I've been blessed to be surrounded by Christians of all different types over the last decade. Some of my siblings have been charismatic and pentecostal while some others have been hardline southern baptist fundamentalists. They all are members of Christ's body and bring something unique and profitable (for edification) to the table. Too often the (Protestant) Church finds herself splitting up based not upon theological differences but upon comfort and sameness. That is, too much of the time people who speak in tongues and prophecy find a corner all to themselves while those who care about social justice find a corner they like and those who teach well and are hospitable find their own corners to isolate themselves within. The problem with this is that we forsake unity when we seek to dwell only with those who share the same passions, emphases, or spiritual gifts as ourselves. It's a shame.
As a result of this cutting off from other body members we tend to get lost in ourselves. Just as a hermit slowly becomes insane, only having himself to dialogue and grow with, so we as groups go insane. After too much time alone, without the blessings and sober challenges of those different from us who are meant to be among us, we turn into caricatures of ourselves. Like a piece of iron attempting to sharpen itself, bending with all it's might, we eventually break and find ourselves no longer being good for much. Left to our own theology we will create the god we want for ourselves and the God of the Bible is not the God anyone wants for themselves before he has completed their salvation. Let's be honest, if we all had the god we wanted we'd all end up with some pretty flawed gods. The True God transcends all types of people for he designed them all in his image.
When our only source of correction, our only anchor, is our own theology, teachings, ideas, opinions, passions, leanings, then we inevitably find ourselves leading ourselves astray. We don't need a wolf to devour us for we become self-devouring werewolves. Eventually the moon gets full and we turn on ourself without ever meaning to do so. No one can guide themselves through a forest they have not been through. A person may survive the forest alone but they will not come out as sanely as they went in.
Every 'faction' does this in some way if they cut themselves off from the diverse beauty of Christ's body. However, with this article I want to focus on one particular problem I've seen. One way I see this happening in the charismatic circles is the trend of "Getting drunk/high off the Spirit."
Emotional highs are normal. I'm not against that (though I am against the abuse of that phenomenon). I don't want anyone to think I'm speaking against joy or the embracing of blessings. Sometimes we groan and laugh and react to good things in strange ways. Sometimes we don't know what to do so we just do whatever our body does in reaction to something wonderful (or terrible). That's fine of course. What I'm discussing here is the notion that God's Spirit actively intoxicates those whom he dwells within, for whatever reason, to the point that they actually show symptoms of being drunk, can't control themselves, and cause confusion. Below is an extreme example.
Below is yet another example, slightly less extreme.
To some these videos seem like people are (1) Lying/acting (probably for money), (2) brain-washed by either crazy or power-hungry people, (3) legitimately drunk or high (though anyone who has been either knows better), (4) misguided, or (5) in the pinnacle of worship.
I find the fifth option problematic. This trend of getting drunk in the spirit doesn't seem to make sense when one reads the scripture references that such practices derive inspiration from. Even though many will say it's simply the activity of the spirit and nothing contrived by man, I question the legitimacy of that claim.
First off, the Spirit can do whatever he wants. God does what he wants. God does things I don't understand. Sometimes I'll be wrong about what is and is not God's doing, and that's fine. If I'm wrong, may God reveal it to me and fill me with truth so I can boldly live as would please him. But in this matter, I think we can observe scripture and these examples and make a pretty worthwhile conclusion about how God's Spirit works, or perhaps doesn't work, in this world among the people of God. We're not going to learn anything exhaustive but we can get some pretty large clues.
The first thing to take notice of is the terminology being used. The folks who fall into these practices often use the words "getting drunk/high on/off the Spirit" but this isn't biblical terminology. No where in the scriptures are people described as being made drunk by the Spirit or even being filled with the feeling of being intoxicated/inebriated by the Spirit of God. So where does this language come from? It comes from scripture but it's a rewording. Let's look at the clearest examples.
