27 March 2007

Ecstasy

by Phil Johnson

hort post here. Read fast, because it's going to get bumped right away.

While we are on the subject of the charismata, I want to point out one glaring difference between contemporary charismatic experiences and the authentic apostolic gifts: In the New Testament, the gifts' most prominent feature was a ministry purpose that was extrinsic to the gifted person and his or her feelings: "that the church may receive edification" (1 Corinthians 14:5). That's precisely why tongues were always supposed to be translated so people could understand.

Listen to contemporary charismatics describe their experiences, however, and they'll invariably stress the issue of "emotions": fervor, feeling, joy, and related passions that they themselves feel. What they usually have in mind is a sense of ecstasy.

Charismatics' narrations of their tongues-experiences, for example, always seem to include an ecstatic element. (Glossolalia is often referred to as "ecstatic speech.") And listen, for example, to our friend Dr. Warnock's response to John Piper's "The Morning I Heard the Voice of God,": He says, "I want to EXPERIENCE personally the Spirit doing this much more frequently in a way that is as thrilling as the way in which Piper describes it."

The thrill is the real thing, evidently.

I don't see any "thrill" ever associated with exercising the gift of tongues or prophecy in the New Testament. Ecstatic passions certainly weren't the most prominent aspect of the experience. Rather, what stands out in Luke's description of Pentecost is that the languages spoken communicated a clear message that was perfectly understandable and powerful as to its content. Whatever emotional impact was registered was related to the message the listeners heard, not the feeling the tongues-speakers felt.

Likewise, when God's Word communicates to us in the way Dr. Piper was describing, it may not always be a "thrill." More likely, it's going to be one of the profound passions David describes in the psalms—ranging from profound assurance to righteous indignation to heartfelt sorrow to breathless wonder to angry exasperation—and sometimes even producing raw depression. Of course, Scripture also fills us with a sense of triumph, or encouragement, or hopefulness, or confidence—and always with conviction.

It's not only—or even mainly—about the thrill of ecstasy.

Phil's signature

25 comments:

Touchstone said...

Phil,

I'm thinking of video I've seen of Hagin, and more vividly of Benny Hinn ("Let the bodies hit the floor!..."). While it's indeed true that Hinn (feigns?) ecstasy when he is overcome by... something as he waves his hand or his jacket violently about those to be healed, the event is very much about the demonstration -- the witness of the power of God to heal, to save.

Now, I think Hinn is a complete fraud, and that whole operation is a scam -- but that's just my skeptical nature showing I guess. I don't think it's authentic based on scientific/objective reasons. But I do *grant* that it not primarily emotional in it's narrative appeal.

It's presented as a vivid, dramatic miracle, one that is supposed to inspire and motivate those present toward acceptance of Christ, salvation, and of course, generous giving to Benny Hinn for his new private jet.

How do you approach (alleged) charismata that is "Acts 2-congruent" -- miraculous in scope and nature, as opposed to simply "thrilling" or "enthralling" for it participants?

For Benny Hinn, the main thing isn't the emotional thrill for Hinn, but the miraculous healing and it's witness to those observing. Is Benny Hinn off your hook since his purposes are extrinsic to Benny Hinn (emotionally at least, if not financially!).

Indeed, many charismatics stress the emotional/thrill impact of the experience, but I don't think that fully (or adequately) addresses the Charismatic movement; much of the Charismatic draw is anchored on experiences which are much more parallel to Acts in nature than the "thrill seeking" you're decrying here.

And not all of them suffer from the used-car-salesman credibility problems of the likes of Hinn.

-Touchstone

Adrian said...

So, there we have it. I have a new label I can wear with pride - I am a "thrill seeker"!

If by seeking thrills you mean seeking the thrill that comes from knowing God, then you have me right.

Perhaps we have hit on the nub of this issue. I am not against moments of contemplation and a raft of other emotions, but you are dead right - I do believe God wants us to rejoice in him.

Piper adapts the old Puritan Catechism as that we exist to "Glorify God by enjoying Him". I do not think it would be so wrong to change that again to "being thrilled with him"

As far as the gifts are concerned, you are right that when used in public they are for the benefit of the whole congregation. But to me, part of being built up is surely to receive the Joy God intended for us. Also, tongues has a function for the individual to fortify them.

"..the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church." (1 Cor 4:3-4)

I think the above definitely implies inducing joy as part of the benefit of the gifts.

Certainly the bible has many examples of ecstatic experiences of God - such as Paul in 2 Cor 12, Saul in the Old Testament, and many more.

