I am 100% committed to an intelligent Pentecostal hermeneutic. If you have seen crazy stuff, as I sure have, I understand if it has caused you to be skeptical. I’ve been there. Just be sure that human foolishness does not turn you away from that which is genuinely from God. If we abandon that which the Lord describes in detail in scripture because we have seen good things abused we are just as carnal in our approach as the person who abuses what God gives. In both cases we are elevating human reason and human experience above scripture. The Word of God instructs us in proper, orderly usage of every thing from tongues in our private prayer life to the many gifts given to His Church. Disorder distracts from His glory. To decide not to pursue that which God has chosen to give us is not intelligence, but arrogance. It is our attempt to make intellectual peace with something that shouldn’t occur in the first place. We are essentially saying, “I’ve seen so much craziness, I am going to ignore the fact God addresses craziness and forbids it. Instead, I’ll neglect all of His gifts with which I feel uncomfortable.” (“I” being the standard of what is good and what is not, just like the garden). The idea of using what He has given, as He has instructed us is apparently too simple a choice.
Christians are a supernatural people. We should live like it. God is not unwilling to do what He speaks of in scripture but there is a remarkable dearth of volunteers to simply act on the Word of God. If we genuinely sought that which God has placed before us, and acted in the orderly manner described in 1 Cor. 12-14 our services would be thrilling. God never intended the a Pentecostal service be a madhouse that frightened visitors. This is not about us. The saints gather for a dynamic display of God at work and to bring others into a vibrant relationship with the Living God. We shelve His plans, make our own,, and wonder why we find it hard to show up at our self-powered gatherings. We know something is missing and ask what it is. The Bible is rather clear what we’re missing so our choice should be clear.
Dumb Stuff That Turns Us Off
People get turned off to even the prayer language of tongues by “dumb stuff”. Someone takes people in a room and tells them to repeat nonsense syllables. People need a genuine experience with God and are understandably perplexed when they are counseled to repeat things that sound like items off the local Chinese restaurant menu. One pastor, expressing his frustration with people being coached that way that way, joked that there are people who would encourage sincere seekers to say, “I skinned my shin on a Honda”really fast believing the tongue twister would trigger a real experience with God. This kind of thing sounds crazy, because it is. It also turns people off from using a gift of grace that is theirs by faith. Nothing makes the devil happier than to see God’s people make peace with living with less than God would give them. The less we have to fight him, the happier he is.
Why This Really, Really Matters
All of this really, really matters. We need all God offers His church not 54.9% of what is in scripture or only that which makes us comfortable. End time predictions do not matter. It is always the final generation for everyone we meet. Everyone gets just one lifetime to hear. God has made the same things available to every generation so each generation chooses whether to seek all that God provides or not. I often feel that we are like people who show up to a five alarm fire equipped with buckets of water and Swiss army knives because “we’ve had some bad experiences with power tools” and then wonder why we are so ineffective at rescuing people from certain death. Better for everyone is we showed up with the power tools and handled them according to the instructions.
I understand fear of speaking in tongues, because I had a case of it myself. I didn’t want to make it up. I was not wild about having dozens of people cling to me like human fly-paper at an altar call. Yet scripture spends a lot of time talking about these very issues. I had one choice: to seek God and ask if it was true. The scriptures are remarkably convincing, as is God, when given a chance. Every revival in the last two millennia has been marked by a return to the gifts of Spirit.* Is that because God only gives these gifts during revival or because we get desperate enough for revival that we finally pray for God to do “anything” in us and He simply does what He promised in scriptures? Why do we choose to live with so much less?
Next: The Supernatural for the Skeptic
*I started to document details and have so many pages of references it does not fit a blog. I will provide these upon request.