Filled with the Spirit, not with emotionalism

Dr Platypus, Darrell Pursiful, linked to my last post on speaking in tongues and also gave a link to an older post of his, Filled with the Spirit. That post gives, it seems to me, some very sensible teaching on what baptism and filling with the Holy Spirit really means. But I am not entirely convinced by the distinction he tries to make between pleroo and pimplemi.

Darrell brings up the old chestnut that encouraging the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, is in fact encouraging emotionalism. But those of us who have experienced these gifts in our own lives know very well that they are not just matters of emotionalism. Yes, human emotions are affected by the touch of the Holy Spirit, often leading to releases of tears or laughter, and to joyful praise and worship. For some people the Holy Spirit brings release from years of oppression and suppression of emotions, and healing from depression. When the pressure is released the emotions bubble over, like the froth from a newly opened champagne bottle. But in the bottle there is not just froth, there is the beautiful new wine of God’s presence, which is clearly felt and known by those whom the Holy Spirit touches.

Anyway, what Darrell says is true of most churches in western countries, except for some extreme Pentecostal and charismatic ones:

Some will wonder about the danger of emotionalism if such experiences are encouraged. To that I would say that there are no doubt many spiritual dangers facing the churches of which I have been a part for the past forty-some years, but unrestrained emotionalism has rarely been one of them! Rather, the danger for most of us in our relationship with God is not emotionalism but the lack of emotion. Every loving relationship involves emotions. There must be more than emotion—things like friendship, communication, honesty, trust, and so forth—but if I never showed emotion toward the people I love, something would be missing.

Meanwhile there is an amazing revival going on in Lakeland, Florida, led by Todd Bentley. Apparently there have been meetings there every night for more than a month, with wonderful miracles happening. This has been showing on God TV (late every evening here in the UK), and also as live streaming from this site, with (rather poor quality) recordings of previous meetings available at all times. Christian leaders from all over the world are flying to Florida to catch the fire from this revival. I have just been watching some of this – the evening meeting from 5th May, starting after the “worship” about 90 minutes into the four hour broadcast and listening for about 40 minutes.

Now Todd Bentley, a tattooed former drug dealer from Canada, is not everyone’s style. He is certainly very different from the other preachers from British Columbia I have mentioned here recently. His preaching is not classic expository preaching, and I’m sure he makes no claim that it is. He is quite deliberately appealing to his congregation’s emotions rather than to their intellects. Not everyone likes this, I know. I have seen some really rather ridiculous criticism of what is going on in Lakeland. But it should be clear from watching it that people are being touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and their lives are being changed. I believe this is God’s work. If others are not convinced, they should at least follow Gamaliel’s principle in Acts 5:38,39, and remember what happened to those who opposed Moses.

Google found for me an excellent post on the subject by John Allister, who quotes Greg Haslam quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here is part of John’s post:

But just because we have the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that we have the fullness of experience of the Holy Spirit.

And if someone asks “Surely we got it all automatically when we believed?” Dr Lloyd-Jones replied “If you have got it all, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians? Got it all? Got it all at your conversion? Well, where is it, I ask?”

Filled with the Holy Spirit by Greg Haslam in Preach the Word

18 thoughts on “Filled with the Spirit, not with emotionalism

  1. Hi, Peter. Thanks for the link. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that encouraging spiritual gifts equals encouraging emotionalism. Far from it! I’m after a healthy balance in terms of religious experience—and that means finding an appropriate place for emotions that is generally larger than what has often been the case in most of churches of my acquaintance.

  2. Thanks, Darrell. I should have made it clear that you brought up the old chestnut only to debunk it, if that isn’t mixing metaphors too much. I intended that to be clear from the quote, but perhaps it was not clear enough, and so I’m glad that you clarified the point.

  3. I’ve always loved that Lloyd-Jones quote, Peter (although later on he ‘went off’ charismatic renewal, mainly, I think, because it included (gasp) Roman Catholics!

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  5. So what is it about Florida? Remember the Brownsville Revival there too? Hmmm.

    I’ve always hated the emotionalism card – people to get fired up about Football (or Soccer) Baseball, American Football, etc – but we can’t bet excited about God??!! Good grief!

  6. Indeed, what is it about Florida? Perhaps they are more open to such things than other Americans. But there may be deeper spiritual factors as well, or else it is just the sovereignty choice of God.

    One guy on the Reachout Trust discussion wondered why it was happening in America, why Todd Bentley wasn’t doing this in third world countries. Well, the truth is that he has been doing it in third world countries for years and no one in the West has taken any notice! Indeed he could probably do it, and maybe has done it, in some other states and no one has noticed. But for some reason Florida is always in the public eye – it’s probably the best known state here in England.

