-born areas have been suggested. What won't pass muster, won't help either of us towards God.

Leave off seeking after experiences of God, and seek God by His Spirit-breathed Word. Our experiences divide us. His Word can unite us.

The End.

Whew!


Dan Phillips's signature

44 comments:

Even So... said...

I haven't commented in this series yet, and I have read the posts, all of them.

I do not want to speak to the issue at hand, per se, yet, I know one item must be addressed.

You said, as if bodily postures cause spiritual reality.

They are in accordance with it, in some cases, and they precipitate it in others, oh yes they do. They open you up to something, something bad is what I am thinking of.

I agree with the ideas that it is ridiculous to assume that clapping and/or raising hands are spiritual power moves. However, taken in or out of context, that blanket statement you made cannot be applied the way you have done so.

For example, if postures do not bring or cause spiritual reality, does this mean yoga is okay?

Yoga - the postures are worship.

In context, would praising God while giving Him the "finger" not cause some spiritual reality to happen, or at least be in accordance and concommitant with it?

I realize that you are speakng of a Christian setting, but towards towards your point, not agin it, it is unwise to make such a statement, because some postures are apparently not neutral.

Yes, yes, not your point, not the target of the post, etc., etc., but it still needs to be clarified further, and dropped in favor of better language, say,

"as if in a worship service lifting hands somehow is actually reaching up to and taking hold of God in a way He responds to differently than if you didn't do so." or perhaps what I said before, "it is ridiculous to assume that clapping and/or rasing hands are spiritual power moves."

Wordy, but off the cuff, which is perhaps what you did there with your statement.

I appreciate your efforts with these posts, and your frustration is palpable, but this line needs tinkering.

Thank you for your diligence, and may God continue to bless you...

DJP said...

I agree with your point; I don't agree with you that my wording, in context, is really all that ambiguous.

The implication of the words I responded to is that a blessing is floating -- perhaps even the Spirit Himself is floating -- just a few inches in front of you. If you just reach out your hands, you can grab it/Him. Leave your hands in your lap, and you're sunk.

Finrod said...

As one who actually has read all of your posts (and a couple of Adrian's), let me say that your series has been excellent. I believe you have accurately presented Adrian's position while lovingly attempting to explain the short-comings, fallacies, and (at times) misguided nature of it.

Even before you made the same point, I found myself recalling a sermon by Ron Dunn that I first heard about 30 years ago. He said, in effect, that "the Bible never tells us to seek this thing or to seek that thing, to seek this gift or to seek that experience. The Bible tells us to seek one thing and one thing only, and that is to seek the Lord."

I've never forgotten that and it's never led me astray: it's about seeking Him and fixing our eyes on Him. Experiences come as by-products, inevitably, but we have to see past the gift to the Giver of the gift.

The few times I have had the kind of subjective, emotional experience to which Adrian refers, I have been compelled to hang my head, get on my knees, and say nothing - dumbstruck and awed by a glimpse of the presence of God out of the corner of my mind's eye.

There are times I have laughed - to myself - because it all seems too good to be true. This, I think, is what Abraham and CHS experienced, not some out-of-control, rolling-on-the-floor hysteria prompted by the voice of a Rodney Brown (?) or someone else.

God's word sometimes makes me smile or even laugh, but God's presence causes me to fall on my face, overwhelmed at the mere shadow of His being.

Even So... said...

Dan,

No doubt we agree in principle, it bothers me to hear people say things like "reach out and touch Him", etc.

My thought is that the same people who would fall for this type of thinking would also now take your statement about postures and apply them to yoga., etc. Indeed, the problem is with them, no doubt, and their faith, but there you have it anyway.

Feel free to disagree about the language, but if I agree with you, and yet I saw it, ....

Even So... said...

The implication of the words I responded to is that a blessing is floating -- perhaps even the Spirit Himself is floating -- just a few inches in front of you. If you just reach out your hands, you can grab it/Him. Leave your hands in your lap, and you're sunk.

Yeah, that would have been better, explicit, and helped someone. I hope they see it in the meta...

DJP said...

Thanks, Mike. Here's something tangential and complementary to your point.

A pastor once asked me, "When you preach, don't you ever feel the pleasure of God on you?" I said, honestly, "No."

