A House Divided

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris

image

Pastor Robert Morris adds to growing library of works about the often misunderstood and sometimes forgotten third member of the Holy Trinity. This book is his attempt to clear away some of the mystery and confusion that surrounds God in this person.  This volume succeeds wildly on one level, but struggles to find its footing on another.

The first half of the book having to do with the reality of the Holy Spirit and His work is a good addition to the growing attention the Spirit is receiving. It is scriptural and doctrinal, and does a superior job of presenting the reality of the Spirit to a church that is desperately in need of an outpouring of the Spirit’s power. In addition to the fine explication, Morris applies the truths to our daily lives in way that makes us desire more and more of the Spirit.

Sadly, the second part of the book doesn’t hold up the expectations set out in the first. After adhering close to the Evangelical median in his discussion of the reality and work of the Spirit, Morris tips into a scattered series of chapters about separate Baptisms in the Spirit and the miraculous gifts. An extensive presentation of these topics is beneficial to have, but the way in which the author strikes, fires off an anecdote and then moves on is less than satisfying.

Inconsistency aside, The God I Never Knew can serve as a fine introduction to the Spirit or a reminder of the power that He brings to the believer. Some will find the theological diversions unnerving, but understanding the doctrines contributes to the growth of all Christians.

I’m grateful to WaterBrook press who supplied this copy for review.

Advertisements

MacArthur on Baptism in the Holy Spirit

image John MacArthur examines the Charismatic sects of the Church in his book Charismatic Chaos. His well reasoned critique is an indictment of a a faith based upon experience when that experience supersedes the Bible. As I have examined in a series of posts on this topic, at the core of Charismatic belief is the Doctrine of Subsequence (Fee), the second event that follows salvation in which the Holy Spirit is received. This doctrine is constructed around the event recorded in Acts 2:4: (1-4 included for context)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The Charismatic believes that this post-salvation experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit is a mark of spiritual maturity. When the Christian is lacking this experience, they are immature, carnal, disobedient, or otherwise incomplete. The danger in this approach, MacArthur says, is that it opens the door to the expectation of continued experience. He denies the validity of Subsequence, primarily because of its reliance on a very narrow interpretation of Scripture that does not consider passages that refute the position.

MacArthur begins by saying that doctrine constructed around the experiences in the book of Acts should at least be consistent throughout that single book. Subsequence as seen in chapter two should be witnessed in each recorded instance of baptism but this does not appear to be the case. In Acts 2 and 8, there appears to be subsequence. In chapters 10 and 19 however, the filling of the Holy Spirit accompanies salvation immediately. A secondary component of the Subsequence doctrine is that the Christian is to be earnestly seeking this second baptism. The scriptures in Acts do not support this expectation. In chapter two, the believers were simply waiting for their next move and in chapters 8, 10, and 19, no one is looking for the baptism. On this brief examination alone, MacArthur points out that the book most closely associated with the idea of subsequence does not provide the consistent pattern necessary to build a Christian doctrine.

It’s important to note that MacArthur is not denying the singular experiences of Acts and other books of scripture. The theological construct that applies to proper exegesis of these events is to view them in light of the transitional nature of the period. There was an overlap in the periods between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and (MacArthur says) “Although the disciples knew and trusted Christ, there were still Old Testament believers. They could not have understood or experienced the Spirit’s permanent indwelling until the arrival of the Spirit at Pentecost.” (pg 177) In other words, markers defining transition served a specific, one time need in the establishment of the faith. MacArthur points out that this one time event is not meant to be translated as normative for all Christians.

Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part Three

(Part Two Here)

In this final post examining how John Stott and Howard Ervin contrast the different doctrines of Spirit Baptism, our attention turns to the idea of being filled with the spirit. The question at hand is whether this is a single event or series of fillings. Stott conservatively separates the baptismal event and subsequent episodes of being filled with the spirit.  As stated in my second posting, Stott does not hear Scripture speaking of a secondary Baptism but he does take an interesting stance on the fullness of the Spirit when he says “that this gift needs to be continuously and increasingly appropriated.” He sees this infilling taking three forms. First, the normal condition of the Christian is to be “filled” with the Spirit (ie: Acts 11:24). The second form is a unique to an event or ministry. As an example, we are pointed to John the Baptist who was “filled with the Holy Spirit” in advance of his prophetic ministry. Similarly, in advance of Paul’s ascension to apostolic office (Acts 9:17) Ananias prays for him to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The third form of infilling, according to Stott, is a more temporal filling unique to an immediate task or emergency. Zechariah was filled prior to prophecy and Stephen prior to his martyrdom.

Dr. Ervin’s Pentecostal position is much easier to enumerate as he associates the full infilling with the Spirit Baptism. Viewing them as inseparable, he posits that for subsequent infilling events to occur, one must experience re-baptism, certainly a non-biblical notion. We must be mindful that this doctrine is developed predominantly from within the Lukan corpus and lies at the heart of the Pentecostal position on Spirit Baptism. When he turns to the Pauline instance in Ephesians 5:18:

Do not get drunk on win, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ervin points out that the word for “be filled” is in the present tense, imperative mood, and passive voice. This leads the interpreter with a choice of a repeated action (be filled again and again) or a continuous action (be continuously filled with the Spirit). Good exegesis points us to the immediate context for guidance and in doing so we find a parallelism in the verse between the warning against getting drunk on wine and the encouragement rather, to be filled with the Spirit. The present imperative is used in the first component of the comparison (do not get drunk), consistent interpretation calls for the present imperative in the second half of the parallelism as well. As Ervin paraphrases the verse “Stop being habitually drunken with wine but be continuously filled with the Spirit.”

Conclusion

This is a secondary issue to a secondary doctrine but one that calls for greater consideration by all Christians. Brother Stott points our attention to John 7:37-39:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to received. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote of this passage “It has been said that there are some passages in Scripture which deserve to be printed in letters of gold.” The Lord refers to a ritual of the Feast in which water from the pool of Siloam was poured out in prescience of the coming of the Spirit and that Jesus would provide this water to all who thirsted and came to Him to be relieved. As we meditate on this passage we can see that the empowerment of the Spirit is directly tied to our penitent approach to the Lord. Not only that, but this living water will stream from us to others infusing our ministry with power. Whether the Christian views this as a fresh filling of the power of the Spirit or a further releasing of the pent up power within us, we do well to continue our repeated approaches to the throne so that the streams might flow into and out of us all.

Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part Two

(Part One here)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. [Acts 2:1-4]

At Pentecost, the disciples find themselves huddled together awaiting the gift that their Lord had promised to them. And come it did, with fire and the evidence of the newfound gift of tongues. The question for us, two thousand years later, is how we shall interpret this and other similar incidents recorded in the passages of scripture? Are they normative such that we should continue to expect their repetition or were they miraculous events that occurred once and should be understood as fulfilling a unique need at a moment in history? In the immediate context of the passage, the gift of speaking in foreign tongues served a timely purpose as the 12 were to communicate with the myriad peoples of many nations assembled in Jerusalem (vv 5-13). Peter and the other disciples stood before a crowd and associated the day with the prophesy of Joel:

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. [Joel 2:28-32]

Old Testament prophesy is seen by Peter as associated with the baptism of the Spirit spoken of by John the Baptist and Jesus. As he speaks to the crowd in vv 38, calling them to repent, he has in mind that they will receive the two incomparable gifts promised by the Lord, the forgiveness of sin and bestowal of the Holy Spirit.

Neither Stott nor Ervin disputes that these twin blessings are to be expected and greeted by the Christian. The question comes in the issue of subsequence; does the Spirit Baptism occur distinctly separate from the moment of conversion? Stott is among those who say no, that the Spirit indwells all believers as a step in the conversion event. He points to the plain reading of Acts 2:40-41 in which 3,000 blessed souls are saved, receiving the forgiveness and the indwelling of Spirit simultaneously. Exegetically, Stott is cautious in separating the unique experience of 120 and the believers who enter the kingdom subsequently. His hermeneutic framework does not find the narrative passages in Acts appropriate for deriving a doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that “it is a fundamental principle of biblical interpretation to begin with the general, not the special.” A more appropriate interpretive passage regarding the timing of the indwelling is seen in Galatians 3:14 “…by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” The context of the passage makes it clear that this “faith” is not a second, subsequent act of belief but the saving belief of conversion.

