Thoughts on "Thoughts on Religious Experience"?

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I am bringing this up again because it has been on my mind lately.
I have yet to dive into Alexander's work. Not being a really emotional person, though I'd like to think I am rather empathetic, I am wondering how should emotions, or lack thereof, be balanced.
For instance, many times I wonder, if I am a new creation, where's the new; the new affections, the new hatred of sin, the zeal to do anything and everything for church, progress against besetting sins? Where are the pure motives for repentance or good works in my heart? It's but a small and dismal spark among my more cerebral interests in theology or other areas.

I wish one could give a bright-line test for balance. No such thing. But, a few thoughts to validate that it is good and right to want to feel more, provided done rightly. I feel my thoughts may be incomplete, but maybe this'll help.

Follow the narrative of men of the Bible, and you will see how they felt about things emotionally was no small part of their effectiveness. Didn't the fury of Moses cause the people to take seriously their idolatry in making the calf? Would Moses have been so prompted to go if the Lord's anger wasn't visibly kindled (Exod 3 or 4)? It was from bowels of compassion that Christ fed the 5000, from heart agony that He cried, "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!". He looked perhaps like a madman in His fury in cleansing out the temple. Paul was effective in His ministry because of his own heart's disposition as well. Galatians 4, he travails like a woman delivering a child for Christ to be formed in the people. He has unceasing anguish in his heart and would nearly rather be damned than have his brothers and sisters in the flesh damned. He is stirred to anger at the idolatry of Ephesus(?), tears his clothes when they want to sacrifice to him. He sheds tears that some are enemies of the cross. Would a man with any less feeling been so effective a minister?

And where to begin with the Psalms? "My eyes shed streams of tears because my enemies do not keep your law." Who ever attains that? Everywhere you go is a line of emotion that shames us with its depth.

And what is this ambition of Peter that we would know "joy unspeakable and full of glory?" Or Paul, that we are to know the love of Christ which surpasses height, depth, width, breadth? Or to rejoice in the Lord always? Wasn't it vengeance and irreconcilableness that made Corinth effective against their sins (2 Cor 7)?

And what about Song of Solomon? There is a book which it is only good and right that you respond with feeling! No small part is how much feeling there is in communion with Christ. What else would be expected in a marriage relationship?

Training your emotions is indeed part of your sanctification. To borrow light from Aristotle (not exact quote), part of education is training the heart to feel the right way about things--to delight in the delightful, to grieve about the grievous, to detest the detestable.

Get deep into the cross. Study God, study sin, study the atonement, the Gospel. Simple faith is enough to save a man apart from the works of the law. "The just shall live by faith". Which means not only initial justification, but all sanctified course of life inward or outward will be attained the same way- faith. 1 Cor 1:30, Christ is our "righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, redemption." Believe on Him that He will guide your affections rightly, and study the Word to better understand what and how you ought (or ought not) to feel. Ask for the Spirit to open it to you.

Is there room to make mistakes? Plenty. But the Word by the Spirit will open the middle path where doctrine births proper practice in heart and action, to keep you from Spockism on one ditch and fanaticism on the other,
 
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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
@arapahoepark

Speaking of Song of Solomon, something to warm your heart:

My Beloved King - Craig Scott

Song of Solomon 1:12–14
While the king sitteth at his table,
My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
13 A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me;
He shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire
In the vineyards of En-gedi.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This is a topic that has been much on my heart for decades. Here's an excerpt from a brief paper I wrote for my church, "God's Presence Our Portion" :

