Thursday, September 15, 2005

Living Among Mysteries: The Given Life


Not long after becoming a confessional Lutheran, I started to search for other people like me. I suppose that is just human nature. That search goes on and I have found another very interesting person who keep a blog entitled Living Among Mysteries. It is written by a recent Lutheran convert, Jeremy . Stories like Jeremy's are the reason that blog-keeping appealed to me and fueled my search for more stories like mine. Jeremy writes:

So why another blog when ten zillion are already out there? I'll be honest: it's mostly for my benefit. I plan to float ideas and ask for feedback because the way I learn is by interaction with other people. Writing (warning: I'm not too good at it) is my self-test for understanding. I don't believe I understand something until I can explain it to others. I also have an inordinate love of books and reading. I plan on passing on some recommendations along with thoughts inspired by my reading. Though I'm no scholar, I have an interest in Lutheran theology. I'm also a wannabe agrarian. My first post will be the story of Rachel's and my conversion from fundamentalist Pentecostalism to Augsburg Evangelicalism (hat tip to Here We Stand), aka Lutheranism. Hope you enjoy.

In a later post he writes of his conversion:

My wife and I were both raised in independent Pentecostal Holiness churches (henceforward PHC). The first order of business must be to explain what those churches believe since they have no formal confessions. First, they are classical Pentecostals, i.e., they are not charismatic or Word-Faith. They believe they have remained true to the Azusa Street revival at the turn of the 20th century without falling into the excesses of much of the rest of Pentecostalism. They believe in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as a second (or, possibly, third) work of grace, the evidence of which is speaking in an unlearned, “unknown” tongue. This speaking in tongues, which ought to be the regular experience of those baptized in the Holy Ghost, is a completely unconscious experience uncontrolled and uninitiated by the speaker. They believe in nine gifts of the Spirit as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that remain in operation today. They believe healing is a part of the atonement and is the right of every believer, though they deny that God is obligated to heal as many Word-Faith teachers believe. Their worship services are, theoretically, without a set order. The worship is spontaneous and exuberant. The Holy Ghost may “fall” on one or more worshipers and a “move of God” may take place. This means that the rest of the service may be occupied with worshipers dancing, running the aisles, praying, speaking in tongues, being “slain in the Spirit,” etc. There may be no preaching in these services. In fact, it is very often said that “the service was so wonderful that the preacher didn’t even get to preach.” They are firmly within the revivalist tradition with all of its concomitant practices such as altar calls. They are also independent churches, i.e., they have no denominational affiliation. There is a Pentecostal Holiness denomination out there, but they are not connected in any way to the group I am describing.

Secondly, they are the “Holiness People.” In fact, many of them refer to themselves primarily as Holiness rather than Pentecostal. This is due in part to many PHC’s belief in a second, definite experience of sanctification a la Wesleyanism. Mainly, though, the name Holiness refers to their belief in “standards.” These are very specific rules of dress and behavior. Let me name a few: women should have long, uncut hair; men should have short hair; women should wear dresses or skirts only and they must be at least knee length; no shorts; no sleeveless shirts; no makeup; no jewelry, including wedding rings; no television or movies; no secular or contemporary Christian music. The list could go on. There are variations in strictness between churches but the list would be pretty standard. Furthermore, they did not believe these were optional rules but God’s own requirements and to violate them was to sin. There is some question among them whether those who do not know about these rules can be saved but folks like me are almost certainly out.

So know you have an idea of what the PHC is like. Until my mid-twenties (I am now 28) I enthusiastically believed all of it. My wife and I were well respected and some believed we had a bright future among the PHC. I was editor and main contributor of a newsletter and sometime adult Sunday School teacher. A few even thought I should enter the ministry. We were quite happy where we were, but my voracious reading and curiosity is what did me in. Actually the internet was also a key factor since it introduced me to people I would have never known otherwise.
Be sure to read on: Living Among Mysteries: The Given Life

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

It is always encouraging to find others who have taken a similar path. One of the great blessings of living in our time is the ability to meet others in the Church, even if it is only electronically. Thank you for your kind words.