What I meant by ‘Evangelical Mystic’

Erik Raymond —  January 31, 2007

I have received several inquiries as to what I meant when I labeled myself as formerly being an “evangelical mystic”. I want to take a moment to communicate what I did and did not mean.

::the history
Prior to conversion I had no biblical understanding. I remember thinking that Christ was Jesus’ last name. I had asked the guy who led me to Jesus why there were two testaments, who Abraham was, along with strange things like should I shave my head like Paul. I was, to say the least, pretty biblically green.

My wife (who was unconverted) and I joined an Arminian SBC congregation which placed a considerable emphasis upon subjective leading. They studied Blackaby’s Experiencing God and spoke in terms of God leading them to do this and that, while also commonly maintaining that God spoke to them via dreams, in prayer and throughout the day. I did not think this was strange because, a) I was young, b) everyone talked like this, c) I saw some examples in the Bible of such things. So I also adopted much of this language and practice.

Now immediately someone will say, “Hey, you do have the Holy Spirit, don’t you?” Yes I do. And I believe in a vibrant, active and God-glorifying work of God through his Holy Spirit in not only my life but also the lives of believers. I believe the Holy Spirit baptizes, convicts, regenerates, gifts, renews, seals, intercedes, indwells, leads, and controls believers. My statement was not in any way an effort to minimize or marginalize the Holy Spirit.

crystal-ball-evangelical-my.jpg

::evangelical mystics

My emphasis is upon what has become so common today in evangelicalism. What I am referring to is this constant reference to God communicating with people through what seems like every way imaginable with the exception of the Scripture. Often times folks speak of being ‘led’ to do this or that or that God has ‘told’ them not to do this or that. I have been told by well meaning evangelicals that I have to listen to the “still-small voice” of God.

The problem with this is that the Scriptures never command me to look inward for direction but rather to look to the revealed word of God. Believers are given the Scripture to be equipped and instructed for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17); we are told to meditate upon it (Ps. 1) so that we me have knowledge, wisdom and understanding cultivated (Prov. 3.3-5; 4.5-8).

Ironically, a new breed of self-appointed prophets has arisen. These religious quacks tout their own dreams and visions with a different phrase, ‘The Lord told me.’ That is mysticism, and it preys on people looking for some secret truth that will add to the simplicity of God’s all-sufficient, once-for-all delivered Word” (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ).

The reason for the mysticism label is because that is precisely what this is. BB Warfield used to distinguish Christianity from all pagan religions in that it was a religion that was revealed from the outside in, whereas, pagan mysticism is revealed from the inside out. Bible believers understand that their hearts are “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17.9) and unable to be understood. As a result not only the source of the ‘revelation’ is to be questioned but also the interpretation.

In the comments one person mentioned Edwards as a guy who may have followed this type of thinking. I disagree. And perhaps the comment was not directed at what I am referring to here. In my reading of Edwards he seems to have been staunchly opposed to this type of practice, even calling such folks who practice this subjectivism “incorrigible”:

“Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

“I would therefore entreat the people of God to be very cautious how they give heed to such things. I have seen them fail in very many instances, and know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the mind…are no sure sign of their being revelations from heaven.” (Jonathan Edwards)

“Why cannot we be contented with the divine oracles, that holy, pure word of God, which we have in such abundance and clearness, now since the canon of Scripture is completed? Why should we desire to have any thing added to them by impulses from above? Why should we not rest in that standing rule that God has given to his church, which the apostles teaches us, is surer than a voice from heaven? And why should we desire to make the Scripture speak more to us than it does?”

“An erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days to guide His saints by inspiration, or immediate revelation….As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his misconduct.” (Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England).

In fact Edwards had a running dialog with the famous evangelist George Whitfield. Whitfield was convinced that God had told him that his son would be a great preacher and that his name would be John. Whitfield had one son and he died at 4 months of age. These actions led Whitfield to say:

“I misapplied several texts of Scripture. Upon these grounds, I made no scruple of declaring ‘that I should have a son, and that his name was to be John.’….’Many good souls, both among clergy and laity, for a while, mistook fancy for faith, and imagination for revelation.” (quoted in MacArthur’s Reckless Faith).

::application?

When Christians put their subjective impressions on authoritative levels they, regardless of motives, undermine the authority, sufficiency and purpose of Scripture. Our fallen minds and hearts are never prescribed in the Bible to direct our steps, this task is reserved to the Holy Spirit inspired sure word of Scripture.

