Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Gospel of Words and NOT Power?

"Word" and "Spirit" - "Charismatic Experience" and "Reformed Doctrine" ... familiar words?

Early this morning I was provoked by a quote of Bill Johnson's about the possibility of separating power and order in the ministry of apostles. This theme seems to be occuring again and again in the Christian world at the moment and I am at a loss to understand why - and more importantly what we can do about it. You can't deny it is a present tension. Terry Virgo sparked it off recently again ending a blog post talking about inviting Mark Driscoll to be the main speaker at Brighton by saying;

"It seems very good to me, therefore, having had Rob with us for the last two years, now to welcome Mark Driscoll whose emphasis on the Word of God will do us enormous good. That is not to say, of course, that either of these men represents a stance of exclusively Word or Spirit, but I guess you know what I mean".

Well ... no I don't really know what he means. I think I know what he is trying to say but I wouldn't place bets upon it. Is Terry suggesting that Rob Rufus carries more emphasis on the Spirit of God whereas Mark's "emphasis on the Word of God will do us enormous good"? Suggesting that for the last two years we have been missing out on an emphasis on the Word of God? We can only speculate. But I digress. My heart for this post was prompted by the launch of yes ... yet another blog. C J Mahaney has joined the blogging world (HT: Between Two Worlds) and he advertises his blog as;

"C.J. Mahaney's view from the cheap seats".

His first post is typical Mahaney in stating; "I think you can anticipate a disproportionate number of posts on one topic, “Christ and him crucified”. But it was an avid Mahaney-fan who brought this whole tension of Word and Spirit to my mind. Peter Cockrell writes about Mahaney's declaration;

"Without a doubt, in recent months, I have become more concerned about gospel issues than charismatic ones".

It sounds quite applaudable doesn't it? But there is the tension again it seems to me. "Gospel" rather than "Charismatic". 2 years of "Spirit" now "an emphasis on the Word of God doing us tremendous good". And of course Peter Cockrell is quite welcome to his views about his hero but I was listening to a Rob Rufus sermon in the shower and he quoted 1 Corinthians 4:20;

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power".

Where am I going with this? Surprisingly (for me) it leads back to the Cross. Julie wrote a wonderful post on; "Should We Be Cross Centered?" and commented that we are in danger in "never moving beyond the Cross" in turning the Cross itself (i.e the two pieces of rough wood) into an entity in and of itself in the same way that the Israelites did with their snake pole. She summed up; "We can end up putting our focus on the means of salvation rather than the person who saved us". I think that is spot on. Rather than speaking of a Living Person, we are speaking of a dead icon. Rather than drawing on power from an empty Cross and an empty tomb, we are reflecting emotionally on an event ("The Father killed Jesus") that occured 2, 000 years ago.

The best - absolute best - worship song that sums up the correct balance for viewing the Cross is a wonderful song from Hillsongs;

"Now ALL I know - Your forgiveness and EMBRACE! ... Worthy is the Lamb SEATED on the Throne!". The Cross must lead us into first and foremost a recognition that it was love that constrained Him to go to Calvary and the end of that is that we enter into full intimacy with Him! The Cross should lead us to worship the Reigning One! "For the joy set before Him - He endured the Cross".

Is this all semantics? Are we arguing about simply terminology? No I think Julie makes the important point that our use of words actually matters. "We are not helping people to understand these doctrines well but are deceiving them into thinking that knowing the right terminology means they have adequate understanding and are well-taught". But even more importantly than this - I think there are practical dynamic implications for separating what should never be separated.

Julian Adams said; "Our expectation is God's invitation and what you expect is what you will get". Rob Rufus said; "Don't you know that your attitude governs your altitude?". In other words if your expectation - if your attitude is limited to a memory of a historical event and your Christianity is shaped around two pieces of wood then your Christian life will be shaped by that (even if your doctrine sounds orthodox).

But if your expectation and your attitude is that all heavenly power and life flows from the empty Cross and the empty tomb through the Person of the Holy Spirit then we will surely be equipped to change the world. Let me close by quoting Doctor Lloyd-Jones (a "Word" man surely if there was ever one?!);

"Orthodoxy is absolutely essential. But orthodoxy alone is not enough. A church can be perfectly orthodox and perfectly useless. The Apostolic message was orthodox but there was something else. Our Gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance ... you see the Apostle always relied on the power of the Holy Spirit".


jul said...

wow Dan, great post up until that link. the guy 'assisting' c.j. with the blog is actually one of the rudest bloggers I've ever met, we had a little comment conversation on his other blog a while back (he actually shut down the comments on that thread thereby getting the last word !), the kind where you get that sinking condemnation feeling when you read the response back to you. I think it was mostly because I'm just a woman though, Aaron didn't seem to get quite as belitting a response. interesting anyway.

jul said...

