A Short Essay of EvangelicalTheological Positions

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The essay is a work on Christian Doctrine from an Evangelical Perspective meant for helps for pastors and church workers.

Submitted: August 01, 2012

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Submitted: August 01, 2012

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CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Historical Reflections on Evangelicalism
  3. What is Evangelical Theology?
  4. Preconditions for Evangelical Theology
  5. Some Assertions of Charismatic Pentecostalism and the Evangelical Disputations
  6. Doctrinal Considerations- What Evangelicals Believe about:
    1. God
    2. Christ
    3. The Holy Spirit
    4. Man
    5. The Scriptures
    6. Sin
    7. Salvation
    8. The Second Coming of Christ
    9. The Millennium
  7. Other theological Considerations:
    1. Dreams and Visions
    2. Prophecy
    3. Tongue Speaking
    4. Miracles
    5. Predestination and Eternal Security
    6. The Holy Communion
    7. Faith
    8. Prosperity
    9. Baptism
  1. Conclusion
  2. Bibliography

INTRODUCTION:

The understanding and interpretation of Scripture has historically led to the birth and growth of Christian denominations. Whether we like it or not denominations exist from the time of the Reformation. Initially, the Reformers had envisioned all of them speaking with one voice, expounding their collective interpretation of Christian Theology against the errors of Roman Catholicism. But this vision of “One Voice” was not possible as the understanding of certain basic doctrines differ from one group to another. Thus, denominations such as Lutherans, Wesleyans, Methodists, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc exist today.

It is acknowledged herein the dangers of denominationalism as some outlined in relation to Scripture interpretation, such as equating the denominations’ doctrine with Scripture.[1] However, given the current trend in the world of Christianity it is hardly certain that what the Reformers failed to achieve, that is “speaking with one voice” will ever be achieved by the Christian Community. Ecumenism has so far not achieved denominational unity as yet. What it seems to have achieved so far is the identification of common beliefs among denominations which form some basis of collaboration and fellowship. However, Christian denominations still remain distinct religious entities.



[1] We Believe – An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Vol. 1 P. 6

Thus, it is important for Christians who identify with various denominations to understand what makes them to be referred to as Evangelicals, Methodists, Lutherans as such, for it represents their identity at least as they relate to others in their efforts to carry out the Lord’s command, being cognizant that in the end the aspect of denominationalism will be erased but yet for a season and as a means for human or socio-religious identity.

Secondly, some denominations today are giving in to a new wave of liberalism and in some respects, fanatical Scripture interpretation which is uprooting key doctrines formulated and established by the historic Christian church. Those denominations then who wish to uphold Orthodox Theology must remain separate and not fall prey to this new wave of doctrine in order to uphold the religious traditions (the way Scripture should be interpreted) of the Historic Christian Church; and so that a different understanding of how God has revealed Himself to humankind will not corrupt the way people should serve God. In this light therefore, holding on to a specific teaching is a san qua non for those churches that would stand the test of time amidst the growing liberalism, fanaticism, and modernism in our society, even as Harold Brown warns:

“Unless a religious community holds certain specific and well-defined teachings, it will gradually dissolve, and in any event cannot be considered a Christian community”.[1]

Therefore, this work is an attempt to summarize Evangelical Theology in a simple way to assist Evangelicals to know what they believe and stand for, and by that they


[1] Heresies p.

can distinguish their theological position from other theological positions that pervade the world of Christianity.

I. WHAT IS EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY?

Evangelical Theology is defined as a discourse about God that maintains that there are certain essential Christian beliefs. These include but are not limited to the following:

  1. The infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible alone;
  2. The tri-unity of God;
  3. The virgin birth of Christ;
  4. The Deity of Christ;
  5. The all-sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin;
  6. The physical and miraculous resurrection of Christ;
  7. The eternal conscious bliss of the saved;
  8. The eternal conscious punishment of the unsaved[1]

There are several things that Evangelicals assume is true, in order that belief and explanation of Christian theology may exist. These assumptions or presuppositions include:

  1. That there is a Theistic God;
  2. That this Theistic God created the world and can miraculously intervene in it;
  3. That this God has revealed Himself in both general and special revelation;
  4. That this revelation does not contradict logical analysis;
  5. That this revelation contains objective and meaningful statements;
  6. That these statements are true objectively and true exclusively;
  7. That these statements can be properly understood, their meaning and truth can be understood objectively even elements that relate to history;
  8. That this revelation can be systematized by a complete and comprehensive theological method. These are all assumptions that the possibility of Evangelical theology is based on.


