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Didaktikon
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Date Posted:30/07/2011 1:03 AMCopy HTML

Good morning.

As I mentioned in the 'CBox' a couple of days ago, noted evangelical theologian, exegete, author and minister Dr John Stott has passed from corruption to incorruption; from earth to heaven. Stott was one of the wisest and sanest theologians I have ever read, and I commend his work highly. Consequently, I thought I'd reproduce a transcript of an interview from several years ago, where he had cause to comment on matters 'charismatic'.

Blessings,

Ian


Can we turn to the charismatic movement? how Have your views changed since Baptism and Fullness?

Baptism and Fullness was the second edition; the first was The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit. I practically rewrote the book, principally because I felt I had been less than generous in my evaluation of the movement. I wanted to put on record that I had no doubt that God had blessed the charismatic movement to both individuals and local churches. It would be quite impossible and improper to deny that.

I do believe in the Holy Spirit! The Christian life is inconceivable without the Holy Spirit. The Christian faith and life depend entirely upon the Holy Spirit: the Spirit convicts us of sin, opens our eyes to see the truth as it is in Jesus, causes the New Birth to take place, bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, transforms us into the image of Christ, is the earnest of our final inheritance, and so on. Every stage and every part of the Christian life is impossible without the Holy Spirit.

So I believe in the Spirit; but I still believe that some of the distinctive doctrines of charismatic Christians are not as honoring to the Spirit as they think they are, and are in fact mistaken.

What I find difficult is the stereotyping of Christian experience, that everybody has to go through the same two hoops. I don't see that in the New Testament. I see the emphasis on the New Birth; and the New Testament bends over backwards in its attempt to find adequate phraseology to define the New Birth. It speaks not only of rebirth but of re-creation and resurrection, and nothing could be greater than that. It seems to me we are bound to go askew if we put any subsequent experience on a level higher than the original one.

As for the gifts, I simply think that many charismatics focus on the wrong ones. There are at least 20 gifts identified in the New Testament, and these lists are so random that there are probably many more that were not included. But the Pentecostal still concentrates on the three supernatural gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues.

The most important gift today, measured by Paul's principle that we should excel in those that build up the church, is teaching. Nothing builds up the church like the truth, and we desperately need more Christian teachers all over the world. I often say to my charismatic friends, "If only you would concentrate on praying that God would give teachers to the church who could lead all these new converts into maturity in Christ, it would be more profitable."

Could the development of the movement bring about an existential form of Christianity? Just as liberals read scripture in the light of its relevance to culture, could the charismatics read it in the light of its relevance to experience?

I think that's well put, and I want to endorse it. I wish I'd thought of it first!

Mind you, I don't want to denigrate experience. I don't want charismatics to say of me, as they often do, "He's a dry old stick." Because I'm not, actually. I'm a much more emotional person than people realize. I thank God that he hasn't made me a fish, cold and slippery. I'm very thankful to be a human being, with all the emotional passion and fervor, as well as intellectual concern, which that entails.

I do believe in emotion; I do believe in experience. The Christianity of the New Testament is undoubtedly an experiential faith, in which deep feelings are involved. But I want to combine clear thinking with deep feelings.

I find that mind and emotion are kept together very much in the New Testament. I have always loved, for example, the Emmaus walk: "Did not our hearts burn within us when he opened to us the Scriptures?" It was through their mind that their heart began to burn. We have to recognize the important place of experience, but our experience does have to be checked all the time against biblical teachings. Otherwise, it will become an ungodly and non-Christian existentialism.

Have you yourself had experiences of God that could be called "charismatic"?

I want to say yes to the first part of the sentence and no to the second. Certainly God has given me in his goodness some profound spiritual experiences, both when I've been alone and even more in public worship, when tears have come to my eyes, when I've perceived something of his glory.

I can remember one particular occasion when we were singing, "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow." I did really break down, because I saw again the supreme exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. I have had other profound experiences that have moved me to the core of my being. But I wouldn't say that any of them has been a traditional charismatic experience such as speaking in tongues. And they have not been disassociated from the mind. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is all the time saying, "You mustn't let these experiences bypass your mind." The mind is involved, though the experience goes beyond it.