I just went back and reviewed the exchange between myself and that other guy. He wasn't that rude, more condescending, except I think it was rude to end the comments with him having the last word lol. It was over the doctrine of indwelling sin, so you can imagine I hit a sore spot with my thoughts...

Dan Bowen said...

That's really sad to hear Julie - I am finding the "patronising" approach is happening more and more when orthodoxy and traditional evangelical views are being challenged. For example a couple of bloggers knew me when I was a small boy back in Dunstable and they still continue to refer to me as "Daniel" (NO ONE calls me that anymore apart from my old pastor Stanley Jebb) and they tell me that I will "grow up one day".

I still can't get my head around this thing about ending comments when things are getting a bit much. Fortunately I don't even know how to do that on this blog so there is no danger of that even if angry anonymous gentleman gets a bit heated!! ;)

Well you know that your thoughts are the most welcome here. I hugely value your opinions and your comments and I love hearing your feedback on my random thoughts! Don't let chauvinistic men get you down - they are unbiblical.

James B said...

Julie what's the link to that exchange between you and the rude PA to Mahaney about "Indwelling Sin"? I've just read Ryan Rufus's book and I am trying to hear from the "other side" about just why they think we have got indwelling sin so would be interested to read what they have to say.

jul said...

You can let me know what you think, but to be quite honest, there's no real biblical defense for the doctrine given, they act like none is needed as if it were a basic indisputable doctrine .

James B said...

This PA to Mahaney (whatever his name is - Spurgeon or whatever) says;

"the active “law” of sin remains and Scripture makes this clear"

"Indwelling sin remains, though, which explains why our ontological self needs continued renewal".

"Read it, Julie, for the sake of your soul".

How UTTERLY arrogant!! :( I read the whole post and the comments and he took the typical reformed evangelical "thing" of immersing himself in "theological" arguments and yet refusing to listen to questions, and then when the questions got a bit too close to home, he got patronising and then shut the comments down.

I'm not impressed. At all. And like you said Julie, he acts (like many of them) as though it was a basic indisputable doctrine. How sad. What a lack of the understanding of grace.

PS: And like Dan said, how DO they learn to close their comment forums!? Just at the right time!?!?

diane (sgm pastors wifey) said...

I've followed the link too ... so we're back on "indwelling sin". *sigggghhh*. I don't get it. I really don't get it. People who are meant to trumpet the power and finality of the Cross still angrily argue for an alive, evil, writhing "thing" called "indwelling sin" within this temple of the Holy Spirit ... somewhere.

Btw where is "it" exactly? In our heads? In our hearts? Somewhere that the power of the empty Cross couldn't ... go? Somewhere the living powerful Holy Spirit of glory can't reach? Somewhere that can only be reached by our mortification and "effort"?

Explain ... oh reformed ones. ;)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments. I could have (and should have) spent more time developing my thoughts and researched the issues more clearly. But as you will note I made it clear at the beginning I did not have time to discuss the topic in detail (comment #9). My blog readers will recall how busy conference times can become and that week I was preping to leave. As you can see in the comments, some commentors did not respect this and continued pursuing this question until I eventually had to close the thread. I don't think making personal assumptions about my character from this one post is warranted. As one who is charismatic and reformed I would not consider myself falling into the theological status quo. With a degree in Liberal Arts from a secular university I not only welcome challenges to my thinking but find myself grown by those challenges. I should have taken more time to carefully reflect and research the topics at hand. I ask forgiveness if it reads as though condescending or angry. Thank you for your correctives, they are welcomed and helpful.

Blessings in Christ,

The Shepherd's Scrapbook

diane (Sgm pastors wifey) said...

Thnx for that comment Tony, I apologise if I was making assumptions about your character. I hate that part of blogging that everything comes across a lot harsher in type than it would do face to face. You demonstrate a real humility and bravery to leave that comment and I for one appreciate it.

I think the issue of "indwelling sin" is a big one and an important one and clearly there are strong feelings on both sides. Which isn't a bad thing I guess!

I see from your blog you are quite well-read and so it will be good to see any more fruits of your research.

Thnx again - I stand corrected.

James B said...

"While confronting many obvious and blatant sins in culture – abortion, corporate corruption, homosexuality, bullying and physical abuse – the Church frequently misses the sins running rampant within its walls".

Okay cooling off from the "indwelling sin" thing - I read the book review on the "Spurgeon" chap's blog a bit more closely and I can see some points in what the book is actually dealing with. The Church does STILL jump around a lot and get angry and heated about the more obvious sins such as homosexuality (ref: Teg Haggard and Mark Driscoll). But pride and things like that run rampant and unhindered.

So yes - this issue does need to be dealt with. BUT the question is - is that indwelling sin? Or is it just a failure to truly grasp the wondrous position that the Cross of Jesus Christ put us in? That when He said "It is finished" - we are still sitting in Paul's dungeon with the door wide open and the chains off refusing to stare at the angel but look at the dirty floor bemoaning our state?