So how does this flesh out practically? Say you have a difficult decision (or an easy one for that matter) what do you do? You pray for wisdom (Jam. 1.5) for God gives generously, you study the Scripture for it is this that equips you for every good work (2 Tim. 3.17), you delight yourself in the Lord (Ps. 34.7), you get counsel from godly friends (Prov. 11.14; 12.20). And then you have prayed about it, if it is biblically wise, and seems to be consistent with the revealed word you should feel a confidence to do the right thing without having to affix the “God told me” or “God led me” talk so as to make it more authentic. Edwards has good advice on this:

“They who leave the sure word of prophecy–which God has given us as a light shining in a dark place–to follow such impressions and impulses, leave the guidance of the polar star to follow a Jack with a lantern. No wonder therefore that sometimes they are led into woeful extravagances.” [Jonathan Edwards, On Revival, p.14]

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

33 responses to What I meant by ‘Evangelical Mystic’

  1. Josh,

    I listen to both Driscoll and Chandler (in fact just this am I listened to MC). I know that they are continuationists and calvinists. It is interesting to read guys like Grudem who aim to prove their position exegetically. In contrast, I listened to Driscoll’s 1 Cor series and in reading his book (Confessions) much of what he says seems to be experience driven (now granted the book was not a book on gifts but nevertheless).

    So again I do not know enough about Chandler & Driscoll, but I suspect they are like the other Reformed Continuationists like Maheney, Piper, Grudem, etc..

    thanks,

    erik

  2. Both my husband and I grew up in similar church setting(sbc) as you have described. I always remember people saying they felt led to do this or that(I’m sure I said it a couple of times myself)…we read jay Adams *The Christian’s Guide to Guidance* as quite a few John Mac sermons and books and quickly saw the error in it.

  3. If we are to rely on the objective Word of God (and we are) and if it gives numerous examples of discerning God’s will by the subjective (and it does), than it is unbiblical to reject the subjective. This is not an either or matter, you can have both as long as the subjective lines up with the Word of God.

    I love what a brother named Luke wrote on Challies blog, “It is kind of like the Catholic Church in during the Reformation. They were right about one thing…if you put the Bible in the hands of the people, in their own language, you’ll have mutiny! They were right, though they were wrong for not taking the risk, their intial concern was correct as history and present day circumstances bear out. Thank God Luther didn’t succomb to such a risk. Cessationist’s can only use such an argument for this situation. They can only point to the error and mutiny that can result from the risky business of saying that God speaks today. They cannot show us ANY scripture, whatsoever, they simply have to point us to the many forms of error that result from it. This is not sufficient, not matter the grossness of the error!”

    John Piper said, “I agree with the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preached in 1965:

    It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions. . . . Was it only meant to be true of the early church? . . . The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere. ( The Sovereign Spirit , pp. 31-32)”

    Link to the rest of the article (I will not repeat Piper’s excellent arguments, but if you care about this subject you owe it to yourself to read them):
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1991/1498_Signs_and_Wonders_Then_and_Now/

    I am a Reformed Baptist (not a charismatic) and I love the Word of God. I love doctrine… I love systematic theology. I always try to exhaust the Bible as much as possible when decerning God’s will.

    But I find it ironic that cessationist (and those that say God no longer leads or has a voice), who claim that those who believe the gifts exist today (and that God still leads and has a voice), do so because of experience, are the very ones basing their doctrine on experience. They are the very ones making their doctrine based on experience and not on the word of God. They see all of the TBN Charismatics falsely using the gifts in unbiblical ways and assume they must not exist. However, those who believe the gifts exist today have all kinds of Scripture to support their position. If you locked someone in a room and just gave them a Bible, they would not walk out of that room thinking the gifts (or God’s leading voice) have ceased. These books on discerning God’s will solely by wisdom, are systems built by men to justify their doctrine because Scripture does not exist to support their position. Read the biographies of great missionaries and great preachers and great evangelists and you will see God leading them in ways similar to the way God lead His people in the book of Acts.

    Challies has a post that is related to this that I have posted 3 times on, I won’t further repost my comments here, but you can read them on Challies (post # 26, 30 and 37). so here is the link if you want to know what Scriptures I would quote for my position…
    http://www.challies.com/archives/002341.php#comments

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  4. Erik,

    God told me to tell you to keep pursuing these topics by studying the Scriptures:)

    “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness: so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

    In Christ,
    Steve

  5. Matt, thanks for the comment.

    A couple of quick things:

    1) As I mentioned in my post, Scripture does not ever call us to listen to ourselves for subjective guidence. There are a lot of examples of a lot of things in the narratives of scripture, I would not be willing to make them all normative as you seem to so cleanly do in this case.

