Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The Song of Heaven and Dissonance
I think that one of the greatest obstacles to hearing the song of heaven is what we know and what we learn. Often in my neck of the woods, I hear the idea that those who are educated have somehow been corrupted by the song of the world and those without education or those who have a Holy Spirit education are somehow more pure. I think that can be true around some themes.
When the Charismatic movement broke out in the 70's many experienced a powerful move of God and revival of faith. A new emphasis appeared around intimacy and worship. The people of God began to notice healing and deliverance and new revelations. Much of this was life-giving to the church and transformed us in ways that are good and Jesus-like. However, some academics condemned the new flow of the Spirit. Teachings about the cessation of these gifts emerged and many who encountered the Spirit in new ways were condemned and cast out of their denominations. There was a large corporate wound around this for many within the Charismatic movements.
Some have felt that this was due to the "education" that many had. Academia, some reasoned, had discounted the new wave of the Holy Spirit. And this was... and sometimes still is true. The new wave of the Spirit had created dissonance within the normal rhythms of Spirituality and this would prove itself over time to be good for the body of Christ. It in some sense returned us to something missing among the people of God that was powerful in the first century.
What emerged was a suspicion of educated people and that somehow this education would eradicate the Spirit's work. I remember hearing things in the 70's and even into the 90's like... "I don't read commentaries because I have the Spirit and the Bible." As if somehow when one opened a commentary, the Spirit stopped teaching and guiding or that if someone opened a commentary they did not pray for help in discerning.
I want to challenge that idea that being an educated person is somehow corrupting or somehow prevents the flow and activity of the Spirit. What do we miss when we neglect the works of those who have studied the Biblical material in its original languages? What do we miss when we neglect the work of scholars who have studied the Old and New Testament within its cultural and social locations and within the lived history at the time that Christ dwelt here physically? If we discount this work and condemn it as somehow nonspiritual or uninformed by the Holy Spirit, what might we miss that the Spirit might want us to know?
I feel as if the Spirit is wanting to emerge in a new way in the 2015 and beyond but that because we will not hear or listen to voices that are well studied, we might miss it. We have a generation of young people asking different questions than the ones we asked. They have different passions and different needs. Often they want to dive into the word more deeply. Further, we have a church that has not been discipled in the teachings of Jesus and the hearing of the Spirit.
There is fear around sending children to college--even Christian colleges. We silence those who might have insight--dare I say even Spirit informed insight that could benefit the church of Jesus Christ and help us become more missional and effective in the 21st century.
If I had a voice, and if I were heard, I would want to challenge the people of God to self-reflect on the dissonance they feel. Because the dissonance could well be that we are not in sync with the song of our world for good reason. Or the dissonance could well be that we are afraid of the dissonance we feel because it is disrupting our current understanding and challenging cherished beliefs that the Holy Spirit just may want challenged.
Education can be used for purposes that are not in sync with our beliefs as Christians but to throw out learning or education and suspect it as a corrupting influence is shortsighted. Education can help us peel back the lenses through which we see our lives and challenge what seems like truth but isn't. The Holy Spirit works in our lives to peel the blinders off of our eyes and help us to see.
The apostle Paul was an educated man steeped in the teachings of the Pharisees. With the new sight granted by the Holy Spirit, Paul was enabled to see differently. He then went on to found churches and write a large portion of the New Testament. The Bereans in the Bible were longing to "see if it is so" That involves study and a reexamination of scripture, to see if what they were hearing was real and true.
My challenge to the church is to invite reflection on the dissonance and just see if the Holy Spirit is affirming or challenging cherished beliefs.
Perhaps the real corrupting influence and what prevents us from hearing the song of heaven is pride. We take pride in what we know. Sometimes that is pride in our educations, at other times it is pride in our prior knowledge--the "truths" we cherish or the "truths" that seem right to us because we have grown up with them. Pride is the corrupting influence.
And perhaps fear is another influence that prevents us from receiving new insight--be that insight from academia or from those with practical experiential wisdom. Fears is a force that distorts our reality. When the brain is in a state of anxiety reality is distorted and thinking is impacted--we are reactive instead of thoughtful in our actions.
Whatever it is...pride, fear or something else... we might reflect and invite the Spirit to help us see better. My prayer is that we may have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. And my deep desire is that we become disciples of Jesus, deeply formed by who he is, what he did and how he sought to live. It's relational... intimate.... but not without a serious examination of the song we hear. Sometimes we need to accept influence from those who have educations, sometimes the church needs to hear the practical wisdom of those who have been practicing the ways of the Spirit. We need to grow and be formed into the image of Jesus Christ.