Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Next Pendulum Swing

Church history swings on a pendulum that moves back and forth between extreme academics and extreme mysticism. Extreme academics focuses on intellectualism and rituals. Mysticism emphasizes personal experience and emotions. As always, in the middle, is the truth – the revelation of the word of God and a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

We can trace extreme cases of this pendulum swing through church history with these extreme swings that occurred in response to the previous extreme swing:
  • Death of the Apostles and the end of direct revelation led to the mysticism of  Montanism (150 AD) 
  • followed by academic quest for knowledge of Gnosticism (150-300 AD). 
  • The flight from society and from the corrupt church between 300-1000 AD created the Monastic movement of seeking God’s presence. 
  • This gave way to the Scholastic Movement in monasteries and the creation of university which developed and promoted the Scholastic Movement between 1000-1300. 
  • Soon people again desired a personal encounter with their God and the great Mystic Movement ran rapid between 1300-1500. 
  • The individualism produced and promoted by the Mystic Movement helped prepare the church for the Reformation which established and fought wars for its doctrinal statements against Rome and the “heretics.” 
  • A form of mysticism emerged from the Protestant Reformation between 1600-1800 called the Holiness Movement. 
  • In the 1800’s academics went extreme into higher criticism of the scriptures which produced Liberalism in the seminaries and, then, into the pulpits and churches. 
  • This cold and spiritually dead Liberalism was countered with the mysticism of the Pentecostal Movement that broke out in the early 1900’s and then hit mainstream denominational churches in the 1960’s in what is known as the Charismatic Movement. 
This Charismatic Movement has not been confined to a few churches, but has effected most churches in the area of music (short, repetitive choruses led by a praise and worship team backed up by a band) and sermons focused on:
  1. personal experience with God, 
  2. application of spiritual truth for personal life improvement
  3. personal interpretation and understanding of Truth. 
This has led to the establishment of popular mega-churches and, their smaller version, the store front church. The next movement in this series of extreme pendulum swings will be back towards the academic side and away from the mystics.

I have been predicting (note: not prophesying) this swing for twenty years and had hoped it would be a movement back toward Bible teaching and orthodox doctrine which would be the seeds of revival and cultural reformation of the Western World.

About ten years ago I began to see signs that the academic void created by the mysticism of the Charismatic movement and the vacuum left in the souls of believers who weekly sat through the seeker friendly church’s culturally relevant Sunday services would usher in the resurgence of Calvinism and Reform teaching. And, so, today we find ourselves hearing the rumble of the approaching train of Calvinism. The vast majority of Christians have not been prepared to accurately and intelligently analyze what this militant academic freight liner loaded with Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” and Reformed Theology hardened on the battle fields of Europe is bringing to their program infested churches.

Today’s mystical Christian whose faith is built on personal experience and preferences ready to defend themselves with a list of favorite Bible promises has no clue and no defense when the soldiers of Calvinism invade their seeker friendly church. The Calvinists are ready to take this generation for a ride on the next extreme pendulum swing away from the extreme experiences and emotions of mysticism and into extreme beliefs and practices based on intellectualism and rituals of extreme academics.

Truth is found in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and an understanding of God's revelation to man found in the whole of Scripture.

...sadly, this is not something we will be able to fix quick on Sunday morning or even with a four week topical study...try this, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." And then Paul tells Timothy how he can personally begin to fix the problem, "Stop neglecting your gift!" and, read, preach and teach the Scriptures!  (1 Timothy 4:13, 14)

Galyn Wiemers
Generation Word

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