This post concludes a five-part interview with arguably the most controversial contemporary charismatic minister, John Crowder. It’s worth noting that Crowder’s ministry has evolved since 2008, when these interviews first appeared. He’s recently released two new books reflecting this: Mystical Union & Seven Spirits Burning. Our interview here reflects the interest in this pair of books: what does ‘union with God’ look like?
So this is John Crowder and I’s final dialogue, for now at least. Despite some of our differences in previous installments, it’s here where we talk something near and dear to our hearts. It’s precisely here where I fear we’re going to alienate at least some of you dear readers. Why? Because if there’s one thing that most middle-of-the-road Christian moderates distrust more than ‘extreme’ charismatic experiences, it’s mysticism – Christian or otherwise. The word ‘mystic’ is heavily freighted for many people, synonymous with ‘heretical,’ ‘apostate,’ ‘unbiblical,’ etc.. To add insult to injury, John & I don’t spend even a second justifying our use of the term, or indeed explaining any of the terms, dates, movements, and spiritualities we discuss – it’s a kind of conversational machine-gun fire. This isn’t intentional; it’s simply an exchange where we hit the ground running, sharing a mystical lingua franca – though we still come out in somewhat different places. [This is the bridge, perhaps, between my Spirit Week series and my Wisdom Christianity one, exploring the teaching of Cynthia Bourgeault.] Let’s dive in…
Mike: Thanks so much for your time here this past week, John. You’ve given me and my blog-readers much to digest. My final questions have to do with developmental-transformational growth in God – what Protestants typically call sanctification, what Catholic mystics call union with God, and what East Orthodox call theosis or divinization. Wesleyan and holiness preachers – who laid the seed-bed for Pentecostal theology and praxis – advocated what they called a ‘second work’ of ‘entire sanctification,’ known variously in those days as ‘Spirit baptism’ or ‘fire baptism.’ The charismatic and ‘third wave’ movements, as best as I can tell, hold onto a ‘Spirit baptism’ point but stress the continuing in-filling of Holy Spirit, moving from ‘glory to glory’ as it were in increasing supernatural experiences. I guess my first question for you here on this, our final post (for now!), is where do you see this present move of the Spirit you’re involved in going? Where is it heading?
John: I see full-blown transformation of every human paradigm of reality itself. A generation completely raptured in the overwhelming love of God. I don’t care about pioneering new theology, cultural movements or witty new ways of delivering the gospel. I want to love and to experience the love of God more. I think this is the corporate goal of the Holy Spirit. This is true mysticism.
Mike: The great mystical/contemplative writers of ages past talked in great detail about manifestations of the Spirit (they usually called them ‘consolations’), but they had a complex relationship with them: The mystics usually discouraged dwelling too much on the consolations, or trying to keep them coming. To give you a contemporary example, Contemplative Outreach cofounder Thomas Keating says:
At this crucial period in one’s spiritual development, it is important to realize the sharp distinction between charismatic gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healing, etc., and the Seven Gifts of the Spirit. According to Paul, the charismatic gifts (with the exception of tongues) are designed for the building up of the local community. They do not necessarily indicate that those who possess them are either holy or becoming holy through their exercise. If one is attached to them, they are an obstacle to genuine spiritual growth. For those who have received one or more of these gifts, this is clearly part of God’s plan for their sanctification and a cause for gratitude. But they must learn to exercise these gifts with detachment and not take pride in themselves because they happen to be the recipients of a special grace. Generally God provides sufficient external trials to take care of this human tendency. Prophets, healers, and administrators can greatly benefit from opposition, because it tends to free them from the fascination of their gifts and to keep them humble.
Paul himself emphasizes the distinction between charismatic gifts that are given to build up the body of Christ and the substantial gift of divine love. According to him, one possessing the charismatic gifts is still nothing unless one also possesses divine love (see I Cor. 13:1-3). Hence, the basic thrust of charismatic prayer and the exercise of the charismatic gifts should be ordered to the growth of faith, hope, and charity. To remain faithful to the clear invitation to divine union extended by God through the grace of baptism of the Spirit, one must not be diverted by secondary manifestations of spiritual development. Moreover, there is need for discernment with even the most genuine charismatic gifts. It is the duty of the community…to discern these gifts and to determine whether they spring from grace or from the natural energies of the unconscious. Those who possess them should willingly submit to this discernment for the good of the community Otherwise, the exercise of the gifts may be destructive of the common good rather than a means of building up the body of Christ.
Along with the charismatic gifts, which may be given to anyone without a corresponding level of personal spiritual development, so-called “mystical” phenomena, such as clairvoyance, locutions, visions, levitation, trance states, and many others, may accompany spiritual development as one accesses the divine emerging from the ontological unconscious. These also are of little significance compared to the graces of interior transformation set in motion by the Seven Gifts of the Spirit. The unusual and sometimes showy character of “mystical” phenomena makes them a hazard for immature mystics. It is difficult for even advanced persons to avoid taking a certain self-satisfaction in them.
The Charismatic Renewal needs spiritual guides who are thoroughly qualified through knowledge and personal experience of contemplative prayer to distinguish what is essential from what is accidental in the spiritual path. They should be able to recognize when someone is being called by God to interior silence and solitude and when someone is being called out of solitude into some particular ministry or service. People must be encouraged to follow the attraction to interior silence in prayer even if this means not attending prayer meetings for a time. This is especially necessary if, because of the duties of one’s state in life, one cannot attend prayer meetings and still have time to practice contemplative prayer. Periods of silence in the liturgy and during prayer meetings are essential for groups whose members are growing in prayer. To allow one another space in which to develop the contemplative dimension of the gospel is an integral part of commitment to a Christian community. [Full piece here.]
It’s clear from your book The New Mystics that you value the Christian mystics. What do you make of their contemplative caution of the charisms?
John: We must remember also in scripture that Paul tells us to “lust” after the gifts. How can we do this, unless certain gifts and manifestations should be considered “extensions” of Christ in some way, rather than competitors for His affections? We think of these things in too linear a fashion, through a veil of modernistic hierarchy and competition. We’ve all heard this type of wet blanket statement: seek God’s face & not His hand. It’s been used to keep us from chasing miracles, manifestations, etc. The phrase sounds noble and holy, but it is very unscriptural. We need ALL of God: hands, feet, fingernails and even His serotonin gland. Otherwise we’re screwed. I love my wife’s face, but I’m also very thankful that she has hands as well. They are quite helpful. We’ve been told not to seek manifestations, but the apostles did so in Acts 4 (“Lord, stretch forth your hand to heal the sick and work wonders,” etc.). Cessationists tell us not to seek after signs and miracles, but the apostles did so, for a greater end, that God would be glorified.
Mike: So is there any line to be drawn between seeking the things of God and simply seeking God?
