Chirps or Testimony?
The current wave of ascetic utterances, “speaking with or in tongues”, which has swept parts of the country and made inroad among some brethren, is directly related to the increase in a subjective approach to authority. External authority, exemplified in the written word and approached objectively, has been eroded by “no pattern” arguments, and replaced by an appeal to majority practices. Even “good judgement” looks inward, and is not “good” at all when it ignores the divine revelation.
One of the early fruits of such thinking is a rejection of hard-core, straight-line Bible preaching. Those who try to blend “direct spirit” operation with scriptures may contend that these must be “spiritually discerned” — and smugly conclude that you must not “have the spirit” since you do not “see” them as do they. But recent claimants are more - likely to pride themselves in their “spirituality” which finds “unity in diversity.” If we remove the idea of God’s word, sufficiently understandable to all, and to which all are subject, we have no standard for unity in “the faith”, and all truth becomes relative.
Who, or what, can test the “feelings” of another? None — nothing! The one making such claims may be happily satisfied but his hope is subjective, wholly within himself. I would not deny that he had a feeling, but would insist that its interpretation must be measured by a fixed standard, the truth taught by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (John 4:6).
When we cut loose from this mooring, we are adrift on the sea of human wisdom. There is no limitations except as they are self-imposed, and the person who accepts “direct spirit guidance” in one field, may go (or encourage others to go) to the extreme of “tongue speaking.” Once we step beyond the influence of the inspired (Spirit-breathed) word, that direct influence becomes a matter of degrees, with little to control our imagination.
Isaiah wrote, “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? On behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them” (Isaiah 8:19-20). God is no respecter of person, but deals with each of us by appealing to common faculties. Each can hear, learn, and come unto God (John 6: 45). As free agents we may reject His word, or we may “see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and understand with our heart, be converted, and healed” (Cf. Matthew 13:15-16). This is not only the process for becoming Christians, but also for growth and development as children of God (I Peter 2:2).
Such basic principles are so completely scriptural, and so much a part of preaching once common among churches of Christ, it seems absurd to have to repeat this for brethren today. Ours is a “new” generation, and woe to him who is tied to the party, instead of to Christ.