"I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words." (Jeremiah 23:9b). Even out of context it can be well observed how this has been twisted. This passage is concerning the prophets (v. 9a) and right before these words the author states, "My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake;" (v. 9a) The formatting of this passage in scripture shows it to be a poetic writing. This is not a historical document but an artistic piece (that doesn't mean it's not full of historic truth though). The author is painting a picture, giving an illustration, to express something within himself. His heart is not literally broken (he'd be dying or dead), his bones are not all shaking (think of the trauma on the body), and he is not literally drunk because of the Lord. He is like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine. This is him using illustration to express how he feels. This is not a description of how he is acting. This illustration is used several times in scripture and it always carries a sense of negativity with it (Job 12:25, Isaiah 24:20, Nahum 1:10).
Even if this was a description of literal effects one must remember this is a negative situation. This is not a result of joy or blessing. The declaration of the Lord, which precedes this writing in the chapter, has deeply struck the prophet and this is his reaction to those words. God's words did not send him into a drunken like state of behavior but rather a pain and delirious type of state of feeling. The words of God were intense and metaphorically broke his heart. When someone has a broken heart what do they do? They drink. They get drunk in their pain so the pain will not exist (Proverbs 31:6-7). Perhaps that is a reason for the author using this type of imagery. At the end of the day, this is imagery and nothing more.
But there is a far better passage in scripture used to discuss being drunk in the Spirit. Acts 2, a more historical document, records what happened at Pentecost. The chapter starts, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and beganto speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" (vv. 1-4). Next is the account of what happened in regards to the tongues.
"Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?. . .we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.' And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?'But others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.' But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day'" (vv. 5-15).
In short, the disciples spoke as the Spirit decided, people from different origins heard in their own languages what was being preached and they were amazed. Mockingly, some folks called those preaching drunk (to be filled with new wine is to be drunk) because of the phenomenon. Peter said they weren't drunk because it's too early in the day for that sort of thing.
Pentecost is a very unique happening. I'm not saying this sort of tongues activity doesn't still occur but in this fashion it's very unique. God was doing something new and unique after the ascension of Christ. This was a heavenly declaration that the Spirit of God had arrived and many people were being brought into the Church as she began to enter this new phase. We have to take note that the claim that the activity seemed like drunkard activity is from mockers. This isn't a legitimate observation but an ill-willed proclamation.
When groups of people are drunk it can be loud and sound like blathering because (1) there are so many people talking and (2) drunks blather. In this case, there are many people talking in many languages at the same time. It sounds like blathering. It sounds like drunk people talking. Thus, the mockers say what they say. The commentary doesn't exist because the disciples are acting drunk, feeling drunk, or calling themselves drunk. There is no misrepresentation by the disciples here. The Spirit hasn't manipulated anyone into intoxication of any kind. The Spirit has spoken in several languages through a group of people. That's the only activity of the Spirit being sensed here. Nobody is "drunk on the Spirit" as in the videos above. The disciples are accused of being drunk because mockers can't make sense of what sounds like blathering to them. They don't believe the miracle before them. They mock in order to deny.
Simply because mockers said the disciples were drunk doesn't mean that the disciples were actually exhibiting behavior of drunkards. When one is mocking someone they don't always stick to the truth of the situation or person they are against. The mockers may be confused and they may be trying to deny the miracle happening at the moment but they aren't giving legitimate commentary on what they are observing. They're trying to discredit what the Spirit is doing through the disciples.
This is why Peter corrects them; not because the Spirit confuses people by making God's people act drunk (to which Peter would have to give an explanation for the Spirit) but because he is fighting the lies being brought up about the Spirit's activity in the public square. Peter is preaching the Gospel and demanding people not listen to lies but to truth. This is why he goes on to mention prophecy. The people aren't acting drunk but rather prophesying because the Spirit is upon them and with the Spirit comes the gift of prophecy, visions, dreams, etc. Drunken behavior is not a gift of the Spirit, at least not according to the Apostles or their writings in scripture.
If Peter had said the people were not drunk on wine but rather on the Spirit then there'd be more of a case for such interpretations but the fact is that Peter dismisses the notion that any kind of drunkenness or behavior belonging to drunkenness is occurring. The only thing occurring is the preaching of the Gospel by the Spirit through the gift of tongues. Paul wants that to be made clear, that's partly why a sermon follows this reaction to the mockers.
