Friday, April 03, 2009

Word of testimony on the "personal will of God" view

Lord willing, today's "Hither and Thither" will come out later. Right now, I am sharing (with permission) a letter from a reader of this blog and Pyro. I found his testimony moving, offered him anonymity, and hope it may be helpful to others. (This is a companion-piece to today's Pyro post concluding the two-parter I started yesterday.)

I didn't want to post a comment on TeamPyro, but I had to tell you "thank you" for your work. This post today regarding mystical spirituality hits me very hard. I also loved your answer to the question: "How were you called into the ministry?"

My ministerial call resulted from years of back-and-forth spirituality in an Assemblies of God church. Having a strong desire to please the Lord but very little doctrinal foundation, I once "was impressed" that I should go into ministry in spite of the fact that I was shy, emotionally immature, highly artistic and analytical, and had very little skill with language in general. Above all, I was 17 and demonstrated very few of the Biblical qualifications.

Since I heard "the voice", no one - including my parents, who understood my temperament and knew too well my weaknesses - had any tool in their toolbox to convince me to think it over. How could I disobey "God's" voice?

I ditched my plans for engineering, art, and architecture, and went into youth ministry. My pastoral degree is from a Church of God (Cleveland TN) school, where not once was I required to study Greek or Hebrew. I graduated with all sorts of emotional and spiritual conflicts and a very superficial faith. But what could I do? I heard "the voice."

After ten years, ending up moderately successful numbers-wise, it hit me square in the face during a conference on the prophetic movement of which our church was part: Either the Bible is true, or these guys are right; but it can't be both ways.

I began listening to John McArthur (I had read a few of his books) and studying like crazy. A sickening realization occurred to me: I had no business, Biblically, being in the ministry. With a mortgage, a wife, two children (and a third one due any day), I quit my position without delay.

For two years we've been rebuilding our lives. For the duration of that time I have been reading your blog, and those of Cent and Phil. I now am a member of a small reformed church, and have just begun teaching a Sunday School class on evangelism after several years hiatus. With tears as I write this, I am thankful every day that the Lord had mercy on me to open my eyes to the frightful thing I was doing against his clear Word. I remember realizing how easily someone with basic doctrinal foundations could have shown me why I was not (yet, at the very least) qualified to be an elder. In a church of 2,000 charismatics, no one ever thought to evaluate me on that basis.

It is frustrating to read people's defense of this position, but I want to thank you for your faithfulness in exposing the dangers of it. After several years of discipline at the merciful hands of our Father, I can say I wish someone had told me. However, God has used it for His purposes - but I had to say "thank you" to you as a man whom God has used to encourage me, train me, and educate me on what a man skilled in the scriptures should look like.

Thank you.

In Christ,


JOYce ~♥~ said...

That so made me cry ~ God bless you gentlemen richly in Christ.

The Squirrel said...

It is very sobering to see the kind of damage that this kind of theology/methodology can cause.


Michael said...

Word. Thanks to the person who wrote this letter, and thanks to Dan for the time put into deconstructing the theology of the willowy whispering will (www) of God.

I grew up in an AOG church also and alongside the www of God that was impressed on me there were two other things that, after going to a solid Bible teaching/preaching church, I had to press the "undo" button on in my life:

1) Two tiered Christianity -- being saved is nice, but you'll never experience the full power of God without the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

2) After hearing so many speakers say they thought Jesus would rapture the church before the year 2000 I thought saving up for a rainy day (much less retirement) was pretty much pointless. I can't blame them for the financial stupidity of my younger years but it certainly fit well into my mindset of not planning for the future.

Aaron said...

Squirrel: Indeed, Indeed. I've seen some of this too. My mother took in a guy who became a youth pastor. In my opinion, he had no business pursuing such. It hurts not only those who wrongfully go into ministry but the Christians who sit under that teaching.

Michael: yowsers! I didn't realize there were many Christians claiming that the rapture would occur before the year 2000. It always seemed odd to me that the whole world would panic over something,that in many cases, only needed a simple fix.

Stefan said...

That's a man of conviction. That he so swiftly stepped down from ministry when there were so many material needs that could have tempted him to pretend everything's okay and continue on....I don't know if I would have had the strength to do the same thing.

And when this brother wrote that at 17 that he was "shy, emotionally immature, highly artistic and analytical, and had very little skill with language in general," I thought of myself at 17, and I can't even begin to imagine the disaster, with my termperament at the time, if I'd been churched and had felt "called" (in that way) to train for pastoral ministry.

Stefan said...


There was a bestselling book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

Then followed many successive years of updated predictions.

Mitch said...

Dan, it might be instructive and encouraging if you post a poll targeting how many people identify, by structure (not specific circumstance) with this mans testimony.
I do and it is of great encouragement to me to continue to counsel people (christians, small 'c') in their 'faith'.

Peace to all and to you Dan for your work here and at Pyro.


Daryl said...

Sigh, add my naem to the list of "I went through all that" folks.
Growing up Pentecostal and attending a Charismatic Bible College, I was sure I was the only one not "hearing". Even when I "heard" I wasn't sure...

After years of being a second rate believer I thank God for men like you and others still teaching the doctrine of providence. Huge freedom comes in knowing that God gets his will done, period.

jazzact13 said...

I would say such 'callings' are not merely charismatic things.

In my teens, I went to a school affiliated with a Baptist church--one of those "fundamental, independant, KJV-only" types of Baptist churches. The school reflected that ideology, though the student body at that time was not Baptist-only (I think that changed not long after I left).

