The Holy Spirit Controversy (II)
Dudley R. Spears
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Once the ball begins to roll, it increases in size and proportion. Such is true with the controversy now being considered within the churches of Christ over the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians. As pointed out in the first in this series of articles, the consequences of this matter are very serious. I do not claim to be a prophet and even if I did, it would be a very "minor" prophet at the best, but many have seen the handwriting on the wall and have become very alarmed. Brethren like Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Reuel Lemmons, P. D. Wilmeth, H. A. Dobbs, A. G. Hobbs, G. N. Woods and others have expressed their concern over the "weird" views being propagated in our times over the work of the Holy Spirit. A sample was given in the first installment of this series. A look at some of the consequences that are visible today reveals that the problem is much more serious than even the most alarmed among us today imagine.
What is called "Glossolalia" is being experienced by some members of the churches of Christ today. In a long series of articles in the Firm Foundation, J. D. Thomas, made an effort to teach that the Spirit operates in a Christian's life separate and apart from the Bible (sometimes) and yet not in a miraculous way, for he apparently realized the conclusions some were going to draw from what he had written. The question of "tongue speaking" or "glossolalia" then was given the professor's treatment. Here is what the good man says:
"Neo-Pentecostalism is a designation which has been applied to the recent spread of the use of glossolalia among the larger and more dignified 'established' churches. This aspect began with an Episcopal minister in California, and now affects Presbyterians, Reformed Church of America, some Lutherans, Methodists, and Baptists, and it has been taken up among certain youth groups of interdenominational character. It has affected some in the Church of Christ."
(Firm Foundation, Oct. 18, 1966, page 663)
Some specific instances of the thing Thomas describes are as follows. Brother Clinton Davidson, of Bernardsville, N. J., wrote a letter to the Editor of the ' North Atlantic Christian," 'brother James R6b6rt Jarrell. Brother Jarrell had written that so-called "tongue-speaking" was not really comprehensible and not real a language. Davidson took exception to this and here is part of what be said in his letter.
"My daughter-in-law taught in college and has a Master's degree. She never studied Latin and has no acquaintance with it; yet when she spoke in tongues one who was present who was well versed in Latin said that she spoke in perfect Latin. He understood her well. One who was present when a friend of mine spoke in tongues said that he spoke in a Chinese dialect with which he was perfectly familiar . . . I have been present in meetings of small groups of well educated people in different sections of the country during the past ten years while they spoke in tongues, and in every case these people knew what they were doing."
(North -Atlantic Christian,
September 1964, Page 2)
Before you get carried away with what Davidson wrote, please notice that it is purely human testimony. I do not call in question his integrity or honesty. People are quite honestly wrong at times and being wrong is not always a reflection upon one's integrity. All I am asking you to do is to notice that this is human testimony, just the same kind that is given for "Hadacol," "Doan's Linament," or even that which is given by those who claim to speak in tongues, but are not as well educated as the class to which Davidson refers. The main thing I ask you to observe is that a member of the church, particularly of renown and notoriety a few years ago, writes in defense of "tongue speaking."
In a little periodical called "Restoration Revival," edited by Will W. Hudson, and published in Sutherlin, Oregon, there is an article by the title, "Singing in Tongues in Corinth," written by Ralph M. Sinclair. This writer (Sinclair) writes about the "ecstatic speaking (Glossolalia) at Corinth" and concludes that not only did the Corinthians speak with the "unknown tongue" but they also sang in the "unknown tongue." This word "ecstatic" has to do with "ecstasy" which means that one is in a state of being overwhelmed by his emotions, particularly a joyous emotion or feeling. I ask you to keep that in mind as you read further in this article for it will be used again as I quote from the writings of those who lead in this digression from truth. Sinclair comments that still today we may experience this state of ecstatic speaking and singing.
"And now in our day with an increasing interest in Glossallia, some of our people (Churches of Christ, DRS) are not only speaking in tongues, but singing as well. And thus they are more scriptural than we skeptics in this matter of I Cor. 14:15. A leader and longtime worker in the Church of Christ says of some current ecstatic singing: '. . . the harmony was breathtaking with different tunes weaving in and out in perfect harmony . . . a girl of strict church of Christ upbringing and wanting to believe but scared said of the singing in the Spirit, That has to be the way the angels sound in Heaven. It is I know, I've never heard anything so beautiful."
Sinclair then continues in his article to berate the "wooden interpretation" that says our singing must be done in the proper disposition or frame of mind rather than the ecstatic outbursts generated in a Christian by the working of the Holy Spirit. Again, I caution, notice that this man, like all the rest, uses human testimony and evidence. His opinion is stated and like all others of his hue, that opinion becomes the one that is right. It is not the purpose of this article, at this time, to argue the question, but suffice it to say he is dead wrong about the term "spiritual" in connection with either tongues or singing. So much for "tongue speaking" among churches of Christ - turn your attention now to another consequence of the "Spirit - operating, - separate - and apart from - the - word" doctrine.