But I know what Paul meant in Romans 5 about the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts. I also know what he meant in Romans 8 about the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
email: didaktikon@gmail.com
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Re:John Stott

Date Posted:30/07/2011 5:56 AMCopy HTML

Well said and very good post Ian..

It is precisely that point of point of lack of Teachers and good teaching that is so really lacking corporately across the whole body, and even more so within Charismatic circles. And these days my own senior pastor emails me for exegetical advice simply because he cannot read the Greek New Testament and knows nothing of syntax. But of course I respond in a loving way.

But you see Ian, much fault of the present situation I feel is due the ministry training environment of current times.In my own senior pastor's case is that he has never studied languages and his only training is limited to just a B.Min. And sadly he has shown reluctance to further his learning through accredited institution. Instead the constant visiting of charismatic conferences seems his preferred choice.

However one lesson I personally learned from you some few years back now was the need to be a good steward with the Word of God !!! And that I shall continue to do .. but only through accredited and accountable source.. You can have all your 'junk' conferences and rock concerts and what not hyped up nonsense. I'd rather sweat up a few late nights digging into the journal articles thank you very much..

blessings and grace dude

Eric

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Re:John Stott

Date Posted:30/07/2011 7:43 AMCopy HTML

I fully agree and see that there is a need for more ‘Godly’ teachers in the world, even in Orthodox circles.

But may I ask, does all this ‘charismatic dogma’ really deny one’s salvation if they hold to the foundational doctrine of salvation?

After all, we accept the Roman Catholic Church as Christian even with all its “quirky” traditions, so long as they keep to teaching that concerning scripture.

Unlike Revivalists, JWs, etc., I haven’t been aware of any that preach a false gospel. A bit overboard with their “antics” at times, but still the message of Grace, faith, love and charity is expounded.

 

As a side, in addition to the need for good teachers, there is a need for all Christians to stand up and openly declare the ‘Faith’ they claim to possess (Muslims do) and not be afraid of offending any one for the sake of a better world.

This is why Christianity comes across so dry and weak to the world, even in our society. (That's my opinion anyway)
 

I’m not ashamed to own my Lord.

I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C.S.Lewis.
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Re:John Stott

Date Posted:30/07/2011 9:12 AMCopy HTML

Ralph,

I fully agree and see that there is a need for more ‘Godly’ teachers in the world, even in Orthodox circles. 'Orthodox'? Or 'orthodox'? But may I ask, does all this ‘charismatic dogma’ really deny one’s salvation if they hold to the foundational doctrine of salvation? After all, we accept the Roman Catholic Church as Christian even with all its “quirky” traditions, so long as they keep to teaching that concerning scripture. I suppose the answer to your question would be, 'it depends'. First, on just how much error a person is prepared to accept whilst still remaining within the pale of biblical Christianity. And second, on which areas of belief/doctrine such error involves. Heresy, strictly speaking, involves the promotion of deficient/false positions relating to the Person and nature of God. This, and this alone stands as the 'foundational' doctrine of importance, not 'salvation' (given that the latter depends on and derives from the former). Now there are quite a few charismatics and charismatic groups who promote some rather erroneous twaddle about the Person and nature of the Holy Spirit. Errors of this sort, then, are heretical. When judged by this standard the Roman Catholic Church is found to be perfectly o-r-t-h-o-d-o-x in her understanding, so your analogy is not only mistaken, but your implied criticism altogether misses the mark. As I've mentioned to you a few times before, there is a taxonomy to doctrine, and cultural issues stand in the 'outer rings' of what's really important.

Unlike Revivalists, JWs, etc., I haven’t been aware of any that preach a false gospel. A bit overboard with their “antics” at times, but still the message of Grace, faith, love and charity is expounded. Then you're lucky. My experience with the charismatic movement is likely a little broader than your own. There are Pentecostal and Charismatic groups whom I've encountered who promote the same rubbish as Revivalism with respect to 'tongues' and the Holy Spirit. And there are more besides who believe as much practically, even though they claim not to theoretically. But do remember that the Gospel is the 'good news' about who Jesus Christ is, what he's done and why he did it. 'Grace, faith, love and charity' are the effects of the Gospel; they are not the substance of the message itself.

As a side, in addition to the need for good teachers, there is a need for all Christians to stand up and openly declare the ‘Faith’ they claim to possess (Muslims do) and not be afraid of offending any one for the sake of a better world. This is why Christianity comes across so dry and weak to the world, even in our society. (That's my opinion anyway). Okay.

I’m not ashamed to own my Lord. Good for you.

Blessings,

Ian
email: didaktikon@gmail.com
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Re:John Stott

Date Posted:30/07/2011 10:40 AMCopy HTML

Ian,

 

Thank you for ironing all that out for me.

 

For the little understanding I have on ‘O’/’orthodox’, I would say little ‘o’ and even though it may have come across as implied criticism of RCC, was not my intention. I did have the cultural ‘peripheral’ in mind.

Ralph 

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Re:John Stott

Date Posted:30/07/2011 1:12 PMCopy HTML

Hi, Eric.

It is precisely that point of point of lack of Teachers and good teaching that is so really lacking corporately across the whole body, and even more so within Charismatic circles. And these days my own senior pastor emails me for exegetical advice simply because he cannot read the Greek New Testament and knows nothing of syntax. But of course I respond in a loving way. I would certainly hope so. Personally, I reckon being able to read the Greek New Testament and understanding Greek syntax is much less important a skill to a Christian pastor than is a fervent capacity to love his/her congregants despite their sins, their failings and their weaknesses (pride included). Furthermore it's a sign of spiritual maturity to be able to recognise and then seek the advice of those who have different strengths, gifts and training to one's own.

But you see Ian, much fault of the present situation I feel is due the ministry training environment of current times. In my own senior pastor's case is that he has never studied languages and his only training is limited to just a B.Min. So what if he hasn't studied the biblical languages? They're simply one means to a general end.

To be perfectly honest I think you're being unduly and unnecessarily harsh in your assessment of your pastor, and his skills. For starters, a Bachelor of Ministry degree is nothing to 'sneeze' at given that the curriculum studied for that professional award is intentionally aimed towards equipping candidates for pastoral ministry in Christian churches. Bachelor/Master/Doctor of Theology degrees, on the other hand, are intentionally aimed at preparing people for academic ministries in universities and theological colleges. Both, however, are necessary if the Body of Christ is to be properly taught and led noting, of course, that Christ's primary concern remains the Church and not the Academy. And sadly he has shown reluctance to further his learning through accredited institution. I might suggest that 'accreditation' doesn't necessarily or automatically equal 'quality'. There are any number of parochial Bible Colleges in this country that I could name, which are fully government accredited, and yet I would never dream of recommending them to anyone wishing to gain a half decent education in biblical and theological studies! Furthermore I just happen to be the Director of Studies of a theological college which isn't government accredited. Yet despite this apparent 'impediment' (from your perspective) I'm comfortable based on personal experience that our courses of study are as rigorous as the very best available in the southern hemisphere. There are (accredited) theological colleges in Australia and overseas which apparently agree, given that they welcome our students directly into their Graduate degree programs. Instead the constant visiting of charismatic conferences seems his preferred choice. Well I certainly can't speak to your pastor's apparent preferences in this regard.

However one lesson I personally learned from you some few years back now was the need to be a good steward with the Word of God !!! And that I shall continue to do .. but only through accredited and accountable source.. Again, be careful of naively confusing/blurring 'accreditation' with 'accountability'. In any case it appears that your own pastor is seeking to be held accountable for his stewardship of God's Word, given that he seeks your input with respect to his exegeses. Kudos to him. You can have all your 'junk' conferences and rock concerts and what not hyped up nonsense. I'd rather sweat up a few late nights digging into the journal articles thank you very much.. Well, one certainly needs to be discerning, whether one is reading articles in theological journals or attending this conference or that.

Please remember the need to be gracious, bro'.

Ian
email: didaktikon@gmail.com
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