John: Is there some sort of subjective rubber ruler here? Or is it possible that we are splitting hairs that weren’t meant to be split? Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God’s Glory. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” If Jesus is a “manifestation” of God’s love, a “consolation” if you will, could one make the argument that all Christians are called to worship a manifestation of the unseen God, which happens to be God Himself?
The perceived need to clinically separate God from the experience itself is a two-dimensional, linear way of thinking. Since biblical times, trances have been marked by visions and spiritual encounters, as well as frenzied physical manifestations and miracles. The lines between everyday lifestyle and divine encounter are going to be blurred in these days. Manifestations, ecstasies, consolations – these are not just a form of prayer, but a comprehensive way of living. Dwelling in unbroken pleasure. Letting our days become a fragrant song where Heaven and Earth continually collide. We will not be counting beans and trying to figure out if we are enjoying the worship service too much. We will be overwhelmed. We must worship God to excess in body, soul and spirit. With ALL of our mind, heart, soul and strength.
Mike: I agree with you in principle, but…those YouTube videos of you and your friends still seem pretty weird!
John: While ecstatic experience is biblically orthodox, it is far from tame or ordinary in its practical application. Ecstatics have always produced the most bizarre physical manifestations: falling over, fainting, shaking, trembling, uncontrollable laughter, running, shouting and convulsing. Not to mention the signs, wonders and miraculous phenomena. Such strange outward behavior has marked the lives of many great saints and prophets, past and present. And these wild ecstatic contortions have been evident in every great revival – at the birth of every mainstream denominational movement in church history. The inward working of God’s goodness tends to produce an uncontrollable wildfire when He takes the helm of clinical, religious sobriety – when He turns our water into wine.
Mike: I’ll drink to that!
John: God’s sheer goodness is so great that it is uncontainable. Maybe the “self control” God desires is for us to control the old dead, dry, boring, sober self – so that we can demonstrate His true happiness. This goes far deeper than a surface manifestation of laughter, shaking or bodily demonstration.
Mike: Do you think some of the worshippers at your meetings are faking it?
John: Are some manifestations feigned? Of course. In churches that are experiencing renewal, I often see people “fake” their joy in order to look spiritual – as if their laughter is a supernatural manifestation when it is not. This usually comes out of insecurity, as people seek to find their identity behind a particular manifestation. Of course, there is no need to over-analyze every laugh, twitch, crunch or yelp. We need to keep it real, but who am I to intervene into their communion with the Lord? Besides, I see people faking smiles and laughter in many mainline churches as well.
Mike: Ouch! But what about the peer pressure to conform to what your neighbors are doing – y’know, to look more spiritual?
John: There is no need to recreate a past experience, fake a manifestation or feign your happiness. But I don’t think this is a grievous sin that is going to ruin us all. Ultimately, God wants to give true joy that is thorough and lasting. Manifestations are valid, and I am a proponent for daily encounter. But truly encountering God should cause you to be changed. Don’t tell me you’ve seen an angel, but you still look like hell! When God really shows up, you are not just twitching to look spiritual in front of your friends. You are undone. One cannot stir up the soul with emotion, in order to gain a spiritual experience. But the crazy thing about the gospel is this: you are already having a spiritual experience! Whether you feel it or not, you are already united with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. As these spiritual realities impact your soul, there is no limit to the excess of emotions that are ignited.
Mike: So much of what you’re saying here an “old mystic” or contemplative could agree to. The main difference, I think, is that they’d say some of the most flamboyant emotional displays would last a season ‘till they were purged, leaving a more whole and balanced person in their aftermath. But you seem to see this as an ongoing, normative stage of theosis.
John: Physical manifestations of ecstasy have been termed “fits”, “enthusiasms”, “the jerks”, “convulsions” and many other names in various revivals. But the similar thread of losing control to the Spirit of God has always been present.
It is humorous to consider the writings of great 18th and 19th century revivalists and missionaries of the past, when they spoke of gathering together to be “refreshed” in the Holy Spirit. Ever wonder what that looked like? We’ve stereotyped so many of our forerunners as stiff-necked, starch-collared holy rollers. But many of them were complete Holy Ghost drunks. Ecstatic trances and manifestations of spiritual intoxication did not end with the days of Samuel, David and Elijah.
Mike: Humor some of my more skeptical readers. When has this happened with the safe reivivals? Y’know, the ones far enough away from us in the present that they’re okay to talk about, even among cessationist types?
John: The First Great Awakening is a classic example. In Jonathan Edwards’ meetings, people swooned and fell over and entered trances under the weighty hand of God.
Mike: Fire-baptized Calvinists? Get out of town!
John: Describing the revival of 1740-1742, Edwards notes, “It was a very frequent thing to see a house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions, and such like, both with distress, and also with admiration and joy.” Remember, this guy is the founder of Princeton University. And the early Methodist meetings were deemed to be “more like a drunken rabble than the worshipers of God.”
Mike: Well then, it must have been that pernicious Arminian Methodist influence. : )
John: One of Edwards’ present-day disciples, John Piper, is known for his theology of Christian Hedonism. He purports that our enjoyment of God is the very essence of true worship. Are we to draw a line between our enjoyment of God and God Himself?
Mike: I can hear my Calvinist friends’ jaws hitting the floor that you’re invoking Edwards and even Piper in service of your genre of divine enjoyment. If you’re game, I will personally accompany you to Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis to interrupt one of Mr. Piper’s sermons with blowback from a Holy Spirit Spliff. We’ll pray and see what happens to the Christian Hedonist himself.
John: Consider this view: rather than pitting the manifestation against God (i.e. worship God vs. worship the experience), we must see the experiences as means of worshipping God, to which there is no limit. For in the experience, I am partaking in the pleasure of God – the very thing I was created for – to be interdependent upon Him, enjoying Him forever.
I will make another analogy: as a married man, I am not continually comparing the love I have for my wife to the love I have for God. My wife will never be an idol who threatens to steal my devotion to the Lord. This is because I understand that in loving my wife, this is somehow a mystical extension of my love for Christ. By caring for her, I am worshiping Him. In the same way, when I give a cold cup of water to the poorest of poor, I am also doing this to Christ. I am not worshiping the beggar, but I am worshiping Christ through the beggar. It is foolish to draw lines of competition between God and experience that were never intended to be dissected in such fashion.
Let me also say that manifestations can be quite “extreme” if not outright fanatical, yet still be divine in origin. The radical nature of the manifestation is not in itself a determining factor of its source. I have considered myself nearly on the brink of insanity at times when God swept over me for hours of uncontrollable drunken behavior, yet the corresponding fruit was altogether tremendous, miraculous and life changing. I am always filled with joy and expectancy in these encounters.
Mike: I am all for diversity in the ways we love, enjoy, and worship God. Like I said when we were discussing charis-missional last post, I think that one of the ways we can love God is by loving others. I have no problem adding ecstatic worship and divine manifestations to the mix. But back to the mystics: They argue for a kind of divine detachment, from both people and manifestations. They encourage Christians to hold people, manifestations and all things subordinate to the indwelling Trinity and our deepening communion with God. People never go away, of course – but manifestations are seen as a transitory stage leading to greater (even if more subtle) intimacy with God.
John: Is it possible that this type of activity (manifestations/consolations) is a valid form of dwelling on the Trinity? That in allowing God to sing through us – body, soul and spirit – in all this craziness, we are somehow practicing His presence? Forget the loud and crazy orthopraxy for a moment, in all its various forms – is God’s tangible presence apparent in the midst of it all, and if so, how would you know? Do some propose to conjecture, who have never actually tasted? I believe that the more we taste and practice His presence, the more we individuate from the consensus orthodoxy of society, and grow into what Kierkegaard called the true “religious” sphere of life (religious meaning truly “spiritual”). We stop swimming with the pack, and we start to make waves.
Mike: God’s tangible presence, tasting God for oneself, individuating from consensus orthodoxy to actualized religious life…I like it! I’ll buy it. But I have to keep going back to these pesky mystics, whom we both love. They usually warn folks not to get ‘stuck’ at the level of manifestation but press on to the level of fully recognized Union.
John: But did they always practice what they preached? Teresa of Avila was continuously in ecstasies with documented eye-witness accounts of her levitating in mid-ecstasy, along with her own numerous admissions of this stuff (read her Life ch. 18 and onward). She sure impacted mystical theology, and didn’t seem to ever tone it down. Joseph of Cupertino was whacked all the time, and often struck mute. Catherine of Sienna and Catherine Emmerich literally spent years of their life in ecstatic states, with wild manifestations happening continually. Your readers wouldn’t believe some of the supernatural things that happened to them. This happened not because they focused on manifestations, but because they contemplated Christ.
Teresa, a doctor of the church, also acknowledged that all the levels of manifestation overlapped (recollection, union, ecstasy, prayer of quiet, etc.), but she also stated that full-blown ecstasy, the highest level of mystical prayer, is actually where all these manifestations were the craziest (ligature, inability to move, drunken stupor, levitations, etc.) She said that this was a level wherein the will almost ceased to function entirely because of the heavy pleasure of her inward raptures. I freely surrender my free will to the pleasures of Christ!
Others like John of the Cross and some of the darker mystics were absolutely depressed, so you have to take what they say about this with a big fat grain of salt. Anything that smacked of enjoyment was on the naughty list for them. You may note that we have coined a term “the new mystics” because we can now filter their theology through 500 years of rich, post-reformation grace theology. I am not into the morbid self-mortifications and false humility that many of the older mystics espoused, because it simply contradicts the finished works of the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news that only God can save us, and that He did so with one fantastic checkmate of love on the cross. If you want a dark night of the soul for the romance of it, then go for it. You’re not going to earn any extra points with God. Depression is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is. I choose the free gift of grace.
Mike: I think the ‘dark night’ might be a bit more complex than that. Since neither of us are even close to 40, I’ll refrain from commenting for at least a decade. But I agree that the Reformation had valuable contributions to Christian spirituality. Grace informs mysticism by making it less a striving to attain union with God, and more a letting go to consciously awaken to the union that was always there.
John: Yes, the mystics all had their seven-step programs of spiritual advancement. Call me a Calvinist [There he goes again! – ed.] (you’ll only find a few charismatic ones), but I’m of the opinion that there is a one-step program called conversion. I believe that grace has to be drunk straight. No additives. What if God wanted to blow the whole “stages” and “levels” and “Christian growth curve” theology right out of the water, and somehow made us all pure and holy and perfect and obtaining all of Heaven’s goodies through one simple event: the spilling of Christ’s blood? What if just maybe, this whole religious mortification issue was put to death in one fell swoop, when we died together with Christ (Rom. 6, Gal. 2:20)? That would mean the craziest non-stop Holy Ghost party has just begun, and we’re all invited!
Many theologies have been built around an idea that manifestations are the lowest rung on the spirituality ladder. I just don’t see any scriptural support for it. Why would God take me from a fun experience to a boring one? I think this Christian journey is about getting progressively better, “from Glory to Glory.” You can try to mortify the soul, but it will never happen. Your best bet is to plug the soul’s desire for pleasure into socket it was created for. The only answer to counteract the pleasures of sin is not to kill yourself. The answer is to find a greater pleasure. He never gives us a lesser covenant in place of a better one. This is the whole “Galatian bewitchment” that Paul addressed. We think that after God gives us a treat, it is then up to us to suffer, work and earn our way through the rest of life. God would not grace us with consolations, just to bait us into a morbid, suffering-centered religion.
Mike: I think one of the blog commentors the other day said, helpfully, that boredom isn’t the ultimately enemy. And I’d beg to differ that silence and stillness is boring and a step down – it can be of course, but it all depends on one’s consent to God’s loving presence with you in the moment. I sit still, I center, I speak quietly in tongues – it’s kind of nice actually. But I digress…
Thank you again for all the time and energy you put into this dialogue. Hopefully we can do it again sometime. Since you’re like the only charismatic-oriented Christians I’m aware of who have a clue as to the mystics and their teachings, I guess I’m asking you what I’d like to ask the charismatic/prophetic movement on the whole: Do you see a day where the average ‘Spirit-filled Christian’ becomes a full contemplative in the classic sense? If not, what do you see?
John: Will everybody get this? I don’t know. This is Christianity 101. It’s just the gospel. The good news that God cracked open Heaven’s wine barrel for us. But for some reason, not everybody is thirsty. They just want to sit around, debate about the menu and scoff at the drunk guy in the corner.
Peace – Oinga Oinga Oinga!
And there you have it, folks. Your thoughts?
Thanks for the discussion series. I really enjoyed it, and I am glad you guys did this.
Between the last two posts in this series I have a lot to digest. It’s been fascinating; thanks for opening this can of worms.
Excellent series, thanks to you both. I don’t know why I am surprised to see John referring to the old mystics, because he’s totally right that strange, sometimes bizarre manifestations are woven into our collective story.
As for me, I think back to the Toronto days when I was often decked out on the “New Wine”. I had a boldness then to pray for anyone, anywhere, and those my wife & I mentored went out and offered to pray (laying on hands) for nonbelievers in restaurants or wherever. So I say: Don’t bogart that Jesus joint, my friend!
Thanks Jdog and Zman. You guys are awsome. I would like to encourage anyone and everyone to get John’s book. You will not be disappointed. The only bad (not really because learning was happening) thing was is at times I had to read the same sentence over and over because 1. I didn’t want to miss anything and 2. I’m not that smart so I had to look up most of the words to understand. Not a problem for 99.9% of the rest of you.
I learned so much reading that book. It encouraged me and made me bold. Everyone in that book was just a man or woman. What made them special was the love of Jesus in there hearts.