    2)I never said God does not have a voice or does not lead. In fact I said he has spoken through his word and “I believe in a vibrant, active and God-glorifying work of God through his Holy Spirit in not only my life but also the lives of believers. I believe the Holy Spirit baptizes, convicts, regenerates, gifts, renews, seals, intercedes, indwells, leads, and controls believers. My statement was not in any way an effort to minimize or marginalize the Holy Spirit.” Not sure if you were referring to me or not, but at any rate.

    3)If you locked someone in a room and just gave them a Bible, they would not walk out of that room thinking the gifts (or God’s leading voice) have ceased….

    >are you sure? Tongues are mentioned in Mark (questionable manuscripts), Acts, 1 Cor, Rom. Nothing in the pastoral epistles or in the later NT books, and further we have the 2nd generation church of Hebrews looking back to a time when these miracoulous gifts were active (He. 2.1-4). I would think God would tell the pastor who is accountable for the equipping the church how to deal with tongues or subjective leadings in the pastoral epistles. Instead we have charges to preach (2 Tim. 4.2) the sufficient word (2 Tim. 3.16-17).

    4) Read the biographies of great missionaries and great preachers and great evangelists and you will see God leading them in ways similar to the way God lead His people in the book of Acts.

    >this sounds a lot like the experience that you are decrying.

    thanks,
    erik

  6. Here is a helpful article to chew on regarding the above topic about continuity of gifts or cessationism:

    http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1550

  7. Erik,

    Thanks for posting on this. I’m not sure that I was clear about my Edwards comment. I was not claiming that Edwards is a mystic. I was simply stating that during the Great Awakening, there were manifestations of God that many would put on a level w/ the book of Acts (like Matt said). Many cessationists have a hard time dealing with things like this. I guess my point is that I think you can be “charismatic” and not “mystical”. Like Matt said, “this is not an either or matter”.

    I am a big John MacArthur fan when it comes to his teaching and doctrine, except his views on the gifts. I think he (and others who agree with him) make a lot of assumptions from the text…and again referring to Matt’s post, it is ironic that many cessationists use experience (seeing someone on TBN misuse gifts) to say that we can’t rely on experience.

    My point is we don’t have to be a cessationist just because we are reformed. I think it is consistent to be both “charismatic” and “reformed”. And I think that if you locked a new believer in a room and let them study the Bible for a long time that they would come out being a “charismatic calvinist”.

    I’m not sure that you actually said that you believe that the gifts of the Spirit are not for today, so I don’t want to label you a “cessationist” if that is not something you believe. I’m all for not basing things on “subjective experience” because there is certainly danger in that. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Let me know what you think. Thanks!

  8. Hey Erik,

    Thanks for sharpening me like iron sharpens iron! I mean that honestly.

    1) John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

    Hebrews 3:7-10, “…Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts …” This is a warning, a warning about what? Not hearing His voice that speaks everyday. This warning is repeated 2 other times in Hebrews.

    I don’t think these texts are calling me to look “inward” as in something within myself; I would reject that idea too. They are calling me to hear the voice of God which I don’t think has to be audible. Therefore, that voice is outside of me in regards to my flesh.

    3). I think it is a false dichotomy to reject something because it is not in the pastoral epistles. In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul says, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here he says that the gifts will be around until Jesus comes back. Paul brings this back up in Chapter 13:8,”As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” To say this text is referring to the completion of the Bible is just silly. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:4, “…the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Prophesy is not simply to confirm the Bible, it is to build up the church. You are defining it differently than Paul did.

    In Chapter 14 Paul defines how those gifts are to funcion. Chapter 14 closes with these words in verse 37, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.” Here we have a command not to forbid tongues and to pursue prophesy (God could have easily had Paul add, “until the apostles die” if He wanted too, but He didn’t, so the command stands). By the way, I totally reject the modern perversion of tongues (but that is another subject).

    I don’t see how Hebrews 2 supports your view. Paul is saying those things happened, in no way does he indicate that they have stopped happening. You should argue from the clearest texts, not the vague ones. 1 Corinthians 14 seems to be pretty clear about the gifts.

    I don’t say it this way to offend, but the arguement that you use (as well as many other men that I respect) sounds like theological gymnastics to me.

    4). I understand your frustration with me bringing that point up. I don’t bring it up as an appeal to authority. I bring it up because people say, “The gifts ceased when the Apostles died” and they totally ignore the experiences of all the Calvinistic brothers they read and quote so often. They act like there has been no instances of those things being recorded. There are plenty of examples of well saved Christian brothers that are never dealt with. If you think bringing up one bad example closes the case, what about all of the other examples we have that aren’t bad?

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  9. Hmmm… I don’t mean to always be contrary, but I think this deserves a few words.

