Strange Fire, Holy Fire
- Thursday, March 05, 2009
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Strange Fire, Holy Fire: Exploring the Highs and Lows of Your Charismatic Experience by Michael Klassen (Bethany House).
A Critic and an Apologist
"So ... what did you think of your experience as a charismatic?"
Every time I'm asked that question I cringe. How do I respond to something that stirs up strong, ambivalent emotions of both affection and revulsion? How do I respond to the feeling of buying into a bunch of hooey, yet knowing that elements of truth were woven into the fabric of my experience?
Reflecting on my participation in the charismatic movement unleashes a flood of often contradictory feelings. Pain. Embarrassment. Gratitude.
It's kind of like the way I got along with my younger sister, Lisa, when we were kids. We could fight like cats and dogs and say really mean things to each other. But when a boy at school started picking on her (she was seven and I was fourteen), I couldn't wait to meet him after school:
"If you so much as lay a finger on my little sister, I'll throw you in a trash can and roll you down the street," I scolded the boy in a stern voice. Obviously, the hapless kid was no match for an eighth-grader.
Even today, Lisa and I can spend an evening criticizing our common experience in the charismatic movement. And we have. But if an "outsider" so much as lays a finger on our experience, we're both ready to throw the person in a trash can and roll him down the street. Of course, I mean that in a figurative sense, but in a literal sense, you'd have a catfight on your hands.
Lisa and I are admittedly critics and apologists. How can that be?
After leaving the independent charismatic movement, I served as a pastor in a fairly stodgy denomination. Officials loved to parade me around as the wayward Christian gone good. I was presented before groups of impressionable young people to warn them of the evils of the independent charismatic movement. And although I agreed with everything I said, something inside told me I was a traitor. I had left the movement, yet I still believed—deeply—in the fundamental truths that undergird it.
Like a pendulum, I started at the extreme end and allowed the gravitational pull of hurts, disappointments, frustrations, and more embarrassment than I care to admit to propel me to the other side. Yet the opposite end offered me as little rest as my starting point. Pendulums tend to do that. Criticism, negativity, and its bitter offspring, cynicism, never satisfy. So the pendulum returns to its starting point only to offer more disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment.
But eventually the pendulum must come to rest. That's what this book is about: finding a resting place within the charismatic movement.
A Word About Recovering Charismatics
Periodically as you read, you will come across the term recovering charismatic. If you're a charismatic on the "upswing" of the pendulum, or simply a Holy Spirit seeker, you may be wondering, What does he mean by a recovering charismatic?
While recovery programs are valid and quite helpful, this isn't a study on twelve-step programs. However, I'd like to borrow a few ideas from the recovery movement that pertain to this book:
1. The recovery movement is rooted in the acknowledgment of brokenness.
A woman can't overcome her addiction to Twizzlers until she acknowledges that every day she craves the twisty, shiny, red licorice. The same applies to alcohol, sex, or reruns of SpongeBob Squarepants (one of my vices).
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