[1] Geisler p. 15, 2002

The above statements constitute a broad perspective of the Evangelical Faith. However, as aspects of this work are delved into, these broad statements will take on more profound meaning and clarity.

SOME ASSERTIONS OF CHARISMATIC PENTECOSTALISM AND THE EVANGELICAL DISPUTATIONS:

In contemporary times, especially considering the theological trend in Liberia, Pentecostalism and Neo-Charismatic Theology seem to be swallowing up Evangelicalism and other Christian Denominations. Thus, many Christians in Monrovia are unable to delineate true Pentecostalism from Neo-Pentecostal and Evangelicalism. This is producing more confusion than clarity because conflicting theological positions are preached and presented such that some members of the laity don’t even know what to believe, or whether they are Evangelicals or Charismatic Pentecostal, for example, in their theological positions and maintain their firmness, and not be blown around with every wind of doctrine. The following therefore represents a distinction between evangelicalism and Neo Charismatic Pentecostalism. The methodology utilized focuses on assertions made by Charismatic Pentecostalism and counter arguments reflecting Evangelical answers to such assertions. This list of assertions may be limited but these are the ones that are frequently made in Liberian Churches and are affecting the way many Christians in Liberia talk of their faith.

  1. A real Christian must have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is accompanied by speaking in tongues. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience distinct from and usually subsequent to conversion in which a person receives in total the Spirit into his or her life and is thereby fully empowered for witness and service. It is different from the reception of the Spirit at the time of conversion.
  2. A special kind of faith is needed to receive the Holy Spirit’s power and consecration;
  3. All of the spectacular (miraculous) signs and wonders are still active in the church today;
  4. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit predicted by the prophet Joel is being fulfilled in the church today;
  5. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience distinct from conversion which should be sought by all Christians;
  6. That God is still actively giving revelations to people today of events that are about to happen;
  7. A spiritual experience is a basis for truth;
  8. All Christians have access to unlimited material prosperity once they have enough faith;
  9. Christ paid for all of our sicknesses on the cross through the atonement, so sickness is not meant for Christians;
  10. What you proclaim or confess with your mouth is what will happen to you because life and death lies in the power of the tongue.

Given the above assertions by Charismatic Pentecostalism it is quite necessary to provide an insight from an Evangelical perspective so that the reader will make a good judgment on what is more sensible and in line with biblical truths and what the historical Christian church considered sound doctrine.

  1. Firstly, a real Christian must have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is accompanied by speaking in tongues. To this assertion it is important for us to consider what the Bible says about becoming a Christian. Several verses declare that Salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8,9).the Apostle Paul makes clear in his Epistle the requirements of Salvation in which he says “If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe that God raised Him from the dead thou shall be saved, Romans10:9”. Also Romans 5:1 speaks of a person being justified by faith. Thus, we see that Salvation comes not when a person has an ecstatic experience expressed by speaking in tongues but simply opening up their heart to God through confession and belief in Christ. Another verse says “ For it is by grace you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the grace of God, not by works least any man should boast – Ephesians 2: 8,9. The second part of this assertion lays emphasis on the reception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a sign of true Salvation. This baptism of the Holy Spirit Pentecostals and Neo Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians believe is recognized in the life of a person when they speak in tongues. This implies that all believers are not baptized in the Holy Spirit, but only those who have spoken in tongues. Some of the Pentecostals explain their belief by saying that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is meant for power to serve and not to signify Salvation. However, whatever the explanation is, the crux of the matter is the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a special experience and not all believers have experienced the baptism of the Spirit. To this, the Evangelicals respond that every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit the moment he or she receives Christ. For example Paul uses this expression in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit”. What Paul says or means by this Scripture is that all Christians have been spirit-baptized. According to A.A. Hokema, Spirit-baptism is here described as identical with regeneration. With the sovereign act of God whereby we are made one with Christ, incorporated into the body of Christ. Furthermore, this Spirit-baptism that Charismatic Pentecostals so emphasized which is used in the Gospel and in Acts 1:5 is understood by Evangelicalism as a once – for – all historical event of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that is not repeatable in the history of the church because it was an event commemorating the Holy Spirit being bestowed upon the church in His fullness. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was also meant to mark the beginning of the Spirit Dispensation in the church. This was a period of transition from the dispensation of the Son to the dispensation of the Spirit, as well as from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.
  2. The second assertion made by Charismatic Pentecostals is responded to by Evangelicals thus: Faith is not a heroic act that man performs but its source is God. Brunner says “Wherever faith is defined as something emanating principally from the recipient, there faith is secretly a work and hence not Christian faith”[1] Faith must be noted, is a gift from God. In Romans 10:17 Scripture says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’. Ephesians 2: 8, 9 also says “For by grace are ye saved through faith, it is the gift of God not of works least any man should boast.” This clearly expresses the point that God is the source of faith. Secondly, since the Holy Spirit is a gift from God there is only one way for a gift to be received which is receiving the Spirit. Thus, a special kind of faith is no requirement needed for the reception of the Spirit. The Spirit has been given to all as helper, teacher, comforter, etc. And the only requirement that is needed for the Spirit’s full functioning in a believer is holy living and not a special kind of faith.
  3. To the third assertion that Charismatic Pentecostals make as regards spectacular gifts being active in the church today, Evangelicals respond to them one at a time.
    1. The gift of TONGUE: Evangelicals hold that tongue speaking has ceased in the church because it was meant for a specific purpose as a sign gift marking the once for all historical event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the ushering in of the Age of the Spirit. Furthermore, the tongues spoken in at Pentecost were not heavenly languages but human languages whereby the Gospel was preached to the peoples of different languages who had come to Jerusalem at the time completely distinct from the ones spoken by some Christians today, which are indistinguishable gibberish. John F. Macarthur responds to those who say tongue speaking is a heavenly language thus:

What did Paul mean by the tongue of….angels? Many believe Paul was suggesting that the Gift of Tongues involves some kind of angelic or heavenly language. Indeed, most Charismatic believe that the Gift of Tongues is a private prayer language, a heavenly language known only to God, celestial speech, or some other kind of earthly idiom. There is no warrant in the text itself for such a view; however, Paul was making a hypothetical case, just as in the subsequent verses, where he speaks about knowing all mysteries and knowledge… Besides, there is no evidence in Scripture that angels used a heavenly language. Wherever angels appear in Scripture, they communicated in normal human language. E.g. Luke 1: 11-20; 26-37; 2: 8-14.[2]



[1] A Theology of the Holy Spirit p. 244

[2] Charismatic Chaos p. 225-226

We conclude then that Tongues were a sign gift and meant to commemorate a transition from the Age of the Son to the Age of the Spirit, as well as from the Old Covenant to the New. It is not necessary today because it serves no purpose.

  1. The Gift of Healing: Evangelicals say yes, God still heals today but Evangelicals do not believe that there are faith healers who are endowed with the power of healing anyone at anytime as some Charismatic claim. As tongues, the Gift of Healing and Miracles (for the two gifts overlap) are sign gifts given to certain believers for the purpose of authenticating or confirming God’s Word when it was proclaimed in the early church before the Scriptures was written and canonized. The temporary sign gifts included Prophesy (revelatory prophesy), Miracles, Healing, Tongues, and Interpretation of Tongues. These gifts were given to the Apostles as their credentials that they spoke the truth of God. When the Scripture was written and the Canon closed, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased.
  2. The assertion that Joel’s Prophesy is being fulfilled in the church today. To this, the Evangelicals response is that those who hold to this view must try to understand Joel chapter 2 in a broader context and not grab one verse (verse 28) and blow it out of proportion. Charismatic Pentecostals have two views: Some of them say tongue speaking did not cease after the Apostolic Era, it just declined. Others say it ceased, but in modern times tongue speaking indicates a final out pouring. Evangelicals however say that there is no biblical evidence that there will be a reoccurrence in the church of the sign gifts or those believers will work miracles near the end of the church age. However, there is enough evidence that near the end of the age there will be false prophets who perform miracles, prophesy, and cast out demons in Jesus name (Matthew 7: 22- 23; 24: 11, 24; 2Thessalonians 2:9-12). Furthermore, the signs that Joel speaks about in his prophesy are actually related to the coming Millennial Kingdom. When Peter quoted Joel 2:28 he actually meant that Pentecost was only a partial fulfillment, or a preview of the Prophecy’s ultimate culmination[1]. This is because the signs in the heavens, the sun turning to darkness, and the moon turning to blood did not occur at Pentecost – take note of that.
  3. As regards the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an experience being distinct from conversion have already been dealt with. See response #1.
The assertion that God is still actively giving revelations through prophetic utterances or revelatory prophecy. Evangelicals say revelatory prophecy is no longer useful to the church for God has revealed and stamped His entire revelations to man. The question Evangelicals asked is, are these so-called revelations equal to Scripture? If not then, what gives them their divine character? Evangelicals must never forget that one of the bywords of the Reformation and a cornerstone of Christian Doctrine is Sola Scriptura, meaning that the Bible is the only basis for divine authority. There are leading Charismatics who have admitted that what they previously said were fabrications. Example, Jim Bakker, the former Tele-evangelist, PTL Club in his book “I Was Wrong”. Thus, in Evangelical circles revelatory prophecies and visions have no basis of acceptance. What Evangelicals hold to is Exhortative Prophecy, which involves the exposition of Scripture from the pulpit. Yes, God gave visions and dreams in the past because His revelation to us had not been completed. But today, we have the complete revelation of God. Remember the power of God’s Word as expressed in Hebrews 4:12, 13.


