Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Sure?

2013-10-12 Sunrise - John Vincent
That’s a picture that John Vincent, a friend of mine, shared with me.  It reminded me of something that had been running through my mind that relates to our recent posts about thinking and focus.  So, as we head toward the break, look at John’s picture and see if you can tell if it’s a sunrise or a sunset.  We’ll tell you after the break whether you’re right or not.

So, you’ve looked at the picture and decided whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset.  Why?  What made you decide on whichever was your choice?  And one more question.  Are you sure?  OK.  I can’t keep you hanging.  The picture that started this post is a sunrise.  And there was a point to this exercise.

If we look at a sunset or sunrise, we know which it is.  We don’t usually think about why we know that, but there’s a process involved.  We know one or more of three things.  We know the direction we’re facing when we see the sun near the horizon.  Or we know what time of day it is.  Or, possibly, we’ve watched long enough to know whether the sun is coming up or going down.  How does that translate to something more general?  And what does that have to do with our spiritual life?

When we look at the sun near the horizon, we use the verifiable measures mentioned in the previous paragraph.  But there’s more.  We come to our conclusions based on a premise.  The sun and the earth  have always behaved in certain ways in relation to each other.  We therefore conclude it will continue that way.  Because it always has been that way.  But there’s a problem with that.  Any scientist will tell us that even a slight change in circumstances can have a huge affect on what follows.  A wise gambler will emphasize that strongly.  In order to be certain of our conclusion, we have to be certain of the foundation it’s built on.  Let’s go back to one of our recent verses.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (KJV)  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

That says we should test all things.  And, once we’ve determined what is good, hold onto it for dear life.  The problem is, many of us do that and come to different conclusions.  That depends on what we’ve been taught, what we’re predisposed to accept, our level of study, etc.  Let’s take a look at one that creates a lot of denominational conflict within Christianity, tongues.

The Pentecostal churches that believe in tongues as angelic languages have a whole set of verses they use to support their view.  The foundational passage for that is Acts 2.  Like most conservative Christians, I have a different take on that than the Pentecostals do.  The chapter describes a Jewish holiday where Jews from all over the world return to Jerusalem to worship.  Most of them no longer spoke any Hebrew.  So, is it more logical that Peter would speak in a totally unknown tongue that even he didn’t understand?  And that 3,000 people suddenly all had the gift of interpretation?  Or is it more likely that Peter understood the message he was preaching and the only interpretation was that the 3,000 heard that sermon in their own languages?

I believe Acts 2 described the 3,000 hearing in natural languages.  I’ve seen examples of the unknown tongue being that someone spoke in a language they’ve never heard or studied.  But, I personally have never seen any examples of anyone speaking in an angelic language or interpreting an “angelic tongue” that I could say for sure wasn’t subconsciously manufactured in human effort.

It’s also been suggested by some that it’s unlikely, if tongues aren’t there, that someone is saved.  That’s an idea I really have a hard time with.  Before I started walking with God, I knew some Pentecostals and Charismatics.  And, wanting a relationship with God, I could manufacture a pretty decent prayer language that even sometimes got others to “interpret”.  But there was no real internal change.  Which made that prayer language totally fake, no matter how much I wanted it to be real.  When I really did fully decide to be aligned with Christ, I still had that thinking.  So, I was still trying to manufacture a capability in angelic tongues.  Till I studied more deeply and took a good look at what made the difference.

When I totally surrendered to God, there was a HUGE difference.  Even though I had no secret prayer language, my external behavior was suddenly reflecting my internal state.  I wasn’t behaving in certain ways to become saved, I was acting in certain ways because of what God was doing inside me.  Some of that was instantaneous, most was a process.  And, some thirty five years later, the process is still going on.

Having said all that, there’s a couple of points I need to make, for clarity.  Unlike most conservative Christians, I’m unwilling to say that real angelic tongues don’t exist nor that no human speaks them.  But I think there are several factors that apply.
  1. If there is a secret prayer language, any emotion involved will come from recognizing that it is a real instance.  The tongues won’t suddenly appear because we’re in an already emotionally charged situation.
  2. The focus won’t be on the language or the emotional high it creates.  We’re to glorify God, not ourselves or our capabilities.
  3. If the gift exists, not everyone will have it.  We’re God’s army.  A private doesn’t get the same privileges or responsibilities as a general.  A spy uses different tools than a ships gunnery officer.  Rank has rights and privileges.  It also has its own set of requirements.  And, until we are called to a certain rank and office, we have no need for the grace and gifts needed to fulfill those functions.  A secret prayer life doesn’t draw unbelievers by its witness and it doesn’t edify, except the one praying and the one interpreting.  Which makes it unrealistic that God would make it a requirement of being a believer.  Not all of us have exactly the same needs.
That’s what my study has gotten me to conclude.  Having said what I did about tongues, over the years I’ve had Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians as friends who fully believe in the importance of tongues.  We’ve discussed and debated fully.  None changing the other’s mind.  But none, either, doubting the other’s salvation and love of God.

Just about any other major doctrine, denominational or otherwise, requires an equally lengthy discussion.  And we’ve gone at length into just one example doctrine, stating a bit about how I came to my conclusions.  But we need to look at the fundamentals of what should lead to any spiritual conclusions.  So, we’ll continue on Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment