Volume 7, Issue 3: Sharpening Iron
Many moderns think of holiness as if it were a princess's slipperfragile, beautifully
scented, frightening to hold, and reserved for elites. But biblical holiness
is more like rugby in the mudearthy, sweaty waftings, excruciating gang tackles,
and hearty shouts from everyone.
How else could the wisest man describe recreation and simple pleasures as so
central to faithful living: "Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting
for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he
toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his
heritage" (Eccl. 5:18). Here is earthy holiness, gusto Christian living. Though
our temporal hopes may rocket by unfulfilled from our vantage point, God has
given us the duty to slow down and enjoy the simple thingseat, drink, and laugh.
Those who frowningly dismiss this divine gift of recreation have misunderstood
Christian living and ungratefully miss out on the blessings God has promised
to the faithful (Deut. 28:1-12).
In this issue, we highlight the blessing of godly enjoyment and oppose our culture's
ugly imitation of pleasure, all the while embracing the only true recreation
and enjoymentthat done for God's pleasure.
I was reading your "Letter on Doctrinal Intolerance" (Vol. 7; No. 1) when I stumbled
across a statement that struck me: "I don't agree with the doctrines advanced in
non-Christian publications like Free Inquiry, The Utne Reader, and Sojourners." I did a double-take. Either you made an oversight or you committed yourself to
a rather arrogant position. Sojourners is a Christian publication, despite
the fact that its editors do not subscribe to your particular confession(s) of
faith. Their (editors') goal is to "explore together what it means to be radically
called to follow Jesus." Lumping Sojourners together with these magazines is
just like lumping your magazine together with American Scholar and Lingua
You may not agree with the political and theological slants found in Sojourners,
but this doesn't entitle you to pass judgment on it as "non-Christian." Because
I may not agree with your doctrinal slant doesn't give me the right to say you
are a non-Christian. Perhaps you just made an oversight. In either case, a printed
apology on your part seems in order.
P.S. By the way, it's simply Utne Reader, not The Utne Reader, named after
Eric Utne, not The Eric Utne. Pay attention to the periodicals you read even
if they challenge your preconceptions!
I would like to write in defense of the "laughing" revival that you commented
about in January's (Vol. 7; No. 1) "Cave of Adullam," and to appeal to you not to
dismiss it because of the flamboyant behavior of one individual, Rodney Howard-Browne.
Though I do not know if it qualifies for the "revival" label, I think it is a
real move of God based on what I have experienced of it in our own church.
Our church is charismatic, but we share similar sentiments on doctrine to the
authors who write regularly for Credenda. . . .
Our pastors are not the types that are moved easily by charismatic fads, so
when they heard that the "laughing revival" was spreading to many parts of the
charismatic church, they went up to a Vineyard church to investigate for themselves.
The consensus was that while some of it was fleshly, a lot of the unusual physical
manifestations appeared to be genuinely motivated by the Holy Spirit, and they
experienced some of it themselves.
The next step was to check for Biblical and historical precedent. While laughing
is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, joy is often associated with
the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22; and I Thess. 1:6). Also, there was historical
precedent in that unusual manifestations took place during the Great Awakening
revival in 1740. Charles Chauncy of Boston attempted to dismiss the whole thing
as fanaticism, but Jonathan Edwards responded that while proof of the Spirit's
move had to be changed lives, it was hardly reasonable to expect the Spirit to
obey our notions of decorum. Unusual manifestations also occurred in the ministries
of George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, and even skeptics experienced
them in the Kentucky revival of 1800.
Our pastors taught the church about what was going on, and similar things started
happening in the time of ministry following our meetings. There were people
laughing, weeping, and falling down as people encountered the presence of the
Holy Spirit in a new way. And, judging from the letters of testimony that were
received, there was spiritual fruit in the lives of those who were touched.
While I think it is appropriate to be skeptical of spiritual fads, my question
to you is, how can you know what the Spirit will or will not do? Why wouldn't
uncontrollable laughter be an appropriate response to the presence of the Spirit
of pure Joy? Why wouldn't the Spirit act in such a way that the pride of men
be humbled (Is. 2:17)? As a general rule, shouldn't we always investigate a matter
thoroughly before making hasty judgments? Otherwise we may miss God, as happened
to the Pharisees when they assumed, based on appearances, that Jesus could not
possibly have been sent by God.
Silver Spring, MD
. . . . I am writing in response to thoughts expressed in the article "Let it
Be" (Vol. 6; No. 5). The article itself I agree with. However, in the section
about worship, I am in disagreement with a point. In this section, the article
warns against the worship of Mary. I agree with that. That article goes on to
analogize that with the use of jazz dancers or electric guitars in modern evangelical
services. The three items which are deemed unacceptable in regards to worship
are Mary, jazz dancers, and the use of electric guitars. . . .
Worship of Mary is unacceptable to God because He has proclaimed a law expressly
prohibiting it in the commandment to worship no other besides Him. On the other
hand, there are no specific laws for or against the use of jazz dancers or the
use of the electric guitar. Here we must base our decision on biblical principles
which govern our motives. . . . In Rom. 14 God tells us we will differ on some
of our interpretations of His word. He is not including the black and white areas
of biblical law, but rather the grey areas not specifically covered. Unconventional
worship will always be a source of debate. Even during Jesus' ministries He and
the Apostles were accused of being drunk because their manner of worship was
so "wild." If you believe jazz dancers and the use of electric guitars are inappropriate
during worship then I would support your decision not to pursue the worship of
God in that manner. However, if another church regards the use of them as proper
and does so for the glory of our Father, do not judge them as worshipping in
vain. . . .
San Juan Capistrano, CA