    Instead of relying on words written by Christian authors, why not rely on the Bible? Where does it say that the Spirit speaks ONLY through scripture? Yes it says that the Holy spirit speaks through scripture, (as in the verse you quoted, Erik) however, it doesn’t say that that is the only way he speaks to his people.

    Suppose someone gets ship-wrecked on an island and doesn’t have his Bible with him. Does the spirit stop speaking to him? Is he not filled with the Holy Spirit anymore? My dad is a pastor and he has told me of several times when he has been led by the Spirit to preach a different sermon than what he had prepared just minutes before standing up to the pulpit. I know results and the measure of a sermon, but those times that he did that, incredible things happened. He wasn’t reading the Bible when God led him, he wasn’t quoting scripture in his head when it happened. God led him and God spoke to someone who needed it through the message he gave my dad because of it. Do you ever encounter someone on the street and for some reason, someone in the crowd stands out to you and you feel led to talk with them only to find that they have a need that you can help them with by your testimony or in some other way?

    Frankly, I am a little amazed by this post. I don’t think listening to the still quiet voice of God is listening to yourself. It is being open to the direction of the Holy spirit. How do we know that it is the Holy spirit and not our sinful nature speaking? How do you know you are saved? The answer is the same. I think it is just as easy to justify some things through scripture that aren’t right as it is to justify things through your inward feelings that aren’t right. One relies on our intellect and deductive reasoning to decifer what the scriptures say while the other relies on our feelings to tell us what the Holy Spirit is saying to us (or what we think the Holy Spirit is saying). How did Simeon know that God was sending Saul/Paul to him? God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To discredit any leading by the spirit on the basis that it didn’t come from the study of scripture is to limit God and His sovereignty, which is something I have never known a Calvinist to do.

  10. I used to be in the charismatic arminian type of church. I once heard about a guy that said Jesus talked to him on his cell phone.

    Anyway, I recognize that within the charismatic movement there is a wide range of practices. Some are completely extra-biblical and other try and follow what Scripture teaches.

    That said, I myself have never encountered any legitimate uses of the sign gifts. I do see people gifted as evangelists, helpers, teachers, etc. but no legitimate prophecy, tongues, healing, or miracles.

    I just think it’s real interestin that the non sign gifts are very apparent and in use all over the church, but the others seem to be widely misused and as far as I can tell, never excercised biblically.

    I believe that God could control a person by the Holy Spirit to speak a language (a real one) that they don’t know to declare His glory if He wants to. I believe that God can use a person to pray for someone’s healing and have that prayer be instantaneously answered if He wants to. But I don’t believe that anyone walks around with these abilities as spiritual gifts endowed by the Spirit as they once did and as other gifts are still given.

    And I do see reasonable arguments from Scripture (1 Cor. 13)to hold the position that such gifts have ceased to be normative.

    Just my thoughts.

  11. Just to be clear the focus of this post was not a defense of cessationism or a refutation of continuationalism, but instead an explanation of where I had come from with some explanation of what I mean as far as this mystical, subjective leading that seems to pervade evangelicalism.

    Josh: to your point about having to be a cessationist to be reformed…i understand, look at Piper, Grudem, Maheney, etc.. I know a little of this being a premillenial futurist while also being reformed.

    Matt: I don’t think Hebrews 2 is in any way obscure, and I would not run from 1 Cor 14. In fact, if I thought that these verses taught that the gifts of tongues were for today I would be a non-cessationist :/

    You mentioned that you understand my frustration. Let me be clear, I am not frustrated…nothing but healthy dialog here.

    In listening to a fair amount of Piper & Maheney while also reading Grudem, I have not heard them talk like a typical evangelical today does. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think there is a difference between being a non-cessationist and from the guy who believes he is getting text messages from Jesus.

    JG: You got to show me where the Bible tells Christians to listen to their hearts or ‘inner voices’. Hebrews 1, God has spoken to us through his Son. Experiences are never intended to trump Revelation, but the other way around. Consider Peter who had the expereince of experiences on the MT with Jesus, what does he say? (2 Pet. 1.16-21).

    There is obviously interest on this issue and apparently all of my cessationist friends have ceased from commenting :/.  Our Care Group is going to be doing a study this summer on gifts, perhaps we can do a few posts on this topic in more depth here leading up to that.