A Seminar in Dallas - Testimonials
Back in January, I received a news release bulletin from the Church of Christ (Broadway) in Lubbock, Texas relative to their Campus Evangelism Seminar that was conducted in Dallas, Texas. They reported that more than 350 college and University students, Bible chair directors, elders, ministers, and college educators attended this Seminar. They called it a "history making event ' " And indeed, they may really have made history. There are two other sources of information about the events that occurred at this meeting in Dallas I will use, but first I ask you to read what they say was their purpose.
"With representatives of some 75 institutions of higher learning present, the three-day seminar was designed to alert students and the church to the vast mission field on the college campus and to explore effective methods of reaching it."
(Broadway News Release, January 9, 1967.)
While it is important to explore the methods available for evangelism on the campus and everywhere else, and select the best one possible, it hardly requires a "seminar" to accomplish such. The "conventions" or "conferences" of Denominational bodies do very little more than was expressed as the purpose for this "seminar." But, be that as it may, there were many "history-making" events that took place as they sought to accomplish their stated purpose.
During the sessions, they sent out the students, and perhaps others, armed with their folio for a religious survey and a Bible, split into pairs and descended on Dallas to "witness for Christ." This they did. Upon their return here is what they report that the students experienced.
"Returning to the Hotel, students snowed reactions ranging from quiet humility to ecstatic joy (my emphasis, DRS) according to Jim Bevis, seminar director. Typical of the reactions was Matt Young, son of M. Norvel Young of Pepperdine College, as he bounded up .two flights of stairs of the Baker Hotel to the main assembly room to blurt out, 'This has been the most exciting day of my life!' Other students swallowed hard to withhold their tears of joy as many of them experienced sharing Christ with others for the first time."
(Ibid. Page 2)
Another source of information regarding the happenings at Dallas is brother Leroy Garrett, editor of the "Restoration Review." Brother Garrett attended the sessions and here is his report.
"There was emphasis upon the grace of God, and there was much more talk about winning people to Christ than converting people to the Church of Christ. Students were urged to confront others with the most wonderful experience that has come into my life and with 'what Jesus means to me,' and not once did I hear anything said about 'getting them into the right church' or 'preaching the plan of salvation.' All the way the emphasis was upon the Man rather than some plan, which I know would have been to the consternation of the editor of the Firm Foundation had he been there, giving the editorial attention that he has to that subject."
(Restoration Review, January 1967, Page 4)
According to the News Release from Broadway the topics were, "From Tradition to Mission," and "What Jesus means to me Personally." Rightly viewed, we should not be tradition bound and we should be "mission-minded." However, these youngsters are being led into the same old denominational and sectarian philosophy that we need to be more spiritual than right. We need the "spirit and not the letter." While it is important to have the right "spirit" (properly and scripturally understood), it is equally as important to abide within the God-given guidelines for our spiritual activity. How in the name of sense can one have the right "spirit" and not keep the letter of God's message to man? But, you can see what is happening.
The last source of information relative to events that took place at the Dallas seminar is the "Student Christian" published by the liberal church of Christ in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Here is a quotation from their bulletin relative to the testimonial sessions at the Seminar.
"Part of the program each day was devoted to sharing or testimony sessions during which anyone could relate his experience of Christ in his life. One boy told about being critically ill and not expecting to live. He had done nothing in his past life for the work of the Lord. He prayed all night for his life to be spared. In three days he was released from the hospital and is presently engaged in the work of the Lord on the campus. In the last few months he and another student have converted six people to Christ."
January 6, 1967).
This is the same church where the preacher, Joe Schubert, confirmed to me by telephone that they have testimonial sessions in some of their Sunday evening services and that some women testify at those meetings. To say, "We have drifted," would surely be an understatement. I have it on good personal authority that many have "felt" things and "experienced" things that they attribute to the Spirit's working in their lives. Maurice Ethridge, writing in the North Atlantic Christian, tells of a young preacher who said, "The Holy Spirit is not locked up in a closed book. He is as active today as He was in the first century. Why, the Holy Spirit guides me in everything I do - when I go shopping, park the car, figure income tax everything." When I first read that, I wondered how he came out on the tax situation!
We are hearing, reading and seeing things that definitely point toward a major defection among those who call themselves "Churches of Christ." In the next installment, I intend to look at some of the scriptural principles involved and give a brief summary.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 9, pp. 13-16