Some more general verses for you about why joy (=being thrilled) is so central-

Jesus himself is described as follows:- "God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions" (Ps 45:7)

We are commanded many times to rejoice in God - see:-

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)

"Rejoice always" (1 Thess 6:16)

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

"...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:10)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy..." (Gal 5:22)

I like the way Lloyd-Jones puts it:-

"If you stop in your sins, if you stop in the dust and the ashes and in the sackcloth, I say, you are not scriptural. You must go on from that and look to Him, and apply again the truth to yourself. You must be certain that you end in a condition of thanksgiving and praise, with a realisation that your sins are covered and blotted out, and that you are renewed, and that you are able to go forward.”

centuri0n said...

So much for the truce ...

Adrian said...

A truce involves both sides remember....I think that peace will be restored shortly.

Carla Rolfe said...

Phil: that particular comment of Adrian's stood out to me as well and I tried to address it yesterday with a Biblical balance & pespective.

I don't have a lot of experience in the charismatic church, but Adrian's comment about the thrill of personal experience certainly wasn't uncommon.

Robert Ivy said...

Phil,

Your point is well taken. Although I agree with Adrian that happiness in God ought to be pursued, I'd actually agree with you more on the matter that the gifts not primarily designed to bring happiness or "ecstasy" as much as edification.

The charismatic I know who had the most impact on me always impressed me by his calmness and wish to do all things in an orderly manner.

For example, when he prayed for people to be filled with the Spirit, he was aware that a common experience was to be knocked on the ground. So instead of allowing or encouraging people to fall, he would place one hand firmly behind them as he prayed so as to ensure they remained standing and did not distract the congregation.

That's just an example, but I think it illustrates what you are trying to say about the gifts (although of course you would say such filling of the Spirit doesn't happen at all, but that's a side issue).

Anyways - I think you're right. Charismatics should be more concerned with the objective value of the gift rather than its subjective effect.

Daniel said...

Adrian, you speak in the meta commendably about the thrill of knowing God, but in the quote Phil cites you do not seem to be speaking about the thrill of "knowing God" but rather you seem to be saying that you seek the thrill of a spiritual experience.

I believe that Balaam had some pretty thrilling experiences with God - He even gave us one of our most profound Messianic prophesies - but even the bonified genuine thrill of direct revelation didn't cause him to -know- God, and I think that this is the heart of the matter.

Those who pursue the thrill of knowing God are commendable, but those who reason that every spiritual experience (genuine or otherwise) must result in a greater knowledge of God and having this as their unspoken premise thereafter equate seeking "thrilling experiences" with seeking "the thrill of knowing God" are making a categorical error, and I think this is what is trying to be articulated.

No one is going to argue that we shouldn't enjoy God to the fullest, but many will speak out when lines that ought to be clear are being blurred - even if the blurring is unintentional.

Connie said...

Along the lines of thrill seeking, I've observed that the private worship of charismatics differs greatly from their corporate worship. The ecstasy so fervently expressed (and even orchestrated) in corporate worship is rarely found/expressed in private worship.

As young charismatic believers, my friends and I OFTEN commented that we couldn't wait to go to church so we could "get reeved up" again. And that's exactly what happened--emotional highs followed by emotional lows until the next church worship service.

This is especially telling since the standard charismatic service is VERY much orchestrated to foster and sustain emotional highs/fervor.

In the years since leaving the charismatic movement I've found deeper and more lasting joy through studying God's Word and growing in my knowledge of Him--not through my experiences.

centuri0n said...

I have already offered (and he has, at least in the meta, accepted) that Robert Ivy come and chat with me in the DebateBlog over one important attribute of the charimatic gifts/signs: their necessity.

I'd like to offer Dr. Warnock the opportunity of the same venue addressing this question:

Do the Continualist gifts edify the body of Christ?

There is no question, to be clear, that the Apostolic use of the gifts edified the church: the question is if the gifts which we (TeamPyro) are objecting to are those gifts, and whether the gifts which we (TeamPyro) are objecting to are edifying to the church.

I admit I am hardly an expert on Dr. Lloyd-Jones, but it seems to me that this was his major concern in addressing this question, and it ought to be ours as well.

Robert Ivy said...

See this is good, I like this discussion :)

It's great to see solid teaching about "da Gifts" from a cessationist and to see people recognizing errors in the practicing of the gifts while not immediately translating that to: "therefore the gifts have ceased."

I just wish we could all be better at taking the gold and leaving the dross.

I certainly agree with Connie that there is always more deep and lasting joy in the study of God's word and that emotionally orchestrated charismaticism is off the mark.

But that doesn't mean that properly excercised gifts are of no value. I want to make sure that's clear too. (I am not saying that anyone said that, I only want to make sure that's heard.)

donsands said...

"It's great to see solid teaching about "da Gifts" from a cessationist and to see people recognizing errors in the practicing of the gifts while not immediately translating that to: "therefore the gifts have ceased."

