Thinking Out Loud

August 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll’s Visions

Okay, I missed this one. But sometimes there are advantages in arriving late to the discussion. Especially when other people may have missed it, too. 

Mark Driscoll made a video in which he described how in counseling sessions, he sometimes ‘receives’ a picture of things the counselee isn’t necessarily sharing.  What some charismatics might call a ‘word of knowledge’ which Driscoll mistakenly calls a ‘gift of discernment.’ If Mark were an Assemblies of God minister, I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash at this announcement. But Mark is generally seen sitting in the Reformed section of the church, so this raises all kinds of issues that non-Pentecostals haven’t seen hit so close to home.

Nor does it stop there. The nature of some of the images, or impressions, or visions that Pastor Mark has seen are, for lack of a better word, explicit. All of which led Phil Johnson at Team Pyro to refer to it as Pornographic Divination. No, Phil, tell us what you really think.  The link gets you nearly 300 comments and begins with this intro:

In a post last week, I pointed out that the preposterous claims, unhinged behavior, and spiritual quackery that are so prominent at the charismatic movement’s lunatic fringe are by no means limited to the outer edges. Goofiness and gullibility are necessary byproducts of a belief system that fails to take seriously the principle of sola Scriptura and its ramifications (i.e., the authority and sufficiency of Scripture).

So we know — actually we knew — where the bloggers at Pyromaniacs stand on revelatory supernatural gifts. But as I said earlier, this time the issue has come home to roost.

I remember years ago trying to nail down a definition of the “Charismatic Movement” that began around 1970, and someone much smarter than I said that it was a seeking after a deeper experience with God or a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit characterized by “a manifestation of spiritual gifts occurring in denominations which heretofore had no history of those gifts being operative.”

Now, I am not the president of Mark Driscoll’s fan club.  But what do you when someone has a supernatural word given to them? Do we say, “That turned out to be true, but they didn’t get it from God.” What if it’s a healing? Do we write it off to, “the meds kicked in” or some more earthly explanation?

I think Phil Johnson raises some valid issues. But I’m also convinced that in the Christian pilgrimage, some issues are simply not so black-and-white. Bloggers often want to be liked, and I know my desire is often to say, “I agree with him and I agree with her;” but I truly believe in the plausibility of Mark Driscoll’s story, and the conviction of Johnson’s trashing of it.

Problem is, I wasn’t there; I didn’t see what Mark saw. Whatever it was, he is giving God the credit. Whatever it was, the people at Team Pyro are not. The battle lines are drawn, and not a single Assemblies of God or Charismatic pastor started the fire.

December 8, 2009

When You Didn’t Actually Do Something But You Did

As a young single guy in my early 20s, I envied the marriage that my friend L. and his wife Y. had.   I always felt extremely relaxed in their home, though that might have something to do with L’s regularly serving a shot of cherry brandy the moment anyone arrived.

They had been married just a few years, no kids to that point, and life was pretty good except that L’s job involved working a lot of nights.

So when a job came up in a town about 40 minutes west that would be straight days with health benefits as well, L. jumped at it.   The house was a fixer-upper but L. was a handy guy.   He made several trips to the new town to work on the house and finally moving day arrived.

But Y. didn’t move.   She told L. that she didn’t want to live in that town.   Scheduled to work at the new job, and with the house already in his possession, L. packed up some essentials, figuring this thing would be resolved in a matter of days.

It never was.

L. had a sister named A. who was quite concerned.   She got on the phone to a national Christian talk show where the host minister took questions from viewers live every Friday.   She told the story of L. and Y.

He said that what L. was experiencing was “constructive desertion.”  In other words, really it was her that left him.   But in a purely geographical sense, he left her, and she could always enjoy that margin of denial if anyone ever asked her if she left him.

Are you following this?

(It’s also significant to note here that even though they had been married something in the 4-5 year range, Y.’s parents had kept her bedroom made up exactly as it was the day she got married.   But that’s another issue.)

I’ve always been fascinated by this whole “constructive desertion” concept, even if I now know the legal definition is actually a little bit different.    So let me rephrase that.   I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that Y. could, if she wanted, spin this thing — even though we didn’t use the word ‘spin’ back then in that way — so that it looked like he left her, when in fact, she seized on an opportunity to leave him.

The parallel to church life

This happens all the time in churches.   I remember my father having a conversation with a certain family that was no longer attending a particular church.    He asked right out, “Did you leave or were you made to want to leave?”

A church leader, elder or pastor can always deny he asked an individual or family to leave a particular church, when in fact he (or she) made it impossible to continue in regular attendance.   (Trust me, I know.)

So today, I give you a new term:  Constructive excommunication.   Well, not totally new, it’s used here and here.  The second one is interesting, here’s the paragraph were it occurs:

Swallowing his pride and raised Catholic, [name withheld] then returns for a regular service at St. Joseph’s in spite of what he calls ‘constructive excommunication.’ They’ve thrown him out and made it pretty clear they have but don’t do it officially anymore because of the publicity; interesting insofar as they leverage dominance through conceptual charity and don’t want people who would potentially support [him] to have the finite point to rally on.