What of the two further incidents mentioned in Acts in which there appears to be a separation between conversion and Spirit indwelling? In Acts 8:5-17, one encounters the Samaritan believers, converted upon hearing the gospel from Philip the evangelist. With the exception of Simon the sorcerer, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the saving event of these believers except for the fact that these were Samaritans. Philip’s boldness in proclaiming the gospel in Samaria for the first time and the response of the people is nothing short of astonishing. Not only had Philip, a Jew, preached the gospel to the Samaritans despite the bitter rivalry that existed between the two peoples, they had accepted the word and believed! Here Stott poses an important question in understanding why Peter and John would need to make a trip to see these believers firsthand. “Is it not reasonable to suppose that it was precisely in order to avoid the development of such a situation (Jewish-Samaritan estrangement causing a schism in the new Church) that God deliberately withheld the gift of His Spirit from the Samaritan believers until two of the leading Apostles came down to investigate” and confirm the conversion by laying on of hands? The unique nature of this incident and the inability to repeat it makes this situation inappropriate as precedent for today in the development of doctrine.

The second incident is found in Acts 19:1-7 where we encounter the Ephesian disciples. The question that must be examined in this context is whether or not the ‘disciples’ were truly Christian disciples. Certainly, Paul refers to them as such but the reader must discern of whom they were disciples. Stott makes the case that their lack of knowledge of Jesus and the Holy Spirit marks them as non-Christian disciples. The repentance of John’s baptism must be followed by belief in the work of the Cross before one can claim the title of Christian disciple and it appears here that this was not the case.

Pentecostal theologian Ervin asks us to consider a different hermeneutic in which events must be interpreted in the context of history transitioning from the old covenant to the new covenant. He points us to John chapter 20 in which we find the disciples huddled frightened and in despair until the Lord appears to them with the greeting “Peace be with you!” and then breathed upon them, imparting the Holy Spirit to them. This moment marks the culmination of the old Sinai covenant and a new nation created in The Church. This imparting of the Spirit is to be interpreted as one that equips the believer for service and, by extension and in view of the Church’s commission, is a necessity for all members of the body. He further states “In the Pentecostal hermeneutic, repentance, faith, and water baptism constitute conversion and initiation into the new covenant community. Repentance and faith are the results of the Spirit’s action in the spiritual experience of the convert. These elements are the conditions for the new birth from above, for apart from the Holy Spirit convicting of sin there can be neither repentance nor faith. They are, therefore, sequentially prior to the Lukan gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The reason that Ervin  brings up the Johannine experience is to draw the difference between that and the Pentecost experience(s) of Acts as recorded by Luke. John’s new birth message is ontological, it is a change in one’s nature where Luke’s gift of the spirit is functional, preparing one for service. Is the experience of Acts normative though? Ervin supports it by dismissing the assertion that Pentecost was a “once and for all” event in the church’s history by pointing to the narrative of Cornelius in Acts 10 which was separated from the event by at least ten years. He further disagrees with Stott as he points out that so long as the Great Commission of our Lord remains in effect, so too the need for Baptism in the Spirit as experienced at Pentecost will remain in order to supply the Holy Spirit power through which it will be accomplished.

The Pentecostal insists that the passages in Acts which describe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are normative for Christian experience and are sufficient from which to derive a doctrine on this subject. The reasoning forwarded for establishing this position is that there are no other recorded experiences due to the fact that later authors would not see it as necessary since the experience was taken for granted that readers would already be familiar with it. We must turn to the Acts narratives for information on this and therefore, it is authoritative on this topic. Ervin gives 5 propositions that support this theological position:

1.John the Baptist’s baptism supplied the type for the baptism in the Spirit. (cf Acts 1:5) The baptism of Jesus places the Christian in Spirit.

