|Section 6 of 14
THE POSITIVE-ONLY INTERPRETATION
MAKING THE SCRIPTURES BEND TO OUR WILL
POSITIVE-ONLY IS A DECEPTION
(A 'PRO'-RENEWALIST SPEAKS OUT)
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THE POSITIVE-ONLY INTERPRETATION
Using the terminology 'manifestations of the Spirit' as anything that happens in a renewal meeting, is a direct result of the belief behind it. There is no question as to that. From the beginning, many renewal leaders have held to a viewpoint that I would call the 'positive-only' interpretation.
Their supposition begins with the premise that all 'manifestations' are either directly from God or are the 'flesh' reacting to God's Presence. Regarding the 'flesh,' they have taught that the Holy Spirit is really no 'gentlemen' and will do with the 'flesh' what God wills. Since this means that the 'flesh' is subject to these Holy Spirit antics, the 'manifestations' are still God's work and therefore are essentially of God. This boils down to essentially everything being of God, even if it be against a person's will or even if the person is unable to control it.
In this belief system regarding 'manifestations', there was some weak acknowledgment that some things might not be of the Spirit. This usually took the form of admitting that there was 'flesh' there. Still, this missed the point, as there remained an avoidance of the demonic. I witnessed this myself first-hand in non-Toronto renewal meetings, when the demonic was mentioned only long enough to deny accusations that the 'revival' was occultic (as if the Lord's Presence needs to be introduced with disclaimers). Even more alarming than any of this, were rules in some of the 'renewal' meetings that essentially undercut or outright prevented the operation of the spiritual gifts that utilized discernment gifts, such as discernment of spirits and prophecy.
It seems to me that in response to criticisms regarding certain questionable 'manifestations,' the 'positive-only' mindset entrenched itself. This conflict was only momentarily sidestepped by calling it 'renewal', but that ended up being just semantics. In reality, the 'renewal' was too often treated as if it should be accepted as a revival of all time—or else.
It goes like this: Since the 'manifestations' are all of God, then this means that God's power is among them. Since God's power is among them, this must mean 'revival'. Since there is 'revival,' then their meetings have His blessing and favor. Okay so far. All you have is possibly a John Meacham being impressed by the supernatural. This is dangerous enough, but at least no one is proclaiming the only way to purity is to forsake your spouse, among other things that have nothing to do with orthodox Christianity--yet.
However, false prophecies were promoted that implied or stated that whoever did not accept the 'revival' would somehow lose ministry position or be 'cursed' by Him. I say false, because true ministry does not need to exalt itself like that with the addition of 'threats' if one does not accept the Word. Furthermore in one particular denomination where the leaders passed on these 'Words' second-hand, who was going to carry out the prophetic 'threats' to remove people from 'office'? Why, the denominational powers that be, of course! No one really needed God to carry out the threat.
An example of a false revelation with these same qualifications might be the Shaker book, A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book, written by elder Philemon Stewart and dispatched to world leaders. The lofty title of the book gives us one clue. Inside the book, were warnings that "those who disobey its messages will be punished by God." Granted, Philemon Stewart insisted that an angel dictated the book to him and that it contained sacred messages from Mother Ann and the biblical prophets. Even the Shakers took the book out of circulation after a short while. However, we do not need all of these additional clues to smell a manipulative spirit in a 'prophecy' or 'revelation'.
Enter in the 'critics', who are offended by this 'positive only' viewpoint (there were pro-renewalists like myself who never conceded to this viewpoint, but we must deal with what appears to be the majority, and not the minority). No way, they say, can this be a 'revival' on the basis of these obnoxious manifestations, manipulative prophecies, or elitism! And, they have a very good point.
Discernment cannot be found in a positive-only viewpoint. It only backfires in the long run because it is superficial. Denial of some kind is necessary in order to keep it going, and many people can tell when something just does not add up right. Leaders who consistently avoid anything 'negative' (self-defined), who give various weak rationalizations for their case, and who 'party on' as if conviction and repentance are not part of revival, do not give a sense of security to those who are cautious of false power or false revivals!
