Monday, 7 April 2008

Liber-Pento Angli-Costals

Having more to do in recent months with both Pentecostals and Liberals than in the last four years, a strange similarity has been observed. Strange, maybe, because I hadn't thought about it, but, then again, in thinking about it I wonder if it actually goes to the heart of what it means to be evangelical (and, therefore, what it means to be non-evangelical). The similarity is this - both place a great deal of stress on the present, immediate, contemporary revelation of God. Of course there are massive differences in their approaches (particularly towards Scripture) - but the similarity remains. Indeed, in the space of a few days I have heard (or read) representatives from both groups utter the words "I just feel that God is telling me...". In sweepingly broad terms, Liberals feel that God is leading them, through science, culture, etc. to see that it is wrong to 'discriminate' (to marriage or ordination) on the basis of homosexual practice (essentially the acting out of a 'God-given' attraction). Pentecostals rely on God's immediate leading for all manner of issues - from the direction a church should take to what the message should be this Sunday - often through words or visions, but also through feelings and inclinations. Clearly Pentecostals approach and regard Scripture differently from Liberals, but God's most powerful, and therefore most important revelation - his word or message - seems to be the one most recently received.

An evangelical (or, let's say - my) position would be that God certainly is at work in the world, but for the 'big' decisions (and I would include in this the homosexual issue, the direction a church should take, and what the message should be this Sunday), we turn to the Bible as God's present and immediate revelation. Through God's work in us by his Spirit, we read his Word as living and active - present and immediate - and therefore it takes precedence. I realise that there are all sorts of hermeneutical issues here, but the basic tenet is, I hope, clear.

Here's the question, though. Are evangelicals (or, let's say - me) 'closed' to God's extra-biblical revelation. In no way suggesting that this revelation would contradict his written word, nor, indeed, that it should be taken as as authoritative as the Bible, but have we closed ourselves off from God's living and active work in all creation (all creation being us as created beings as well as in the world around us)? Clearly I'm moving towards the Pentecostal end of things (I'm way too 17th century to become 19th century), and realise the potential difficulties with exploring these issues. But still - maybe we should ask the question - are we as evangelicals too closed off (if indeed that is the right phrase) to God's work and word to us today?

And here's the really interesting thing. As I am writing this Packer's 'Gourd us, Guide us' has turned up on my doorstep (not really that miraculous – I ordered it through Amazon 6 weeks ago). Nevertheless, taking this as a bit of a prompt, I'll endeavour to read a chapter every couple of days and post my thoughts. We’ll let the great Rev. Dr. JIP settle this (while he’s still Rev.)!


Dave said...

How can we ever be closed to God's revelation to us - it is Him who reveals it to us. It is not we who pick when we want to 'hear' God.

Maybe I'm not really understanding the 'vibe' of what you are saying but it seems that God's disclosure is up to him not us - we receive it by faith, and even that is given to us by God. Revelation, biblical or extra biblical still has to get its head around the fact that it is God himself who is revealing himself. The question then becomes for extra biblical revelation - how do you know it is God who is revealing himself not what we realy want God to reveal?

Dave Clancey said...

A helpful comment, mate. I'm certainly not denying that it is God's revelation of himself. However, we do recognise that some people pick up the Bible and do not receive it as God's revelation - they pick when they want to hear God.

I think your epistemological point at the end is getting closer to the issue - how do we know it is God speaking. Maybe the problem came in calling it 'revelation'. The issue, then, is this - as evangelicals do we focus so much on the Bible as the medium by which God speaks to us that we are closed off, or unsensitive, to God's speaking through other ways (always maintaining Bibline superiority, of course). Clearer? (Possibly not given the boys were up 6 times in teh night!)

Rosemary said...

An extract from Dr. Peter Kreeft: "We are living in a spiritual Hiroshima"

In the 1960s, the term "culture war" meant the conflict between the Establishment and the Counter Culture. Later, it came to mean the conflict between Science and the Humanities. The term became formalized with the publication of the book Culture Wars by James Hunter in the 1990s.

Pope John Paul II fueled the idea by drawing the distinction between the "Culture of Life" and the "Culture of Death." The term "Culture War" is simply a euphemism for the conflict between Christ and the Antichrist, with the stakes being the fate of the universe.

Sadly, today, the Antichrist controls all of the formal and informal means of education and information in America, including the media, news reporting, publishing, music, movies (Hollywood), etc. Today, pornography generates more revenue in America than any other industry except gambling.

This is not a new struggle-it has been going on since the Middle Ages. The Christian religion is now in decline, and the Antichrist is now winning, because he has convinced most people to bypass that simple word: reason. Most people today "feel;" they no longer "think."

We are living in a "spiritual Hiroshima." The Catholic Church is full of psychobabble. Our bishops have all the courage and behavior of rabbits. Since Vatican II, three-quarters of our nuns are gone. Sunday Mass attendance has declined from 75% to 25%. Belief in the Real Presence has dropped from nearly 100% to about 30%. The Catholic Church has lost the power to arrest the decline of our culture.

Properly said, ours is not a "Culture of Death," but a "Culture of Murder." There is the murder of marriage (divorce). There is the murder of the unborn (abortion). There is the murder of reason by militant feminists and by militant homosexuals. The cloning of humans promises to turn the "I am" of God into the "it is" of humanism. Science is promising eternal life by working to eliminate from humankind the "age and die" gene, which supposedly is not found in non-sexual species and in cancer cells.

Our words cannot defeat the Culture of Death, but God’s words can.

Dave said...

Yeah, thanks mate the issue is clearer. I think it would help me if you described some of these other mediums by which God can speak.

Ps 19:1 describes the heavens declaring the glory of God and the skies proclaiming his handiwork.

But don't we supress this knowledge of God in our sinfulness? Or am I being to 'fundy' again???

Dave Clancey said...

Not too fundy, mate - clearly general revelation is not salvific - Calvin's spectacles of Scripture, etc.

However, I think the NT does speak of God speaking in various ways - Heb 1 clearly allows for it, as does 1 Thess 2:13 - man's words were received as what they actually were - the word of God. 1 Cor 12:8 mentions various messages (from, or by means of, the Spirit) that are given, and chapter 14 speaks of prophets receiving 'a revelation' - again God speaking through a man/woman. Also, 2 Tim 2:7 urges Timothy to reflect on Paul's writings, and in doing so, God gives insight. Clearly the object of reflection is God's word, but the insight comes through them AND via reflection of the reader.

1 John 4 1-3 urges us to test the Spirits to see whether they are from God. While there might be disagreement over exactly what 'the spirits' are, the fact is that at least some of them are from God.

Additionally, while many of the NT references to the 'will of God' refer to what has already been revealed to us (the issue is on 'doing', not 'finding' the will of God), Rom 12:2 seems to indicate that God's will needs to be tested (dokimazein - examined, interpreted, discerned, etc.). Phil 3:11 is also of note - God making clear to us the points on which we disagree (I'm not suggesting that this isn't scriptural revelation - it's just interesting!)

And then there's Acts!

Of course many of us will testify to times when God has spoken to us, often through a sermon, in a particular and pointed way (a prophetic word, maybe). I wonder, and I didn't really mean it to get so big, is whether sometimes we don't listen for these 'words' - for the leading of the Spirit, to get really Pento/charo/anysortofo-o on you! And maybe we should (you know me mate - Scripture always wins!)