2. Jesus himself is the administrator of this Spirit-baptism.

3. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not synonymous with conversion and the new birth from above. Instead, it is subsequent to conversion and regeneration.

4. There will be normative evidence of this Spirit Baptism in the form of charismatic manifestations of the Spirit’s personality and power.

5. Baptism in the Spirit is synonymous (in Luke) with being filled with the spirit.

Grammatically, the description of the first Spirit Baptism (Acts 2:1-4 see above) contains the word translated “they were filled” in the ingressive aorist tense, meaning that the verb indicates a state or condition and denotes the entry into that state or condition. In other words, they moved from one state to another, that of being filled with the Spirit. In the narrative of the Samaritan Believers (Acts 8:14-17), Ervin reads this passage in the framework described in the previous paragraphs and therefore sees a clear subsequence to the conversion/Spirit baptism sequence. He does not engage the possibility that there may be a reason for God to have withheld the Spirit from this group of believers. Addressing the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19, Ervin does acknowledge that they may have had an incomplete presentation of the gospel to which they responded but he does not allow for the possibility that they may not have been regenerate, instead electing to emphasize the ordering of the process with conversion baptism preceding Spirit Baptism.

Conclusion

Both theologians offer conservative and reasonable exegesis in the original language and with appropriate  Old Testament reference. As a secondary issue, it appears that one will follow the doctrine that best fits their overall theological framework. That is, unless they find themselves with experiential evidence that contributes to a reading of the narratives in a different light. Shall we divide fellowship over this? In no way.

Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part One

In 1964, immediately prior to the latest movement of Charismatic Renewal, respected theologian John Stott wrote a short book entitled Baptism and Fullness offering an exposition of the biblical description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Four years later, in 1968, Dr. Howard Ervin wrote a scholarly treatise on the narrower ministry of baptism in the spirit titled These Are Not Drunken, As Ye Suppose (now Spirit Baptism).  Since they are both respectful and irenic in their presentation, it is instructive to examine the positions of both side by side in order to further expand our views on the doctrine of Spirit Baptism.

Stott’s approach is fundamentally this: the Baptism in the Spirit coincides with the moment of conversion. Upon his surrender to Christ, the believer receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who immediately sets to work in the ongoing process of sanctification.  He uses the question “Is it that God makes us his sons and daughters and then gives us His spirit, or that he gives us his ‘Spirit of Sonship’ who makes us his sons and daughters?” to frame his discussion of the indwelling. Helpfully, Stott points out that Paul answers both ways in the Scriptures: in one instance he wrote “because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” (Gal 4:6) and in another wrote “…those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” (Rom 8:14-15). In other words, the Christian is in every moment of his or her new life seen as having the Spirit within.

Ervin finds in the scriptures evidence that the Baptism in the Spirit is a second event in the life of the Christian, subsequent to the crisis event of conversion. As he lays out his case for viewing Pentecost (and the familiar passages in Acts) as representative of a normative experience for all Christians, he makes five propositions intended to guide the topic’s exploration. The points are intended to buffet the non-Charismatic’s argument rooted in Romans 8:9b “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” intimating at the difficulty of separating conversion and a subsequent indwelling event. First, John the Baptist’s baptism set the type for the Spirit Baptism, placing the convert in water in preparation for the second baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:5). Second, Jesus administers the Spirit baptism (John 1:33, et. al). Third, Ervin states without reservation that “baptism in the Holy Spirit is not synonymous with conversion and the new birth from above.” Fourth, there will be evidence of the indwelling of the Spirit, specifically glossolalia. Finally, the fifth point of structure is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Lukan theology is synonymous with being filled with the Spirit, contrary to the notion of repeated or progressive fillings of the Spirit’s power.