The pressure for all teen boys to profess some kind of "call to preach" and become "preacher-boys" was incredible, and only a few of us at one time or another didn't claim to have felt such a call. I wasn't one of them, but that was likely because I had and still have a speech problem.

To the best of my knowledge (which I admit is limited), none of the boys I went to school with who claimed such a calling ever grew up to be a pastor. I will admit I haven't kept up with them much over the years. I know some went into the military (an honorable enough thing), others went to Bible colleges for a bit but usually not long.

This church was decidedly NOT charismatic--no tongues or other such things, please, and for sure no contemporary music.

~Mark said...

My testimony to hearing from God is that I was led out of the manic-depressive nightmare that was my severe ADHD, and receiving the first 18 credits of my schooling were nearly free.

Not every story is a bad one.

Matthew said...

I'd just like to say this the article was very useful to me and so was the testimony. Having read the article, I can now identify as someone who was caught thinking that I missed God's will and would get off track if I didn't do certain things. I've also had thoughts that I had really messed up and missed "the one". It's good to know that God will get His will done no matter what. Thanks for the article.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Awesome, awesome letter. Much thanks to the letter writer and to him giving permission to post it.

Connie said...

Out of necessity I've been on blog-reading hiatus for several weeks. Had some 'spare' time this a.m. and read this ONE post of yours--now I'm on my way over to Pyro!

This is such a HUGE problem in the church today--sadly, even among 'solid' congregations. I lived with this thinking in my early Christian days and it left it's mark for years.

Really appreciate how you handle this and related topics--better equips me here in the 'mecca' of charismatic theology (Tulsa, OK).

Tree Newt said...

Similar story to so many who have posted here. Was wondering how many heard the following: a permissive will of God and an absolute will of God. That messed me up big time. He's either sovereign Lord, or not.

Will said...

I too was led out of mortal danger - from being drugged into a state of almost non-personhood and diagnosed with a manic depressive disorder. God led me out of this mess and I now have a very normal life with a wonderful wife and son and am completely drug free living a well adjusted life for the past 25 years.

I became a Christian in this very hard time in my life and have since recently been pastored by a Blackaby. I lived the experience of this teaching in action and found it to be completely fruitless and confusing especially for sincere new Christians wanting to please God. It was ultimately very harmful and led people away from God.

The point is not whether or not we have experiences of God leading us in our everyday lives but what the bible prescribes for Christian decision making. Indeed, if the teaching in the bible is prescriptive of the Blackaby teaching then by all means we should question why we as Christians are not receiving personal messages from God.

Everyone can have an experience about God's leading, but just because you (or I) had an experience does not make it necessarily from God nor prescriptive for everyone. In the end after much study and careful consideration of each side I came to the conclusion that the Friesen approach is biblical and the Blackaby approach is not. This does not speak to personal experiences of believers (real or not) seeing God working in their lives because of course God does not live in a box and He can do whatever He wants. But we as teachers who follow Christ and the teachings of the bible cannot teach whatever we want.

Acoustic Heresy said...

wow that letter was very much me in such a similar time frame... love team pyro

Matt Mc said...

Great testimony, but don't beat yourself up too bad over no one telling you the truth early on. Like you said, "God used it for good..." That is the point. If you follow what the Word teaches, you are in God's will. Look back on that part of your life as a lesson learned, and use it , as you just did ) to witness to others. God will us it for the good of His children.

Thom C said...

Whoever you are, thank you for having the courage to write this story as it parallels my story too. In my case, it took 27 years for me to realize the errors of my thinking. I am now involved in a Reformed Baptist Church and my family labels me a heretic. But being a heretic to my family is a small price to pay for The Truth that has set me free!

BlackfootDave said...

Thank you so much. As I can see by all the comments this type of methodology is pervasive.

My experience was very similar. I've been a believer for over twenty years and I am just now coming away from this mystical viewpoint. I thank God for His truth.

Great post. I'll be back to read often.

Cathy said...

I too went down this road- ended up severely depressed, fearful with full blown panic attacks. My pastor (non-Charismatic) recommended a "Christian" counselor. Did this counselor rush in proclaiming God's Word. Uh- no. He taught me something called Theophostics. He called it a "prayer ministry." In this "prayer" he had me basically go into a meditative state, then told me to "let God bring a painful memory to my mind and then wait for Jesus to meet me there and speak to me." I had done all this crazy kind of stuff when I was lost in the New Age. But I was desperate and these were the Christian experts. I almost totally decompensated after a few of these sessions. I'm only telling you all this because the Blackaby/Beth Moore type of "mysticism lite" is bad on it's own per the above testimonies; but sometimes it merely primes the pump for hard core mysticism, and leads to further and further bondage. But God is so good. As I began to seriously study God's Word- it proved to be a solid rock indeed. The Pyro blog helped me so much - especially your posts Dan. There were so few Christians who taught against this stuff. Thanks and fight on brother!

Clarks said...

A church we formerly attended used Blackaby's books for adult studies. One day I was at home with my children, the phone rang and it was one of the ladies from church. She asked me how I was doing and I said I was just fine and having a great day. There was a pause and she said that the Lord had "led" her to call me, that He had put me on her heart that I needed encouragement. V.e.r.y. awkward. I was perfectly fine and she was confused. She was totally expecting me to break down and ask how in the world did she know that I needed someone to talk to??
I'll never forget that; it was one glaring example of how bizarre this whole thing can get.

themadhunter said...

The joke when I was growing up was someone else married God's choice for me so what was I to do to be in his will.

DJP said...

Oh, but that's a good point. A is God's perfect will for B and B for A, and C for D and D for C. But A marries C. Now both B and D have no perfect match!

And think of all the never-meant-to-be children, and their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren...