Friday, 25 November 2011

My Hopes for Charismaticism

I've grown up in the Charismatic movement: things like speaking in tongues and claims of divine healing have been fairly normal for most of my life. A couple of years ago I got quite disillusioned with the movement after some serious allegations of sin soured a highly-publicised revival. However, God in his grace has brought me back to an appreciation and expectation of the gifts of the Spirit, and I am happy to be labelled as a 'Charismatic.' Here are my thoughts on the future of the 'movement', if you could term it that.

First, there can be no question that the great strength of Charismatic Christians is our expectation for God to do things. Even though this can sometimes lead into a treatment of the Holy Spirit as if He's a magical force, or a refusal to recognise that sometimes God doesn't want to heal people in the way we expect, it's a great thing, to be sure. And yes, I think God is honouring this: people are being healed, and God is revealing Himself miraculously.

Second, it's exciting to see an increasing desire for good theology amongst charismatics. Newfrontiers, the network of churches within which I grew up, has some exemplary people leading the way in this: I'm thinking particularly of Andrew Wilson, who certainly doesn't resemble the stereotype of a charismatic who relies only on his experience and a handful of verses as proof-texts.

Third, I want to see a stronger connection of the two elements listed above. Would many charismatics be able to articulate why healing is rooted in the power of the resurrection? Or why God bothered with Israel instead of unleashing Pentecost on Cain and Abel and therefore making things much simpler? A new focus on biblical theology - and therefore biblical charismaticism - is vital. There are hopeful signs of this, but more needs to be done.

A week before his death, Smith Wigglesworth prophesied a two-stage move of the Holy Spirit: the first as a restoration of the gifts of the Spirit, the second as a revival of emphasis on the Bible. 'When these two moves of the Spirit combine,' Wigglesworth declared, 'we shall see the greatest move the Church of Jesus Christ has ever seen.' Amen! Let it be so, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Philosophy is Irrelevant

I'm currently taking a module on my course called 'Critical Perspectives': it's essentially an overview of the most famous philosophers and their works, with a special interest in the importance their ideas held for aesthetics. It's been a good opportunity to find out more about these men who shaped Western thought.

An interesting thing, though: I'm finding studying this kind of thing ultimately irrelevant. It's interesting to see how people thought about the world, but at the end of each lecture I perform a sort of mental shrug. I hope its not because I'm closed minded, but more because I already have a world-view that is far more compelling than anything the philosophers thought up. So, for Descartes, the body and the soul were quite distinct things, and the problem was how to know that the latter could have true knowledge of the former. Well, for me the body and spirit are much more closely intertwined - as intimated by the Hebrew word 'ruach', which means both 'breath' and 'spirit' - so it doesn't strike me as a problem. Kant's transcendental idealism? In Christ all things hold together. Death as Hegel's ultimate negation? Christ is risen.

Perhaps this blog will shortly be losing a word from its subtitle.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Israelite History and Religion

I just finished two very good books: Eugene Merrill's Kingdom of Priests and Richard Hess's Israelite Religions. They're introductions to the scholarly study of Israelite history and religious practice, respectively, from evangelical viewpoints. I learnt a huge amount through them, not only about scholarship in these areas in general, but also about the context of the Old Testament. They also demonstrated how a conservative stance on the historicity and reliability of the Scriptures is entirely valid and defensible, although never, of course, enough to induce faith on the power of its argumentation alone. Do give them a look if you're interested in these topics.