The Puritans may be men "of whom the world was not worthy" but they were still only men and their revelation was still limited. Maybe there is more we have yet to see?

Anonymous said...

I do look forward to addressing this topic more carefully at a later time. I'm thankful we can all rejoice in the grace of God that has broken our bondage to sin. However we want to define it, that's an amazing work of grace I don't deserve. What a Cross! What a Savior! Transforming idolatrous, God-despisers into heaven-seeking, Christ-lovers. Let's never take our focus off this grace!

Blessings, everyone,


Dan Bowen said...

Hi Tony, thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. I love what you said that we can all rejoice in the amazing work of grace that we don't deserve - the grace that has broken our bondage to sin!

There's power!

And as you said such a reflection HAS to end in utter worship and praise. As that beautiful Hillsongs song expresses it; "Worthy is the Lamb!". There's no intention of taking our focus off this grace - not on this website!

Thanks again for dropping by.

James B said...

That being said, let's not just limit the power to the gospel itself. I know and am rather cautious that the mantra of most evangelicals (maybe like our visitor Tony) would say that the "greatest miracle is salvation". This is true but it actually becomes an excuse for downplaying the Person and role and ministry of the Holy Spirit - to break into people's lives and to see signs and wonders happen and to see demons driven out and to see non-believers come into church and fall down on their knees and declare "Truly God IS among you!!".

But they declare that NOT at the preaching! But at the prophesying! Preaching may come from a theological textbook and some study. Prophesying that causes unbelievers to fall down and declare God is among the gathered body ONLY can come from the Holy Spirit manifesting in power.

Hold fast to that please!! Don't abandon that!

jul said...

Tony, at the time I must have missed that part of your comment # 9 ( I was not trying to be disrespectful as you insinuated) , it may have been helpful if you had repeated that sentiment in your final comment, explaining why you shut down your comments on that post. It was nice of you to come on and apologize for my misunderstanding your comments as being condescending. Congratulations on your new blogging endeavor!

Dan Bowen said...

Worry not James, that aspect of the "and power" was PRECISELY what I (and I think the apostle Paul) was trying to get at in this blog! (Until the comments got distracted by the "indwelling sin" thing). I think we have neglected that aspect in our true gospel preaching.

How many preachers of the Gospel today can say honestly and I mean HONESTLY that signs and wonders accompany their preaching? How many preachers can today say honestly that they preach with "not words only but with power?" More importantly how many preachers are willing to be honest and admit that power doesn't accompany their preaching as yet but they are hungering after it?

THAT'S what I was trying to get at! I stand by Terry Virgo's original bemoaning (even if he doesn't stand by it anymore) - that I am not prepared to settle for Word or for Spirit - for Reformed Doctrine or for Charismatic Experience (and I mean more than just a tongue and a few prophecies - I mean the FULL cloud of glory!!). I want them ...


jul said...

And the fog of glory!!

Diane (Sgm pastors wifey) said...

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL worship video - I found myself transfixed by Darlene Zschech's face as she exalted the living and reigining Son of God. I believe Hillsongs are one of the most anointed, Spirit-filled worship groups around at the moment in the world today. And I love having them playing in my empty house as I do the housework!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

"The most anointed Spirit-filled worship group"? Well what about Bob Kauflin and his wonderful new hymns? Surely the true anointing comes on the true theology. Hillsongs are renowned for having health and wealth prosperity doctrine and surely the roots make the fruit bad. I'd prefer to remain with a man worship leader who is rooted in doctrine.

Dan Bowen said...

Well "anonymous" you need to hear Terry Virgo's quote as you seem to like going to hear him.

"You don't get points for getting it "right" ... if we are "right" then we should be doing it better!".

The question is not about whether the worship leader is a man or a woman - that is ridiculous. The question is are the worshippers worshipping? The question is are the people of God coming into an ACTIVE, MANIFEST encounter with the living Father and lover of their souls? The question is are they leaving the corporate gathering of God's people having met Him and having had their lives changed by that encounter.

I can't speak for Bob Kaulfin because I've only been under his worship leading once at Celebration UK. I'm sure he has a heart for God. But I fear the day when doctrine and orthodoxy replace encounter.

Anonymous said...

What concerns me most about the talk that is going on this blog (and others) is the craze for experientialism. We "MUST ENCOUNTER GOD". The root of all experientialism is the pietistic pampering of the "inner man". Such beliefs historically lead into the excesses of things like Montanism and a craving for the personal, direct, physical experience of God Himself as a confirmatory aid to belief. In other words - I won't believe unless He touches me. Rodney H-B actually said that.