[1] Ibid p. 236

  1. Additionally, as regards to this assertion it is necessary to remember a man called Montanus in the history of the church who believed that he had a special prophetic gift, which was shared by two female disciples, Maximilla and Prisca. He believed that the embodiment of the Holy Spirit was in these two women. Harold O.J. Brown states that:

Montanus’ successes in the early church clearly reveal that the first Christians were not convinced that revelation had ended with the close of what we now call the Age of the Apostles”[1]

  1. The seventh assertion made by some Charismatic Pentecostals that spiritual experience is the basis for truth, or in other words, once you have experienced something religious, it is true and applicable in all situations, is here responded to by Evangelical Christians: We must firstly note that there is no way one can prove his or her religious experience, because there is no logical proof that someone has had an encounter with God. Religious experiences are spiritual and divine. Secondly, religious experiences may derive from human imagination. Thus, every religious experience someone claims to have must be tested on the basis of Scripture. Scripture should validate religious experience as truth and not the other way around. Macarthur says:
“There are only two basic approaches to biblical truth. One is the historical, objective approach which emphasizes God’s action toward men and women as taught in Scripture; the other is the Personal subjective approach, which emphasizes the human experience of God. How should we build our theology? Should we go to the Bible – or to the experiences of thousands of people? If we go to the people, we will have


[1]Heresies p. 67

as many views as there are individuals. And that is exactly what is happening throughout the Charismatic Movement today.”[1]

  1. The eight assertion that all Christians have unlimited access to material prosperity once they have enough faith, we respond to this assertion firstly by reminding our friends that when Judas complained about the value of the perfume that was used to anoint Jesus’ feet saying that the perfume could be sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Jesus remarked that the poor will always be with us (Matthew 14:7). So does this assertion by Charismatic Pentecostals mean that the poor have not faith or are not saved? Definitely not! There are many instances in Scripture where the people were poor yet had great faith. The Christians in Macedonia it was said gave “out of their poverty”. Paul himself claimed that he was poor yet he made others rich. The first part of this statement describes in actuality Paul’s physical condition and the second part is a metaphor where he speaks of making others spiritually rich. All in all, no one can say that Paul’s faith was not enough to grant him all the material prosperity he needed. Faith is not meant for material gain. So we do not use our faith to grant us material gain as many today are chasing miracle visas, miracle babies, miracle jobs etc. we must be careful with Charismatic Pentecostal teachings. Imagine Robert Tilton, a renowned Charismatic Pentecostal evangelist said in one of his broadcasts on TBN –January 30, 1991 that being poor is a sin! Remember the Bible warns against pursuing wealth. See I Timothy 3:3; Hebrews 13:5; I Timothy 6:10; Luke 12:15 etc.
  2. The ninth assertion that Christ atone for our sins as well as our sicknesses therefore Christians ought not to get sick, and so Christians are not to say that they are sick is a dangerous assertion. This assertion is usually referred to as the Doctrine of a healing in the atonement based on Isaiah 53:4-6. The author wishes to state here that healing is a very sensitive subject since indeed illness has been one of the basic problems of man, closely related to the problem of evil. Charles Seet says that

“The gift of healing has become one of the most sought after gifts of the Spirit. However, it has also led to much misapplication and abuse in the interest of providing a mush needed solution for man’s problems of sickness pain and suffering”[2]

This assertion of healing in the atonement originated in the 19th Century and made popular by the Faith Healing Movement also refer to in various ways such as “The Word Faith Movement”, Word of Faith, Hyper Faith, Positive Confession, Name it and Claim it, Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Teaching. John F. Macarthur, Jr. defined this movement as a subdivision of the Charismatic Movement that is every bit as superstitious and materialistic as the Cargo Cults of the South Pacific”[3] Groups connected to this trend of religious thought include the New Thought, Christian Science, Pentecostal Churches, as well as the Charismatic Pentecostal Movement which roots have been traced to E.W. Kenyon and represented today by names like Kenneth


[1] Ibid p. 32

[2] The Burning Bush (Essays in honor of Timothy Tow) p. 183

[3] Charismatic Chaos p. 265

Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Robert G. Tilton, John H.Osteen, Frederick K.C. Price, Benny Hinn, Charles Capps,John Avanzini, Marilyn Hickey, Paul (David) Yongi Cho, Paul Crouch, etc. and on the West African scene Benson Adahosa, David Oyedepo, Bethel Oyeneke etc forwarding the tradition of the Faith Healing Movement. To this assertion of physical healing in the atonement, Evangelicals response is “No” that is not true because of the several reasons, biblical, poetical and logical, a summary of which include:

  1. Jesus did not literally become sick with some physical disease and suffered rejection for us; but the despising and rejection experienced on the cross is what Isaiah refers to on the cross relating directly to spiritual healing.
  2. Sickness and pain is not interpreted literally in many parts of the Scriptures but used in a figurative sense to speak of the spiritual condition of people-see Isaiah 1:4-5;Isaiah51;Isaiah 1:5b, 6.
  3. Healing in that passage indicates an already completed act which refers to the crucifixion. Non-existent diseases do not need healing. The healing of physical diseases can only occur after they show.

10. The tenth assertion that what you proclaim or confess with your mouth is what will happen to you because life and death lies in the power of the tongue according to Proverbs 18:12 is a misconception that derived from the Charismatic emphasis of using faith to obtain material gain, and Evangelicals would respond to this thus: Such a view of faith threatens the sovereignty of God that He is dependent on the actions of persons to accomplish His Will, and it exalts depraved humans which is distorted anthropology. God is not dependent on man to act and man is not able to create like God with the words of his mouth. Hunt has this to say as regards this way of expressing faith:

In the world of the Occult, the metaphysical “mind power” of one’s belief is reinforced by speaking it aloud. This act releases what occultists call “the creative power of the spoken word” and brings into existence whatever one says or decrees[1]

Thus, we see that this emphasis made on speaking out words aloud which the Charismatic Pentecostalism asserts sometimes relates to the passage in Proverbs18, that “Life and death lies in the power of the tongue” is misinterpreted and derives from a view of faith related to occultism.



[1] Dave Hunt, Beyond Seduction p. 55

DOCTRINALCONSIDERATIONS:EVANGELICALSBELIEFSABOUTSOME ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES:

This section contains summaries of Evangelical beliefs as regards certain Christian doctrinal elements. It is no intended here to present a comprehensive list of all there is to be believed by Evangelicals about these Christian doctrinal elements which would require volumes to do so. However, two basic methodologies will be adopted in discussing these elements via evangelical understanding. Firstly, the Apophatic Methodology which is a way of speaking of the elements in a negative way, meaning that instead of saying what the element is all about, it shall be said what the element is not. And the Cataphatic Methodology, which entails a way of speaking of the element in a positive way, which is saying of the element what it is.

Thus, in speaking of what Evangelicals believe about God the Apophatic way is adopted firstly. God is not therefore:

  • A Genie, who produces for man whatever, is demanded. Many have this concept of God when they say that “Whatever you confess happens to you because the tongue is the source of life and death,” is applicable in obtaining material things from God. This concept is closely associated with the Positive Confession Movement.
  • Three Gods distinct from each other, this is Tritheism. Neither is He one but appears in three different persons at different periods of time, which is Sabellianism.
  • A projection of the human moral idea. He is not what the moral person will like to be, freed from all his or her limitations as some Liberals like Feuerbach think.[1]
  • A creator of the universe, who is limited in his nature and power since in fact evil still exists, which is Finite Godism.
  • A god in the universe as a mind in a body, which is Panentheism.
  • The universe and the universe is not God which is Pantheism

However, speaking the cataphatic way:

  • God is Spirit;
  • God exists and has revealed Himself in His divine Word;
  • God is incomprehensible yet knowable;


[1] Teach yourself Philosophy of Religion p. 82

  • God is living and can develop relationship with His creatures;
  • God is eternal (has no beginning and no end)
  • God is Omnipotent (has all power and can do all things except that which is contrary to His nature);
  • God is self existent;
  • God is immutable, His nature is unchangeable but His dealings with man change;
  • God is infinite, free from all limitations;
  • God is the originator of our faith, Salvation, and even our prayers;
  • God is a person having all the characteristics of personality.

CHRIST:

In the history of the church, controversies that arose surrounding the Christological problem were twofold.

  1. Controversy surrounding His relationship to the Father;
  2. Controversy surrounding Christ’s nature.

This work however, is not intended to delve into these controversies but to only state what beliefs Evangelicals hold as to these two aspects. Thus, speaking the apophatic way in relations to the first aspect, Christ is not:

  • Subordinate to the Father;
  • A created being, created by the Father at a particular point in time;
  • Of similar substance ( homoiosuis) with the Father.

Speaking the cataphatic way then, Christ is:

  • Equal with the Father;
  • Eternally begotten by the Father, meaning that He existed as long as the Father existed; Christ has always been a Son as the Father has always been a Father. There was no time when God was not a Father;
  • Of the same substance (homoousios) with the Father;
  • Co-eternal with the Father

On the issue of Christ’s nature, speaking the apophatic way Christ is not:

  • Possessing two separate natures which can be separated and function independently of each other, for this is Nestorious Theology;
  • A person possessing only one divine nature which has been formed as a result of a combination of two others, which is Monophytism;
  • A being that only appears to have been human, which is Docetism;
  • Simply a divinely appointed human who was destined to return and reign on the earth by God’s sovereign power, for this is Ebionism;
  • The most exalted of all creatures, which is held by Arianism;
  • Without a full human nature or soul, which is Apollianarianism;

However, Christ is:

  • A possessor of two natures that have intermingled so much so that they cannot be separated;
  • Purely divine and purely human, as is traditionally stated in Evangelical theology as 100% human and 100% divine.
  • THE HOLY SPIRIT:

    Continuing the methodology adopted in this work, the Holy Spirit is not:

  • A force or energy;
  • A power to be out to use for whatever the believer wills[1];
  • A created thing that is separated from God by time;
  • A being, existing in his own right or an inherent property in some thing else, in other words, a ‘substance’ or an “accident”.[2]
  • Less than God or the Son;
  • A benevolent super-ghost, a shadowy, elusive, indefinable absence that will not cause harm but cannot do much good either, lingering trace of a god who would rather forget the world but cannot quite bring himself to let go of it, as some may think.[3]

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is:

  • The Spirit of God, not begotten but proceeds from the Father. This is the mode of origin which does not make Him less than the Father and the Son. This is only intended to distinguish Him from the Father and Son, for the Trinity of God is such that each preserves their own particularity while being the same in their divinity. The Spirit of God is God Himself.[4]
  • Is divine and belongs to the same rank as God. In other words, He is consubstantial with the Father. He is called God –Acts 5:4.
  • A person possessing personality, as He has a mind, can grieve, and can be lied to, even though is always knowledgeable about a lie as in the event of Ananais and Saphira.

MAN: As regards humans (man & woman), men are not:

  • gods, as some charismatics say, that man was created in the “God Class” and we are a class of gods, relying on a misleading interpretation of Psalm 82:6;
  • Born sinless, each soul being immediately created, such that it is not soiled by Adam’s sin, for this is Pelagianism;
  • Born with the ability to accomplish the divine Will by his own choice;

On the other hand, Evangelical Christians will agree that man is:

A creature of God, created in God’s image and likeness, not meaning that man is like God in his physical makeup, for God is Spirit, but meaning that this image and likeness is

  1. A Mental Likeness: meaning that God made man with a mind – a thinking faculty just like Himself. God is Spirit, the human soul is spirit and the essential attribute of spirit are reason, conscience, and will.
  2. A Moral likeness – originally man had both righteousness and holiness, only on this basis was it possible for man to have communion with God. Man was made upright (Habakkuk 1:13; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:31).

Additionally, the idea of right and wrong is found in every primitive society in the world. In some societies, wrong behavior is referred to as “taboo”. The question is, where did man get this idea of right and wrong? It is only through a supreme being with a higher moral standard from whence this idea emanated.



[1] Charismatic Chaos p. 266

[2] Ibid p. 361

[3] Christianity 101 p.

[4] The Nicene Faith p. 362

  1. A social likeness – refers to God’s nature of association. In other words, it is not God’s nature to be alone – to exist all by Himself. This is reflected in the Trinity. This social nature of God is also seen in the relationship God had with Adam. His love for fellowship is a part of His nature. So too is man.
  • Born sinful (since Adam)- Scripture says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. What is referred to as original sin lies deep down in the nature of humans. It is “Selfishness” which is a part of the nature of even new born babies. For example, when a baby is born, it cries for milk from its mother’s breast to satisfy its desires It does not care whether the mother is sick or dead it only wants to be satisfied. It must be noted that Adam was created with a potentiality for evil but he was not created a sinner or as a sinful being.
  • After Adam, born a depraved creature. He has fallen so far that he is unable to save himself. It is many times referred to as “total depravity”. Man cannot return to his former relationship to God unaided.

THE SCRIPTURES:

VII. OTHER THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

  1. DREAMS AND VISIONS

Definition of Dreams and Visions: Supernatural ways in which God speaks to people.

There are examples in Scripture in which God has used dreams and visions to speak to humankind:

  1. Genesis 20:1 – 18: God used a dream to rescue a godly man’s wife from being forced into sexual activity with someone else.
  2. Genesis 15: 1 – 17: God used a vision to reveal to an old man that his barren wife would bear a son miraculously.
  3. Acts 9: 1-7: A God-given vision led a violent religious hypocrite to be converted.
  4. Matthew 2: 13 – 15: A dream saved a man, his wife and a son from being murdered. Etc.

Nowhere in Scripture is it said that God has stopped speaking to people through dreams and visions. So the possibility exists! But we need to exercise caution (BE CAREFUL) in getting messages through dreams and visions. First step is to understand what the Bible teaches about dreams and visions.

VISIONS:

Types of Visions: Three types of visions can be identified:

  1. God given visions
  2. Fleshly Visions
  3. Satanic Visions
  4. GOD GIVEN VISIONS:

  5. Biblical type of vision – are given as God the Holy Spirit decides and Wills, not in proportion to how much we desire or seek after them!

Example: Acts 9: 10 – 16 (Ananias) ; Acts 10: 9 – 16 (Peter); Ezekiel 1: 1; 8: 1- 18 (Ezekiel).

Note that none of these three (3) men before these experiences were seeking for or expecting God to give them a vision or a dream. Later, the potential dangers involved in one seeking for a vision are pointed out.

  1. A second type of God given vision is when the receiver is given the ability to see the spiritual world and the physical world briefly at the same time. Here, the person involved has all his or her senses functioning normally. Example: Judges 13: 9 – 22; 2 Kings 6: 16 – 17.
  2. A third type is identified in 2Corinthian 12: 1 – 4. Here, God suspended the person’s physical senses for a short time, while enabling him to see the spirit realm.
  3. The fourth type, senses are not suspended neither does the person see with the spiritual realm, but God simply places a mere visual impression in the person’s mind or spirit.

Another category of God-given vision is what can be described as “Imagination-Meditation Visions”. This is a mental picture that is imagined by the human mind after reading and while meditating on a particular Scripture read. For example, if one reads the passage “The Lord is my Fortress” Psalm 92, and form a mental picture of him or herself being surrounded by protective mountains as fortresses.

Someone else may read the same passage and visualize them being protected by a strong fence made either of concrete or logs. Here, such visions are a result of the human mind choosing what to imagine after reading the passage.

It is important to note however, that Scripture has something to say about human imagination. It emphasizes how many times we use our imagination for evil purposes. Look up the following passages in the Bible: Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8: 21; I Chronicle 29: 18; and Acts 4: 24.

Note that Paul commands what we should do with our imaginations: 2 Corinthians 10: 5 indicates that the true knowledge of God is centered in the Sacred Scriptures, therefore, anything imagined that is contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures is evil in God’s estimation.

Note: Joshua 1: 8; Psalm 1:2; 19:14; 63: 6; 77:12; 143:5; Meditate means to think or imagine, speak or study. Emphasis is on meditating on God’s Law. The use of human imagination can only be termed “godly” if it is being used for purposes that are in total agreement with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures taken as a whole.

Watch out therefore for teachings that encourage people to picture themselves as millionaires, or travelling or getting what they want without any consideration of God’s Will in any of these matters. It is usually said that this “imagining” activates certain mental or spiritual forces which cause these goals to be fulfilled. The use of imagination is evil and has its roots in pagan Eastern religions and Witchcraft. Note that the ignoring of God’s Will is sinful (James 4: 13 – 16).

Howbeit, human imagination can also be utilized in a godly manner when it is used as a means of expressing faith in God for a specific thing to occur. But in this case, it must still be sanctioned by Scriptures, that is, what we are choosing to picture mentally should be something God has revealed specifically in His Word and Will for all.

