Former Assemblies of God Pastor Andrew McIntyre Weighs in on “Initial Physical Evidence”

Posted: March 18, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests, Pneumatology, Theology
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I posted a review of some comments from William and Robert Menzies book, “Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience” (here).

It drew a clarifying comment from Endued blogger, Matt:

I’m unclear Pastor Rick if it is your position that the baptism of the Spirit is BOTH conversion AND the initial filling, such as the Third Wave view (As I understand it), or is the Baptism of the Spirit what happens at conversion and then there is later an initial filling of power? Just curious, I’m still undecided on it.

Matt

My response:

Matt, I hold that the prescribed patter of initiation into union with Christ comes from Peter in his Pentecost sermon: “Repent, Be Baptized, Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit”. Let me clarify that a bit…I don’t believe in baptismal regeneration, nor do I believe that their is a singular reception of the Spirit that comes AFTER one repents and is baptized. In the Ordu Salutis (order of salvation), I believe that one can’t repent apart from some work of the Spirit, which I would call regeneration. Even my Wesleyan friends would acknowledge a prior work of the Spirit in bringing one to faith. Once one repents and is baptized, it is impossible for them to be a believer and not have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). So, in a theological rendering of initiation, one isn’t a Christian apart from the Spirit.

Now what does Peter mean when he says that one will receive the Gift of the Spirit in the package including repentance and baptism? I actually DON’T hold that this is the gift in a “Sonship” paradigm, or merely a converting work of the Spirit that Peter is offering. I think Peter is referring to the work of the Spirit has had been witnessed in the disciples. So in my ordu salutis, I would make a distinction between the work of the Spirit preveniently bringing one to repentance (Regeneration), the adoptive sealing work of the Spirit that indwells the believer who has repented and is baptized, the sanctifying fruit-bearing work of the Spirit that follows the life of the believer in a gradual manner that is different for various believers, and the empowering work of the Spirit that now proceeds from the life of the believer in context to their union to the Church for the edification of the Church.

If anything, I am willing to make even more than 2 distinctions in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. What I am opposed to is stating that their is a primary secondary work that necessarily requires tongues as the infallible proof that you have gotten the second work. Luke doesn’t give an exact paradigm. The Samaritans reception of the Spirit in some sense was lacking following their repentance and baptism (Acts 8). This is seen as exceptional and not normative. I think folks argue for too much when they say that the Samaritans weren’t “saved” (James Dunn) and that Pentecostals argue for too much when they claim Acts 8 as a prooftext for what they consider to be normative. I’m willing to grant that Acts 8 was a “two step” process and don’t even feel the need to give some practical reasons for why it needed to be that way. For Peter in Acts 10, the Gentiles got up and spoke in tongues while he was preaching!!! Their repentance was assumed and they were admitted to the waters of baptism following this demonstrative act of God’s acceptance. It would be silly of me to say that Acts 10 is normative and that people must get up and speak in tongues in the middle of a sermon before they can be baptized. Essentially, Acts is a unique transitional period and God is pretty much doing things as He wills. While Peter prescribes repentance, baptism and reception of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, we have two accounts here: where full reception of the Spirit was lacking following baptism (Acts 8 and where tongues preceded baptism in Acts 10).

I’m okay with attributing to the Spirit His sovereign freedom in these matters. If someone insisted that they were baptized with the Spirit subsequent to salvation and spoke in tongues, I would affirm that as a work of the Spirit. If someone spoke in tongues during an evangelistic message at some local park, I would accept that as a work of the Spirit and encourage baptism. So while I hold the “one baptism many fillings” paradigm as the prescribed norm, I am okay with the Spirit working in a “two step” process if that’s how people want to read it. Essentially, I am opposed to the doctrine of “initial physical evidence” which dogmatically asserts that Spirit-baptism is a “necessarily” distinct second work of grace that is validated solely by the manifestation of tongues, thus dogmatically asserting that this is how the sovereign Spirit MUST WORK. Like I said, I am the first to say that the Spirit has worked this way, and continues to work this way, and does give tongues as a manifestation of the reception of the Spirit (in fact I would argue that the Spirit not only bears fruit, but will normatively manifest Himself in a “charismatic” manner, whether it be tongues or a great zeal for administering mercy). What I am not willing to say is that the Pentecostal position is the prescribed normative view. While I hold the broad “Evangelical Charismatic” position as what I see as the normative paradigm, there is room enough for me to acknowledge that the Spirit can act in an analogous fashion to what the Pentecostals expect. They, however, can’t grant such charity to me. They can’t say, according to their doctrine, that I have been baptized with the Spirit in an empowering fashion unless I give testimony to tongues in my life. They would have to say I am lacking the baptism of the Spirit and am still deficient in some sense for having not spoken in tongues.

It drew the following comment from Assemblies of God Pastor Andy Harris (http://www.centralonthehill.com):

Rick,
The “initial, physical evidence” doctrine as you note is the primary thing that distinguishes traditional Pentecostalism from the wider evangelical world. That, of course, and the fact that the largest Christian missions force in the world is led by those who hold to the “initial, physical evidence” doctrine. The Pentecostal explosion in global missions is the greatest defense of a subsequent experience of empowerment for Christians and
that speaking in other tongues is the initial, physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is promised to all believers (Mark 16:16-17; Acts 1:8, 2:4, 38-39, et al).