    Hey, all joking not aside, I’m thinking that since the Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthenised this week, the Colts are going to loose the Super Bowl this weekend. It all adds up. I’m pretty sure about this.

    erik

  12. Wow — we have opened up a can of theological worms, eh? Goody! So, just before getting on tonight to catch this thread, my 5 year old was asking questions about “how did I know God wanted me to come work at Sandy Cove?” So, its a universal question, even froma young age… And people wish that they would just hear a booming voice from heaven (“JIM… BECOME A GOLF PRO…”)
    I am not a cessationalist, mostly because I am reluctant to state what God doesn’t or won’t do… Coming out of the Charismatic movement in the 70’s I know of some genuine healings, and accurate propheseys. But as you can imagine, I have seen plenty of abuse, of all varieties. (Remember when they used to stone prophets who weren’t 100% accurate? Bet that would thin the ranks pretty quickly these days…) I agree with a friend who says “God gets blamed for a lot of things…”
    But I still listen to God (and Erik maybe this falls into your affirmation of the Holy Spirits role, and /or the results of the prayer for wisdom James indicates) but I feel like (yes, subjective I know, but hang with me a minute) God gives me ideas, or wisdom, or inspiration… It’s not that I am just looking inward, because the ideas would be things like “Hey…maybe you should click on the Victorias Secret banner ad” Gods ideas are better than that… (Although on another tangent, God has had some flat out weird ideas in the Bible (I know you say “not normative, but…”) he told Hosea to marry a hooker, and Jeremiah to bury his sash till it rotted, and sleep on his side, and cook on his poo, and Oral Roberts to wait in a tower. Oh, my bad, not in the Bible… But don’t use “it has to be purely conventional” as a smell test) Anyway, I guess the challenge you have thrown out is to figure out what the Bible says, so… I am off to find a few prooftexts (kidding! (hopefully)) and I’ll be back…

  13. I grew up in Arminian Baptist churches (not SBC, but essentially the same in theology and practice) and did my undergrad at an Arminian Bible college, all of which, despite claiming to be hardcore cessationists, placed a strong emphasis on being ‘led’ and ‘called’ by God to do various things. In my ‘experience’ (ha!), people are able to justify just about anything under the sun by claiming that God called/led them to do it. I’ve seen people claim that God had called them into a certain ministry/go to a certain Bible college/join a certain church/etc., only to claim some months later that God had called them to another ministry (or none at all)/to leave the Bible college/to leave the church/etc. In every case, as long as they said that it was God’s calling/leading, they were above being questioned and counseled by others. (I myself have been guilty of these very things!)

    Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) states that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” We humans have innately depraved, idolatrous hearts, fully capable of deceiving both ourselves and others. Yes, I do believe that God does sovereignly work, saving and sanctifying His elect, for the sake of His own glory. And yes, I believe that we can look BACK on our lives, and see how God has led us. (Personally, it was while attending the Arminian college that I had felt ‘led’ to attend, that I became Reformed, and looking back I can praise God for using those and other circumstances to sanctify me.) However, I have a very difficult time believing that anyone can authoritatively claim the leading of God beforehand.

  14. Great comment Amanda. I also came out of the same environment that Erik describes. Folks were always using the phrase that God had led them to do this ministry or buy this house. The way of affirming this behavior was to state that if you think that God told you to do something and it did not line up with scripture then it probably wasn’t God. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Maybe it was just my deceitful heart. That reasoning always seemed a bit confusing to me. What did they mean did it line up with scripture? I certainly know that God does not tell me to buy this house or that one through His scripture, so what did that mean. I have since come to believe that God, through His divine power, has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3) How is the true knowledge of God known? I think we would all agree that it is revealed through His word. It used to always concern me when someone would say that God had spoken to them or God had led them to do a certain thing. Why would God speak to them and not me? Does he have a more direct connection to God than I do. You can just imagine how easy this line of theology can lead to pride. Quite frankly if you are consistently reading His word and meditating on it then your life’s pattern will reflect God’s will because His word with the Holy Spirit has the awesome power to influence.

  15. Well obviously I would agree with both of you Amanda and Barry. We do not want to deny that God leads, for he does, but what is at issue is this subjective stamp of divine approval or inspiration over all of these things. What it really ends up doing us mitigating personal responsibility and dumping the blame on God (if you are consistent).

    I usually do not have a peace about doing evangelism, or admonishing a brother, or preaching for that matter. Frankly my stomach is in knots! However, I am convinced by the word of God that these things are right so I must do them.

    To reiterate my disposition throughout, I am not trivializing or characterizing those in the Reformed Charismatic camp. My bulls eye in this thread is more on the contemporary pop evangelical movement at large as promoted on stations like K-LOVE or bookstores and pulpits across the country.

  16. Erik,

    Listened to some of your preaching today, very edifying! How would you deal with 1 Corinthians 1:7 cf. 13:8?