I suppose a lot depends on how one understands the term “experiential” with regard to the Christian’s life with God. Of course we will not have a “flat” affect – that is, no inward experience in and of it – and then again we will not be guided by sensations as a marker of the Christian life. Yet one may say, “A sense of God’s presence on the heart” – for the heart may sense apart from the physical or emotional senses. I hope this will be made clear as we continue.​
I am fond of saying that – with regard to our faith – we have a profound assurance in the depths of our being that God’s words are the reality of our lives. Whatever we may feel, His words are true, and they are what is real. So when the Scripture quotes the Lord as saying, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” and “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5), does this necessarily mean we have a “felt presence” of the Lord? No, although upon occasion we may be very aware of the glory of His Person, as He draws near to us. I remember R.C. Sproul, in one of his video series, talking about this unusual manifestation of the Lord’s presence, and that it does not happen often, rather, quite rarely, in his case.​
But I am not talking of this sort of “visitation” Sproul speaks of when I say “a profound assurance in the depths of our being”. There are feelings in the heart – whether you call it one’s spirit, or one’s depths – that are not of the emotions. Perhaps one could call it an essential knowing. From His word, I know that the Lord is with me (Matt 28:20; Ps 23:4; Heb 13:5; Deut 31:8) and is kindly disposed toward me (Rom 8:35-39; Jer 31:3; Prov 15:8). Now this knowing is not a mere cerebral assent or activity, but a dynamic force in my heart, such that it causes me to rejoice and sing, or to venture into danger with calm courage; this knowing (perhaps you can come up with another word) is the apprehending of God’s reality (via His word) by and in my heart, and His word is full of power and glory – and many promises – and His word moves my heart, deeper than emotions, although it may give rise to emotions.​
So when I talk of “profound assurance in the depths” it is of such I am referring to. This, to me, is an experiential walk with God. I am experiencing His presence, not sensations of it, but a profound knowing of it, such that by it I could face death, fear having been overcome by His presence – His presence known but not necessarily “felt” as in sensations. It is important we become familiar with this idea of inner awareness that is deeper than emotional feelings. As I mentioned above, this awareness may well give rise to emotions, but it is not the emotions. One’s emotions may feel fear (from some threat), yet one’s awareness – one’s deep inner knowing – that God is with one right now, replaces the fear with confidence, trust, and joy. Such as David felt when he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).​

Here's the full paper (4 pages) :
 

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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I’m not familiar with this author but some strong sentiments nonetheless...

Sola Scriptura for Charismatics


“The presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit is central to living Christianity. Charismatics have emphasized the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives and see His power as what separates them from "dead religion." It is true that he Holy Spirit must be present and active in the life of a believer, this is the very claim that the Reformers made, especially Luther. The reformers and Charismatics agree on this. However, they disagree on something just as crucial their understanding of how the Holy Spirit comes and how He is active in the lives of believers. Luther believed the Holy Spirit only comes through the external Word, written and preached. This understanding of how the Holy Spirit exercises His authority in both individuals and the church is where Charismatics have wandered from the foundations of the Reformation. The Reformation was built upon sola scriptura which means "the authority of scripture alone." More completely, this is the assertion that the Bible as God's written word is:
· self-authenticating,
· clear to the rational reader,
· its own interpreter ("Scripture interprets Scripture"),
· sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine, teaching and guidance.
This concept was the bedrock of the Reformation and the source of the other four solas; sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone). While most Charismatics consider they believe in sola scriptura and have words to that effect in their church statement of faith, in practice they deny it. How? Precisely because of their beliefs describing how the Holy Spirit interacts with their lives and churches. Let us be clear, both the reformers and Charismatics agree that an intellectual understanding of the gospel and simply agreeing that it is true does not make saving faith. In other words, people merely acknowledging the authority of scriptures and the truth of gospel are not necessarily born again nor do they necessarily have the Holy Spirit. Both Luther and Charismatics complain of "dead churches" that are devoid of the Holy Spirit and "anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him" (Rom. 8:9). But how does what is dead become alive and active in the Holy Spirit? What are the means of the Holy Spirit's activity and power? Sola scriptura claims that the means is the scripture, the external Word written and preached. In contrast, Charismatics believe that the means include internal feelings, impressions, and subjective experiences. The pursuit of the Holy Spirit through these Charismatic means is a rejection of sola sciptura and a return to the Catholic paradigm that new internal revelations of men are from the Holy Spirit and have authority. The goal of this article is to show that this conflict is not "new" nor is the Charismatic paradigm the result of some new "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit unique in our time this error was not even "new" in Luther's time five hundred years ago. This error was destructive then and the repeat edition continues to harm people today and the remedy is still the same, sola sciptura.

The Means
The way or mechanism through which we interact with the Holy Spirit is crucial, a key element in understanding sola scriptura. According to John 16:13 when the Holy Spirit comes, "He will guide you into all the truth." John 14:26 tells us the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. Galatians 5:18, 25 addresses this same concept," if you are led by the SpiritIf we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." This mechanism of "being guided by," "being taught by," being led by," living by," and "walking by" the Holy Spirit is the means or way the Holy Spirit carries Christians and rules in their lives it is how He exerts his authority. Christians who submit to His means exhibit the fruit of His rule in their lives. For Charismatics, the means the Holy Spirit operates in their lives is through internal impressions, feelings, thoughts and "anointings." The presence of the Holy Spirit is "felt" or perceived internally and His leading sensed subjectively by those seeking to be led by Him. This is seen in a worship service whose goal is to "feel the presence of God" God being the Holy Spirit (as Jesus is bodily in Heaven with his Father). The Charismatic means are seen in the pursuit of internal "words" or revelations people feel are from the Holy Spirit. It is seen in where someone gives a "personal meaning" to scripture that is pulled from context and the meaning of the original author. It is also seen in prayers inviting the Holy Spirit to come and manifest his presence as an internal feeling or sensation. I am not implying that the goal of this pursuit of the Holy Spirit is bad. In fact, the goal of the Charismatics' pursuit of the Holy Spirit is a clearer understanding of God's guidance, will and direction for individuals and the congregation people seeking God's answers to their questions and afflictions. They want to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and act as the Holy Spirit leads them to accomplish God's will in their lives and on this earth. But their means are flawed; this pursuit of the Holy Spirit leads to error instead of their goal and delusion instead of truth.

Catholic Mysticism and Charismatic Means
The battle Luther fought was not against a "dead church" with no manifestations of the spiritual some dry hierarchy of church government denying the supernatural. Luther's battle was about spiritual revelations and the means the Holy Spirit ruled His church. It obviously had much to do with the papacy, as seen below. The reason the reformers fought the papacy was that this system looked to their own revelations as having authority along with scriptures. They claimed the Holy Spirit directly inspired their leader and his claims. Luther states:
The papacy, too, is nothing but enthusiasm, for the pope boasts that "all laws are in the shrine of his heart,"8 and he claims that whatever he decides and commands in his churches is spirit and law, even when it is above and contrary to the Scriptures or spoken Word.[1]
Beyond the pope himself, the Catholics also taught that special or elite Christians could also interact with the Holy Spirit directly through various practices called spiritual disciplines. Luther strongly opposed Catholic mysticism that taught people to seek God's presence inside themselves. Sola scriptura invalidated the Catholic traditions of mysticism that had been embraced by the church for hundreds of years including:
· Direct revelations to popes and other "holy people."
· "Contemplative prayer" which used eastern style meditation to empty the mind.
· "Lectio divina" which used repetitive reading of the words of scriptures to empty one's mind.
However, this battle went much further than just revelations within the papacy. In fact, some of Luther's main battles for sola scriptura were against freestyle spirituality and revelations claimed by the new "Charismatics" emerging within the Protestants that embraced these mystical traditions. The Charismatics Luther battled were broadly called "enthusiasts" because of their excessive emotional zeal and "subjective" means to approach the Holy Spirit. These enthusiasts included Anabaptists and the followers of various leaders people perceived as having some special "anointing." Luther opposed both Catholic mysticism and protestant enthusiasts because they both rebelled against the authority of scripture. For Luther and the reformers, the Holy Spirit came to them and interacted with them through the scriptures alone not through internal feelings. Here is what Luther says concerning their freestyle spirituality.
It is good to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise in opposition to the fanatics who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own preparations. They sit in a dark corner doing and saying nothing, but only waiting for illumination, as the enthusiasts taught formerly and the Anabaptists teach now.[2]
Luther was not necessarily claiming that these people openly rejected or denied the scripture, but that they rebelled against its authority by rejecting the meaning originally intended by the author. The enthusiasts made scriptures say what they felt or wanted them to say through personal interpretations and allegory they claimed were revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Luther observes:
In these matters, which concern the external, spoken Word, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts - that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure. 1[3]
Once freed from the tyranny of the Catholic Church, these enthusiasts continued the Catholic paradigm and rejected the legitimate authority of the Holy Spirit speaking through the scripture. They practiced freestyle Christianity interacting with the Holy Spirit through whatever means they felt inspired. These enthusiasts demanded interactions with the Holy Spirit outside of scriptures - revelations felt and perceived internally by individuals as the "voice of the Holy Spirit." Luther attacked these "revelations" because they had no authority and resulted in people following their own imaginations.
For the Holy Spirit does not-as the enthusiasts and the Anabaptists, truly fanatical teachers, dream-give His instruction through new revelations outside the ministry of the Word.[4]

