ARTICLE: Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

The uneasy conscience of a noncharismatic evangelical.
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I am a cessationist. That is to say, I believe that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit -namely, the "sign gifts" of healing, tongues, and miracles—were employed in the early church to authenticate that God was doing something new, but that they ceased with the death of the last apostle. This is what distinguishes me from a charismatic Christian, who believes the Holy Spirit still uses sign gifts today.

While I still consider myself a cessationist, the last few years have shown me that my spiritual life has gotten off track—that somehow I, along with many others in my theological tradition, have learned to do without the third person of the Trinity.

This has not hindered my academic work. Mine has become a cognitive faith—a Christianity from the neck up. As long as I could control the text, I was happy. I lived in the half-reality that theological articulation is valid only if it is based on sound exegesis and nothing else. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly simmering pot of water, I did not sense that I was on the way to self-destruction.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the Almighty suddenly and graciously turned up the heat. He provided me a wake-up call to get me out of the pot. I am sharing my testimony in hopes that many others who are in cauldrons of their own making might realize the danger—and get out.

RUN, WALK, CRAWL

I grew up in a conservative Baptist church in southern California. My youth was characterized by timidity: I was a Clark Kent with no alter ego. I was afraid of life, afraid to explore, afraid to question aloud. In spite of this -or, perhaps, because of this—I was a leader in the youth group.

But I had questions that would not go away—questions about whether I had had an authentic ...

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