Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Straw Man Arguments

In my wandering around the ‘net this week and reading about what people are saying about the meetings going on in Lakeland, Florida I have been again pulled through so many emotions as thoughts go whirling around in my head. At times I am ready to just give grace to all involved with a totally open hand and heart. At other times I’m ready to take out another add in the local newspaper and decry, “What the Hell are you all thinking!!”

Again my schizophrenia rears its ugly head.

But then I found an article the other day that made me realize at least to some extent why I am so affected by this whole subject.

The article can be found at here. It is entitled: The Holy Ghost Straw Men: Full Gospel Excuses For Error

While I don’t agree with the author in some of his arguments I do agree with his main point. There are seven main statements that we, in the Charismatic circles, have been taught over and over again to hide bad theology, bad practices and sometimes bad behavior and character. These “Straw Men Arguments” as the author calls them are the arguments that keep us quiet and in our seats and not questioning or thinking for ourselves.

Here are the arguments with just a bit of my own explanation of how they were used in the Charasmatic circles I was familiar with:

1) “We need a fresh word for today” Meaning the Bible was an old word and the fresh and new revealed word of today was really important. When it was brought up that it contradicted the Bible, the re-interpretation of the Bible began with criminal hermeneutics. The “fresh word” was what was important and those speaking it were not to be questioned.

2) “We are not bound by tradition” Religion was dead. Haughtiness reigned as the words were spoken and intoned that WE – those who have a clue – were not bound by yesterday’s traditions. Never mind that our own traditions were just as binding as any that we had left. If you questioned their practices or theology you were told that you were bound up in the old ways and not open to what God was doing now.

3) “God offends the mind to reveal the heart” While I believe that this is actually a true statement, those that wanted to used this against the sheep did so with a relish. ANY practice or any bad behavior on the part of the leaders could be excused because it was good to have our minds offended by the Holy Spirit. If the pastor yelled at you and lost his temper he could state that it was good for you and built character. If absolutely CRAZY things started happening and someone was taken aback or offended, this straw man was pulled out and oftentimes the reasoned explanations were glossed over with just a few words like these. It ultimately made you feel like God routinely needed to offend you because your heart was so blind and bad.

4) “Touch not the Anointed: Do his prophets no harm” I have already dealt with this in a few of my posts. It is the biggest straw man of the hierarchical type churches. We were told that even if the leaders were wrong, we would be saved from bad things happening to us because we were submitted.

5) “Judge not lest you be judged” While the myriad of verses that teach us to judge in and of our own right were forgotten, this one was given especially if we were questioning leadership. It is funny, they could judge us, proclaim our children to have a sexual spirit, tell us that we were full of pride, tell us our cars were dirty and needed to be washed, or hold us accountable for being rebellious but we did not have that privilege to do the same except over our own lives or those that they had put under us. Judgment always extended down in the pyramid – never up.

6) “Doctrine is just someone’s opinion” This one was used often especially if you had any formal training in the study of the Bible. Husband had his Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary and our pastor did not have any formal training whatsoever. Maybe men like this are afraid but we were told early on that doctrine separates men where love and covenant keep them together. At first we saw the wisdom of that statement – who does not know of good friends splitting over minor doctrinal differences, but what we did not know is that doctrine was also not understood or honored in any way. This led to various teachings coming and going with no thought to what it would mean in the long run. No one had any basis for their faith except what they believed the Bible was saying to them. It gave the churches no foundation. They oftentimes had a formal doctrinal statement but had no idea what it meant or how to keep any order to the “new word” that was being spoken. We were also told how seminaries were now of no use and how the conferences of today were going to replace the training of the “army of God.” Many, many of these men had no formal training.

7) “God is doing a new thing” Again, this one was used over and over again. I got tired of God’s supposed “new thing” in our own group. It seemed most times that the new thing was just the abandonment of something else that wasn’t working. The new thing could be the new leadership raised up (because of the old leadership was leaving – again), a new pet project of the leaders or the fact that we now had to all dress up to come to church so that we gave respect to the Apostle who was visiting. And don’t forget the “new things” that were just around the corner. If I had a dollar for the New Years Eve prophecies of the year of the “New Thing” I would at least be $19.00 richer. It never came – but we waited in expectation for finances to be blessed, abundance to spring forth and our church to grow to thousands.

It hit me last night that as Husband and I read through the entire article that these seven phrases, taught over and over again to us, (some) were not all bad in and of themselves. Some of them even had truth attached to them. But added together and spoken hundreds and hundreds of times they became the cords that bound us to silence. These ‘straw men arguments” on their own in the hands of a man or woman of integrity and humility would not hurt many. But put these arguments into the hands of someone who is out to build their own kingdom and you might as well just leave now before you are wearing imprints of tire treads on your backside.

