Enrichment Journal Article, Winter 2005 on Spiritual Gifts and Post-Pentecostalism

This article by a friend of mine sums up the best perspective I have seen on the potential of cessation of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14)http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=thepashamm-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0015T963C&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=thepashamm-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1616381434&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr in Pentecostal churches.  An article that everyone should read on the subject

Post pentecostalism? God Forbid

By Joseph L. Castleberry

Pentecostal and charismatic churches across America are facing a new and puzzling trend: postpentecostalization. Reports are frequently heard that some Assemblies of God pastors are pastoring churches that do not accept our pneumatology or allow for the manifestation of spiritual gifts in worship services. At the same time, some churches lament that their pastor neither practices nor encourages others to practice spiritual manifestations.
While reports of declension in Pentecostal worship are not new — as early as the 1920s some Pentecostal leaders were warning that there was declension in our Movement — we may be facing a new wave of declension that is more serious. If so, we must pay serious attention to the renewal of the charismata in our worship services across the Pentecostal-charismatic movement. Not only does our tradition call for renewal, but also faithfulness to Scripture demands it. It is time to consider whether Pentecostalism without expression of the charismata is, in the parlance of the Greek New Testament, an idiotikos Pentecostalism.

Idiotikos Pentecostalism

The term idiotikos is potentially offensive and must be explained. Idiotikos is derived from the Greek word idiotes and has a different meaning from the English word idiot. I do not wish to apply the English word idiot or idiotic to any person or religious perspective. The use of idiotikos is not an epithet, but a goad to reflection.
The concept of idiotikos Pentecostalism is based on 1 Corinthians 14:23, where the apostle Paul warned the Corinthian church that theapistoi and idiotai would think that the members of the church had gone mad if they should enter the service and find them all speaking in tongues at the same time. To understand Paul’s point in this passage, it is crucial to know who the apistoi and idiotai were. Apistoi clearly refers to unbelievers, but Bible translators do not agree on the identity of the idiotai.1
The King James Version renders idiotai as “those who are unlearned.”2 The Revised Standard Version translates the word as “outsiders.”3 The New American Standard Bible translates idiotai as “ungifted men.”4 The New International Version translates the word as “some who do not understand.”5 What is surprising is that these contemporary translations do not reflect the definition provided in the leading New Testament Greek lexicon.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Frederick Danker, offers the idea of “layman, amateur”6 for the first definition of idiotes. The lexicon explains that this definition is not intended to express the religious division between laity and clergy, but to stress expertise versus inexpertise in many contexts. Thus, the first definition of idiotes is the idea represented in the King James Version of a person unlearned, uninstructed7 in spiritual gifts.
The second meaning offered by Danker for idiotes is a religious novice or catechumen. References are adduced to show that the term was used in religious contexts to refer to people who attended the services of a particular religion but had not yet become full-fledged members. In discussing 1 Corinthians 14:23, the lexicon states that “the idiotai are neither similar to the apistoi, nor are they full-fledged Christians; obviously, they stand between the two groups as a kind of proselytes or catechumens.”8 Thus idiotai may refer to people who were new believers but who had not been baptized.
A possible New Testament example of the second definition is the disciples at Ephesus in Acts 19:1–7. They had believed in Jesus, had been baptized in John’s baptism of repentance, but had not been baptized in Jesus’ name and had not heard of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 14:23, it seems the first definition applies. The idiotai were new believers who had not yet been instructed about the use of spiritual gifts in Christian worship. Paul’s concern is that these new believers, as well as unbelievers, may become confused or offended by the unruly use of the gift of tongues in corporate worship.

Church-Growth Models

This Pauline concern for the welfare of new believers takes us back to our contemporary situation relative to postpentecostal churches. The popularity among Pentecostal churches of church-growth models such as the seeker-sensitive model or the purpose-driven model has led some pastors, perhaps many, to completely reject charismatic gifts in corporate worship.9 Yet this approach is clearly against what the apostle Paul intends in the passage. Like the missionaries of the early 20th century who were confronted by Roland Allen’s book Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s or Ours? pastors in the United States today must consider whether we are better advised to use our methods of church growth, or those taught by Paul in the Word of God.
Paul makes it obvious in 1 Corinthians 14:23 that he is not opposed to the manifestation of spiritual gifts in public. After warning the church not to abuse the gifts, and especially the gift of tongues that would lead the apistoi and the idiotai to think the church had gone mad, he sums up his argument two verses later:
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
From this it is clear that Paul’s intention was not to eliminate spiritual gifts from public worship, but to protect them from abuse so they might fully edify believers and convict sinners.
It is important to consider the opposite of idiotikos worship. Manaical worship is the opposite extreme. When Paul said the apistoi and idiotai will think the church has gone mad, he used the word mainomai. Mainomai is related to the English word maniac. Critics of charismatic abuse have done well to call such worship “charismania.” It is the maniacal charismatic expression to which Paul objects. Nevertheless, while it is good to join Paul’s position in opposition to maniacal worship, it would be a grave error to forbid the exercise of the charismata in the process. Genuine Pentecostal-charismatic worship holds the middle ground.

Who Determines What Model?

Paul’s support of charismata in public worship raises this question: who is going to determine what we allow in our worship services? Will the Word of God determine it or will it be determined by apistoi and idiotai? If it is by the Word, then we will need to ensure that our worship is faithful to God (as opposed to apistos, faithless) and clearly instructed in Scripture. The abuse of spiritual gifts in Christian worship by the unlearned is not acceptable. This fact obligates pastors to instruct their congregations carefully about the use of spiritual gifts.
It is often said that Pentecostals are more embarrassed by the use of gifts in worship than their unbelieving and non-Pentecostal Christian guests. It would seem this embarrassment comes either from being ashamed of the gifts themselves (which is unacceptable) or being ashamed of untutored exercisers of those gifts. In either case, the answer is more and better instruction, not shrinking back from the exercise of spiritual gifts.
On the other hand, if we allow the form of Christian worship to be determined by the apistoi and the idiotai, we must carefully draw out the implications of this decision. First, we allow the unbeliever to define what we can believe in and practice. This is a formula for failure. It is also unfaithful to God who has lavished His grace (charisma) on us. Second, such worship will be idiotikos — being determined by the idiotai.10
Idiotikos worship is the purposeful decision (if not purpose-driven) to refuse to instruct new believers and unbelievers about the biblical use of spiritual gifts. I recently heard an Assemblies of God pastor talk about his new church plant. About 300 people had been added to his church in a year’s time; 150 of them were new believers. He explained he did not want charismatic giftings in his church, since most of the transfer growth was from evangelical churches. He was worried they would be offended by the exercise of spiritual gifts and that new believers could become confused. The answer to this dilemma is apparently to leave everyone in the state he or she was found in. This decision is appropriately termed idiotikos since it puts the doctrinal position of the ungifted and uninstructed, rather than Paul’s teaching, in the driver’s seat of the church.
Another crucial aspect of idiotikos worship is that it is a conscious decision to rest on our own abilities rather than on God’s power. The word idiotes is closely related to the Greek word idios, meaning “one’s own” or “one’s self.” The basic concept of idiotes is that a person is on his or her own. She has not been instructed by others, but left to her own understanding. He is not empowered by the Spirit, but operating on his own strength.

Why A Pentecostal Model?

One hundred years of Pentecostal experience, coupled with the greatest church growth the world has ever seen — church growth that dwarfs that of the Early Church — should have convinced us that we need to rely on God’s power, not our own, for church planting and growth. Postpentecostalism, or idiotikos Pentecostalism, goes against scriptural teaching and against the methods used in the church’s greatest period of success. At the same time, when millions of unbelievers (apistoi) and ungifted cessationists (idiotai) are sailing into the ports of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, the postpentecostals are determining a course that will lead their barks out into the open sea, against the tide and into the storm. The prospects do not seem bright.
In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul made clear that Christians who are uninstructed about spiritual gifts are not mature (pneumatikos Christians), but idiotai.11 He could not have suspected that within a century most of the church would fit into that category. Idiotikos Christianity, untutored in the use of spiritual gifts and left to its own devices, would drift into liturgical woodenness and spiritual slumber. It would partner with state and empire, substitute its own judgment for that of Scripture, and make that judgment a rigid, unbreakable tradition so tightly tied to the power of a few that it would become a means of oppression. Idiotikos Christian leaders, left to their own devices, would burn other believers (as well as unbelievers) at the stake, kill them with the sword of state and empire, and enforce their power and hegemony over God’s little flock and the unbelieving world as well. Great atrocities like the Holocaust would be committed against God, His people, and against the world Christ died to save by idiotikos Christianity.
Then, the greatest revival in the history of the Church would come. Hundreds of millions of believers would turn from idiotikos to pneumatikos, or spiritual Christianity. Now, at the very hour of the triumph of the Holy Spirit and of the rescue of the human spirit, will we turn back to an idiotikos form of Christianity? Having begun in the Spirit will we seek to be made perfect in the flesh? God forbid.

Joseph L. Castleberry, Ed.D., is academic dean at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri.

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