Sunday, March 2, 2008

Experience and Theology

To go from one extreme to the next in the time-span of only 2 or 3 years is truly a work of God. I have done this and have had the view from each perspective; “The Extreme Charismatic Experimenter” to the “Overly Reformed Analyzer.” I would like to share my experiences briefly with you and see if I can draw a bridge between these 2 cousins. I think there is much to be learned from circumstances in life before and after the completed Canon of scripture. A question many ask is-How do we balance our circumstances in life through dreams, experiences, and unexplainable events against the written revelation of God, the Bible? Can the two walk together?

Experience- particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something.

Theology-the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.

My Pastor invited me to a conference in Saint Louis last week on a Tuesday and Wednesday. I learned a lot of great things from many excellent preachers and teachers. What baffled me the most was with all these men being totally reformed in their theology-they had many experiences to go along with their teachings. Don’t misunderstand me here, all of their experiences were subjected to the Word of God but nevertheless, their experiences complimented and did not contradict the Word of God. I learned about Christmas Evans, Sandemanianism, John Mason Peck, and many other early Christian men who’s lives were also riddled with experiences.

Throughout all of scripture starting from Genesis and ending in Revelation we see God interacting with humanity continuously through visions, dreams, personal experiences, and even on some occasions audibly. Then all of a sudden with the culmination of the scriptures God now becomes mute and we somehow we no longer can hear from God. This may be a bit of a extreme some would say. Typically most doctrinally sound teachers of our day like John Macarthur would say that, “The foundation has already been laid and the primary communication from God to us is through the written Word of God.” In which I wholeheartedly agree with, but does that mean that God cannot and does not speak today?

My life from inception has been also accompanied by experiences that cannot necessarily be confirmed or discredited by the Bible. For one example I think of when I was born, I had neuroplastoma and my mother visited a church near the hospital since I was basically in and out of the hospital with my condition for about 2 years. While my mother was at the church(I assume it was charismatic) someone started to speak in tongues and apparently there was also a translator who translated the message or language to be Biblical.(To clarify, I believe tongues was(is) a language and not the gibberish we hear today and this can be proved throughout scripture) Long story short they called her up for prayer knowing about her situation already I assume from the translation. Excuse me for lacking the details but is this coincidence or God? I don’t know but I am sure everyone nowadays has a similar story like this one. I personally believe God would have healed my cancer apart from this churches prayers but He allowed for men and women to intercede for my health.

I have fasted for 17 days straight at a time while I was the “SUPER CHARISMATIC”, gave my last savings to the church, sought God for spiritual gifts, and many other extremes before looking to His Word first. I would encourage many of you to seek God through His written Word and if you do have a “EXPERIENCE” I would be overly skeptical since we live in such a deceptive age and our adversary is very crafty.

Gal 1:8
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

While in the charismatic church I read many books with a untrained eye regarding things that contradicted scripture. Many things I read talking about the nature of Hell from a perspective or experience that cannot be found in scripture and in the same token contradicted Luk 16:19 - Luk 16:31. We have to have balance and understand that God can speak in any way He chooses but I would be cautious and say that hearing an audible voice is not normative and that whatever the experience might be, it will not contradict God’s word. If it does contradict most likely it is not God. This has been proved through time through all the famous cult leaders like Charles Taze Russell, Bringam Young, Joseph Smith, and many others.

Gal 1:8
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed

In conclusion our experiences should absolutely never alter our theology(study of God-the Bible). On the contrary our theology and growth in the fear and knowledge of GOD through His word should ultimately be the filter in which our experiences are rendered legit and from God or a hoax by the deceiver.

Recommended Reading: Led by the Spirit by Jim Elliff