Volume 21 Issue 5
Reaching a state of meaninglessness is possible. I have an affinity for the desert. I travel often to desert areas for hiking, reading and solitude. There is certain calmness there, a stillness that heightens one’s spiritual acumen. Sadly, many of these areas have become havens for “spiritual” tourists seeking New Age and Native American enlightenment or religious experience. A common tourist trap is the giant rain dance, reenactments of ceremonies that were once thought by ancient civilizations to cause rain. Certainly, we know that if a rain dance could give one control over rain, there would be no drought, no flood, no natural disaster, for as humans we could simply perform our dance and control the elements.
So while entertaining, the reenacted rain dances have no meaning. Define, redefine, question, challenge and in the name of progressive thought or wise rhetoric one may build enough confusion until the once sure are unsure. Skepticism like a tsunami pounds itself onto the shores of hearts and minds and the original issue is lost in the discussion itself. Such was the prideful work of the ancient Greek sophists, who in their specious arguments meant to confound and mislead. Specious arguments are designed to be by definition “superficially plausible, but actually wrong” (Oxford). They are generally the work of those persons “wise in their own conceits” who intend to be misleading and deceptive.
If we are to survive, I contend that the language of God must be restored. It is possible for a whole religious movement or a nation to lose touch with their language and its meanings. It is surprising the number of conversations I have had of late where the meaning of the words become the issue — not the validity of the issue itself. I have been asked, for example, “What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit? What does Holy mean? What does Spirit mean? How does one know he has received the Spirit?” In this opening of questions, assuming he is sincere, the questioner is saying, “I don’t even know what you mean by these words.” It’s almost for sure he has never received the Holy Spirit or has never been exposed to the conceptual system, namely the Bible and its doctrine that is the explanatory reference to the experience of the Holy Spirit. If we lose this conceptual language expressed in the Bible, our common definitions and meaning, how can we go forward? “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Here we see that they are thinking that this whole idea is not intelligible at all. They doubt the possibility. They have no conceptual language. Receive the Holy Ghost? Be filled with the Spirit?
But the Apostles, unlike the modern man had a frame of reference. They had the experience of baptism, definitively. The Holy Spirit had fallen on them. They had experienced it. They were witnesses. There was no chance they were going to be hung up on wordplay. Their experience translated directly to unwavering language that left no room for questioning, “And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” They knew, as well, that this experience would break man from his secular worldview that confines and restricts his thoughts and ultimate destiny.
Now let’s imagine that we lose sight of what it really means to be Pentecostal, to be a Spirit-empowered child of God. Suppose our language does not reflect our true experience? Suppose we lose sight of what “holy” means or what “filled with the Spirit” means? What if we are reduced to arguing about the words and not the validity of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Some may say that no one really knows what it all means anyway. With unguarded lips they pretentiously stir up questions like: “What is so important about speaking in tongues, and revelation, and morals? What do standards have to do with it? What do those words mean anyway? Who really knows? And how can we be sure about all these old ideas that we were given to by old men, ancient prophets, who all lived in another time and another world?” All the while reducing their obligation to defend the Apostolic message to a game of skill or wit, turning definitions upside down, casting away the meaning from everything we have been commissioned to preserve.
There are only two reasons a person will fall into this trap of meaninglessness. Either, he has never really experienced the Holy Ghost and thus does not really know, or, he is merely a sophist playing a sweet seductive melody of deconstruction that to lay a new foundation must destroy the old. Do not be mistaken, there is a difference between improving something and dismantling it.
We can beat our drums, do our worship, do our church, and yet we might as well be performing a giant rain dance to summon rain in a desert. For if our methods, our doctrines, our message does not proceed from Him we are lost in meaninglessness. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26).