Error Costs
Luther saw this appetite for new revelations as both dangerous and damaging. He physically witnessed these "revelations" cause the deaths of thousands and misery to tens of thousands who were deluded by their own internal feelings and those of their "spiritual leaders" like Thomas Munzer. Münzer, beheaded in 1525 after the Peasants' War, was one of the leaders of the radicals claiming spiritual revelations as the basis for his rebellion. Luther was opposed to mysticism because it was as damaging among the Protestants as it was within the Catholic Church. Luther fought this Charismatic paradigm with as much vigor as He did the abusive Catholic Church the mystical root was the same. Sola scriptura was the foundation that mysticism sought to undermine with internal revelations. Luther says:
Away with our schismatics, who spurn the Word while they sit in corners waiting for the Spirit's revelation, but apart from the voice of the Word! They say one must sit still in a corner and empty the mind of all speculations, and then the Holy Spirit will fill it. [5]

The modern Charismatic "paradigm" and their concept of the means to interact with the Holy Spirit is not new. The concepts Luther wrote against in the 1500s are the same issues Charismatics struggle with today when they dilute the authority of scriptures with mysticism, internal feelings, or allegorical and personal interpretations of the scripture as how the Spirit communicates. Again, the Reformation considered the work and power of the Holy Spirit essential and crucial in the life of the individual and the church. However, the means through which the Holy Spirit came to the church and exerted His rule how the Holy Spirit interacted with Christians this was Luther's battle.

Sola Scriptura or Popes (one, many or me)
If we reject Luther's concept of sola scriptura we reject the Reformation regardless of what is in a statement of faith. Rejecting sola sciptura is to return to serving popes and the foundations of Catholicism, namely God's will is still revealed to men by the Holy Spirit through freestyle internal revelation. The only question left to answer is which pope to serve; the Catholic one, a new "anointed" leader, or perhaps setting oneself up as a "personal pope" receiving revelations for oneself. Dr. Karlstadt was once such leader in Luther's day teaching people to be quiet and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking inside them through "self abstraction." The means he emphasized was an "inner word" that was "felt" in contrast to an external word that was spoken or read. Karlstadt's means are the same ones embraced by Charismatics today. This is what Luther says:
But should you ask how one gains access to this same lofty spirit they do not refer you to the outward gospel but to some imaginary realm, saying: Remain in "self abstraction"101 where I now am and you will have the same experience. A heavenly voice will come, and God himself will speak to you. If you inquire further as to the nature of this "self abstraction," you will find that they know as much about it as Dr. Karlstadt knows of Greek and Hebrew. Do you not see here the devil, the enemy of God's order? With all his mouthing of the words, "Spirit, Spirit, Spirit," he tears down the bridge, the path, the way, the ladder, and all the means by which the Spirit might come to you. Instead of the outward order of God and the oral proclamation of the Word of God he wants to teach you, not how the Spirit comes to you but how you come to the Spirit. They would have you learn how to journey on the clouds and ride on the wind. They do not tell you how or when, whither or what, but you are to experience what they do.[6]

