A Fair Criticism from a Pastor of the Assembly of God to a Baptist: Flying Home

Well that was a fine flight to Minneapolis. While I was on the plane, making my way to my seat, I saw the gentleman I was to be sitting with there pushed up against the window, a small gentleman. I immediately began the obligatory short-stuff kind of greeting, and pressed in further to get to know him. I had no agenda, I just wanted to meet this man, he said he was getting back from Africa, and the only reason why anyone goes to Africa in my circles is because they are missionaries. He just said he was visiting the country, but I didn’t believe it, I asked him what he was doing and he finally said he was doing mission work. I was right. Well that was about the only shy moment he had, I told him I was a student in the undergrad at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and suddenly we became friends. Actually, he was apart of the Assembly of God, Pentecostal group, but unlike any AOG person I have met, he put an unsuspecting emphasis on the authority of the Word of God.

Due to the lack thereof, I am generally cautious around pentecostal groups. Many pentecostal groups, I would argue, overemphasize the experience of faith, to a degree that questions the authority of scripture. It is as though through conversation while they speak of some experience they had with the divine that their experience were some extra-biblical source. Other conversations I have had, made it seem like one had to ascend to some spiritual-mystical height to be about the works of God. One had to, “feel” God as it were, if they were to be an effective minister. This is frightening. Especially if such a specific experience one has is not biblical at all. Recent accounts are those stories of some child who died and went to heaven. Who can judge whether ones personal experience is biblical if they said they experienced it as biblically true? They say, “no, I know this true,” despite whether the Bible agrees with them or not. To what plumb-line do we measure this up to? If the Word of God is not the supreme authority in speaking the truth in the lives of the believer in contrast to ones experience, one opens the gates to a complete relativistic interpretation. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of cults have arisen from such an anthropocentric hermeneutic. Examples include Mormonism and Jehovah Witness, both of which deny the eternal existence of Jesus the Son.

Many AOG groups also emphasize, the miraculous, the gifts, and speaking in tongs. He was not like that. Would that be considered an unorthodox AOG pastor? He was a pastor too. Either way, he is somewhat of a famous man, I suppose, his name is Steve Foss – google him. He was really encouraging to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I sometimes can speak in theological jargon and be completely unaware of it, but it is usually because it is only easier for me to convey my thoughts. It should never be like that, unfortunately, I never had time to apologize. It just happens unconsciously sometimes. Either way, he seemed very forgiving.

He softly criticized, and a fair criticism I might add, that seminary’s tend to remove the heart out of ministry. Seminaries do have reputation of building up the mind, while forgetting the heart, but it is certainly not true of every student that goes to a Seminary. I accepted his criticism for it is generally true, but I could also add the harshest criticism of the recent Church is its ignorance in the pew, and even the pulpit. I didn’t need to say that, but I did appreciate his desire, and burning compassion for the Lord. He was very contagious for sure. We talked the whole flight. Both of us, I would like to say it was mutually encouraging engagement, but I think more of him rubbed off on me than I on him. One may never know the type of people you meet on the plane. It may be a person who has never heard the Gospel and it may just be another Christian, and one who can encourage you in the Work that God is doing.

Further side note: There should be another blog coming out when I spoke to three Mormons and a buddhist on a plane. That was fun! The full three hours.

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What would Screwtape say to this Generation?

My Dear Wormwood,

That is wonderful news to hear. That is the best news I have heard in over half a century. Soon Christians will think that the only relevant mission fields to engage in are the ones in the African Bush than the one in the schools. Granted I am not content with letting one soul go, but if one soul should escape our grips then I would choose the latter and not the former.

You see Wormwood, although the academic world represents a small minority of people they will lead the next generation. Their ability to spin intricate webs with their jargon, and ethos will persuade the people by the millions. We will continue to see a generation of poor Christian thinking flies that will suffer in our threads.

You know though almost all the school systems are corrupt now. The standard of high quality work has significantly decreased in the class room, teachers have become psychiatrist focusing on building up students self-esteem even if they are wrong! Remember that one professor who still passed his student. Thousands of graduates are walking across the stage feeling as though they are prepared to live in a world that they won’t even survive going out the back door.

Keep telling those Christians in that Seminary that discipline and study are too difficult. At every constant moment remind them how fickle their minds are at the shoreline of the ocean of information that we have thrown at them, thanks to the Internet. The Internet has not only proved to be a good distraction but it has made learning almost impossible.

I could not believe you told me people actually said, “Theology was irrelevant.” Soon people will say that Augustine is irrelevant, and once they have removed the memory of him, we shall ensnare another million in the false doctrine of modalism. Since we know that a wrong view of God leads to a wrong relationship with men. Consequently, creating great inner turmoil and argument in the Christian tent. However, this time we’ll also challenge them with the German Higher Criticism and make another million deny the inerrancy of Scripture again.

As always, be encouraged and do as Our Father Below would do. Fight well against the enemy, but remember to watch for the one he raises up to undo everything we worked so hard to accomplish.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

P.S. (Personal Note from the Author: No I did not enjoy writing this. Actually you might want to try, but it is painfully sad, because most of these evil thoughts come from my own imagination. This is mostly a reflection of my own inner turmoil, to which I need to be careful not to burden others with my own convictions, but I seriously don’t think they are far from the truth. I chose to write in this style to make a point I otherwise, might not have been able to make)

Character names, and style from: C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters. (New York: HarperOne, 1942).