Neither of these men approaches the discussion in an emotional manner. Instead they lay out the evidence as they interpret it scholastically and theologically giving students of the topic an opportunity to weigh their work, examine the scriptures prayerfully on their own, and arrive at the conclusion that the Lord means for them to have. We will engage Ervin and Stott further in the days to come.

The Role of Glossolalia According to Lukan Theology «

Brian LePort has a great discussion going on regarding Glossolalia (Tongues) at The Role of Glossolalia According to Lukan Theology «. This is pertinent material if you’ve been reading the various views on Spirit Baptism that have been posted here.

Spirit Baptism: The Charismatic View

The Charismatic movement within the Christian Body traces it roots to a renewal that swept through the Church in the 1960s and 70s. The name of this broadly ecumenical movement derives from the Greek word translated as “gifts”, charisma (χάρισμα), while its theological roots were planted by early Pentecostal tradition. While many people consider Pentecostal and Charismatic believers to be one and the same, the Charismatic theological framework is not as dogmatic with regards to the subsequence of the Baptism in the Spirit and the evidence of tongues. Settled on the reality of Spirit Baptism and the need to practice all of the New Testament spiritual gifts including prophecy, discernment, tongues, healing, and miracles, Charismatics are nonetheless liberal in the belief as to when the baptism occurs and what gifts are evidenced and allow a wide range of belief on these matters. Making the Charismatic view even more unusual in Christian history is that the movement largely has not been known for creating new churches of like minded believers. The Charismatic believer will often be a force for change, or renewal, within the broader Catholic and Protestant bodies.

Since there is no single Charismatic position on spirit baptism, its effects, or its timing, how can we understand what it means to be a Charismatic believer? Perhaps the best framework in which to find the answers is found by viewing Spirit Baptism as a metaphor with multiple dimensions rather than a doctrine. Larry Hart categorizes the Baptism as (1) Jesus’ eschatological redemptive work; (2) Christian initiation; (3) the Christian life; and (4) empowerment for Christian mission and ministry. All of these factors contribute to an overall pneumatology and experience. Searching the Bible to understand the Charismatic worldview takes us far ranging from the book of Acts, as each author emphasized a different dimension of the Spirit’s work and effect. This counters the criticism often leveled at the Pentecostal reliance on the narrative passages  in Acts by including the Johanine and Pauline corpus in the mix. “All that Jesus has done as the Messiah (Jewish language), the Christ (Greek language), in his earthly ministry and since his ascension–is subsumed under the Spirit baptism rubric.” (Hart) In other words, the Baptism in the Spirit has a place and is effectual in every aspect of our Christian life from initiation through the progression of sanctification and in the empowerment of our ministry.

This broad range of experience in the Charismatic viewpoint lessens the reliance on a specific timing and a single crisis event. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a defining moment for the Christian, however and whenever it is experienced. Rather than a single moment in time, the Charismatic confirms the continual outworking of the Spirit in the process of sanctification and in the receipt of power for ministry. The expansive collection of views on the timing of the Baptism extends to the views of evidence in tongues. The view of speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of Spirit Baptism is a Pentecostal doctrinal distinctive. Charismatics characteristically have a wide range of views on this gift, ranging from being like-minded with the Pentecostal to the viewing of empowerment for all of the Gifts as evidence of the Baptism. The Charismatic typically looks for all of the gifts mentioned in the Bible to be distributed throughout the body rather than seeking the monolithic practice of a single gift. Within the Body, some should speak in tongues and some should heal and some should express wisdom, etc. Requiring tongues to be the sole evidence of Spiritual indwelling runs contrary to Scripture according to the Charismatic viewpoint.

Charismatic believers are dispersed throughout the Body in a way that mimics Paul’s teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit. All Christians will receive the Spirit Baptism for empowerment in their lives; it is releasing ourselves to the experience that sets the Charismatic apart. As the Church is surrendered to this empowerment, further revival will be the evidence of the Father’s glory, the Son’s loving sacrifice, and the Spirit’s work. The combination of a head and heart Christianity is especially attractive in this postmodern culture as more and more people look for something more than facts that feed their intellect.

Other views on Spirit Baptism can be found here.