I suppose it was only a matter of time before I was outed.
In a recent post, Steve Knight introduces his readers to John Crowder, a clearly pentecostal/charismatic preacher who is apparently tagging himself as “postmodern,” if not wholesale emergent. Steve is tempted to label him an “emergent pentecostal,” but hesitates to do so and points out in a footnote that I may disagree with such an alignment.
Well, I do indeed; which provides a very interesting platform for me to paint a more nuanced picture of what I believe the budding relationship between the charismatic movement and the emergent conversation might actually be.
So here I am, at 11:17 p.m. PST, getting outed by Steve Knight and John Crowder as neither a cessationist (I believe in the continuation of the charismatic gifts, including speaking in tongues and prophecy) nor an unthinking, emotionally-fixated Holy Spirit junkie (I also believe that the entire counsel of Hebrew-Christian scripture has more to emphasize than those charismatic gifts alone, and that we Pentecostals would do well to balance our gifts-of-the-Spirit-diet with some of the fruit of the Spirit… particularly self-control).
My own theopraxis regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, to boil it down, is pretty straightforward:
don’t fake pentecost (tremendously tempting in the thick of charismatic circles), don’t push pentecost (fellow Christ followers who disagree with my particular approach aren’t more or less devout, but differently devout), and – most importantly – don’t ignore pentecost (yielding to the active presence of the Holy Spirit requires a lot of trust, and could very well end up looking and sounding strange). To put the last practice in positive language, I personally place a high value on being responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and available to whatever the Spirit wants to do at any given moment. It seems to be the modus operandi of the early church throughout Acts, and can still characterize the body of Christ today. Can we trust the Spirit of God enough to go out on a limb, like Paul in his missionary journeys, like Philip with an Ethiopian Eunuch, like Jesus in the wilderness, like a room full of frightened disciples bursting out into the light of the feast of Pentecost to boldly speak languages they didn’t know? I have to admit, John Crowder seems like a total and complete kook to me, and I’m really tempted to throw tomatoes and lampoon him. And while I continue to think his lowest common denominator theatrics are a disservice to the message of pentecostal heritage, I also realize that cynicism is far easier than spirit sensitivity. If God wanted me to toke on the Jesus bong (which I sincerely doubt would be the case), would I trust him enough to take a hit?