Thursday, September 29, 2005

How do we know the Spirit is speaking?

I have been involved in Pentecostal and Charismatic and in mainstream churches, and while I love them all dearly, I have noted that they all have the tendancy to take personal experience and call it the move of the "Spirit". Sometimes, I will admit, it seems that the Spirit really was moving-- when I saw a heroin junkie turn to Jesus and have no withdrawal symptoms; and when I saw a clearly schizophrenic cease with the voices and multiple personalities at the command of Jesus' name-- okay, we've got some proof there. But when a person says that they are called to ministy, well I can't deny the Spirit is working, unless I've got good reason to doubt it, but there's nothing there that absolutely suggests that the Spirit is speaking to that person as well. It's all pretty vague. And when my friend told me that the Spirit told him that he was going to be president of the U.S. in a year's time, I certainly had my doubts. And those doubts were proven right.

Even so, I have difficulty when people "know" that the Spirit is speaking because their church is pretty much agreed upon it. The creeds, for example. Just because we have a creed which affirms the deutero-canonical books, that doesn't mean that we all have to accept them as such. The creed does not necessarily speak for the Spirit, and the church, of course, has no consensus about them. And yes, I know people who have been spoken to by God through the deutero-canonical Scriptures, but that says nothing as to thier status as canon, or deutero-canon. Pretty much the same with the rest of the creeds.

So what is my point? Just because a bunch of Christians say it, don't necessarily make it the Spirit. Just because somebody has a mystical experience, don't necessarily make it the Spirit.
So what is the standard by which we can determine when the Spirit is speaking? I think there are three standards, all three of which are used in Acts 15, when determining whether the Spirit was speaking to the church then.

First of all, is the message consistant with the whole message of Jesus? Jesus said the Spirit would "remind you of what I said". Thus, if it is in agreement with one part, but in disagreement with another, then it is not in agreement with Jesus.

Second, is it constant with the love that Jesus showed? The fruit of the Spirit is love, and so a spirit of hate or favoritism would not be consistant with Jesus' love.

Third, is the fruit of that message accompanied with miraculous events, such as healings or visions? In some circles this seems passe, but it is still consistant with Jesus' requirements.

If we are going to take the point of view that if the "church as a whole" agrees with something then it must be of the Spirit, then, of course, we would have significant problems. Since there is still a significant argument over the deity of Christ, and three point of view remain prevelant, perhaps we should say that it hasn't been determined yet? And if we are looking at majority as the model of the Spirit-- although I shudder at a "democratic" Holy Spirit-- then we would have to say that the Spirit supports war. At least "just" wars. (there I am, shuddering again...)

-First posted on

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