All Feeling, No Proof

by Robert Turner
via Plain Talk, April, 1970

The current rash or tongue-speaking, miracle-sanctioning, and the far more common errors concerning direct Spirit indwelling, that infects many institutional churches of Christ, was not brought to earth in the Apollo 11 moon dust. It sprang from causes within the ranks. Last month we suggested that reaction to coldness may have triggered some of this error. As an interrelated cause, some sought to promote “genuine worship” with material props, such as dimmed lights, mood music (a cappella, of course) and other “devotional” clap-trap; and the resulting emotionalism was glibly assigned to the Holy Spirit.

Serving God “from the heart” involves the emotions, to be sure — but such emotions as proceed from knowledge of God’s will, and desire to serve Him. The “art work” and parties of the popular Young People’s Classes produce only a superficial knowledge of the Bible, (“doctrinal” studies, you know, are no longer “relevant”) so churches that have gone along with the modern trends are poorly equipped to combat “direct Spirit” errors.

But the underlying cause of this and practically every other “brotherhood” problem is subjectivism — looking within ourselves for authority. When brethren no longer feel the need for Bible authority (external authority — going to the Bible for their faith — Romans 10:17) they look inward, to human reason, practical experience or “feelings” for the answers. This may begin with their feelings about instrumental music (I like) or the care of orphans (Surely that is good) or other churchhood projects (proven right by “mainstream” acceptance) until finally, demands for Bible authority become most distasteful.

Subjectivism takes many forms. The rank modernist makes God’s word subject to his approval — divine truth becomes “relative” to his understanding, or so he thinks. But the same error is at work among those who say God’s word can be understood only by the Spirit-endowed elect. And those who believe they are cut by the Holy Spirit (apart from His sword, the written word) are but a step away.

When Pat Boone says that God communicates with Him “in a way that maybe you wouldn’t understand except inwardly and in a spiritual way” — this is subjectivism. The product of the communication is put upon exactly the same ground as the feeling, or “still small voice” of the sectarian, that he offers as proof of his salvation. Neither can be proven by the external authority of God’s word, as revealed to the Apostles and Prophets (I John 4:6; Ephesians 3:3-5; I Corinthians 14:37).

Conservative brethren, who have steadfastly demanded Bible authority for faith and practice, are little affected by the current Spirit craze. It is the brother who has been softened by earlier forms of subjectivism who now “feels” that the Holy Spirit helps him to find a parking place. I feel no joy in stating this. I am saddened by the defection of Pat Boone, and all the others. But my sadness began long before they got this far. It began years ago, as they took their first steps in institutionalism and the social gospel movement.