The Expository Files.


Emotion, As A Test Of Fellowship


Jack Deere tells his readers he was "surprised by the voice of God," in his book under that title. Zondervan Publishing House advertises the book by explaining: "Jack Deere could have given you all the reasons why such things disappeared once the Bible was complete. That is, until Jack searched the Bible deeply enough for it to search him. What he found revolutionized his Christian walk - and it can transform yours as well," (from back cover of Surprised By The Voice of God, by Jack Deere; Zondervan, 1996).

Right away you know, Mr. Deere is promoting a Charismatic agenda. He reports to his readers his "conversion" to the Charismatic belief and practice, explaining that he used to tell people, "Read your Bible every day." Through experiences with people he narrates in the book, he relates his gradual change. Now he is excited about how God speaks today through prophecies, dreams and visions.

About halfway through the book, Deere makes the charge that "The Bible deists of today worship the Bible."

He uses the word "deists" to accommodate his argument and build prejudice against the non-charismatic. Deism generally identifies those who say they believe in God, but that He is inactive (as defined by the individual deist). Deists may or may not deny providence, but they are united in denying "supernatural revelation." They say, of God: He created the universe and then "abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation," (American Heritage Dictionary). Thomas Jefferson, for example, "...saw evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power [providence, -web], to maintain the universe in its course and order," but he did not make an appeal to revelation. Thomas Paine spoke of God as the Creator (and said his eternal destiny was in the hands of God), but Paine did not accept the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Classic Deism rejects Scripture. Jack Deere creates his own type of deists, i.e., those who do not embrace his particular charismatic agenda. To him, a "Bible deist" is one who resist "subjective revelatory experiences," (p.#254). Those who believe the Bible is sufficient - according to Deere - are "Bible deists."

What comes next is expected. Deere pauses in his accusations against the non-charismatic long enough to insert this note of further prejudice: "Incidentally, I have just given you a test to determine whether or not you are a Bible deists. If you have grown angrier as you have read the last few pages, then you probably are a Bible deist," (p.#256).

This shows something I think is common in the Charismatic movement: an emotional test of fellowship. If you do not display the expected emotions (in the manner creedalized by the group or the leader), you are judged unsound, unanointed and unfaithful. For all their talk of being loving, accepting, diverse and tolerant, this becomes the reality in many Charismatic groups. They are protective and defensive of their system, and their system has a subjective essence; an emotional definition.

A friend of mine (who describes himself as "born again," evangelical but non-denominational) attempted to embrace the Charismatic Movement a few years ago but left for this very reason. If you didn't display emotions (as dictated by the group), you were considered not a part of the "anointed," therefore "withdrawn from" in effect if not formally.

This element of modern Charismatic religion falls on one point: Nothing should be made a test of fellowship but as determined by one thing: the "doctrine which you learned," (Rom. 16:17,18). "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness...," (see 1 Tim. 6:3-5), Paul said, "from such withdraw yourself." I cannot decide (as an individual or with others) that a certain form of emotional expression is a sign of standing with God. I can only warn, rebuke and withdraw as directed by the Word of God. (See also Gal. 1:6-12, Eph. 5:11; 2 Jno. 9 and 2 Thess. 3:6).

Let us guard against the influence of current trends in the religious culture (pre-modern, modern or post-modern). We must not allow human defined expectations of emotion to become competitive and creedal. One thing must govern all that we believe, teach, practice.

One paraphrase of 1 Cor. 12:2 (though admittedly an individual paraphrase), may well express something thought-worthy: "Remember how you were when you didn't know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It's different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can." (Eugene Peterson, the Message).

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 12.3; March 2005