Now, he did. And he's the sort who does (or did) hear God talk to him; and I know for a fact that he's done some real damage, or tried his best to.

By contrast, my wife Valerie has often noted that, when I finish a sermon and feel like a wreck, feel like I botched it badly, feel nearly worthless as a preacher -- those are often the sermons God uses most greatly in people's lives.

So if I took the Charismatic approach, I would from now on focus on feeling really bad when I preach, thinking and doing things that humiliate me and depress me. Because those feelings bring blessing. Right?

Nope. Side-effect. Seek them, and all is lost.

centuri0n said...

I think you were too soft on Dr. Warnock's challenge.

candyinsierras said...

I don't think you were too soft. I thought your response was fair and very thoughtful. It was a great post.

I do take issue (as usual) with equating conservative charismatic practices with the more visible and wacky charismatic practices.

Raising hands is a gesture of love and surrender, not necessarily to achieve a "spiritual power move" or "spiritual reality". Raising hands in worship or leaving them in your lap is a personal choice. Just like how I don't like being in a church and doing the "greet one another with a hug" routine. My personality. I like closing my eyes and worshiping God with my hands raised. My personality.

Dan, you stated: So if I took the Charismatic approach, I would from now on focus on feeling really bad when I preach, thinking and doing things that humiliate me and depress me. Because those feelings bring blessing. Right?

I think that is a manipulative position. Not every charismatic is into manipulating their way into feelings to acccomplish a blessing, whether laughing their way into blessing, or false humiliation to receive a blessing. I think we all are prone to react to our feelings..such as how you respond to your own teaching, and we all would like to sense being blessed by God.

I think the emphasis is in the wrong place. The gifts are not intended to bless the individual anyways, gifts are given to build up and edify the church! The focus should be outward, not towards self. The focus should always be to glorify God.

Romans 12:5-8 states: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Hving then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

David B. Hewitt said...

Brother Dan:

I just wanted to say that I appreciated greatly this series of yours. I plan on using much of the information in it to talk to some local charismatics should the need arise. :)

SDG,
David Benjamin Hewitt

philness said...

Bravo Dan.

You touched upon something that has been bothering me for years concerning the music and the emotional attempt to drawing out our money, cough, I mean our emotions. Excuse me. Who or what preacher conference started the cracking in the voice fad that I hear so many preachers doing? Seems every new thing starts out west and heads this way, so I thought you'd have a clue. But it gives me the willies to hear a preacher crack his voice (on purpose) to play upon peoples emotions. Its fake, like wrestling.

And the hands in the air thing. And the closing of the eyes during the music. Its just all too pretentious for me and I think its misleading. Just like right now, in our congregation the music is slowing getting more contemporary, and folks are starting to get jiggy in their body movements. They are literally getting their groove on, in church. Must be all about the building fund, must be.

Kaffinator said...

What's worse, philness, I've noticed people closing their eyes during prayer. How pretentious is THAT. Obviously a ploy for more tithes.

!??

Mike Y said...

Dan,

As usual, another excellent post! In fact, I have really enjoyed your whole series on this subject. And I'm sure it has been quite painstaking as well as painful for you.

In this final post, not to take away from all that you've written, but I think you summed it all up nicely in your closing statement:

"Leave off seeking after experiences of God, and seek God by His Spirit-breathed Word. Our experiences divide us. His Word can unite us."

If you said nothing else, this alone says so much. Too bad you had to write a whole series of articles just to get folks to this conclusion.

Again, great job! And I'm glad God has raised you for this.

[btw, not boilerplate ;)]

-Mike

ajlin said...

Dan,
I do not understand your statement,
"Preaching, if done right, will invariably teach; but teaching, if done right, will invariably preach."
Is there a word left out, or should the "but" be an "and" or am I missing something?

-Andrew

ThirstyDavid said...

Great posts! I didn't actually have time to read all these posts - too long, you know. But Warnock's charismatic and you're cessationist, so I'm sure you're right.

Seriously, nice job. You very gently called σκύβαλον σκύβαλον, and never used the word "dude" even once. Well done.

Daniel said...

Daivd - I just about sent my drink through my nose reading your comment. Thanks.

WES said...

