The Effect of the Gospel on How We Perceive Others (Updated)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Updated: November 9, 2005

This past summer I posted on "How the Gospel Helps us Hold Others in High Regard." Recently, in the midst of this charismata debate/discussion, I've seen some things I discussed in my post back then markedly revealed this past weekend. I don't care to name any names, but I will name the central issue that is driving me absolutely nuts. You ready? Here it is....

It has happened on both sides of this debate, and almost entirely from the reformed cessationists. There is this crazy concept constantly being propounded that since charismatics do crazy things like proclaming prophecies that do not come true, (1) they are crazy bozos, (2) they are acting in an evil fashion, purposefully I might add; (3) the rest of their ministries and labors for the kingdom are discredited; (4) they are tacitly written off.

Brothers and sisters, this is flat out wrong, unbiblical, and is perhaps one of the poorest reflections of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the effects the gospel of Christ has on us is that it causes us, even compels us to maintain a high regard for others, despite their mistakes, sins, and crazy actions. The fact that a human Christian errs does not discredit everything else he does, says, or writes. If there's one glaring error in behavior among my cessationists friends it sort of hovers above this very thing on this very issue. A charismatic is a Christian too, one saved by the cross, one loved by Christ, one prayed for by Christ, one chosen by Christ, one baptized into Christ, and one put into ministry of any kind by Christ. Their error(s) no more discredit them than our daily sinfulness discredits the rest of our lives. We are looking at this whole thing from the back end. Consider two ways this is occurring.

First, the error(s) we commit - and more particularly, the errors charismatics or charismaniacs commit - are no different than the errors we commit. What seems to be so remarkable to me is that when I was a cessationist (and I'm implying something very broad and general here about most other cessationists and not necessarily anyone in particular...though some faces do come to mind!) the pride and arrogance that caused me to write off or discredit another man's ministry or life because he was a charismatic or because he gave 'false' or erroneous prophetic words is simply astounding as I look back on it. What arrogance to think that I had the market cornered on exegetical and theological truth, such that I could, would, and did hold my other charismatic brothers and sisters in such low regard.

And if I may point out related error that I'm afraid is occurring among my cessationist friends, they find themselves more readily able to hold Sovereign Grace charismatics in much higher regard than the other charismatics. You know why? Because they are reformed, primarily, but also because they are a bid 'milder' than many other charismaniacs. However, all that seems to communicate is a continued attitude of elitism which says that if we share reformed theology then I can like you, fellowship with you, and feel more comfortable around you than if you are a part of the Vineyard Movement, or Oral Roberts ministry, or the Kansas City Prophets. Yet I must ask, why is the fact that one is reformed make us want to treat them with more niceness? Why do some reformed cessationists get so incredibly hyped up at some well-meaning charismatic televangelists, only to tone it way, way down when they meet a reformed charismatic? That is terribly hypocritical. The blood of Jesus is what unites us, and not reformed doctrine. Would I want them teaching and preaching in my local church, or serving as a church leader? Absolutely not. Would I, or will I read their books? Probably not. But I am bound to love my charismaniac brothers and sisters no matter how they act or how erroneous or crazy they become. I am bound to place the same value upon them as I do one who is reformed. They are my blood brothers and sisters. This brings me to the second way we look at this thing from the back end.

Second, the sins, errors, and mistakes of charismatics and charismaniacs are as much covered by the blood as are the sins, errors, and mistakes of reformed cessationists. A false prophecy is erroneous. Yet that doesn't make it inherently sinful (but even if it were sinful it is still forgiveable, not falling under the 'unforgiveable' sin). As charismatics understand it, especially the milder ones, to err is human. While we may know with much certainty we are hearing from the Lord, we may not necessarily be hearing Him correctly or accurately. And that may be due to a variety of reasons. But if I am not hearing correctly, that is no reason to 'dis' me or write me off. True, the larger the prophetic error, the wider the margin for public disdain. But it doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to treat those who err with such contempt, referring to their mistakes as evil, ungodly, or worse yet, even Satanic! One could easily look at the inward or outward life of a reformed cessationist and make the same conclusion upon the observation of one's one act of greed at income tax time, or a look of lust at a restaurant one day, or moment of wrath and anger toward the children one day.

Praise God for the cross. The conclusion of this post is that those who know their own sinfulness more than others have more patience with others. They are more capable of holding others in higher regard than those who are not as appropriately and keenly aware of their own sinfulness. They are more quick to forgive and rescue than are those who are quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to get angry.

Finally, for those who will undoubtedly reply in vehemence that sound doctrine is at stake here, I'd respond, 'So what.' Since when does Christ condone or commend to us an attitude of sinfulness toward those who are either doctrinally errant or even worse who are false teachers? No, the attitude of Paul in 2 Timothy 2 was to pray for these folks so that God may be kind enough to lead them a knowledge of the truth that leads to repentance. And I dare say this wasn't just a "We need to be prayin' for Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn" attitude that says such things but never actually engages God in earnest, consistent prayer for them. The fact that sound doctrine is at stake doesn't mean the error is unforgivable! "I know that!" say some in response. But you really don't if you don't treat them like it is forgiveable by loving them enough to truly pray for them, and above all else, speak of them and to them with graciousness, letting our speech be seasoned with salt (Col. 4), with kindness and tenderheartedness (Eph. 4).

Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest. Aren't blogs great! It's a good place to 'vent' for a moment!

Update: November 9, 2005

Can you say overstatement. That's often the case with impetuous blog posts like this one. While the substance of my argument remains unchanged, the various worthy and trusted comments left by friends have pointed out the flaw in it. In short, while they graciously 'hear' what I'm saying, I may not be saying it with enough balance. So allow me to correct myself online, if you will.

Charismaniacs who use anything spectacular - calling it a spiritual gift - in the name of manipulation or authoritarianism are awful people and deserve a 'butt-whoopin' as my grandaddy used to call it. It's outright sinful. And this includes those sorry sort of televangelists - with hair-dont's instead of hair-do's - who manipulate people out of their money and life savings all in the name of 'seed faith.' They are con-men making a living off the name of Jesus and they will surely pay for their sin if they do not repent. On this point, I thank John Schroeder (Blogotional) and agree with his point. (Thanks, John, by the way for pointing out this flaw in my argument above as well as Dave Wayne [Jollyblogger] for taking me to task in a generous manner.) These kinds of men are those who, upon further reflection of John's argument, do in fact take God's name in vain.

Again, my initial point was concerning those within the charismatic movement, as opposed to the charismaniac movement, who are well-meaning believers, desiring to glorify God as best they can, but who err in their usage of the spiritual gifts. We all err in our usage of the spiritual gifts, and if there are some who are not so humble as to agree, they'll have to agree that they definitely err in the production of the spiritual fruits! If we are all depraved by nature, and all share a constant need of the cross, then whether erring, well-meaning charismatic (reformed or Arminian) or not, they deserve our love, prayers, forgiveness, correction, and fellowship. That was my main point. But my failure to communicate categories of charismatic trouble is what got me into some trouble!

Thanks to all who have helped me hopefully say this better. And thanks for your patience as I rant and rave about how we ought to be more gospel-centered in how we treat each other.

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