The Holy Spirit (III)
Another Controversial Issue
Dudley R. Spears
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
In this final installment of this study, I want to consider the "whys" and "wherefores" of the recent outbreak of tongue speaking and teaching by brethren that the Holy Spirit directly influences the child of God separate from the revealed Word of God. Heretofore, evidence has been given estimating the seriousness of the problem and showing the extremities of the positions being taken. It is also necessary to show why the problem has arisen and also what the Bible teaches on the question. I hope to cover that in this final article. Of course, in dealing with the "why" brethren take positions on various things, caution has to be exerted to avoid judging motives. I do not intend to judge the motives of any brother, but I do feel that there is some evidence that may be the basis for some certain conclusions about why some of our own brethren have gone astray on the subject of the Holy Spirit and His influence in the lives of Christians. It is also to be observed that I am expressing my opinion, based upon what I have read and heard I suppose the phrase, "the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the management" might be in order here. At any rate, please consider these possibilities as to why brethren have become involved in error on the Holy Spirit.
1. Some never knew the truth. This is true on many subjects. There are younger preachers today who have never been instructed in the things the scriptures teach about the Holy Spirit. They have learned how to promote, how to organize, how to be a good mixer, how to be a "spark plug" (if I may borrow Brother Ira North's expression) and general executive in local churches, but do not know the basic truth about the operation of the Holy Spirit. As far back as 1956, warnings came from the pens of those who, although they were advocating institutionalism among churches of Christ, saw the tendency develop that has brought about the problem discussed in the series. Brother G. C. Brewer wrote in the Gospel Advocate of the implications of "present trends." He said:
"No. 5 -- What We May Expect Front Present Trends. Sometimes we have men who are predicting another division in the church and a wholesale digression of churches. This well may be feared. But the love of success, the ambition for big programs, and the tendency towards making a preacher an executive with such a multiplicity of activities to supervise that he has to have a dozen secretaries and helpers, can easily cause the creation of an 'institutional' church that has little resemblance to a New Testament congregation. It would be a glorious thing if all the so-called members of the churches over the country were forced to sit at the feet of a gospel preacher for the series of six weeks preaching each year. Gospel preaching would stave off any departures and would create and educate some real Christians to carry on the work of the Lord. There is no substitute for gospel preaching. Therefore, there substitute for our old-time meetings."
-Gospel Advocate, April 12, 1956, page 350.
Notice that the "love of success, the ambition for big programs and the tendency towards making a preacher an executive with" a "multiplicity of activities to supervise" was the thing, in Brother Brewer's mind, that would lead away from gospel teaching and eventually to digression. It is sad, but when one who is either ignorantly or ignominiously called "anti" says the same thing - he is ignored as a "crack-pot." Thanks be to God that today, there are a few opening their eyes and pulling their heads out of the sand and admitting that the church is in the throes of digression, and it is happening exactly for the reasons brother Brewer outlined. The lack of gospel knowledge among members of the church today is the result of young preachers who know more about promoting than gospel preaching. They cannot preach what they do not know; they do not know the gospel for they are not taught it and therefore do not know the truth about how the Holy Spirit influences Christians today.
2. Successful Promotions. I would be the last to affirm that the liberal brethren today have been unsuccessful. They have succeeded in what they have set out to do. Their goal has been for the past few years to "raise the image of the Church of Christ" in the eyes of the world. Although they have not built it yet, they still plan to erect a mansion of an edifice in Manhattan so as to impress the world with the Church of Christ. They have conducted "Campaigns for Christ" all over the world and have had gigantic crowds and responses. I am not saying that their success has run along scriptural lines - I have not been under the impression that they cared about that sort of thing by reading their propaganda, but they had their version of the Baptist Crusades conducted by Billy Graham. The liberals have their version of Billy in Brother Jimmy Allen. Someone has said that throughout history, when men forsake the scriptures for their own wisdom, and meet with success, they attribute it to the working of the supernatural. Brother Allen made a speech at a Herald of Truth Workshop a few years ago and one of his favorite expressions was, "I feel led of the Lord." He also, along with other of his cohorts, has affirmed that the large crowds are the result of the "providence of God." Most of them will define the influence and inner working of the Holy Spirit today as being identical with providence, which manifests that they know not the truth on either of these questions.
3. The Influence of Schools. I do not condemn Bible Colleges or higher education (and it seems necessary always to say that when saying something against "our schools") but the Schools run by the brethren have contributed their part in instilling this error about the Spirit into the thinking of the students. Others have affirmed this. In the Firm Foundation, Brother Gary Colley wrote:
"We do not doubt God's wisdom and care which he gives his children. But it disturbs us greatly to hear of Christians claiming they can 'speak in tongues,' or that the Spirit guides them into a certain parking place at a hospital and on to the right floor off an elevator, simply by his direct operational power. It disturbs us to hear a 'Holiness' pray for the Holy Spirit to come down NOW and fill us directly; but to hear one who is a preacher for the Lord's church do the same, all the while claiming truth for his conduct, disturbs us more than words can express. "
"Where this doctrine started among the Lord's people we will not say. However, we do know of some, who were raised by godly, Bible studying parents, who sent their children off to college without such teaching, and upon their return they had this teaching." -Firm Foundation, May 17, 1966, page 311.