I'd like to have a theology/word I could experience... else you have rational theory. Heat and light should be balanced together. Too much light and you dry up. Too much heat and you blow up. Dancing with dualism.

I Timothy 2:8 'I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer'
Lam.3:41 'Let us lift up our hands to God in heaven'

Posture seems to be important here...but we better not. I'd rather not be called a charismatic than obey his word.

centuri0n said...

Thirsty:

You've ued the Greek form of the 8-letter word of internet conflagration, and so you must be properly chastized.

~Mark said...

I've always been confounded by some things in the Christian walk. In my walk. As a child, long before submitting to Christ, my mother had us as part of a church that would today be called "Word of Faith". There was always a nurse on duty, and some form of babbling would occur.

Somehow I knew this was nonsense.

As an adult Christ got a good hold on me and I began walking with Him. I have experienced the voice of God in my life, I know people to whom God gives astounding insight into things they know nothing about. (One person called me to warn me against doing something I was just about to do- from miles away and in very specific terms on something she had no way of knowing!)

My submission to Christ was brought about by a sermon in which the pastor (for the first time and not again in the last 23 years) said he felt God had a special message for His people that day, and that instead of the prepared sermon he would speak whatever God lay on his heart. (Not an out-of-control situation, but a yielding one.) I found myself crying like a baby within minutes. (I'm 6'3" and was 250 pounds at the time so it was far from my normal action)

I have certainly experienced God at work, yet I love the Word and believe that to fully be a tool in His hand I need to understand it and judge my experiences by the Word, not the other way around.

My life with Christ started to really grow when I devoted myself to daily study, and this all brings me to my point:

Seeking Christ through the Word and prayer will bring one into His presence, and the experience of Him will come. Even when it isn't though, I sometimes cannot grasp how knowing all-mighty God doesn't in itself bring a tingling to the soul that nothing else can match.

Noldorin_Calvinist said...

Excellent finale! It is definitley true that if you base your walk with God in experiential terms, than when you don't feel anything at all, you must not have relationship with God. It is sad that today a majority of 'Christians' think that they must follow what they feel. It sounds like the world. 'If it feels good, do it,' or 'do what feels right.' No cognition, no thinking involved, which means --anything goes.

ThirstyDavid said...

Dan,

Sorry about your nose. I know how that hurts.

Frank,

Yes, I did, but I translate it "manure" rather than... well, you know. That makes me superior. However, if you contact the elders of my church, I will certainly accept any chastisement they deem appropriate.

Carrie said...

I'll admit, I don't have any interactions with charismatics so many of these points I have filed away for the future.

But this post had such a wonderful, universal message and could be applied to so many areas. I love how you brought it all back to how we handle his Word.

Now, please try to keep future posts to less than a million words. Thanks.

DJP said...

carrie -- Now, please try to keep future posts to less than a million words.

Ow!

Er... fair enough.

]c:

Steve W. Prost said...

DP,

Do you disagree with Jonathan Edwards and John Piper's exposition of the primacy of religious affections as the essence of true Christianity and true faith?

Do you disagree with Piper's exposition that a regenerate nature is most essentially a new desire, taste, and affection for the truths of Christ?

Do you agree that Piper strikes a proper balance in seeking to truly spiritually TASTE the good things of biblical truth, and does not fall into any of the traps you speak of in his teaching of not grounding such 'experiences' or 'affections/emotions' outside of Scripture? If not, can you point out an example in his many writings available on the internet or print where he errs in a way as you speak of?

J. Edwards said ""I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with." Even as Christians, we are reliant upon continued experiences with the Holy Spirit to appropriately "love" the propositional truths of Scripture as we should, and our glorification of God does not occur until we not only see Christ as he is presented in the Word, but experience love and a proper heart reaction to what we see.

DJP said...

Yes, I disagreed with Piper's stress on emotions in Desiring God to the extent that he seemed to me only to be able to conceive of joy, peace, etc. as feelings, and not as attitudes. Part of his burden was to say that gospel obedience was no necessary sign of supernatural conversion, emotions were necessary. I thought him part-right; he seemed to me to underplay the fact that an orientation towards Christ, santifying Christ as Lord in one's heart (1 Peter 3:15), choosing to trust when tempted to fear (Psalm 56:3), and the like, equally are a sign of conversion. He convinced me that emotions are significant, as I expressed in the article. Not be-all, end-all, nor ends to be sought in themselves.