The seriousness of this aberration from Christian orthodoxy cannot be understated because in our day it has become the frontline in the battle against our greatest enemy. In essence this experientialism that is being put forward here is no different from liberal modernism. Liberalism and experientialism are both a departure from orthodox faith and belief.

Both are the natural children of man-centred Arminian theology and yet ironically the writer of this blog (forgive me - it's now writer-s isn't it) claim to be Calvinist.

I plead with you for the good of your souls - consider where you are going. Your desires are drifting away from THE inspired Word of God and into experience and subjectivism and you are in danger of being deceived.

Peter Day said...

Thank you for your comments and concern, anonymous. Sadly, I think you may have missed the whole heart of this post. It is not against orthodoxy, but a plea for orthodoxy AND encounter. Dan closed with this quote from Dr Lloyd-Jones:

"Orthodoxy is absolutely essential. But orthodoxy alone is not enough. A church can be perfectly orthodox and perfectly useless. The Apostolic message was orthodox but there was something else. Our Gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance ... you see the Apostle always relied on the power of the Holy Spirit".

You may remember a number of months ago raising the issue of "experientialism" as you call it. In my reply, I pointed to a number of scriptures (yes, from THE inspired Word of God) which spoke of experiencing God, and a desperate hungering and thirsting after His glorious presence.

Now, it is important to discern between "experientialism" and Holy Spirit experience. Yes, there are those (and I have met them and sought to minister to them) who say "just give me an experience, any experience", whether it is Holy Spirit or something else doesn't really matter to them. That is potentially dangerous, I agree; although I question whether the God of grace who has sovereignly placed us into Christ will leave the genuinely hungry soul to get lost in demonic counterfeit experience if they are seeking after Him and Him alone.

But, yes, I accept there is such a thing as "experientialism". However, there is such a thing as experience. In fact, such experience has its foundation in sound theology. A true grasp of the gospel, which sees the curtain of the temple as torn in two, is the foundation of pressing in with hunger into the presence of God Himself. The curtain IS open. We are told "let us draw near." If we are truly drawing near to the God of the universe, then how can there not be experience?

Yes, we must have sound doctrine, but we must not ONLY have sound doctrine. Sound doctrine that sits in our head and puffs us up concerning our knowledge will do nothing.

Sound doctrine that liberates us from bondage to legalism, gives us a greater love for Him because of what He has done, stirs us to pursue and experience God, empassions us to preach the good news to all creation, encourages us to believe that God will attend His Word with signs and wonders...

This kind of Word AND power transforms us, and transforms those around us. That is the kind of orthodoxy this blog is seeking to promote: Truth and experience of the Truth Himself; doctrine and the power of the Author of the doctrine; true understanding and true Holy Spirit unction; grace and glory. That, surely, is Biblical orthodoxy.

jul said...

anonymous are you married? I just have to say, if a married person is happy to never actually touch or have physical intimacy with their spouse, it is not a 'maturity' of love to be applauded, but a lack of love altogether. God wants us to want to experience him, if you don't want that, I would question whether you know him or love him at all. Christianity is not an intellectual exercise, but a real experientally intimate relationship with our Creator. It seems you would have had a problem with Adam walking with God in the Garden and would rather live in relationship with the Law than with God himself.

Chris said...

A safer view of ministries has been stated by Ed Miller who helped father the 50s Argentine breakthrough, and various subsequent moves. He talks of them as taxi drivers.Taxi drivers to the throne of God. Once they have done their task, they actually have less relevance. The end goal of ministry being to reproduce Christ in others.

Anonymous said...

Yes "Jul" I am married.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Chris that is a really helpful view of ministries that I haven't really considered before. "Taxi drivers" to the throne. I like it. Lots. The suggestion then (although you didn't say it) is that it is healthy and fitting for ministries once they have completed their God-given task to step aside and fade into other duties, maybe not so prominent. And then as you say - allow other ministries to step forward and continue leading.

It is an incredibly wise and experienced and brave man I think who can walk in intimacy with God so much that he knows when he has had his time in the limelight and it is now time to walk with God behind the scenes. Such is the "heady wine" of conference platforms and prominence.

Maybe if more ministries could grasp that concept then spiritual casualties would be less.

Anonymous said...

Re: Peter Cockrell, I've followed the links and am a bit disturbed by his adherence to quoting C J Mahaney over the Word of God. I don't know him or his background but he clearly is an avid fan. A bit too avid maybe.

Dan Bowen said...

"Anonymous" (I am guessing different anonymous from one above) - Peter Cockrell was actually assistant pastor to Dr Stanley Jebb my first senior pastor. He was trained to degree level in theology and so certainly knows the value of the Bible. But I haven't really heard his preaching for some years now. It's an interesting point. We all have heroes in the faith, but when do we become guilty of honouring their interpretation of the Word over the Word itself?

Anonymous said...

Thank you. No I am not the same anonymous. ROFL. I am quite a happy person.

Jim B.