As reports and challenges began to surface, some of course noticed that some critics were obnoxious and over-generalized, but the 'positive-only' interpretation had set this up to happen, in my opinion. At the very least, 'positive-only' has encouraged even more, legitimate, alarm and not less! This is because the 'positive-only' over generalized in the first place by calling everything "manifestations of the Spirit." There was no adequate concession to demonic manifestations or appropriate action regarding them. Is it any wonder that people then react by making 'over-generalized' statements that everything is 'demonic' in return? I don't think so!
We do not have to toss aside the instruction to "prove all things" in order to prevent ourselves from quenching the Spirit. The two mandates are not mutually exclusive (1 Thess. 5:21-22), and it is a 'leaven' or a false teaching to act as if they are. Certainly, if an entire denomination, fellowship, or organization refuses to test anything appropriately, then they are not going to fix their problem by calling everything of the Spirit.
However, since they give the cry, "Quench not the Spirit," some renewalists think themselves as being 'more in the Spirit' than those who are not renewalists. I do not agree with such self-classifications at all. It is just as outrageous as those who think that being an anti-renewalist proves you are more discerning or that you love the Word of God more. Both of these are spiritual 'superiority' presumptions based on group classification and categorizing, and so that is why I consider them both the leaven of spiritual pride.
However, if it were true that renewalists are so much
more in the Spirit, then I believe these same renewalists should be able
to tolerate the "prove all things" examination better than their 'younger'
brothers, right? And so this analysis will seem harsher on those who desire
to be treated as the 'older' brother, than those who have grown to despise
their 'older' brother.
MAKING THE SCRIPTURES BEND TO OUR WILL
Over all, excitement and hope for revival makes it understandable that the better known Great Awakening would be held up as a positive example of revival, while the lesser-known Shakers as a negative example of Gnostic revival is ignored. However, useful historical examples are not the end-all of knowledge and wisdom. History is not the Bible OR the Holy Spirit! After all, if Meacham had only applied the Bible a little more to his situation, he would have come out on top.
So let us return to Biblical 'flexibility', for a moment. Again, the Bible gives no cause for the use of the word 'manifestations' as the majority of renewalists have popularized it. We have already established that. However, IF all 'manifestations' were actually the work of the Holy Spirit, we would have to search for a possible meaning for them. We would have to interpret the 'message' contained in the 'manifestations' according to a spiritual gift. Barring any thumbs down analysis that would say the Lord would not work through 'mystery' messages that are conveyed via strange 'manifestations,' 'Prophetic action' (such as Ezekiel's) would be about the only explanation for any strange looking activity that may relate to any spiritual gift.
Keep in mind, though, that messages from God given in a strange way, such as those through Ezekiel, were probably insults from God to the people as a whole. God resorted to these methods in a nation steeped with occultism and idolatry. He may have deliberately chosen the 'weird,' because anything else might not have gotten their attention. Also, Jesus spoke in parables in order to both gently introduce his text and make it improbable for the non-seeker to understand. As Jesus explains: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'" (Luke 8:10)
So, there is no guarantee at all that any such 'message' would be pleasing to the ears. However, those who hold to the 'positive only' supposition would assume that He would most certainly be speaking favorably at all times to them, wouldn't they? Just as the Shakers worked their bodily 'shaking' into a message that was favorable to themselves and their doctrine, anyone else who desired to fit a 'manifestation' into something favorable could find a way to do it. Why, they even made up songs to celebrate their 'manifestations'!
And so it has been for those 'renewalists' who hold to the 'positive
only' exercise. For six years now I have noticed this trend, and I intend
to demonstrate this by the following table below. I have constructed it
from observing the 'talk' regarding some of the more controversial spiritual
phenomenon. The table only represents three examples of interpretation
regarding three 'manifestations,' yet it represents an over-all trend.