You want to see who your friends are read that book out loud. I lost friends, My husband and I got kicked out of our homechurch/small group. God is good within 6months we had a new church and new couple friends who loved Jesus as much as we did. They are now even wanting to get drunk(holyspirit) after coming back from Lakelind. Finaly I have drinking buddies. 🙂
I remember people saying how can you belive that happened – crazy stuff like people would get there head cut off and pick up there head and the head would be praying for miles. All I had to say is that Jesus did crazy stuff and that power and authority lives and dwells in me, so sure why not. He did say in red letters ( that’s the good stuff) greater things you will do.
So go out and further the kingdom of god.:) I promise you’ll have fun.
Mike, I’m with you that sitting in contemplative silence is a joyful experience. I’m all for having fun in the Lord, which is what basically John’s message seems to be, but when I have a choice between fun and joy, I’ll go for the one that’s actually listed as a fruit of the spirit.
As someone who’s walked the dark road of midlife for a few years now, I find John’s rather callous dismissal of people struggling with depression to be really problematic. Union with God is found in suffering, too.
I used to subscribe to John’s email newsletter but I signed off after he talked about somebody’s diamond ring getting bigger at one of his miracle whoop-de-doos. I have to admit to having a pretty strong allergic reaction to consumer spirituality, especially after spending so much time hanging out with the Wiccans and Neopagans.
Now, having said all this, I also think John has a lot to say that’s worth listening to, and I do think constipated Christianity could use a good Crowder laxative or two. I’m reminded of when I was in high school (back before most of you guys were born), and the movie “Oh God!” starring George Burns came out. Christians all over my community were up in arms over it. But my church had a seminarian who saw the movie and said, “It has some bad theology in it. But it also has a lot of good theology, too, so in balance I think it’s worth seeing.”
That’s kind of the way I feel about John Crowder, having read this post.
I was drinking the koolaide until he got to the sentences where Christains and suffering. I wonder where his line is of Christians and suffereing-we’re not supposed to at all and if we do we’re not saved/filled/walking with God? I’m not saying I assume his thoughts to be that, just that those are some of the beliefs I’ve heard from people who believe that Christians are supposed to be joyful all the time.
My life experiences have taught me otherwise, but maybe I’m the minority? 🙂 I’ve had a lot happen to my family in the last seven years, we weren’t having incredible moments of Holy Ghost drunkeness (matter of fact, we had none), but I see that God has brought more growth to us than ever had before. Sometimes being able to withstandstand an onslaught brings growth, yanno?
It’s just that when you think life with Christ is one electrifying amusement ride after another, when you have troubles or low times you have a tendency to believe that you are somehow on the wrong path, that something is blocking your next infilling of the Spirit, that you are sinning somehow and then you start to set out fleeces-which path, this one? That one? If you show me this, I’ll go that way.
Having said that, I think as unique as people are, God speaks/reveals Himself to us as uniquely, so comparing your walk to someone like John could make you feel as if you are doing something wrong, which may not be the case. I agree with many of his views, and completely and utterly believe in the infilling of the Holy Spirit and gifts. It was just that one paragraph-but then I may be oversensitive becuase of my recent season of being through a very hellish few years.
Thanks for great dialogue! The Christian community needs to spend more time respectfully listening to each other.
I think God does wild and crazy things in the Spirit. I have experienced many of them. But God also does deep and painful things in the Spirit as well, and I have experienced them. I do believe that Jesus invites us into both his joy and his sorrow and suffering.
Any movement is eventually judged by time passing. Will new people come into relationship with Jesus that lasts for a lifetime? Are the poor fed and the widows cared for? Are the fruits of the Spirit manifested? Is there love for others so deep that one would lay down his or her life for them? Do we come to God with a deep gratitude in the best and worst of times?
On the other hand, how many people tell the Spirit to do only what is comfortable for them. We have a HORRIBLE hymn we sing that goes, “I desire no prophet ecstasies, etc.” What! I want everything God has to offer me and His church. I am sick to death of the contemplative movement…which often seems more based on Eastern religions than on the Bible. The Bible tells us to shout a lot more times than it tells us to be still. Mainly, quiet in our seeking of God is listening, deep listening, and we all need to do that more.
I want the overflowing joy, but I also want the calm confidence that God has walked with me through every evil thing that has happened in my life. I can declare, God is always good. God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. We can jump and dance in joy and ecstacy, or stand in awe and intercession for those who have won over great suffering. God is doing new things, and there will be many new and oddly shaped wineskins…isn’t that wonderful!
Wow….. I have too many responses to know where to start.
I’ll just pick a place and dive in:
About suffering mystics –
The suffering mystics are the original reason that I shyed (sp?) away from reading John’s book and avoided identifying with any “mystic” christian category, even though I cherish deeply having inner (and outer) spiritual experiences… Not that I don’t think that God meets people in suffering – He does! But only that I don’t think it is good to invite suffering or dwell on suffering in one’s life as a means to going deeper with God. Suffering will come, it is part of our walk, but even so, there are people I have met that seem so masochistic, in their embracing of suffering – they seem to not believe in spiritual warfare, or healing, because every evil or afflicting thing that comes their way they are so ready to embrace in some morbid fascination of “God wants this for me to perfect me…. Hey, I figure I only have one death to die and so martyrdom would be a cool way to go, and I’m also not a big fan of the prosperity name-it-claim-it camp, but I do believe that God wants us more tuned into His Spirit than on any outward circumstance – prosperity or suffering. In this line, I so love John’s “Calvinism” on this subject, that the cross was the ultimate suffering needed on our behalf – even though I’m not a Calvinist. Grace grace, man! And add to that, my soul delights to see charismatics quoting or mentioning Piper, whose books are an invaluable contribution to the body of Christ – and I repeat, I am not a Calvinist.
About dividing up God and His experiences –
Oh John, I could hug you! (May I, yu drunken fool? 😉 Years ago when I first started speaking in tongues, I remember one day being so saturated with God’s presence during the experience that I started to fear I was worshipping my tongues rather than God…and yet, the tongues were so much a part of His presence to me at that moment, that when I stepped back in some sort of self-righteous fear over it, it shut down my experience of His presence as well. I eventually got over it, and learned to just enjoy whatever God gives me as an extension of Himself…it is so cool to see how you expressed it John!
You know, this is another place I never really connected with the mystics. I know people think it seems so spiritual to sit in silence and commune with God, but over and over I have tried it, and it is not that my mind wanders or that I can’t handle silence, but it is simply that *I don’t find God there.* (most of the time.) I see so many people struggling to encounter God in silence thinking that is what they need to do, people putting others down for their lack of silence time, etc etc… and yet, what if it’s just not where He meets you (or you meet Him?) On the other hand, if I softly pray in tongues, or English, or sing a song… the whole scene SOMETIMES changes. There is more often a place of connection. So, I don’t know what the silent people are finding in their silence…are they confusing the experience of a quiet/restful/meditative state with a true spiritual experience with God, elevating “serene-ness” to a virtue and a place it really doesn’t belong? Or is God just meeting them in a way I have yet to encounter? Probably, depending on the person, both are true.
