Test the Spirits, Examine Everything and Hold Fast to That Which is Good.

A quick note: This is a guest post by my good friend Bevin. He and I grew up together and share a lot of common views on life, faith and philosophy. Enjoy!

To those more Biblically astute you may have noticed I have used two passages of scripture in the title: 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…”, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…”

I have come to a time in my life where passages like these have become incredibly crucial in my Christian faith. Recently my wife and I have taken a huge step and joined many others in what seems to be a global reaction to much of what is occurring in the Charismatic movement. In the process, I have had, and continue to have many thoughts and concerns for things I once accepted as the norm for living an efficient Christian life, so much so that I feel compelled to share some thoughts on this publicly.

What is concerning me more and more is that many of the beliefs and practices which occur in popular churches around the world not only lack scriptural support but even fly in the face of biblical commands. Often this comes back to what I have observed to be emotionally based doctrine.

Recently a friend of mine was describing a feeling of levitation he once had and was convinced it was of God. Defending the legitimacy of his experience he said: “I cannot back it up with scripture but I know what I felt”. Once I witnessed a Pastor who appeared to be speaking in tongues in front of his congregation and after no interpretation was offered he then encouraged everyone to speak in tongues at once. This of course violates Paul’s commandments regarding tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. After questioning the Pastor about this his reasoning was that he felt led to do it.

These are just two examples of many I have witnessed which has lead me to believe that in a heavily Charismatic influenced culture many Christians are relying more and more on personal/subjective experiences rather than testing the spirits, examining everything and holding fast to that which is good. Ultimately this can be done with no other tool than the words God has already spoken. For all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To base one’s Christian practise and beliefs up on any other source is to bring into question the sufficiency of scripture itself for living an adequate Christian life.

This means I’m in no way calling anything outside of scripture to be inadequate in leading one to understanding and truth. I’m merely calling to account the practise of wholeheartedly trusting subjective experience over and above God’s revealed words for living an adequate Christian life. Furthermore, I believe this is something that has become so engrained into modern church culture that it’s become a commonly practised norm committed in ignorance.

In future, whether here or elsewhere, I plan to give more of a chronological description of my exodus out of the Charismatic church explaining more in depth why I made the move and my arrival to different beliefs.

Lastly, please understand that my posting is in no way to tear people down. Rather, it is to test the spirits, examine everything and to hold fast to that which is good; to have a life that is aligned with God’s Word and to cast off anything which opposes it.

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6 thoughts on “Test the Spirits, Examine Everything and Hold Fast to That Which is Good.

  1. According to the Wesleyan quadrilateral when forming your theology you should consider your experience, tradition, scripture and reason, I think this is fairly sound. I understand why you would criticise people who rely solely on personal experience but I wouldn’t want it to be excluded completely because our theology is evolving and our experiences can add to it.

    • Hi Elisabeth, thanks for your post. In no way am excluding experience completely. Seventh paragraph down I stated: “…I’m in no way calling anything outside of scripture to be inadequate in leading one to understanding and truth. I’m merely calling to account the practise of wholeheartedly trusting subjective experience over and above God’s revealed words for living an adequate Christian life.” Also, the examples I gave are of Christians using experience to trump scripture.

      • I think though when you say they are using their experience to ‘trump scripture’ that implies that you can just know what a scripture means. What I meant by referring to the Wesleyan quadrilateral, or what I was getting at is that we use our experience, church history etc to interpret scripture. There are lots of things we don’t take literally in the bible. Is it always wrong to speak in tongues from the platform or is there a situation where that scripture might not apply? What was the point of the scripture at the time? Is there room beyond the New Testament for evolution in our understanding of the Holy Spirit or do we think everything you can know about the HS was revealed in the NT?

  2. The problem is Elisabeth, is in the example I gave the pastor agreed (let me say again: agreed) with Paul’s instructions regarding tongues but acted contrary due to a feeling of being led. Therefore, allowing his feelings to trump scripture.

    Of course we need to acknowledge context when correctly exegeting scripture but that is not the topic here.

    I wouldn’t state that everything we “can” know about the Holy Spirit is outlined in Scripture but everything we “need” to know to live a fulfilling, adequate and effective Christian life certainly is.

  3. Thanks Bevin for having the integrity to tell it the way it actually is. Like you, I am baffled as to how so many people can miss the truth of the Bible and exchange it for some periodic cheap imitation experience that supposedly was meant to be orchestrated by God.
    I pray that Paul’s words in Galatians 6:14 will be true us; “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
    My experience is of no value, only Christ should be promoted as of any value or significance!

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