The examples and comments are courtesy of my own prayers and research regarding
this, that of some of my (prophetic) pro-renewal friends, as well as some
Favorable scriptural explanation by 'renewalists':
|LION MOVEMENTS OR ROARING
Favorable scriptural explanation by renewalists:
This is what the LORD says to me: "As a lion growls, a great lion over his prey-- and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against him, he is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor--so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights." (Isaiah . 31:4)
This last one courtesy of
|GOLD DUST OR MIRACULOUS GOLD DENTAL FILLNGS
Favorable scriptural explanation by renewalists:
Consider these scriptures instead:
Because I love your commands more than gold, more than
pure gold, (Ps 119:127)
And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. (Exodus 32:20)
They will throw their silver into the streets, and their
gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to
save them in the day of the Lord's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger
or fill their
As you can see, the 'positive only' interpretation leads to over-looking some of what could be valid scriptures to the situation, should there be a 'mystery message' in the miracles or supernatural 'manifestations.' The 'positive only' agenda strikes again, and again, and again.
Pressured to prove all is God's favor upon their organizations and meetings,
those who hold to the positive-only interpretation process it in the most
favorable light possible, as well as encourage every one else to do the
same. When challenged to come up with something Biblical, they find only
favorable messages in every type of 'manifestation.' They really cannot
do otherwise, because that would undercut their original belief that God's
favor is upon them and they need no repentence.
POSITIVE-ONLY IS A DECEPTION
The positive-only interpretation is a deception in and of itself, when applied to many subjects. New Agers and occult practitioners, in fact, tend to view every spiritual encounter as 'positive' in some way, just because it is spiritual! This is necessary in order to embrace anything that happens to them.
My first encounter with this was at about 11 years old. My stepfather and mother were going to seances at the time, and I began to hear 'knockings' and door knob turnings while alone in our house. I was very frightened. When I finally mustered up the courage to tell my parents what was going on, my mother told me that the spirits were just being 'mischievous' and did not mean to frighten me. I was stunned. How could they not know these spirits were evil? I could tell they were, and I was just a child! Besides, for what purpose would 'mischievous' spirits be running around making noises? They think it is a 'joke' to do so? This is supposed to be funny, and I am supposed to disavow the palpable evil I could feel while they were around?
I tried to tell my parents that I could tell these spirits were evil, but they laughed off my 'subjective' discernment in favor of theirs. Afterwards, the evil spirits began to do things while my parents were present, too. But even though they themselves were sometimes frightened or mystified, they continue to hold to the positive-only interpretation of events in a variety of ways.
I never bothered to tell them what I discerned again. However, seeing their inability to tell that their seances were bringing home evil spirits was a witness to me regarding the danger of evil, and set me on a course to find out the truth. I could tell they were blinded. They could not admit that the spirits were evil, because then they would have to admit they had been tricked.
Let us not be blinded by the 'positive-only' agenda, should we be tempted to stop seeking the Lord and turn our brain off too. Indeed, God may turn over those who refuse repentance to this type of deception because they refuse the truth and embrace the lie.
Regardless, we would do well to consider John Meacham's early decision regarding the Shakers. Differing from his more careful Great Awakening peers, he decided that the spiritual phenomena he witnessed automatically proved God's favor. This obviously led to his acceptance of the extra-Biblical doctrine preached by Ann Lee. As he lost the Biblical standard in favor of the subjective, he accepted the extra-Biblical doctrines and the extra-Biblical visions or power. He was looking for 'manifestations' in all the wrong places, open to deception because he based far too much on 'manifestations' or 'spiritual power' than wisdom called for. John Meacham and the Shakers became utterly swept away by any spiritual experience afforded them, while they clung to the positive-only interpretation.
© Copyright 2000 by Teri Lee Earl All Rights Reserved
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