Confused? Question, reason, consult the Bible

Spiritual leaders offer advice

The Pensacola News Journal/November 20, 1997
By Alice Crann

Pensacola -- Thousands say the Pensacola Brownsville Revival has brought them closer to God.

But what if something causes them to question the revival 's methodology, messages or leaders? Does that cast doubt on their faith, their closeness to God, their spiritual well-being?

Spiritual leaders have advice.

"All religious people must be careful," said William Mountcastle, a professor of religious studies at the University of West Florida and a minister with the United Methodist Church.

"If they have an experience, or get caught up in an action or event being described as of God, they must decide if it is coherent with all the other things they believe about God. If it isn 't, then it means something is wrong."

Mountcastle emphasized: "God gave us our ability to reason, and we should use it."

He suggested turning to Paul 's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:19) in the New Testament: Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

"Paul is emphasizing reasoning and balancing faith," Mountcastle said. "Extreme, uncontrolled emotionalism is not healthy, and it is not what Christ wanted us to do."

Other Bible scholars also urge people to think clearly and ask questions.

"Do not allow anything to dull your critical thinking process do not be afraid to question the behavior of your peers," said Hank Hanegraaff, author of the award-winning book, "Christianity in Crisis," and the recent best-seller, "Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places."

"Leaders of the counterfeit revival use peer pressure to conform their prospects to predictable patterns. They urge them to follow the crowd rather than consider the consequences."

The Rev. Tom Stipe, one of the founders of Promise Keepers and author of the foreword in Hanegraaff 's "Counterfeit Revival," said: "One of my earliest pastoral mentors taught, 'When you 're not sure what God is saying, go back to what God has already said. '

"The Bible! What a concept!"

Pastoral counselors say people who are confused about the revival should not let their questions sway their faith or lead them on detours from God.

The Rev. Jack D. Forest of Gulf Breeze, a retired minister with the United Church of Christ who counsels people on interfaith questions and concerns, said: "The best gift of God is patient intelligence. You don 't have to have every answer down now. As you live and wait upon God 's truths, they will be revealed.

"Be open to the fullness of truth. Truth comes when all of the data is at hand and understood. God either reveals it, or we learn it ourselves. God has given us the capacity to study and to learn and discover truth. Many people are afraid of that."

The Rev. L.V. Gibbs, pastor of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church, said the best move for anyone who is spiritually turned around is: "Get to know the savior."

"Getting to know someone means you get to know their nature," he said. "The more you know about God and His nature, the better you will know if something is of God."

Gibbs said the way to achieve spiritual well-being is to be prayerful and get back to Scripture.

"People today seem to really like experience and prophecy," he said. "Scripture indicates that miracles are for nonbelievers not believers. Once we become believers, we should trust God for the benefits that belong to us. Do not look for a quick fix."

The Rev. Terry Price Ware, pastor of Unity Church of Christianity, said she occasionally sees people who have had spiritual experiences in which they don 't know if the experiences are emotional or the working of the Holy Spirit.

"Usually, I let them talk it out," she said. "When they do this, they discover whether it 's been a repressed dream or a distraction from a tough choice they have to make.

"Many times people will say: 'Look. The Holy Spirit is leading me in a whole new way. ' And then they will leave behind their responsibility.

"Unity is a church about personal responsibility that approaches such situations in a practical way," Ware said. "We believe that the Holy Spirit does not work in ways that would influence people to be irresponsible. That is the danger. Many people use charismatic experiences to avoid taking responsibility for their lives."

Ware 's advice is to grab hold of the reins of your life.

"Once you do that, you can ask if the experience is a quick fix or spiritual direction for your life."

Ware also suggested reading a classic, "Varieties of Religious Experiences" by James Williams the father of modern day psychology.

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