A "third view"?
A "gentle maybe"?
What do I mean? Essentially, I am saying that in the discussion of spiritual gifts the emphasis must return to Hebrews 2:4 and 1 Corinthians 12:11. "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
These particular scriptures emphasize the sovereign purpose of God in the distribution and operation of spiritual gifts.
If the preoccupation with speaking in tongues can be escaped or at least recognized as the straitjacket that it is, the result can be the experiencing of genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit on a wide scale with a minimum of demonic deception. A more mature understanding of spiritual gifts is certain to result. Along with that maturity will come a recognition that the gifts themselves are not marks of spirituality and were never intended so to be.
Another result would certainly be a further and fuller equipping of Christ's body, the church, so that it might function effectively.
There are encouraging signs, too. According to one writer, many of the young people in the "Jesus generation" have experienced spiritual gifts after true conversion to Christ. And they have sometimes spoken in tongues. But they have been so hooked on love that in many cases they just have not wanted to insist that all must speak in tongues or even that all must have any particular spiritual gift.
Since the early nineteen hundreds there have been in North America growing holiness groups and other groups of evangelicals which have emphasized the absolute necessity of a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit, though not the experience of speaking in tongues. Their churches number in the thousands and their adherents in the millions. Some Baptist groups, the Church of God from Anderson, Indiana, the Nazarenes, the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Free Methodists are but five examples.
If the "third view" of the charismata has any natural seedbed, it could be among these evangelicals. I am sure that thousands of truly charismatic (though not necessarily tongues-speaking) people are found among them.
From groups such as these, more than any others, should come the balanced view that we are calling here the "gentle maybe."
There are also rumblings of change among such strong Pentecostal bodies as the Assemblies of God. Whether they ever will retreat from their insistence that all believers speak in tongues is questionable, but I believe there is a minority among them that believes that only some will speak in tongues.
David Wilkerson, probably America's best-known Pentecostal minister, has some amazing things to say. I say amazing because he is a Pentecostal spokesman, though he does not claim to speak for the Assemblies of God.
I speak with tongues in my secret closet of prayer. It is a beautiful devotional experience with me. It is not a group or public experience. No one else involved but Jesus and Me! And when a brother in Christ comes to me and says, "I believe I too have a wonderful Holy Ghost baptism, and I've never spoken in tongues," I say, "Praise God - I believe you." Why should there be any argument? We should rejoice in each other's love for Christ. . . .
Those who speak with tongues must put the fruits of the Spirit above the gift. A truly baptized Christian will not drink, smoke, curse, or indulge in anything unholy or unChristlike. He must not consider the gift of tongues as a cure-all, end-it-all, best-of-all, experience. It is just a starting place. There is so much more. If a person who speaks with tongues honestly believes God is controlling his speech - when he comes back down to earth and speaks with his understanding, he had better not gossip, back bite or verbally assassinate another brother. Tongues should be a Holy Ghost mouthwash."
. . . A way with thinking that everybody who speaks with tongues is a saint. A way with trying to force it on others who do not seek it.1
Again, the Pentecostalism developing among Roman Catholics is especially interesting because of two important facts. First, there is explosive numerical growth among the charismatic Roman Catholics. The twenty-two thousand Catholics who attended the seventh annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement at Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, in 1973, were more than twice as numerous as the conference guests the year before. Growth of Pentecostalism within the Roman Catholic Church cannot be described in terms of addition. It is multiplication. (Statistics for 1974 enforce this view.)
Edward E. Plowman, reporting for Christianity Today, filed this account:
Call it spiritual renewal, revival, or whatever, something big and evangelically beautiful is happening in the Roman Catholic Church. Tens of thousands of Catholics around the world are saying they are studying Scriptures on a scope unprecedented in Catholic history. They are the fastest growing and most important movement in Catholicism today. If the movement continues to grow at the same rate it has shown in its first six years, within a decade the majority of America's Catholics will be part of it. It is mushrooming even faster in some places abroad.2
Secondly, and pertinent to this chapter, Plowman makes a further observation:
Moreover, Catholic Pentecostal doctrine distresses the classical Pentecostalists who spawned the movement. The latter believe that glossolalia is the necessary, universal sign of Spirit baptism. The Catholic charismatics reject this position, believing instead that tongues is only one of many spiritual gifts. What then is the evidence of baptism? "A transformed life - the fruit of the Spirit," replied leader Stephen Clark in a press conference.3
What will happen ultimately? No one really knows of course, but a renewal appears to be taking place in Roman Catholicism, and the form seems to be charismatic. Even those who disagree with the theology of what is happening must rejoice that the Catholics in large numbers are finding Christ, reading the Bible - and perhaps speaking in tongues.
