Over Cautious?

In my last post I said that if you are not a person of the Word, then you cannot truly be a person of the Spirit. Dan described me as being “open-but-cautious-yes-prophecy-might-exist-but-the-Word-is-better”. I will admit that I did only give half of the picture. So here I will say it the other way round – if you are not a person of the Spirit, then you cannot truly be a person of the Word.

Over at the SBL conference, there are some seriously knowledgeable people. They would beat you on a Bible quiz any day. They know the original Greek and Hebrew, the textual variants, and the history of interpretation for any passage you care to mention. And the other day one of the scholars chastised the others for not being learned enough in the field of textual criticism.

In John 3, Jesus talks to someone who may well have been the leading theologian of his day “are you the teacher of Israel”, and tells him that he needs the Spirit’s work in his life. There is so much more to knowing God than simply knowing the Bible.

Non-charismatics often speak against the charismatic desire to “experience” God, particularly setting it as a battle of the subjective experience versus the objective Word of God. But this is to make a false dichotomy – the New Testament abounds with experiential language when the Spirit is discussed – joy unspeakable, crying out Abba Father etc. So a genuine commitment to the Word must result in a desire to know not just more about God, but to know him personally too.

So Dan, I am cautious, I freely admit it. But I hope I am truly open as well.

3 thoughts on “Over Cautious?

  1. So … you’re in the “Cautious but open” camp I see!! Now …does that come between Gaffin and Saucy?? Or Saucy and Storms??! What are your distinctives on baptism of the Spirit, gifts and signs and wonders!?!?

    I jest …

    That was a good reminder to us to hold so dear the Word of God. Because the Word of God ISNT limiting!! And I did appreciate your writing about the experiential nature of New Testament life. Yes indeed … as Moyter put it; the whole design of the Word of God is that He will be our God and we will be His people.

    Thanks for that reminder Mark.

  2. Pingback: Open but Cautious

  3. Based on conversations I have had, I had a real burden that I needed to respond to what was said. In fact it is such an important matter I felt I needed to share it with you all. It was said: “your faith is all knowledge, but no power (ie no experiences)”

    I am not against experiences and do emphasise that certain experiences are necessary to follow Jesus. I in fact have had wonderful experiences of God, but we need to get things the right way round!

    If we focus too much on our experiences, we tend to build our theology, interpretation of scripture on those experiences and have tendency to make the Word Of God say what “WE think” because of our experiences. The experience becomes the guideline to interpreting scripture which means we are already prejudiced before we even check the Bible. This usually leads us to ignore scripture verses which oppose our experiences and instead only follow the verses (many times out of context) we think back-up our experience. This is selective reading and making the bible say what we want it to say, ie we make God after our own image rather than be changed into His image. The scripture says:

    “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are God’s thoughts above ours and His ways above ours”.

    In other words we cannot depend upon what we think to be true but upon what GOD SAYS as true. Paul does talk about his experiences in 2 Cor 11 and 12 but calls it a pointless exercise as the truth is more important than his experiences. He only discusses his experiences to convince the Corinthian church that they should trust what he says. Note: they were basing their trust in the false apostles because of their experiences so Paul told them that he also had experiences but not to base their trust in their leaders experiences (eg miracle working) but because the message was based on the truth.

    Jesus said we should follow His teachings and be obedient to the teachings, so that we would know the truth and the truth would set you free . John 8:31-32. Experience of God (being set free) follows truth.

    Knowing the truth is receiving real knowledge, ie truth comes before experience. Real Truth is NOT gained from experience but real experience gained from having real knowledge. For example: Jesus spoke truth by saying wait in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high. They obeyed the Word of Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit with sign s following.

    Then Peter spoke the truth followed by thousands coming under conviction of sin. Jesus said signs would FOLLOW the preaching of the Word. The right way round is to learn truth, apply it to our lives (with the help of the Holy Spirit) and then genuine signs (experiences?) will follow those who believe in His Name.

    By the way, I did a bible search on the word experience. There are only 2 references in the new testament. One says Israel has experienced a hardening in part, the other verse refers says that Enoch DID NOT experience death. No reference anywhere to a believer having “experiences” as such. Maybe because God does not want us to seek experiences but to seek Him.

    It is true, however, that we as believers do experience blessings from God. The bible is full of the blessings we receive but none of them directly refer to “feelings” or “senses” which those who are into experiential Christianity rely upon so heavily.

    Yes, we experience God’s love, mercy, provisions, spiritual gifts, infilling of the Holy Spirit, fruit of the Spirit, boldness etc and power to live the Christian life as a true dedicated disciple of the Lord, but we experience these in order to serve Him and witness to the world. These “experiences” are not for us “bless me” orgies or indulge in self gratification of feelings or seeking first the blessing. We are to seek first God’s kingdom (not the experiences) and then these other things will be added unto us.

    To sum up: focussing on gaining a knowledge of the truth is VERY important because it is in gaining this that we can measure up whether an experience is from God or not or whether we should experience such things. We do not seek the experience. If we do seek the experience our “truth” will be dictated to by our experience rather than God’s Word as the authority for truth. Therefore “our truth” will lead us into deception

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