I agree. Nice post, and nice discussion.

As far as tongues speaking goes, and all I've seen in the Body of Christ, there is little, and even no, similarity to the Scriptural tongues.
I was in an Holiness Pentacostal, and an AOG. I saw "tons" of tongues, but very, very little interpretation.
The gift of interpretation is the one gift that I would love to understand. And you would think there would be alot more people with this gift, with all the tongue speaking going on.
I have never heard someone expound on this gift in a biblical way as of yet.I've heard a lot of weak, and even forced, teachings on this gift, but nothing solid.

Terry Rayburn said...

I entered the Charismatic movement in 1981, and exit-ed it about 18 months later. I spoke in "tongues", cast out sickness and demons, and gave altar calls to be "baptized in the Holy Spirit". I co-pastored a lively Charismatic church called New Wine Fellowship, and rubbed shoulders with some of the "greats" through conferences and Full Gospel Businessmen.

And it was all based on a fraud. And that fraud is still the "Big Elephant In The Room" of every Charismatic group.

What is the fraud?

The fraud is the teaching that modern-day "tongues" are supernatural.

Make no mistake about it, it's "tongues" which is the real issue in the Charismatic movement. It's the golden entry pass into the "movement".

The problem is that modern "tongues" are not supernatural, and virtually every Charismatic knows it in their heart. Whether in their prayer closet jabbering away, or publicly shouting their "Shambala mata ravu kaya", there is a voice (call it conscience) in them telling them the truth...that it's gibberish they are making up.

I was taught to "speak in tongues" by some nice folks named Dennis and Rita Bennett, who have led thousands likewise. And here's the method: "Open your mouth, let words come out, but make sure they're not English...Go ahead...come on...yes! that's it!...you're speaking in tongues!...Isn't that wonderful?!!"

And the newly "Spirit-filled" person gives a sorta dazed, "Uh...yeah...that's wonderful...[didn't I just speak gibberish?]."

(And though many of the newly Spirit-filled are true believers, many are clearly not. But it doesn't matter. They are "in". And their "tongues" sound just like the believers'.)

Then he's taught to not doubt his new "language". But he does, because he can't help it, because it's not supernatural at all. And he knows it, and the people who taught him know it, and all his Charismatic friends know it. But they've entered into a pact: don't anybody mention the Big Elephant In The Room.

And this lie settles into their life, and they suppress the truth, and they're in the front row of the meeting, jumping up and down and swooning in excitement for awhile. But as time goes by, they often drift to the middle pews, and they're not jumping anymore, but they're still a little excited. As more time goes by, they might drift to the back pews, and then out the door.

And by God's grace, some learn that you can't hold onto a lie like that, and still have a truly Spirit-filled life. And they leave the "movement". But it's painful sometimes because the movement is ultimately cultic, and may involve all kinds of mind-bending aspects.

For example, so-called apostles who literally lord it over lesser charismatic followers to the point of abuse; word-of-faith practitioners who fight disease by shouting at it, "Out in the name of Jesus!"; Dominionists who seek to rule the world for Christ by the Old Covenant Law and the sword, borrowing their theology from the Reconstructionists; so-called prophets who wouldn't admit for a moment that their "prophecies" are fallible; apostolics who think those who don't speak in tongues are not even saved; church members who tell other church members what to do, because they got a "word of knowledge" for them; theologian-types who spin scriptures to make elaborate "proofs" for pentecostal doctrine, etc., etc.

And, to switch metaphors, it's all based on the Emperor's Clothes of phony tongues. If you don't believe me, go into a Charismatic meeting and quote John 3:16 in Koine Greek and watch some "prophet" interpret your "tongues" with some rehashed Bible words like, "My children, and you are my children, I am the most high God who loves you, and I declare unto you...blah, blah, blah."

Blessings,
Terry Rayburn

The Doulos said...

Having not studied greatly in this area, I will not enter the conversation per se. I simply will share a few personal insights. I see two principles expressed in the Scriptures regarding the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit:

1) The gifts and their uses are always to be for the edification of the body.

2) The work of the Spirit will always point to and glorify Christ. (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:13-15)

I recall a comment made by my senior in a previous church, referring to a charismatic church in the same city, where the worship was focused heavily on tongues, ecstatic experiences and other "manifestations of the Spirit." His comment was: "I think the Holy Spirit is very uncomfortable in that church on Sunday mornings." Why? Because the focus was on glorifying the Spirit, rather than on glorifying the Son.

Doug McMasters said...

Instead of Thrill, isn't the emphasis on another word that begins with t--Transformation?

