Christ centered only = Christo-monistic.

In responding to Jeff Clarke’s post here, in asking the question: Do Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave movements reflect the New Testament focus of the Holy Spirit?, Jeff makes this pertinent and hardly disagreeable assertion:

Every authentic move of the Spirit will always have as its primary focus the person of Jesus Christ.

For obvious reasons, at least to me, while a very good and quotable comment, so far as I see it, it is hardly disagreeable.  I mean, after all, is not the person and work of Jesus Christ front and central to the historic Christian faith?

At issue seems to be the notion the somehow a more “pneumatological” focus of Christian worship in Pentecostal or Charismatic settings somehow detracts from the person of Jesus Christ.  This is in fact, I think, a significant fallacy.   It is a fallacy because seeking the presence and power of the Spirit is a major element of the Christian live in relation to the Trinity.  To seek the presence of the Spirit isn’t taking from Christ nor the Father – if anything, most churches are Father centered enough.   Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are not less “Christ-Centered” than other churches – they may actually, in many ways, be more “balanced” (I would suggest rhythm more than balance), if not more Triune in their worship than many other settings.  This is of course not without exceptions.

But the main reason I wanted to post about this is to share my friend Monte’s thoughts of which he posted on the Facebook page.  He writes:

I thought I would offer several brief yet relevant strands for forwarding the conversation here, while acknowledging the warranted concerns and exhortations that Jeff has provided us.

PART ONE

Notwithstanding the excesses which Jeff calls attention to, I will first begin by pointing out, as has been argued by others elsewhere, that the historical Classical Pentecostal four/five-fold theological motifs of Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Baptiser, Healer, and Coming King have in fact served, at least on a doctrinal level— to narrate the christocentric focus of a robust Pentecostal spirituality. Incidentally, the themes I am raising here largely reflect the following text: “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel,” ed John Christopher Thomas (2010). This is important to note because the four/five-fold motifs demonstrate that common Protestant/Evangelical assumptions that characteristically presume that Pentecostalism is largely pneumacentric are actually inaccurate.

As Church of God theologian Kenneth Archer points out, the experiential orientation of Pentecostalism is thus wholly centered on Jesus: encountering Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Yet also as Assemblies of God theologians Simon Chan and Frank Macchia respectively point out, this experiential orientation stresses coming to Jesus as our Spirit Baptizer. As both Chan and Macchia respectively demonstrate— “Spirit baptiser” is perhaps the most attested identity of Jesus in the New Testament, at least in the Gospels.

As many of the essays in the “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology” text point out, and as consistently stressed in Macchia’s and Chan’s respective works elsewhere, we can attribute many of the failures that do occur in Pentecostalism, to a failure of adequately integrating the functional motif of Jesus as Sanctifier in Pentecostal spirituality. I moreover find this significant since both Macchia and Chan represent the more Keswickian orientation of Classical Pentecostalism (eg, AG).

However, while I appreciate Clark’s concerns, I am oftentimes a bit ambivalent when I read or hear admonishments suggesting that the primary criterion of an “authentic move of the Spirit” is that we keep Jesus as the “primary focus.” Well, on one hand, how can anyone argue with this? Yet on the other— I would argue however that the very weakness of historical Reformed Protestantism and much of Evangelicalism is— christo-monism, meaning, an overly nuanced stress on the Son, to the neglect of the Father and the Spirit.

Let me briefly further describe the problem of christo-monism. Given limited space here, I will focus on the “worship” of the Church. I would argue that actually, a consistent nuance on the Son as the centre of our worship and perhaps even preaching, is not healthy. What results is a very poor sense of spiritual direction in how, ironically, the life of Jesus should shape the direction of our life, both personally and corporately as a church. Hence, we end up with a very poor “via salutis” (way of salvation). We should rather consistently directly our address in worship and mediation towards the Father— and hence therefore more broadly— towards God as Trinity. I believe this is indeed a major theme stressed in Acts, which incidentally accounts for the greater emphasis on the “kingdom of God” in the preaching of both Jesus and the early church.