FLESHLY VISIONS:

Definition: Fleshly visions are goals and aims that are merely the creation of Christians’ minds concentrating on their own will and not God’s Will (Example, Isaiah 65:2). Some have tried to back their vain imaginations by quoting Scriptures out of context, to prove that God is obligated to grant them these goals or aims or visions if they “pray enough”, “believe enough”, “praise enough” or do some other attractive thing. Such so-called “divine visions” are selfish attempts to manipulate the Lord of all glory.

SATANIC VISIONS:

These are visions derived from Satan. There are visions caused by satanic miracles. Revelation 16:14. Satan and his demons can disguise themselves in a supernatural vision to look like angels, 2 Corinthians 11:14. We should never try to manipulate God to give us a supernatural vision or to send us an angel or to speak to us in an audible voice. If we try to force God to speak to us in these ways, a demon might see what we are doing and seize the opportunity to trick us by pretending to be Jesus Christ or an angel, or by imitating His God’s voice.

GOD GIVEN DREAMS:

Dreams occur when we sleep or are partially asleep. God can give dreams to give knowledge and guidance regarding his Will for us. Such dreams are God-given dreams. Such dreams have a different quality and greater clarity than natural sleep dreams, (Example: Genesis 28: 10 – 16; Genesis 41: 5 – 7; I Kings 3: 5 – 15; Job 33: 15). God can sometimes give dreams that need to be interpreted in order to be properly understood. Example: Genesis 40:1-23; 41: 1- 40; Daniel 2:1- 45; 4: 1 – 27; 5: 1-29.

HUMAN IMAGINATION: Meditation Dreams – Created by human imagination responding to the inner still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the word dream & vision in this category mean the same thing.

FLESHLY DREAM: Occur when we are not asleep and are merely the result of our human imaginations (Day dreaming).Such dreams are not the result of the Holy Spirit’s putting words into our minds. They are expressions of our fleshly “goals or aims”.

NATURAL DREAMS: Experienced by every human being during sleep, partially sleeping or walking. Natural dreams can range from those being full of love and peace to nightmares and are often the product of what we have been thinking about or desiring in previous days (example Isaiah 29:8). Note: Any dream that contradict scripture is not from God! Nightmares can result from overeating prior to going to bed, from watching a horror movie, or from allowing oneself to be ruled by fear. Ecclesiastes 5:3 – natural dreams can result from cares.

HOW TO TEST DREAMS AND VISIONS:

The Big Question: How can I know the difference between a dream or a vision from God and those of human or satanic origin?

Tests include:

  1. Agreement with Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 17: 10- 11; I Corinthians 14: 37- 38; Mark 7: 1-13; Joshua 1:8; John 10: 35; Romans 15:4; Acts 24: 14; I Corinthians 4:6; 2 Peter 1: 20-21. If anything occurs or is spoken in the dream or vision is even slightly different from the teachings of scripture it is either from human origin or is satanic. Even if a spiritual being appears in a vision and talks of Jesus, God, the Father and the Holy Spirit and quotes a few verses of scripture, but interprets these verses inconsistently to the clear interpretations of other verses, this being is a demon in disguise. Matthew 4: 5 – 7; Galatians 1:8. Paul warned us of spiritual beings appearing to us in vision and preaching a Gospel different from the one he taught.

Specific Scriptural Principles – No dream or vision is from God unless it is in agreement with the objective principles of the Holy Scriptures (I Corinthians 10:31). A dream or a vision is not from God:

  • If it leads us to do anything which does not bring glory to God in some way;
  • Unless it guides us into allowing Him to rule over some part of our daily thoughts, feelings, and actions;
  • If it encourages others to focus more attention and love on us or some other person or thing than on the Lord Jesus; in these above cases, get sound pastoral assistance.

THE SECOND TEST:

  1. An Inner Witness: This step involves discerning whether God the Holy Spirit affirms to our spirit that the dream or vision is from Him (Inner witness of scripture expressed in Romans 8:16; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7). The inner witness involves the Holy Spirit giving us peace or joy or both in our spirit when we have some revelation from God in our mind.

THE THIRD WITNESS:

  1. Fulfillment: Test it by principle found in Deut. 18:21-22. This is not sufficient though, for some predictions of a dream or vision can come to pass, but it may still not be from God. Deut. 13: 1-4. Thus, agreement to scripture is the most significant test.


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