    Barry,

    You said, “Why would God speak to them and not me?” Are you are saying that because your experience does not support it, it must be false? Or that if it were true, you would have it? Just because people can abuse a gift and become prideful doesn’t mean you reject the gift. According to 1 Corinthians 8:1, “‘knowledge’ puffs up”, but we wouldn’t reject knowledge as a whole. Nor would we reject Calvinism simply because a lot of young Calvinist are pridful about it. The Corinthians were pridful about their gifts, but Paul didn’t reject them, he corrected them on how to use them.

    Hearing from God does not mean you are spiritual. The Corinthians seemed to have more gifts than any other church, however, they also seemed to have the most moral problems as well. I am not saying that God speaks through immoral people as a general rule; I am just saying that when God speaks to someone it is not a sign of how mature or spiritual they are. The condition for hearing God is not that you’re more sanctified than someone who hasn’t heard from God.

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  17. Wow, this was not what I expected. While I think I know the error that you are addressing, almost an “every man doing that which is right in his own eyes” theology, I certainly do not think it strange to say that God led me to do something or hear someone else say it. Scripture is sufficient, and if I have hidden God’s Word in my heart, and He brings His words to my mind in a particular situation, and I act upon it, then isn’t He leading me? Not by some personal revelation, but by His voice revealed to us in the Bible. That is how I would interpret such a comment.

    I was also caught off guard by your seemingly negative concept of Blackaby’s Experiencing God. I’ll have to go back and reread it now. I went through a good portion of that Bible study ten years ago when I was in college, and it actually helped to refocus my mind and heart on God and His Word (it was a little too focused on the wonderful young man that I would soon marry).

    And I’d love to see you tackle the “gifts” topic. Personally, I fall into a middle category at the moment. I believe that the sign gifts are at best, second rate gifts, which in America, at least, are rarely practiced biblically (assuming that they are for this time at all). How often are there interpreters, for example? But perhaps God still works through them where people don’t have access to the Scriptures (China) or where the gospel is a completely new concept (a tribal culture). I never grew up around tongues, or “healings” as such, but I have a dear friend who’s father is a very godly man. He was a missonary out in the bush, and people were healed of very visible problems. He did not heal them, only once was he actually present to see it, but he prayed for them, and God healed them and He received the glory for it. My own mother had a vertabrae in her back that was completely flattened as the result of a car accident, we prayed, and God healed her. The doctor was astounded. He was sure that he would have to do surgery; bones do not spontaneously revert back to a normal shape. I find it odd that people are so willing to ask God to heal them of cancer, and praise Him for doing this when their next bloodwork panel comes back clean, but would never dream of asking Him to heal a visible wound. Am I the only one who finds this strange? I don’t have intelligent answers at this point, only questions.

  18. Alicia: i am negative on the Blackaby study. He made it seem as though if you were not having “Moses-like” experiences you were abnormal. The things that happened to Moses are not normative throughout redemptive history (as revealed in Scripture). I am in no way trying to minimize the Holy Spirit or his activity, but rather just trying properly understand this ministry and respond rightly.

    Matt: thanks for the encouragement regarding preaching. edification is exactly what i was aiming for < >

    OK, regarding your question on 1 Cor 1? I notice that you reference 13.8 as well. That does show your hand a bit hey? Many non-cessationists due see a correlation between the two, many cessationists do not.

    A couple of reasons why I don’t think this is relating to the spiritual gifts of ch.12-14:

    Paul also uses charismati (gift) in other places to refer to non-spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 7.7; 2 Cor. 1.11; see also Rom. 5.15, 6.23). It seems that Paul’s emphasis here in the first chapter is redemptive rather than miracoulous. There are even good continuationists who would agree with this view (and I am not referring to the one’s who are in heaven with perfect theology now :?| )

    I don’t think you can conclusively prove from 1 Cor. 1 that these spectacular gifts will continue until the return of Christ without injecting your theological presuppositions from passages like 1 Cor. 13.8.

    The passage seems to serve mainly to encourage believers of the the sufficiency of grace and their need to depend and persevere with confidence knowing that God will not leave them lacking, even till Christ’s return.

    It is interesting that the Father & Son are referenced in this passage, the Holy Spirit is curiously absent.

    Thanks–encouraging to work through–

    erik

  19. Matt,

    Thanks for the discussion. I would not say that something is untrue just because I have not experienced it. Nor would I say that because I experienced it that it must be true. I know that my heart can be deceitful. I think the whole issue may be surrounding the use of the word “speak”.