Bottom-line: if a man or woman is emotionally low, I'd not see Scripture as guiding me to urge him to feel differently, per se. Nor would I say, "Oh well, it's a dark and hopeless world, that's the best you're ever going to get. Soldier on." I'd point him to the Lord, to His Word; try to find the cause, and address it in those contexts. Not sing a chorus seventeen times, do something with his hands, or cry out to God for an experience.

SFB said...

Dan (or other Pyros), do you have an opinion on the doctrial position or apparent fruit of the work of Sovereign Grace Ministries and CJ Mahaney? He and they seem to be Biblical in their essentially Reformed theology, yet they believe in and teach the present-day availability and reality of Spirit-given gifts. Would be interested in hearing your views. Pastor Mahaney is a member of "Together For The Gospel" with Al Mohler, J. Ligon Duncan and Mark Dever. I would think that such well-schooled and Christ-honoring men would have taken brother Mahaney to task if there were something so aberrant about his theology, as these posts about charismatic gifts seem to suggest. BTW, I am a pastor with a Reformed perspective who has come from a decidedly charismatic background. I teach and preach in many markedly Arminian environments. I have also purposely distanced myself from the obviously erroneous manifestations of the truly awful charismatic interpretations of Scripture. That, however, does not mean that I have thrown the experiential baby out with the bathwater of lunacy.

DJP said...

...do you have an opinion on the doctrial position or apparent fruit of the work of Sovereign Grace Ministries and CJ Mahaney?

Honestly, sfb, no. Some people for whom I have varying degrees of respect apparently think well of Mahaney; they must have seen something that has completely eluded me so far.

I don't fault you for your question, at all, but I do want to say this. Every time anyone tries to assess something Biblically, he gets, "But ____ is a good guy, and he believes X!", or, "But ____ is a good guy, and he's friends with _____, who believes X."

My great aim in life is not to ask myself, "What does John Piper think?", nor "Who is friends with [insert any name]?" My great aim, as far as I'm consistent with the aims to which I've dedicated myself, is to know God, love Him, walk with him in line with His Word.

Scripture persuades me of its sufficiency. Every degree of distinctive charismatic doctrine hits at that truth, and they've brought in a host of ills in addition. Whoever holds any of those doctrines -- to that degree, I beg to differ.

Pastor Steve said...

I think we can all fall into the trap of finding a persons ministry a blessing in one area but then losing our spirit of independence and discernment with this person in other areas.

Meaning, a person can help my spiritual growth, but I am primarily responsible to God for what I believe, and can't offer up as an excuse that I was just following what MacArthur or Piper taught. The fact that certain men may hold to a certain position may make me study harder and search longer in those areas that I disagree with them, but my first allegiance and responsibility is to God and I shouldn't shy away from what I feel are biblical truths, no matter who I disagree with.

Steven Dresen said...

djp,

One could make claims that your Warfieldian cessationism merely produces a dead orthodoxy which in turn opens up the way for liberalism, at least that is what history has proven. Look at Princeton and the legacy the view that Christianity was only about cold hard facts as opposed to feeling or emotions. If you read the biography of Machen you'll see that it was the pure doctrine approach that almost brought him over to the liberal side. As far as your view of attitudes and feelings the very definition of the two show how linked they are.

attiude: A state of mind or a feeling; disposition.

feeling: An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments, or desires.

You might disagree but two feelings are really necessary if one is to be considered truly converted, love of Christ and hatred of sin. So when you say feelings are secondary then you are denying the primary necessity for a believer to have an interest in Christ and leave us with a severely diminished view of conversion.

donsands said...

Excellent teachings. Well balanced, and very helpful. Thanks for all your hard work and for your sharing it with a heart of love for His Word, and joy in His grace.

Steve said...

Dan and Pastor Steve: I really appreciate those comments you both just posted.

Even the best of God's servants here on earth will inevitably disappoint us in some area or other of their theology or teachings. The best way to avoid such disappoint is to abstain from letting such servants become the "measuring stick" for what I believe or don't believe, and instead, make the Bible that measuring stick. God and His Word will never disappoint or leave us wanting.

danny2 said...

dan,

i appreciated your patient, calm, methodical approach.

thank you for taking the time to addess issues point by point. that can be difficult when a bunch of readers want to jump the gun and assume your next point.

i found the place of Scripture in your response to be most encouraging of all.

