Friday, September 7, 2007

I Love My Church

My new church-home, Inland Anglican Fellowship, continues to amaze me. It is truly just what I had hoped to find when I moved here. I really appreciate the charismatic in the context of the liturgical and sacramental.

One of my fellow parishioners named Fred was kind enough to give me a book about when the charismatic renewal broke out into the Episcopal Church in the 1960’s. The book Fred lent me is called “Nine O’Clock in the Morning,” and is written by Father Dennis Bennett. Father Bennett had been a priest in Van Nuys but moved to Seattle where he introduced many to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The book is a very inspirational read and shows what an openness to God’s power can do in a person. One thing I appreciate is how Father Bennett describes the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He says that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not more of the Holy Spirit in a Christian, as every true Christian has the Holy Spirit in them. He says that Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit having more of the individual Christian. I think that he is correct and I think that this theology undoes a lot of what can seem problematic to some about this Baptism.

Two other things in the book so far have struck me quite deeply. One place is where Father Bennett describes a conference of the Assemblies of God at which he spoke at. Concerning the Pentecostal ministers there he said, “Few of these good men had what my church would consider adequate theological training, but I had more than an inkling that they were my superiors in the training that matters: knowing the Lord, and his ways.” It can be hard, as a seminary educated man, to admit that this is, in fact, true. But I learned this summer that it was most certainly true. I learned it while I was at Bethel Church in Redding with some friends from the Foursquare church I attend in Battle Ground. While I was there I became convinced that one of my friends was actually my spiritual superior. He had been in the school of the Holy Spirit while I had attempted by my striving and “knowing” more about God to draw closer to Him. I don’t think it works that way. Academics is no substitute for simply resting in the Presence of God. Please don’t misunderstand me though. Asbury Theological Seminary is a wonderful place, which I will always see as a home away from home, and God changed my life greatly for the better there. I think a person can be in “the school of the Holy Spirit” while in seminary but usually the two do not go together.

Another thing that struck me deeply was a passage on how the Baptism of the Holy Spirit affected Father Bennett’s view of the Bible. Bennett had been educated at a liberal seminary and steeped in higher criticism of the Bible. Before his Holy Spirit Baptism Father Bennett said that, “to accept the Scriptures in their entirety as the work of the Holy Spirit was foreign to anything I had been taught, and yet that is exactly what I found myself being pressed to do as I continued in the life of the Spirit.” At one point in a meeting, where a minister who doubted the veracity of Scripture was present, a woman spoke in tongues and it was translated by another in the room as, “This is my Book! This is my Book! You read my Book! Don’t criticize my Book! Just read my Book! For I am the Lord! I am the Lord! I am the Lord!” That was so powerful to me to read because I have noticed this summer, since my experience at Bethel that my own respect for the Word has greatly increased. I actually prayed at one point this summer, “Lord, help me to really believe the Bible.” To some of you this may seem strange coming from me. I am a very conservative person so you might not think that I would have a problem believing the words of Scripture. But I think that I was so steeped in the lies of liberal theology from my past that many of those lies took root and I really did doubt the truthfulness of portions of Scripture. I knew that it was where I had met Jesus but I still didn’t necessarily believe the veracity of some Old Testament miracles or maybe every word that is presented as having been spoken by Christ. But when you begin to see real miracles taking place today it is much easier to believe that God perfectly inspired the Bible and preserved in perfectly for today.

Medical school is going well, I hope. My first exams are the week after next. I’m already feeling guilty for having taken this much of a break from studying so maybe in a week or two I’ll post something new.


Anna said...

Interesting comments about the Holy Spirit and the Bible, Matt. So you're saying that maybe I shouldn't bemoan my lack of theological education pre-seminary? Well, I think my life just goes to show that the Lord knows how to combine really "knowing" him, i.e. experiencing relationship with him, and knowing about him.

Even better, though, your thinking in this direction about scripture is helping me in my thinking about Scripture, hermeneutics, etc. The authority of Scripture comes from outside of the words themselvess--from God, whom we know through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus. And the Spirit worked in people to create scripture, and it seems like the Spirit is still working to make scripture fully effective, i.e. let us know about God.

The Lord wants us to know him and know stuff about him, but in the long run academics and, well, spirituality that is not academic, will all end up in the same place, the return of Jesus.

By the way I wish I had your study ethic. I am kinda depressing myself with my lack of discipline, currently.

Ben said...

Sounds like a good church man. Sign me up for that. said...


I am looking for a copy of the book you use as a resource by Uuras Saanivaara. Do you know where I can get a copy?

Matthew J. Perkins said...

hey rachael, yeah that book was quite the find. I'm very thankful to the Apostolic man who gave it to me. Unfortunately it will probably be hard to find. I would just try googling it or searching large used bookstores like Powell's. It's a great book because it gives a balanced view of the Laestadian movement instead of just ripping it apart like some sources seem to. said...

Matt, would you be willing to look at your copy of the book and see if it has an ISBN? Thanks, Rachael

Matthew J. Perkins said...

Hey rachael, sorry no ISBN. I think all the information that the book itself gives I included in my post. I think it was published by National Publishing Company somewhere in Michigan in 1947. Sorry I can't be more helpful!