About crazy manifestations:
I’m new to this realm. But I had to rethink a lot of my approach to it after having a few encounters. For one, I found out that to really enter into some of this stuff, you had to BE WILLING TO TRY IT. For those who speak in tongues, I can only compare it to, well, speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is not USUALLY (though in some cases it is) something that comes upon you in a strong, involuntary way. To speak in tongues, you usually (especially after the initial experience) have to decide “I think I will pray in tongues right now” and take the initiative to open your mouth and give it a shot. In that place, there is this gentle fusing together of your cooperation with the grace of the gift and the utterance of the Spirit within you…to lesser and greater extents depending on whatever factor.
Similarly, to be overcome in a meeting with laughter, or shaking, or whatever, it usually starts out as a slight unction to laugh a little….and you have to decide to go with it, to roll with it, to “play along” with what the Lord is doing. It isn’t until the deal is in full swing because you have allowed it to get there, that the thing becomes so evidentally “other” than what you could have manufactured. But here’s the kicker – when I’ve “gone along’ with that whole thing, mainly as a point of hungry experimentation, and walked away wondering, “Wow, what did I get myself into?” to my surprise I did find that in the next few days, weeks, months afterward that there WAS an added strength to my relationship with the Lord on so many levels…an easier time in prayer, more grace in my daily attitudes, less trouble approaching Him (with self-condemnation, what have you) and my other “spiritual gifts” started increasing. At the very least, I found that the Lord seemed to be spurring me on in it.
I dooo see though lots of people who go into these experiences but loose sight of Christ…and like something I once read by William Penn said, is that any aspect of the Spirit of God is in agreement with Himself. Such experiences should only enhance your view of Jesus, your love for Him, your ability to speak of Him, obey Him. If an experience IS a distraction from Jesus, then it is not of Jesus…because the Spirit is always in agreement with Jesus. So I don’t think it is a matter of separating our experiences from Christ in order to focus on Him apart from the experiences, but it is rather that true and valid experiences enhance our view of Christ EVEN WHILE WE ARE HAVING THEM, and isn’t this WHY we have them anyway, both individually and corporately?
John, up till now you’ve been somewhat of a stranger to me, but I am sooo ready to come “drink” with you after reading your words! Where’s the party? 🙂
I remember not wanting to baptized in the Holy Spirit becuase I thought it would be like having Touretts syndrome-except with tongues but the woman praying over me told me that would never happen-it all was a matter of how much I allowed. She was right.
Sorry for the spelling mistakes up there-did’t have my glasses on.
I think if we all admit, the pace of blogs such as this, and the topic at hand, often leaves me the reader to some conclusions that may not be fair…and in order for me to try to be fair, I can’t convince myself fully that John was wholly against ‘dark nights of the soul’ or trying times in a pure sense. Contextually, I think he was going HARD after a tendency I have tried before myself, which is my own flesh based, trying to earn it and make it hard way in my walk with Jesus. (I know it is over, but, reading the other comments, it would be great to hear him respond to such thoughts.) I know that I am persuaded that when ‘dark nights’ come, that I can focus on Him, and have a very real, and meaningful mystic experience (perhaps) as the joy of Him overtakes me in the midst of trying times. While only John could confirm it, I am somewhat suspicious that he would have a view such as that.
Mike, John, thanks for your time. This has been a wonderful, delightful blog to read. This has been a fantastic jolt to my heart, as I love hearing how different folks are passionately pursuing the one we love, Jesus. While I accuse John of nothing, (wrong or right in this statement) it would be such a bummer to me to have anyone read through this series of blogs and get too upset…are not we all growing in God. Even if there is something that is ‘off’ here, don’t we all have a bit ‘off,’ and isn’t that the beauty of it all when the body can be together and the different strengths work together as Christ is known? Thanks, Mike, for being willing to put some things at risk with some blog readers, apparently, to let us in on something a bit outside our our personal camps, perhaps, and have the joy of seeing other parts of the body do their thing with Him.
I do not in any way knock John Crowder’s sincerity, passion or zeal BUT he seems to lack spiritual discernment – as does most of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement. Discernment is just not taught. Experience, feelings (almost) anything goes, but don’t ever question the manifestation or its source! ‘God told me’, ‘I feel’, ‘touch not my anointed’, ‘don’t criticise’, ‘don’t be a pharisee’ is all too common and it does not honor God or his word.
John, if you love God, truly, then I exhort you in Jesus name’ to love truth and test your experiences!
Does John or his movement ever test the spirits? Many of the mystics he mentions and reveres and holds up as examples were not in CHRISTIAN tradition but Roman Catholic (which is not, and has never been, the same thing as Christian) – so how can we authenticate their experiences when these mystics like Theresa of Avila were led into deeper error and not into truth? You may as well quote spiritualists or any number of other occultic mystics’ experiences and say they lead to God too and really anything goes…..it leads to another gospel, another church and another Jesus.
If we ‘drink’ of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who testifies to truth and not to error – as well as real reverence which Crowder lacks – we are led to deeper truth and true enlightennent and not error. So if while whacked out on the ‘Holy Ghost’ we have a vision of something that testifies against scripture, should we believe our experience or scripture? Should we test the spirits, as the apostle John says many false ones have gone into the world?
Soaking is all very well, but what are you soaking in?! What spirit do you prophesy by? Do you think demons masquerading as angels of light appear with 666 tattooed on their heads and horns poking out of their cassocks?! No they are sweet and seductive.
While we are commended to seek the spiritual gifts, particularly ‘that we might prophesy’ – and note I am NOT a cessationist and believe in all the gifts still being available but I also believe in counterfeits – we are also commanded to publicly judge and weigh any prophecy (as well as any teaching), as well as test the spirits behind the prophecy and spiritual manifestation as ‘many false spirits’ have gone out into the world. There are also intentional frauds and liars. (Indeed, why does John Crowder hang out with Lucy Rael who has been caught faking angel feathers and possibly her stigmata? The gold dust and gems crowd have been caught out faking it by platning glitter and gems. And why associate with Todd Bentley who has also been caught out numerously lying. Does he value truth and integrity?)
The spirit of prophecy is subject to the control of the prophet – everything is done decently and in order, one person speaking at a time. It is not a rabble with people claiming they cannot help themself speaking in a drunken stupor over the top of one another.
It is all very well to quote history and say this stuff has happened before over the centuries, but so what? Deception is not new! Let us look at the WHOLE truth.
