Charismatic Church

Meanings / Definitions

I am continuing my sermon critique starting with my own illustration:
The telephone rang. Riva answered it. "Luke," she called.  "It's for you."
    "You the fella lookin' t'buy a vintage Triumph motorcycle in decent to excellent running condition?" It was a man's voice, old sounding, rheumy, wheezy. Decades of cigarettes and cheap whiskey had gone into fine-tuning that voice, which had a mocking tone on the "decent to excellent" part.
    I felt a quick heartbeat skip, but I didn't want to get too worked up--I'd drilled this well a couple times already, but the holes had been dry.
    My old ride had been trashed a few years back by someone who didn't like what I was doing, which was defending a very unpopular man on a murder charge. That my client ultimately wasn't guilty of the crime for which he was charged didn't bring my bike back to life. But what with getting married and having my son and all, I hadn't done anything about replacing it. Now, with my life settled into a comfortably predictable existence, I wanted to straddle two wheels again, if only on the weekends. I live in Santa Barbara, but nothing available here turned me on. So last week I placed ads in the
L.A. Times, Long Beach Telegram, and the San Fernando Valley Daily News:
    Wanted: Vintage Triumph Bonneville motorcycle.
    In decent to excellent running condition, or
    capable of being restored at a reasonable price.
    I had some responses the first couple of days the ad ran, but either the price was too high or the motorcycle needed too much work. What I'd thought would be an easy transaction was becoming increasingly frustrating.
    "Yes, that's me," I answered, probably too eagerly. The price just went up a couple hundred, I thought, but what the hell.
    "Ain't got one." A kind of a chuckle-wheeze-phlegmy cough.  The connection wasn't great, so it was most likely not as bad as it sounded, but this was not a well man.
    Ah, well. Life's full of little jokes.
    "Thanks for calling," I told the prankster.  Maybe he was an old shut-in, and this could have been the high point of his day.  Maybe even his week.  I started to hang up.
    "Got a Vincent."
    The receiver was halfway to its cradle, but I heard that.
    'Black Shadow, '53. She runs smooth, I ain't jerkin your chain."
    The Vincent was a bit dusty under the protective drop cloth, some rust spots on the chassis--but it looked damn fine for a forty-five-year-old machine.  I fired her up--she roared to life on my first attempt.
--J.F. Freedman, Above the Law121

I checked my Bibles at home, and indeed Acts is called The Acts of the Apostles, at least in the King James Version.  The J.B. Phillips Version even calls it The Young Church in Action, while the New International Version just calls it Acts.  I don't have any other versions at home.  I used to have just the King James Version, but then I got into a Bible study where they all wanted modern versions and all used the New International Version, so I took a J.B. Phillips New Testament so I'd be using good English.  Lo and behold, both modern versions engaged in some mild paraphrasing, in different directions, and when I tried to use the King James Version, it started an argument because they all knew what their Bibles said, so I must be wrong.  I think maybe I'm better off not looking at any other versions, stay out of any more trouble.

The preacher in his sermon Bible study pointed out that Acts could legitimately be called Acts of the Holy Spirit, and since some of those acts were only done through the apostles, for the formation of the early church, then the Holy Spirit's Actions through the Apostles for the Young Church in Action would just about sum it up.  At any rate he summated to not want to leave it as open Acts, so in this case he seems to favor the treatment of the version(s) I regularly use over the NIV.

If I'm following his thought correctly, from the car-gasoline analogy, to open the gas tank and drop a match in would make a showy explosion122, but the quiet running of the motor is what drives the car down the road; the baptism of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts had an initiating function in the nascent church but a subtler action drives the church through the centuries--something like that.  If I were to rigorously apply that analogy, then dropping a match into an open gas tank to cause an explosion is not going to start any car but is more along the lines of, "My old ride had been trashed a few years back by someone who didn't like what I was doing," which would correspond in Acts to God's interference in Saul's old trip because the almighty didn't like what Saul was doing.  The extra measure of the Holy Spirit needed to get the church started would, in this analogy, correspond to opening the choke to start the car; that puts a richer flow of gas in to start.  "I fired her up--she roared to life on my first attempt." With the church primed--staying, praying, obeying--she started up right away.  Starting the Gentile church took some finessing; God had to lower the sheet three times before Peter got the message. That's like cranking the starter three times before she catches. And then once it started, it almost died again; Peter was seriously questioned about his involvement with Cornelius.

I think the idea, though, is once the engine is started, to push the choke back in so there's a leaner mixture to run on.  "She runs smooth, I ain't jerkin your chain."

I know little about cars, and less about the Spirit, but it seems to me that if one needed to keep the choke out some for his car to be running, there's something wrong with that car and it's in serious need of an overhaul, and if one keeps the choke out on a good condition car, that car isn't going to run smooth.  The implications for the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches is one needs to straighten themselves out, and the other doesn't run smooth.

I don't mean to judge other churches, but these implications do follow from the model this preacher gave us. And those are the charitable ones, not to mention:

    Another cause of this weakness in the will is found in what may be called psychical excess.  And it is unfortunate that so many people have permitted themselves to be placed under psychical influences during the last fifty or seventy-five years; though it is a fact that a great many people have permitted their minds to be controlled or influenced by the psychical or occult in every age.
--C.D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them123

I think the strength of the car-gasoline analogy is that it gives us a level-headed approach to the actions of the Spirit while letting us be charitable towards our more "charismatic" church friends who operate differently.  Or am I just reading too much into a sermon?


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III

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