2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Seeing the wonders of God's person and work in His Word, is I admit, a wonderfully moving experience--moving me from impurity to purity; from darkness to light; from self to God and others; from selfish desires to delights in God.

joey said...

the doulos: excellent point.

Mr. Rayburn: You need to visit a good reformed charismatic church.

Terry Rayburn said...

Joey wrote:

Mr. Rayburn: You need to visit a good reformed charismatic church.

What is your point?

Are you saying they speak in *real* tongues? Please!

Or are you saying they don't speak in tongues at all?

joey said...

Mr Rayburn, my point is simply that you provided quite an analysis and judgment based on...I'm not sure what exactly, but not Scripture. Your experience with the charismatic movement seems limited to, well, the kind of churches where people are more interested in an experience with experience, rather than knowing God.
I believe that if you encountered a charismatic local church that was interested in knowing God through His Word, you would be probably view the gifts differently and base your claim that the gift of tongues is not in operation today on Scripture (maybe you do and it just didn't come through in your comment) instead of all the fakes you've seen. Or you would change your mind :)

And as to your question specifically, yes many members of my church speak in tongues.

Nutria Boy said...

Does anyone actually read what Paul said was the REASON and PURPOSE of the gift of tongues? I always ask charismatics this question and they never answer correctly.

The answer is found here:
1 Corinthians 14:20-22 - Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, "BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME," says the Lord. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

Paul references the judgment against Israel by pointing to Isaiah's prophetic words found in Is. Chapter 28. God was warning the Jews that He was going to judge them, cut them off by using foreigners (foreign tongues).

Tongues were a sign, much like the vision that was given Peter about the sheet and the four corners so that he would see that Cornelius and the Gentiles were now part of His plan.

This is the hinge. This is the epicenter of understanding when it comes to this gift. If you know WHY the Lord gave this gift to the Body then you can tell if it is still here or needed in this day. When this is done the clear answer is no, they have fulfilled their purpose.

Tongues would have to cease once the cut off of the Jews was completely (70 AD) and our experience shows this to be true.

A few things I've noticed:

1. No one practices a spiritual gift PRIVATELY except for the supposed gift of tongues. We don't use our gift of mercy as a private thing, nor the gift of teaching, nor the gift of evangelism, etc.
Scripture tells us that they are for the edification (profit) of ALL (1Cor. 12:), not just you and the mirror.

2. The basic rules laid out in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are not followed; not to mention they do not speak real languages.

3. The only place we see this gift popping up is in fellowships where it is taught. I've never heard of an OPC church suddenly finding Mrs. Kalowski speaking in tongues. It only shows up where it is promoted contrary to 1 Cor. 12:11.

4. This is a 'hot topic' simply because it is personal. If you decide to criticize this practice you are basically calling into question someone's entire spirituality and walk with Christ.

Phil Johnson said...

Nutria Boy:

Exactly.

I'm tempted to close the thread now.

Doug McMasters said...

Phil:

"I'm tempted to close the thread now."

To quote B. B. King, then, "The thrill is gone..."

Adrian said...

The Thrill is back. Steve Camp has done a fantastic job of responding to the Piper article - which was where all this started remember! Anyway he urges us to embrace the swordsman as well as the sword.

Terry Rayburn said...

Adrian,

I agree 100% with Camp, but his comments weren't Charismatic.

Of course the Holy Spirit is the Swordsman, and should be honored, worshiped, revered, listened to, and welcomed.

But since when did Charismatics have a corner on the Holy Spirit? A cursory skim of Church History will show that honoring and welcoming the Holy Spirit happened long before Azusa Street.

Blessings,
Terry Rayburn

Adrian said...

Terry
Did you read the whole of my post? I didnt say that Camp was being charismatic, I just welcomed what he said. I agree it is a sorry state of affairs in the church if the only people who talk about the Spirit are the full-on charismatics. We ALL need the Spirit, whatever label we want to wear - unless you want to believe in a twinity!

Terry Rayburn said...

Adrian,

Yes, I read your entire post.

True, you didn't say that Camp was being charismatic, but you asked the question, "Is he becoming Charismatic?"

Of course only he can answer that question, but I was only taking the edge off your implication by noting that his comments were not themselves Charismatic.

You are right that we all need the Holy Spirit, and my real point is that we (believers) all DO have the Spirit, and have the privilege to "be being filled" with the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, not as a one-time experience, but as a lifestyle of feeding on the Word, prayer, meditation, surrender, etc.

Blessings,
Terry

~Mark said...

Thrill? Heck, when God speaks it brings incredible responsibility and sometimes a terrifying chill down the spine. As much as I love the Lord, I dunno if I want Him speak to me in such a demonstrable way on a regular basis. I fail enough on the stuff He has written down, I don't need Father saying later "Didn't I say...?"