Luther rightly condemns this Charismatic teaching. Why? Because our internal feelings do not have the authority of God. God's Word has the authority of God and is the means through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually and as a congregation. The Holy Spirit speaks to us with an external voice found in the words of scripture, as we read it or hear it preached, and empowers these same words to change our hearts and actions. Here is Luther speaking on the role of the Holy Spirit described in John 16:1, "For He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak."

Here Christ makes the Holy Spirit a Preacher. He does so to prevent one from gaping toward heaven in search of Him, as the fluttering spirits28 and enthusiasts do, and from divorcing Him from the oral Word or the ministry. One should know and learn that He will be in and with the Word, that it will guide us into all truth, in order that we may believe it, use it as a weapon, be preserved by it against all the lies and deception of the devil, and prevail in all trials and temptations. For there is, after all, no other way and no other means of perceiving the Holy Spirit's consolation and power, as I have often demonstrated from Holy Writ and have often experienced myself. [7]

The Reformation view of the Holy Spirit's ruling the church and the authority the leaders themselves exercised was centered on the concept of sola scriptura. The activity of the Holy Spirit working through these leaders was viewed through the lens of sola scriptura, not mysticism with personal revelations or modern prophets. Scripture was the means that the Holy Spirit interacted with the individual and the congregation. This is where they heard the certain voice of God. The message and words of their songs of worship, taken from scripture, were the means through which the Holy Spirit was active in their worship an understanding of what they were singing about. While Luther may not have believed in a literal millennium, He did understand the rule of the King through the Holy Spirit at our present time through the scriptures and says:
the Holy Spirit establishes a wide difference among teachers and gives the right rule by which the spirits are to be tested. He wants to say that there are two kinds of teachers. There are some who speak on their own authority; that is, they evolve their message from their own reasoning or religious zeal and judgment. The Holy Spirit is not to be that kind of preacher; for He will not speak on His own authority In this way Christ sets bounds for the message of the Holy Spirit Himself. He is not to preach anything new or anything else than Christ and His Word. Thus we have a sure guide and touchstone for judging the false spirits.”
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I’m not familiar with this author but some strong sentiments nonetheless...

Sola Scriptura for Charismatics


“The presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit is central to living Christianity. Charismatics have emphasized the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives and see His power as what separates them from "dead religion." It is true that he Holy Spirit must be present and active in the life of a believer, this is the very claim that the Reformers made, especially Luther. The reformers and Charismatics agree on this. However, they disagree on something just as crucial their understanding of how the Holy Spirit comes and how He is active in the lives of believers. Luther believed the Holy Spirit only comes through the external Word, written and preached. This understanding of how the Holy Spirit exercises His authority in both individuals and the church is where Charismatics have wandered from the foundations of the Reformation. The Reformation was built upon sola scriptura which means "the authority of scripture alone." More completely, this is the assertion that the Bible as God's written word is:
· self-authenticating,
· clear to the rational reader,
· its own interpreter ("Scripture interprets Scripture"),
· sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine, teaching and guidance.
This concept was the bedrock of the Reformation and the source of the other four solas; sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone). While most Charismatics consider they believe in sola scriptura and have words to that effect in their church statement of faith, in practice they deny it. How? Precisely because of their beliefs describing how the Holy Spirit interacts with their lives and churches. Let us be clear, both the reformers and Charismatics agree that an intellectual understanding of the gospel and simply agreeing that it is true does not make saving faith. In other words, people merely acknowledging the authority of scriptures and the truth of gospel are not necessarily born again nor do they necessarily have the Holy Spirit. Both Luther and Charismatics complain of "dead churches" that are devoid of the Holy Spirit and "anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him" (Rom. 8:9). But how does what is dead become alive and active in the Holy Spirit? What are the means of the Holy Spirit's activity and power? Sola scriptura claims that the means is the scripture, the external Word written and preached. In contrast, Charismatics believe that the means include internal feelings, impressions, and subjective experiences. The pursuit of the Holy Spirit through these Charismatic means is a rejection of sola sciptura and a return to the Catholic paradigm that new internal revelations of men are from the Holy Spirit and have authority. The goal of this article is to show that this conflict is not "new" nor is the Charismatic paradigm the result of some new "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit unique in our time this error was not even "new" in Luther's time five hundred years ago. This error was destructive then and the repeat edition continues to harm people today and the remedy is still the same, sola sciptura.