Both historically and existentially, we can in fact argue that “pentecostal experiences” in Spirit baptism are in actually, encounters with God’s Triune life and mission as Father, Son, and Holy Life. There is moreover, substantial literature arguing this thesis, which can be explored, including literature representative of early 20th century Pentecostalism.

We can conversely argue that a robust Pentecostal spirituality is not only primarily grounded on a strong consciousness of the Trinity, but conversely with primary understanding of Jesus according to recapulatory themes (eg, Jesus coming as the Perfect Human to re-script the human story) that are informed by the Spirit-Christology narrated via the Luke-Acts story. Hence, Christ is existentially present with us (christus praesens), He is “contemporaneous” with us (Kierkegaard)— and it is through the Spirit He is present with us. The recapulatory and Spirit-Christology themes of Luke-Acts also demonstrate that our coming to Jesus is indeed that of disciples following our model Teacher and Lord— looking to Him as our pattern for life. Given the true Trinitarian center of Pentecostalism, Pentecostal spirituality thus duly affirms on one hand, the Son and Spirit as the “two hands” of the Father,” while on the other— the Spirit as the “shared love” between the Father and the Son.

So to recap, the inherent resources within Pentecostalism that provide us the integrity we need as a healthy expression of Christian spirituality are:

1. Holding in tandem the Pentecostal vision of Jesus as both Sanctifier and Baptizer.

2. An understanding of Spirit baptism as existential encounter with the Triune life and perichoretic mission towards creation.

3. And a strong recapulatory understanding of Jesus as our standard for spiritual and life formation.

PART TWO:

Having shared quite a bit of theological musing in the preceding posting, I want to now add some thoughts more directly affirming certain experiential and transrational dynamics of Pentecostalism— with reference to how those dynamics are illustrated in the book of Acts.

I will begin here by drawing attention to Gordon Anderson’s illustration of Pentecostal resonance with spiritual encounter as narrated in Acts [“Pentecost, Scholarship, and Learning in a Postmodern World,” Pneuma 27, no 1 (Spring 2005)].

Anderson suggests: “If you want to see a funny movie, run this one in your mind. Picture Peter explaining what happened (Acts 11) to a . . . rationalistic . . . audience. His lines go like this:

“You see, I was in a trance, and saw a vision, and heard a voice, then some men came who had been sent by an angel, and so I went with them to the house of a Gentile and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, so I baptized them in water. And, despite my training in the scriptures, it just seemed to be the right thing to do!”

Incidentally, I would point out that every major missiological decision narrated in the book of Acts, was linked to some kind of transrational, “visionary” experience, usually involving hearing either the audible voice of God, or that of an angel, or some kind of visual vision. Of course, these dynamics are in truth, to be programmatically expected by believers— as demonstrated in Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2). Therefore, I whole heartedly affirm Terry Cross’ description of Pentecostals, as those who “are open to hearing voices.” [Terry Cross, “The Divine-Human Encounter: Towards a Pentecostal Theology of Experience” (Pneuma 31 (2009)].

Finally, I want to add a very shorter word about the Toronto Outpouring. As for myself, I was personally “touched” through one of the streams linked to the Toronto Outpouring back in the mid-90’s. the “touch” I experienced on several occasions included on one of those occasions, crawling around on all floors for some reason, then passing out for some time. It certainly does not make any sense, although I was obviously beside myself. Consequently, concerning other strange happenings and excesses that accompanied the “move,”

I don’t have all the answers, as I cannot help but leave a little bewildered space in my reflection— that allows the possibilities that sometimes such invasive outpourings of the Spirit may prompt people to behave a little strangely. Moreover, why else were also so many onlookers prompted to exclaim on the day of Pentecost, “Ha! These people have drunk way too much wine!”

The danger of opening windows on a very windy day, is that the neat and orderly piled papers on the desk might actually be blown everywhere on the floor. The alternative of course, is to lock up those windows.

Well, whew!  Now THAT should give some good food for thought for a while!

Blessings!

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One response to “Christ centered only = Christo-monistic.

  1. Pingback: my weirdest post ever | συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

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