My response was as follows:

Andy, I am grateful for the success of “Evangelical” missions, including the Pentecostals. I would even go so far to say that there is a correlation to the success of distinctly Pentecostal missions in various parts of the world. Their emphasis on the empowering work of the Spirit, spiritual warfare, and the imminence of God in an experiential fashion are all good. I am still 99% Pentecostal. It is my heritage and I don’t repudiate it. I also differ on how I understand God’s Sovereignty from most Pentecostals, but that would still be compatible within the confession of faith.

I would disagree with you however in stating that the success of Pentecostal missions validates “initial physical evidence”. My goodness, Mormons and Islam is growing as well, does that validate Joseph Smith and Muhammad? They would argue along the same lines. I am gracious enough to say that there is a correlation of Pentecostal pneumatology and practice on a broader level to their “success” on the mission field, but to insinuate that the success is owing entirely to “initial physical evidence” and that such a doctrine is validated by the “success” is logically erroneous. Does the success of non-Pentecostal missionaries validate their convictions that none should speak in tongues? Does the overwhelming “success” of the Anglican Church on the African continent validate the 39 Articles of Religion and prove infant baptism to be true?

And now, a recent friend I have met, who is a former Assemblies of God pastor, Any McIntyre has chimed in:

First, let me frame my comments, especially for Andy, by saying that I used to be an Assemblies of God minister for 22+ years and had been a member of the Assemblies of God for over 40 years. I also have two degrees from A/G schools (B.S. & M.A.T.S.). And, finally, I have no axe to grind against the A/G; instead, I have many great memories from the two churches that I was privileged to pastor.
With that being said, I find that I am in total agreement with the belief that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is part of the conversion experience (note the comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus), and that it is “that which makes a person truly a Christian.” To me, this is what makes Christianity unique – it is the reality of the Divine presence within the believer that separates true Christianity from mere religion. As I have said before, I agree with John R. W. Stott: “The whole Christian life is life in the Spirit, following birth of the Spirit.” I do not believe in any concept of a “second work of grace,” nor do I believe that mere mental assent is conversion. I believe that conversion, described by Jesus to Nicodemus as being born again, is a powerful, transforming experience that ushers one into a powerful, transformed lifestyle.
The Biblical evidence, to me, is conclusive in this regard. While I concede that Acts emphasizes the effect of powerful witness – which is clearly Luke’s outline and purpose for Acts (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world) – that same emphasis precludes the interpretation of Luke’s historical narratives as presenting a clear, normative pattern. Why? Because the point of the narratives is clearly that the Gospel is to be preached to the whole world, and that it is not going to be a restored Kingdom of Israel. The narratives, with their varied experiences, have one common theme – God has to powerfully show the Jews that the Kingdom is not revived Judaism. Was this necessary? Apparently it was. Note the length to which God goes to show Peter and the Church that the Gospel is going to the Gentiles in the Cornelius event. And yet the beliefs and attitudes of the Judaizers still showed up in Peter in Galatia and hounded Paul until his death.
To continue, I take Peter’s sermon to be an expression of chronological experience presented in a logical fashion. However, I do not take his words as an expression of compartmentalized experiences. Believing in Christ, being baptized in water, and receiving the Holy Spirit, while being distinct experiences are part and parcel of the same event – conversion. Again, the lack of a clear pattern in Acts bears this out. Finally, I do not find the Pentecostal emphasis in the writings of Paul, especially his more theological writings of Galatians (Reader’s Digest condensed version) and Romans (the expanded version). I do not find Paul expressing a separate, subsequent experience that is as powerful and transforming as conversion that every believer should experience. The fact that Paul does not compartmentalize these experiences, plus the absence of any admonition to seek the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is very telling!
What is needed in the Church is not an emphasis on some separate from and subsequent to conversion experience that the New Testament doesn’t make. We need to stop expressing conversion as mere mental assent and start expressing and expecting the radical experience that being born again depicts. We need to emphasize the reality of the Divine life within the believer – “Christ lives in me!” And we need to help each other practically live out all that “walking in the Spirit” entails.
As far as effectiveness in missions is concerned, the comment – “In short, a Pentecostal perspective on Spirit-baptism is integral to our continued sense of expectation and effectiveness in mission” – is an expression of faithfulness to a theological position and opinion akin to saying, “We think this is necessary.” That’s wonderful, but it does not mean that the opinion is exegetically defensible. And to say that the doctrine is supported by missionary effectiveness is also a statement of opinion. I, having been an A/G pastor, would point to other factors as being the causes of missionary effectiveness – emphasis and money! The A/G emphasizes foreign missions in every aspect of its denominational life, and it raises money for missions via every ministry group (Children – B.G.M.C., Youth – Speed-the-Light, Faith Promises, Individual and Church Pledges, missionary speakers, mission conventions, etc.). If the “distinctive” doctrine was the main cause of missionary effectiveness in the A/G, then I think one is hard pressed to explain the vast differences in effectiveness between foreign and home missions since they both rely on the same doctrine/experience.
Again, I think the New Testament clearly communicates that the defining event of Christianity is conversion (not conversion plus an equally defining second work of grace). And that this conversion experience ushers an individual into the reality of Christ living within – a reality reinforced and expanded by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And I contend that our anemic appropriation of all that life in Christ entails does not necessitate the need for additional defining events. To me, we need to hear again the incisive words of Paul in Galatians 5:16: “What I want to emphasize is this, live continually in the power of the Spirit …” (F. F. Bruce, Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul).

Andy McIntyre also blogs at: http://en-pneuma.blogspot.com

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