Montanus in the early church was called a heretic, because among other things, of the ecstatic manifestations accompaning his prophecy as well as the trance state, claiming he could not remember afterwards what was spoken out etc. It clearly contradicted scriptural truth of how the Spririt of God manifests in prophecy. Also WHAT he prophesied as well as HOW he did it were problematic – so problematic the early church tried to exorcise him and his ecstatic prophetesses but were ‘stopped from doing so by hypocrits’.
Though Montanus mentioned Jesus, it was ‘another Jesus’, and I suggest that today’s church is being led to another Jesus by people like John Crowder. I reiterate this in no way reflects my view of John’s sincerity or zeal – but passionately people can get passionately led astray. I beg John to read about John Lacy if he has not done so already here http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/a-hungry-man-running-after-god-on-amazing-spiritual-experiences/ and here http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/01/05/on-false-prophets-strange-fire-wolves-in-sheeps-clothing/
I wonder why John C does not mention ‘Christian saints’ like Ann Lee or John Lacy in his book or this interview. Perhaps he has not heard of them, or it is a church history he prefers to overlook as once read it clearly depicts an awkward truth – the possibility of being taken in, led astray and the need to test everything. ‘Mother’ Ann Lee of the Shakers had numerous prophecies and ecstatic experiences and was thought to be the female incarnation of Christ, as well as various other spiritual rubbish believed. The shakers were very very sincere, or most of them, but they got decieved. Ann Lee came out a line of spiritual ancestry including John Lacy who in turn was ‘birthed’ out of the French Prophets. (See article links above for that fascinating history) I have said it before that Crowder reminds me very much of Lacy – and I mean this as a compliment and not an insult because he was a passionate man, not content with the norm.
John Crowder mentions the Great Awakening and says this stuff happened there, as well as at other ‘revivals’. It most certainly did, or very similar stuff, but John is being duplicitous to quote folk like Jonathan Edwards as if Edwards thought all these manifestations were a good thing. Has he read the ‘Religious Affections’, or the other contemporary writings that came out at this time? http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/the-religious-affections-wisdom-for-today-from-three-hundred-years-ago/
Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley as well as the Cane Ridge revival and the later Welsh Revival, are frequently touted by Rodney Howard Browne and the Toronto Brigade, saying ‘see these things happened it must be God’. But if you actually read up about what was actually said by these men at the time about the manifestations it was a very different story. They often did not agree and thought them ‘Satan’s work’ ‘of the flesh’ and distractions. Edwards said even extraordinary experiences, feelings, and manifestatons even leading to zeal and Jesus were no sign one way or the other these things were of God or the devil, and gave recommendations to see how what was really God.
Read ‘War on the Saints’ written by Jessie Penn Lewis and Evan Roberts about what they really thought about the bizarre manifestations at the Welsh Revival common to Toronto/Brownsville/Lakeland/Crowder. They clearly thought them to be demonic, or at the best fleshly!
John Wesley wrote: “… So many have been awakened, justified, and soon after perfected in love; but even while they are full of love, Satan strives to push many of them to extravagance. This appears in several instances: … Some of them, perhaps many, scream all together as loud as they possibly can… Several drop down as dead; and are as stiff as a corpse; but in a while they start up, and cry, “Glory! glory!” perhaps twenty times together. Just so do the French Prophets, and very lately the Jumpers in Wales, bring the real work into contempt…. I think there needs no great penetration to understand this. They are honest, upright men, who really fell the love of God in their hearts. But they have little experience, either of the ways of God or the devices of Satan. So he serves himself of their simplicity, in order to wear them out and to bring a discredit on the work of God.”
Charles Wesley found himself in a situation where one of the French prophets became his bed-fellow. As they got ready for bed, Charles reports that this prophet “fell into violent agitations and gobbled like a turkey. I was frightened and began exorcising him with, ‘Thou deaf and dumb devil,’ etc. He soon recovered out of his fit of inspiration. I prayed and went to bed, not half-liking my bed-fellow. I did not sleep very sound with Satan so near me.”
Jonathan Edwards said:
“It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and glorious, in the late extraordinary appearances [in New England during the Great Awakening], and to rejoice much in it; and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has been bad, and earnestly to oppose that. But yet, I am humbly but fully persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way acceptable to God, and tending to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom till we do so.
There is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; as it is a mysterious thing…..
“… There never will, in this world, be an entire purity, either in particular saints, in a perfect freedom from mixtures of corruption; or in the church of God, without any mixture of hypocrites with saints, and counterfeit religion, and false appearances of grace with true religion, and real holiness.
“It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ… It is by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivings of religion, that ever have been sheen the first founding of the Christian church. By this, he hurt the cause of Christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more than by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens.
“And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful. By this means, the devil gratifies himself, by bringing it to pass, that that should be offered to God, by multitudes, under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above all things abominable to him. By this means he deceives great multitudes about the state of their souls; making them think they are something, when they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them; and not only so, but establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are in God’s sight some of the vilest of hypocrites. By this means, he many ways damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and deforms it by corrupt mixtures, causes their religious affections woefully to degenerate, and sometimes, for a considerable time, to be like the manna that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the minds of others of the saints and brings them into great difficulties and temptation, and entangles them in a wilderness, out of which they can by no means extricate themselves.”
So in short, experiences can feel wonderful and even incredible, and talk about a Jesus, but not be from God but the evil one.
i am going with you guys to interrupt Piper’s sermon…any day(:
Great series of posts, you two.
Thanks for being brave.
War on the Saints is an EXCELLENT book (mentioned two postings up..)
It’s copyright has long since expired, so you can read the full text here: http://www.apostasynow.com/wots/Contents.html
The beauty of this book is that it doesn’t wholesale discount spiritual experiences based on “how they look” as much as it underscores the MECHANISMS of the gamut of spiritual experiences (both demonic and holy) that people can participate in, the results of false experiences, and how to get free of any junk that you might have let in…. However, I find it intriguing that it does (and this is little discussed) seem to suggest that those having demonic experiences are a step beyond those who have no experiences at all in the spiritual realm! It is a great guide for people first foraging into this realm of their walk with Christ…a guide, not a handbook. Bear in mind that this “guide” is completely based on anecdotal observation, opinion and…personal EXPERIENCE…of the woman and her associates who wrote it. It’s not terribly big on prooftexting and no one could make a case for “how Biblical it is as a teaching compared to those nonBiblical revivalists.”
Still, I give it 4.5 stars out of 5 – a must read! But much better read by those who are familiar with their own place of intimacy with the Lord so that they don’t get freaked out and think that every spiritual experience is essentially demonic.
Oh my word… all i can say is WELL DONE! Thought provoking, informative, elbow nudging, funny, extreme, —and more so………
bottom line for me is it is breath to the flame… and stir the gifts up! Honestly, ya all…. i’m all for cohort hanging and good convo.. but give me a gallon of Holy Spirit over an ounce of theology debate any freakin day of the week!
