This discussion originally arose very shortly after starting this blog when I posted “What is a Reformed Charismatic?”, which sparked not only a number of responses, but also a friendly email dialogue which I have referred to often since.
In that original post I stated “Most Reformed Charismatic churches – but not all – are wary of the excesses of so-called ‘revivals’ like what took place in Toronto and Brownsville, and see true revival not as an event that results in wild shows of spiritual gifts – or laughter and such – but as a move of God, where-in the lost come to Christ, and the Church shows much deeper signs of God’s Holy Spirit: His FRUIT.”
For some time I’ve considered re-approaching this issue, but was wary of touching a nerve, as these sorts of ‘spiritual experiences’ are very personal for many, and can be a source of pain or joy that can spark great conflict, which is NOT the intent of this blog. A few days ago, however, I stumbled across a friendly acquaintance’s (actually, a family friend) radio show – Sid Roth was interviewing Rodney Howard-Brown. Rodney came across as a gentle, God-loving, and sincere, and I felt compassion for him and regretted how harshly I had criticized him and his ministry in the past, during my more ‘cessationist-leaning’ days, particularly. This interview triggered in me the desire to initiate this conversation.
It is very clear from the Scripture that the primary sign of the Holy Spirit’s work are His fruit, and those fruit are how we are called to judge – or to discern – a true move of God. I have many very near to me that have experienced aspects of the ‘Holy Laughter/Toronto Blessing/Pensacola Outpouring/Brownsville Revival’ movements, and some were blessed and are convinced it is a true move of God, and some were horrified and think it nothing short of demonic. I tend to stand somewhere in-between.
My view, somewhat shaped by Grudem’s influence on my understanding of modern-day prophecy, and my reading of Jonathan Edward’s Religious Affections, is that in every genuine move of God, the flesh can respond inappropriately, creating uneccessary chaos and disorder, sometimes even inspiring emotional fleshly responses from individuals who’ve experienced no such touch from God’s Holy Spirit whatsoever, but who are merely ‘riding the wave’ of emotionalism. Quite possibly, the environment in those churches that received ‘Holy Laughter’ both led people to be open to receive from God in a special way, but other false teachings (or possibly areas that simply haven’t been taught on? Lack of Biblical teaching?) also created the potential for overwhelming emotional excess, and great disorder – a modern picture of Corinth in Paul’s day. It happened in Jonathan Edward’s day as well – individuals falling on the floor, moaning, openly weeping, and other such outward gestures, yet he was wise to point out that such expressions didn’t really point to genuine conversion: one had to look at the long-term fruit in their lives. Maybe God poured out joy – a true time of refreshing – on a people who simply hadn’t learned what it meant to Biblically be ‘self-controlled’ and ‘in order’, so that much (or at least some) of the revival was genuine, though many individual’s immediate emotional/physical responses to it were inappropriate? That’s my current impression, but I’m still willing to change my mind, as long as the interpretation fits with the Scripture – remember: God doesn’t contradict God.
So, I want to hear from you, particularly if you were there, or someone close to you were part of one of these ‘moves of God‘. What are the long-term fruit from your attendance of these revivals (i.e. – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control)? Do you now, looking back, have any sense that you were in any way acting in the flesh, or even out of ignorance (that doesn’t mean you were ‘dumb’, but simply ‘uninformed’), or do you feel that your actions during the revivals were entirely Holy Spirit directed and inspired? For some of you, was it in any way a negative experience, and how so? I’d like to see a full discussion – it would definitely help me clarify my thoughts.
Note: This is NOT an opportunity to ‘Charismatic-Bash’, and any responses that lean that way will NOT be published. Otherwise, your opinions are WELCOME – no, STRONGLY ENCOURAGED. Please?
p.s. – this is a later update, but I found this excellent commentary over at Adrian Warnock’s blog.