The Means
The way or mechanism through which we interact with the Holy Spirit is crucial, a key element in understanding sola scriptura. According to John 16:13 when the Holy Spirit comes, "He will guide you into all the truth." John 14:26 tells us the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. Galatians 5:18, 25 addresses this same concept," if you are led by the SpiritIf we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." This mechanism of "being guided by," "being taught by," being led by," living by," and "walking by" the Holy Spirit is the means or way the Holy Spirit carries Christians and rules in their lives it is how He exerts his authority. Christians who submit to His means exhibit the fruit of His rule in their lives. For Charismatics, the means the Holy Spirit operates in their lives is through internal impressions, feelings, thoughts and "anointings." The presence of the Holy Spirit is "felt" or perceived internally and His leading sensed subjectively by those seeking to be led by Him. This is seen in a worship service whose goal is to "feel the presence of God" God being the Holy Spirit (as Jesus is bodily in Heaven with his Father). The Charismatic means are seen in the pursuit of internal "words" or revelations people feel are from the Holy Spirit. It is seen in where someone gives a "personal meaning" to scripture that is pulled from context and the meaning of the original author. It is also seen in prayers inviting the Holy Spirit to come and manifest his presence as an internal feeling or sensation. I am not implying that the goal of this pursuit of the Holy Spirit is bad. In fact, the goal of the Charismatics' pursuit of the Holy Spirit is a clearer understanding of God's guidance, will and direction for individuals and the congregation people seeking God's answers to their questions and afflictions. They want to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and act as the Holy Spirit leads them to accomplish God's will in their lives and on this earth. But their means are flawed; this pursuit of the Holy Spirit leads to error instead of their goal and delusion instead of truth.