God does not desire his Spirit to create confusion. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul teaches on spiritual gifts such as tongues and prophecy. He teaches on these issues so as to communicate the importance of clarity in the use of tongues. If people don't understand what is being communicated then damage is being caused. He basically references Pentecost when writes "There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning,but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church" (vv. 10-12).
Paul continues this teaching by discussing the importance of orderly worship. In verses 16-17 he is clear about the importance of others being able to understand what is going on in worship, especially with the use of tongues. ". . .if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up."
At the end of the day, tongues can be confusing but the Spirit will bring interpretation and it seems believers can choose to harness this gift in such a way as to cause confusion or build others up. Paul speaks against this confusion and demands that gifts be used for building others up through orderly worship. People acting drunk and high isn't a part of orderly worship but rather a part of confusing behavior which doesn't communicate a whole lot of truth to people for the sake of their being built up.
"For God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Nothing in the scriptures give the idea that an indwelling of the Spirit causes feelings or behaviors of being drunk or high. In fact, there is a contrast between being drunk and being filled with the Spirit made by Paul in Ephesians 5:18 which gives support to the notion that to act drunk wouldn't help out the sake of one's witness.
In Galatians 5, Paul again has the work of the Spirit and drunkenness contrasted. He writes, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control;against such things there is no law.And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit" (vv. 19-25).
Drunkenness is a work of the flesh whereas self-control is a fruit/work of the Spirit. If this is true, and if we are, as Paul teaches, to "live by the Spirit" and "keep in step with the Spirit" while not walking in the flesh which "is against the Spirit" (v. 17), then how do we reconcile acting or becoming drunk by the Spirit? Leviticus 10:9-10 teaches that drunkenness makes one unable to distinguish between holy and unholy, clean and unclean. That's not the same as the wisdom and self-control that comes from the Spirit.
There is a place in scripture which records God bringing about drunkenness in others though. In Jeremiah 51:54 God brings forth a judgment on Bablyon saying, "I will make drunk her officials and her wise men, her governors, her commanders, and her warriors; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts." If God does indeed bring about drunkenness in people, it's certainly not something that coincides with blessing. 1 Peter 4:7 connects sober-mindeness with valuable prayers stating "...be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." A prayer is hindered by a lack of self control and an intoxicated mind. If such a soberness is required for prayers then why would we match up our worship with a type of spiritual drunkenness which doesn't seem to differ from fleshly drunkenness in it's effects? Is it not the same outside of source? The videos above seem to portray such a similarity in effect.
What could be the purpose of the Spirit bringing about works that seem to be according to the flesh and in opposition to his fruit? After all, if being drunk is not an activity God desires for his people and an activity which is taught to be in opposition to God's working in someone then why would he want his people acting as though they were drunk? That is of the same logic which would say that even though God does not desire for his people to be thieves, liars, gossips, or adulterers, he has chosen to make them appear as thieves, liars, gossips, and adulterers by the indwelling of his Spirit. The Spirit was given to us so that he may convict us of sin not that he may imitate it (John 18:4).
A drunkenness by the Spirit would certainly not be the same as being drunk by alcohol according to source but if the drunkenness appears to be the same then how do we reconcile this decision of God to make his people appear as though they've been sinful with the fruit of the Spirit, the contrast in Ephesians, the teachings for orderly worship in 1 Corinthians, the knowledge that God is not a God of confusion but of peace, and the preaching of Peter in Acts 2? If this drunkenness in the Spirit is legitimate then shouldn't it make sense with scripture's witness?
So what do we say of the people in these videos and the people who behave in like manner? I certainly won't deny these people legitimately have encountered God in a loving and joyous way and certainly won't deny the work of the Spirit in their life but I can say that scripture doesn't portray the Spirit as a being that causes confusion by creating an intoxicated effect on those upon whom he dwells. I can't speak on the heart of the individual, so I won't, but I can speak on what scripture teaches about the Spirit and that is what I've attempted to do here.
There are emotional highs in life and God brings great joy at times into our lives and that can be unexplainable, but perhaps it is best to leave it at that in those times. To lead people into the notion that the Spirit will make them act foolishly, as though they were intoxicated, is to lead them into a false teaching about the Spirit. The scriptures do not teach such a thing and neither should we. We should encourage people to walk in the joy of the Lord but in a manner that builds others up in peace. Let us fully embrace God's blessings with joy and preach his truth as a result of learning it and experiencing it. Let us be bold and charismatic! But, let us also be in agreement with scripture.