    When believers are faced with a certain decision we should first consider the moral implications of the decision. Does it go against your biblical obligation to obey God and His commands? Secondly, we should exercise biblical wisdom. I believe that biblical wisdom comes from a diligent study of scripture and from seeking godly counsel. I believe if the bible is silent about your decision and one option, and one option is not clearly wiser than another, then we are free to choose as we desire. But if we put this last one above the others we really encounter biblical problems. I have been reading about Benny Hinn and some of those like him and they behave just this way. They put the authority of their experiences and desires above what the scriptures say.

    We understand that the Spirit of God directs us through God’s word and it is quite possible this is the essence of what people refer to as God “speak”. But as for an audible word from God, again I believe that scripture is clear that we already have everything we need for life and godliness.

    Kudos go out to “Grace To You”, “Issues and Answers” to help me articulate some of my points.

  20. Erik,

    So what is 1 Corithians 13:8 referring to when it says “when the perfect comes” if it is not Christ coming back or glory itself? So even if 1 Corinthians 1:7 wasn’t speaking of the gifts of prophesy etc… you still have to deal with 1 Corinthians 13.

    Barry,

    Please don’t bring Benny Hinn up as if I am in the same boat with him, he is a heretic. See what Grudem or Carson says, but not him. It is easy to shoot down Benny Hinn.

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  21. Matt,

    Sorry. You are right, Hinn is an easy target and I agree a heretic. Please forgive. I was not comparing what you’ve said to anything like BH. I was just using him for a point. Extreme as it is.

    I do appreciate the dialog.

    Rock On!

  22. Erik,
    show me where the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit guides only through scripture. I’ll admit, this topic took me somewhat off-guard. I had never heard of people believing that the spiritual gifts had ceased to exist.

    Perhaps it has ceased to exist in the theologies that don’t believe they exist, but I can cite several instances in my own experience where there is absolutely no question that it was a gift from God that led to healing, prophecy, and tongues. if you would like the stories, I would be happy to relate them, but it would be quite a long response if I did. Let me know. One of them even includes a televangelist who heals. Until I heard this testimony, I would have shunned this idea and claimed that this pastor had things set up with actors and people ready to “perform” their roles to make the pastor look good. However, after hearing this story, I can’t deny that God was in it and this pastor was led by God. I may be able to get a recording of the actual testimony of the people involved if you would like. They are close personal friends of mine and I am 100% sure they speak the truth. They even have medical documents and doctors’ reports to show the miracle. I know you wouldn’t deny that God performs miracles, but that people have been given the gift of healing. It was evident that this pastor has the gift of healing. The same is true with the other examples I have experienced.

    With regards to 1 Cor 13:8 – has perfection come? Has knowledge passed away? Did Paul ever come to know fully even as he is fully known? These are all things that must have come to pass if you believe that the gifts of the spirit no longer continue.

    Two days ago, I watched a news report about a man who crash landed his small plane on a road in a housing development. He missed all electrical wires, all houses, all cars, and came away without a scratch or damage to anyone elses property. When they interviewed him he said, what can I tell you? It was only the heavenly father and the Holy spirit that I have to thank for my safe landing. As sure as I am standing before you now, the Holy spirit showed me this road and told me that I was supposed to land on it.

    Did he somehow look to his inner self, found the answer and become decieved that it was the Holy spirit guiding him? Should he have refrained from saying that publicly because he might be presuming too much of the Holy Spirit? As I said in my last response, it certainly seems like this is limiting the sovereignty of God. That just doesn’t seem to fit your character or the character of the Reformed theology.

  23. Matt: I hold that 13.8 is referring to entering into the presence of Christ. I find this tenable based upon the reference to seeing “face to face”, so this perfect becomes essential glorification. (cf also 1 Jn. 3.3). When we die partial knowledge becomes full knowledge and blurry vision becomes full sight.

    JG: I do not believe that all spiritual gifts have ceased, just that tongues, miracles and prophecy have. In other words, the so called miracleous gifts. I appreciate your passion and zeal for what you wrote, but understand I can write just as long as to why I believe in my experience that the gifts have ceased. At the end of the day it is our individual experiential authority up against eachother…which really does not carry the day, frankly. Instead, I believe exegetically or scripturally, one may hold the cessationist view. But please understand, and I do not say it to be mean, but experience does not trump scripture.

    I remind you that this post is not even about the continuation of these gifts, but of the inward introspection for direction in the christian life and the affirmation of these personal impulses as authoritative for the believer.

