REACTIONARY OFFENSES

 

 

 

REACTIONARY OFFENSES

 

 

 

Recently a good theologian and a valued friend handed me a little tome entitled Speaking in Tongues in the Light of Scripture. After reading it I daresay that my attitude regarding it is not exactly what my friend had in mind.

 

I’m a Baptist, but a rather mediocre one. I like the reverence with which Scripture is treated, and the manner in which this Word is emphasized during Church services. For the most part, I also like the conservative stance my Baptist Church takes regarding the numerous ways in which Christianity seems to be going astray these days. At this point in time the Body of Christ very desperately needs those who have the character and love of God to stand firm in defense of the faith – as long as they show some balance in the matter.

 

Defense of anything is reactionary to a perceived offense. As in the defense of any other item, a defense of the faith is reactionary in nature. Here’s the rub: up to a point, reaction is good; beyond a certain point, reaction can be just as misguided and bad as the original offense. The terrible Spanish Inquisition, for example, was reactionary in nature, and went so far beyond the point of being a good thing that it was basically evil. In my mind, the tome I was given also went beyond that point. I see in it dark elements too, albeit more subtle than the reactionary stance of the Spanish Church. Therein lies my mediocrity as a Baptist.

 

The intent of Speaking in Tongues in the Light of Scripture was to react against the practice common within charismatic circles of attempting to evoke the presence of the Holy Spirit during Church services, their evidence of success in this endeavor being the ability to speak in tongues. The author rightly points out that the practice of speaking in tongues is indulged in by non-Christian as well as Christian religions, and that it is the least of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

The author also implied in his tome that the effort to call forth the Holy Spirit is a wrong attempt to control this Diety, to place the Holy Spirit in a box of man’s own making. He is quite right in making this charge, and I agree fully with him in doing so. Oddly, however, in all his Scriptural references he pays little attention to the one Scriptural passage that fully illuminates the wrongness of this practice, John 3:1-8:

 

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

 

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it cometh, and where it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

 

Implicit in the eighth verse is the nature of the Holy Spirit’s divinity that completely excludes the influence of man over any manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The author of the tome to which I refer is quite correct in placing any attempt to force such a manifestation into the category of bad Christianity.

 

But then he goes on to claim that “These signs [tongues] evidently applied only to the Apostles, and were fulfilled by them in the early days of the church when the gospel was becoming newly established in the world . . .”

He repeatedly makes that same claim that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles experienced in Acts Chapter 2 through 12 was a one-shot affair, never to be repeated. He quotes Scripture extensively, but nowhere in Scripture do I find anything to the effect that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was something given only to the Apostles. His attempt to make that kind of connection is not only Scripturally unjustified, but actually represents another attempt, contrary to John 3 as quoted above, to place the Holy Spirit into a box. To be sure, the box indeed may be entirely different, but it’s still a box, and one made by man at that.

 

Try telling the saints in Pol Pot’s Cambodia that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit applied only to the first Apostles. Try peddling the same misinformation to the present day martyrs in China and Africa. To the author of that misinformation I say this: Every generation involves the new establishment of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit participates as much today as at the beginning of the Church Age in the thick of the conflicts this endeavor creates.

 

 

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