You know, as part of the "Charismatic" community, I've sort of wrestled with this too. There isn't much of this going on at my church, but I've been places where it has. There was only one time when I felt mildly "drunk" but it wasn't really to this extent. It was more like this overwhelming feeling of peace, love and the presence of God and it was so strong that I didn't feel like I could move. But, I wasn't actually acting drunk or anything. It's hard to say, though, because I've met some really amazing and sincere Christians who get like this. Heidi Baker is one of them. It's really something I just am trying to pray about, because I really just am not sure.
Thanks, Travis, for a well-written article which feels as though you have spoken this in love, as God commands. I consider myself a charismatic Christian and have been a member of one church which also unashamedly calls itself Reformed and Charismatic, as well as others that tended toward excesses (but not to the extent of the examples in the videos). Being in a meeting like that, it is hard to know how to feel about those around you exhibiting those behaviors. I like it that you spoke charitably about the followers, but since we know that the teaching is against scripture, we can't not speak against the teaching.
What makes these "phenomena" so damaging is that people are settling for expressing the visitation or filling of the Spirit in ways that diminishes the work that God really wants to do in them. (I speak from experience on both sides of this) And for those who are faking it and not really being touched, they may not know how to yield to the Spirit when they truly want more of Him because they will be looking to duplicate what they did before.
Experimental/experiential Christianity is for every believer (we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit) and we can ask for Him and will receive Him in God's timing and God's way - sometimes even after we have grown weary in praying for Him and least expect a felt experience from Him.
Any practice that results in making us the center of worship or that causes us to seek anything that does not glorify Him is idolatry....no one is above falling into that, so we'd best pray that we do not fall into temptation. Sound doctrine, Biblical doctrine, God-honoring doctrine cannot be sacrificed just to be charitable. It is oxymoronic to think you can love God by discounting and ignoring His word when He is Love. Love for others can't be given by disobedience to God.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost Matthew 28:19.
It is important to understand that one doesn't have to read far in the Bible before one is confronted with the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2, The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters and at the other end of the Bible in Revelation 22:7 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely
Of course, between these two texts, throughout the pages of Scripture, the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit are revealed to us. This especially is true in the New Testament, where we are given many insights into the reality, purpose, and function of the Holy Spirit, particularly in regard to the plan of salvation.
The gift of tongues, as prophecy and miracles, has a counterfeit. The original gift on the day of Pentecost consisted of perfectly spoken human languages. Uttering sounds that cannot be identified with any human language is not a perversion of but a counterfeit of the genuine
In the early church there was a need for the gift of tongues, or a mastery of foreign languages. The gospel had to be communicated to the world, and most of the postascension Christians did not possess a command of foreign languages.
In his evangelization among the heathen, Paul constantly had to use a tongue other than his native Aramaic the common language of the Jews in the day of Jesus and the apostles. Corinth was a large seaport and commercial city with people from many parts of the Roman Empire. It seems that some in the Corinthian church boastfully used languages that some other members could not readily understand. Paul admonished them not to do so, unless they had an interpreter, since no one in the congregation, other than the speaker, could be edified by it
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation Mark 3:28, 28
Well said. The Spirit moves, but as it says in the Book of Acts..."the place where they were was shaken and they preached the Word of God with boldness...." ( http://www.YouVersion.com ) I believe is the charismatic gifts, but not what so often goes along with the charismatic movement. The phenomenon you wrote of is to be guarded against. http://www.bnafreedom.wordpress.com
I remember the first time I was drunk -- it was during my confirmation ceremony at a Lutheran Church in rural Missouri where I was FORCED to drink the blood of the Jewish Zombie Jesus and FORCED to eat his flesh as well. The the blood - WOW -- I knocked me off my socks - in fact the Shaman who administered it to my in a sacred cup poured so much in my childhood size mouth that it ran down the front fo my pure white sacrad gown and ruined it. I guess my parents had to pay for that since it was a rental!
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