The implications are incalculable. If the dominant charismatic force ultimately resides within Roman Catholicism and at the same time avoids the fixation with tongues that has locked contemporary Pentecostalism into a rigid position, the charismatic of the future may adopt something similar to what we are calling the "third view."
Jamie Buckingham, writing in the charismatic Logos Journal, has a very interesting comment.
Although the charismatic renewal of today contains many of the features of classic Pentecostalism, it is not to be confused with the old line Pentecostal denominations. "Speaking in tongues" has almost become synonymous with the move because it is usually the first outward manifestation of the inner work of the spirit. However, while traditional Pentecostals hold that tongues is "the evidence" of the baptism in the Holy Spirit (going as far as to state that unless one speaks in tongues he has not received the Holy Spirit), most charismatics feel that the "evidence" of the baptism is inner power and the ability to witness for Jesus Christ. Tongues, while accepted as a valuable and desirable part of the normal walk in the Spirit, is generally understood to be a prayer language, given for direct communication with God.4
It appears that the burgeoning charismatic movement, from Buckingham's view at least, is retreating from the open insistence that all must speak in tongues.
If the charismatic movement ultimately moves on to more scriptural ground, the wholesale demonic penetration of it is certain to be greatly reduced.
As I have already indicated, a large number of Christians already incline to what I am calling here the "gentle maybe." Some speak in tongues and some do not. The young people, the holiness groups, the evangelicals who emphasize the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the Roman Catholic charismatics, some within the charismatic movement, and a minority within the staunch Pentecostal denominations - all find common ground here.
The ultimate result could be balance, spiritual health, and a new atmosphere of love. Certainly Satan will be fighting hard to hinder, but I foresee a new era of the Holy Spirit where Christ is first, where the spiritual gifts are recognized for what they are - and no more - and where the tongues controversy is finally shunted aside.
Perhaps David Wilkerson says it best:
I am praying for a new day, a day of real love when we can say, "In Christ, we are one." A day where the upper room does not overshadow the cross. A day when we can lay aside our doctrinal differences and see the Christ in one another. A day in which we no longer call ourselves by some denominational tag, but we call ourselves simply - The Jesus People! A day when we put aside all controversy and begin "in honor preferring one another." A day when we will no longer get hung up on tongues, or modes of water baptism, or manners of sanctification, or measures of grace. But instead work together to save a lost world while it is day.
Lord. let there be love! 5
Among some of God's children today there needs to be a new atmosphere of trust - where the genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit are allowed and encouraged, where discerning mature leaders are able to guide hungry hearted believers into a wholesome experience of the spiritual gifts.
Among other of God's children today there needs to be a new willingness to question, to discern, to judge. to try the spirits - where the genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit are allowed and encouraged, but where fleshly and demonic manifestations are uncompromisingly excised from the body of Christ.
For some of us it is a step to the right. For others of us it is a step to the left. But should we hesitate longer to move to the safety of biblical ground? I think not.
The world is lost. Men and women are going to hell. As author Pete Gillquist says, "Let's Quit Fighting About the Holy Spirit." The enemy is the devil, not your brother.
Now I will admit that what I have said about the "Gentle Maybe" is optimistic. It expresses my hopes. But I must be realistic. I confess to some second thoughts. Historically, the church has not often been ready to respond to corrective currents. The "Gentle Maybe" could be useless utopian thinking, hopeless idealism. It may never happen. But something else could happen.
So permit me please, a paragraph of pessimism. I have accented the positive so I will postscript the negative. The charismatic movement shows uncomfortable tendencies toward ecumenicalism. The churches today which seek unity at all costs are finding that they cannot unite on the basis of doctrine and theology. But the fact that Pentecostals, modernists, and Roman Catholics who have received "the baptism" can pray together and "feel" great unity is not lost on the ecumenicalists. There is a strong possibility that the ecumenicalism of the future will be based on the charismatic experience. And it will not matter if a man is saved or lost, if a man believes in the virgin birth or not, nor if he prays to God through Mary or the Lord Jesus Christ. All that will matter will be the "baptism of the Spirit." I say we forget at our peril that the false prophets Jesus warned against had charismatic abilities. The superchurch of the last days may be ecumenical, charismatic - and false.