Don’t know if it’s still around… but Paul Cain did a teaching on “Where are the mystics” about 9 years back…. where i pretty much cried all the way thru it… just out of a place that finally some one was validating a space in my spirit that i had difficulty explaining without the proverbial eyebrow being raised in my direction. So John or Mike if you can track it down… it’s really worth listening to.
(yes, before i’m corrected … i already know the stuff that happened with Paul Cain over the last few years… i was at Morning Star Church when that shit was going down- ) He like Lonnie Frisbee and a few dear ones i know personally .. have been hit really hard in the past and fell into a bunch of junk… but ……….. God is still bigger than our biggest screw ups!
I’m gonna ponder for a bit and might post later… just wanted to say THANK YOU- to both “you’se guys”.
MUAH………. sending a Holy Kiss via Blog/spirit space
Well, I just watched 3 hours of Lakeland (You can see it here every night at 7pm: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/great-florida-healing-revival ) and I must admit that while I love everything that Crowder said, the scene at Lakeland seems somewhat contrived. Heather Clark was pretty cool to watch and worship with… But Todd, after I got over being amazed at seeing how someone from my own generation handled a microphone, Todd seemed at times like a talk show host or something…the way he moved from person to person, showcasing and repeating everything they had to say about their condition, then making each one fall down by whatever means in turn. Hey, I hope and pray that many people get healed by this, in God’s mercy and for His glory…… and I’m sure many will. But it seems like the same old same old wineskin – I really don’t think there’s ever going to be a true revival as long as it’s all about a guy onstage. Honestly, I bet the HALLWAY or grass or whatever is outside this main room was actually bustling with the best spiritual action – people talking to one another, praying with one another and for one another, maybe even some different manifestations taking place…. I bet the action AFTER the service, as people pray in hotel rooms together, or the hardcore ones who came down and are sleeping in tents or in their cars all mingle and share bread with one another….and pray for cars to start that won’t start, pray for each others’ conditions, etc, laugh at the joy of discovering other heavenly family members and maybe even give each other some gas money…I am willing to bet the Kingdom of Heaven is manifesting itself LOADS in these places, as well as to one degree or another in Todd’s meeting.
These are not my words but someone who has gotten this from his dream. God has given him 3 other sermons before in dreams. This I think will be shared at a leadership confrence for Vineyard Churchs.
This is the begining.
Now, some of you have been waiting a long time for God to pour out HIS Spirit again, you’ve been praying and fasting for it, and a sense of excitement and expectancy is building in you. Other’s of you have no idea what to expect and may be a little shocked at what revival can look like, – God is different, or as I like to say, ” God is Weird!” But others of you are saying about what God is starting to do right now, “Been there, done that. Not sure I want to do it again.” I believe God has this for you:
” I am preparing a 7 course FEAST, and that first wave of revival 15 yrs ago was only an appetizer! Some of you ate of it, loved it and cherished it-eating just enough to be satisfied, now you are starving for more and you will recieve the next course. Some of you thought the appetizer was supposed to be the full meal, and were somewhat dissatisfied when it did not fulfill your desires-you got up and left the table. Return and receive the next course-it will be much larger than the first and it will go down to your inmost parts like choice morsels-stay for the WHOLE Feast. Others, thinking it was the full meal, gorged themselves on the appetizer, it was rich and turned your stomach in the end. I had to wait till you were hungry for the next course, your hunger pangs are now real and you are desiring more, you too shall receive. Only this time, remember, I AM the meal, eat, drink and be filled with MY goodness. Yes the blessings and are tasty treats, and I love to give them, like a parent loves to give cookies to their kids, and you can have as many as you like, but DESIRE ME! Others of you, many of you, saw the gorging and were disgusted, wanting nothing to do with either the blessings or the meal. You were repulsed by my extravagant ways and you spit out the first course. How dare you. However, I will not turn you away if you desire to come to the table for the next course. Though you rejected the delicacies of my table, you still desire me and with you I am well pleased, your faithfulness and service to me I treasure, but you cannot sustain without being filled. Come and be filled, let your hunger surface. Too long you have pressed it down, like one in starvation who no longer desires rich foods. Taste and see that I am good. Let not your fears or your memories turn you away from my goodness. The following courses will not be so long between, they will come quickly and you need to be seated at the table to receive. Yes, some at the table are so filled with the wine of my Spirit they may miss the subtleties and wondrous flavors of my Feast, but do not let that turn you away. Enjoy it, if you like to savor, then savor, if you like to eat then eat, if you like to drink then drink, my banquet is for all my children and each is different, and each is lovely. However, if you again are repulsed by my offerings, though I shall still always love you and welcome you, your bread will be dry and your cup empty. When it is time for the main course, you will still be in starvation, able to only nibble on my goodness. Remember, I AM the main course and my blood is the wine, DESIRE ME, HUNGER FOR ME above all else. Now is the time to eat, drink and be filled.”
WOW, that was intense.
He got this last week Tue. The same night that I got a dream with hundreds of Horses in it. Some of the people were trying to break the horses back legs with large trees going under the belly and snaping out the legs. I woke up thinking of the church and some people trying to wipe out the move of the spirit by cutting the legs out from under it.
These are dreams but I belive that God can speak to all of us in the night watches.
Heather nails it in one sentence: “I really don’t think there’s ever going to be a true revival as long as it’s all about a guy onstage.”
The word that comes to mind in all this is sustainability. We’re moving from centralized to distributed; from leader as charismatic focal point to leader as servant; from spectacle to organic. The charismatic models seem to remain about 98% spectacle – the ultimate attractional model. No wonder it’s growing so fast.
Lakeland folks are claiming “over a dozen resurrections from the dead!” But until the chief pathologist of Polk County Florida comes forward with death certs and professional retractions, such claims are an embarrassment to most people.
Courageous post Mike and John. I’ve enjoyed the entire interview.
I really like the varying viewpoints which are brought to bear in this forum. The possiblity of running into a well-crafted, compelling argument where there is open dissent is much greater.
This whole thing is a blast–thanks a million times over.
Hey, get me a ticket to Piper’s hangout in Minnesota…and let’s listen to at least 2/3 of his sermon before we bust it open, mostly because that listening should be fun too!
Carrie, I have some friends who are very interested in your friend’s prophetic word, and would love to know the original source, if you are willing to share that with me.
Thanks again to everyone–especially Mike, who has done the hardest work around here on this!
Love multiplied to all,
Yes I will Mr Peter.
Mr Naty your words are softer. 🙂
I don’t know if I understand all that you say. But it comes from your heart. There is no shame in who you are and the mind that God has givin you.
I don’t believe that anyone is upset that you share your oppinion. 🙂
I agree with so much here that it’s pretty intense. Especially the idea that somehow manifestation of God are different than God? Manifestation is elements of the person of God and Christ being made apparent. The need to separate is a response of immaturity
Just got a chance to finish reading the dialogue. All I can say is wow, I feel like I may have more in common with a rational agnostic than the sort of mystic that John Crowder purports to be. I just have a difficult time connecting the dots. Probably need to ‘open the eyes of my heart’ huh?
