Sunday, February 23, 2003

Acting out Acts or Just Acting Up-This piece from John Adams got me thinking about my forays into charismaticdom over the years
- Do some of the aspects of the Pentecostal movement and its progeny strike anyone else as odd? I believe in speaking in tongues, and I can understand being slain in the Spirit. But I went to a camp last summer where everyone was "getting drunk" in the Spirit and laughing uncontrollably at anything and everything, and it kind of weirded me out. I don't flatter myself as being an authority on anything Biblical or spiritual, but I couldn't quite reconcile the calm and collected Jesus of the Gospels or the spontaneously beautiful acts of the Spirit in Acts to a few of the things I saw at camp—a few of which, fanned on and encouraged by the pastors on staff, bordered on ridiculous. Maybe, like one of said pastors insinuated in a conversation with yours truly, I think too much, but wouldn't God be able to move regardless? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
Don't feel too bad, John, it weirds out other people as well. Not everyone is a laughing drunk; I'm a quiet drunk, both with alcohol (in my younger, pre-saved, days) and with the Holy Spirit, and I'm likely to be one of the stone faces if a bout of laughing in the spirit come around. If people are getting drunk in the Spirit, I'm the designated driver. My dad hangs out with a bunch of "hyper-charismatics" (as my Midland Vineyard pastor would call them) that are prone to such behavior; one visiting preacher in their circle, a guy named John Scotland, is chronically drunk in the spirit, delivering edifying but very ad-libbed sermons while so plastered. Not everyone's hit by the Holy Spirit in the same way. I tend to want to sit down or even lie down and just bask in the Spirit; others will get a praise flag (don't laugh- it works) and dance around the altar. John, you might just be another quiet one. There are times where we can "think too much" and let our intellect (of which you've been blessed with a great one, if your writing's any indication) get in the way of experiencing God. I know it's hard to get my mind to be still and just enjoy the moment. It might not fit your idea of what happened in Acts, but those manifestations of the Spirit are merely people's reaction to the overwhelming presence of God when allowed to do so. In stuffier churches, you'd stifle those urges or be asked to leave, but in more accomodating churches or settings, such actions are allowable. There also might be a bit of spiritual groupthink, where people will act zany to go along. However, the emotions seem a legitimate responce to God's presence, even if they violate our standard rules of church decorum (this is over the top even for some charismatics; the Toronto Airport Church was a Vineyard church for a time before the Vineyard thought they were too out there). However, one of the problems with some of the "Spirit-filled" crowd is that they don't think enough. If they are too focused in the experiential, they can be prone to sloppy theology and open to "prophets" that can lead them off on weird theological tangents. You have an anti-intellectual streak in a lot of Pentecostal circles that might be aided by some post-modern hostility to logic that could lead people into a more experiential theology. A bit of well-honed intellect, coupled with a good knowledge of scripture, can keep a person from sliding down that path. A phrase that Vineyard founder John Wimber liked to use was the "radical middle," taking the best of the Bible-centric Baptist/Reformed tradition with the best of the spirit-led Pentecostal tradition. I'm new to the Vineyard bunch (I've only been going to a Vineyard church for a little under two years) but I like that attitude. That's why I've called myself a Bapticostal for years; I was uncomfortable with the lack of intellect in the AoG and the lack of freedom for the Holy Spirit in most Baptist churches. Don't give up your intellect, John. Don't get pressured into going along with the group if you're not being moved to ROFL in the Spirit. You might try to loosen up a little, but don't fake it and don't feel bad if you're not having the same manifestations.

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