  7. Thanks for bring up the Todd Bentley revival thing. I’ve had mixed feelings on this since it came to my attention, and I value your insight. I too do not want to oppose God when he moves, and I can see genuine healings and refreshing coming out of this movement, but I cannot help but be disturbed by some of the things said and done. When Keith Green came to preach (not that I was ever there), he brought hard words to challenge people to repent of their sins and give their lives to Jesus. In the midst of such he brought revival where he went. He was shut down often because Christian leaders in the area did not want people ‘fessing up sins, they would rather ignore such things. So I get wary when I see talk of “revival” and “outpouring” and “annointing” and “angels” but I hear no talk of repentance of sins and no emphasis on Jesus and his work.

    Anyone agree/disagree ? I would welcome input on this as many are asking me about this revival and I truly don’t know what to say.

  8. Alastair, thanks for raising this issue. I have not seen or heard enough of what is happening in Lakeland to be able say whether it is fair to say that there is “no talk of repentance of sins and no emphasis on Jesus and his work”. But if this were true, it would suggest that the revival, while still genuine, should not be taken as seriously as some are taking it. I will ask someone who has been watching quite a bit of this, somewhat critically, if this is fair comment.

  9. I had a reply from my friend who has been following what is happening at Lakeland. He tells me that in the morning meetings, attended by thousands, there is “teaching on sin, repentance, love of the Father, Jesus’ death, resurrection and atonement”. The evening meetings, just as large, are more for testimony and ministry, but “there is always talk of salvation and accepting Jesus as Saviour”. This from someone who is not taking this all in uncritically but watching carefully to see if it is OK. So if you “hear no talk of repentance of sins and no emphasis on Jesus and his work”, it may be because you, like me, have not actually had the full Lakeland revival experience.

  10. Pingback: My Take on Tongues « Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

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  12. I have real mixed feelings about the Bentley’s of this world. I’ve actually read his book and have one of my young fellers go of and intern with Todd Bentley. But I was seriously unimpressed with the book on healing (I actually found it quite horrible) and have yet to make it through one of his messages – the fake accent makes me grind my teeth. But I have a lot invested in the Charismatic movements and am quite open to moving in the spiritual gifts. Where my frustration rests is that I am also quite well educated and try to be careful. I find much of the anti-intellectualism alive and well and worse, I find that the more vocal Charismatics are not careful or thoughtful about what they say and do. That is frustrating.

    You mentioned about charismatic work in the third world. I have another beef there, which I hope does not apply to very many (in fact I know some really good ones who are doing more thoughtful work). The beef is when it is all about the charismata and personal salvation and misses issues of justice, peace and meeting the desperate physicial needs that prevail in these settings. Someone mentioned Brownsville and I would like to know what the black community thought of that event, especially those in the immediate vicinity of the church. I know of similar ministries that go up yearly to work amongst the Inuit here in Canada, they show up have a little “revival”, people stop drinking for the few weeks they are there, then the revivalists go off to tell the stories and gather money for their next trip. Meanwhile the Inuit revert to their alcoholism and abuse until the revivalists return. Leaves me thinking that the revivalism is just another fix, like a narcotic. That makes me sad.

    I have tremendous hope for the charismatics. I think they have much to offer. I just wish they would be more thoughtful and, yes, prayerful (but in a listening kind of way).

  13. Frank, I certainly share your concern about charismatics’ neglect of social justice issues. It is also a problem with evangelists of all church streams in all countries when they turn up for big crusades with apparently marvellous results which fail to last, because those converted, revived, healed etc are not properly integrated into local churches. This can be the fault of the local churches as well as of the visitors. As for me, I long to see this kind of revival fire integrated into the life of local churches in this town, including my own.

  14. >>>….But those of us who have experienced these gifts in our own lives know very well that they are not just matters of emotionalism….

    The ability to distinguish euphoric emotion from reality is not a faculty that most people employ, let alone possess.

    Case in point…

    What good Anglican believes that “the Virgin Mary” appears to three boys at Medgugorje and dispenses miracles? None, I hope. (Those who do believe so are beyond my help). Yet *thousands* if not millions of deluded Catholics will *swear* that Mary gave them a new lease on life, a physical healing or what have you.

    A more *reasonable* person knows that when you go to a magic show, someone has exploited the limits of our attentions and is NEVER given over to credulity about coins appearing and disappearing magically.

    “Tongues” just translates as “languages.” Believe me, the gibberish such as “Shee-Kaym-In-Onna-Honda” is NOT a language, neither of men nor of “angeloi.”

    But if you insist that people’s evaluation of their subjective experiences is reliable then, to be consistent, you must accept as truth all kinds of obvious BS such as the “laughter movement” and Benny Hinn and Medjugorje. You must believe that the “Holy Spirit” makes the Quakers “quake” but makes the Shakers “shake” and the Holy Rollers “roll.”

    In short, the principle of “very convinced church folks=truth” is on shaky ground.

    Simply put, people who spout gibberish believing that “God” has “gifted” them with “tongues” are as deluded as the faggots that send thousands to Europe to get a boy out of trouble into their caring arms. And for many of the same sick reasons.

    People believe what they want to believe, are taught to believe and they need to believe.

    You GROSSLY over-estimate the accuaracy of your subjective faculties, your biblical prowess and the import of “good vibes.”

    Bill Ross

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