“We must remember also in scripture that Paul tells us to “lust” after the gifts.” I haven’t read this in my UBS Greek NT. Maybe Crowder has access to an original manuscript.
And, claiming fellowship with Edwards and Piper? That’s just not gonna fly. Has he ever read ‘Religious Affections’ by Jonathan Edwards? I notice that he never included what Edwards’ opinion of the emotional outburst really was. Also, I feel that he hijacks the concept of ‘Christian Hedonism’ for his own ends. ‘Drunken Glowray’ is a far cry from the holistic satisfaction which Dr. Piper describes in ‘Desiring God’.
Oh I could go on. But what’s the point.
I gotta tell you that recently I’m becoming more and more leery of saying that anything will “never happen unless”….I’ve heard this over and over again and you know what for the most part it’s bull. It puts restrictions on God because the package isn’t perfect. I have not once gone to a single house church (most of all the communities that Mike, myself and others have had varying degrees of contact with) reflect a pristine picture of the New Testament.
As a side note I doubt the apostles we’re really as flawless as we’d want to believe. Peter was opposed to his face by Paul. Paul split angrily from Barnabas. Paul did not do as they asked in Acts 15 in totality. James and Paul did not agree on the Spirits direction for the church. After Pentecost when they were in “one accord” the people fought over food. The jewish converts were suspect of the gentiles. The gentiles were being “bewitched”, enticed by false prophets, he list goes on. The New Testament is not some magic collection of tales in which man stops being a stupid!
As for me I’ve been the guy with the microphone or at least been in meetings where I was used by God and the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind saw, there were visions, glory dust, and various other manifestations. I can say right now that I never walked away saying I did everything perfect. Not once. I’ve always left with a sense that I could have being led more purely and used more powerfully. For those who have never been in the position it’s hard to imagine.
I also fully embrace deconstructed body ministry. So much so that my bias toward this being “THE WAY of GOD” quecnhed the Spirit when in a corporate meeting His will was for me only to share.
Should we aspire and press toward being a vessel of the Lord that is as exact to Him as one can be? Yes. Should we decrease so He may increase? Sure. But if we are waiting for the perfect people so we can have a perfect move. Neither history nor the Bible itself every supposes this will happen. If we get rid of the stage you open up so many more cans or worms that we’d all be complaining and doubting about then.
Why don’t we just step out of the way and let the Lord move anyway He wants. Even if it’s in an arena with a stage or a living room or a field or a church service. Let us stop supposing to know all His ways and why He wills as He does.
Interesting series on doing drugs for revival. I think I found a guy for your next series. Check out Todd Bently as he kicks old ladies in the face and chokes people to bring on the power of the Holy Spirit. He would make a great interview.
have you read this post regarding past moves that included believers that received from contemplative prayer?
Mike & John,
Many thanks! Blessings on the Journey.
Hey Mike! You said
Since you’re like the only charismatic-oriented Christians I’m aware of who have a clue as to the mystics and their teachings . . .
Well, I like to refer to myself as a “Pneumatic Follower of Jesus” . . . but hey, I will own-up to my pentecostal/charismatic roots.
But I’ve been well aware of the mystics (and let’s not forget the Desert Fathers!) for well nigh 10 years. No, they weren’t perfect (who is?) and they did miss/mess a few things (who hasn’t?) . . .
I see some rich stuff in their stories that can benefit us today.
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this has been a great series and i’m very happy to have found another emerger who talks about the things of the Spirit and especially the mystics. while i don’t doubt that what crowder is experiencing is from God i am concerned by his comments on suffering and the dark night of the soul. i’ve been in the dark night for over 9 years and i can assure you it is not the same thing as depression. i’ve also experienced depression and they are two completely different things with one being a spiritual experience and the other not. the dark night is the absence of God’s manifest presence i.e. all the manifestations/consolations that john speaks of. for instance, i used to hear from God quite regularly but no longer do since being in the dark night. i can fast and pray and sit in silence for hours but there is nothing i can do to break the silence and no it isn’t caused by any sin in a person’s life. although i sincerely hope he never has to go thru it i wonder how john would weather an experience such as the real dark night where he no longer had the experiences he so covets. it truly is a time of learning blind faith as one no longer has experiences to rely upon.
i think it’s important to remember that the christian journey is not one of constant highs. there are seasons to the christian walk and praise God for the times when we experience the consolations. somehow i doubt jesus was having fun or ecstatic when he was in excruciating pain and dying on the cross and cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…
i do think that many in the church, especially the ec, are woefully ignorant of the things of the Spirit and while crowder is an exception to that i think he needs to find balance and maturity in his walk and ministry. as we can learn from him i hope he will also learn from others who have had different experiences of Yeshua.
Great Discussion! Glad I stumbled across it. I agree with Mr. Crowder – it’s a one step program – come to Jesus and receive life. I think the embrace of classic christian mystical and contemplative prayer methodolgies as some sort of panacea by some believers is another permutation of “Galatian bewitchment” spiritual self circumcision, actually a form of unbelief in Jesus as the immediately present LifeGiver. I am a far more sedate charismatic than Crowder, but I think his understanding is much more New Testament than the the Christian Mysticism/Pseudo-Monastic/Contemplative/Stages approach which is not explicitly laid out in the Bible and was a centuries later development. This absence in the NT always nagged the back of mind when I tried the contemplative approach as my panacea. I now grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ instead. I look to the Biblical writers as my authority and now think the “great mystics and contemplatives” while interesting, are not sure guides. William Tyndale and the other reformers thought the same. I say amen to the following!
You may note that we have coined a term “the new mystics” because we can now filter their theology through 500 years of rich, post-reformation grace theology.
Yes, the mystics all had their seven-step programs of spiritual advancement. Call me a Calvinist, but I’m of the opinion that there is a one-step program called conversion. I believe that grace has to be drunk straight. No additives. What if God wanted to blow the whole “stages” and “levels” and “Christian growth curve” theology right out of the water, and somehow made us all pure and holy and perfect and obtaining all of Heaven’s goodies through one simple event: the spilling of Christ’s blood?
I am a charismatic/Pentecostal who, on being overtaken by “the thief in the night”, lost the luxury of spiritual manifestations. Silence came to me of necessity, not choice. Noise and exuberance disturbs me now, and I am drawn to solitude as a way of finding peace. I love the outpouring of the Spirit because it awakens hunger for God, but my own experience is that God calls us to be Christ in the world to those who are not in the crowd; in other words, the marginalised. I loved the energy of this post because it portrays the variety of religious experience, and I believe we all get to taste what we thought was inedible somewhere along the line. God has a way of confounding the wise and tripping up the sure-footed, and all we can do about it is be gracious, as God is gracious.