Catholic Mysticism and Charismatic Means
The battle Luther fought was not against a "dead church" with no manifestations of the spiritual some dry hierarchy of church government denying the supernatural. Luther's battle was about spiritual revelations and the means the Holy Spirit ruled His church. It obviously had much to do with the papacy, as seen below. The reason the reformers fought the papacy was that this system looked to their own revelations as having authority along with scriptures. They claimed the Holy Spirit directly inspired their leader and his claims. Luther states:
The papacy, too, is nothing but enthusiasm, for the pope boasts that "all laws are in the shrine of his heart,"8 and he claims that whatever he decides and commands in his churches is spirit and law, even when it is above and contrary to the Scriptures or spoken Word.[1]
Beyond the pope himself, the Catholics also taught that special or elite Christians could also interact with the Holy Spirit directly through various practices called spiritual disciplines. Luther strongly opposed Catholic mysticism that taught people to seek God's presence inside themselves. Sola scriptura invalidated the Catholic traditions of mysticism that had been embraced by the church for hundreds of years including:
· Direct revelations to popes and other "holy people."
· "Contemplative prayer" which used eastern style meditation to empty the mind.
· "Lectio divina" which used repetitive reading of the words of scriptures to empty one's mind.
However, this battle went much further than just revelations within the papacy. In fact, some of Luther's main battles for sola scriptura were against freestyle spirituality and revelations claimed by the new "Charismatics" emerging within the Protestants that embraced these mystical traditions. The Charismatics Luther battled were broadly called "enthusiasts" because of their excessive emotional zeal and "subjective" means to approach the Holy Spirit. These enthusiasts included Anabaptists and the followers of various leaders people perceived as having some special "anointing." Luther opposed both Catholic mysticism and protestant enthusiasts because they both rebelled against the authority of scripture. For Luther and the reformers, the Holy Spirit came to them and interacted with them through the scriptures alone not through internal feelings. Here is what Luther says concerning their freestyle spirituality.
It is good to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise in opposition to the fanatics who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own preparations. They sit in a dark corner doing and saying nothing, but only waiting for illumination, as the enthusiasts taught formerly and the Anabaptists teach now.[2]
Luther was not necessarily claiming that these people openly rejected or denied the scripture, but that they rebelled against its authority by rejecting the meaning originally intended by the author. The enthusiasts made scriptures say what they felt or wanted them to say through personal interpretations and allegory they claimed were revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Luther observes:
In these matters, which concern the external, spoken Word, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts - that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure. 1[3]
Once freed from the tyranny of the Catholic Church, these enthusiasts continued the Catholic paradigm and rejected the legitimate authority of the Holy Spirit speaking through the scripture. They practiced freestyle Christianity interacting with the Holy Spirit through whatever means they felt inspired. These enthusiasts demanded interactions with the Holy Spirit outside of scriptures - revelations felt and perceived internally by individuals as the "voice of the Holy Spirit." Luther attacked these "revelations" because they had no authority and resulted in people following their own imaginations.
For the Holy Spirit does not-as the enthusiasts and the Anabaptists, truly fanatical teachers, dream-give His instruction through new revelations outside the ministry of the Word.[4]

Error Costs
Luther saw this appetite for new revelations as both dangerous and damaging. He physically witnessed these "revelations" cause the deaths of thousands and misery to tens of thousands who were deluded by their own internal feelings and those of their "spiritual leaders" like Thomas Munzer. Münzer, beheaded in 1525 after the Peasants' War, was one of the leaders of the radicals claiming spiritual revelations as the basis for his rebellion. Luther was opposed to mysticism because it was as damaging among the Protestants as it was within the Catholic Church. Luther fought this Charismatic paradigm with as much vigor as He did the abusive Catholic Church the mystical root was the same. Sola scriptura was the foundation that mysticism sought to undermine with internal revelations. Luther says:
Away with our schismatics, who spurn the Word while they sit in corners waiting for the Spirit's revelation, but apart from the voice of the Word! They say one must sit still in a corner and empty the mind of all speculations, and then the Holy Spirit will fill it. [5]

The modern Charismatic "paradigm" and their concept of the means to interact with the Holy Spirit is not new. The concepts Luther wrote against in the 1500s are the same issues Charismatics struggle with today when they dilute the authority of scriptures with mysticism, internal feelings, or allegorical and personal interpretations of the scripture as how the Spirit communicates. Again, the Reformation considered the work and power of the Holy Spirit essential and crucial in the life of the individual and the church. However, the means through which the Holy Spirit came to the church and exerted His rule how the Holy Spirit interacted with Christians this was Luther's battle.

