Thursday, February 16, 2006

Baptism in the Spirit?

I've been reading my friend Chris's blog and reader comments on 'Tongues and Pentecost' with some interest. In response to one of my comments, Chris used the phrase 'I was baptised in the Spirit...' and went on to talk about his experience of speaking in tongues. This started me thinking.

I have never heard anyone speak about being 'baptised in the Spirit' and not go on to immediately talk about speaking in tongues. To me, this suggests:
  • Speaking in tongues is considered to be the mark of one who has been 'baptised in the Spirit'
and the contrary:
  • Those who don't speak in tongues have not been 'baptised in the Spirit'
I've never been totally comfortable with this line of reasoning.

Firstly, it implies to me that being a Christian is not enough - there is a deeper level that the believer should aspire to. Without attaining this deeper experience, you're somehow not a proper (or indeed, complete) Christian. This strikes me as being almost slightly gnostic - that there is a 'hidden' religion within the church which only the elite are part of, something not for the masses, but only for the inner circle.

Secondly, it doesn't tally with my experience of the Spirit Himself. I've been a Christian for a long time now and have experienced times of being 'filled' with the Spirit and 'empowered' to do various things in the service of the gospel. But this has never manifested itself in the gift of tongues.

There are many spiritual gifts. Why is this one apparently singled out as the mark of spiritual experience?

Or maybe I've got all this wrong. Please comment and discuss...

Monday, February 06, 2006

The wrath of God?

We sang these words in Church yesterday:

"Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin on Him was laid

Here in the death of Christ I live"

(from "In Christ alone" by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty)

and I found myself questioning the whole concept of the wrath of God.

I believe that it was necessary for Jesus to die on the cross (why else would He do it, as I believe He did). I believe that His death somehow was able to deal with 'sin' and able to reconcile us to God (or what would be the point?). But I find myself questioning the explanations that we have been given for this.

I can accept reasoning that speaks of the justice and mercy of God. I can kind of accept the reasoning that some form of sacrifice was necessary. But now that I think about it, I find it really hard to accept that God required His own Son to be killed to appease His own anger! That just makes it sound like God is controlled by His emotions - that He was actually out of control in anger and needed blood to satisfy His blood-lust. This doesn't sound like the God of love I believe in.

How often have I heard sermons essentially saying that we should aim to become more like God? And yet here we have a case of God apparently behaving in a way that would be utterly unacceptable for any believer.

When considering the words of scripture recently I have begun to wonder if it tells us the whole story, and I suspect it doesn't. It tells us only what it was able for reasonably primitive man to understand - there would be no point in putting the real explanations in there if none of the contemporary readers/listeners would understand them.

The explanations in 'science for kids' books are very simple and, in some cases, actually totally inadequate to explain the physical and chemical behaviour of the phenomena they describe. This is not the case in university level text books, although, even there the explanations given at first year level later turn out to be incomplete.

I have begun to wonder if the bible actually only offers a 'Christianity for kids' explanation of concepts like 'sin', 'redemption', 'salvation' and so on. In that case, the wrath of God reasoning may not be the whole story, but simply a way of explaining a difficult concept to simple readers. I wonder what the difficult concept actually is...