A Response to Erik Raymond’s Article: “What I meant by ‘Evangelical Mystic'” (Part 1)

At the following link, you may find Erik Raymond’s article: What I meant by ‘Evangelical Mystic’: http://www.ordinarypastor.com/?p=603

My Faith: Conservative Evangelicalism Clarified by Direct Revelations

Out of respect for Erik as a person, and as a Christian, I want to say that I am not going to attempt to downplay his character. With regards to spiritual vision, I think all Christians see “through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). That is, all Christians, including non-Charismatic ones like Erik, have a vague apprehension of the spiritual realities that lay before us. Whether they be things concerning Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, the Holy Spirit, the end times, spiritual gifts, creation and evolution, women in ministry, church government, or even matters pertaining to salvation–such as Calvinism, Arminianism, and eternal security. The Zondervan Counterpoints series is more than enough to show any theologian that theology alone is not good enough to specify with any sense of AUTHORITY that such and such a theological position is revelation from God. You need something more. You need direct revelation and experience to make the theological position become real to you–then the experience must be backed by the Bible and theology. Don’t let your faith rest on the Bible and theology alone (which is rationalism)–there must also be this experiential dimension. Whether it is weak or strong–experience must make real the doctrine to you (which is reasonable faith).

As a Charismatic Christian, or an Evangelical mystic if you like–I do believe that there have been special times when I’ve experienced dreams, visions, and voices from God. And that through these revelations, I have been directed to clearer views of God and theology. I believe that God has directly shown me some fine differences between what can be called truly “orthodox” and truly “heretical.” So, with repsect to the area of epistemology–or the theory of knowing–I believe that conservative Evangelical or even Fundamentalist theology is a good place to start, to guard your faith and life on your journey to Heaven. But that’s not all there is! I believe God has shown me by direct revelation that a lot of what the Puritans and early Methodists have doctrinally handed down to modern Evangelicals–is indeed from God. Especially with matters pertaining to the authority of the Bible, and the saving doctrines of justification, regeneration, and sanctification. And there may be many other things that God may want to reveal to me in the years to come.

My Reponses to Erik’s Statements on Evangelical Mysticism

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.

1. It is reasonable to think that Christians are allowed to have subjective leadings from God, because the Bible was inspired by subjective leadings: “Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

2. Erik was right to see some examples in the Bible of God speaking to people through dreams, prayer, and experiences throughout the day: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17); “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision” (Acts 11:5); “While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.’ Peter went down and said to the men, ‘I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?’ The men replied, ‘We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.’ Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along” (Acts 10:17-23).

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.

1. Erik said: “I believe the Holy Spirit baptizes, convicts, regenerates, gifts, renews, seals, intercedes, indwells, leads, and controls believers.” This is the classic Reformed view of the work of the Holy Spirit. He may not feel comfortable with limiting himself as a “Reformed” Christian, but any Reformed theologian would essentially agree with this viewpoint of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the Christian. What I mean by “Reformed,” is basically anything that can be called Calvinist, Presbyterian, Baptist, or even Lutheran. There is a strong connection with the “five solas” of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), the TULIP of Dordt, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Puritans, and any modern conservative Evangelical theologians that draw from this tradition–such as Jonathan Edwards (d. 1758), Charles Hodge (d. 1878), B. B. Warfield (d. 1921), A. W. Pink (d. 1952), Louis Berkhof (d. 1957), R. C. Sproul (b. 1939), and John MacArthur (b. 1939). A modern, quasi-Reformed system of thought is called Dispensational theology, which has a stronger emphasis on the rapture and the end times; the major thinkers from this school of thought are usually associated with either Moody Bible Institute or Dallas Theological Seminary: C. I. Scofield (d. 1921), Lewis Sperry Chafer (d. 1952), John Walvoord (d. 2002), and Charles Ryrie (b. 1925).

2. I don’t believe that I would be very wrong to say that Erik’s view of the Holy Spirit has been somehow influenced by these theologians, and the Reformed tradition. This particular Protestant tradition believes firmly that “the Holy Spirit baptizes, convicts, regenerates, gifts, renews, seals, intercedes, indwells, leads, and controls believers.” But just what do they mean? They are generally agreed that the Holy Spirit: (1) Gives an “ethical zeal” to Christians, an inner moral empowerment to both believe and obey the Bible, through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Enables Christians to read the Bible and pray. (3) Keeps Christians secure in their faith until their dying day: “once saved, always saved.” (4) Gives Christians different gifts or “talents” to minister to the church: such as Bible teaching (which they think is the same thing as prophesying), serving, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing hospitality (see Romans 12:6-8). (5) Leads Christians to make life decisions based on Bible study and prayer or vice versa.