Didn’t have time to read the whole story, but the modus operandi is all too familiar.

So… know anybody who’s faced constructive excommunication?

Footnotes:

  1. We’re basically not even in the category of social drinkers, but I do have a fondness for cherry brandy.   However, I think we bought only one bottle once in the past 20 years.   You want to avoid the cheaper brands, though.   My wife prefers the chocolate flavored liqueurs, but again, our financial position for most of our married life, and our profile in the community where we live has prevented us from purchasing much in the way of alcoholic beverages.
  2. When L. returned to the first home to formally move the bulk of their furniture and other items, half of everything was gone.   A. came to survey the scene with a friend who was given to having a ‘word of knowledge’ now and then and the friend noticed the razor-sharp division of things.   She left the “His” towel and took the “Hers.”   If it had been a wedding gift from his side of the family it stayed; if from hers, it was gone.  The friend of A. looked at L. and said, “You may have once stood before a minister in a church, and you may have had sex, but I believe you were never truly married.”    Yikes!
  3. I removed the name from the quotation because, although it’s linked, it seems to be one rather bizarre website.   The whole blog is one massive, endless post — which as of last month, Blogspot won’t allow them to add anything to — about a seemingly unsavory character.    I just don’t want anyone associating this blog with that story, whatever it is.

February 26, 2009

The Law of Averages and the Word of Knowledge

There’s someone reading this and you’ve got a pain in your neck and shoulders.

As I type those words, I don’t actually know them to be true.   Given the number of readers of this blog, and given that they are all “computer people” who are given to the strains of sitting at a computer for all or part of the day, it’s a safe bet.

There’s some reading this and you’ve got pain in your neck and shoulders and Jesus wants to heal you.

The first part of the sentence is covered by the law of averages, the second part is a categorical statement based on my belief that healing is the “normal,” but we’re prevented from seeing it frequently because of lack of faith or sin.   In other words, Jesus is still positively disposed and favourably inclined to heal, but because of a variety of factors, we don’t see healing at a rate the first century Christ followers experienced it.

Jesus is healing someone right now of pain in the neck and shoulders.

That statement would be a word of knowledge; were it not a word which I wrote in my own flesh.   (Though granted, there may be someone with such a pain for whom my choosing their condition as my “for example,”  provides the faith-lift they need to see God really do something special.)

My point is that we can sometimes make categorical statements knowing that they are by no means false.

There’s a man here in church this morning and you’re struggling with an online addiction to pornography.

If the church is bigger than 20 people, I’m betting that it’s not rocket science to safely make that statement.    We know that peoples’ lives are constantly in flux and change when it comes to the things of the Holy Spirit.   So it was that I once heard someone say this:

There are two kinds of people here today; you’re either moving toward the cross or moving away from the cross.

Again, not rocket science.   Hearts burning ever brighter towards God versus hearts growing cold.   It happens.   People chomping at the bit for the next steps God has for them, versus people who are a heartbeat away from walking out the church, putting the Bible on the shelf at home, not soon to return to either.   It happens.

thecrossThe line is also used in marriage counseling.   The pastor will take the husband and wife into the sanctuary and put them on opposite sides of the auditorium facing the platform; then tell them to start walking towards the cross.   Then he’ll tell them, “When you’re moving towards the cross, you can’t help but be drawn closer to each other.”

Someone else put it:

There are two kinds of people here, those whose best days spiritual are ahead of them, and those whose best days spiritually are already behind them.

Of course, there are no limits on what God can do down the road, and no limits on how he can use even our hardened hearts or closed minds to speak to us.

We are encouraged to look out for each other.    Love and encourage those whose faith is weak; who are in a spiritual valley.   Love and celebrate with those who are experiencing mountain top experiences.    You don’t need a word of knowledge to know this; the law of averages says there are people around you in both categories.    You don’t need to know whether someone falls into one category or the other; you simply reach out to people where you find them, and God will show you what to do next.

I am responsible for my own spiritual health, but I need to be aware that there are people around me who are writing their own story.   I need to support those structures that give them — and all of us — context to help move towards the cross; to see the best days in our walk with God ahead.

So how about you?  Best days yet to come, or coasting on some experience that took place years ago?    Start moving towards the cross!

Passionate Worship Music Not Sold in Stores

One of my employees just put me on to a YouTube cut of a passionate vocalist, Kim Walker singing at Jesus Culture event in California for an indie recording project called We Cry Out.  The nearly 9-minute song is called Oh, How He Loves Us and you can watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoC1ec-lYps
If you enjoy that one, you can see a different artist at the same event, doing an 8-minute worship song, Your Love Never Fails
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA-N6Fdt7Ew

Left Behind Theology

“Two women will be working in the field, one will be taken and one left behind.”   If those words have always modified a Thessalonians passage for you that deals with being “caught up to meet the Lord in the air,” chances are you’re a big fan of Left Behind theology. Open to other possibilities?  In the blogroll, go to “sermons” and click on “Greg Boyd / Woodland Hills” and either download or listen to the sermon for February 15th. Or use this quick link: http://www.whchurch.org/content/page_173.htm

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