Here is a man knowing of some who learned this new doctrine (new to churches of Christ) in colleges - apparently Bible Colleges operated by brethren. No secular school has courses, to my knowledge, that would affect students so. While Bible Colleges have the right to exist (which is a debatable question among us), it should always be remembered that Colleges, related to & church, have led in every digression that has been recorded as part of our history. While it is not altogether on this subject, a quotation from a noted historian is in order. Mosheim remarks that the Schools of the first and second centuries played a definite part in the apostasy of the first century church and makes this interesting observation:
"To the common people, the principal truths of Christianity were explained in their purity and simplicity, and all subtleties were avoided; nor were weak and tender minds overloaded with a multitude of precepts. (1) But in their schools, and in their books, the doctors who cultivated literature and philosophy and especially those of Egypt, deemed it elegant and exquisite, to subject divine wisdom to the scrutiny of reason, or rather to bring under the precepts of their philosophy, and to examine metaphysically, the nature of the doctrine taught by Christ."
-Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History,
Murdock, Vol. 1, Page 176.
I cannot help but think of Dr. J. D. Thomas and his explanation of how the Father and Son dwell in Christians representatively and that the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians personally. That sounds theological and very scholarly, but to find-such in the scriptures one must search in vain. Just a word of caution to all of us. When we begin trying to reason out many of those things that are somewhat subtle in the gospel, we are liable to be led off into the same maze of confusion prevalent among the liberals of our day. Have you ever discussed what the church of today is with a modernistic denominational preacher? When and if you do you will find that it is as clear as Mississippi mud and as filled with "gobble-de-gook" as you can fill a thing with such stuff. So, schools have played a part in the development of this error among brethren.
4. The "No-Pattern" Theory. When brethren turn loose of the Bible, they are no different than any other digressive. The Christian Church began with the attitude that they could legislate in religion where God had made no legislation. Of course, they claimed that they were not legislating, but look at the results. You cannot be among them today (I mean really considered by them as among them) without accepting their opinions about instrumental music, societies, social functions, and the like. They thought the same thing as we have heard for the past ten years or so among our liberal brethren, viz., "We do a lot of things for which we have no scriptural authority," or "Where there is no pattern, we are at liberty to do as we please." When such a thing grows to be part of the life and breathe of a movement, then they have to turn to something other than the revelation of God's will to man to justify what they are doing. They have the Gamalielian theory that if it works it is right - if not it is wrong. Since they think what they are doing works, then they conclude that it must be right and if it is right, since they have no scripture for it, then the Holy Spirit must be behind it. I have heard some of them make just such an argument. But both they and old Gamaliel are wrong about it. A thing is right because it is authorized by the scripture, revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads the church today through the Word, not separate from it.
To conclude this series, I would like to point out that there is nothing mysterious or hazy about the indwelling of the Spirit. Even some conservative brethren have gone astray on this matter. I receive brother Arthur Atkinson, Jr.'s paper in which he apparently thinks that if you believe that the Spirit dwells in the Christian today only through the Word of God, that you do not believe in the indwelling of the Spirit. Suffice it to say that the Bible teaches that the Spirit of God does dwell in the Christian (I Cor. 6:19, 20; Rom. 8:9; Acts 5:32). The question of how has to do with method or medium. Does the Spirit dwell immediately or mediately in a Christian? This is a question that faithful gospel preachers have debated with Calvinists through the years. Never has the point been successfully proven that there is any immediate or direct dwelling of the Spirit in a Christian. Only through faith (Gal. 3:2 - Note: "hearing of faith") does the Spirit dwell in Christians. To affirm immediate dwelling, separate from the revealed word of God, brings consequences that cannot be successfully avoided, such as: (1) The overwhelming power of the Spirit, (2) Miraculous manifestations of the Spirit in a Christian's activities. These two cover just about the whole gamut of denominational error which has been adopted by our brethren.
I close with these words from Brother Glenn L. Wallace. "Divisions that have plagued us are only minor compared to what we shall see. Cooperation, cups, classes . . . these are only surface ripples" (Firm Foundation, June 7, 1966, page 359) I think it is tragic that such is inevitable, it seems. I also think it is tragic that there is so little that divides those of us who oppose human institutions doing the work of and for the local churches and unscriptural centralization, and those who truly represent the thinking of the Firm Foundation. It is said that the Firm Foundation represents the "middle-of-the-road" but as I read that paper they seem closer to where they think we are than where the out-going and extreme liberals are today. I believe that honesty, prayer, love and genuine desire for unity could bring about a solidarity between those brethren and others who still desire to be guided solely by a "thus saith the Lord."
May God bless this series to the edification of those who read and to the staying of digression from truth.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 10, pp. 12-14