Sunday, July 15, 2007

Open Minds

Since associating most closely with those of like minds makes life a lot more pleasant, our views tend to be self-reinforced by the anecdotal evidence.  All you need for evidence of that is to look at Hollywood- and New York-based entertainers and newsmongers.  As you said, some people from most denominations hold your views.  That is a facet of one of the two features that distinguish charismatism from Pentecostalism.  A wider perspective, however, would show that your view remains an unofficial, if not minority, position. 
In addition, in a broad set of cases, I'm confident that one could easily mistake others' belief in the filling of the Spirit for a belief in a baptism in the Spirit, along with the rarity of the person who knows the difference.  This might make your position seem more widespread that it actually is.
I'd like to use an illustration from American politics.  Our "conservatives" tend to base their positions on principles and on weighing conflicting rights.  Our "liberals," in contrast, focus entirely on the position of the side they favor and then discard the rights of those they oppose.  Since the opposition have no rights that "liberals" recognize, they have no right to oppose the liberal position.  Therefore, the opposing side must be "evil."  Demonizing and shouting down "evil conservatives" become acceptable.  Moreover, since "liberals" don't have to weigh conflicting principles, they merely need to convey the emotional appeal of their constituent.  In their campaigns, then, the rhetoric deals not with principles, but with "narrative."  The question of abortion changes from "how do we weigh the child's right to an unmolested gestation against the mother's right to control her body" to "what gives you the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body?"  Thus, the mother's incantation changes a pre-natal baby into either a child or "a lump of tissue."  Not facts, but desires, define reality.
This is quite relevant to us.  To start with, I must warn against over-interpreting what I say.  For example, my friend Greg sees only two possible sources of tongues:  God and the demonic.  Therefore, when I say anything against his interpretation of his experience, he feels that I am accusing him of channeling the devil.  I haven't been able to make him understand that I have a less offensive source in mind: the flesh. 
Our fallen physical bodies and minds deceive and misguide us in all sorts of ways.  We can easily interpret entirely natural phenomena as supernatural events.  Such things can have an addictive hold on us so that we become defensive when somebody has a conflicting interpretation.  We see evidence through filters of subconscious self-censorship.  We fall into approaching the Word of God as a source of ammunition instead of as a source of uncomfortable and sometimes condemning truth.  Moreover, the realization that we have unintentionally counterfeited such precious experiences can devastate our self esteem. 
One preacher summed this up by saying that "a man with a thousand reasons is at the mercy of a man with an experience."  That is, a man with an experience has far, far more difficulty maintaining an open mind than a man who approaches the subject with a simple desire to refine his understanding.  I've experienced a similar conflict when discussing charismatic issues.  After 33 years at the Lord's feet, I have yet to stop refining my positions.  Unfortunately, any amount of explicit proof rarely results in even a hint of refinement of my brothers' positions.  Therefore, with great reluctance, I have entered into this discussion.  I hope that we can guard ourselves against own worst enemies: ourselves.
    --  Poorhouse Dad

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