The Holy Spirit (1)
Another Controversial Issue
Dudley R. Spears
Oklahoma' City, Oklahoma
How true are the words of Paul, "there must also be heresies among you that they which are approved may be made manifest" (I Cor. 11:19). The battle within the church that has raged for the past two decades over institutionalism has, with a few exceptions, become a stabilized fight with the lines drawn and held. Now, within the ranks of those who have swallowed the institutional package and concept, there has arisen another issue that threatens to divide that segment of the brotherhood. The liberal group is presently plagued with trouble over the Holy Spirit and His work among Christians today.
The seriousness of the controversy may be judged by the evaluations made by those directly involved. Those who seem the most concerned over the serious consequences of this issue are the older preachers and writers among brethren. A. G. Hobbs is reported to have said of the issue that it will make the one through which we have just passed (institutional) look like a "splinter." Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation, evaluates the problem in the following words: "The weird views among some brethren regarding supernatural guidance and manifestations are all based upon this erroneous concept of the Spirit's indwelling" (F. F. Vol. 83, No. 46). Foy E. Wallace, Jr., who now expresses himself through the Firm Foundation, has written a- series of long articles on the question and his evaluation of the serious implications of the problem are expressed like this, by him: "It appears that a combination of professors and young evangelists. with the aid of numerous printed mediums, have formed a confederation to stampede the brotherhood and take over the church for a Holy Spirit Movement, similar to and equal to the millennial movement, and as theoretically wrong. It is in fact a doctrinal defection." (Ibid Vol. 84. No. 9)
Others, from different quarters, have taken it upon themselves to put brakes on this "new Holy Spirit Movement," and so the Editor of the Gospel Advocate has assigned the task to Guy N. Woods (arch-institutionalist and staff-writer) and a series of articles appeared in the G. A. The editor, B.C. Goodpasture, says of the issue and its import, "There has been, and is, a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the Spirit and his work. Some erroneous ideas concerning the Spirit have been accepted by some of our brethren in different parts of the country. Some have been drinking at the fountains of denominational error" (G. A., Vol. 108, No. 19). In a "Review" of an article written apparently by Professor J. W. Roberts, of Abilene Christian College, Guy Woods says of the import of his teaching, "Hence our brother believes that the Holy Spirit dwells in us apart from, or independent of the word! So do all denominational preachers throughout the land. The only essential difference between them is that our brother herein quoted contends for a direct operation of the Spirit immediately following conversion; whereas denominational theologians contend for it immediately preceding! We believe that the view we are, refuting is a dangerous one; and, that it is an easy step from the concept of a personal, literal, indwelling of the Spirit in the heart independent of and apart from the word of truth - to fanciful leadings, alleged divine impulses and intimations now believed by some among us to proceed from the Spirit which is by them believed to dwell in the heart actually, literally, personally - apart from the word" (Ibid, Vol. 108, No. 25).
Others of the "older set" of preachers who know the truth and who in years gone by had to oppose the Calvinistic error now being advanced among liberal brethren have put their hand up to try and stop the onrushing tide of error manifesting itself in the personal indwelling of the Spirit in Christians apart from the word of truth. One such is Perry B. Cotham who wrote: "Some Preachers are saying that the church 'may still have' the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as possessed by the apostles and some of the early Christians. One preacher 'of thirty-eight years of preaching,' who has accepted the personal indwelling and guidance of the Spirit, is more bold in his affirmation. In writing to the members he said: 'There is no scripture which says that manifestations of the Spirit will cease when the New Testament was written or when the last apostle died. All such doctrines are a perversion of the Scripture or an invention of men.' There is no room to misunderstand what the author meant by that statement. It causes one to wonder how long it will be until some preachers begin claiming a 'special revelation' from the Holy Spirit" (Firm Foundation, Vol. 83, No. 25).
One of the younger liberals who is concerned about the implications of these "weird views" is Alan Highers of Memphis, Tenn. In his church bulletin of December 8, 1966 he compared statements of William S. Banowsky, preacher for the Broadway congregation in Lubbock, Texas, with statements made by Ben M. Bogard. He also wrote in the Gospel Advocate last July that we are drifting and said, "If we had been told a few years ago that there would be preachers within the church who would . . . weave nebulous and far-fetched theories on the work of the Holy Spirit we would not have believed it!"
Another liberal preacher from Tulsa, Oklahoma is exercised over the matter. He is Brother Delmar Owens. In the Firm Foundation, Vol. 83, No. 26 he writes: "I have heard some statements concerning the present work of the Holy Spirit which have alarmed me, and while I do not question the sincerity of those making the statements, I must question the conclusions they have reached. I am wondering how long it will be before some will be speaking in tongues, and practicing miraculous divine healing." Brother Owens' fears have since become a reality for on the~ West Coast some of the preachers are accepting the "glossolalia" or "tong4 speaking." In Stillwater, Oklahoma, some connected with the "church Bible Chair" reported the following. During a four day seminar that dealt with the 'fine art of conducting a successful Bible Chair evangelistic effort there 'were certain portions of the gatherings set side as "testimonial sessions." One young boy "testified" that he was critically ill and prayed all night to live. Three days later he was released, according to his "testim9nial," and since has converted several people to Christ.
As one views the controversy among, the liberals it seems very clear that the older preachers who have faced the battle with Calvinists and have tested their teaching in the crucible of controversy are the ones who stand opposed (dare we call it "anti"?) to the younger set of preachers. Brother Jimmy Allen is a very outspoken advocate of the "separate from the word indwelling of the Holy Spirit." Brother William S. Banowsky is another such preacher today. Allen is on record with the following statement, made at a "Herald of Truth Workshop" some time ago: "And Paul said, 'By one spirit are we all baptized into one body.' Now that may mean the spirit operating through the scriptures leads people to be baptized. But it may mean the spirit operating in God's people leads others to be baptized. And the latter interpretation certainly is scriptural. It is not a violation of the teachings of the Bible. I am saying that God has chosen us through whom to reveal Himself to others; and if we want other people to know God they are going to have to know something about us."
It is not the purpose of this article to go into the implications of such unscriptural statements, but I must digress from my purpose momentarily to inject just here the thought that Allen evidences his lack of knowledge of Biblical teaching and respect for what he must know is truth. There is but one way to know God - through the revealed word. I speak of the knowledge of God's mind and will. If the Spirit "through us," or "operating in God's people leads" today, and if knowledge of God may come as God "reveals himself to others through us," then we equate ourselves with the Apostles and arrogate to ourselves apostolic authority. In the New Testament times such were called "liars" (Rev. 2:2).
The issue is a clear-cut issue. The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians, to this both sides agree. The liberal group feels that in ways beyond explanation, but from and apart from the revealed word of God, the Spirit dwells in Christians in order to assist them in living the Christian life. The older preachers deny it. In later articles, such will be documented from the leading writers of this new "weird view" that is affirmed to be a "doctrinal defection." Also, a later article will endeavor to delve into the reasons for such views being advocated within our own era of time. But for this part of the series, I have tried to simply show from the writings of the principals involved in this controversy, how important they deem the issue to be and just what the issue is.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 8, pp. 15-17