Monday, January 09, 2006

Four Bad Reasons to be Weird

I have found this article Four Bad Reasons to be Weird by Gregory Koukl to be quite helpful in dealing with bad reasons posed by certain Christians, mostly if not all from charismatic circles. These reasons are commonly used to silence the opposition who question their bizarre doctrines and behaviors. Here are the bad reasons, provided along with excerpts from the article.

1. The Gospel is foolishness. We should be willing to be fools for Christ.
Some people ask: What's wrong with being weird? The Gospel is foolishness. We should be willing to be fools for Christ. Paul said we should be fools for Christ in 1 Corinthians 4. Paul says the Gospel is foolishness, so why should we subject the work of the Spirit to rational, logical, sensible assessment?

I got a response from a professor at Talbot, Dr. Paul Cox, who was talking to a non-Christian student who was laughing at the Gospel. Dr. Cox said, "Do you know why you're laughing? Because you're perishing."

You see, Dr. Cox understood 1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness." 1 Corinthians 1:23 says, "We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to the Gentiles foolishness." To whom is the Gospel foolish? To those who are perishing, to the Gentiles who don't understand. Those are the ones who think it's foolish.

The Gospel is not foolish in itself, it's just foolish to those who don't understand it. In fact, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:6, "We do speak wisdom among the mature." It's wisdom, not foolishness, but it's a wisdom that is not of this age.

What about Paul saying we should be fools for Christ? He was being sarcastic. Look it up, 1 Corinthians 4:10, "We are fools for Christ; but you are prudent in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are distinguished but we are without honor." His own apostleship was in question: We're just lowly apostles, after all.
2. Don't quench (or grieve) the Holy Spirit.
You witness something that they suggest is the Holy Spirit. You say, Gee, I'm not so sure. I'm not going to participate. And then you're accused of quenching or grieving the Spirit.

This argument is circular. It presumes that the Holy Spirit is working, and by denying what's going on, you are grieving the Spirit when the question of whether the Holy Spirit is involved at all is precisely what is under consideration. By presuming that you're grieving the Spirit, they are presuming what you are questioning.

Worse than that, it's a veiled threat. It's like saying that when one challenges weirdness, he is actually hurting God's feelings or offending God. If you raise the question, you're threatened with hurting God's feelings. You are actually fighting God. You are not merely taking exception with the person who is inviting you to participate; you are fighting God. That's a very strong statement to make. It is precisely whether God is involved or not which is under question.

Don't be intimidated by someone who lays this particular trip on you. I might be quenching or grieving the Spirit. I'll take that chance. Why? Because the Spirit will survive, but I may not. I may not survive if I get involved in something weird and extreme and get pushed off the deep end. My faith may not survive it. That s why I say it's better to run the risk of quenching the Spirit--if that's what is going on--rather than going off the deep end.

Some people are afraid to risk quenching any spirit: the Spirit of God, the spirit of frivolity, the spirit of Antichrist. They think that just because it is supernatural and weird, it must be from God. The weirder the better. It's proof of God's hand.
3. You can't put God in a box.
You can't put God in a box. I'm amazed how many people actually think this is a good argument. The problem is, I can agree with the statement entirely. God can do anything He wants. I can't put God in a box. But does it follow from the fact that God can do whatever He wants that any particular manifestation in question is from God?

You can't put God in a box, therefore, bouncing around on your head during "a movement of the Spirit" is God's Spirit. How do you know for sure? Because you can't put God in a box.

One has nothing whatsoever to do with the other. It's a non-answer. That kind of justification can be used to defend just about anything. I mean, sure, God can do anything He wants but that doesn't mean He is in fact doing anything here, which is the question.

What if I told you that you should come with me to a church that has a brand new work of the Spirit? You say, what is it? I say, when the Spirit moves us, we stand in a circle and urinate into a big tub. We pee in a pot. We call it "whizzing in the Spirit." You say, Koukl, that's bizarre. I say, there are no verses against it. Find a verse against it. In fact, I've got a proof text: "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." There it is! Works for me! After all, you can't put God in a box, can you? God can do whatever He wants, can't He? So who are you to judge Him?

Tell me what the difference is between my justification for whizzing in the Spirit and anyone else's similar justification for any other kind of bizarre thing. There is no difference. That isn't good evidence for my point of view. God can do whatever He wants, and it isn't good evidence for anyone else's point of view at all. The point is, God can do whatever He wants. So what? We're not talking about what God is capable of doing; we're talking about what God might actually be doing or maybe is not doing in this circumstance, and we have to ask different questions for that.

Some of you might be offended by my example. This is a principled example. The purpose wasn't to gross you out. It used to be that we could choose extreme examples which everybody would agree was bizarre. We'd choose something like swinging from the chandeliers or barking like dogs. We all knew it was an extreme example. The problem nowadays is things like the Toronto Blessing, where people are barking like dogs and roaring like animals, and this is called being Spirit-filled. The clear-case examples of the past are no longer clear-case examples, and I have to reach even further to come up with a case we can all agree is extreme.
4. Don't touch God's anointed.
The final defense is the one that annoys me the most: Don't touch God's anointed. You raise an objection to something that seems extreme and bizarre, and what you get is the statement, Don't touch God's anointed.

Do you know what that actually means? Do you know what people mean when they say it? They mean, Shut up. How dare you even raise the question about whether this man is anointed of God or not. They presume he is, and when you challenge it you are threatened.

Essentially, people are saying, Don't you dare try to protect God's church by raising questions, by being discerning, by trying to be careful. It may be that we raise a question about something going on and are wrong about it. It may be that the Holy Spirit really is working, but the way to conclude that is not by forcing people to shut up.

We have an obligation to ask the question. We have a responsibility from the Scriptures to pass judgment. Titus 1:9-11 says that "elders should be ones who hold fast the faithful word, which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." Paul said if you want leadership in the church, you better know the truth so well that you can teach sound doctrine to people and clearly refute those who contradict.

Paul doesn't say you refute them by telling them to shut up. A refutation is a result of an analysis based on evidence and sound thinking. They're not silenced, they are refuted. In refuting them, they are silenced. Paul does say we should silence them. "There are many rebellious men, empty talkers, deceivers, especially those of the circumcision who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families." They're not silenced by being told to shut up, they're silenced by being refuted. This only happens when there is open conversation about the issues. It protects the church when Christians raise principled objections. If the questions are not proper, the best way to deal with them is to answer them, not to shut people up.

When somebody says to me don't touch God's anointed, I ask them where it is in the Bible. Normally they don't know, they just heard somebody else say it. Here's a standard rule of thumb when people try to issue a biblical mandate: Just ask them to look it up. Look it up yourself.

This particular reference is found in 1 Samuel 24: 6, 7, 11, and 13. David is hiding from Saul in fear for his life. Saul comes into the cave that David is hiding in to "relieve himself," as Scripture delicately puts it, and David cuts a piece from Saul's robe without him knowing it. He could have killed Saul. After Saul leaves, 1 Samuel 24: 6-7 reads: "So he said to his men, 'Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed.' And David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul."

Not touching the Lord's anointed means not killing him. So don't let anyone intimidate you with this one to keep you from asking appropriate questions.

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