Not with Eloquence or Human Wisdom

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Have you ever stopped to consider how the exercise of religion changes over the generations? The following is plagiarized almost verbatim from “An Inconvenient Cross”, by Garry E. Milley (Published 2010 by Clements Publishing) and describes how modern worship services have changed materially from the days when his father was a first-generation Pentecostal preacher. Milley laments how the emphasis of modern preaching has changed from being about Jesus, preached by imperfect vessels, to being about the superstar preacher who promises what only God can give, but only if you support that speaker’s ministry with a generous financial gift.

Popular piety left unchecked often results in distortions of the faith. Eventually the distortions become so ingrained they are accepted as orthodoxy. An entire generation of Pentecostal and Charismatic believers has been sold on a distortion of the Christian faith. J.I. Packer once called the Charismatic Movement “Pentecostalism reinvented.”

Among the recent ideas that have become the new orthodoxy, I would include the following:

  • You are a hurting individual, inherently good, and deserving of all you desire.
  • Because you are a King’s kid with royal authority, everything belongs to you. You can have it all. You are the best. Do not let Satan rob you of what is rightfully yours.
  • Financial adversity and physical suffering are never God’s will. Don’t accept them.
  • The Bible is a book of secret health laws and success formulas made known by revelation knowledge to certain select teachers. Get their tapes and books to discover the secret
  • Don’t tarry and pray for purity and power; just claim the promise
  • Tradition-smashing and denomination-bashing are signs of openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
  • Anti-intellectualism is a virtue.
  • Accept every new thing. It may be a fresh manifestation of revival.
  • If you ask questions, you will miss God’s best.

The first-generation Pentecostals had much more in common with the broader Christian tradition throughout history. Among their beliefs I would include the following:

  • We are sinners dammed for hell who have been snatched as brands from the burning by the sheer mercy of a loving Go
  • Be humble and grateful.
  • We are called to a daily spiritual battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We will lose some and win some, but all our victories are Christ’s victories. To him belongs all glory.
  • As sinners saved by grace, we are constantly dependent upon Christ.
  • Be faithful in pray
  • Pursue holiness and wait upon God for divine power.
  • We are pilgrims on this earth. We are not to get attached to this world but to live simply and separate ourselves from worldliness because Christ may come at any time.
  • The Bible is God’s Word, a lamp and a light, a chart and a compass.
  • Knowledge of revelation, not revelation knowledge, will bring comfort in affliction. We are to guard our life and doctrine. Judge everything by the Word and stay true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

These positions are neither the same nor equally acceptable. Theology may be a matter of emphasis, but the truth lies closer to the latter position. Even though we affirm a plurality of gifts in the body of Christ, we are wary of the ideology of pluralism, which argues that all viewpoints are acceptable because God works differently in each individual. This effectively leaves no room at all for dialogue or improvement. If we accept this ideology, we can never question bad preaching, shallow worship, inadequate scholarship, misguided counseling, or anything else. Growing up is often painful but necessary if we are to heed the Scripture’s admonition. We must not stay in theological adolescence when God calls us to maturity.

 

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