Listen carefully the next time you hear any one of these preached or spoken. Ask what is really going on. Ask, investigate, judge and pray. Don’t be bound by these straw men any longer.
Ht to David Hayward at Nakedpastor for the comics. I bought him a beer!


Bill Kinnon said...

I'm loving the blog conversations around this stuff. Great use of David's cartoons. I like your spin on these Charismatic strawmen.

Barb said...

Thanks Bill, It just never made as much sense to me till I saw all 7 of these together on one page.

Davida said...

thanks for sharing this, barb. when you see it laid out like this, it does make more sense.

things that resonnated with me:

1. "We were told that even if the leaders were wrong, we would be saved from bad things happening to us because we were submitted." this sounds familiar and when i hear it i smell something...what is it? oh yeah, horse manure! *passes on the cyanide kool-aid*

2. "someone who is out to build their own kingdom." i'm not perfect, but i honestly do want to see god's kingdom expanded and the gospel preached and the poor/needy being served. when i was starting out in bible school all wide-eyed years ago, it did not occur to me that there were (as many) people who used the teachings of Christ so much for their own personal gain (justified by their wacky beliefs (some of which i bought into)). i was so naive.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. If I had a dollar for every Sunday I heard all of these phrases used I would be filthy rich. I don't know that this is a number 8, but what gets me is if a church has success in doing things in the charismatic realm all the other churches have to run to that church and get their anointing. The copycat anointing. It drives me nuts.

On another note J Lee Grady wrote a balanced piece which came out today about the revival in Lakeland.

Mark Main said...

I can relate to this in so many ways. I remember all my years in church being surrounded with straw man arguments. There were arguments to justify anything and everything the leadership wanted to do. Looking back now though the ones that bother me the most were the ones intended to "keep us quiet and in our seats and not questioning or thinking for ourselves."

By the way, you were the first person to comment on my blog (and only to this point). Thanks. I hope there are many more from many people to come.

Barb said...

Davida Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you can relate.

Jen, I'll check out the Grady areticle. Is that online or in a mag?

Mark, thanks. I have tried to subscribe to your blog but it won't let me. You might want to check your settings to make sure that part is turned on.

As you read others and leave comments many people also check out what you are writing. I know it is encouraging to know that others are reading and interacting with you as you think. It has been so helpful as I have processed so much of this.

I still feel like I am the learner and they are the teachers. I learn so much from all of them.

Brandon said...

Hey! So I'm NOT crazy??? The last church I was involved in resembled many of the straw men described in this post! I thought I was free, yet I'd never been so bound.

After a while I started thinking that I must be nuts and every one else "got it"...great post!

Tyler Dawn said...

That "God's anointed" thing always infuriates me. Like the annointing is given out with the divinity school diploma (rolling my eyes here). In the Tanach, when someone was annointed it meant that the spirit of God was resting on them.... so lemme see, oh so ALL BELIEVERS are God's annointed now..... hmmmm... no hierarchy? Oh dear can't have that. ;)

Anonymous said...

im still stumbling around the net - wow - all points are amazingly accurate from here in the cheap seats - now I know I have sinned for I have touched the annointed and now the shunning has begun. how come the annointed get to judge, but the people in the seats cant? hmm...maybe I should have sat closer to the front, cause where I sat, I saw too much.....

John Fincher said...

Wow. Coming from an extremely NON-charismatic denomination, I can't entirely relate. For ME, the opposite was the problem - that is doctrine was the overriding theme - love took a back seat, if it even got to ride in the car.

Also, we were holding onto tradition INSTEAD of trying new things. I'm talking about traditional things that are seen as spiritual - Sunday night services, for example - "oooh, we can't interfer with that" and "churches are becoming more worldly because they aren't having a 'service' on Sunday night" "You know, they are ordained by God!" I wanted to teach a small group on a Sunday night, but was told that would take too many people out of the service!

Anyway, it's nice to see how we can focus on our commonallity (Christ) and not our differences (denomination).

Grace and Peace to you

Barb said...

John I was raised totally differently- in a Bible Church. I went to college at a bible college like Bob Jones. I think the charasmatic church appealed to us because of where we had come from - All theology - no life/love. The problem was that it became all "life/craziness" not much love. Both extremes can end in death. Power corrupts in both worlds.

John Fincher said...

There's definitely no love at Bob Jones (and those like it). It, along with life, has been stamped out in the name of "separation".