Friday, October 07, 2005
The fruit of Personal Experience
These proverbs, and others like them, well express the prevailing philosophy of today: pragmatism. No longer does it matter how one goes about pursuing a goal or tackling a problem. Instead, all that matters is the end result.
With all due respect to those who insist that the Charismatic Movement and its cousins (Classical Pentecostalism, Third Wave, etc.) are nothing less than an end-times outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, this supposed move of God is in practice the incarnation of pragmatism in nominally Christian garb. Once you get past the veneer of Scriptural prooftexts, mostly from Acts and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, the authority on which Charismaticism is based is Personal Experience. Anyone who spends much time in Charismaticism has at least one dramatic experience to share. Although few charismatics would claim that every experience they've had was a certifiable encounter with God, most have at least one or two such experiences that, for them, are the preeminent reason why they hold their charismatic gifts and beliefs to be true.
In my days as a charismatic, I had more than a few experiences. They included, but were not limited to:
Although in each case I could point you to Scriptural texts that seemed to validate my experience, my faith in my baptism in the Holy Spirit was in reality grounded upon these special experiences. Together, they were the foundation of my faith. In those days, I read my Bible only rarely, except to open it randomly to find a "word from God." Why would I do otherwise? Why spend the time and effort in reading, much less studying, a 2,000 year old book when God Himself was so evidently speaking to me directly in so many ways?
Of all the charismatics I knew at that time, I had more reason than most to believe that God's hand was upon me in a special way. During the (seemingly) good times, the spiritual good times came often, and often came with great power. If anyone had been blessed with evidence for the truth of the perpetuity of the charismatic gifts, it was me.
But yet, after several years of such experiences, I'd left church entirely, and didn't return to church until several years more. By the time I returned to church, I'd given up on all of my dreams, visions, and gifts and had resolved to put my trust only in the written Word of God.
During my time away from church, I came to see the true fruit of my experiences. No, I didn't come to question their reality. Many of them were very, very real. In fact, I had witnesses present at the time of many of my experiences who could corroborate my account of them. They were not figments of my imagination.
I didn't give up on my charismatic experiences because they weren't real. Instead, I gave up on them because, as the passage of time proved, they had produced terrible fruit! This was my spiritual condition when I left the Charismatic Movement:
Such was the fruit of my powerful spiritual gifts. I literally came within a hairs-breadth of apostasizing from the Christian faith, or else in fact I hadn't been in the faith at all. Far from being receiving blessings from God, I had instead heaped judgment on myself. This was the fruit of my very powerful Personal Experience. In contrast to the testimony of so many in Charismaticism, I found that my Personal Experience was based not on truth but on a lie: a lie that was often based on real, validated experience, but a lie nonetheless because its fruit was evil rather than good.
In the weeks to come, I hope to share about some of my experiences with Charismaticism in greater detail. By so doing, I hope to give testimony against the pragmatism that is behind the faith of many charismatics. Although it is only the Word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit that can truly change a man's heart, I hope it will nonetheless be profitable to expose the true nature of the real experiences that I'd once held so dear.