    As a bi-product I am motivated to study the gifts and write on these as well…in due time.

    erik

  24. Erik,
    I can accept butting experience with experience. That is a simple rule of life. As far as scriptural basis, I don’t quite understand how you get what you do from 13:8. You can choose to explain or not. I know you are busy and I am not going to press you to spend your time explaining things to me when you have plenty of other important things to do. (no sarcasm there, I fully understand) As you said, the main point of the post was inward introspection. My disagreement there is that it is not inward introspection, but inward revelation through the moving of the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with our feelings or desires or rational, it has only to do with the moving of the Spirit in our hearts. Yes, our sinful self can decieve us, but as you said in your “called to be a pastor” post, pray, pray, pray, pray, and seek affirmation from Godly people. Just like any aspect of Christianity, there will be those that claim this or that who really don’t know what they are talking about or are trying to decieve, but that is not limited to inward introspection, it is inclusive of just about every aspect of Christianity. I think you did a wonderful job of explaining how to affirm a true calling and those same principles apply to the inward moving of the Spirit. If I simply looked to my inner being for all my answers, I could go anywhere I want, do whatever I want, and be whoever I want to be and justify it all by “the Lord told me so.” Just because this, unfortunately, does happen doesn’t mean that there isn’t true guidance of the heart by God. Just like the fact that there are those who claim to be Christian who really aren’t doesn’t mean that there aren’t true Christians.

    Again, I don’t want to butt experiences with you, but I can assure you, I have experienced God’s guidance upon my heart without having a scripture pop into my head to lead it off and it led me nowhere near where I “desired” to go or do anything that I “desired” to do. Yet, when I obeyed, God’s plan was evident and there is no way my desires would have ever led me to that point. I sincerely do find it interesting that this kind of belief is held by a theology that believes so strongly in God’s absolute and unparalled sovereignty.

  25. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, “8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

    I think your view of this passage ignores the universal tone of what Paul is saying. Paul doesn’t say, “Your prophesying will be no more” he says “As for PROPHECIES, THEY will pass away.” He says, “as for TONGUES, THEY will cease”. Again, “as for KNOWLEDGE, IT will pass away.” He says, “as for PROPHECIES, THEY…” and not “As for your prophecies…” The whole tone is that these things will cease in the universal church as a whole.

    To say that, “but when the perfect comes” refers to “when death comes and we go to heaven” sounds odd. We die individually, not corporately. We go to heaven; heaven does not come to us. However, Christ when He returns will be coming to us and it will be corporate. We don’t receive our resurrection bodies until Christ comes back, surly things won’t be perfect if we don’t have our resurrection bodies yet. Romans 8:23, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

    In verse 11 Paul uses an illustration about himself, but the rest of this passage speaks corporately. I am not aware if your position is historical, is it? I know men on your side of the issue that would agree with my interpretation but reject my conclusions.

    In Christ,
    matt

  26. Matt,

    It is strange to consider being ‘imperfect’ while standing in the present of the perfect lamb (2 Cor. 5.7-8).

    erik

  27. Erik,

    Is your position historical? If no one else in church history has held to that position, there is probably a reason.

    I am balancing those 2 truths. Yes, it is better to be away from the body and present with the Lord. But it is perfect to be present with the Lord AND have your new body!

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  28. Matt,

    While church history is helpful in affirming us it should not be the ultimate determination of doctrine. So even if no one in church history agreed with me and I was convinced before God that this was true, I would maintain my view.

    With this said, it is not out of left field. One of the leading cessationists, Thomas Edgar holds this view. You may want to jump over to Pulpit where Nathan Busenitz has done a terrific job (in my view) walking through the relative issues. I happen to agree with Nathan on most of what he wrote.

    As an aside, do you think you need a perfect body in heaven prior to being perfect? Are the saints now encircled ’round the Savior imperfect?

    And Matt, evangelical mystic to this discussion is a bit of a detour. I intend to thoroughly work through the issue of gifts this spring/summer. But even then, I am not inclined towards long drawn out debates over these things.

    We had talked before about the tracts. If you have not seen, they are available for free download now.

    ::erik

  29. Hey Erik,

    I agree, church history is not ultimate, but it can be very helpful.

    Are they perfect as in sinless? Yes. Are they perfect as in nothing has gone wrong? Yes. Are they perfect in the sense that they have everything that Christ purchased for them? No, not if Christ purchased resurrection bodies for them and they don’t have them yet. Romans 8:23, “we… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for… the redemption of our bodies.” I won’t draw this out anymore than that… ;)

    In Christ,
    matt haney

  30. I agree with Matt. I don’t believe GOD speaks or directs only those with experience. I believe he has directed me(I did ask for it) and afterwards I have and am being tempted to be led astray from that which I am suppose to do with my life work. I am sure I am no where as accomplished in scripture or religous philosophy as any of you here. God be with you ,Linda

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