Steve W. Prost said...

I brought up the thought of J. Edwards and J. Piper only for the purposes of what they teach, not for the sake of critiquing your point by character. As a paedobaptist I obviously have no problem disagreeing with him, favorite teacher/preacher as he is.

When all is said and done, any counterfeit professor of Christianity can believe all the propositions of Christianity and trust their belief in them to get them to heaven (rather than their own works)... the only thing it is impossible to counterfeit without true regeneration is a true "religious affection" for the truth. Edwards was right in pointing us to the "affections" (however we may differ in the finer points of fine tuning them not being emotional, they are as he taught them essentially emotional rather mental assent). The way to those affections ultimately depends (after going to the Word, meditation on it, prayer) on an experience with the Holy Spirit (sometimes simultaneously in our reading the Word, sometimes in life lived out in accordance with it), but it seems the ultimate goal is indeed glorification of God by esteeming him with proper affections, not merely seeing him and yawning, which is a milder form of blasphemy.

jeff said...

Dan,

My great aim in life is not to ask myself, "What does John Piper think?", nor "Who is friends with [insert any name]?" My great aim, as far as I'm consistent with the aims to which I've dedicated myself, is to know God, love Him, walk with him in line with His Word.

Scripture persuades me of its sufficiency.


Amen, Dan. I think that is what makes your posts so enjoyable. I admire your devotion to the truth of Scripture.

Sometimes I think we get into a Corinthian mindset in regard to some of these things (i.e., "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos"). I noticed that when I graduated from Master's and left GCC to move to the midwest, I found myself answering theological questions with, "Well, John MacArthur believes..." and was convicted by the fact that I was more of a spokseman (sometimes erroneously, to my chagrin) for John than I was a preacher of the word. Ouch.

Thank you for taking us back to the Bible, and further challenging me to hold in practice to the sufficiency of the Scriptures rather than the writings and teachings of men.

maranatha man said...

You hit the nail on the head! We must strike a balance between faith and emotion. However, the Word can and should move our hearts.

I read this morning of how Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-ff), my heart was moved by pondering the fact that Jesus even washed the feet of Judas. I was moved by the awesome love of Christ. Had it been you or I, we would have used an S.O.S. pad on the feet of Judas. Or perhaps scalding water? Or maybe a brillo pad. Not our loving Savior. He knew Judas would betray Him. Yet, he lovingly washed the feet of Judas too. Jesus was fully conscience of His universal sovereighty (v.3) yet He stooped to the status of an household slave. The Father placed everything in His (Jesus') hands. Yet Jesus instead took a towel in His hands, put water in vessel and handled the dirty feet of the disciples. May the Word moved my heart.

Nevertheless, I am unapologetically a cessationist. I often find myself lacking passion and fervor in my worship too. Thanks for the post! It was very good!

Rob Steele said...

Great posts and great discussion. I basically agree with everything Dan says but can't help giving the other side every chance. A couple of things come to mind: total depravity, for one. All parts of our being fell including the intellect and the heart or whatever you call the organ of feeling. They're all corrupt and they're all being redeemed. I suppose the degree of corruption varies by individual and by affected part. I know that the degree of redemption varies across time--I'm more whole now than ever before, even as I'm more aware of the degree of corruption I embody. It does not seem strange that God works differently with different sorts of people, revealing Himself through the different modes of human experience according to the state of the patient.

And isn't the intellectual mode of knowing an experience too? It might not involve the endocrine system as much but knowing something through the mind is an experience just as much as intense feelings are. Both can be right or wrong with respect to their object.

Here's another thing. I'm not a pastor and so not responsible for guarding the sheep the way some of you guys are and I have little experience with charismatica. It struck me however as unfair to them to take some of their more poetic language as literal. When they say something like "Reach out and touch Him", aren't they speaking metaphorically? They want you to literally lift your hands and get your body with the program, I know, but isn't the thing they're really after God Himself?

