We really are out of our depth. We really know nothing about Pentecostalism and it would require a degree in religious doctrine and sociology to sort out the different currents in Pentecostalism, especially American Pentecostalism. All the currents have their own doctrines. All the currents have their own opponents. And the opponents are often just as off the wall as the currents they are opposing.
We do know that none of the Elders of the Orthodox Church has ever endorsed Pentecostalism. That is important for there are clearly charismatic elements in the Orthodox tradition of the Philokalia: an Orthodox Elder is normally revealed to the body of the Church through his gifts of clairvoyance.
In our post Plani, we presented and discussed a comment by one of our anonymous readers, a reader who compared the experience of Elder Porphyrios in receiving the Holy Spirit on Mt Athos at the age of 16 both to a ‘Glory Fit’ in the Salvation Army (about which we ourselves know absolutely nothing, never even having heard of such a thing) and to the ‘Toronto Blessing’. From our commenter’s point of view, these are all the same experience of one and same Holy Spirit.
In the case of the ‘Toronto Blessing’, we quoted extracts from an article by someone who thinks (from a educated Scots Baptist point of view) that the ‘Toronto Blessing’ is in error; and, certainly, if what the fellow is saying is not made-up hog-wash, the spirit of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ is a spirit of deception.
We have also been discussing the case of Rev Ted Haggard, where his own Church, the New
So are all those people flocking to
Let’s start with Rev Ted Haggard’s own
The band stood. A … man with a big, tenor voice … directed the musicians and the crowd, leading us and them and the choir as the guitarists kicked on the fuzz and the drummer pounded the music toward arena-rock frenzy. Two fog machines on each side of the stage filled the sanctuary with white clouds. Pod-shaped projectors cast a light show across the ceiling, giant spinning white snowflakes and cartwheeling yellow flowers and a shimmering blue water-effect. “Prepare the way!” shouted Worship Pastor Ross [Parsley]. “Prepare the way! The King is coming!” Across the stage teens began leaping straight up, a dance that swept across the arena: kids hopped, old men hopped, middle-aged women hopped. Spinners wheeled out from the ranks and danced like dervishes around the stage. The light pods dilated and blasted the sanctuary with red. Worship Pastor Ross roared: “Let the King of Glory enter in!” Ushers rushed through the crowds throwing out rainbow glow strings.
No, this is not the dance scene in Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Part II. No, this is not a Sixties be-in or acid test. This is Christian worship at the New Life Church, Colorado Springs,
So what’s wrong with that? People are enjoying themselves; they are off the streets; they believe in Jesus. What more do you want?
We would like to pose a question to sociologists of American religion: Is the
Lest anyone think that the worship described above was an isolated event, Worship Pastor Ross Parsley is now the Acting Senior Pastor of
Anyone who has spent any time in an Orthodox church knows that the Orthodox Church has a passion for liturgy. But the Orthodox Church is so old-fashioned. There’s the deacon who’s been around for 2000 years intoning in one of the Eight Tones: ‘Let us pray to the Lord … For the peace from on High, for the salvation of our souls and for the well-being of the Churches of God…’ There’s the perpetual young mother with her perpetual babe in arms handing the babe over to her own mother so that she can light the perpetual votive candle. There’s the choir singing ‘Lord have mercy’ in response to the petitions of the deacon. There’s all that incense. It’s all so boring.
And all those middle-aged men standing round and looking so serious; all those people who don’t do anything. It’s all so stuffy! Whereas we could all be whirling dervishes if we could get rid of all that stuffiness!
And then the Orthodox monk gets hold of you and starts telling you about the Jesus Prayer. You’re supposed to sit still for hours every day with your head on your chest like this saying: ‘Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.’ And then maybe after fifty years you’ll see the Uncreated Light—whatever that is. Not even the Orthodox monk really knows what it is.
In the meantime, just down the street at the
‘And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.’ (John 17, 3.)
The key selling point of the Pentecostalist experience is that it is a replay of the day of Pentecost in
Here’s the rub. The Orthodox Church teaches us that we receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism, that we do not lose it except in cases of denial of Christ—for example by joining a non-Orthodox religious group. However, in us, the spark of the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism is covered over by our passions and sins. To re-encounter consciously the Holy Spirit we have to make a long-term personal effort at our own personal spiritual purification, starting with a good confession. Alas, this is not the way of the American. The American wants the quick fix, the fast payoff, the easy buck.
While it is true that David danced before the
In the Third Book of Kings, after he has slain the priests of Baal and Jezebel hears about it and swears to kill him, the Prophet Elias (Elijah) goes to Mt Horeb. There he sits in a cave. God speaks to him and Elias replies:
And Elias said: ‘Being jealous, I was jealous for the Lord, the Ruler of All Things, for the sons of
This is what Christian asceticism is all about. We come off the street in
In the silence of a heart made pure, of a heart filled with the love of the Saviour, our mind—our nous—encounters the still small voice of God.
We must turn inward so that our mind—our centre of consciousness, our inward being, our inmost person—can enter into the cave of our heart and pray. This is the
We have already discussed the three stages of this inner journey, of this inner ascent: the purgative, the illuminative and the unitive stages. And as we have pointed out, Evagrius Ponticus is the great theoretician of this inner journey.
From the point of view of the Orthodox monastic tradition, worship at the
But the Orthodox way is hard work. As Eliot put it: ‘Teach us to sit still.’
In our next post we will resume our discussion of Evagrius’ ascetical doctrine in the series ‘Orthodox Monasticism’ that we have left in order to discuss, as it has turned out, Pentecostalist alternatives to Orthodoxy.