3. However, I think it is inaccurate to say that Erik fully believes the Holy Spirit “gifts” and “leads” Christians today. It is in this particular area of the Holy Spirit’s work that Erik disagrees with Pentecostals and Charismatics like myself, and with the Quakers and Methodists from which we come. Reformed Christians, like Erik, are not fully agreed on the giftings and leadings of the Holy Spirit. But they generally reject the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, NKJV: “To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” Why do they reject these marvelous gifts of God? Because their Reformed theology tells them that the Bible has replaced the need for being led by the Spirit. (The traditional Reformed view that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased after the deaths of the apostles–is called Cessationism, or cease-ism. Although Wayne Grudem and Jack Deere are Reformed theologians in some respects, and fully embrace miraculous gifts, they are exceptions to the rule.)

4. Cessationists get their anti-miracle stance from their view of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, NKJV: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The Reformed Christian reads this passage, and interprets it like this: Love never fails, it is everlasting forever. Love will continue all throughout church history and into eternal life in Heaven. It is the greatest spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit, and is the fountainhead of all virtues and morals. Therefore, because divine love is the greatest gift a Christian can receive from the Holy Spirit, it will never be done away with. But, as far as prophecies, tongues, and revelation knowledge are concerned, they will cease. These miraculous gifts will not last forever, but only for a special season of church history: the apostolic age referred to in the Book of Acts, and completed with the Book of Revelation (A.D. 95 or so). The reason why miracles were needed in the first century with Christ and the apostles, was to confirm the Gospel message with signs following (Mark 16:20). But now that the Bible has been completed, and confirmed to be God’s Word by the authority of the early church fathers, there is no more need to confirm with signs following that the Gospel is God’s Word. The church fathers have already confirmed it for us. We must trust their judgment, and simply believe that the Holy Bible is God’s Word, that the Gospel is God’s Word, and God has nothing more to say to mankind than this. Therefore, the prophecy of the apostle Paul was fulfilled by the church fathers around A.D. 419, when they closed the canon of Scripture: “We know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” In other words, the partial knowledge experienced through prophecy, dreams, visions, and God’s voice is no more; it has been done away with. Why? Because “that which is perfect has come”–the Holy Bible handed down to us from the church fathers.

5. As a Charismatic Christian, I view 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 in a completely different way. Paul was not prophesying about closing the canon of Scripture at all. Rather, he was prophesying into the end of the world, when all things will be complete and restored and perfect, and when God’s will comes on Earth as it is in Heaven. This will be after Judgment Day, after all the wicked will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and all things are made new. When the saints will live in everlasting bliss and holiness with God on Earth, and New Jerusalem will have come down to Earth, and all corruption, sadness, and sickness will have disappeared. And the saints will see God face to Face, and things will be completed and made perfect and heavenly (see Revelation 21). And there will be no sin, because everyone will be morally perfect like Christ. The saints will have perfect knowledge and perfect faith, insofar as perfect means completely sufficient. This is not to say there is no learning or growing in Heaven. But they will have no heretical beliefs, and no sinful thoughts or feelings, at the very least. Hence, all the saints will be perfectly sufficient and prepared to see God face to Face, because of the purity of their hearts. When that perfect state is experienced by the saints in Heaven and the ever after, there will be no more need for them to experience prophecy, tongues, dreams, visions, and partial revelations. Because those gifts are for increasing the faith of earthly saints who have not yet died; there is no need for heavenly saints to experience such things, because they can see God pretty much whenever they want. Therefore, to increase the faith of Christians who have not yet died, but are still living on the Earth, the Holy Spirit will continue to give the following gifts to Christians until the end of the world: prophecies, tongues, dreams, visions, and partial revelations; and not only that, but healings, working miracles, discerning of spirits for exorcism, and interpretations of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). The Holy Spirit does this not only to help the body of Christ in various ways, but also to confirm the Word of the Gospel to unbelievers, so they may be persuaded by the miracles, and converted into Christians (Mark 16:20). This view is in agreement with the commentary notes from the Charismatic New Spirit Filled Life Bible.

About Wesley Gospel

WesleyGospel.com is self-published in the spirit of John Wesley and the Reformers, as when they used the printing press. The truth of God won't be censored or suppressed!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s