Sola Scriptura or Popes (one, many or me)
If we reject Luther's concept of sola scriptura we reject the Reformation regardless of what is in a statement of faith. Rejecting sola sciptura is to return to serving popes and the foundations of Catholicism, namely God's will is still revealed to men by the Holy Spirit through freestyle internal revelation. The only question left to answer is which pope to serve; the Catholic one, a new "anointed" leader, or perhaps setting oneself up as a "personal pope" receiving revelations for oneself. Dr. Karlstadt was once such leader in Luther's day teaching people to be quiet and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking inside them through "self abstraction." The means he emphasized was an "inner word" that was "felt" in contrast to an external word that was spoken or read. Karlstadt's means are the same ones embraced by Charismatics today. This is what Luther says:
But should you ask how one gains access to this same lofty spirit they do not refer you to the outward gospel but to some imaginary realm, saying: Remain in "self abstraction"101 where I now am and you will have the same experience. A heavenly voice will come, and God himself will speak to you. If you inquire further as to the nature of this "self abstraction," you will find that they know as much about it as Dr. Karlstadt knows of Greek and Hebrew. Do you not see here the devil, the enemy of God's order? With all his mouthing of the words, "Spirit, Spirit, Spirit," he tears down the bridge, the path, the way, the ladder, and all the means by which the Spirit might come to you. Instead of the outward order of God and the oral proclamation of the Word of God he wants to teach you, not how the Spirit comes to you but how you come to the Spirit. They would have you learn how to journey on the clouds and ride on the wind. They do not tell you how or when, whither or what, but you are to experience what they do.[6]

Luther rightly condemns this Charismatic teaching. Why? Because our internal feelings do not have the authority of God. God's Word has the authority of God and is the means through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually and as a congregation. The Holy Spirit speaks to us with an external voice found in the words of scripture, as we read it or hear it preached, and empowers these same words to change our hearts and actions. Here is Luther speaking on the role of the Holy Spirit described in John 16:1, "For He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak."

Here Christ makes the Holy Spirit a Preacher. He does so to prevent one from gaping toward heaven in search of Him, as the fluttering spirits28 and enthusiasts do, and from divorcing Him from the oral Word or the ministry. One should know and learn that He will be in and with the Word, that it will guide us into all truth, in order that we may believe it, use it as a weapon, be preserved by it against all the lies and deception of the devil, and prevail in all trials and temptations. For there is, after all, no other way and no other means of perceiving the Holy Spirit's consolation and power, as I have often demonstrated from Holy Writ and have often experienced myself. [7]

The Reformation view of the Holy Spirit's ruling the church and the authority the leaders themselves exercised was centered on the concept of sola scriptura. The activity of the Holy Spirit working through these leaders was viewed through the lens of sola scriptura, not mysticism with personal revelations or modern prophets. Scripture was the means that the Holy Spirit interacted with the individual and the congregation. This is where they heard the certain voice of God. The message and words of their songs of worship, taken from scripture, were the means through which the Holy Spirit was active in their worship an understanding of what they were singing about. While Luther may not have believed in a literal millennium, He did understand the rule of the King through the Holy Spirit at our present time through the scriptures and says:
the Holy Spirit establishes a wide difference among teachers and gives the right rule by which the spirits are to be tested. He wants to say that there are two kinds of teachers. There are some who speak on their own authority; that is, they evolve their message from their own reasoning or religious zeal and judgment. The Holy Spirit is not to be that kind of preacher; for He will not speak on His own authority In this way Christ sets bounds for the message of the Holy Spirit Himself. He is not to preach anything new or anything else than Christ and His Word. Thus we have a sure guide and touchstone for judging the false spirits.”

Who is the author? That article looks vaguely familiar. That said, charismaticism or not aside, if you base your Christian walk on the intensity of your experiences or feelings, it's hard to avoid either the horrors of New England covenant theology on one hand, or extreme charismaticism on the other.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Who is the author? That article looks vaguely familiar. That said, charismaticism or not aside, if you base your Christian walk on the intensity of your experiences or feelings, it's hard to avoid either the horrors of New England covenant theology on one hand, or extreme charismaticism on the other.
“While I believe that scriptures clearly promise a literal Messianic Kingdom for Israel that will come to pass with Jesus reigning in Jerusalem for a thousand years as the actual king over the entire world, now this kingdom is only spiritual and found with the Holy Spirit. ”
-By K. Jentoft, 16 May, 2008

 
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