One last thing. If any of us had a direct, unmediated experience of God, we'd explode. Or disintegrate. One day we'll see Him as He is but for now "No man shall see My face and live." We see through the glass darkly. We need a welding helmet to get within a mile of Him but He lives inside us all the same. Woo Hoo!

donsands said...

rob,

John the Apostle saw the glorified Lord, and fell as dead. The same one who at the last supper laid against the Savior; and stood at the Cross as well.
And also beheld the risen Prince of glory, before He ascended.
If he fell as dead, then ...

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Dan,

I've read/scanned through all your posts, but not all the comments. So maybe someone asked this question before, if so, forgive me.

I was wondering if you plan on dealing with Adrian's latest post where he copies a fresh article from Sam Storms about tongues. Storms seems to give several Biblical arguments for the charismatic view of tongues (angelic/prayer language) which have not been addressed (believe it or not) in the 5 posts you have now done on this topic recently.

Just wondering how you would respond. Thanks for your thoughtful interaction with Adrian on this topic.

God Bless,

Bob Hayton

DJP said...

I don't think Storms really requires an additional response. He did not provide a shred of Biblical counter-evidence about "tongues of angels." He would only be persuasive, I think, to someone who is persuaded by Apocrypha over against Biblical evidence, and wants to rationalize modern counterfeits.

Then he goes off to try to counter Paul's flat statement that, by "tongues," he means human languages. I don't think anything he says overturns Paul's explicit statement, the evidence of language, and the other things that I do bring out in this series. The ability to say that texts in isolation are ambiguous does not equal a refutation of a plain, in-so-many-words statement. In isolation, Mark 10:18 might be saying that Jesus is not God. In context, and particularly in Biblical context, it can't mean that.

Adrian said...

Well,
I am back and have at least began to reply - no substantial points yet tho....but pop over and read what could turn out to be a still LONGER series answering you Dan!

Peter Kirk said...

Dan, I won't make a long comment here like I just made on part 3 (which in fact managed to refute part 2 as well). But I do want to object to your caricature of charismatic services. You wrote:

If you've been to many Charismatic services, you don't need me to go on. You could fill in gaps yourself—how the music is geared and chanted to excite the emotions directly, the preaching aimed at working directly on the emotions, the bodily choreography devised to create a mood and a feeling. It's sheer psychological manipulation, though in many cases no doubt with the best of intentions.

This is probably an accurate description of some charismatic services. It is certainly not an accurate description of all of them. In particular, your description of charismatic preaching is so wide of the mark as to be libellous. You can for example download and listen to the sermons from my charismatic Anglican church (I recommend the recent series on Acts by Mones Farah), or Adrian Warnock's sermons (which I admit I haven't listened to myself). Listen and then tell us if these are really "aimed at working directly on the emotions ... sheer psychological manipulation".

I am sure that Adrian and I, as well as very many other charismatics, would agree on teaching that Christians need a proper balance between the Spirit and the Word, avoiding both the over-emphasis on the Spirit of your caricature charismatics and the over-emphasis on the Word of many cessationists. This is the main point I was trying to make in my own recent posting on Bible deists, especially the final passage quoted from the former cessationist Jack Deere who, it seems to me, has now found something like the right balance.

Peter Kirk said...

As a precaution against Dan acting as "Judge, Jury, and Delete-O Guy" on my comments here and on part 2, I have reposted them on my own blog.

Peter Kirk said...

I see you have not so far chosen to respond to my comments either here or on part 3. Is this because you find my points unanswerable?

I have provided some further arguments against your position in my posting Cessationism Undermines the Bible.

Rob Tombrella said...

"Leave off seeking after experiences of God, and seek God by His Spirit-breathed Word."

I fully understand the danger of someone merely seeking experiences--apart from God Himself.

But I ask, how can one truly understand God as a powerful joy-giving, love-recalling, peace-providing Being (which I believe Scripture teaches)and somehow seek Him apart from the Him He promises to be for us?

Peter Smythe said...

We just started our blog this month and so missed the "debate" about tongues. Our first few posts, however, deal scripturally with John MacAthur's Chaos thesis on the birth of the Church. In our blog we demonstrate that John 20:22 was indeed the birth of the Church and that MacArthur has violated his own tenets. In our next set of blogs, we intend to scripturally demonstrate that the "upon" baptism of the Holy Ghost is a second definite experience.